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An Offer of Hospitality

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"Well you're bloody well not sleeping here!"

Q stiffened at the casual cruelty in M's voice. It was a level of callousness he hadn't expected from her.

She was upset with Bond for letting everyone believe him dead, which was obvious and understandable. And he should have checked in, Q agreed there. But it was also obvious why the agent hadn't. Q had been given access to recordings of the incident when he was promoted to Quartermaster.

M had given the order that had practically killed Bond. She'd insisted on it, in fact, when Moneypenny had hesitated to obey. Bond had heard it all over the comms, of course. So obviously more than just the agent's body had been hurt by the events, Q suspected.

It wasn't just Bond's pride that'd suffered, Q thought as he observed the agent's posture and expression. Bond trusted M, respected her, and was loyal to her. He felt betrayed she hadn't trusted him to get the job done, as he'd said. But Q thought it went deeper than that.

Perhaps he was assuming too much, considering this was his first time actually seeing Bond in person. But to Q it seemed like Bond was looking at M as a mother that had not only discarded him, but that wasn't even relieved to have him back.

He was good at burying his emotions, of course he was; he was a Double-O. But looking at him now, Q thought that 007 wasn't nearly as cold as the rumors suggested. He had feelings, deep hidden pain, and M was throwing salt on his wounds. She, of all people, had to know that. And she didn't seem to give a damn.

What would it have hurt if M invited Bond to stay the night at her home? It would cross some line she had, Q supposed, pushing the relationship past professional uncomfortably toward personal.

But Bond had risked his life for MI6, for England, for M. He'd returned to help the agency, help her, when they came under attack, when he could have just stayed hidden. It seemed like the least she could do to offer him a place to sleep for a few nights. She lived alone, she had the room.

Frankly, Q thought, she was being petty as well as cruel. She was punishing Bond for daring to take some time away to lick his wounds without her approval first. Never mind she was the one that had wounded him in the first place.

It bothered Q. Perhaps more than it should have. But regardless, he ought to just suck it up and stay silent. It was none of his business, really. He was newly promoted to Quartermaster and he had plenty of other important issues to address.

He should grab the laptop that he'd accompanied M here to collect and just be on his way. He had several hours of work yet ahead of him before he could sleep, upgrading the security on M's personal laptop as he'd promised.

Bond hadn't even acknowledged Q's presence. He'd glanced at Q briefly once M had noticed Bond's surprise intrusion at her home, and then clearly dismissed Q as not a threat and not important. Doubtlessly assuming M would tell Q to leave if she didn’t want him to listen to their conversation. M hadn’t bothered to introduce them and just ignored Q. Bond had focused on M and entirely ignored Q, as well.

Q should return the favor and ignore Bond back, he told himself. It would be safer, smarter, and perfectly professional. He would be following M's lead.

But it wouldn't be kind. Q had been raised to be kind, whenever possible. People saw it as a weakness, as naivety, as a sign of his youth and lack of experience. But Q wouldn't be where he was in life, heading his own division of MI6, the youngest Quartermaster the agency had ever employed, if he chose his actions based on what other people thought.

It wouldn't be just, either. Q had joined MI6 because he had always possessed a strong desire to see justice done. Bond deserved more than to be nearly killed in the line of duty, drag himself back to London when he thought he was needed, and then be told his flat had been sold and he could see himself to a hotel.

M had already turned her back on her agent and was walking away. Bond looked lost and exhausted, and most of all, alone. Q really never stood a chance after seeing that, he reflected.

Besides, Q had always had a thing for strays. Especially wounded, handsome ones. Every cat he'd ever given a home to could attest to that. So Q would put his hand out and hope he didn't get scratched too badly for his effort.

"You're welcome to stay at my place for a few nights, if you don't mind sharing the couch with cats that will shed all over you."

Bond immediately locked the full power of his intense gaze on Q. Q's stomach flipped, nerves hitting him harder than they had in years, as well as something else entirely. Q refused to focus on that. Bond was a gorgeous man, even looking half dead as he did. But that was immaterial. Q steeled himself, stood up straight, and returned Bond's stare without flinching.

M had stiffened and frozen in the middle of walking away, Q could see out of the corner of his eye. She was also scowling. She didn't turn to look at them, but she clearly disapproved of Q's offer. Q told himself that was immaterial, as well, and kept his eyes locked with Bond's.

"And you are…?"

Bond's tone was patronizing and harsh, but Q thought his eyes didn't quite match his voice. Maybe it was wishful thinking, to justify what he was doing, but Q thought he saw a flicker of hope in Bond's eyes.

