Forced by M to stop his transient ways after Skyfall, James Bond takes Q up on the offer of sharing his home temporarily while 007 looks for a new flat.
Author: Chestnut NOLA
Fandom: James Bond (Craig Movies)
Relationship(s): James Bond/Q
Genre: Romance, Humor
Word Count: 15,109
“Until such time as you have a permanent residence 007, you are not cleared for field work.”
James supposed Mallory was right, though he was loath to admit it. Living in a hotel for three months wasn’t ideal with the comings and goings of the cleaning staff, not to mention the expense of it. At this point, his living situation in London had taken a backseat to the job, a distraction if he was honest with himself, to submerge his guilt over the death of M and the destruction of his childhood home, Skyfall. The job was all he had, all that he’d had for a very long time. He needed the diversion otherwise, the ever-present thoughts of what he could have done differently continuously itched in the back of his mind.
The cool spring breeze from the waters of the Thames shifted, caressing his face as he sat facing the river across from the destroyed hulk of Vauxhall Cross. The powers that be were still undecided on whether to rebuild the behemoth or start anew in a different location. James figured at this moment, he felt like that poor burned-out building, singed black and dower.
A scrape of a shoe against the paving stones brought him out of his contemplation. It was horrifying to realize he’d been so immersed in his thoughts that his normal awareness of his surroundings was non-existent.
He settled almost instantly at seeing the mess of his Quartermaster’s inky locks out of the corner of his eye.
“007,” Q greeted, sitting down. He was wearing a high collared, cashmere, lavender jumper, with blue and yellow striped trousers. James often wondered if Q was colorblind; the clashing hue of his clothing choices was enough to cause the occasional grimace in the face of them. “I hear you’re grounded for the foreseeable future. Care to tell me why?”
James snorted. “As if you haven’t already hacked into my files to find out for yourself.”
“Well… I hardly need to hack in my position, but I was going to give you the opportunity to share if you wanted.”
Q’s sniff of affront brought a twitch to the corner of James’ mouth. Q had a way about him that James found delightful, no matter how black his mood. Q was at once proper and improper, often at the same time, but with a formality that lured the unsuspecting into shock when he was inappropriate. James liked that about him.
“So… house hunting.”
“Unfortunately,” James replied.
“Any particular area you’re keen on?”
“I haven’t thought about it, Q.” James watched Q take in the river and the empty shell of MI6, glad he wasn’t taking in the empty shell that was James Bond at the moment.
“I might have a solution to your problem, if you want to hear it,” Q said, his emerald eyes mischievous behind his spectacles stilled as they landed on James. With Q’s slight smile, James experienced a bit of déjà vu. Only their surroundings and Q’s cheeks pink from the brisk wind were different from their first meeting in the National Gallery when Q had discomfited him where he’d sat.
Raising a brow, James asked, “A solution?”
“Yes, it will give you time to find a house or flat, and with my help, get you back out in the field in the meantime.”
Q turned his gaze back to the river. “I have a house on Hampstead Heath with an unused bedroom. The commute can be trying, but you don’t really commute.”
“Are you asking me to move in with you, Q?” James said, unable to keep the teasing lilt out of his tone. “A bit sudden in our relationship, isn’t it?”
“I’m being serious, 007.” Q glowered at him. “I’m offering you my second bedroom, not my bed. You’re not irresistible, you know.”
James sobered a bit when he realized Q was serious. “Why would you make the offer, Q?”
Q shrugged. “You’re the best field agent MI6 has, and you won’t be cleared by M or psych until you stop your transitory ways. I could also do with a bit of help with the mortgage.”
James doubted that statement was true, knowing the Quartermaster earned a decent enough salary, probably more than decent, since he was so talented in his work.
“I’m not sure my moving in with you will appease Mallory’s concerns,” James replied, still unable to think of Mallory as M. No one could ever truly replace her, or at least not yet in James’ mind.
“Leave that to me,” Q said, assured.
He was a confident bugger, James would give him that.
All his things were in storage. It would be nice to have some of his familiar possessions around him, finally, and the intrusion of strangers into his space would be resolved. He doubted Q let just anyone into the house willy-nilly, his position was too important and secretive not to be wary. James was itching to be busy, and the process of moving would give him something to occupy his mind while he waited for Mallory to give him the green light.
“I suppose, I could give your place a look,” James hedged.
Q raised an imperious black brow, which made James’ lips twitch again, fighting another smile. “A question before we proceed.”
“Do you like cats?”
Typical, Q would be a cat person. James couldn’t hold off his smile. “I haven’t been around them since I was a child, but as I recall… I did enjoy playing with the stable cats when I was a boy.”
“How about dogs?”
“How many animals do you have, Q?”
Q stood up languidly, saying drolly as he stretched a bit, “Don’t worry, 007. I’m not a deranged collector of furry creatures. I have two cats and one dog, which is more than enough.”
“Dogs are fine, though again, I haven’t been around them in years.”
“Well then, meet me in the garage at five-o’clock,” Q said, and James knew it was an order rather than a suggestion. Q didn’t wait for an answer, just gave him a nod before turning to stroll leisurely down the pavement.
Well, at least I have something to do tonight, James thought watching his Quartermaster walk back over the bridge.
It was still light out, the winter darkness slowly retreating with the promise of summer, by the time they turned onto a long winding tree-lined drive. Q had picked him up in a vintage two-door dark green Land Rover, completely decked out for off-road driving and potential camping, with a large roof rack for supplies. James couldn’t quite see Q as the outdoors type, so the choice in vehicle had surprised him.
The foliage opened to reveal a very modern single story house with an asymmetrical roof. Glass was prominent, outlined by brick and slate vertical pillars, with white stucco walls placed intermittently between them. Slate paving stones opened to the attached garage, as well as the steps up to the front door, which was protected by a straight square roof piece, its edges again in white stucco. All in all, the architecture was appealing to James’ own tastes that lent toward the Brutalist movement of the fifties and sixties.
“It’s very retro, Q.”
Q grimaced. “I know, it was built in the fifties, and it’s not really what I would’ve preferred. I bought it for the location, rather than its ascetics. I would have liked a more traditional turn of the century cottage, to be honest, but the property beat out all other considerations.”
“I like it.”
“You would,” Q stated, halting the car in front of the garage, waiting for the doors to finish opening before pulling in. “There’s room for two cars in here, so whatever ridiculously expensive sports car you own will be protected.”
“I don’t currently own a vehicle,” James murmured, taking in the finished garage, before exiting the car and following Q to the door leading into the house.
“Well, that’s surprising, 007.”
“I just haven’t had the time, Q, and there didn’t seem to be much point, I’ve been traveling so much.”
“When you move in, you’ll need to get one,” Q stated. He found Q’s confidence that he would be moving in terribly endearing, for some reason James didn’t want to examine too closely.
The door opened into a large foyer hall with the front door to their left, and slate under their feet. James didn’t take in much else besides warm wood paneling on the walls before he was distracted by the large Irish Setter who was wriggling in excitement under Q’s hands. His Quartermaster was cooing to the beast, it’s happy dance and whining excitement resounding off the high ceilings.
James grunted when he received a quick nose in the crotch before the dog licked his hands in greeting.
“He’s not much of a watchdog, is he?” James said, holding off another intimate sniff.
“Ethel stop,” Q said softly, not really scolding the dog at all, while he disarmed the alarm. “And no, she’s quite useless in that capacity, though she does keep my feet warm during winter.”
Ethel proceeded to push between James’ legs, standing still with her tail still wagging madly. His dignity was non-existent with Q’s dog between his thighs, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.
Smiling, Q instructed, “Pet her back and bottom, then she’ll go through all the way, 007.”
He did as he was told, not willing to upset Q by being dismissive of his pet. Her fur was silky warmth under his fingers, and he couldn’t help but smile when she did indeed finish pushing through with a final swipe of her tail.
“She’s done that since she was a puppy, you just have to indulge her. Come along, I’ll show you the rest of the place.”
Following Q and his bouncy dog, James took in the spacious living room off the hall. The wood and slate motif continued, but for the wall of floor to ceiling windows that overlooked a brick garden courtyard and thick woods beyond. A large mantled fireplace was hulking in the center of the far wall set off by the wooden walls, it’s facade matching the exterior slate pillars.
The room was a huge open space, lacking wall hangings of any sort, and with the bare minimum of furnishings with a long green suede sofa, loveseat, and coffee table facing the fireplace and the wall of windows. The furnishings were offset from the walls in the center of the space, atop a colorful plush Persian rug. There were no pictures hung, but shelves with various glass and stone sculptures interrupted the empty milieu along the walls.
Q let Ethel out through a seamless glass door housed within the windows on one side. “Don’t worry, I replaced the glass throughout the house, it’s bulletproof.”
Watching the dog streak into the woods, wondering about privacy with the lack of curtains, James asked, “Other security features?”
