So we're in the 20th century because I really, really love making Picard feel like he's teetering on the brink of annihilating the timeline; he loves his history, he loves traveling back in time to see history, and he hates himself for loving it because he's always absolutely sure he's gonna step on a butterfly and make humanity go extinct. And for the past couple of days, Picard has alternated between whining at me that this isn't safe and he needs to go back to his own time and RETURN ME TO MY SHIP, Q, RIGHT NOW, and staring around him in absolute wonderment at how completely alien to his sensibilities his own species was just a mere 300 years ago... and then when he catches me looking at him doing it, pretending that he's not that impressed and he really just wants to go home.

It gets old. So I leave him to his own devices for a while, with a wallet full of 20th century cash and credit cards. And if he thought he was unnerved by having me walk around with him and snark at the pitiful state of 20th century humanity, he's even more unnerved when I'm not there to be his guide, and it's up to him to NOT CHANGE THE TIMELINE ONE TINY BIT and of course he has no idea how to go about not changing the timeline because he doesn't know what's important. So it's Sunday morning, and he's trying to keep a low profile, and he decides to go hide out in a church because it's a good way to kill a few hours without actually interacting with people in any way that could change anything.

What he forgot when he came up with this clever plan is that I am most likely still watching him. (I am, in fact, still watching him, but at this point all he knows is that I'm probably doing it, since I haven't appeared to tell him so.) And perhaps, since his species has turned mostly atheistic by his time and even those who have a passing interest in believing in an omnipotent, omniscient being who actually cares what they think (um... I'm phrasing this wrong, aren't I? since sometimes I do care what they think... okay, a passing interest in worshipping said being, something I can say with pride that no human does to me) don't organize their whole life around that belief, he was unaware of the degree to which exposing me to religion is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a maddened bee-stung bull. Except that I'm funnier about it.

So he's in this church, and this preacher is going on about how everyone owes everything to Jesus. Jesus died for your sins! Jesus created the world and everything in it! (Theologically I think that's iffy, as the creator entity is supposed to be the Father aspect, but whatever.) Jesus gave you everything! At the point where the preacher says, "The clothes on my back come from Jesus! These shoes I'm wearing, they come from Jesus too! I owe everything I have to Jesus!"... I can't resist anymore.

I pop in, wearing long white robes, long hair, sandals and a beard. Picard, of course, recognizes me right away, and hisses, "Q!" Which I hear, but I ignore.

In a very mild voice I say to the preacher, "I'm sorry, Bob-" (the preacher's name is Bob Harrison, which I know because I'm omniscient), "but I made a mistake. I'm going to have to ask for those shoes back."

The preacher goggles at me... as does the entire congregation. He goes completely white, and chokes out, "L-Lord?"

"Yes," I say, still doing my gentle, mild voice. "I'm glad you got a lot of good use out of those shoes, Bob, but I'm going to need them back now."

Some old woman starts screaming. "I've seen the Lord! He's standing right in front of me! I've seen the Lord Jesus!"

So I turn to the congregation. "Fran, could you please keep it down? I'm trying to talk to Bob here." Picard has covered his eyes with his hands so he doesn't have to watch, and also so he can get himself under control because after half an hour of listening to this guy go on and on about how he owes everything to Jesus, Picard actually thinks what I'm doing is hilarious, but he'll never admit it to anyone, and he's trying to act as if he's mortified so no one will know how close he is to laughing hysterically. Although, he actually is kind of mortified, too. Which just makes it funnier.

Fran, the old lady, screams again. "The Lord Jesus is calling my name! Oh, Lord!"

"Okay, Fran, that's enough. Please shut up," I say to her, putting a little snap into the last part of the phrase, simultaneously using my powers to take away her ability to talk for a few minutes. I look around at the congregation. "While I'm here, I'd like to say that I really can't stand you folks constantly calling me 'Lord, Lord'. It's a bad translation, and besides, I've got a name. If you can't bring yourself to call me Jesus like my friends do, at least use the name 'Christ' instead?"

"Yes, Christ!" several of them chorus, along with lots of random cries of "Jesus, I love you!" and "Save us, Jesus!"

"Now." I turn back to the preacher. "Bob, I really didn't want to have to ask you three times, but can I have those shoes now?"

"A- A- Of course, my lord, I mean Lord Christ, I mean Jesus..." The preacher starts hysterically stammering as he takes his shoes off.

I teleport them into my hand as soon as he's done. "Wow. That's some smell, Bob. You ever try that anti-fungal cream? At least get your wife to put some odor eaters in your socks." I wave my other hand over the shoes ostentatiously. "There we go, no more smell." Then I teleport the shoes onto my own feet, reshaping them so they'll fit since my feet are bigger than Bob's, and manifesting myself a pair of socks while I'm at it. "There we go. You have no idea how much sandals start to chafe when you've been wearing them for two thousand years."

