For James Bond, accepting love and true companionship is the most dangerous mission of all.
Title: Moments In Between
Author: Chestnut NOLA
Fandom: James Bond (Craig Movies)
Relationship(s): James Bond/Q
Word Count: 5,099
Challenge: 00Q Reverse Big Bang 2019-2020
The sharp tang of coffee hovered in the air as the barista waited with a cuppa, scone, and smile for James to juggle his book under one arm and payment in the other as he accepted the morning’s nourishment. A university student, no doubt, James thought, finishing up the transaction. Her fresh face made him feel a little old, a little worn, wondering how the chaos of his life and the silence in-between the chaos had passed so quickly.
He was currently in a period of calm between assignments having just finished a weeklong mission. James knew he needed the downtime but chafed at the quiet between his daily life in London and the noise of work to keep Queen and Country safe.
The cafe was crowded on a Saturday morning and James moved aside with his caffeine and sustenance in hand to let another customer order. His eyes did a double-take as they roamed over a bespectacled figure in knitwear at a corner table in the front windows.
Q, the Quartermaster of MI6 was sitting in a cafe, a cup of what James figured was tea at this elbow and his nose buried in a book, an actual paper one rather than a tablet. The image was so innocuous; it took him a second to process it.
James navigated the packed tables and stood for a moment over Q, who seemed to be in his own little world, thoroughly engaged in whatever he was reading. He’d never seen the Quartermaster outside the confines of subterranean MI6 in the months since he’d returned from Turkey to deal with Silva’s attack on the institution. He stood there for a good thirty-second before clearing his throat.
Q didn’t acknowledge him, still engrossed.
It was a bit of a worry that Q was so unaware of his surroundings. As an executive of MI6 and in the spy game, James thought Q should have been much more on guard then he was.
He cleared his throat again. Still nothing.
A bit exasperated at Q’s non-response, James said, “Is this seat taken?”
James could have pulled a gun and shot Q in-between the eyes at the length of time it took him to unbury his nose from the pages.
“Bond?” Q’s eyebrows disappeared under his dark chaotic fringe.
“Q… Do you mind if I join you?”
Q seemed a bit dazed-looking around at the coffee crowd surrounding them before shaking himself a bit. “Not at all, please sit.”
Q was quite aware now, James noted trying to keep his lips from quirking up into a little smirk as he set his breakfast and book down. He took off his peacoat to drape over the back of the chair before sitting down across from his colleague, and technically one of his bosses, at least when he was on assignment.
James didn’t know Q well, but the irritation he was familiar with from work was heavy on Q’s face. It was similar to Q’s state when James failed to bring back his precious equipment from missions. It was obvious, Q didn’t like being disturbed or distracted from his reading. Of course, James ignored the glower he was on the receiving end of too curious seeing Q away from work and the familiar setting of Q-Branch to be intimidated by his cool response to the invasion of his table.
“What are you reading?” James asked, setting his book aside to concentrate on breaking off a piece of scone to pop into his mouth.
Q stared at him, his slim fingers tapping against the open pages for a moment before lifting the book off the table.
James almost dropped his scone in his lap taking in the lurid cover art. “Is that a romance novel?”
“I would have taken you for a literary reader, or perhaps science fiction.”
“I do occasionally indulge in science fiction or fantasy, but literary fiction is not really my cup of tea,” Q replied, his tone disdainful, “there’s no point in reading a book for pleasure, even if it’s considered profound by critics when it’s also really depressing.”
James had to bite back a full-on grin at Q’s wide-sweeping assessment of literary fiction. “So, do you consider yourself a philistine? At least when it comes to literature?”
Q placed his open book back on the table. “If my reading habits make me a philistine, then I’m quite happy to embrace the term, Bond.”
“James… Q, you can call me by my first name away from the office if you like.”
“Very well, James.” Q took a sip of his tea. “And what are you reading? Something literary and full of angst, I suppose?”
