Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and all of its characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Q decides Janeway needs some consolation. Takes place right before the events of "Endgame."

Many thanks to Seema for the beta.

Q and Sympathy
By Rocky

Janeway rubbed her eyes, then determinedly reached for another report on her desk. More than anything, she wanted to call it a night and go back to her quarters, but after her shocking discovery earlier that evening, nothing could induce her to venture anywhere near the senior officers' deck. In particular, her cabin which shared a common wall--a decidedly un-soundproofed wall--with Chakotay's. Walking in on him and Seven in Astrometrics had been more than enough, thank you very much; she didn't need any further stimulus to her imagination--or regrets. She was determined to stay in her Ready Room, even if it was past 0200 hours. She'd worked straight through the night on several other occasions, and the current stack of reports did need to be dealt with.

A huge yawn nearly undid her resolve; the urge to sleep was suddenly overwhelming. Perhaps if she tried stretching out on her couch for a few minutes--

A sudden flash of light made her eyes water. When her vision cleared, she saw a familiar figure lying on her desktop, propping himself up on one arm. "Q!" She tugged at a PADD under his elbow. "Do you mind? How do you expect me to get any work done this way?"

"Oh, please," Q said as he shifted over slightly, allowing her to yank the PADD free. "Don't you know that all work and no play makes Kathy a dull girl?"

"Thanks for reminding me," she said. "But it can't have escaped your notice I'm hardly a girl."

"You're not as young as that former drone--your protégée--currently keeping your first officer 'occupied,'" Q said with a sly smile. "But compared to a member of the Continuum, you're a mere babe in the woods."

She glared at him, then returned her attention to her PADD.

He reached over and plucked it out of her hands. "Look at you--dropping with exhaustion, but stubbornly refusing to go to bed. Not that you'd have to worry about running into either of the amorous parties in the corridor at this time of night! And that couch"--he indicated the one she'd been eyeing longingly-- "is out of the question. You'd wake up with an unbearably stiff neck--and no prospect of a backrub--in the morning." He paused. "Not that you aren't unbearably stiff-necked anyway--it's one of your more endearing qualities--but I was speaking literally for a change."

"Q, I need that--" Janeway said as she tried vainly to reclaim her PADD. He jumped to his feet and held it at arms' length, just out of her reach.

"What you need is to forget about work for a while," he interrupted. "'From the Department of Ship's Maintenance: Waste Extraction Reclamation Efficiency,'" he read. "Your taste in bedtime reading leaves much to be desired." He snapped his fingers and the PADD blinked out of existence, along with the rest of the reports on her desk. "Don't worry about those, they'll be here in the morning."

She sputtered incoherently. "Q!"

"Now as far as relaxation is concerned," he continued, as if there had been no interruption. He looked around her Ready Room. "Clearly our first priority is a change of scenery." He raised his hand.

"Wait!" she yelped. He looked at her in surprise. "You've got some nerve, Q, barging in here like this! Where do you get off telling me what I need--"

"You forget, Kathy, I don't just refer to myself as omnipotent because I like the sound of the word. I know exactly what's been going through your mind ever since you had the misfortune to walk in on the happy couple a few hours ago. Too bad you had to find out about their relationship that way, but you know what they say, the captain is always the last to know." He sighed theatrically.

"The last--You mean it's been going on for some time?" Janeway asked, before she could stop herself.

Q looked at her with faintly pitying eyes. "My poor sweet darling, Chuckles and the Borg Babe have been mooning around making calf's eyes at each other for weeks, ever since they were stuck on that primitive planet. And you never suspected a thing!" He shook his head. "Even with your famed inability to see what's going on unless it's directly under your nose, I'm surprised they were able to keep it a secret as long as they did.  One would think that with the little furball who used to run the kitchen doing everything to aid and abet their relationship, it would have become public knowledge a long time ago--"

"Neelix? Neelix knew about them?"

"But of course! He was the primary mover and shaker, the one who gave Seven the encouragement to go for it!" Q leaned in closer. "And you thought Neelix's worst deed before he left Voyager was stocking cargo bay one with a year's supply of pickled leola root."

Janeway thought of the events of the past several weeks and flushed with embarrassment. She'd been totally oblivious, continuing to issue invitations to Chakotay for dinner--'working dinners', of course--and not thinking anything of it when he begged off. Which had been happening more and more frequently lately. Come to think of it, that was around the same time that Seven had started turning down invitations to play Velocity...

Perhaps noting her crestfallen expression, Q said soothingly, "Now, now, Kathy, don't take it so hard, you're much better off without Chuckles. Why, he'd have bored you silly in no time flat, with his 'spirit quests' and bogus ancient legends--" he stopped abruptly. "Is that a tear I see? You're not pining over him, are you? I was sure you had more sense than that!"

"No, I'm not pining," she said, and then to her horror, she sniffed. She turned her head away slightly. "It's not easy to get over a declaration of eternal devotion, that's all." Especially when the other person apparently forgot it with apparent ease, she couldn't help adding to herself.

