Until the End of the World
Part 2

Picard was blushing at the memory, remembering how embarrassed he had been at stroking his own cock while Catherine watched, yet how delirious with ecstasy he had been when finally allowed to come.

"He, or she, or whatever that Q of yours is must be really something," remarked Lily as Picard came out of his reverie, trying to cover his embarrassment with a long drink of beer.

"Yes," admitted Picard with a smile.  He felt strangely comfortable talking to Lily about Q, something he really couldn't do with his crew members.  "Really something . . . not to mention overwhelming . . . and utterly enthralling . . . and just as utterly infuriating on occasion."

"So what made him deposit you in my apartment?" queried Lily.  "Not that I'm complaining."

Picard acknowledged the compliment with a warm smile--he couldn't help enjoying the company of this woman with her practical attitude and her apparent ability to adapt to the most mind-bending of circumstances.  "I don't know exactly.  He has a frighteningly quick temper--which is rather intimidating when you consider that he can blow up solar systems with a snap of the finger.  I suppose he's jealous, although it seems like it's more than that."

"Are you worried about not getting back to your own time?"

"No, actually," replied Picard.  "He . . . ah . . . loves to flaunt his power, but I know he won't do anything to harm me.  At some point, he'll either decide that I've learned whatever lesson he's trying to teach or that I'm far too hopeless ever to figure out, and he'll bring me back . . . eventually.  I'm sorry to be such a bother . . . "

"Cut the crap, Captain," laughed Lily.  "It should be more than obvious that I'm enjoying your company.  And if Mr. Q doesn't like it, too bad."  Picard nodded, and Lily continued, "I'd actually been wishing I could have talked to you again after you got your ship back from those Borg.  They . . . were . . . so .  . . I don't know . . .  inhuman.  I mean, I've never been so terrified, and I'm usually pretty good at taking care of myself.  But you must have to deal with things like that all the time.  Were you scared?  Especially after what happened to you before?"

"Oh, yes, Lily," Picard half-murmured, half-whispered.  "The Borg are unlike any other enemy we've faced.  Utterly relentless, utterly focused.  Surprisingly, a group of them broke away, learned to define themselves as individuals, but the majority of them, it seems, have had all possibility for independent action . . . erased."  He swallowed the last of his beer, his hand shaking slightly, and Lily silently brought two more bottles to the table.  Picard continued in a mechanical voice, "That's what they did to me.  They took away my volition and used me as a machine . . . used me to penetrate our own defenses and murder 11,000 people."

"Oh my God, Jean Luc . . . " breathed Lily, horrified.

"The worst thing about it," Picard went on, in the same emotionless tone, "was that I retained total awareness of myself.  I knew what they were doing to me, and I was powerless to stop it.  I . . . can't begin to describe the horror of it, and I won't try."  He barely noticed that Lily had shifted her chair around next to his, and was holding his hand in both of hers.  "Suffice it to say, that my crew figured out how to rescue me from the Borg ship.  I was still connected to their collective, but Data--my friend I had to go back for--found a way to communicate with me.  It took every bit of concentration and will I had to override the implants enough to tell him how to defeat the Borg."  He squeezed Lily's hand, trying to still the shudder that arose in him.  "When they came back, I could still hear them--I still knew them intimately.  I was sure I was the only person who knew how to defeat them--yet without Data, I and the Enterprise would have been lost."  He gave his head a shake, then spoke more animatedly.  "You were right, of course.  I was consumed with the idea of revenge, and I began to shut off every other feeling that got in the way.  I suppose I was becoming more like them, more monstrous--at least that's what the nightmares I've been having seem to be telling me."

"Jean-Luc, I'm so sorry," said Lily.  "Under the circumstances, who wouldn't change?  It's completely understandable--you're human, after all."

"I think, Lily, that I sometimes forget that," remarked Picard with a self-deprecating smile.  "In fact, I know I do . . . I suppose it's a good thing that I have Q around to remind me of my limitations.  And the Borg, of course, are always going to be a sore spot between us."

"How so?"

"Another long story.  Several years ago, Q visited the Enterprise for the third time.  On his previous visits, he had been arrogant, overbearing, utterly contemptuous of humans--yet we surprised him, proved him wrong--and in the process, we seem to have undermined his position among his people.  He was in exile--and lonely and bored, although I didn't realize it then--and he asked to be able to join my crew, pointing out the advantages he could offer us.  When I declined--indicating that we could do very well without him--he lost his temper and decided to prove to us that we weren't nearly as capable as we thought.  He sent the Enterprise across the galaxy and exposed us to the Borg."

"Whew!" exclaimed Lily.  "You didn't think that pissing off a god was, just maybe, a bad idea?"

