Virus

Tasha Yar made her way down the hill and caught up with Data, who finally looked up from his tricorder as she approached. "Where is the rest of the Away Team?" he asked.

"They beamed back to the Enterprise," the security chief explained. "Commander Riker wanted to start cataloging the records from the planetary archives."

"I did not receive a summons to beam up," the android said, puzzled.

She hesitated, not wanting to contradict a superior officer, then admitted, "Actually, you did, sir. But, we figured that if what you were investigating overrode your ability to respond to a direct order, it had to be pretty important. So Will and the others beamed back, and I'm staying with you to ensure your safety."

He nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant." His attention turned back to the readings on his tricorder. "The question of why this planet's inhabitants abandoned it is an intriguing one," he noted.

"Is that what you're trying to figure out, Commander?"

"Yes. Any anomalous reading has potential significance, and I am detecting indications of isvilium in the lake north of here. I believe there are trace readings of lugerium, also. In the right isotope combination—"

"—lugerium and isvilium create a polarizing effect, a screen that doesn't seem to exist," she said, immediately realizing the import of his findings if they were correct.

"Precisely." He regarded her with a curious expression. "I was not aware of your knowledge regarding these two elements in conjunction with each other, Lieutenant."

"What, you think all I read off-duty are tactical journals?" she demanded.

But he answered mildly, "I had not given it much previous thought. I meant by my comment that your input, should my readings be correct, would be most welcome. I did not mean to imply that you would have no reason to have that knowledge."

"No, I know you didn't, sir," she admitted, berating herself for her outburst. How was he supposed to know what her off-duty interests were? She hadn't given him much of a chance to find out.

Data turned and set a brisk pace across the open plain towards the lake, his eyes on his tricorder's changing readings. Yar matched her stride to the android's and scanned the country around them, alert for anything out of the ordinary, relieved to be moving. Relieved not to have to interact with him.

Ever since she'd told Data that what had happened between them, hadn't, he'd given no indication that it had. Which, although exactly what she'd wanted, still unnerved her. What did Will Riker call that feeling—waiting for the other shoe to fall? As long as she kept her contact with Data utterly professional, everything was fine. But when she let down her guard, responded to him as an individual, something always happened—like how she'd gotten unreasonably defensive at a perfectly innocent comment. A small part of her still lived in fear that, at the least opportune moment, Data would reveal to everyone just how vulnerable she'd been, how weak she really was. And then what would happen to Will's trust in her, to the responsibilities she'd fought so hard to attain, to—

They'd reached the lake, and Data stopped, puzzling over what he saw on the tricorder's screen. "Most intriguing."

Yar started to walk along the shore, casting a wary eye towards the dark orange waves.

"What is it, sir?"

"I am not sure, Lieutenant. Perhaps the planetary archives, of which my positronic brain contains a copy, can explain it." His yellow eyes became abstracted as he accessed the information.

Yar waited patiently, making a visual sweep of their surroundings. When her gaze came back to the android, though, he seemed to sway slightly. "Commander? Are you all right?"

He frowned. "I seem to be having difficulty with my sense of equilibrium." He took a step, stumbled.

Yar caught his elbow and steadied him before he could fall, then released her hold on him quickly, not wanting him to read anything into her touch.

"My balance has been impaired," he said with wonder in his voice.

"I'm getting you back to the ship, sir," she said, worried, and tapped her combadge. "Yar to Enterprise."

After a few seconds they both realized that she should have had an immediate response from them and Data tapped his own combadge. "Data to Enterprise, please respond." He frowned. "The Enterprise is not acknowledging."

"Equipment malfunction?" she asked. "Out of range? Unable to acknowledge?"

"I do not know. But it appears that, for now, we are on our own."

"Then we're going to figure out what's happening to you. Can you walk? I just want to get you sitting down against something." She indicated the base of a nearby tree with a broad, yellowish trunk he could comfortably lean against.

Data started to walk towards the tree and nearly fell sideways. She blocked his fall and pushed him upright so that his arm fell across her shoulders. "Easy there," she said, putting her arm around his waist for support. "Slowly—Commander." And as who she was helping sank in, she realized that this was the first time Data had ever needed her assistance for anything.

