c: Q, Eve, Bond, Tanner
w: SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE OKAY I MEAN IT DON’T LET ME SPOIL THE MOVIE FOR YOU I DON’T WANT TO.
s: Post-movie. “I think Bond’s trying to be your friend,” Eve tells him.
“…well,” Q says slowly, “this is a new and disturbing development.”
n: [Title from, um, Taylor Swift’s State of Grace.] Basically the minute I started looking at pictures of Whishaw!Q I knew I was always going to write a gen epic about him, so dedicating this to my beloved finkpishnets who wanted this fic and who is all flaily about everyone with me. Love also to moogle62, who has been the MOST fun to flail with, and lc2l for sending me her awesome Q fic/feelings. Ugh, Skyfall was so great though, and I want to write all the stuff about EVERYBODY, but yes, I love Q. And my brain decided that he was panromantic asexual. It would’ve probably been easier to just bang out some porn, but that is not what happened. So the alternative summary is: in which Eve is secretly Q’s BFF, Bond and Q clumsily end up being sort-of-bros, and Q is such a fucking hipster, you guys don’t even know.
I’ll be back to edit my tags once Skyfall has aired worldwide; until then, no accidental spoilers :)
After his interview, MI6 asked him to hack into their systems. His interviewer was a smug man, expensive tie, expensive watch, wedding ring cutting into a swollen finger, and his smile was nothing short of irritating: they wanted him to fail, wanted to impress upon him just what it was that he was walking into.
He already knew what he was walking into; he’d been into their files before. This time, though, he’d need to trip something so that they’d know he was doing it. This was purely about the performance.
The laptop they gave him needed some serious modification and the keys were just a little sticky, but he ignored its shortcomings and instead flexed his fingers and started typing. His interviewer watched, eyes glittering, mouth twisted into a smile that had a little too much sadism in it.
Just for that, he sped the process up, encryptions cracking easily beneath his hands, and the security breach alarms were blaring before the impassive-looking secretary who’d been standing silently by the door could even bring him a glass of water.
“I want twice the salary you were offering me,” he told his astounded interviewer, clicking out of the window and opening up solitaire. “And some help with real estate. I’m sick of living in a cupboard in Camden.”
While the man gaped at him and running footsteps echoed outside the doors, he sighed and set himself to getting into the alarm systems too: that sound was starting to give him a headache.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,” the Tesco Metro self-checkout machine chirps.
Q attempts to stare it down. “No,” he says.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,” the machine repeats happily.
There’s a queue of people behind him, all with the worn expressions of people who don’t leave work until 9 p.m. Technically, Q has left work early today, but he does intend to turn up at 4 tomorrow morning, so he hasn’t exactly got a set schedule.
He refuses to be defeated by a supermarket checkout machine. He refuses. He spent today developing a camera that can be fitted into a contact lens, this cannot be happening to him.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,” the checkout continues to announce. It’s starting to get a sadistically gleeful tone, Q thinks. There’s a screwdriver in the bottom of his messenger bag that he’s just itching to reach for, but there are too many witnesses, and he’s had a lot of emails about not publicly dismantling things that don’t belong to him.
Teeth gritted, Q removes the packet of penne that he’d just put into his bag.
“Item removed from bagging area,” the machine intones.
Next time he goes food shopping on the way home, Q is going to take a couple of hand grenades out of the weapons lock-up.
He glances around, but the shop assistants are busy and the people behind him are starting to get restless.
“This is ridiculous,” he tells the checkout.
“Item removed from bagging area,” it replies.
Q sighs, and presses the button marked Store Login. There’s no keyboard and the touch screen doesn’t respond as quickly as he’d like, but the whole thing runs on Windows and it doesn’t take him too long to tweak a couple of things.
The machine stays silent for the rest of the transaction, and Q gives it a distracted pat goodbye as he leaves.
Eve brings him a Pret packaged salad at some point on what Q is fairly sure is Thursday. He’s had three cups of coffee and twelve cups of tea since the last time he checked what day it was, anyway.
“You’re not my secretary,” he says, as she firmly pulls his mug away from him, pushing the food into his hands. “Shouldn’t you be saving the world as we know it with expenses forms or something?”
“I can spare five minutes,” Eve replies, pushing aside a tangle of unused wires and hopping up to perch on his desk. “And I wouldn’t be so glib about expenses forms, considering your department is over a month behind.”
