Title: A Wonderfully Improbable Chain of Events
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: Images of tattered black sails swarmed in from all around Lwaxana, crowding out any other whispers of thought. 3600 words.
Spoilers: General ST:TNG, especially "Menage a Troi" and "Qpid"; "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl".
Notes: For GrayCardinal, for the request, "TNG/Pirates, with Lwaxana Troi"- and I'm afraid I couldn't resist referencing the new movie. Includes some non-graphic violence.
Lwaxana staggered a little, lifting a hand to her breast as the world swayed dizzily around her. There was something terribly wrong with her balance; something had happened to her dress, and where was Deanna? She gazed around wildly as she strove to brace herself against the drunkenly tilting floor, and wondered just when they'd been transported into the holodeck. How could she have missed it?
"Deanna?" she asked worriedly, blinking as the details of the scenario filtered in: a thick shroud of white mist mantling the wooden deck and railings of an old-style sailing ship. Above her head, rents in the fog bore witness to a bright blue sky, and over the rail she could see the heaving swell of dark, rolling waves. She blinked, then swallowed, alarmed; what could have possessed her daughter to order up such an environment? She knew very well that Lwaxana had a slight tendency toward motion sickness.
What had she been doing? Lwaxana took a cautious step, then another as her steps grew surer, and made her way to the railing. The last thing she remembered was standing in Deanna's quarters aboard the Enterprise, having a spirited discussion about that- entity that was constantly hijacking Jean-Luc's ship and dragging them all over the galaxy to serve his whim.
Q: that was his name. Pretentious being, claiming only a single letter of the Standard alphabet as a name, as though it couldn't possibly be associated with anything else. Though at least it was an uncommon identity to choose, which certainly fit with the rest of his behavior. She could almost admire the being's sense of style, if it weren't for the fact that he kept making free with everyone else's... everyone. Oh, all right; so maybe Jean-Luc wasn't hers, but her daughter certainly was.
Deanna? she called again, reaching out with her thoughts, and frowned at the complete lack of response. It wasn't simply silence, as though her daughter were asleep or shutting her out; it felt like absence, as if Deanna truly weren't anywhere nearby. What in the name of Riix had happened?
She clutched at the rail and tried to remember the last thing she'd said. It had been something about that Q, she was sure. Something about the tale her daughter had been telling her- ah, yes. 'Sheriff of Nottingham? He should have presented himself as a pirate- it would have been truer to his nature. Commandeering you and your ship willy-nilly whenever it suits his fancy. When you followed your father into Starfleet I hoped you'd meet interesting men, dear, but not to this extreme- petulant little demigods who don't even have the decency to cast you as Maid Marian in their little fancies. Honestly!'
And then, Deanna had replied- Deanna had said- or had she actually said anything? Lwaxana's memory was a complete blank beyond that point. It was as though she'd been instantly transported onto this- ship?- wherever it might be.
She shook her head, dismayed, then started as an insistent tug at the waist of her dress interrupted her uncertainties. She blinked and looked down to find a human boy perhaps ten or twelve Standard years old carefully pulling at the fabric; he had slightly wavy light brown hair, and wide brown eyes that reminded her of Ian's under a brow wrinkled up at her in concern.
"Yes, dear?" she said, wondering whose little one he was. He was adorable; quite the sweet-faced child, despite the marks of dirt and wear clearly indicating his lack of social rank. Even his thoughts were the sweetest things; she could already hear his worry for 'the pretty lady' before he even opened his mouth.
"Are you all right?" he asked, speaking with an accent very like Jean-Luc's.
Lwaxana gave him a warm smile. Perhaps he was a relative of the Captain? But however he'd ended up in this holodeck program with her, he was still a child, and it bothered her to be the source of any child's unease. "I'm fine, dear. I just don't have very good sea legs, I'm afraid."
"Then why are you on a ship?" he asked, all innocence.
Lwaxana chuckled. Just like a young one to see right to the heart of the matter, though she was a little disappointed; she'd been hoping he knew more than she did about her arrival. But his mental image of her was flavored like it might have been for any older lady not his mother; she was just another passenger to him, if one he hadn't seen before. "That's a very good question," she said.
He opened his mouth to ask another question- but before it could emerge, he stiffened and a flash of fear drowned out everything else he was feeling. And- it wasn't only his. She hadn't been paying much attention to the other presences audible to her telepathic reach while speaking with him, assuming they belonged to the crew of the Enterprise, but in the moment of his terror, many of those voices joined in, all focused on the same thing. Images of tattered black cloth swarmed in from all around her, crowding out any other whispers of thought.