Q’s chest puffed out, and James found his assured pride at once silly in his garish clothes and charming. “The woods back up to the forest of the Heath. I’ve installed cameras, motion sensors, and facial recognition throughout the ten acres surrounding the property. You don’t have to worry about anyone looking in, 007. Only myself and my pet sitter, fully vetted, of course, are allowed in the house. I’m alerted to anyone who comes on the property, and I have the system set for allowing my normal letter carriers to approach. Any strangers are alerted in the system, which is on a secure line to Q-Branch.”
James relaxed, he should’ve known Q would have a fortress for a home, including an electronic moat to detect an attack. At least, Ethel’s lack of guard dog personality was explained somewhat.
“How long have you lived here?”
Q waved him along through a doorway to the left of the fireplace behind the sofa. “About a year or so now. It really is too big a house for just one person, even though it only has two bedrooms.”
The place was sprawling, James agreed, moving into a spacious kitchen with original cabinets and stainless steel counters. The dining area was set against more windows at the far end of the space. Only the appliances and modern marble topped dining table were new. James could see himself having a morning coffee in front of those windows, taking in the lush woods while he read the paper. It was a lovely space really, quite large enough for two people to work preparing food without being underfoot.
A place like this, with the acreage and location, definitely meant Q didn’t need help with the mortgage and was most likely wealthier than James, and his own fortune wasn’t anything to sneeze at. So the question of why Q would make the offer was still in the back of his mind. He couldn’t imagine Q helping him to get approved for field work again was really the reason. Q, who seemed to support him no matter what trouble he got into on mission or with Mallory. Whatever Q’s end goal was, James didn’t think it was nefarious. He’d have to wait and see, a familiar state he was used to after all this time of being in the spy game.
Q took him through another doorway that was placed in the middle of the space dividing the kitchen from the dining area. At the end of the short hall were three doors, two on either side and the third directly in the center. The wooden paneled wall design seemed to be standard throughout the house.
“There’s only one full bath, so we’ll have to share it. I’m sure we can work out a morning schedule if we need to,” Q said, allowing James to take in the bath. It too was original in light green and black decorative tile, and the sink, tub, and toilet fixtures were also in the same light green. The tub was deep and softly rounded, nestled into an alcove for showering. The room was a lovely piece of design history that James found himself coveting.
“This is beautiful, Q.”
“It is the one room in the house that I do really like. The bath actually covers all my bits. It’s just lovely after a long day,” Q said with a smile. Q was so slight and delicately framed, James could see he’d be completely covered up to his shoulders. There was enough room for two people to soak comfortably, though why that thought popped into his head while he was taking in Q’s smile, James didn’t know. “There’s a matching half bath off the foyer, as well. Come along, I’ll show you your room.”
The bedroom Q lead him into was the one facing the forest, one whole wall was window again, but this time the glass wrapped around one corner at the far end, before the wood paneling began. It was twice the size of a normal bedroom, and completely empty.
“When you said the house was too big for one person, you weren’t kidding, Q.”
“I always say what I mean, 007. There’s plenty of room if you want to have a sitting area, and add some bookshelves or desk,” Q said. “The closet goes along the whole wall, and since I never see you in the same suit twice, it should hold most of your clothes horde.”
James snorted in agreement. The closet did indeed run the length of the wall it shared with the bath. Unable to help himself, James opened the doors to admire the custom shelves, drawers, and hanging space. There was additional storage on top that went all the way up to the high plastered ceiling. He’d need to get a ladder to get up there. It was an amazing closet and James would agree, he did have a fetish for nice clothing, and he had a lot of it. He wasn’t sure how he felt about walking around buck naked with that wall of windows and no curtains, but he supposed he’d get used to it. He really wasn’t all that body shy in the first place.
Ethel was wagging her tail patiently waiting on the other side of the glass to come in, panting with her tongue lolling out of her jaws. Dusk was settling over the foliage beyond and Q flicked on some lights inset into the walls and ceiling when he let her in through another seamless door James hadn’t noticed yet. She came over and sat in front of him and James couldn’t in good conscience not give her a pat. He was relieved she didn’t try to go through his legs again, though.
It occurred to him, he hadn’t seen the other furry residents. “Didn’t you say you had two cats?”
“Oh, yes… they don’t actually greet me, I greet them,” Q said ruefully. “They’re horribly demanding, come on and meet them.”
Q’s bedroom was exactly the same, just opposite overlooking the front of the house, part of the drive and more woods. It was furnished minimally with a queen size plain platform bed, which two cats were curled up together in the middle. They were like a Yin and Yang symbol.
They stretched, greeting Q with sleepy meows before heading over to crawl in his lap as he sat on the end of the bed. “The black is Merlin and the white is Arthur.”
James sat as well when Q patted the mattress beside him. “Merlin and Arthur? So this is Camelot, is it?”
Q returned a soft smile. “Perhaps, but without the tragic ending, I hope.”
Both cats yowled loudly in complaint when Ethel jumped on the bed, though they didn’t move from Q’s lap. Ethel flopped down next to James, offering her belly. He grinned at her ecstasy when he slowly rubbed the softness of her pink belly.
Other than the bed, there was a desk reminiscent of a rustic workbench in the far windowed corner with a large screen computer. It struck James, that besides the security system, he’d not seen much tech in the house.
“You don’t have as much tech in the house, as I thought you would.”
“I’m around it all day,” Q replied, his pale hands buried in his cat’s fine fur, just watching James absently stroke his dog. “Half of my closet contains the security system, and if I need to handle something remotely in the middle of the night, it gives me fully functional access to Q-Branch. I do some coding projects here, but in general, I try to stay away from it at home. You look surprised… there’s more to life than work you know, 007.”
Not for him, there hadn’t been, at least in recent memory. “You can call me James, Q when we’re not at Six.”
“Alright, James.” Q gave him a nod. “So… what do you think? Do you want to stay here until you find your own place?”
“It’s a beautiful place, Q,” James said. “It’s certainly better than living in a hotel.”
“You don’t need help with the mortgage.” James frowned. “Why are you really offering to put me up?”
Q shrugged, avoiding James’ eyes. “It’s like I said, you can’t get cleared for duty until you have a more permanent living situation.”
Q was a terrible liar, but his intentions seemed harmless enough, James mused. He was an attractive man with his green eyes, fine jawline, high cheekbones, and porcelain skin. James knew underneath the blue-black thick chaotic locks atop his head was a brain that burned brightly with genius. He really didn’t know what that genius brain’s game was, but he was comfortable around Q, even though he really didn’t know him at all… hadn’t ever met him prior to the mission to Shanghai.
“Did you work under old Boothroyd?”
Q seemed relieved the heavy silence had been broken. “No, I was doing consulting, though MI6 tried on multiple occasions to recruit me. I never intended on getting into spycraft.”
“What changed your mind?”
“My best friend, Samantha, was badly injured in Silva’s attack,” Q murmured, hugging Merlin to his chest. “She asked me to help and I couldn’t say no.”
“Samantha? You mean R?” James asked in surprise.
Q gave him a smug grin. “Yes, R the lone Q-Brancher who’s impervious to your damnable flirting… excluding me, of course.”
Samantha did indeed treat James’ attentions with a sardonic brow and long-suffering patience. She’d been in the hospital for months, having only recently returned to work. She had to still use a cane, and would probably at some point need a hip replacement, her pelvis having been shattered from the rubble that buried her alive in Vauxhall Cross. She had been one of the lucky few to survive. Q-Branch had lost five people that day. James had worked with her for about five years prior to the explosion, and he’d been relieved to find upon his return that she’d survived.
“You’re best friends with R?” He said in disbelief. “R, that gorgeous blond creature.”
“We’ve been friends since uni, James,” Q scoffed. “You and the other field agents just underestimate her all the time.”
“Well… I haven’t since the first time she ran one of my missions.”
“She’ll be happy to hear it,” Q replied, standing with his cat in his arms. “Anyway, do you want to move in or not?”
With Ethel’s warm belly still under his hand and Q’s expectant face, James figured at least it would be something different if he did move in.
“If I’m going to move in, shouldn’t I know your real name, Q?”
Holding out a hand, Q said formally, “Alan, my name is Alan Tully.”
“Oh wipe that grin off your face, 007,” Q fussed at him with a hand flap. “Like your name isn’t totally boring.”
James laughed, he couldn’t help it and took Q’s hand in a firm grip.
“Nice to meet you, Alan.”
He’d known Q was a bit different. James had figured living with a genius might be a challenge, and that not having cohabited with anyone since university and the Navy would take some getting used to. He’d been right, though he’d been very naive as to the extent of Q’s eccentricities. All the same, Q’s ability to entertain James wasn’t disagreeable in the least.
He was unpacking and organizing his clothes while Q, instead of sitting on the sofa or armchair James had set up in his bedroom, was situated cross-legged in the middle of his bed, with Ethel sprawled alongside, knitting. This had been going on quietly for about ten minutes before James’ curiosity couldn’t be contained any longer.
