The Night They Drove The Borg Down

The party was winding down, and for the moment, Q found himself alone. The lounge had small nooks, little alcoves with dim lighting and large ports, opening out onto the grandeur of space. Q sat down on the cushioned ledge in front of the port, holding his drink in one hand as he stared out at the stars.

It didn't change, he thought wryly, trying not to get upset. Tonight of all nights he didn't want the depression to close in, but he was tired and the sight of the stars filled him with a kind of lonely melancholy. He had done it-- after close to a year of mind-numbing exhaustion and constant work, he had managed to guide these people to victory over the Borg. If they were lucky, his work would have helped wipe out the entire species. Q hadn't entirely expected to be alive right now, and the fact that he was was gratifying. And earlier today, he had been lionized, feted as he deserved for all the work he'd done, granted the praise he needed like he needed water and air, and it had been a desperately needed balm to his soul.

But it didn't change things. He was still alone, still an exile from his people, and there was a good chance he was never going back.

"There you are! Hiding from your adoring fans?" a cheerful voice asked.

Q turned his head. Harry Roth stood there, holding a drink and smiling gaily. "Just from you, Harry," Q responded. "I was afraid you might try to make me drink more of that ghastly punch."

"You wound me. To think you even entertained the possibility that I could be so cruel," Harry said, pressing his hands to his chest in an exceedingly melodramatic fashion, the effect somewhat spoiled by the big grin on his face. "How little you must think of me!"

"I think very little of your entire species, Harry. No need to take it personally."

"Oh. Well, that's all right, then." Harry walked over to where Q sat, and followed his gaze out the window. "Any new supernovae while I wasn't looking?"

With an effort, Q tore himself away from his melancholy. Having an audience to perform for always made him feel a little bit better, especially when the audience was as appreciative and entertaining as Harry Roth. The physicist had done a good deal for Q in the past several months, reminding him to eat when the pressures of work became too enormous and he forgot, providing an audience for Q's wit, and keeping Q's mind off the horror of the impending Borg invasion and the helplessness he felt to stop it by bantering with him. Other people had been more useful to Q in the actual work-- Peter Markow, the human genius Q had nicknamed Daedalus, had been invaluable in teaching Q the limitations of Federation science so that he could express his own knowledge in terms the people around him could understand; the programming department had taken Q's vague knowledge of how the Borg overmind worked and made it into a killer virus that had crippled one Borg ship for certain and hopefully the entire Collective-- but Roth had done more for Q's mental well-being, such as it had been, than most people. Not that he would ever admit to his gratitude, because if he did that, he'd have to admit to how miserable and frightened he'd been for the past year.

"Were you expecting any?" Q asked. "Have our experiments been blowing up stars again, Harry? I told you to be careful with the photonic cascade."

"I was. I was terribly careful. It wasn't my fault somebody spilled coffee all over the padd and turned the screen all blotchy inside so I couldn't read every other instruction."

"It's hardly my fault your Federation technology can't make a padd that doesn't short out if you spill coffee on it."

"Maybe that's the next important new development we should be working on, then. Now that we've defeated the Borg and all."

Q considered. "Beneath our dignity, I'd think."

"Easy for you to say," Harry said, looking down at Q. "You have dignity. I believe I had some once, but I misplaced it in a locker at Starfleet Academy and I've never had any since."

Q was not entirely comfortable when he was not the tallest person in the room, a circumstance that rarely occurred unless he was sitting and other people were standing. He stood up, fixing the problem. Harry Roth was by no means short, but Q had deliberately selected this form to be as tall as humans got without looking freakish. "That explains a great deal about you."

"Doesn't it, though?"

Harry gazed up at Q, heart pounding. Being with Q usually did this to him. He didn't think Q had ever noticed, which viewed from one perspective was probably a really good thing. Harry had seen how Lt. Amy Frasier had gone from defending Q to reviling him literally overnight, and given Amy's proclivities it was almost certain to be over a sexual rejection. And a really nasty one at that, as Amy chased far too many men to take it too seriously when they turned her down. Harry had experienced exactly how cruel Q could be firsthand, in the first month or so when Q was on the starbase. He had long since forgiven Q for that, but he had no desire to experience it again, especially not if it involved sexual rejection. For all his facade of cheery humor, Harry was very sensitive inside, and didn't handle rejection very well; he tested people out with casual flirtation, things he could pretend were jokes, before he ever dared make a first move. And he'd never been able to figure out if Q understood what flirtation was or what it meant; Q responded with witty insults readily enough, but Q responded to everything with witty insults. Normally Harry could figure out in the course of one or two meetings if a man might be interested in him. He had never figured out if Q even knew what sexual interest was.

The truly horrid thing about it was that Q was the most attractive man Harry had ever met. The first and foremost quality he needed in a lover was intelligence. Q was easily the most brilliant man-- hell, the most brilliant anything-- Harry had ever met. Harry knew himself to be a very intelligent man, close to the top of his class at the Academy, and his class had been science-track Starfleet cadets, some of the brightest in the Federation. And Q could actually make him feel stupid. Except that it didn't usually manifest as Harry feeling stupid, not if he wasn't depressed or suffering from some sort of blow to the ego. Rather, it manifested as Q seeming almost godlike, as if his intellect was of a level mere mortals couldn't aspire to and therefore no shame attached to Harry for not being able to understand him. Given that Q had, up until a year ago, literally been a god, this made a certain amount of sense. The only other person that had ever made Harry feel that way was Peter Markow, and Markow suffered from extensive neurological damage all throughout his body as the result of an accident-- he was wheelchair-bound, unable to eat without assistance or speak without a computerized interface. Perhaps it was shallow of Harry, but he couldn't find someone so physically helpless to be at all attractive sexually. Q might be crippled by his own standards, but by Harry's standards he was tall, imposing and very capable, in addition to being the most brilliant person Harry had ever met. How could he resist such a combination?

But he didn't dare. He didn't dare make a move, because Q would eviscerate him. And so he engaged in witty banter with Q as a substitute for what he really wanted, because he knew Q would allow that much, and probably not allow anything more.

"It's almost hard to take it in," he said, a bit of uncharacteristic seriousness entering his voice. "We won. We actually won. I wasn't sure we would, you know?"