“Paperwork,” Q mutters, fumbling with the stupid labels sealing the salad closed. Eve watches him struggle for a moment before sighing and opening it for him, handing him a plastic fork.
“This goes in your mouth.”
“Ha ha,” he says flatly, spearing a mouthful of rocket.
Eve smiles at him anyway, soft and fond, swinging her feet in their stiletto heels.
“I can rig those with a security mechanism if you like,” he suggests, gesturing with the fork. “In case someone breaks in to see M.”
He reaches for a pen, but Eve smacks his hand away.
“Don’t make these blow up,” she says, “I like them.”
They are rather nice, it’s true. Q makes sad eyes at his mug, which Eve is still holding out of reach, but she glares at the salad until he obediently eats a piece of avocado.
“I don’t always make things blow up,” he murmurs, but she ignores him.
Whether in the official MI6 building or in their bunker, Q’s department is always in the basement, so he’s used to living without daylight in what amounts to a cardboard box with glass partitions. He’s pointed out on multiple occasions that you probably shouldn’t shut the department most likely to explode in the foundations of the building, but nobody ever listens to him about these kinds of things, and anyway when MI6 finally did go up in flames it wasn’t him who was responsible after all.
Q is both relieved and a little piqued about that.
He’s starting to quite like his new office, anyway, all the exposed brickwork and shadowy air of proper secrecy. There were rats when they started, of course, but it didn’t take long for them to rig up a few things to keep them far, far away.
It’s a pity that there’s no such device that will work on agents. At least, not one that anyone will sign off on, anyway.
Bond looks… complicated, is maybe the best way to sum up the determined lack of emotion on his face, and he’s in what he thinks of as casualwear, which is still a suit far nicer than anything Q will ever own.
“Don’t touch anything,” Q warns him.
“I thought you didn’t go in for exploding pens anymore,” Bond replies, arching an eyebrow, though he hesitates and leaves Q’s Parker ballpoint alone after all.
“Things have a habit of lingering,” Q replies. His pen actually administers an electric shock to anyone who clicks it wrong, which is why it’s his favourite pen, but he’s not going to admit to it aloud.
Their new M is not allowing Bond back on active service until he actually passes all his tests: the medical and shooting ones worked out fine, but people have started queuing to get in and watch Bond’s psych evaluation sessions behind the two-way glass. Unfortunately, until he manages not to storm out like a petulant teenager or say something disturbing in response to a Rorschach test, Bond can’t go into the field, which gives him lots and lots and lots of time to wander around getting underneath people’s feet.
Even the threat of personal injury isn’t enough to stop Bond from curling his fingers around a lightweight crossbow Q is designing to fold up into an umbrella, tilting it this way and that with a curious expression.
“Project Everdeen,” Q says, and watches the pop culture reference go whistling over Bond’s head.
Eve is going to love this when he tells her later.
Q knows you’re not supposed to think thinks like “machines are easier”, because that’s what gets you put on Lists, but in a way it’s true. Machines don’t have guilt complexes – which is probably going to lead to actual problems sometime in the future – and you can cheer them up with a depression of keys or a line of code.
He didn’t know what to do about Eve’s long silences, her fingers closing nervously about her wrists, her glassy eyes reflecting sleepless nights. She took her lunch breaks in his department, black coffee and Tic Tacs and tapping nervous tattoos against his lightboxes, while Q experimented with sympathetic silences and googling what to say to a friend when they have technically killed a very important double-oh agent.
“Will it help if I offer to design you a new gun?” he offered eventually.
She shrugged, shoulders thin beneath her sheer shirt. “Can you make the bullets know who to hit?”
“They shut down that project,” Q said apologetically. “I think I accidentally made the bullets evil.”
Eve’s mouth finally quirked into something that was almost a smile. “Of course you did.”
It’s three a.m. and there isn’t much point in going home now. Q wanders down to their staffroom, an enjoyably soulless place despite the beautiful architecture, with strip lighting and ugly sofas and a coffee machine that makes the most vile stuff he’s ever drunk, including that time at university when he got so poor he had to reuse the grounds.
Q puts his mug underneath the spout anyway, selects the latte option, taps the front of the machine with the heel of his hand, hits the side of it with his hip, and then presses down the mocha, hot chocolate and decaf options while the coffee pours. This marginally improves the coffee, emphasis on the marginally.
“I think there’s some brandy hidden in the back of the cleaning products cupboard,” offers Tanner behind him, and Q nearly jumps out of his skin. This is why his form of espionage is pretty much limited to living in a basement with a comm permanently in his left ear.
