Author's note:

I am really sad for this to be over. Writing this has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. That's a ton to do with your amazing feedback, so please leave some if you've enjoyed it! (Yep, I'm whoring again. Do it. DO IT. Come out from the shadows, lurkers.) I love knowing there are people out there who like Q even a tad as much as I do. And I loved, loved, loved getting to message some of you!

Thank you so much for reading. In the words of Q: See you... out there.

I couldn't leave him like that, all sad and lonely with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Even leaving the galaxy at his disposal, he'd have a dismal time without me. Perhaps if I only met him once or twice a month, the Continuum would not notice. Perhaps if I did not dole on him too lavishly, too blatantly… not that he would accept anything grand. Perhaps since he was no longer a player in the blip that was the Federation, all of this interaction would coast under the radar.

This was the narrative I told myself, all of it hinging on the simple rule that I not see him too often. And when that rule was broken and broken and broken, I kept telling myself the narrative even though like a deflated parachute it no longer held weight. I didn't care. I wanted what I wanted and I was Q and the universe was mine for the taking. And when the Continuum finally flagged me for it, I blamed Q for thwarting nearly every chance I'd had at getting away. It was a dilemma of fatalism versus free will, I argued, knowing the Q are nauseously fond of that specific philosophical quandary. How could I escape when I'd never been given the choice? That I was diseased no one denied. That I should quit my addiction cold turkey, no one suggested or even thought. Even in species not governed by whims and fancies, the addiction-prone are cared for more than that. I needed to be fondled back to health. But before any plan could be determined or any case worker assigned to me, there was still the small matter of Q, of how much he was to blame for this and whether he should also be involved in my reclamation, which stirred up enough controversy that I went unchecked for a while longer.

Jean-Luc could be blamed as well—not that the Continuum would recognize it. He had a curious way of making one feel present. Back when he was in Starfleet, I believe his inferiors referred to it as charisma and their reaction to it as nerves. I, being superior, did not experience it as that. He did not intimidate me. Quite the opposite: he calmed me. It was as though I was a moon to his planet, a planet to his star, as though simply by existing he lured me in as gravity lures mass, until I could not budge.

How could I begin to deny him anything? The universe least of all.

We never discussed his age. It was a luxury he could blithely ignore it, and more than a little selfish. I would have slowed his degeneration the instant he gave me the word. Whenever I made a passing mention of this, disguised as a quip, he would change the subject or make an empty quip back. Even as his hearing was going, his eyesight, even as I wondered how much longer until his mind went and could I really demand a decision of him then? Would it really be him I was demanding a decision of? Even then, he took his precious little time.

I asked him once over dinner what I would do when he died. He was well past a hundred and I needed to know if he had given it one-thousandth the amount of thought I had. He answered with one of his classic Picard smirks. A little saggier than it used to be, but it caught me just the same.

"You'll throw a party," he said, "larger than the Eugenics wars and the Roman empire." And then he reached over the table and squeezed my hand.