"Love and Lobsters"

"Love and Lobsters"
by Christina Teresa

Introduction

"Love and Lobsters" is a another Lore redemption story that takes place sometime after the episode "Brothers" in which Lore steals Data's emotion chip and kills Dr. Soong. I have another Lore redemption story on Fanfiction.net, "Ascent", that you might also want to check out. I've always felt sorry for poor, misunderstood Lore, but he was so rotten I felt I had to redeem him twice! "Love and Lobsters" is just for fun and is not intended to infringe upon any copyrights owned by Paramount Television. Original story and characters, © Christina Teresa, 2001. Comments are encouraged and appreciated: csteresa@yahoo.com.

*

"Are you being served, sir?"

Lore glared at the sales clerk. That was the third time he had been asked that since he had entered Haarhod's Gourmet Food Department. "Just looking."

The clerk, a middle-aged Antarian man, eyed him suspiciously, then left Lore in order to pounce on another unsuspecting shopper. Actually, shopper was an inaccurate noun to describe Lore's current situation. Thief would be a more exact term.

The renegade android was casing Antares IV's largest and most exclusive department store for tradable merchandise. The dilithium in his warp drive engine needed to be replaced. The Ferengi trader he contacted wanted ten bars of gold-pressed latnum or a stasis unit full of Antares lobster. The lobsters were considered to be one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs in the galaxy. Stealing them would be a piece of cake.

He looked down at the ill-fitting Paklid outfit he was wearing and thought, briefly, that he should have worn Data's stolen Starfleet uniform instead. At least the clerks would be less likely to look down their ugly, bulbous noses at him, but it would also make him even more conspicuous than he already was.

He finally found a tank full of the lobsters on display. He watched the valuable crustaceans flop around with a greedy expression on his face. Suddenly, he felt someone watching him. Lore looked up to see a pair of big green eyes attached to an attractive, red-haired, human woman dressed in the same blue frock he had seen the other female clerks wear. She smiled then opened her mouth to speak.

"Just looking," he said before she could get the dreaded phrase out. Lore turned and walked away from her counter so as not to arouse suspicion. He only got a few meters before he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned and saw the Lobster Lady.

"Here," she whispered, as she put some coins in his hand, "the Antares Police aren't too kind to shoplifters, especially off-worlders. There's enough there for you to get something to eat. There's a cafeteria about two blocks west from here. It's not great, but they give you alot." The Lobster Lady quickly left him and returned to her place behind the counter.

Lore opened his hand and stared at the coins she had given him. What in the hell- The bewildered android confronted her. "Why did you do that?"

She shrugged. "Don't worry about it. It's my good deed for the day."

"I don't understand why you would give money to a total stranger."

"What's your name?" she asked.

He looked at her in confusion mixed with suspicion. "You may call me Lore."

She smiled. "Well, Lore, you may call me Nora. Now you're not a total stranger anymore."

He handed the coins back to her. "I don't need your money."

Nora sighed. "Oh please, spare me the male pride and just take it."

Before he could reply, the same middle-aged sales clerk that had accosted Lore approached Nora with a sour expression on his face. "Miss Brooks, Haarhod's does not pay you to socialize with," he paused and looked down at Lore disdainfully, "customers. Please do that on your own time."

"Mr. Jaabez," she said, "this gentleman is considering purchasing two Antares Lobsters. I was merely explaining the correct way to prepare them."

"Oh," said the clerk, "my apologies, sir." He glowered once more at Nora and strolled to the next counter.

She smiled ruefully at Lore and rolled her eyes. "He makes working here such a joy."

Lore grinned in spite of himself. This human was very odd, but somewhat amusing. "So, Miss Brooks, is it true what they say about the aphrodisiacal qualities of these lobsters?"

"Personally, I wouldn't know. Just one of these would put me back a week's salary." She leaned over the counter and whispered conspiratorially, "I do know where you could get some cheap Antares shrimp with absolutely no aphrodisiacal qualities whatsoever."

"At that crummy cafeteria you mentioned?"

"Very good, Lore," she said, "I know this is a little forward, but would you like to share a plate of shrimp with me?" She rattled the coins in her hand. "I'm buying."

Lore smiled. Whatever.

*

"Let me guess," said Lore, his tray of food untouched, "you're working your way through college to be a social worker."

Nora blushed. "Very funny. As a matter of fact, you're not even close. I did attend some college on Earth, but I majored in English Lit. I dropped out so I could explore the galaxy and find myself, much to my mother's dismay. Anyway, two years ago, I found myself working in the Gourmet Food Department at Haarhod's."

"That's what I call a brilliant career move," Lore said.

"Don't rub it in," she said, grinning, "so, what's your story? And why aren't you eating your shrimp? It isn't that bad, is it?."

"I don't need to eat," he said, "I'm an android."

Nora almost choked on the food she had just put in her mouth. With a smug smile, Lore handed her a glass of water. After a few sips, she recovered sufficiently enough to sputter, "An android? But you're so-"

"Lifelike? That was what you were about to say, wasn't it?"

"Sorry," she said, embarrassed, "I meant no offense. It's just that I've never met an android before. I thought I would know."

"Your confusion is understandable," said Lore, "I am the first sentient android in the galaxy. I was constructed to be...almost human."

"The first sentient android? Are there more of you?"

"Why? Do you want to give them lunch money, too?"

Nora laughed. "I'm just curious, that's all. I want to know more about you," she glanced at her wrist chronometer, "unfortunately, I'm due back at work." She hesitated, then bit her lip nervously. "Lore, would you like to go out with me tonight? I know this is very forward of me...I'm not in the habit of asking men- or androids I just met out on dates, but...I really like you. So, what do you say?"

