Chapter 4 - Quadrisyllables

When Q had first approached her with his idea, she had been surprised and shocked, having only interacted with him on three separate occasions, but she had been intrigued by his idea: a game of words.

They started it…and the sparks flew.

It had now been two days of verbal jousting between Karen and Q since their incident on the dance floor. She was secretly finding the word-play quite a bit of fun, but she would never outwardly admit it to anyone. Just this morning they had thrown several well-placed insults at each other, and she had left the room in a huff at his last one. He'd called her a "bent-over-backwards rule-abiding Star Fleet cadet", which was about the worst insult you could throw at her.

She caught herself grinning as she walked down the corridor towards the holodeck. She barely noticed Deanna Troi calling her name as she walked by her. Her head finally snapped up as Deanna placed a hand on her arm.


The counselor's voice barely registered on her clouded mind, but the feeling of an impediment in her forward momentum did.

Karen stopped walking and looked up at the Counselor, wondering what she wanted. She liked Deanna, she always had. She was someone that anyone could get along with, but managed to make her opinions known without being the least bit rude. That was probably why she was a counselor anyway.

"Yes, Counselor?"

Deanna gave her a searching look, a soft smile, and then broke into a full-fledged grin.

"Alright, Karen, let's drop the formalities…who is he?"

She tried to feign ignorance of what the woman was talking about, but it was impossible. The Betazoid part of the counselor was informing her of Karen's true emotions, and Karen knew that she couldn't hide it from her…and secretly, she didn't want to. She was bursting to tell someone about what was happening. It was so different from any other type of relationship that she'd ever had, and it felt absolutely wonderful.

She followed Deanna into her quarters, and as soon as the door was closed she burst.

"He's just…amazing! He's the only person that I've ever met who's willing to match me. He takes me for me…you know?" Deanna nodded as she sat down in her chair, so she continued, pacing back and forth as she spoke, unable to sit down. "He actually likes the fact that I'm sarcastic, somewhat insensitive, and that I like to argue! I've never met anyone who knows how to handle me like he does…it's-it's-it's amazing!"

The counselor just gave her a small smile and motioned for her to sit down on the couch opposite her. Finally, Karen sat down, her hands beginning to fidget as a substitute for her pacing, trying to let out all of her nervous energy which had seemingly come from nowhere.

"Karen," Deanna started, a grin on her face, "It sounds like you're happy."

The brunette nodded, placing her hands on her knees. "I am…good lord, am I happy."

The counselor continued to smile, and then got up and headed to the replicator. "Would you like something? I think this calls for a celebration." Karen nodded, and left it up to the counselor to choose for her. Deanna knew her preferences; she'd been going to her for over a year, now.

As Deanna came back with a chocolate mousse for Karen and a hot chocolate for herself, Karen found herself reminiscing briefly about the year that she'd spent in counseling. It had started with the accident on Brevior. She had been sent on a mission with three other people down to the planet because she could speak the language. She had been helping with some basic negotiations dealing with some of Star Fleet's trade laws, and there had been an attack of rebels on the capital. She shot five of them down before she'd been hit and nearly killed.

Her right hand instinctively brushed against the underside of her left collarbone. The scar was practically invisible to the naked eye, but she was still grateful for the high-necked uniform that kept it covered. It kept away unwanted questions.

Deanna saw the unconscious motion and placed her mug onto the table that sat between them. She gave Karen a knowing look, and Karen's eyes dropped to her treat. Deanna inwardly sighed. She honestly didn't know what to do with Karen…especially when it came to that subject. It was one that the lieutenant had carefully avoided. She'd talked about it at the beginning, but now it never came up…mostly due to Karen's insistence that she was fine.

"Karen…do you think that he might be someone you can, possibly, open up to?"

Her green eyes lifted to the counselor's own brown ones, and Deanna could see a small light of hope. It was faint, but it was there.

"I…I think so. Yes." But then she paused. A few seconds passed, and then she continued. "He forces me to confront myself in different ways. I think that he might…might help me with this. You know I haven't been comfortable talking about it, but you and I both know that I need to talk about it. I need to deal with it. It's a part of me whether or not I like it, and he can help me learn how to face it head on, how to deal with it."

As she spoke, she stood up from her chair, leaving her unfinished chocolate mousse on the table next to Deanna's unfinished drink. She wrung her hands as though they were towels and she was trying to get every last drop of water out of them.

Deanna stood, placing a hand over top of Karen's.

"Karen…are you sure?"

She nodded, her eyes hardening at the question, as though angry at the fact that Deanna would dare question her on something as important as her own well-being. Deanna inwardly smiled at her friend's reaction. Just as she expected her to react. Now she would go through with it.

