“Bond, do make sure to bring back the equipment in one piece,” Q chirps in his ear, ever present and ever contrary.
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Bond replies dishonestly, making no promises. He knows better by now.
There lives a secret in MI6. Living, breathing, and hidden in plain sight. Those who do not understand it claim it to be luck and miracles. But M will always know the truth.
It’s passed down from each M to their successor almost as if a rite of passage. It’s the most dangerous knowledge any of them will ever know, the greatest weapon any of them will ever wield. And each M is left to wonder, if this secret will die with them.
She is his warrior queen, thick skinned and heavy-set, as royals tend to be. But she is not soft by any means. She has a sharp tongue, and a blade sharper yet. She enjoys besting him with both.
On the night he swears his fealty, she presses her shiv to his chest, just above his heart, and draws blood. “Swear yourself to me. Give me your oath that you will never stray. You belong to me. Your heart, your love, your happiness, everything.”
“I swear it,” Bondr vows solemnly, all of sixteen, limbs scrawny, and head over feet. He cannot imagine ever wanting to abandon his queen with whom he has roamed the lands since she was just a princess and the words roll off his tongue easily. He looks up at her, dizzy and drunk for the blood pooling at his feet and the emotions rolling through his veins.
“Good. Now come to bed and prove how much you worship your queen.”
“Don’t you dare die. If you are to die, it will be by my hands and my hands only,” she whispers every time they fly into battle, her words cutting through the thunder of a thousand charging horses to find his ears.
And every time, Bondr promises her words to fly as true as the arrows he carves for her.
Kingdoms fall at their feet. She promises she would make him her king, if it were the way of things. And Bondr learns that lust and love are separate entities, but doubts his queen would agree. Still, it is impossible to resist the lull of a gypsy.
She finds them in the midst of love making, transforms into a rageling, his warrior queen. Her eyes turn bright with berserker rage and her dark curls sweep through the air behind her as she cleaves through the air. “You swore yourself to only me. Where are your promises now?” she screams, intent on keeping her end of their promise.
He kills her and lives.
At MI6, they whisper that he dances with death, brushes her waiting embrace as if she is an old lover. They tell him to fear her scorn. If only they knew. The only one who truly knows is M; he is passed from M to M as if he is a sword used to identify the king. He kills on their command, satisfies his bloodthirsty warrior heart and their arrogant puppet master minds, and in exchange they send him around the globe so he can search for the reincarnation of the witch who cursed him to a heartless eternity.
James Bond has been chasing death for centuries.
When it comes – it comes to him – it comes in a form he would never expect it to: a gangly, pale, bespectacled boy who can’t possibly be two decades old, let alone James’ seven centuries. The boy, who pretentiously calls himself Q despite being an intern of all things, babbles about the inevitability of time, old ships being hauled off to scrap, and James is torn between scoffing at his ignorance and thinking the words a promise.
Q is nothing like his soulmate, his warrior queen. But the old scar on his chest – not from the bullet, that healed easily enough – throbs in the presence of the teen. Behind the boy’s grin is a wickedness that Bond remembers too well.
James half expects Q to kill him on the spot. But the boy doesn’t. Instead, he hands him a kit and orders him to catch a killer with nothing but a gun and a radio. When the fledgling stands to leave, Bond hears the chiming jingle of the too-many bracelets his queen favored all too much.
He wonders if Q has inherited his warrior queen’s cruelty, if anything, or if the teen is merely oblivious, as children his age are want to be.
It’s a long shot, but he takes it. A bullet to the heart – the brain is too messy and messes with his memories. There’s a slow bleed, and he thinks that this might finally be the end.
He comes to in a pool of crusty blood, indication that his little death lasted longer than usual. Q must’ve only created the palm reader, not the gun itself. The blood on his teeth tastes like hope.
It turns out that this gangling thing is neither cruel nor oblivious. Q is obviously no warrior, and definitely no queen; what he is, is far more terrifying. He wears the hat of a pawn, and at first glance, at second glance, one cannot tell that he holds the potential to be the most dangerous piece. He is cutting ambition with a façade of morality and love for the country, and inside, a core of rage. He has all her brilliance and then more, without her wariness or a drop of sensibility. He is so young that he still thinks himself invincible. James wonders if it’s true. If nothing could hurt Q but his own hands.
His curiosity isn’t worth the risk, even just James taking an interest in him gets Q promoted to a permanent employee and James can almost see the vicious cogs of Q’s brain spinning when Q next sees him.
At first chance, James asks Q for a new suicide pill. He pretends he fears Silva’s fate.
