Any relationship, between any two people, will have its highs and its lows, its peaks and its troughs. This is the story of one particular relationship that certainly wasn't lacking in such fluctuation. But where to begin?
Start at the bottom, they say, so why not begin with that deepest trough, that very lowest point? At least if we do start at the bottom, the only direction we can take is up.
Tasha entered the shuttle bay just in time to see a large, dark hunk of tubed metal smash against the far wall. She took a brief moment to check that there weren't actually any shuttles - or, worse still, personnel - in the hangar. As she suspected, there was nothing beneath the gantry save for an untidy mound of broken alien technology lying where it had fallen by the far wall. Of course, the sole other occupant of the bay would never be so irresponsible. Although, it would be an understatement to say that that other occupant was not himself lately. She continued to observe the messy pile as the other person, ignoring her, picked up another armful of twisted metal and hurled it across the bay.
'Ah,' she said, eventually. 'The long lost, noble art of smashing things up. Have you been taking advice from Worf, by any chance?'
Her counterpart didn't so much as acknowledge her. His only response was to throw another armful of strange machinery.
'You do have permission to do that, don't you?' She added.
There was still no reply, although his Look told her that of course he had permission, and that there had been no point in her asking such a ridiculous question, and that she should probably leave.
Tasha continued to watch the slowly growing pile. 'Am I to take it from your stoicism that you've finally switched your emotions back on?'
'Good,' she added. 'Good, it's all progress.' She paused. 'And to be honest, when you're running without emotions it gets very confusing for me. I can't cope with you being civil to me for too long these days, I've gotten too used to living without it.'
The android stopped, and looked at her. 'I am perfectly civil to you,' he told her. 'Good morning, Commander Yar,' he continued, with a tone of crude, basic sarcasm. 'Why are you here? Are you not needed elsewhere?' He paused. 'Perfectly civil.'
'Wow,' Tasha replied, dryly, 'you're right. It's just seamless the way you go from indifference to just plain old hating my guts again.'
'Your "guts" are irrelevant. I do not hate you.' Data threw another piece of foreign technology against the far wall. 'And I have certainly never been indifferent towards you. We have already spoken about that at great length. I believe that there is now nothing more to say.'
They didn't speak for another minute or so, as Data continued to hurl various lifeless systems and circuit boards against the far wall of the shuttle bay.
'You know,' added Tasha, conversationally, 'you could just turn your phaser on that lot and be rid of it in a matter of seconds.'
'I want,' Data told her, over-emphasising every word, 'to throw it. It has taken me seven days to reactivate my emotion chip, and now that I finally have, I have the desire to throw things. Is that all right with you, Commander?'
Tasha shrugged. 'You want to break stuff? Fine. Nobody's gonna deny you deserve that privilege.'
There was another long pause.
'After all that you went through,' Tasha added.
'Which you refuse to talk about,' continued Tasha.
'I mean for goodness' sake,' persisted Tasha, 'you were tortured. If that's not Smashing Things material, I don't know what is.'
'If you are attempting to be particularly irksome in the hope of taking my mind off last week's events, then I must tell you now that it will be unsuccessful.' Data threw one more piece of circuitry and then turned to her, his fists bunched at his sides – a defensive gesture that Tasha had grown very used to over the past year. 'I am quite capable of dwelling over more than one unfortunate incident at a time, as I am sure you are aware.'
Tasha leaned against the gantry, folding her arms. 'I'm not trying to exceed my usual levels of irk,' she told him. 'And I'm not trying to take your mind off what happened. The opposite, in fact – I thought that you might want to talk about it.'
'Why should I want that?'
'Might make you feel better.'
'Throwing the remnants of their occupation of the ship against a wall is therapy enough, thank you.'
'Please stop trying to lie to me, Data. You're terrible at it.'
Data frowned at her and then attempted a different tack. 'You are not a Counsellor.'
'Don't I know it. If you were actually going to any Counselling sessions over this I probably wouldn't feel the need to be here.'
Data retained his frown. 'Has Troi sent you to speak with me?'
Tasha laughed a little. 'Deanna wouldn't suggest anything as stupid as that.' She paused. 'I know why you don't want to talk to her about it. Or Geordi, or Will… I know that sometimes, things happen that you don't want your friends to know about. You don't want them to be upset by the things that you went through, and you don't want to risk them thinking any less of you…'
'Is that why you are here?' Data asked, 'because you cannot think any less of me?'
