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Chapter Notes:

The unwelcome guest's theme song - John Cougar - I Need a Lover


“I just want to look at your smile close up.” – DR

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Lili held Declan and whispered to him, “Daddy's coming soon. And the whole family. You're going to be surprised there are so many people in the world. And they all love you already,” she gently put him down.

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“He's the cleanest human I've ever known.” – Yimar

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There was the sound of a throat being cleared. Alarmed, Lili turned around to the source of the sound, and supported herself by holding around to the bassinet behind her. She couldn't move that quickly – she still had a great deal of pain and tightness from the surgery – but she was prepared to do whatever she needed to.

It was a man, a bit taller than Doug and a bit older. He was wearing a Starfleet Captain's uniform, but she knew that the only people who were of that rank who would likely be in the area were Jonathan Archer and Erika Hernandez. This guy was someone else.

“Don't hurt him,” she said, trying not to let her voice quaver at all, “Hurt me if you must, but don't touch him.”

“How absurd. I have no desire to hurt the infant. Or yourself, for that matter,” he – it said.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I have questions. You appear to have some of the answers. Or, at least, you may lead me to the answers,” he said, walking closer.

“Don't come any closer, I'll scream,” she threatened.

“So scream,” he said, “No one will hear you.”

The call button was on a wand, nearby. She reached it and pressed it. No one came. She yelled, “Yicha! Miva! Anybody!”

“Oh, honestly,” he said, “You're wasting your time.”

“Get away,” she said.

“No,” he said.

“Look, if you want to rape me, I mean, I swear, I'll be terrible,” she said.

He laughed, “A primitive life form such as yourself? I mean, you're a human,” he said.

“And you aren't?” she asked.

“No! Really, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. There are some humans who are ... acceptable. She certainly is,” he said, mind seeming to wander for just a moment.

“She?”

“Kathryn,” he said, “But you? You're little more than a unicellular organism.”

“You said earlier I had answers. I am getting the feeling that flatworms don't have your answers,” she said.

“Maybe, maybe not,” he began to approach her again.

“Really, I'm warning you,” she said.

“Warning me of what?” he asked, “Scream your fool head off if you like. It's all right. I can wait.”

She screamed.

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“Hey, I'm half-Irish. Don't mess with me.”– Lili O'Day

“Don't.”– Malcolm Reed

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“This is boring,” he finally said, as she finished screaming and ended up just kind of staring at him.

“So leave. Beam out like you beamed in.”

“I didn't beam in,” he said, “I have no need for transporters and such. I'm omnipotent.”

“Huh. Must be nice,” she said, “Got any proof of that?”

“Here,” he said, and the room disappeared. They were on the fourth floor of the Med Center, floating in space – her, him and Declan. The baby began to cry.

“You're scaring him,” she said, “Let me get to him, dammit.”

“Here,” he said, and the room was restored.

She scooped Declan back up and soothed him, then said, “Let me at least, uh, give him to the nurse on duty.”

“They can't help you,” he said, “Look.”

They were suddenly at the nurses' station. Everyone was there, but no one was moving, “Are they alive?” Lili asked.

“Of course they are,” he replied, “Just moving slowly. Time is going faster for you and the little tyke there, but for no other humans.”

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“I swear if I had known time travel would be a way to pick up chicks I'd've been born a better-looking man.” – Kevin O'Connor

“It's time travel and, by definition, it's a bit of madness.”– Malcolm Reed

“I'm not so sure it makes too much of a difference. You know as well as I do that little changes are often just absorbed right into the fabric of space-time. You wear a blue top instead of a red one, chances are extremely small that you'll cause a planetary explosion or whatever.” - Kevin O'Connor

“The timeline is still a little ... caca.” – Kevin O'Connor

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Lili gulped. This was different, “Are you a time traveler like Rick Daniels?”

“No,” he said, “Think bigger,” They were back in the room, in the same places as before.

“You're not God,” she concluded.

“Very good. Much better than the peasants of Corderis Prime. They treated me like, well, in your history it was the Salem Witch Trials that were like that,” he yawned, “So I now stay away from Pre-Warp civilizations. They're too messy and inconvenient.”

“Well, bully for you,” she said, “You, uh, you said you were omnipotent. So, why didn't you just change their minds or something?”

“And get into their little puny heads? Oh, that's not necessary,” he said, “And it's boring. But you – you have a question. And I bet it's how I can be omnipotent and not be God. Yes?”

“All right,” she said, “Tell me that one.”

“Simple. It's the very nature of my species.”

“Species? Do you, uh, make planets, kick off the Big Bang and all?”

“No, no. No more tangents,” he said.

“I don't think you realize – you don't necessarily get to make the rules here,” she said, “Omnipotent or not. You're here to, uh, ask questions?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I won't talk to you anymore unless you tell me who you are,” she sniffed and turned around to put the baby down again.