The security chief bore Data's weight against her side as they made it the short distance to the tree. She took out her tricorder and scanned him, then, realizing she had no idea what constituted the android's normal readings, turned the display screen so he could see it. He nodded at what he saw, puzzled. She turned it back to face herself, committing the readings to memory for future comparison, and asked, "What is it?"

"The tricorder readings confirm my own internal diagnostic. There is nothing that would indicate an equilibrium malfunction, yet I decidedly experienced a feeling of vertigo. Readings also indicate an elevated body temperature but, again, I cannot ascertain a cause."

Yar set the tricorder down and found herself saying, her field medic training kicking in, "If you were human, I'd say you were running a fever."

"Would a fever also explain a loss of equilibrium?"

"If it were high enough." She frowned at him. "But a fever occurs in response to infection—what could possibly infect you? Or," she quickly amended, "what could trigger a program that elevates your normal temperature and causes you to lose your balance?"

"Unknown, Lieutenant." The android started moving his head from side to side and up and down.

She stared at him. "What are you doing?"

"I am attempting to determine which movements cause me to experience vertigo," he explained, moving his head slowly at first, then more rapidly.

Yar suppressed a sudden, amused grin as she watched him. She'd forgotten how his odd, unexpected behavior could make her smile— Then her grin faded; she'd forgotten, because she and Data didn't interact that way anymore.

With an abrupt motion he stopped moving his head and touched his hand to his temple. Then, continuing his analysis, he leaned his upper body to the side, and started to fall over.

She quickly helped him upright. "That's enough of that, Commander," she told him sternly.

"I concur. Every movement I have made was affected by my lack of a sense of equilibrium."

Yar picked up the tricorder again to see if his readings had changed, and found that she'd grabbed Data's instead of her own. "That's more than a trace of lugerium you were detecting in the lake," she commented, switching tricorders.

"Then perhaps the polarizing effect is in operation," he said, and Yar heard an unexpected energy in his voice.

"You're not going down there to conduct experiments, you're in no condition to move," she warned him.

"But you are in excellent condition."

"What?" And then she realized what he meant. "Commander, you're the scientist!" she protested. "I'm not—"

"You are physically able to obtain water and soil samples and you have the training to perform standard tests on them," he pointed out reasonably. "More importantly, you have specific knowledge regarding the polarizing effect, and you will be able to use that knowledge to interpret your test results correctly."

She'd been ready to deny any abilities as a researcher, but the eager confidence he had in her made her hesitate. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

She colored at his simple statement of belief in her, feeling suddenly exposed. Why did he always know more about her than she did herself? She reverted to her security training and observed, as if to reassure him, "I'll be close enough to keep a visual check on you, and we've both got our phasers. And if you don't move, you should be fine."

The android started to nod, but stopped in mid-gesture. "I will rest, Lieutenant." He very carefully leaned his head back against the tree as she walked down to the lake.

Yar divided her attention between checking on Data and the readings on her tricorder, wanting to be as accurate as possible with the findings she brought back to him. Data appeared fine from a distance, but as Yar walked back to him she was shocked at what she saw. "You're sweating!"

The android touched his forehead and found it wet. He frowned. "I do not sweat."

"I know that! What's happening?"

He started to shake his head, then stopped as the action made him feel dizzy. "I do not know, Lieutenant," he said. "I am also experiencing discomfort when I move even slightly. And although I am certain my limbs have not changed in weight, I perceive them as heavier and hard to move. I am afraid I can no longer rely on my internal diagnostics to ascertain my condition."

She knelt beside him and checked his readings. "Fever, dizziness, aches…" She frowned; what did that mean for an android? "It sounds like some kind of flu virus. And with you sweating, you might dehydrate. The water's safe to drink. I'll go get some for you, okay?"

"Yes; that is acceptable."

Yar looked around quickly, saw that the tree Data sat under sported long, broad yellow-striped leaves she could fold into a kind of cup, and she tore one and checked it for toxicity. When it tested negative she picked several of the leaves and folded them as she walked quickly down to the lake.

As she filled the cups with water, she suddenly realized just how she knew that the android didn't sweat and her face flushed.

You knew you'd live to regret doing it, she thought for the thousandth time, but found that, suddenly, she was tired of thinking it. She sat back on her heels and stared briefly out over the surface of the red-tinged lake. What was it she regretted, exactly? That she'd slept with the android? Or that she'd told him it never happened?

