If I could begin to do
something that does right by you,
I would do about anything,
I would even learn how to love
In an only cursorily explored sector of the gamma quadrant lies a planet named Lavos, the only inhabited class-M planet in its solar system. Negotiations for the society’s entry into the federation were underway and things weren’t looking half bad. The Lavosians were a peaceful, hospitable people, a species of vaguely humanoid biped aliens with four thin, spindly arms protruding from the torso in a way that seemed mildly grotesque to a human. Negotiations had been off to a slightly rocky start when it had been discovered by one of the Enterprise’s away teams that the Lavosian atmosphere, while breathable, contained a substance that had an effect on humans which… would have been mildly humorous, even, if the situation hadn’t been so serious. But the scientists and engineers of the Enterprise found a way to manage. For the off-planet negotiations, they created a sealed space flooded with an artificial Lavosian atmosphere as a conference room, which humans entered only wearing oxygen masks.
The conference was almost closed, a treaty as good as established, when someone noticed that throughout this final day, the intoxicating gas in the conference room had steadily been leaking out through an improperly sealed vent.
Spreading throughout the ventilation system, it quickly affected everyone on the Enterprise except for a few people who had held on to their oxygen masks and, of course, Data.
Data was currently in engineering, with Geordi attached to his front.
“Geordi, your efforts are very stimulating, but I need to find a way to stop the spread of the substance,” Data was saying softly. “This is hardly the time to engage in intercourse.”
“I know, Data, but I need you too,” Geordi half-moaned, starting to dry-hump Data’s leg as if no one was watching. It really was awful to Picard to see the usually cool-headed chief engineer like that.
“Data, I’m going to die if we don’t do this,” Geordi said, grabbing Data by the front of his uniform. Unfortunately, he was right: the aphrodisiac was fatal if there was no release. It had cost them the life of one of the members of the original away team to discover that.
“Help him out, Mr. Data,” Picard ordered in passing. “Make it quick.” Preventing immediate casualties among the crew had to take priority for now. Picard had already requested aid from the planet, and the Lavosians had sent up a team of scientists who were currently working with the small gaggle of unaffected crew to fix the situation. He could only hope they would resolve this mess in the near future.
Jean-Luc wasn’t worried about Geordi and Data. To his knowledge, they had been dating steadily for months, and there would be no awkwardness among his officers in the morning.
Picard visited sickbay next, in the faint hope that perhaps they had raised a quarantine field when the red alert had sounded. What he found was Beverly and Lieutenant Ogawa snogging on a biobed, their limbs hopelessly entwined. He left the two women alone.
A last-ditch visit to Ten Forward yielded similar results. Even Guinan, usually so unflappable, was seen leading not one, not two, but three people away to the back room; Picard harbored no pretensions about what they were going to do back there. Having to literally step over tangled crewmembers on the floor, the captain retreated to his quarters.
Only when the door swished shut behind him did he allow his Captain façade to fall and his need to overwhelm him. He whimpered as he collapsed on his bed, grinding his cock into the sheets. Cursing under his breath in French, he shucked off his uniform as quickly as he could. He was hard to the point of pain. Touching himself brought only slight relief. He did come, after a few strokes of his hand, squirting semen all over the bedsheets, but his erection didn’t even wane. He needed someone else, no matter who, just a warm body to hold, to thrust into, but there was the tragedy: no one was available. It seemed that all of his crew was nicely coupled or tripled or quadrupled off, but he remained alone. He was the Captain. He couldn’t ask a crewmember into bed with him, not in these circumstances, no matter who it was. Starfleet had laws against that. He could try and cite a medical emergency, but even so… there was still his personal moral code. And that wouldn’t change, no matter how urgent the situation, no matter how much lust overwhelmed him. He couldn’t coerce someone into bed who was below him in rank, under his command. Would that person sleep with him out of their own free will? Would they be obeying an order from the Captain, feeling repulsed the entire time? No, it was unthinkably offensive. Jean-Luc would stay here, waiting until the aphrodisiac left his system naturally or death came.
He curled up on the bed, listening to his own choked sobs as his right hand clutched his heavy, aching cock that was leaking precome (post-come? Cum in any case) onto the sheets. Oh, he was so full and yet so empty. Soon it would rupture him, his cock would simply burst with the pressure, his painfully furled testicles following suit. He was an endless void of craving, never reaching satisfaction, years and years of loneliness given form within a single moment. He cried as the pain increased, steadily and without end, driving him out of his mind, razing all rational thought from his brain until there was only agonizing want. He fantasized of Vash, of Nella, of Kamala, of all the women and men and others he had been with in the past. But none of them could save him now. Was there any way to make this situation any worse?
“Mon Capitaine!” said a sudden voice in his back, familiar, dreaded. “What ails you?”
“Q,” Picard groaned. Yes, impossibly, the situation had just gotten worse. He was in no state to deal with Q right now.
“I am a little busy at the moment,” he ground out.
“You are dying,” Q sighed languidly, inspecting his fingernails. “How inconvenient. What caused…? Ah, yes. You’re in orbit around Lavos. Yes, I see.” Q laughed quietly, having figured out the problem. “I’m feeling it trying to affect me. But I can’t allow that, of course.”
The entity sat on the edge of the bed. Picard scooted as far away from him as possible, coming to lie in his own wet patch. He shuddered in disgust with himself, with Q, with the whole situation.
“I have decided to help,” Q announced.