"That's because you don't know the Borg half as well as I do," Q responded. "If you had... you've have been sure we wouldn't win." He looked back out the screen. "I thought you humans would have an easier time believing in our victory," he said softly. "Your species isn't accustomed to setbacks-- your dominant culture hasn't been truly threatened in what, six hundred years? Oh, you had your little wars with the Romulans and the Cardassians and your cold war with the Klingons, but none of that was anything compared to the Borg. I knew you would be destroyed, you know. I saw it, when I still had my powers."

Harry stepped a little closer to him. There was a desolate cold in Q's voice that Harry longed to comfort, to warm. But he couldn't do that-- Q would never allow it. "Changed our future, then, did you?"

Q smiled sardonically. "A minor feat for me, compared to some of what I've done."

"But I'll warrant you never did any of those other things under such a handicap. It's amazing you managed to pull it off." Harry took another sip of his syntheholic champagne. "Not that I'm crediting you with too much, you understand. You could never have stopped the Borg without the contributions of the numerous brilliant folks assigned to work with you, for instance me."

"Sad, isn't it?" Q agreed. "To think I've fallen so low." He said it like a witticism, but Harry thought he could hear an undertone of real bitterness and loss underneath it.

"But on the other hand, we couldn't have done it without you," Harry said, quite seriously. "You're right, you know-- we've never had any real setbacks. You were the only one who really understood the danger, and you were the only one who knew what we needed to do to save ourselves. If it hadn't been for you, we'd all be pasty white and talking about how resistance is futile. You know that, don't you?"

Q looked away. "Of course I know it," he said sharply.

"Well then, cheer up! It isn't every day you get to save an entire species." Harry grinned at him.

Q didn't share the cheer. "It doesn't change anything," he murmured.

"No?" He sounded so lonely, so empty. Harry swallowed hard, and drank down the rest of his glass, taking courage from the warmth of the synthehol. The night of his greatest triumph, and Q was off in a corner by himself, staring morosely out the window, because saving an entire species hadn't made him any less alone... that had to change. Someone had to ease the loneliness in his voice; someone had to make Q feel like a part of the species he had just saved.

Harry had some ideas about who he wanted that someone to be.

He stepped closer to Q, directly into his space. "Maybe it doesn't change anything," he said, his voice low. "Or maybe... maybe it doesn't change anything by itself, but it opens up doors for things to change. Do you know what I mean?"

Harry stood much too close to Q, staring up into his eyes, and Q didn't know why. He felt uncomfortable, uncertain, wanting to step away and put distance between them again, but he didn't. There was something else he wanted, and he wasn't quite sure what, or if it was something he wanted to want, but some instinct told him he wouldn't get it if he pulled away.

Q swallowed. "No."

"I suppose I should show you, then?"

Harry reached a hand up to the back of Q's head and tugged it down, very slightly. He stepped forward, stretching up a bit, one hand going to Q's hip and pulling it toward him as his lips touched Q's.

Q stiffened in shock. What was Harry doing? This was disgusting! This was--

--exactly what he needed, as a rush of hunger overwhelmed him. His skin wanted this contact, craved it. His knees had gone slightly weak, and he wanted-- he wanted--

Tentatively, having no real idea what he was doing but remembering what he'd observed humans do, he put one arm around Harry, just across his shoulderblades, and tugged the smaller man closer to him, without breaking the kiss. He wanted this. He wanted the contact, skin to skin, wanted humanoid warmth embracing him. The desire should have sickened him, humiliated him, but it didn't-- not tonight. For close to a year he had proven how he could dominate this fragile flesh he wore, how he could deny it what it wanted in pursuit of his goals. And he had succeeded, and survived, something he hadn't truly expected. Surely, he could be forgiven one lapse, one indulgence.

He released Harry, somewhat breathlessly. It wouldn't do to have Harry know how badly he wanted this. And if-- something else-- were to happen, it had to be Harry who made the offer. Q knew a little about that game, having played it with humanoids in the past with no intention of or desire for winning, playing for amusing rejections. This time rejection would be far from amusing. Q couldn't take the risk.

"Well," Harry said, sounding a little out of breath himself. "I guess it's true what they say, then."

Panic alarms went off in Q's head. Someone had said something about him? "What do they say?" he asked, trying to be casual.

"That omnipotent beings make really good kissers." Harry smiled.

Q was hardly omnipotent anymore, but that was just semantics-- he recognized the comment for what it intended. He had never expected to receive praise for something he had had no notion of how to do. It thrilled him and frightened him at the same time. There was always the possibility that Harry hadn't meant it, that he was teasing Q, setting him up for something. But if Q tried to call him on it and Harry had actually been serious, Q would look like a humorless idiot. He had to play along. "Flattery," he replied archly, "will probably get you nowhere."

"Probably?" Harry's eyebrows went up.

"Well." Q shrugged with elaborate casualness. "It would depend somewhat on where you wanted to go."

"How about someplace more private?" Harry immediately suggested.

This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. Nothing pleasurable ever happened to Q. But he was high on his triumph, his savaged ego boosted almost back to normal levels by the adulation he'd gotten today, and he could almost believe that yes, people did want him, would do nice things for him. The question of whether this was the proper thing to be doing at all was one he pushed out of his head. He deserved a little indulgence today, dammit.

Q drained his drink and set it down. "Come to my quarters in half an hour," he told Harry.

"Half an hour! Why not now?"

"Question not the ways of the Q, Harry, for we are subtle and quick to make scathingly witty remarks in public. Show up in half an hour if you want to, or don't." He started to leave the alcove, then turned back. "Oh, and don't tell anyone where you're going; I've no desire to be the latest topic for the rumor mill."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Harry said solemnly.

Q made a dramatic exit from the party, announcing his departure as if he couldn't quite imagine how the merrymakers could continue without him. From a distance, Harry watched him go, feeling uncertain. The self-confidence, almost arrogance, Q displayed as he made his departure were at odds with the moment of loneliness and vulnerability Harry had seen in him, or thought he'd seen in him. Who knew if he'd really seen that, or if he'd just seen what he wanted to see?