Q opens a drawer and hands him one on the spot. So prepared to offer him death.
“What, no pliers?” James jests.
Q raises an eyebrow, looking prim and as if such work is underneath him.
The next day, there’s an explosion next to the river that takes out everything within a 100m radius.
James, unfortunately, lives, limbs sewing themselves back together with small, silver scars as seams. It appears his queen had been quite literal.
Q, unsurprisingly, is pissed.
They both get chewed out by M.
Q pins him against the wall later, hissing. He is a hardly even a kitten compared to the tiger Bond’s queen was. “I just wanted to make sure it worked,” James claims.
“And yet, you’re still here.” Q does not believe him.
“You say that as if you wouldn’t miss me.”
“As much a cat would a mouse.”
“Not all of us want to be dead before hitting forty…five?” Q quips when James informs him that he lacks a sense of adventure.
James almost snorts in the midst of seducing his target.
“But you’re far older than that, aren’t you?” Q says cruelly, sure. “I’ve poured over your reports, though only the redacted versions because MI6 still isn’t in the technological age. You should be dead; you want to die, but you just can’t, can you? And for some reason, you think I'm your reaper. You want me to be the one that will kill you.”
“You’re insane,” James hisses back, as his target leads him back to her hotel room. She must think he means her because she grins, filthy.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” Q imparts sagely, as if he’s the one who has lived long enough to watch civilizations fall. “You need me. I would play nice if I were you.”
James fucks his target far more viciously than he has to, until she’s moaning so loudly that all of Q branch must be able to hear her through Q’s earpiece.
To say Q notices and takes it as confirmation would be an understatement. Q looks at him with the hunger of a gypsy and the delight of a conqueror looking at a plump new nation ripe for conquering.
“What do you want?” James asks.
“I thought that was obvious,” Q drawls, gingerly inspecting the remains of the gun he’d sent James out with.
“I want to hear you say it.”
“Get me to Quartermaster. I could do it myself, but I don’t fancy waiting until I’m deemed old enough by bureaucrats on their hospice beds.”
“The day you become Quartermaster, you kill me.”
“Would you like it in writing? Blood, maybe? What are you, anyways?”
Bond thinks about his last blood oath and turns heel.
A year goes by peacefully (enough). Q has no mind for politics, preferring blood and numbers to speak for him. Blood does not say pretty things, no matter how it’s spilled to spell. If Bond were human, Q would’ve killed him thrice already. The irony alone would be enough to fell a lesser man. But Bond has not been a man for several centuries, and Q not for many years yet.
James fucks and fights, and Q chirps in his ears, words sharp as the bones that are too big for the boy’s body. They could be hollow like a bird’s, for how easily James could break them. They suit Q and his brown nest of hair, strands flying every which way. If Q had wings, James would clip them. James despises him. James needs him to die.
When James goes to bed in Taipei, with a man whose name he can’t be bothered to remember and whose dick he’d like to forget, Q is whispering intel in his ear. When he wakes up, both the man and Q are gone. In the man’s place is a note, and in Q’s, another handler, whose name James can’t be bothered to learn.
It’s unusual, but James doesn’t ask where Q has gone. Q would like that far too much.
Two days pass, and Q still hasn’t returned. Q’s replacement handler isn’t incompetent, but he underestimates James’ capabilities, swinging James around like a dagger instead of a sword, and everything drags on much longer than it should. On the third day, after contradicting his handler for the good and sanity of everyone involved, James asks. Q is the last to play truant. The boffin once came in with the flu, for god’s sake. He brought the productivity of the whole branch down, with how much everyone was babying him. Even Moneypenny, who avoids Q branch like it’s the hives for “reasons you wouldn’t understand, Bond,” had gone and brought Q a cup of tea. She doesn’t even bring M tea, and she’s essentially his bodyguard come secretary.
James’ handler goes silent, as compared to his yelling moments before. A moment passes, but Bond is currently waiting on a rooftop for his extraction via helicopter to arrive. He’s got a gun with half a clip left and plenty of time.
“I could ask extraction, when they finally get here. How long have I got to wait because of your incompetence? Dead bodies stench up after a while,” he says pointedly.
“Q is missing. We think he might’ve been kidnapped.”
“You think. He’s been gone for three days, you didn’t tell me, and you’re not even sure if he’s just kipped off or been offed?”
“There was no reason to tell you; you had your mission to complete and didn’t need any distractions. We have agents looking into it. We do care about him, you know. But he’s just a child, doesn’t hold any vital intelligence, and resources are sparse.”