“Very observant of you, 007,” Q replied, not lifting his bespectacled eyes from the long needles in his hands. Ethel’s tail thumped lazily when she saw he was looking in her direction. Her behind was comfortably ensconced on his pillows and James, not comfortable yet in disciplining her, had kept silent about the issue. He anticipated he’d have to be wary of choking on fur when he went to bed.
“What are you knitting?”
“A jumper,” Q blithely returned, the click of the needles soft under his pale fingers.
“It’s spring, soon to be summer, Q.”
“Yes, that will give me plenty of time to finish before winter returns.”
Exasperated and intrigued, James sat on the bed, suit jacket forgotten in his hand. “How long have you been knitting?”
The needles paused with Q’s sigh. “Since I was about eight years old, 007.”
James had figured out when Q was a bit irritated with him, at least when away from MI6, he called James by his designation. Another quirk, James had no problem encouraging in Q, it was almost like they were an old married couple already. It was amusing to see Q trying to be dignified when he was in a most undignified state.
The needles started their work again on the soft gray wool. James was sure at some point an obscene color of some sort would make an appearance to ruin the fine gray hue.
Q dropped the needles in his lap, blinking at James. “Very well, 007. If you must know, my mum taught me to help me sleep.”
“You have trouble with insomnia?” James got back up to hang his suit. “Keep talking, Q.”
“Well, I did have a lot of trouble falling asleep as a child, and occasionally do now. Knitting is meditative, as much as it is a challenge, and helps calm my thoughts before I go to bed. So, I’ll often work on my projects for an hour in the evenings.”
James could understand, sometimes his own thoughts swirled in his head, his brain racing when he was trying to fall asleep. Often, it didn’t matter how tired he was, or how ready he was for rest, his mind just wouldn’t shut down enough to drift off.
“Well, I occasionally have bouts of insomnia myself. Perhaps, you should teach me how to knit,” he teased. “We could make matching jumpers.”
Q snorted, making James’ smile widened. He pulled another suit from a box, while the click of Q’s needles started up again.
Back turned to his housemate, James confessed, “You should know… don’t shake me awake in the middle of the night. You’re liable to get a fist in the face for your trouble.”
James swore he could hear one of Q’s black eyebrows rise. “Good to know. Should I just holler at you from the doorway then, if I need to get you up?”
“That would probably be best,” James acknowledged. He couldn’t in good conscious not inform Q of his reactions to being awoken from a dead sleep. He’d been in peril too long to not react with violence to someone disturbing him in the night.
“Well…” Q cleared his throat. “In the interest of full disclosure, I do occasionally sleepwalk.”
James’ tension eased when he realized Q wasn’t going to call him out on the evidence of possible PTSD. Turning he raised a brow, but Q was again immersed in his knitting.
“I tend to… occasionally, forage for food in the middle of the night. Just steer me back to bed, if you find I’m wandering ‘round.”
“Should I wait until you’re done snacking or head you off at the fridge before you get to the spoils?”
Q sniffed, his needles vigorous. “Let me have my cheese, then take me back to bed, if I don’t go on my own.”
James laughed and got a bespectacled glower for his trouble.
“What! It’s perfectly natural, 007!”
Ethel’s ears were velvet under his fingers, her muzzle resting on his thigh a sweet, heated weight. James enjoyed the morning with only the rustle of the paper, the clink of his coffee cup on the marble top, and Ethel’s lazily swishing tail an accompaniment to the contented glow of the dawn kissing the trees beyond the kitchen window.
Ethel’s company while James drank his coffee and read the morning paper had become a routine between them in the week since the move.
The contented quiet was disturbed by shuffling feet and yowling meows, Q—and Merlin and Arthur—were up.
Q, with his cats weaving around his feet, was a sight, with his pajama bottoms slung low on his slim hips and a long sleeve white t-shirt covering his willowy frame. The most subdued shirt James had yet to see him in, though his Einstein-esque hair pushed back off his forehead and crooked spectacles made up for the unexpected lack of color.
“Good morning, Q.”
Q grunting at him through a yawn was all James received for his chipper greeting.
Ethel’s warm weight left James’ thigh for her own pleasant good morning ear rub from Q. The three animals were now milling about underfoot while Q multi-tasked tea making and food preparations for his pets. It was a wonder he didn’t trip over them, but James figured he’d been doing this for a number of years. Q seemed to know instinctively where everyone was around his feet.
“Do you want a warm up?” Q asked, holding the coffee carafe aloft.
“Yes, thank you.”
Q finished his preparations and left his horde of fur happily eating their breakfasts. James’ coffee was topped up with a small smile before Q settled in at the table to hover over his own steaming cup.
“Did you submit your change of address?”
“Yes, a few days ago.”
“I’ll talk to M today and see if we can’t get you cleared,” Q said, before savoring his first sip with his eyes closed.
“I was going to go in and talk to him, myself today.”
“Best let me do it, James,” Q returned. “You’re just liable to irritate him, and then he’ll send you to psych for another eval.”
James raised a brow at his companion, but couldn’t refute the statement. It was somewhat true that he and Mallory did seem to be at odds most of the time. The man just rubbed James the wrong way, for some reason he didn’t want to examine more closely.
“Unless you need more time off to settle in?” Q asked.
“By the time I get cleared it will probably be another week or two until a mission gets scheduled, so it’s fine. I can talk to him myself, Q…you don’t need to, really.”
“I’ll do it, he usually does what I want anyway.”
It was unique to have someone managing his life right in front of him. Q did it both in subtle and not so subtle ways. James wasn’t sure quite what to do about it, or if he actually did want to do anything about it.
James gave a brusque knock on the door of the bath. “Q? Are you going to belong? I have to shave and pack my kit, my flight’s in three hours and I need to leave soon.”
“You can come in, I’m decent.”
James wouldn’t categorize the Quartermaster up to his white shoulders in bubbles decent, but he didn’t want to be late for his flight.
James had discovered that Q was somewhat of a creature of habit, which was a bit of a worry with the high-level position he held in the SIS. James had been informed recently that Wednesday evenings unless there was a mission he was managing, was Q’s night for a glass of red wine and a bubble bath in his absurdly extravagant green tub.
James felt eyes on his back, catching Q’s green gaze running over him in the mirror. Though, James wasn’t sure how much Q could actually see without his glasses.
James enjoyed the ritual of shaving, preparing foam, sharpening the blade with the strop, the damp heat from a hot cloth opening his pores, and a warm towel over his bare shoulder. It was a routine that was ingrained in him, calmed him when the anticipation of missions and the weight of his duty during them settled on his shoulders.
“Have you ever cut yourself badly using that razor?”
He glanced at Q in the mirror again. His spectacles were now on his nose, watching James run the soft brush of foam along his cheeks. Q was sitting up instead of leaning back in relaxation, his wine seemingly forgotten between his damp fingers.
“A few nicks when I was first learning how to use it, but no I’ve never cut myself seriously with it.”
“It looks old, inlaid with ivory.”
James returned his attention to what he was doing, lifting the blade to his cheek. He’d shaved in front of any number of women over the years, but this was the first time since the Navy his ritual was done in front of a man. Perhaps it was the setting, but shaving with Q so focused on him sent a fluttering thrum through his chest. It was fleeting with a deep breath and another pass of the blade, but James made note of the feeling before setting it aside.
He paused to wipe the blade and surprised himself when he answered Q’s unasked question. “It was my father’s, and my grandfather’s before him. It’s been used by the men in my family since 1740.”
“Did you teach yourself how to use it?”
He knew Q was well informed as to his full history and that his father hadn’t been around to teach him. James finished the last stroke under his chin before satisfying Q’s curiosity. “No, my Lieutenant Commander admired it during the first year of my Navy service. He showed me how to use and care for it.”
Cleaning the blade and packing his kit, James realized that besides his superior officer, Q was the only other person he’d ever told about the history of his straight razor. It was a personal tidbit you’d tell a close lover or friend.
The zipper of his kit rasped closed, and James terminated the uncomfortable thought before turning to lean back against the counter.
Q was back in position without his glasses, head resting back, eyes half-mast. James figured his wine was going to end up in the bath if his fingers got anymore lax around the glass stem.
“You should try it, Q.”
“Oh, no…,” Q murmured with a languid flap of a bubbled coated hand. “I’m the type of person who trips on air just walking across a room. I’m liable to slash my own throat. You’d come home to a dead Quartermaster, two cats and a dog feasting on my flesh, and drinking out of the toilet to stay alive.”
“You’re just full of hyperbole,” James replied, the brief discomfort gone in the face their normal repartee.
“I know, a defense mechanism from my youth.”
James could hear the blare of the music before he’d even shut the rental car’s engine off. The sound was vibrating through the entrance into the house. He winced, stepping into the warm wooden and slate hall when the blast of it, with the addition of a mechanical rumbling, hit his ears.
