I have been rather silent lately. I used to have so much to say, so many opinions and complaints. I have less of those these days.
My mind is calmer.
Still, I should catch you up, shouldn't I? Before I leave you.
I think back on the last time we spoke. I was so adamant against him, so certain I knew why. How ignorant of myself I was. Telling everyone I was done with him, and then striking up a conversation at the first hint of his presence.
And that sly plan of his; he pulled it off without a hitch. He adulated me with that lilting accent, and I went soft. I abandoned my pride about the Continuum. I abandoned my pride when it came to him. I was too intrigued with the thought of being equals.
Friends. What would that feel like? No one in existence had ever called me their friend, not without fear of me destroying them. He didn't fear me. That's something that brought me back to him, after that one hour plea in his home, that even when I had tried to teach him some vague lesson about his place — again, so dishonest with myself, since I was clearly furious— that even then, in the face of my furious outburst, he still wasn't afraid of me.
I didn't think there was anyone else in the universe who was like that. Who understood me so well. Whose company I enjoyed. Who could keep up. So whatever he wanted, it was his. We would be friends.
I was still angry. Like I told him, it was so easy for him. I was carrying the brunt of it. I didn't want to confess that; I wanted our friendship to work out; I would have much preferred not to be angry. Once again, I was so ignorant of myself. And even that little clash, he handled deftly.
He was so damn impressive sometimes. If I wasn't Q, I'm sure I would feel utterly unworthy.
He wanted the universe? I would give it to him, and I would enjoy giving it to him because I was better than anyone else in existence at doing that. And I would enjoy us, enjoy the oddity of us, this friendship phenomenon that had thus far seemed as beyond my grasp as mortality. He was fascinated with the rings of Ylessian, but I, with the long silences between his awestruck observations. He contemplated the merging of the black holes, and I, the absent-minded way he glanced back at me to make sure I was still standing with him. He asked me where we were off to next; I felt the wonder of hearing such a question from him.
The years went on. He was getting older, about to turn a new number. Ninety. 9-0. One decade more and he would be a century old.
I didn't think about it.
Picard was installing a chicken coop into the side of his barn. He called for Q, muttering his name as he nailed wire to a post.
Q appeared further up the post, laying on the fence railing over him. "Bonjour, mon capitaine," he said lazily.
Picard focused on the chicken wire. "I'm having a birthday party next week. I want you to come."
"I don't have a choice?"
"Of course you always have a choice. And you'll have to behave yourself."
Q leaped down from the fence, brushing his hands together. "Is it misbehaving to gift you the Louvre and everything in it? I need to find wrapping paper."
"Aww. Doesn't sound like a very fun party."
"No fun either. In fact I expect you'll be bored, but I would like you there."
"I'll have to check my schedule." Q kicked at the straw on the ground, sending a puff of dirt into the air.
Eight adolescent chicks hobbled from the barn and pecked around Q's feet. Q watched them a moment, his hands shoved into his pockets. Then he vanished.
Picard waited for the chick's reaction to the disappearance, but they seemed no more startled or jittery than usual. When had they gotten so big? he marveled. It seemed only yesterday they had hatched from a box at the foot of his bed: wet shivering things. Soon they would be making eggs of their own.
He wasn't sure if Q was coming to the party or not. He didn't see him until the day of. As he boarded a shuttle to the space dock, he discovered Q sitting in the assigned seat beside his.
"You're late," Q said. "They're already waiting for you up there. Not me, I have better things to do."
"I'm 90 years old today. It takes a little longer getting ready than at 60."
"Why keep them? I can take us there."
Picard smiled. "I know you can, Q."
Q's expression morphed into something doubtful, scheming. He vanished.
Picard glanced at the other shuttle occupants, wondering if Q's presence or else his disappearance had alarmed them, but none of them seemed to have noticed. Even if they had, Picard had enough on his agenda. He was determined to enjoy this day. Q was probably the one person that could ruin that, but that was also why it had felt right to invite him.
Q reappeared when Picard was taking the turbolift through the space dock. They were alone.
"I'll be honest," Q confessed, "I don't feel like celebrating. There's nothing happy about one of your birthdays. I trust you'll understand why."
"And do you understand why I consider it cause for celebration, hm?"
Q groaned moodily.
"I'm sure you will also celebrate your twilight years, Q. I know your age now doesn't amaze you — it amazes me, but not you. One day the number will grow so large it will seem like an accomplishment to you, and you will welcome a little frivolity."
Q raised his chin, seeming to think about it. His retort never came. The doors swished open.