James grits his teeth, doesn’t say anything. They spend the next hour and a half waiting for the helicopter in silence. If James were a paranoid man, he’d think M had planned Q’s disappearance. He’s never told any of the Ms that he could die, why he wanted to travel the globe, but there’s a chance that Mallory has guessed that it’s possible, and that Q is the catalyst. Control Q, and keep James as a tool.
He submits his paperwork on time, for once, for post-mission leave.
“They didn’t look for me.”
James’ hand whips to his gun at the whispered sentence. His alarm system must’ve been bypassed.
“Really, Bond? Three days is all it took for you to forget me?”
James peers around his loft. On the couch is a miserable bundle of blankets and boy. Q. His glasses are missing, making him look even younger than usual. Despite his acerbic tone, the boy looks exhausted, and spooked. He’s got an ugly bruise on his cheek, covered by dried tear streaks, and James is willing to bet that it’s not the only injury he's got. The boffin’s eyes are unfocused and glassy and he’s curled up on his side.
“Q,” James says softly, telegraphing his slow steps towards the couch. “I just got back. I came home to stock up so I could search for you. How long have you been here? Have your injuries been checked?”
“It was a two day mission,” Q accuses, eyes narrowing. “With one day left.”
“Your replacement left a lot to be desired.”
Q laughs wetly. “Tell them to look for me next time.”
James kneels in front of the couch so he’s eye level. He slowly peels a blanket away from Q. To his surprise, Q is dressed in James’ clothes, one of James’ few t-shirts practically swallowing the boy whole. The sweatpants look as if they’ll fall off if Q stands up, the drawstrings untied.
James’ eyes dart to Q’s hands. The left one is mangled, broken fingers and angry red welts.
He’s inexplicably filled with rage, that someone would hurt his little changeling. “I’m guessing you want me to fix you up, seeing as you’re here and not at a hospital.”
Q nods. “Questions,” he explains. “And MI6…no. You’re safe. You need me.” Q frowns. “Couldn’t find your kit though.”
“I’ll be right back,” James assures, then stands to fetch his medical supplies, which are thankfully aplenty. He wonders how long Q has been here, curled in pain. How Q escaped. How long Q was at the mercy of his kidnappers.
When he returns, Q is stark naked save for a pair of boxer briefs – borrowed. James breathes a sigh of relief when he sees that the damage is mostly cosmetic, whip marks and welts, cuts and scrapes, nothing permanently debilitating. The worst of the injuries is Q’s hand, though they’ll have to worry about infection. He’s covered in grime.
“They wanted to send a message.”
“To MI6?” James asks. Q makes a weak, sardonic smile that is in no way an answer. “Any allergies to drugs?” James checks, and Q shakes his head. “Okay, hold still, I’m going to give you some morphine and a sedative. Feel free to pass out at any time.” James gently steadies Q’s left arm with one hand as he guides the needle in with the other. After the morphine, he injects a sedative.
“I hope you do a better job on me then you did yourself,” Q murmers tiredly, though it’s too soon for the drugs to have kicked in, leaning against James. Bond wonders if Q has stayed awake waiting for him to show, scared to fall asleep for fear of nightmares or being assaulted again. “For someone who can’t die, you have a lot of scars. Or not very many? I don’t know how old you are.”
“Come on. Up. Let’s get you to the tub before you’re completely out.”
Q scrambles out of his grip, shaking his head violently and landing on the couch with a pained whine.
James’ stomach drops, an unexpected lurching feeling like falling off a building. He drops to his knees next to the couch, holding up his hands non-threateningly. The damage isn’t all cosmetic after all. They'd waterboarded Q. “Shhh. It’s okay. No tub. I’ll just get a washcloth to wipe you down, okay?” James pats Q on the head, hoping it’s reassuring.
“You don’t need to talk to me like I’m a child,” Q says bitingly, but he’s shaking like a leaf.
James leaves to get some towels, soap, and a small basin rather than replying, “But you are one.” He closes the bathroom door behind him as he runs the tap, hoping Q doesn’t hear it and get triggered. What the hell is he doing? He isn’t equipped to handle a traumatized child. And Q is a child, despite all his cleverness and occasional charm. But then, if James takes him to MI6 there will be even more questions, suspicion. He sighs. Hopefully the boy will pass out soon.
When he returns, Q is still awake, albeit with his head drooping. Even so, Q is eyeing the basin warily.
James tilts it to show that the water is shallow. He sets some towels on the sofa before wetting the corner of a washcloth. “Are your kidnappers still loose?” He asks, hoping to distract Q from the process.
Q nods weakly. “ ‘m not you.” The boy looks angry at himself, good hand curled into a fist, as if he was supposed to take out what is assumedly a group of trained, armed men. Angrier still, when he flinches at the burn of soap.
