Xenon


Happy Birthday To You


She swung her legs over the edge of the planetary ring, dangling them out in space. She kicked them experimentally, swinging her ankles like on the playgrounds of her childhood Earth. Five years... it was nothing compared to how long her species lived. In her reality it was only a blink in time since she'd left the Enterprise. But she felt old, weighed, over-encumbered by all she'd learned since arriving in the continuum. But she didn't have to think about that now; she could put that life on hold in leu of some much needed 'me-time'. Amanda sighed in contentment, watching the distant quasar pulse a glow. Beautiful sight... so peaceful. Around her, sparking ice crystals that formed the planet's rings were singing and rippling under her; the perfect little perch to watch the stars. She could never have imagined sitting here, watching the universe, in all her childhood fantasies. But here she was. It was like a dream… although she hadn't dreamed in so many years.

She remembered when Q had first brought her to the continuum, how he raged and stormed against them when they made him her tutor. She wasn't particularly happy about it either, but she was too absorbed in the new sensations around her to give any protest at first. Suddenly realizing you consisted only of string energy did that kind of thing to a person.

"She is a child," they had told him, a thousand voices speaking all once.

They threatened him, bargained with him, bribed him; it seemed to take eons. But Amanda, who had finally had enough of them speaking about her as thought she weren't present at all, drove the last nail. If she had any arms to fold they would have been crossed across her chest in indignation.

"I don't really care who teaches me. If you don't want me here I'd be glad to head on back to the third dimension. Let Q teach me if he wants, if not I'll go figure it out by myself." They had all stared at her, silent for once. "You can't keep me here," she added with a dose of extra defiance, "I'll leave right now." Just see if she didn't!

The masters swelled and glowed, "Oh little Q…"

"I am not Q. I might be a Q but my name is Amanda."

"You know," Q pondered with that element of mischief in his voice, "I think I will teach this one. She's got quite the spirit. She could prove… entertaining."

The masters seemed pleased, although with them it was always hard to tell. "Yes, you shall instruct Q on-"

"My name," she ground out, "is Amanda."

The energy around her quavered, "Yes. Amanda," they spoke solemnly.

Amanda had smiled triumphantly. Her excitement flowing throughout her in one smooth motion; she could feel the very atoms within her sliding across one another. It was the most glorious feeling she had ever experienced. Just being pure energy, no human shell to encase her powers. It was dangerous; she knew it, just the feel of energy oozing out of every micron. She could destroy or build civilizations. She could create colors that had never even occurred to the human mind.

It was like that now, sitting on the edge of a planet's ring, watching the quasar. She could be a singular point in the universe… or she could envelop the universe in her very being. Her powers were limitless.

Instead she focused her energy inward, letting her mind wander across old memories. Her first day upon the Enterprise; saying goodbye to her parents; watching the known universe fly away as she and her teacher were thrown through space. She smiled nostalgically and the image of her human form rippled, replaced with the simple pink chiffon outfit she had worn the day she had first learned of being a Q. It was a fond memory, and fitting really, as today was her birthday...

"I give you all this free time and this is what you do with it?"

Amanda wasn't surprised that Q found her. He always had that knack of showing up when you most wanted to be alone. Sometimes, she thought, he made her suffer just for kicks. And now he was sitting at her left shoulder, perched as she was upon the planet's ring, watching her.

"Why do you insist on dressing like that human?"

Amanda glanced at him, "You're looking particularly human today too, Q. And what's wrong with the way I look? This human image is important to me; it's who I am."

He waved her off, "A mere shell! You think too much like a human."

"Well gosh," she was letting an old argument get to her, "I did spend every waking moment of my first nineteen years thinking I was one."

"What are you doing here?" He changed the subject so fast she wasn't even sure he heard her.

She knew her answer would be met with more cynicism and mocking, "I'm celebrating." She looked him meaningfully in the eye, "It's my twenty-fourth birthday."

Q let out a noise of disgust. "Is that why you keep changing your appearance, to age yourself according to human time?"