Lore smiled. A date? This human is really too much. Next thing I know, she'll be taking me home to meet her mother. What does she want from me? "I've never been asked out on a date before. How could I possibly refuse?"

*

Nora Brooks paced anxiously in front of Haarhod's department store. Lore was already five minutes late. If it were a human or Antarian man she was waiting for she wouldn't be concerned, but Nora assumed Lore's android brain could keep time better than an organic one. An android. I'm just about to go out on a date with an android. Maybe that's what I'm worried about. It wasn't that she was bothered by the fact that Lore was a machine. She could see in his intelligent golden eyes that he was much more than the sum of his parts. It was just that Nora wasn't in the habit of going out with men she knew practically nothing about. Lore had been so evasive about his past at lunch, perhaps she didn't want to know about it.

She sat down on the curb and sighed. He's not coming. A few seconds later, she saw a pair of black boots standing next to her. She looked up and smiled.

Lore helped Nora to her feet. She was still wearing the same blue dress she worked in, but Lore had changed into a mustard Starfleet uniform.

"How do I look?" he asked

Nora shook her head and laughed. "Frankly, you don't strike me as the Starfleet type, but at least it fits better than the other outfit."

Lore smiled wickedly. "It was practically made for me."

She examined the pips on his collar. "Lieutenant?"

"Lieutenant Commander," he corrected.

"Well, Lieutenant Commander Lore," she said sarcastically, "are you ready to enter the exciting world of dating?"

"My neural net is all aflutter."

"I'm going to assume that's a good thing," she said, "First, I'm going to take you to this great little cafe for dinner-"

He sighed. "You mean I have to waste more of my precious time watching you eat again?"

"You may not have heard, but we humans have to do that every once in a while," Nora replied, "After dinner, I've planned something very special. A classic dating experience."

*

"A carnival?" Lore wrinkled his nose in disgust. "I'm not going on any of the rides."

Nora gazed longingly at the roller coaster and sighed. "Why not?"

"It's rather childish, don't you think?"

"It wouldn't hurt you to learn how to play a little bit," she replied, "It's good for the soul."

"I don't have a soul," Lore countered.

Nora stopped in her tracks and stared at him, horrified. "Of course you do, I can see it in your eyes."

Now this human is seeing things as well. Lore had no desire for this date to turn into a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life, so he let her comment stand.

Suddenly, his head jerked to the side violently; a periodic reminder to Lore of Data's stolen emotional chip.

Nora jumped at the unexpected spasm, then put a hand on his arm with a concerned expression on her face. "Are you alright?"

Lore recovered quickly. "I'm fine," he said smiling, "Just got a hold of some bad software, that's all."

Nora laughed nervously and then took him by the hand. "Let's check out the carnival games, okay?"

They walked past the rides to the game booths. Nora pointed at a cluster of big stuffed toys and dragged Lore to the game table. The object of the game was to toss a ring around a peg only slightly smaller in diameter than the ring.

Nora paid for three tries and blew two. "Damn, I don't know why I bother. I never win at these games."

Lore took the last ring out of her hand and shooed her aside. He casually threw the ring around the peg marked 'grand prize'. He turned and gave her a smug grin.

"Show off."

The barker running the game scowled and smiled at the same time. "Amazing throw, sir! You've won your choice of prize. Which one would you like?"

"Whatever she wants," Lore replied.

Nora smiled gleefully and chose a green and purple monstrosity half her size. It looked like a combination between a pig and a cow. The barker handed her the prize and she hugged it tightly. "Thank you," she squealed.

"What's the big deal?" Lore asked, "It's just a cheap, ugly toy."

Nora squeezed her pig/cow even tighter and pouted. "How can you say that? I don't think you realize the significance of this. Winning a prize for a girl at a carnival is a major dating coup."

"Really?" Lore said snidely, "what do I win?"

"Well, not only have you earned the honor of having this cheap, ugly toy named after you," she said, "you have also earned my very special thank you." Nora put the toy down, wrapped her arms around Lore's neck and kissed him passionately.

"You name toys?" he asked when she withdrew.

Nora rolled her eyes and laughed. "You're a regular Prince Charming, Lore."

She's kissed me in public! She wasn't embarrassed or ashamed at all, but then she wasn't embarrassed or ashamed at hugging big ugly toys in public either. What is wrong with this human? There was one thing Lore was sure of from the look in her eyes- she wanted him. Smiling, he clutched her around the waist and pulled her close. "I was wondering when you'd notice." He kissed her back.

The barker cleared his throat. "Do you mind taking that someplace else? You're distracting my customers."

Nora, still enfolded in his arms, whispered in his ear, "Let's go for a walk."

They wandered out of the carnival grounds and into a neighboring park, hand in hand. Lore carried Nora's pig/cow underneath his other arm.

They talked about nothing for a while, occasionally stopping and leaning against a tree to kiss.

"So, Lore, how are you enjoying your first date?" Nora asked as they walked.

He shrugged noncommittally. "It's been a somewhat interesting experience."

She frowned and bit her lower lip. "Oh."

Lore observed her disappointed expression and smiled to himself. He decided it was time to expose this date charade and force her to admit why she asked him out in the first place.

"So, Nora, how do these dates usually end?" he asked abruptly.

"Well, that sort of depends on what kind of time you had," she said shyly.

"How were you planning on ending it?"

She looked away from him. "I didn't have a specific plan."

"Surely, you must have had some idea."

Nora hesitated. "Well, I was sort of hoping you'd, um-- come back to my apartment with me."

"To do what?" Lore asked with deliberate obtuseness.