“You did good just getting away. Pulling triggers is hard work.”
Q’s reply is intelligible, soft, mumblings, the boy beginning to slump against the sofa and James as sleep takes him. He doesn’t so much as twitch as James prods at his twisted fingers. Bond wonders, if he curled Q’s good hand around a knife and stabbed himself with it, if it would count.
He finishes wiping Q down then dresses the boy and scoops him up. Time to take the boy to a medical professional. He needs x-rays and a cast and Bond knows a woman who won’t ask any questions.
“That’s a rather large cat. Cute, but he looks a bit feral. He won’t wake up and bite, will he?” Idnea asks as James walks into her pet clinic. “Looks a little starved too. Did you pick him up off the streets?” She sweeps over Q’s frame with a professional gaze even as she banters playfully. “Come on, let’s get him x-ray’d. The left hand, you said? You know, you don’t look so good yourself. You sure you don’t need any x-rays done?”
James shakes his head at her concern. His injuries aren’t so grave that carrying Q is a hardship. The child is startlingly light. “Yes, his left. He doesn’t look to have any other injuries requiring x-rays, but better safe than sorry.”
Idnea looks up at him, all five feet, four inches of judgment. “You didn’t pick him off the streets then. I never thought I’d see the day. But a child, really? Wait, is he yours?” She glances at Q again, eyes curious rather than professional.
James sighs internally. “No. Now, the x-rays please. And antibiotics for his back.”
She shakes her head ruefully, as she positions Q’s limbs for the machine. “Now leave me with my patient and go fix yourself up. You know how I hate hovering.”
Bond would protest, but he’s given her enough ammunition for the night as it is, and the blood from the bullet graze on his thigh is starting to dry and stick to his trousers. He trusts her enough. Not because she has any loyalty to him, but because she’s a soft spot for strays.
As he’s in the hallway, he hears her whisper float through the open door. “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. Or, rather, for the one who tamed you. You’re rather the little fox, aren’t you?”
The Little Prince. If only Idnea knew how close she was to being right in picking a title, if off in everything else. A Quartermaster has to be fully functional.
“You took me to a doctor,” is the first thing Q says when he wakes.
“A vet. And she didn’t ask any question. Not any important ones, anyways. Said you reminded her a bit of a feral cat.”
“If I had claws, you’d be the first to know,” Q quips unaffectedly, making grabby hands the mug in James’ hands. “Besides, they’re brilliant creatures,” he continues, after taking a sip. “Clever.”
“Contrary. Escape artists too,” James adds, faux casual. “How did you get away?”
Q closes his eyes and takes a deep, shaky breath, dispelling the steam rising from his tea in shuddery stops and starts. Another sip later, he opens his eyes again. Without his glasses in the way, his eyes are startlingly expressive. “Not today. Officially, it’s none of MI6’s concern. I can tell you where they are and what they look like, but you wouldn’t care for the rest.”
Too late, does James realize that he, in fact, does. Care. He’d forgotten how the other promises he’d made to his witch queen might affect him. That she has his heart. It hadn’t taken him long to realize he would never hold much affection for anyone or anything.
He hadn’t realized that he would love this chimerical abomination that only holds her spirit in sideways glimpses. Q is hollow bird bones and snake’s eyes, cat’s confidence and puppy’s impatience, compared to the steadfast lioness that was his predecessor. James had never thought he could both hate and love someone as much as he did his queen, even if he only hated her post mortem.
He should have. They say that time and absence make the heart grow fonder. Proximity and Q’s personality feed his ire.
Bondr did not fuck men.
James Bond, centuries later, is no different, outside of missions.
Bond nearly walks right back out. He shouldn’t be surprised, really, to see Q in a place like this, shady and run down; the place where bad nights go to get worse and the worst of nights go to die. It doesn’t surprise him. He had learned to expect the worst from Q. If anything, Q seems the type to drink in the misery of it all. At the least, he is not the type to mind it.
What does surprise James is that Q is dancing with a man twice his age who has wandering hands and hungry eyes. Q, for all that the boy – not even old enough to legally be in this establishment – is trying to imitate the smooth, gyrating bodies around him, is coltish and awkward. Not that his present company seems to mind it.
James remembers how his queen used to dance. Jovial hops and skips, bracelets and anklets jangling, their clinking almost an echo of metal clashing on the battlefield. Her dance had always made James think of the sky and the rush of a chase; it’d been far from the gypsy's, whose dance was all rolling hips and calculated seductions, a reason to stay on earth and the guaranteed promise of spoils.