“Actually, I think we have similar tastes when it comes to reading genre rather than literary fiction,” James replied, lifting his book to show Q the cover of the spy thriller he’d planned on starting this morning.
“Don’t you get enough of spies in real life?”
“Well, these are much more realistic than my real life, so I find them entertaining.”
Q snorted a laugh, grinning. “At least there’s plenty of death and destruction in them, I suppose.”
“Very true.” James hesitated for a moment. “Do you come here often?”
Q’s green-eyed gaze was assessing, and James reviewed the question, wanting to kick himself for not thinking through the clichéd pick-up line. It was not how he’d intended his question to come out.
“I do. I live around the corner. You?”
“I have a flat a few streets over, toward the park.”
“I haven’t seen you around at all, did you just move in?”
“No, I’ve had the place a few months now, but as you know Q, I’ve been a bit busy.”
“Hmm… I suppose that’s true.”
The conversation stalled. James wasn’t exactly uncomfortable but realized he hadn’t had a conversation with Q about anything other than work since they’d met. Well, except he did know that Q had two cats, though that was more due to pictures of them in Q’s office at Q-Branch than any personal conversations they’d engaged in.
Deciding to at least address an adjacent work issue, James said, “You know… you should be a bit more aware of your surroundings. I could have shot you by the time you noticed I was standing at the table.”
Q sniffed, adjusting his spectacles. “I was perfectly aware that it was you who was standing over me, James. You didn’t get the hint I didn’t want to be disturbed though.”
James couldn’t tell if Q was taking the piss or not. It was difficult to get a read on him and James had thought he’d had a good handle on Q from their interactions at work. The man was sarcastic, but in such a way that it disarmed those around him when coupled with a dry wit. James enjoyed there back and forth interactions immensely, even if half the time he was on the receiving end of Q’s wrath for tech abuse.
“Do you want me to leave?” James asked.
“No, you can stay but I really do want to read my book.”
“Well, that was my plan as well this morning.”
Q nodded. “Good, but before you get settled, can you get me some more tea? Earl Grey, white, no sugar.”
James raised a brow. God, Q was a cheeky bastard. “Of course, just be a minute.”
By the time James finished his sentence, Q’s nose was again buried in his book.
At least, he had some company this morning, even if it was just Q with his silence, and his knitwear.
Not everything hurt, but enough with his pulled muscles and bruised ribs that James didn’t want to move from his sofa. Even to find sustenance. He’s just order in, he decided and make the herculean effort to shuffle downstairs to retrieve whatever he decided to order. He was hungry but didn’t even have the energy to determine what he wanted.
Sitting on the sofa in his robe and pajamas was the most he felt like doing. Though, the empty walls and piled boxes in his flat chafed on his mind. He’d been in the place for months and just had no interest in really settling in. It was probably not a good sign of his mental state, but what MI6 didn’t know wouldn’t keep him from going on assignment.
Rubbing his hands on his face, James admitted to himself, he’d been faking it for months. Since being shot in Turkey. Missions were the only time he felt alive and present, at least in the moment. He knew he needed to pull himself out of the mindset of failure. He didn’t know if it was due to M’s death, getting older, or just, and he hated to think it, clinical depression. He probably needed a therapist, and the thought of talking to someone professional brought some heat to his cheeks.
Tired, he was so tired.
James lay down on the sofa, pulling his robe tight around his frame. He’d just rest a bit, then muster some energy to actually do something today, even if it was just to take a shower and get dressed.
He didn’t know how long he’d been drifting when a thumping knock at his door startled him from his doze. God, he hoped it wasn’t Mrs. Gunderson next door hoping for a chat and a cup of tea. He’d made the mistake of being personable when he moved into the building and had been roped, on occasion, of being social with his elderly neighbor. He would admit she had some really interesting stories to tell from her younger years as a theater actress in the nineteen sixties, but he wasn’t really in the mood to be social with her this morning.
The thumping was more persistent and seemed to be coming from the bottom of his door.
“Fuck,” James hissed, levering himself out his very comfortable nest.