"The Black Pearl," someone said, voice shaking with emotion.
Lwaxana turned back to the rail, a creeping uneasiness stealing the strength from her as it sank in that wherever she was- it wasn't anywhere civilized. Unless this scenario was all one vast hoax, she was genuinely on a seagoing ship somewhere, genuinely floating on a planet-based ocean- alone. No daughter, no Mr. Hamm waiting to carry out her orders. Just a crew full of primitive humanity- and another ship parting the swirling mist. The mouths of what could only be old-fashioned gunpowder cannon stared back at her from the other vessel, run out and aimed in their ship's direction.
'So this is how the mother of the pedantic ship's counselor thinks of me?' a whisper of a voice floated up from her memory, one she hadn't recalled until now- he'd been the one to answer her after all, not Deanna. 'From your extensive experience with Ferengi, no doubt. How amusing. I wonder if you'd still say the same thing after an encounter with real pirates?'
She had just enough time to reach out and clutch the boy close, stomach rolling from more than just the motion of the sea, when the world erupted around them in thunder and flame.
The next several minutes passed all in a blur. First she suffered the jarring sensation of deck planking heaving under her feet; then the shouts of the crew deafened her as they attempted to prepare to return fire; the boy- Will Turner, it seemed- struggled in her grasp in a rising determination to do something to help rather than continue to hide in the pretty lady's arms; and then another volley of shot sent a ball through a nearby section of railing. The offending weight of iron whizzed by, abruptly silencing one of the voices in her mind, and she made certain to shield her young friend's eyes even as sharp splinters cut her cheek and tugged at her dress. She backed away from the railing, hoping to find the dubious shelter of one of the ship's cabins- and then her luck ran out altogether.
The ship tilted more severely under Lwaxana's feet- and her balance was still compromised from her sudden appearance aboard ship. She staggered toward the open section of railing. And then, clutching tightly to one another's clothing, she and Will Turner tumbled into the welcoming embrace of the sea.
From there, the nightmare only got worse. The water was cold, so much colder than the last time she'd waded along a shoreline on Betazed; her heavy clothes weighed her down, and she was not as strong a swimmer as young Mr. Turner. The two ships continued to exchange massed fire overhead; the merchant vessel had finally run out its own guns, though it was at a clear disadvantage, and the attacking ship, black from the sail to the waterline, never let up its efforts to disable its prey. The scents of salt and gunpowder choked the air around them- and minds kept winking out, one by one, some immediate and some after drawn-out broadcasts of pain.
Lwaxana helped the boy scramble aboard a detached bit of wood- perhaps a hatch-cover thrown clear of their ship, or one side of a transport crate- and held on tight, trying not to succumb to despair. She was a Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed and a seasoned traveler, not some shrinking flower; she had been caught off guard, but she would not be conquered so easily. But at the same time, she knew- that arrogant, obscenely powerful pest hadn't been entirely wrong. She hadn't met real pirates before. DaiMon Tog may have been an acquisitive little louse who didn't respect the word 'no', but somehow she doubted he'd ever been quite as bent on evil as the men aboard the black ship- if in fact she could call them men at all.
They hungered. They thirsted and they lusted, as strongly as if they'd never been satisfied and never expected to be again, and their every thought was bent on the merchant ship: on something they believed it carried. They gloried in the damage, in the blood spilt in their attack, and they hated; oh, they hated, with a staggering degree of intensity.
It nearly overwhelmed her; and Lwaxana focused all the attention she could spare from survival on blocking it out. She wasn't as young as she used to be, but she was determined to endure; and so she did, until the thundering crash of a vast explosion shattered their erstwhile transport and the pirate ship receded into the distance at last. Young Will had faded into unconsciousness as well, his body lax on their impromptu little raft. And approaching from another vector, a more orderly swarm of mental voices: yet another ship, crewed by men of- the British Navy?
Had she been sent into the past- Earth's past? Lwaxana allowed herself to marvel at the idea, wondering if she might encounter one of dear Jean-Luc's ancestors, to distract herself as the ship drew closer and cries of "Man overboard!" brought rescue to them at last.