“You don’t need to help,” Picard told him. “The Lavosian delegation is still on board, working with everyone on the crew who’s unaffected to cleanse the ventilation system of the gas.”
“That won’t account for the immediate effects. You’re going to die for your ridiculous human ethics if you don’t get it out of your system. What a stupid, senseless death for someone like you! Imagine the obituary. He died as he lived – with a serious case of blue balls.”
“I can help, you know.”
“How? Is there a cure? A vaccine? A—”
“I don’t know,” Q said, sounding irritated. “I can offer help in a way that any humanoid could. Except for those under your command, I guess. You’d like that? No use of my powers at all.”
It dawned on Jean-Luc what Q was offering. “Oh, no. No, no. Out of the question.”
“Why not? You need a warm body. I have a warm body. Problem solved.”
“Absolutely not. Not with you.”
“No Starfleet regulations prohibit you from sleeping with me.”
Except for the one about getting intimate with potentially hostile aliens, Picard thought. “It’s not a matter of regulations,” he said out loud. “It’s you.”
“Well, you can hardly be picky right now,” Q huffed in an almost offended way. “Am I that hideous? I can change. Do you need me to be female?”
“It’s not your looks! You look fine. I mean. It’s you! You never do anything out of the goodness of your heart. Your favors come at too high a price. What’s the catch? What will you have me do as payment? To what ends are you offering in the first place?”
“To what ends!” Q rolled his eyes. “My devotion to you has been made abundantly clear in the past ten years. There is no catch. I want you. Sex with you is my prize.”
“What?” What was Q talking about? Devotion? What did that even mean? Jean-Luc struggled to think clearly, to put on the usual disgruntled veneer he employed when talking to Q. “Nothing has been made abundantly clear to me.”
“Then you’re more obtuse than I have given you credit for. I’ve been coming on to you pretty much since we met.”
“…Oh.” Jean-Luc didn’t know what else to say. He was trying very hard not to writhe in pain or to gasp for air, giving away that he was feeling a new, powerful wave of arousal rolling over him every time he took a breath. He was still breathing in the gas. He was so dizzy. So stupid with lust.
He started as he felt Q’s hand on the small of his back, cool and soothing on his searing, thrumming, overtaxed body.
“Don’t send me away this time,” Q said quietly, with an urgency. “Don’t throw yourself away like that. Let me help.”
Picard was quivering, fighting not to scream. Q’s hand was stroking up and down his spine, drawing patterns in sweat. It was entirely too much. It was not nearly enough.
The problem was: he wanted to live. And more: he wanted to see what Q would do. Maybe it was the aphrodisiac working its magic, but at the moment, Q’s clumsy, petulant declaration of “devotion” suddenly seemed unbearably attractive. And not just that. Q seemed to emit an irresistible magnetism, which probably wasn’t so much a Q thing, but the knowledge that release was there, sweet oblivion waiting for him. In that pretty, sulking mouth. In those endless, alien eyes. In those soft curls, just waiting to be tugged at. In that frankly impressive bulge at the front of Q’s pants, wanting for Jean-Luc’s touch. Q was more affected by this scene than he let on.
He took a deep, steadying breath.
“No catch.” Q stilled his hand for a moment. “May the Continuum strike me dead where I stand if I’m lying.”
Picard knew that Q was not in the habit of lying. He kept his intentions to himself, he omitted important information, he was deliberately cryptic, but Picard had never known him to utter an outright untruth. Perhaps, just maybe, he could trust Q with this.
“Fine,” he said.
Q’s eyes widened almost comically with surprise. “What did you say?”
“I said fine,” Jean-Luc half-groaned. “Go on. Do your worst.”
Q hovered, halfway on the bed, his hands clasping at each other in what almost seemed like a sudden bout of nerves. He made no reply. It seemed that now that he had gotten what he’d apparently coveted for years, he had no idea what to do with his prize. But for Q of all people to have performance anxiety...
“You’re not going to back out now, are you?” Picard demanded. On a purely carnal level, his body was screaming for proximity to Q’s. He wanted to feel Q’s touch again, wanted to sink inside Q, lose himself there. He tugged at the front of Q’s false uniform. “Take that off.”
“As my captain demands,” Q said with something like bemusement, snapped his fingers and was suddenly completely naked. He lowered himself onto the bed, his hands ghosting across Picard’s chest. “So much to play with,” he said. He was clearly trying for a menacing purr, but what came out was amazement, almost awe. “Where to start?”
Preserve me from fumbling virgins, Picard thought with desperation, arching his hips. A choked sob escaped him as his cock brushed against Q’s thigh. “Start here.”
Q’s hand was infinitely soft and unmarred by the blemishes of mortal life as it wrapped around Picard’s cock and started stroking. It soothed him momentarily, but fed the flame within at the same time. He cried out and came, relief warring with a seemingly endless fount of desire brought on by inhaling that intoxicating substance.
“Oh,” he cried out. “Not enough.”
Q seemed to make a decision. “I’m here for you,” he said, rolling over, offering himself. Jean-Luc looked down at this being who had styled himself a god, who was now on his hands and knees with his ass up for him. His cock twitched powerfully, leaking; it had never stopped being hard.
“I won’t just… I won’t hurt you.” He trembled, fighting the powerful urge to just take what was being offered with violent, reckless abandon.
Q laughed quietly. “You won’t, mon capitaine. I don’t think you can.”
