A Soldier's Story
by The Enigmatic Big Miss Sunbeam

I: "Hic Sunt Monstra"

"Tea. Earl Gray, hot."


Jean Luc started and then smiled in spite of himself. He hadn't seen Q for a bit, and, well, there he was, almost wiggling.

"No, Q. Go away," but he said it softly; these visits from Q were...

"Okay," and Q lifted his fingers as if to snap them and disappear.

"No, wait! I am... too scared to let you go. What is it now?"


"I can't... Q, don't do this to me." Q dimpled. "I don't know if I can handle saving humanity right now, tonight. And, please. don't tell me the world is ending."

"Don't you know what today is?"

Jean Luc knew very well. "Stop this, Q." Q looked around the room. "Where's the party?" He leaned in to whisper in Jean Luc's ear. "Good, this is much more intime. Happy birthday! Look, I bought you a present." He handed the gift to Jean Luc, who took it and looked at him and then at the gift again; it was a flat box wrapped with black paper and a large bunch of purple ribbons. And written on the black paper in a kind of textured gold ink, in huge florid excited-looking letters, were the words "Happy Birthday! Jean Luc!!!! Love, Q!!!!" Jean Luc smiled at the present. Q sometimes had an amusing pretense of innocence in dealing with humans.

"Q, birthdays are for children. My own father forbade me to have a party after I was nine years old."

"Shake it, Jean Luc!"

"I'm too nervous to."

"You really aren't, I can tell."

Jean Luc shook it gently.

"Guess what it is?"

"I can't."

"Then open it!"

Feeling slightly foolish, Jean Luc did; in the package wrapped in a strangely textured tissue paper was... a pair of short black pajamas. Jean Luc looked questioningly at Q: "These are nice." They were nice. "Do they do anything?" He brought them out; it was a unknown but very soft and elastic fabric. "All they will do is flatter you," Q said with a smile. "Put them on."

"No, I'm... not ready to go to sleep. But I appreciate this, I suppose."

"How rude! Jean Luc, I'm the only one in the universe you would speak that way to. If anybody else got you some nice pajamas, you'd fall all over them."

"Q. Thank you for the nice pajamas. What do you want?"

"Oooh, I'm just a little planetary person from way out there and my wee twelve-legged green kitten is caught in a tree, boohoovius boohoovius, and, even though it will take you four hundred light years to reach me, I just know you will come and save it. And very likely I'll be all surly and ungrateful after I get a load of you. And the good captain says, make it so, y'all." Q sighed. "And then there's the poor omnipotent Q with presents in hand. What'd'ye want? snarls the captain of the Enterprise. 'I just wanted to give you this little birthday gift.' 'Move along. Nothin' to see here.'"

After a decade, Jean Luc had gotten used to... no one was quite like Q, and that was the truth.

They were both silent; then: "I did not mean to be ungrateful. As you are the only one to remember my birthday, I should be grateful." Then: "Q, stop this. You know our relationship yours and mine -- is more complicated... "

Q leapt in: "You think we have a relationship!"

Jean Luc paused. "Yes, we do." There was another silence. Then Jean Luc seized on something neutral to discuss. "Where did you get these pajamas?"

"I was roaming a planetary system and I saw these... well, humanoids and they live in a ditch, but they had this exquisite fabric that they were making things from, and I showed them your sizes... "

"How'd you know?"

"I guessed. The omnipotent often guess. Actually, looking at you now, they might be a little... small. Tight. Revealing." Q lifted his brows. "But don't worry. I was so pleased with the work of these little artisans that I rewarded them well."

Jean Luc pulled his head back. "What currency did you use?"

"I gave them two centuries of good rains. Just enough to keep their climate and food supply stable until they evolve from the ditch."

"And all I get are pajamas," Jean Luc said drily.

They smiled at each other for a long time.

"You could ask me to sit down," Q said.

"You may stay a short while, Q."

"Expecting company?"

"Q, let me teach you something. Tonight I did have an agenda. I'm exhausted. I wanted to put my feet up and read. I... love my pajamas; thank you. Perhaps we could agree to meet at a later... date, and I could feel rested and ready to swap ironic repartee."

"A date!"

"A later date, Q."

"Tomorrow evening? After work? I know you don't have anything scheduled."

Jean Luc opened his mouth and then shut it again. He regarded Q.

"We could have a nice dinner," Q prompted.

"We could, I suppose. All right, then, 2000 hours tomorrow." And Q flashed into nothingness.

Odd. Genuinely odd.

Jean Luc was sitting at his table, when Q shimmered in.

"You're not wearing your pajamas," Q sounded genuinely mournful. "Look I brought mine too." He waved something black around. "I had matching ones made for me. Those touching little people were so clever with their hands I couldn't resist."

"I don't care to dine in my pajamas."

"Your quarters look lovely. I hope you didn't go to too much of a fuss."

"Not at all. I like a very light supper. No sodium. And I expect you live without dining."

"I brought the wine!" Q made a small round gesture and an opened wine bottle appeared. He made two glasses appear. "To us! Jean Luc."

Jean Luc hesitated. "Very well. To us. Now, stop this foolishness, Q. What's all this about? Is the world ending?"

"I hadn't heard that. Then again, I don't tell the future, baby, I make it."

"Why are you here?"

Q looked, for him, sober. "Jean Luc, you may not live forever."

Jean Luc was stunned; what did Q know? "Well, no, I expect I won't." Then he paused angrily. "Don't tell me."


"What you know. After what happened before, I have resolved to live my life out normally. None of this being brought back from the dead."

"I don't know when you're going to die," Q seemed if anything more sober. "But you may die, and these birthdays... I want us to start thinking about some kind of reconciliation."

"A reconciliation?" He looked at Q. "Has something happened?"

"Something has always happened, Jean Luc." Q poured himself some wine.

"Has something special happened? Where have you been lately?"

"In the cosmic kitchen rattling the universal pots and pans. Let's . . . make up our quarrels."

"And if we don't."

"One of my job descriptions, mon capitaine, is to jumpstart evolution. Let's evolve."

"Q." Jean Luc took a deep breath. "We could, I suppose, but I must tell you that I've never understood... what is your exact nature? You don't eat, for example." Jean Luc looked down at his untouched plate.

"You could say I am a monster."

Picard frowned: Starfleet's strictest political protocol was the non-existence of monsters. "I don't like that word. We have evolved so much -- don't snicker, Q -- that we don't need or use that word. It's judgmental and imaginary. If we believed in monsters, we couldn't have a federation."

"You've seen old monster movies?"

Jean Luc shook his head. That word... "We were shown them at Starfleet to indicate how unenlightened early versions of first contact could be. I found them disturbing; human life forms running and screaming from androids, natural mutations, extraterrestrial life forms."

"There was something else going on, pal," Q said and Jean Luc gave him a curious look. "That's what makes us monsters special. It's not that we're so odd looking, but monster is as monster does, mon capitaine. You can't walk past a monster in the corridor without his grabbing you. A monster always has you in his thoughts. A monster is never indifferent to the least thing you do. If he captures you and bears you to his lair, you become the sweet center of his existence. You know and he knows. I'd would far rather be loved by a monster than a man. To a fellow man, you're background noise. To a monster, you are the only thing that matters; the monster will move heaven and earth to have you. He will kill, he will tear down mountains, he will cross continents to have you. Au fond, monsters care. To paraphrase your old boyfriend William Faulkner, between monsters and nothing, I will choose monsters. Any comment?" Q smiled.

"You don't look too monstrous to me, not that I'm any judge."

"Can you keep a secret? I wanted an attractive human form. Don't you think I'm attractive?"

"Come off it, Q."

"No, Jean Luc, I'm quite serious. What could I do to be more... alluring to you?"

"Q, if I were omnipotent, I wouldn't be so silly." Q smiled a long smile. Jean Luc felt compelled to explain himself. "Some human men do not find other human men attractive; some do. I am one who does not. As I am sure you know. You are merely taunting me." Q kept the same smile, his eyes liquid pools of dark fire. Jean Luc was startled; he didn't like Q silent. He wanted his amusing prattle. "What made you think this incarnation would be accounted attractive?"

Q relented and spoke, "I did my homework. I looked through millenniums of human writings and drawings and... stuff to see what your race likes. And, with some help from other Q's, we chose this poor mortal form that you are so indifferent to." Q wiggled his eyebrows.

Help from other Q's? Like little fashion shows?"

"Primo, they weren't little. And, secundo, choosing a limited molecular form is a challenge for a Q. Think of it as roughing it."

Roughing it! Jean Luc paused. Q had that mocking smile on his face again; really, he was an extraordinary entity. "I think I am not un-well read, but I don't quite recall something like you."

"This mortal coil we ended up with first came to light on Earth as a fictional character. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Tall, broad-shouldered, with huge desperate hands made to hold hot flesh to his, eyes like liquid pools of dark fire and a mane of black wiry hair just touched with silver. A generous mouth curved with pain and lust. And that was just the first impression."

Jean Luc snorted. "Clearly this isn't from Shakespeare."

"No, it's from Danielle O. Buffet. Bee You Eff Eff EE Tee. Rimes with souffle. You've never seen her works: she's pretty much forgotten now. But that was the character she created that made her the wealthiest writer in the late twentieth century USA."

They looked at each other.

"Did this character have a name?"

"Rorschach. Trip Rorschach."

"Q, this is not unamusing, but... you're joking with me."

"No, I'm joking with the universe; I saw how popular Trip Rorschach was and I said if that's what you puny mortals want, that's what you puny mortals will get. I mean, I could have taken on the appearance of the Apollo Belvedere, but it wouldn't have been as good a joke."

Jean Luc retreated, "I believe I'll stick to Shakespeare."

"But you might like Danielle O. Buffet. For example, Trip Rorschach has a secretary named Cookie -- she's a strawberry blonde with legs up to her throat. You like long legged blondes."


"Don't you? Let's play, Jean Luc."

And as clearly as if he were speaking, Jean Luc felt Q read his thoughts. A retinue of leggy strawberry blondes -- Nella, Phillippa, Jenice, the inevitable Bev -- and then: cuddly, black haired, short waisted, with big sooty eyes, perfect little pink tipped breasts, and curvy little hips.

"What's Deanna doing on your mind!"

"Q! Enough of this."

"I read your mind, you horrible lecher!"

"You need remedial reading lessons; I was thinking of -- you know her -- I was thinking of Marta Batanides, who, now that I look back on it, was a provocative little creature. Not that I am going to discuss this with you."

"Poor Counselor Troi! That pert little sloe-eyed brunette is just your type. You're a Frenchman and she has ooh-la-la plus."

Picard paused. On some level, Q had a point, as he often did. "No, she is not my type."

"Why not?"

"Well, we are professional colleagues, and... then there's her mother."

"No, it is Deanna herself who doesn't move you at all."

"You mistake me. She's quite a handsome young woman. A wonderful profile. I always thought that, if the Betazed royal house had gone in for sexual slavery, they would be the most prized courtesans in the universe. For one thing they can read your mind, and then there's all that grooming. Some men like that, but too much grooming for me really. I like women who are a bit more natural. Marta groomed herself like a woman warrior -- a remarkable type really."

"Fur and mortality. That is you mammals in a phrase."

Jean Luc smiled. "And there is that mother. Counselor Troi is much like any number of women I met in Starfleet. They find the structure of Starfleet reassuring. They often have had rather troubled relations with their mothers, who tend to be domineering, or substance abusers, or . . ."

"Fucking nuts. Danielle O. Buffet uses that phrase a lot."

"And the damnable thing of it is that their daughters, invariably, work so hard to avoid being as... eccentric as their mothers, and they always succeed. Until one thing gives them away."

"In Deanna's case, Riker's the symptom of her incipient madness." Jean Luc's smile grew wider. Why was he so relaxed? He supposed because they were talking equal to equal, something captains often couldn't do. Captains had always to be superior. But he and Q had a strange equality of footing. Q went on: "Of course, there was also the occasional old ropey-throated brunette. She-Whose-Name-Rimes-With-Trash."

"Q, stop this."

They looked at each other for several long seconds.

"Jean Luc, this is turning out to be the greatest relationship I've ever had; we're already hiding things from each other."

"Lay off Vash. An omnipotent entity has nothing to fear from a working girl like that. I found her... you may say, satisfactory."

Q bit his lower lip; did he look pensive? Q could not be pensive, surely.

The evening with Q had ended so strangely. Q had insisted on a... an appointment to meet four nights from now. Hot milk, Jean Luc said to the replicator. He got the Shakespeare out. What should he read? He smiled to himself. He was in the mood for great villains. Richard III. Witty repartee and entrapment. No, wait, oh, yes, that was it, Othello. He wanted to read Iago again. So wicked that he became the most important person in the play with his humor, his energy, his vast intelligence. And everything he did he did for one reason: to ensnare his general. There was almost a sexual charge to Iago's scheming. Jean Luc's eyes went to the replicator. Nothing like Shakespeare. No writer on earth was... what was Q going on about? Danielle O. Buffet. He watched the replicator.

At his age.

At his age.

He spoke. "Computer: please show the complete catalog of the works of Danielle O. Buffet."

He looked at the titles: Savage Romping. By Brutality Alone. That Feral Night. The Unknown Want.

"Replicate, uh, Savage Romping."

Fifteen minutes later, he put down the ridiculous book. Q was right about Trip Rorschach, but all the... there sure were a lot of diamond-hard nipples in the late 20th century. Well, everyone knew that about the late 20th century.

Nonetheless, Jean Luc felt... As if he should go to bed. The hot milk was delicious.

Jean Luc was dreaming. He was in his grandmother Gessage's house, and it was raining. He loved rain. He stood by the window, gauzy damp curtains blowing about him, as he had done when he was a child, but now he was Captain Picard; then he found himself in front of a door, a door that he had always somehow known was there, and he opened it. Windows, beautiful glowing yellow lights, shelves and drawers... a room which was both secret and familiar. Inside the room, there were a hundred or so narrow drawers, made of a golden glossy wood; he opened one and found it full of shiny gray stones. A soft thunder kept rolling. He picked them up; they had a slight magnetic charge -- they seemed precious. He moved to another drawer -- more beautiful stones. These all seemed to be emeralds and other pastel square stones; another drawer held nothing but antique brass keys. All his to unlock. Everything in the room was his now. And he became aware that some of the drawers held something very urgent, pictures he had to see, photographs of... men and women. He was suddenly violently aroused -- which drawer was it? He could almost remember; he had somehow opened it once before. He remembered . . . on the left. Ah, there the photographs were: a couple making love. She was dark haired and masked with white gloves; he -- with long dark hair which obscured his face -- was taking her from behind. The next picture showed her on her knees; he was in her mouth. Jean Luc gasped.

And awoke. He was erect and breathless.

I must sleep.

He shook his head.

I must... what would... help?

Without thinking, he went to his book shelf; the idiotic and insulting Savage Romping was there and he took it back to his bed. There had been a passage he noted earlier; Trip Rorschach was in a twentieth-century convertible-style automobile. It had a "radio" which played savage hot jazz.

"Trip Rorschach felt fire ants in his bloodstream. "Not here, Trip," Cookie breathed. "Someone could come along." But he was hard as ivory; his insistent erection said it didn't matter."

Jean Luc swallowed. Where was the good part?

"You've quit wearing panties, haven't you, Cookie. Good girl. Let me stick it in you. You're so wet," he said in a hot animal voice."

Where the hell was that good part? Jean Luc was holding himself at the edge of himself. Cookie was giving in -- she was seeing stars. Yes yes yes, all right, fine, stars; then Trip

took himself out of her and, still wet from her spendings and giving a tremendous shove,entered her skillful rectum [skillful!] And astonishingly she shoved back against him,cooing and out of her mind with lust. "Oh, Trip, I never thought being fucked in the ass would work for me."

And Jean Luc swallowed again and became nothing but pulse.

He dimly realized that even his lips were throbbing, something which seldom happened, and, after a minute of quaking, he was himself again.

Idiot book. Idiot Q. He threw the book to the floor.

I'm better than this, dammit.

I must sleep.

Better than what?

I... don't know.

Before they left on their next mission, a reception was being held at Starbase Nahtod 31A.. Musicians. Food. Riker with his odd posture speaking in an officious way to some bored-looking Nahtods. Deanna and Beverly with their little curved smiles. Data was talking to someone who wanted to listen to him. The reception was going well... it was a nice... domestic... kind of evening.

A thought came to him: I wish Q were here. He is always so perky.


And after the thunder spoke, the yellow sky did something it had never done before: it rippled as if it were being adjusted by a petulant hand.

The slender, lavender-skinned, bug-eyed natives ran to the small slits in the roofs of their sod huts. A dry-mouthed child turned to an older man: Grandfather! And the elder said: I have never seen that before! Nor my father nor his father before him! The gods are angry! We must make haste to the temple to appease them!

The morning after the reception, Jean Luc sat in his ready room. Starfleet's new orders had the Enterprise going towards the C'as'l Syndromic System. Federation warships had already been called there. Part of the System was controlled by an alliance of small planets -- the South Dimension -- who wanted to be a part of the Federation; unfortunately, they were balanced by an almost equal sized alliance of small planets -- the North Dimension -- who wanted to take over their known universe. Now actual bloodshed was threatening to break out in the most unfortunate way. The Silamios, a very primitive group of tribes in the system who spent most of their time paddling aimlessly from one of the thousands of C'as'l Syndromic moons to the next, had been attacked by the North Dimension. And the damnedest thing about it was that the North Dimension didn't want anything from the gentle Silamios; they were just showing the South Dimension what they could do. And the Silamios could be destroyed; fortunately, it appeared the South Dimension was intervening just in time with support promised from the Federation.

And the presence of the Enterprise was just to show proof of the Federation's intentions. Jean Luc looked at his padd. A typical war-like gesture. The Italians had done the same thing with Ethiopia in the 20th century to show the rest of Europe how potent they were. It had nothing to do with Ethiopia, but everything to do with Europe. His head moved back a fraction. A most unwarlike thought had struck him. When he and Vash made love, it had to do with him and Vash; when Vash made love to Q, it had only to do with Vash, and, when Q made love to Vash, it had only to do with Jean Luc.

He felt as if he had been stealthily handed a valentine.

He went back to his padd to see what else had happened. On earth, a great discovery had been made: well! He keyed in the information button. In an obscure attic of the Vatican, a painting had been rediscovered after centuries and centuries of neglect. He enlarged the thumbnail. A Caravaggio. How extraordinary. It was a man, they identified him as the Marchese Montevisto, with his favorite steed. What a beautiful painting. Jean Luc liked Caravaggios; the earth never had air and light like that anymore, and air and light like that was something that could never be replicated. The light was coming from a distant small window and much of the painting was in darkness; the tall, well-shaped Marchese was standing near his horse with his hand on the horse's huge beautiful backside. And the horse, gaily caparisoned, was as proud as its owner. Jean Luc studied the way the man was dressed: velvet short jacket, codpiece, tights, lace, and a velvet cap; a well shaped beard, large black glittering eyes, a sensuous Renaissance mouth, and long black hair. Caravaggio had crafted the figure so it looked out at the world with the utmost pleasure and pride. I'd like to have known this Marchese, Jean Luc thought pleasantly. The horse was named Present Joys. Present Joys! Extraordinary.

He stood up abruptly and went to the replicator. Soon a first-rate copy of the painting was in his hands. He smiled and set it up against the wall on his bookshelves. Look at that horse.

Geordi and Data had just finished with the latest report from engineering. Starfleet was just the least bit jumpy about the C'as'l Syndromic situation, and they wanted the Enterprise functioning perfectly. "Would you like coffee or tea?"

"Neither, Captain, we got to get back to engineering," Geordi said agreeably.

"Before you go, let me show you something they've just discovered on earth. Something by the painter Caravaggio, I'm sure you know his work. Data, you're a painter; what do you think of this? It was in the Vatican." He handed Data the print.

Data looked at it, and Geordi turned his visor to it as well. Did Data jump? Then he rolled his yellow eyes to his captain; Jean Luc was taken aback. Data's eyes were slightly narrowed in his "suspicious" look. "I beg your pardon, Captain, but the human figure looks exactly like the entity Q."

"What!" Jean Luc took back the painting.

"Captain, do you not see the resemblance?"

Geordi spoke up: "I don't see it, Data."

The Captain willed away a blush. He thought: Of course you wouldn't, Geordi, you're...

Everyone paused.

"It is a handsome piece, Captain; the resemblance merely stimulated my neural..."

"You've ruined it for me, Mr. Data."

"Captain, I do apologize."

"I'm just... kidding. It's not ruined." He recovered himself: "and it doesn't look at all like Q."

"Cap's pissed, Data. Good one," Geordi said out in the hallway.

He walked into his quarters: Q was there. Right on time.

Q said. "I've been thinking." Jean Luc was nonplused. "About what you said about the women of Starfleet and their moms. You're such a sexist."

"You know, I was afraid of that charge when I made that remark."

"Notwithstanding that it's true, of course, mon capitaine. But you need to include all those father problems of Starfleet. Look at the father-wounded, brother-hurt men. You. Worf. Riker. Data." Jean Luc was shocked into silence. "And you men also like the structure Starfleet gives you."

"Well, you do have a..."

"Do you think Riker did it with Arctus?"

Jean Luc shifted gears. "Arctus!" Q was such a handful. He tried to remember the circumstances. "That pirate the time when I was Gaylen? Well, the rest of that motley crew told me Riker was lovers with him."

"Do you think it was good for him?"

"For Riker? Yes, I'm sure it was." He smiled at Q.

"Jean Luc, this is unnerving when you tease ME. I can't tell if you're serious."

"Q, I heard that they did it. Having -- what is it -- five million and sixty some years between us, I think we're adult enough to discuss this without swooning on the daybed. And I saw for my own eyes that Arctus was quite taken with Riker -- he liked how big he was."

"Size Queens of outer space, huh."

"It would appear that way. This is certainly a vulgar turn of conversation, Q." They smiled at each other. "Arctus Baran was always somewhat brash. He'd grab my chin and say, don't flip your tits, baldy. And he called Riker his bitch. I'll get my bitch and together he and I will stick it in Starfleet's ass."

"Whoa!" Q gulped. "How about Worf?"

"What about Worf?"

"Do you think he's sexier than Riker? Or is it Data? Or is it Geordi? Or some of the cadet boys."

"Let's get this straight now, I am not attracted to men, not in the least."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, but still, if you had to."

"What do you mean have to?"

"To save the ship, for example."

"It just wouldn't matter." They looked at each other. "All right, then, Data."

"Data. He's not human -- how could that be any fun?"

"Fun?" It wasn't supposed to be fun. "I'm saving the ship. Play your game with me, Q, but let me know the rules."

"Why Data?"

"I could swear him to secrecy."

"Well, then you could tell the mysterious force that was making you . . . save the ship by having sex with Data and then not have..."

"Yes. Exactly."

"Piss," Q said.


"Look at Riker. You know they did it, him and Arctus."

"Arctus was... not a gentleman."

"Was he a good warrior?"

"Barely. Super weapons -- not a warrior's way."

Jean Luc stretched. What an evening. Q had rattled on in the most entertaining way for hours. "Q, if you want me to say you amuse you, you amuse me. But now I need sleep."

"Can I come back?"


"In forty-eight of your hours."

"How could I stop you?" Q lifted his hand to flash out. "Q, what do you do with the time? Do you just fast forward?"

"I stay in time generally. It pleases me to share your limited dimensions. So I poke around, looking for challenges." Q leaned over. "I like challenges. I like challenges A LOT. Bon soir, mon capitaine."

Jean Luc lifted his eyebrows. "Bon soir, mon vieux."

They smiled at each other, and the twinkle happened. Q disappeared.

Jean Luc stood up smiling, what a rascal, and found himself in Q's arms and Q was kissing him on the lips, passionate as a woman, wet wet wet kisses, using the soft tip of his tongue.

He pulled himself away, "Q!" but Q was gone.


Was Q propositioning him? The very idea... now that he softened a bit towards Q, was Q taking... advantage... but none of these words... on the other hand, Q had such limited social skills. Was Q perhaps thinking that this was a normal way to say... no, Q was far too smart for that. Q.

He... pulled himself together.

What the... I) well, perhaps Q didn't know that men didn't kiss good night. But, on the other hand, II) wasn't that was highly unlikely, and... A) yet in a way; you couldn't tell what Q knew about human... sexual relations, And, III) many men, men of all stripes and affections, did kiss good night. So: IV) so maybe it was nothing, and it would be wrong to make a fuss A) Because, if he did make a fuss, Q would accuse him of... something, either 1) being full of unnatural lust and projecting that unnatural lust onto Q, or 2) being a homophobe and denying lusty manly full-hearted Walt-Whitmanesque Q his lusty manly... whateverness; 3) or making a big deal of nothing which after was all it was. But if it was nothing... Jean Luc looked down... don't be ridiculous, he said to his body. I'm going to sleep now in my bed. Sleep. Delicious sleep. "If anyone cares," he said aloud.

The next morning, Jean Luc now even more explanations for Q's inexplicable behavior, which meant, insanely, he knew less than before: I) Perhaps it was a test to see A) if Jean Luc were attracted to men 1) and would expose him on the bridge or some even more embarrassing place; a) but why would that be so bad; or B) to see generically what Jean Luc would do; 1) and maybe laugh at him, but, again, what had Jean Luc done that was so bad; II) or was it outside the realm of human belief to think that Q might actually want to accelerate the relationship with Jean Luc, A) Because he, Q, was attracted to him, Jean Luc; B) or was he, Q, just testing him, Jean Luc, to see if he, Jean Luc, was attracted to him, Q; C) or was Q experimenting... or was Q... or was...

