Trigger warning for depression, mental illness, and suicidal ideation up ahead.
Lately I’ve been watching Star Trek, which I feel I should have gotten into years ago, but for whatever reason did not. On top of that, I finally started medication for my depression, but as I’m still on the long road to recovery, I’ve been reading a lot of fics about characters struggling with problems similar to my own. A lot of those fics can be upsetting—they feature panic attacks and suicide attempts—and while they do show the recovery process, I wanted to find a fic that was nowhere near as triggering. Enter Guidance by Alara J Rogers, a Star Trek: The Next Generation fic about Q and Picard.
During the episode “Deja Q”, a character simply known as Q, who was more or less a god, lost his powers and became mortal. Q was irresponsible and tormented “lower races”, and being made mortal was his punishment. At the end of the episode, however, he proves himself to others in his species and regains his abilities. Alara J Rogers gives us a world where that didn’t happen and Q remained mortal. Cut off and exiled from his people, and unused to a physical human form, Q falls into severe depression over the next three years. Alara has two fics in this universe. There’s the multi-chaptered Only Human, in which Q attempts suicide after Picard dies, and then there’s an AU fic for this AU called Guidance, in which Picard lives.
Q now lives on a space station, and three years into his mortalness, Picard stops by for a visit to see how he’s doing only to find Q suffering from severe mental illness—depression, PTSD, and an eating disorder.
He assumed that the tall, dark-haired civilian in the purple tunic and black pants with two security officers flanking him was Q, until the man turned around. Picard turned away, looking for Q, and then did a doubletake, looking back at the painfully thin civilian.
Good God. That was Q.
Anderson had not been exaggerating when she said Q looked like hell. The man Picard had dropped off at this base had been in generally good health. Stressed, and showing it– he’d lost just enough weight in his first week of being human for it to be visible, and his eyes had been bloodshot and set in sleepless darkened hollows. Beverly had mentioned frequent muscle spasms locking up his back and neck, obviously caused by tension. But aside from that he’d been in perfect health.
This new Q looked like a dead man walking. He was horribly gaunt, sticklike, as if a strong gust of wind could blow him over or an accidental collision with another person could break him in half. His hairline had receded, and what was left was as much gray as dark. His face looked puffy, eyes sunken, cheeks visibly sagging as if he’d aged far, far more than three years. In fact Picard was still wondering if in fact this really was Q, or some much older man who bore a strong coincidental resemblance, when he spoke and removed all doubt. “Mon capitaine! Have you come to visit me in my exile? How gracious of you.”
Picard smiled slightly, keeping his reaction to Q’s appearance off his face. What the hell had happened? What was wrong with Starbase 56’s CMO that he’d let Q end up in such obviously poor health? “Well, I was in the neighborhood, and I thought it’d be ungracious of me to refuse to at least say hello.”
“Terribly ungracious. If I’d found out you’d have been off my Christmas card list for life.”
I think what really stuck out to me about this fic is that Q and Picard just talk. That’s all they do. They have dinner together and they have a conversation about Q’s mental state and suicidal ideation, which is sometimes all you need. Picard doesn’t try to tell Q to just look on the bright side of things—he recognizes that there’s a problem and that Q is in pain as a result. What Q is going through is validated, and after Picard leaves, that validation gives Q a renewed motivation to work on getting better. He’s by no means cured, but for the moment, he’s not stuck in a self-deprecating and harmful cycle of thought. That might not seem like much, but for someone with depression, simply having another person there can make the depression more bearable, and in some cases such as Q’s, it can be the difference between life and death.
In my current state of mind, this kind of fic is uplifting, even though I know other people would think just the opposite. One of the things that I like about Guidance is that we don’t see any suicide attempt or overt self-harm throughout the fic. We know those things happened, and for people who struggle with that, it can be relatable, but the fic itself is just about a conversation. We can see the healing process without having to read through the trauma that led up to it. Sometimes it’s important to be able to read about those traumatic experiences, but it’s also just as important to read about the recovery without those experiences dragging the reader down. This is actually why Guidance has stuck with me much longer than other stories about mental illness have.
Guidance is a 26k+ word oneshot, and if you’re a fan of Q and want to know what his life might have been life had he remained mortal, I would definitely check this out here on AO3.