I went to see Skyfall last week and, while everyone else was swooning over Bond, I quietly and irrevocably fell in love with Bill Tanner. (I like a quietly competent man in a suit, what can I say?) And this happened:
Title: With Your Hand In My Hand We'll Still Stand (AO3 Link)
Fandom: Skyfall (2012)
Pairing: Q/Bill Tanner
Length: 5,700 words
Warnings: Contains spoilers for Skyfall that you DO NOT want to know before seeing the film. Trust me. Also contains depictions of grief, so please take care if that's a trigger for you.
It takes Q a long, long time to even start to repair the damage Silva did to their mainframe.
He has no idea what time it is when he takes a step back from his computer, rubbing his eyes, only that his lower back aches and there’s a caffeine headache banging around over his right eye that’s going to make coding a nightmare if he doesn’t fix it soon.
There’s no coffee in the breakroom – the clock on the microwave says 3:14, which explains that – so he just keeps walking, a blind search for another coffee pot or some tea bags, or even a Coke at this point.
Not the diet stuff though; he does have some standards.
There’s a light on down the hall, so he heads that way. He’s not the only one still at work, it just feels like it when he’s down in the Q-Cave as, well, no one’s taken to calling.
The light turns out to be coming from M’s office, and Q’s definitely not going in there so he just sort of hangs around by the door, wondering if it would be maudlin to go inside.
He’s not going to steal a dead woman’s tea bags but, well, if there are some on Tanner’s desk then that’s a different matter.
A soft noise from inside makes his decision for him.
“Hello?” he calls, leaning around the doorframe. “Sorry to disturb but – ” He stops. Bill Tanner is standing in the middle of the office, fisted hands resting on M’s desk, his back bowed.
“What do you need, Q?” Tanner asks, not looking at him.
“Um. Tea?” Q says then feels stupid. “I mean. Um. Are you okay?” He takes three steps across the empty space between them, wondering if he’s going to need to find some comforting words. He isn’t very good at that.
“Of course.” Tanner straightens, shaking out his shoulders. When he turns around, his expression is bland and his eyes are dry, but he still looks wrecked. “Tea, did you say?”
Q waves a hand. “No, don’t. Don’t worry about that.”
Tanner ignores him, crossing the room and ducking down on the other side of M’s desk, disappearing so Q can’t see him anymore.
Curious, Q moves past Tanner’s desk and stops just before he gets to M’s. There’s still a part of him that expects her voice to cut through the air, asking him if he’s finished his latest project and, if not, what on earth he’s doing coming up for air.
He was recruited to MI6 straight out of Imperial, but he’s only worked directly to M for the past few months. That was long enough to expect to see her around every corner, apparently. He can’t imagine how Tanner must be feeling.
“There’s definitely some in here somewhere,” Tanner’s saying to himself. “Ah, yes, here. And here. And here. Christ, was she stockpiling in case of World War Three?”
He steps back from the cupboard in the corner, a tower of boxes in his arms.
“Honestly, it’s fine,” Q tries again, feeling awful and awkward.
Tanner drops all the boxes on M’s desk, then goes paler still and grabs them all up again, moving them to the table opposite, straightening her mouse mat as he goes.
“There’s Earl Grey,” he says, not looking at Q. “Assam. English Breakfast. Lemon and Ginger. Hmm, I wonder if she had digestion problems. She never said.”
“Tanner,” Q says helplessly, “I really don’t need tea.”
“Of course you do,” Tanner said, waving a hand dismissively. He turns and grabs a cup from the same cupboard, the spoon rattling around inside it as though his hand is shaking.
“Tanner.” Q digs through his brain archives, performing a quick first name search. “Bill.”
“Shut up,” Tanner says crisply. “There’s nothing else for me to do. Let me make you some bloody tea.”
Q takes a step back. “Right,” he says, “okay. Sorry. Carry on.”
He doesn’t know where to put himself, while Tanner messes around with the kettle on the sideboard in the corner, so he drifts backwards, sitting down on Tanner’s desk. His back still hurts, but that doesn’t seem so important anymore.
There’s a stack of messages piled up by the phone, waiting for someone who’s never going to come back for them. Q thinks about flicking through them – he’s always curious about everything and they won’t be confidential, not sitting out like this – but it feels wrong. She’s only been dead a little over twenty-four hours.
