Captain Picard sat at the head of the table in the observation lounge with his senior staff seated around him. Dani and both of the Qs were also present.
“Absolutely not,” Picard said staunchly. “I refuse to let my ship be used as some sort of playground for the Q.”
“Picard, be reasonable,” the elder Q said in his gently pleading tone. “All I’m attempting to do is instill my son with as comprehensive a look at humanity as possible. I want him to get as accurate a look at humans as he can. Is that so wrong?”
Will cast a wary glance at the captain.
“But why this ship?” Picard asked.
“Mon Capitan,” Q elder began again, “you, among all people, should recognize that each ship, each crew, is unique. One cannot be expected to generate a fair concept of humanity after only experiencing life aboard one ship – a ship that, might I add, was thousands of light years away from home. You must agree that Enterprise’s situation and the large size of her crew makes her much more ideal for studying interactions between people.”
“He does have a point there, sir,” Geordi admitted.
Picard looked around at his staff and mentally turned over the prospect of actually allowing a Q onboard. He leaned back in his seat and tugged at his uniform tunic. “Just how long would this lesson in humanity take?”
“One week,” Q replied quickly.
Picard thought it over. There was no telling what kind of trickery Q was up to. This could be some elaborate ruse, which it more than likely was. He looked at Dani. He also had to consider what had happened on Voyager. That time, Q had been sincere in his intentions, and Voyager had come out with little more than a few frazzled nerves. Q could be telling the truth. Thinking back, Picard remembered that there had been a few instances when Q had been sincere, and everyone had benefited from his presence.
Picard leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table as he made his decision. “My ship will, under no circumstances, be turned into a circus,” Picard directed to Q.
“Q will not have his powers while onboard,” Q senior assured. “I give you my word.” Picard shot Q a dismal look.
“Captain, you won’t regret this,” Q2 said cheerfully. “I promise.”
“Let’s hope you’re right,” Picard said.
“Wonderful!” Q exclaimed. “Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got some errands to run. Good day, everyone. Son, I’ll see you in a week.”
“Wait – Q!” Picard began, but he was too late. Before the words were even out of his mouth, Q was gone in his customary flash of light.
“So,” Q2 said, beaming, “where do I sleep?”
“Cousin, I’m so glad we have this opportunity to see each other again,” Q said. He and Dani were walking to the guest quarters he’d been assigned to for the duration of his stay on the Enterprise.
“I don’t know if I can say the same, Q,” Dani said. “I’m still really peeved about you and your father peeping on me and Will.
“Hey, it was my father’s idea,” Q explained. “I didn’t know he was going to bring me here, and I didn’t know he was going to spy on you. Besides, he doesn’t see it as spying. He even brought your mother-”
“My mother?!” Dani stopped walking and glared at Q. “Do not tell me my mother was in that room, Q. Don’t tell me she saw me and Will…together.”
“Well, she did,” Q said.
“Oh, my gods,” Dani said, resuming her walk to Q’s guest quarters. “You brought my mother to spy on me.”
“No. I didn’t bring her here, my father did,” Q corrected. “Plus, I already told you, he doesn’t see it as spying.”
“I know. To him, it’s an ‘educational experience’,” Dani said, repeating the elder Q’s excuse. “That still doesn’t make it right.” Dani and Q stopped walking in front of a set of doors. “This is it,” she said. She entered a code on the key pad next to the door, which released the locking mechanism and allowed them entry. The doors slid open, and Dani and Q walked in.
“Will this do?” Dani asked.
“I suppose it’ll have to,” Q said. “I’ll have to get used to sleeping again. Without my powers, I’m subject to the limitations of humanity.”
“Poor you,” Dani dead-panned.
“It’s not all bad, though. It means I get to try this sex thing all you humans are raving about.”
Dani regarded Q like a child who didn’t know what he was getting himself into. He was obviously eager to learn more about the subject of sex, but Dani knew he hadn’t the first inkling of what it was really all about.
“Q,” she began, “there’s a lot you don’t know about sex.” This was becoming a little awkward for Dani. She felt like she was talking to the little brother she never had, trying to educate him about the ways of the universe. In reality, this “little brother” had probably seen more and done more than she would ever dream of. She continued. “It’s not like something as simple as eating or sleeping. It can get complicated.”
“You can teach me,” Q said eagerly, stepping to Dani.
“Whoa,” she said taking a step back.
“What’s the matter?”
“I can’t teach you what you want to know.”
“Why not? You did it with Commander Riker, and he’s almost an ape. I’m sure you and I would be more than compatible.”