This way lies madness.

It was just some cells bumping against each other; we studied that in as children.

With a sigh, he turned to the annual reports on the ship's school which Deanna had thoughtfully annotated.

Less than forty-eight hours now.

So: forty eight hours. Q was as good as his word. You could set the ships' chronometer by him.

Jean Luc was by the replicator when Q flashed in.

"What are you having?"

"Virtual spring water, actually."

"Water!" Q looked at it as if it were a novelty.

Then he leaned against the replicator. Jean Luc... there was nowhere else to go so he leaned against the replicator with Q. Q folded his arms in front of him, in that hugging himself gesture; where had Q learned that? Jean Luc did the same, almost unconsciously.

An awkward silence.

Q cleared his throat. "If we are going to reconcile, we need to talk about the Borg. What is my role in the Borg affair to you?"

"Well, you did warn us. A decent thing to do. I've thought about it. I didn't appreciate being flung around in space, and no captain want anyone in his care to die, but we can only speculate about what would have happened to us if we hadn't had that preliminary information you provided us. You may have been enemies with Guinan but you did warn us."

"But being abducted by the Borg was the worst thing that could happen to you."

Jean Luc breathed in. "My brother Robert... was a lot like my father; I think they thought I was weak because I was the youngest. Robert didn't mean to, but I felt he was... making the... the implication that it was partially my fault. That the Borg saw something in me."

"And that made you feel..."


"There's never just one factor in any happening, is there, Jean Luc? The Borg encountered you, but they encountered a lot of people that day. They did see something in you."

Jean Luc looked at Q. "It is disturbing to think that the Borg saw me as compatible."

"Not exactly compatible." Q had that seriousness which was so uncharacteristic. What a face he had. Mobile, shifting from anger to cold indifference to cajoling with an almost feminine beauty in milliseconds. "Jean Luc, you and I both know how complicated things are. The Borg chose you for the exact same reasons I chose you and Starfleet chose you."

Q chose him? "And what might those reasons be?"

"You're complicated. So serious. So guarded. There are those of us who want to know what you're hiding. And at the same time, if it's that valuable, then you are vulnerable. Guarded and vulnerable. You take our breath away."

"The Borg didn't think that way."

"They didn't intellectualize that way, no. But they sensed your power. To be at the vortex of two significant emotions like that causes an incredible amount of energy. And the Borg are nothing if not energy seekers."

"And Starfleet?"

"Energy is power. You know that."

And for two hours they stood by the replicator, each man with his arms folded across his chest. Once or twice, Q would touch Jean Luc's arm, but other than that they protected themselves.

"Jean Luc, you'll need your sleep." Jean Luc was silent. "Can I come back and see you?"

"If you like."

"When's a good time for you?"

"I don't like the way you say time."

"Okay, in what sort of minutes? 10,036?"

"Sort of minutes? They only come in one type."

"Not for me, mon capitaine."

"Good night, Q."

Q leaned over -- and Jean Luc didn't move his head. But he didn't offer it. And Q gave him a very gentle kiss on the lips. And a second, gentler shorter one.

"People do do this, Jean Luc."

"I'm aware of that."

When Jean Luc didn't move, Q kissed him again. Still soft, with mouth closed. Gentle. "I'll see you in three days."

The flash of light.

Beverly came in. Jean Luc smiled warmly. She was so beautiful. "We're going to have a talent show, Jean Luc! Why don't you play your flute for everyone?"

Jean Luc kept his smile, but just barely. A talent show. "No. It would not be appropriate for the captain to be in a talent show."

"Very well." She looked at him. "Is it time to start having our breakfasts together again?" He didn't answer immediately. "I see. No it is."

What could he say: I don't want breakfasts. I want...

"I'll just leave, Jean Luc. You seem busy."

Routine was running Jean Luc's life. He had had to put aside... other things in life. But sometimes it was good to remember that he was a warrior. Dammit, he had come back from casualty to casualty to lead his men yet again. What was it those World War I officers shouted in the trenches? Over the top, lads; nobody lives forever.

A splendid sentiment.

Why was he suddenly thinking of Q?

Q the liar.

Q the misanthrope.

Q the... emotional magnet.

Q the... anti-Starfleet.

Q the... fun.

Jean Luc, what are you waiting for?

Nobody lives forever.

Warriors face their conflicts.


Deanna was nude in her bed, sleeping... tossing... coming near consciousness. Suddenly, she awoke; she didn't move, but she knew someone was with her. Starfleet educated them, even the services people, that thing do happen in a hostile universe. It would have been easier with a uniform, but she reached over and turned on the light.

And screamed.

It was Q's turn to jump.

"What!!!" he screamed.

She pulled her blanket up to her chest.

"What!!!" she screamed back.

"It's just me, Counselor. I want some help." Q was under the covers with her -- was he... naked? No, thank goodness, but still...

"Help at this time of the night... Q. Is this a dream?"

"D.T., D.T., all life is but a dream, but I'm as serious as I can be."

She shook her head. He was serious... somehow.

"I'll be a better counselor in my office with clothes on."

"Deanna, I'm in love with Jean Luc."

Was she just too sleepy to empath properly or was he telling the simple truth?

"Well, everyone loves Jean Luc in a way."

"But I am not everyone, and I love him."

"I want some clothes, Q."

"No! You have to help me; I'm on the ship and you're the ship's counselor. I'm almost obsessed. I watch the food he eats, the drink going down his throat, and I am envious of it. You know my favorite part of his body?"

"Umm, should you be telling me this?" Q ignored her. His complete insistence on ignoring other life forms had a strange charm; Q refused to consider the other person's point of view. The exact opposite of an empath.

He read her mind and was aggravated: "I am not the exact opposite of an empath, Deanna. I sense what everyone is feeling and thinking. I just don't give a shit. It's his dimples. I love dimples! But he doesn't use them correctly. You never see them unless he's trying to put one over on the Starfleet biggy wiggies. With that big bogus smile of his. Don't you love his dimples?"

"I never thought about it."

"Hell, I don't know why I'm asking you. All you see is a lot of inches of strapping Klingon he-flesh. You can tell me, is Worf as good as he looks?"


"Oh, Deanna!" Q looked thrilled. Deanna sensed how much physical pleasure, a human novelty, meant to him.

"When did you fall in love with Jean Luc?"

Q sat up in the bed and tented his fingers. "Farpoint, I see now, but . . . I fought it. I couldn't understand my... I thought I just wanted to put Jean Luc in his place. That snooty little bastard. It took me a while to figure it out.".

"You once said Jean Luc was your only friend in the universe."

"I was just flirting, but... Deanna, I don't have good people skills. I mean since I didn't rape the captain, I thought I was another..."

"This talk of rape is disturbing."

"Deanna, don't fool a fooler. You mean this talk of rape ought to be disturbing."

"Q, to be honest, rape just might not matter in the captain's case. Essentially, the Borg raped him, and the Cardassians were nearly as bad. I don't think you could rape him. And I also don't think you would, would you?"

"No. He has to want me. He has to love me."

"Q, please stop for a moment. Among other things, I must pee."

"Ohhh!" Q was so pleased at her simple humanity.

"I'll be right back."

"I love Jean Luc!" he yelled as she went into her restroom.

She was glad to have a reason to be away from his insistent and clutching presence for the briefest instance; the odd thing was that he had not told one lie. He had not even hedged the truth a bit. When he squealed that he loved Jean Luc, she could tell he was serious. When he said he loved Jean Luc's dimples, he was serious. When he expressed his childlike relish in her relationship with Worf, he was serious. He was like an onion; playfulness was under seriousness under playfulness again in layer after layer. But she had enough Terran blood to know that onions cause tears. And yet wouldn't Q loving the captain be perfect in its own weird way?

When she finished, she grabbed an oversized robe and went back in the room, and Q said, "Guess what I'm wearing?"

Q was so astonishing: "What?" she said.

"Jean Luc's undershirt! I stole it the other night. I don't have any other totem so I stole it. It's elastic enough to fit me and it smells just like him." Q loosened his shirt a bit and opened it; there was one of the Starfleet issue ribbed tank tops. Q stroked his stomach. "I love him!!! Come on, Deanna, you can lay back down here. What can I do to make him love me?"

"I don't know how to counsel a Q."

"What would you say to anyone?"

Deanna sighed. "Be yourself. Let it happen."

"That's it?"

"That's all I know. I thought you were omnipotent."

"I am. I am very omnipotent, but..."

She blinked: "But you want Jean Luc to have free will and love you freely. Okay. Then you have no choice, but... to be yourself. And let it happen."

Q -- what an amazing face! -- scowled and looked at her: "You get paid for that? I'm going to make you think this is a dream. Jean Luc's kind of private."

Jean Luc sat on the sofa in his new pajamas, drinking his warm milk and reading a padd.

"Did you miss me?"

"Q, stop this," Picard said and smiled. Q had on his new pajamas too and sat so close to Picard on the sofa that Jean Luc had to move or let Q squash him.

"What's been going on on ye old Enterprise? When Worf's going to get a haircut? What obscure little tribes did you play God for?"

"You're the one who plays God."

"I like to play. Situations interest me." He looked frankly at Picard and... was he raking those astonishing eyes up and down Picard's body? Then, with all the cunning and yet all the innocence in the world, Q put his hand on Jean Luc's knee.

Their eyes met. His first impulse was to stand and order Q out. Then at least to move away from the large warm motionless hand.

Then, as he looked at Q's amazing eyes, he...

At his age.

More years gone than ahead.

And warriors didn't react like old men when someone put a hand on their knees. What was wrong was cowardice. And besides wouldn't the Prime Directive want him to... explore... this... and didn't he himself? And Q was watching him with small banked blue flames in his dark eyes. Over the top, lads, nobody lives forever. So Jean Luc did one small thing; his knees were slightly apart, and he moved the knee Q was touching five millimeters closer to Q and Q's hand. The blue flames in those astonishing eyes flared.

Then Q took his hand away. "Do you have your Ressikan flute handy, Jean Luc?"


"I'd like to hear you play." And Q settled back on the couch.

Jean Luc crossed to his credenza. Oh, well, that was that.

"I'm not very good, Q. But it does relax me."

He took out his flute and leaned against the credenza.

"No, Jean Luc, come sit with me." Q had a note of gentleness, of... conciliation in his voice? Jean Luc sat back down a couple of feet away and put his flute to his lips.

"Okay, Jean Luc, play the blues," Q smiled.

"This is a very simple tune," Jean Luc said, and began playing. Q leaned forward as he listened, eyes brightly lit now.

And he put his big warm hand back on Jean Luc's thigh, a couple of inches higher now.

Jean Luc missed a beat, but he kept playing.

Then the old pleasure he got from playing came to him, the almost-out-of-body experience that always rolled over him. It was nice to have Q there; it was nice to have an audience.

Q's hand moved a bit closer to Jean Luc. Jean Luc kept on playing.

Q's hand moved again, this time in a caress that went forward and back, and then the impudent limb moved from the top of Jean Luc's thigh to the inside.

Jean Luc finished his melody. Q's hand stayed still.

They looked at each other again; the music was over, but the feeling that Jean Luc had when he played, the feeling he loved about music staying with him, the losing of the burden that was being Captain Jean Luc Picard, of the Federation Starship Enterprise. It was as if the artificial particles of oxygen in the Enterprise atmosphere were playing a kind of music that Jean Luc was a part of, and all of Q's caressing eyes and hands were a part of it too. Q lifted the offending hand from Jean Luc's thigh and moved it slightly in the air; the lights in Jean Luc's quarters went out, and they were there in the starlight only.

"You play beautifully."

"I'm sure as a Q you've heard better," Jean Luc's voice was low.

"But that is the best this moment has to offer. We Q's like the novelty of time."

The hand that was Q's moved back to Jean Luc's thigh, and the other hand moved behind his neck. Q's flesh had the faintest tingle, almost electric.

Q moved his arm over Jean Luc's shoulders and there they sat, with Q's arm around him. And then Q kissed the side of Jean Luc's face, and his ear, and right under his sideburn.

Jean Luc moved his shoulders and then moved his face back and stared at Q in the dim light. It was as if he had never seen Q before. Q closed his eyes and came in close; his lips brushed Jean Luc's.

Over the top, lads.

At his age.

Jean Luc leaned towards Q -- was this the right thing to do -- and Q leaned in again and kissed him deeply this time, open mouthed, those strikingly wet, sweet kisses he remembered from before. And Jean Luc opened his mouth and thrust the tip of his tongue into Q's open mouth, and Q was very still, and then he moaned softly.

And Q's hand still moved up and down, gently stroking this time. And Jean Luc opened his thighs a bit more. And Q's kisses continued and his hand kept moving. And then his hand moved to Jean Luc's body and over his pubic bone and lower which rushed and hardened with his pounding blood. And Q moved his hand over and over that one place, meanwhile continuing with those amazing kisses. Then he opened Jean Luc's pants and it was warm rough skin on cooler elastic skin. And Jean Luc sighed deeply -- the music of the particles and the atmosphere and atoms and elements and -- what did he know -- the stars continued -- like a great organ playing, and he moved his hand to Q's chest and it was Q's turn to sigh. He touched Q's nipple and it hardened and he brushed the palm of his hand across it and Q sighed again. And then Jean Luc moved his hand down to Q, and then they were both holding each other's naked sex, and kissing, and, whatever Q did to him, Jean Luc tried in the almost out of body state he was in to do back to Q, meanwhile moving into a region of throbbing silk all around him -- how did Q lubricate his hand that way -- and then he was shuddering into Q's mouth and he kept pulsating for quite a while afterwards. And Q rustled and stood up and he was naked, and he had been holding his erection in his hand and, as a semiconscious Jean Luc leaned forward and touched it and encircled it with his hand and pulled it, Q breathed once through his nose and came.

Ohhh," Q said.

So that was what the omnipotent deity wanted.

"Well, I guess I better book, Jean Luc; those temporal anomalies aren't going to watch themselves develop." But Q made no move to leave; he was still naked.

"And I need my sleep." Jean Luc was exposed too.

"Can I come back and see you again?"

"If you like."


"Umm, I've got some things and... situations... I have to focus on. Maybe, two days."

"It's a date."


The morning after:

What was that all about? He didn't feel bad, he felt... he touched his beard-rough face; Q kissed well, overwhelmingly so. I hope I...

One night, oh yes, one night back at Starfleet Academy he had been invited to an informal get together in the quarters of some fellow students he didn't know terribly well -- there was a visitor there, an old salt from some Klingon outpost; he was human, but just marginally. Years of living Klingon had roughened him into a close approximation of a Klingon; he wore an eyepatch, leather armor, shoulder-length hair. Oh yes, what was his name? And he had fixed his remaining eye on them and said, "oh, the Klingon is a tough nut all right. 'Tis a good thing the Klingon is on your side."

"Aren't you on our side, old man?" one of the fresher young men said.

"I've been with Johnny Klingon too long. I won't come back. And their ways aren't your ways." He lowered his voice. "You look a likely lad," he had spoken directly to Jean Luc, "ever hear of the Lorash Swa!" Jean Luc shook his head timorously. "Ha! Ladies, shield your ears! Before the great battles, all the Klingon takes off their armor and the first Klingon walks among them and picks another man, one he likes, if you know what I mean. And then the second Klingon picks his man and the third and so on. And if you want another Klingon's man, you must fight him to the blood and bone for the lad."

All the cadets' eyes went big and round.

"And all that night before battle, they... well, they don't hardly satisfy each other. The point is for your lads to sport and lure and provoke your man almost to madness with your teasing Klingon ways, so the next morning when you rise from your man's arms you're both aching for the next night and you go into battle with that ache. No one wants to fight a Klingon, but a dissatisfied Klingon who only wants to survive til the next night is an enemy no race can defeat."

The only sound was the shallow breathing of all the cadets.

"Ha," said the old man. He moved closer to Jean Luc. "What do you think of my tale, lad?" He tapped Jean Luc's chest, and Jean Luc looked at the grubby finger in the fingerless glove tapping his uniformed chest. Fastidiousness was always at war with Jean Luc's toughness.

"A provocative tale, old man, one I am glad I heard... for many reasons." The room laughed, and the old man looked around surprised, and then laughed with them.

"Better lock your room tonight, Jean Luc!" Someone shouted.

"To keep someone out or to keep me in," Jean Luc said, and there had been more big straddling gales of Starfleet Academy he-man laughter.

Jean Luc had always wanted to ask Worf about Lorash Swa, but two things kept him from that. One was that Worf might not know. He had been raised by humans, and sweet dear round humans at that, the least likely Klingon parents in the universe. The second was, if Worf did have some racial memory of this ritual of Lorash Swa, he might kill Jean Luc for mentioning it. You really never knew how far you could push Worf.

Perhaps he and Q had had some sort of Lorash Swa, something that wouldn't happen normally, something that didn't reflect on them normally, that wasn't a part of their normal lives, but something that was... abnormally normal for a reason.

On the other hand, Jean Luc did have a certain ache now.

Starfleet on subspace: The C'as'l expedition was called off. The Enterprise was going to transport mixed race farmers from Deep Space 16 to an uninhabited class M planet.

Terraforming. No war. Swords into ploughshares.

Jean Luc sighed.

Farmers are good.

"Very good, men," Jean Luc said to the assembled troops in Engineering. Data. Geordi. Barclay. Some women. He had the smallest pang of disappointment at the everydayness of it. "Dismissed."

He went into the head.

When he finished pissing, Q materialized. "Jean Luc, what are you doing?" He was wearing a Starfleet officer's clothes.

"Answering nature's call, Q."

"I'll bet nature has more than one kind of call. I want you," he whispered, and took Jean Luc's penis in his hand. Jean Luc looked down at himself. Hard warrior sex. He leaned back against the edge of the bar around the inside of the bathroom and let Q continue to caress him. Q looked at him and smiled: "my little pony." Jean Luc was taken aback. "My hard little French cheval. With your iron pony bones. Your short legged prance. Your proud ass."

"Really, Q."

"You are like a little pony to me, hard as iron. Let me possess you. Let me own you." He began to rub Jean Luc harder, and Jean Luc gave over to it. "I love you to the bone." Jean Luc was completely hard now. "Jean Luc," said Q, wonderingly, pleased. "Jean Luc." He began to grip it with his hand and pulled gently at the liquid tip. Jean Luc pulled back, "let me have you too." "Oh, yes, Jean Luc," Q said and looked down and unfastened himself and then they were holding each other and kissing and cast into that moment outside of time for Jean Luc, inside Time for Q, and something collapsed in Jean Luc and he was shuddering and wet and so was Q. Every inch of Jean Luc throbbed for several seconds. "I love you, Jean Luc," Q said without irony. And he did, Jean Luc was sure, and so he said, "I understand, Q. Come see me again soon."

Q lowered his head and lifted his dark eyes up. They looked at each other for a long moment.

"I am always with you."

And he disappeared. Jean Luc looked down; he was dressed and clean and clear-headed. The only difference was that he was smiling now. He rubbed his eyes.

Back to work.

The farmers were showing the planet to Jean Luc and some of his staff.

"We've devoted our entire lives to the production of food," one of them said.

Jean Luc leaned back on his sofa.


And yet!

Just sitting on his sofa where he and Q had first kissed, Jean Luc felt unalone and intoxicated. He was reading A Midsummer's Night Dream, Shakespeare's dearest simplest little play, when Q flashed in.

"Are you finished reading?"

"I'm familiar enough with this play..." The lights were out and Q was carrying him to the bedroom, carrying him as one would carry a child.

"Put me down; I don't like this."

"I told you I was a monster; I'm carrying you to my lair, Jean Luc. I've had all three of my monster eyes on you since I first saw you." He set Jean Luc gently on the bed. "Let's see, let's move some of these filmy rags around so I can more provocatively eye you." He roughly pushed open Jean's Luc's off duty shirt to show his chest.

"I love you, Jean Luc, I meant that. I really love you more than anything in the universe, and I want to take your pants off you." And he undressed him gently as if Jean Luc were precious to him.

Then Q snapped his fingers, and they were in complete darkness. "Where did we go?"

"We're right here, I'm just doing the most quotidian thing, providing shades; I thought we might find this relaxing."

"But I can't see you."

"Do you want my eyes to glow in the dark?"

"No. No."

And Jean Luc felt Q's hands around him and then one hand between his legs and Q's lips on his. And in the dark no one... he felt free. And he moved his hands to Q 's body, the sides of his chest, and Q was kissing him Q was being quite astonishing really. His hands were moving to Jean Luc's nipples, and he rubbed them with his thumbs. Then Q took his wrists in his hands and rubbed them hard; everything Q did he did with a force that Jean Luc found unusual. And then Q pushed him all the way down on the bed and lay half on top of him, and Jean Luc found Q's hand on his bottom and then on his hard cock and then back on his bottom and between the cleft and then back to his cock and then to his . . . Q was doing this to him; he didn't have to move. All he had to do was keep his mouth open for Q's limitless deep wet kisses, but he was curious and he moved his hand to Q's groin, and found Q's cock larger than his own, wet on the top; he touched the wetness, and Q breathed hard. Last time, they sat on the couch and each man had touched the other until they came, but tonight it should be different, but how, and then Q did the most amazing thing; he moved off the bed to his knees and took Jean Luc in his mouth. Jean Luc was not unfamiliar with this caress, but what had happened before was like aspirin to this opium. Q was bending over him, sucking him again, and using his tongue to circle around his erection and Jean Luc lay back in earnest. How extraordinary Q was!

"A little light, Q. Maybe I'd like to see you."

"No. Did you like me in the head?"

Jean Luc paused. "It was exciting."

"But it could have been more exciting."

"I don't know how, but...yes." Q moved away from him for a couple of seconds and then Jean Luc felt his hand on his buttocks, between them, and then a finger moved inside him.


"How does that feel? Focus, Jean Luc."

And Jean Luc did and he felt it, an itch, a pressure, and a stimulation, all at once. His breath was shallow and unthinking. Q moved the finger back and forth and Jean Luc moved against it, and then there were two fingers, and more stimulation and then there were three fingers.

"You know what's next, don't you, Jean Luc?"


"Are you ready?"

"Not here, Q. I just feel... I'm on the job, as it were. At any given moment, my com badge will sound... it's too serious for me to . . . I want it quieter."

"Jean Luc, understand that we're in this together. I won't do what you don't want. But can I plan a place to consummate our love?"

"Yes," they both knew where it would be.

"Thank you."

"Q, thank you."

"I love you."

"I... find you lovable, Q."

They kissed in a wet, soft, grateful way. Then Q moved his mouth back down to Jean Luc and began to suck him, until he came, hard; when he rose, Jean Luc grabbed his hips and pressed Q against him; Q moved for a few moments. and he came as well, splattering Jean Luc's belly.

"I love you, Jean Luc."

"Q, can I have the lights on?"

"I might be a monster."

"Q, it isn't as if there's anything I can think worse about you than I already have."

"Jean Luc, how rude!! There you go, Psyche; happy! Garcon, candles all around." Jean Luc stroked Q's chest, hairy and slender, mammalian, manly, intoxicating. Then he lay down with his hands under his head; Q did the same but kept his leg touching Jean Luc's.

"Meet my eyes, Jean Luc." Jean Luc did and smiled. "Let's talk."

"I think I understand less than I did before," Jean Luc said.

"I know what you mean," Q said.

"You're omnipotent."

"Fairly omnipotent," Q coughed. "I mean, Jean Luc, I have information, all the information in the world, but..."

"Information isn't wisdom."

"Well, I suppose, but I am not the simplest dimple on the block." Q sighed, "You're not pining for some damn woman then."

"Women. Them." Jean Luc looked at Q. "We've not had good luck with women."

"We've had a hell of a bad time with women," Q agreed. "I always thought I'd like doing anything, but I've studied it, Jean Luc, and I have come to the conclusion that two men in bed together can enjoy themselves ten times more than with a woman."

"The pointlessness of having Bev as a flame."

"The unnecessariness of Miss Kathy Janeway."

"Nella. What was that all about? I don't even like herbal tea."

"There's a gal in the Q thinks she's got my number. Arrggh."

And then they both said, "And She-Whose-Name-Rimes-With-Trash."

"The only woman," Jean Luc said, " I ever had a genuinely good time with died thousands of years back in Ressick, but you are very stimulating."

Q dimpled.

Jean Luc guiltily thought about all those women: "Beverly wanted me to be in a talent show. The restlessness of the female. Busy, busy, always busy. And often to no purpose. Let a woman into the house, even a nice one, and before long you're forced to an odd corner and beg her pardon as you disturb her at her work. It isn't a warrior way. I mean I forgive them: girls will be girls. But it's not my life."

Lying here with Q was uncannily like lying there with himself.

And so on, thrilled, willingly, to the next step.

But what would be the best way to approach this?

Number One, I want to take a shuttle craft out for a spin. I'm... um. . . going to this little planet over there.

What could he say?

I'm tired of waiting, Number One, to get me some...


An excuse for getting sex in the past, wasn't it? Jean Luc sighed: he thought suddenly of the Sanskrit word for fucking: kridaratnam. It mean "the jewel of games."

Number One, I want to test something for myself, in the shuttle, and I am going to take a shuttle craft to a, uh, starbase... to make sure there are no enemies floating around.

And when he gave his final excuse, something about refreshing his skills, Riker gave him an odd look: as if he imagined Jean Luc had been replaced by aliens. Well!

But when he was in the shuttle, he knew it was a matter of minutes before...

Q appeared behind him, whispering in his ear, "Let's dick around, Jean Luc."

Something like liquid electricity ran through Jean Luc.

"Someone has to pilot this shuttle, Q."

