Q scowled as he surveyed the wreckage of the Borg cubes. He'd missed all the fun, even if things had gone the way he'd planned.
Picard thought he was as subtle as a sledgehammer, but after four billion years he'd forgotten more about being subtle than Picard had ever known.
Who else would have altered Buffy Summers ships trajectory two hundred years previously so that it would be intercepted by the traders who would sell her cryogenics unit to the Trader Kivas Fajo? In the original timeline she would have simply drifted in space, lost.
He'd known what would happen; Buffy Summers was anything if not predictable. If there was an enemy of humanity, she'd be leading the charge. The fact that she carried the Seed had made things all the easier.
There was something he'd forgotten.
It took him a picosecond to remember, and a moment later he flashed back in time fifteen years. He was standing on the rings of Saturn, which even in this era of humanity were largely deserted.
The Key was dancing among the individual ice chunks that actually composed the rings. It froze as it saw him.
Q smiled and bowed. She could see through the human façade and recognized the other form he'd worn the last time they met. She'd had the form of a human then, seemingly fifteen. He'd pretended not to know what she was, and she'd thought he was just another demon.
*Why are you here?*
"Your sister is going to need you," Q said. "In about fifteen years."
The Key wasn't Dawn Summers, and Dawn Summers hadn't exactly been the Key. What she was now was a fusion of the two. Both of them were loyal to her sister, however.
He reached out and touched her. Unlike the humans or androids that had touched her, he could feel the reality of her. He could see the perfection that the Borg had associated with the Omega particle. She was beautiful even without her human form.
*Take me there!*
He shook his head. "There are those who don't want magic to come back. They are watching a span of time before the moment is to occur. If they catch me interfering within a few years of the event they'll stop me."
It wasn't easy admitting that there were beings capable of stopping him. The other Q, a number of species humanity hadn't even encountered yet, and some they had and simply didn't recognize.
The Key flickered.
"It's about seven light years that way," Q said. He implanted the information in her mind.
Alone she was incapable of faster than light speed, at least for now. Later, when she fully understood her abilities that might change.
She had just enough time to get there at her maximum speed; he didn't mention to her that she could have hitched a ride on a starship. Of course, there was nothing worth visiting there anyway, so the odds of finding a ship were slim at best, and the time she lost might be enough that she wouldn't get there in time.
It was best just to make the trip the hard way. After a moment's hesitation she sped away. He watched her leave appreciatively.
She was far less powerful than a Q, at least for now, and yet she was far more immortal. Q weapons wouldn't even scratch her. Moreover, she shared a characteristic with those creatures born or designed to be truly immortal.
She didn't have a human sense of time. The universe was an endless moment to the Key, experienced without boredom or regret or frustration. What fascinated Q was that she'd been human once, and she could understand the human frame of reference.
The Q had only ascended ten thousand years ago; before that they'd simply been another highly evolved corporeal species. All the Q in existence now had been in existence then; yet their ages varied widely. When the ability to travel through time and space was factored in, most of them were billions of years old.
The youngest were ironically those who were the most conservative and homebound. They'd retired early from the game. The more adventurous had stayed away longer, yet as wind and rain eventually wore mountains into plains, the sheer passage of time had eventually worn them down. They'd all become as hidebound and boring as the hermits.
It was a fate Q knew he himself would eventually reach. He'd seen himself, on occasion, in places he hadn't remembered being. The veiled look of abject horror in his own eyes had haunted him. If four billion years had been overwhelming, how would six billion feel? Ten?
The Key, and others like her were immune to all that. The endless moment was everything. Yet the Key was endowed with the ability to understand linear time just like the monkeys. In the words of the vampire Spike, she'd been a real girl once.
She fascinated him.
A blink and he returned to the present. The magic was back and everything was as it was supposed to be.
All of the Q had taken their turns playing heroes and villains. The sheer monotony of the years almost required it. In Q's time, he'd had many roles and many names. Yet somehow he always seemed to return to his roots.
To Anya's people he'd been known as Loki. In Africa he'd been Anansi, the Spider. In the Americas he'd been Coyote, and Raven. He'd been worshipped as the trickster since mankind had first picked up a stick to defend itself.