Dani sighed. Q’s father had obviously been influencing Q’s opinions of Will, but she let it slide. “Q,” she said, leading him to the couch. They sat. “A lot of times two people who have sex are in a relationship with each other. Most times, in this relationship, the two people involved sort of mutually agree to only have sex with each other and nobody else while they’re a couple. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Q looked thoughtful for a moment. “So, you’re saying we can’t have sex because you and Commander Riker are a couple.”
“Right.” Dani was beginning to think that explaining this might not be so difficult after all. This was a Q she was talking to. The Q aren’t exactly what one would call dunces.
“Well, are there people who aren’t couples who have sex?” Q asked.
“Are there some couples who aren’t exclusive to one another?”
Dani could see where this was headed. “Some,” Dani admitted slowly, “but it’s not exactly looked upon as being a good thing. It’s actually kind of bad. It’s really bad, depending on who you talk to. It’s called cheating.”
“Cheating?” Q asked. “I wasn’t aware this was some sort of game.”
“It isn’t. It’s just a word that people decided could be used in more than one context. It fits the situation. If it’s been agreed upon that you’re only supposed to be with one partner, and you have two, it’s wrong.”
“Oh. Well, it seems to me that if both parties want to stray, it shouldn’t be considered cheating,” Q countered.
Dani sighed. “In some cases it’s not. But that’s kind of rare. There are a few cases, though, such as the one in your example. I told you this could get complicated.”
“Right, which is why we should have just gone with my first suggestion.” Q moved in to steal a kiss from Dani, who immediately rose and walked to the other side of the room.
“No, Q, I’m not going to be your partner,” she said sternly. “Why can’t you just do this with one of the females from the Continuum?”
Q sat back on the sofa and thought for a moment. “I’ve never thought about that. Maybe…”
“Good.” Dani was relieved. She only hoped that Q was going to give this sex thing a rest for good – at least for the duration of his time aboard the Enterprise. “Are you hungry?” she asked him. Dani’s stomach was reminding her that she hadn’t finished her dinner and that it might be a good idea to get something to eat.
Q had to contemplate for a minute on whether he was hungry or not. “I think I am,” was his answer to Dani’s inquiry. “My stomach is rumbling.”
“You’re hungry. Come on – I’ll show you to Ten-Forward so we can catch a late dinner. I didn’t eat much the first time I had dinner today.”
“I know,” Q quipped.
Dani and Q walked into Ten-Forward at about 2100 hours. It wasn’t too crowded, but there were a good number of people in the room. Dani spotted Will sitting at a table with Deanna. Dani and Q walked over to the two.
“Mind if we join you?” Dani asked.
Will looked up. A little smile spread through his beard. “Not at all,” he said. “Please do.” Dani sat down next to Will, Q next to Deanna.
“Q, this is Counselor Deanna Troi and Commander Will Riker,” Dani introduced. “Will, Deanna – Q.”
“Well, it’s nice to have been formally introduced,” Will said, hinting at the evening’s earlier incident with a bit of obvious displeasure.
“Nice to meet you, Q,” Deanna said with a warm, friendly smile. “How do you like your quarters?”
“It’s going to take some getting use to,” Q said. “I don’t usually sleep.”
“Well, then this should be quite and experience for you.”
“I’m hoping it will be.” Q studied the woman who’d been introduced to him as Troi. She was quite attractive, by human standards, and she was very polite.
A waiter walked over to the table and took Will and Dani’s orders.
“What would you like, sir?” the waiter asked Q. Q looked from Will to Deanna to Dani. “What should I get?” he asked them.
“Hmm…” Dani searched her mind, trying to think of the perfect meal choice for a Q. It wasn’t often that she had to pick out a meal for someone who probably hadn’t eaten in years. It was a more daunting task than would be initially thought. “Well, pasta’s always a good choice. How about a plate of fettucini alfredo?”
“You’re the ones who do this everyday, so, whatever you say,” Q said. He looked up at the waiter. “What she said.” The waiter nodded and walked off to retrieve their meals.
“One of the joys of being human is eating,” Deanna commented. “Given the choice between eating and receiving all my nutrition via other faster, more efficient methods, I ‘d choose eating any day.”
“I agree,” Will said. “Although, for me, preparing the meal is also a big part of the draw.”
“Replicating it?” Q asked.
“Cooking it,” Will clarified.
“Cooking? I always thought that was considered a primitive waste of time among humans.”
“For some, it is,” Dani said, “but those are the ones who’ve never had a real home – cooked meal before. Ask anyone whose ever had real fruit and replicated fruit which is better. The real fruit wins everytime, hands down.”
Will added, “The replicator’s a nice convenience, but nothing beats the real thing.”
The waiter returned with the table’s orders. He placed an omlette in front of Will, a bowl of vegetable beef soup in front of Dani, a plate of fettucini alfredo in front of Q, and an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce in front of Deanna.