Q turns his head, meets James’ gaze. The boy smiles, sultry but shy, and makes a show of himself. His shirt is half translucent from perspiration and his hair even more tousled than usual, as if fingers had been buried there moments before. The man behind him glances at James, then bends to whisper in Q’s ear.
Bond feels nothing. Correction: he feels protective and furious, because the man Q is dancing with is by no means a good man. If the knowledge Bond had of him wasn’t enough, the concealed gun would be reason for alarm alone. James had just scraped Q back together. Hell if he’d have to do it again.
Q must misread his gaze because he pecks the man on a cheek before bounding over.
Before the boy can do something stupid or embarrassing, or get any more wrong ideas, James grips him by the collar. “What the hell are you doing? You know he has a weapon,” at least James hopes that Q knows that, “and you’re trying to get him to take you home?”
“Succeeding, not trying. And the bathroom stalls would’ve been far enough, really.” Q rolls his eyes. “Of course I know what I’m doing. He had info on the people who kidnapped me. He thought you were my boyfriend with the way you were glaring.” Q tilts his head to the side and smiles as if he’s proud of the fact, like he thinks James is jealous. “Thanks for that, by the way. Distracted him enough and gave me a good out. Not that I would’ve minded the stalls, but…” Q trails off, shrugging. “He’s kind of an asshole, even if he’s hot.”
There’s no way this won’t end poorly. James releases the boffin, gripping him on the elbow instead - with some care because the little shite is still recovering - and leading him towards the door, out of this shithole. “You couldn’t figure it out through your usual methods?”
Q’s hand goes to his pocket and he flashes James a glimpse of a phone. “Pulling a trigger isn’t so hard, if tedious and tiring.”
Bond can’t believe it. The kid is risking his life to prove a point? Q isn’t ready for the field, isn’t made for it. “There are two types of tiring: the kind that makes you wish for sleep, and the kind that makes you seek out peace. Neither are good things. Stick to your day job.”
Q looks up at him, eyes wide and falsely guileless. “And which tired are you? Are you looking for sleep? Or peace?” The implied, in me, hangs in the air.
“Both. I’m an old ship.”
“Well I’m seeking out peace. Then I can sleep.”
He’s scared then. Nightmares, most likely. “Hell of a way to find peace.” Bond would offer to do it for him, but if he gives the boy an inch he’ll take a mile. The fact that Q has a crush on him is bad enough as it is.
“I hope you don’t sincerely mean that, given our occupations,” Q replies unaffectedly. “The irony would be enough to fell a country. Want to watch me work?”
“I’m not the voyeur in this relationship.”
Watching over Q to make sure the teen gets home safe does not count. It’s probably written in his job description.
James is at home, eating take-out on his couch and perusing through MI6’s files on Q - because apparently there’s more to the boy than first, second, and third glance - when someone walks in through his front door without sounding the alarm that he’d just updated earlier in the day. Bond has the files closed and his gun trained on the intruder in an instant. The first thing he sees is the gun in the intruder’s hands, something similar to a L11A3 pointing at the ground. It makes no sense for a second, an intruder breaking in with a sniper rifle of all things, but then Bond takes in who is holding it.
Q. Of bloody course.
It’s a strange sight. The rifle is disproportionately large compared to the boffin, 7 kilograms to the boy’s likely 55. Q walks up to James, never stepping outside of the crosshairs, and presses his hand against the muzzle of James’ weapon to lower it. He sets his own gun atop the coffee table and wearily plops himself down on the couch where James had been a second ago.
“I couldn’t do it.”
“Good. You don’t have a license to kill,” James says evenly.
“MI6 still hasn’t found me,” Q replies wryly.
“Wait too long and they’ll proclaim you dead.”
Q giggles at this, an undignified and unworried sound that’s somehow a little charming.
“Do you even know how to shoot that?” Bond asks, indicating at the rifle. Q’s shooting scores were barely passable if the records are to be believed. Bond doesn’t trust Q not to fake them, though.
“Bond, I built it.”
“Doesn’t mean you can aim it. Or shoot someone with it, apparently.”
"I built it,” Q repeats. It dawns on James what Q is implying at the same time the boy elaborates, “it does the aiming for me.”
Only Q would think that building a gun with automatic aiming is easier than learning how to just aim. James is starting to think that Q is missing the portion of the brain meant to be dedicated to common sense, or that he sacrificed it for a few additional IQ points.