Because it did happen. She took a deep breath to bring a more normal color to her cheeks as she walked back to the android. And it affects everything you think and do around him.

"Here, Commander," she said, holding out the leaf cups to him. "It might make you feel better, and in any case it'll replenish some of your body fluids."

He accepted one of the cups from her, but instead of drinking from it he turned it in his hands, examining it intently. "How did you fashion this, Lieutenant?"

And he unraveled the cup and spilled water all over himself as she stared at him, so unbelieving that she couldn't move to stop him.

He exclaimed, his expression surprised as he brushed the water off his uniform, "It was not stable!"

"It was until you took it apart!" she retorted, not sure whether to be exasperated with him or amused. She held out another cup to him, eyebrows raised. "Want to try it again, this time taking a drink first?"

He agreed gravely, "I will try it your way." And he drank the water without incident.

As she watched him drink, she realized with a small shock that this was the most relaxed she'd felt around Data in a long time, relaxed enough to stop saluting and just tease him, relaxed enough to talk to him as she would Will or Geordi.

Yar showed him how to fold a leaf so it could hold water, and he quickly made several cups, fascinated. She took them down to the lake and filled them, and when she returned, he held out a leaf for her inspection. He'd managed to fold it into a square, with the leaf's stripes describing an intricate, interlinked pattern.

"My god. You've discovered origami."

He tilted his head very slightly in question, careful not to set off a wave of dizziness. "Origami?"

She explained as he drank, "Folding as a form of art." She examined the leaf square and said sincerely, "It's very nice, Commander." But as she set it down she noticed how unnaturally bright the android's eyes had become with fever. Abruptly she unsealed the bottom and front of her jacket, stripped it off and wound it around him.

"You need to stay warm," she told him, and found herself avoiding his gaze, uncomfortable again with his proximity, with staring into his eyes when she was used to staring at the back of his head on the bridge.

"Is something wrong, Lieutenant?"

Am I really that transparent? "Why do you ask, sir?" she asked aloud.

"Your behavior towards me has been…variable. If I have said or done anything that—"

"No!" she cut him off, not willing to hear him take the blame for her own shortcomings, and she found herself confessing, "Look, Commander, I'm…not used to this, that's all." She ran a hand through her hair, feeling frustrated, and managed to say from the jumble of her feelings, "I'm a security officer. I've dedicated my life to keeping people safe. But the one person who had no use for my services was you. You've always been…invulnerable—­stronger, faster, more sure than I could ever be. You're the one person I've never had to worry about. And now—"

"And now, you must worry about me?"

"I'm not supposed to worry about you," she corrected his question. And added softly, "But I am." She looked at him, concerned. "Can I do anything else to make you comfortable, Commander?"

"I am…appreciating the sense of discomfort. Please do not trouble yourself, Lieutenant."

Yar couldn't help a smile at his attitude, and suddenly recalled his reaction when he'd discovered that he'd lost his sense of balance, when he'd wanted her to investigate the lake, even when he'd been making leaf cups. For him, every new discovery wasn't an inconvenience, but a chance for wonder.

As if he knew the direction of her thoughts, Data asked, oblivious to his own aches and pains, "What were the results of your tests?"

"The lake contains the correct isotopes in ratio to each other." She held out the tricorder to him. "Do you want to check my findings?"

"That is not necessary," he said, and his next question proved his belief in her skills. "Have you formulated any working hypotheses based on those findings, Lieutenant?"

She wasn't used to being treated as an equal in a field that wasn't her own, but instead of his confidence in her making her feel somehow vulnerable as it had before, she felt reassured. Capable. "Nothing as scientific as that," she responded. "I was just thinking that there might be something hidden in the lake underneath that polarizing effect, something that could tell us what happened to the inhabitants."

"That is as good a place as any to start fashioning a preliminary report," he said, and they worked on the report as the afternoon burned into the beginnings of sunset. As Yar put the finishing touches on their suggestions for further research, Data attempted to fold a leaf into the shape of a dodecahedron. Finally, he put it down.

"I feel the need to lower my eyelids," he said, sounding surprised.

Yar looked at him, then realized what he was saying. "Your body is telling you to rest, sir."

