by Robin Lawrie

July, 1997

VOY, Q/J, [PG] for language

Another 'post-me-seeing-Deathwish' story, but not the same tone as 'Elbow Room'. It's not something I usually do to Janeway as I like the Captain very much, and try to get her on top(winning, OK?), by the end of the story. However, she is human. Bloody tough, but still human.

Q has good intentions, but Janeway would rather not know.

Disclaimer: Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager, and the characters in this story are the property of Paramount.

'Hello Kathy.'

'Don't call me that.'

'Why? You didn't object last time.'

'What do you want, Q?'

'Why does every Starfleet Captain ask me that? Everyone's so keen to assume that I'm after something from them. Well my dear you're wrong, totally wrong. I'm here to give you something.' Q perched on the corner of Janeways desk in her ready room. At least he hadn't appeared in her bed..this time. Yet.

'Keep it to your self Q. You have nothing to interest me.'

'Feel free not to use it then. Just let it sit gathering dust in your hope chest.' Q smirked. 'No one will ever find it there.'

Q reached into the pocket of his Starfleet uniform. He retrieved what looked like a key ring lucky charm. Attached by a short link chain to a ring of metal was a large brass key hole.

'I was touched by your reaction to the view of Earth I showed you. Being such a sensitive soul, I don't want you to feel so isolated from your precious home world. Here, catch.' Q flicked the key ring into Janeway's open palm. 'Now look through the key hole.'

Suspiciously, as if it may burn her fingers or worse, Janeway held the key hole up to an eye. She blinked, turned pale.

'It's...Earth!' Janeway looked up and whispered.

'Yes, just another M class planet. Now think carefully. Think about a particular place on Earth, a particular person. Now look again.'

'I'm not sure I want to. This isn't "real". Is it a holorecording?'

'You know it's not. Go on, look.'

Janeway held the keyhole close. Her knuckles turned white on the arm of her chair.

''s Mark.'

Q smiled. 'Yes. It is.'

'Are you OK Captain?' Chakotay's voice snapped Janeway's attention. She pressed her hand anxiously to her pocket then rubbed her brow.

'I'm fine, Commander. Nothing a little sleep wouldn't fix. Thank you for your concern.' The past three nights had been dreadful. Again and again she was drawn to the keyhole. Mark playing with the dogs, Mark eating toast and jam, Mark tidying up his apartment, just doing simple domestic chores. Alone. Always alone. So far. Mark sleeping. Mark showering...

Her jaw tensed as she pursed her lips. Damn that Q! She should just give the keyhole to Harry and B'Elanna and get them to work on it. Was it some kind of wormhole, spatial anomaly, or weird tight beamed transmission? Maybe they could figure out why she could only see Mark and not her other friends and relatives. Or even Starfleet command. Yes, that's what she should do. But what if they broke it? Janeway rubbed her pocket again. No. Well, not yet anyway. I wonder...

'Captain, am I going crazy or can I hear a dog barking.'

Damn. 'Don't be ridiculous, Mr Paris. Attend to your duties. I'll be in my ready room. Chakotay, you have the bridge.'

'Aye Captain.'

As the door swooshed closed behind her, Janeway shook her head. Amazing. He must really be worried about her. Chakotay forgot to question a decision.

'Tut, tut, tut, Kathy. Keeping secrets from your crew? Mother knows best, eh?'

Q rested his feet on her desk and sipped coffee from her mug.

'I hate you, Q'

'Oh, please, say what you really mean, don't hold back. I take it you didn't like my gift. Would you like to return it?'

Janeway thrust a hand into her pocket and clenched it tightly around the keyhole. She saw herself fling it wildly at Q's head, taking out an eye at least, while she laughed derisively at his curses. But that didn't happen. The muffled woofing noise continued.

'Better see what's got doggie dearest so upset.'

'In a minute.'

'Maybe he's hurt his widdle paw. Maybe he's locked up and all alone. Maybe he's meeting someone new? Dogs are such tarts when it comes to a scratch on the belly, don't you think?'

Janeway's hand twitched.

'You don't trust him, do you.' Q moved around from behind the desk to stand closely next to Janeway. He pushed a wisp of hair away from her ear. Janeway refused to acknowledge his touch by moving away. 'Go on, take a look.' he urged.

'I don't need to look. It's been so long. Mark knew the dangers I faced. He'll find someone else. He'll understand what I'd like him to do'

'Yes. You'd like to think that.'

