Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Star Trek: TNG. The day had been stressful enough already without ending it with a shouting match with Q. Slash; 1100 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Spoilers: General ST:TNG post-series; vague reference to ENT finale
Notes: For Lt. Kitty, who requested "ST:TNG, Picard/Q, old married couple".
Captain Picard turned away from the window and frowned in displeasure at the dark-haired entity effortlessly dominating his ready room. "I cannot believe you're dismissing this so lightly!" he exclaimed.
The entity crossed his arms, scowling back. "Oh, come on, Jean-Luc! What are you complaining about? It's not like it impacted you in any way. I made absolutely sure everything was back the way it was supposed to be after he finished living out his little fantasy."
Picard struggled to keep a grip on his temper; the day had been stressful enough already without ending it with a shouting match with Q. Especially regarding another Captain of an Enterprise with whom the entity had interacted. And of whom he was not at all jealous, damn it. "That's not the point, Q. Why did you even do it in the first place?"
"You should have heard him!" Q uncrossed his arms, gesturing expansively as he spoke; Picard had never met another being quite as-- dramatic-- as Q could be, and when he was in a better mood he almost found the habit endearing.
"Bragging that he could have been an even more legendary Captain than Kirk, if only he had lived in an era before the Prime Directive was set in stone," Q continued, with an arrogant pout. "I just thought I'd let him hang himself with his own words, and liven up that period in your history a little at the same time. Besides, you weren't even supposed to know about it."
Picard found that difficult to believe; Q always seemed to know where and when he was at all times, especially of late. It was remarkable how often he managed to appear aboard the Enterprise without any crewmember other than Picard catching a glimpse of him. "We were transiting the wormhole from the Gamma Quadrant at the time, after our latest diplomatic mission, as you well know. I can only suppose that we were sufficiently out of the normal timestream to be unaffected by the alterations. Imagine our surprise when our next database update from Starfleet contained such-- noteworthy inaccuracies."
His sarcasm seemed to bounce off Q without any significant impact; the entity almost seemed smug as he replied. "Well, they're not inaccurate now, are they?" he smirked. "Besides, like I said, nothing he or his crew did had any long-term consequences: everything that was supposed to happen afterward played out more or less the way it would have before I ever granted his wish. So much for out-Kirking Kirk! All that's left of his exploits are a few references in historical records; he didn't even leave any children behind to pollute your precious timestream."
"Except for Will's holodeck project, which he was happy to discuss with me at great length when I contacted him," Picard replied, sourly. "And whence this obsession with Kirk? I grant you, the man was a legend, but I've never known you to make a habit of defending him. What's really going on here, Q?"
Q crossed his arms again and slouched back against Picard's desk, self-assurance bleeding back to petulance in his expression. "Well, if you must know. I asked him, why did he use that renegade Kirk as his model? Why not the indomitable Picard? And he replied--"
Suddenly, the picture became all too clear. "Q!" he erupted, stabbing an emphatic finger in the entity's direction. "I am perfectly capable of defending my own honor, I hardly need you running around altering the timeline as you see fit just because you're offended on my behalf. How am I supposed to--"
Q rolled his eyes, slouching further in exaggerated casualness. "Oh, here it comes. You're going to play the trust card again, aren't you? Look, I promised not to meddle in your life, your crew's life, your former crewmember's lives, or your missions in general without your explicit agreement, Jean-Luc; I never promised to keep my hands off the human race entirely. Don't I get to have any fun?"
Picard dropped his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, as much to avoid the indecent way Q had widened his eyes and batted his lashes at him as to assuage the headache the convoluted conversation was giving him. He'd seen the sparkle in the depths of Q's gaze that time; the entity was enjoying this far too much.
"You knew very well what would happen when you did this, didn't you?" he said, looking up again. "You wanted me to find out."
"You're so striking when you're filled with righteous anger, you have no idea," Q agreed, dropping the pretense. The casual, schoolboyish slump in posture became the lounging grace of a predator with nary a shift of muscle; his tone of voice became almost lascivious as he continued, dark and rich enough to raise the hairs on the backs of his Picard's arms, among other things. "The flushed skin, the flaring nostrils, the fire in your eyes; you are more than the equal of any would-be second-rate Kirk."
Picard could hardly conceal his reaction to Q's words, but he was not entirely ready to let go of his anger, either. "Surely a self-described omniscient being could think of at least a few ways to provoke me that did not rewrite Federation history or otherwise threaten my sanity," he said, modulating his tone to match the other's.
Q smoldered at him another moment, then laughed in delight. "Perhaps," he said. "I won't lie to you; I had other-- necessary-- reasons meddling for with Archer, but I couldn't resist timing it so you would find out what I'd been up to. Would you feel better if I came and asked permission the next time I had the urge to interfere?" He practically purred the last few words.
Picard swallowed, and decided to shelve the subject before he lost the thread of it entirely. He'd spent more than a decade badgering Q to respect the independence of lesser sentiences; though progress had been made, he knew they were unlikely to reach complete agreement anytime soon. And in the meantime--
He'd rather come to enjoy Q's tendency to exempt him from that category, to treat him as a near-equal. It was hard to maintain his habitual equanimity when he could simply reach out and have the power of a god at his fingertips. Or under them.
"I would prefer it if you came to me for all your urges," he purred back.
Q made a pleasingly surprised, half-strangled noise, then changed their location with a snap of fingers and a flash of light.