“Call me Quentin,” he said.

“Tarantino?”

“Why, yes.”

“Why, no,” she said, “Unless you're, what, two hundred years old and direct movies, well, let's just say I have my doubts.”

“All right. Your brain, is perhaps, a tad less puny than I had thought,” he admitted.

“So omnipotence doesn't go hand in hand with omniscience, eh? More's the pity,” she said, “Now, tell me, who the hell are you? And, while you're at it, what are you?”

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“He's exercising veto power over everyone, eh? It must be nice to have such power.”– Leonora Digiorno

“Do you have famous, famous humans? The kind that you have crushes on and sigh about and think are wonderful but don't know you exist?” – Yimar

“I'd like to think I'm not just someone.”– Malcolm Reed

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“The answer to both is one and the same. Call me by the name of my species,” he said.

“Which is what?”

“Q.”

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“It's like it's all moving at Warp Factor Five and I'm only plodding along at five KPH.”– Malcolm Reed

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“Why me? You said so yourself that you don't think I'm very bright,” she pointed out.

“Your life is somewhat different from other humans – and not just the ones of this time period. You have a permanent relationship with not one or two, but four other humans. And one of them is from, what do you call it? The other side of the pond – that’s sweet, as if the septum between two universes could be bridged in a rowboat!”

“Well, your information is correct. But, uh, what are your questions about, Q?” she asked. She didn't trust him, but so far he hadn't hurt her or Declan.

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“He's gonna leave me.” – Jennifer Crossman

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“Sir, we're a bit off-course again,” Travis said to Captain Archer.

“Oh? How bad is it?”

“Less than point oh one from our destination coordinates,” he replied.

“Do a diagnostic, let me know. Thanks,” Jonathan said.

And it might have been the instruments, or it might have been something else out there. Or, Travis had to admit, it might have been him. He was expertly skilled in piloting, but naturally, like everyone else, he was prone to occasional distractions. Reed becoming a father! He was certainly the first, and that was great and he was happy for the man. But the truth was, he wasn't the first – or, at least, he wouldn't have been, if she had gone the distance. Jennifer. It had been a few years before. They were captured by the Witannen and paired off and, like in a zoo or a farm, forced to breed like animals. Melissa Madden's pregnancy was known to all.

Jennifer Crossman's was not.

She had desperately urged him to keep it quiet. She had gone through with marrying another guy, for gosh's sake! And he and Frank Ramirez looked sufficiently dissimilar that there would have been no way in hell that anyone would have mistaken his kid for Frank's.

And then something had happened, and she had lost the baby. Whether it had been a deliberate act on her part, or something natural, he had no way of truly knowing. They were not pals and barely kept up a correspondence beyond the absolute minimum news that she would send to the entire crew. She was on Encedalus with her husband, and they were trying to start a family.

He knew he had had rights in the matter. But he hadn't pursued them. She had been the most beautiful woman on the ship and he had said nothing about them being together and even less about her conceiving his child.

He had to admit he had not been ready in any capacity. And she hadn't been, either. They had never been in love. They had never even been in like.

“Ensign! We appear to be drifting slightly off-course,” T'Pol said.

“Oh, sorry,” he said, snapping back to reality, “Compensating.”

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“I don't want to do any sneaking around.”– Lili Beckett

“I think it's a bit more mature to be discreet about such things.”– Malcolm Reed

“I don't do good with distance. Or loyalty. I get tempted way too easily if I'm not careful.”– Pamela Hudson

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“It's about Kathryn,” he said.

“Ah. And she's a puny human?” Lili asked.

“Far better than you shall ever be.”

“If you're gonna insult me, I'm not gonna help you. So spill it. What's the deal?”

“I need to perpetuate my species,” he said, “And I have selected her.”

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“I did want you to be humanoid. I mean, I do have standards and all.”– Doug Hayes

“I am not just, just some repository for you.”– Pamela Hudson

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“Does, uh, does Kathryn know about this?”

“Not yet.”

“Would she be receptive?”

“Why wouldn't she be?” he asked.

“Are you that clueless?”

“I'm omnipotent!” he said, a tad indignant, “She won't get a better offer, ever.”

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“Awkward doesn't even begin to describe it.” – Tripp Tucker

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“I can't sit still,” Doug complained.

“Just, just try,” Melissa said, “It's like you've had a gajillion cups of coffee or something.”

“I tell you, it's the pressure drop,” Norri said, “It can make you tense.”

“Well, I got reasons to feel that way,” Doug said.

“Doug,” Malcolm said quietly, coming close, “You're the one who told me to keep it together. You might wish to take that advice right about now, yes?”

“Who asked you, Reed?”

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“You just told me you're in love with another man. Isn't ending it what's supposed to happen?”– Doug Beckett

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“Okay, time out,” Lili said, putting her hands in the shape of a T, “Sit down. Do you sit?”