He had to drop his bags to deal with Ethel’s enthusiastic greeting, her face already pressing hard between his knees, pushing. Grinning, he softened his knees a bit to allow her to go through his legs, rubbing her wiggling bottom along the way, noting the amount of fur she deposited on his bespoke trousers. The residual tension in his shoulders from the mission eased with the warmth of the dog’s welcome. James still planned to have a drink, but with Ethel’s friendly weight against him, realized he probably didn’t really need one now.
James straightened and grabbed his bags. Besides the noise of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, and the rumble, which James had identified as a vacuum cleaner, there was the scent of cooking meat wafting in the air, causing his stomach to give a little gurgle.
Q was running the vacuum, though he was doing more arse jiggling than Hoovering when James paused to take in the sight. Dressed in soft, slim, but baggy jeans, and an orange t-shirt, Q seemed to James to be making an unfortunate attempt at finding a rhythm. James set his bags down again, and lean against the door jamb to enjoy the show.
Q’s arse was just fine, James mused, with a lovely dainty curve, though it was not conducive to successful arse jiggling. He noted Merlin and Arthur were nowhere to be seen, though with the racket going on, James couldn’t blame them.
Legs kicking, his arms flying, Q turned. “James! I’m cleaning!”
He decided he liked the deer-in-headlights look of Q. It was very entertaining.
“Dancing, Q… you were dancing,” he said trying not to smile. “Though, I don’t suppose what you were doing could be categorized as dancing, more along the lines of a fit of some sort.”
Clicking the vacuum off, Q huffed. “Well, I’d like to see you try it, 007.”
“No, Q you’re quite right,” he replied. “I’m more of a clutch and grab dancer myself.”
Q snorted before shutting the vacuum off and turning the music down to a more reasonable level.
“How was your flight?”
“Well, I’ve got a roast in the oven,” Q replied winding up the machine’s cord. “It’ll be ready in about thirty minutes.”
“It smells delicious, Q. Thank you.” It did, making James realize how hungry he actually was.
Taking his bags through the house to his bedroom, Ethel following on his heels, the strain of the last week abated. Working around Ethel’s sprawled form on his bed, he started to sort through his things. James had figured out that it was a futile exercise to try and keep her off his bed or furniture. Q gave her the run of the house with any and all surfaces she could fit her large form onto allowed, basically catering to her every doggie whim. At this point, trying to re-train her when her owner undermined his efforts was just a waste of time and energy.
Q was just as undisciplined as his pets, James thought watching the man flop down on his bed beside Ethel. James adjusted the suitcase to accommodate Q’s slender legs.
“Are you okay?” Q asked.
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, you had to kill your mark after sleeping with her,” Q said, meeting James’ gaze watching him take off his suit jacket. “I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy.”
Gently, laying the jacket in the dry cleaning pile, James replied, “Killing is never easy, Q. It doesn’t matter who it is, though some kills are more difficult than others.”
She had been beautiful, but deadly. A true psychopath. The use of his body to get what he wanted was nothing new, but it was a rare occurrence when he had to kill a woman. Killing always left a sour taste in the back of his throat, but assassinating a woman, no matter how quick or painless, always seemed to James akin to murder.
“Do you need to talk about it?”
James shook his head, pulling a shirt from his case.
“I’m here, though if you want to talk,” Q said, “I wouldn’t tell anyone about anything you tell me in confidence.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m fine.”
“Alright.” Q gave Ethel a final pat before scooting down to the end of the platform bed to stand. “I’ll leave you to your unpacking then.”
Hand on the door jamb, Q gave him a somber smile.
The crunch of the leaves beneath their feet was loud, echoing under the mist coated trees. It was early, cold, though sweat was working its way down the middle of James’ back at the briskness of their pace. James enjoyed the amicable silence, just watching Ethel’s spiraling happy tail as she caught the scents of the forest in front of them. His enjoyment of watching her, with Q’s quiet presence at his side, added to the peace thrumming through his body.
The harmony of his and Q’s habitual morning hike brought calm to James’ mind, and he relished the lack of churning thoughts that often plagued him. He was rarely quiet within, though outwardly he portrayed a facade that was undisturbed, unflappable, and confident. It was exhausting.
Ethel buzzing by them set Q to chuckling softly at her antics.
“Did you have a dog growing up, James?”
“Yes, a black lab, Iris. She had to be left with the caretaker when my parents died.”
Q nodded to himself as if James had answered some unasked question. He didn’t say anything further. Q’s fits of personal questions seemed to James to be harmless enough, though often they made him think about things he hadn’t in years. He could still see Iris in his mind’s eye, his loyal companion on the many adventures he’d sought out around the estate as a young boy. Ethel reminded him of her often.
Q’s gentle inquiries often stopped after James had shared, restrained from continuing on into uncomfortable territory. It didn’t trouble him to share such things with Q, even if it was foreign to his nature to do so. James had an awareness that if he didn’t answer, Q wouldn’t be bothered or offended. He could participate in their talks or not as he saw fit. It was strange but nice in a way James couldn’t describe.
The firelight glowed over the skin of his hands, its soft heat embraced him. There were no words, only the crackling of the fire, soft breathing, and Alan’s knitting needles to break the quiet. The shadows of the woods beyond the windows were barely visible with the fire and lamplight reflecting off the glass. James couldn’t remember a time in his life when his surroundings were so peaceful. Perhaps, when he was a small boy in the presence of this parents, this type of contentment had shown itself, though he couldn’t remember it now, it was so long ago.
He placed his fingers in the pages of the book he was reading, holding his place while he took a sip of scotch. The burn of it down his throat, it’s buttery taste a pleasure on his tongue. Serene evenings with Alan had become commonplace now, after more than a month of living together. In some ways, James was still expecting things between them to become trying in some fashion, but that hadn’t happened. Even Alan’s curious queries weren’t irksome, James’ responses were occasionally disquieting, though only to himself.
Alan was concentrating wholeheartedly on the lump of cable knit in his lap, ignoring everything around him, including Ethel curled between them, and James’ turning of the pages. Merlin and Arthur had also graced them with their presence, aloof as only cats could be on the back of the sofa.
“Do you have a family?” James asked. Alan was still a bit of a mystery, his quirks aside, and James was less interested in his novel this evening than usual. He wanted to talk, which was in its own way an aberration he wasn’t completely comfortable with. Not one to waffle on a course of action, James continued breaking Alan out of his knitting zone. “Brothers, Sisters?”
Alan’s hands stilled, his needles silent. His green eyes were assessing for a moment before he said, “Yes, I do. Both parental units and an older brother, two twin nephews, who are unholy terrors, and a third baby on the way. Why the curiosity, all of a sudden?”
James cleared this throat. “I just figured since I’m living with you, I should know a bit more about you, Q.”
“Huh, okay, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting for an interrogation for weeks, 007.”
Alan’s snooty tone was so reminiscent of his droll sarcasm at Six that James snorted out a laugh.
Turning to face Alan, pushing his knee under Ethel’s behind, James’ apprehension eased. “So, tell me more.”
“Well, it’s a bit embarrassing, but my family is landed gentry in Gloucester, though Daddy works as a barrister, while Mummy actually manages the estate.”
“What’s embarrassing about that? My family was landed gentry, as well you know.”
“Yes, I do know, James. I’m just uncomfortable being known as part of the Tully family of Gloucester, which always seems to precede me when I meet anyone knew. Severn Park, our family estate was built in 1520, and still retains early Renaissance decorative motifs, and the estate was placed on the National Trust in the fifties. Social class shouldn’t matter in this day and age, but it still does.”
James couldn’t disagree in the least with that assessment.
“Did you go to Eton?” he asked. James had hated it there, but he’d been a grieving boy at the time.
“No, Harrow is a tradition in my family.” Q picked up his needles again. “Though Mummy comes from a long line of hippies and free thinkers, she didn’t want to send me or my brother there. Daddy convinced her, probably through pouting excessively.”
James laughed. “Go on, Alan, tell me more.”
James just listened late into the night, enjoying Alan’s stories and his colorful turn of phrase.
“You should go home, 007. Q shouldn’t be alone.”
R’s urgent tone had sent James careening down the motorway in his new car, finally putting the sleek Aston Martin through its paces. The thrill of having the powerful machine under his hands, and his analysis of the vehicle’s performance, were the furthest thing from his mind. The flash of the street lamps was pulsing in time with the beat of his own heart, insistent.
The moon was up by the time he sped down the tree-lined drive. The house was dark, somber without the cheerful light James expected.
When James entered the house, the shadows were heavy, the furniture dark shapes making the comforting abode bleak in the low light. Ethel’s greeting was subdued, her tail barely wagging, down against her bottom. The mood of the space and its resident, within evident in the dog’s restrained press against his legs.
“Not happy, is he?” James murmured, rubbing her ears. He received a gentle lick to his fingers. “Come on, let’s take a look at him.”
She followed along at his side as he made his quiet way through the house. It seemed fitting that James had no urge to turn on the lights or displace the silence with sound. Doing so seemed blasphemous. It was not the time for the warmth or welcome he’d become accustomed to.