"There's a sparkling new invention, automatic pilot. And I personally guarantee nothing untoward will happen. To the shuttle craft."

Q took his hand and led him from the pilot's chair to the cramped little area behind it.

"These shuttle craft are admirably equipped for love," Q said.

"What do you want us to do?"

"You know what I want." Q touched the front of Jean Luc's uniform in a stroking manner. And they both watched his hand until Jean Luc moved towards Q's hand. "Does this feel okay?"

"Yes," Jean Luc breathed.

"You'll tell me if I ever do anything that doesn't feel good?"


"I'm going to strip you off." Q took off the tunic and tank top and boots and pants slowly, his hands warm as his breath; each garment took twenty kisses. When Jean Luc was at last naked, Q looked at him, and then got on his knees and began to suck him for a few minutes. Then he stood up and looked back at Jean Luc. Who was erect. Naked. Diffident. Head lowered and looking back at him. "There can't be anything more desirable in the universe." Then Q walked behind him, and Jean Luc felt Q's hand go to his buttocks. "Do you mind getting on your hands and knees?" Jean Luc did; he buried his head in his hands; it seemed vulnerable. He could hear Q stirring removing clothes, and then: Q was kissing him there, putting his tongue inside him in his most intimate opening and it felt like nothing on earth. Q was... moving his tongue back and forth. Jean Luc felt slickness and the lightest and most intense pressure. And then he felt Q rise up and put himself at the entrance to his body.

"Hurry," he said and Q was in him -- at first Jean Luc thought, that feels so odd, but, as Q moved back and forth and back a few times just barely in, it felt wonderful, Q was stroking in a rough way, and Jean Luc moved up against him to get the most of it from him.

That Q was big and hard was wonderful. That Q was setting his own rhythm made Jean Luc feel right, and that it was the shuttle craft was the best. He wasn't sure he wanted to get it in the ass in his quarters on the Enterprise -- he probably would in the future, well, he certainly would in the future, but this was now: a feeling, a beautiful feeling. The sensation was like being out in a rainstorm, but no rain fell and no lightning came -- it was just a rapid change in the air and in the way he felt Q was in him gently rocking to stimulate him and Q moved in centimeter by centimeter and Jean Luc moved too, conscious of sweat and roaring in his ears, and he felt noise and light and insensate emotions like rippling and pink and burned wood and crushed things and a path that led through pine trees and rain and distant music. "I don't care how hurt I get, Q. I just don't care."

"Damn. You keep this up, Jean Luc, and I'll be the one who needs a mechanical heart."

Then there was a stillness like two men standing by an ancient sand-colored wall in shadowless desert light, and then Jean Luc went over the wall and his ears rang and rang and he was aware that Q was saying no no no nononononononono. And Jean Luc folded up in his mind without thinking because he felt too perfect for mere thought.

II: Petrouchka

They were idly lying around naked on Jean Luc's bed.

"No, Jean Luc, I can't tell the future. I do get images of the future sometimes, accurate ones, but I can't really tell the future."

"Well, then can you tell the present?"

"Ha ha. Ooh, let me use my enormous omnipotent powers: let's see. Oh no, down the hall, Riker's getting his ashes hauled. Squeal times three. Certainment, Jean Luc, you should have a talk with him, a paternal Starfleet chat. To make up for that worthless real father of his."

"How do you know so much about him?"

"Um, one hears things. One reads things. One has things transmitted to one. One picks up the occasional back issue of Nine Year Old Boy Whores of the Yukon - the Latest Crop and receives... useful data."

Amused: "Boy Whores!"

"You heard me. He was a famous mining camp toy. They oiled him up, passed him around, and he loved it. That's why he actually prefers the barracks to those women he allegedly keeps chasing."

Amused, but Starfleet slipping in: "If that were true, and I believe you are being unkind for the sake of being unkind, he has such a troubled background that... many things could be excused. We should feel sorry for him."

"Sorry isn't what I feel. Riker's kinda hot! And speaking of boy whores, which would you rather be -- oiled up or waiting in line?" Q leaned up against him.

A game. He thought, twisting a bit inwardly and liking the twist. Which one indeed? "Oiled up I think, but... you know what I would prefer? To rescue him. To fight his captors and... "

"Make big whirring noises, hit people on the head, and then put him in your shuttle craft. Come on." Q cuddled closer; they fit together perfectly, the smaller man with his legs apart, his back against his taller companion who rubbed softly against him and smoothed the skin on his flat stomach and whispered in his ear: "Boy Riker wants to show his gratitude for being saved from such men. They just weren't cute enough. He's on his knees, he didn't have time to dress, perhaps he just grabbed a plaid shirt he drapes like a skirt around him, but then he removes the shirt. Perhaps he still has those boots and socks. Would you discourage it?"

"Is he still nine years old? I don't like children. I don't find children attractive; I find them draining."

"Suppose you'd been blasting through the universe for nine years -- he's eighteen now. Legal." Q lifted his eyebrows.

"Is he still oiled? After all those light-years."

"Ha ha ha. And the shirt is tattered; he lifts his arms and says, I want to show you gratitude for saving me when I was nine years old... please. You don't have to do anything; just give it to me and I'll do the rest."

Q was against him, and with a small twinkle they were both somehow covered with a soft talcumy substance -- one that made rubbing against Q so pleasant.

"Do I stick it in him or let him use his mouth?"

"Which do you like?"

Unbidden, deep, the thoughts that he kept low, low, low in him came out; he liked to see other men. Other men in uniform. Jean Luc had loved life in the dorm, loved the gymnasium, the pool, that simple youthful search for physical perfection. He could still remember bodies he'd seen forty years before, pale, dark, bodies of other species, their chests, their backsides. "I'd secretly like to..." The strange talcum -- what solar system was it from -- began to tingle a bit. "What did you put on us?"

"Ww'dd. It comes from far away. Synthesized from these... they're like your pears, but they have bones."


"They're not sentient!" He moved against Jean Luc's back.

Jean Luc knew he might regret it, but... this whole conversation . . at his age how could it hurt to give in. He gripped himself, wet on the top, and began to tease Q a little. "I want to be the boy. This is good. I want this. You deserve this. You've rescued me. Now we are together. I want to be the boy. At my age, I don't get too many chances. I want to be wanted and used."

"Would you like to have them lined up wanting you?"

Jean Luc sighed. "Entres nous, oui."

"You too must be one of those Shameless Boy Hussies of the Universe: with a new dick in their ass every night."

"And a phasar in their hand every day." He lolled against Q. "Boy whores don't just take it in the ass, do they? I mean, they get to use their mouths. On their partners."

Q's breathing grew shallow. "Yep."

Jean Luc turned and faced Q. He found he didn't want to converse; he wanted to... He began to kiss Q's chest and moved down, and then took Q in his mouth, very gently, just the tip, and used his tongue. He hadn't known what it would be like, and he had been afraid he might be disgusted... but it was not remotely disgusting. He slid to his knees by the bed and Q sat up. There was something very appealing about being on his knees before Q; Q touched his head and moved back and forth gently, setting a rhythm to help Jean Luc out. Jean Luc took Q deeper into his mouth. He could use his lips to stimulate the sensitive forepart and the taste... well, that was something else. He would never have imagined this taste; it had a kind of burr or radiance to it, like wintergreen, without being in the least bit flavored in any way. He found that, with effort, he could take most of Q in his mouth, and then use his tongue around the tip. He was a... boy whore; he had to impress his... partner who had now scooted over the side of the bed. With his legs wide apart. "This is good," Q said, breathlessly. "You're good."

Jean Luc's jaw ached a bit since Q was so large, but he liked Q's largeness, and Q moved his hips very seductively. Jean Luc also touched himself; he too was large. Then Q arched his back and put his hands behind his head. "Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop. Oh, good good." Then Q took over the rhythms; "Is this good for you? Feel this one coming in your mouth?" Oh, yes, yes. And then Q stopped still for one second and groaned and there was a rush of thick fluid, Q's seed, and Jean Luc swallowed it knowing that was the right thing to do, to show his total acceptance. He wanted Q to know that he couldn't...

"I can't live without you, Q."

Q grabbed Jean Luc and brought him to his mouth "Let me taste it too. Oh, my, oh, my."

There was a communication beep.

"Hell," Jean Luc said. "Picard here."

"Captain, this is Counselor Troi. Pick up your padd please; we're being requested to do something about Silamios refugees from the C'as'l Syndromic System. We'll have to warp back. The situation has suddenly worsened."

"I'll check it now, Counselor. Picard out."

"What's Miss Nosy Tits want?"

Jean Luc picked up the padd.

"Q." He looked down at his padd. It was covered with... what? Some sort of peculiar space anomaly, some... red liquid was dripping off his padd; it smelled like... Louisiana hot sauce. He looked at Q who looked sly, pouting, slightly embarrassed, and demanding. "Q, what is this?"

"Pay attention to me, Jean Luc. I want to be the center of your life now." Now he showed Jean Luc the bottle and then shook more hot sauce on the padd. "So there."

Starfleet had no protocol for dealing with wild childish omnipotent lovers; Starfleet had no protocol for lovers who called fellow officers Miss Nosy Tits.

Not that that was strictly inaccurate.

Without any guiding protocols, Jean Luc realized he could do exactly what he wanted.

And so he did. He laughed. For a long time.

When the Enterprise entered the C'as'l System, it found the situation dicey without being fatal. The surviving Silamios civilians, which was most of them, would have to be relocated; hostilities had only been stalled. Starfleet felt the Enterprise was the perfect ship for their temporary placement until smaller, colonizing ships could get to the system. Meanwhile, the Enterprise kept its slightly ominous and over-bearing presence near the system just to show the North Dimension how mighty it was.

It was a kind of diplomacy.

And the South Dimension was pleasingly grateful. If nervously so.

And attempted to reward and entertain the Enterprise as well as they could.

"Will you do anything for me, beloved?" Q asked.

"No. And you like that."

"True. But you know what I'd like. I'd like this a lot. I'd like to see you... do it yourself. I have a way of seeing things, I can see synapses ignite and electrolytes pulse, and I'd like to see... your nervous system. I'd like to see it A LOT. We get so close... that I can't see you sometimes... I like to remember things. Please. Your hands are so... large; I'd like to see them on yourself. And could you think about me?" Q was getting breathless, and his eyes were glazing a bit.

"Here," Jean Luc said, on the edge of the bed.

"No, stand up; I want to see it. I want a performance. Lean on your desk. What do you think about when you... do this to yourself?"

"I... getting fucked in the ass is part of it." Jean Luc was leaning against his dresser, and Q was sitting naked on the edge of the bed. His hands were on the mattress, and he was getting aroused. "I..." Jean Luc looked down and gripped the top of himself. "Ohh," he said softly. Then began to rub harder. "And I've begun to think about fucking you in the ass, somewhere appropriate."

"The ass is appropriate."

"No, I mean... by a volcano or in a thunderstorm. I like it rough, you know; I've not shared with you how rough. I like warrior fucking."

"Yes, yes, I see, Jean Luc." Q was watching his hand.

"Would you ever sneak in and watch me do this to myself?"

"Yes, I would love to."

"And then I might see you spying and say do you like what you see and grab you and wrestle you to the floor..." Jean Luc stopped to expel a little breath... he really had to swallow... "then I would tear your uniform off and you'd let me and you'd stick your ass in the air and I'd spit in my palm" -- he stopped and licked his palm then -- "and wet my dick and then I'd ram it in you. Would you like that?" he softly hissed.

"Don't stop doing that to me."

"Again and again and again I'd come inside you."

Q started doing the same to himself, watching Jean Luc and Jean Luc began watching him and... slowing down his strokes to feel it more -- dry mouthed. "What do you feel, Q, what do you want?"

"I want to be on my back and you take me from the front and while... you have on your uniform and it's opened just enough for your big cock to get out and in me and I'm naked and I'm holding myself and I pull just once and then it happens."

"Q, let's touch -- this is... " and Q was on his knees in front of the naked Picard and sucking him and he looked down and saw that dark hair and shut eyes with matted lashes and came, and Q stood up and a dazed Jean Luc got on his knees and opened his mouth and Q pushed himself in and Jean Luc ran his tongue over the top and then took it most of the way in and Q gasped and came and came and after a few minutes Jean Luc was himself again, but it had taken a few minutes.

"Damn," said Q. "I love you." He was watching Jean Luc. "My warrior!" Q kissed his neck; "there I've seen it, but I hope it's not for the last time. Hey, next time, let's do it together in front of a mirror."

Jean Luc swivelled his head slowly to look at his lover. "You are perverse."

"Yes! Exactly!" He buried his lips in his lover's neck. "You are perfect."

"I have work to do tonight, precious."

"What sort of boring human flotsam-y thing now?"

"Well, Starfleet... "

"Starfleet sucks."

"Stop this, Q." Q smiled. "We are being visited by the Cha47lech."

"And they want to be a part of your pointless little Federation."

"Not exactly, Q, pay attention, this might be important." Q was on his knees again, running his tongue up and down the inside of his lover's thighs. "They're just a small tribe on a small planet in the South C'as'l system. They aspire to be merely associative members. They haven't a lot of interest in star exploration or military affairs. They are more intellectually evolved, a bit more like the Mizarians, if the Mizarians any get up and go."

"I can't believe you are so calm," Q said from between his legs; "I'll never lick you again. Who gives a happy rat's ass about these... they'd have to work just to be minions."

"Q, I've had three orgasms today; I've got work to do."

"Don't work, just love me forever." Q rose and threw his arms around Jean Luc's neck. "I will make you mine. I will love you the way no one ever has."

"Everything you say is true, but... "

Actually, the Cha47lech were a people with one special gift: they were gravity-defiant.

And in honor of the Enterprise and its presence in the C'as'l system, they were doing a ballet tribute to the great earth dancer Nijinsky and his brilliant lover/manager Diaghilev. The Spectre of the Rose had been amazing; the danseur playing the Rose had appropriately embodied what the notes were calling that unearthly quality of Nijinsky.

But the ballet Petrouchka was very upsetting to Jean Luc, and he couldn't figure out why. He looked at his staff sitting obediently and attentively beside him. Beverly loved dancing; her beautiful curved mouth seemed to hold happiness itself in its curve. Deanna and Worf were beside her... you didn't have to be empathic to see that Worf was somewhat baffled but Deanna... the carnival girl reminded Jean Luc of Deanna. Data and Geordi... he caught Geordi's sigh and the tell-tale tick of Data's head movements.

And then there was Riker.

Who felt Jean Luc looking at him and looked back.


Being with Q had made Jean Luc sexually sensitive to a degree he had never been in his life, not even when he was young. And now that he could feel more clearly, not more deeply, but more clearly, that sensitivity often had an extraordinary impact on him.

Riker looked back at the ballet, and Jean Luc had the unwilling thought, Number One is hot!

Riker the boy whore of the Yukon.

Riker the first to be offered a Q.

Do I stick it in him or let him use his mouth?

The boy whore of the Yukon.

Riker looked at him again with those big blue question-mark eyeballs of his.

Jean Luc sat back.

Watch the dance, you, he said to himself.

What was disturbing him? Petrouchka's music by Stravinsky was very nice. There was a wizard and three toys, a carnival girl, a bearded soldier, and a puppet. The puppet Petrouchka and the others were being controlled by the godlike wizard. And all the poor little puppet wanted was love. What a sad piece. And disturbing. He felt he was relaxing a brick corner of his brain that should not be relaxed. Now it seemed Petrouchka died and the wizard was... avenged or something. He looked at his text.

At his age, he needed to be wiser; he didn't need to think about... Everyone was standing up applauding. And the dancers were taking bows. And making small floating motions in the air. Ballet really was for the gravity-defiant.

"Please, let our dancers get refreshed and we'll all meet in a reception in what you call Ten Forward," said their Terran envoy, Ted Dale Dale had moved to Cha47lech when he heard that they could dance like no one else in the universe.

In Ten Forward, Jean Luc moved to greet Dale; he was not quite as tall as Jean Luc but as slender and muscular. "I am Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise."

"I saw your rank," said Dale in an emphatic voice, slightly effeminate. His eyes were smiling but not at Jean Luc. He was cruising, but he wasn't cruising Jean Luc. He was... ignoring Jean Luc! Well, that had happened before.

And Jean Luc had the ideal lover.

He followed the eyes of Ted Dale; Riker was surrounded by boy and girl Cha47lech dancers -- small kangaroo-like people with wonderful merry faces and huge haunches and small heads. "Your people are wonderful dancers; I wish I knew more about Nijinsky and Diaghilev. Perhaps you could recommend some readings."

"Where'd you study?"


"Captain, you would have made a great danseur. You have the most beautiful bearing. Did you take dance as a child?"

"No, but I have studied fencing. Horsemanship. A kind of Klingon tai chai. Now I wish I did know more about dancing. Tell me some sources I can access."

"I take it you know nothing of Nijinsky." Jean Luc shook his head no. "The story of Diaghilev and Nijinsky is not a pretty one," Dale sighed. "What happens in Petrouchka is pretty much the story. Except for the fact that, needless to say, Nijinsky and Diaghilev were lovers." He looked at Riker and his dancers and smiled.

"What happened? Didn't Nijinsky go mad? "

"Well, yes, after Diaghilev rejected him. Nijinsky was tricked into marriage by... this woman... Diaghilev fired him, and found another... boy immediately, Leonid Massine, who was also a great danseur. Diaghilev is a funny duck, deserves his own immortality. He never seduced a boy who wasn't a demigod." Ted Dale's eyes roamed the room: "Sorry if I seem distracted. You're captain here, but I'm the captain of this little crew. I want them to be happy. And nobody is more temperamental than ballet dancers. When we go out in public, I have to ride herd pretty closely. Who's the big boy? He's the center of attention."

"Big boy?"

"Big boy in red like you, with a beard."

"Will Riker, he's my first officer."

"Cute! Do you have a padd. I'll bring up some stuff on Nijinsky."

"Waiter, bring a padd."

When Ted Dale received it, he keyed in something. "Here's some information. But some people find it disturbing. This is my file, and there's a certain skew towards their love life."

Jean Luc looked at the padd and jerked his head back; the first image was... Nijinsky dancing. But then there was an image of the dancer standing naked near a gilded mantelpiece; he was short and balding and had curiously slanted eyes and very well-developed legs. Then he began to masturbate -- his genitals were oddly childlike -- and a tall dark man in evening clothes came in the picture and watched with a sort of paternal pleasure. Then the dark man put a large mirror on the floor in front of Nijinsky and Nijinsky's actions became more frantic until he clearly came and fell into the larger man's arms. The larger man pressed against him.

"This is... quite lurid, Mr. Dale."

"I think it's sad," he said acerbically. Then he looked more closely at Jean Luc. "You and I are both old men; nothing can shock us now." I'm an old man, Jean Luc thought. "I meant that in a nice way. We're men of the world. You are homosexual, aren't you?"

Jean Luc was silent. Then: "well, I am in a relationship with a..." he rubbed his hand across his head. "An entity with many male attributes."

"Crafty answer, Captain. Who isn't? Speaking of male attributes, I like your first officer. He must be the devil to resist."

"I find him resistible."

"Do tell!"

"There's nothing to tell. If you'll excuse me. . . Oh, by the way, my crew doesn't know of my relationship. I'm keeping it private."

Ted Dale gave him a shrewd look: "I understand completely," he said.

No, you don't, Jean Luc thought.

Jean Luc stalked to the food table. I'm a... He looked unwillingly back at Riker who was chatting up the delectable dancer who had played the carnival girl. She looked at Riker as if he were the most precious gift. Ted Dale had begun was circling the couple.

In his quarters, thinking: Q, now!

A twinkle. The smiling Q, then not smiling when he saw Jean Luc's contorted face.

"You wanted Riker first. I know this. I've known this since Farpoint. I just let all these books and... Caravaggios blind me to... your trickster ways. You want Riker."

Q crossed his legs at the ankle. "Really, Jean Luc, this is not like you."

Q wasn't denying it! Jean Luc didn't quite know how to handle this much devastation. He felt a broad wave of exhaustion flow over him. He was so tired of... everybody was leaving him with nothing. His family annihilated, the Borg, the Cardassians. The future. Disease. Death.

"You love Riker. You want Riker. You're always bringing up his name."

Q was very still. "It amuses me."

"Don't lie. You want him."

"I won't lie; I don't want him. I want you."

A core of ice seemed to form in the room. When Q said those words, they were devoid of any spirit. What if there were love and Jean Luc was destroying it with his jealous ways? And yet he had to know about Riker. I want you, Q had said. Tears came to Jean Luc's eyes. Loss. Loss. Loss.

"Jean Luc, we have to talk about everything."

And then the warrior took over in Jean Luc. He would not give in to madness or jealousy or Q or his worst enemy, himself.

"Only as we make love."

Q lifted his head; Jean Luc saw he understood. Jean Luc was making a brave sortie through enemy territory, so brave that he could be defeated instantly or win a brilliant battle.

"Let me take you out of here for... "

"How long?"

"About an afternoon. Just the two of us. I have made a special place for us."

And they were there in a field of amber grass. Warm. Rainy. Jean Luc looked down; they both were still in Starfleet command uniforms. There was a small weather-beaten house in the middle of the field with golden lights at the window; he could hear the ocean. "Let's go to the house," Q took his arm.

They walked there and onto a frame porch and inside there was just one large room with open screened windows and a screen door. The walls were a warm glowing wood color. Jean Luc felt the dampness come in. In the middle of the floor was a huge brass bed with an enormous headboard. "We'll talk and make love here?" he asked Q.

Q hugged himself and looked at Jean Luc. "Jean Luc, you know that a bad relationship is easier and safer than a good relationship, and no relationship is the easiest and safest of all. We both know it, and that made us what we were. But if you want what we could be, it's time to be brave and different."

"What's this Riker business?"

"It's old business, Picard."

Jean Luc started.

"Yes, I did want him... you were right about that. I had just met you, and he was... like me, so, of course, there was this enormous attraction, a big broad-shouldered dark-haired Caucasoid. You know, the type everyone's supposed to like. Big empty blue eyes. So I took him with me to that stagy little Class M planet; I had a tent prepared. We were going to creep into it later. I kept plying him with drinks and reminding him how hot it was. Hoping he'd take the hint. But as I talked and toyed and offered him the Q, it became obvious he would be impossible to make love to."

Jean Luc felt terror as never before. His worst dream of love was true. Riker.

Q sat on the bed and tented his fingers. "Come over here."


"I want you."

Jean Luc paused. "Hair. You said hair."

Q looked up, and his eyes filled with tears. "You won't sit with me, honey?"

"Honey," Jean Luc said, near tears himself. "I'm not your... honey." He touched the top of his head. A horrible old man was what he was. "Let's go back to the ship, Q."

"So you are a coward."

It was a challenge. Jean Luc sat beside him on the bed, his legs crossed. They looked at each other.

"I can't offer you hair, Q." He was speaking truth and irony. "I'm a horrible old man."

"MMMM," Q said deep in his throat. "These clothes are too much." They were naked then. "You know what was in Riker's heart? At first I thought I was wrong, so I read him more closely, and then I re-read him again. And it was so disturbing: in his heart was 'what's for supper.' That was it. What's for supper? The Riker family coat of arms. What's for supper?" He touched Jean Luc. "Can you accept me knowing I wanted Riker? I was temporarily insane."

"Can you accept me knowing I'll never have hair again? I am permanently bald."

"Jean Luc, you are permanently handsome."

"Something's left out in your story. Lots of somethings now that I think about it."

"When I fell for you and... de-fell for that dope Riker?"

"Yes, there's an awkward transition there."

"I thought we would make love and talk about it later. Except for one thing ­ the Riker horseshit was over before it started."

"Making love is hard on me when I'm like this."

"Look over there," Q nodded. Against the wall was a huge mirror with a heavy gold frame. It reflected the headboard of the bed with the naked Jean Luc and Q behind it.

"Do you know that statue in the Capitoline, the Dying Gaul from Pergamum?"

"Yes, I do."

"Get in that position."


"Put this arm here and lay your head on the headboard. I'll fuck you from back here."

"It seems awkward."

"I just made it up. It's called the Gaul May Be Dying but He's Getting It Up the Ass Like He's Never Got it Before."

"Ohh," Jean Luc moaned. "You are big."

One of Jean Luc's hands was propping him up, but Q picked up his other one. "Use this one on yourself, so we'll have lots and lots to see. I love you. Does this feel good?"

"I'm so... "

"I can give you hair, dammit. Now start pulling that big thing."

"Q. It would be meaningless to remake me."

"Precisely. Concentrate, Jean Luc."

"I told you I can't... when I am like this."

"Arrrggghh, Jean Luc. Okay, we'll stop." Q rolled away stood up. "Here's the deal: The difference seemed to me to be that being with him would be like being in line at the grocery story, but being with you would be like being on the edge of a cliff. And which do you think a reasonable omnipotent being wants?" Q was looking at Jean Luc with his head down; those black eyes... "You know Howard Carter."

"Howard Carter?" He thought: archaeology, as in King Tutankahten.

"Remember what he said the first time he peeked into Tut's tomb?"

"Of course, I know. The natives and the other archaeologists asked him, what do you see, and he said, beautiful things, I see beautiful things."

"Do you get it now, honey? That's what I see when I look into you. Beautiful things, I see beautiful things... "

"It's hard to make love in tears."

"Jean Luc, there's so much to talk to you about." Q lay back down on the bed with his hands under his head, "But the first thing you must understand is that the most beautiful bone in the human body is the skull. Let me enjoy your skull. And you must enjoy it too. Because I love you so much."

Jean Luc looked at Q, no doubt guarded and vulnerable.

