There was a busy evening on the Ten Forward. Most of the tables were taken by the Enterprise crew members and their families, happy to be allowed on board. The planned two weeks on the home planet were a rare occasion for longer family reunions and even little children were allowed to Ten Forward, to the security's, Worf 's especially, growing frustration. He tried to enter the lounge unnoticed, but after a few seconds something little and bright bounced from his legs, before he managed to grab a bunch of blonde hair in his hand. A little boy quickly ran back to the table.
"Mommy, look at his head!"
Worf stiffed and headed towards the bar counter. He sat on one of the stools and ordered himself a plum juice, hoping that he looked as relaxed as everybody else over there. Which was of course not true. Drinking his juice slowly, he looked around. He was still not used to the new appearance of Q, so in the first moment he thought the captain was wrong and Q was not there.
"… I don't believe I have asked, what's your name, Dear?"
"You may call me…" the answer sank in the sudden cry of one of the babies nearby. Worf snapped and almost fell of his stool. He could recognize that tone of voice everywhere. It even didn't sound that different from its male version, he thought. He frowned and started to listen carefully.
Tatiana looked at Nert curiously. From outside, Q seemed to be completely relaxed. A waitress had just cleaned their table after dinner and Q was holding an orange drink with one hand, and gracefully rest her chin on the other hand. She gazed back at Tatiana and listened to her with a soft smile.
"So, tell me, how do you feel on the Enterprise?"
"Like locked in a cage," she replied. Tatiana blinked, surprised. "Just look around," Nert continued, pointing out the windows. "A little box in space, giving an illusion of freedom through its movement among the stars. While in fact, you couldn't survive there even one second. You are completely dependent on this vulnerable technology and most of you even don't have the slightest idea what is it you really want. Everybody here is torn apart. The ship, or the planet. And even if they think they do, they are not capable to fight for that. They don't know what it means to be fully alive.
"Nobody is fully alive if there is nobody to live for," Tatiana commented silently. "But they do. They live for each other. Look." She pointed a little girl climbing on the laps of a young medical officer in blue uniform. Another officer was embracing a young woman dressed like a civilian. "Why do you feel this way? Why a cage?"
"You wouldn't understand." Q shrugged. They silenced for a long while.
"Perhaps I would," Tatiana replied eventually. Nert looked at her curiously. "I don't know where you are from exactly, but wherever it is, must be a unique place. Your sensitivity, your passion for music. I haven't heard such a fire in a performance before. You seem to feel more than most of us.
Q's face looked more and more intrigued. She put away her drink and didn't take her eyes of the woman, who continued speaking.
"I have never met someone like you. My husband always regretted that he didn't have more time for practicing the piano. He would have loved your play, although he also could make me cry with his music. He used to say that if only the music could become a universal language, there would be no wars in the galaxy.
"He had a good point," Nert agreed, not taking her eyes off her.
"He died on duty. I wasn't here yet. I never got to know how, or why. The reports are so... cold." The teacher was speaking louder, with emotions of someone who was holding the pain inside for too long. "It's been over six years, but I remember the day I got the message like it was yesterday. The message was so short! They are so secretive. Even families don't have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. But there are many gossips. Stories about a powerful entity who took the ship to the hostile region of the galaxy and because of it the Enterprise got attacked by those machines. The Borg. I couldn't even bury his body!" Tatiana's hand shook and she put her glass away. "Forgive me, dear. I made you sad. I am talking too much! When I start, I never know when to stop." Speaking this, she looked at Nert with concern. Nert was watching her with wide open eyes, not smiling or drinking anymore. "I want to hear more about you! What do you do on the Enterprise exactly?"
Q snapped from her musing. She drank from her glass again.
"My friend and me," she hesitated. "…are here to heal. From an accident in a hostile part of the galaxy. And that's of course, all confidential." Nert winked at her and smirked. Her face expression changed into the usual nonchalance. "Anyway. I am not going to be here longer than a few days at most."
"Really?" Tatiana looked disappointed. „I just thought it would be wonderful to have you on our commemoration ceremony."
"A commemoration?" Nert rose her eyebrow.
"Haven't you heard? The Annual Commemoration of our victory over Borg!"
Q put her glass away with a loud clink. Next to the counter, Worf frowned and kept his eyes fixed on them.
"You could give a concert! Actually, if I could speak to the captain…" Tatiana was so occupied with the idea that she didn't notice the astonished expression of Nert. "We can even arrange… What's wrong?"
Her last question was addressed to a little, around seven years old girl, who ran to her and reached out her arms for a hug.
"What are you doing here, Jessie?"
"I am so sorry! She slipped out of the room so fast!" An embarrassed looking baby sitter followed the child. Nert was watching them with a growing curiosity.
"But I wanted to play!" The girl said loudly and reached out her hand with a doll dressed in a red Starfleet uniform.
"Jessie, mummy is talking now. You can play with your nanny."
"But she doesn't know how to play a Q!
"What?!" Nert looked at her in question. The girl instantly switched her attention towards her and looked back with no less curiosity.
"What's your name?" She reached out her right hand to shake. For a moment Nert seemed too surprised to speak.
"Jessie, this is Nert. We are talking. We are very busy right now." Tatiana tried to explain but the girl didn't listen to her. She looked at Q amazed and walked closer.
"I am Jessie." She reached out her hand again.
"I see it, but don't believe it." Worf muttered. Forgetting the discretion, he stood up and stared at the scene, holding breath.
"Me neither." He heard from behind the counter. Guinan was watching them for a while already.
"What are you looking at?" Commander Riker joined the company, having decided to spend the night on the ship after all. He walked to the counter and almost tripped over a stool.
"I'll be damned…"
In the meantime, Q seemed to regain her usual self-confidence. She leaned towards the girl and shaking her hand, she asked with amusement.
"So, what were you playing again?"