Almost everyone was there. From each stage of his life someone was represented, though most of them were from his time on the Enterprise. There were even one or two children scurrying around at knee-level.
Picard turned to give a pointed glance to Q, a reminder to behave.
Q met the look, his eyebrows raised quizzically at first. As he seemed to understand, his expression relaxed. Without breaking eye contact, he angled his head slightly, amusement twitching his lips, as if to say, "Well? Will I behave?"
Picard patted him on the back, two hard claps which he hoped conveyed a warning. Then he went into the room.
When Jean-Luc left me in the elevator, I became a lone figure watching a panoply of greeting taking place in front of me. My mood soured. I considered going somewhere else. Usually I was in his place in these moments, the focus of all kindness and awe. I had no idea what to do as an onlooker. Apart from a few furtive glances, everyone was ignoring me.
In the end I did vanish — only to reappear reluctantly in the room beyond.
It was a tall, cozy gallery. Half of the windows were open to Earth, the other half to the stars. Those guests not crowding towards Picard were scattered across couches or else gathered at the bar. I positioned myself in front of one of the windows.
I hadn't really wanted to come. I knew what he was doing; I had once accused him of never wanting to be seen with me, so he was fixing that, but it wasn't necessary. The invitation would have been gesture enough. I didn't need more.
I thought about going into that horribly cheerful crowd and telling him that. Then I could leave; then it wouldn't be rude, by his standards. I kept the option ready, just in case.
As the party wore on, I grew more and more bored. Data found me, which was kind of him. He was good for a few minutes' chat. The half-Betazoid counselor walked by, and I called out to her. I thanked her for having some hand in warming up Picard for me. He had told me a little about that. She was gracious and polite, but I could see she had her personal dislike of me to contend with, and she turned down my offer of a gift.
Speaking of gifts, there were many for Jean-Luc — despite him having told me there wouldn't be. Had that rule been for me only? Was it my joke about the Louvre? Did it pain him to imagine publicly accepting a gift from me?
My mood soured further. I stood at the edge of the group, watching him open each gift and finding insurmountable flaws with them all.
It was in this state that Riker sidled up to me. He had shrunken a few inches in his old age, and he was fat. Yes, I mentally took him apart, like one of the gifts.
Riker said, not at all quietly, "Nice to see you here, Q. I didn't think you were one for minor birthday parties."
Not wanting to seem timid, I matched his volume. "For him I've made an exception."
"You certainly have. So, what does the Continuum think about you associating with a human?"
"The Continuum doesn't think about humans."
"They used to."
I'd handed him that reply. Being more careful, I answered, "Only because there was a scent of the unknown about you. All of that's accounted for now."
"What's your excuse then? Or are you just slow?"
We had been saying these things while watching Jean-Luc, not looking at each other, as if neither of us deserved the other's full attention. Riker was speaking so loudly and there was a natural lull in the chatter so that when he asked if I was slow, it was practically a shout. Many faces turned to us, including Jean-Luc's. His eyes held my own, giving me an unspoken command: don't.
Poor Jean-Luc, my eyes said back, I don't think I can obey that.
Riker went on, "I guess I'm a little surprised to see you here. You were always regaling us about having a thousand better places to be than anywhere near us."
I turned to Riker. "I can think of a thousand better places for you to be than anywhere near me."
"Q," Picard called, a plain scold. But why not Riker? Now I was annoyed. I stood tall.
Riker grinned at me. "I know this is your first, but the rest of us have been coming to these for a while. Threatening the guests isn't usually what's done."
"If you think that was a threat, I pity you when you hear the real thing."
"It also helps the general mood if anyone likes you."
I smiled. Inwardly, I flailed for a response. He was right. Most of them hated me; I had sensed that all along.
Picard placed a hand on my arm. I pulled it away, but he held it again. While smirking at Riker, I steeled myself to be more thoroughly scolded. It was as if this had been Picard's plan all along — to invite me here and make a display of how far he had risen above me, to rest his boot on my head while all of them applauded. And I had no option but to let him.
"Enough," Picard said, loud enough for the room. "Now let's get one thing straight here. Q is my friend. Do you understand, Will? And if anyone else doesn't like that, I will respect their decision to leave."
I looked down at Picard, stunned. So much emotion was welling in me, I could barely contain it. Had he glanced at me, I might have truly embarrassed myself, but fortunately he did not. His hand was already on my arm, and he squeezed it once before going back to open his gifts.
