"Elia"

"Elia"
by Christina Teresa

Introduction

"Elia" takes place immediately after the destruction of the Enterprise 1701-D in "Generations". "Elia" is just for fun and is not intended to infringe upon any copyrights owned by Paramount Television and Pictures. Original story and characters, © Christina Teresa, 2001. Comments are encouraged and appreciated: csteresa@yahoo.com.

*

Quark, Ferengi businessman and proprietor of the most popular spot on Deep Space Nine's Promenade, rubbed his hands together greedily as he spied his next customer, Lieutenant Commander Data. He had heard from the DS9 grapevine that the android was here on personal leave after the destruction of the Enterprise-D. Though Quark saw profit in every Starfleet officer visiting his bar, he had something very special for the famous android. Something Data would pay through the microcircuitry for. "Elia, come here. I have a job for you."

The woman named Elia was engaged in a lively discussion with a slightly intoxicated Bajoran man. She was an attractive and shapely humanoid stuffed into a shimmering, skin-tight red gown. Her pretty, porcelain-smooth face was heavily made up. Her long, dark hair was piled on top of her head in an intricate fashion. She turned to him in irritation. "Can't it wait, Quark? Kyl is telling me the most amusing story."

The Ferengi marched over to the woman and grabbed her arm. "Has he paid yet?"

"Not yet," she whispered, "but any minute now."

"I'm so sorry, sir," said Quark with a toothy grin, "but Elia has a previous engagement. She will be available in a few hours for your paid enjoyment."

Quark led the woman to Data's table.

*

Deep Space Nine's Chief of Operations, Miles O'Brien, took a sip of his double sweet, double strong coffee. "So the chip is fused to your neural network?"

"That is correct, Chief," replied Data, "I could not remove it if I wanted to."

"But you don't want to," said Dr. Bashir, "do you Data?"

The android shook his head. "No, I do not. Even though I found it somewhat difficult to adjust to my new emotions at first, I believe I am in complete control of them now."

The two humans exchanged a grin and a glance that caused Data to feel a bit paranoid, but he immediately dismissed the emotion. He was in a marvelous mood and nothing was going to spoil it. "I believe the best part about having emotions is that I now understand humor." He paused then smiled broadly. "Two Klingons walked into a bar--"

Data's joke was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing his throat. The android looked up to see the bar's owner and a human woman at his side.

Miles brightened considerably at the sight of the Ferengi. "What can we do for you, Quark?"

Quark appeared confused at O'Brien's enthusiastic greeting. "Good evening, Chief O'Brien, Dr. Bashir," he said in his most servile tone, "and this must be the famous android, Lieutenant Commander Data."

The woman's face lit up at that.

He nodded. "I am Data."

The petite woman pushed Quark out of the way, almost causing the Ferengi to fall down on his backside, and grabbed Data tightly by the arm. Her expression was one of intense wonder and excitement. "You're an android?"

Data nodded again.

She cried out joyfully. "So am I!" She pulled him to his feet and hugged him. A human man would have been crushed by the enthusiastic force of her embrace. "I never thought I'd ever meet another of my kind!"

Data stared at her wide-eyed and open-mouthed. A thousand questions popped into his positronic brain: Who created you? Where did you come from? What kind of neural pathways do you have? Data's etiquette subroutine kicked in, reminding him that they had not been properly introduced. "I am Data. What is your name?"

"I'm Elia," she stroked the front of his uniform seductively, "and I'm very happy to make your acquaintance. Would you like to come to the holosuite with me, Data? It's on the house."

Quark pried them apart and glared at the female android. "Nothing is ever on the house unless I say it is. Remember Ferengi Rule of Acquisition number 182?"

Elia sighed. "'Never give anything away for free except bad advice'."

Quark smiled. "That's my good little android." The Ferengi turned to Data. "You're more than welcome to spend time with Elia in the holosuite; that is, if you're willing to part with ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum."

"Quark, that's outrageous," said Elia, "you told me to only charge--"

"The price just went up."

Miles stood next to his fellow officer like a protective older brother. "Sorry, Miss, but Commander Data's not interested in your," O'Brien paused, "wares. Go peddle them someplace else."

"I wasn't addressing you, sir," Elia said angrily. Her expression softened when she turned back to Data. "Please come to the holosuite with me."

Data looked at Elia apologetically. "I am sorry, but I do not have ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum."