He began to tremble slightly, as it sank in what he'd just done. He had actually kissed Q. He had opened up his armor and exposed his naked heart to the most insensitive bastard on the starbase. What had he been thinking? Q might have cut him open, could have made him a bloody broken toy for his presumption. The former god was all too conscious of his dignity to endure such familiarity; everything Harry knew about Q said that Q should have crushed him for that. The artificial courage the synthehol had granted him leaked away, and he sagged against the wall, unable to believe he'd gotten away with it.

Who could imagine Q being vulnerable, being lonely? Who could imagine him needing someone? All the people who'd worked on a daily basis with Q knew he had nightmares-- he used to crash on a curtained cot in the lab, taking fitful naps of one or two hours out of twenty-four because he was too driven to get any real sleep, and they'd all heard him cry out at the phantoms that haunted him. But any attempt to reach out to Q, to offer comfort or even acknowledge that you knew he was suffering, was met with icy cold at best, utter cruelty at worst. Q wanted everyone to diligently pretend that he had no weaknesses at all, and they did it because they respected him... and later respected him more when they saw what he'd been afraid of, when the Federation as a whole saw the Borg in action. The Borg were enough to give any sane person nightmares...

Q had never accepted anyone's overtures before, but he'd kissed Harry like he meant it. Not an enormously practiced kiss, which surprised Harry a little-- you'd think a being several million years old would have kissed a lot of people by now-- but enthusiastic enough that it didn't matter. Maybe that fleeting vulnerability Harry had thought he'd heard in Q's voice had been real. Maybe Q really was lonely, maybe he really was willing to accept another person's overtures of comfort.

But if that was true, why had he asked Harry to wait a half hour? Was it his image? Was he frightened of people actually thinking the Great Q might want a lover? Was he ashamed of choosing someone not of his own intellectual caliber, or someone male, or simply someone so very human?

Or was all this an elaborate setup? Had Q concocted this plan to pay Harry back cruelly for having presumed to kiss him? Harry had heard vague stories of the things Q had done before he'd lost his powers-- how he'd put humanity on trial, tempted a starship's first officer with godlike power in order to destroy him, exposed a helpless crew to the terrors of the Borg without any preparation at all and made their captain grovel before he'd rescue them-- and suddenly it didn't seem at all impossible that Q could be that calculating, or that cruel. What could he possibly have done to Amy Frasier to make her hate him so badly, after all? Had he set her up like he was setting Harry up now? Perhaps Harry would go to Q's room and Q would tear him to shreds, make fun of him viciously for daring to believe a former god could want a lowly human. It sounded all too plausible.

Harry got himself another glass of champagne, which he drank with trembling hands. There was a simple solution, of course. He could just not go. He hadn't promised Q he would, after all. And the thought of what Q could do to him was almost enough to drive out the trembling anticipatory thrill of desire Q's offer had set thrumming through him...

...almost, but not quite.

What if Q was telling the truth? This would be his only chance. He might not have promised Q he'd show up, but he knew Q wouldn't make the offer again if he didn't. And he had fantasized about Q for months, dreamed about him, concocted various elaborate scenarios in which he rescued Q from one of the many alien assassins that showed up to get revenge on Q and Q showered him with gratitude... uh-huh. Q was protected by the biggest standing Security force any starbase in Federation territory had, and he needed Harry Roth to rescue him. That was sure likely. But of course, the likelihood wasn't the point; in fact, the more implausible the fantasy the better, perhaps. Because if he'd thought about something real, something like tonight, he might have wondered why he didn't act on it. And he might start feeling like an incredible coward... just like he felt now.

He could go, and prepare himself to attack back if Q attacked him. Yes, he could do that. If Q said anything cruel, anything cutting about Harry's stupidity in thinking Q really wanted him, Harry could pretend he felt pity for Q and had only acted on that. That would be nasty-- Q seemed to despise being pitied nowadays, though he'd certainly whined and made enough pity ploys when he'd first come aboard the starbase. But of course, if Q got nasty first, it would only be what he deserved.

And what if he wasn't planning to get nasty? What if Q had just honestly meant it, and left the party half an hour earlier than he asked Harry to so they wouldn't end up as grist for the rumor mill? Harry had spread his share of juicy rumors-- never about people he was involved with, but if he heard it from a friend of a friend, he cheerfully passed it along-- and he had to admit that if he'd heard that Q left a party with someone else, particularly a party where nearly everyone else was leaving in couples as the night wore on, he'd have told everyone he knew before the day was out. Maybe Q really did need someone.

He was terrified. He was sure he shouldn't be taking this risk. But as he made mechanical goodbye noises when his half hour was up, as his feet carried him slowly but steadily toward the section of the base that held Q's quarters, he knew he wouldn't be able to live with the memory of his cowardice if he didn't at least chance it.

In his room, Q stripped off his party clothes and stepped into the sonic shower, wondering what he'd been thinking of when he invited Harry here.

That wasn't entirely true. He knew what he'd been thinking of. The memory of the kiss, of the feel of Harry's arms around him, had burnt itself into his brain, setting off tremors inside him. He had wanted that, had wanted the contact, had wanted vague other things that he knew only from dreams and didn't pretend to understand. But now that he wasn't directly confronted with what he wanted, it began to occur to him how stupid he was for wanting this thing.

Hadn't the incident with Amy Frasier taught him anything? She had offered to rub his back when he'd been in so much pain he could barely make it to Sickbay, and he'd accepted, willing to accept anything if it offered an end to the pain. And she had ended the pain... and awakened a pain of an entirely different sort, centered in his groin, caressing and stroking him until he had finally figured out that this wasn't merely about medical therapy. And when he'd asked her why she was doing this-- since in those days, he hadn't yet learned how to express his knowledge to the humans he worked with, and was consequently treated with far less respect than he deserved; the notion that someone might want to be with him, might want to please him, had become utterly alien-- she had made it clear that he was her latest trophy, a former god to notch her belt with. And when he'd tried to tell her no, tried to stop her, she'd paid no attention, continuing to molest him until he'd called Security-- and they'd laughed hysterically and humiliated him cruelly, teaching Q why it was that humans wore clothes and performed their sordid reproductive acts behind closed doors. The act made them vulnerable in a way almost nothing else did, exposed them to terrible humiliations. And it would do the same to Q if he let it.