Alan was on his bed, laying on his side facing the moonlit windows with Merlin and Arthur curled along his front. He was still in his MI6 armor of garish cardigan and trousers, including his purple shoes. Only his spectacles had been removed.
“Yes, 007,” he said quietly.
Ah, distancing himself, still the Quartermaster. James wasn’t going to let him get away with it, though, not here, not at home. It was pointless to ask if Alan was alright. It was obvious he wasn’t, though James still wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Shedding his suit jacket and toeing off his shoes, James then moved to the bed, encouraging Ethel to jump up. She settled in against Alan’s knees with her head on his hip, looking at James with soulful eyes in the dim. James took Alan’s foot in hand, though he didn’t move or acknowledge the unfamiliar touch.
Removing the shoes, James said, “It was a bad situation, he was trapped with no way out.”
Alan didn’t acknowledge him, at all. In unfamiliar territory, James decided to just wing it. The last time he’d comforted another person had been Vesper. All he’d done at the time was hold her, but it had seemed to help.
Not sure how he would be received, James crawled into the bed, tucking himself close to Alan’s back, spooning. Hesitantly, he put his arm around the slim form, threading a hand through one of Alan’s, expecting his touch to be rejected. It didn’t happen.
James pressed his forehead against Alan’s soft nape, feeling, as well as hearing, the shaky sigh that was released.
“You’ve been trapped before… and escaped.”
Lightly squeezing, pulling Alan’s warmth closer, his voice was low, conforming to the melancholy atmosphere. “A few times on my own, yes, but there’ve been many times that I’ve escaped, not because of anything I did. I had help.”
“I knew this day would come; I suppose it was inevitable,” Alan replied.
“Our work is unpredictable, you can’t foresee everything, and your work has made a difference.”
It had, Alan as the Quartermaster of MI6 had made missions safer and more successful than ever before. James knew that Alan was aware of this, but thinking it, and feeling it when an agent died,\ were two different things. Decisions and circumstances on the ground were fluid. Q-Branch often kept up, but on mission the decisions of the agent ultimately determined the outcome.
“I got M killed,” James stated. There was no refuting the results of his choice, his culpability. His decision to use M as bait, and meet Silva alone at Skyfall, had caused her death.
Alan squeezed his fingers. “The situation, to some extent, was of her own making, James.”
“The same can be said of 008, it’s not your fault he’s gone.”
“I suppose not…”
“Agents will die, Alan, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Alan pulled James’ hand closer to his chest, tucking it under his chin. The warmth of him in James’ arms, his welcome of James’ touch, the scent of him, was pleasing. James couldn’t get any closer to him, but he wanted to. Holding Alan in the quiet dark, James let out a long slow breath, vibrating the short curls on that pale neck in front of him.
A firm heat pressing against his hip, and the insistent throbbing of his cock, woke James from the deepest sleep he’d had in a long while. Dawn was a golden glow through the windows, the light just starting to chase the nighttime shadows from the bedroom.
James was still in Alan’s bed with Alan draped over his chest, an arm curled around his slim back. The heat against James’ hip was Alan’s arousal, rubbing with minuscule, but unmistakable, circling of his hips. His own cock was squeezed under Alan’s slender thigh, the unconscious movements against James’ prick added to the pleasant ache radiating from his groin.
James rarely stayed a whole night with his paramours, but when he did, his sexuality was the best way to break the dreaded morning-after conversation. Alan wasn’t a mark or a one-night stand, and with him plastered on one side, and Ethel along the other, he was well and truly trapped for the awkwardness to come. There was no escape.
Alan rubbed more firmly, squeezing James between his lanky limbs, letting out a little grunt of satisfaction.
“Q…” James whispered, his breath hitching at the added pressure against his cock. “Q… time to get up now.”
Alan’s brow furrowed and with an unconscious pout on the pink bow of his lips, just squeezed James harder.
“Q…” James said, louder this time as if they were still at the office. Alan’s resistance to waking was getting ridiculous, and James knew there was no way to avoid giving him a rude rousing. James could only hope that they would be able to come back to their usual harmony in the aftermath of their morning wood situation.
“Shush, James go back to sleep,” he whispered then rubbed his face against James’ chest, before relaxing.
James grunted as his cock was pressed again. “Q, wake up. We’re… you know…”
“Yes, I am aware. You can say hard on or cock, James. It’s not like you’re a maiden with no experience.”
“It’s perfectly natural for men our age to have hard cocks in the morning,” Alan replied, and if his voice wasn’t so sleep rough, it would have been his normal snooty annoyed tone. “It’s early, the cats will be up soon enough.”
Well, okay then, obviously I’ve made the wrong assumption. James allowed their quiet breathing and the warmth surrounding him to ease the tension in his muscles. The thrum of desire was insistent but bearable, and Alan’s placid nonchalance about the situation brought a small smile to his lips. James stroked Alan’s forehead, pulling the mess of this dark hair away from his face. Pinked cheeked and sweetly pliant, he was beautiful.
Entering the dimly lit pub, James tried not to let the relief show on his face. Assessing the clientele as they walked through, he noted there was no obvious threat.
“You want to sit in the beer garden?” Alan asked.
“Yes, it’s too nice out not to,” James said, with a hand on the small of Alan’s back, guiding him through the mass of tables to the exterior garden in the middle of the building.
When Alan had offered to help him start house hunting, after he returned from his last mission, James had figured he’d better at least go through the motions and pick out some places to look at. After three months of living with Alan, and almost six months of not having his own place, James still had no desire to find a permanent place to hang his metaphorical hat. If anything, he had less interest in doing so now than he had when he was living in a bloody hotel.
Alan gave a groan when he sat, pulling his messenger bag over his head. “We’ve been all over London today, my feet are killing me.”
James had to admit, his own legs were aching a bit. They’d decided to park at MI6 and take the tube around the city. Not James’ favorite way to travel, but Alan’s enthusiasm for a tube riding and walking excursion had been charming. Alan was delightful to be around, captivating and had become more so, since the morning wood incident weeks before. James had always found Alan stimulating as Q, but unexpected attraction had reared its head, living with him.
“You only have yourself to blame,” James replied. “I would’ve been quite happy to look at one or two places today, not five.”
“Well, you picked them out! They were all over the bloody place.”
The plan of having so many to look at had been intended to dissuade Alan from accompanying him house hunting. It hadn’t worked out so well. James’ scheme had been to pretend to look at the places he’d chosen, while instead keep surreptitiously bringing more of his things over to the house from storage.
Alan hadn’t called him out on it, yet.
The summer sun lit Alan’s hair the blue-black of the Irish, while he pulled his tablet out of his bag.
The waitress came over and they ordered their pints. James perused the menu, hoping Alan would put the excessive notes he’d taken about each place they’d looked at away. It was a futile hope. The notes weren’t in paper form, but James knew they were right there beside Alan’s elbow, just waiting for his critique.
“What are you having?” James asked, watching Alan’s enjoyment of the first sip of his bitter brew.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. I think I’ll probably have the fish and chips.”
“You’re an addict, and in a complete rut,” James teased. “You always order the fish and chips.”
“I do not!”
“You do. Every time we come here, that’s what you order. You’re a creature of habit, Q.”
Alan was blinking at him, his pint held aloft, forgotten. “Well, I’m not sure I agree. What are you getting?”
Alan started to take a sip and James smiled. “Fish and chips.”
Alan snorted into his beer, coughing roughly around a laugh. “Arsehole!”
Grinning, James placed their orders with the waitress. It was always fun to catch Alan off guard. James found it morbidly satisfying to tease him. He had an honest to god friend for the first time since he’d let everything and everyone he’d known go to become an SIS agent. A friend, with whom he selfishly wanted more…
“So,” Alan started, swiping at his tablet, and James got a feeling not unlike getting kicked in the gut. He really didn’t want to even think about choosing any of the flats they’d looked at. “You were very cagey with the estate agent. Any of the five stand out to you?”
“Not really, they were all nice.”
Alan rolled his eyes. “What an exciting assessment, James. You seem thrilled.”
James grimaced. “Not much point in being excited, when SIS will sell it out from under me if I’m ‘dead’ again.”
“How about if I promise to make sure they don’t touch it unless it is proven absolutely that you’re dead. You know, have a corpse to show for it.”
Alan had said the words jokingly, but his green eyes told James a different story. James was touched, and what that said about his mental state, he didn’t really want to know.
Alan fiddled with his spectacles for a moment, before clearing his throat. “So…”
Sighing, James reached for the tablet. “Give it here, Q.”
He received a grin as Alan pushed the tablet to the middle of the table so they could both see it. His enthusiasm didn’t give James much hope in the success of his carefully laid plans to continue to live with Alan. He was a better strategist than this, James thought.
“The first one we looked at in Notting Hill, what did you think. I quite liked it myself.”