"I don't know," she said blushing, "Oh, just forget it." Nora released his hand and walked briskly ahead of him.

Lore chuckled and debated whether or not to pursue her. It had been a long time since he had conquered a human woman and he thought it would be fun to watch her give herself up to him. Human females were so easily manipulated by sex.

The android ran to catch up with Nora who was standing at the edge of a pond. Lore looked down at the ridiculous toy he was holding and almost threw it in. Instead, he dropped it on the grass and then slipped his arms around her from behind. He heard her breathe a deep sigh as she melted into his embrace. He pulled her hair aside and placed a few soft kisses on her neck.

"Let's go back to your apartment," he whispered.

Nora turned her head and looked up at him. "Only if you want to."

Lore smiled. "I never do anything unless I want to."

They made their way to her apartment on public transport. The couple sat close together on the train, holding hands and kissing; incurring dirty looks from an elderly woman sitting nearby.

During the journey home, Lore accessed all his pleasuring techniques appropriate for human females. He smiled as he calculated how quickly he would have Nora wrapped around his finger. She was no different from the women he had been with on Omicron Theta. All she wanted from him was sex. She just had a cleverer way of asking for it.

*

They went to her apartment. Lore threw the pig/cow on the couch and then they quickly made their way to the bedroom.

Lore lowered Nora down onto the bed. He gently held her wrists and stretched her arms above her head, his body hovering over hers. She broke free from his grip, not out of fear, but because she wanted to hold him. He smiled disarmingly and kissed her deeply.

"You do that very well," she breathed.

"My creator took great pains with my sexuality program."

She giggled. "Bless his little heart."

"So Nora," he whispered, "what do you want me to do to you?"

"What?"

"You invited me here to have sex with you," Lore said, "I need to know what you want me to do unless, of course, you want me to guess."

Nora pushed him off of her and sat up. She took his hand and looked into his eyes. "Lore, I don't know what your experience with other women has been, but I didn't ask you here to service me. I want to make love with you. I want to please you, too. What do you want to do?"

Lore didn't know how to answer her. No woman had ever wanted to please him before. Once again, this little human female had him stumped. He searched his sexuality program for something he wanted. Suddenly, something he desired came to mind. He smiled wickedly. "I want to play a game."

"Alright," she giggled, "what kind of a game?"

"I call it, 'The Wicked Lieutenant Commander Meets the Sexy Little Sales Clerk Who's Been Very, Very Naughty'."

Nora laughed. When she saw Lore's wounded expression she wrapped her arms around him and in a throaty voice she said, "Sounds like fun...Commander."

*

Lore looked down at Nora, asleep in his arms, and shook his head. Try as he might, he could not figure this human out. No woman had ever cared about his pleasure before. All they wanted was a demonstration of his sexuality program and when they had that, they couldn't kick him out of their beds fast enough. They wanted to forget they had ever been with a machine.

Nora, on the other hand, wanted him. His pleasure made her happy. In turn, Lore found himself pleasing her, not to manipulate her, but just for the sake of pleasing her. These sensations were not only foreign to him, but frightening also. If she knew the real me, my pleasure would be the last thing on her mind. She would want to forget just like the others. Lore was strangely comforted by the thought and decided to tell her the truth in the morning.

*

The next morning, Nora woke up alone. She called out for him, but received no answer. She quickly threw on her robe and rushed into the living room in a panic. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Lore sitting in front of her computer terminal, reading. The text was scrolling by at an incredible rate; a reminder to Nora of Lore's android nature. It was so easy to forget sometimes.

"Good morning," she said. She went to kiss him on the cheek, but he pulled away. "What's wrong?"

Lore suffered another spasm like the one he had at the carnival last night and turned on her, contempt in his voice. "I've been reading your collection of literature. Romantic drivel. You are so naive, Nora, like a character in a Victorian novel. You think that if you show me affection and kindness that I'll return those emotions. Well, think again. I used you last night for my own amusement. I feel nothing for you."

Nora was momentarily stunned by the ferocity of Lore's verbal attack, but when she looked into his eyes, she saw fear behind the anger. Fear of intimacy, perhaps? Maybe Lore isn't so different from biological males, after all. "If that's the case, why are you still here? Why didn't you just leave before I woke up?"

He smiled. "Because I wanted to see your face when I told you the truth about the android you shared your bed with last night."

"What, that you escaped from your creator? That you stole that uniform from a Starfleet officer? Lore, I may be a college drop-out, but I'm not stupid."

He laughed. "That's very good, Nora, but I'm afraid you've only scratched the surface." Lore strolled to her breakfast table and pulled out a chair for her. "I think you'd better sit down for this."

*

"You said you wanted to know more about me," Lore said casually when he had finished his story, "now you know it all."

Nora felt numb. She managed to break away from his gaze and stare down at her coffee cup. She tried to lift it to her lips, but her hands were shaking violently. She silently wished that what Lore had just told her wasn't true; that he was playing some kind of sick, practical joke on her. Tears began to stream down her face. She managed to raise her head and look him in the eye. "Why? Why did you do all those horrible things?"

He shrugged. "Because I wanted to. I'm evil, can't you see that?"

She shook her head. "No, that's too easy. What's the real reason?"

He got up out of his chair. "I don't have to explain myself to you."

"I don't understand why you're telling me this. Why didn't you just leave?"

"Because I wanted to hurt you." He grinned. "I did hurt you, didn't I?"

Nora wiped her tears away on her sleeve. "Yes, you did."

"Good," he said, "Well, Nora, it's been fun." Lore headed for the door, but stopped. He went over to the couch and snatched up the stuffed toy he had won for her last night. He shot her a parting sneer and left with the toy under his arm.