“Q… I don’t think you know…”
“I know everything, my dear captain. I am Q. Come on, I’m ready for you.”
And yes, Picard found him already lubed and stretched. One of these days I’m going to have to teach him about foreplay, he thought. But for now, he had no time to waste in pressing inside.
Q felt perfect, tight and hot and clenching deliciously around Jean-Luc’s cock. As he pushed deeper inside, as careful as he could under the circumstances, Q trembled, muffling some sort of moan or sigh into the pillows. Picard was glad; he would have hated to be the only one enjoying himself.
“Are you alright?” he asked nonetheless.
Q moaned out loud this time, struggling to make words. “Picard,” he sighed. “This is – hah – particular.”
“You’ve never done it before?”
“Never like this… go on, go deeper… give me more.”
Picard pushed down with the urgency of his need until his testes brushed against Q’s cleft and he couldn’t go further. Q pushed up against him, already greedy for more friction.
“Fuck me, Picard,” he groaned, impatient. “Use me. Oh, you’re so big, so huge inside me. It’s never… been like this before.”
Picard withdrew a little, then snapped up his hips in a shallow thrust. His third orgasm of the night coiled within him, but he wanted to prolong the moment: out of some fundamental altruism at his core, he wanted this to be just as good for Q as it was for him.
His next thrust must’ve hit right home, because Q arched his back and made a noise that was almost a scream.
“There…” he panted. “That spot…”
“Yes,” Picard replied, stroking a soothing hand along the entity’s trembling flank.
“Fuck me there…”
Picard thrust again, and again, more forceful this time, trying for that spot over and over. His orgasm came gradually closer, making him hazy with tension and want, reducing him to mindless rutting, fucking himself on Q. He came in a powerful burst, emptying himself deep inside Q’s rectum, and Q allowed it, sighing in something like bliss.
As Jean-Luc pulled out his softening cock, he felt like he could finally rest for at least a moment. He looked a Q on the other side of the bed, who had rolled over onto his side and was watching him with a spark of… something in his dark eyes (amusement? Fondness, maybe?), unabashedly letting cum leak out of him. Picard drew a startled gasp as the mere sight made him hard again. The urgency of earlier, however, had abated somewhat.
He reached out across the bed for Q, drawing a hand along the entity’s collarbone.
Q shifted, his eyes glinting. “It’s not over?”
That curiosity. Exploring the human condition. Yes, indeed.
Picard shook his head. “What about you?”
“What about me?”
Jean-Luc directed his gaze downwards. Yes, Q was still hard, leaking fluid against his own abdomen, but it didn’t seem to faze him in any sort of way.
“Are you not… not feeling this? Like a human would?”
Q made a little gesture then, a dismissive flick of the wrist. “I choose not to.”
“Why? You made me come twice already. What… about you?”
“What am I to gain from it?” Q chuckled, turning over onto his back, stretching out on the bed. “It’s so cute how you think that matters at all,” he said. Picard registered the mockery, but he didn’t quite understand it.
“This body,” Q continued, “I made it for you. For you to interact with… I am a receptacle of your needs. That is all I want to be anymore.”
Picard huffed. “If this is your understanding of pillow talk, you need some practice.” Made for him? What did that mean? If he’d been at his usual state of lucidity, he would have sat back and thought, really thought, about the connotations of all this. As it were, his thoughts were on his rapidly resurging arousal and his desire to make Q feel what he had just felt, to show him how good this could be.
But Q was not playing ball. “Let me help you with that,” he purred, suddenly very close again and reaching for Picard’s cock. He took it into his mouth with a slurping sound that struck Picard as almost obscene. It became apparent that Q had indeed never really heard of the concept of foreplay: there was no teasing at the tip, he bobbed his head down immediately, until Picard’s cock hit the back of his throat while Q’s clever tongue swirled around the shaft. He had no apparent gag reflex and no need to breathe, so he sucked Jean-Luc in without inhibitions, as if wanting to take him wholly inside himself. At the same time, Jean-Luc felt two fingers, lathered in some sort of warm oil, prodding gently at the rim of his hole. He gasped, he should have expected this from Q, who was a quick study after all, but it still threw him. The thought that maybe Q could…
All thought ceased as one of those fingers entered him with the utmost caution (he hadn’t expected such gentleness from the entity), exploring, spreading moisture as it eased deeper inside. Picard felt his walls expand a little as one finger was joined by the tip of a second.
“Captain, you are being probed,” said that dark, rich voice directly inside his mind, as Q’s mouth was still full. The two fingers stretched him and stroked him, the slight strain it caused delicious in itself amidst all that pleasure. Picard felt his attention shift from his cock to whatever Q was doing further back, wanting more of that stretch, wanting more inside him, deeper…
His free hand gripped Q’s hair, just tightly enough to still him.
“Q,” he gasped. “Stop.”
Q withdrew his mouth and his hands, leaving an aching feeling of emptiness. For a second, a thin trail of drool or precum connected the tip of Picard’s cock to Q’s full lips, then it ripped apart as if it had been a dream. A dream that Q had sucked him off but seconds ago, had ever touched him. Jean-Luc’s cock was pulsing with the onset of tonight’s fourth orgasm, but he felt so very cold and empty. As if nobody had ever touched him. He felt himself flutter and clench around nothing and wanted Q’s hand back, wanted so much more than that.
“Q,” he panted, “I want you in me.”
