imahana/kiyohana, skyfall au, 2725 words.
written for j's birthday.
When Hanamiya is four his mother gets his IQ tested, and is presented with startling results; when he is five he stops talking to kids his age altogether. They have nothing to offer him, not that most adults can keep up with him either. He retreats to his books, to his bitter chocolate, to entire days spent at the library in isolation. He doesn’t mind knowing so many things, though it’s frustrating to have nowhere to apply them to in his everyday life.
So he waits for the opportunity, until one year passes. Two. Three.
When he is eight he is given his own computer, and the possibilities open up. He has no interest in social networking – he would need a social life to begin with – and assigns little importance to trivial things like videos or gaming. He’s heard of all the communities online and hopes to find others like him, prodigies his own age unlike the old men trying to recruit him into their pathetic clubs because they happen to share the top percentile (he’ll surpass them all).
He comes close. There aren’t nearly enough child geniuses to fill up an entire forum, but he does stumble upon those of his own ilk. People who have too much time on their hands and are therefore investing it in the future, in a few lines of code than can rewrite someone’s entire history in less than an hour.
When he is nine he thinks mostly in binary, and when he is ten he can feasibly live on his own by figuring out how to send supplies of food and clothing to his house, free of charge. As long as no one looked too close, and they never did, because he was just a child who didn’t speak. He’s learned to dumb himself down and prove their earlier theory wrong, so as not to attract too much attention. From morning to afternoon he goes to a regular school, in a regular uniform with regular children, and from the hours between dinnertime and bedtime he makes himself something like a god.
A young, haughty one, but none of his hacker acquaintances need to know anything about him beyond his screen name: Kumo.
(He’s always liked spiders, and how the webs they spin do most of the dirty work.)
By the time he’s eleven he’s infamous in the cyber world. And when he is twelve, well.
When he is twelve, Hanamiya makes his first real friend.
There is a message in his inbox when he gets home from school. Two things were amiss: 1) he has never given out his personal email, and 2) he doesn’t know anyone who would bother to send him one anyway. The address itself is gibberish, and his attempts to track the location of the sender are fruitless.
The worst that happen to his computer is not something he can’t reverse, so when all else fails, he clicks on it twice. There’s no subject line, and it only reads this:
I sense you’re getting bored.
He snorts, because this person is presumptuous, and he smiles too, because it’s painfully true. He’s tired of small fry, and he hates the notion that he’s outgrowing code when code is all that he knows.
What about it? He sends, no harm done. He fools around with a few stockholders, thinking that the end of it, but the response comes within a day, just before he’s sent to sleep.
I might have something to offer you.
There’s an attachment this time, though he opens it without fear, considering all the trappings he’s adorned his software with. It’s a plain text document, a list of instructions that doesn’t strike him as anything particularly special until he reads the entire thing. He types out an incensed reply.
What the hell is this? Are you serious?
As a cardiac arrest.
What do you want in return?
He has to wait until tomorrow for the next email, and it arrives just as he’s decided that whoever it was lost interest.
Nothing but your gratitude, Kumo-kun ^_^
The phrasing and the emotion was creepy as hell, which makes Hanamiya laugh. He’d like to break this guy’s nose sometime, but it would have to be in person, so he would have to say yes to him today.
The answer is obvious.
He completes the instructions in the email within two hours, and he spends the following day transfixed in front of the television, watching grown men in suits and ties cry like newborn infants. Their bank accounts have been emptied overnight, and the only lead they have is an animated pixel spider crawling across their screens.
Hanamiya smiles about the spider, and it widens further at the sight of those tears. He’s so elated he could barely contain himself during dinner, skipping on dessert to rush to his laptop.
Where did they all go?
A few thousand charities across the globe may have received an anonymous donation yesterday.
Hanamiya would be annoyed at the philanthropy if it wasn’t so brilliant all the same.
That’s amazing. How did you do that?
You did that, Kumo-kun. You’re a clever boy; I simply taught you how.
I want to learn more. Hanamiya’s fingers hover over the keys, and he types and sends his addendum before he can chicken out. And what’s your name?
He was expecting a codeword, an alias; not something as frighteningly poignant and frank as what he sees when he opens the message.
You may call me Shoichi, if you like.