At this point, Picard decides that his presence in this church is only encouraging me, and he squeezes out of the pew and starts heading for the door. I call out to him. "Jean-Luc, exactly where do you think you're going?"

He turns around and faces me. "Away from this, this travesty you're inflicting on these poor people. I can't stop you from doing as you like, Q, but I don't have to watch."

I put on a hurt look. "You don't think I'm Jesus Christ, son of the Creator?"

"You know damn well I don't think any such thing!"

Everyone is staring at him in shock. I smile beatifically at him. "Well, that's okay, Jean-Luc. You can believe whatever you want. I love you anyway." I wave him out of the church. "You go on. You don't have to stay if you'd rather not."

He looks at me as if there's about half a million things he wants to say to me and most of them involve creative uses for profanity, but he can't say any of them without revealing to these people that I'm an alien, which would play holy hell with his precious timeline. So he leaves.

I turn back to the congregation. "Now, while I've got you good folks here, there's a few things I'd like to get straight, okay?" I look around at all of them. "You know, I had a lot to say back in the day about folks like you... folks who turn a blind eye to the poverty all around you, who come to church every day to sing about how great I am without actually listening to anything I had to say. Did you actually read what I said? Because I never said anything about abortion or gay marriage. But I did say you were supposed to give away your money to the poor, and I did say you were supposed to forgive your enemies. So why are you all being such self-righteous hypocrites, focusing all your energies on people you think are having immoral sex and ignoring the people all around you who need help?"

I go on in this vein for a few minutes, calling several of them out by name to expose their personal hypocrises. By the time I'm done, half the congregation is crying, and more than half of them are begging my forgiveness and telling me they're sinners, which I know, and that they'll do better, which I'm pretty sure they won't. Then I teleport out.

I meet up with Picard in a bar, where despite the fact that it is barely noon on a Sunday he has ordered a very strong drink, and sit down next to him. I'm dressed in regular twentieth century clothes now, but I'm still wearing Bob's shoes. "Didn't appreciate my little performance there, did you?"

"Q, I don't even know where to start. Quite aside from the issue of you impersonating those poor people's god to humiliate them, quite aside from the fact that you just stole a man's shoes, we are trying to prevent the timeline from being altered here! Or at least I am! If you go starting a religious panic in the 20th century, what's it going to do to the future I come from?"

"Absolutely nothing." I teleport his drink into my hand and finish it, grinning at him. Whoo, that is strong. "We're in a completely different timeline, Picard. No Eugenics Wars are in the pipeline, here. Nothing you do on this world will have any effect whatsoever on your time."

He stares at me. "Well, you could have told me that days ago, Q, I've been worried sick!"

I grin wider. "I know. I thought it was adorable, actually."

Picard sighs, reaches for his drink, and then notices that it's over by me, and empty. "That doesn't actually make me feel significantly better about you impersonating Jesus Christ, though. Those poor people."

"How do you know I'm not Jesus Christ?"

"Because the only sins I can imagine you being willing to die for, ever, are your own, and only if you're suicidally depressed already."

I laugh. He's got me there. "Oh, touché, mon capitaine. But seriously, they deserved what they got. 'Jesus gave me everything I have?' No, his ability to hoodwink his fellow man and play on their guilt and fears is what got him everything he has. He deserved to lose his shoes." I lean in close. "Besides, you thought it was funny."

"I did not."

"Did so."

"I'm not having this argument with you, Q."

"No, you're having it with Jesus Christ."

"You are not Jesus Christ!" he snaps at me.

"Well, see, the real Jesus Christ's my drinking buddy. He complains to me all the time about you stupid humans being hypocrites, ignoring everything he had to say in favor of what they want to believe, demonizing people who are just like the ones who were his friends when he was mortal in the mistaken belief that he actually wants them to do that... I mean, he comes down and dies to teach you people to love each other, and you use his name as an excuse to go kill each other? The poor guy's actually been on a bender since the Crusades, and I haven't been able to get him off the sauce longer than a year or two in a millennium."

Picard looks at me askance. "I never know whether I should actually take any of these stories of yours seriously or not."

I refill my drink and make him another one. "I'm wounded, Jean-Luc. Everything I've done for you, and you still don't trust me."

"Give that poor fellow his shoes back."

I shake my head. "Naah. If he really wants new shoes, he can ask Jesus for another pair. If he can get the guy sober enough to listen to him."

For updates and notes about my work, visit my Livejournal at alara-r dot livejournal dot com. (Fanfiction dot net strips links, so I have to write it out like that.)

Support my writing and see sneak previews, incompletes, outlines and working notes! Maybe even vote on what I write next, or get me to write you a fic. See my account at www dot dot com slash alarajrogers.