“You mean…?” Q’s eyes were wide, his pupils blown. His pretty lips constricted in a frown. “I wanted you to come in my mouth,” he said, a bit petulantly. Oh, those lips. So sensuous, so soft. They were made for sucking dick. But no.
“Another time,” Picard said, reaching out for Q once more. “For now… please do this for me. Please, I need it.”
“I am for your needs,” Q repeated. With no apparent difficulties, he lifted Picard’s legs, draping them over his own shoulders. “I warn you though… I do not know what I’m doing.”
“You learn… so quickly.”
Q lined himself up and eased the tip in, still so careful. “Oh,” he gasped. “That feels… oh.” He shook his head as if trying to dispel these feelings, his eyes narrowing with the effort to stay concentrated on whatever Q-powered barrier he had erected between himself and these sensations.
“Don’t suppress it,” Picard ordered, for the first time tonight making use of his Captain voice. “That won’t do. Get off for just a moment now.”
They separated again before they had ever really joined. Picard all but pushed Q over, making him lie on his back again.
“What…?” Q asked, brows furrowing. Picard straddled him. He already liked that position much better.
“I don’t want you to do anything now,” he said to Q. “Let me do the work.”
He lowered himself and pushed down onto Q’s cock, breathing hard with the effort of it. Q’s hands were suddenly splayed on his thighs, stroking, steadying, adoring. Q’s own legs quivered with the strain of holding still; Picard knew almost empathically that at this moment, the entity wanted nothing more than to buck upwards.
“Mmmmh, Q,” Picard hummed, pausing for a moment. “Tell me how this feels for you.”
Q’s eyelids fluttered involuntarily, and his breathing was ragged. “Ah… Jean-Luc… this is so…”
“I know.” Jean-Luc sunk down to the hilt, then he stilled. He bent down to kiss Q, on his lips at first, where he was eagerly received, then down his jaw. He licked at the little dimple in Q’s chin, then moved on to leave faint hickeys at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Q had a distinct scent there that Picard hadn’t noticed before, a sweet perfume almost as intoxicating as the Lavosian gas he’d breathed in, and he kept nuzzling and licking and biting at the skin there as Q made broken little sounds and shuddered with sensations never felt before. At the same time Picard brushed his thumbs against Q’s nipples, and Q jerked so hard that Picard felt the movement inside himself.
“Ah…” Q moaned. “How did you… do that… so sensitive there…”
“I know,” Picard repeated, moving his mouth down further to suck at Q’s right nipple while his hand twisted the left one. Q almost screamed.
“Oh,” he sobbed, writhing, his back arching off the bed. “Oohh, oh Jean-Luc…”
Picard came back up, straightening his spine, but his hands remained on Q’s chest, seeking out hot spots, returning again and again to his nipples as he began fucking himself on Q in earnest, bouncing up and down on his cock.
Q was almost overstimulated, weeping. “I love you… oh, Picard, I, ah, I love you…”
“Mmh, oh, Q… so perfect in me…” He ground down again, clenching around Q’s length, making Q dissolve into babbling nonsensically, scraps of words and little pleas Picard could understand mingled with what no doubt were profanities in many different languages, some of which Picard had never heard. Q’s hips still trembled, still trying for even more, even faster, even as Picard rode him, but he was basically helpless but to lie there, fisting his hands into the sheets in blind pleasure. When Q came, a sudden hot spurt without warning, a great wave of ecstasy, euphoria, affection and wonder roared through and over Picard’s mind and he knew that these were Q’s feelings – that in climax he had finally rendered Q speechless, reduced him to the Q’s natural language – the purely telepathic communication of thought. He groaned with the sheer power of it, gripped his own erection and followed suit, coming in white, long streaks over Q’s stomach and chest.
They stayed on the bed together afterwards, Picard drowsily trailing a hand through the sticky mess on Q’s abdomen. Rarely had he ever felt this exhausted. But there was also satiation there, and peace.
“What happens now?” he asked.
Q reached down to stroke across Picard’s scalp. “Now you go to sleep, Captain.”
“But this changes everything. Our relationship—”
“Yes, certainly. But you know what… let’s talk about that later.”
It certainly wasn’t unreasonable to put this off until the morning, when he was more alert. Q had a point: Picard needed to rest. The goings-on of the last few hours had drained him of all energy. He found himself nodding off, snuggled against Q’s side.
Q was gone when he woke up.
Of course, Picard told himself. Had he ever seriously expected Q to stick around? Well, if so, that was foolish, he told himself. But perhaps it was too soon to make any kind of snap judgement. Q could have had any sort of reason for leaving. What did he really know about Q and the Continuum? Almost nothing. He really couldn’t make any presumptions here. And besides, Q would be back. That he knew for certain. A day, a month, a year would go by, but eventually Q would come back.
So Picard rose, cleaned up, put on his uniform and reported for duty. He sought refuge in vagueness when asked how he had combatted the effects of the Lavosian gas. He concluded negotiations with the people of Lavos and went on with his life.
But the incident was never far from his mind. Had Q meant all he had said? Let me help. A great man had once proclaimed these words greater and more meaningful even than “I love you”. Not that Q hadn’t also proclaimed his love in the heat of the moment – and he had let Picard inside, had shared his feelings even. It was so unlike any of their former encounters… but did it mean something? To Q in the grand scheme of things, in his eternal, ageless existence? And what, at that, did it mean to Picard?