"Jean Luc, Riker's a zombie! Roll over on that beautiful hip and let's get something going on," and Jean Luc did and Q was in him bigger than before and Jean Luc began to pull at his erection as he watched in the mirror Q behind him Q with his eyes open but unseeing, and then Q looked down to where he was entering Jean Luc. "I am five billion years old, Jean Luc, and I've never seen any ass like yours. This is... definitely supernatural." And Jean Luc moved closer to him and began to clench his muscles and Q quit moving just to see the novelty of Jean Luc fucking him while he was inside Jean Luc. "It's so amazing, Jean Luc; you are so... strong." And then Q moved again and rougher, biting his neck and shoulders. "Yes yes yes," and then Q came, but he didn't leave Jean Luc. "You never really relaxed, my love."

Jean Luc pulled away from Q and lay on his back.

"We're not through, Q. I am... having some problems. I have some problems. I... have some sex problems, Q. I can't... I. . . started off well at Starfleet Academy as you know. Many many women. Constant women. I had quite the sex drive. Forty years ago. . . But . . . after the academy, after the fight with the Nausicaans, I began to . . . " Jean Luc sighed, and Q put a hand on Jean Luc's bicep. "This is difficult to discuss, really. I began to lose my hair. And then women began to... look at me differently. I would look up women I had bedded two years earlier when I had all my hair and they would meet me at a bar, and, when they saw me... the look on their faces... No doubt it was just surprise at how I'd changed, at how I'd... aged. I was still in my early twenties. But that look... After this happened a few times, I got less keen to see women. Cory and some of the others said take all these baldness treatments -- but... . baldness is a Picard family trait and it somehow was inevitable -- Robert was already bald. If I had gone home with a big mane of hair, he'd have laughed, and I would never have lived it down. The family was already so... judgmental and now all these women were so... disappointed, and at the same time, I was furious. There was all this pride, don't they know who I am? And at the same time, there was this shame: they do know who I am. My impossible pride mixed up with my great shame. Which meant paralysis. And then there was the... teasing laughter in the barracks."

"You ran with a cold-hearted crowd."

Jean Luc quickly rubbed his hands across his eyes. "There were those who weren't, but they tended to be hard girls addicted to sensation. The kind my father warned me against. And... it seemed to me I had two different paths -- that I could go in for barroom sensation with these hard girls or I could focus on being a great Starfleet officer. Between those two it was just an obvious decision. Then." Suddenly, he cried out, "Ohhh, no!"

"What is it, darling?"

"I just realized something; I thought they were merely hard old girls who wanted sensation, but now -- I've not thought about them for all these years because I couldn't without... thinking about me. Those girls: I've misjudged them all these years. They weren't just devotees of sensation; they were wanting a connection with someone, and I... was there and when I moved along, someone else would come along. They wanted connection, not sensation. I just realized that. This very second. I hurt them. I damaged them. I used to spurn their offers of connections in the most contemptuous way possible. I thought them low . . . whores who were because they didn't think twice about my... What happened to all those poor girls? Q, what have I done?"

"Let's see, let me use my big hairy psychic mind under my beautiful dark tresses of... "

"Q, stop this."

"Well, I'll be doggoned. Bloody damn guess what, mon capitaine. All of them have been happy and unhappy in an appropriate mixture. And, more bloody damn guess what, they all found connection with intermittently charming and attractive men, or in some cases women. You didn't ruin their lives for long the way they didn't ruin yours for long. Even the awfullest old tramp is getting some pleasure out of her life."

"I feel so guilty."

"Precious dumpling, you do know a bit about Starfleet law, don't you?"

Jean Luc looked at him.

"Let's play. Let's say you had murdered them. Forty years ago. You were Jean Luc the Ripper and you led three or four of these hair-loving soiled doves down fog-filled interplanetary alleyways and with a picturesque grimace drained their life's blood from them in a showy but inexplicable way. What would have happened if you'd been caught?"

"Don't be gruesome, Q."

Q rolled his eyes. "Just answer the question, my proud beauty."

"Let's see. I don't know. I suppose I'd have been tried. I'd be found guilty. I'd receive counseling. I'd go to one of the psychiatric penal colonies, probably have some chem-therapy."

"But, now, forty years later, it would be over, wouldn't it? You would be out of the brig, having paid your debt to society."

"Well, after forty years, yes, I guess I would be... free."

"And, after all, breaking their hearts one night is not quite as serious as murdering them, so don't you suppose you should also be out of the brig of guilt, having paid that debt."

"I see your point. But..."

"Jean Luc, be realistic. You can only do one thing: forgive. Forgive them for being old whores, forgive everyone for not understanding the beauty of your head, forgive them all for not giving you the love you wanted and deserved. And forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for everything."

"But what if those girls haven't forgiven me?"

"I sense they've forgiven you, but, if not, they'll only hurt themselves. Forgive them and forget it, Jean Luc."

"Assure me they're happy."

"Are you happy?"

"Sometimes I am and sometimes I'm not. It seems to come and go in unpredictable ways." He smiled ruefully. "My universe seems to have one constant: you. I am in bad shape."

"And doesn't all that make life worth living?"

"Well, Q. Of course." Jean Luc rose and went to the window. "I love rain."

Q followed him. "I want to give you something, Jean Luc."

"More pajamas?"

"Wasn't that a good gift? They say when you can get her to accept lingerie as a gift, the battle's won. You immodest tramp." He grabbed Jean Luc's buttocks, "Umm, you're like iron. But I need to be calmer. This is serious." Q made his flash of light. "Here."


"You don't feel it."

Jean Luc suddenly looked at his left hand. "A ring! Oh, it's lovely." He laughed. "You're such a traditionalist."

"I want to reflect..." They looked at each other.

"Jade is one of my favorite substances; it's a Chinese symbol of eternity." Jean Luc touched it. "You put it on an interesting finger; that's the wedding finger."

"Is that okay, Jean Luc?" Q gave him a slightly nervous look. "You've never said you loved me."

"Yes, I have. Lots of times."

"No, Jean Luc, I've been waiting and waiting. You're not the only one with a sad story."

"I love you. I love you, Q. It's beyond question."

Q swallowed a smile. "Then I suppose you know what we're saying, Jean Luc. Til death do us part."



"Then there's some other... stuff we need to do, Q."

"Oh." Q looked at him warily and happily.

"Have you gotten over your strange love of costumes? I seem to see you naked more than anything."

"My strange love of costumes hasn't abated, no. Something you have in mind?"

"Let's lie down." And they did. "I have entertained on occasion some curiosity about those judge's robes of yours. The first time we were linked intimately. The Farpoint look." Q was then lying beside him in his black and red judge's robes, complete with head wrap and red gloves. "Obviously, you will be my only lover for the rest of my life. I will honor our vow, Q. My darling Q. I love you. But there used to be this little caress I could make with... the ladies... that I always found provocative." Q was barely breathing and watching Jean Luc with his head lowered on the pillow. "I like putting my hand up skirts. I could do that all day long. I like you in robes and skirts. I like to think about what's under them." He put his hand on Q's calf and raised the robe to Q's knee. "I like to think that you aren't wearing anything under them. That if I keep moving up your thigh that sooner or later I'll feel your cock stiff and wet on the end." And he did. "I also like lifting skirts to get a glimpse of what's there. Just folding the skirt back to let me see the. . ." and he lifted Q's judge robes, while Q's eyes closed and opened rapidly. "That's so nice," Jean Luc said. Q had on his judge's drag above the waist and was naked and erect and glistening below the waist. The more Jean Luc looked at Q, the more he began to gasp. "Let me stick it in you."

"Please fuck me, Jean Luc."

"Yes, from this angle. I want to see you. All of you."

Suddenly there were pillows under Q's hips and Jean Luc was lubricated. "Do you want to see how big it is, Q?"

"Oh, yes," Q opened his eyes. "My god."

"Open your robe more. I want to see your nipples." Q did as Jean Luc asked.

"Touch your nipples while I get it in you." And, gripping Q's strong thighs, he leaned over between Q's legs to prepare him with his mouth.

Never, never, never had Jean Luc felt as complete and as hard and as devoted as now, kissing Q like this; he put his tongue on Q's opening and then in, delicately at first, and then lingering longer and putting his tongue further in. Q was softly groaning, and Jean Luc felt no need to move, but he wanted to see Q as well as hear and feel him and so he moved back and pushed into him. Q was stretched out almost on the edge of the bed. One red-gloved hand trailed along the bare wood floor; the other touched first his left nipple and then his right one. And now the whole length of Jean Luc's sizey cock was hugged by Q's body; Jean Luc pulled out and pushed back in that slickness and warmth. Q kept playing with his nipples; his eyes were closed. "Put your hand on your own cock while I do this," Jean Luc whispered. He couldn't believe how good he felt and he kept pulling out and pushing himself back in. Q was leisurely pulling at himself, and at times Jean Luc could see both huge cocks as he pulled himself out. This was the way it should be, Jean Luc thought. This was love. He moved in and out. Q was twisting his own nipples and moving with him now. Jean Luc looked again at his erect cock entering Q's body. Q's eyes were closed in the purest ecstacy and Jean Luc began to move faster; when he did that, so did Q. Jean Luc thought his cock was more erect than it had ever been. Q looked down at his raised hips, his erection, Jean Luc's erection moving in and out. He began to rub himself faster. And inspired by that, Jean Luc moved faster, closing his eyes, feeling that electricity he only felt with Q. He got rougher. He liked being rough on Q, and Q tightened himself on Jean Luc as well, and then the crisis started: "Jean Luc, Jean Luc," Q sighed, his eyes closed, and then he began to groan. Jean Luc looked down: Q's cock was spurting in irregular clots and Q was blacking out. And Jean Luc thrust two more times, and it was his time to come, and he closed his eyes and Q began, incredibly, to move against him and clamp down and Jean Luc could feel the pressure all the way up his erection which was in a state of complete pulse, and Jean Luc stayed that way for several minutes.

And when they were both through, they didn't move; Jean Luc's largeness inside Q.

Q's eyes closed and his head back and his hips up and his one hand on his cock and the other on the floor.

Jean Luc finally came to. "That's the best yet, Q."

"Oh, yes. I didn't know what it would be like if you got in me. I was apprehensive. But now that I know. . ."

Jean Luc collapsed on Q and there they lay for some time, sticky, sweaty, animal.

And Jean Luc thought, how very pleasant this is. Because there was yet another demand he had to make.

"Q, when you leave, where do you go?"

"Continuum. Planets. Moons. Other places. Stars. Uh, galaxies."

"When I sleep?"

"Yes, or when you're being... too human. Too Starfleet."

"Q, do you know what this ring means?"

"Better than you, mon capitaine."

"Sometimes I'd like to wake up and find you there beside in the morning. Like other loving couples. I love you. Could that ever be? I love you. I only want it, not to dominate you or make you more human, but... because I want you there. I love you. Sometimes I even get . . . sexy in the morning. I love you. Stay with me sometimes. I love you."

"Look." Q directed him.

And Jean Luc looked and laughed. Q was wearing a replica of the jade ring.

"I'll wake up every morning with you, darling Jean Luc. And mighty pleased to do so."

The Chalech were leaving the Enterprise.

"Mr. Dale."


"Thank you so much for the presentation."

"Our pleasure." He had a keen piercing look when he watched Jean Luc. "I mean that: it was our pleasure. You have some very pleasant people on your ship."

Riker!!! The boy whore!!!

"So we do."

"Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?"

"About what... you probably don't remember it... when we..."

"About your manly-attributed lover whom your crew is ignorant of."

Jean Luc smiled. "Yes. You remember."

"I'd like to meet him."

"You might yet. I thank you for not mentioning it to my crew." This was a shot in the dark.

Ted Dale smiled: "I'm not going to out you. Your crew speaks highly of you, and with some erotic speculation. If I were you, I'd tell them. Believe me you'll feel better. And so will your lover. Did he give you that?" He grabbed Jean Luc's left hand and tapped the ring.

"Yes." Jean Luc sighed. "He and I have had a rancorous relationship for ten years and then things changed, and now I can't live without him. He's constantly on my thoughts; of course, he was before but... I hated him then. We threw books at each other."

"Now it's kisses. Seems like the world's oldest story to me. And I think some of your crew suspects."

"Suspects what?"

"Suspects you're in love. Suspects it's a man. I myself thought it was obvious."


"No real reason, don't get jumpy. No wife. And I could tell you didn't chase girls, or you'd be after my dancers. Or, at least, you'd glance once at them. And frankly no one on your crew appealed to you. I could tell that night at Ten Forward. So: where the devil is he?"

Jean Luc smiled. "He... travels for a living."

"Q, we must tell my senior crew."

"Can we talk to Deanna first?"

Deanna knew what was afoot when Jean Luc came in with Q. An ancient memory nudged her, and seeing them together... well! How strange: it was perfect, and no one had realized it before.

"Deanna, how much do you know?" Jean Luc was saying in an elated way, but right now Q was inscrutable.

"So we finally get to find out why Q keeps carrying you off!"

"No, Deanna, nothing of that nature happened when Q kidnaped me all those times."

"Jean Luc's right, Deanna," Q said with a serious look on his face. Then he and Deanna started laughing. Uproariously.

"What?" said Jean Luc.

"I had no idea you were such a chucklehead, Jean Luc. I'm impressed."

Jean Luc turned questioning eyes to Q.

"Of, course, that's why I carried you away. Did none of you see this?"

Deanna was still laughing: "We're all chuckleheads. It's so obvious now."

"Think, Jean Luc, if you were a maid and I were a man, if you were a lassie and I a lad, of say eighteen and twenty, and I grabbed you and took you away for days."

Then Q's face became easily readable, as readable as Jean Luc's. They wanted to kiss. And Deanna was flustered and touched and intellectually engaged all at once.

Q leaned over, nearly touching Jean Luc. And Jean Luc rolled his eyes to him. "Q, stop this." And he tugged at his uniform tunic. "Both of you, stop clowning. Neither of you, I take it, despite your prodigious gifts, can tell the future."

"And why should we?" Deanna said to him.

"What will happen?"

"This cowardice is so atypical, Jean Luc," Q said.

"I've got to tell everyone, and I'm scared."

"Terror isn't part of the Picard vocabulary," Q teased him, and Deanna smiled.

"I have to tell Bev. Any suggestions, Deanna?"

"The older I get, the more I think we must... put a little just do it in our lives. She will have to find out."

"Over the top, eh? I will have to tell her alone; that's my job. My dirty work I have to do all by myself. Well, it won't be easy."

Beverly knew him well enough to know what was coming. Jean Luc wouldn't have that look. He had someone else, and, because he was telling her instead of letting her wander into a knowledge of the relationship as with Vash and Nella, this was the equivalent of a wedding invitation. She felt sick.

"Beverly, I don't quite know how to tell you this... " he hoped she would rush in, but she looked at him, her eyes hardening.

"Beverly," he started again.


He took a deep breath. "I'm going to call a staff meeting soon where I will be making a special announcement concerning a change I will be making in my life here on the Enterprise. I wanted you to know first . . well, Deanna already knows -- obviously she as an empathic individual would... sense... that I have . . . " She wasn't going to make it easy. She lifted her head and moved her eyes away from his, steeling herself. "Beverly, there's another. . . I have decided to enter into a permanent partnership with... someone."

Beverly moved her head down. "I see. Congratulations are in order, Jean Luc." Without looking him in the eye, she leaned back against her chair and put her fingertips to her mouth.

"I wanted you to be the first since..."

A long dreadful pause.

"Since? Jean Luc," she said with a pointed tone that he knew was he should have expected.

"Since we have shared a history." She had wanted him a long time, he realized with pain. He already knew that, of course, but he never knew how much til just this moment.

"Who is she, Jean Luc?" she said, and her eyes filled with tears.

"That's the hard part, the hardest part for all of us, although now it seems so obvious." He knew that if he said my lover is Q or I love Q or I will wed Q that a part of Beverly would die right then before his eyes. "It is Q."

"Q," she said, genuinely shocked.

"Q and I have decided to make a permanent place for each other in our lives."

"Q?" she seemed to scream the word without raising her voice.

"It is Q."

She laughed. Oh, horrible, most horrible, she didn't understand and was relieved. She thought that there was still a chance. That he and Q were -- he looked at her smiling face -- a business partnership, and that he, Jean Luc, still had lots of room for a lover in his life. He would end up hurting her twice as much. Horrible. He would hurt her so much, he . . .

"I can't see... what kind of relationship, Jean Luc?"

"We're lovers. I love Q. We will have..."

"Are you out of your mind? That makes no sense. He's an entity, he's a man, he's... Jean Luc!"

"I love him, and I must have him in my life. It's taken me almost a decade to realize it."

She was beginning to know. Her face went white: she said. "You..."

"No, Beverly, let's leave . ."

"Yes, it's all very well for the victor to say let's have dignity. Isn't that what you were going to say, have some Starfleet reserve and calm and repose. It's taken you a decade to realize... what... meanwhile, me, I thought I was at least part of your reasons for not... ."

"Loving Q?"

"Q? For not loving anybody but me. As long as there was no one, there was room for someone. I thought you... cared."

"I do. Care. Deeply. Profoundly. Now I realize now I care. But I admit I haven't perhaps cared in a... romantic loverlike way for a long time. If ever."

Tears spilled down her face, and she put her hands to her temples and shook her head. "You're gay. That's what all this is about. You're gay. You're gay. Just gay. Merely gay. Gay. On some level, I knew this. I've known it for years. I've hidden it from myself, because I thought you were the most attractive man I'd ever seen. And everyday I saw you I was more convinced of that. There have been times that I couldn't breathe around you, and the only thing that kept me from coming to your quarters after hours dressed in lace or leather or latex or nothing was the thought... those times we came so close... I knew somehow that giving you what you wanted wasn't what you wanted. That giving you everything at once would be suicidal if a woman wanted you. That's why all those so-called hot relationships, Nella, that . . . Vash, I knew they wouldn't last. But I thought if I waited and made it clear I could wait, someday you might come to me. But nothing ever really happened. I've been such a dunce. You never came to me. I think I first caught on when we were interacting with the Iyaaran. You were so oddly elated when you found out that the Iyaaran who had captured you and kissed you and told you 'I love you' was male. The strange glee on your face when you told him goodbye. And as for me, you didn't really . . . you just liked the big Starfleety feeling of, here, I have a quasi-romantic relationship with my CMO, like they all do in Starfleet. How far does your fucking relationship with Q go?" She stood up and leaned across his desk.

Jean Luc whirled into action. "Well, damn you, Beverly, it's always just let's have breakfast, Jean Luc. Q shows me worlds and universes, we saved humanity, we justify humanity, all of that, and he fucks me in the ass. I couldn't ask for more in a relationship. I don't want to be in goddamn skits and eat Nostorian blanco frutti once every twenty days. And it was clear you'd never change. I'm a warrior, and loving Q is . . . You're a hell of a woman, Bev, but you're not my kind of girl. Loving you is like being a goddamned old man. I don't want to be... broken like an old horse."

"I gave up being in charge of Starfleet Medical for you, to get back on this stupid ship. I gave up everything." Jean Luc sat back. She had given up so much.

"I love him. There's nothing I can do about that."

"Jean Luc . . let's not be hasty... there are things he can't give you that I can."

"No, Beverly."

"A son! A human son. You were so regretful that you were the last . . ." She was devastated or she wouldn't have spoken this way. Jean Luc instantly saw that, and instantly forgave her. "Q cannot give you that."

He closed his eyes. "Maybe being the last Picard was for the best." But she had... "I don't think I'm cut out to be a father . . . Beverly, believe me when I saw I see your point, but there will no more Picards. My immortality and the Picard family tree will have to find another way to... I'm too old, really, and... " Was she satisfied that she had wounded him? He looked warily at her. Her Pyrrhic victory. Abruptly, she wheeled about and left his ready room.

I am the last... It was like a scream.

Q flashed in. He looked with horror at Jean Luc. "Jean Luc, what did Bev do to you?"

"No... Q."

"Please, don't hide from me, Jean Luc."

"She said that there was one thing you could never give me: a human son." He looked at Q. His sweetheart could not see why that was important.

"We could do things, Jean Luc, but..."

". . . the honeymoon would be over," Jean Luc finished for him.

"My beloved!" Q breathed. "The greatest human warriors don't have sons; it would destroy them and more importantly it would destroy their sons. George Washington. Caesar. Alexander the Great. Richard III. Lenin. Andrew Jackson. Davy Crockett, I think. You can't do both, and I'm not saying this because I want a permanent honeymoon which of course I do."

Jean Luc said nothing.

Q threw himself on his knees in front of Jean Luc. "Jean Luc. You have more to leave the world than a mere... son. You have a destiny."

"What is that destiny?

"Well, let's see what it is, darling. Make it so, Jean Luc?" Q whispered the last words.

Jean Luc closed his eyes: all he saw was Q. "Let's tell the boys."

Riker was early for the staff meeting, and found Jean Luc sitting alone at the big table. The Captain seemed in a mood Riker found utterly unreadable. He seemed serious and alert and joyful and dubious all at once. Riker was strikingly unempathic, but he felt this meeting would be like no other.

Riker looked him over. The Captain was wearing a... it couldn't be . . . a wedding ring? Well, no, it wasn't, because it was jade.

"That's a nice ring, Captain."

Jean Luc gave him -- well, I'll be -- a big smile. "Thank you, Number One. Jade is a nice stone, isn't it?"

"It stands for eternity in ancient Chinese thinking, doesn't it? There was an exhibition of a model of one of those ancient Chinese jade suits at the academy when I was there."

"I'm familiar with those suits," Jean Luc kept smiling.

"They had the suit made all these little squares of jade wired together with gold and then they had several smaller pieces of jade beside it. The idea was that the jade suit and the little pieces -- which were meant to be stuck in the various openings to the body -- would bring immortality to the wearer."

"I recall that clearly," said Jean Luc.

"The little sign beside the suit said one of the little pieces of jade -- a cylinder about six inches long -- was meant to be held in the hand. Who did the curator think he was kidding? It was clearly a butt plug! An ancient Chinese jade eternal butt plug." Jean Luc gave his uniform tunic a smart tug. "This conversation is taking a coarse-natured turn." But he didn't lose his smile. "I expect better of my Number One."

Riker shook his head a little. He did, didn't he? Jean Luc expected a great deal of his Number One. And was willing to give more. Riker's mouth opened in amazement: why, he's the father I never had.

Worf, Geordi, and Data came in then.

And he's the father they, sort of, never had too! Well, Geordi's father was nice, but still...

Riker was amazed at his thoughts. The father I never had.

And, unlike a real horrible father, Jean Luc accepted Riker's mildly risque observation with amusement. He accepted it with... acceptance.

"Please be seated, men." And they were. Jean Luc looked around the table at them. "This will be either the most important or least important meeting we have ever had. I don't know how to begin. There's a new factor at work here on the Enterprise, and it comes from me. Me alone, I'm afraid. I've decided to make a change in my life." Every sentence had a pause. "I am entering a permanent relationship, a romantic permanent relationship. And you know him."

HIM. All the eyes at the table were huge.

"It's not completely appropriate for a captain to burden a crew with details of his personal life. And I don't feel compelled to tell all the facts of my personal life, but this is different. Completely different. And we need to talk."


"Counselor Troi and Dr. Crusher have been informed, so they are not with us now." Spit it out, Jean Luc. He chuckled. "It's Q." He looked down and laughed softly; then he looked back up. "I know how this must strike you. As strange. There are some aspects to the history of our relationship... this didn't just happen. It's been happening for some time."

There was a pause vaster than empires.

"Does Q not have unusual powers, Captain? The sort of powers that could be used to cloud human judgement or reasoning," Data said.

"Yes, he does, but I am confident that that is not what has happened here."

Riker thought: this makes sense. This makes complete sense. All that stuff with Vash. The resurrection, because that was what it was, at Starbase Earhart. That temporal anomaly thing that Captain Picard had told them about.

"Can we trust him?" Geordi asked.

"Yes, we can trust him as much as we can trust anybody."

"You have... tamed him, Captain," Worf said or was he asking?

"He is untamable. The universe is untamable, but that doesn't mean we can't have a permanent and satisfying relationship with it."

"Will he live here?"

"He doesn't quite live as we do, Data, but he will share my quarters."

"Will he change things again?" asked Geordi. "The time line, for instance."

"No more than we do. I thought he was omnipotent -- he certainly thinks he is -- but I've come to see that fates and destinies are controlled by so many factors that any power Q has will change nothing."

"Will he bring his omnipotence to the Enterprise?" Geordi went on.

"No, that's one thing he won't do. I have asked him to let me face my destiny. And part of my destiny is to be a captain, a soldier. A sailor. A warrior. If I could destroy my enemies by wishing it, I wouldn't be me. And I think it's me he's... in love with."

Q shimmered in. "Hello, boys!" Silence.

Q wasn't wearing his Starfleet officer uniform; he was simply attired in dark colors.

"I know this will take time to adjust to," Jean Luc said. "I am hoping you will feel free to talk to myself or Q or both of us about this."

Riker looked at Q. Would Q now be Jean Luc's Number One? And Q looked at Riker; Riker could tell Q was reading his mind. And giving him messages: the message was, no, I'm not his Number One. Think of this metaphor, Riker: Odysseus. Remember Cultural Archives 100 at Starfleet? Riker didn't; he hated all those reading courses; he liked the noisier ones better. Listen to me, Riker, Odysseus had a son, Telemachus. You're Telemachus. Jean Luc is Odysseus. Telemachus took over after Odysseus because he was such an... effective administrator. And who am I? Think of an old-fashioned painting of a primitive island king. You're standing at his side. I'm the black-eyed geisha type with a chain around her neck lying provocatively at the primitive king's feet with my knees about eighteen inches apart. You're heir; I'm houri.

