Picard eyed the box that laid on his desk. He'd set it aside when Beverly gave it to him, promising to open it on the appropriate day. Today was that day.
He moved it in front of him, briefly admiring the subtle black on black geometric shapes that decorated it before pulling off the lid. As he did, he was greeted by the sight of several layers of craft-colored tissue that hid its contents. He brushed them aside with one hand and picked up his tea with the other, taking a sip.
"Oh, my." He muttered to himself as he recognized the slender figurine within it. He set down his cup and carefully picked the sculpture up out of the box.
It was made of a smooth granite-like material carved by an early civilization that depicted their limited understanding of their solar system. What was so astonishing about this piece, and the many others like it, was just how accurate it was.
It was a wonderfully thoughtful gift. He briefly thought of the poker game Beverley had invited him to that was to be held that evening. He probably should have agreed to go.
He set the gift down on his desk, making a mental note to later put it in his office.
For now, he picked up his tea and the book lying next to it and moved to his reading chair. Opening the book, he began to read aloud from where he last left off.
"I do now remember a saying:" he began, "the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
"Oh, Jean-Luc..." came the disappointed tone of a voice he knew all too well. "Must you really keep reading the same drab things over and over and over again?"
Picard turned his head to find Q leaning back on his couch, a bored expression on his face.
"Don't you humans ever write anything new?"
Picard was about to reply when another, unfamiliar voice sounded.
"Oh, come now," it said in a heavy Irish accent.
Picard blinked to find another man sitting beside Q where a second before there had been no one.
"It sounded pretty excitin' te meh!" He exclaimed - the statement was followed closely by a shrill laugh. "HA!"
Picard set down his tea and turned his attention to him, perplexed by what he saw.
The man sat upright, one leg crossed over the other, ankle resting on knee. He held a cane across the lap of his extravagant, gold, and royal purple attire. It was an outfit oddly reminiscent of the fashion popular during Earth's mid-1500s.
Picard's eyes traveled upward, his gaze coming to rest on the face of a distinguished-looking gentleman - at first glance anyway.
He sported a beard and mustache that matched his hair in both its gray color and well-groomed fashion. But it was his eyes that held his attention, with their eerie shade of yellow broken only by the black cat-like slit of his pupils. The unusual visage was made more disturbing by the wide, mad grin that sat upon his face.
Picard looked from him to Q and back again.
"Who are you?" He couldn't help but ask.
"Who am I?" The man asked in what Picard hoped to be mock bewilderment. "Who am I??"
"Oh, wonderful," Q muttered, throwing his head back on the couch and feigning exasperation. "Here we go again."
"I am part of ye, little mortal," the strange man began, standing. His voice grew deeper as he continued. "I am a shadow in yer subconscious, a blemish on yer fragile little psyche. Ye kno..." He paused. "Wait," he interrupted himself, his voice suddenly higher in pitch. "I think I've said this before." He stroked his bearded chin for a few moments. "Yes! There was a part about bein' flayed alive... and somethin' about skippin' rope. I do love skippin' rope," he laughed and waved a hand dismissively. "No matter! Call me Sheogorath." He bowed. "Charmed."
Q rolled his eyes. "Yes. Yes. Yes. And this is the Capitan, Jean-Luc Picard. Could we move on?"
"Another Captain?" Sheogorath asked. There was an unsettling expression on his face. Something between interest and perversion.
"Yes. And human. Please don't play with this one. They are rather quite fragile," Q dolled.
Sheogorath opened his mouth wide, exposing what Picard assumed to be every single one of his teeth. "HA! Like a skeever in a den of Bosmer they are! Or Bosmer in a den of Bosmer!"
Picard wasn't sure what to say for a moment. He simply gave Q a perplexed look.
"Don't ask," Q replied, waving him off.
"What are you doing here?" He asked, standing and striding towards him as to not have to shout. This was by far the most bizarre thing that had occurred to him. And he'd once lived an entire lifetime in just a few hours.
Q gasped, feigning hurt feelings. "You wound me, Jean-Luc. You wound me. Am I no longer allowed to visit my dear friend?"
"Your visits are never just visits. What are you up to?" He took a glance at this Sheogorath. The man had begun to walk, no, promenade, about his quarters, stopping only to examine everything in the room with unusual interest.
"So much room!" The man exclaimed from behind him. "Oh the bodies I could fit in here."
"And who is this? Another Q?" Picard asked, wishing he hadn't heard his last remark.
Q was standing now.
"What? No. Don't be ridiculous," he scoffed, pulling down and straightening his shirt. "He's a friend." His tone turned dismissive. "Well, an acquaintance, really. From another realm of existence. Your limited, human mind wouldn't understand."
"Mortals and their silly little trinkets," Sheogorath was saying. He had picked up Beverly's gift and had begun waving it around. "At least mine do somethin'."