"Not at the time," admitted Picard.  "I was a fool.  Eighteen crewmembers were killed by a Borg attack before I could finally admit to Q that I needed his help.  My stupid arrogance . . . my pride . . . it was so difficult for me to admit I was outmatched . . . "

"Eighteen lives?" asked Lily.  "How were you able to get past that with him?"

"Getting to know him," replied Picard with a slight smile. "He belongs to a race of extremely evolved beings; they call themselves the Q Continuum.  They . . . ah . . . think very highly of themselves and don't tolerate weakness or stupidity among themselves . . . or others.  A young Q has to prove itself worthy.  The most frequent way of teaching a youngster among the Continuum, as Q told me, is to set up a trap that they will inevitably walk into and then ridicule them for their failure.  A Q who is strong enough to withstand the humiliation and learn the lesson . . . again and again . . . eventually demonstrates its fitness.  At the same time, they don't even bother with this process with young Qs who don't show enough potential to begin with."

"Cold . . . " murmured Lily.

"Indeed.  When Q invited himself aboard the Enterprise, knowing I would turn him down, he was doing the same kind of thing, teaching me the same kind of lesson by putting me in a situation where I would make one wrong decision after another.  We had both surprised and impressed Q by passing two previous tests he had set for us, and he wanted to provide a further challenge--mostly to test how I would handle failure and whether I had the strength to admit that I was wrong.  After my assimilation by the Borg, however, he felt terrible; he hadn't intended that to happen, and he felt remorse for what he had done.  I wasn't going to keep holding it against him; Q is a product of his 'culture' as much as we are.  And his ultimate intention was good, though brutally executed--he wanted to let us know that the Borg existed and what they were like so we could prepare for their inevitable attack on us.  As devastating as it was, it would have been much, much worse if we hadn't known what was coming."

"I can see that," remarked Lily.  "But how did you two end up together?"

"He made several other visits to the Enterprise and made it clearer and clearer that he was interested in me . . . as more than just a student," Picard laughed ruefully, "and that he had my interests at heart.  He saved my life once, and he helped me pass an unimaginably brutal test the Continuum insisted on putting me through.  I grew to trust him . . . cautiously.  Then, at a particularly vulnerable point in my life, he threw himself deliberately in my way--as a woman as I mentioned--trying to trick me again.  I recognized 'him' immediately and felt reckless enough to think, 'Why not?'  It's very flattering to be pursued by a god," said Picard with a grin, " and he's pretty hard to resist."

"No shit  . . ." murmured Lily.  "That 24th century of yours is a lot more exciting than you let on.  But if this Q of yours can travel through time, why couldn't he help you out against the Borg?"

"The Q don't exactly have a prohibition against interfering with less developed species, the way the Federation does, but they're apparently quite selective about when they interfere.  They tend not to interfere in inter-species conflicts, like ours with the Borg, on the assumption that we need to work it out for ourselves.  My guess is that Q's fellows prevented him from helping me or contacting me until it was safely over."

"That must have been hard for him," mused Lily.

"Yes, I suppose so," said Picard.  "I was so preoccupied with my own feelings and wondering why he didn't just show up to help me get over what happened that I didn't even think of what he must have been going through.  For an omnipotent being to feel helpless must be unimaginably difficult.  And then he just showed up . . . tonight . . . and began berating me, and taunting me.  I was just so furious it didn't occur to me that he might have been upset himself.  And I know he still feels guilty about our first encounter with the Borg and what happened afterward."

"So why'd he send you here?" asked Lily, with a mouth half full of chips.

"What did he say right before he sent me here?  Something about being no good for me, and I'd be better off with someone who is."

"Jealous for sure!" exclaimed Lily.  "I've never had a god jealous of me before, at least as far as I know."

"Don't worry.  He won't hurt you.  He has a temper, but he'd never do any lasting damage to anyone close to me."

"How comforting," noted Lily wryly.  "If he's really pissed off about not being able to help you, and he's feeling guilty about why you got in trouble in the first place, it's no wonder he's being a butt.  It's like when I take my baby niece out; a couple times she's wandered off and I thought she was lost, and when I found her, I felt so scared and so guilty about losing her, I just started yelling at her--so I'd feel better.  Then she starts crying, and I feel worse."

"Yes, I think that's it," said Picard thoughtfully.

"You know, Jean-Luc, if he's anything like me, he probably really wants to feel needed, but would die a hundred times over before he'd admit it."

"Of course," murmured Picard.  "And I do need him--very much.  He gives me a freedom no one else ever could.  But I don't need him to do my job for me.  I wish he'd understand the difference."

A narrow wedge of light suddenly appeared and shimmered into Q's human form.  Picard exclaimed, "Q!" at the same time that Lily queried, "Q?"