"Then pulling the trigger can’t possibly be too hard,” James taunts. He wonders if he should encourage it, take Q back to wherever his kidnappers are hiding, and help him pull the trigger, if he should guide the chimera towards a propensity for killing to make things easier later on. It wouldn’t be hard, given Q’s eagerness to prove himself.
"It shouldn’t be,” Q agrees.
They sit in silence for a while, until James realizes that Q isn’t going to be made leave by the stifling uncomfortableness. He sighs. “You always want me to do your dirty work.”
“I’ll come with you?” Q offers, perking up. “I still want to watch them bleed.”
“Nice to know where you draw your line in the sand.”
Q directs their executions, most of them unmerciful. By the time James is done the warehouse - abandoned once more - looks like a minor warzone. James would be irritated at the micromanagement if not for the fact that Q did it so beautifully, never asking anything James wouldn’t have done anyways, even if they weren’t his first choices.
“Let’s go home,” Q says as the last of them gurgles his final breath, choked by his own blood. They'd all been killed with some form of choking, though no waterboarding was involved.
“What about clean up? We made quite a bit of noise, you know.” James quite suspects that Q wanted to hear them scream, with the way he’d refused to gag any of them.
Q glances around the warehouse. “I don’t suppose you have pen and paper on you. Ah, well.” He bends down next to closest of the dead bodies and begins stripping its shirt off. Then he begins fingerpainting on its chest, using its blood.
I’ll be back Monday.
Q pauses for a second, thinking, then adds a smiley face.
James thinks he has just witnessed the birth of a sociopath. One that takes credit for his work, at that.
MI6 welcomes Q back with mixed emotions. They’re glad he’s alive, but rumors of Q’s - James’ - act of carnage have spread. The rumors vary from Q slaughtering them all himself to hiring killers, to manipulating James into doing it. Suffice to say, M isn’t pleased with the aftermath of Q’s kidnapping and the subsequent mess.
Neither is James.
Q takes up in his apartment, not the slightest bit discouraged by James’ ever passive aggressive upgrading of his security system. Not that the changes mean anything, not when James has to make sure his security stays non-lethal just in case. Q becomes a constant presence. If he’s not chirping in James’ ear during a mission, he’s at James’ flat whenever James is. Q doesn’t try to make any more moves on James, although his clothing choices, or lack thereof, become increasingly questionable. Objectively, Q isn’t hard on the eyes, pale and slender in a way that’s fashionable in this century and betrays his obsession with work. He’s soft aside from the ridges of his bones, the only visible toughness on him the scars that others would find distasteful, but James knows the history of all of them, patched Q up after them. It would be easier if James were attracted to Q.
He can’t even avoid Q and his flat. When he does, he’s treated to sad eyes and a bitter smile when he has to return to Q branch for equipment.
They fall into an awkward stalemate, both of them existing in James’ flat with little interaction outside the routine. James stops drawing his gun every time he enters his flat and hears signs of life inside. Q stops spooking every time James turns on the tap.
Q’s 19th birthday passes, then his 20th, and somehow he has become R. He’s not as ecstatic as James thought he’d be. Q hasn’t been pleased with MI6 ever since they failed to rescue him. James doesn’t ask why he doesn’t just quit. He doesn’t ask anything about the kidnapping, and Q never brings it up.
“Do you ever get lonely?” Q asks one morning, over a cup of tea and toast - both made by Bond because Q is a lazy arse in the morning and can’t be trusted with toasters.
“Excuse me?” James raises an eyebrow. If he were lonely, which he isn’t, no more than the usual, it would be Q’s fault for guilt tripping him every time he slept with a warm body for reasons other than espionage.
“Or are you only without a lover in this era? Does whatever’s causing you to live, and die only by my hands, cause you to live like a miser as well?”
“Are you offering?” James jokes.
“You know I am,” Q responds in all seriousness, meeting James’ eyes over his mug. Through the steam, his eyes are oasis green.
“I don’t,” he replies, and to his surprise finds it true.
“I hate watching you die,” is the first thing James hears as he wakes from, apparently, death. “No need to rush,” Q continues, when he realizes James is awake. “The bomb killed all of them as well.” He sounds as tired as James feels.
“What time is it?” James asks.
James opens his eyes, and discovers the sky is bright. “I meant in London.”
“5:32 a.m. It’s not as if I could leave alone while you were dead.”
“Don’t forget your promise,” is all James says, before closing his eyes for a little longer. He trusts Q to send extraction for him.
Q gives it an honest shot, dating, that is. To James’ absolute lack of surprise, the boy’s aim is shit. He’s surprised that Q doesn’t build an algorithm or build himself a robot boyfriend. So, maybe not honest after all.
