What Lies Within
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Author: jm
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Disclaimer: Oh, yes, I don't own the characters or the playground they play in. Paramount does. I'm just borrowing them for a bit. Not for profit, of course.
Betas: Lyra and Alara. Thank you for your help! That was fast! :-) All final mistakes are mine.
Notes: These ::: ::: are for a character's thoughts. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement.



WHAT LIES WITHIN



"How does it feel to treat me like you do?
When you've laid your hands upon me, and told me who you are.
I thought I was mistaken, I thought I heard your words.
Tell me how do I feel. Tell me now, how do I feel."
--New Order (as performed by Orgy), "Blue Monday"



He had been off-shift for hours now, but the restlessness just continued to grow. Picard was dissatisfied with the way things had turned out. Lately he had been finding more and more to be disappointed with in the Federation. The high ideals that they were supposed to be striving for seemed to be compromised or shoved aside with increasing regularity. But these were strained times, or so he was told.

Oh, he supposed he could blame the loss of his old ship for the bit of melancholia he was feeling, but in truth, that wasn't it. The new E was a formidable vessel. Larger than the old D, it had all the latest in Federation technology at their disposal. The first run was going smoothly. Still, he wondered why it seemed so much darker here.

In the privacy of his quarters, he felt free to pace. With a barely audible sigh, he ended up standing at the window, looking out at the streaking stars. But there were no answers for him out there. There was one person, however, who would understand. Her wisdom and friendship were like a port in a storm. Sometimes the things unsaid were more important than those spoken out loud. And right now, he needed someone who could hear between the words.

And so he headed for Ten Forward. She was expecting him, of course. He had learned not to be surprised at her mysterious abilities. He just hoped he never took her for granted.

Pretending there was nothing unusual about him visiting while she was on duty, Guinan turned the bar over and moved smoothly up to lead him to a quiet corner. They didn't even bother sitting. She laid a careful hand upon his arm. "Let's go back to my quarters, shall we?"

Picard admired her economy of speech, her unerring sense of how to get straight to the point. There was nothing frivolous about this woman. He trusted her to know what was needed. So Picard nodded and quietly exited Ten Forward with her.

He wasn't the only one who was troubled. Before he showed up, she had been thinking. The past, as always, weighed heavily upon her mind. But this time recent grievances combined with old hatred, distant wrongs and missteps.

Possibilities, choices, endless information crowded her mind. One thought above all others stood out in sharp relief. She would get her revenge in any and every way possible. Her old nemesis would not get what it sought. The very idea that that creature thought that it could get its grasp upon the man she felt was hers left her burning.

What she did was justified. Always. She would protect him from a danger that he could not even begin to comprehend. He couldn't possibly be allowed to know about it, of course. She would keep all hidden from him, as she had to do so many times before. It was for his own good. She saw a possible future that disturbed her, and she would have to act to block it.

Sometimes things called for elaborate measures. But not this time. This time would appear to be ridiculously easy. Now that she had a clear weakness to aim for, she could strike swiftly and send an explicit message to keep away. There would be no half measures now. And if she hurt that which had hurt her in the past, so much the better. This one was completely deserving of everything she could bring to bear. A lesson needed to be taught. The force of her certainty ought to have frightened her, but it did not.
----

They were inside now. Surrounded by yellow candlelight, strange shadows bouncing around the walls. A deep, low couch beckoned, scattered with cushions and upholstered in lush fabric. But first there was this simple gesture between them, a squeezing of hands. A brief acknowledgement of their unique bond. Here was someone who would understand, the sometimes guide, sometimes moral barometer, who was forever more than a friend.

Low wood cabinets lined the walls around the main living area. The light made everything seem to be alive, breathing. Small bottles and other glass trinkets graced the cabinet-tops, while shelves behind them rose up to hold countless thick books, muffling out the world beyond. The bottles were of various rich, deep hues. The illumination running through them cast dark colors upon the surfaces where they rested.

This was a place for hushed voices, silent truths. Already he could feel the atmosphere working on him. Gently, Guinan led him over to the wide couch, still clasping hands. Once they were turned, sitting, facing each other, their hands fell naturally to their laps. "You have a lot on your mind." Her low voice was a balm to his nagging unrest.

"Yes." Picard fell into counterpoint with her.

"We have time." She didn't make it a reassurance. It was a mere statement of fact. They would have time, their whole sleep period if needed.