Quark took hold of Elia's arm. "Well, if you happen to run across ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum, she'll be here." The Ferengi led the android woman away and back to Kyl, the drunken Bajoran man.

Data watched Elia for a few seconds before sitting back down with his fellow officers.

"Can you believe that Ferengi's audacity?" said Julian.

"He'll do anything for money," said Miles, shaking his head. "I've seen the girl before, but I had no idea she was an android."

Data was confused. "Chief O'Brien, what did you mean when you told Elia to peddle her wares someplace else? And why would Quark demand such an exorbitant fee for the use of the holosuite?"

Miles and Julian exchanged uncomfortable glances.

"Well, Data," began Miles, "the holosuites are used primarily for...adult entertainment, if you know what I mean."

Data shook his head. "I am not sure that I do."

"Data," said Julian, "to put it delicately...Elia is a-- a-- lady of the evening and the holosuites are primarily used as a brothel."

O'Brien snorted. "That's delicate?"

Data blinked twice. "She was soliciting prostitution?"

The two humans nodded.

A feeling of outrage washed over the android. "That is most unacceptable. Does she not know that there are an infinite number of career opportunities open to her?"

"Quark isn't exactly known as the station's career advisor," Julian told him, "In the past, he's only used holographic women in the holosuites, but apparently he's expanded his business."

"I must speak with her." Data got up to leave, but Miles and Julian stopped him.

"Quark won't let you even talk to her without paying his price," said Miles.

"And if he knows you just want to talk her out of her present situation," Julian added, "he won't let you near her at all."

Miles patted his android friend on the shoulder. "It's best if you just forget it, Data. Women like that don't change, even if they're androids."

Data did not answer, but caught a glimpse of Elia in the corner of his eye, ascending the stairs to the holosuites with the drunken Bajoran man in tow.

*

The three officers left the bar shortly afterward. Dr. Bashir retired to sickbay. Miles O'Brien invited Data home for dinner, but the android declined. "Perhaps tomorrow night. I wish to be alone for a while."

Miles nodded. "I understand. Tomorrow night, then. I'll tell Keiko."

Data walked around the Promenade for a while, then returned to Quark's. Elia was at the bar again, this time with a Corvallen trader.

Data wondered to himself what could have caused her to engage in such activity. He was certain that if he could get her alone for just a few minutes he could convince her to give up this life of iniquity

When the female android saw him, she excused herself and rushed to the Starfleet officer.

"I was hoping you'd come back, Data," she said sincerely.

"Elia, may I speak to you privately for a few moments?"

She looked behind her and saw Quark . The Ferengi placed himself between the two androids.

"Just ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum," Quark told him, "and worth every bit of it."

"I told you, I do not have any money," Data said, "perhaps I could speak to Elia over there for just a moment." He pointed at an empty table.

"I don't care what you do with her or where you do it," the Ferengi replied, "it will still cost you ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum."

Data politely nudged Quark out of the way so he could speak directly to her. "What time do you finish work, Elia? We could meet then if you would like."

Elia glanced at Quark who was glaring at her. "I don't think I can, Data. I'm very busy here."

Data looked over her shoulder at the Dabo tables and smiled.

*

Starting with just two bars of gold-pressed Latinum he borrowed on his Starfleet pension, Data won enough at the Dabo tables to pay Quark back and still had ten bars to spare.

Elia, who watched Data's performance, tried to give an outward appearance of loyalty to her boss, but was obviously elated when Data beat the house.

"You can't stop now," said Quark, "you've got to give me, I mean, the house a chance to recoup its losses."

Data pushes his winnings toward Quark. "I wish to take you up on your previous offer. Ten bars of gold-pressed Latinum for time with Elia."

"That was twenty bars."

"I assure you, sir, my memory banks contain the entirety of our conversation and you distinctly said ten bars."

Quark sighed. "Oh, all right, ten bars for two hours in the holosuite."

"Make it for the entire night or the deal is off."

"Two and a half hours and not a second more."

Data, with his best poker face on, picked up his Latinum, turned and walked toward the exit.

"Three hours and that's my final offer," Quark called after him. When the android officer didn't stop, the Ferengi ran after the him and grabbed his arm.

"All right," Quark said with a toothy grin, "because you're such a good friend of Chief O'Brien and Dr. Bashir, you can have her for the entire night, but you'll have to use your own quarters. I don't want to tie up the holosuite for that long." He held out his greedy hands. "My Latinum, please."