“It’s a terrace house, Q with four floors. It’s too big for one person, with too much maintenance for me to deal with between trips.” Which is why he’d chosen it, in the first place. Alan had been quite enamored by its original Georgian interior features and James had like that about the place too, but that wasn’t the point. Not that Alan knew that, of course.
“I suppose you’re right, but it would be an excellent investment, particularly if you split it up into flats.”
“Again, too much work for my schedule, and I’d be a landlord. Not a responsibility I currently need or want.”
“Okay, moving on then,” Alan said swiping a fingertip across the screen again. “How about the high-rise flats in Lambeth? The views were gorgeous, less responsibility, no renovations needed, and probably little upkeep.”
“Too close to work,” James refuted. “The views were great, but I didn’t like the open plan or style. It would be like living in a concrete box, but with windows.”
“Yes, it didn’t have much character. I wouldn’t want to live there either.” Alan frowned at the screen before his face lit up. James thought it was a classic, ‘Ah ha’ moment, the type shown in a cartoon. “Speaking of character, the Smith Square Victorian! That was lovely. It’s a terrace house, but converted, and a second floor flat rather than a basement.”
“No parking, neighbors, closets not big enough.”
Alan huffed. “But it was really homey.”
James tried not to smirk at Alan’s put out tone. All he’d said was true, though, beyond the neighbors, the closets and parking could be dealt with. He had liked the flat actually, but that was neither here or there, and so not the point of this exercise, unbeknownst to his hopefully future permanent housemate.
Alan was derailed by the arrival of their fragrant dinners, and James relaxed when he moved his tablet aside. They enjoyed their meals in amicable silence. The fish and chips were excellent, and despite James’ teasing, he could understand why Alan always ordered them. A dinner at the pub near MI6 had become a weekly occurrence when James was in town. Even though the pub was a familiar haunt, James was still aware of everything going on around them. Alan was too important an asset not to keep an eye out for trouble.
Asset… he’s much more than that.
Disquieted at the thought, James had wondered for quite awhile now about Alan’s relationship status. As far as he knew, Alan didn’t have one-night stands and hadn’t brought anyone to the house since James had moved in. He’d been quietly watching to see, but Alan seemed to have no interest in having a boyfriend, or girlfriend. Of course, Alan could have had someone over while James was on mission. The thought of it, Alan’s delicate form naked with another, sent James to taking a large swig of his pint, tramping down the fury that sliced through him.
He was an absolute hypocrite, willing to fuck the occasional mark without a second thought or have a one-night stand when he was in town. Although James hadn’t sought out sex in London like he typically would since he’d moved in, he realized.
It was a worry, to have become so invested in another person for companionship, non-sexual or otherwise.
“Are you afraid of death?” Alan asked. He was still focused on the food in front of him, fiddling with his utensils.
“Yes, I am,” James said, “I don’t think I’d be very good at my job if I wasn’t.”
“Yes,” James replied slowly, wondering what Alan wanted with his line of questioning.
“Does the chance of dying keep you from being close to anyone?”
“To some extent, though that isn’t the primary reason for keeping most people at a distance. Trust in our line of work is dangerous, as you should know, Alan.”
“Of course I know,” he replied, frustration in his tone. Capturing James’ eyes with his own, he said, “But you trust me, don’t you?”
It was a statement more than a question and James shifted in his seat, then stilled, irritated he’d given away his discomfort. He was usually more on his game, but Alan seemed to have a way of making him comfortable enough to let down his guard.
“Yes, I do.”
“Good,” he replied.
Watching Alan turn his attention back to his meal, James could only think that he did trust him, more than anyone else he’d ever known in his adult life.
It was dangerous and probably stupid, but it was true.
James frowned at the blood that had oozed through the bandages, staining his shirt and the lining of his suit. The pain was sharp along his right side when he gently pulled his shirt out of his trousers and up trying to see if the bleeding had stopped.
The click of the window door and Ethel’s jiggling collar was interrupted by Alan’s exclamation, “You’re hurt!”
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” James said over Ethel’s whining wriggling form, dancing around his legs. Alan closed the door behind him with a frown, he’d obviously just come in from an evening walk. The light from his bedroom must have shown through the dusk that was just about to give way to the dark of night. Alan was disheveled in his boots, slim jeans, and a long-sleeved t-shirt, a bit sweaty from the heat, his hair’s inky fringe were clinging to his forehead.
He was gorgeous, and so welcome, that James couldn’t move, arrested by Alan’s familiar presence in his bedroom.
He hadn’t seen him for over two weeks, just heard that melodious voice over the comms.
“Why the buggering hell didn’t you go to medical or hospital?” he said, stalking forward, his bespectacled green eyes focused on the dark red bandages. His slim hands aborted touching James, as he kneed Ethel gently out of his way.
“I wanted to come home.”
Alan’s eyes shot up to meet his, and softened, accepting. He grimaced, hoping Alan would mistake it for being pained by the wound, rather than his honesty.
“Come on, let me help you.”
Alan smoothly removed James’ suit jacket, then gun and shoulder holster, placing them on the bed. The handling of James’ weapon didn’t make him leery at all, didn’t send even a sliver of adrenaline through his gut. The extent of his faith in Alan not to hurt him was a balm, a rarity in his chosen profession, in the violence of his life.
“Take off your shirt, I’ll get the medical kit,” Alan said. “I need water, meet me in the loo.”
Alan was just finishing washing his hands, an MI6 medical kit opened on the tiled floor when James came into the bath.
He looked over his shoulder, “Sit.”
“I can take care of it myself, Q.”
“Sit, 007,” Alan returned, his tone emphatic before he thawed a bit. “Sit down, James. Let me have a look.”
James sat on the high edge of the bath, unwilling and too bloody tired to argue with an insistent, worried Alan. Alan kneeled beside him, his fingers gentle pulling James’ makeshift bandage off the wound. He gave a pained grunt as the tape pulled at the ruined flesh.
“I think this needs stitches, a knife?”
“Yes, a K-Bar,” James replied watching Alan wash the deep gash along his ribs with a warm wet cloth. “Got under my guard.”
“There are sutures in the kit, but I’ve never stitched a wound before. Do you think butterfly plasters would work until I can get you into medical tomorrow?”
“Alan, I don’t need to go to medical.”
Giving him an epic frown, Alan almost growled at him. “You are going tomorrow morning, and if you give me one word of complaint, I’m calling them tonight. So, your choice, I do my best with it tonight and on to medical tomorrow, or I call them in now and let them have at you.”
“Fine, butterflies should work well enough for now.”
Alan’s hand on his side was warm, the touch soft, and James concentrated on the feel of fingers against his skin, rather than the pain of the disinfectant swab being run along the injury. Alan worked quietly to dress the wound, being more gentle with him than anyone had in a long time. The musk of him rose in James’ nose, pleasing as the final dressing covered the wound.
James pulled Alan to him when he stood, holding the slim form in his arms, breathing in his friend. Alan didn’t protest, his fingers soft on James’ shoulders, running along the back of his neck, just letting himself be held.
James just wanted to wallow in the softness of companionship, the ease of Alan’s quiet embrace and wondered at his unaccustomed weakness.
Keeping up the pretense of finding his own flat had become almost like a second job. James had been in good spirits for the last few weeks with the house hunting excursions put on hold. In the three weeks since he’d been injured, Alan’s schedule had been increasingly full in Q-Branch to the point of additional hours on the evenings and weekends. It amused James to see Alan become a complete sloth when he was at home, and as a result, the house hunting hadn’t come up between them again.
Nevertheless, to hold off any inevitable inquiries about his search, James spent hours looking at places online with faux notes to talk with Alan about during his downtime. James’ objective to stay put had become a relentless subterfuge.
The closeness between them after his injury had become another addiction James wasn’t sure how to deal with. The sexual tension was always an undercurrent between them. James revolved around Alan, and Alan around him, neither making the first move to become physically intimate. It, the longing, the desire, was all in Alan’s admiring green eyes, and James wondered how he could’ve missed it for such a long time.
The looks, that desire, the longing was within him as well. James craved it.
It wasn’t like him. Where was the man of action that never had any time to think about consequences? Granted the results did sometimes come back to bite him on the arse but hesitation about pursuing Alan romantically was an aberration. It set James on edge. He was jumpy, he was watchful, and wired in a space that had been comforting for months.
He loathed it.
Frowning, he threw a suit on the bed, his cases still empty, waiting to be filled for his mission on Monday. With his wound healed, he was ready to get out of Alan’s home and away from his deception for a while.
Alan, his hair damp from a shower came in without even a knock, assured his presence was always welcome in James’ part of the house. In soft low slung jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, in a color that James could only think of as mustard, he was gorgeous in the soft mid-morning light. As usual, he ignored the sofa and chairs in the room making himself at home crossed legged in the middle of James’ bed. James figured Ethel, with her presence missing, must be in the throws of her post-hike morning nap, either on the sofa in the living room, or in Alan’s bed with the cats for company.