For the first time ever since he had been dealing with those infrequent Q visits in his life, he waited for Q to return. He wanted Q to return. He didn’t quite know what he wanted with Q – maybe just to talk, to find out where they stood now. Anything was better than this not having closure, even if nothing came of it. But what if something came of it? What if it had meant something to Q, and he wanted more, what then? Was that what Jean-Luc, in his most secret and selfish of hearts, actually longed for?
Well, it seemed pointless to ask the question at all, because Q did not come back. Days went by, a week, two, then three. After an entire Qless month, Picard wondered if he shouldn’t forget about the entire thing altogether. It was a bit silly to still be waiting in the first place. He didn’t put it beyond Q to have gone his merry ways and put the matter entirely out of mind until, perhaps, in a year or so when the Continuum would send him to the Enterprise to pester humanity again. Q was fickle and capricious and his declarations were likely to be as worthless as anything he tended to spout. Picard resented Q for toying with him when he had been at a weak point, and he resented himself for being affected by it. And affected he was; there was no denying this.
While most of the time his duties as Captain provided sufficient distraction, it was in the evenings, when he was alone in his quarters trying to sleep, that the thoughts of what had transpired between him and Q came back to him, and he couldn’t help but go over it all again. Sometimes these memories aroused him, and he had to take care of himself, which he did, but with no small amount of shame.
Q had been so open with him, so different from before. But maybe this had long been coming, maybe it was something that had gradually grown between them as they’d slowly become more familiar with each other over the years. If he got to see Q more often, perhaps their relationship would evolve even more quickly.
But what was he thinking? Usually, when Q did visit, he couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.
If their encounters had all been like this last one, however, that would be a different matter…
But the fact remained that Q wasn’t here, and it began to seem less and less likely that he would appear in the near future. It was just another game to him, Picard thought in disgust. Just another stupid game.
Elsewhere, Q was also considering.
This… with Picard… that last meeting, well, the good captain had certainly surprised him, without even meaning to. Q found himself plagued by feelings he’d never felt before in that way in all his eons of having been around. Oh, he had irrationally adored Picard since… when had it began? Their second, third encounter? Or perhaps the very first? But never before had he had actual memories of a sexual union to cement the whole thing.
In his current form, he couldn’t feel sexual lust (no pheromones), but he thought it. Thought of little else, in fact. The other Q had already asked him to please shutter these thoughts from the rest of the Continuum, as they were all quite tired of sharing his fantasies with him.
He had slipped out of his confining human body into something more comfortable and was currently lounging within a nebula galaxies away from Federation space in his own native form, a cluster of incomprehensible energies that the Q simply referred to as thought matter. But the experience had occurred when he had been human, and he couldn’t help but conceptualize his feelings in human terms. His essence swirled and coiled restlessly as he felt the twitching of phantom limbs, the hammering of a phantom heart. For a moment, he toyed idly with the thought of materializing somewhere in human shape, to have a human reproductive organ again, and hands to masturbate with. There certainly was a pressing need for it, even now.
But this was about more than lust. He felt the carnal (yes, even without flesh, somehow) desire for a repetition of the act, but there were more important things than that. Things he needed to think about in a quiet corner of space and in his original form, pure, concentrated Q thoughts, unencumbered by any of the distractions a body would provide.
Picard had trusted him. That was what warranted these thoughts. It had never happened before, and Q felt that he’d received a gift beyond even his reckoning. True, Picard had been in a bit of a pinch, but Q was no stranger to Picard stubbornly refusing his help even in life-threatening situations. But this time, in this intimate setting, Picard had let him in, had accepted Q and his love and had thereby overwhelmed him, baffled him, sent him reeling.
Q’s essence spun, elongated and twisted into a shape that humans called a Möbius strip. He felt the urge to give something back. But with all his unlimited powers, he couldn’t fathom a gift that would befit the situation and that Picard would like. To grant Picard immortality, Q powers, unfathomable riches – that seemed to be the obvious thing to do, it would be easy for Q to give, but it was just the sort of thing Picard would reject out of hand. Q had found years ago that Picard was an impossible person to get a gift for – but impossibilities appealed to his nature. To a Q, the word impossible meant “a conundrum we have yet to solve”.
He thought back on all his past encounters with Picard and tried to remember if he’d ever heard the man voice any sort of wish, want, regret or desire around him. He wanted this to be personal. And this time, he wouldn’t have his beloved jump through hoops in order to learn the lesson and receive the reward. This time, he would prove to Picard that he could be selfless. This gift was going to be nothing but pleasant for Jean-Luc.
But what was it to be? It seemed that Picard already had most everything he wanted. A fulfilling career in an exciting job, exactly the amount of prestige and influence that he wished to have, a circle of good friends he had steadily gotten closer to, to the point where they resembled a surrogate family.
Perhaps Q had to go at it from another angle. He scanned Picard’s entire past, made some informed predictions as to his future, and tried to determine the greatest and most powerful threat to Picard’s happiness, health and safety, the greatest… discord in his life.
What he found did not please him, but he collected his wits about him and forced himself to face the facts. And in that moment, he understood that Picard had again bested him, for he had arrived at the same conclusion that Q was just now getting to years ago, that he had asked Q repeatedly to realize it with him, but that Q had been too blind to see.
Well, this would now be rectified. Q’s essence flopped over in the vastness of space in a listless sort of pancake shape, and a groan of disgust echoed through the telepathic ether, where no one heard it. What Q was about to do would not be easy or pleasant for him, but he was determined to see it through. After all, love meant willingness to sacrifice.