"Ah, yes, the 'Angry Warrior.' Well, to be fair, you did keep him dangling all those years," Q reminded her. "Too bad you didn't decide you wanted him earlier."

"But I don't want him--I mean, I do--" Janeway ran her hands through her hair. "You don't understand," she said finally.

"But I do understand, all too well. You thought he'd always be there, that all you had to do was snap your fingers and he'd come running."

"I told him, more than once, to move on with his life," Janeway pointed out.

"And he had the temerity to take you at your word! Yes, I can see where you'd be furious with him for that."

"That's not the case! You're twisting my words," she said in exasperation.

"Am I? The way I see it, you decided, for reasons known only to yourself, that you would prove your commitment to your ship and crew by denying yourself any and all pleasures for 70 years or however long it took you to return home. Not content to play the martyr by yourself, you insisted that Chuckles share your self-imposed celibacy--"

"Starfleet protocols clearly state--"

"Oh, tosh. They say nothing of the sort." Q pursed his lips in distaste. "And even if they did, don't you suppose they would have cut you some slack, seeing how isolated you are out here? " He paused as if expecting her to say something. "Yes, well, I can see how that sort of denial would appeal to you. The noble Captain Janeway, sacrificing everything for her ship. You always did have an overdeveloped romantic streak, and I'm sure you enjoyed it while it lasted.  It was only a matter of time until you'd succumb to the temptations of the flesh, of course. What I don't understand is your poor taste in partners. Not that Chuckles has done much better--"

"So that's why you're here, to rub it in, make me feel worse?" Janeway demanded.

"Not at all," Q protested. "As a matter of fact, I'm here to cheer you up!"

"And just how do you propose doing that?" she asked warily.

The words had no sooner left her mouth when there was another flash of light. "Much better," Q said.

Janeway stared in astonishment. Instead of a Starfleet uniform, Q was wearing a ruffled shirt which was open halfway down his muscular chest, an old-fashioned cravat hanging loosely on either side of his collar. Together with the tight buff breeches and riding boots, the style of his outfit seemed oddly familiar. Suddenly, she realized where she'd seen him dressed that way before--in the simulation of the Continuum during the Q Civil War. She reached down and felt the silky folds of her own scarlet gown, and blushed when she realized the bodice was open nearly to the waist--as if it had been ripped asunder--exposing all but the tips of her breasts. She pushed her hair out of her eyes--her business-like short 'do had been replaced by long flowing tresses--and saw an imposing white plantation house in the distance, set against the backdrop of a crimson sunset.

Q strode toward her and grasped her upper arms. "What you need, my dear, is a real man." His warm breath against her bare skin caused her to shiver.

"And I suppose you think you're just the one for the job?" she asked scornfully.

All traces of mockery were gone from his expression. His grip tightened as he pulled her to him. "I want you more than I've wanted any other woman, and I've waited for you longer than I've ever waited for any woman." He bent her back against his arm and kissed her with an intensity that made her knees go weak.

Her lips parted under the pressure of his and  instinctively her arms went around him, her fingers brushing against the back of his neck. And then the realization of her actions overcame her desire, and she struggled to free herself.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she said, breathing heavily and striving to calm the pounding of her heart.

Q released her, smiling in a way that left no doubt he knew exactly what she was feeling. "I know it's been a while for you, Kathy, but surely you remember what a seduction is like."

"Surely you remember you tried that with me once before," she parried, "and I told you in no uncertain terms I wasn't interested in having a child with you."

He rolled his eyes. "Who said anything about having a child? Been there, done that--as you are very well aware, considering your recent assistance with my wayward son--and once was enough, thank you."

"Then what are you up to?" Janeway paused. "Wait, before you answer that, I demand to be returned to my ship. Now."

They immediately rematerialized in her Ready Room.

"That's better--" she began, then realized they were both still in their period garb. "All the way back, Q, to how it was before."

He sighed. "Very well, if you insist, though I still think the dress is a major improvement over that dowdy uniform of yours..."

Janeway felt better once she was back in her regular clothing, more like she was in control of the situation, although that was likely illusory when dealing with Q. She took a deep breath, trying not to think how it had felt when he had kissed her. "What do you want from me, Q, if you're not interested in mating?"

"Ah, I didn't quite say that!" he said quickly. She turned her back on him as he continued, "You misunderstand, my dear,  I'm interested in recreation, not procreation. And as I said before, I think you could use some as well." He came up behind her and whispered, "I once told you about the benefits of such a liaison--that Q are capable of foreplay for a decade!" She retreated a few steps away. "Admit it, Kathy. Don't you regret having turned me down before? Especially considering the few romantic opportunities you've had since: a mass murdering xenophobe--"

"I did not sleep with Kashyk!" she interjected fiercely.

"Tell it to the Starfleet Review Board!" Q retorted. "A hologram--"

Janeway winced. "Can't we forget that ever happened?"

"--and an alien whom you dropped--correctly so--as soon as you came to your right mind and recovered your memory," Q continued inexorably.