“You get that, I’ll make you a coffee,” he responds, putting his own drink to one side and reaching for a new mug.
Once he’s finished literally beating the machine into submission – someday he’s going to remember to bring a wrench and some spare fuses with him and get this thing to work properly – he turns and finds Tanner waving a bottle of brandy in one hand and a deck of cards in the other.
“Bugger,” Q says, “is it poker night?”
It’s not a good idea to have a poker night with people whose job is to keep secrets of national security, but on the other hand it is a good way for those with desk assignments to practice impassive faces and bluffing. The fact that most of them – Q included – are perfectly capable of counting cards is not one that ever gets mentioned, though most games often become a case of who can cheat better.
“It is,” Tanner confirms.
His exhaustion is apparent in his haunted face, his slightly unsteady hands, but they’re all grieving to one degree or another and Tanner won’t thank him for mentioning it.
“Who’s still here?” he asks. “I sent my lot home an hour ago.”
Tanner shrugs, and places the pack of cards and the booze on the table. “Start shuffling,” he orders. “There’ll be someone still around: there always is.”
This week, Q is learning Chinese, developing a clip that will hold twice as many bullets as a usual one without compromising either the bullet size or quality, knitting an afghan for Eve’s new flat, and attempting to read The Master and Margarita in its original language. All in all, it’s quite a quiet week.
He’s almost relieved when a little message box pops up on his computer screen: his home security systems informing him that someone’s broken into his flat.
Q thinks about it for a moment, then picks up his phone. Bond answers on the second ring.
“I think this might be an unforgivable breach of privacy,” Q says, conversational, while he starts the decryption of a harddrive brought back by agents from Pakistan. “I know you double-oh agents don’t idle well, but this is ridiculous.”
“You collect vinyl?” Bond asks, and there’s a swishing sound, like he’s flicking through Q’s collection.
“Better sound quality,” Q tells him, breaking through the first layer of security on the drive and wondering whether he should call up the cameras he has stationed all over his flat for situations like – well, not quite like this, admittedly.
“And books.” It’s impossible to read Bond’s tone. “I thought you’d be all digital by now.”
“New doesn’t always mean better,” Q tells him, “unless I designed it. In which case it invariably will be.”
Bond chuckles softly, and another layer of encryption breaks down. Q really needs to put a stop to this before he does something stupid like try and touch the laptop he left in his living room this morning.
“Look, go into the kitchen. There’s milk and sugar and things, and tea in the cupboard with the blue handle.”
He can hear rustling, and Bond says in a tone of mild disbelief: “there’s nothing in here but earl grey. Fifteen different kinds of earl grey.”
“I thought you liked earl grey,” Q replies distractedly, fingers flying over his keyboard as he hacks the next password.
“Not as much as you seem to.” He hears the cupboard close again. “I don’t particularly want a cup of tea,” Bond adds.
“Well,” Q replies, “you might later, you’re going to be there for a while.”
There’s a very long, very quiet pause.
“Q,” Bond says, in a tone of menace.
“Didn’t you find it suspiciously easy to break into my home?” Q asks, stepping away from his laptop and nodding at Fred until he steps in to take over: the tricky bit’s done now. “My security systems don’t stop people from getting in.”
“They stop people from getting out,” Bond realises flatly. “Very clever.”
“I thought so,” Q replies. “So make a cup of tea, and for God’s sake don’t go within six inches of any of the windows.”
Bond hangs up without saying anything; Q hopes he listened to him. He really doesn’t want to go back to the flat to find an electrocuted spy on his living room floor. It’ll be murder to clean up.
He gets home to find Bond reading his copy of A Clockwork Orange.
“Are you enjoying it?” he asks, because he already knows there’s no point in asking how Bond got hold of his address or why he thought this was a good idea in any way, shape or form.
Bond is frowning a little at the page, but he’s nearly halfway through the book. “It’s… interesting,” he says at last.
“Horrorshow,” Q mumurs, and goes to work out what he did with all his spare fuses.
Later, he goes to sit at Eve’s desk and relay the whole horrible afternoon to her, head in his hands. She isn’t particularly helpful – in fact she mostly laughs at him – but Q has to vent at someone just so he doesn’t rig Bond’s next specialist gun to blow up in his face. Maybe if Bond knew what it was like to go through weeks with no eyebrows then he might stop breaking into people’s homes for no logical reason.