Q was not stupid. Naive, yes, he admitted that he was naive about many aspects of human life. But he knew what kissing meant. Harry wanted to have sex with him. He wasn't entirely sure about how the mechanics of that would take place, and didn't want to know-- his own imagination was conjuring up notions of being stroked and hugged and held, and jerking away from anything more sordid than that. It might be unbearably disgusting. How could he know? What if they got started, and Harry wanted Q to do something nauseating, and made him do it even though he didn't want to? Q knew he couldn't call Security again, not unless Harry was killing him-- he couldn't stand the notion of them laughing at him again. If he didn't like it, and Harry took a "no" as seriously as Amy had, there would be nothing he could do.

But Harry was-- not a friend, Q had no friends, but as close to a friend as Q did have. Q couldn't believe Harry would do something like that. And part of him was insisting that nothing was too disgusting if it got him more of that wonderful warmth, the contact of skin to skin, even as another part of him was wondering if he should be disgusted that he wanted that contact at all.

He got out of the shower and stood in his closet, a large walk-in affair, studying the available selections for clothing. He knew a very little about how this sort of thing was conducted. He should be wearing something attractive, certainly, but there would be a lot of touching, so it should be something that felt nice. And maybe it shouldn't conceal quite as much of his skin as most of his outfits did. Humans found the revealing of small bits of skin to be tantalizing, and Q was willing to admit that the thought of being tantalizing was quite appealing to him.

Q didn't own any revealing pants, and would be too embarrassed to select a pair had he owned any, so he chose a pair of ordinary black slacks and put on his usual footgear over them, an attractive pair of black boots. He got a bit more creative with the shirt, though, choosing a soft red velour with a daring V-neck.

Other horrifying thoughts were racing through his head, stealing his nerve. What if Harry thought he was totally inept? What if Harry told the entire starbase how inept he was? Q was sure Amy would have. Did Harry even know that Q didn't know what he was doing? Q couldn't see how he was going to admit to that without suffering utter humiliation, but it would be far worse if Harry thought he did know and then learned the hard way that he did not.

He should call this off now. He should go put his formidable party clothes back on, and when Harry showed up, he should tell Harry that he'd changed his mind. No. He should tell Harry that Harry had completely misinterpreted what Q meant, and how dared Harry think Q meant something so sordid as what Harry obviously thought. That would do it, yes. That would protect Q's dignity...

...but it wouldn't get him what he wanted.

He swallowed hard, looking around the room. He was so scared. Why wasn't Harry here right now? The anticipation was terrifying Q. He glanced at a chronometer-- it was thirty-five minutes since he'd told Harry to leave in half an hour. Maybe Harry wasn't going to show up at all, and here Q was making an utter fool of himself.

A thought occurred to him, as he recalled the props humans used for this. Q was familiar with the superficials of many human roles, with the trappings they cloaked things in, even as he was ignorant of the hard realities under the roles. This was a Romantic Scenario. He hadn't set up his props correctly. Q located a large number of ornate candles, scattered throughout his room in antique Terran candelabra. He got a lighter out of the replicator, activated the tip, and touched it to each of the candles, making sure the candles caught before moving on to the next one. The open flames frightened him a little-- he had never actually lit any of the candles, he just owned them because candlesticks looked really stupid without candles in them. But this was what a Romantic Scenario called for, after all. He moved some of the candles into the bedroom, putting china plates under them to catch the wax, which was already dripping. He then got chilled syntheholic champagne out of the replicator and two glasses, poured himself a glass, gulped it down, poured another one, and carried the glasses and the champagne back out to the living room, where he set them down on the table in front of the couch and proceeded to pace nervously. He'd set the scene, laid out all the props-- now where was Harry? Had the man stood him up? Q clutched at his champagne glass in fear. No one else would know how he was humiliated if Harry didn't come, but he would know. How could he live with himself if he did all this preparing and Harry still didn't come?

The door chimed. Q went to it and opened it, staring forbodingly down at his visitor.

Harry swallowed hard. He was late. He had planned to be late, sort of a way of telling Q that he would not dance to his tune. Now, though, he wondered if it was a good idea. Q looked annoyed. Q looked...

...incredibly sexy, wearing a low-cut velour shirt that just begged to have Harry's hands all over it. Harry's eyes traveled down the revealing patch of broad chest, down the shirt and lower... With an effort, he dragged his eyes up and smiled brightly at Q. "Aren't you going to offer me any of that champagne?"

"You're late," Q said.

"I know. I couldn't cut loose from the party. Diana Ashe chose the minute I started heading for the door to talk my ear off, and I couldn't very well tell her I had a hot date, now could I?" Harry lied, grinning. It was an entirely plausible story, if anyone knew Diana at all.

Q shuddered slightly. "No, I don't suppose you could." He walked over to the table and poured Harry a glass of champagne. "Since you're so rudely demanding on my hospitality, I suppose I could give you this."

"How hospitable of you." Harry looked around. He'd seen the inside of Q's quarters exactly once, when he and several of the other scientists had decided that Q looked entirely too drawn and haggard to spend another night on the cot, interrupted anytime anyone had a question, and had taken it on themselves to drag the half-asleep Q home and put him to bed. In the light, the place was tastefully decorated, if a little cluttered, with all sorts of antiques from Earth and eclectic artwork. Here, in candlelight, the clutter loomed, making the room entirely more foreboding than it probably should have been. "Do you mind if I put on the light?"

Q looked stricken. "I thought you humans found this sort of thing appropriate. Have I missed my century again?" He said the last lightly, as if trying to convince Harry that the hurt expression Harry had seen hadn't really been there, but Harry wasn't fooled.

Stupid idiot! He's trying to be romantic, and you go ahead and say 'gee, can I put on the light?' "Why, Q-- you were being romantic? I just didn't imagine you'd go to all this trouble for me. Certainly it's appropriate, delightfully so. We can leave the lights off if you want." Shut up, Harry, before you dig yourself in any deeper.

"It hardly matters to me," Q retorted. "I can't imagine what you humans find pleasurable about ruining your vision in dim, flickering light, with open flames no less-- you know those can actually burn you? But I did think you would consider it an appropriate setting. I suppose I was wrong."

"Q, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. It's lovely-- let's just leave it the way it is."