Picard walked quickly over to him. Q sighed and followed. "That was a birthday gift. If you could simply..." He reached for the statue.
Sheogorath eyed him, a small smile on his face, before turning back to his gift. "That reminds me of this one time," he laughed at the thought, letting go of the statue mid-air.
Picard caught it before it hit the floor and stashed it in the unwrapped box that had been sitting on the table beside it. He took both and secured them under an arm.
"I once gave this old Nord King. No, Jarl. Wait! Thane? Whatever they're called. I gave him a fork and told him it was a powerful weapon." He burst into shrill laughter. "A fork! And he BELIEVED ME!"
His laughter was gone as quickly as it had come. "I mean, it was a powerful weapon. But that's beside the point, isn't it." He chuckled again. "Just think about it. A large, burly Nord King-man wieldin' a FORK inta battle!" The maniacal laughter returned.
He wiped at his eyes. "Oh what a good deal of fun that was."
"Why are the two of you here, Q?" Picard wasn't sure if engaging this new entity directly was such a good idea.
"Don't you just find him so entertaining?" Q ignored.
"Q!" Picard was beginning to lose his temper. He had hoped to spend this evening alone.
"Fret not, Jean-Luc," Q said. "He's harmless."
"The world isn't made of lines, little mortal!" Sheogorath exclaimed. "Lies, yes. But not lines."
"Well, any harm he can do, I can undo," Q muttered. "So relax. Enjoy yourself."
"Q. You promised fun. Where's the party? The entertainment?! The excitement!" Sheogorath exclaimed.
"Yes. Well, Jean-Luc here seems to be in more of a sour mood than usual." He gave him a disappointed look.
"It's as if yer a million million years old," Sheogorath remarked. "You know what ya need? Not to be borin'. Or dead. Death cures all things."
Q turned to Sheogorath. "Now, let's not have a repeat of what happened on Voyager," he said. "Although it was quite amusing to see that stuffy Vulcan struggle to catch his tail." He chuckled.
Picard gave him a stern look.
"What? It's not my fault he reminded Sheo of some insolent Da- what was it again?"
"Right." He paused for a moment, thinking. "Does your Dunmer pet thing have a tail?" He asked.
"Hm?" Sheogorath looked up from yet another thing he'd picked up. "Oh, no," he said quite seriously. Then he laughed." I tried ta give her one once, but she's got such a wonderfully murderous temper." His tone had grown dark and his smile wide. It was unsettling.
"Sheogorath. Q. As, interesting, as this has been," he cleared his throat, "I would really appreciate it if we could cut this visit short. Now is not a good time."
Sheogorath eyed the package under his arm.
"You want us to leave. What a surprise," Q rolled his eyes. "He's always like this," he muttered to Sheogorath.
"Leave?! I've got a better idea." Sheogorath had a sly grin on his face. "How about we start a party right here. OO! With FONDUE! OH!! FONDUE GOBLETS!" He paused. "Would that be hard to hold? Hm. Let's find out!"
Picard found himself holding a mess of orange muck. "What- what is this?!"
"Fondue, Jean-luc. Do keep up."
"Hm. Recipe needs a little tweaking," Sheogorath was saying.
The muck disappeared and in its place sat a goblet with fondue in it.
Now the goblet was made of cheese.
Now there were small cauliflowers in the goblet.
Picard turned to Q seeing him as the most reasonable of the two. It was a thought he never expected to cross his mind.
"Q," he said, trying to appear reasonable.
Q raised his arms in exasperation. "I bring you the best entertainment in known existence - next to me, of course - and you want no part in it?" He sighed. "Fine. Have it your way. But you don't know what you're missing."
Picard glanced at the madman. "Oh, I believe I do."
"Thank you," Sheogorath bowed.
Q sighed. "Let's just go elsewhere, Sheo. I'm no longer in the mood." He was back on the couch, head on hand.
Sheogorath laughed. "Let's, he says. Always a pack with this one. Know what I mean?"
He stared at Picard with a disturbing, knowing smile. But no. He hadn't the faintest idea of what he meant.
"Fine." Sheogorath turned back to Q. "We'll do it yer way. But party at my place. My way." He laughed. "See! Compromise!"
He turned to Picard and bowed.
"For he whines quite fussily
when he lacks of company,
So we go quite suddenly,
and I quite reluctantly,
"Pff," Q remarked.
"A critic ye are," Sheogorath laughed.
He turned back to Picard. "Ye know, captain." He motioned to the box under his arm. "With a gift like that, ye shouldn't be sitting around in the dark readin' the words of dead men. Not when there's excitement to be had! Especially on a day like today. Hm?"
And then they were gone.
Picard set the gift box back down on the table and glanced at the book he'd been reading. Then he looked back at the spot the two madmen had been standing not a moment before.
Perhaps it wasn't too late to play a little poker.