"So I should cease visual input, Lieutenant?"

"Do what you need to do to feel better."­­

Data promptly closed his eyes. "Interesting."

"When humans sleep, they stop concentrating, their metabolic rate slows—"

"My metabolic rate is slowing," Data said carefully, right before he started to topple over.

She lunged to break his fall. "Oh, my," she wheezed. "You weigh a ton, Commander." She lowered him to the ground and resettled her jacket around him.

Yar scanned the area for lifeforms, was satisfied with what she saw, then took Data's readings and found them holding steady. She went down to the lake to exercise and stretch so she wouldn't disturb him. Then she drank her fill of water and returned to the sleeping android, feeling the night breeze cool against her bare arms.

She considered the possible sleeping arrangements given that Data had her jacket; she needed to stay warm; and she wanted to be close enough to him to monitor his status. Practicality won out and she settled herself with her back to his, her arms folded tight across her chest and her jacket stretched over them both.

It was going to be a long night.

But the feel of the android pressed against her back actually comforted her, and with a vague memory of feeling warm and safe she finally fell into a light sleep.


She wasn't sure how much time had passed when she felt Data sit up suddenly beside her.

He stared out at the lake, motionless. Tasha visually searched the area, seeing only breeze-rippled water and an incredibly clear night sky. "Did you hear something?"

He didn't acknowledge her, and she watched him, starting to feel anxious. "What is it?" she asked softly.

"I…do not know this place," he said, and she heard the hesitancy in his voice. "How did I get here?"

"We're on Ciola in the Gyrin system, doing a planetary survey," she said in the same soft voice, guessing that, unaccustomed to sleep, Data had awakened momentarily confused. "We can't get a hold of the Enterprise, and you're not feeling well so we're resting here for a while." She looked at his profile, etched sharp in the moonlight. "You're going to be fine," she assured him, "it's just going to take some time."

Then she noticed he was shivering slightly. She picked up the jacket that had fallen away when he'd sat up. "You're getting chilled. When you're running a fever, you should stay as warm as possible," she told him, and draped the jacket around his shoulders.

He turned to look at her, and the movement drew her arm closer around him. And in a flash she realized where the feeling of warmth and safety had come from before she'd fallen asleep—from a time when she and Data had held each other close and she'd looked into his eyes and words hadn't seemed necessary, they'd just shared so much more than that...

His gaze now was guileless, pleasantly expectant, open to her—as it had been then; as it had always been but she'd stubbornly refused to notice until now. Because this was what she'd been running from ever since the aftermath of the Tsiolkovsky virus: not the fact that she'd seduced him, not even the fear that everyone would find out, but this look in his eyes. Tasha forced herself not to look away.

Yes. It had happened. And she'd never trusted anybody, before or since, as she'd trusted Data after they'd made love. And it had scared the hell out of her afterwards because she couldn't afford that kind of trust, the kind that demanded of her as much as it gave, not when her duties involved being distrustful, suspicious, always on the alert, never taken in.

But here, all they had was each other…again. No ship, no duties, nobody else's expectations. Couldn't she trust him again? Couldn't she admit that she wanted to trust him again?

Couldn't she admit that she'd missed him?

And as she looked at him, she sensed that somehow the distance between them had closed, that professional politeness had been replaced by something that felt, she was startled to discover, more natural. She saw warmth in his golden eyes as he looked at her, and acceptance, and she felt herself relaxing as she sat next to him and held him close.

Data reached up and carefully plucked a few blades of grass from her hair. She goodnaturedly ruffled her hair with her free hand, then raised her eyebrows at him. "Better?"

But he answered, thoughtful, "Your hair shimmers in the moonlight. The effect is striking."

Feeling self-conscious and at the same time pleased at his observation, Tasha smoothed her hair back down. "Um, thanks."

"Are you not cold as well?" he asked.

"I'm fine."

He nodded. "I conclude, then, that I am warm enough for the both of us." And he leaned against her, as if to share his warmth with her.

She smiled at him but shook her head, not sure how to account for his behavior. "How…are you feeling?"

"I feel fatigued, and am experiencing some soreness, and…it is difficult for me to concentrate."