Q stared at him for several seconds with hard eyes, then finally turned away and sipped his drink, pacing away. Harry followed. "So."

"So?" Harry prompted.

"So..." Q turned around, realizing Harry was not going to help him out here. "If you're expecting me to be especially skilled at this, or you think I have millions of years of experience, or something, you entirely overestimate the appeal of such sordid human activities."

Harry nodded slowly, as that sank in. Q was inexperienced with human sexuality. Perhaps he should have guessed-- why would an omnipotent being go about sleeping with humans, when he'd probably had far more sublime pleasures available to him with his own kind? "I'd be delighted to share my skills with you. Purely as part of your education in the human condition, of course."

"Of course," Q replied, almost mechanically. He sipped at his drink, leaning up against the wall next to the bedroom door. "That... doesn't bother you?"


Q shrugged elaborately. "Some people seem to think it's some sort of coup to bed a former god. In this area... I'm as mortal as you."

The thought occurred to Harry to make a joke, to make light of the situation, but he didn't. Q was very nervous about this; Harry could see a faint tremor in the hand holding the wineglass. So instead Harry approached Q, looking directly into his eyes. "It was never the former god I wanted. It was the mortal man that I've known for months, the mortal man that helped us destroy the Borg..." He set down his wineglass, reached out and took Q's free hand, twining his fingers through its. Q's hand was shaking slightly. "The mortal man that inspired me to think in ways I'd never imagined before I met you. You are the person I want, Q. You, as you are now."

Q stared down at him, frozen. "Suppose I'm not what you expect?" he asked harshly. "Suppose I'm not any good at this?"

"Well, practice makes perfect," Harry said blandly. "And I'd be more than happy to help you refine your technique."

Before Q could object again, Harry leaned up and kissed him, tongue probing between Q's lips and into his mouth as his arms pulled the other man closer.

For a moment, Q responded. The he stiffened, pulling away. "The door's not locked."

"So lock it," Harry said, a little breathlessly. "No one's going to just walk in without announcing themselves anyway."

"Security will. If they think anything is wrong." He pulled away from Harry and spun sideways, landing in front of the door to the bedroom, which opened at his approach. "We'll be safer in here."

"No objections here." Harry followed Q into the bedroom. The moment the door had shut behind them and Q had locked it, Harry went to him and resumed where they'd left off, wrapping his arms around Q's upper arms and planting his hands on Q's back, stroking it as he kissed him deeply.

The tension in Q began slowly and agonizingly to unwind as Harry kissed him. Q's skin was begging, crying out for warmth and contact, and Harry's hands on his back were just barely satisfying-- he needed more. He was stiff, unresponsive, terrified of the depth of his own desire. If he started giving in, he would be lost, crumbled by the force of his own need.

Harry broke the kiss. "Is something wrong?" he asked. Q shook his head, not quite able to speak.

"But you're not-- are you sure you want this?" Involuntarily Harry glanced down at Q's crotch, but it told him nothing; he had long suspected Q wore ultra-reinforced underwear to hide all signs of such a human weakness as an erection. Then he glanced up at Q's face. Q's pupils were dilated, his breathing slightly ragged. He seemed to want this, all right.

Q nodded and mustered up the mental effort to speak. "Yes, I-- I need more-- I--"

He was unresponsive because he needed more? Harry puzzled over that. Q didn't seem like the kind who wanted to be forced, but maybe a little more forcefulness was required in this seduction. He tugged Q toward the bed and pulled him down to it, so they were both sitting there. Q went unresistingly, his gaze utterly fixated on Harry, thrilling him. It was a shame to move in too close to see those intense eyes, but Harry had plans which required that.

He leaned forward and kissed Q again, this time slipping his hand under the soft velour shirt and stroking the warm skin underneath. This was rewarded with a groan from Q, the sound lost against Harry's mouth. When Harry reached up and lightly pinched Q's nipple, Q broke the kiss with a jerk, his head rolling back as an involuntary cry of pleasure escaped him.

Harry smiled, and kissed Q's neck, eliciting more groans as he worked his way down it. His hands played under the shirt, exploring Q's chest, and pushing him down lightly.

Q fell back against the bed with a cry. He was making no attempt to reciprocate, but that was fine by Harry, for now at least, as it was very entertaining to drive him mad with pleasure. Harry tugged Q's shirt up over his head, and immediately dove down and attacked the naked chest, licking Q's navel, sucking at his nipples, kissing his stomach. Q moaned and clung to the bed, hands clenching and unclenching convulsively.

By now Harry could see a faint, almost imperceptible bulge in Q's trousers. He slipped his hand under the waistband, under the elastic of the underpants, making Q jerk as he grazed ticklish regions, and touched what he found inside, the captive restrained by so many cloth enclosures. Q must be in agony-- the silken flesh under Harry's hand was hard and swollen, and the constriction the underpants were placing on it to keep Q's pants from bulging was painful enough to Harry's hand. He could only imagine what it felt like to the organ being restrained. But there was a simple enough remedy. Harry began tugging Q's pants and underwear down, freeing the imprisoned flesh. Once he had freed Q's crotch and a bit of his upper thighs, he pulled Q all the way onto the bed, laying him out like a smorgasbord on a table, then went to the foot of the bed and pulled Q's boots and socks off. He stroked the naked feet, making Q writhe. Finally, he reached up and pulled the pants down smoothly, over Q's knees and down off his feet.

Q naked was a thing of beauty. He was a little on the thin side, having driven himself so mercilessly this past year that he would often forget to eat, but Harry didn't require muscles in his lovers, only a keen intellect, a tall body and a trim shape. Overwhelmed by temptation, he bent over the prone body and began kissing Q all over, working his way down from the neck, while his hands stroked thighs and knees.

Every touch sent delicious shocks through Q. He lay in complete abandonment, whimpering, surrendering to the pleasure Harry was giving him. A sweet ache was building up in him, a painful, ecstatic need. His hips bucked involuntarily, seeking something more.