"Of course. I appreciate it," Picard replied.

"No. There is no need to thank me. You know it's not that way between us, Jean-Luc."

He was thrown for a second. Guinan rarely called him by name, but when she did, it was generally not his first name she used. But of course that was mostly in front of others. This was different. Actually, Picard was just beginning to sense how different. There was an offer there, somewhere, and he just had to decide if he was going to take it.

Twists of time made it hard to calculate how long they had actually known each other. But they had been through quite a bit together. He felt so close to her, relied on her, and yet they had never before shared this form of intimacy. He supposed, in the past, it just never had a chance to come up. But now that she appeared to be perfectly willing...and there didn't seem to be any way this could create difficulties between them...

Time. They had time, and each other, with their feelings, their needs. But he wanted there to be no mistakes here. It was too important. "I'm afraid it has been a while. I'm not sure if I'm reading you correctly. Is this what you want?" And with that question, his hand reached up and lightly caressed the side of her face.

The only visible reaction to this was a slightly deeper breath than normal. Then she asked, "Do you want it?" Naturally she would answer with a question.

His mellifluous baritone responded, "Yes. I think, very much so."

"Good. Because I do too. And, right now, I believe in indulging these feelings." With this, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his mouth. Leaving no doubt as to her intentions.

Gently, he started to respond to her advances, placing his hand lightly at the nape of her neck, feeling the softness there. As she sought to devour his mouth, he increased his own intensity to match hers. Slowly, he lowered her to the wide couch, which now seemed made for their purpose.

They broke apart for air, and he moved his mouth to her neck, trailing kisses there, landing at the pulse in her throat. Heat and then cold bloomed against her skin as his extremely skilled mouth left each spot to lavish attention on another. He reached behind her with one hand to undo her clothing while the other was occupied with touching her locks. The omnipresent hat was long gone at the door. He had no trouble getting the fastenings open, and soon she could feel the cool air brushing her back.

"You've done this before," her low voice murmured, a touch of amusement and admiration there. She was loath to speak and break the spell.

"Naturally," he spoke quietly at her ear, kissing her there at the sensitive point behind the lobe. Then he pulled her against him, molding their contours to each other while giving him room to slip off her clothing. Her gown pooled at her waist, exposing rounded breast and belly to his gaze. At the same moment, she lay back against the cushions, letting him slide it off the rest of the way.

Now there was no need for talk, not when their bodies could do the speaking so well. And it was better this way. This had to happen, it was necessary. He wanted her; that was certainly evident. She wanted him too, absolutely. It would be lovely pleasure, but for a greater purpose. He wouldn't have to know, to worry. She would take care of everything. Shielding him, and changing fate, all in one night. Meanwhile proving them wrong. Love and hate could exist side by side. Passion was the key, and still pools ran deep indeed.

Naked, she let him touch and kiss her all over. His large warm hands aroused and enflamed her, then gathered her fullness to his mouth to tease and taste. His tongue was rough on skin that had been too long without a lover. It was easy to give in to the need.

She slid her palm over his scalp, his neck, and then to the back of his uniform, still in place. There his own closure lay, and she wrapped her arms about him to work it open as he nipped at the flesh below her ribs. The stimulation was too sharp to tickle, and the feelings it wrought traveled throughout her body, making her ache. Once she got the back of his top open, he pulled away enough to allow her to take it off. She pressed her hands back into that pale skin, forcing him to sit up further, letting her look at his hard, muscular chest. She reached up to rub the smooth flesh of his shoulders, wanting to explore the contrast of it and the hair on his chest, where her hands landed next. She pinched his nipples, and then she just had to touch the firm planes of his stomach and abdomen. There was a line of hair there traveling down to his navel, pointing out the way to the tantalizing flesh beyond.

But before she could undo his pants to have and to touch more, he was bending down over her, spreading her legs open wider so his head could dip into the apex of her need. A strong tongue was working her now, swirling carefully but forcefully all around her most sensitive spot. Then suddenly it darted out to flick roughly against her and she cried out, jerking into his mouth. The shock of it, plus the slow build up that had come before, sent an orgasm knifing through her.

The intense feeling strangely helped her to focus. All along she knew what she must do--was indeed doing--as she undressed her friend and lover. Sometimes she could feel a presence when it was near, but not always. Right now she figured it didn't matter, because she had a feeling that that one would be watching. She was counting on it not being able to stay away, and to help things along, she was broadcasting her emotions out into the cosmos.