She couldn't help but wonder, though. Had Q made his point yet, or were the attackers due to return? She clung closely to the sailor who drew her aboard, loudly mourning the damage to her hairstyle- though at least her wig hadn't been carried away!- and dress as he lowered her to the deck in a sodden heap of fabric. Then it was the boy's turn, and she fretted over him as well, with the eager help of another young thing with wide eyes and wondering thoughts.
Two self-important men, obviously of some rank, had attempted to ask Lwaxana questions, but she'd feigned incoherent distress until they found another source of distraction, certain she would not know what to tell them- and they'd left the little one, one of their daughters, to pretend to watch over them to keep her out of harm's way. And oh, she was a delightful child as well, filled with curiosity and a fervent imagination, so unlike her own Deanna at that age; Lwaxana smiled at her as she brushed the hair out of Will's eyes.
"I'm Elizabeth Swann," the girl said, clearly, all the while thinking how very beautiful and mysterious he was.
The boy came awake then, just briefly; he clutched at her hand, eyes only for her face. His thoughts were still muzzy, wondering when the pretty lady had left, and if the prettier girl would leave him, too, hovering on the cusp of unconsciousness. "Will Turner," he gasped.
The girl beamed at him. "I'm watching over you, Will," she said, enchanted by him- by the whole idea of him, survivor of a pirate attack and all.
He clutched her hand, then relaxed again, eyes fluttering closed once more.
And that was that: Lwaxana could almost see their entire future unfolding from that moment. The men in charge of the ship would surely do what they could to set up a boy of no family and no position with the means to feed and clothe himself- but that would be the extent of their responsibility. And this girl, the daughter of a governor would maintain her fascination with him forever, encouraged by the scandalous nature of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, that might evolve between them.
Especially after the girl spotted a chain beneath the boy's shirt and tugged it out- instantly convincing herself that the medallion he wore meant he must be a pirate himself.
Lwaxana sighed and allowed herself a moment of motherly reminiscence, wondering if her daughter would ever allow her own Will to catch her again, or if she'd make some other, more exotic match. Either way, if she ever did settle, she'd be following in Lwaxana's footsteps. But she feared that unlike her own romantic adventures, there would be very little of this sort of imaginative, absurd sensibility in whatever pairing or pairings Deanna made.
Well, perhaps she could at least prevent future heartache for this budding Romeo and Juliet. She knew the boy had at least a rudimentary education, more than might be explained by his clothes, as he'd been thinking frustrated thoughts about mathematical figures when he'd first noticed her; he'd apparently been sitting in with the younger members of the crew at their navigation lessons. And he had manners; whatever had happened to his own mother, she'd taught him above his station. So Lwaxana merely had to convince the girl's father that Master Turner was someone of importance, and the potential drama would fade into familiarity and contempt.
"He's not a pirate, child; he was a passenger on the same ship I was, and my ward," she said kindly, drawing the girl's attention. Then she raised her voice. "My name is Lwaxana Troi; and I am a daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, and Heir to the Holy Rings. His mother died, poor dear, and I was accompanying him to find family when..." She pressed a hand to her breast and trailed off, well aware of the approach of the ship's lieutenant.
"When your ship was attacked," the man said gravely. "My condolences, Lady Troi. Our next port of call is Port Royal- we'll make every effort to see to your comfort and the boy's until we arrive."
"Thank you, my good sir," she told him, in her best regal manners. He though her too old to be very attractive, which stung her a little; but she was used to that in humans, whose sexual peak was so very young compared to a Betazoid's. More appealing was the earnestness in his thoughts; he meant what he said, every word of it.
Whether Q came back for her or not- and she wasn't dwelling on the possibility that he would't more than she absolutely had to in order to establish herself in this time- that ought to secure a little more respect for her young friend than if he were the penniless orphan the ship's men had thought him at first glance. She hadn't even had to lie; merely imply. And as for the still-fascinated Elizabeth, who had removed Will's medallion and hid it behind her back at the lieutenant's approach-
Ah, there was the girl's father. Lwaxana drew herself carefully to her full height again to greet him, smiling gratefully and projecting as much confidence as she could. "Governor Swann, I must thank you for our rescue," she said, warmly. "This was not the reception we expected in these waters! Though I'm afraid we might have done you a disservice- your daughter is already quite taken in by my ward. After such a first meeting, only familiarity enough to expose his faults will save her from head-strong romantic notions; I well remember what I was like at that age."