With a smile, Data handed over the cash. "I will have her back here by 08:00 hours."

"Make that 06:00," Quark said firmly. No android was going to make a fool out of him.

*

Elia took Data's hand as they left Quark's Bar. "I'm so glad you came back. I even created a special pleasure subroutine just for you."

Data glanced at her in surprise. That sounded like something he would say; something he had said in the past. He never thought anyone would be saying it to him. As he always did since the emotion chip was finally inserted, he analyzed his feelings. He concluded that her comment made him feel good; very good, in fact. The good feeling was immediately replaced by another emotion he recognized as guilt. "That is not why I did it," he said as he released her hand. "I do not wish to be intimate with you. I merely wish to talk to you."

"Oh." Elia's disappointment was obvious. She quickly smiled. "That's all right, too. You'd be surprised how many men just want to talk."

Data grimaced at being reminded of her profession. "Elia, do you enjoy what you do?"

She shrugged then nodded. "I suppose I do. I was created primarily for pleasure, so it seemed only logical for me to become a courtesan. Besides, you'd be amazed at how much you can learn about a culture from their mating rituals. The Klingon mating ritual, for instance--"

"I am familiar with the Klingon mating ritual, thank you," he said more harshly than he had intended. He paused and continued in a more even tone, "I have read a great deal about Klingon rituals in general."

She smiled. "Reading isn't the same as doing."

Her reply caused Data to form a rather distasteful mental picture which he quickly dismissed. "I find it hard to understand why your creator would want such a future for his daughter."

"Daughter?" She giggled, then her expression became sad. "I never thought of myself that way before. Did your creator consider you his son?"

"Yes, Dr. Soong thought of me as his son," Data replied, "he even created me in his own image."

"He must have been very handsome." She smiled at him coquettishly. "Data, do you enjoy being in Starfleet? Was that the future your creator planned for you?"

Data instantly reviewed the only real conversation he ever had with Dr. Soong. Why Starfleet? The old man had asked in disappointment. "Dr. Soong wished for me to become a scientist, like himself. I believe he was disappointed that I joined Starfleet." Data felt disappointed himself at the memory. Why could he have not told me he was proud of me? "My mother seems proud of me though."

"You have a mother, too?" Elia looked a little envious.

Data nodded. "She is Dr. Soong's ex-wife, but she assisted him with my creation. I am going to visit her on Atrea Four when I leave Deep Space Nine the day after tomorrow."

They continued in silence for a moment; a silence that was broken by a half-suppressed chuckle emanating from Data.

Elia giggled in response. "What are you laughing at?"

Data cleared his throat, but couldn't wipe the grin off his face. "I am sorry. I was thinking of a joke I once heard."

She gave him an encouraging smile. "Well, are you going to tell it to me or are you going to keep it all to yourself?"

Data smiled broadly. "The psychiatrist asked his patient, 'Why are you taking your troubles to bed with you?' The patient answered, 'What else can I do? My wife refuses to sleep alone.'"

Elia laughed heartily at the punchline.

Data was awestruck. "You liked it."

"Of course I did," she said, still giggling, "it was very funny. Do you know any more?"

A look of ecstasy come over him. "Thousands."

They walked around the station for hours. Data told Elia of his life in Starfleet, his struggle to be more human, and his recent emotional awakening. Elia listened attentively, only interjecting the occasional comment or question. She was sincerely interested in what he had to say and she didn't cut him off like his friends sometimes did when he rambled. She even laughed at the jokes he told her, no matter how old or stale they were.

Her willingness to listen distracted Data from his original purpose. He wanted to learn more about her, not talk about himself. He took Elia to his quarters.

"Data, if you don't wish for us to be intimate why did you bring me here?"

"I wish to speak to you privately. Also, I was hoping to examine your neural pathways. Would you mind if I removed an access panel in your head?"

She smiled. "No man's ever asked that before. I suppose it'll be all right." Elia noticed Data's cat, Spot, languishing on the bed. She went over to the animal and stroked her lightly. "Do you always travel with your cat?"

"Since the Enterprise was destroyed, I am afraid both Spot and I are temporarily homeless."

Elia frowned in sympathy. "Oh, you poor things." She scratched Spot behind the ears causing the cat to purr.

Data hated to interrupt, but did not want to get distracted once again. "May I examine you now, Elia?"