Amanda swung her legs, looking out at the quasar. She smiled, "I wouldn't expect you to understand. Being human was an important time in my life. I am Amanda, this is what Amanda looks like when she is twenty-four."

"So when you're old and wrinkly-"

She could feel heat bloom in her face, "Okay well maybe I'll stop the aging process before that happens…"

Q laughed, "Vanity outweighs human sentiment once again, how quaint."

Amanda sighed, "What are you even doing here? I thought I was taking a break." She brought her legs up, hugging them to her chest, resting her chin on her knees.

"Yes…" her 'mentor' mulled, "You do seem to require a certain amount of solitude this time every year."

"Birthdays are important where I come from." She hated the way her voice sounded so puny, small and child-like. But she was a young woman now. She'd probably be almost graduated from Starfleet at twenty-four. And what other things did normal twenty-four year old humans do? She should be dating, shopping; maybe falling in love… it was all so far away.

It was an odd feeling, having the continuum. It wasn't like they had forced her to leave; she made the choice by her on free will. But there was still this latent part of her being that harbored this nagging itch, this small bit of resentment towards them. Despite what Dr. Crusher had told her there was still a part of her that hated what she was. But she had long come to terms with the fact that she would always feel that way. It was her human part that hated the Q. It was her human part that kept her dressing like Amanda; that kept her celebrating birthdays.

"I have seen you act only so humanly morose a handful of times before," Q was prattling in his usual way, "Amanda, you have been with the continuum long enough to dissolve those silly little bonds you insist on keeping with that universe."

"I can't," she answered honestly, "I really can't. They are as much of myself as the continuum. It would destroy me."

They fell into relative silence, and Amanda closed her eyes, basking in the hush of space. It felt much like the ebb and flow of the tide. She could feel the particles of around her surge and break against the energy of her body. And she loved her human body; it was a temple to her. Only one other being in the entire universe had ever shown any iota of interest in her human body: the Q sitting next to her. She knew she must fascinate him, like all humans fascinated him. It was his guilty little pleasure. He almost enjoyed being human as much as she did, even if his was a bit more morbid curiosity than genuine love for the race.

She remembered only a few human years ago, while they traveled the cosmos, their brief stint on one particular planet. He was teaching her to control life itself, to render it in her hands and let it flow outward from within her body. She had no idea those of the continuum could create such complexity. It was the first time anyone had ever told her that her powers could be used to design, not destroy.

Q had helped her wrap the planet in her arms, shaping its barren surface into greenery and life. Like spouts lapsing time, palm fronds and high-topped trees broke ground and surged upward. Water bubbled from cracked in the earth. The atmosphere broke through her body and enveloped the entire surface, spreading oxygen throughout the newly formed sky. She had almost faltered, the drain on her powers was very great when compared to how new she was in controlling them. Q had taken over, coaxing through her own energy the remainder of the planet's life sustaining systems. It was with crystal clarity in which Amanda could recall the way her feet sunk pleasantly down in the soft sand of her new planet.

She remembered sitting on one of those newly formed beaches, naked in her human form, watching the water lap peacefully upon the shore. She brought her knees up to her chest, resting her cheek on them, and traced a line in the sand beside her. Instantly the yellowy sand turned the color of crushed pearl. The water glowed blue, xenon waves teeming with unseen microbes.

"Congratulations," Q's appeared behind her from the dense thicket of vegetation. He was sporting one of his khaki 'explorer' outfits. "You are a creator of life in the most basic of senses." He threw his arms wide, voice booming with praise and just a tad bit mockery, "I deem it Amanda-land!"

The thought of mothering an entire planet both elated and terrified her. She wiggled her toes in the sand and said nothing as he sat beside her. Her human emotions were still a very integrated part of her personality, her human modesty still intact. She looked away from Q, "What are you doing here? I thought I was alone..." Her face burned with embarrassment.

He was silent for a long moment, so she turned her head to look at him, unnerved to find he was staring at her with an element of rapt fascination. "One thing I have never understood about humans," she watched, frozen, as he raised his hand, "is the need for a spine." His thumb and forefinger came to a rest on either side between her shoulder blades, tracing her spine down her bare back, coming to a rest above the curve of her hip. Her skin rose in goose bumps at his touch.

