- *No Site Warnings Apply
“You should go home, 007. Q shouldn’t be alone.”
R’s urgent tone had sent James careening down the motorway in his new car, finally putting the sleek Aston Martin through its paces. The thrill of having the powerful machine under his hands, and his analysis on the vehicle’s performance, were the furthest thing from his mind. The flash of the street lamps were pulsing in time with the beat of his own heart, insistent.
The moon was up by the time he sped down the tree lined drive. The house was dark, somber without the cheerful light James expected.
When James entered the house, the shadows were heavy, the furniture dark shapes making the comforting abode bleak in the low light. Ethel’s greeting was subdued, her tail barely wagging, down against her bottom. The mood of the space and its resident, within evident in the dog’s restrained press against his legs.
“Not happy, is he?” James murmured, rubbing her ears. He received a gentle lick to his fingers. “Come on, let’s take a look at him.”
She followed along at his side as he made his quiet way through the house. It seemed fitting that James had no urge to turn on the lights or displace the silence with sound. Doing so seemed blasphemous. It was not the time for the warmth or welcome he’d become accustomed to.
Alan was on his bed, laying on his side facing the moonlit windows with Merlin and Arthur curled along his front. He was still in his MI6 armor of garish cardigan and trousers, including his purple shoes. Only his spectacles had been removed.
“Yes, 007,” he said quietly.
Ah, distancing himself, still the Quartermaster. James wasn’t going to let him get away with it, though, not here, not at home. It was pointless to ask if Alan was alright. It was obvious he wasn’t, though James still wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Shedding his suit jacket and toeing off his shoes, James then moved to the bed, encouraging Ethel to jump up. She settled in against Alan’s knees with her head on his hip, looking at James with soulful eyes in the dim. James took Alan’s foot in hand, though he didn’t move or acknowledge the unfamiliar touch.
Removing the shoes, James said, “It was a bad situation, he was trapped with no way out.”
Alan didn’t acknowledge him, at all. In unfamiliar territory, James decided to just wing it. The last time he’d comforted another person had been Vesper. All he’d done at the time was hold her, but it had seemed to help.
Not sure how he would be received, James crawled into the bed, tucking himself close to Alan’s back, spooning. Hesitantly, he put his arm around the slim form, threading a hand through one of Alan’s, expecting his touch to be rejected. It didn’t happen.
James pressed his forehead against Alan’s soft nape, feeling, as well as hearing, the shaky sigh that was released.
“You’ve been trapped before… and escaped.”
Lightly squeezing, pulling Alan’s warmth closer, his voice was low, conforming to the melancholy atmosphere. “A few times on my own, yes, but there’ve been many times that I’ve escaped, not because of anything I did. I had help.”
“I knew this day would come; I suppose it was inevitable,” Alan replied.
“Our work is unpredictable, you can’t foresee everything, and your work has made a difference.”
It had, Alan as the Quartermaster of MI6 had made missions safer and more successful than ever before. James knew that Alan was aware of this, but thinking it, and feeling it, when an agent died, were two different things. Decisions and circumstances on the ground were fluid. Q-Branch often kept up, but on mission the decisions of the agent ultimately determined the outcome.
“I got M killed,” James stated. There was no refuting the results of his choice, his culpability. His decision to use M as bait, and meet Silva alone at Skyfall, had caused her death.
Alan squeezed his fingers. “The situation, to some extent, was of her own making, James.”
“The same can be said of 008, it’s not your fault he’s gone.”
“I suppose not…”
“Agents will die, Alan, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Alan pulled James’ hand closer to his chest, tucking it under his chin. The warmth of him in James’ arms, his welcome of James’ touch, the scent of him, was pleasing. James couldn’t get any closer to him, but he wanted to. Holding Alan in the quiet dark, James let out a long slow breath, vibrating the short curls on that pale neck in front of him.
A firm heat pressing against his hip, and the insistent throbbing of his cock, woke James from the deepest sleep he’d had in a long while. Dawn was a golden glow through the windows, the light just starting to chase the nighttime shadows from the bedroom.
James was still in Alan’s bed with Alan draped over his chest, an arm curled around his slim back. The heat against James’ hip was Alan’s arousal, rubbing with minuscule, but unmistakable, circling of his hips. His own cock was squeezed under Alan’s slender thigh, the unconscious movements against James’ prick added to the pleasant ache radiating from his groin.