'Hey,' Tasha snapped. 'That's not fair. When did I ever give you the impression that…' she cut herself off, taking a controlled breath and ordering herself internally not to rise to the bait. 'I came here,' she continued, with an exaggerated calm, 'because I thought you might want to talk to somebody who you can't really shock, somebody who's been dragged off by gangs into locked up hidey-holes enough times herself to know what sort of thing goes on after… somebody who you can't surprise, because she already knows exactly what happened to you.'
'You were in an escape pod,' Data replied, curtly. 'You were not there. You do not know…'
'They had a leader,' Tasha interrupted, 'a single, autonomous female, who up until your capture had remained hidden from all of us. Her assumption must have been that there was no point in her remaining elusive to you, since from that point on, you were never going to leave the collective. And you knew that was her conviction. It was her who took the skin off your face and arm, and replaced it with that of a human…'
'You have read the Captain's and my own reports,' interjected Data, flatly. 'As must every senior Starfleet Officer by now…'
'You didn't put in your report that you had sex with her.'
That did the trick. That stopped him in his tracks. He gazed at her, speechless, unhappy bewilderment flitting unchecked across his features momentarily before he was able to bring himself back under restraint. 'What reason have you to believe…'
'I know you far too well. I've been the one to cause that regret and resentment in you myself enough times for me to be able to recognise it straight away. Even without your emotions, I could tell the instant I clapped eyes on you. Someone else has marked their territory on you, Data.'
Data's fists closed up again. 'Then that is what this conversation is actually about, is it not? This has nothing to do with my wellbeing. It is simply for the gratification of this ongoing, morbid curiosity of yours, this irrational opinion that somehow it is your prerogative to be informed whenever I have sexual activities with anybody but yourself…'
'So I'm right, then. You did have sex with her.'
Data paused. 'I had little choice in the matter. I considered it to be the best option at the time to make her believe I had been seduced.'
'And it seems that you were right,' Tasha added. 'I mean, we're here, aren't we? Alive and well. You double-crossed her. You double-crossed her.'
'I am by no means whatsoever proud of the lengths I went to in order to survive,' Data told her. 'If there is anything I can rely on concerning yourself, Commander, it is your… discretion…?' He left the comment hanging in the air - part plea, part bitter reminder.
'I'm not about to tell anybody,' Tasha replied. 'They wouldn't believe me even if I did.'
Data cast her a confused look.
'I mean,' Tasha added, 'this is you we're talking about here. Who could imagine that you would ever become so cynical as to use sex as a tool for manipulation and deception… to bring not pleasure, but despair and destruction?'
Data looked her square in the eye. 'I had an excellent tutor.'
Tasha only flinched slightly as she held back her automatic impulse to punch him. What difference would that make, she asked herself – all that would get her would be a set of broken fingers.
'I know what you're doing,' she told him through clenched teeth. 'You're angry as all Hell, and you're lashing out at an easy target. That's why I'm going to let that slide.'
Data turned and picked up another armful of the bastardised Borg circuitry that had been ripped from Engineering. 'Please refrain from continuing with the pretence that you understand.'
Tasha watched as the dark wires and metal smashed into the distant wall. 'I was 12,' she announced, once the battered fragments had clattered to the floor. 'At the time, I was sheltering with two younger boys. They'd found the hiding place – it was safe and warm – and they let me take refuge there with them in return for protecting them and helping them to find food. Only, there came a time when the food supplies dried up, and we couldn't find any more. Not even carrion and weeds, all the other scavengers had got to them first. But there was this man. We knew he was hoarding plenty of food. We tried to steal some from him, but he was clever and quick, and strong. We tried begging, but he wasn't about to give us any food when it was so in demand without any payment in return.' Tasha took a deep breath. 'So, I whored myself. And in a way, it was worse than rape, because I had to smile, and sigh, and pretend to enjoy it. But in return, he gave me the food. Not just for me, but for my friends as well. And we all survived. And so, here we are.'
'Here we are,' echoed the android.
There was a pause – a little too long for comfort. Tasha suddenly realised that, even though when they had started their conversation, they had been a good two metres apart; they were now, somehow, standing less than an arm's length from one another. She took another deep breath.
'Well…?' She asked.
'Well…?' Data repeated, a little bemused.
'Do you… wish to ask me something?'
'Do I have to spell it out, Data?'
'Evidentially, you do.'
Tasha realised that her arms were uncrossed and folded them against her chest again, quickly. 'How was she?'
'Ah.' Data nodded. 'Possessive fascination overrules sympathetic concern yet again. I presumed as much.'