Riker struggled with thoughts: If Jean Luc were his father-figure and Q the replacement step... well! His own dad hadn't been worth shit, but Jean Luc was the greatest father figure in the universe. And Jean Luc gave the crew -- a motley crew, that's for sure -- complete guidance and acceptance. So he, Riker, must do the same.


He laughed. "Congratulations, Captain. This is wonderful. It ties up loose ends. It's great. I never would have thought I would ever have believed this, but... wow. This is great."

Data tilted his head back and forth a bit.

"It is great," Geordi said, almost as if to himself. "It's like . . .the next step, isn't it? In our mission to explore, to evolve."

"Let's look at ourselves for a minute, men," Jean Luc said with a sudden warm intimacy. "We've changed. We have evolved so much since we've been together. We've... done the things you're supposed to do with life."

"Congratulations, Captain," said Data.

Only Worf was silent. Then: "It will take time, Captain, to adjust to this new. . . information."

He glared at Q, who looked guilty, and then said, "I've changed too."

And now for something really creepy.

Subspace: "Admiral Nechayev."

How to do this? Other captains got married, made their ships into veritable floating honeymoon hotels, doing everything but hanging out stockings to dry in the jeffries tube. He tried to think of any captains in homosexual relationships with other species, this being the most clinical way he could think about it.

"Jean Luc, always a pleasure to hear from you."

"Yes, Admiral Nechayev. We need to talk."

"Proceed, Captain Picard."

"I need to inform you of something, and there's not too many ways to put it, but I have entered into an emotional relationship with the entity we know as Q."

"Ah." Pause. "This changes things. It doesn't change everything, but it changes things."

Deanna met Beverly on the transporter pad. Beverly was carrying her medkit over her shoulder.

"Will you be all right, Beverly?"

"I think I need to get away for a while." Beverly watched Deanna try to read her. "Yes, Deanna, I'm sad, and mad, but I'm also... Jean Luc and I were over years ago. I just didn't want to give up a dream."

"It's very mortal to keep dreams -- all the dreams you can -- going as long as possible."

"Well, I'm mortal, Deanna."

Deanna studied her. Beverly would be all right; it was just a shock. Q was a pretty eccentric choice, but coming to terms with the peculiar twists of fate was an adult destiny. "This medical convention on Taorin should be just what the doctor ordered."

"Hardee har har. What if Jean Luc never forgives me for what I said?"

"Then we'll know it's not our Jean Luc and we'll mutiny."

"Everything's so pointless. Even this convention. The Silamios could be starving shortly, and the only thing their neighbors on Taorin care about is plastic surgery." She sighed. "Energize."

Back in her quarters. Beebeep. "Come in," Deanna said; as an empath, she knew who it was and smiled.

"Good evening, Deanna," said Worf.

"Worf." She swung around in her chair. "How did the meeting go?"

He growled sibilantly: "Your scent is strikingly provocative tonight."

"I beg your pardon!"

Riker felt... restless. He needed... something. He keyed in some data on his padd. Ah, only a hop, skip, and a jump away, figuratively speaking.

"Riker requests short leave for twelve hours. I'll be taking Shuttle Craft Von Braun. See you tomorrow."

On the Boardwalk at Deep Space Fourteen, near the C'as'l system, there was a club called the Rekkuhc, famous enough to be listed in the file called PLACES Comma SPECIAL Comma Riker W T where people could meet people if they were restless and needed something. And, when he walked in, he could tell this was a fine idea -- surely he could get . . . something here, especially as he felt so... restless.

Voices went soft as he stalked in and went to the bar. A margarita, he said to the barkeep, a sullen Pakled, not that they came in any other flavor. There was a small three-piece band playing, and a couple stood up and started dancing; two males. Ah.

There was a light from the door opening onto the promenade, and a tall dark figure walked in. A lit-from-behind swagger. A lit-from-behind pause. A lit-from-behind appraisal of the bar.

Riker watched dispassionately, and then not so dispassionately.

Oh, this was going to be good.

The figure came to the bar and ordered fire wine and put down a strip of latinum.

"Your currency is no good here," Riker spoke to hm.

The figure put his hand on his weapon. "Who..."

"Klag, you don't remember me. And I owed you a drink."

Pause. Sigh. Smile. "Riker the human."

"Klag. My old friend." A lonely boy Klingon. "It's been -- what -- seven years. I didn't know you knew the Rekkuhc."

A typical Klingon interval. Then: "Well, I do know this place. I come here frequently. I have never seen you here before."

"I heard about it, and I was in the neighborhood."

Klag stuck his tongue out a bit and bit it. "You buy me a drink; I'll buy you a drink."

"Agreed, Klag. I have fond memories of our sojourn together on the Pagh."

"Yes, I have often found myself thinking of those days... and of you, Riker."

Well, well, well.

"Nice place," Riker said.

"Very nice."

Klag put down another strip of latinum on the bar, and Riker put his hand down on Klag's. "No, let me pay for it." But he left his hand on Klag's. And Klag made no move to move his hand. He only stuck his tongue further out of his mouth and bit it again with those Klingon choppers.

My my my, Riker thought.

Look at what's for supper.

"Cap's getting some tonight, Data." Geordi leaned up against Data who was moving his fingers faster than the speed of light on the console.

"Getting some. I see."

"Data, I just don't see how it works technically."

"It does make one wonder."

"Well, that was like a wedding. So let's do something really sexy tonight, Jean Luc. On our wedding night."

"Sexy? Wait..."

"Don't get riled up, pony boy. Let's consummate in some really... " Jean Luc watched Q; it was as if Q were in a trance all of a sudden and Jean Luc fell in the trance with him.

"What's sexy?" Q breathed.

"It all is," Jean Luc breathed.

"But I've not really had human sex except with She-Whose-Name..."

"Stop this, Q. Sexy."

"I can't think of anything -- you've had lots of sex, Jean Luc."

"But it was so far from sexy compared to just watching you lie beside me sleeping."

"Sexy, Jean Luc, think!!"

"Sexy, sexy."

"Remember those Trip Rorschach books? What did he do that you found sexy? I mean, you did read them and pleasure your big self, I am right in that?"

"Oh, yes, they... one thing I found so sexy is, of course, the most impossible. He takes Cookie to a sort of orgy club in what was the city of Tijuana in the Northern Earth Hemisphere and they fuck in public and . . . it was profoundly hot."

"Did lots of people see them?"

"A club full."

"How'd they do it?"

"He fucked her dog-style after jerking off for a while, and everybody was struck dumb with longing."

"Would you like to go outside of time and do that?"

"Q, it's impossible."

"I can easily take you back to twentieth-century Tijuana."

They looked at each other, and then Jean Luc heard the applause and turned around. He was in the center of a dirty room lit up like a boxing square with one big light and surrounded by café tables with four or five seats and all were filled. He looked down at his body; he was wearing a studded black harness and nothing else and his erection was huge.

Everyone at the tables was smiling, drinking, talking, and then he felt a hand on his shoulder. Q it was who was wearing an open silk robe and some sunglasses and nothing else. His erection was larger than Jean Luc's. Jean Luc had never seen anything sexier than Q in that smoky light. "On your knees, boy." And some loud throbbing electronic music began, and Jean Luc began to suck Q's cock; Q pulled the robe down on his shoulder and jutted his cock forward for Jean Luc to have something to suck more clearly for the audience.

Q moved in and out of his mouth, and Jean Luc was absorbed by the passion of it, and his hand went to his own cock, and then Q said, "Stand up, Jean Luc, and get over there on the pillory." A pillory! "Bend over."

Q then took off his robe.

The pillory was closer to the audience than they had been, and Jean Luc heard a woman exclaim "Gosh! I'd like that one in me." "Darling!" Said her escort.

"Stick it in his ass, boy," said another man.

Jean Luc stuck himself up in the air, on display.

And then he felt Q's loving hands and Q's loving cock near him, rocking slowly, seeking entrance. "More," he whispered.

"More," Q echoed. Then he stuck himself all the way in Jean Luc.

Arrrggh, Jean Luc screamed.

The song ended and another came on: it was a man's 20th century baritone, something about suspicious minds. And Q got into the rhythm of it, and he would pull himself out almost the tip and then ram back in. "My god, the man's a tarantula!" said one of the audience.

The doors opened to the café and several people came in; "ooh," a man among them said.

Jean Luc stuck his bottom out further; no one would ever know and... Q started moving more frantically now, and Jean Luc could tell the final thrust was approaching. He closed his eyes; this was better than anything, and then Q came, pulling out so the audience could see him come. Jean Luc and they watched Q's semen splatter on the floor. Q was covered with sweat.

They got a standing ovation, and Q gestured to Jean Luc who rose from the pillory; he felt like an... acrobat and he put his arms akimbo on his hips and smiled and nodded at the crowd. Q moved his hands like a magician and a lit cigarette magically appeared; Jean Luc put it in his mouth still smiling and posing for the crowd.

"Let your sugar daddy come, boy!"

Although he didn't know what a sugar daddy was, Jean Luc's hand went to his cock; he liked showing these strangers his big cock.

"Start workin' on jerkin', Jean Luc, whilst I give you a tongue job for these fine folks."

"A good idea."

And Q went behind him and began to lick Jean Luc's buttocks, and the audience became quiet. "Bravo," one man said. "Brava," said his witty female companion.

And when Q got his tongue in Jean Luc, Jean Luc began to move his hand back and forth.

And, as there was a rhythm set, another song came on the speaker, this time about old black magic. And then Jean Luc noticed that several men and women were coming out of their chairs, and two men were beginning to touch themselves. And one of the women lifted her short skirt and her man touched her lightly haired slit, but they never took their eyes off Jean Luc who never took his eyes off the man's hands. He was... he was throbbing all over and Q's tongue seemed longer and longer. Another man grabbed his partner's breasts and brought them out of her blouse while she rubbed him. And Jean Luc closed his eyes, and came and came and came and Q stood up and bit Jean Luc's shoulder and Jean Luc couldn't quit coming but he did.

Everyone was applauding when he opened his eyes.

"Another great night at Café Fuck," a bare-chested man in a top hat called. "What'd I tell you lovely folks?"

"What a piece!" said a voice.

Then Q gracefully picked up his robe and spoke to them, saying, "It's time for Mandrake and his lovely assistant to disappear," and he waved the robe in front of them and they were back in Jean Luc's bedroom where Jean Luc felt sleepy and satisfied.

"The best part was when you bit me," Jean Luc said drowsily.

"Thank you."

"Thank you. And let's go back to Café Fuck sometime, if we can without disturbing the time line. I want to think of ways to... "

"Sleep, Jean Luc."

"Will we go back?"

"Of course, and we'll get Café Fuck teeshirts and everything."

"Yes!" And he went to sleep.

Then there was the morning after Café Fuck.

When Q opened his eyes (he had been in the habit of drowsing in the cosmos as Jean Luc slept --Jean Luc loved his natural sleep), Jean Luc was nowhere to be found.

"Jean Luc," he called.

The bathroom door was closed.

"Jean Luc," he said more softly. He stood up and knocked on the bathroom door. "Jean Luc, are you in there?"

There was no answer but a soft stirring. "Jean Luc, is everything okay?"

He leaned against the door.

"Jean Luc, talk to me."

Silence, then: "Q, I feel so dirty. I can't believe what we did last night. Promise me that will never happen again."

"Jean Luc, come out and talk to me. I'm lonesome."

No answer.

"I'm naked."

No answer.

"Jean Luc, you can't stay in there the rest of your life."

"I feel so dirty. All those people knowing what we do."

"This is interesting, Jean Luc. The wedding night. The sobbing bride locked in the bathroom. The interpretation adds so much more to the moment. But don't you think..."

Jean Luc shoved the bathroom door open and stood there, glowering, all polished in his Starfleet uniform.

"You look lovely, darling," Q said diffidently.

"I feel awful."


"I can't believe I enjoyed exhibiting myself that way. I must have been mad. Q, let's never do that again."

"Umm, what's that?"

"Public... " He saw Q's horrified look. "Q, I love you, but I feel I've embarrassed myself terribly."

"Can we talk before you go to work?"

"Yes. But let's not leave here; it is just too much... temptation." Jean Luc hesitantly took Q's hand. "It's not you, Q. It's me, how weak and lewd I am."

Q flashed his hand and he was in his Starfleet uniform with Jean Luc.

Jean Luc smiled a little. "And you look quite spruce as well." He sighed. "I just felt so out of control. It scares me now; I mean it was wonderful then. Don't get me wrong, and you and I will of course continue to..."

"Do whatever the hell we want, right, Jean Luc? You humans don't realize how singular you are. You have one of the most extraordinary gifts in the universe. If any member of any other race said to another, I want your sex, the other will say either yes, or not tonight I have a headache, or not if you were the last Sniperk bush baby in the solar system. And the first Sniperk bush baby accepts this and life goes on. But when one human casually says to another, let's mate, the next human says what do you mean by that! And they argue! And if one finally says yes, then the other one says, what do you mean by that! And they argue! And if one say, no, then the other says, what do you mean by that! And they argue! What a potent metaphor! How meaningful the simplest syllable becomes! A simple cellular act that has such a variety of non-cellular meanings! What a gift! Arrgh! No wonder so many of you go insane!" Jean Luc was still downcast, but listening. "Jean Luc, what do you think happened last night?"

"I don't know. I'm so embarrassed."

"What did you mean by it?"

Jean Luc looked at Q. "In the last twenty four hours, you have made me confront a number of very difficult things. The utter dissolution of what was a comfortable relationship with Bev."

"And your relationship with LaBev was hardly comfortable because it was hardly there."


"You got that right. I can't abide anyone else in your life but me."

"And telling the rest of my senior staff that I'm pretty much a homosexual."

"And they were bothered so much they practically carried you around the staff room on their shoulders. Oh, by the way, now that you're a homosexual, how does it feel? "

Jean Luc looked at him: "I know what you're doing, Q."

"What am I doing? I just want to know how the world appears to big dangerous homosexual eyes! What do you homosexuals possibly feel?"

"Q...don't... of course, I feel no different; that homosexual business is a... an absurd label."

"Do you realize that what we did last night at Café .. . the café was an objective correlative to telling your staff about us? When I stuck it in your ass."

"Stop this, Q."

"You stop, Jean Luc. I didn't force you. We were telling the world we were one as you had done all day yesterday -- first with Bev, then with the male staff members and then at the club. It was the same gesture."


"Jean Luc, get out your precious prime directive and think about it in terms of what happened at Café Fuck last night." Jean Luc winced and looked away. "A group of people decided they wouldn't always live in an orthodox world. End of story. And we're like them."

"I'm scared. I'm so tempted. I don't want to give up my life to sensation."

The air changed and Jean Luc was startled: "I'm scared too, Jean Luc." Were those tears in Q's eyes? "I thought you wanted it and then you don't. What am I supposed to do? I love you, but sometimes nothing's enough for you and sometimes everything's too much... You're so complicated. If we were an ordinary couple, it would be time for one of us to pack our grip and go home to Mother."

"Mother!" Then in a burst of insight: "It's Father I'm worried about. Having people know about my... desires is like having my father know. What would Father say? About his son! Public sodomy! This is terrible. Let me think about things today."

Q was waiting impatiently in Jean Luc's quarters; he had tried to make it cozier for Jean Luc. He had brought some interesting skulls from out of time and lined them up for Jean Luc to examine and make big Jean Luc archaeological announcements about them. He picked up one and said in an exaggerated burr: "to learn about you is frankly provocative." And smiled for the first time that day. He also put a sycamore tree in its rusty autumnal majesty the middle of the room, and then he had put mirrors all around the room, special golden mirrors that reflected everything in a soft amber with green leaflike edges, as if the figures reflected were the lurking shades of nymphs and satyrs in a special dark green underbrush.

Now he stood in the room looking around.

"I hate love," he said out loud.

The doors whooshed open.

Jean Luc walked in and looked around; at first his face was blank and then it softened.

"Q, this is so beautiful."

"Do you still love me? Are we still married?"

And Jean Luc said nothing but went to his desk, giving Q a sidelong look as he moved a mirror out of the way. Then he took out his Ressikan flute.

"Let me play for you."

And he moved back to the center of the room and sat cross-legged under the sycamore, and Q sat down beside him.

"This is an ancient Egyptian wedding song; they worked out the tunes from the hieroglyphs. It's very haunting, very... much about a love that will last forever. To me, the best part is that it's also very simple."

Q began to beam, and Jean Luc played for him for most of their second wedding night.

And there was a new morning after.

Q turned over nervously, but Jean Luc was there with his arms behind his head. "You're up, my sunshine!" Jean Luc said.

"You still love me."

"My love is eternal, Q; I wouldn't be so silly if I were omnipotent. You are omnipotent?"

"Very omnipotent, Jean Luc."

"I see." They kissed for a long time.

"Are you still spooked about the night at the Café?" Q asked.

"Are you still spooked about the night at the Café?" Jean Luc asked, and then relented: "I have made a decision. What do you know about Lent?"

"I know everything."

"But what do you really know?"

"Time before Easter in ancient Catholic rituals on your home planet, especially your home country of France. Umm, Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Beads. Paschal lambs. Stuff like that."

"I want a Lent for a while. I was in a state of shock over my coming out of the closet as it were, a happy state of shock, but a state of shock. Mardi Gras was the Café. Let me not go for a while and earn the right to go back to Café Fuck. Warriors want to earn what they get. That's why I won't let you give me perfect weapons. Or everything I want. It's not the warrior way."

"I know all this," Q pouted.

"Q, you have to let me face my fate, whatever it is."

"I will."


"On your life, I promise."

Then Jean Luc looked at his hand. "My wedding ring feels so odd." Q smiled his long smile. "Q , what did you do?"

"Nothing. I just added something."

Jean Luc took the ring off with some difficulty. Then he looked at Q.

"Well, the earthling definition of the wedding ring is the eternal circle for eternal love. I just .. . . sexually aroused eternity." Q smiled at him.

Jean Luc looked at his ring; it was shaped like a Q.

"Eternity with a hardon that goes both ways, that's Q," Q whispered.

"Oh, Q," Jean Luc said breathily. Excited. Laughing. He kissed the ring and put it back on his hand.

Later, after love (Jean Luc pushing into Q as they lay nestled on their sides): "What's all this about your father?"

Jean Luc's face sobered. "Father. My father wouldn't have approved of any of this. He would have liked nothing I've done. And Robert... They wouldn't perceive you as an entity; they'd see you as a man. I've always seen my lovers through my father's eyes. None were quite right to bring home; maybe that's one reason I waited until now to... "

"Ah, so that's why so many of your women resembled your sister-in-law. You must have seen videos of the wedding and assumed that's what your father wanted from you too. But none of that worked out, did it? Because you're a slut who craves my brand of love."

Jean Luc was astonished. Every word Q said was true. "It's not easy to break habits of sixty some years. But... ," he was struggling, ". . . everyone's dead but me. I guess I am still trying to impress the dead as if they weren't dead. I need to accept their deaths, and I need to accept my life. Wherever the other Picards are, in the grave, or the golden underground, or the isle melodious where spirits gat them home, letting the dead dictate the living is... not the way I'd tell anybody to live. . Everyone's dead now; why am I hiding my love?" He kissed Q.

Q snuggled over: "Of course, if all the Picards had gotten laid more often, there might not be so few of them left."


Later, after more love, (Jean Luc on his knees by the bed, Q behind him playing with his nipples and moving steadily in and out) "I am beginning to love you as I love myself. If something heartbreaking were to happen to you, it would be a death to me. But a death I know I... Shakespeare says, we owe God a death. And death... . makes life worth living."

Q looked pained. "You're treading on dangerous ground, Jean Luc. Someday we will have to talk about the past and the future. And don't answer this now, Jean Luc, because I want you to be able to change your mind up to the end, but I can bring you back to life forever or grant you immortality or protect you constantly. You need not owe me a death."

Jean Luc considered his answer carefully. "First off, I never thought Shakespeare was speaking of you. Say, did you hear my Wallace Stevens quote earlier?"

"Yes, indeedy, and I nearly swooned with the swankiness of it."

"In the same poem, Mr. Smarty Boots, he says 'Death is. . . "

"... the mother of beauty. All us gods know that poem."

"Oh, Q, you're absurd."

"All us gods are."

Jean Luc realized he could say the hardest words possible to Q, and it didn't matter -- it was like lifting weights -- you wanted heavier weights -- that's how you felt right and good -- if you didn't go all the way, you just didn't know how alive you were. Sex with Q was like that. Q's lips were racing around his body. "I could give you everything," Q whispered.

"But if I had everything, I wouldn't be me. And then you wouldn't love me as much. I'm as much what I'm not as what I am."

They looked at each other.

"True," Q said, looking agonized.

"It's a... paradox," Jean Luc said.

They looked at each other's eyes, and each saw a reflection of himself and the reflection of he reflection in one another's eyes until the image was too small for even the omnipotent to see.

"It's an anomaly," Q whispered.

"You and your precious anomalies."

Nearly a year had passed with love every day and every night. Being addicted to Q's flamboyance made Jean Luc's life precious and alluring to himself. Q raised the stakes.

But since their marriage, they had not gone to many social events together. Therefore, it made Q radiantly happy to be invited somewhere (no doubt so he could cause more mischief). And as they talked while Jean Luc dressed for the occasion, he had the touching feeling that Q had never been invited anywhere much.

A subspace transmission had come in a few days earlier, and Jean Luc accepted it in his ready room. A pleasant middle-aged dark-haired man came on. "I am Neval of Taorin, and I'd like permission to see you today, Captain, on a matter of some importance."

"Of course, please transport right over. I can see you at 1400 hours; perhaps you'd like to have lunch here and tour the ship."

"That will be good. By the way, my personal file is on Starfleet's records so, if you want to access it, you'll be able to." The man had a certain ironic casualness which wasn't unattractive.

Jean Luc said, "Transmission out," and, intrigued , looked at Neval's file: important political figure, bla bla bla, represented a rather unsophisticated part of the Taorin home world, the queen planet of the C'as'l South Dimension, and represented them well, bringing democracy and prosperity to a fairly primitive part of that world. No scandal there. Divorced amicably from minor Taorin royal figure, two grown children, nope, nothing there. The most striking thing about the record was the level of amiability that Neval seemed to bring to everything.

And all seemed in order when Neval presented himself to Jean Luc at 1400 hours. But he certainly did seem to be looking Jean Luc over pretty thoroughly, a little too thoroughly, and an ironic smile formed on his face. What...

"Please be seated." Neval smiled even more and sat down. "How can we help you?"

"I'd like to invite you to my wedding."

Unusual, but not out of... "I'd be delighted to try to make it. Let me check my calendar. When would it be? And to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"On our world, it's 63CGP24; I don't know what that is in your time, but I think it's about 113 of your hours from now." Neval yawned. "On Taorin I. Oh, the rest of your crew is coming."

"Why, you must be marrying someone I know."

"Yes, Beverly Crusher."

Jean Luc was speechless. Then: "Wait, I must compliment you. Beverly is a treasure. "That's wonderful." It was wonderful.

"I understand you have a partner named Q; he's invited too."

Now, Q was saying: "Don't you see: he's Bev's Q! Tall, extremely handsome, rugged baritone, huge grasping hands, a big manly dish."

"Well, why don't you marry him?" Jean Luc asked.

"I like you. I like you A L0T."

"I think he's appropriate to Bev. I'm happy she has a such a nice man."

"Well, why don't YOU marry him?"

"Stop this, Q. Let's have some fun."

The pleasant ceremony had been tela-vized to all the citizens of Taorin I, which now included half a million Silamios refugees; Jean Luc was impressed. Beverly was marrying up in the world.

Afterwards, he and Q walked out on a porch-like structure outside the vast court room. "Pleasant enough ceremony," Jean Luc said. "I just hope..."

"Shh," said Q, "Dagwood and Blondie are talking about us."


"Old Earth joke. I can hear them. Why, of all the nerve!"

"You can hear them?"

"Oh, yes, I could hear it if they were on the Pleiades. Eavesdroppers learn highly useful things. Do you want to know what they're saying?"

"I suppose."

"Oh, he's quite the little chatterbox." Q, roughening his voice, began to imitate Neval: "Well, Bevvie, Butch and Puff just lurched out on the watching ramp."

"Butch . . !!!."

"Shhh: Honestly, Bevvie, I don't see what you saw in that guy. He's short, bald, old." Jean Luc's mouth opened. "And his boyfriend is Public Flit Number One. They aren't worth one of your tears, Bevvie. So she says, perhaps Jean Luc has hidden attractions..." Jean Luc opened his mouth wider. "Hidden, Neval says. You can say that again, sister. You and your entire ship must have been raiding the medicine cabinet to follow orders from that gnome. I mean, darling, I'd forgive the way he looks but he must be dumb as a boot to pick Q over you. Hey, what do you suppose the Q stands for, duh, I ask with irony. So Bev says, well, Q is supposed to be omnipotent. And Neval goes, I'm sure. Hey, girls, look at me! I'm omnipotent." Q made a gesture like an old-fashioned body builder. And then imitating Neval imitating Jean Luc's deep accented voice: "My heeero. So now they're both laughing like hyenas and Neval's saying, I can't wait to get you alone and touch your pink tipped..."

"Enough, Q."

"I agree. If I'm not the subject of a discussion, I don't want nothing to do with it."

"I'm not one hundred per cent sure I like hearing what people say behind my back."

"I'm used to it. I've heard some things you've said about me."

"Stop this, Q."