The stiffness in the room began to fade, conversation began to flower again, and Riker sulked off to the bar. But I was frozen in that spot. Too much was happening inside me, as if I had become a conduit for feelings I had never felt before and was only beginning to understand. I didn't want to move too suddenly lest I break the flow of it somehow.
In that trance, I watched Jean-Luc for the rest of his long, dull party, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything else in the universe.
Picard was used to Q staring at him by now. It was sometimes a studious look, sometimes a look of ownership. Instead of being annoyed by it, he had decided to find it amusing, a quirk of Q's alien nature. The price of doing business.
At the party, Q's stare had something warmer in it after Picard defended him. Perhaps it was the lighting. The entity sunk into a chair, sitting in it sideways, and hardly moved the rest of the time. Picard paused on the way to refilling his drink to say to him, "You're doing well."
And never one to be patronized, Q replied, "I might say the same of you."
Picard patted his shoulder before continuing on.
Eventually the party ended. Q lingered in front of the windows again, not watching anymore. Waiting.
When the last guest had left, and Picard had turned down a dozen offers to escort him home, and the cleaning crew were taking care of the buffet and the place where the children had thrown their food (Picard never discovered which adventurous parent was responsible for bringing them to a party with Q), Picard stood at Q's side.
Staring out at the stars, he didn't feel ninety anymore. The universe felt smaller too, these days.
Q spoke to his reflection in the window. "No gifts, Picard?"
Picard smiled. "I told them that. Only you listened."
"May I give you something?"
Q shrugged. "The problem is, I'm not sure you'll enjoy it. Only because I don't know anything about it. It's someplace I've never been before, a planet that was recommended to me a long time ago. I never got around to it. Does it interest you?"
Picard felt his breath catch. He hadn't known that was an option, had assumed otherwise. The idea of exploring a place even Q had not seen before intrigued him greatly.
"Yes, please," he said.
Q grinned. "'Yes please.' I'll take that."
Picard realized how preposterous he looked, if any of his guests could see him. To be smiling at Q like this, and Q smiling back at him.
But Q really had behaved well, better than Picard would have guessed. If Q had taken his anger out on Riker, assuming no one was worse for wear, Picard would have forgiven him on account of Riker being the aggressor. But he hadn't. He had resisted. A long time ago, he wouldn't have done that. Couldn't have.
Picard was proud of him. A deep enthusiastic pride, like something a father might feel.
He wondered what Q was thinking, what schemes were dancing behind Q's pleasant gaze as he raised up his hand to snap.
Here I am. Here we are.
We are about to go on an adventure. I have no idea what form it will take, but I look forward to navigating it as his equal. He's earned this. He's ready.
As I snap, I reach out with my power, scooping him up tenderly, preparing to whisk him across the galaxy. Usually this is instantaneous, but I slow time to savor the feeling. Of holding him, as if in the palm of his hand.
My Jean-Luc. Mine. Mine.
My heart catches at the thought of the moment's shadow — that it's ending, that it isn't forever. That it isn't much longer and he won't be mine. He won't be at all.
I look down at his face, those wrinkles I once bitterly mocked. They drape over his eyes, dimple at his cheeks. I tolerate them now because they are his, yet I hate what they portend. In this slowed moment, I imagine them gone. My imagination tips over into want, as it often does, and it happens.
I push his aging into the other direction, and I am greeted with a face so young my heart catches again. His youth is perfect, mesmerizing. It's also what his youth means that mesmerizes me, that we might have more and more time together.
I know he would never allow it. So I revert him back to what he was.
As I do this, I have an idea.
A fear of failure drowns the idea immediately, but "No, no," I think to myself, pulling it back, nourishing it.
I think harder.
I am Q, I remind myself.
I am Q, and I shape universes and matter and reality. I bend all things in the absolute force of my will. I am Q of the Q Continuum, and I can do anything I want merely by wanting it. I have altered the simplest molecule with a whim. With the same whim, I have set courses to align the entire Continuum to my will. I am me. I am Q.
And he… Is he so much greater than all that? He wanted to ignore me, but I stood up to him too. I made this happen, and I could do it again, I could talk sense into him again.
We will argue. He thinks the arguments are behind us. So did I. He's going to feel tricked. Well, you've felt tricked by me before, Jean-Luc Picard, and look at us here, standing side by side anyway, smiling like fools. Friends.
I did this, and I will again, not the friendship but his death, I can convince him out of it. I am Q. I can convince him…
Note from the author -
I hope you enjoyed reading this. If so, I'd love it if you let me know. I really like hearing from you.
This has been a labor of love in the past decade, with two major updates. I'm really proud of where it stands now.
Thank you for reading.