At that she patted her hand on the girl's hands and motioned for her to sit down once more. She relented, and they both sat down to finish their chocolate treats. Deanna watched in some amusement as Karen dug wholeheartedly into her dish. It was a rare sight to see the woman actually enjoying something. She was always so tightly wound, so serious, and this time with her was allowing her to see the other side of her. The indulgent side.

Deanna placed her now empty mug back onto the table and leaned back in her chair, giving the young woman a grin.

"So…do I have to ask?"

Karen looked at her in confusion. "What do you mean?"

The counselor shook her head in exasperation.

"Who is he, of course! Who's this mysterious man that you've finally met your match in?"

Karen tensed up at the question, and Deanna noticed the way her body seemed to tighten all at once. Should she tell her? If anyone was going to be understanding, it would be Deanna. She took a deep breath, letting her body relax. She could do this. She could tell her.

"Well…you've met him before," she said carefully, trying not to mislead her, but at the same time trying to set him up in a positive light. "He's tall, he's handsome…he has hazel eyes. He's a wonderful dancer, has a severely sarcastic sense of humor, beautiful hands…"

Her voice drifted slightly as she let herself mentally admire his form.

"He's smart…well, more than just smart. He's brilliant, actually…"

Karen's voice drifted again, and Deanna tried not to laugh at the expression that was on the young woman's face…but at the same time, she didn't want to laugh. She'd seen that expression before. It was one of complete and utter adoration. She was sensing something...but she couldn't place it.

"Well…?" she said, trying to prompt her to say more about him.

"Well…what else do you want to know?"

Deanna threw her hands up in exasperation. "Oh, I don't know, maybe his name?!"

Karen gave her a small, secretive smile.

"Oh, that. Well, if I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone. And I mean anyone! No matter what you think of him, even if you think that he could be dangerous, or messing with my heart, or trying to trick me. Can you promise me that?"

Suddenly, Deanna's eyes went wide with understanding. No…no, it couldn't be possible. But who else fit that particular description? And why else would she be asking her such particular questions?

"Are you…are you with Q?"

Her tone was almost accusatory, and instead of dropping her head in embarrassment, Karen stood from her chair, lifting her jaw in defiance. No matter what Deanna said, she was not going to stop her relationship with the one person…being…who understood her and actually liked her because of her lack of social skills.

Deanna, on the other hand, was reeling. Karen's actions as she stood from the chair only confirmed her guess, and she tried to take it all in. And then she was hit with a barrage of emotions all at once. Defiance, protectiveness, caring, compassion, and…could it be? Yes, it was…love. It was so strong that the counselor almost cried out at the severity of it. It was cutting, sharp, and so intense that she had to close her eyes for a moment, trying to cut it out, and finally managed to.

She lifted her eyes to Karen's and gave her a self-deprecating smile.

"You really love him, don't you?"

Karen merely nodded, and Deanna stood, bringing her hands to the young woman's shoulders.

"Then, I guess…good luck. I think he needs the love, but I must warn you-" She cut off the protest that started to come from her patient's lips. "I need to say this. I must warn you…he is used to being selfish. If any part of him isn't, it is very deeply hidden…and it will be very hard to bring that out in him, if not impossible. I just…I don't want to see your heart broken, alright?"

Karen nodded once more.

"I know, Deanna. Trust me, I know. But…I think I've already seen part of his selfless side. He can be good. I just know it."

With that, she gave the counselor a brief hug and then slid out of the cabin, heading back on her intended path to the holodeck.

Karen was exhausted as she walked off of the holodeck, a towel around her neck catching the sweat running off her scalp. She had run a workout program that included a five mile run, the last mile on a fast setting. As she terminated the program at the pad, she heard a whisper in her ear.

"Fantastical opposition…"

With those two words, the voice was gone. She grinned as she pulled the towel from around her neck and began to wipe the sweat from her brow and neck. It seemed as though Q had taken her up on her challenge that she'd given him this morning. She'd told him that she liked to try limiting herself to a certain number of syllables per word for a day, and she'd challenged him to four. Of course, filler words were allowed, such as 'and', 'or', 'to', and 'the'.

She smiled and whipped the towel back around her neck and headed down the corridor, wondering what words to hit him with. Maybe something that would rile him up. Something like…oh, she'd come up with something good.

After a long hot shower, she felt a breeze in her room…which let her know that he was listening. She spoke into the air, knowing that he would hear her.

"Predatory navigation…"

She grinned. Those were the two words that she felt described him. For a moment, she thought she heard a low chuckle, but she ignored it. Q was probably just playing around a bit with her. Not that she minded, of course, but she needed to get dressed.