James rarely stayed a whole night with his paramours, but when he did, his sexuality was the best way to break the dreaded morning after conversation. Alan wasn’t a mark or a one-night stand, and with him plastered on one side, and Ethel along the other, he was well and truly trapped for the awkwardness to come. There was no escape.
Alan rubbed more firmly, squeezing James between his lanky limbs, letting out a little grunt of satisfaction.
“Q…” James whispered, his breath hitching at the added pressure against his cock. “Q… time to get up now.”
Alan’s brow furrowed and with an unconscious pout on the pink bow of his lips, just squeezed James harder.
“Q…” James said, louder this time, as if they were still at the office. Alan’s resistance to waking was getting ridiculous, and James knew there was no way to avoid giving him a rude rousing. James could only hope that they would be able to come back to their usual harmony in the aftermath of their morning wood situation.
“Shush, James go back to sleep,” he whispered then rubbed his face against James’ chest, before relaxing.
James grunted as his cock was pressed again. “Q, wake up. We’re… you know…”
“Yes, I am aware. You can say hard on or cock, James. It’s not like you’re a maiden with no experience.”
“It’s perfectly natural for men our age to have hard cocks in the morning,” Alan replied, and if his voice wasn’t so sleep rough, it would have been his normal snooty annoyed tone. “It’s early, the cats will be up soon enough.”
Well, okay then, obviously I’ve made the wrong assumption. James allowed their quiet breathing and the warmth surrounding him to ease the tension in his muscles. The thrum of desire was insistent, but bearable, and Alan’s placid nonchalance about the situation brought a small smile to his lips. James stroked Alan’s forehead, pulling the mess of this dark hair away from his face. Pinked cheeked and sweetly pliant, he was beautiful.
Entering the dimly lit pub, James tried not to let the relief show on his face. Assessing the clientele as they walked through, he noted there was no obvious threat.
“You want to sit in the beer garden?” Alan asked.
“Yes, it’s too nice out not to.” James said, with a hand on the small of Alan’s back, guiding him through the mass of tables to the exterior garden in the middle of the building.
When Alan had offered to help him start house hunting, after he returned from his last mission, James had figured he’d better at least go through the motions and pick out some places to look at. After three months of living with Alan, and almost nine months of not having his own place, James still had no desire to find a permanent place to hang his metaphorical hat. If anything, he had less interest in doing so now than he had when he was living in a bloody hotel.
Alan gave a groan when he sat, pulling his messenger bag over his head. “We’ve been all over London today, my feet are killing me.”
James had to admit, his own legs were aching a bit. They’d decided to park at MI6 and take the tube around the city. Not James’ favorite way to travel, but Alan’s enthusiasm for a tube riding and walking excursion had been charming. Alan was delightful to be around, captivating, and had become more so, since the morning wood incident weeks before. James had always found Alan stimulating as Q, but unexpected attraction had reared its head, living with him.
“You only have yourself to blame,” James replied. “I would’ve been quite happy to look at one or two places today, not five.”
“Well, you picked them out! They were all over the bloody place.”
The plan of having so many to look at had been intended to dissuade Alan from accompanying him house hunting. It hadn’t worked out so well. James’ scheme had been to pretend to look at the places he’d chosen, while instead keep surreptitiously bringing more of his things over to the house from storage.
Alan hadn’t called him out on it, yet.
The summer sun lit Alan’s hair the blue-black of the Irish, while he pulled his tablet out of his bag.
The waitress came over and they ordered their pints. James perused the menu, hoping Alan would put the excessive notes he’d taken about each place they’d looked at away. It was a futile hope. The notes weren’t in paper form, but James knew they were right there beside Alan’s elbow, just waiting for his critique.
“What are you having?” James asked, watching Alan’s enjoyment of the first sip of his bitter brew.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. I think I’ll probably have the fish and chips.”
“You’re an addict, and in a complete rut,” James teased. “You always order the fish and chips.”
“I do not!”
“You do. Every time we come here, that’s what you order. You’re a creature of habit, Q.”
Alan was blinking at him, his pint held aloft, forgotten. “Well, I’m not sure I agree. What are you getting?”
Alan start to take a sip and James smiled. “Fish and chips.”
Alan snorted into his beer, coughing roughly around a laugh. “Arsehole!”