There was no way she could have been mistaken about what she had sensed coming from him when he was mortal and vulnerable. Oh, the things she had wanted to do then. She had been waiting a long time to see him brought so low, and she desperately wanted to make him suffer. And he had been hurting, but it was not nearly enough. Then she became enraged at the feelings in him directed at the one who was hers. That he would dare to even want Jean-Luc Picard made her want to crush him all the more. Nothing so dark should even conceive of touching Jean-Luc. It would be the creature's downfall, she would make certain of it.

And afterwards, things seemed to become worse. Picard had come to her, like always, after one of their encounters with the super being and talked, indirectly asking her advice as he shared his thoughts. This time there was a bit of guilt as he tried to talk through his confused feelings, wondering if he had done the right thing when it appeared to have been true all along that Q had been human, and in need.

What he didn't know was that he was revealing things that even he wasn't fully aware of yet. A growing concern that Q might actually have feelings of his own, worthy of consideration. A small hint of trust building for the capricious creature. And most dangerous of all, the barest beginnings of seeing the being as an equal, and perhaps as a friend. Not quite really there yet, but the potential for these ideas was clear. He wasn't afraid like he should be, and the distrust was on its way to fading. Guinan knew what she had to do now. It was imperative to know where this was going to lead.

First, of course, was the simple matter of trying to guide his thoughts to where she wanted them to go, to buy some time to do what must be done. Then, with something close to fear fueling her anger, she searched the future, looking for the outcome to this most dangerous thing growing between them. What she saw made her more determined than ever to stop it in its tracks while harming the creature as much as possible. It needed to be done, no matter what. The alternative was unthinkable.

And so, it brought her here, in to this room, with him. She called to the entity. It would bear witness to her claiming him as they joined in the night. She raked her hands down his back as she thought fiercely, :::mine!:::

:::Do you see what I have? This is nothing you will ever know. This pleasure, this closeness. All from him, and all mine.::: Her hatred and determination were laced through with lust. :::Feel it::: her mind cried as he kissed her deeply between her legs, then dragged his knuckles over the throbbing, swollen flesh. His fingers entered her for a moment, making her shudder, before he reached for his own pants and dragged them off.

:::Yes::: was her thought, as she was able to see him completely nude now. :::So beautiful, isn't he?::: She taunted it mentally, looking at Picard but directing her thoughts out at her target as only she could. :::He loves me, he trusts me. He feels things for me that you can only wish for.::: She watched as proud, eager flesh buried itself inside her, and imagined another watching, knowing how futile its own dreams were. :::Oh, so glorious, and all mine.::: She continued to taunt, but then her concentration was absorbed by the man moving within her.

A third consciousness was indeed there, seething, and in pain. :::How can she do this to me! Deliberately wounding me, bringing me here to see this. That he trusts her instead of me! He has no idea what she's capable of. I get painted as the bad guy, while she seems to do no wrong in his eyes. And him, making me want, need, and then turning to the enemy. I feel things I don't want to feel for anyone, and I can't stop them, no matter how hard I try. All for someone who would rather have her.:::

:::This can't be. I thought that I might finally be able to make headway. Why?::: It was agitated, and twisted in confusion. The pull to stay was too strong.

:::That creature must be here::: She thought in vicious triumph. :::Do you see what you lack? Does it hurt? I hope to hell it does.::: she thought cruelly. Savage passion warred with murderous hate inside her.

:::He is beautiful,::: it thought helplessly, drawn to the man against its will. But it wasn't looking at the outer, fragile and lovely shell. It was looking inward, lured into the shining depths of the human like a moth to flame. It only knew it needed, that it was looking for something--perhaps hope. It knew a bitter moment of happiness at being within Picard. It was so close, yet so far away.

Simultaneously with its joining with the human, Guinan chose to further seal her own claim and go for yet another stab at the entity. She brought down Picard's mouth to hers, kissing him deeply. He stilled for a moment inside her, devoting himself entirely to giving her another kind of pleasure. The entity felt it too. The kiss was the most wonderful and terrible thing ever. Its situation was too impossible to be endured--a part and yet not a part of the thing it most desired.