Just like the cats that hissed at Q because they had dared to hope and then been hurt before. They purred for him once they understood they could trust him, that he wasn't going to abandon them, no matter how many mistakes they made. Maybe Bond would be the same, Q dared to have his own hope.

"I'm your new Quartermaster, 007."

"You must be joking!"

It took a bit of verbal sparring back and forth, but Q was fairly certain he earned Bond's respect in the end. It was at least enough for Bond to follow him into the car and allow the driver to take them both to Q's flat.

M had said nothing else to either of them, but she had absolutely radiated disapproval. Q had taken her laptop and tried to ignore her judgment. Just because she was the head of MI6 and his boss didn't mean she was always right.

Q was determined to run his division the way he deemed best. He hadn't expected that to include adopting a stray Double-O during his first week as Q. But only time would tell if he'd be rewarded for his kindness.

Perhaps less time than Q had expected, though. Within hours of being in Q's flat, Bond first made them both frankly astonishingly delicious eggs considering how little was in Q's refrigerator. He seemed to not have the energy to talk, and Q had no idea how to make conversation under the circumstances. So Bond proceeded to lie down on Q's couch soon after supper. Bond made no move or protest when Jupiter sat on his head and flicked her tail under his nose.

Bond only pretended to sleep, at first, Q was fairly certain. But by the time Q looked up from working on M's laptop, his agent houseguest seemed quite comfortable and genuinely asleep.

Q got up and stretched, ready to move toward his own bed. Bond's eyes opened, looked intense and alert for a moment, and then seemed to relax as his gaze settled on Q.

Q smiled. He was powerless to do anything else. Bond smiled back. To Q, the expression looked sleepy, and surprisingly soft.

 ---------------

The next morning, Q woke up and wandered half asleep into his kitchen to find a dish of eggs set out for him next to a cup of tea. The meal was just as delicious as last night, yet somehow inexplicably different enough that he didn't feel like he was eating the same thing twice in a row. It was mystifying and delightful.

Just as mystifying and not at all delightful, Q next found his houseguest was in the washroom digging a bullet out of his own shoulder with a pocket knife.

"Did you even disinfect...is that dental floss out for...no, I don't even...I have a med kit, you know! With proper supplies!"

"Not in here, you don't."

"Nonsense! It's right there under the sink!"

Q shoved in next to Bond and bent down to retrieve the kit. Only once his head was buried in the cabinet under the sink did he realize it perhaps wasn't the best idea to just push past a deadly agent, especially one with a knife out.

But, well, he wasn't being stabbed. More concerning, Bond was apparently correct and the med kit was not currently under the sink.

Q stood up to find Bond smirking at him with an oddly warm look in his eyes. Q brushed analyzing the expression aside to wrack his memory as to where the med kit might have gone.

"Oh, yes, that's right. I burnt my finger soldering the other day. It's in my bedroom."

Q continued to ignore whatever was going on with Bond's expression and went to fetch the kit. He could figure out how Bond was reacting once Bond was no longer bleeding all over the sink.

But it was soon time for both of them to go to MI6, then Q was swamped with everything necessary to get his department in order, and he didn't have time to contemplate Bond further.

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Once the mission was arranged, Q gave Bond his gun, radio, and plane ticket at Q's flat.

Q was a little disappointed he hadn't gotten to use the museum drop point. He'd been wanting an excuse to look at the art. But no matter, he decided. There would be chances later for a proper visit there.

Bond was being a perfectly agreeable houseguest. Q suspected part of that attitude might be due to how exhausted the agent still seemed. Regardless, Q was glad he could give Bond at least some semblance of home and comfort before he went back out into the field.

What Q hadn't expected was how nice he found having the company. It had been just Q and his cats for a very long time. It was surprisingly pleasant to have another person around the flat, especially one he didn't have to hide the nature of his work from.

---------------

Bond had spent only three nights at Q's flat before he headed off to Shanghai.

But it made more difference than either of them knew.

---------------

James welcomed Moneypenny's incision into the mission with begrudging good grace.

Q had talked about her. They were friends. She felt guilty about shooting a fellow agent, orders or no orders, Q had said. She might not be the most experienced field agent, but she was talented and trustworthy.

James wasn't certain why he cared so much about his new Quartermaster's opinion, but he did. It might have something to do with how he'd welcomed James into a warm home that James had been longing for for years. And Q had offered that to James without even being asked, or stipulating anything from James in return.

As an MI6 department head, Q had to know everything there was to know about James. Including James' recent unscheduled holiday. And he'd made the offer anyway. Q wasn't afraid of giving James access to both his home and his own life.