“Here,” Tanner says, appearing in Q’s peripheral vision and shoving a cup at him. It’s a tiny, white and blue china thing, complete with its own saucer and Q is going to need ten of these to hit the spot, but he takes it without complaint.
“Thank you.” He looks at Tanner’s other, empty hand. “Aren’t you having any?”
Tanner shakes his head. “I don’t drink tea.”
Q fakes a gasp. “And they still let you work for the government?”
Tanner doesn’t smile, but he does sit down, moving a stack of papers carefully before parking his arse next to Q’s.
“She caught me with a Starbucks once and told me that it was positively un-British.” He smiles slightly, not meeting Q’s eyes.
Q wonders if it would be okay to nudge Tanner’s knee a little. While he’s trying to work it out, he ends up accidentally kicking his ankle. At least it gets Tanner to look at him. “Well she had a point. Especially with the tax thing. You traitor.”
Tanner nods, still smiling, just a little. “’Your lot’, she said, when she read about that. ‘Your lot are reason the economy’s in the toilet.’”
“She had a way with words,” Q agrees solemnly. He lifts his cup to his mouth, drinking half the tea in one long sip.
“Yeah.” Tanner breathes out slowly, looking like he’s settling back down into his gloom.
Q decides to take drastic action. He puts down his cup and hovers his hand over Tanner’s back for an awkward moment before patting him on the shoulder.
Tanner stiffens, which wasn’t what Q had intended.
“Sorry,” he says, drawing his hand back. “I was just trying to – ”
“I’m fine,” Tanner says tightly. “I don’t need – ” He waves a hand at Q, at his cup of tea, around the whole room. “I don’t need company.”
“All right,” Q says slowly. He might not be good at interacting with people, but he’s good at reading them, and it’s quite obvious he’s not wanted here. He finishes the rest of the tea and puts the cup back on its saucer with exaggerated care. “I’m sorry I bothered you. Thank you for the tea.”
Tanner stares straight ahead, eyes fixed on the wall in front. He doesn’t seem to notice Q going, which worries Q, even though it shouldn’t, even though Tanner doesn’t need his terrible brand of reassurance.
Q hovers, just for a second, once he’s out in the hallway, watching Tanner through the crack in the door.
“Damn it,” Tanner swears softly, then, louder, “fuck.” He drops his head down, staring at the floor. Q watches him curl shaking hands into fists on his knees, then sidles away, not wanting to intrude any further.
Around six a.m. the rest of Q division starts filing in. Someone shoves a Venti Americano into Q’s hand, which he appreciates even if it reminds him of the weird interlude with Tanner last night.
“Thanks,” he says, flipping the lid off with the side of one finger, not taking his eyes off his screen.
“You’re welcome,” says an unexpected voice and he jumps, staring wide eyed at Gareth Mallory, who’s standing just outside of the range of Q’s windmilling arm.
“Sir,” Q says, straightening up and trying to use the power of his mind to make his hair lie flat and his clothes become unwrinkled.
Mallory, obviously, looks spotless, neatly pressed and refreshed even though he’s still wearing the sling and Q knows for a fact that he was here until gone one last night.
“How’s it going?” Mallory asks, nodding at the computer terminal at Q’s back.
“We’ll get there,” Q promises. “Silva left some nasty surprises on the server, but I think we’ve got them all now.”
“Good, good.” Mallory nods in the slow, measured way that important people seem to magically pick up around the time that they become important. “You’ll let me know if I can help?”
“Yes, sir,” Q agrees, even though just having Mallory standing here is reminding Q of the other night, when he helped them lay a breadcrumb trail that took Silva right to M and Bond.
Q knows that that was the plan, that they didn’t have a choice, but he also knows that M’s now dead.
Mallory rocks forward on his toes, taking a far-too-close look at Q’s face, before leaning away again. “When was the last time you slept, Quartermaster?”
Q has to resist the urge to laugh hysterically. “I can’t really say since I’m not sure what day it is,” he admits. “But I’m fine, sir. Especially now I have coffee.”
“Four more hours,” Mallory says, ignoring him, “then I want you to get some sleep.”