"How do you really feel, Jean Luc?" Q knew Jean Luc so well and vice versa that a mere lowering of his voice could make Jean Luc know the joking had stopped.

"I feel happy for Bev, surprisingly."

"She'll have a life of service with lots of irony. After all the... that's not a bad bargain for LaBev."

"No, it isn't. She was always headed that way." Jean Luc looked at Q. "I think I'm heading towards reconciling with the world. First you, then... "

"They're talking about us again."

"I don't want to hear it."

"Let's see, some sexy talk -- you do actually want to hear it, but I 'm not going to let you he's says he can't wait to put it in her... "


"Whoa! No, I'm mistaken. He says, well, Bevvie, thanks for the exotic in-laws. It's like a weird novel. The Klingon. The blind engineer. The gnome. The robot. And she says, Data's an android. He says, Bevvie, life's going to get a lot better than being thrown in icy water by a yellow robot. Oh, now they're dancing."

Jean Luc was nonplused. "I think I'll have a last dance with Bev."

"Jean Luc!!!!! How sentimental! Well, okay, then I'll just chat up Neval. I have a few things to tell him; he sounds like he's got your number anyway."

"I'm so scared."

On the court floor, Beverly was dancing with a smartly dressed, slightly intoxicated Riker who relinquished her easily to Jean Luc.

"Captain," she said, her lips curved in that little bow of irony.

"Doctor." They danced a bit.

"I'm so happy for you, Beverly. I really really really am."

"Thank you, Captain."

Jean Luc attempted a tiny hug, and Bev's smile grew wider. "Jean Luc, this music is a waltz; you seem to be treading the measures of the Camel Walk, a dance long thought extinct, frankly."

"Q's happy for you too."

"Well, that makes everything just ducky," but she wasn't peeved. It did make things ducky. The music ended. Bev applauded, but Jean Luc didn't quite let go of her. He reached over and kissed her cheeks -- like a Frenchman. She didn't swoon, she didn't even look at him; her smile was still wide and Jean Luc saw her looking over his shoulder. He turned around and saw where she was looking. At Neval. (Q had funked his threat and was talking, dimpled and animated, to a giggling Deanna Troi).

"Good night, Jean Luc," Bev said, and waltzed on her own to Neval. Q watched them and made an amusing face. Deanna moved away from him and -- was that a curtsey she made to another woman?

Then, they came to him, Deanna and the older Taorin woman. "Excuse me, sir. I would like to present you to the Grand Duchess of Taor, Rectora."

Jean Luc bowed.

"This is Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise."

"Thank you, Counselor Troi," he said. Troi made another small curtsey and left.

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

The Grand Duchess looked at him. She wasn't the most grand duchessy person he'd ever seen -- she was actually rather plain, chubby, short-haired, dressed in a simple masculine style. Much like Neval, actually.

"I know more about you than you do about me."


"I'm Neval's former wife."


"Yes, Beverly told me all about you and your boyfriend."

"Ah." Jean Luc looked at her and she smiled back at him; interestingly, it was a very grand duchess smile. "I guess she told everybody."

"Captain Picard, she will the stepmother of my beloved children and the stepgrandmother of my beloved beyond-life future grandchildren. And she will be my friend. I wanted details of her life, and, if it includes the squalid details, then it includes the squalid details."


"Captain Picard, of course, it's not squalid at all. Frankly, I used that adjective to push you around. Do you know why Neval and I aren't married any more?"

"Actually, no."

"I'm just like you. I loved another woman the way you loved a man and just took awhile owning up to it. When I met her, that's her right there," she indicated a woman smaller but otherwise identical to the grand duchess, "I said, I'm packing my bags, Neval. Life is just too short. But it worked out well. I am happy, the children are happy, and it gave Beverly and Neval something in common."

Q came prowling over.

"Grand Duchess Rectora, I'd like to present my boyfriend, Q."

"Hello, Q," she said. Q was taken aback with her frank appreciation of him.

"Call me Tory," she said.

"Delighted," Q -- that fool -- kissed her hand.

"She's the first Mrs. Neval," Jean Luc whispered.

"I know, boyfriend."

"Ah." Jean Luc thought, a planet where I'm de trop.

Q didn't let go of the Grand Duchess' hand.

And Jean Luc wanted to slap his big silly face.

In their bedroom, later: "Now Neval is saying, I read that goon Picard's beads. He didn't want you. He just didn't want anyone else to want you else."

"Shut up, you asshole."

"You're the asshole."

They glared at each other.

"Can the nelliness, Jean Luc."

"Belay the boohoos, Q." Jean Luc lowered his head and stared at Q from under his eyebrows. "Q, I'll tell you what, let's fuck one more time; characteristically, I would prefer that you be the top, but, after that, I'll have to go back to work."

"On your knees, sailor," and Q slapped his buttocks and Jean Luc was as hard as iron in that second. "I want you now. No undressing." They were both on their knees and Q licked his fingers and probed Jean Luc who said, "ahh, I'm ready" and Q said, "Yes, you are."

But then Jean Luc twisted away: "First, am I a goon really?"

"You're my goon, Jean Luc. I love you."

"I love you." He looked at Q again. "I am feeling awfully insecure now."


"Q, if, after all these years, Beverly can fall in love with someone else and just leave me, then... "

"So can I?"

"It's shameful to admit, but yes." They looked at each other.

"I love you more than anything. Everyday more than anything."

"Q, let's just kiss for awhile."

"Oh, yes," Q breathed.

III: Death is the Mother of Beauty

Two weeks later:

"Jean Luc!" Q stretched out the last syllable. "Guess what?"

"It's our first anniversary, Q," and they met for a long kiss. "I love you more than all our yesterdays."

"I have a treat for you, Jean Luc, a special anniversary present."

"And I have one for you, Q."

"You go first."


They paused. Then Jean Luc said, "I can't hold it in. Q, it's time to go back to Café Fuck."

"That was my surprise!!"


"Yes, really! Come into my arms and we'll go there."

"But... Q, let's just watch tonight. I'm still... shy."

And Jean Luc held Q and then they were in an empty parking lot, with a dark warehousy building in front of them; the sky was very cobalt and there were stars all over and they could hear "Blue Moon of Kentucky" playing from the building.

Jean Luc looked down; he was dressed in a rather ordinary way: white teeshirt, jeans, dark thick-soled walking shoes. The jeans fit extremely well, he noticed. Q was wearing a white suit and sun glasses with a pink shirt and skinny black tie; he had a black overcoat draped capelike over his shoulders. "You look great, Q."

"You look nice." Then Q regarded him. "But too plain for such a beauty. What about a vest." He put a plain leather vest on him. "No, that's not it." Jean Luc stood patiently by. Dressing his little pony on this escapade was clearly part of Q's fun; he loved costumes. "The sleeves of the teeshirt are too long, that's it" -- he gave his fingers the merest wave. The tee shirt's sleeves were shorter and turned up once. "I don't like that neckline either. Your face wants framing," he said and raised it. Then Q ran his fingers over Jean Luc's narrowly muscled stomach. "My oh my."

"Will we smoke?"

"Do you want to?"

"Yes, and drink. As a matter of fact, I want a cigarette now." Q gave him a cigarette and lit it with his fingers.

"Let's go."

And they went in. In the entry way was a large, difficult-looking man with many tattoos who put down his newspaper when he saw them come in. Would there be problems?

The tattooed man smiled! "Welcome back; we were hoping we'd see you again." He had a cockney accent.

"Is my tab still open, Mongo?"

"As usual, Mr. Mandrake."

"Thanks. Let's go in, my pretty."

"We've got a new toy shelf opened up. It's just inside the door, if you would like to..."

"How gracious of you, Mongo." And they went through a little door with an eyehole in it.

"Where are we in time, Q?"

"Jean Luc, it's just the next Saturday night here I want us to be old familiars here. Less stress and they also can help us celebrate our one week anniversary."

More people were at Café Fuck than at the last time. The man in the top hat with the bare chest came over to them. "Mr. Mandrake, you said you'd be back. I'm delighted and I'm pleased you brought your... most prized possession." And he smiled at Jean Luc and hugged him. At first, Jean Luc was taken a bit aback at the combination of salaciousness and healthy friendliness. "Would you like to see our toys line?" Top Hat indicated some dirty glass cases. A plain but energetic couple were looking at them.

"Lean over, Ginger, and let me see if it will fit you." She did so, and he put his hand up under her skirt. Jean Luc gave them a keen look. "Hard to say!"

"Oh, you... big... thing." She sighed and looked at him.

"Look who's back," the top hatted man said.

"Mandrake! Hazaah! Hazaah!" Ginger squealed.

Q bowed. "Let's see these toys."

"You got the best toy already," Big Thing said.

"You ain't just whistlin dixie, Biggy," Q winked at him.

A large woman with straight short blonde hair came up. "I remember you, Baldilocks," she said to Jean Luc. "What's the hope of a fuck later for me?" She caressed the front of his jeans and had a soft breathy beautiful voice.

"Not a chance," said Jean Luc. He indicated Q with his head.

Q was discussing the toys. "Are they used?"

"We run them through a Clorox bath."

"Oh, I love that; smelling chlorine all night long. Thank you so very much."

Jean Luc turned to watch Q; he was someone you couldn't take your eyes off. And Q, emphasizing his words just a bit more than usual, was effeminate in a way that Jean Luc had never seen in Q before but which was compelling here. And then with a lover's seventh sense for someone making time for Jean Luc, Q turned around to see the blonde. "Looking for your little friend, Blondingo?" he said completely without malice.

"You have nothing to fear from me, Jim." She was beaming as she said this. "We're all friends here."

"He's all mine," Q leaned in. He seemed a little drunk. "We're celebrating our first...week's anniversary."

"Oooh, it's my anniversary too! With Clayton over there. It's our first fuck anniversary."

Ginger and Big Thing were now listening openly as was Top Hat, and they were smiling.

"We've fucked once! Time to celebrate."

"Twelve more hazaaahs!" said Ginger.

"Where is that main squeeze?"

Blondingo indicated a man standing watching a couple fucking on the floor; he was small and puny-looking and dark and balding and had on a red vest with a white shirt. The red vest had a badge which read "Delchamps asst.man." and the word "Clayton" written in marker underneath it.

Q looked at him a minute: "Oh, I get it, Clark Kent." Everyone laughed. "Is that Clayton's real life or is it his club drag?"

"I don't know. We just met. He drives me crazy is all I know. Clayton," she yelled, "Help me."

Clayton came over and, although he was smaller than she was, he was clearly the master and kissed her as if he owned her.

"I'm fabulously wealthy," Q said. "I've got pistoleros plus, so let's all get a table and drink. I'll buy. On my tab, Toppy."

"Yes, sir!" Said Top Hat smartly.

They all moved to a table at the back of the club, Clayton, Blondingo, Ginger, and Big Thing, Jean Luc and Q. No one was on stage at the moment -- although a naked woman in high heels walked across it every now and then and swayed her hips.

Jean Luc sat down by Q in a shabby padded booth and then -- he couldn't help himself -- he kissed Q passionately and grabbed his nipples through his shirt.

"My love."

"Happy anniversary!"

Top Hat brought a portable bar cart to the table.

"We love you, Mr. Mandrake," he said to Q sincerely.

"Do you have smokes?"

"We have Picayunes; it's class B tobacco. You know the rules: if it's bad for you, it's Café Fuck."

Jean Luc took his teeshirt off, and everyone was mesmerized by the sight of his chest.

"Where's my Café Fuck teeshirt, Tops?"

The Delchamp's assistant manager was drinking Jim Beam from the bottle. He had small kind dark eyes that glittered with the richness of love he saw.

"Here you go." It was gray with the simple words CAFÉ FUCK stenciled on the front.

"I'll put it on you, my little pony." Everyone at the table laughed.

Jean Luc lifted his arms, and Q kissed him and then put the shirt on him. It fit Jean Luc as if it had been tailored for him.

"Do your magic, Mandrake!" said a man at another table. "Like last week."

"Let me get out the wand," Q said and began to unzip his fly. Everyone laughed again, an easy, amused... somehow evolved laugh. But Q did not really finish because he turned his eyes to a nearby table, and Jean Luc followed his glance.

A couple was sitting there: he was another in the Delchamp's Assistant Manager tradition only with less hair, and she was older, perhaps fifty, glasses, a shoulder-length graying pageboy and an amused exasperated face. Pleasingly she was rather busty and wore a low cut black dress.

"I can't believe we're here. When we were younger, I would have died rather than spoken to you," he said to her.

She was silent for a moment, and then said, "You never asked me before."

"I was scared to. I had to wait until you got older and a little worn out."

"And less fun."

"Can I touch you?"


"I mean, all the guys in the dorm wanted you. Wanted you in the worst way. Thought about you constantly."

She rolled her eyes and sighed. "The dorm! Andrew, a) you haven't lived in a dorm since the Counter Reformation and b) how come no one ever asked me out? I went for two years in my early twenties without a date."

"We were terrified. You were too good for us."

These compliments were clearly having the wrong effect on her.

And everyone was watching: a wasted life. This was as real as fucking.

"I thought no one asked me out because I was so fat and ugly and stupid. No one ever asked me out; how many interpretations can that have?"

"Better late than never."

"Yes, how wonderful now: a life filled with regrets! Woohooo! That's the life for me." She was thoroughly pissed.

And there was just one thing he could do.

"Mistress," he said, and lay down on the floor and began licking her shoes.

She looked over and saw Jean Luc and Q looking at her. "I am so fucking disgusted; hey, let's screw," she said to Jean Luc.

"He's mine now," said Q emphatically.

"I can see why. So no chance of a fuck, chrome dome?" Oblivious to the worm writhing around her feet.

"I must disabuse you of that notion," Q said.

Jean Luc relaxed in the booth, and Q leaned over him, violating his body space, and, when Q moved back, Jean Luc had lost his pants; he had on a brief pair of black underpants and his Café Fuck teeshirt. But that was it.

"Woohooo! The Surplus Meat Place," said the older woman looking over the top of the booth.

The disturbance roused everyone else at the table who had been feeling up one another, Ginger and Big Thing, Clayton and Blondingo. And then everyone at both tables (except the Writhing Worm, Andrew) applauded the nearly naked Jean Luc, who pleased them by stretching out and leisurely groping himself.

I can't help myself here, but it isn't wrong. It's just another... battle? No one ever asks Q how he does his magic because here they repudiate the tyranny of questions. A judgement can... he wasn't quite used to thinking this way ... because a judgement can destroy more than phasars. These women and their gentlemen friends. . . I . . . Jean Luc decided to quit this thinking; he was touching himself in a very determined way now, and he watched them watch him. His breathing became shallow. Q was kissing the side of his face.

Hank Williams' "Love Sick Blues" came on the sound system.

"I am not jerking off to that," Jean Luc said in the same proud tone he would use to say I'm Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.

"He likes new age music," Q stage whispered.

Everyone laughed and Jean Luc laughed the most. "My treasure," he whispered to Q.

Q kissed his cheek and said to the older woman, "Come sit with us, dear. You seem basically alone."

"Thanks: story of my life." She moved over.

"What do you want to drink?"

"Kahlua and kerosene." She leaned over and Jean Luc and Q idly enjoyed her cleavage.

The Worm came crawling over.

"One drink and then we're going to hop in the Andrewmobile and motorvate home. I want to see my dogs."

"Ooooh, I love dogs. What kind of dogs?" asked Blondingo.

"Oh, three mangy beyond-pathetic walking-by-the-side-of-the-road mutts that I've rescued. Just like, " and she pointed under the table.

"Stay: it may get better," Q said.

"Nope. Too many J. Alfred Prufrocks. Not enough Grendels."

"Snazzy threads, o hairless one," said Blondingo.

"You should see him in uniform," Q said.

"What kind of uniform?" the gray haired woman said.

"Soldier," Q said as Jean Luc said, "Sailor." Everyone laughed with a really genuine pleasure.

"You do look military," Blondingo said. Clayton had his hand under her shirt and she regarded him fondly. "I'm in the military, so I know," she went on. "Just see, Clayton, let's have us some toe to toe combat." She reached down under the table.

"Ahhh," Clayton said and his Delchamps badge shook.

"Sailor," said the gray haired woman to Jean Luc. "Popeye!" she laughed. "I've found you at last."

"I love you," said Andrew from under the table.

She ignored him: "Oh, wait, what's that? Genuine absinthe!" She got it off the cart. "Garcon, is this the real thing?"

Top Hat came over; "what is reality?"

"You got any clean sugar cubes, boy?" she said to Top Hat.

Everything was spinning for Jean Luc. "I feel as if my head is going to explode," he said.

Q began to touch him there and kiss him here.

"No, I feel so..."

Q put the black overcoat over them to protect them from the waist down.

"Ohhhhhhh," said Jean Luc.

"Let's go to the parking lot," Q said, "if you want privacy."

"Oh yes, oh yes. Just put the jeans back on."

"I love you in jeans."

"These fit nicely, I do admit."

Q flashed the black overcoat, and Jean Luc was seemly again with his Café Fuck teeshirt and jeans.

They got up to leave -- "we're just going to see a man about a horse, ladies," Q told them, and the rest of the table smiled and nodded. They were engrossed in a couple who had taken the stage, the woman of whom was placing herself in a pert and determined way on her heavy eyelidded partner's huge erection as he sat in a metal soda-shop chair.

As they walked down, Mongo looked up from his newspaper and smiled. Mongo had seen this scenario many times.

They went outside in the air which was warm and humid and dark -- there were fifty or sixty cars parked there.

"Let's go where we can't readily be seen," Jean Luc implored.

"Oh, yes."

They walked to the edge of the lot and leaned up against an old truck.

"Nice looking vehicle," Jean Luc said.

Q spread his legs, and brought the shorter man between them. "Kisses galore, Jean Luc, now."

They kissed for a long time and Jean Luc felt warm and wet and hot and damp. Then Q set up a rocking motion.

"Unzip it, Jean Luc, and never not wear jeans -- it's beyond provocative. Damn." So Jean Luc unzipped and brought himself out and they both looked down. Q gasped.

"Bring yours out," Jean Luc whispered..

"Oh, yes." And then: "Suck fuck you me," Q asked.

"Ummm, yes. Wait," Jean Luc looked away, "What's that music?" Café Fuck had a primitive speaker system.

"Oh, it's...," Q closed his eyes, "Blue grass. Bill Monroe." He smiled.

"Blue grass?"

"I'll blue grass you, you piece of ass."

"Look at the stars. I've never seen the 20th century constellations."

"For Christ' sake, Jean Luc, don't you see enough stars at work? Look at this, Jean Luc."

Jean Luc looked at this. Then he looked back up.


"Come on, Jean Luc" -- to silence Q, Jean Luc put his hand on the tip of his cock -- and looked down and closed his eyes as Bill Monroe roared around him.

"Q, I want to suck you. I can't believe how I feel -- look at those stars. Twentieth century stars and twentieth century air and music and . . ." And then he leaned over and began to suck Q.

Who gasped, "My god, Jean Luc, get up against the truck. I'm wet enough."

Jean Luc swapped places with Q and leaned over the truck. "Don't stop stop stop."

Q pulled Jean Luc's jeans to just under the curve of his buttocks. "Oh," he gasped. "What an incredible sight." He rested against Jean Luc, leaning a little to make up for the striking difference in height, and slowly inserted it fully into Jean Luc, and they both began to move together and the blue grass went on and then they seemed to be lost in the motion which became a bit of the eternal for them. And the stars sang bluegrass and it was twenty minutes before Q gave off fucking Jean Luc who was hard as a rock as the whole time and whose mind ranged through the chords of intoxication and excitement and touching himself -- "Is it good, Jean Luc?"

"Oh , it is good. You are so big. All I want is to make you big for the rest of my days. Big big big big big."

Q grabbed Jean's Luc's hips and fucked harder.

Jean Luc was wet with sweat. "Don't stop this. It's just too rich and good."

"Stop the fucking poetry, Jean Luc. It's big. It's hard. It's in your ass. That's all."

And Jean Luc moved his buttocks back a few inches, and Q caught the motions and felt Jean Luc presenting himself and fucked a few more times but came and came.

Bill Monroe continued.

"Haven't come?" Q said, "I can suck you now." And he was in Q's mouth.

Jean Luc entered the bridge, and there was Riker standing with a horrified look on his face.

"What is it, Number One?"

"Sir, very bad news. Cha47lech has been destroyed."

Zero at the bone.


"A war consortium, made up of non-associative Klingons and Cardassians and others, a good number of earthlings, took some refigured superweapons from a dormant Borg ship and destroyed the entire population. All life signs are gone, even plants. Cha47lech was always defenseless, and this group used it a testing ground of their weapons. We think they didn't quite realize how powerful the weapons were, but the Ferengis, among others, are still very interested. The group calls itself the Millimori. A thousand deaths."

"The whole planet?"

"Yes," Riker paused. "It's a nightmare."

The gravity-defiant Cha47lech. Ted Dale. He never got to introduce Q to Ted Dale.

"Will, do you remember our encounter with them?"

"Quite well, sir."

"Who's got the helm? Data? Very well, Data, man the bridge; I need to talk to Commander Riker."

In his ready room, Jean Luc sat and indicated Riker could be seated. Then he put his head in his hands and said: "Q."

Who appeared.

"Riker." Q nodded.


Q sat at the end of the desk, not behind it, not in front of it.

"I feel so awful," said Jean Luc. "So guilty. If I hadn't been in love with you, Q, Starfleet would have let us end this years ago."

Q was very serious. "Jean Luc, if it's true, then Starfleet was the star of that particular movie. Not you. Not me."

"He's right, sir. If Starfleet had been evolved as we are about the relationship, then it would have been all right. Sir, I knew Ted Dale well," said Riker. "He admired you and your lifestyle."

"You'd kept in touch?"

"Yes, he had retired from managing the company and was living with a Cha dancer named Christian. Christian wasn't a premier danseur, but they had a good life."

They were all silent.

"This is a tragedy," Jean Luc said.

"It's war, captain."

Jean Luc was still: then, squaring his shoulders and tugging at his uniform, "if it's war, then we must work on a victory. I think we should use this an opportunity to persuade Starfleet to take a more dominant posture. The last time I checked, we had orders to help farmers and scholars from the Repa system with colonization efforts. I'm contacting Admiral Nechayev."

And Admiral Nechayev ordered Jean Luc on shore leave. Jean Luc protested, but orders were orders.

So Jean Luc was digging, wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a big belt with archaeology tools and big shoes and socks. Nothing else, except for a bandana pirate-style on his head.

"You look a total treat, love. I begin to see the point of all this here archaeology."

"It's not a fashion show, Q."

"For me it is."

"Why don't you care about archaeology?"

"Because I go back and see it if I want to. The great gift you have given me is to want NOW more than anything. I love you, Jean Luc. And now you have to tell me why you love archaeology as much as you love war and me."

Jean Luc squatted back on his heels and felt Q's heart flip flop.

"I...like information. I like... perhaps because of," he looked away, " my precarious position as the last..."

"Bev is such a bitch! We could have a son, Jean Luc. We could clone you; we could get some ova or whatever. I could snap my fingers. But . . ."

"You're afraid having a child would make us different."

"I can't imagine a life where I wasn't the center of your existence."

"Then give me my archaeology. I want to feel a part of history. I'm not scared of being forgotten. But..."

Q suddenly had one of his future flashes. He was in the 31th century: opera was an obsession in the new improved Federation, as something of a reaction against technology, and stylized masques were particularly popular. And one of the most popular masques featured the story of the great Terran warrior Piccard versus the Borg people. When the finest basso of the era came out in that strange black mask and began singing "I Am Locutus of Borg now and resistance is futile," women screamed and men fainted.

But Q couldn't tell Jean Luc that.

"You will not be forgotten, and I am merely one reason why."

"Q, I feel eternal when I'm in you or you're in me and I feel eternal when I win a battle and I feel eternal with my hands in the dirt of the past. The rest is..." he looked away. "I love you, Q. I may not get to do as much warring as I want."

Q looked down. "Depends on what you call a war. We'll do whatever you want, Jean Luc."

"I don't want a son. I just want to know I'm part of ongoing life. Can you imagine how the first man felt when he gazed into the eyes of the sorcerer figure at the cave of the Trois Freres? He was staring into eternity. With all the blessing and none of the pain of procreation."

"Look into my eyes, Jean Luc, and trust me. If you die..."

"I will die, Q."

"Maybe the world will end first; it will be the apocalypse and we'll be alone at last. But, if you die, Jean Luc, I promise I will make you a part of eternity. I can't tell you how because actually I haven't thought yet. Do you have your flute?"


"Play for me."

And Jean Luc went to his backpack and got out his flute.

Suddenly Q was behind him, and he could feel that Q was dressed as he was; he felt the sweat and stickiness and the breath. And Q gripped his hips. "Lay down in the sand, Jean Luc."

"First, let me do this." Jean Luc stood up and let his shorts down. "Be naked with me, Q."

Q leaned over, and Jean Luc breathed and watched the dear head of the center of his life move his mouth back and forth on him; then Q moved away.

"Let's give it to each other, Jean Luc; you can go first because you are so delicious in me. But you must hurry."

"Take off this foolish garment, Q," Jean Luc said, and slapped his buttocks. He was still wet from Q's mouth and he entered him roughly. "Ouch, that's good. Don't..."

Jean Luc was only a couple of inches in because he wanted... "I've got to see it." Then he went further in and backed up and further in and backed up. The sight was beyond all pleasure. Q's broad shoulders covered with sweat, his long expressive back, and Jean Luc became aware that Q was whimpering, yes, yes, yes, yes. And then he lifted his head back and saw all the land and the scrub trees and the past and the present and he pushed one more time into Q and came.