He should know better than to not check the peephole in the door, but he honestly didn’t give a shit who it was. Whoever they were, they were leaving and leaving him the hell alone today. Only, tenants had keys to the townhouse flat he’d purchased close to Regents Park, and there were only four of them living in the building, including himself.
Most likely, it was Mrs. Gunderson. He steeled himself to be polite with her but firm before opening the door.
It was not his elderly neighbor.
Q was frowning at him over the top of a brown bag with the local supermarket’s logo in one arm and two large cups on a tray with the logo of their cafe in his other hand. No wonder the thumping had come from the bottom of the door.
“It’s Saturday, James,” Q stated.
“Oh… Sorry, I didn’t realize.”
Q snorted. “Let me in James before I spill my tea all over myself.”
The demand was not to be misinterpreted, as James’s mind raced to find some excuse not to let Q in. Or at least an excuse that wouldn’t make him look like the pathetic post-mission mess he was.
He had nothing.
Grimacing, James moved out of Q’s way and waved him in.
“Q, how did you get in?” James made himself walk normally rather than the shuffle, following Q’s slim woolen encased form. As usual, Q’s Saturday knitwear was a complete eyesore of lurid colors, but seeing it settled something in James’s chest he didn’t want to think too hard about to identify.
“Oh, you have a lovely neighbor, who was very concerned with seeing your state yesterday when you got home. The shiner is particularly lovely this morning.”
Watching Q set his sack and spoils from the cafe on James’ kitchen counter, ignoring the comment he asked slowly, “Did you do a background check on my neighbors? Have you been spying on the spy?”
Q shrugged. “Of course, your neighbors had to be vetted and Mrs. Gunderson might have been at the shops when I was, and we had a nice conversation about you, once I informed her we were friends. Though… she may have inferred we were boyfriends. So, sorry about that future awkward conversation.”
“Oh my god! You missed our little Saturday book club so much, you stalked and canoodled with my neighbor?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it a book club, since all we do is read rather than discuss the merit of our preferred reading material. And I protest the term, stalk. We had a lovely conversation and then when I said I was getting you some food to hold you over until you felt like going to the shops, she invited me to meet her at the building to be let in. We even exchanged numbers.”
Q was completely ignoring his presence, putting grocery items in his refrigerator and cupboards.
“You, bought me groceries,” James stated, and then also decided to ignore the fact Q was on such good terms with his elderly neighbor that she gave a complete stranger her phone number after a single meeting.
He did not like being speechless. It was an odd feeling and not at all something he’d ever experienced. James Bond, agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service was never silent when confronted. He could always bluff his way out of anything.
Except being confronted with his Quartermaster invading his flat to make sure he was okay. Perhaps he should have texted Q he wasn’t going to make their Saturday book club coffee date, which had been ongoing for a few months now. They’d never actually talked about the fact, James met Q at the cafe every Saturday morning he was in town to have a quick chat about nothing and read silently for a few hours. It had become something to look forward to when he was in London. A break in the monotony of the days he wasn’t on assignment, or training at MI6, or bothering Q in Q-Branch with the hope of testing new weaponry.
“Grab your coffee and your book, James,” Q ordered, crumpling the empty bag to place in the little-used recycle bin under the sink. “I brought croissants.”
“Fine, plates are in the upper cupboard on the right of the stove.”
Okay, so normal Saturday book club, but in his flat. He was a spy and an assassin. He could roll with the punches, even if it was a bespectacled Q punching him in the stomach with just his presence.
James tried to ignore the warmth that flooded his chest as Q raised an imperious brow at him.
James didn’t startle awake at someone removing his shoe, but slowly slit open his eyes and looked through is lashes. Over the top of the head of the orange cat on his chest, he saw Q was the shoe culprit.
“Q,” James murmured.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Your lucky you didn’t get a kick in the face for your trouble.”
Q sniffed in disdain. “You didn’t even wake up when I got home, 007. You were fast asleep, so I figured it would be safe enough to make sure you were comfortable if you were going to spend the night on my sofa.”