Harry, enticed beyond self-control, gave it to him. He slid most of the way down the bed, quickly stripping off his own clothes, then bent down and took Q in his mouth. A sound half sob, half-moan escaped Q's lips, thrilling Harry. He loved going down on men. Part of it was the power thing, making a lover writhe and whimper, something Q did quite beautifully, and part of it was an unselfish desire to give pleasure. But a large part of it was akin to many men's desires to suck women's breasts, he thought; he simply enjoyed sucking on penises, loved to expose them and look at them and taste them and feel them. Q's was a lovely specimen, slightly above average size, the best kind for maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. He wondered if Q had deliberately chosen that when he'd picked this body to incarnate in. Some men, if they had the choice, would choose to be unusually large, but there was something to be said for having one so very easy for Harry to take in completely. Probably Q hadn't known something like this would ever happen, or the advantages the form he'd chosen gave him, but one never knew with omniscient beings, after all.

Q, who in point of fact had no idea that anyone would have considered the size of his penis an issue worth thinking about, clung to the bed and moaned. He couldn't bear this. It was too good, too intense. His whole body was stretched taut, his muscles tensing further and further as the pleasure built, a faint sheen of sweat breaking out all over his body. He spared the strength once to glance down at Harry, kneeling between his legs, most of Q's penis in his mouth. The sight disgusted him, but the disgust had absolutely no effect on his desire for this to continue. He closed his eyes, let himself fall back against the bed, and ignored the ridiculousness of what he'd seen in favor of what his body was telling him.

He whimpered. It wasn't enough. It was so good, so unbelievably good, and yet it wasn't enough. He wanted-- he wanted--

Release? Q was familiar with physical release. There were times when the torment in his flesh had begun to be too much, and he'd been driven to touch himself, to release the need. But that hadn't felt good-- well, all right, it had, but it had also disgusted him and tortured him with the knowledge of how pathetically weak he was. This was different. Q was here by choice. The sensations of Harry's mouth on him, Harry's hands stroking his inner thighs and stomach, was so much better than the sensations his own hand had engendered that the two experiences seemed barely related. And when that had happened, Q had always been released from the need quickly, never stretched out taut like this with every muscle like duranium cables, utterly tantalized by the prospect of some future relief. Was that what he needed, then? Was it release he wanted?

It seemed so. His muscles were tenser than he thought possible. Every part of him was centered on that wonderful aching hunger in his groin, the need that was being fulfilled over and over. But there was no release. He moaned, and thrashed weakly, and spread his entire body out sprawling over the bed, pumping his hips, crying out, but release did not come. There was nothing in Q's world but the unbearably wonderful sensations and the tantalizing prospect of climax, hovering somewhere in the distance, somewhere he was near to but not yet there.

Harry was painfully aroused by Q's cries, needing his own satisfaction. It had been twenty minutes, and still Q had not come. Q's body was drenched in sweat, his moans frantic, but no more frantic than they'd been ten minutes ago, and though his body writhed enticingly it showed no signs of reaching any further peaks anytime soon. Harry's jaw was really beginning to hurt, as was his back and neck, and the very fact that he'd looked at a clock indicated something was wrong.

He lifted his head. "I'm sorry," he said hoarsely, "but unless you're really, really close, I can't..."

Q whimpered helplessly, having temporarily lost the power of speech. Harry had stopped. How dare he stop? How could he do this to Q? He struggled to speak, to express his displeasure with Harry's perfidy, but the only thing that escaped his lips was a gasping, "Please..."

Hearing Q beg like that hurt Harry, made him feel wretched with guilt. He had gone out with deliberate teases and been driven to the point of begging himself, and knew what it felt like... and Harry's ego was much more resilient than Q's enormous brittle pride. Harry could only imagine how desperately Q must need for him to be pushed to begging like that. And he hadn't intended to do that to Q, not at all. But he couldn't keep on with what he was doing.

He sat up and stroked Q's inner thighs, then caressed the needy flesh above. Q groaned and closed his eyes again as Harry's hand finally fell into a rhythmic stroking. It wasn't what he'd had before, wasn't enough, and Q felt a disappointment all out of proportion to the situation, but couldn't muster up the will to make Harry stop. The tantalizing prospect of total drowning pleasure that had hovered just out of his reach had retreated, until he felt certain he would never achieve it. He would lie here in this endless torment, continuously tantalized, his muscles wire-taut and his flesh aching, needing, a hunger that would be fed and fed but never satisfied.

Then Harry stopped that too. "This isn't working for you, is it?"

Q stared at him, a betrayed look on his face. He wanted to scream, to beg, to plead with Harry to continue the torment. "Working?" he asked dizzily, harshly, barely able to see straight through the need. "What's... it supposed... to do?"

"Is this normal for you? I mean, does it usually take you this long?"

"What do you mean... usually?" Q gasped, slowly regaining enough of himself to speak. "I've never... done this before."

"Never?" Harry asked, surprised. Q had admitted to being inexperienced before, but not to being a virgin.

"Indulging in sordid humanoid reproductive impulses was never something I felt any compulsion to do, before I lost my powers. And it seems I shouldn't have indulged now."

"Well, what about when you're by yourself?" At Q's look of total incomprehension, Harry sighed. "I mean... you've been human for a year. Haven't you ever even masturbated?"

Q's already tense body stiffened further, his face flaming with humiliation. "Isn't that an excessively personal question?" he snapped.

Harry looked down at him. "I seem to be in an excessively personal situation with you right now," he replied mildly. "And I don't believe for a minute that a human male who's not dead below the waist-- and you're certainly not that--" He smiled, and caressed the evidence of his point gently, making Q sigh with pleasure-- "--could go an entire year without masturbating. So, does it usually take you this long to come?"

Q resented the question, and resented the fact that Harry was trying to soften the question by touching him. He turned his head away, angry and embarrassed. "I can't remember," he said coldly. "It's been months."

"Oh. Well, there's your problem," Harry said. "You've been without too long." He considered. "Of course, that makes most men fire off all the quicker, but you just have to be different, don't you."

Q relaxed very slightly at the bantering tone. "I'm hardly like others of your miserable species," he retorted.

"That must be it. Turn over, I have a plan."

"Your last plan doesn't seem to have worked out so well."

"This is a better plan."

"I've heard that before," Q said, but obeyed. If Harry had any ideas about how to ease this terrible need pulling him taut, he was all for them.

He felt Harry's hands settle on his back, felt them dig in, and gasped, turning his head. "What are you doing?"