Q opens his mouth to argue, then closes it again before he can. “Yes, sir,” he says, and hopes that Mallory won’t notice that he’s got his fingers crossed behind his back.
Mallory turns away then stops. “Oh and Q?” he says over his shoulder.
Q’s already turned his attention back to his computer, but he manages to mumble an, “Mmhm?” which he hopes Mallory understands means he’s paying as much attention as he can spare, despite the lovely things happening on his screen.
“When you go to get that sleep, take Tanner with you, will you? He looks worse than you do.”
That gets Q’s attention back. “Sir?” he asks, but Mallory’s already halfway out the door.
“I authorise you to use whatever means necessary to get him away from here for a few hours,” Mallory calls back over his shoulder, but he doesn’t stop.
It’s entirely unfair – and probably entirely planned – that making Q responsible for Tanner’s rest, means that he actually has to follow through on his promise to get some sleep himself.
Or at least to step away from his terminal. He can log into the server from home, of course, but the remote connection can’t be secured enough for the work he really needs to do, so he already knows that that’s going to be too frustrating for words.
He finds Tanner still tidying M’s office. Mallory is sitting at M’s desk, working on her laptop and looking pained.
Q isn’t sure if that’s a good sign or if Tanner is one more rearranged boxfile away from being kicked out the window.
If this place had windows. If they weren’t in a bunker. Maybe Q is more tired than he thought.
“Tanner,” he says, waving awkwardly at Mallory, who doesn’t look, but otherwise ignoring him. “Come on. It’s time to take a break.”
“Hmm? Q?” Tanner asks then looks up, blinking. There’s dust in his hair and on his collar. It should be endearing, but it’s actually rather worrying. England may rock on her foundations, but William Tanner is never dusty.
“Time to go, big guy,” Q says then wonders who he is and what he’s done with himself. He’s never called anyone ‘big guy’ before; he thinks he may have heard it used in a film once, but it was definitely an American film and he’s not even sure he got the context right.
“Go where?” Tanner asks. “I’m busy, go away.”
Q wonders if this is how other people feel when they’re trying to peel him away from his computer. No wonder his last boyfriend left and took the cat with him.
“Colonel Mallory is probably going to put you in the brig if you don’t come with me, right now,” Q tells him patiently. Then he taps his foot to make his point more… pointed.
(He knows that technically Mallory is M now, but he can’t bring himself to say that yet, and he’s certain that Tanner won’t want to hear it.)
“The brig is for the Navy,” Tanner says, standing up and straightening his legs with a wince as though it’s painful. “He’d probably just put me on a charge.” He frowns. “What’s happening?”
Christ, he looks much worse than Q feels. Q touches his elbow quickly, not making sustained contact because he learnt his lesson there, just enough to guide him toward the door. “A few hours of enforced downtime,” he says.
“Six hours,” Mallory says, still not looking up from his desk.
Q sighs. “Yes, sir,” he says and keeps wafting Tanner in the direction of the hallway.
Tanner doesn’t put up a fight until they’re standing on the pavement outside HQ. Then the chilly morning air seems to slap some life back into him and he blinks at Q as though this is the first time he’s seen him in days.
“Where are we going?” he asks, scratching at his chin where a day’s worth of stubble is starting to shine through.
“I don’t know.” Q shrugs. “Where do you live?”
“I have a flat in Cardigan Street,” Tanner says. Of course he does; that’s a less than fifteen minute walk to the old HQ. At least Q had the decency to rent himself a flat in Lambeth so he could pretend not to be completely work-obsessed.
“That’s where we’re going then,” Q says, making himself sound cheerful.
He meant that that’s where Tanner’s going, he didn’t mean to invite himself over as well, but Tanner apparently doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind, and Q finds himself sharing a taxi with him from Temple and getting out when he does.
Tanner pays the driver then looks confused when Q tries to give him half the money.
“No, it’s,” Tanner says and trails off, waving him away. “Come on.”
He lets them into a nice flat on the top floor of a nondescript, fairly modern maisonette and Q stands in the doorway, watching as Tanner drops his keys onto the table, hangs his coat over the banisters, lines his shoes up against the stairs.
He doesn’t know where to put himself, he probably isn’t wanted here, but he all of a sudden doesn’t think he can leave Tanner alone, not while he’s still wearing that sad, defeated slump across his shoulders.