“You’re cats infected me with their slothfulness.”
Q grinned, dropping James’s second shoe with a thump on the floor.
“You didn’t need to stay, I just wanted to make sure they were fed.”
“We were bonding a bit, and then they got comfortable, so I didn’t want to disturb them.” James’s voice was sleep gruff. He was still sleepy, his muscles languid and extremely comfortable on Q’s sofa under a garishly woolen blanket, in his homey flat with the warm weight of two balls of fluff on him.
Granted he didn’t know which was Archimedes and which was Thales. All he’d gotten in his locker was a note from Q asking him to feed his cats, with their names, a key, and address. He’d known Q would be working quite late after visiting Q-Branch and seeing the disarray of Q’s staff and his fingers flying over his keyboard at the front of the cavernous room. A hacker had been trying to get into the system and there wasn’t even time for James to say hello before he left to workout.
Q’s historic art deco flat was small but full of colors, which should have clashed —orange, purples, and dark blues— but in reality, fit perfectly together. Just like Q and his garish knitwear coupled with his often checkered trousers.
It was lovely, just as he was, James’ thought watching Q lean over the back of the sofa to stroke his cats. The larger orange feline gave Q a look that was full of judgment, and James had to grin a bit. The little black one was vocal though arching under Q’s delicate fingers.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“It’s fine,” Q said quietly. “Do you want to stay?”
“What time is it?”
“Just gone one-thirty.”
He’d been in Q’s flat for hours since just gone suppertime. James had only intended to pop in and take care of Q’s cats as requested, text him the deed was done, and then leave. Instead, he’d ended up grabbing one of Q’s romance novels, laying on his comfortable sofa, and taking in the warmth of the ambiance before Q’s pets had decided to visit with him after their dinner was done.
It had been quiet, but not full of the silence that often tore at his brain when he was alone in London. The purring of the cats, their heated warmth on his body when he settled in with the blanket on his lap, and the turning of the book’s pages, was enough to relax his mind not to think about what to do with himself the rest of the evening.
And with tomorrow being Saturday, he had the “Spy Game Book Club” to look forward to in the morning. He’d been planning, and looking forward to telling Q, who would no doubt have many colorful things to say, he’d come up with a name for their meetups.
Q was just lovely, James thought watching him wait with a patience that was unusual to experience.
“I think it would be best, Q. Archimedes is very comfortable.”
Q snorted with a quirk of his lips. “Nice try, the orange one is Thales.” Turning off the lamp above James’s head, Q said, “Your welcome to stay.”
As James closed his eyes, he felt fingers softly run through his hair. It was just a moment, but James kept his eyes closed allowing himself to enjoy the caress without addressing what it could mean.
“I’m telling you, the plot made absolutely no sense!”
James grinned at Q’s arms flailing as if his point was stronger for it. Granted the thriller they’d just watch did have enough plot holes to drive a lorry through, but James enjoyed egging on Q’s critique. Q was hilarious when he was riled about something completely inconsequential to the big scheme of things.
The sidewalk was crowded with theatergoers, so James placed a hand on the small of Q’s back to help guide them out of the crush. And if, his hand on Q also helped to keep James close, all the better. Q was an asset for the SIS, but he was also James’s closest friend.
James had not had a friend, close or otherwise in longer than he could remember. Certainly not after he joined MI6 as an agent. Months later, since his impromptu sleepover, he was still getting used to the idea.
“I think you’re protesting too much, Q.”
“What? Are you out of your mind! It was ridiculous!”
“Well, yes, but you were completely engaged, so I fail to see your overall point.” James laughed.
The word cutting off and Q’s widening eyes behind his spectacles caused James to tighten the hold he had on Q’s jacket. A man was standing in front of them with a gun at chest level. James cursed that he’d been paying more attention to Q than to their surroundings.
Someone in the crowd surrounding them let out a high-pitched scream that jerked the gunman’s focus from them for a moment. A moment that allowed James to wrap his arms around Q to shield his body and forcefully shove them both through the crowd for cover. His only thought, get Q out of the line of fire.