“You’re supposed to know how field agents feel,” he half-wails at Eve, who is still giggling. “Why is this happening to me?”
“I think Bond’s trying to be your friend,” she tells him.
“…well,” Q says slowly, “this is a new and disturbing development.”
“Isn’t it,” Eve agrees. She looks positively gleeful.
No matter how many times Eve has recommended that someone get Q a personal assistant – not just to make him turn up to meetings on time and looking vaguely ironed, but also to make him eat, sleep and leave when necessary – no one has ever listened, which is why he’s picking up his own dry cleaning this Friday evening.
Mrs Giang, who runs the place, does her usual loud tutting at him when he walks in. She disapproves of his haircut, his crumpled clothes, the circles under his eyes and the fact he’s so thin. Q has tried to tell her multiple times that he’s naturally skinny and he really isn’t that underfed, but she never listens to him.
“You need to get yourself a girl,” she tells him firmly. Her eyes flicker up and down his messy form, and adds: “or a boy.”
“Even my dry cleaner is judging how dateless I am,” Q complains later when Eve turns up with Chinese to watch two weeks’ worth of The Great British Bake-Off. “This stupid job is eating my life, it’s been ages since Alex.”
“Zie was a bitch,” Eve says bluntly, which, yes, Q doesn’t miss Alex like he probably should. Still, someone would be nice.
“I could have someone not a bitch,” Q reminds her, leaning over to steal a handful of prawn crackers, while onscreen Paul Hollywood tears a woman’s apple, ginger and parsnip pie to pieces. “I mean, you at least have the sexy secretary thing going on. You meet people.”
“Briefly,” Eve responds, her voice edging bitterness for a moment. “Do you want to make a marriage pact?” she adds, her smirk slipping back onto her features a moment later. “You know, if we’re both still single at forty…”
“I think you’d probably get the raw end of that deal,” Q tells her, while Mary Berry tells someone they’ve put too much salt into their pie.
Eve arches a perfectly-plucked eyebrow at him. “I’d be marrying someone with the capability of making the world’s best vibrator.”
Q pauses mid-laugh, reaching for the moleskine that lives in his pocket and a pen. “Actually,” he says thoughtfully, “it could be useful for agents to get through airport security, if I added a grenade into-”
“No,” Eve says, taking the pen out of his hand, “that is something that nobody wants to explode if they push the wrong button. Nobody.”
Q pictures it. “Ouch.”
They stay silent, as the Great British Bake-Off contestants prepare for their technical challenge. Next year, Q thinks, maybe he’ll compete. It can hardly be more stressful than his life is right now.
When you work for MI6, they want you to be able to take care of yourself in any eventuality. So all personnel have some specifically-tailored first aid training – including how to deal with shrapnel, bullet wounds, and electrical burns – and some basic self-defence classes – go for the eyes, the solar plexus, and the instep, basically – and they have regular emergency evacuation drills, which always seem to come just as Q is getting down to the delicate part of dismantling something.
And, no matter how skinny and gangly and lacking in hand/eye co-ordination you look, they still expect you to have had some gun training.
Tanner took him down to the shooting range the first time. Q knew how guns worked – could probably design a better one than the model he was holding in an afternoon, provided he was given several whiteboards and a vat of earl grey – but there was something slightly different about holding one with the intent of firing it. He knew about the kick, but it still caught him a little by surprise when it actually happened, and he found himself closing his eyes in response to the shot.
When he opened them again, he’d managed to hit about a foot to the left of the target, and Tanner was wearing the expression of someone who knew he had a long afternoon ahead of him.
Q glowered at the bullet hole, taunting him with his own inadequacy, and raised the gun for another shot. This one went too far right.
“It just takes practice,” Tanner told him in a tone that was very nearly patient.
“You’d think my prowess at Angry Birds would help,” Q sighed, aware that his hand was starting to shake and that he was already making plans for a gun that would compensate for his apparently lousy aim, and didn’t turn to look at Tanner putting his head into his hands.
It’s pissing with rain and Q’s just spent nine hours talking three agents in Mombasa through defusing a series of complex bombs. His head is killing him and all he’s digested today are four neurofens, six cups of coffee, five cups of tea and a shot of vodka that Tanner slipped him when M wasn’t looking. His hands are still very steady and his voice isn’t shaking but he’s not altogether sure how he’s standing upright.