“Have you got any food?” Q asks, pushing himself away from the door.
“I’m going to have a shower,” Tanner answers, which makes Q think he hasn’t heard him until Tanner adds, “there’s probably something in the pantry, help yourself.”
“I meant for you,” Q tries, but Tanner doesn’t respond at all, that time.
There turns out to be very little food in Tanner’s flat, so the two of them end up eating Jacob’s Crackers and slightly hard cheese on Tanner’s sofa, while shower water drips from Tanner’s hairline, onto his collar.
Q watches it run down Tanner’s neck and itches to grab a towel and dry his hair for him. That probably wouldn’t be appreciated though, so he resists.
It is driving him mad, though.
When they’re done, Tanner stands up and takes Q’s plate out of his hand, carrying it into the kitchen and then staring down into the sink rather than putting the plates down or washing them up.
“Tanner,” Q says quietly, except they’re in Tanner’s house, so he changes that to, “Bill?”
“What’s your name?” Bill asks suddenly, putting the plates down and turning around. “I know everything about everyone, but I don’t know your name.”
Q lets himself smile. “No one knows my name. That’s the point of a secret identity.” He’s always wanted to say something like that; he’s always hated his name and it’s so nice not to have to use it anymore, not even in his own head.
Bill rolls his eyes, which is a sign of returning life and fills Q with hope until Bill says, “That’s ridiculous. I know M’s name,” and seems to deflate again.
Q stands up. “You should go and get some sleep,” he says. “I’ll leave you alone.”
“Stay,” Bill says then frowns, probably at himself. “I mean. I mean I won’t sleep, so you might as well kip here. Take my bed, if you’d like.”
Q folds his arms. “I’m not putting you out of your bed; I have a very nice one of my own at home.”
“Does it have an ejector seat?” Bill asks, smiling very slightly.
Q laughs louder than that joke deserves. “That’s better,” he hears himself say then wonders when he turned into his grandmother.
Bill turns away from the sink and leans back against it, head resting back against the cupboard above. He looks as though he might fall asleep right there.
“Look,” Q says, too tired to argue. “How about we both take the settee, instead?” At Bill’s suddenly wide eyes, he amends. “We can watch a film or something; that’ll send you right off to sleep.”
Bill nods, looking like maybe he doesn’t have the energy to object, either. “There are videos in the drawer under the television,” he says, nodding back the way they’ve come toward the living room.
“Videos? Seriously?” Q asks, distracted enough that he leaves Bill alone to go and investigate.
There are actually videos in Bill’s TV cabinet. Some of them are pre-recorded and some are taped off the TV. Q is boggled.
“It’s like stepping back into history,” he says over his shoulder, but Bill doesn’t smile so Q stops trying to tease him and just picks a film instead.
Bill has a vast collection of black and white classics plus, unexpectedly, all the Doctor Who’s from Jon Pertwee to Sylvester McCoy.
Q will ask him about that later. Whoever would have suspected that Bill Tanner had hidden depths?
They put on One Two Three since Q doesn’t think this is the time for The 39 Steps or The Third Man then settle down on Bill’s sofa, taking a corner each.
It’s a nice sofa, wide and soft and Q has seen this film more times than he can count, so he isn’t surprised when his eyes start to close before James Stewart even makes it onto the screen.
He wakes up to find the living room in darkness, fuzz playing on the TV. Somehow he’s shifted around so his head is on the arm of the chair and his feet are pressed against the side of Bill’s thighs.
Q cranes his neck painfully to see if Bill minds and sees that Bill is sound asleep, head resting back against the sofa. His left hand, somehow, has fallen down between them, palm curved lightly around Q’s bare ankle.
It rains on the day of M’s funeral. Q stands in the church and remembers her telling him that she wouldn’t mind the rain, if only it didn’t make England such a bloody stereotype.
He goes back to his flat afterward, doesn’t stay for the wake even though he’s senior enough now that he’s probably expected to make an appearance.
He changes out of his wet suit and boils a kettle, puts some Waitrose mince pies in the oven to warm, but he still doesn’t realise he’s waiting for someone until there’s a knock on the door.