"Yes, of course." She sat down on the only chair in the room. Spot immediately jumped in her lap and curled up in a ball.

Data looked at his cat in surprise. "Spot does not usually take to people so quickly."

Elia petted the cat again, then began to take the pins out of her hair. Her dark brown curls cascaded down her back and breast.

Data had the overwhelming need to touch it, which he did as he removed an access panel from the side of her head.

She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly when he touched her hair and removed the panel.

Data ran a scanner over her exposed circuitry. "Your neural network appears similar to my own, but there are some fundamental differences." It was obvious that Elia's creator had studied Dr. Soong's work, but had made many enhancements of his own. Data's eyes roamed from her circuitry to her beautiful, china-doll profile. "Your hair looks much nicer down, if you do not mind me saying so. Also, I do not believe you need so much makeup. You are very pretty."

She smiled shyly, her rouged cheeks became pinker. "Thank you, Data."

Data replaced the access panel, surreptitiously brushing his hand against her hair one last time.

Elia faced him and took his hands. "Now it's my turn. I want to see inside of you."

Data hesitated. He hardly knew this woman. Was it wise to make himself so vulnerable to her? What if she turned out to be like Lore? As he looked into her kind eyes, he found himself unable to deny her request. "All right."

Elia gently shooed Spot off her lap and switched places with Data.

As she removed an access panel from the side of his head, Data thought her examination felt very different from the many times Geordi had done the same thing. The most obvious difference was that Elia was standing closer to him. He felt her body brush up against his. As she stood over him, Data caught a glimpse of her cleavage. He was suddenly overcome with another emotion: sexual desire.

Before the chip, he hardly ever thought about-- let alone had-- sex. Tasha was the last woman he had been with. Looking back, he enjoyed his intimate encounter with Tasha immensely. He also felt desire and sadness at the thought of his dead friend. Instead of dampening his lust for Elia, those memories increased it. The feeling became so overwhelming that Data was afraid it would overload his positronic relays. Elia took a torturously long time examining him, but part of him didn't want her to ever stop.

When she was finished, she replaced the panel and stroked his hair and face gently. "You're very beautiful, Data," she whispered.

Data closed his eyes and sighed. The irony of the situation was not lost on him. For thirty-four years he had been denied the experience of love and pleasure. In his hands was the most beautiful woman he had ever met-- an android like himself who desired him as much as he desired her. For a split second, he concluded it was ridiculous to hold back from enjoying the intimate pleasures of life after being denied them for so long. Any other man would have succumbed by now. Data mustered every bit of self-control he possessed. He broke the spell by asking her abruptly, "Who created you, Elia?"

She lowered her eyes. "I don't know." She looked at him sadly. "I don't know who created me or where I came from. That information was wiped from my memory processors when my creator left me with Quark."

"You know nothing of your past?"

"Well, I do know I've only been activated less than an Earth year. I believe my creator was human, but the particulars aren't there. I can't tell you how frustrating it is not to remember."

"You do not have to tell me, I know how frustrating it is. Before Dr. Soong created me, he created my brother, Lore. Lore's emotional program caused a dangerous instability which led to the eventual destruction of the colony they were on. That is why I was created without an emotional program. When my mother and father fled Omicron Theta, they wiped my memory processors and left me there. I was rescued by the U.S.S. Tripoli two years later." Data stopped himself. Once again, the conversation returned to him. "Elia, do you have any idea how you ended up with Quark?"

She sat down on the bed. "According to Quark, my creator ran up a substantial debt at the Dabo tables. He left me with him in lieu of payment."

"But that is slavery."

She smiled. "Oh, it's not as bad as all that. I don't mind it. Believe or not, Quark can be quite sweet. Besides, if my creator wished for me to do this, I have a duty to obey."

Data shook his head vigorously. "No, you do not have a duty to be a slave. What Quark is doing is illegal. Several years ago, a Starfleet cyberneticist wanted to disassemble me to perform some potentially dangerous experiments. Captain Picard went to court to prove that I was a sentient being entitled to all the rights and privileges of a Federation citizen." Data smiled. "He won."

Elia attempted to process this startling information. "But would that law apply to me as well?"

Data nodded. "I believe so. In the short time I have spent with you, I am certain your sentience would be easily proved."

"I had no idea there was such a law. What should I do now?"

"I will take you to Commander Sisko," Data replied, "he will take care of it."

"At this hour? Shouldn't we wait until morning?"