Grinning, James placed their orders with the waitress. It was always fun to catch Alan off guard. James found it morbidly satisfying to tease him. He had an honest to god friend for the first time since he’d let everything and everyone he’d known go to become a SIS agent. A friend, with whom he selfishly wanted more..
“So,” Alan started, swiping at his tablet, and James got a feeling not unlike getting kicked in the gut. He really didn’t want to even think about choosing any of the flats they’d looked at. “You were very cagey with the estate agent. Any of the five stand out to you?”
“Not really, they were all nice.”
Alan rolled his eyes. “What an exciting assessment, James. You seem thrilled.”
James grimaced. “Not much point in being excited, when SIS will sell it out from under me if I’m ‘dead’ again.”
“How about if I promise to make sure they don’t touch it, unless it is proven absolutely that you’re dead. You know, have a corpse to show for it.”
Alan had said the words jokingly, but his green eyes told James a different story. James was touched, and what that said about his mental state, he didn’t really want to know.
Alan fiddled with his spectacles for a moment, before clearing his throat. “So…”
Sighing, James reached for the tablet. “Give it here, Q.”
He received a grin as Alan pushed the tablet to the middle of the table so they could both see it. His enthusiasm didn’t give James much hope in the success of his carefully laid plans to continue to live with Alan. He was a better strategist than this, James thought.
“The first one we looked at in Notting Hill, what did you think. I quite liked it myself.”
“It’s a terrace house, Q with four floors. It’s too big for one person, with too much maintenance for me to deal with between trips.” Which is why he’d chosen it, in the first place. Alan had been quite enamored by its original Georgian interior features and James had like that about the place too, but that wasn’t the point. Not that Alan knew that, of course.
“I suppose you’re right, but it would be a excellent investment, particularly if you split it up into flats.”
“Again, too much work for my schedule, and I’d be a landlord. Not a responsibility I currently need or want.”
“Okay, moving on then,” Alan said swiping a fingertip across the screen again. “How about the high-rise flats in Lambeth? The views were gorgeous, less responsibility, no renovations needed, and probably little upkeep.”
“Too close to work,” James refuted. “The views were great, but I didn’t like the open plan or style. It would be like living in a concrete box, but with windows.”
“Yes, it didn’t have much character. I wouldn’t want to live there either.” Alan frowned at the screen before his face lit up. James thought it was a classic, ‘Ah ah’ moment, the type shown in a cartoon. “Speaking of character, the Smith Square Victorian! That was lovely. It’s a terrace house, but converted, and a second floor flat rather than a basement.”
“No parking, neighbors, closets not big enough.”
Alan huffed. “But it was really homey.”
James tried not to smirk at Alan’s put out tone. All he’d said was true, though beyond the neighbors, the closets and parking could be dealt with. He had liked the flat actually, but that was neither here or there, and so not the point of this exercise, unbeknownst to his hopefully future permanent housemate.
Alan was derailed by the arrival of their fragrant dinners, and James relaxed when he moved his tablet aside. They enjoyed their meals in amicable silence. The fish and chips were excellent, and despite James’ teasing, he could understand why Alan always ordered them. A dinner at the pub near MI6 had become a weekly occurrence when James was in town. Even though the pub was a familiar haunt, James was still aware of everything going on around them. Alan was too important an asset not to keep an eye out for trouble.
Asset… he’s much more than that.
Disquieted at the thought, James had wondered for quite awhile now about Alan’s relationship status. As far as he knew, Alan didn’t have one-night stands, and hadn’t brought anyone to the house since James had moved in. He’d been quietly watching to see, but Alan seemed to have no interest in having a boyfriend, or girlfriend. Of course, Alan could have had someone over while James was on mission. The thought of it, Alan’s delicate form naked with another, sent James to taking a large swig of his pint, tramping down the fury that sliced through him.
He was an absolute hypocrite, willing to fuck the occasional mark without a second thought on mission, or have a one-night stand when he was in town. Although, James hadn’t sought out sex in London like he typically would since he’d moved in, he realized.
It was a worry, to have become so invested in another person for companionship, non-sexual or otherwise.
“Are you afraid of death?” Alan asked. He was still focused on the food in front of him, fiddling with his utensils.
“Yes, I am,” James said, “I don’t think I’d be very good at my job, if I wasn’t.”