It didn't want to make love to Guinan, however. It wanted Jean-Luc. It knew then what it had to do. Without even thinking, in less than an instant it was within Guinan instead, touching and caressing the human as she did, feeling itself possessed by his driving rhythm as she was, experiencing a horrible kind of joy at her climax. Picard had been holding himself back, needing to make sure that she was completely sated before taking his own pleasure. Now he was nearing the brink, yet worked to hold himself there, tension coursing throughout his body, to give her just a bit more.

With this latest wave of gratification washing over her, she felt something different. And then she knew. The shock of it made her blurt out without thinking, "Q!" It wasn't a cry of bliss. The tone, as much as the name being shouted, stopped Picard cold.

"What?" he asked. He was leaning over her, his eyes staring into her face, even now moving to pull out of her. "Why did you say 'Q'?" His voice was a deadly calm, and she froze, suddenly uncertain what to do next.

Reluctantly, she felt she had to answer. "He's here. With us." She wished fervently that she didn't have to look into his eyes.

Something in the way she emphasized the word let him know that this wasn't merely a peep show she was talking about. He backed off her, his mind reeling with the implications. "What's going on here?" There was an edge to his words now, and his composure was slipping.

"Jean-Luc--" she started to say.

"I want to know what you meant by that. You said he's here? What--"

Another voice from behind interrupted them. "Yes. I'm here." Q had materialized in his usual human male form, wearing the default Starfleet uniform.

"You," Picard said, turning to face him. His nudity made him feel extremely uncomfortable, but replacing that was an altogether stronger feeling. He had an idea that something far worse was at stake here than Q seeing him naked and having sex.

"You got inside me!" Guinan yelled, seeing the object of all her darkest, feral emotions made flesh.

"Believe me, you weren't my first choice," Q snapped.

"You were there, touching me? You were there--" Jean-Luc's mind recoiled at the thought. :::You weren't my first choice.::: "My God, you were--" He couldn't voice what had just occurred to him.

"Jean-Luc, I'm sorry! I didn't mean for this to happen. It wasn't planned. I--" Q heard his own voice rise in panic. The look of horror on Picard's face was killing him. He tried futilely to gather himself together. "Why don't you ask her what happened? Take a look at true ugliness." He tried to put some of his own anger at Guinan into his words.

"Guinan?" Picard backed away again, to get them both into view. Guinan had grabbed a robe and wrapped herself up in it, facing the two of them, her hands protectively crossed over her chest. At Picard's question, she stiffened.

"You're looking at the ugly one right over there," she said, glaring.

"Tell him!" Q yelled at her.

"Tell me what?" Picard snapped. His voice had become louder as well. He was no longer really thinking, merely reacting to what was going on around him.

"I--Jean-Luc, I did plan this, after a fashion. I never meant it to turn out quite this way, however. That was never my--" Guinan started out hesitantly.

"You mean, you never meant for him to find out!" Q yelled harshly.

"Look, would you just shut up, Q!" Guinan snapped angrily.

"And just what was your intention?" Picard's voice was laced with quiet fury. The other emotions crowding behind his words had the effect of throwing the other two even further off-balance.

When she opened her mouth, and no words came forth, Picard lost his patience entirely. "You were using me in your own personal war against Q? Or perhaps using me to have sex with each other?" Now he was actually yelling. What was worse, he wasn't even aware of it.

"No!" Guinan and Q shouted together over the last statement.

"No to what? I want an explanation!" Even as he said that, Picard felt a sick feeling overtake him. His body was starting to shake slightly, and it had nothing to do with being cold. Perhaps a small part of him didn't want to know, either.

"I...called him here. I needed to teach him a lesson. I was trying to help you!" Guinan felt she had lost her grip somewhere too. Pain was coming at her from all sides, and from within as well.

"Help me? What, by having Q have sex with me without my knowledge?" Picard shouted, incredulous. His voice poured forth with overwhelming grief and betrayal.

"No! That was his doing," Guinan said, anguished.

"But it was perfectly all right to have him watch?" Picard snapped.

Guinan had to look away from him for a moment. Then with a shaken, deep breath she faced him and tried to apologize. "I'm sorry. I did have my reasons. He took it a step farther than I had intended, but he needed to be here, and I never meant for you to find out." Her voice had become very quiet, but it didn't matter. She was perfectly audible. The silences between outbursts were cavernous. The expression etched into Jean-Luc's face was truly terrifying to see.