"So you're Lily," noted Q brusquely.

"And I suppose you're Q," responded Lily calmly.  "You don't look all that omnipotent to me."

"Appearances are deceiving," remarked the entity.  "You're just going to have to take my word for it that I could obliterate your solar system with a snap of the finger and restore it again just as easily."

"I'll be happy to take your word for it," said Lily with a slight smile.

Picard meanwhile was watching this exchange with his eyes flicking back and forth like watching a ping-pong match, wondering what Q's jealousy would prompt him to this time.  Q surprised him.

"I want to thank you for something, Lily Sloane," announced Q.  "And as Jean-Luc will testify, it's not easy for me.  Thank-you . . . ah . . . for taking care of him when I couldn't.  You handled him like a pro."

"You're welcome," laughed Lily; "the pleasure was all mine."

"Excuse me!" snapped Picard irritably.  "What am I that I need to be 'handled?'"

"A human being," responded Q and Lily simultaneously.

Picard sighed in resignation, while Q said, "It's time for us to go home, Jean-Luc.  I'll leave you to say your good-byes."  He went up to Lily, and they exchanged a firm handshake before Q disappeared.

Picard stepped up to Lily and they held hands for a moment.  He smiled gently and said, "Thank you for the chips and beer and for listening, Lily."

"No problem, Jean-Luc.  It's not every night visitors from the future just drop into my living room.  Watch your caboose, Dix."

"I will.  And take care of yourself, Lily."  They exchanged a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek, and then a light flashed, and Picard was gone.  Lily wandered over to the window, staring once again at the stars.

* * *

Back in his own quarters, Picard turned to Q, saying quietly, "I realize now how hard it must have been for you not to be able to do anything."

Q snapped abruptly, "I don't know if you understand.  I did know that it would be wrong for me to interfere; I even knew that you would most likely manage without me.  The Continuum was right.  But knowing all that, I wouldn't have been able to stop myself from interfering.  Do you have any idea how difficult is for me to get used to the idea of needing someone that much?  And a mortal at that?"

"I'm flattered," said Picard with a half smile.  More seriously, he continued, "Q, mon amour, this is new for both of us.  You know how hard it is for me to admit that I need you, and I need what you do to me.  I just wish it wasn't so hard . . . sometimes  . . . for us to talk, to understand each other."

"You're human, Jean-Luc.  I'm a Q.  That's light-years apart.  We may understand on an intellectual level why the other does certain things or reacts in certain way, but on some level, we'll always be alien to each other.  That's inevitable.  And emotional vulnerability isn't exactly a survival skill among the Q.  Quite the opposite.  And I've noticed you're not exactly comfortable talking about your feelings either.  I have to batter down wall after wall to get you to admit what you want and need.  But there's always another wall, one that withstands everything I throw at it.  It frustrates me, and I get angry . . . and hurt . . .  I'm sorry for abandoning you and then attacking you like that.  I truly am.  I was so sure you'd be better off without me, and I couldn't bear it."  Q looked away briefly, struggling with what he was revealing.  "I want and I need to get all the way inside you, but I'm not supposed to need you at all . . . "

"Can we get past all that, Q?" asked Picard softly.  "I've been feeling so terribly alone, and angry, and helpless.  The Borg--and my own actions--haunt me.  They're always there.  I'm afraid my anger and fear will overwhelm me, yet it's such a struggle to keep them under control.  I can't fight myself . . . alone."

Q stepped up to Picard and pulled him into his arms, then steered him over to the sofa to sit down.  Firmly gripping his lover's shoulder's, he spoke directly into his ear:  "Tell me what you want, Johnny.  You have to tell me."

Picard sighed heavily and turned himself around so he was facing Q.  Q again clasped both of Picard's hands in his, and Picard spoke, hesitantly, but with his voice gaining strength as he went on.  "I want . . . to feel free . . . completely free.  I want . . . to . . . let go--completely.  I want . . . you to take me, overwhelm me, batter down all the walls this time.  I want to give up control, all control.  I want to let you all the way in.  I need to know that you're with me, that I'm not alone."

"That can be arranged," said Q with a dangerous smile.  "But here are my terms--no games, no fighting, no resistance.  You'll do what you're told and nothing else.  And I'll open you up to me completely, take you farther than you've ever imagined.  If it's too much, you can tell me to stop, and I'll stop, no questions asked.  Otherwise, you're mine to do with whatever I want.  You'll give yourself to me--completely.  Agreed?"

"Agreed," replied Picard bravely.

"Let's see," said Q abruptly.  "Stand up."  When Picard complied, Q stood also, then delivered a ferocious slap to Picard's face.  Before Picard had time to react, Q had slapped the other cheek with equal force.

