Boys' Night Out
Icheb crossed the Academy campus in a dull haze, barely noticing where he was going. Recent events had left him feeling depressed and virtually friendless. A violent plague of Borg nanotechnology had recently attacked the Earth, and while the process had eventually been reversed, it was not before a person he'd thought of a friend had beaten him senseless for being Borg, and he'd been arrested and refused medical treatment.
He had not been able to bring himself to resume contact with his friends, even the ones who hadn't participated in the beating. Seven had been extremely busy lately dealing with the aftermath of the incident, and hadn't had very much time to talk to him. Captain-- now Admiral-- Janeway was even busier, as was Chakotay... and Neelix was back in the Delta Quadrant. Which meant he had absolutely no one to talk to. And for a former Borg, the sense of being completely alone was torture.
Lost in his dark thoughts as he entered his dorm room, he noticed a human's legs and the rough shape of a human body lying on his roommate's bed, but didn't turn or acknowledge his roommate in any way. It hurt too much to be constantly rebuffed, to deal with the psychological pain every human on campus seemed to be meting out with just their facial expressions. Better to pretend the boy wasn't even there.
"Itchy! Aren't you gonna say 'hi'?"
That did not sound like his roommate.
Icheb spun around to see who actually was on his roommate's bed, and broke into a broad smile. Under most circumstances he supposed he was probably supposed to be unnerved, or at least concerned and cautious, at the sight of the lanky, dark-haired teen sprawled on his roommate's bed. But right now a friend, any friend, even a dangerously unpredictable friend who'd nearly gotten him killed without his powers the last time, was a welcome sight. "Q!"
"Rough day, huh?"
"Actually, it's been a rough month," Icheb said, and then remembered what he was supposed to do, as a Starfleet officer... well, future Starfleet officer. "What are you doing here? Where's your father?"
The adolescent entity swung himself upside down, lying with his head on the bed and his feet propped on the wall. It was, Icheb knew, actually a posture human adolescents could take, as much as it looked like he had to be using his powers not to break his neck. "You know, that whole father-son bonding thing, there's only so much of it a guy can take. I mean, who wants their old man tagging around after them for millennia? It's nice that the guy's, like, paying attention to me for the first time in about eight thousand years, but dude, you're old, go find some old people to hang out with."
"Does he know you're here?"
Q rolled his eyes and swung around upright, feet dangling off the bed. "Hello? Omniscient? Yes, he knows I'm here. Not like the Continuum would let me loose from him if he didn't okay it. So, here I am! Let's go!"
"Anywhere. You pick. We've got an entire universe to choose from."
"Why am I going somewhere with you?"
"Oh, excuse me, I forgot that being kicked half to death, tortured, ignored, and stared at is sooooo much better than going to explore the universe with me."
"Well, when you put it that way, no. But... I think there's a Starfleet regulation I'm supposed to be following."
"About any Q, actually. It was probably written with your father in mind."
"Damn him. He had all the fun and didn't leave me any of it. What's this regulation?" Q jumped to his feet and came over to Icheb's computer console. "What's it say? Come on, bring it up."
"Computer, find Starfleet regulations pertaining to the Q Continuum and display."
"Acknowledged. One regulation found."
"It says," Icheb read, "the Q are a powerful and potentially dangerous race whose internal politics and law are not fully understood by Starfleet. It is strongly recommended that no deliberate contact with the Q be initiated. In cases where a Q initiates contact, Starfleet officers are not to accept gifts or offers of assistance from the Q except in the most dire of circumstances."
"I can read, you know. A lot faster than you."
"Okay, so you know I'm not actually supposed to go someplace with you. Even if it would be more fun than this."
"You're not a Starfleet officer yet; it's not like they can court-martial you or something."
"They could kick me out of the Academy."
"Yeah, because I'd sure want to stay someplace where my best buddies tried to beat me to death. Gee, that sounds like so much fun."