Data rose and took Elia by the hand. "No, your freedom is too important to wait another minute."

*

A sleepy Commander Sisko called Quark into his office at Data's urging and explained the situation to the Ferengi.

Elia picked up Quark by his shirtfront. "You lied to me."

"No, it was your creator who lied to me--" The Ferengi laughed nervously. "How was I to know about some obscure Starfleet statute?"

"Well, you know now, Quark," warned Sisko, "and I expect you to treat her accordingly."

Elia put him down and towered over him. "There are going to be some changes, Quark. If you still want me to work the holosuites, you will give me eighty percent of the profits of what I bring in."

Quark sputtered, looking as if he would have a stroke. "Eigh- eighty percent? Are you trying bankrupt me?!"

"Oh, I doubt I'll do that. Remember, I've seen the books--" she glanced at Sisko then back at Quark. "Both sets."

The Ferengi leaned in and whispered, "We'll talk about the particulars of your contract when you're back at the bar at 06:00."

"Oh, that's another thing, I've decided to take the day off-- maybe a couple of days. Data and I are going to celebrate my new-found freedom. We'll discuss my contract when I'm damned good and ready." Elia turned and smiled at Data. The android officer forced a smile back.

Sisko rose from his chair, an impatient smile on his face. "Now that that's settled, I'd very much like to go back to bed."

*

Data and Elia walked around the almost deserted station. Some of the heartier Bajoran merchants were preparing to open their shops.

Elia was jubilant. "How did you like the way I handled that Ferengi?"

"It was most impressive," said Data unenthusiastically.

Elia ignored Data's sudden mood change. "So, how would you like to celebrate?" She took his hand and squeezed it. "I still have that special pleasure subroutine if you'd like to try it out."

Data stopped abruptly. "Do you not understand, Elia?" he said angrily, "you are free, you do not have to do that anymore."

"I do understand, Data," she replied in irritation, "I'm free to do what I want."

Data raised his voice almost to a yell. "And you want to be a prostitute?"

Elia's face remained calm, but her eyes flashed with rage. "I prefer the word 'courtesan'," she said evenly, "'prostitute' sounds so harsh."

Her casual reply seemed to make him angrier. "By any other name, you are still selling yourself for money. Do you not find it demeaning?"

Neither android seemed to notice or care that their heated exchange was being observed by the few Bajorans awake on the station.

"No, but apparently you do," a sudden realization came upon Elia, "Tell me Data, did you buy my time because you wanted to get to know me or because you wanted to save me from my demeaning existence? Is this your good deed for the day?"

Data pulled his eyes away from hers. "I do not understand why you want to continue doing this."

"Because I'm good at it," she replied honestly, "because it's the only thing I know. Why do you find it so distasteful? It isn't called the oldest profession for nothing. Why do you cling to these archaic attitudes?"

Data glared at her. "Why do you let strange men pay to-- touch you?"

"I can assure you, Data, I don't do anything I don't want to do. I don't need to be saved." Elia smiled slyly. "If I didn't think a noble Starfleet officer like yourself was above such base emotions, I'd say you were jealous."

Data lowered his eyes and remained silent.

By his distressed expression, Elia could tell she hit a cord, but it didn't feel like victory. She didn't want it to end like this. "I'm sorry if my profession doesn't fit into your idea of android civil rights," she continued in a calmer tone, "but were you expecting me to just pack up and leave here to join Starfleet or something?"

"Starfleet is just one of an infinite number of opportunities open to you," Data replied hopefully, "you have the whole galaxy to explore."

"I don't want to explore the whole galaxy, at least not right now. Deep Space Nine is my home. I have nowhere else to go." She took a deep breath. "Listen Data, you've been very nice. You're just about the nicest person I've ever met and I greatly appreciate what you've done for me, but you're not going to be here in a couple of days. You're going to go back to your own life." She smiled sadly. "Maybe I will leave here someday, but right now I have to do what I think is best for me."

"Well, then I will write to you," he said, "I still very much want us to be friends."

She sighed in irritation. In a millisecond Elia imagined what their correspondence would be like. She knew it was selfish, but she had no desire to hear about his wonderful life, year after year. Someday, he was bound to meet some gorgeous human Starfleet officer and fall in love. They'd get married and live happily ever after. Of course, he'd invite her to the wedding and introduce her as his pathetic android friend who makes a living on her back. Pretty soon, he'd make captain and she'd still be here, prostituting herself on DS9. "No, Data. I don't want you to write to me. In fact, I think it would be best for us to say good-bye now."