*

Nora went to work, but was preoccupied all day with thoughts of Lore. Her stomach knotted nauseatingly every time she thought about what he had done. Destroying the colony, stealing Data's chip, killing his own father. She felt like she should hate him for it, but she didn't. Instead, she thought of how it must have been for him to be taken apart by his parents who were supposed to love him unconditionally. She didn't know if Noonian and Juliana Soong were bad people. They probably did what they thought was best, but she could understand how angry Lore must have been; so angry he destroyed an entire planet.

The saddest part, in Nora's mind, was Lore's estrangement from his twin brother. Data was the one person in the entire universe that could truly understand what Lore was feeling, but he made that impossible when he stole Data's chip in the same spiteful way he had taken the toy he had won for her. She thought Lore taking the toy was an odd action for someone who supposedly didn't give a damn about her. If he had really wanted to hurt her, she wouldn't be alive right now. It was like he tried to push her away by convincing her he wasn't worthy of her affection. It's such a waste. She wanted desperately to help him, but she knew she would never see him again.

"Antares to Nora, hello!"

Nora snapped out of her reverie with a start and saw the woman who worked at the counter next to hers. "Talma, don't sneak up on me like that."

"Sneak up on you? I've been trying to get your attention for the last two minutes. It's closing time."

"Oh," she said sheepishly. She quickly covered her counter for the night and left the store with her co-workers. When she emerged into the chilly night air, Nora realized she had forgotten her coat.

"We'll wait for you," said Talma, "we're all going to get something to eat. You're welcome to come."

"That's okay," said Nora, "you guys go ahead. I'm just going to go home."

Nora re-entered Haarhod's now empty Gourmet Food Department and went into the stock room to get her coat. She let out a little cry of shock when she found Lore there holding a stasis unit full of Antares Lobster. "Lore, what in the hell are you doing?"

He put the stasis unit down and took a few steps toward her. "If you must know, I'm stealing these lobsters. Now I suggest you leave and forget you ever saw me."

Nora didn't budge. "So that's why you were here yesterday. You were casing the store for the lobsters." She laughed. "Boy, do I feel like an idiot. I spent the whole day worrying about you and praying I'd see you again even after all those horrible things you told me this morning."

"You are an idiot, Nora, if you spend your time worrying about me. I can take care of myself without the help of a sentimental little sales clerk. Why don't you go pester some homeless people."

She threw up her hands in defeat. "Fine. I'm tired of wasting my time on someone so terrified of feeling anything but hatred and anger." She grabbed her coat and started for the doorway, but turned to him once more. "You have my pity."

The android glared at her dangerously, but made no move toward her.

Just then, a security guard entered the stock room. "What are you two doing here?"

Nora spun around and smiled. "I just came back to get my coat." She rushed to Lore's side and took him by the arm. "My boyfriend and I were just leaving. Right, honey?"

Lore rolled his eyes. "No," he said as he released himself from her grasp, "you were just leaving. I was just about to steal these lobsters."

It took the guard a few seconds to process Lore's confession. Before he could reach for his commlink, Lore ripped it off his uniform and crushed it into dust. The guard tried to flee, but the android took him by the shirt front and slammed him up against a wall.

"Lore," cried Nora, "please let him go."

"Nora," Lore bellowed, "I order you to leave now!"

"Yes," whimpered the guard, "go get the police, quickly!"

Lore laughed. "You'll be dead and I'll be gone before they get here."

Nora didn't leave, but stood between Lore and the guard and looked steadily into the android's amber eyes. "If you kill him, you'll have to kill me too."

"Nora," Lore hissed, "don't make me hurt you."

"Why not? What's another body to add to your list?" Nora held his gaze without flinching. "Don't tell me you actually care what happens to a stupid little sales clerk."

They stood there for what seemed to Nora like hours, when actually only a few seconds passed before a slight, half-smile crossed Lore's face. In a flash, the android pulled her out of the way, knocked the guard's head against the wall and dropped him.

Nora rushed to the guard's side. He was alive. Unconscious, but still breathing. She smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. She turned back to Lore who was getting ready to leave with the lobsters.

"Good-bye, Nora."

"Wait."

He sighed. "What now?"

"Take me with you."

"Nora, I spared his life for you. What more do you want from me?"

She hesitated. She couldn't tell him the truth, that she wanted to save him from himself, so she made up something. "I want to get off this planet."

"I don't take passengers."

Nora's mind raced. I can't just let him go. She was hoping that if she stayed with him she would continue to have a positive effect on his behavior. It was like having the irresistible urge to throw a lifesaver to a drowning man. Problem is I could very well drown with him. "They'll blame me for this," she said, "they'll arrest me as an accessory to a robbery. The least you can do is take me to the next star system." Ooh, Nora that was lame.

"Alright," he said after a moment's consideration, "The Delos System is two week's travel from here. Just try to stay out of my way."

"I promise," Nora said with a smile.

Lore sat on the stasis unit and motioned for her to do the same.

"Hold on tight," he said. She took his arm as he flipped up his thumbnail. "Built-in transporter," he explained proudly.

"Show off."

*

Nora did as Lore asked and stayed out of his way on the small freighter. That arrangement lasted all of a few hours. The first night, Lore crawled into bed with her wanting to play another game. Nora obliged.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Lore craved her love and attention as if making up for all the years he had been without either. Nora gave her love willingly and unconditionally. She didn't recriminate him for past misdeeds. He was gentle with her and that was all that mattered.