James hadn't had to protect him first, or threaten him, or bargain with him, or seduce him. Finding someone like that was a very rare thing in James' life. Everyone wanted something from James in exchange for kindness, especially once they knew his history.

Not that the idea of taking Q's slim body apart with pleasure was unappealing. The sight of Q's arse in his pajamas when he bent down under the sink, searching for the med kit, had been particularly enticing. Q had seemed completely oblivious as to how he'd practically perfectly lined up his raised arse with James' crotch in that position.

But at the same time, James' shoulder had been throbbing and he'd been exhausted. It was nice to not have to worry about being expected to sexually satisfy someone when his own body hurt that much.

Q had asked nothing of James besides to get along with the cats, which had been easy enough. And then to return his equipment, which James would try to do.

Lastly, Q had asked James to take care of himself in the field. That was perhaps the most challenging request. But James found he had more motivation to do so than he'd had in a long time.

So maybe James did know why he cared about Q's opinion so much, so quickly. But James had a job to do, so he would contemplate what he was going to do with these sudden feelings later.

James and Moneypenny flirted while she helped him shave. Flirting was a useful tool in an agent's arsenal, and they both did it naturally. But neither leaned forward to take it further. James supposed neither felt the need to.

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A little bit later, James kept his comms on when he followed Severine to talk. Moneypenny heard the entire conversation.

James had watched Q work on the earwig at his flat. James saw how Q made sure the range was far enough, and the tuning fine enough. Even before Q asked James to return his equipment, James saw how he valued the tools he made for his agents. James didn't even consider discarding it.

James did throw his gun at the Komodo dragon. But some equipment loss was just unavoidable. Hopefully, Q would see the humor in the gun being beastie food, and appreciate it hadn't been James eaten instead.

----------------

It followed that James agreed to Moneypenny accompanying him on the boat to the island without much fuss.

Finding Severine showering on board, he let Moneypenny handle it rather than falling back on seduction techniques. The two women became fast friends, from what James could tell.

Silva seemed to have no interest in Moneypenny, leaving her with Severine and focusing on James alone. His mistake.

Before James was forced to shoot at the glass on Severine's head in Silva's sick game, Moneypenny appeared and shot the man holding the gun to James' head. Backup soon came and Severine was freed, safe.

As they returned to London, James suspected he saw a bit of hero worship in Severine's eyes when she looked at Moneypenny. All for the best, James thought. Moneypenny deserved a win, and Severine deserved some good luck.

------------

Not everything was better.

Skyfall still burned. M still died in James' arms.

Afterward, James didn't even consider going anywhere other than Q's flat. Q didn't even consider asking him to leave.

Ever.

-----------

Eventually, James even stopped sleeping on the couch.

Soon after, he started trying to convince Q to invest in a sturdier bed.

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Later, M's video found its way to James at Q's flat. They watched it together. They went to Mallory about it together.

They went to Mexico for the sanctioned mission together. They found they both thought the other looked quite attractive in their Dia de los Muertos costumes. Q only sighed in slightly frustrated understanding when James left him on their hotel bed to go chase their quarry across the rooftops. Of course Q was in his ear the entire time.

The mission still went to shit. But they were in it together from start to finish, and they both made it out together whole and victorious.

--------------

Still later, Q yawned and shifted in bed as James joined him.

"I should get up and get back to 6," Q mumbled. "There's so much cleanup to do."

"You should go back to sleep. It'll keep for a few more hours. I'll make breakfast and we'll go in together," James countered.

Q was about to disagree, but then James' warm arms wrapped around him and he lost all will to move.

"Did you see Swann off alright?" Q asked.

"I tried. Then Tanner butted in and practically offered her a job at 6 on the spot. As if we need another shrink! She's not even that observant! I had to completely spell it out for her that I was taken and not remotely interested in her, regardless of what Blofeld's twisted perspective insisted!"

"Was she very upset?"

"No, relieved actually. She'd been trying to let me down easily. I think she might be intrigued about pursuing the obvious interest Tanner showed...in offering her more than just a job."

Q chuckled. The sound was momentarily muffled as James covered his mouth with his own. James showed no desire to talk about Swann or the mission any longer. Q understood that. They were due some much deserved decompression time together.

The sounds they soon made together might be described as purring. Their cats, locked out of the bedroom, however, disagreed.

Regardless, Q and James were happy together and devoted to each other. That was all thanks to Q being brave enough to offer his home to a stray, years ago, and James being brave enough to accept it.