Then Q was apart from him and throwing him on his back and lifting his legs up over those broad shoulders and his feet were touching that long expressive back and Q was in him, bigger than ever, bigger than Jean Luc, and Q's face was fun and tender and rapacious all at once.

"Don't you stop, Q."

"I will never stop."

"Give it all to me, Q."

"You have to say it."

Jean Luc knew what it was. "Q. Yes yes yes."

And he closed his eyes and there were green lights and red lights and Q came.

A night back at work:

Jean Luc would be damned if he couldn't resolve the erratic C'as'l situation. Starfleet kept moving the Enterprise to the C'as'l system and then removing it, depending on who was issuing the orders. But that was neither here nor there. He was soldier enough to figure out a war. Q wanted to be helpful, so he had enlarged the padd to a five foot by five foot view screen and gave Jean Luc select magnifying filters so he could vary strategic viewpoints. Starfleet, of course, had such things, but they tended to not put them in captain's quarters, so this luxury was welcome to Jean Luc. Starfleet still seemed... just... so... frosty.

And while Jean Luc sat and frowned and fiddled with the improved system, Q leaned against him, making little pieces of paper.

Finally, Jean Luc knocked off. "Can I save this and retrieve it later?"

"Sure. What's going on?"

"The Millemori is helping the North Dimension. And someone is helping them. I think that someone is not our friend. Do you know Mark Twain?"

"Personally? Of course."

"Well, la dee dah, you know I met him too. And he risked his life for me," Jean Luc smirked.

"Oooooh. How impressive."

"Well, at any rate, he wrote in Huck Finn about Huck retrieving a Bible for one of the female characters; her lover had left a note in it for her. And Huck says, something's up, it ain't like a girl to get into such a sweat about a testament. A charming line. It makes me think of this situation. Something's not right. It's not like the North Dimension to get into such a sweat about the South Dimension. They were always at odds, but now it's aggressive, uncharacteristically aggressive against the South Dimension. They're getting help from the Millemori, but who's behind them? If we figure out where the weapons are coming from, we might figure out the real enemy. You can't fight phantoms."

"Such a big brain!"

"And what have you been doing?"

"I made you a book."

"A book! How sweet. Shall we lie down and look at it?"

"Oh, yes." And so they did. "It's called Desires Both Subtle and Gross and it's subtitled A Boy's First Book of Dick and it's over 365 ways for us to make love. With copious illustrations that move, thanks to my omnipotence. Here's the first one." All of a sudden, there was a picture of the Arch d'Triomphe like a tiny viewscreen, and Q was wearing a beret. And a black scarf. And a striped tee shirt. He also had a little accordion and was singing:

"I'm in love with a boy named Jean Luc --
he could bring the Eiffel tower to its knees."

"Is this is a menu? Or direct orders? Or a fashion catalog?"

"Yes," said Q.

"Most amusing. Proceed." Q showed Jean Luc a picture of them; they were standing near some unreal-looking boulders. Jean Luc was in his Starfleet outfit, but Q was wearing a kilt. Jean Luc breathed quickly. "Yes, wear a kilt. You know my fetish in that way."

"I know." Q was wearing a kilt; Jean Luc eyes glazed over and he put his hand on Q's knee and ran it up an inch or two above the knee. "Fresh! Masher!"

"Are you naked underneath?"



Q showed him the next one. "It's a poker game on a pirate ship. I'm the stranger in the long black coat. You're the cabin boy. Whoever wins gets you for the night." He turned to the next one. "Here I am in my French martial outfit: check out how those pants frame that hard on." They were depicted on an empire sofa. And Jean Luc in similar tight pants was lying across Q and kissing him.

"Show me all of them." There was one of Jean Luc in a swim suit and Q naked lying beside him on a rocky beach, and there was one in an unsavory alleyway of Q on his knees in front of Jean Luc with his pants opened and then there was a picture of Jean Luc sitting by himself wearing his Starfleet outfit. "What's this?"

"In this scenario, I put an extra-large butt plug on you to wear all day." Jean Luc sighed. "And didn't he squirm!!" He kissed Jean Luc's cheek. "Lotta little cherries to pop on you, Jean Luc. It's like bubble wrap. What fun! Now, pay attention to this: this is rich. It's part of my country-western line. See, down in the west Texas town of El Paso, here's a cowboy."

"That's Riker!"

"Yes, and he's in love with the fair Mexican maiden Deanna; she has wicked eyes, doncha know? And night time always finds him in El Paso's Ten Forward -- where the music would play and Deanna would sway. And here comes Worf, a wild young Klingon wild as the west Texas wind, and Riker sets his phasar to kill and then has to flee El Paso's Ten Forward. He picks a horse, a good one, it looks like it could run."

"Well, wait, what has this to do with us?"

"Oh, that's us, back in the back necking at the bar. Check out my string tie. Check out your damp levis. We'll go upstairs and fuck when Riker and them clear out."

"Hmm, where's Bev in this scenario?"

"You mean crusty old drunk Doc Crusher. I believe she's midwifing varmints somewhere."


"Here's my Action Auction. I'm on sale at a slave market and you're a Visigoth king and you buy me. In phase two, I'm a Gallic prince, and you're a Saxon slave. In phase three, I'm still a prince, but now it's ancient Rome; I'm a beautiful decadent Caesar and you're a Greek slave, and you teach me... Greek love." Q paused significantly. "In the baths!"

"Go on."

"Here's a favorite of mine. See, we're a cross between quarry slaves and workers in the sex industry." They were glistening with sweat and wearing gray loincloths and gray bags for shoes. "We labor in the great phosphorus caves of a place called Planetville. I made that up!" Q dimpled. "And Planetville is run by a virtual matriarchy."

"What's that?"

"Oh, Planetville is owned and operated by these women in cyberspace where their strange desires can be set free. That's okay: lots of free-floating energy. But everyone who's not a woman in cyberspace is a cross between a quarry slave and a worker in the sex industry. And we all come back at night to our dens covered with phosphorus dust, but you and I have fallen in love for real. And we fuck each other constantly. We even trade our water ration to the others so they'll put a few rocks in our rock quota and we can have time to suck each other off. But the matriarchy wants us to go and fuck others, even women!" "Yuck," they both said. "And so they drag you away. And I stand at the mouth of our cave, my arms held by two evil guards, and scream 'Jean Luc, I will find you!'"

"Q, I love you so much. Every day I love you more."

"Now this is one that comes in at least three different flavors. You and I are enemies. And we get thrown into a prison or dungeon or cave together, and then... after weeks of taunting each other..." They shared a long loving look. "After all that, one night I come to you in your bed, and I say mean petty things to you, and then I accidentally fall against you and you are, despite your extraordinary dislike for me, you are a very compassionate man and you rise up against me and say, Q, are you hurt? And we look at each other for a long moment, and then kiss; my hand or claw or whatever moves down on you... and the rest is history."

"What do you mean flavors?"

"Flavor A: you're a Cardassian, hard and potent and smart and strong, and I'm a Bajoran, ornamented and brunette. Flavor B: you're an aging Irish Republican Army functionary, stoic, murderous, and I'm a tart-tongued British squadron leader. Flavor C: you're a kind-hearted intellectual from the civilized C'as'l South Dimension and I'm from the bestial North Dimension, brutish and easily led."

"The C'as'l do not arouse me much, Q."

"Okay, try this on for size. Look.!" He showed Jean Luc a familiar structure.

"Bien sure, Notre Dame. Et puis..."

"You've stolen bread because you're starving. And the angry bourgeoisie want to kill you, but I come out of nowhere and take you back to Notre Dame. I've had my one horrible eye on you for some time, ever since you gave me a glass of water while the rest of them stood by jeering and booing. Guess what the Q stands for."

Jean Luc smiled: "Quasimodo!"

"At first you're horrified. You're straight among other things, and all I can do is use my hideous single eye to ogle you. I've been ridiculed and abused for so many years that it's really quite touching. Sigh But you alone learn to look past my ugly shell and we fall in love. And fuck a lot."

"Q, why are these little scenarios so... filled with tensions?"

"Well, Jean Luc, there's a million answers to that question, but," Q gazed skyward, "your old boyfriend Johan Huizinga put it best in his fine book Homo Ludens, do you know what that means, Jean Luc?"

Jean Luc swallowed. "It means fun, I believe."

"Actually, my little empty brained lover, it means Man the Playful. Yes, and, when it comes time to write the story of my particularly fabulous life, wouldn't that be a great title? Too bad it's been taken. I look like a Homo Ludens, don't I?" He lifted his eyebrows and smiled with his head down looking up at Jean Luc. "Anyhoo, Johan says, the introduction to love. . . is often made enticing by all sorts of playing. This is particularly true when one of the sexes has to rouse or win the other to copulating." Q made a little squealing sound. "The dynamic elements of play such as the deliberate creation of a) obstacles," he showed Jean Luc a picture of a sky-wide chain fence and lifted his eyebrows, "or b) adornment," he flipped the pages: there was Q in a safari outfit, a monk's robe, even as a three-headed cobra! "or c) surprise," Q that time on the bridge naked, "or d) pretense," Q fetchingly pretending not to know how to say Jean Luc's name and handing him flowers, "or e) tension," Q throwing and Jean Luc catching the volume of Shakespeare, "etc., etc., etc., all belong to the process of flirting and wooing. It's our story exactly, Jean Luc." Jean Luc kissed his cheek. "I'm so hard. Okay, let's try this." It was a front porch, circa 1950's America. Q was sitting in a wicker swing with a tie and sweater vest and pipe. Jean Luc came on the porch; he had a metal lunch box and was wearing a well-cut blue jumpsuit with the word "Dick" embroidered on the pocket. "I direct you to sit beside me and you symbolically open your large lunch box and symbolically take out your huge thermos. There's Sambuca in it! You'll put it on my nipples later and lick it off. And I put my arms around you. At first you say, the neighbors might be watching, but I open the top two snaps on your jumpsuit and rub the light down on your manly chest. And I move my hands to your nipples!" Jean Luc and Q were beginning to fall into a trance-like state. "And then I unsnap more of your suit and your hand moves down to my belt buckle and we've got our tongues in each other's mouths and you unfasten my belt and I say let's go inside and we do and I've got a nice flowered sofa and you say get on your stomach, Q, and you pull my pants down and I hear... more snaps being undone!! And I feel you in me, hard and hot. And I scream, 'I love you, Jean Luc Picard.'"

Jean Luc had kept his hand right above Q's knee, but now he could not wait and he moved his hand up to Q's erection, and, when he touched it, Q gasped. "What shall I do since we have such a vocabulary of love?" Jean Luc asked him.

"Let's stand up," and they did. "Look, Jean Luc." Q pulled up his kilt and Jean Luc's breathing grew shallow. "Where's yours?"

Jean Luc pulled the damp fabric away from himself, and showed Q. Q was suddenly naked and on his knees in front of the mostly-clothed Jean Luc and he took his cock into his mouth and sucked Jean Luc slowly and painstakingly. He used his tongue to stimulate the tip and Jean Luc touched Q's hair and very slowly and gently fucked Q's mouth. And after a few more thrusts, he pushed himself as far in as he could and started slowly throbbing and pushing till he was through.

"Good," he whispered to Q, who stood up naked and aroused. "What can I do for you?"

"Lean over against that desk over there and let me fuck you as we are."

Jean Luc did, liking to take orders of love, liking to be overpowered on his ship by Q. Q pulled his pants down a bit and put it in him; tonight was a slow love kind of night. Jean Luc licked his lips and Q fucked him slowly and thoroughly. Thoroughly. Wet and sweating and degagee. "Faster, Q."

"Yes," and Q did and everything seemed to throb and Q came. He stood there gazing down at Jean Luc a bit, pleased looking. "Back to the bed, Jean Luc?"


"Here's another Nashville one," Q turned the page.

"What does that term Nashville mean to you?"

"Remember the blue grass music at Café Fuck? That's sort of what Nashville means."

"You seem curiously drawn to that... culture."

"In my human form, I've become addicted to two vulgar human entertainments: dick and country music."


"Okay, this is one I'm crazy about. We're all part of an all-gay Starfleet blue grass band. We're Jean Luc and his Magic Mountain Boys. We sing wonderful gay-themed blue grass songs about 'Drinking hot grease from the frying pan' and 'hitch you to my buggy, dad, let me drive you like a mule.' We're extremely popular. You're the incredibly charismatic lead singer whom everyone in the universe loves."

"Don't I look smart?" With one exception, the band members were all wearing straw cowboy hats, white dinner jackets and shirts, black string ties and pants, and well cut cowboy boots. The garb brought out something new in Jean Luc, a sort of vulpine masculinity both dimpled and calculating that was uncharacteristic of his stoic Starfleet face.

"Would you like to hear us? Push the button, Jean Luc."

He did, and the group swooped swerved towards the microphones, dead serious. Intense voices, a hive of rhythm.

"It's mighty dark for me to travel,
but I must be a-going on.
Before this night is over
I must see the blacksmith's son."

The first music break was the fiddle. "Cousin Data!" said the suave blue grass Jean Luc, and Data played savagely, as if he had just then been unleashed. Then high keening vocals again:

"To me he was an little angel,
sent down to me from stars above.
On that day that I first met him,
that's when I taught him how to love."

Then the group swooped again, circling the microphones like a pride of lions, galvanized by their own rhythms.

"It's mighty dark for me to travel,
but I must be a-going on.
Before this night is over,
I must see the blacksmith's son."

"Hey ho, Worf," said Jean Luc, and sober Cousin Worf played his plangent, metallic banjo as if it were a machine gun. Then:

"Many a night we strolled together,
talking of our love and more.
Tonight that love will go much further
than it ever has before. Everybody!
Ooooohhhh, it's mighty dark for me to travel,
but I must be a-going on.
Before this night is over,
I must see the blacksmith's son."

Q played the break now, a strutting phallic mandolin, mobile eyebrows, a faint smile, his eyes never leaving Jean Luc's face, and Jean Luc shouted, "why was I born to die?"

"Traveling down this lonesome highway,
to my love so far away,
knowing soon that we'll be together.
and I'll be in his arms to stay.
It's mighty dark for me to travel,
but I must be a-going on.
Before this night is over,
I must see the blacksmith's son."

Now Geordi was on the steel guitar; his name was written in glittery paint on his guitar case. Then they all sang one last time, ardent, furious, sober, lost as wind:

"It's mighty dark for me to travel,
but I must be a-going on.
Before this night is over,
I must have that blacksmith's son."

"Isn't that cool, Jean Luc? See there in the back, dressed in overalls and a straw hat with the top blown out, is the bass-fiddle-playing comic Old Uncle Hillbilly Will, picking and grinning, bewhiskered and vague. At the end of the show, which plays to billions, you always face the audience with this... incredible... look on your face, and, while we're finishing playing, you say things like 'you in the glasses, come up here, I want you.' Which drives me insane and the whole audience knows it because all I am is yours. An hour after we play, if there were cameras in every room in every house in the universe, a distant observer would say, has there been a terrible plague, everyone is naked and lying on the floor and passed out and gasping, but no, it's simply because you are so sexy that everyone has to have everyone else after they see you. And the you-inspired sex is so hot. All across the universe."

"My word, Q." He looked at his lover and smiled. "What about our sex? What about Jean Luc's sex?"

"On the tour bus in a jealous frenzy as the big brakes squeal and we're off in this kind of sleeping area. I make you suck me. After a lot of girly-fight slaps and hissing. I'm not a queen, but I like being your queen. And everyone in the universe knows we're lovers, and they are so," he lowered his voice to a rough whisper, "turned on by it."


"Okay, another Nashville one: you and I are going north to Alaska. The gold rush is on. No Riker jokes this time, just us. We're partners, and we leave Seattle. We'll find the bonanza gold. We find... big nuggets." They both laughed. "Then you say to me, Q, you're a-looking at a lonely lonely man. And you turn to me with your gold in your hand. I as well have my gold in my hand, and then we jerk each other off, where the northern lights are shining and the river is winding. Now, changing the subject, here I'm a Roman Catholic priest. Again, you're an aging IRA functionary. You're in the confession booth. You confess to killing Englishmen. Ho hum. Our Heavenly Father will understand. Then you confess to raping a woman."


"Don't worry. I am very critical. There's a pregnant pause. Maybe you wouldn't have to rape anybody if you knew... some of the other things a man can do. Things that are really all right with God."


"And I proceed to show you. Okay, now here, I'm an unscrupulous doctor. You've come in for your annual check up. I make you lie down. Oh, you deserve a complete physical, I say. It's about time. And I talk about the weather. But what I'm doing is feeling you up and feeling you up more. And more." And Q stood up at the foot of the bed with an inscrutable look on his face and began to caress Jean Luc everywhere. But mostly between his legs. "Say, Mr. Picard, I better turn you over. I've found something I think." And Jean Luc sleepily turned over and Q put two fingers in him. "It's okay, I'm a doctor. Does this feel better?" Then panting, Q put himself in Jean Luc, who laughed. "Mr. Picard, perhaps we could find a quiet place where we can pee in a little cup together." Jean Luc laughed again. "Oooh, that laughing is quite stimulating." He began to kiss Jean Luc's shoulders intently. "I'm all the way in." Then they were quiet and thinking about what they were doing.

"Q," Jean Luc breathed and began to writhe. "Just thinking about you. You've got me trained. Sometimes your touch is just a reminder and I get so close to coming, because I know so much pleasure is on its way."

Q thrust harder, and Jean Luc writhed more. "I like to take it up the ass." He could feel Q in him; even the back of his neck was tingling.

"Aaah," Q began to come and Jean Luc followed -- sighing, gasping. Then Q rolled off him.

"I think you must hate doctors." Jean Luc, half asleep, teased Q.

"I hate moralists. 'No' is my least favorite word. The purpose of my little book is for us to get used to saying 'yes'. Evolution is saying 'yes'. "

Jean Luc was mostly asleep now, but he rose from the bed and went to his bookcase. "Let me give you a present." He picked a book off the shelf and padded back and handed the book to Q.

Q smiled at the dear sleepyhead's gift "Oh, my, thank you." It was an antique 22nd century copy of Leaves of Grass.

"Whitman was a great sayer of yes," Jean Luc yawned and closed his eyes. "I'm still listening."

"You missed one of my favorites. It's a repressed old-fashioned kind of planet like old England and we're old friends; all we've done all these years is play chess. And you've developed a quiet lust for me. And vice versa. I'm a schoolmaster; you're a assistant clerk at a bank. We're both extremely poor; you out of a misguided sense of lust bring me little tiny presents like cheese, and neither of us has ever had sex. Every now and then we wake up with what Kraft-Ebbing would call a pollution (that's a wet wet wet dream) and one night you give me something particularly touching, a jar of special honey, and I thank you and leave and it's raining a soft old-fashioned English rain and you have a second-floor room above a little store and I turn around when I'm on the street to go home and I see you looking at me through your torn ratty-looking curtains and I realize suddenly what is going on and I practically break my neck going back up those tiny stairs lit with the world's smallest lightbulb, and you're at the door looking warily at me and I walk in and kiss you for the first time in your life and I'm using my tongue and you say you don't know how to proceed and I say let's lie down and we do on your little tiny uncomfortable poor man's bed and then we have some of the greatest fucking in all of English history. You in me and me in you."

Jean Luc was sleepy and delighted: "What about that little jar of honey?"

"You wouldn't believe where it ends up."

Jean Luc drowsily looked at Q's book. "This image is strange. It has writing on it."

"I made it look like a lobby card. For an old style movie."

"Like a poster?"

"A small one, yes."

"What are these words on it? Till Break of Day?"

"That's the title of this movie."

"What are these names? Donald Pleasance and Dirk Borgarde?"

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it?" Q kissed the same little head. "It's a joke. I'll explain tomorrow."

But Jean Luc was asleep now.

Q undressed him with a flash and smiled as he regarded his beautiful lover, innocent as Adam in his sleep.

"Well, damn, we didn't get to some of the really rich ones," he whispered. "There's the one where you're Herman Melville, a short, intense, repressed mariner, and I'm Nathaniel Hawthorne, tall, dark, handsome, amused at humanity, and you come wanting us to do sailor things. There's also a version where I'm Melville, I'm the high strung, pleading pursuer -- and you're Hawthorne, moral, fatherly. But then there's also the one where we're just ourselves and I've got a ten inch appliance and, while you blow me, I'm fucking you with the toy."

Jean Luc shifted and sighed in his sleep.

Q watched him and then whispered in his sleeping ear: "Jean Luc, I really can't see the future, and I don't know how long we have, so, just to be on the safe side, I am going to make you come three times a day and spend all night every night telling you desires subtle and gross just so we can have all of them." He kissed Jean Luc's ear. "Till death do us part."

"And I'm inside you, then and we're underwater and the warm water is... "

"And, see, we're both invisible! So nobody knows when you stick it in me . . "

"Now Jean Luc, here's another famous man/famous man scene. So you're Lenin and I'm Trotsky. That's appropriate since I'm the tall full-lipped Trotsky with the shock of black hair and Lord knows I'm certainly in favor of permanent revolution, and you look like Lenin."

"We're both bald, you mean."

"Jean Luc, Lenin was hot! Why do you think they kept his body above ground for over a century? Nobody says, hey, let's keep Jo Jo the dogfaced boy's corpse up here, so we can continue to shudder! Plus, you and he share my favorite body part: Lenin and you have dimples. And so did Trotsky and so do I. See! " Jean Luc and Q dimpled at each other. "Dimples! The only body part that matters! Dimples! The undimpled life is not worth living! And they spent the first night of the October revolution wrapped in each other's arms in the Smolney Institute -- this really happened -- you can look it up... and they didn't get a lot of sleep. . ."

Jean Luc was naked and Q was naked and lying between Jean Luc's legs and Q was whispering, "so we're prisoners, darling, and we haven't had any for a long time and we're on death row. . ."

"Q," Jean Luc smiled. "I don't want to be on death row."

Time seemed to skip.

Q was the first to look away. "Okay, then we'll refine the evil proctologist scenario. We could put oil on him this time."

"Jean Luc, let's be gay cavemen in off the shoulder leopard skins. With our big clubs in our hands." For the first time, Jean Luc laughed too much for love.

Q twisted his hand. Voluptuous orchestra music came on. "You and Bev are married in this one and you're tourists. She's wearing an ugly slatternly wrap dress, but you look woofin' in your cruise wear. I'm the tango teacher, all gaucho pants and flat hat with little furry balls hanging off it. Me, the Pride of the Argentine, me, the Stallion of the Pampas, equine in so many ways. And I tango with her. Hate it! Literally hate it! But then I tango with you; at first it seems just a joke. But as I bring you closer to me, we discover new truths about ourselves. And what starts with a simple kiss ends up with you naked and ecstatic hanging over the wrought iron balcony of my little barrio and getting pumped by me under Buenos Aries stars."

Jean Luc was impressed. "I never knew I wanted to be fucked on a wrought iron balcony, but, now that you mention it, I do want it. I want it badly." He smiled. "Start this, Q."

Jean Luc was in his ready room, and Q appeared in his Starfleet drag. "If this is the ready room, then you must be ready."


"A) The doors are locked. B) I've taken us out of time. C) I've got sensors posted if anything anywhere happens. What's behind that desk?"


"Bring it out now."

Jean Luc breathed from his lips and undid his pants and brought it out. Q leaned over the desk.

"Show it off a little."

Jean Luc began handling his cock; he was completely aroused, almost unconscious of where he was. He leaned back in his chair and thrust himself in the air. He put one hand on the base of his cock, and the other on the top.

"Rougher. More."

Jean Luc began to move his hand up and down until his eyes were glazed, and Q was instantly beside him, on the floor, and he reached for Jean Luc's erection and began to rhythmically move his hand over and over again on Jean Luc. Who leaned back in his chair and gave in to the sensation until he couldn't take it any longer and edged forward in his chair with a suppressed groan and looked at Q. He groaned, and began to come on Q's hand, and when he was through, Q licked his hand.

"Umm, tonight I get to fuck you for that."

"You're leaving now? After that."

"For just a moment in time, lover." He snapped his fingers; time started and Jean Luc was clean and alert.

Jean Luc was working and Q was leaning against him.

"Okay, work's done, Q. What do you have planned for us tonight?'

"Dig it, Jean Luc, we're Klingons!" Q curled his fingers into claws. "Grrr!"

"Right hand or left hand, Jean Luc?"

"Ummm, left."

"Charming! First let me tell you what you've missed. Look at my right hand!" Q showed Jean Luc the handcuffs he had there. "I would have handcuffed you behind your back and made you suck me off. But since you picked my left hand, I get to use these." He brought out his left hand which was holding some ivory silk cords. "I will tie you up with these silky cords and get your ass in the air and I'm in you."

"Can we not do both?'

"Jean Luc! I'm impressed!"

"Subspace transmission incoming," said the com officer.

"On the view screen," Jean Luc said and a familiar face smiled at him. "Captain Riker!"

"Captain Picard! How are you? How's Q?"

"We're both up to our old tricks. What brings you to this quadrant?"

"You are familiar with the massacre at Wengton ŒEes. The Millemori are getting bolder, and Starfleet has ordered me to use my ship to recon the situation."

"There's none better, Captain Riker. I hope you'll share your findings with me."

"My pleasure. Your current mission is..."

"Diplomatic transports." He lifted his eyebrows.

Riker smiled. "Starfleet."


"Starfleet." Riker shook his head. "Give my love to Q."

"Picard out."

When Jean Luc's shift was over, he went directly to his quarters and Q smiled when he came in. Over the years, Q had given in to several of Jean Luc's whims. He wore his hair much longer and was almost always dressed in kilts with robes or caftans over them (he had them especially made by the clever folks who made the first present that he had given Jean Luc).