He fumbles his favourite jumper out of his locker – he knitted it himself last winter in deep blue, with too-long sleeves and holes in the cuffs to hook his thumbs through – and pulls it on over his no-longer-crisp shirt, the tie abandoned somewhere around diffusion number four. He could go home, but the adrenalin hasn’t stopped fizzing yet, and somehow his flat with its Hitchcock and Liechtenstein posters isn’t appealing right now.
“Everyone here is really bad at going home,” he observes when he gets back to his department to find the lights still on and half the personnel still hanging around. Someone’s gone out to Starbucks and the whole place smells like pizza; Q accepts the Papa John’s box that’s pushed at him with as broad a smile as he can still manage.
Kimberley, Sanjit, Fred, Ally and Serge all clocked off hours ago, though they stayed long enough to check that nobody got blown up, and now they’re huddled around a table with a battered Dungeons & Dragons book and a handful of multi-sided dice. Q sits back, kicks his feet up on a chair, and watches them play while the shivers drain out of his system.
“Do you want to join in?” Sanjit offers at one point.
Q waves a hand. “Maybe I’m trying to climb out of my nerdy pit.”
Sanjit smirks. “Let me know how that works out for you.”
He falls asleep eventually, and finds himself later on one of the staffroom sofas underneath a blanket, a post-it with go the fuck home and don’t come in tomorrow written in Eve’s tidy print stuck to his forehead.
Things were different before, and Q misses Eve now she’s become Miss Moneypenny, spending her life organising M’s. He misses when she could come and hang around his lab whenever she felt like it, instead of being chained to a desk, chained to a specific duty.
Apparently, Q now gets Bond instead.
“You should just tell them what they want to hear,” Q tells him when he walks in to find Bond fiddling with a very sensitive gun prototype, making a mental note to find out who gave Bond security clearance for down here and then send their computer every single virus he can think of, and a few he’s invented just for this situation. “Then they’ll put you on a plane somewhere warm and sunny.”
Bond nods, giving no indication he’s really registered anything Q has said. “This has good balance,” he offers, raising the gun and staring along the barrel.
“You could get a hobby, you know,” Q suggests, pulling out his moleskine to make a note about the trigger system.
Bond puts the gun down, taking a moment to uncurl his fingers, and Q thinks: Jesus Christ.
“Isn’t this your hobby?” he asks, gesturing to the half-built weaponry that surrounds them.
Q shrugs. “Sometimes I take down popular websites – you know, youtube, facebook, twitter – for fun.”
Bond’s mouth twitches, like he doesn’t know whether to laugh or not. “Cyber terrorism as entertainment.”
“I don’t suppose you have a lot of very long Sunday afternoons, do you,” Q says mournfully.
Bond is still looking at him like he’s trying to work out if there’s something wrong with him. There isn’t. He’s checked. And Q is fairly sure psychiatrists aren’t supposed to write things like is probably not a sociopath in people’s files anyway.
“If you’re as dangerous as you claim you are-” Bond begins.
“Oh, I am,” Q interrupts. “I’m King of the Internet.”
Bond is looking openly amused now, which is at least a nice change from the stoic mask he’s been attempting to wear of late. “Is that your official title?” he asks.
“It’s on my business cards,” Q deadpans, “and they sent me a badge. It has enamelling and everything.”
“Oh,” Bond says, “well, if it has enamelling.” And then he frowns slightly.
“I wouldn’t worry too much,” Q says, sweeping the gun prototype away from Bond and locking it into a box for its own protection, “I flirt with everyone. And so do you, for that matter.”
Q’s problem, really, is that he fancies everyone. He imagines that, to a certain extent at least, Bond can empathise.
It’s nice when Q gets out of work early enough that the tubes are still running. This probably says a lot about his work/life balance, but at least he doesn’t have to deal with the conventional rush hour that other commuters do. By this time of night, the tube is mostly empty, littered with abandoned copies of the Evening Standard and tired-looking people heading home, mascara bleeding down their faces. Q turns up his music – playing on what is still technically an ipod, although most of the technology inside the apple-created shell bears no resemblance to what was originally in there – and leans his head against the window behind him and closes his eyes and lets the train rock him half to sleep.
He gets into his flat to find Eve is cooking in his kitchen.
“It’s nearly midnight,” he says, dropping his bag in the doorway and coming over to find out what she’s been making.