“I made coffee,” Q tells Bill, rather than saying hello. You don’t say hello when you’ve both come from a funeral; it feels far too jolly a word. “It’s only instant, but – ”
Bill nods gratefully. He stands in the middle of Q’s hallway and drips onto the vinyl.
“Take your coat off,” Q says, already reaching out to work at Bill’s overcoat’s heavy black buttons himself. Bill’s fingers are white with cold and they keep bumping into Q’s when he tries to help, but Q doesn’t tell him to stop.
He hands Bill a radiator-warmed towel once he’s out of his coat and shoes, because Q’s not putting up with a repeat of last time. Then he sits Bill at the kitchen table and feeds him coffee and mince pies until there’s some colour back in his cheeks.
It occurs to Q that he’s fussing, but he doesn’t know how else to fix Bill and that’s what Q does: he fixes things.
“Thank you,” Bill says eventually. He clears his throat awkwardly. “Sorry about barging in like – ”
Q holds up a hand to stop him. “Please. You hardly barged. Do you even know how to barge?”
Bill huffs a laugh. “I’ve been known to barge, in my time.”
“And when was your time?” Q asks. “1945?”
Bill doesn’t lose his half-smile, but he drops his eyes to the table. “Something like that.”
Balls. “No, I didn’t mean – ” Q touches the back of Bill’s hand, very lightly. “It’s a good thing. You have manners. You and, and M, and the 00s, you might be old school, but I like that; it’s reassuring. We need that.”
He’s been thinking about it, and he really does believe that’s true. He’s not backing down about the exploding pens, though.
“We?” Bill asks. He’s watching Q’s fingers now, rather than the table, so Q keeps rubbing a thumb over his knuckles.
Q glances away, embarrassed. “England,” he says. “Obviously. More coffee?”
He stands up, flicking the switching on the kettle and only realising it’s out of water when it starts hissing at him. He turns it off again, flustered, and picks it up to refill it from the tap.
He has to pass close by the table to get to the sink. Bill’s hand shoots and lands on his hip. Q puts the kettle down on the work surface with a clatter.
“Bill?” Q asks. He feels like he’s spent a lot of time lately, saying Bill’s name like that.
Bill’s hand is shaking on Q’s hip. It keeps shaking when he slides it up to Q’s waist and draws him in.
In the back of his mind, Q expects Bill to stand up and kiss him. He isn’t expecting Bill to sigh and slump forward, the heavy weight of his forehead resting against Q’s ribs.
“Sorry,” Bill breathes out. Q shouldn’t be able to feel Bill’s warm breath through his jumper, but he imagines he can. “You’ve been such a rock. I’ve needed – ”
“Shh,” Q says uselessly and slides a hand over the back of Bill’s soft, thinning hair. He’s never been anyone’s rock. He isn’t sure how he feels about being needed, not even by Bill who, it turns out, he rather likes.
Eventually, Bill does stand up and Q doesn’t take his hand out of Bill’s hair. Bill is just slightly taller than Q, so it doesn’t take much for him to tilt his face down or for Q to tip his mouth up, meeting in the middle.
The kiss is slow and chaste, lips parted but no tongues. Bill’s arms wrap tightly around Q’s back, one palm flat and steadying between his shoulder blades, while Q accidentally pulls Bill’s hair, angling him closer.
Bill makes a quiet noise into Q’s mouth and Q automatically unclenches his fingers, stroking his scalp soothingly. Bill makes that noise again, more desperate this time, so Q kisses him deeper, pressing the very tip of his tongue against the very tip of Bill’s.
“Was that all right?” Bill asks, after they separate with a series of soft, careful kisses.
“That was very nice,” Q says then ducks his head, smiling when Bill narrows his eyes at him. He slides his hands down the sides of Bill’s face, curling one around the back of Bill’s neck. “Again?”
Bill obliges, kissing him again and again. Q wants to walk them backwards so they’re doing this against a wall, but Bill has other ideas, planting his feet and keeping Q plastered against his chest.
Q pulls back and kisses the corner of Bill’s mouth. “Do you want to go to bed?” he asks. This is quick and probably inappropriate but Q is happy to be a distraction if that’s what Bill needs this afternoon.
“Not now,” Bill says, but finally lets Q back him up against the fridge.
Bond finally comes back to work the day after M’s funeral. He looks worn and craggy, but then Q’s decided that’s probably his standard expression.