Nora's devotion seemed to affect a change in Lore. Mellowed wouldn't exactly be the right word. He was still impossible and irreverent, but with an underlying sweetness she found irresistible. She found herself feeling things for Lore that she had never felt for any other man. She couldn't bring herself to tell him how she felt, so instead she silently acknowledged her love for the android that wasn't quite right in the positronic brain.

*

"We'll be in transporter range of Delos II in three hours," Lore announced.

"Great," said Nora without enthusiasm. That was the first thing he had said to her all day. It was obvious to Nora that he didn't want her to go. She didn't want to leave either. Unfortunately, Lore would never admit that he wanted, let alone needed, a human for anything.

"I know a way we could pass the time," she said as she reached over and squeezed his thigh, "Let's play 'The Pirate Game'. I'll even let you be the Pirate this time."

Lore considered it for a moment as he ran his eyes appraisingly up and down her body, from her auburn hair and beautiful green eyes, to her voluptuous figure. He gently removed her hand from his leg. "Naaah."

This is maddening! "You're upset because I'm leaving, aren't you?"

He winced as his head jerked to the side. Another spasm caused by Data's misplaced emotional chip. That action, as always, made her cringe. When he recovered, Lore turned to her and regarded her coldly, yellow eyes meeting green. Nora wanted to turn away from the android's intense scrutiny, but held his stare.

"What makes you think that I could give a targ's ass what you do? Frankly, I can't wait to be rid of you. I have more pressing business to attend to."

A slight smile played on Nora's lips. That line of crap might work on somebody else, but she knew better. "'Methinks thou dost protest too much.'"

He sneered at her like a petulant child and turned his attention back to the ship's console.

"So, what's this pressing business of yours?"

"The dilithium in the warp drive needs to be replaced," Lore explained, "I have an appointment with a Ferengi trader in a week and I don't need you here getting in the way."

"Oh," she said, "so that's what you needed the lobster's for."

"Brilliant deduction."

"Lore, I've been thinking."

"Shall I alert the media?"

She smacked him on the arm in mock irritation. "Seriously, I've been thinking that if it's alright with you, I'd like to stay a while."

He looked up at her in surprise.

"I don't think I should leave you alone right now."

Lore's expression switched to one of scorn. "Listen," he paused for effect, "hu-man, I don't need to be looked after like some snotty-nosed brat who needs his diapers changed!"

Nora just looked at him patiently, head resting on one hand.

"You have been a very amusing toy, nothing more. It's time for you to go back to your pathetic little life and leave me in peace."

"Okay," she shrugged nonchalantly, "if that's how you feel I'll be on my way. I wouldn't want to wear out my welcome."

"You would leave too, wouldn't you?" he said, wounded. "Just like a hu-man."

Nora wondered if it was possible to strangle an android. "Lore, I'll stay if you want me to, but I don't want to play games. Just say it, 'Nora, please stay'. You can even leave out the 'please'."

Lore looked away from her and remained silent.

Nora sighed sadly. "I'll take that as a 'no'." She got up and headed for the bedroom. "Let me know when we've reached Delos II."

"Nora?"

She stopped and turned, silently hoping he'd tell her what she wanted to hear. "Yes, Lore?"

He rose from his captain's chair and took a few steps toward her. "I don't understand you at all."

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I've done," he said, "what I'm capable of and yet you want to stay here with me."

Nora hesitated. She wasn't sure if she was ready to tell him how she felt. If I don't say it now I may never get another chance. "I care about you in spite of what you've done. As to what your capable of; in the last two weeks you've shown me gentleness, passion, and laughter." She paused. "I want to stay here because I love you, Lore."

"You love me?" He laughed derisively. "Why? I know you're not stupid, so I assume you must be sick."

Tears welled up in her eyes. Those words were like spears to her. She started to cry and ran into the bedroom.

*

Lore followed her, but stopped at the closed bedroom door. He could see that she had locked it which was more of a symbolic gesture than an actual deterrent. She knew perfectly well he could enter if he wanted to. He respected her privacy, but listened to her sobbing through the door.

Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for being the cause of Nora's pain. He also felt something else his positronic brain couldn't quite identify; confusion...excitement...abject terror? Nora loves me! For the life of him, Lore couldn't begin to fathom the reason why. He shook his head in amazement. "Humans."

*

Nora emerged several hours later. "I fell asleep. Are we almost there?"

"We passed it an hour ago."

"Why didn't you wake me?"

He looked down at his feet and shrugged.

"Does this mean you want me to stay?"

He raised his head and nodded almost imperceptibly.

She smiled. She was hoping for a more open display of his feelings for her, but this would have to do.

He seemed to relax a bit. "Nora, did you mean...what you said?"

She nodded. "I don't say such things lightly, I can assure you."

"Why me?" His baffled tone and expression tore at her heart. He really couldn't understand how she, or anyone else for that matter, could possibly love him.

She went over to him, sat in his lap and put her arms around him. The captain's chair creaked under their combined weight, but held it. "That, My Dearest Love, is a very good question. You are no doubt the most infuriating man I have ever known."

"I try," he said with false modesty.

"Yes, I've noticed," she put her finger to his lips, "now be quiet and listen."

"I can talk and listen at the same time," Lore reminded her.

"Well I can't, so hush," she said gently, but firmly. "I really can't explain exactly why but," she paused, "at the risk of sounding cliché, when I looked into your eyes that first time in the department store, something in them just...caught me."

He smirked affectionately. "Nora, you are a cliché. 'Sweet Little Sales Girl Meets Rebel Android Without A Cause'."

"Oh, please don't tell me you're going through a James Dean phase now," she laughed, "I don't even want to know what 'The Drag Race' involves."