His correspondence with Shoichi lasts until he is fifteen and half, and in all those years Hanamiya’s only heard his voice four times: one for each of his birthdays. It doesn’t matter if he changes his number, or doesn’t carry a phone at all; when he is fifteen the man beside him on the train answers a call and looks beyond terrified as he hands the phone over, saying it’s for him.
“Are you stalking me?” Hanamiya says amicably, crossing and uncrossing his legs repeatedly, until he knocks into some guy’s knees and makes him lose his balance.
“That’s impolite, Makoto. You shouldn’t bother the other passengers, even if it is your birthday.”
“Dumbass,” he laughs into the receiver, hanging up and slipping the phone back into the poor bastard’s pocket. It doesn’t bother him that Shoichi knows his name, because he’s known Shoichi’s for longer.
When he is sixteen he gets caught, like a common idiot, like those ordinary people he had been masquerading as—and it had to be by the fucking secret service. He thought spies were trapped in the past, or at least in the reels of action movies. They detain him without his parents knowing, which ought to be illegal, surely, since he’s a minor, though his crimes may deem him more detestable than most teenagers his age. He’s not afraid, because at least he’s not bored.
The head of the organization is a rosy-haired girl who doesn’t seem that much older than him, with eyes as pink as coral and just as hard.
“You have two choices, Hanamiya-kun,” she says kindly, and narrates the first so vividly that it makes him visibly wince, much to his chagrin.
“Or,” she continues, not even glancing at the clipboard pressed to her chest. “You can work for me.”
“I’ll take the job,” he says, because he’s not as stupid as his mistake makes him out to be.
The Service wipes out all traces of Kumo, giving him a clean slate as expected, though his father’s announcement of a promotion comes as a surprise. It requires them to move to a different city, with a different set of acquaintances, different routines, and Hanamiya has a good idea why. He takes it in stride as he always has.
He’s been barred from communicating with his former contacts, all those in his hacking circle and then some. He doesn’t mind.
He hasn’t spoken to Shoichi since he was recruited, though it’s not impossible.
He doesn’t really want to.
The job that set the Service on his tail had been given to him by Shoichi himself, lacking the usual parameters that ensured a spotless trail, and Shoichi had presented it as a challenge. It’s not his fault that Hanamiya had landed on their laps, but Hanamiya can’t help but resent him a little for not being there to bail him out of it. He refuses to believe Shoichi had been incapable of doing something so simple.
It feels like loss at first, until it feels like nothing at all.
He’s better off.
He doesn’t get a strange call on his birthday that year.
On the next one, he graduates high school, tells his parents that he’s not going to university because he’s acquired a well-paying job despite, and they leave him to his devices. He wouldn’t have time for it, not when he’s been renamed into a single English letter; the Service’s youngest Quartermaster at age eighteen.
“Admit it,” Q says to M after he gets the title. “You were just waiting until I could go full-time.”
She shakes her head neatly. “Not exactly. I was waiting until you were ready.”
“Ready for what?”
M’s smile is cryptic, and that’s definitely not a good sign.
“To meet one of our best agents, of course.”
It was the worst present anyone’s ever given him, bar none.
“You’re younger than the last one,” 007 says cheerily, and the glassy look in his eyes throws Q off for a moment. (The last one had been in his late fifties, but that wasn’t the point.) It was a perfect mirror of Q’s dumb act in middle school, and without the oil slick quality of his own efforts. It stumps him long enough for 007 to resort to clapping him on the shoulder with one big, friendly hand.
“I’m sure you’ll do a good job regardless.”
“Don’t patronize me.” Q scowls, and hates how easily 007 had managed to ruffle his feathers.
The bastard even had the gall to wink at him. “Wouldn’t dream of it. You have the power to blow my toes off, Q.”
He nearly preens at the compliment and the implied acknowledgment of his authority, and he catches himself just in time. 007’s a sly motherfucker, Q will give him that.
“Better not forget it.”
“I won’t.” 007 beams, giving him a thumbs-up. “Let’s have fun!”
There’s a reason M had introduced 007 as ‘one of our best agents’, and not the best. That honor might go to 001 or 002 in terms of skill, or 003 if they were talking strength. All the Double O’s were prepared to die if necessity dictated, but none of them were as dedicated to the cause as 007.
Q might even say he was too dedicated, and frankly he didn’t like having to rescue agents more than he had to. It wasn’t as if he gave a shit about any of them, though 007 tries his patience like no other.