She reached for a tricorder and compared his readings with the ones she'd taken earlier. "Your temperature's running a lot higher," she muttered, and knew that, in a human, that high a fever might lead to anything from slight disorientation to hallucination. "Listen, I'm going to get you something to drink. But I'm going to leave this tricorder activated in case anything happens, okay?"

"Okay."

The word sounded odd coming from him, but she was too worried to do more than note it as she programmed one of the tricorders to sound an alarm if any of Data's readings changed and set it up beside him, then detached the palmlight from the other to light her way to the lake and picked up several of the leaf cups from that afternoon. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

When she returned he accepted the water gratefully. She sat back, looking at him as he drank, and decided she liked feeling comfortable with his nearness.

He set down the last cup. "You are very kind," he said. She ducked her head in response, again noting how odd a word sounded coming from him—why "kind" and not "compassionately generous" or something else scientific-sounding? But he interrupted her reverie and asked, "Why?"

"'Why' what?"

"Why are you so kind to me?" He looked into her eyes as if he could find his answer there and asked simply, "Who are you?"

She froze. "You don't know me?"

"No."

Her mind raced. "Does the word 'Starfleet' mean anything to you?" she asked carefully.

He considered. "No, it does not."

"How about 'Enterprise'?

"What sort of enterprise?"

"I mean, that's the name of a ship, the Enterprise."

"A ship…no."

"Do you remember…anything?"

He thought briefly. "There are images, and sounds, in my mind, but I do not know—" He faltered. "I do not know…"

"It's okay," she whispered, seeing a lost child in his expression, and it wasn't just him she wanted to reassure as she touched his cheek. "It's okay, Data—"

"What data?" he asked, and his puzzled frown stopped Tasha's heart cold.

The past was gone—literally, it had never happened. And what she'd been wishing so hard for wasn't, it turned out, what she'd wanted at all.

"Your name's Data," she said aloud.

"That is an odd name," he remarked.

She managed a smile as she let her hand drop. "No, not really."

How can he be so calm? she wondered. He knew nothing about her, he had no reason to trust her or the situation he found himself in. And yet she could still see the warmth in his eyes. He believed she wouldn't harm him or betray him in any way. What had she done to earn that?

"What is your name?"

"Tasha."

He repeated her name to himself, trying to place it. "How do we know each other?"

She willed herself to be as calm as he was. "Well…we serve together in Starfleet, a…sort of research and peacekeeping organization, aboard the Enterprise, a starship."

He frowned with the effort to put it all together. "We serve together…then these are uniforms we are wearing?"

"Yes! What else do you remember?"

He shook his head, and winced at the pain the gesture caused him. "I only wondered why we wore similar clothing; I have no memory of what the uniform means."

"What about those images, and those sounds? If you described them, I could—" He gasped, his gaze turning inward. "What is it?" she demanded.

"I…I attempted to focus on an image and it…I do not know what it was anymore, it is gone." He looked away, his expression bewildered. "They are all gone!"

"No—I'm still here, Data!" She guided his gaze back to hers. "I'm still here. I won't leave you," she promised.

He covered her hand with his and held tight. "Thank you."

Moved, she realized there was no reservation in his touch. He had given her his trust; it wasn't a matter of having to earn it at all. "Is there anything I can do for you, Data?" she asked gently as he released her hand.

"Tell me about Starfleet, and the Enterprise."

Eager to help him but not sure where to start, she launched into a disjointed recital of Federation history and Starfleet's organizational charter, which he listened to with a grave expression, concentrating as if memorizing her every word. But as his struggle to put meaning to her words became more pronounced, her narrative got more and more out of hand. When she'd blurted out in desperation the Enterprise's tonnage and armament, she cut herself short. "This isn't helping at all, is it?"

"It is not your fault that my background is lacking. I appreciate your effort greatly."

She frowned, frustrated with herself. "You'd think I could do something right!"

He replied as if she'd addressed her comment to him, "You do many things correctly."

She couldn't help a laugh and challenged, "Like what?"

"You are ensuring that I remain warm and hydrated while I am feverish. You took precautions to alert yourself should my readings have changed while you were obtaining water for me. You did more than simply answer my questions, you reassured me of your concern and of my eventual recovery. You—"

"All that?"

He met her disbelief with certitude. "Yes."

She shook her head slowly as she smiled at him. "How do you do that?"

"To what are you referring?"