“Q,” he says, standing in the middle of the office Q has finally agreed to have now they’ve moved back into the SIS Building. “Shaving yet?”
“007,” Q says, pretending not to notice that, even tired and bruised, Bond looks like he’s walked straight off a catwalk. “Did you miss me?”
“Unbearably,” Bond says and drops down into Q’s swivel chair. Q watches and appreciates but his lips still feel swollen from Bill Tanner’s kisses, so he isn’t distracted.
“Staying?” Q asks, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes,” Bond agrees and tips back in his stolen chair, hands folded in his lap as though he’s resting. Q isn’t fooled; he’d be on red alert in a second if anyone else came in.
“Don’t make too much noise, then,” Q warns and gets back to work.
It turns out that Bond isn’t the only one gracing Legoland with his presence today. Mallory has officially taken over as the new Head, so Bill is busy enough that Q barely sees him.
They stand next to each other in a senior staff briefing, the back of Bill’s hand pressed against the back of Q’s, but they don’t have a minute to talk, let alone to attempt more kissing.
After three more days, the problems Silva caused are down to a level where Q’s staff can deal with them, so Q finds himself at a lose end. He spends mornings ignoring Bond and afternoons ignoring Bond, and the time in between rifling through old design schematics from his predecessors.
On Friday, Bond shows up as usual and raises his eyebrows when Q presents him with a wrapped black box.
“And it’s not even my birthday,” he says laconically.
“Since you were grown in a lab, that’s hardly surprising,” Q says, folding his hands behind his back so he won’t look nervous.
Bond unwraps the box carefully, smirking all the time. It’s a fountain pen, long and sleek and silver, the nicest one Q could requisition.
“Don’t tell me it explodes?” Bond asks, twisting the cap carefully.
“Please,” Q says, making a face at the very idea. “Unscrew the nib.”
With another doubtful flick of his eyelids, Bond opens the pen and laughs when he pulls out a tiny, perfectly proportioned tape recorder.
“Since you like the old days so much,” Q tells him. “I thought we could hark back to the Cold War.”
Bond checks the recorder all over then carefully reassembles the pen. “Don’t tell me, it transmits everything it records straight to the appropriate person’s eardrum via special sound waves keyed only to their brain patterns.”
“Now you’re just being silly,” Q scolds, while making a note to see if that’s possible, later on.
There’s a knock on the door before Bond can answer – not that he would, probably, he’d probably just smirk some more.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Bill says, “am I interrupting?”
“Hi,” Q says, then wishes he’d taken a second to compose himself since he has a bad feeling he sounded fucking breathy and, if he did, then Bond certainly noticed.
“Hello.” Bill smiles at Q before turning his attention to Bond. “Eve’s looking for you, Bond. Something about insurance on the Aston Martin.”
“Thrilling, absolutely thrilling,” Bond says and rolls himself out of his seat. He pockets the pen with a wink at Q and leaves the room with the start of a swing in his step.
“Hi,” Q says again, since Bill is still there.
It doesn’t make Bill roll his eyes at him; it makes him smile. “Hello.”
Bill steps into the room and closes the door. Q never closes that door, so that isn’t going to look inconspicuous, but he doesn’t care.
“Do you think ‘insurance’ is another way of saying ‘nookie in the stationery cupboard’?” Q asks.
“I honestly don’t give a damn,” Bill assures him, cupping a hand around Q’s hip and drawing him in for a kiss.
Bill tastes of coffee and sugar, but Q wouldn’t care if he tasted of six day old curry at this point, grabbing hold of his tie and keeping Bill’s head bowed for a long kiss.
“Have dinner with me tonight?” Bill asks. He lets go of Q’s hips and helps him straighten in shirt, while Q does the same with Bill’s tie. It makes Q think of what it might be like if they finally got to undress each other.
“What time?” Q asks. He selects a file from his shredding pile at random and hands it to Bill so he’ll have something to carry with him when he leaves the office.
Bill pauses, clearly thinking through his workload for the day. “Bollocks. Probably not until at least nine,” he says. “Sorry.”
Q laughs, shaking his head. “I don’t care; we’ll find somewhere. Come and get me when you’re ready?”
