There was a different kind of solitude when the only company you kept for days on end was the unconscious form of the man you loved. There was a different kind of silence as well; the kind filled with humming machines and with ideal chatter down the hall at the nurses’ station and of people coming and going, checking on vitals and on Q and on James and of bringing take away and taking away brought cups of coffee after cups of coffee after cups.
There was a new kind of guilt that heaped itself like gasoline onto a fire onto old guilt as hour after hour ticked by with nothing to concentrate on but the lines of Q’s prone form under the scratchy fabric of the hospital bedding. James should have been more careful, he should have double checked his gear before bringing it in to HQ, he should have trusted his instincts going in with those Russians and burned them all to the ground. He was getting old and losing his touch. They had been saying it for years and finally he was paying for it with the life of someone he cared for.
There was a certain kind of loneliness that came with going day and night without hearing Q ramble about budgetary meetings and the price of scrap metal and the proper way to make a martini. ‘You don’t because the Irish knew what they were doing when they made Whiskey.’ But James had been sober for nearly a week and half now, sitting in the cramped little chair they provided, slumping sometimes into Q’s bed, his cheek resting on the hand that wasn’t completely ensnared in wires.
That is how he was the day Q came back to him, the day his hand flexed under James cheek and his voice choked around the breathing tube. James looked up to find eyes out of focus between the lack of his glasses and the drugs still pumping through his system making sure his organs didn’t go into shock after trying to be blown apart.
James’ own heart hammered too harshly in his chest as he slammed down on the button for the nurses.
“God, Arthur.” James all about tripped over the sound of his own voice, of all the words rushing at once to make themselves heard. He hadn’t realized how silent he had been since he followed Q into this room and had refused to leave.
Tears of confusion and pain streamed down Q’s face and James’ heart splintered into a thousand pieces.
“It’s alright darling.” He soothed. “You’re alright. I’ve got you.” A nurse was there then, flitting around them, careful not to get between them as she worked dudiligently to get Q going on the next step in his healing.
Q gagged as she carefully removed the tube from his throat, his grasp weak in James’ hand.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, darling.” James pressed Q’s hand against his cheek, kissing the nubby bone of his wrist.
His voice was crumpled over his parched tongue and his eyes were still unfocused but he squeezed James’ own hand as best as he could. “I… I missed you so much.”
His guilt and his loneliness and his solitude slipped away from him, pushed back to somewhere in his soul he could pull it out again later and excoriate himself further away from where Q could see him.
He pressed a kiss into every part of Q that wouldn’t immediately displace the nurse and her work. “I missed you, too.”