He made a feeble attempt at a smile. Lore picked at the buttons on her dress, but the gesture was more fretful than seductive. "I don't know what it feels like to love someone," he looked up at her sadly, "I don't think I'm even capable of love."

Nora stroked his golden cheek gently and search the depths of his bright amber eyes. "I don't believe that for a minute. Do you honestly think I'd be here if I did?"

She drew back suddenly when Lore suffered another spasm. That damn chip again! Why did he insist on leaving it in? Fortunately, he still had one arm around her waist, otherwise she would have fallen out of the chair. He quickly recovered, but when he caught her gaze again, that 'something' she saw in his eyes just seconds before was gone, or rather, hidden.

He put his hand on the back of her head and brought her face close to his. He kissed her hard on the mouth. So hard, in fact, she tasted blood. She tried to pull away from him without success. When he did finally release her she went sprawling onto the deck of the small bridge. The next thing she knew, he was on top of her, pinning her arms down above her head with one hand.

"Poor, sweet, deluded girl," he said in contempt, "Human females are so easily manipulated by sex."

Nora had never seen him look that way. The pure hatred in his eyes was almost more than she could bear. For the first time, she was truly frightened of him. She closed her eyes tightly and let the fear sink from her body, through the deck of the ship and out into space. When she opened them again her expression was positively serene. "Is that what you think?" she asked calmly, "that I would endure this for sex?" She laughed. "It's good, but it's not that good."

Her unexpected response seemed to throw him off a bit. "Admit it, hu-man, I fooled you. I tricked you just like I tricked the old man and his favorite son, who's almost as stupid as a human. I should kill you now just to save you from your own idiocy."

To his surprise, she smiled. "You're testing me Lore, to see if you can scare me off. To see if I'll waver in my affection for you. To see if I'll abandon you like your father did. And you thought I was the transparent one." Nora shook her head sadly, "Poor, sweet, deluded android."

In a flash, he was up and heading for the engine room. When he was out of sight, she closed her eyes and breathed a relieved sigh. Too close.

*

"Lore, we need to talk." He had been tinkering with the warp engine for the better part of a week. He said it was to prepare for the new dilithium crystal they were to pick up in a few hours, but it was painfully obvious to Nora that he was avoiding her and this inevitable discussion. "I know that fancy positronic brain of yours can listen to me and repair the warp drive at the same time, but I would appreciate it if you'd look at me when I'm speaking to you."

He slammed down his sonic screwdriver and turned to her, arms folded across his chest. "I'm all attention."

Nora sighed. She hardly knew where to start. "I'm afraid if things don't change very soon, I'm not going to make it to my next birthday."

He shook his head and chuckled. "You're concerned about the Ferengi deal, aren't you?" He took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry, my dear, I'll protect you."

She pulled away. "But who'll protect me from you? If you will remember correctly you threatened my life."

"It was a joke."

She shook with anger. "Well, it was not at all amusing."

He picked up the screwdriver and started to turn back to the warp engine, but Nora grabbed his arm.

"You're not functioning properly! You need more than I can give you. I want you to go to your brother and ask, nicely, for his help." She steeled herself for the explosion, but it never came.

Lore gently wriggled his arm free and shook his head sadly. "I can't do it, Nora, not even for you."

"Why not do it for yourself?" she cried, "You could at least try."

"Try?," he said hotly, "I don't think you realize how hard I've tried to please you! This is as good as it gets, Nora, take it or leave it."

She felt like a heel. She knew he was doing his best, but it just wasn't enough. Her heart sank to her feet. "I guess I'll have to leave it."

"I knew it was just a matter of time," Lore said, smiling tragically, "I must give you credit for sticking it out this long."

Nora attempted to blink back her tears, but failed. "My feelings for you haven't, and will never change."

"Why you persist in that folly I'll never understand." He stroked her damp cheek and ran his fingers through her auburn hair. "I've often wondered what I would do when you wanted to leave for good. My first impulse, of course, was to just keep you here; by force, if necessary. But then I remembered that look of fear in your eyes and decided that I would rather never again experience your sensory input patterns than see you look at me that way." He bent down and kissed her softly. "Your program will always be my favorite."

*

"I should be finished here in about a half hour," he said quietly, "and then I'll take you back to Delos II."

"I can only hope my mother will send me the fare back to Earth," Nora said, her eyes red and puffy from crying, "I can hardly wait for the never ending chorus of 'I told you so'."

Lore dragged the stasis unit out of the cargo hold and made sure the lobsters were still in tradable condition. The unit itself was about a meter and a half long and half a meter wide. She went to him and leaned over his shoulder. "How are the amorous crustaceans?"

"Fine."

"Lore?"

He stood up and faced her. "What?"

"Take me with you. You know, one last adventure for the road."

He rolled his eyes. "Nora, I thought you didn't want to live life on the edge anymore."

"A couple of Ferengi and a trunk full of lobsters is living on the edge?" she laughed ironically, "I'm already guilty of aiding and abetting a renegade android, so what's the harm in a little black market deal?" Nora was very glad her mother wasn't here listening to this. It would probably kill the poor woman. "Come on, pleeease."

He smiled. "You know I can't resist it when you beg. Alright." She clapped happily, but he held up a warning finger. "Just remember this was your idea."

*

When they transported to the rendezvous sight, a deserted warehouse, the Ferengi hadn't arrived yet. Nora settled herself down on the stasis unit, while Lore paced with growing irritation. "Where in the hell are they? How dare they keep me waiting."

She sighed heavily. "Please don't start, they'll be here soon."

A few minutes later, the two Ferengi figures appeared. Those huge ears and toothy grins were unmistakable. Nora noticed that they were both armed with disruptors, but didn't seem to be carrying anything else. Great, just great.