Data looked hurt and confused. "If that is what you want."

"It is." She stood on her tiptoes, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him chastely on the lips. "Good-bye Data."

*

Elia rushed back to her quarters and quickly removed her work clothes, ripping the dress to shreds in the process. She threw on a shapeless robe and ran into the bathroom to scrub the makeup off her face, unable to stop herself from crying. Never before had she felt ashamed of who she was or what she did until now.

Elia sincerely wished Data had never come to Deep Space Nine.

*

Data spent the evening with the O'Briens as planned. He talked incessantly about Elia all through dinner, analyzing every word and nuance of the time he spent with her. Miles and Keiko exchanged more than a few annoyed glances when Keiko finally took Data by the hand.

"Data, I know these new emotions must be overwhelming for you," she began, "and I also understand how easy it is to get carried away with your emotions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, but if you don't stop this you're going to convince yourself you're in love with that girl."

Data's expression became almost spiritual. "Do you really think that I could be in love with Elia after only one day?" He remembered something that excited him even more. "Keiko, did you not tell me that you knew you were in love with Miles the first day I introduced you?"

Miles sighed heavily. "Data, you paid Elia to be nice and sweet to you. It's her job to make you feel loved. Trust me, you mean no more to her than any of her other customers. She was just running a program."

Data shook his head. "It was not like that at all. Chief, must I remind you that whenever I am interacting with you or any of my friends, I am just running a program. That does not make my friendship invalid."

"Data, that's totally different."

"Because Elia is a ...courtesan. Does her profession preclude her from having real feelings?" Data asked the question as if he really wanted the answer.

Keiko glanced at Miles, then turned back to Data. "Of course not. Miles and I are just worried you're being used by this woman. I'm sure you'll meet someone nice soon. Don't be in such a rush to fall in love."

"Elia is very nice," Data replied gallantly, "it was Quark who insisted I pay for her company. She did not want anything from me. She does not want me to even write to her. Keiko, I am wondering, if Miles were the only other human in the galaxy, but was doing things you found distasteful, would you reject him so quickly?"

The O'Briens didn't have an answer to that one.

*

Elia spent the whole day in her quarters brooding. She relived her encounter with Data a hundred times. He was the most wonderful man she'd ever met-- literally, her dream come true. The hurt came back, fresh as ever, as she recalled the look on his face when she told him she wouldn't leave Quark's. Do you not find it demeaning?

As she lay on her bed, thinking, she heard the door chime. She didn't bother to get up to answer it. "Go away."

"Elia, it's me, Quark. I have a present for you."

She didn't answer.

Her silence was taken as an invitation. Quark entered her darkened quarters holding a bouquet of Bajoran lilies. The Ferengi looked around the room. "Where's Data? I thought he would still be here, taking advantage of my good nature."

Elia glowered at him. "Shut up, Quark."

"Is that any way to speak to me, especially when I brought you flowers?" He put the bouquet on top her bureau.

"I told you I'd discuss my contract when I'm damned good and ready," she said testily.

"My, my we are in a bad mood today." He raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you're pining for Data."

"So what if I am?"

"Do you know how little money Starfleet officers make? There's absolutely no profit--"

"I don't care about the money, Quark!" she cried, "I don't want to be alone anymore!"

Quark sat on the bed beside her. "Pardon me for being blunt, Elia, but a lieutenant commander won't make full commander, or captain for that matter, with a prostitute for a wife."

The Ferengi let out a deafening, high-pitched whine when Elia grabbed hold of one of his ears and dragged him across the room. She opened the door and threw him out into the corridor. The Bajoran lilies followed shortly after him.

*

Data was due to leave for Atrea in a little over an hour, but he felt compelled to stop off at Quark's before he left. Part of him didn't want to come here, but part of him couldn't bear not seeing Elia again.

The android officer scanned the bar, but he did not see her. A sickening feeling washed over him when he assumed she must be occupied in the holosuite. He was just about to leave when Quark rushed over to him.

"You are no longer welcome in my bar. You poisoned Elia against me. She's locked herself up in her quarters and refuses to come out. Her behavior is severely cutting into my profits." He rubbed his ear gingerly. "She even physically assaulted me. What did you do to her?"

"Nothing." Data frowned. "I was just trying to help her."