“Shit! James!” Q gasped, clutching at the arm around his waist.
James kept himself between Q and where he’d last seen the gunman moving them quickly through the crowd. They broke free and keeping Q in front urged him to run.
“Go, go, go.” James’s hands shoved hard on Q’s shoulders.
Q didn’t hesitate to listen to him using his long slim legs to run with James keeping stride right at his back. Still a shield to the danger that had been left behind them. The crowd was running around them as well, but they were pulling away with quick feet. James wasn’t sure if he was going to get a bullet in his back at any moment not knowing if the man with the gun was following.
Q turned around a corner, disappearing for a second until James made it around as well. They kept running, feet pounding down the pavement. Q’s breaths were ragged and James knew Q was more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner. Spying a deep-set doorway, James caught Q around his waist again and hauled him up a few steps and into the dark space pressing his slim form hard against the stone wall sheltering them.
James watched as police cars from the Met surged with sirens blaring passed their hiding spot. Figures were running by in the opposite direction from the Met, a melee of men and women in panic.
The gunman wasn’t among them.
James relaxed, his breaths mingling with Q’s they were so close. James was still shielding him, his arms around Q as if in a lover’s embrace. With adrenaline shooting through him, James could see Q’s wide eyes through his spectacles and the blush of exertion on his creamy cheeks.
He was beautiful.
The thought was fleeting with Q surging up to press his lips against James’s.
The kiss was chaste, Q’s lips were trembling and supple against his own, rich with the flavor of butter from the popcorn they’d had at the theater. It had been so long since James had experienced a chaste kiss from a potential lover, he was still under Q’s hands and mouth, wondering for a moment if he was perhaps at home dreaming. The thought was ridiculous with Q’s solid weight in his arms.
James melted into the feeling pulling Q closer, sheltering and accepting the man in his arms.
In that state between waking and dreaming, James felt the smooth slide of a warm hand caressing his flank. The movements were soft running up and down from ribs to thigh, skating over his flesh. It felt good, a gentle petting he hadn’t experience often enough in his life.
The hand caressed around his torso stopping over his heart, quiet with the pads of fingers just brushing his nipple with tender affection.
Q, James thought. His lover of a few months now. The one person he trusted pulled him close, their skin was heat damp and flush from sleep. James was enjoying being the little spoon, surrounded by wiry muscles covered in soft skin. It was a unique feeling being surrounded as he was with Q behind him, holding him.
James’s eyes cracked open a bit. The early morning light was peaking through the curtains on the window. The orange glow of an unusually clear London sky. James watched, quiet under Q’s still hands, as a small square of -sun caressed the white linen of his pillow. It was moving slowly towards his face, working to shine into his eyes, as if to say, ‘wake up, you’re not alone today.’
He wasn’t and there was no reason not to wallow in the feel of Q behind him, sleep silent and breathing steadily.
Q gave a low hum behind him, nuzzling his nape.
“You awake?” James whispered with Q’s soft stubble tickling the sensitive skin of his neck. He didn’t get a reply, just a tight squeeze of the slim arms surround him and soft lips pressing kisses along his neck. They were silent, just breathing and James closed his eyes again, drifting.
James was content to allow Q to do as he pleased, languid after the deep sleep he’d had. Sleeping well had become a regular occurrence with Q in his bed.
The sunlight on his pillow was close to his nose when he felt a breath fanning across his ear. A soft kiss brushed the lobe.
“I love you.”
The murmured words made James’s eyes pop open, not sure if he was dreaming. He didn’t say anything, though Q’s hands tightened around his chest at the sudden tension.
“I love you.”
No, he was not imagining the words that Q was whispering into his ear.
“You heard me, James,” Q said, urging him to turn over with a kiss to his shoulder and hot hands on his hips.
James’s face was close enough that he could see Q’s contentment and affection writ on the sharp angles of his face and soft in his green eyes. James figured he must look like a complete idiot with his mouth hanging open, eyes wide, and shocked. It was not a familiar feeling.