"It's not like that," Icheb protested. "They were scared. The Borg nanovirus was infecting everyone on Earth and they thought I'd started it."
"Yes! The guy who was genetically engineered to destroy Borg thought he'd infect the planet Earth. For kicks! Oh, I'm getting more and more impressed with humanity's general intelligence every time you open your mouth, Itchy. Come on. Blow this popsicle stand and go someplace with me."
"I'd actually really like to. But I can't just disobey regulations whenever I want and still stay in Starfleet-- and I do want to stay in Starfleet. It was Starfleet that saved my life, it was Starfleet that solved the Borg thing, and I want to make a difference with my life. So I've got to obey the regulations."
"I just read you the regulation."
"Read it again." Q smirked. "I don't think it says what you think it says."
Icheb turned back and read it, this time not out loud.
The Q are a powerful and potentially dangerous, as well as really hot-looking, race whose internal politics and law are not fully understood by Starfleet, because we suck. It is strongly recommended that no deliberate contact with the Q be initiated, because the mind-blowing sex can ruin one for mere mortals for the rest of time. In cases where a Q initiates contact, Starfleet officers are to be strict in the use of birth control, or you will be changing diapers for about 500 years. Pinheads such as stuffy old admirals are not to accept gifts or offers of assistance from the Q except in the most dire of circumstances; however, Starfleet officers should freely accept such gifts if they are good-looking, or bald, because certain Q with really weird tastes have a fetish for bald guys.
He tried very, very hard to restrain the laughter. It was wrong of Q to go rewriting Starfleet regulations. This was not funny, it was wrong, and he would not laugh. Until he got to the part about "pinheads", at which point he stopped being able to help himself, and guffawed out loud.
"See? Now there's no reason not to. Where do you wanna go?"
"Q, you can't just go rewriting Starfleet regulations when they're inconvenient!"
"Why not? It's not like I'm going to hurt you or anything. In fact if anyone reads that regulation they're going to know someone hacked it, and if that doesn't tip them off that they shouldn't be writing regulations that torque off omnipotent beings, then they're just morons. Come on. We're pals. Aunt Kathy wouldn't've assigned you to watch me if she thought you had to go by that silly regulation, would she have?"
Icheb looked out the window. The Academy campus was teeming with humans. Oh, there were quite a few Vulcans, and Betazoids, and a couple of Denobulans, and he could see one Tellarite debating with two humans on the lawn, but mostly it was all humans. He didn't hate humans. They had been scared, that was all. Anyone would be scared of the Borg.
Just like his parents had been scared of the Borg, so they'd genetically engineered him into a weapon against them and sent him off to be assimilated. Twice.
There was a painful tightness in his chest. The Brunali had abandoned him to the Borg, deliberately. The Borg had rejected him as not worth reclaiming. Voyager had been his home for years, but Voyager was gone, and the people who'd belonged to it either weren't here or were too busy for him. And now even the humans of Earth had rejected him. The Starfleet he wanted to badly to join was made up of cadets who would stand there and watch as one of their number beat him senseless.
And then there was an omnipotent being who wanted him to come explore the universe.
"You know what? All right," Icheb said, turning to face Q. "I'll go. But I have two conditions. If you promise me you'll meet them then I'll go with you."
"Cross my heart and hope to be an amoeba," Q said.
"Firstly that you bring me back here when I ask you to, right away, no questions asked, and that I should only be gone a day or so, no matter how long we decide to run around the universe. And secondly, that you make sure nothing we do disrupts any timelines, violates the Prime Directive, or causes anything permanent to happen to anyone, including us."
"I am so on it, I-man."
"Did that mean 'yes'?"
"Yes, it meant yes. So! Where you wanna go?" The entity flung his arms out flamboyantly. "We've got the whole universe! Howsabout a trip to Risa? I hear the girls there are..." He made an hourglass gesture with his hands. "Va-va-voom, my man."