Q looked curiously at the plate of pasta before him.
“Go ahead-” Dani urged, “-dig in.”
Q awkwardly picked up his fork. “It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” he said. He turned to Dani. “What if I don’t like it?”
“It’s no big deal,” Dani assured him. “If you don’t like it, we’ll just have the waiter take it away, and he’ll put it in the recycler. No love lost there.” She gave Q an encouraging smile. “But you’ll never know if you like it or not until you try it.”
Q looked back down at the pile of sauce-covered pasta. He timidly immersed his fork in it and brought it out covered in the stuff. He opened his mouth, shoved the pasta-loaded fork in, and chewed. He realized that, although the food had a slimy texture, it was quite good. It didn’t require much chewing at all and was very easy to eat. He looked at his table mates to find that they were all staring at him in anticipation, as if they’d themselves cooked the meal and were now awaiting his approval.
“This is absolutely…” Q had to search for the right word. He wasn’t quite sure how to describe this sensation. Then it came to him. “…Delicious.”
Deanna, Will, and Dani smiled and looked at one another. Now, they could commence with eating their own meals. Will cut a square out of his omlette and shoved it into his mouth. Dani sampled a spoonful of her soup. And Deanna scooped a spoonful of her sundae into her mouth.
“So, Counselor,” Q said, his mouth full of pasta, “have you ever had sex?”
Will choked on his omlette. Dani nearly spit out her soup. Deanna seemed to retain her composure. She calmly swallowed the spoonful of sundae that’d been on her tongue. “That’s an interesting question, Q,” she said.
Dani and Will looked at each other. They both felt like parents whose child had just said something he wasn’t supposed to say.
“I can’t believe he asked her that,” Dani said. “I mean, we’d just finished discussing how it’s an intimate act between two people. I thought it was over. I’m so embarrassed.”
“Why should you be embarrassed?” Will asked. The two were back in her quarters. It was approximately 2230 hours the same night.
“Because…” Dani began, but found that she couldn’t spit out an answer. Why was she embarrassed by Q’s actions and words? She chuckled and sat down on the couch. “I don’t know. I don’t have any logical reason to be embarrassed by Q. We’re not related, not biologically, anyway. I didn’t bring him onboard. I’m not responsible for him while he’s here. I’m not his caretaker.”
Will sat down beside Dani on the couch. “Look, it probably has something to do with the fact that you met Q before anyone else here did. You’re probably feeling like you’re responsible for his being here, which is completely absurd. Besides, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, maybe Q is only here to learn about human relationships. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to cause any trouble.”
“Yeah,” Dani acquiesced. “Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions.” She turned to Will. “Are you the assistant counselor or something? When did you start handing out consolation like that?”
Will shrugged. “Tonight,” he said.
Dani sighed. “What a first day,” she said, leaning back. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a first day with this much activity.”
“Me either.” He leaned back and rested on the sofa as well. “It wasn’t all bad, though.” He looked at Dani. “Was it? I seem to remember that right before this whole Q mess started, we were having quite a good time.” He smiled.
“Yes, it was okay,” Dani said dismissively.
Will’s expression fell. “Just okay?”
“There’s something else I didn’t tell you about our run-in with Q,” Dani said, ignoring Will’s question.
“What more could there possibly be?”
“Q wants to experience life,” Dani said.
Will regarded her quizzically. “He has been relieved of his powers. I don’t know how much closer to human he could get.”
Dani sighed. Will didn’t understand. Dani would have to do a little explaining on this subject. “He wants to experience all the aspects of life.” She looked into Will’s face, but only saw more confusion. She sighed and finally said, “He wants to have sex with someone. That’s why he asked Deanna what he did. He would have asked her to be his partner if I hadn’t told him he was tired.”
“Oh, great,” Will sighed. “Just what we need-a horny Q onboard.” He rested his forehead in his hand. He could feel a headache forming at the prospect of having to deal with the ramifications of Q sewing his wild oats with the female crew. “I’m just glad he didn’t have enough experience at being human, yet, to know that he wasn’t really tired.”
“He wanted me to be his partner,” Dani revealed.
Will looked at Dani, surprise written all over his face. “You said no, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Of course I did. Do you know how weird that would be? He’s supposed to be my cousin. Even if it isn’t by blood, it’s still…” Dani shivered. “Besides, mating with the Q is not exactly high on my list of things to do.”
“Good thing I’m not a Q,” Will said, his mood becoming more serene.
Dani looked at him. “It sure is,” she said moving closer to him. “Because I would never do this to a Q.” She kissed him on one cheek. “Or this.” She kissed him on the other cheek. “Or this.” She delivered a generous kiss to his lips. “Or this…” she said, as she began to unzip the front of his uniform.