"Where's the dilithium?" Lore barked

Ferengi number one said, "I am Tork and this," he pointed to Ferengi number two, "is Bok. Where are the lobsters?"

"Pleased to meetcha fellas," he said sarcastically, "I am Lore and that," he pointed at her over his shoulder, "is Nora. She's sitting on the lobsters. So where's the dilithium?"

"It is still on our ship," Tork replied, "We Ferengi are not in the habit of accepting merchandise in place of cash for such a valuable commodity as dilithium. I will inspect the lobsters first, then, if I am satisfied, you will get your crystal."

Nora moaned. Here it comes.

It came.

Lore grabbed Tork by his shirt front and slammed him against the nearest wall. The Ferengi's feet were dangling above the floor. "You will give me my dilithium now or I will-"

"E-NOUGH!"

All three men whipped their heads around to see Nora march up to the android. Her face was inches from his. "Lore, stop that right this instant!"

"Not now, woman!" he snapped.

"Yes NOW, android!" she shouted, "I would think that a sophisticated piece of machinery such as yourself could think of something a little more original than smashing people against walls every time you turn around!"

"Well," he retorted, a firm grip remaining on Tork, "I would think that a relatively intelligent humanoid such as yourself could think of something a little more original than nagging me to death!"

The two Ferengi merchants watched the drama unfold in fascinated horror.

Nora started to cry. "Maybe I wouldn't have to nag you to death if you weren't such a big, dumb jerk!"

Lore clutched his chest in feigned torment. "Oh, what witty repartee, Nora," he said with disdain, "I think you've got Noel Coward beat. And please," he added with extra venom, "spare me the waterworks!"

She closed her eyes in anguish. When she opened them again there was no longer the unwavering, unconditional love for him that he had become accustomed to seeing. In them instead, Lore saw the most hideous and frightening thing he had ever seen in his entire defective android existence- a reflection of himself.

"I hate you!" she spat.

Lore shut his eyes tightly and covered his face with his hands, unceremoniously dropping Tork.

Bok used the distraction to sneak up behind the android and aim his disruptor at Lore's back. Nora caught the motion in the corner of her eye. Without thinking, she spun Lore around and screamed, "NO!"

Bok fired.

The next split second was to be Lore's All-Time Favorite.

*

Lore's head twitched. It was not the normal, violent jerking motion he was used to. Just a gentle, little twitch. Intriguing. He ran a self-diagnostic and found the most astonishing thing. Some previously dormant circuits in his original emotional program had been activated.

He suddenly felt an unbearable searing pain in his chest. He desperately wanted it to stop, but at the same time thought it was the most exquisite agony an android could feel. The Pain of Life. The Pain of Love.

The force of the blast sent Nora back hard against him. He caught her and carefully eased her to the ground, cradling her in his arms. She was conscious, but breathing irregularly. Lore didn't need a medical scanner to know that her injuries were too severe for his limited resources to be of much help. She needed a real hospital with real doctors very soon or she would die. He stroked her hair tenderly. Why do humans have to be so fragile?

Tork ran over to his partner, as Bok let the weapon slip from his hands. "I-I did not mean to shoot her," he said, petrified, "Please do not hurt us."

He snapped his head up, a dazed expression on his face. "What possible good would that do?" Lore felt Nora's hand brush against his cheek. He looked into her eyes and smiled sadly. "Just go and leave us in peace."

The Ferengi immediately took him up on the offer and left.

Nora started to cry. "I'm so sorry for what I said, My Dearest Love, I didn't mean it."

"For a second you did," he swallowed hard at the memory of that look in her eyes, "but I drove you to it."

"Believe it or not," she said sweetly, "I cherished every minute of the ride."

Lore's head twitched again. The lobsters! He looked over at the stasis unit and then turned back to her. With an impish grin he said, "Nora, I just thought of a brand new game we can play. I call it 'The Big Dumb Jerk Of An Android Cleans Up His Act And Rescues The Girl'."

She smiled weakly. "I think this one will be my All-Time Favorite."

*

"Captain, a small freighter is hailing us," reported Lieutenant Worf, "There are no life signs, but it appears to be on an intercept course."

"What would a freighter be doing all the way out here?" asked Commander Riker.

"I'm as puzzled as you are, Number One. On screen, Mr. Worf."

The entire bridge crew gasped collectively.

Data rose from his ops station. "Lore, what are you doing here?"

"Believe it or not, little brother," he said shyly, "I'm here to ask for your help. Well, actually, Dr. Crusher's help."

Captain Picard stood beside his Second Officer, an ill-humored expression on his face. "Explain yourself, quickly, before I order Mr. Worf to blow you and your ship to kingdom come." Data started to open his mouth, but the Captain waved him silent.

"Well, Captain Picard, sir," Lore began in the most contrite tone he could manage, "My companion, Nora Brooks, has been severely injured. I didn't know who else to turn to. You've got to help her."

"Our sensors show no life forms aboard your ship," the Captain said impatiently, "If this is some kind of stupid trick-"

"No tricks, Captain. I put her in a stasis unit, that's why your not picking up life signs." Lore took a deep breath. "I know I've done a lot of hateful things in my time and I wish I could take ever single one of them back, but I can't. Please don't let her suffer for my mistakes. She's done quite enough of that already."

Captain Picard wasn't buying it. "How do I know you're telling the truth? You've proven yourself to be quite a good actor in the past."

"I asked nicely!" he yelled in frustration, "What do you want me to do? Beg?"

"Yes," said Worf.