“What was wrong with this one, then?” Q hisses as James drags him out of the restaurant. “Dad,” he tacks on at the end petulantly, unhappy with the role James took on to drag him away from his disastrous date.
“His name was Eggsy.”
“He was fit.”
“His step-father is filth.”
“His step-father. Not him. He was nice. Besides, what do you care? As long as I’m in one piece I can fulfill the promise. It’s not fair. I can’t date you, but you won’t let me date anyone else either. What’s the next excuse? My date’s great aunt twice removed once got a traffic ticket for driving 30 in a 50 zone?”
James doesn’t deign that with a response.
Q stops walking. “You do. You do care,” he says hesitantly, revelatory. “I don’t understand. Then why?”
“Haven’t you heard of the Kinsey scale? You can’t possibly be exclusively heterosexual. I’ve seen you - oh.” Q’s face falls. “I see. You can get it up for the sake of England, but nothing else. However much you care, you obviously don’t care enough. I’d rather you not care at all, if that’s the case.”
It’s unfair, logical fallacies and unearned blame, but Q stomps off back to the pub. James doesn’t stop him.
Q stumbles back to James’ flat much, much later. His companion must be with him, because James can hear their loud, drunken whispers through the door. Q apologizing, and -
“It’s fine. I know what it’s like to be in love with someone you can’t have. Sucks, but you just gotta keep your chin up. C’mon, let’s get you inside. That’s a good lad.”
A small, nearly imperceptible sniffle, is Q’s only reply. No refute. The door starts to open and James sneaks back to his room before Q enters and finds out he was in the living room, waiting and listening.
As far as James can tell, Q doesn’t leave the apartment much after that, aside from work. He starts wearing sensible clothing and stops smiling as much - not that James can be too sure, as the boffin goes out of his way to avoid him. He holes himself up in his room, skipping meals as if he can afford to, stops joking with the agents, stops inventing. James can actually walk around his flat without tripping over wires or stepping on processors.
It’s disgustingly boring.
Even during missions James feels choked by the miasma that is Q’s misery, the comms quiet and free of insults. Well, Q wasn’t wrong. He’s done worse for less.
“I lied,” James lies, setting his equipment - all of it intact - on Q’s bed.
Q’s eyes turn hopeful for a half second before narrowing. The boffin is on his laptop, and only half-dressed, clearly prepared for another day of holing himself up in his room now that he’s got a break from work.
“I just thought it’d be easier, if we didn’t get attached. And you’re so young and,” James cuts off, stops stalling, and takes a step forward, closing the distance between them. Q tilts towards him like a flower to the rising sun and James allows himself to feel guilt for all of a second. He cups Q’s cheek, buries a hand in the boffin’s mess of hair and kisses him the best he knows how.
It feels a thousand types of wrong, worse than seducing someone for a mission. There are no fireworks, nothing like kissing his soulmate should be.
James briefly releases Q to transfer the laptop to the nightstand. Q’s eyes follow his every movement, unblinking. He’s breathing fast, cheeks red and lips shiny. Looking at him, James can almost remember the first time he slept with his queen. James strips off his shirt to match Q’s level of nakedness and straddles the brunette.
Q reaches up to touch James, hesitates, hand a few inches away from his abs. He bites his lip, and asks, uncharacteristically shy, “Can I?”
His queen, the gypsy, both of them had been as bossy and demanding in bed as Q is during missions. That Q is...sweet, was completely unexpected.
“Is this your first time?” James asks as Q tentatively traces the curves of his obliques.
Q freezes. He opens his mouth but says nothing, caught between yes and no. As far as James can tell, Q’s hesitancy isn’t because of a need for posturing and dignity. Shit, another thing that hadn’t been in Q’s files. He wants to wring the necks of everyone who has ever hurt his little chimera.
“This is your first time,” James promises. “Don’t worry.”
When he runs to his room to get them supplies, he pauses at the bottle he’d bought on the way home. Too late to turn back now. He uncaps it and swallows a pill dry just in case.
James cleans them up after and Q latches onto him as if he’s a giant teddy bear.
“Thank you. That was...amazing.”
James kisses Q on the forehead. This, at least, feels natural. “My pleasure.”
“I love you,” Q mumbles into his neck.
“And I you,” James replies easily. It’s the first time he hasn’t lied tonight. As Q sleeps, James stares at the ceiling and prays that Q has a low sex drive.
James distracts Q with dates, keeping to public places. He occasionally beds the boffin to allay any suspicion. It works. Q flourishes under James’ attention and the happy moments - teaching Q how to not be a disaster in the kitchen, snuggling on the couch and watching the telly, laughing over America’s political mess and placing bets on who James will have to assassinate next - make up for the disgust that rolls through him every time he swallows a blue pill and gets Q off.