"You don't even remember who I am, but you…still see more in me than I do."

"I do not know, Tasha. Does this ability upset you?"

"No, it's okay." Looking into his pale eyes, she said with all honesty, realizing that she actually appreciated his insight, "It's really okay." And was surprised and delighted at the small, shy smile he gave her in response. "Would you—what if I told you what you're like?" she offered. "Would that help?"

"Perhaps it would."

Tasha thought briefly. "You're a lieutenant commander, second in command, chief science officer and chief of operations. You're incredibly knowledgeable and competent, you're efficient, analytical, loyal—" At his expression of intense interest she interrupted herself—she could be describing any number of people, but what he needed to know was what made him who he was.

He noticed her hesitation, and prompted, "Loyal?"

"Yes." She tried again. "Data, you're the kind of person who…always says exactly what he means. Emotion doesn't affect anything you do or think, you—accept people for who they are, you don't judge them or try to change them. You're a generous person, and you're incredibly trusting."

She caught sight of the origami square. "You take delight in even the smallest things—you made this out of a leaf," she said, holding it out to him. As she watched him turn the leaf in his hands, she added, "You're…inquisitive. You have a sense of awe that makes the whole world seem new. You notice what no one else does, and not just in things." He looked up at her, and she added, "In people, too."

"It seems, however, that ability does not extend to myself."

There was no irony in his voice, but she couldn't help a giggle at his observation. He raised his eyebrows and she said by way of explanation, "You definitely have a way of making me smile, Data."

They held each other's gaze. "That seems a good thing."

"It is." Why didn't I want this? she wondered. Was there anything wrong with this feeling, that with Data she never need worry what he thought of her, no matter what she said or did—that she'd found a place where she belonged?

"What sort of person are you, Tasha?"

"I'm—sort of your opposite, I guess," she found herself saying and, although she'd never really thought about it, she discovered it was true. "I'm very emotional. I don't trust people easily. I…tend to get focused and forget to appreciate things. I act without thinking." She reddened as she added at her own expense, "A lot."

"And you are a kind and caring person as well," he added matter-of-factly. "How long have we served together?"

"A few months."

"Then we are friends?"

"No."

The truth sounded awful and she added in a rush, "That's all my fault, Data, you've been…a real gentleman about it and I've been some sort of…I don't know, I haven't been handling it very well. And I haven't wanted to trust you but—" She shrugged, smiling. "—it turns out, I already do. I'm sorry it's taken me so long. But I'd really like us to be friends now, Data."

His pale eyes glowed as he looked at her. "Then we are friends."

She looked at him, incredulous. "Just like that?"

"We already trust each other and care about each other. Since we are opposites, we could learn a great deal from each other. Nothing you have said, and nothing I have seen here, leads me to believe that we could not benefit from a friendship with each other."

She pointed out suddenly, even as she wondered why she was trying to sabotage this, "I could be lying about…everything."

But his appraising look held no suspicion. "I do not believe you are, Tasha."

A slow smile spread across her face. "I'm not." He knew. She'd said something without thinking it through and he'd seen right through her. Is this the real Data? Is the rest of it—the formal manners and polite distance, the scientific euphemisms and incredible knowledge, that sense that he's "different"—all learned, and what makes him who he is, his essence, are his trust, and his insight, and his sense of wonder?

He traced her smile with a finger. "The planes of your face are revealed more strongly when you smile," he noted.

"Is that 'striking'?" she teased.

"It is pleasant."

Her smile turned into a full-scale grin and she brushed his hair back from his forehead. His skin was clammy to the touch. "You should rest, Data," she said gently.

"But what if, when I wake up, I have forgotten even more? I do not wish to experience this doubt again." His expression was solemn. "I do not wish to forget who you are."

She took his hand in hers. "I know all you have are my reassurances. But please believe that no matter how long it takes the Enterprise to contact us again, you won't be alone. Remember the feel of this—" She twined her fingers through his, squeezing his hand as she did so. "It means we're friends, and that I'm still here, and that you're going to be fine."

He stared at her as if memorizing her face. "I will try to remember," he finally said.

She helped him lie down again. Trying to keep him as warm as she could, she settled her jacket around them both and wrapped her arms around him. His body relaxed comfortably into hers as he rested his head against her shoulder.