He'd once been known as Janus among the Romans, the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He'd still had a few followers in Buffy's time, when the worship had changed. He'd been seen as a god of chaos, worshipped by the like of Ethan Rayne.
There were still two or three colonies in the Federation that still celebrated Halloween. Q found himself smirking. It would be easy to slip the old costume incantation into a few old books, or even into a few databases. Halloween could be fun again.
Chaos was where the fun was. Q loved to find out that he didn't know everything, and magic tended to promote chaos.
Buffy Summers was created chaos, whether she knew it or not, and she was an agent of change.
That was the nature of legends- they began as people who changed the world. Buffy Summers wouldn't soon be forgotten. She wasn't the kind of person who would ever be happy in a regulated, boring life. The fact that she was finding happiness in the controlled chaos of Slayer central didn't surprise him at all.
Stepping onto an abandoned piece of Borg hull, discarded as being useless by the Federation, he waited. The wreckage of the cubes had been sifted through for useful equipment and the rest had been left behind. The system was uninhabited and the Federation had been busy with other things.
The Key, having served her purpose and having unlocked the magic, was flitting aimlessly about the wreckage.
"How would you like to have a body again?" Q asked.
Despite the vacuum of space, she heard him quite well. He heard her affirmative response as well.
Reaching out to her, he exerted his will. A moment later she was standing before him as she was when he'd first seen her.
"I haven't seen this body for a while," Dawn said. She looked up at him and frowned. "How did the song go?"
Q smiled and allowed his skin to change to that of his red, demonic form. His clothes changed as well, and he realized that he'd forgotten how good a well-tailored suit fit him.
"Why'd you run away, don't you like my….style?" he sang. He danced expertly in the air. "Why don't you come and play, I'll guarantee you a…great big smile."
She smiled slightly. "Now I remember. I was fifteen and you were going to take me off to be your queen in hell."
"Well, not hell exactly," Q said. "Everyone just assumed."
"I was a little young to be playing games like that with," she said, but she smiled slightly.
"You were fifteen, or six months, or fourteen billion years old," Q said. "We'd have both been robbing the cradle."
She looked down at herself and a moment later she looked as she had when she was twenty five. "This is when I was happiest, before everything fell apart."
She had the mind of an eighty year old woman mixed with that of a timeless being that would never grow old. It was an intriguing combination.
"Are you still doing the whole musical thing?" she asked, looking up at him.
"I'm just about to start," Q said. He took her hand. "Slayers are even more fun to torment than starship captains."
"Don't," she said.
"You still care about them?"
"Many of them are my children," she said. "Besides…weren't you about to offer to show me the universe?"
He spun her around, and this time they were back at the rings of Saturn, dancing from piece of ice to piece of ice. She surprised him with how well she danced; she'd obviously learned a great deal since she'd been fifteen, and she'd had talent even then.
"It might be fun," he admitted.
Something new to occupy a couple of million years was exactly what he needed to stave off the ennui that threatened to overwhelm him as it did the rest of the continuum.
He could always return to this very moment if he had to, ready to start chaos all over, but for the moment he had something new to spend his time with.
Hmmm…..Dawn meant new. The Buffybot had been right all along.
He hadn't had anything to do with the Buffybot's re-emergence, but she might be fun to visit someday as well. She, at least had the value of being a little more long lived than Picard or her sister. Perhaps Dawn might like to drop in for a visit.
"You know, I really did give Nero his very first fiddle," Q said. "I wasn't bragging."
"I want to hear more music and less about burned bodies," Dawn said, dancing nimbly away from him.
"This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," Q said.
"Really….quoting old movies you think I haven't seen? Is this how you plan on starting the relationship?" Dawn smirked. "I only look twenty five."
Of course, he might just end up dumping her off on Buffy's doorstep. What had he been thinking, when she was fifteen? Fifteen year olds had an annoying tendency to whine.
"How do you think the Romulans feel about musicals?" he asked suddenly. "Or maybe one of the Borg mini-collectives?"
She shrugged and gave him a small grin. "Well, why don't we just go and find out?"
A partner in crime and an immortal to boot?
Disclaimer: For the final time, I don't own Buffy or Star Trek characters. I used a couple of lines from Once more with Feeling in this segment. I don't own those either.
Thanks for the feedback to this fic. I really appreciate it.