“Yes,” James replied slowly, wondering what Alan wanted with his line of questioning.
“Does the chance of dying keep you from being close to anyone?”
“To some extent, though that isn’t the primary reason for keeping most people at a distance. Trust in our line of work is dangerous, as you should know, Alan.”
“Of course I know,” he replied, frustration in his tone. Capturing James’ eyes with his own, he said, “But you trust me, don’t you?”
It was a statement more than a question and James shifted in his seat, then stilled, irritated he’d given away his discomfort. He was usually more on his game, but Alan seemed to have a way of making him comfortable enough to let down his guard.
“Yes, I do.”
“Good,” he replied.
Watching Alan turn his attention back to his meal, James could only think that he did trust him, more than anyone else he’d ever known in his adult life.
It was dangerous and probably stupid, but it was true.
James frowned at the blood that had oozed through the bandages, staining his shirt and the lining of his suit. The pain was sharp along his right side when he gently pulled his shirt out of his trousers and up trying to see if the bleeding had stopped.
The click of the window door and Ethel’s jiggling collar was interrupted by Alan’s exclamation, “You’re hurt!”
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” James said over Ethel’s whining wriggling form, dancing around his legs. Alan closed the door behind him with a frown, he’d obviously just come in from an evening walk. The light from his bedroom must have shown through the dusk that was just about to give way to the dark of night. Alan was disheveled in his boots, slim jeans, and long-sleeved t-shirt, a bit sweaty from the heat, his hair’s inky fringe were clinging to his forehead.
He was gorgeous, and so welcome, that James couldn’t move, arrested by Alan’s familiar presence in his bedroom.
He hadn’t seen him for over two weeks, just heard that melodious voice over the comms.
“Why the buggering hell didn’t you go to medical or hospital?” he said, stalking forward, his bespectacled green eyes focused on the dark red bandages. His slim hands aborted touching James, as he kneed Ethel gently out of his way.
“I wanted to come home.”
Alan’s eyes shot up to meet his, and softened, accepting. He grimaced, hoping Alan would mistake it for being pained by the wound, rather than his honesty.
“Come on, let me help you.”
Alan smoothly removed James’ suit jacket, then gun and shoulder holster, placing them on the bed. The handling of James’ weapon didn’t make him leery at all, didn’t send even a sliver of adrenaline through his gut. The extent of his faith in Alan not to hurt him was a balm, a rarity in his chosen profession, in the violence of his life.
“Take off your shirt, I’ll get the medical kit,” Alan said. “I need water, meet me in the loo.”
Alan was just finishing washing his hands, an MI6 medical kit open on the tiled floor, when James came into the bath.
He looked over his shoulder, “Sit.”
“I can take care of it myself, Q.”
“Sit, 007,” Alan returned, his tone emphatic, before he thawed a bit. “Sit down, James. Let me have a look.”
James sat on the high edge of the bath, unwilling and too bloody tired to argue with an insistent, worried Alan. Alan kneeled beside him, his fingers gentle pulling James’ makeshift bandage off the wound. He gave a pained grunt as the tape pulled at the ruined flesh.
“I think this needs stitches, a knife?”
“Yes, a K-Bar,” James replied watching Alan wash the deep gash along his ribs with a warm wet cloth. “Got under my guard.”
“There’s sutures in the kit, but I’ve never stitched a wound before. Do you think butterfly plasters would work until I can get you into medical tomorrow?”
“Alan, I don’t need to go to medical.”
Giving him an epic frown, Alan almost growled at him. “You are going tomorrow morning, and if you give me one word of complaint, I’m calling them tonight. So, your choice, I do my best with it tonight and on to medical tomorrow, or I call them in now and let them have at you.”
“Fine, butterflies should work well enough for now.”
Alan’s hand on his side was warm, the touch soft, and James concentrated on the feel of fingers against his skin, rather than the pain of the disinfectant swab being run along the injury. Alan worked quietly to dress the wound, being more gentle with him than anyone had in a long time. The musk of him rose in James’ nose, pleasing as the final dressing covered the wound.
James pulled Alan to him when he stood, holding the slim form in his arms, breathing in his friend . Alan didn’t protest, his fingers soft on James’ shoulders, running along the back of his neck, just letting himself be held.
James just wanted to wallow in the softness of companionship, the ease of Alan’s quiet embrace, and wondered at his unaccustomed weakness.