After a while she felt him grow heavy against her as he fell back asleep, and she pressed her cheek against his hair. "You're going to be okay," she whispered.

She closed her eyes and let the rhythm of Data's breathing lull her back to sleep.


"Enterprise to Away Team."

She jerked awake. And realized that she had been asleep, deep asleep as if she'd been in her own bed safe and secure. All because she'd held Data in her arms—?

Tasha shifted the android's weight and pulled her jacket around so she could tap her badge. "Yar here," she said, never so glad to hear anyone's voice as she was to hear Commander Riker's at that moment. "Commander Data needs immediate medical attention, he's suffering the physical symptoms of some type of virus—vertigo, fever, he's losing memory coherence as well. Requesting direct beam-up to Sickbay."

"You've got it, Tasha. I'll apprise Dr. Crusher of Data's status. Ready for transport?"

She looked down at the android, who had awakened and now looked at her calmly, trusting her. She tightened her embrace of him. "Ready."

They materialized in Sickbay, where Dr. Crusher was still gathering her instruments. They could hear one of the nurses paging Chief Engineer Argyle, and Data watched the activity of the medics with open curiosity.

"Where are we?" he asked softly.

"This is Sickbay, on the Enterprise, the ship I told you about. They'll help you get well."

"I will feel better, and have my memories back?"

"Yes." She straightened and helped him stand, but still supported him as they made it to the nearest diagnostic bed. She helped him lie down on it as Dr. Crusher came over.

"Hello," the android greeted. "I am Data. Who are you?"

Crusher traded a quick glance with the security chief, then addressed Data. "I'm Doctor Crusher."

"Do I know you?"

"You used to. And you will again." She motioned Doctor Selar over, who started to lead Tasha to another bed.

As Tasha's hand slipped from the android's grasp, he turned on his side, looking for her. "Tasha?"

"I'm right here, Data."

"Please do not leave."

She looked to Crusher for permission to stay. The doctor indicated a chair where Tasha could sit out of the way, since both she and the engineer would be working on the circuits located in the android's cranium. Tasha pulled the chair to the side of the bed and Selar started to examine her.

"I'm not leaving, Data." He held out his hand to her. She took it and held tight. "It's going to be okay."

But what happens when he remembers everything?


Doctor Crusher ran her tricorder over the android one last time as she explained, "Apparently, Data, your creator installed a virus program inside you. That is, were you to be infected with a computer-based virus—which both you and the Enterprise were when we tried to access the planetary archives—not only would the infection trigger a virus eradication program, but also a program that would simulate the symptoms of a physical virus. But something went wrong."

Crusher nodded at the readings she got, then looked at Data frankly. "Given how long it took the Enterprise to eliminate the virus so we could get back in contact with you and beam you up, I'm glad we were at least able to get the physical virus program back to its original parameters, if not disable it. All that remains is for it to run its course, which is for another week."

"So in all respects, I am experiencing a human virus," Data said.

"Exactly. Aches, discomforts and all. I'm recommending that you be taken off active duty for that time, and rest either here in Sickbay or your own quarters."

"Despite the lack of bedroom furniture, I would prefer to rest on the sofa in my own quarters."

Crusher smiled. "Consider yourself discharged from Sickbay, then, Data. And welcome back."

"It is good to be back, Doctor."

He sat up slowly, wary of the dizziness caused by sudden movement, and felt Yar's arm around him, steadying him. He turned and regarded her.

She took his look as a reprimand and moved away from him. "I'm sorry, sir. I shouldn't have—"

But he said quietly, "When I had no memory of who I was, you did not tell me that I was an android."

She looked at him blankly, and then realized that she, indeed, hadn't. "It…didn't seem that important," she said with all honesty. "But I didn't mean to keep that from you."

They held each other's gaze for a long moment, and she wondered if anything had changed between them. Finally he said, his voice soft, "Thank you, Tasha."

She released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding as she saw his appreciation in his pale yellow eyes. "Thank you, Data."

"For what?"

"For giving me a second chance with you." She smiled shyly at him. "Do you need any help back to your quarters?"

"Yes. I would appreciate your help."

She twined her fingers through his and they both held tight as they looked in each other's eyes. She grinned at him. "Then let's get you home."

FIN