The Ferengi snorted. "You Starfleet officers are all alike; always helping, whether your help is wanted or not. Next time, keep your help to yourself!"

*

Data went to her quarters and activated the door chime.

"Go away, Quark!"

"It is not Quark. It is Data."

A few seconds later the door slid open.

Elia was dressed in a dark jumpsuit with no makeup. Even though her current attire was much more appropriate, Data found himself missing the red dress.

"What are you doing here, Data? I thought you'd be on your way to Atrea by now."

"The transport ship leaves in an hour." He paused. "Quark told me you were upset. Is it safe to assume that I am the cause of your emotional distress?"

Her suddenly sad expression confirmed Data's hypothesis. She motioned for him to enter, then plopped herself down on the bed.

Data dragged the chair next to the bed and sat down. "I am very sorry if I hurt you in any way, Elia, I was only trying to help."

She sighed heavily. "I don't understand, Data. You don't want me, yet you don't want other men to want me. That isn't honorable, that's selfish.

"Perhaps it is selfishness. I must admit, last night when you were examining my neural net, I was quite overcome with," he paused and lowered his head shyly, "desire for you. It took a great deal of self-control for me not to act on it."

"Why didn't you? I thought I made it clear that I wanted you very much." Elia reached over and put her hand on his thigh. "I still do."

Data jumped up out of his chair. "It would be wrong. I do not want to be guilty of exploiting you the way the other men you have been with have."

Elia laughed and shook her head. "Data, maybe there's something wrong with me, but I don't feel exploited. I'm glad that I now know I'm free to make my own decisions, but those men don't exploit me. Most of them are very nice and very lonely. I make them feel better. I never felt ashamed of it until I met you."

"But you could do so much more," Data replied, "If you like helping people, perhaps you could study to become a therapist. There are an infinite number--"

"Of opportunities open to me. Yes I know, but I'll never live up to what you've become. That's why I hid in my quarters. I wanted to wait until you left before going back to Quark's. I couldn't face you again. Maybe I will leave here someday, but right now this feels safe and comfortable." She turned away from him and looked out of the room's only window. "I'm afraid to explore those opportunities on my own. I guess I'm not as brave as you are."

Data felt that pesky guilt feeling again. He had chided Miles and Keiko for being judgmental of Elia, but he was as bad as they were. Worse-- he was supposed to be her friend. "I am sorry, I never meant to make you feel ashamed. It is right for you to do what you think is best. I just do not wish for you to limit yourself."

"I promise, I'll keep thinking about my future." She faced him and smiled. "You should go now before you miss your ship. Tell Spot good-bye for me."

Elia showed Data to the door. He stood awkwardly in the open doorway before he stepped back inside. He very gently took her face in his hands and kissed her passionately on the lips. After 65.333 seconds, he withdrew. "I have wanted to do that since I met you."

She smiled contentedly. "I'm glad you finally did."

"Good-bye, Elia."

"Good-bye, Data."

He turned and left her. He found himself walking slower and slower down the corridor to his own quarters to pick up Spot. He would probably never see her again. Finally, another functioning, sentient android to share his experiences, thoughts, and now, feelings with, but they had to go their own separate ways. He felt like he was abandoning her. Looking back on his own early years, he would have given anything to have another like himself to help him.

Of course, not all his intentions towards Elia were altruistic. Data really liked her. More than that, he desired her. The thought of her with other men, even if it was 'just business' caused another, unpleasantly intense emotion to flare up inside of him: jealousy.

He turned around and went back to her quarters.

Elia sighed heavily when she open the door. "Data, please just go. Why are you torturing me like this?"

Data took her hands and looked into her eyes. "Elia, I wish for you to come to Atrea with me. Think of it as a vacation."

She stared at him, bewildered. "To Atrea, to meet your mother?"

He nodded. "I believe she will like you very much."

"What will you tell her?"

"I will tell her you are my friend." He leaned over and kissed her. "My very special friend."

"What if she finds out about," she lowered her head, "what I do."

"She will deal with it." He stroked her hair gently. "Please say yes, Elia."

She shook her head. "Data, I don't think this is a very good idea."

Data kissed her again. "Please, say you will," he whispered, "say yes."

Elia smiled. "Yes."

"Do not delete that special pleasure subroutine you created for me. I am in the process of creating one of my own for you." He smiled at his own joke. "I would like for us to compare notes."

~Finis~