He's sitting in Ten Forward, sulking. His hand hurts where Guinan stabbed it, and his middle has knotted up and feels tight and burning and the hollow feeling he had before that made it seem like food would be a good idea is gone. There's ten chocolate sundaes sitting over on the bar, melting, and he probably should eat one, or something anyway, but Guinan's appearance has made him want to run and hide, not eat, and since that would be totally undignified he's sulking instead.

And then he sees the Calamarain through the clear wall-size ports of Ten Forward.

He knows them immediately, remembers his dealings with them in the past. Remembers the trial where they sentenced him to death for his actions, and he kept popping in to laugh at them, make sarcastic remarks, and put on an ostentatious display of how amused he was at their hubris, to think they would ever be in a position to execute a Q. It's not so funny now that he's powerless and mortal. His mouth suddenly feels dry and his tongue thick and he wants to run but he can't. make. himself. move.

And then they're on him.

Like fireflies made of actual fire, like tiny burning sparks that can move on their own accord, like insects made of electricity, they run up and down his body and all around him and he tries to brush them away but they're completely insubstantial. His human hands go through them without impact. No force he possesses can make them stop, any longer. And it *hurts*. A tingling at first, and the eerie feeling of things crawling on him, and tiny shocks, but the shocks get worse, more painful, and the things crawling on him feel hotter, like they're leaving burning trails on his skin, and his head starts to pound and his eyes are going blurry and he can't make it stop. His mouth is making almost-words, sounds that are almost "No" and "Stop" but too panicked to be precise. His heart is pounding, and it feels literal, as if it's trying to break through his rib cage. He can't get enough air. The pain actually isn't as bad, yet, as his back locking up was, but he knows the Calamarain want him dead, and if he's not dead yet it's because they're testing this new body of his for weaknesses, finding what makes him hurt.

And then the sensations stop. A wave of dizziness overwhelms him. He cries out, feeling himself fall but with no ability to stop his descent. His muscles are numb and he can't make them work. The floor hits him in the side of the head with jaw-jarring intensity, half-stunning him. The world is swirling and he can't tell up from down anymore and he can barely feel his body and he's so weak he can't move. There's nothing he can hear but his own heartbeat and the blood rushing through his ears, and the world is narrowing to a dim tunnel directly in front of his face, the edges of it blurred and gray.

Q is sure, then, that he's dying.

"Help me! Somebody help me!" he screams. He's never called for help before in his existence. To be fair, there were a couple of times, up against other Q, that he wanted to and couldn't, but most of the time the concept would be laughable. What could threaten him, and if it could threaten him, what could his fellow Q do about it? But Guinan told him he won't survive unless he learns to beg, and oh for the love of all he wants to live, he doesn't want to die here, so cold and alone on the deck of this starship and he's so afraid, so he begs.

He hears Guinan say, "How the mighty have fallen." He should be burning with humiliation that she's seeing him this way. But the humiliation is very distant, far away, barely noticeable in the ocean of fear he's drowning in.

"One to transport to sickbay," Data says, and then the world goes away in a golden shimmer, and when it reappears he's on a bed in sickbay and Beverly Crusher is bending over him.

"Neural shock," she says, and asks for some cc's of something, and he can't follow what she's doing, he doesn't understand, because he's lying on his back and he can barely see or hear or feel and he's so cold and there are waves of blankness washing over him, moments of darkness that blot out his thought and end time, and then things resume and he knows he's just lost a moment. He's fading in and out of consciousness, but his people don't sleep and they don't get knocked out. Even after sleeping once, he's most familiar with loss of consciousness being death.

"Don't let me die," he begs Dr. Crusher, trying to reach out to her, to implore her, but his arms don't work. They feel like lead weights. His eyes are burning and even the part of the world he can see through his tunnel vision is getting blurry and something hot and wet is slithering from his eyes down his cheek. "Please, don't let me die. I don't want to die. Please."

She looks at him with an expression he reads as impatient contempt, as if he's a pathetic waste of her time, and he shrivels up inside, a small death of sick humiliation inside the larger death he fears he's undergoing. He's dying, and nobody cares. The Continuum doesn't care, they sent him to this. The humans don't care. The supposed compassionate doctor thinks he's a bug on her shoe. He's going to die and they don't care. He's going to die because they don't care. "Please," he says again, his voice trembling, and he's breathing raggedly with whimpering sounds that he can't make himself stop. "Please don't let me die..."

She presses the hypo against the side of his neck. The world starts to go black. His eyes go wide, and he tries to struggle to a sitting position, a rush of terror going through him, but the blackness is too strong, too swift, and it bears him down again. The last thing he thinks is that Crusher has killed him.

When he wakes, some time later, she tells him in a short and impatient tone that she gave him a sedative because he was panicking, and all the Calamarain did to him was weaken him. He'll be fine, she says, in that same "I can't believe how stupid you are" voice she used when she suggested that the noises in his stomach were hunger. But Captain Picard is going to want to have words with him about this Calamarain attack, she adds. Picard's not very happy. They had to put up shields, and it interfered with their work, and no one expected when they took him aboard that they were going to have to fight off alien would-be assassins. Picard's going to want to have a conference about this, first thing in the morning. In the meantime, she tells him to get some sleep. And she leaves him there, lying on the hospital bed.

He stares at the ceiling in the brightly lit sickbay all night, his first near-death experience ever behind him, Picard's anger and maybe rejection in front of him. His mind races around and around in circles and his heart pounds with fear that may not be quite as acute as when he thought he was dying, but still, will not go away. And he wonders when this sleep thing is supposed to happen. Because it doesn't seem like it's going to.