'What interest is it of yours Q? Don't you have something better to do than torment Starfleet captains?'

'Everyone needs a hobby. Listen. The barking's stopped. I wonder why...Whups! best go. I think I hear mother calling.'

With a snap of his fingers and the characteristic flash of light, Q vanished.

'Bastard....' Janeway muttered under her breath.

'I heard that!'

'You wanted to see me Captain.'

'Yes Tuvok. Take a seat.' Janeway pointed to her lounge and Tuvok hesitated before sitting gingerly on the edge. Janeway steepled her fingers and ordered her thoughts before speaking. Tuvok waited impassively. He could wait silently like that for hours. Janeway valued his patience.

'I've had a visit from Q.'

'What does he want now?'

'I don't know. I haven't worked it out yet. He gave me a gift.' Janeway tossed the keyhole onto her desk. 'Take a look.'

'It appears to be a brass keyhole. Does it have a key?'

'If I had a key, Tuvok, we'd all be home by now. Look through it and tell me what you see.'

Tuvok held it to his eye. Janeway could see him peering through at her. 'I see you Captain, and the other side of the room. Is that not what you see?'

'No it's not.' Janeway reached for the gift. 'Damn that interfering arsehole! What kind of game is this? Sorry Tuvok, I better deal with this myself. I just had to be sure that Q meant the gift for my use only. Dismissed.'

'Good night, Captain. Please, be careful. May I monitor your quarters in case Q returns?'

'That won't be necessary. If Q doesn't want to be seen, our scanners won't be picking him up.'

Tuvok nodded at this logic and left. Janeway looked at the keyhole resting in her palm. She smelled bar-b-que, and watched as a faint curl of grey smoke rose from the tiny aperture.


'You called?' Q appeared on the lounge where Tuvok had been sitting. 'Really Kathy, sticks and stones, etcetera. I didn't think you'd confide in the Vulcan. Tom Paris, maybe. Set a thief to catch a thief?'

'Tom Paris has more integrity in his little finger than you'll ever have.'

'See? We're almost soul mates. But I'll be getting to Mr Paris later. There's a few skeletons in his closet I'd just love to rattle.'

'Leave Tom out of this. And you can take your stupid key hole with you on your way out. I have no need of it. You can't tempt me Q, and you can't bribe me. Just what did you hope to achieve?'

Q stared sadly at Janeway as she finished her scolding. 'It's never easy wanting what you can't have. It's not something a Q is used to. At first I thought it would please you, cheer you up, you seemed so tense. Tell me Kathy, did you look when the dog stopped barking?'

Janeway stared at Q and dug her nails silently into her fists, willing her chin not to quiver, willing her voice not to crack, or her eyes to water. Of course she'd looked. She'd seen the excited animal wagging it's stupid tail, pawing stupidly at their feet, a stupid doggy grin on it's stupid drooling mouth. Obviously Mark would have friends over for tea, and obviously one of them would be female. But the rationalisations stopped short when she saw the looks, the gestures, the eye contact, the touch...the kiss, the caress...and the ring.

Teeth clenched and her heart bruised and pounding, Kathryn Janeway held Q's stare. She vowed not to give in to Q's emotional blackmail.

'Yes. I looked.'

'You had to find out, you know. It's not like I forced you to look. It's not my fault, don't get angsty with me or is shooting the messenger more your style.'

'Get out Q, and leave my crew alone.'

'I'll consider your request, but it's a long road home, Kathy...'

Janeway rose, still holding her stare, her face darkening. It was too much.

'Get the *FUCK* off my SHIP!! Fuck off back to your precious Continuum, you slimy piece of shit! ..So fuck you, Q!.. Fuck off...just..fuck off.' Her voice trailed off as her head dropped to her chest. Her cheeks burned with anger and shame. Janeway dreaded lifting her head to see the smirking face of this infuriating being. But she just had to look.

Q was gone.

Q watched as Voyager disappeared into the blinding crack of light. At least B'Elanna had the warp drive back on line. That should cheer her up some. She seemed so lonely. He'd only tried to help. She had to know, didn't she?

Janeway watched the stars turn into star lines. At least the warp drive was back on line. She smiled grimly. In the darkness of her unlit quarters, in the only privacy the Captain was permitted, Janeway relaxed the fist around her heart, and allowed the hurt. For a few minutes. Hell, she had a ship to run. She had to get these people...home.