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Picard felt distinctly odd. After a moment, he opened his eyes, which was strange all on its own, as he didn't remember closing them. "What just happened?"
"Don't try to move just yet. It's going to take me a little while to fix everything." Q sounded odd himself.
"Fix everything?" Picard wasn't sure he could have moved if he'd wanted to. His body felt jangled and disconnected. He stared up at the blue sky that was very definitely not the ceiling of his quarters. "What did you do?"
"Well, you startled me," Q said. "I don't understand how you could just—come out with it like that."
If he were honest, Picard wasn't sure how he had done it either. "Stop trying to change the subject," he said. "What did you do?"
"I... touched you."
Picard waited, but that seemed to be all that was forthcoming. He sat up—the strangeness was finally passing. "You touch me all the time."
Q made an impatient gesture. "Having physical interactions with these two bodies isn't the same thing at all. Fun, I grant you, but it's not real contact."
A vague memory teased—something like standing in the heart of a summer storm, rain beating against his skin, warm and icy all at once, thunder shaking the air and flashes of lightning brilliance scarring his vision with color—he found he was breathing hard, just remembering the hazy fragments, and he didn't think it had lasted long at all. "You—I think I remember," he said thickly.
"Sorry," Q said, and Picard finally managed to identify the strange tone in his voice as embarrassment. "I partially—oh, manifested, I suppose, is the best word you have—my real form."
"And I couldn't tolerate that," Picard said, beginning to understand. "Are you trying to say that you killed me?"
"No! I most certainly did not
kill you," Q said indignantly. "In fact, I saved—er, nevermind."
"Saved me from what?" Picard said suspiciously. "Q, why aren't we on the Enterprise?"
"Oh, relax, I'll have you back on your precious ship in a minute."
"Fine! I blew up the ship, all right?"
"You—" Picard was speechless.
"I poked a tiny little hole in that flimsy field you use to hold in the antimatter in your warp core, and kaboom. You really should do something about that design flaw, Jean-Luc."
Picard thought about the distance between his quarters and main Engineering and stared. "You're half the size of the Enterprise?"
"Oh, please," Q said. "In this dimension, I'm three times the size of your native solar system... um."
Closing his eyes, Picard took a very deep breath. "And did this manifestation of yours have any effect on the Mexaren system?" He was reasonably proud of keeping his voice calm.
Q actually squirmed. "Well—the star went a little nova."
—You destroyed the entire system?"
"It's not like I did it on purpose!"
"There are seventeen billion sentient beings living in that system!"
"I said I'd fix everything, didn't I? If you'd just give me a moment of quiet to work in—"
Picard started laughing helplessly. There didn't seem to be much else to do. Q crossed his arms over his chest and scowled.
"I suppose I should be flattered," Picard said ruefully, when he caught his breath. "But really, 'I love you, too' would have done nicely."
Q looked away. "I don't see how you could possibly even conceive of applying such an emotion to me. Not to mention the fact that I pestered you into the sex to begin with."
"It's been a long time since you had to pester me into anything."
"Don't you realize that I'm completely beyond your comprehension?"
Picard reached out and ran his thumb over the too-perfect mouth, liking the way it made Q's eyes go a little soft. "Judging by recent events," he said, so glad to find himself finally, finally free to tease a little, to let himself care openly, "it seems that I can say the same."
= End =