“Q!” Jean-Luc snapped his head up from the PADD he’d been looking at and which contained reports from engineering. Q had suddenly materialized in his quarters with the by now familiar flash of light, outfitted in the robes he wore for his mock trials.
“You shouldn’t be up so late,” Q said. “At this rate, before long, you’ll overwork yourself.” He was obviously trying for his usual smug, patronizing amusement, but he couldn’t quite hide a genuine fondness shining through, along with a strange sense of almost melancholy.
Picard stood up, cautious nonetheless. Around Q, he always felt the urge to make himself as tall as possible. “You’ve been gone for a month,” he said. “Where have you been?”
“If you must know, I have been submerged in a nebula that your species won’t discover for another few centuries and which the natives there call the Gila Cluster. I call it my brooding spot. I go there when I need to think. But I’m sure that’s not actually what you were asking.” Q sighed. “A month, was it? I could never quite get your Terran time right.”
Picard supposed that this was as close as Q could get to an apology for his prolonged absence.
“Well,” he said, “what now? Do we continue where we left off? Without me being drugged this time?”
“No,” Q said in either genuine regret or a brilliant imitation thereof. “All will be explained, Mon Capitaine.”
Q straightened his back, apparently bracing for something. Picard waited in nervous apprehension. Whatever Q was going to explain, it seemed like it would not be pleasant.
“Is this to mean… are we… that is, will either of us be in trouble because of that night we spent together?”
“Trouble? From whom, the Continuum?” Q gestured dismissively. “Eh. Not likely. None of their business.”
“But… you are alluding to some consequences.”
Q smiled at that one. “Everything in life has consequences. I’ll get to that. You see, if I recall correctly, during our last… encounter, I have told you I was in love with you.”
Here it comes, Picard thought. Here and now, Q would deny he’d meant it. Would utterly squash Jean-Luc’s most secret hopes.
He took a deep breath. A part of him felt like it was being pulled apart. Still he said, “Surely, in the heat of the moment—”
Q raised a hand. “Oh, no. It’s still true.”
Picard didn’t know what to say. His entire train of thought had come to a screeching halt. “Ah,” he said at last.
“This might seem hard to believe, me, a Q, in love with a mere mortal,” Q went on blithely, unaware of the chaos he was causing in Picard. “Some might deem the very thought preposterous – no offense meant. But I am willing to prove myself. I want to present you with a most extraordinary gift. A gift the likes of which I’ve never given to anyone in all my long existence.”
Ah. This was more familiar, if somewhat dreaded. “Q, you don’t need to—”
“Ah-ah. I know what you’re thinking. Is this impossible entity wanting to whisk me away on some other wild adventure? you wonder. Is there another heavy-handed lesson to learn? But no! I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I am certain I’ve found something I can give to you that you will actually want.”
Jean-Luc took this in with mixed feelings. He knew Q had a penchant for being horribly off the mark when trying to anticipate what a human might want… but he had to admit that this time, things might potentially be different, and he was intrigued.
“I’ll hear you out,” he said. “We’ll see about that gift of yours.”
Q’s face lit up in gleeful anticipation. “This time I won’t disappoint! Just you wait and see.” He cleared his throat purely for dramatic emphasis.
“I went about this from two different angles. At first of course I wondered what I could give you that you might actually not only accept but take pleasure in. The past has shown that we can already rule out lots of things.”
“Very true,” Picard muttered wryly. He found himself having to smile as he considered Q’s past attempts at doing something nice for him.
“The gift had to be something that enriches your life without messing with the status quo, your timeline, your ship, your crew, humanity and the Federation in general, or anybody close to you. But it also had to be special. Personal. It had to showcase my feelings adequately.”
Picard was equal parts antsy and impressed. Q had clearly done his homework. The result was most likely to either be unexpectedly nice or absolutely monstrous.
“Why not just give me some nice flowers or something?” he asked.
“Oh, psh.” Q waved it off. “Beneath me. You know what that night meant to me, Picard? You allowed me to help you, for the very first time in our acquaintance. You were in a supremely difficult situation and you decided to trust me. I could’ve done horrendous things to you that night, and you must’ve been aware, but you still put your trust in me. That calls for something truly extraordinary in return.”
Picard began to slightly fear what that extraordinary gift might be. At the same time, Q’s explanation, the almost awed way he spoke about receiving trust, touched something within him. “Does it really call for—”
“Yes. Oh, don’t worry. You’ll like that one. You see, next I went about searching for what poses the greatest threat to you. I was determined at that point to purge—”
“Q, please don’t destroy the Borg.”
Q laughed. “The Borg! I do admit my first thought was of them. But even if it were allowed… I wouldn’t. There is an alien race currently in your life that’s far more dangerous, far more powerful than the Borg ever will be. You’ve encountered them before, and you will again, that is, if I can’t help it.”
Picard furrowed his brows. Whatever could Q mean?
Q smiled, but it was not a happy smile. “Oh, Jean-Luc, don’t you understand? It’s so simple, really. I’m talking about the Q.”
“Ourselves, yes. Considering from your perspective, here is a bunch of all-powerful, cruel, tempestuous beings just… toying with you. You’re subject to our every whim and you gain little or nothing. Well, let me say, I was quite dismayed, thinking of it that way.”