Janeway buried her head in her hands at the mention of Jaffen. "Please, Q--"

"And of course this silly dance you and the Wooden Indian have been doing for the past seven years, despite his weakness for the occasional passing blonde." Q waggled a finger at her. "You took him for granted, kept pushing him away while at the same time expecting he'd always be there. Honestly, even someone with his limited intelligence would eventually give up. It was only a matter of time until he found another blonde, this time someone who's not going anywhere." He paused. "Though I do appreciate the irony in who he chose to be the new-found object of his affections, I can see why you find it so upsetting."

Janeway grinned involuntarily at Q's nickname for Chakotay and then sobered at the mention of the affair with Seven. Q came up to her and took her hands in his.

"Come on, Kathy, give me a chance to make it all up to you. Don't you deserve a bit of fun for a change? We can go anywhere, do anything your heart desires." An unseen orchestra began playing in the background as he sang, "'Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar? And be better off than you are? Or would you rather be a--'"

"If I say yes, will you stop?"

It was instantly quiet. "What do you say, Kathy? Are you going to take me up on my offer?"

She searched his face, looking for any hint of deceit but could see none. "I still can't help but wonder what your ulterior motive is."

"There's no quid pro quo, nothing I'm going to demand of you in return," Q said softly. "And I'll even get you back to your ship with no time having elapsed."

"I'm glad to hear it," Janeway said, her mouth quirking up in a smile. "I can't very well justify being away from my ship for the next decade."

"I knew that would appeal to you," he said with an answering grin. "I wouldn't dream of depriving you of what's about to happen next to your merry band of travelers--" he clapped his hand over his mouth "--but I wouldn't want to give anything away!"

She opened her mouth, but instantly thought better of asking what he meant. With Q, it was sometimes better not to know.

"So, Kathy, don't tell me you're going to turn me down a second time?"

She hesitated. It was awfully tempting, but... "I have one last question."

"Ask away, my dear."

Janeway gazed at him for a long moment. "I appreciate what you're trying to do for me, Q, and yes, I admit I have occasionally regretted turning you down in the past." She held up a hand. "But I just find it hard to believe that you're really interested in me sexually."

He looked at her in surprise. "I don't seem interested to you?"

"The last time I saw you, you popped up uninvited, in my bathtub--"


"And throughout the course of our conversation you proceeded to act like you didn't even notice I was naked, let alone that it had any effect on you," she said, somewhat embarrassed.

"I had other things on my mind at the time, namely my son and his irresponsible behavior," Q retorted. He lifted her chin until her face was bare inches from his own. "Yet I did notice you looked particularly fetching in your bubbles."  He waved a hand and the two of them were instantly facing each other in a large, steaming tub. He leaned closer. "Is this what you wanted? Or if you prefer...."

Tom Paris drummed his fingers on the conference table, his impatience growing by the minute. Next to him, B'Elanna muttered to herself as she pored over a PADD. Across the table, Tuvok's frown deepened as he glanced around the room, coming to rest on the empty chair at the head of the table. Harry Kim sighed softly.

"I could be doing something useful in Sickbay," sniffed the Doctor. "Surely the Captain appreciates how valuable my time is." No one paid any attention, least of all the two sitting closest to him. Chakotay and Seven had their heads together, seemingly oblivious to everyone else in the room. Tom strained to hear their whispered conversation, but could only catch a stray phrase, "ancient legend of my people."

Just when he was about to scream with boredom, the door to the briefing room opened. "Sorry I'm late," the Captain said as she breezed in and made her way to her seat.

Tom stared. There was something different about Janeway this morning, a glint in her eye and a spring in her step he couldn't recall seeing before. The more he looked, the more he realized that somehow, the captain looked fresher and younger, not to mention happier, than she had for years. Even her hair looked more red than usual.

A quick check of the room showed everyone else had noticed as well. Harry gaped, the Doctor looked confused, and Tuvok raised an eyebrow. Even Chakotay and Seven raised their heads and exchanged puzzled glances.

"If I didn't know better, I'd swear she got some last night," Tom muttered, a bit louder than he'd intended. He hushed abruptly when B'Elanna elbowed him in the ribs. Somewhat abashed but unable to help himself, he raised his eyes to the Captain's face, expecting to see her famous 'death glare.'  Instead, she smiled.

"Yes, Mr. Paris?"

"Uh, you seem to be in a good mood this morning, Captain." He braced himself for another demotion, or at least a tongue-lashing.

Janeway's smile grew wider, if that were possible. "Yes, well, I am. Now, I believe we have a staff meeting, people, so let's get on with it."


End notes: This story was inspired by the picture of John de Lancie and Kate Mulgrew at a recent con, which can be found at http://www.totallykate.com/galilo03/futurev2.html . Astute readers will have identified a quote from GWTW (Rhett's proposal to Scarlett) in one of Q's speeches. Q's song is an excerpt from "Would You Like To Swing On A Star?" by Jimmy Van Huesen and Johnny Burke.

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