The words headstrong and romantic made a clear impact on the man, she could tell, and the corners of Lwaxana's mouth dimpled a little in amusement as he replied. "Though surely all little girls outgrow such improper notions?" he said; and oh, his culture was even more repressive than she would have imagined from what she knew of Earth history. Arranged marriages were one thing. But the complete patriarchal arrangement of a daughter's life!
She almost demurred at that- but no, such a girl as Elizabeth would find some way to rebel, regardless, and the governor was a soft-hearted man beneath that stiff jacket, she sensed. And this would make things much better for the boy, the closest thing she had to a friend in this strange situation.
"Oh, I don't know," she said, lightly, "I never did. My parents were quite startled by my first marriage. Ah, my Ian; I doubt I would have seen quite so much of the world, had I never married him." There; let him think her a widow of rank but slightly murky past, sent abroad to 'rusticate' by a disapproving family.
And he did; that much was clear. Governor Swann narrowed his eyes at the children, then took the arm of a passing sailor and murmured at him to take the boy below. Then he turned back to Lwaxana, offering his arm. Ironically, though he was still concerned for his daughter, his admiration for her had only increased, and he was already wondering whether any warm clothing might be found for her, and whether it would require her to don men's trousers. The question of the shapeliness of her legs hovered at the back of his thoughts; apparently, there was no Mrs. Swann at present.
Under other circumstances, Lwaxana might have been tempted. But this was not the time. And so she allowed him to escort her to a hastily-vacated cabin, exchanging polite but distant conversation until the door closed behind her, and she was at last alone.
Alone, for the first time since she'd appeared on the deck of a ship- surrounded by foreign minds, and still out of range of her daughter. Lwaxana sank onto the bunk, feeling every moment of the day's exertion in her aching bones, and dropped her bedraggled head into her hands.
"And I thought humans had potential for chaos," an admiring male voice suddenly announced. "But you've done more than create chaos, my dear. One simple conversation, and you've splintered off an entirely new fate for humanity. They talk about a butterfly flapping its wings and creating a hurricane, but you've nearly destroyed two entire sentient species with this morning's work." It was Q- and he was gloating!
Lwaxana lifted her head from her hands in astonishment- and found herself back on the Enterprise in Deanna's quarters, back in her own clean clothes, the scents of smoke and seawater gone, the deck steady under her feet, and familiar minds around her. "What do you mean?" she demanded, sharply.
"For want of an apprentice, Mr. Brown's smithy foundered. For want of a romantic rival, Lieutenant Norrington taught fencing to Miss Swann's foster brother instead, wielding an inferior blade. Master Turner sailed to a sister's rescue, not a lover's- and they both fell under the spell of one Captain Jack Sparrow. To make a long story short, a reckless pirate became captain of the Dutchman rather than a responsible young husband- and centuries later, after the Dutchman followed the rest of humanity to the stars, a slight rum-enabled error in navigation resulted in an unscheduled supernova that will destroy Romulus and prompt a crazed miner to travel back in time to wipe out Vulcan. What a wonderfully improbable chain of events!"
His glee faded a little as she stared at him in half-alarmed disbelief. "Not in this timeline, of course. I split it off immediately. But oh, such beautiful chaos! I'll have to visit there myself; perhaps that Jean-Luc is a little less uptight than this one. Their Kirk certainly is." He grinned.
"Mr. Q!" she objected, scowling at him. "For all I know that entire experience was nothing more than some imaginative attempt at punishing my daughter. How do I know you're not lying to me, even now?" She could feel the weight of his mind, but nothing more specific than that- he was too powerful to read, and that left her more uncertain than she was used to in dealing with another sentient being.
"Why would I lie when the truth is so much more fascinating?" He grinned at her insouciantly. "But do tell that disapproving daughter of yours that I still appreciate your universe best." He winked, then snapped his fingers, and was gone in a flash of light-
-that left behind her daughter, looking startled.
"Mother?" Deanna said, looking around in confusion. "What happened?"
Lwaxana had never been more pleased to see her daughter, despite her running concerns regarding Deanna's love life and career. She thought about the serious little boy she'd intended to do a kindness for, and what Q said had come of it; and of a daydreaming little girl, who had apparently fallen in love with a pirate despite Lwaxana's intervention. Well, good for her. And in the end, did it even matter whether any of it had been real? Lwaxana was here, and so was Deanna.
"Oh, Little One. Do I have a story for you," she said, and reached for her daughter's hands.