“I brought over Nigellissima,” Eve explains, waving a hand at the cookbook open on his sideboard. His kitchen isn’t very big but it is very well-equipped: Q is a better cook than he can ever be bothered to be, because he likes learning new things even if he doesn’t want to utilise them very often.
Q takes this to mean that she can’t sleep, but it’s okay: this isn’t the first time this has happened and he’s never been one to turn down free cooked food.
“You should get a car,” Eve observes after a moment, reaching for a bottle of wine and tipping half of it into the pan she’s got on the stovetop, “you smell like the tube.”
“I can’t pass a driving test,” Q reminds her. “Too easily distracted, the last instructor said.”
“I thought the last instructor was the one you hospitalised after triggering an underlying heart problem,” Eve says distractedly, stirring the pan with one hand and sprinkling herbs in with the other.
“Oh, maybe it was,” Q says, and: “we mostly missed that bus, you know.”
Eve laughs softly, turning the heat down under the pan to leave it simmering, filling his flat with a gorgeous smell. Q goes to find a couple of clean glasses for the rest of the wine, before pressing light fingers to the small of Eve’s back.
“Everything alright?” he asks, barely above a whisper.
He can feel the break in her inhalation, but all she says is: “yeah. Yeah, it is.”
For now, he’ll have to be content with that.
“More?” Tanner asks, waving the bottle of Russian Standard at him.
It’s nearly four in the morning; Q has a stack of plastic chips in front of him that’s considerably higher than anyone else’s stack, though the booze is starting to get to him and he’s bluffing on a really bad hand. Eve is sitting opposite him, wearing a slightly lumpy cardigan he knitted her when he was still getting the hang of the whole knitting thing and a smirk, drumming neatly manicured fingernails on the table.
“You’re trying to put me off,” Q tells her, pushing his Scrabble mug over to Tanner, because it’s too late now to sober up in time for work anyway.
Eve gives him the smile she cultivated for field work: the secretive one, the one that doesn’t have any tells in it. “Maybe,” she allows.
“Raise.” That’s Jake from accounting, who is a much more confident poker player than the rest of them put together, despite having never been held at gunpoint on any occasion at all.
Well, Q’s only faced down a gun once and it’s not even a good anecdote, but it still ups his espionage credentials a little.
“Fold,” Tanner sighs, handing Q back his mug and pushing his cards into the centre of the table.
Possibly a regular MI6 poker game should be more glamorous than this, Q reflects, more exciting than knitwear and vodka out of mugs, trading favours and fivers. Bond’s infamous poker game against Le Chiffre was before his time, of course, but Q’s read the file about it and, well.
He can really only hope that Bond doesn’t decide to crash their poker night.
“Check,” he says, pressing fingertips to his shitty cards, meeting Eve’s gaze without blinking. When you hold people’s lives in your hands for a living, nothing else is ever quite as nerve-wracking again. In a way, it’s almost a relief.
Most of Bond’s mission files feature a lot of fade-to-blacks, ellipses and intriguing blank spaces. Q thinks Villiers was the one who described them as reading like Belle du Jour on acid.
Q misses Villiers actually; he was in Hong Kong last he heard, but the only kind of up-to-date gossip they get in Q branch is the stuff that involves explosives and radiowaves.
Anyway, he’s mostly outgrown the phase of reading stacks of Bond’s files with popcorn – one everyone goes through once they get to a certain level of security clearance, apparently – but it’s always a sharp reminder that someone is managing to live a glamorous cliché spy-movie life.
“Maybe I’ll get a cat,” Q muses. He’s due for a briefing with M but he always comes a little early to have a cup of tea and watch Eve trying to get some work done while he idly flips through his notes on his tablet. “I’d call it… Lovelace. Or Gandalf. Or, ooh, or Smiley.”
“Oh God, you would call it Smiley, wouldn’t you,” Eve says.
“I take my popular culture very seriously,” Q tells her solemnly. “And I’ve always liked Gary Oldman.”
He bought himself all the Le Carré novels for his kindle when he first got this job; of course he did.
“You’re going to get a cat that looks like Gary Oldman.” Eve’s tone is flat, but her eyes twinkle amusement before she turns her attention back to the email she’s trying to write.
“Why not?” Q shrugs. “I’m warming to this idea, I think. I’m going to get a cat.”
“You’d electrocute it,” Eve replies without looking up.
Actually, Q reflects, it would probably starve to death first since he isn’t home for more than about eight hours every few days, but he thinks it’s probably morbid to voice that aloud.
“Not intentionally,” he offers.