"Did you know I've seen people in rigor mortis who are less tense than you are?" Harry said conversationally. His hands moved, digging into the taut wires that Q's muscles had become, making them give. Q cried out, not sure whether what he was feeling was pain or pleasure. It terrified him, these sensations, as if his tension might be necessary to his very existence, as if he might collapse into tiny pieces if he relaxed. But he made no move to stop Harry, certain that he couldn't survive another minute without that wondrous touch.

"God. This is unbelievable. Hasn't your back been hurting you?"

Q didn't know whether to cry or laugh hysterically at that. A year of constant pain, of greater and greater dependence on painkillers and then the sheer agony when Li had cut him off, swam up in his memory. He had focused on nothing but defeating the Borg because it hurt less, or he noticed it less, when he was occupying his mind with something, and eventually he'd gotten used to it, but the pain had never gone away. Harry's agonizing, wonderful hands digging into his back reminded him of how badly he hurt even as they soothed the pain. "How... ohh... did you ever guess?" he retorted sarcastically. His body still thrummed with desire, still hungered for the pleasure Harry had been giving him before, but that was only what he wanted. This was what he needed, more than anything imaginable.

"No wonder you couldn't come," Harry said, grunting, as he devoted serious muscle power to Q's back. Q cried out, almost sobbing with the pain and pleasure of it. "I do believe you've forgotten how to relax your muscles. You'd probably have broken bones if you had come."

"Broken bones?" Q gasped. "Is... that possible?"

"I've heard of it. I'll bet that's why. Subconsciously, your body wouldn't let you achieve orgasm because you were afraid of hurting yourself."

"The thought's... ah... not appealing, no... ohhh..." A long, low moan escaped him as Harry started on his lower back. Tears came to his eyes. "Please... lower... ohhh...."

Harry obligingly moved lower, pressing his knuckles into the taut muscles and rotating his hands slowly. Q felt as if he were dissolving, melting into a puddle of goo under the steady pressure. He was unable to keep himself from moaning almost constantly, dizzy with the exquisite relief of the pain he'd dragged about with him for months.

"I'm going to get some massage oils," Harry said hoarsely, and stopped. Q felt his weight leave the bed, and once again lay abandoned, bereft, his body screaming for Harry to finish what he'd begun.

Then Harry was back, and all the resentment Q had begin to feel fled in the face of that essential touch. He felt something warm and wet being spread over his back, felt wondrous finders gliding through the stuff, spreading it out, working it into Q's skin.

He had a backrub once before, back before he'd known that humans used massage as sexual foreplay-- Amy Frasier had assured him she wanted to fix his back, and then tried to seduce him, and wouldn't take no for an answer. That memory still made him cringe. But this was different. Harry was his friend, or as close to one as Q had, and Q already knew sex was involved here, and wouldn't be taken by surprise. He had already agreed to whatever human sexuality entailed, and reaped some of the benefits. So he was able to enjoy this completely now, without any fear of what came next.

He felt Harry's hands moving down from the small of his back, squeezing and massaging his buttocks. Then the backs of his legs, all the way down to his feel, then back up to his buttocks and the small of his back again. It was incredible-- he hardly seemed to hurt much anymore. And with the slow conquest of the pain, the other sensations in nearby places grew more intense. A delicious anticipation built up in him as Harry worked on the small of his back and his buttocks and the tops of his legs. Any minute, maybe Harry's hand would change position, would move just a little lower, just a little closer to the parts of Q that pressed against the bed, hungering for Harry's touch.

Harry was almost unbearably aroused. Q's cries of pleasure at the backrub, the feel of his buttocks filling Harry's hands, and the tantalizing sweetness between, all of it mesmerized him, drove him. He had to have Q, couldn't stand it anymore... but if he moved too quickly, he might frighten Q, or even hurt him. Q had just confessed to being a virgin, and being a man's first lover was a responsibility Harry took very seriously. Q trusted Harry to satisfy him, and to not hurt him, and Harry had to live up to that trust.

He stopped actually trying to massage Q's back, judging he'd done about as much good there as he could, and began stroking it lightly instead. Q shivered, arching his back under the caress. With his other hand, Harry ran a finger between Q's buttocks, leaving off some of the massage oil, then went to the other jar-- the slightly thicker stuff-- took up a fingerful of lubricant, and returned to the inviting crack.

Q made soft murmurs of pleasure, nothing as extreme as his moans during the backrub but enough to let Harry know he wasn't bothered by this. A lot of virgins were nervous about any contact with their posterior regions, but Harry supposed Q would have no preconceptions, not having been raised as a human-- to him, all of it must be about equal, and if he'd accept one thing perhaps he'd accept another. At least, Harry desperately hoped so. What he really would have liked was for Q to take him, but you couldn't expect a virgin to do that well, especially one who had no experience with women, either. And Q's seeming willingness to lie there, be catered to and let Harry do all the work would indicate he probably wouldn't be comfortable trying, even if Harry could figure out how to phrase it in a way that wouldn't offend him. He was deliberately toning down his language for Q's sake-- not that he was all that fond of vulgar pillow talk himself, having a fetish for intellectuals, but he was usually more direct than he was being tonight. Q got embarrassed if you suggested that he masturbated; apparently, one had to be very refined with him, and given that limitation Harry couldn't see how to convey what he wanted Q to do.

No, it would be better if he kept taking the lead. He stopped stroking Q's back, rubbed some of the lighter massage oil on the hand and reached between Q's thighs, lightly caressing what he found there. Q moaned. Encouraged, Harry began to play with the entrance to Q's body, slipping a lubricated finger in and out, circling and working it deeper to get more lubricant in, as he stroked Q's genitals. Q responded, shifting his hips awkwardly to try to give Harry more access as he groaned in pleasure, too far gone to have any objections at all. Good. If he couldn't come from oral sex or being masturbated, there were only a few other things Harry could think of to try, and this was the only one that didn't require an active role from Q. The fact that at the moment it would be enormously satisfying for Harry as well was admittedly part of his decision as well.