Alan’s silent staring made the small hairs on the back of James’ nape prickle. The same prickle of awareness he got when things on mission were just about to turn to shit.
“Q?” the questioning note came out without thought or intention. He was arrested in stillness with a shirt in hand.
“You don’t want to move out, do you?”
“What makes you say that?”
Alan cocked his head, studying James as if he was a mangled piece of tech that was beyond fixing. “You’re a great lier but I can see through you. I’m not stupid or as oblivious to what’s going on around me as you seem to think, you know.”
“I know you’re not stupid,” James replied. If they were two actors in an old movie, James thought, the jig, as they would say, was up.
“Perhaps you need a reminder that I’m not. I know you haven’t been looking at flats, and I know you have no intention of moving out.”
“Is this because I moved more of my things over?” James threw his shirt nonchalantly onto the bed, his tone as neutral and uninterested as he could make it. “I know it’s a temporary arrangement.”
“No, I know because I hacked your estate agent’s records.” James watched, a sour taste in the back of his throat, as Alan picked up the shirt. He folded it, his movements precise and economical. “You haven’t been touring any properties, and she doesn’t even have you listed in her records as a client anymore.”
“Q…” James admonished.
Alan’s elegant fingers delicately stroked the shirt in his lap. “What do you want, James?”
The softly spoken question had James sitting on the bed with his back to his housemate, avoiding those knowing eyes.
What did he want? He wanted to stay with Alan. He wanted to become Alan’s lover. James wanted Alan to need him, as he’d come to realize over the months that Alan was essential to his own happiness. It was galling to comprehend at that moment that his life had little meaning without someone to share it with. Alan was that someone, James knew.
There was something about Alan, a vulnerability coupled with an inner strength that James wanted as his own. He wanted to protect it, possess it, keep it, whatever it was from ever being shared with anyone else. His possessiveness and selfishness toward the man on his bed seemed entirely justified. Disturbing but justified all the same. He’d given too much to Queen and Country, he deserved to have Alan in any and all ways possible.
A spasm pierced his gut, a feeling James recognized from long ago. He’d been a small boy the last time he’d felt that weight in his belly. When he’d been told his parents were gone, never to return.
The bed jostled a bit before hands smoothed up his back to his shoulders. The warmth of them burned through his cotton shirt. A shiver stirred his frame at the soft touch of Alan’s fingertip stroking the hollow below his ear.
“You’re scaring me, James. What is it?”
“I… I want to stay here.”
“I like it here… I’m happy here, with you,” James said. His voice was rough, the confession foreign to his ears.
His breath rasped out of him with Alan’s dogged question. The question, almost a whisper of sound, patient but so forceful in its quiet murmur.
“Goddamnit, Q.” The words came out strangled. James felt like he was going to choke on the rest waiting in the back of his throat to be released.
His ear was caressed with damp heat when Alan breathed, “Why?”
James grabbed the hand on his shoulder, twisting on the bed, pulling Alan off his knees and into James’ arms with a forceful tug. His fingers buried themselves in Alan’s thick hair, the softness a contrast to the hard bone of skull under his palm. James crushed Alan’s lips under his, taking what he’d been wanting for months now.
The kiss wasn’t gentle, wasn’t a lover’s kiss.
Alan’s mouth was soft and sweet on his tongue, unresisting to the pressure of James’ angry mouth. A desperate sound escaped from between their lips and James wasn’t sure if it had come from him or Alan. Fingers pressed lightly against the edges of James’ lips, a supple touch of fine digits on his cheeks, gentling the harshness of the kiss. It was at once a request and a demand.
James eased his touch, softening his lips, though he refused to let Alan out of his arms. He wanted no more questions, no more confrontation beyond their bodies straining against each other.
Alan sighed against his lips, opening, delving into James’ mouth allowing their tongues to gently duel. The taunt muscles in James’ shoulders relaxed, his clutching hands tamed their angry clench.
Alan’s arms slid around his shoulders and James felt like he could breathe again.
James broke the kiss but he didn’t want to see Alan’s eyes. Wasn’t ready to see whatever he’d see in them or on that refined beautiful face. He pulled Alan’s head back, smoothing his lips down Alan’s throat. He’d just shaved, there was no stubble to tickle his lips as he brought Alan down beneath him into the softness of the bed.
It didn’t matter they were sprawled the short way on the bed. It didn’t matter their feet were hanging over the edge. Alan was pliant under him in the middle of his bed. Alan’s cock was just as hard against James as his own was, straining against each other through their trousers. The pinch of hands on his back pulled James down forcefully between Alan’s slender thighs.
“James,” Alan murmured, his fingers against James face again. “James… look at me.”
He didn’t want to. It was strange to be shy in bed. He’d never been shy about sex before, not even as a teenager in the first fumbles of losing his virginity.
James worried the skin under his teeth. Alan’s taste was salty, his scent a sweet musk under his spicy aftershave. James wanted to mark him where everyone could see that Alan belonged to him, even if they didn’t know who he belonged to.
“It’s alright, you know,” Alan said above him, his fingertip dipped into the side of James’ mouth feeling the skin of his neck between James’ teeth.
James released that soft skin. The mark he’d made was pink and dusky in the late morning light. Perfect.
Alan dragged his head up, there was no fear, no anxiety, no alarm. Peaceful was the word for the expression, peaceful but wanting too. The flush of Alan’s cheeks almost matched that perfect rosy blood mark on his neck. It was beautiful. He was beautiful, more so than at any other time James could think of since they’d met.
“Is it?” James asked, his hands framing Alan’s face, stroking the soft skin of his temples.
Alan’s eyes were caressing James’ face. A sweet curve grew on his lips, the answer to James’ question in the serene want on his face. Looking down at him, flushed, and gorgeous with his black hair tousled around his head and his spectacles askew, James could only think that Alan did love him. Alan wanted him in the same way James had realized he wanted Alan.
Alan’s thumbs stroked his cheeks once before tugging James down for another kiss.
James closed his eyes, sinking into the sensation, it’s sweetness, Alan’s plush lips, and tongue, his hips surging under James. The connection set James’ cock to throbbing unbearably. He could feel the wetness from his arousal seeping through his trousers.
James rubbed his whole body against Alan’s, trying to assuage the lust that swept over him. Their breaths were panting and harsh, disturbing the silence with the wet sounds of kissing, erotic now that the hunger for physical pleasure was assured.
“We need to get naked,” Alan panted. His breath washed warmly over James’ chin before his lips started to suckle against James’ throat. It made his nipples hard.
James couldn’t agree more, tugging at Alan’s very ugly hued t-shirt, exposing his white belly to James’ palms. Alan’s wriggling and rubbing were distracting, slicing sensation through his prick.
“Yes, definitely,” Alan gasped, working the buttons of James’ shirt open with scrabbling fingers.
James’ lips met Alan’s again, tugging the lush lower one with his teeth for a brief moment. He needed to get coordinated and Alan’s squirming wasn’t helping at all. He pulled back onto his knees away from Alan’s grasping hands.
“Shhh, just let me.” James ripped the shirt off his back, some of its buttons went flying across the bed. The cool air set the sweat on his skin to prickling with goosebumps. He plucked Alan’s spectacles off. “Do you need these?”
“Not for close up work.” He grinned. His fingers homed in on James’ flies, plucking them open. The zipper made a harsh sound, his pants shoved down out of the way. James grunted when his cock sprang free from its confines and into Alan’s dexterous hands.
“Goddamnit, Q,” he said, humping up into the tight grip. Alan just grinned at him, the cheeky bugger.
“You say that a lot.”
A laughing gasp escaped him. Alan would be fun in bed, as well as serious. James should’ve known.
Between Alan’s hand on his cock and the other caressing his chest and nipples, James felt like he was going to cum any second. It was way too soon. James grabbed Alan’s wrists and pulled them up over his head with both hands.
“Stay,” he ordered. His looming fierceness only brought another cheeky grin to Alan’s lips. His green eyes seemed brighter without his glasses. “I mean it!”
He held Alan there for a moment more, the pressure on those delicate bones, a demand. James was so hard he knew if Alan touched him again it would be all over. He released Alan’s wrists and sat back slowly, wary that his impudent lover would not follow orders.
Lover, it was a beautiful word, he thought watching Alan splayed disheveled beneath him.
Alan stayed put, watching him. It gave James a bit of time to get some breath back in his lungs. He pulled his trousers down and having forgotten about his shoes, was a bit tangled for a second as a result. Alan grinned at the two thumps of James’ shoes hitting the floor. His gaze raked down James’ body like a caress. James’ nipples already peaked tightened more under that sharp gaze.
James worked Alan’s own shoes and socks off before wrestling that garish mustard covered monstrosity of a t-shirt over his head. Alan was the epitome of long limbs and porcelain soft skin with a dusting of downy black hair leading from his belly button, an outie oddly enough, down to his soft ripped jeans.
James reached over to his bedside table, his eyes questioning as he pulled out a bottle of lubrication and a foiled condom.