The domesticity doesn’t last. James isn’t sure what events led up to it, but Q discovers the bottle that has allowed for the sham of their sex life.
There’s the expected shouting, tears. Unexpectedly, Q apologizes for taking advantage of him, for wrongly accusing James of not caring enough.
Q starts holing himself in his room again, and the miasma is back, even worse than before, tinged with guilt.
James isn’t sure if the guilt is his own, or Q’s. His, for not being able to love Q the way Q needs. Q’s, for being in love with him even though they both know it’ll end badly.
James contemplates shooting the Quartermaster for the sake of Q getting promoted. Time, as James well knows, does not heal shite. Whatever this thing between him and Q is, it’s like a festering wound left unchecked.
“I’m sorry,” James admits as he disposes of the bodies and cleans up the hotel room. “I just wanted you to be happy.”
“I’m sorry as well. Did it...did you enjoy any of it?”
“The things that friends would do, yes.”
“Do you want to do that, then? Just the normal stuff, you know.”
It’s a horrible idea, but Bond agrees.
“Do you still want to die?” Q asks. They both know that they’re getting closer and closer to the completion of the contract. Boothroyd is aging and thanks in part to James, Q’s success rate is unparalleled. “Would it be so bad to be stuck with me a few more years?”
Living like this, with Q, it’s not bad. It’s better than the years without him were. He actually feels like he’s alive. But that doesn’t change his mind. The way things are, James is left perpetually feeling like he’s a ball and chain, trapping Q in-between two states: free, and pining. Eventually, something will give. And he wants it. He’s wanted it for centuries. He’s not going to give up now that he’s so close, not going to risk something happening to Q and being stuck alone for centuries more. “Yes.”
“I know you don’t make promises but...if I kill you, when you come back, will you love me again? Promise to be madly in love with me, as much as I am with you.”
Q’s eyes are wet with unshed tears, and his body tense, ready for rejection.
James doesn’t think he loved his queen more than he does Q, and despises the unfairness of it all. “I promise.”
Q is promoted and what seems like all of MI6 goes out to a pub to drink themselves into a stupor in celebration. Both Q and James hardly touch a drop, and excuse themselves early.
“Thanks. It’s all I wanted before I met you. Doesn’t feel like it matters so much now.”
James glances over the back of the sofa, at the kitchen clock. They’ve still got two hours and a handful of minutes before midnight.
Q catches the small movement. “Stay,” Q pleads, reaching for him.
“You promised,” James reminds, hugging Q’s head to his chest and weathering Q’s small hiccups and sobs. “You can’t break a promise to your soulmate.” Q's hands, fragile and untainted by death, clench onto his shirt.
“How do you - how am I supposed to kill you?” He whispers hoarsely between sobs.
“A gun would be easiest. I’ll even help you aim.”
“Easiest,” Q echoes.
“Don’t tell me you’ve gone soft now. I’ll worry about leaving you alone. You have to take care of yourself now. Fall in love with some prat that’s actually worth it.”
Q shakes his head. “No. You promised you’d come back and we’d be stupidly in love with each other. You can’t break your promise to your soulmate.”
James sighs. Stubborn git. Just like his queen. He kisses Q’s wild curls and pulls him closer.
They stay like this, in silence, until five before midnight. It’s enough, to be with each other.
James hands Q the beretta Q had made just for the occasion, a tiny thing of a pistol. Palm print reader, of course. He wraps Q’s fingers around the handle, guides Q until the barrel is pressed against his chest right below his mark of fealty towards his queen.
Q looks up at him, legs still tangled with his, eyes oasis green as always. They’re rimmed red and flickering with uncertainty.
James flips the safety and nods. Takes one last look at his brilliant, lovely, changeling. “Promise to be the first thing I see.”
Q lays Bond’s body down and closes his eyelids, hiding away eyes the brightest blue Q will never see again. Q's hand had moved of its own accord, fulfilling their promise against his will. He hopes, against all hopes, that James was wrong. That Q can’t kill him. That James will wake up again, like he always does, cocky grin and morbid humor and all.
The sun rises.
It wasn't worth it.
There’s a rumor in MI6, passed along from agent to agent, Quartermaster to Quartermaster, intern to intern: M, formerly Q, is older than all of them combined, stopped aging before they were ever born. Only his eyes betray his age, as tired as they are green and forever fixed to the computer monitors that surround his desk. Nobody knows what's keeping him here or why he never leaves but it's apparent that he's here to stay.