“I suppose I can,” he said, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed.

“Because I need to sit,” she said. She did so, but far from him, and near the bassinet, “Now, listen to me. This is a sentient being we are talking about. I mean, if I were her, and I don't need you to remind me that I'm not, but, anyway, if I were, I'd want a little say in the matter. Don't you think that's reasonable?”

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“You just decided it, case closed, and there's no discussion. It's like I have no position at all.”– Lili Beckett

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“Not if I am the best choice possible. I am the only choice.”

“Hmm. Well, let me ask you. Are you looking for general advice to the lovelorn type of advice from me, or something else? I mean, you mentioned my arrangement. Are you contemplating something like that with her?”

“No,” he said, “Like I said, I need to perpetuate my species.”

“So you're male?”

“In the sense that I don't bear the offspring, yes.”

“But you're appearing in a human form right now, I assume, to keep me from freaking out too much. And, perhaps, to try out this look for her?”

“She's seen me before.”

“Okay. Has she, uh, given you any indications that she has any sort of interest in you?”

“We have stimulating conversations,” he said.

“Oh. Not to get too personal, but, Q, are you anatomically correct?”

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“So show me yours. I'm already showing you mine.”– Lili Beckett

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“For my species, yes, I am anatomically correct. Uh, complete. That's what you mean, right?”

“Yep. But not for a human?”

“I can be. But really, is that necessary for you to just answer some questions?”

“Spit out the damned questions already,” she said.

“What are you humans on about, Little Earth Mother? Or, really, any species like you? You meet, break apart and come back together all the time. You take chances and tempt fate and believe in luck. You lose control constantly – it's really quite distressing when you think about it, being out of touch with your own selves so frequently. Why would anyone wish to do such a thing? Love, sex, friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood, parenthood – they're all synonyms for a lack of control.”

“It's the spice in our stew,” Lili said.

“Tell me about this love business. I'm not so sure that I get it.”

“Huh? I can't speak for the whole human race, for all time. You should get a second opinion.”

“Of course not. I'll get a billionth opinion. Never mind about that. What do you think?”

“What's in it for me?”

“For you? I thought you'd do the whole selfless thing. You do that a lot. I've noticed.”

“Please. Selfless is one thing – but I don't know you from Adam. You're just getting to be a pain in the neck. So, um, what's it gonna be?”

“Hmm. I'll answer a few questions about your future. Tell you your fortune. And it'll all be true.”

“I get to ask the questions? And you'll answer them?”

“Yes to both.”

“Will any of the children die young?”

“Define young.”

“It's within twenty-five years older than I am right now, as of this second – seventy-seven years and a few months.”

“Two do.”

“Oh.”

“But one is not too much earlier. He's seventy-four.”

“Oh. Hmm. I guess I can live with that, at least for that one. What about the other?”

“Twenty-two days old.”

“Is it, is it him?” she asked, indicating Declan and trembling a little, “Take me instead, if it's supposed to be him. Let it be me instead.”

“Oh, please! I am not here to take him or you anywhere, at least not on a permanent basis.”

“But – I mean – it seems to me like you might be, you might be a kind of Angel of Death.”

“No, no, of course not. Like I said, I am here for information. I'm no Grim Reaper.”

“This is – Dec is my last child, right?” Q nodded, “So it's Melissa's baby. But – it can't be Neil, right? Please don't let it be Neil. I mean, I saw him older. So that should be impossible, right? Don't let it be Neil. Don't!” she started to cry.

“Now, don't get hysterical. It's not Neil.”

“Then it's one of the others – dead in just over three weeks, is that it? My daughter? My older son? Tommy, maybe? Who is it, Q? Who drew the unlucky card?”

“It’s twenty-two days old, not twenty-two days from now. So, by definition, it’s none of them.”

“None? Then what are you going on scaring me for? Don't be cruel about this kind of thing, lying to me about such things. Don't even kid. I'm sure even Kathryn wouldn't like it if you did that.”

“It is no lie,” he said.

“But you just eliminated everyone from consideration,” she dried her eyes, “You're not making any sense.”

“Oh, that's right. You don't know about Kevin.”

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“I figured I didn't deserve to have survived, like I wasn't good enough and I hadn't done anything to be allowed to be the sole repository of my family's memories and their love and their talents and everything else. I got into trouble and I didn't face it much. I know now what a difficult child I must have been. It wasn't until I became a master of fire that I began to process it. I began to have a handle on what had destroyed my family, and I could turn it to something that was almost good. And I began to slowly realize that my hopelessly old-fashioned, ancient and unhip grandparents were doing the very best they could for me, and that I should try and, and make it so that things wouldn't be so hard for them.”– Lili Beckett

“I wish there was a way that life could go on without you being hurt.”– Jonathan Archer

“You must be the other one.”– Doug Beckett



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