Picard staggered.  An involuntary rush of pure fury swept over him, and he began moving as if to strike back, but he forced himself to relax.  "It's not easy," he admitted with a self-deprecating smile.

"Lesson Number One:  It's not supposed to be, Johnny.  If it was easy, it wouldn't mean anything, and it wouldn't give us what we both need.  But I had to know if you could trust me--all the way."

"I trust you, Q," said Picard calmly.  He felt a subtle warmth begin to pervade him, a sense of freedom from burdens and responsibilities.  He had placed himself in Q's hands, and all he had to do was what he was told.  So simple.  So clear.  So refreshingly safe.

"Let's go," said Q, snapping his fingers.  The "place" they materialized in was perfect, thought Picard.  It was a Gothic dungeon, lit only by candles, with haunting organ music seeming to pervade the room.  A four-poster bed was on one side, while the other side was occupied by a St. Andrew's cross, a chain with manacles dangling from the ceiling, and racks of whips, floggers, crops and other equipment.  He himself was naked.  He approved.  Picard had a fetish for doing things right, and he admired the quality in others as well.  Q had created a ritual space with just the right atmosphere to heighten's Picard's awareness and sensations and make him feel comfortable at the same time.

Q, dressed entirely in black, dragged Picard over to the chain.  "Hands over your head," he ordered, then buckled Picard's wrists into the manacles.  He moved over to the wall where a crank controlled a pulley, and pulled Picard up until he was balanced on the balls of his feet.  He could pull down slightly to put more weight on his feet, but only at the cost of chafing his wrists.  His helplessness, here in this safe space, aroused him immediately, and his cock instantly rose to the occasion.  "Very lovely, Johnny.  Your muscles are so nicely defined when they're strained," noted Q, circling his prey like a wolf. "What to do with all this delectable flesh, that's all, all mine?"

"Whatever you please," whispered Picard.

"Precisely," said Q, coming around the front to deliver two more hard slaps to Picard's face, hard enough to make him sway on his chain.  This time Picard felt a flash of fear, but no anger.  Everything was out of his control, and anger seemed pointless.  "Better, much better, boy," crooned Q.  "You're learning."  Q swooped around behind Picard, looming over him menacingly, then did something totally unexpected, tickling Picard in his exposed armpits.  Picard writhed and swayed, short bursts of laughter escaping him, as he fought to stop himself from yelling "No!" or "Stop!"  The tickling accomplished what Q intended; Picard began to relax, and just as he did, Q moved in, grabbed Picard's waist, and bit sharply into his shoulder.  "Just keeping you on your toes--ha ha--mon Capitaine," he mumbled, then went back to gnawing on the shoulder in earnest.  Picard gasped sharply as Q's teeth sank repeatedly into his shoulder muscle.  Q was relentless, and it seemed that minute after minute passed, while Picard dangled helplessly, his shoulder pulsing with pain.  His body would tense up in reaction to the pain, and he would force himself to relax into it.  When it got to be almost too much, he would tense up again, then relax again into Q's hands.  When Q finally finished, the result was a very large and very reddish-purple bruise, which Picard could just see if he craned his neck.

Q methodically moved to the front and began pinching and twisting and pulling Picard's nipples viciously.  Picard desperately wanted to pull away from the pain, yet at the same time, he couldn't help notice the way the sharp jolts travelled from his nipples down to his cock.  He swayed slightly on the balls of his feet, willing himself to relax.  "Very good," noted Q, aware of every iota of Picard's responses and reactions.  Q grasped each nipple between his thumbs and and index fingers in an excruciatingly long pinch, while small grunts of pain and arousal began to escape Picard.  Q then twisted them slowly back and forth, as far as the tender flesh would stretch.  Picard's head was thrown back, and he was breathing hard, he was falling into the pain, wishing it would turn into a sea of sensation, overwhelming him utterly.

"So impatient," complained Q, having read Picard's thoughts.  Another pair of slaps to the face jerked Picard out of his dreamy state, before Q moved to the rack to select a flogger, one with thin stingy strands.  Q began methodically swinging it at Picard's chest, raising faint red lines.  Each time the flogger struck his nipples, Picard would felt jabbed by a needle of pain.  It was almost unbearable, but at the same time, it wasn't enough.  His body was aching for sensation.  "You're mine, remember?  You gave yourself to me," said Q.  "I'll set the pace.  You  just need to relax and enjoy the ride."

"Yes, Q," gasped Picard.

Q then aimed several hard blows right at Picard's swollen nipples, forcing a grunt out of his victim each time.  "It hurts, doesn't it?"

"Yes, Q."

"You like it, don't you?"

"Yes, Q."

"But it's agonizing, isn't it?   Your whole body is just crying out for more."