She noticed then a strange mix of envy on his face and- and something else. She wondered if, in his wildest dreams, he would choose to be human. The thought amused her. For all the powers they held he still longed for basic human traits: a human body, a human mind. For a moment she might have thought him jealous.

That was the only time she had ever seen such naked emotion on his face. Even now, still watching the quasar in silence, she couldn't tell what he was thinking. You'd think five years spent with someone would produce something akin to a close friendship, but Q always seemed so guarded. Much of their kind were more fluid, open, but equally mistrustful of her. She was the outsider, the half human, if only by association. So while Q was a pain to deal with on a regular basis, Amanda was thankful he was by her side. He didn't scorn her as much as the others.

"You are thinking about your human life." His voice brought her out of her revere. This was true and not true. She could think of a thousand things simultaneously.

Amanda sighed, "I'm thinking about what I'd be doing back on Earth right now. I'd probably be graduating the Academy soon." She looked imploringly at him, even thought she knew he would not understand. "Being twenty-four means I should be having the time of my life…"

"Are you suggesting that sitting in a dull classroom with equally dull humans is preferable to traveling the far expansive of space?"

"Yes and no. It's not the same."

Q 'humphed', a pout on his face, and in that moment he looked as human as he wished to be. He appeared in the same form as on the Enterprise, and Amanda wondered how old he really was, not just the mask of age he wore. She understood after so many years that wildly desperate part of him, that mischievous part, how the power in him rose and swelled, because it did the same in her. And maybe her human emotions let he balance that better. Maybe that's what he envied.

Something was worming its way under her skin. A thought. An idea. A cry to the type of life he should be living so many light-years away. Amanda knew it was impossible, but it was still nagging.

Q raised an eyebrow at her, casting an eye over her garb as if for the first time. He 'hummed', snapping his fingers, and his mock Starfleet uniform suddenly appeared upon his body. At her look he merely shrugged, "Well, if you're going to do it."

She smiled, swinging her legs back over the ring's edge, but couldn't conceal a glum expression from settling back over her face. Q narrowed his eyes, leaning toward her. This was surprising as he was already sitting with her nearly hip to hip. Really, Amanda thought, he had absolutely zero concept of personal space. Still, something flip-flopped within the pit of her stomach.

"What are you doing?"

"Mmm?" She mumbled.

His next words were a slow snarl, "You're acting very strangely."

Amanda rolled her eyes. He could be so temperamental, such a child. "I'm watching the quasar. It happens to be quite peaceful." She rounded on him, "If people would be quiet I could enjoy it even more." He was so close she could see the flecks of color in his eyes, and if just for a moment her mind began playing odd tricks. Amanda could see, so very vividly, herself, a normal woman of normal circumstances, sitting next to Q in some normal mundane setting- it was so very close- so very real- so very human. And she could belong there like that, with him.

Her hand shot out of its own accord, fisting itself in the folds of his uniform. The space between them was minimal; it took almost no effort to cross the gap and kiss him. Q was frozen. He didn't predict this kind of reaction from her. Amanda took the opportunity to push her tongue into his mouth, biting at his lip. When he finally seemed to stir from utter shock and respond she pulled away, suddenly mortified. What was she doing?

"I- I'm-" How do you explain kissing to someone like Q? How do you explain the context behind kissing to someone like Q? Come to think of it, what was the context? Had she simply been longing for the familiar? For home? Or was it something else…

Amanda looked out over the vastness of space before her, thankful that for once Q seemed to be at a loss for words. Finally she sucked in a slow raking breath. "I've only ever kissed one boy before, back on Earth, in fourth grade. His name was Robbie Milton. We use to share our yogurt together during recess." She smiled ruefully, "You think I'm so human… and I try to debunk all your preconceived notions about humans and there I go acting so humanly irrational." She stole a glance in his direction. He was staring very hard at his knees. When he didn't answer she pressed forward, "I'm sorry."

Still not looking at her, Q spoke in a surprisingly hushed tone; "I mistake you for human very often." That was as close to an 'I'm sorry too' she was ever going to get from him.