"You know, I rather suspected this after I read your creative rewrite of the regulations."
"That you're totally obsessed with sex."
"I'm a teenager! I'm supposed to be obsessed with sex!"
"I'm a teenager, and I'm not obsessed with sex."
"Maybe it's a Brunali thing," Q said pensively. He snapped his fingers and was suddenly a member of Icheb's species. "Hmm. No, I still like sex." He snapped his fingers again and changed back into the appearance of a human.
"Have you ever even had sex, Q?"
"Oh, Itchy!" Q slapped him on the back. "We gotta get you laid, man!"
"You know, I could take care of that myself. I'm not really worried about it."
"It's not as good by yourself as it is with someone else. Well, unless they really suck. Or unless they really don't suck, if you know what I mean."
Icheb tried to damp down the flush of embarrassment he felt. "I meant, I can take care of getting a partner by myself. I don't need your help with that. People have been getting 'laid', as you put it, for billions of years without the help of omnipotent beings. And if you can take me anywhere in the universe I don't want to waste it on going to Risa. They have spring break tours going to Risa from here. I don't need an omnipotent being for that, either, just a ticket on a passenger ship."
"Hmm. Sounds like you've actually thought about what you do need an omnipotent being for." Q threw his arm around Icheb's shoulder. "Been thinking about me?"
"Don't flatter yourself. I've been thinking about it in the minutes since I agreed to go with you, that's all. And I think it would be a waste of your power if you took me somewhere I can get to on my own."
"It's my power. I can waste it if I want to. Plenty more where that came from."
"I mean, I'm not going to be traveling the universe with you forever; there are things I want to do with my life and probably things you want to do with yours, so it'd be a waste of my opportunity to go somewhere with an omnipotent being if I asked you to take me somewhere I could get to on my own."
"That is a very good point there. I like it. So, you want to go boldly where no Starfleet officer is going to get to go anytime soon? The heart of a sun, maybe? You like that whole studying astrometrics thing, right?"
"Yes, but I think I'd be nervous in the heart of a sun. Not that I don't trust you. It's just that I don't trust you that much."
"Oh, like I'd let you burn up? Come on, Itchy, we're pals. I wouldn't do anything to hurt you."
"Deliberately. But your father's been known to use my life as a lever to make you do what he wants, and I don't want to be your..." He searched for the exact term he wanted. "...whipping boy."
"That sounds kinky."
"I think you need to get 'laid', Q-ball. Your obsession with sex is getting dull."
"Well, it does sound kinky, I can't help that."
"It's an old idea from Earth history-- parents couldn't discipline upper-class children by beating them, so they let them make good friends with a servant of the same age and then punished the servant to keep their own child in line. Your father did that to me once. So no heart of the sun until I'm sure he's not going to do it again."
"Okay, that's fair enough, I guess. My dad is the guy whose picture you see when you look in the dictionary for the word 'asshole'."
"I'm pretty sure that's technically not true."
"I could rewrite the dictionary so it was true."
"Then you’d be repeating yourself. You already rewrote a computer file today."
"Okay, okay. Where do you want to go?"
"I think..." He considered. "Sometime in Earth's past. I've been studying their history. Since they're the majority race of Starfleet, I think that perhaps if I better understood them I would get along in Starfleet better."
Q smiled. "Interesting. Not... a bad idea."
"Do you have a better one?"
"Oh, no, no. I like your idea. A lot."
Icheb wondered if he should be having second thoughts about this. Q seemed entirely too intrigued by his idea. On the other hand, Q had once been willing to risk his own life to save Icheb's, and while it was true that Icheb was still somewhat annoyed with Q's father for using him as a tool to discipline his son with, it did mean that he trusted that the young entity genuinely wanted to be his friend and wouldn't hurt him. "Remember, you promised. We come back here whenever I ask, and we don't change any timelines."
"I didn't forget. Let's go!"