Picard was even more surprised. He could’ve told Q this years ago – had done so, in fact – but he’d never thought Q would one day see his point. Was this empathy? And what would Q do, now that he had come to this conclusion?
“I am no less determined now,” Q continued, “to remove this threat entirely from your life, and at that to do the only thing you’ve ever asked me to do.”
“What thing would that be?”
“Get off my ship, Q,” Q mimicked wryly. “That’s all you ever wanted from me, was it? Complete and total absence of me. Well, I’m ready to accept that now. This is the last time you will ever see me.”
Picard stood absolutely still. For years, now, he had wished – without any real hope of ever having his wish fulfilled – to hear these words from Q, to see the danger that Q posed to his ship, his crew and humanity leave his life, to escape the heavy burden of having to deal with this being as some sort of representative for all that was good about the entire human race. Now that it was really, actually happening, he felt like he had turned to ice.
“You… want to leave?” he asked numbly. He tried to really envision it: no more Q. No more outlandish, potentially life-threatening challenges. No more having to feel like his fate, or the fate of his crew, or the fate of millions of innocent humans hinged on him saying or doing the right thing to a creature who was not known to care about mortal lives. No more of that never-ending banter. No more of those frankly stimulating discussions. All that tantalizing knowledge, forever out of reach. No more of those surprisingly wise and insightful hard-won life lessons. No repetition of that sex, ever.
He’d never get to teach Q about foreplay after all. He’d never get to come in Q’s mouth. There were suddenly so many things he had wanted to do with Q the next time he got him into bed, and now there just wouldn’t be a next time. He’d never see that fond expression in Q’s eyes again. Never kiss that gorgeous mouth again. Never find out if Q liked to have his hair pulled. Never take Q up on his offer to go exploring through the cosmos. Never do anything or say anything to Q again, because Q would be gone, forever.
Q made a little sound, perhaps it was supposed to be a laugh. “I don’t want to leave,” he said. “I want to be with you. I did explain I love you, didn’t I? But I’m going to leave nonetheless. There’s just no way I’d make you happy doing anything else. I understand that now. I should’ve seen it years ago.”
“But… this is not… you’ll be miserable.”
“For a while, I suppose.” Q raised his shoulders, pulling his robes around himself in an almost protective fashion. “But I’ll live. Of course I’ll live. I am Q. I’m five billion years old, Picard, perhaps it’s time I started acting my age. Oh, I may have briefly considered having the Continuum erase my memories of our entire acquaintance, or rid me of my feelings for you, so that I’ll never be tempted to come back.”
Jean-Luc couldn't help but be chilled. The prospect of Q undergoing some procedure and forgetting him entirely was something that didn’t sit well with him at all.
“But that would lead to trouble,” Q continued. “It would defeat the entire purpose of what you have taught me. And that would be unfair to both of us. So I’m going to have to deal with—”
“What did I teach you?” Picard asked.
Q looked down at his folded hands. “Well, you see, when I realized why you wouldn’t want to have me in your life… there’s something to be said here about myself, about the kind of person I’ve become over the millennia, and… by Q standards, I have done very little that is unacceptable. Everyone in the Continuum would say so. I’m not trying to defend myself, I’m telling you this sheds an unfavorable light on our methods. Something… has gone wrong with us, all of us. Maybe the Q are inherently bad. Maybe it’s something that happened to us, maybe we’ve become too removed from the entire rest of the universe, and jaded… These are just some working hypotheses that I have. I’ll have to consider this further. I’ll have work to do. But when I figure this out, I’ll guarantee you it won’t touch you. About the trial, well… I might be able to convince them to call it off. Tell them that our attempt at first contact was… botched. Misguided. Just too early. Maybe they’ll buy it. Maybe they’ll leave you alone. But they might just assign another Q to handle your case.”
“I don’t want another Q!” Picard snapped. He was not going to stand here much longer and listen to Q deride himself.
“Please, Jean-Luc, understand that it’s unlikely that they’ll go for complete non-interference. I’ll try and make sure they’ll send you one of the more balanced members of the collective.”
“Q, no. You can’t just say all these things and then leave!”
“Why not? What’s wrong with that?” Q was starting to pull his defenses back up, Picard could see it. “Wouldn’t you rather put this humiliating chapter of our lives behind you? I know I would.”
“Q, you are… trying here, I can see that now. But you’re so wrapped up in that mindset which places me and all of humanity firmly under the heel of your metaphorical omnipotent boot that you’re still presupposing what will make me happy. You haven’t ever thought to ask me, huh? This gift of yours… this is not what I want.”
“But – I… what...” Q blinked rapidly, apparently in confusion. “But I was so sure this time… I did ask you! Multiple times! And you always said that all you wanted from me was for me to go away! And I’m doing that now! How is this still not what you want?!”
Q’s voice had risen to a shout, and Picard was trying to stay calm. “Maybe I’m changing my mind,” he said. “I admit that in the past I would have accepted this gift all too readily, but now… I’ve had ten years to get to know you. To you this might be a very, very short timespan, but to me… it’s quite a long while to be knowing someone. And maybe as I learn more about you, I find I want you to remain in my life.” And then, of course, there was the matter of their last encounter, and the way it had affected Picard. But they’d discuss that later. After he’d convinced Q to stay.