"Oh yes, please Q," begged Picard.

"Nope," stated the entity flatly.  "Not yet.  Wait until you see what I have in store for you now."  Q hung the flogger back on the rack, then made a point of rummaging noisily on a nearby shelf, making Picard wait.  "Close your eyes, Johnny," he ordered.  Picard complied, then howled with surprise and pain as something rough was dragged over one of his swollen, excruciatingly sensitive nipples, then the other.  "You can look now," offered Q.  It was as Picard suspected, sandpaper.  Q took his time, lightly abrading first one nipple and then the other.  "Imagine how that will feel with a shirt on, Johnny.  You'll be aware of those for days.  Unless of course you want to visit Sick Bay to get them taken care of."

Picard flushed with shame at the image, but also felt a warm tingling steal through him at the thought that he would be bearing reminders for days.  He gritted his teeth.  The sandpaper scraping his nipples hurt tremendously, but it was equally irritating for its inadequacy.  The rest of Picard's body was humming with desire, in tune with the throbbing in his bruised shoulder, his nipples, and his cock.  When Q just began to draw tiny drops of blood from Picard's nipples, he stopped.  Grinning triumphantly, he announced, "And that's not all.  You're going to bleed more for me tonight, let me all the way in."

Q then turned his attention to Picard's heretofore neglected cock.  With his thumb and forefinger, he rubbed it up and down lightly, laughing as Picard involuntarily thrust his hips forward.  "You're such a slut, Johnny, but degrade yourself all you want, you're not going to come until I say so."

"Yes, Q," responded Picard firmly.  Every reminder of Q's control made him feel more and more free and more and more safe, despite his frustration.  He didn't have to do anything, and he couldn't do anything.

"You know, Jean-Luc, with that prominent member of yours calling attention to itself, it seems to me I shouldn't neglect it entirely," said Q, wandering over to his rack of supplies.  He returned with a short leather strap and began slapping Picard's cock with it, moving around to catch it from different angles.  Picard was sure he would explode with need, but Q delivered each stroke with just enough force for it to hurt, but not enough force to allow Picard to come.  Each perfectly aimed smack sent a trembling weakness coursing through Picard's legs.  He swayed on the chain, revelling in his helplessness and wincing from the pain at the same time.  His cock was pounding with arousal, each stroke of strap winding him up higher, but not allowing any release.  He felt himself getting closer . . . and closer  . . . and then Q suddenly stopped.

He snapped his fingers, and Picard was abruptly freed from the chain.  Half involuntarily, Picard dropped to his knees on the stone floor, his arms trembling from the strain of having been suspended for so long, and his legs seeming to melt from underneath him.  "Hmm, I like you like that, Johnny," said Q.  "Kneeling suits you."  He bent down, grasped the back of Picard's neck and tilted his head back for a long kiss.  To his surprise and relief, a gush of cool water seemed to flow from Q's mouth to his own.  He hadn't realized how thirsty he was, and he swallowed it gratefully.  Only after he had drunk enough, did Q kiss him in earnest, and he sucked greedily at the tongue that was so forcefully exploring his mouth.

"Ready for Act 2?" asked Q.  He apparently didn't expect an answer, for with a flash of light, Picard found himself bound to the St. Andrew's cross, a blindfold over his eyes.  A set of cuffs that materialized around his wrists and ankles were locked to eye bolts, and a strap was wrapped firmly around the middle of the cross and his waist.  Two more sets of straps held his thighs and and upper arms.  He was completely immobilized, unable to shift at all to relieve the scraping of the wood on his sensitive nipples.  "Happy?" asked Q.

"Yes," responded Picard fervently.  There was freedom and safety in such secure restraints; all he had to do, all he could do, was respond.  The universe had contracted into this dungeon room; he and Q and the bondage and the pain were all that existed.

Q began with a light leather flogger.  It was almost a caress, as it travelled down Picard's back to his ass to his thighs and back up again.  Q continued to flog him for a long time, lulling Picard into complacency with the unexpected mildness of the sensation.   He was wishing for more, and he eventually got what he wanted.  Q switched to a heavy braided cat o' nine tails, swinging it with full force against Picard's back and ass.  Each thud was a heavy jolt.  It was not unbearably painful, but the sensation penetrated deeply into his flesh and muscles.  Picard craved the force of each blow so urgently that Q could detect shimmering waves of energy emitting from his body, like tendrils reaching out to grasp the heavy strands as they came hurtling toward him.  Q was methodical and systematic, flogging Picard's upper back until the entire area was a dull red, then moving on to his ass, striking again and again, then moving up to his back again and then down to his ass.  Picard's grunts were turning into guttural groans.  As his skin reddened, the pain grew more acute, with the braided leather striking already sensitive flesh.  Picard was completely limp, his weight entirely supported by the cross and his restraints.  He gave himself over to Q as completely as he could, accepting and taking in the sensations with eagerness.  He felt preternaturally alert, registering both the jolting thud of the whole cat as well as the distinct flash of each braided strand.  Not being able to see made the sensations all the more intense.