"Q, you've been teaching me so much about the continuum. Did you ever thing there might be a thing or two you could learn from me?"

He scoffed, then spat out "What would I possibly want to learn about humans?"

"Oh lots of things," Amanda allowed her hand, which had been gripping the edge of the planets ring, to move so her fingers overlaid his hand. She hoped the action would be interpreted as friendly, but was afraid she was fooling even herself.

A slow moving smile turned his lips, but she wasn't sure if it was one of his deviously evil smiles or something much more rare.

"What an interesting proposal."

"You think I'm being silly…"

"I think you're an infant."

"I'm twenty-"

"Four, yes, I heard you the first time. That means nothing to the Q."

She felt a surge of anger, "So what I have to wait a millennia before I'm allowed?"

"'Allowed' to what, exactly?"

The mocking in his voice just infuriated her further. He wanted her to say it? Sadist…

But was she just slave to her human impulses? Or was it something deeper, imprinted on that frightening- powerful- beautiful part of her?

"You are naïve," Q was saying, although Amanda could only vaguely hear him through her maelstrom of thoughts. "Strong creatures with weak convictions could take advantage of you."

"I thought you had no convictions."

"Perhaps," and while he spoke he threaded a hand through the hair at the base of her skull, tugging her head back in one rough motion. "Perhaps I am one of those who would take advantage of your naïveté. I've shown little regard for people in the past."

Her heartbeat thrummed in her ears, "Those were humans."

Q smirked, "True, although much of the continuum would see you as nearly human."

Amanda knew that was true, had expected it to be true, but to hear him say it was so different. It sounded like he very much agreed with them. For something so very obvious Amanda felt uncommonly wounded. It seemed Q recognized the element of pain flicker over her face. His eyes narrowed, but he released his fisted grip on her hair.

"Do you really believe I am no better than those humans the continuum looks down on?"

"What I think is irrelevant."

"Not true. Not to me."

He cocked his head to the side, "Why?"

Amanda laughed, exasperated, "For someone claiming to know everything you can be exceedingly thick sometimes."

"Humor me."

She searched for the right words before saying slowly, "You were the first one who introduced me to what I really am. You were with me every step of the way. I'd be lying if I said that didn't mean something, if I didn't feel something."

"You are attracted to me."

No, no, no, no, no, no- "Yes."

He looked at her suspiciously, "Those are human emotions."

Amanda threw up her hands. Oh give the man a medal! "Is that all you think about? What's human and what's not? Don't you ever just let yourself go with it? Who cares?"

He opened his mouth in retort but closed it sharply. She'd taken him by surprise, and now his guard was down; she could see beneath all that armament. There was this suspended moment where their eyes met, and Amanda was sure he was about to return her impulsive kiss.

Oh god she wished he'd just do it, she wished it with the whole of her powers. Ever sense he helped her shape that planet, dipping into her own humming thread of life, she could recognize that strange magnetism between them. It had been there on the Enterprise, although she'd been just a child. But she was aware now and she deserved it damn it!

Suddenly he straightened up, adjusting his uniform, "I grow tired of this game."

She recoiled, crumpling inward.

Game?

He didn't even glance again in her direction before saying, "Stay here as long as you like, I have things to attend to."

Liar.

And then he was gone, instantly, just like that, and Amanda was left with the beautiful lights of the quasar and the quiet of infinite space. In all that emptiness she felt singular and alone. It was the most humanly insignificant she'd felt in a long time.

Yes, she mused, he did have a lot to learn, and she was all too willing to teach him. Oh no, she'd be damn persistent about it. He wouldn't be rid of her in a thousand years even if he tried. She might be soft from her human years but it wasn't a disadvantage, Amanda could use it.

Just see if she didn't.


A/n- I know this is totally out of left field, but I have to write it. This chapter may feel like filler before the main plot starts taking off, but I think there needs to be an element of personal interaction between Amanda and Q before we progress. I can assure you it won't be all hapless fluff XD

Hope you enjoyed the first chapter, many more to come!