“I will,” Bill promises. He kisses Q once more, biting his lip. “See you later.”
“Yes,” Q says faintly, lips stinging promisingly. “See you.”
They have a hurried Thai dinner that night, but then one of the backup servers goes down, and everyone at MI6 is still very nervous, so Q gets called in to supervise repairs.
“Sorry,” he says, when Bill drops him back work, but Bill waves him off, only looking a little disappointed.
On Tuesday, they make it as far as after-dinner waffles in Leicester Square, before Bill gets an urgent call and has to go and meet a contact under the clock on Waterloo Station.
Yes, really. Q despairs of spies’ originality sometimes.
On Thursday, they don’t even get out of the building before 005 crashes through the ceiling, literally, and all hell breaks lose.
“Raincheck?” Bill calls to Q as he’s wading through smoke on his way to the armoury.
“Unless I get a better offer,” Q shouts back and ducks down under a table until the ceiling stops caving in.
On Saturday morning, Q gets tired of waiting, throws his toothbrush into a satchel along with his laptop and jumps onto the Northern Line.
Bill doesn’t seem surprised to see him, but then Bill has gone back to being calm and unflappable Chief of Staff Bill Tanner, so nothing seems to surprise him these days.
“We’re clearly jinxed when it comes to evenings together,” Q says, stepping inside and kicking his shoes off. “So how do you feel about mornings?”
“I feel very good about mornings,” Bill tells him and pushes him back into the door.
Bill fumbles Q’s cardigan down over his shoulders and kisses the side of his neck. “I want to ask if you’re going along with this because I’ve been an unholy mess of a man lately, but I’m not sure I want to know the answer,” he confesses, lips wet and clinging.
Q tips his head back for more kisses, hoping for teeth. “I could tell you the answer,” he offers. “If it would make you feel better.”
“No.” Bill’s hand slides down Q’s back and takes a nice, firm hold of his arse. “I think I’m happier not knowing.”
Q rolls his eyes and then his hips when that seems like the thing to do. His erection meets Bill’s erection and they both groan.
“Don’t be a knob,” Q manages between embarrassingly enthusiastic sounds. Bill Tanner does not have an inferiority complex and Q has a policy of not complementing spies in case it encourages them.
“Oh, I think you’ll like my knob,” Bill tells him, which isn’t exactly funny but it’s so unexpected and so unlike Bill that Q spends three minutes giggling into Bill’s shoulder.
Then he hooks his ankle around the back of Bill’s knee and knocks him backwards onto the bed, because he has learnt one or two things from working for MI6.
Q wakes up slowly. It isn’t dark and he isn’t tired, which makes this an improvement on every time he’s woken up since the bombing.
He stretches and stifles a surprised sound when his hand hits soft, warm flesh.
“Good morning,” Bill says from above, sounding like he’s laughing.
Q rolls onto his side and squints up at him. There’s hair in his eyes and he isn’t very good at waking up when he doesn’t have to be. Bill’s sitting up in bed, hair a crow’s nest and wearing nothing but boxers.
Apart from that, though, he has his laptop on his lap, and looks as straight-backed and hardworking as he does in the office.
“Morning,” Q yawns and rubs his hand up and down Bill’s thigh, just because he can.
“I hacked your emails,” Bill says, as though that’s a good way to wake someone up. That actually is a good way to wake Q up. Also a good way to turn him on.
“You did?” Q asks. “Anything good?”
He shifts closer and puts his head on Bill’s pillow. He’s very comfortable right now.
“Well, Bond wants to know if you’re wearing your pyjamas,” Bill says slowly. “Should I be concerned?”
“Hmm?” Q asks, then remembers the conversation at the National Gallery and sits up in a rush. “Let me see?”
He takes a look for himself, head on Bill’s shoulder, but that’s all Bond’s written.
“It means he wants me to cause some damage,” Q tells him. He leans in to use the trackpad and Bill’s arm comes up around his shoulders. “That sounds fun, doesn’t it?”
Bill kisses Q’s temple and Q tries not to be distracted by that. “I can think of a few things that sound more fun,” he says dryly, “but, yes, okay.”
“I promise you’re still my favourite,” Q assures him. “Bond feeds my toys to iguanas.”
He hits send then curls back into Bill’s side, waiting to see what happens next.
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