Q was enjoying this. Two days of nothing but throwing words back and forth, like the human game of tennis, except with words. It was exhilarating, and though he would never say it out loud, he was enjoying it immensely. Karen was on par with him, and he liked the challenge that was her.

She had prompted him this morning to try to limit himself to a certain number of syllables, but he decided, instead, to make it a private game just between the two of them.

He had served, and she had volleyed back. Now it was his turn, yet again, and he wracked his brain…oh, it was easy to come up with four syllables for a word as he knew every language in existence, but limiting it to English was so much more demanding. Especially as he was trying to use words that would specifically describe her. Now, what would make her raise her hackles and want to retaliate against him?

He carefully thought…ah, yes. He sent out another whisper. "Illiterate Lilliputian…"

He felt her anger at his words and he grinned. He couldn't wait for her next words. He hadn't been able to resist the literary reference. He knew that she was somewhat sensitive about her height and that she was a consummate reader, and he couldn't resist the chance to jab at both in just two words.

He waited a moment and was surprised by how quickly she retaliated.

"Predictable co-dependent!"

Oooh, she was good! She had thrown that barb just right…just where it hurt, too. He prided himself on being unpredictable and independent. It seems that she was catching onto his little game.

He sighed, leaning into the pillows on his bed, where he'd been laying since that morning, only getting up a few times to go to the replicator and ask for sushi. I wasn't the same as the kind that Guinan served him, but it was good, nonetheless. He was still getting used to having human-like urges…including going to the bathroom.

He thought for a moment, wondering whether or not he would strike back at Karen's biting words. No, he could wait. In the meantime, he could…well, that was the question. What could he do? He mulled it over for a moment, and then smiled to himself as he snapped his fingers. A book appeared in his hands, one that he hadn't read before. Kingdom of the Grail, by Judith Tarr. It had been published in the early 21st century on Earth, and he remembered reading the back of the book when he'd briefly been on Earth during that time.

Q started reading it, and let himself take his time. It would have to take up some time in order for him to truly enjoy it. As he began to read it, he smiled to himself. He wondered how long it would take for Karen to realize that it was missing from her cabin.

Karen hadn't heard back from Q since she'd let loose her "predictable co-dependent", so she decided to make herself comfortable. She moved towards the bookshelf in her room, on the far wall, and wondered which one she would read. It had been a long time since she'd read her book that was based off of the song of Roland, an ancient French epic poem about Arthurian legend.

She brushed her fingers along the spines of her books, letting her eyes lovingly caress each title. But there was a gap… Q!

"Q! Give it back!"

It had been several hours since he'd returned her book, and he had spent it sleeping. It was odd to do, but he enjoyed the easy way to fill up the time. He let himself lay there for a while longer, enjoying the feeling of not having to do anything, while at the same time wondering what words to speak next.

He rolled and tossed the thought back and forth in his mind, wondering what else could get her riled up…or something else. Aha! That was it!

He sent a small breeze to her cabin, letting her know that he was there. "Incandescent ciliary…"

Karen was reading, but she heard the words, and she knew that he was waiting for a response. And then it hit her what he had just said. Incandescent ciliary. Incandescent meaning shining, or relating to beautiful, and ciliary being a part of the eye. Did he just say that she had beautiful eyes?

She blushed at the idea, and thought of a way that she could respond. Her lips quirked up into a semi-smile as she spoke, and she couldn't help but inwardly laugh, hoping that he would take the comment in the right way.

Q was waiting for a response, and then he heard the words, "Fascinating calligraphic."

Then he realized what she was saying…and he almost blushed. She was saying that she liked his hands. He glanced down at his hands, wondering what she liked about them. He had come up with this form after seeing a particular person on earth during the twentieth century. He had been an "actor" as they called them, and he'd found that he'd liked the combination of stature and bearing, and that people tended to look up to you more the taller that you were, figuratively and literally.

Well, he felt that it was time for their little game to end. It had been fun, but he was on the verge of acting too much like a ridiculous human male trying to attract the attention of a woman. He was not desperate, and besides…she was already attracted to him. And he knew it.

With that in mind, he stood up from his bed, changing into twenty-first century jeans, along with a twenty-first century button-up shirt in dark blue. She would appreciate it, he was sure. He had noticed that she had a tendency towards that particular time period, so he would indulge her. Besides, they were quite comfortable. He glanced in the mirror, running a hand through his hair. Then he dropped his hand, looking at it once more, giving a cursory glance to his nails.

She thinks I have beautiful hands, was the thought in his mind as he left his cabin.

Part 4/10