After what seemed like hours of relentless flogging, Q paused.  "That was the easy stuff, Johnny--your reward for being so good so far.  Now we're going to get serious."  Q's voice in his ear caused a shiver to pass through him at the palpable sense of menace it evoked.  "Turn toward me," he ordered.  Picard turned toward his voice and was gifted with another long drink.  "Je t'aime, mon Capitaine," whispered Q.

"I love you, too," responded Picard.

"I'm going to hurt you," warned Q.  "Everything up to now has been a warm-up.  I'm going to break through every barrier you have; I need to see you lose control completely."

"Yes, Q," murmured Picard.  "Please take everything I have, everything I am.  I need you to hurt me.  And, Q?"

"Yes, Johnny?"

"I'm . . . afraid."

"You should be.  You and I are going on a journey together, Johnny, and it's going to be rough.  Do you trust me?"

"Yes, Q."

"Good, then let's get down to business.  I want you to count now and thank me every six strokes."

Picard heard a thin whistle in the air, then howled in surprise.  That thin streak of lightening that slashed across his ass could only be a cane.  Belatedly, he gasped, "One!"

"Next time don't take so long," snapped Q, and struck again.

"Two!" groaned Picard.  His body was no longer limp and relaxed, but utterly rigid.  Each stroke packed a double wallop, the initial red-hot flash of pain and then the deep, pulsing shock of the rebound as the compressed flesh swelled forcibly outward.  At six, Picard waited too long to call out, "Thank you, Q," and he was punished by a much harder blow than the earlier ones.  Stroke after stroke sliced into his flesh, and he weakly murmured, "Twelve.  Thank you, Q."  As a reward, Q held back on the next twelve, although each stroke was still excruciating.  With each dozen after that, Q ratcheted up the intensity, now laying down welts on top of welts.  Picard's ass was exploding like fireworks into thin lines of red and purple, with the earlier ones beginning to bruise as the later ones continued falling.  He had figured out that his rigid stance was making it worse, and willed himself to slump against the cross between strokes, floating on an endorphin rush, yet crying out with pain at each stroke.  At the same time, he felt a molten heat course through his veins, filling him with a surging strength.  He knew he could take whatever Q would dish out, and he counted out the blows with a voice that grew increasingly stronger.  The pain was stripping him down to the core, purifying him in a baptism of searing flame, and his exclamations of "Thank you!" grew increasingly fervent.

"Last 12," announced Q after the 48th stroke.  He put the full force of his human form into each of the twelve strokes that followed, wrenching a howl from Picard each time.  Picard was so attuned to each nuance of sensation that it seemed he could feel each drop of blood that oozed out of his welts.  He was sobbing now, barely able to collect enough breath for the required counting and thanks.  Each of the final strokes was like a knife slicing into his flesh.

"Sixty!  Thank you, Q," he panted through the tears.

"You're so good, Johnny," crooned Q, "but I'm not finished with you yet."

Picard didn't protest or react.  His will was entirely gone; he had no volition.  Q was his universe, and he had no desires independent of Q's.  He was floating in a haze of endorphins and pain, secure in the knowledge that all choices were out of his hands.  He should have known, however, that Q wouldn't make it so easy for him.  The blindfold, straps, manacles, and cuffs all disappeared, as Q explained, "No more bondage, Johnny.  You have to give yourself to me of your own free will while I lay you open.  You have to hold on; if you let go, I stop, and it's over."  The eye bolts near Picard's hands turned with a small flash into handles, and Picard grasped them in a daze, not entirely understanding the implications of Q's words.

A moment later, he understood quickly enough.  He was shocked out of his euphoria by the crack of a single-tail whip across his back.  He screamed hoarsely, his body flinging itself from side to side in reaction, yet his hands gripped the handles unrelentingly.  Another flash of the whip and another welt opened up on his back.  "Oh yes," chanted Q, "bleed for me, Johnny, open up, let me all the way in."  So simple, thought Picard, total surrender and nothing else.  Just do what you're told and hold on!  He would give himself to Q, give Q what he wanted.  The pain was unbelievable, almost too much to process--he was being flayed open, stripe by stripe, his flesh parting for the razor sharp, lacerating cut of the whip.  He was both sobbing and howling, his chest heaving, and tears streaming down his face.  The tight aching knot that had settled in his chest from his first news of the impending Borg invasion began to unravel, faster and faster with each crack of the whip.  Picard's fury, terror, and helplessness whirled away, giving him an exultant sense of freedom, while white-hot streams of energy flowed off of Q into each cut the whip laid open.  His knuckles were white from gripping the handles with such ferocity, and the rest of his body danced under the whip, as if he were joined to Q by a music only the two of them could hear.  The whip pierced and caressed, overwhelming him so that he was drowning in the pain that flared up and down his back and across his ass, and his body pulsed with an inner warmth that was Q's love for him flowing over, around, and through him.  He was completely vulnerable, completely exposed, out of control, and it felt exactly right, like he'd found his true home.