For now, Q looked almost dejected, and something had to be done about that. He had, in the course of their conversation, taken to pacing, but now he sat down on the couch, slumped down almost, his hands flying to his temples in a very human gesture of agitation. Jean-Luc had never seen the entity so affected by anything, except perhaps for that one time they’d turned Q into a human. His eyes were staring into the middle distance much like they had when Q had appeared on their viewscreen, all those years back, having just made off with the shuttlecraft that had almost transported him to certain death. Q was once more prepared to do something drastic for Picard’s sake; only now, he’d have to live with it. For a being so unaccustomed to pain, perhaps this was a scarier prospect than a quick, clean death.
“First of all, no one is inherently bad,” Picard began. It was going to be a long speech.
Q just looked away and huffed, but without any of his usual aloof attitude. He just seemed… tired. Resigned. In that moment he looked very, very old.
“Listen to me,” Picard continued. “I said these things to you – I was so harsh to you – because I presumed you wouldn’t listen. If I’d known it would actually affect you, hurt you like this…”
“You said these things because they were true. I loved you,” Q’s voice was hollow, “and yet I only ever entered your life bringing destruction to everything you valued, your ship, your crew, even your little fling with Vash wasn’t safe from me – I have no right to hurt feelings.”
“Last time was different.”
Q shot him a positively venomous look. “That so, Picard?”
“Yes.” Jean-Luc was certain, and he was not going to back down from this. “But you were always trying to help me along, not just last time, weren’t you? You did it in a way that was often callous and condescending and lacked empathy – like divine interference from a god who doesn’t know how not to be vengeful. But I – and the Federation and humanity – came out of it stronger and maybe a bit wiser. And if you were beyond redemption, this conversation would not be happening, now would it? So why do you insist that I’m better off without you? Are you trying to become some sort of martyr?”
Q physically recoiled from the word. “No! Martyrdom is no fun when there’s no one to acknowledge one’s suffering. I’m trying to do this for you! I want to know you safe and happy! And you’d be safest and happiest far away from any Continuum members, especially me! Don’t you see, I understand now. It took me a whole decade to get the simple hint that I’m not wanted here, but I get it now!” Q was pacing again, frantically, looking close to actual tears. “Why won’t you just let me do this for you, Picard?”
“Because you might be wanted here,” Picard said. “I might love you back.”
Q… froze. He just stood there with his back to Picard, completely still, like a bizarre sculpture in his robes that some incomprehensible alien race had dumped in the middle of Picard’s quarters for Picard to deal with. Then he turned around, agonizingly slowly. He was pale.
“You… love me.” The words seemed to come from far away. “But… you can’t do that.”
“I believe I can.”
Q hung his head, his fists clenching and unclenching by his sides. For all his vast intelligence, this simple statement seemed to have overloaded the entity.
“Are you quite alright?” Picard asked.
“No. Well. I don’t know.” Q went over to the couch and sat down again. “I just thought you’d like my gift,” he muttered to his knees.
Picard sat down beside him. “I like you,” he said. And yes, he really did, and it was amazing to just let that realization permeate his entire self. “And I reckon I’d like to be with you some more.”
Carefully, he put a hand on Q’s. Q sighed at the touch. “I’m sure I can make time for that,” he said. “Just… tell me what to do. That should be safest. I’ll come when you call for me. I’ll try and… oh, if you want me to forsake my powers again… I could. I can. I will. This time I’ll get it right. Just say the word. Anything you tell me to do, I’ll do it. Or at least I’ll make an attempt. Anything. Tell me to go away, or to cease to exist, or to turn from the Continuum, I will.”
“Q, shhh. Listen for a moment.” Picard squeezed Q’s hand, halting his stream of words. He wanted to make Q feel accepted, but he couldn’t let their relationship begin like this. “What I want you to do is… to look out for yourself as well. I want you to be happy with me. You’re not a genie in a bottle who fulfills my every wish. I want you to only do things that you want to do.”
“I want to please you,” Q said without the slightest hesitation. It was a bit jarring from such a normally detached and prideful creature. “I want you to trust me more.”
“Fair enough, but you won’t please me by making yourself miserable. It is not my place to infringe upon your freedom or happiness by demanding you give up your powers, or use them only to serve humanity and me, or turn against the Continuum, or these other things you mention. We’re both going to have to make concessions to make this work. But if you find that the concessions on your side outweigh the joy you derive from being with me, it is your right to complain, to discuss things with me, even to leave if it becomes unbearable.”
Q laughed a little, in a sort of private mirth Picard did not quite understand.
“What is funny?”
“What you’re proposing sounds… more than satisfactory. Usually when I observe you solving a problem, you take hours, sometimes even days, to come by the solution, in that typically small-minded human way of yours – no offense intended. But you say these things you just said as if they were nothing. Is this a species-wide accepted standard upon which human romantic relationships are based? Or just your personal philosophy?”
“Ideally, all human interpersonal relationships should be communication-based.”
“We aren’t like that in the Continuum. I mean, who would go through the trouble just for someone else?” When Q saw Picard’s expression of distaste, he hurried to add, “Not that I’m unwilling to make the effort for you. It sounds like it might be… good.”
Picard sighed. “We come from very different cultures, my Q.”
Q’s full lips twisted into a lopsided smile. “My Q. I find I like the sound of that.”
There would indeed be cultural divides to bridge, far more than with your average relationship. Then there was the matter of Picard’s mortality, the Continuum, the Enterprise crew, and surely countless more. It would hopefully be good, but certainly not always easy. But for now, Picard just leaned in and finally kissed Q again.
It was every bit as heavenly as the first time.