Q ground his hips into Harry's touch, squashing Harry's hand against the bed. Harry stopped, and withdrew his hand, realizing what was going to happen if they didn't fix it, and Q whipped around with a "now>what?" look on his face. "I don't want you to get sheet burns," Harry explained. Or to have his hand crushed, though he didn't mention that. "Let's get a pillow under you."

"What... are you... talking about?"

"Just trust me."

Quickly Harry got Q to lay down with his stomach on a pillow, so his hips were slightly raised off the bed, giving Harry's hand much better access to Q's genitals and the sensitive area of his abdomen just above them. He then resumed what he'd been doing, teasing Q, trying to make the tight virginal opening relaxed and accepting.

Q lay there in delirium, barely conscious of the separate sensations, only aware of how they synergized into incredible pleasure. He had the dimmest sense that he would probably think this was disgusting if he was paying attention, but he wasn't paying attention and he didn't want to be. He felt Harry change position, laying more or less on top of him, skin to skin, and was surprised how much he hungered for that contact. Just feeling Harry's warmth, Harry's weight against his starving skin was good. The kisses he felt against his neck and shoulder were better, small stabs of pleasure. Then Harry's hand left off caressing his penis, went around Q's raised hip and returned to it, this time with more lubricant and better leverage. The stroking changed from gentle to firm, satisfying instead of teasing. Involuntarily Q pressed his hips down into the caress, writhing under Harry's weight.

A hand spread his buttocks, and he felt something pressing against him, pushing forward, sliding in. It was such a strange sensation, being opened and filled like that. There was pain, and Q didn't like that, but there was pleasure as well, the exact same stimulus evoking two different responses. For the moment, the pleasure was stronger. Q decided the pain was no more than a mild annoyance, easily bearable for the pleasure's sake.

"Is this okay?" Harry gasped. "I'm not hurting you?"

Q hadn't the willpower to muster a verbal reply. He shook his head.

"No, it isn't hurting?" Harry interpreted hopefully.

"S'fine... keep..."

That was all the encouragement Harry needed. Slowly he pulled back, and slowly pushed back in, going further each time. His first strokes were all like that-- slow, teasing, each thrust taking him in deeper-- but it was too much for him, and he was quickly forced into a harder rhythm, dragged by his own overwhelming desire. He reached his free hand up and interlaced it with Q's, clasping his hand tightly, as he fondled Q with the other and thrust into him again and again. He couldn't believe this was happening. For months he'd wanted Q, considered him unattainable, tried to convince himself he didn't really want him will at the same time transposing Q's sardonic features onto the faces of the lovers he did take. That he could be here, making love to the real thing, was a dream come true.

For Q, this was much better than what had gone before. His skin begged for warmth and contact, a need that neither Harry's mouth nor his hands had even really begun to fill but that the warm weight on him now satisfied wonderfully. His hand clasped tightly in Harry's, he felt connected, a part of someone, as he'd never felt since leaving the Continuum. This was a pale, pale shadow of intimacy among the Q, but he was only human now and it sufficed. And the tension that thrummed throughout him no longer interfered with his pleasure. If he tensed away from that warm weight, it followed him down, bearing against him until he was stretched as tight as he could go and the wondrous sensations had pinned him there, caught in pleasure too great to be borne, and yet he had to bear it because he had nowhere to go to escape it. Not that he wanted to escape it, but the tension in him that resisted release, resisted pleasure, had tried to, and now it was trapped and he too was trapped in waves of sweet sensation.

The fact that his muscles were as tense as they could get, that there was nowhere further they could go, and yet the delicious movement continued in him and on him and around him, forced the pleasure to build inside him, without the outlet for it that increasing muscle tension gave. He was going to dissolve, to shake apart, the pleasure at his core merciless, ruthlessly driving him toward the completion some part of him feared. It was building in a wave, a huge roaring tidal wave of darkness with fiery sparks inside, like stars caught in a tsunami. He whimpered uncontrollably, terrified of the darkness, terrified it would crash over him and drown him and smash him to bits, even as he longed desperately for it to come and wash over the shores of his consciousness.

Harry was in agony, wanting to come so badly he couldn't think, but he had to hang on, to maintain control for Q's sake. He couldn't come before Q did, because if he had to stop and start again one more time Q would never forgive him. But Q was still taking a long time, and the writhing of his body under Harry's was so erotic, and the feel of his tight warmth enclosing Harry was so exquisite, Harry couldn't bear it. He had to think about admirals with liver spots. Very old rabbis. Drooling Ferengi. Anything disgusting, anything but the gorgeous, brilliant, utterly desirable man whimpering helplessly underneath him, a captive of the pleasure Harry was giving him.

And then the wave crashed. Q screamed, convulsing, thrashing as the orgasm so long denied finally slammed into him with all the tidal force he'd feared. All control, all thought, was forcibly stripped away, and he could do nothing but endure the buffeting waves of ecstasy. Harry could wait no longer, thrusting wildly into the churning maelstrom underneath him, hearing Q scream again as his strokes unleashed more waves of mind-destroying pleasure. His own orgasm crashed over him in waves as well, Q's body milking every last bit of pleasure out of him, as he cried Q's name.

For several moments afterward, the two of them lay completely still, Harry pillowing his head against Q's sweat-soaked back, still inside him. He enjoyed the sound of Q's breathing, deep and regular-- oddly so after such an experience; Harry's own was ragged. "Q?" he murmured.

There was no reply. Harry moved slightly, peering around at Q's face, lying in the pillow. Q's eyes were closed, and he showed every sign of having blacked out during his orgasm.

"That good, huh?" Harry asked, amused, as he moved off Q to lie down next to him.

The movement awakened Q, who felt curiously bereft. He was exhausted beyond belief, craving the darkness of sleep, but he needed something-- his skin still hungered, even with the exquisite satiation he felt. It wasn't sex he wanted anymore, and yet part of his need was still with him.

Blindly he reached out, finding Harry next to him. That wasn't enough. He shifted his weight, moving toward Harry, while putting an arm around him and pulling him closer. After a moment's startlement, Harry realized what Q wanted, and was more than happy to give it to him. He snuggled against the taller man, one arm wrapped around Q's back as Q wrapped one arm around him.

"That was definitely worth the wait," he murmured against Q's ear.

Q, protected and safe for the first time since becoming human, was already blissfully asleep, and didn't hear him.