Alan arched in response, which was all the consent James needed to drop the necessities on the bed. He leaned over and captured that cute nub of belly button in his mouth, catching Alan off guard if the squeak that escaped was any indication. James swirled his tongue around the nub, suckling gently, working Alan’s trousers open with his fingers.
The musk of him hit James’ olfactory nerve, and he didn’t hesitate to bury his face in the curls surrounding Alan’s sex. The scent was addictive with subtle pheromones cloying in his nose. Alan gave another of those little helpless sounds.
His eyes were half-mast watching James between his thighs. His hands were gripping the bedclothes tight on either side of his head, waiting. James could feel Alan’s thigh muscles quivering under his fingertips.
It had been a long time since he’d sucked cock, but James wanted Alan in his mouth. Even more, than he wanted his own cock shoved deep in Alan’s small hole.
James licked up the soft skin of the shaft and clamped his hands on Alan’s hips to control their surging movements. The pre-cum at the head was salty sharp on his tongue and he closed his eyes to savour it, holding the head in his mouth for a moment. He took Alan’s cock deep to the back of his throat encouraging the keening sounds erupting from Alan’s throat. The damp sounds of his mouth moving up and down, and Alan’s gasping cries were pleasing to his ears in the quiet.
He felt a hand on his head and reached up to grip Alan’s wrist, pressing it back down onto the bed, holding it captive while Alan’s surging thrusts into his mouth increased. James loved it. Loved having Alan in his mouth, so vulnerable for both of them. He reached out and clicked the lube open, smearing his fingers.
James smoothed the slick down the soft skin of Alan’s perineum, swirling it around his dusky hole. The slide of Alan’s cock in his throat was a distraction from the anticipation of sheathing his own pulsing cock in that tight space. He was dribbling pre-cum on the bed underneath him, making his pubic hair damp, smearing the slick across his own belly. James was rubbing against the bed with every thrust of Alan’s cock in his throat.
“Yes, James,” Alan breathed when James’ fingers pressed past the first ring of tight muscle protecting Alan’s body.
The warmth and tightest around his fingers and the gasps coming from above made his cock ache even more. Alan arched into the pressure of James’ fingers going even deeper into the back of his throat. James delved into the core of him, in the warm softness, brushing along Alan’s prostate. James loved the little sounds Alan was making. The sounds James was pulling out of him, the clenching of hands in the sheet, the continuous drag of James’ mouth along the supple hard length of him was thrilling.
Alan under his hands and mouth was one of the most sensual and erotic things James had ever experienced with anyone.
James shuddered at another burst of pre-cum landed on his tongue. He couldn’t wait anymore, neither of them could. Alan was urging him on with his hands on the James’ shoulders and neck. James had dreamed of this, had thought Alan might be a bit shy in the bedroom.
The rosy flush of him was expected, the confident sensuality of him was not.
“Please… please,” Alan rasped. “I don’t want to come yet.”
James pressed his fingers deep one more time before pulling his mouth off Alan’s cock. Alan was a beautiful wreck of a man, ruddy from cheeks to torso, his slender legs spread wide, waiting.
It was not the time for James to ask if Alan was sure. He didn’t think he could regardless. The change in their relationship was already done, there was no going back. James didn’t want to go back.
James nuzzled Alan’s cock and the plush balls beneath one more time, breathing deep to get himself under control. He sat back on his knees, grabbing the condom packet and opened it with his teeth. James gave his cock a slow pull to sooth the insistent throbbing.
He could come just from this, marking the white skin of Alan’s belly with his essence. James almost wanted to, but they had time now, and that fantasy could wait for another day.
James rolled the condom on and slicked up. Anticipation was swirling in his belly. Lining up he sunk into Alan’s body and arms.
“Finally,” Alan gasped, and James took that soft gasp from his lips. There was no resistance, only snug heat gripping his cock and urging hands on his back and arse.
“Oh, god… you feel so good.” It wasn’t a lie, the feel of Alan’s soft-skinned wiry body under him, the tight grip of supple muscles surrounding his sexual core had James thrusting, barely waiting for Alan to adjust to the breach.
Hands in Alan’s hair, James undulated coring him with every deep thrust, pulling pleased sounds from Alan’s lips with teeth and tongue. He couldn’t get close enough, he just wanted to wallow in what he was feeling, the physical and the emotional. Alan was so beautiful under him, the sweat on their skin a smooth slide. James wanted to see his cock sinking into Alan’s tight heat but he didn’t want to stop the clench of Alan’s legs high on his sides or give up the taste of the lips beneath his own. It wasn’t going to last, it was too good to last as long as James wanted it to.
Alan’s legs tightened around his ribs, his hips surging up again and again. “Please… please, I need you to touch me.”
“Shhh… I’ve got you,” James murmured. It was difficult but he slid a hand down Alan’s side, delving between their bodies to grip his cock tight. Alan threw his head back at the change in angle, driving his cock into the tight fist made by James’ fingers.
That was it, with Alan arched so beautifully beneath him, a look of rapture on his flushed face, his eyes shut tight straining. James lost all rhythm, surging as deep into Alan as was possible. The prickling sensation in his loins crested, stilling his body in one long shaking bow, seeing nothing but bright white behind his closed eyelids.
A roar burst from his throat at the first pulse of release. James knew he was holding Alan too tight, pressing within him too hard but he had no control over his body at that moment. Pain down his back took the white away and in the next moment, more beats of ecstasy escaped his cock with a surge of Alan’s hot wet release on his belly.
James skimmed the tips of his fingers down the length of Alan’s side to bony hip, admiring the softness of his creamy lightly freckled skin. His body still damp with sweat had that pleasurable tingle, almost physical exhaustion thrumming through the muscles. His back was stinging from Alan’s nails, the slight pain a pleasurable accompaniment to the satisfied subtle ache in his loins. James thought the sensations were nothing short of contentment.
James had only enough energy after he’s collapsed on Alan for a while, to pull and push them onto the bed properly. They’d been lying on their sides facing each other, not touching for quite a long time. James didn’t know if it had been five minutes or five hours. At some point Ethel had come in and sprawled across their feet, so James figured it had at least been over an hour of silent post-coital recovery.
Alan was half on his side and half on his stomach with a lax fist under his chin. Only one side of his face was visible, his cheek still had a lovely rosy hue.
A green eye opened and Alan smiled at him, a small satisfied curling of his lips.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” James asked. He’d only just woke from a bit of a doze and remembered how hard he’d held Alan down when he’d come.
“No, you didn’t, though I might be a bit sore once I can move,” Alan replied, his smile widened into a grin. “Nothing a hot bath later can’t take care of. I didn’t think my body could be bent that far.”
James snorted. “Sorry about that, I lost myself a bit at the end.”
“You weren’t the only one.”
James sobered. “What do you want, Alan? I need to know.”
“I want to be with you like this. I want us to be together, live together as we have been but I don’t want to take what you can’t give James.”
“I’m a killer. I never thought I’d have someone in my life like this again.” James didn’t speak her name. He didn’t need to. Alan knew everything about him, there was nothing for James to hide. “I could be killed on the job. Do you really want a relationship with someone who might not come home to you?”
“I’d rather have had you than regret never having been with you in this way,” Alan said.
Alan was so sure. It was all there in his face and James recognized what It was. Love. Alan loved him and it was as simple as that. It wasn’t complicated, and James realized that he didn’t have to make his feelings for Alan or accepting his own desires difficult.
“I love you,” James confessed.
Alan leaned close to softly kiss James’ cheek. “I know, I love you too. Have for a while now.”
Stroking his full palm long Alan’s slim flank, following the shimmering trails of light caressing his skin from the windows, James laughed. “Was having me as a housemate your nefarious way of seducing me to become your lover?”
“I knew you’d figure it out, 007.”
James pinched Alan’s arse, urging his cheeky lover into his arms.
James placed M’s Union Jack ceramic bulldog on the mantle. Slim arms smoothed around his torso settling into a tight hug.
Alan’s chin pressed against his shoulder. “Perfect.”
James turned kissing the side of Alan’s grin softly. Alan captured his lips fully and James enjoyed the way that plush mouth clung to his own for a moment. He felt the backs of Alan’s fingers glide down his cheek.
“I’m so glad I can finally kiss you,” Alan whispered against his lips. “I’ve been wanting to for ages.”
James took Alan’s hand and softly kissed the palm. James wanted to make promises that he’d always be there for him that they would be this way long into the future. It was an impossible idea. Double-O’s didn’t live to old age.
He was happy, he was loved, and looking into Alan’s bright bespectacled eyes, the promise came out of him anyway. “I’ll come home.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Alan pledged, his arms still around James, protective and possessive.
James would keep his promise, confident Alan would keep his, as well. They were a team in all ways now.
He was finally home.
A/N: My thanks to xphil98197 for her work to beta this story and MyzticMyanMoon for the fabulous art that inspired it.