Lore threw up his hands in resignation. "Alright Klingon, I hope you enjoy it." He proceeded to get down on his knees and pleaded, practically in tears, "Please, Captain, don't let her die. You can do anything you want with me. Disassemble me, beam me out into space, I don't care. Data can even have his damn chip back! Anything, just help her, pleeease!"

Worf smiled.

Data cocked his head in bewilderment at his brother's extraordinary behavior. "Fascinating."

Counselor Troi rose from her chair and stood next to Picard. "Captain, I can only sense him faintly, but I believe he's in earnest."

"Are you quite sure Counselor?"

"Yes sir."

Captain Picard rubbed his forehead as if in pain. "All right. Number One, I want Lore beamed directly to the brig. Data, Worf meet Doctor Crusher in Transporter Room Three. Make it so."

Lore blew Troi a kiss. "I am forever in your debt, beautiful Betazoid lady."

Deanna stifled a giggle.

"Unbelievable," muttered Riker.

He rose from his kneeling position and breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Thank you, Captain. You won't regret this."

"I had better not," he said sternly, "or I will take you apart myself, piece by piece and make you into a decorative table lamp. Is that clear?"

"Crystal...sir."

*

The next day, Dr. Beverly Crusher paid Lore a visit in the brig. Instead of insults, she was assaulted by a frantic series of inquiries regarding Nora's condition.

"She's going to be fine, really," the Doctor assured him for the third time, "Her new artificial heart is working beautifully. Putting her in that stasis unit saved her life."

"When can I see her?"

"She won't be ready to leave sickbay for another day or so." Doctor Crusher studied Lore for a moment and shook her head. "I don't get it."

"Get what?"

"The last time I saw you my arm was on fire and you were threatening to do the same thing to my son's entire body. And now I hear genuine caring and concern...from you! Why this drastic change?"

Lore sat down on his bunk and shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I just got tired of ruining people's lives and my own in the process."

"You want to know what I think?"

"No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me anyway."

"I think," Crusher paused as she approached the perimeter of the force field and with a decidedly self-satisfied smile said, "you're in love."

Lore looked up at the Doctor in surprise. His face broke out into a grin that vanished almost as quickly as it came. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"

"You're damn right I am."

Doctor Crusher turned to leave, but stopped when he called to her, "Oh Doctor, next time you speak with Weasley- I mean Wesley, please tell him I sincerely hope he doesn't die a horrible fiery death in a shuttlecraft accident anytime soon."

"Now that's the Lore I know!" she said darkly on her way out the door, "For a minute there I thought the universe was coming to an end."

When she was gone, Lore laid down on his bunk and ran his 'Two Thousand Ways to Kill a Crusher' program (it was one of his favorites). As he reminisced, he decided he wouldn't really murder the little bugger even if he had the chance. He smiled broadly. His girlfriend wouldn't like it.

*

The second Doctor Crusher gave the okay, Nora headed for the brig, escorted by Lieutenant Worf. Usually, prisoners were allowed to visit with their significant others privately, but Captain Picard had ordered that Lore be guarded at all times. Worf remained, but the couple hardly seemed to notice he was there. They sat together on either side of the force field and gazed into each other's eyes.

The Klingon Warrior groaned.

"I have never loved you more than I do right now," said Nora, tears welling up in her beautiful green eyes, "I'm so proud of you."

Lore looked away from her self-consciously. "I guess you'll be going back to Earth as soon as you're fully recovered."

"Sorry android, but you're not getting rid of me that easily. Now all I have to worry about is telling my mother," she cringed, "That should be interesting."

"I can hardly wait to meet her," he said devilishly.

"I can hardly wait myself." Oh God, what a horrible thought. "I'm sure she'll...love you."

"She's only human," he said arrogantly. He paused. "Nora...you're not going to get into any trouble...because of me- are you?"

"No, I don't think so." His concern for her welfare was touching. "I spoke to the Captain and explained the situation," she smirked, "he thinks I've suffered enough."

Lore smirked back in a perfect imitation of her. "You didn't tell him everything," he whispered conspiratorially, "did you?"

"Do you think I'm a fool?" she whispered back, "the uniform thing alone would get me twenty years." They snickered like mischievous children and then fell silent.

Their conversation suffered an uncomfortable lull. "I heard they removed Data's chip," she said after a moment, "they're supposed to put it in him sometime today."

"Great, now he can hate me for real."

Nora sighed in exasperation. "He's not going to hate you. In fact, Data's quite impressed by your gallant behavior these past couple of days. He's putting a good word in for you to..." she smiled, "everyone. He might even be able to convince the Captain to let you out of there in a few days."

"I suppose I'll have to thank him," Lore said, sounding slightly put out by the idea.

She rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you'll manage."

"Your time is up," Worf announced happily.

They rose and looked at each other awkwardly for a moment.

Nora cleared her throat. "I never thought I'd be saying good-bye to my android boyfriend in the pokey."

"You will get used to it." said Worf.

Lore sneered. "Tou-che'. You're a regular Oscar Wilde Klin-," she gave him that look, "Lieutenant Worf."

She wagged an affectionate, but firm finger at him and then blew him a kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Nora?"

"Yes, Lore?"

He hesitated. "Nora, I...I l-l-luu-"

"Say it android!" bellowed Worf.

Lore's head twitched. "La-aa-uuve you."

Nora burst out laughing. "Well, that was pretty good for a first attempt."

"You mean I have to say it again?"

She sighed patiently, "That would be nice." Once again she headed for the door.

"Oh, Nora?"

"What is it, My Dearest Love?"

He leered at her wickedly. "That new artificial heart of yours is a real turn-on."

Worf covered his eyes.

Nora turned five shades of red. "You are incorrigible!"

"I try."

~Finis~