“No,” Eve agrees. “And that’s definitely the important part.”
Psych evaluations happen on a basis regular enough to be laughable, because apparently that’s how they’re going to weed out psychos, murders and traitors. You go in, you play a handful of psychological games, and then wait a week for the results.
Q technically doesn’t need to take these because he did a little experiment last year where he memorised an issue of Watchmen and then gave Rorschach’s responses to all the tests. Then there was an emergency the next day where no one could run communications but him, and suddenly no one minded that he’d turned into a maniac overnight. He doesn’t push it, mostly because once the crisis was over M gave him a very eloquent look before she left to tell the prime minister that nobody was dying today, and while Q is irreplaceable he is fully aware that he is not quite unpunishable.
Tanner brings him his mobile, which is awkwardly glitching; Q starts a software patch and then asks Sanjit to take over for him.
“Somewhere more important to be?” Tanner asks, raising a teasing eyebrow.
“Psych eval,” Q explains, “need to assure them I’m not going to set the place on fire. Which is ridiculous, by the way, because why would I set this place on fire? All my work is in here.”
Tanner looks like he’s trying not to laugh. “Don’t say that to the psychiatrist.”
They want to hear about the sanctity of human life and things, which, yes, but Q hasn’t built any of his colleagues by hand from scratch. And, no, he isn’t going to say that to anyone either.
“God,” Q sighs, “can’t you just go and have some casual sex to fill your time? I’ll take you to the National Gallery myself, if you like.”
Bond looks incredulous. “The National Gallery?”
“I’ve been known to hit on people at the National Gallery,” Q replies, bristling just a little.
“Do you talk to them about the inevitability of time too?” Bond asks, amusement threaded through his voice.
“Well,” Q says, “no. That only really gets you a date with a certain kind of person.”
Bond continues to lean casually against the bench in one of his sharp suits, looking like someone’s going to appear out of nowhere with a martini glass for him. Q hasn’t slept in two days and his hair is literally standing on end and he’s got green tea soaking into the knee of his trousers.
“So you do get out of the lab occasionally,” Bond observes, gaze flickering over Q’s dishevelled appearance.
“I haven’t spent the last twenty-seven years entirely in front of a computer screen,” Q assures him.
“Glad to hear it.” Bond hesitates a moment before he smoothly adds: “does a shag every now and then heighten your creativity?”
It’s crude, and ridiculous, and Q owes Bond nothing. Still, he might as well be truthful. “Not shagging.”
Bond’s eyebrows raise. “Not shagging?”
Q shrugs. “Not really a big fan of shagging.”
It’s simplistic and not quite true, but now isn’t really the time to get into the complexities of sexuality, attraction and just what Q gets up to when he isn’t, well, Q.
Bond is looking thoughtful, and Q briefly wonders if he’s going to have to get out his Liking Someone Is Not The Same As The Whole Genitals Thing powerpoint that he ended up making to save time when having this conversation.
“Fair enough,” Bond says lightly.
Oh, Q thinks, you understanding open-minded bastard.
“I think it’s sweet,” Eve says. He’s on her sofa this time, cheap chardonnay and another episode of The Great British Bake-Off.
“You have a skewed view of the world,” Q informs her, grimacing as someone’s puff pastry burns at the edges. “And you’re only saying that because you fancy him.”
“And you don’t?” Eve’s voice is light, but there’s a whole thing she isn’t telling him, a whole layer of emotions locked away somewhere quiet. Q could probably hack the firewall, but he doesn’t want to.
“I fancy everyone,” Q replies, waving a hand. “Why can’t we get him back to active service, ship him off somewhere exotic, and not have him hanging around my lab touching things.”
Eve laughs. “I told you, I think he just wants to be friends.”
“Why?” Q thinks he might be wailing. “What can Bond and I even talk about? It’s not like he watches TV, I haven’t had sex since my first year of uni, he wouldn’t know binary code if it hit him the face, I don’t know how to hit people in the face, and I can hardly ask him how that slightly unsettling masochism is getting on.”
“Maybe don’t lead with that,” Eve agrees, a smile twitching her lips.
Eve knows twelve ways to kill someone with a knitting needle, keeps a gun under her pillow and holds most of the secrets of the world in her head. She now spends her days in stiletto heels, could bring down an organisation with nothing more than paperwork, and still terrifies Q a lot of the time.
Perhaps Q already knows how to weather a dangerous and slightly unpredictable friendship after all.