He’s past frustration when he asks, after 007’s latest attempt at martyrdom, “do you have a death wish?”
The ensuing laughter in the earpiece tells him the question might have hit too close to home.
In between assignments, 007 invites him out for drinks. “It’s the least I can do,” he says brightly. “I owe you my life.”
They’re both aware of the anti-fraternization rule but he’s laying on the charm like a thick cologne, like he would on one of his marks, so Q accepts the flattery with minimum resistance just this once.
“Thank my salary."
Q regrets saying it later, when 007 clinks their shot glasses together and toasts ‘to Q’s salary.’ Q is thankful for the chance to splash his drink 007’s face, who merely laughs it off as he often does as he pats down his designer suit.
That’s when it occurs to Q that 007 might be the second accidental friend he’s ever made.
They’ve been exchanging banter for ten minutes now, while 007 was passing the time; the sheer fondness and familiarity in the conversation that would be apparent to anyone listening in makes Q want to hurl into his cup of one hundred percent hot cocoa (with a kick of rum.)
“Plan on letting me into the building in the next ten years?” Q doesn’t have a visual on 007 but the signal on the earpiece is impeccable, and it lets him hear the amusement in 007’s voice.
“Shut up, I’m doing it as fast as I can.”
“I’m going gray, Hanamiya.”
“Dumbass,” he says instantly. “You’re not supposed to know my name.”
“But you know mine,” 007 counters. Q is about to input the last line of code to guarantee his entry, but he’s this close to not doing so purely out of spite. Aida Riko is right behind him though, watching his every move, so he keys it in with an errant sigh and listens to the locked door sing his praises.
007 is quick to top it with a breathed, “you’re a miracle, Q,” as he enters the building undetected. Q’s fingers never leave the keyboard and seconds later he’s acquired a feed via the security cameras, giving them an image of 007 to keep track of.
He looks good, perish the thought. His suit is still intact and his hair isn’t doing anything wild; he doesn’t even have any scratches on him, the little shit. Q’s tempted to make a part of the ceiling fall on him just to ruin him a little bit.
He doesn’t get to, because someone beats him to it.
The cameras black out as rapidly as Q hacked into them, and the once-perfect signal fails him just seconds later.
“What’s going on?” Aida asks aloud. “007, report on your surroundings.”
“007, come in, 007.”
It would be eerie if Q wasn’t used to it, Schrodinger’s box translated into sound, no signs of life or death or anything in between. A consistent whisper of pure unease is what it is, but nothing has ever stolen access from him as swiftly as that before. Now he’s just pissed. Who the fuck snuck up on him?
“Q,” Aida says, managing to pack an entire paragraph’s worth of urgency in that one word. It’s an unnecessary lecture, but he humors her just for today. She and 007 go a long way back (based on the files he acquired on them, once upon a time.)
He nods as his fingers fly faster than bullets over the board. “Working on it.”
After exactly two and a half minutes of tense static, it’s replaced by silence, and Q’s unsure about his success.
“007,” Aida tries again. “007.”
“Hey, dumbass, that’s your Chief of Staff calling you.” He’s gotten notices about language before, but the Service will take a foulmouthed Quartermaster over an incompetent one, so he doesn’t even try to hold back. “So stop being a pain in the ass and answer.”
There’s a crackle in the earpiece like a burst of laughter, and Q wants to strangle him, enough for his name to slip out for the first time in the four years they’ve known each other. “Kiyoshi, you…”
“Ah, 007 isn’t available at the moment,” says someone who is certainly not 007. It’s someone who seems eerily familiar, who might as well be a ghost with the way he lingers in Q’s mind and causes the hair on his nape to rise, cold and unceremoniously cruel.
“But if you’d like, I can take a message.”
Aida isn’t having any of it, though her knuckles are turning white on the desk (at any rate she’s doing better than Q; every ounce of spit had dried up in his throat.)
“Who are you? Where’s 007?”
“I’m afraid I can’t divulge that information,” the voice drawls for emphasis, as if Q could mistake him for anyone else. He’s not the superstitious sort, but he wouldn’t refuse one of 004’s lucky items if who he thinks it is has finally found him. He’s currently twenty-two, and it may be the oldest he’ll ever get.
“That’s for me to know, and for your clever, clever boy to find out.”
(Shoichi has always been the master of first impressions.)
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