After the final stroke, Picard collapsed against the cross, still racked with sobs.  "Hold on for one more minute, Jean-Luc," said Q gently.  "I want to show you something."  Picard felt as though he had stepped outside of himself; he was looking at his own body from Q's vantage point, seeing a man, his shoulders heaving, his back striped with red, bleeding cuts, and his ass covered in purple bruises and dark red lines from the tip of the cane.  "That's you, my love," whispered Q softly; "so beautiful and so completely mine."  Q returned Picard to his body, and in a flash he had them both on the bed, as he held Picard in his arms, soothing him while he cried himself out.  Once his breathing subsided, he disentangled himself from the bed and excused himself to use the facilities Q had so thoughtfully provided.

When he returned, Q asked, "Feel better?"

"Yes," answered Picard.

"Good!" said Q briskly; "then it's time for Act 3.  You're going to let me all the way in, Jean-Luc."

Picard nodded.  He didn't know what Q had in mind, but it didn't matter.  Exhausted and drained as he was, he wanted Q to take him even further.  Q snapped his fingers, lighting several candles in a corner of the room Picard hadn't observed before.   The candles revealed a sling.  His eyes widened, but Q laughed and reassured him, "Don't worry, Johnny.  I'll take my time."  He snapped his fingers again, and Picard found himself in the sling, his arms and legs bound wide apart, leaving him open and exposed.  Although the sling was padded, the fabric hurt against his cuts and bruises, but that didn't matter either.

Q stood by his head, grasping his neck and pulling him close for a long kiss.  With the other hand, he lightly stroked Picard's erect cock with the tips of his fingers.  Picard moaned in arousal and frustration.  "So greedy," murmured Q.  "Look at you, mon Capitaine.  All spread out and open and wanting it like the slut that you are.  And only I can do this to you."

"Only you," whispered Picard.

"Precisely," noted Q, moving down to the front of the sling.  With a lubed hand, he grasped Picard's cock, stroking it up and down, very slowly.  With the other hand, he toyed with Picard's balls, squeezing them lightly.  Picard moaned and swayed in the sling, but Q had no intention of allowing him release this soon.  When he sensed the Captain getting close, he stopped what he was doing.  He began stroking Picard's anus with a lubed finger, toying with the entrance, slipping the tip of his finger just inside and withdrawing to circle around the outside again.  Picard clenched his fists in frustration.  "You're going to have to relax, Johnny," noted Q calmly.  Picard consciously relaxed his body, and Q said soothingly, "Good boy!"  He snapped his fingers, and the whip appeared in his hand.  "I don't think you've gotten to know my friend here quite well enough, Johnny," he said menacingly, and Picard felt something hard push inside him.  It was the handle of the whip, well-lubricated, of course.  Once again, Picard found cause to congratulate himself on having an omnipotent lover who could take care of such details effortlessly.  The whip handle was hard and unyielding, and the sensation of it sliding in and out wound him up even tighter.  "I'm fucking you with the butt of my whip, Johnny," taunted Q.  "Do you like it?"

"Yes!" gasped Picard, feeling horribly humiliated by his situation, yet unable to stop himself from thrusting his hips forward.  He grunted with frustration because it wasn't enough.  He wanted more.

"Oh, have no fear," remarked Q, having read his mind, as he had been doing the whole time.  "You'll get more, Jean-Luc."  Abruptly, Q pulled the whip out and tossed it across the room.  Before Picard had time to react, he felt two fingers roughly penetrate him.

"Yesss," hissed Picard, "oh, yes, please . . . "

"Please what?" asked Q, slowly and methodically sliding his fingers in and out.

"Please fuck me, Q, turn me inside out," begged Picard.  "Fill me so there's no room for anything but you."

"My pleasure," replied the entity with a smile, as he introduced a third finger.  Picard winced slightly at being stretched, but quickly relaxed again.  It seemed as though Q was pressing more lubricant into him with each stroke, and his fingers began sliding in and out with ease.  Picard shifted himself in the sling, ignoring the stinging on his back and ass, interested only in opening himself up further.  "My, you really do want it, don't you?" said Q, obligingly adding a fourth finger, eliciting a loud moan from Picard.  "Well, you're just going to have to be patient."  Q fucked Picard slowly and patiently, stretching him carefully, using his powers to generate lubricant continuously.  Picard's cock throbbed with arousal, and he began tensing up with frustration.  Q stopped moving his fingers.  "I can't do this unless you relax, my love."