"That's right; start to tell him the truth finally, instead of hiding behind meaningless rhetoric. I never thought I'd see the day," Q said. He tried to put some of his old menace behind his words, to throw up a facade--some defense, anything. The feelings coming off Picard were blinding in intensity, while his own torment was tearing at him viciously.

"You hardly have room to talk, Q! Just what the hell did you think you were doing? Invading my personal space, invading me?" Picard's voice nearly broke on this last note. But he would find refuge for the moment in his rage. He'd have to.

"Oh Jean-Luc, I would do anything...I wasn't thinking. I was only feeling...the things she said to me..." Q found it difficult to keep himself together. He really wanted more than anything to wipe it all away from Picard, or to offer comfort in some form, but comfort would be impossible. He almost reached out to the man, but he knew that it would be the wrong thing to do.

"You, feeling? I seriously doubt you can feel anything at all! What you did was reprehensible. To think that I ever thought you capable of--" Picard was shouting, his mind in turmoil.

Q cut him off, his agony fighting with his own outrage. "I can't feel? Just where do you get that idea? I was wrong, and I admit it, unlike some people! But I feel more than you could possibly know! I love you, dammit!" No. No, he did not just say those words out loud. If there was any way that he could make himself feel worse, that just might do it.

"What? That is no form of love that I know of!" Picard stood there in the buff with his fists clenched at his sides.

Q was torn, and so he threw out the first thing that came to mind. "That's right! 'Q the liar'!"

"Oh no. It's much worse than that," Picard answered with quiet ire.

He turned to Guinan now. "And you! I trusted you!" He seemed on the verge of saying something more, but then he suddenly bent to pick up his clothing from the floor. As he reached for it, it was gone, and he was clothed instead. Standing, he faced Q, scowling. Q crafted a carefully blank expression, and stared back. This appeared to be some sort of 'final straw' for Picard and he simply walked out of Guinan's quarters.

She followed Picard out with her eyes, and then turned on Q, furious. "Shield him!" she demanded.

Q still had his mask firmly in place. The stillness of the energy being was chilling. The threat implicit in his tone, Q looked at her with terrible, wide dark eyes, and said coldly, "Excuse me?"

"You know exactly what I mean! You'd better shield him if you don't want Troi barging in on him!"

Deliberately he raised his hand and...snapped. "Is there anything else you require?" he asked, his voice deadly. Malevolence and distress radiated out from him, causing her to shrink back from him. Her fight-or-flight instinct was trying to goad her into action.

"Well, it looks like we've done a lot of harm here," she ventured, looking away.

"No kidding! I didn't know you had such a talent for stating the obvious!" he said with heavy sarcasm.

"You know, you've probably permanently damaged my relationship with him," she said, her anger trying to conquer her fear.

He leaned down into her, their faces almost touching. "I. Don't. Care about your relationship with him," he said, his voice hard.

"He can't go to Troi about this, you know," she said.

"And thanks to you, he can't come to you either," Q replied.

"I'm not the only one at fault here!" Guinan yelled.

"No, but perhaps, in time, he may feel he can turn to you again. I have nothing. Even the simplest gesture of help from me is rejected. And just when things were starting to change, just when his perceptions were starting to alter. Then someday I might have had a chance..." His animosity and bitterness were plain as he paced.

"You would never have had a chance with him!" she shouted, rabidity at her core.

He whirled to face her, and she felt his wrath like the heat from a sun blazing at her. "You. Do you think I don't realize how you were manipulating him to turn against me?"

Despite the palpable danger surrounding her, she couldn't resist snapping at him, "Why don't you go to him again then, hmm? Apologize again and share your insightful revelations with him! Be sure to tell me how it all works out!"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you? Twist the knife in a little deeper. I'm not here to give you the satisfaction! I'm not the one who wanted to trample over him to get back at someone!" he raged at her. As he spoke, he advanced upon her and she retreated.

She felt a cabinet pressing into her back now. "Oh, I'd say you've sunk pretty damn low, Q," she said with quiet hatred.

He reacted swiftly. His face contorted with some fierce, indescribable emotion, he reached out and swept everything off the top of the cabinet to shatter on the floor, then disappeared in a brilliant flash of light.

All the adrenaline suddenly leaving her body in a rush, she felt drained. Numbly, Guinan stooped to pick up the broken pieces.



~finis~





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