Q swallowed. Jean-Luc had asked and Q had to tell. Q had never been able to deny Jena-Luc anything. Q knew he would be punished. But as he leant forward he found that he didn't care. Not if it meant saving Jean-Luc. Not if it meant saving humanity.

It seemed to happen in slow motion, the nano-seconds passing by the minute and the beat of the captain's heart slowed to a trill.

Q leant down, positioning himself next to Jean-Luc's ear. There was a time when the intimacy he was now showing would have been rebuffed by Picard. But not now. Not this time.

And this just happened to be the one time he couldn't say anything. For the second he was beside Jean-Luc. For the instant with which he could have saved the heart of the man beating in front of him. THEY stopped him. THEY pulled the chair back. The moment was gone and Q had no choice but to scurry behind his built persona, his protective wall, his shield and pray that Picard had seen no weaknesses.

"You'll find out."

Q couldn't say it, not now. Not when there was the whole of the wide, empty room to hear. Not when the Continuum were whispering in his ear:

Tell him and we will strike him down before you

Not when he feared for Jean-Luc's life. So he allowed the chair to rise and depart.

He said nothing.

Nothing to tell Picard of the threat.

Nothing to warn him.

Nothing to save him.

It might have been protection, or it might have been a game.

But Q hated himself for it.

He hated THEM.