Picard nodded and began consciously to slow his breathing and to let his weight sink into the sling.  "That's good," noted Q.  "Keep breathing."  As Picard slowly exhaled, Q slipped his thumb inside so that all five fingers made a wedge, pressing into Picard's ass.  There was more lube, more gentle stretching.  It burned, but Picard welcomed the sensation.  He wanted Q inside him, completely, and he wanted it to hurt.  Only pain would be real enough, intense enough, to quench his overwhelming desire.

"Give . . . my . . . self . . . to . . . you  . . . com . . . plete . . . ly," whispered Picard between breaths.

"Yes, love, completely," responded Q.  "I'm going to take you all the way.  Breathe for me, Johnny."  Picard took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  As he did, he felt Q's knuckles stretching him wider than he could have ever imagined, followed by the feeling of Q's hand inside him curling into a fist.  He felt as if his ass was on fire, sending streaks of sparks shooting into his cock.

"Ohhhhhhhh!" moaned Picard.  A warm ache ignited in the small of his back, sending pulsations down his legs.  His toes curled, and his hands clenched into fists.  Q kept his hand still, letting Picard get used to the sensation.

"All the way," murmured Q, and Picard felt the touch of Q's mind on his, not just reading his surface thoughts, but penetrating deeper.  Not quite sure how he knew how, Picard opened his mind to Q, letting him read his deepest needs, fears, and desires.  At the same time, he felt an onrush of Q's feelings for him flow into his mind.  It was a love that neither could communicate in words, but flowed back and forth between them through the charged connection of their minds.  Q slowly began moving his fist back and forth, stroking Picard's prostate with his knuckles, retreating slightly and pressing forward again.  An electric heat flowed outward from Q's fist to Picard's entire body, making him tingle from his scalp to his toes.  His body and mind penetrated at once, Picard cried out, overwhelmed.  He felt whole and fulfilled, as if this contact with Q completed a circuit.  He was beyond pain and fear and need and desire, feeling a satisfying totality in being filled by Q that he had never before experienced.  There were no walls, no barriers.  As Q's fist rocked inside him, he felt a surge like a wave gathering energy, drawing itself up.  With their minds locked together, there was no need for words.  Each felt the overwhelming love, awe, and gratitude of the other.  As the tension built up to the breaking point, Q pressed deeper with each thrust, and Picard felt the volcanic rush of his orgasm pervade every nerve of his body.   He howled as he came, and Q rode with him through the shocks and shudders and aftershocks until he was entirely spent.

He shuddered as Q's hand slipped out of him, tears filling his eyes.  I'm still here, soothed Q's voice inside his head, as the entity released all the restraints and let Picard down from the sling, then led him to the bed.  Q put his arm around Picard, pulling him close, while slowly disengaging the mental link he had created.  Picard shivered and wept, feeling suddenly empty, and suddenly aware of pain everywhere, from the stripes across his back to the ache in his ass where he had been so filled.  "Have no fear, Johnny," said Q with a voice somehow both gentle and slightly mocking; "there's no law that says we can't ever do that again.  Now that you've let me in, there'll be no keeping me out, trust me."

"Q, . . . I . . . can't . . . there are no words . . . " Picard trailed off.

"I know, Jean-Luc," murmured Q.  "Words aren't necessary.  I saw and felt everything I needed to."

"So did I," said Picard, wrapping his arm tightly around Q's waist and burrowing his head into Q's neck.  For the first time since the recent Borg invasion, he felt whole and wholly himself.  Yes, he had monstrous thoughts, and absurd vanities, and humiliating desires, but Q had seen it all, and it didn't matter.  He shifted slightly, wincing from the sensation of the sheet against his ass.

"I can take care of those if you like," said Q doubtfully.

"No,  please, I want to keep them," said Picard urgently.

"Thank-you, Johnny," whispered Q.  He pulled Picard closer, confessing, "It's harder than I could have imagined knowing you're out there, risking your life one way or another.  It . . . hurts.  I wish I could always protect you, keep you safe . . . forever."

"I know," said Picard softly.

"But I can't," said Q half-irritably, half-mournfully, turning his head away in a futile attempt to hide his tears from Picard.

"No, you can't," said Picard, "but there is something you can do."

"What?" muttered Q.

"Kiss me."

"I suppose that'll have to do," said Q gruffly, before planting his mouth on Picard's.

The End

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