“You…” James closed his mouth. “I don’t even know your real name.”
Q smiled and whispered, the soft words so his name came in little puffs of heated air against James’ ear. “Now you know what my real name is and know I’m in love with you.”
“I… what!” There was a tightness in his chest and fluttering in his stomach, not believing what he was hearing. He had no idea what to say, so didn’t say anything, just pulled Q up to give him a chaste kiss to his mouth. The kiss done, Q didn’t seem upset that James had absolutely nothing to say in return.
Q just smiled a secretive smile and caressed James’s cheek softly, as if he already knew the wants of James’s heart.
James waited, and like the first time, he didn’t think he’d have to wait long.
He was not the shell of the man he was that first time, worn, aching, and cold. It brought a little twitch of humor to his lips thinking about how things had changed for him. All due to one unstoppable woolen-covered slip of a man.
Q, with his ridiculous garish clothes, smart and sassy mouth and underneath the facade of nerd chic was his big brain and soft heart hidden behind his bespectacled green-eyes. A soft heart that bullied it’s way into James’s own heart and life from the moment he’d let his curiosity intrude upon Q’s solitary table at the cafe.
James’s self-imposed loneliness, solitary, and dreary had been whittled away bit by bit.
He was still a solitary creature at heart, most comfortable alone even while surrounded by others. The soft murmurs of the gallery tourists surrounding him, moving quietly through the cavernous space, enhancing the fact of his hermetical ideals sitting alone on a bench in front of Turner’s ‘Grand Old Warship…’ as Q had lamented months and months ago when they first met. Pointing out in his dry humor how similar that ‘Bloody Big Ship’ and James, Agent 007 was on that day.
He’d been enchanted and continued to be, unable to resist seeking out Q’s company. James had been unable to resist the companionship Q had given him so freely that quiet morning of reading at the cafe. Quiet, but not. Alone with another person, but never alone.
Colleagues, to companions, to friends, and finally to lovers all over the span of months between the pandemonium of his work. The silent time in London, no longer silent for him in-between the excitement. And he didn’t want to go back to that silence where London was a dreary purgatory between adrenaline-fuelled focus to keep his country as safe as he could.
And with a scrape of an oxford shoe on the wooden floor and the creak of the bench under Q’s frame, James knew he didn’t have to go back to that muted life.
James took his eyes of Turner’s masterpiece and turned them to the lover who’d chased away the loneliness in his heart, left there from losing too many people, starting with his parents all those years ago. Q was rubbing the soft petals of the dark red rose James had left in his locker with a note against his lips. A little curl of pleasure was hovering along their edges, that cheeky pleased look in Q’s eyes that was the same as when they’d first bantered their way to an understanding on the very benches they were sitting on.
James held out his hand and Q’s fingers, delicate as they were, gripped his own tightly.
The prospect of surviving being a Double-O and retirement from the field in a few years was no longer bleak. He had a future now, though seeking out danger was still a part of him and probably always would be. But, there was danger in not being alone, by relying on another person for contentment, if not outright happiness. James hoped at some point in the time to come, he’d learn to embrace those feelings fully, as he’d embraced his love for Q.
James broke the comfortable silence between them, pulling Q’s hands to his lips to place a soft kiss on his pale knuckles.
Q’s fingers quivered under his mouth. Keeping Q’s hand in his, James pulled out a platinum band etch in a Celtic knot out of his pocket. Q’s breath was a soft hitch at his side when the ring, still filled with warmth from James’s body, slid perfectly onto his ring finger.
“James,” Q whispered, still except for the clutch of his hand around James’s.
James took in Q soft with happiness and acceptance. The haze of his future was no longer full of dark solitude and the notion that he’d die young he knew was no longer fated. He didn’t need to seek out a final death now.
A blaze of glory at the end.
My thanks to my artist, Danger_Zone24 for participating in the 00Q Reverse Big Bang an inspiring me with their brilliant Art.