Jean Luc sat on the arm of the chair beside him and stroked his glossy hair. Then his hands moved down to Q's nipples, and he knelt on the floor in front of him. Q opened his legs then, and Jean Luc put his hand between Q's thighs.

"Get undressed, Q, let's love."

When Q and he were naked, then Jean Luc leaned Q across a table, observing that Q must be upside down, since he was going to spank his tits and suck his ass. Then finally Jean Luc just fucked him, appreciating the slick warmth of Q, until he came. He was still panting when he stood up. "You make me so happy, Jean Luc."

Then Q sat down in a nearby oversized chair with his legs open and Jean Luc sat between them. They quietly sat there for a bit: thinking.

"I never told you about the first moment I wanted you."

"No, you never did."

"The Continuum was pretty rough after I offered Riker the Q. They made me do all these menial non-being related things for a while, and so I was always alone. Q, they said in a mean way, think about what you've done. Well, alrighty then, so I did. And I thought about you and the bridge crew. All those needs: I never needed anything the way your bridge crew needed. Sight. Sex. Manhood. Life itself. Only you, you were the only one silly old Riker couldn't bribe. You had no needs. A human without a need. It made me wonder what would make you need something. And somehow, one day as I was I guess you'd call it weeding a pool of undifferentiated DNA, I began to think: how could I make him need something. And I realized that needs start with wants, and I also realized I wanted you. Somehow. And then my feelings began to grow. Just at first thinking of your amazing eleganza. And then thinking of being together! The times we could have. Dressing Jean Luc! Teaching Jean Luc to play! And more and more I wanted you. And just wanting you gave me such pleasure. If I were only doing soil samples, just wanting you raised the stakes. Then having you -- that first j.o. session in this very room. My whole existence was justified. Billions of years in that little space of time. But you know what topped it all. When we were kissing and you put your tongue in my mouth, so soft, sweet, just a touch, but it meant you wanted me. I had never .. . I wanted you. I had you. And now you wanted me. Perfection."

He was aroused.

"Let me fuck you, Jean Luc, from here." And Jean Luc raised his hips a bit, and Q moved in with Jean Luc sitting on him, moved his hips back and forth. Q liked a little brutishness when he fucked and he was rough on Jean Luc, who kept moving.

"Yes yes yes yes."

And Q's eyes widened and he began to whimper and jerk harder against Jean Luc's hips. "Here I come, oh oh oh."

And clutching Jean Luc's sweaty body, he poured himself into him.

Jean Luc waited a moment. "Q, this is a slightly undignified position."

"Hmm, a serene and grave way to buttfuck. I'll have to put on my thinking cap."

It was a contest. Q was sitting naked and aroused and watching Jean Luc. Jean Luc was standing naked and aroused and watching Q. The winner would be the last one to break down and give in and have to have the other. But Q cheated. He flashed his hand, and Jean Luc found himself looking at Q who was now wearing his Farpoint robes open to the waist, lolling, still aroused. Jean Luc stood it as long as he could and then threw himself on Q. "You win, Q."

"Eh bien, je jamais, Jean Luc. But I cheated."

"You still won, mon cher."

He was leaning over the edge of a vast distant precipice gauging the distance to the bottom with his dark eyes, when something sharp, something invisible, something all powerful, hit his back and knocked him flat. He knew what it meant. "Oh fuck," he whispered.

To the gathering dark-eyed natives, Q now looked like the monster he was: tall, clad in black leather, his face gashed with numbness, holding a white wrapped body. He was stiff with fury, but the body was so slack it could only have been dead.

He looked up at the natives watching from the trees -- and willed a message: I am a monster -- you will stay away from this area for three times a hundred generations or I will pursue you to dust.

One immediately died of fright -- the others fled.

He knelt with his sad trophy. It hadn't reached him what he was doing, what had happened. He began to brush aside with his powerful hands a trench for the lovely narrow body he held. He wouldn't cry. His hands brushed the earth.

He had Jean Luc and he had a joke and Jean Luc had a place he would love but none of it was good anymore.

The wrappings around the corpse were so gentle; there was a small row of brownish dots. Q had made Beverly remove Jean Luc's artificial heart so he could bring him here and let him return to his beautiful earth.

It hadn't been easy; none of it.

Jean Luc's dying was slow, too slow to make the old warrior happy but it gave everyone time. Time.

"Beverly," Jean Luc had said. "Q will bury me. He says he has a surprise for me... after time. And he says it's a good one."

Q sat in the corner during the wrapping of the body; Beverly and Data did the wrapping.

She was a doctor and he was an android; no one else could have done it so well and so gently.

"Why are we doing this, Q?" Data ticked his head and asked.

"I want to take his beautiful body back to earth to be found as a kind of archaeological joke. None of you need know about it."

"Perhaps we would like to know about it, Q," Beverly said tartly. She never had warmed to him.

Q sighed.

When the end had come, it had been a surprise. Jean Luc was on a shuttle craft with two young security people heading to the C'as'l system and there were Millemori Klingons and there had been a battle and Q was away and warily aware that his mission was dangerous but knew better than to ask Jean Luc if he needed help with some rogue Klingons and then Jean Luc and the security people were hit.

The Millemori had obtained a dangerous new cellular weapon, one which broke down the walls of the cell system in a random fashion so that the treatment was always a few steps behind the cause and Jean Luc and the security people were irrevocably dying.

By the time he got to sick bay, he was half dead; if Bev had been able to accomplish anything, his system would have been mostly artifice. And everyone looked at every else.

So Bev and her staff decided to keep him out of pain, and Q never left his side.

Sometimes Jean Luc would sleep fitfully and Beverly and Q could talk: "Did you know this would happen, Q?"

"Of course, I knew death would happen, Bev."

He wasn't going to be nice to her; that would have unnerved her.

"Can you do anything?"

"I can do things, but..."

"What does Jean Luc want you to do?"

"Jean Luc wants... humanity, I guess. He thinks being human is the most important thing in the world."

"Is it inexorable, Q?"

"Inexorable is as inexorable does." They looked at each other. "Bev, my existence has just had its back broken. I don't..."

"Q," Jean Luc whispered. "Q."

"Don't excite him," Bev gave them a severe look.


"Q, lie beside me. Let's love."

Q did, trying to think what might disturb Jean Luc least. Maybe just speaking would soothe him.

"Jean Luc, what was your favorite time we made love? I can at least jerk off if you can't."

"My favorite. It was all my favorite. Do touch yourself. Let me at least see you hard at least one last time."

"You make me hard."

"Can you disconnect those damn machines so Bev won't know?"

"Bev." Q spat the word.

"Stop this, Q," he said softly with a slight wheeze. "What was your favorite?"

"You go first, Jean Luc."

Jean Luc closed his eyes and was so still Q thought he was sleeping. Then he opened his eyes a bit, sunken and shining, "Oh, yes, that's it -- that Class M mining planet, Vorace 198, the one that was breaking up -- we had to evacuate two thousand of them to the nearest shuttle vans and the Enterprise was the biggest venue Starfleet could summon. Remember: and we all went down there in a big away team to retrieve its archaeological findings as well as the ore."

"It was a very strange place, I remember clearly."

"Yes, so pleasing to reflect -- it was getting hotter as it was disintegrating so everyone had his shirt off; it was a very... male place, lots of male prostitutes/miners, very attractive bunch of people. And feminized too in a strange way that lonely men become." Jean Luc gasped and grabbed Q's hands; his eyes rolled back in his head.

"I remember the earrings," Q said.

"I was digging with the resident archaeologists, a crack team of Bolians, and we saw some of the men come by and there was one," Q smiled, "one who was taller with longer black hair and no shirt and hoops in his ears and he came and stood on the edge and looked in my trench where I was digging. Need help, Captain, he said telepathically. And I looked up and the most beautiful figure I'd ever seen had squatted on the edge of my trench and it was clear... the way he was squatting I could see... everything... what's in that empty little house over there across the road he asked me telepathically. And I said let's go. All the Bolians, harmless, somewhat neutered busybody next-door-neighbor race that they are, goggled at us -- and we walked over there and there was a metal door and it locked from the inside and we got in and there was one little round window high up and the light came in . .. and I told him I was going to get in him whether he liked it or not and I pulled his -- your pants down and went in from the front."

"But I said I know a better thing." Q hugged him.

"Oh yes and you did."

"We took all our clothes off and you sat down in the dusty floor and I sat down on you."

"Arrrghh," Jean Luc gasped. "I got to watch and come and fuck all at the same time; it was astonishing."

Q remembered how Jean Luc had smelled -- the planet was disintegrating at a fairly rapid pace and every one was sweaty and Jean Luc lifted his arms to hold him -- and Jean Luc smelled like a root or the earth and Q's body had thundered with desire.

"I love you, Q, and I loved our life together."

"This life is now."

"It will go on. Tell me your favorite, Q."

"Wait," and he rubbed himself a bit more; he really wanted to be stiff for Jean Luc. "wait, wait, let me calm down. I really loved that thing we did on stage did at Café Fuck."

"The thousand dollar thing. Who didn't?" Jean Luc laughed and his voice shook. Q was smelling him again, a new smell of things that were breaking up and old blood and pain.

It had been a particularly humid smoky night at Cafe Fuck.

Top Hat wanted them back on stage and kept teasing them.

Mandrake and Popeye, he called them. Their noms de Café Fuck.

"Have this here iced cappuccino, Popeye." Jean Luc looked at it and back at Tops.

"What's in it, Toppy?"

"Stuff and nonsense, Poppy."

And Jean Luc drank it.


"Did you taste the puppy dog tails going down?" Top Hat moved closer in, his lips hovering hear Jean Luc's face.

"And there'll be one less Top Hat in old Tijuana tonight," Q intervened.

"I think he drugged me, Mandrake," Jean Luc turned to him.

Top Hat pouted. "The tiniest bit of wormwood -- in coffee. Honestly, Popeye, don't be such a sister, You'd think it was Raid." Then Top Hat turned to Q. "Let's talk, Mandrake. A bit of improv then." They whispered momentarily. Then Top Hat went on the little stage. "Ladies and gentleman, Cafe Fuck is proud to present Mandrake and Popeye in a little play we've entitled I'm Not Gay!"

Everyone laughed, Jean Luc included.

There were two chairs on the stage. Q took one and Jean Luc the other.

Q had on his robe, and Jean Luc was wearing his jeans , barefoot, no shirt.

"I heard you're not gay," Q said teasingly.

"I am not attracted to men, no, not at all," Jean Luc said teasingly.

"All right, folks, you know me. Old Uncle Mandrake, and I'm filthy with the frogskins. Look at this:" he held up a thousand dollar bill. "Let's have a little participatory . . . a thousand dollars to the person who can tell me how to seduce him."

The crowd went wild. Womanly woohoos. Girlish hazaahs.

"I'd just ram him," someone said, and a small group applauded and whistled. "Turn him over and get that hard ass in the air -- I'll give you that thousand back just to see it. What a body."

Q opened his robe to the audience and spread his legs; to Jean Luc, he seemed to be naked underneath. But he couldn't see what he was showing them. The crowd clapped and whistled. Then Q walked over and stood behind Jean Luc and whispered in his ear, as he had done in their more platonic days, but this time he also put his hand hard over Jean Luc's mouth and he was naked and rubbing himself against Jean Luc.

"Sexy but not a thousand dollars of sexy," someone said.

Jean Luc bit Q's hand and a thin line of blood came through it.

"Whoa," Q said and smeared the blood on Jean Luc's chest.

Applause and stamping feet.

"Rape's okay, but it isn't that persuasive," said a throaty-voiced young blonde. "I'd dance for him. Salome, lure him in."

Q let his robes drop. And swayed slightly looking down and then back at Jean Luc. Then he took his robe and clutched it around his check and turned, still swaying, to Jean Luc. It was seductive, but it wasn't a thousand-dollar idea.

Jean Luc shook his head no, but softly.

"There is exactly one damn way to get a man's attention, and I know just what it is. The k note is mine." A young man jumped on the stage.

"What's that?" Q said.

"Let him see how good hot boy sex is with you." The boy stood closer to Q who swallowed.

The crowd screamed, "Yes! Yes!"

The young man leaned his face up to Q who seemed stunned and gratified by the idea and did not refuse his lips. Jean Luc was wounded; the boy was about Jean Luc's size with even slimmer hips and beautiful pink cheeks and unwrinkled skin and his dark crewcut was lush. He was wearing jeans and a navy blue long sleeve shirt and a beret. "My name is Paul."

"Hello, Paul."

Paul's lips lightly touched Q's. The crowd grew very quiet, and Jean Luc had forgotten they were there.

"Let me take my shirt off." He was well built in a compact-Jean Luc sort of way. His arms had small hard muscles. He leaned in to Q. "I like it up the butt."

"When did you find that out?"

"Years ago. I started very young. Do you like my nipples?" Every word they said was oddly loud. "Love me a little," Paul said. Q's hands moved thoughtlessly to the front of his jeans and pressed softly. "If you kiss me, you can open my pants, it's okay." Q leaned in and kissed him and Jean Luc had felt the kiss. Paul kissed well -- wet, long-tongued and sweet -- he touched his own nipples as they kissed. "I can suck; I can do anything. Look at this." The boy pulled out his erection. It was impressive, and Q seemed intoxicated. Paul caressed himself. "You like this. Touch me there."

Q touched him.

And Jean Luc was between them in a second. "Stop this, Q." Q looked from face to face.

"Go away," Q said. He gave Paul the thousand dollar bill. "Look." Q presented himself. He wasn't hard at all -- he was retracted and flaccid. Jean Luc had never seen him that way. "Touch me, Jean Luc. You're the only one who makes me hard."

Jean Luc touched Q's face, and he became instantly hard.

"Take off that robe, I have to fuck you now." Jean Luc got Q on his knees; "you whore," he slapped his buttocks, which pinked up satisfactorily. "Where's some..." Top Hat was at the stage's edge in a second and wordlessly handed him some baby oil. "Yes, yes," Jean Luc turned to open his pants. He showed the crowd his erection; "Am I gay?"

"We have no preconceptions." Who said that? Was it the dog-loving gray haired woman? "Stop limiting yourself," someone else said. And then everyone laughed, Q and the crowd and Top Hat, and Jean Luc most of all.

"It's in you, Q."

Jean Luc began to stroke in and out with his hands behind his head and he was laughing and Q was laughing and "oh oh oh" said Q and "I have never. Damn! Harder! Harder!" Jean Luc closed his eyes. Now and now was the culmination of their love, the fulfillment of their life. Now, now he felt released. He was strength itself. The crowd, their sighs, the long close body of his lover, fire, the power in himself -- the power growing toward release, eruption, pushing like a ball of fire in a huge tall chimney, wildly flaming out. He heard roaring "Never stop," Q said, and they collapsed on each other.

For several moments, the audience was completely quiet and then Top Hat leaped up on the stage. "Thank you, girls! Nothing better for thee than me! as Quaker Oats has it." And everyone applauded and Q under Jean Luc gave them a languid look as he rested his head on his chin. "Pops, you okay?"

"That was an out of body experience. Was it the drugs?"

'If you weren't in love and getting it up a good ass, the drugs would be worthless. That's like a synergy, babe. You're old enough to know that."

"Quit harping on my fucking age, Top Hat."

Top Hat fell to his knees and leaned over the fallen couple: "You don't think I'd do you in a hot minute. That's all I think about."

And Jean Luc and Q had laughed in each other's arms.

"What will happen with Paul?" Jean Luc asked.

"Oh, Paul. Him. He's just a whore."

"Just a whore," said Jean Luc. "Don't you mean privileged to be a whore?"

Toppy smiled. "Yes, a lucky boy whore. Nothing finer on earth."

"Or in the universe," Q said, and they all smiled.

"I defeated that pretty little whore!" Jean Luc whispered ecstatically, "and I won you!"

But now:

"You're not hard anymore," Jean Luc said softly.

"I have a lot of emotions -- all our fucking was about loving and all our loving was about fucking. And..."

"You feel..."

"It's possible, darling, if you rest a little you can began to restore your strength and then we can talk longer. But I won't move even if that quack Bev comes in and hits me on the head with one of her rubber hammers. Not an inch."

"Q, let's hold each other even if..." Q moved to put his arms around Jean Luc's shoulders. "No, let's hold... "

"Oh." And he opened Jean Luc's pants and took the softness out and Jean Luc touched Q's offered softness and seemed to sleep instantly.

"I love you," Q said helplessly. He had never been so clearly inside a moment.

Later he heard a knock on the door and he opened it. "Thank goodness you're here," he said softly. Louder: "You came to see Daddy! Jean Luc, look who's here! He wants to see his daddy!"

Jean Luc lifted his head. "It's. . . "

Lwax came in carrying John Q.

Q took John Q carefully from the beautiful young man, who combined his father's and mother's most beautiful qualities, their hair, their dark eyes, their graceful bodies. That hair. "You mustn't worry," Lwax said in his deep lilting voice. "Mom and Dad will raise him as one of their own."

"Come to Daddy," Jean Luc whispered.

Q put John Q on the bed, and John Q walked over to his daddy and licked him and then wagged his tail, but sadly.

"Mom and Dad love English bulldogs, and John Q is an angel."

"John Q," said Jean Luc fondly, breathlessly, kissing John Q's huge white head. "We almost named him Mr. Woof, after something your late grandmother used to say."

"I know," Lwax said delightedly. He reached over and petted him, "but now he's just plain John Q. Bulldog. After his various dads." Then Lwax looked up; he had most of his mother's powers. "Are you tiring, Captain Picard?"

Jean Luc heard the unusual accent and lifted his head. It had always made him smile. "A bit. Shake hands; we'll be in touch about John Q."

Lwax and Q looked at each other, dark eyes against dark eyes.

"Is Worf here yet?" Q said quietly.

"He's on his way."

"Jean Luc really wants to see him."

"You can prolong... this?"

"Now I'd just be prolonging the pain."

Lwax looked at Jean Luc lying with his eyes closed; John Q was resting his head on Jean Luc's chest. "I'll tell Dad to hurry."

Worf came by within the hour, and the old warrior called him to his side. Q lay beside him in the bed, a conceit Q insisted upon, his arm curved always about Jean Luc's head. Jean Luc's face was swollen with infection, but his eyes were hard and shining. "Worf!" He sat up, and Q winced inwardly as he saw the synapses glow with that pale blue light of pain. The effort it took Jean Luc to move with what was left of his cellular structure.

But the bones stayed whole.

"The Klingons who did this are dead; they died in battle, too honorable a death for such lowly creatures," Worf said.

"Well, may Kahless forgive them; they gave me an honorable death. I was wounded at my bridge, my men behind me, with my phasar in my hand."

"They did not fight fair; they deserved a dishonorable death for using such weapons. My Klingon brothers are now hunting the dishonorable Ferengi who sold them those weapons."

"Tell them not to go to war with the Ferengi over this. The Ferengi can be useful to the Federation; we just have to," he groaned -- a crucial batch of cells had just disappeared -- "We have to figure out how, but a protracted battle will do us no good." He groaned again. "What's good is good for everybody, Worf." He sank back onto Q's arm. And Q kissed the top of his head and rested his cheek on the top of Jean Luc's head.

"Breathe in and breathe out, precious -- last as long as you can."

"Has Beverly agreed as to my body?"

"At last Beverly agrees with me on your body." Q smiled.

"Shall I leave, Captain?" Worf said, and the two other men looked at him.

"Be brave, Worf," the Captain said. "Don't leave me until...stay with me and fight..." Jean Luc was wary of the final words. "Stay with me."

Worf scowled: "This reminds me of something. Klingons called it the lorash swa, where men pair off with the men they love and face death together. Because they love each other, they are not surrendering to death but rather laughing in its face. Living intensely right up until the end. It pains me to talk of Klingon men doing these things, but perhaps it is time to talk frankly. Under the circumstances."

"I understand, Mr. Worf," Jean Luc said. Q was curled around him, breathing softly.

"Captain Riker has joined forces with Captain Klag's ship, the Asoolac'sut. Otherwise he would be here. They're chasing down the rest of the Millemori. We will see," a perfect Worf pause, "who dies a thousand deaths. Riker and Klag were the ones who killed the unworthy Klingon cowards who did this." Another perfect Worf pause. "Captain, you are a better Klingon than any of us. You threw the runabout in their path to deflect them from the Enterprise and to force them to expend their weaponry on you."

"Worf, I couldn't lose another ship."

Worf bent his head. "I would face Death himself to keep you here with us, Captain."

The only response was a muted cry, and Q grabbed one hand and Worf the other.

Then: "What happened to the... boys on the ship with me?"

Q spoke softly: "Jean Luc, nobody lives forever... except me."

And they waited with the lights low and flickering on the yellow walls while the old warrior fought his last battle. At times, both men held Jean Luc as he collapsed shuddering and screaming, John Q on the floor uncomprehending and pained, and then it was 200 hours of the fourth day -- the two security men had already been dead for forty eight hours -- and Jean Luc opened his eyes. "I will not die in bed," he whispered, "I will face death standing. Lift me up," and Worf took one side and Q took the other and Jean Luc stood up -- weak and eaten.

"What do you see?" said Q, "what do you know?" He turned his head to Q. "I see you and a life that was worth living; I love you -- one last kiss" and Q kissed him as if he would push his tongue through the back of Jean Luc's head.

Then Jean Luc turned to Worf. "Good-bye, Worf, well done."

"Don't surrender to death, Captain Picard," Worf shouted. Jean Luc's was in an unbelievable amount of pain but he still had his beautiful posture. He turned his head towards Worf one last time. "That'll be the day," he said and stiffened and closed those amazing limpid hazel eyes. And then an alarm went off and both living men jumped and turned to the machines Bev had hooked up to him and Jean Luc slipped standing and fighting into the eternal and Q realized that eternal and immortal were two entirely different things.

Bev rushed in with her crew. "The lifesigns are disappearing. Put him back on the bed" -- and Worf and Q stepped back and watched Bev's futile business and humming implements attempt something not worth doing. "He's gone," she said, and then Worf reared his head back and began to scream. He was warning the dead that Jean Luc was coming.

And Q's eyes were black as night.

"Cap's dead, Data." Out in the hall, Geordi could hear Worf's screaming and he knew what it meant. And he thought, there was nothing now left in his life but to continue going in and disemboweling the bitch and see how she worked and what her needs were, as usual cleaning up after things and putting things back together and not feeling lonesome or burned out because the technology was just so fascinating because it gave you so much control but there had always been a little excitement in the captain's voice and a little wonderment in his eyes and you felt you ought to work a little harder and it would be difficult to put things all back together now without that one essential piece, things wouldn't bump themselves together anymore and if he could he would himself make a technology that would go back in time to stop the captain who was the most important man in the universe as far as he, geordi laforge, was concerned, and the captain had once come to that weird fake funeral of his and brought him, geordi himself, back to life and he looked at his pale golden friend who was sitting there waiting to see what he would do and he didn't know what he would do, because this was bigger than any overload but he wasn't going to overload. and surely his pale friend with the silvery face and golden eyes wouldn't overload and nice as data was and nice as everyone else was there would now forever be something missing like a poker game with no chips.

"Q, explain yourself."

"Nothing to explain, Bev. I'm going to take Jean Luc back to earth and bury him somewhere in the past like twelve thousand years ago. I have it all figured out. I'll put our wedding rings together and shape them like some sort of neolithic arrow point ­ Jean Luc loved that kind of crap -- and put it in his hip bone and put him some place, some place rainy, he loved rain, and someday some other archaeologist will find his beautiful bones and especially his beautiful, beautiful skull -- they'll say what a mystery, where does this gorgeous Caucasoid come from, the most beautiful skull in history, look at its beautiful silky ivory, and it will be discussed and admired as long as people exist. Jean Luc never lost his feeling about being bald. My silly boy. I intend to make that skull one of the most admired in history. And if I do that, my beloved will live forever in many ways."

Beverly saw Q was no longer talking to her; he was simply telling himself what would happen. "Good luck. I am sure you'll be successful." They looked at each other. "He's ready to go."

Q said nothing.

"Q, Jean Luc didn't die in vain."

Q looking menacing. "Who said he did?"

Beverly ignored his tone. "Neval, you know my husband, and his first wife, Rectora, she's so fond of you, Q, they've gone to Starfleet. Starfleet could have put an end to this fifteen years ago. They didn't and it dragged on, but Jean Luc's death has made them rethink their approach. The federation is going to pressure all the elements who are contributing to the Northern Dimension and get this settled; they'll bring the Southern Dimension into the federation, scare the stew out of the Northern Dimension, and get the Silamios home to their moons. Tory says she'll miss the Silamios, but they were never be the same after their removal."

"Yeah yeah yeah. Two-legged humanoids and their constant sorrows. So the fuck what," Q interrupted. "We're out of here." He and the body disappeared.

And so Jean Luc was buried, somewhere near a river, near an ocean, and the wild green wilderness rang with sounds of water. Q sat there, squatting on the edge of the mound, his hand touching the warm wet earth of Jean Luc's grave with his eyes closed. "That's life," he whispered. Finally, he stood up.

He looked at the sky, pale blue, a sliver of a moon. "I will never be human again!" he shouted.

Only the river answered.

"It takes up too much time!"

He looked at the pale sky.

"It took all my time!" One last shout.

He looked down at the grave.

"I better book, Jean Luc. Those temporal anomalies aren't going to watch themselves develop."

It was over.

Q began to walk away, his narrow aristocratic feet finding a way out of the thick woods, and he kept walking until he was nearly invisible and then there was the smallest flash of white light.

The End