'You've made me say it, now answer the damn question. How was she?'
Data paused momentarily, searching for the right adjective. 'Pointy.'
'Comparatively speaking. And very decisive, which made a considerable change from your usual sexual indecisions. Was that your meaning? You wished for me to compare her to yourself?'
'I want to know if you enjoyed it,' Tasha told him, testily. 'I mean, she gave you tactile sensations, and then she… I have to know if she was able to…'
She noticed a strange expression on Data's face. It was almost an amused smile.
'At that point, the human skin was only over my forearm,' Data replied through the half-smile. 'She was not that proficient.'
'So you didn't…'
'So, you've still never…'
'Did you pretend to? Like you used to…'
'Of course. I always do. It is only courteous.'
That made Tasha laugh a little. 'You still concerned yourself with sexual etiquette while you were plotting to foil her plans and destroy her. That's actually rather sweet.' She pushed a hand through her fringe. 'I mean, it's demented, but it's sweet.'
There was another pause. They broke it together, speaking at the same time.
'Was that all?' he asked, while she announced over him; 'I should go…'
She took a step back from him, repeating her statement. 'I really should go.'
'There was another reason that you came to speak with me,' said Data, watching her, 'was there not?'
'What do you mean?'
Data dropped his gaze for a second. 'I know how much you dislike not being the last person I had sexual contact with.'
'Data,' warned Tasha.
'As you said, your territory has been marked. You have always taken action to rectify that in the past.'
'No, Data,' she sighed, rubbing her face. 'No, no, no. Please, don't.'
'Perhaps it is that that is merely the natural state of being for us,' Data continued, a faint hint of desperation in his voice.
'We have to stop making the same stupid mistake over and over again,' hissed Tasha, over him.
'Perhaps,' added Data, apparently ignoring her, 'that is the reason why everything now seems so… wrong.' He gazed at her, hopefully. 'A slight deviation from the proper order of things, easily rectified, since she is gone and you are here…'
'You and me, Data… It's… unprofessional, unhealthy and exploitative, remember? Those are your words, not mine.' Tasha willed herself to take another step away from him, but her body didn't seem to be wired up properly to her brain. 'You made your position very clear, and, you know what? You were right. We can't put ourselves through all of that again, especially not now… not now you can get hurt.'
'Do not patronise me. I am fully aware of the implications of my proposal. My emotion chip is properly functional…'
'Is it? I don't think so, Mister. You're on a massive destructive bent, and that's just fine with me, but… but going down that road again? That's a step too far. Data.' She put a hand awkwardly on the crook of his elbow. 'Look at where it's led us so far.'
'Precisely,' replied Data, making no attempt to remove her hand. 'What friendship do we have to lose?'
She pulled her hand away from him herself. 'You're only doing this because you think it will put everything back to normal, that somehow us falling into bed together yet again will somehow write over what happened with her, make it as if it never happened. But it did happen, and I can't change that for you. Nothing will ever make the memory of what you did, or that dreadful, dirty feeling about it go away. Trust me. I've tried hard enough myself.'
'You are continuing to patronise me,' Data persisted. 'If you no have no wish to indulge in sexual intercourse with me, then simply say so.'
'I can't, Data. You'll only regret it later, we both will, same as always.'
She tried to step away again, but this time it was Data's turn to grab her elbow. 'That is not what I asked. Do you wish to?'
She clasped his hand on the crook of her arm, and tried to pull it away. Not that she imagined she'd be capable of removing his grip by force, but as a means of persuading him that she wanted him to let go. 'I can't.'
'But do you wish to?'
She watched his eyes as the desperation in them briefly muddled into a distressed confusion, then quickly settled back into the old, steely resentment with which she had now become so familiar, as his hand fell from her arm and balled into a fist at his side.
'In which case, Commander,' replied the android, tersely; 'I shall see you on the bridge.'
Tasha took another step away from him. 'You know, you'll thank me for this in the long run.'
'I shall see you on the bridge.'
She pointed at the pile of ripped-out machinery Data had yet to throw as she reached the hangar's door. 'Just remember, it's that stuff you want to destroy. Not yourself. You paid a high price in order to survive. Better to make that count.'
'I shall see you. On. The bridge. Commander.'
She paused as the door opened. He didn't turn to watch her go. 'Guess so.'
She stepped out of the hangar and pressed her back against the door after it had slid shut behind her. She waited for a moment, quietly, and listened, as the smashing started up again – louder and more frequent than it had been before. It took around thirty seconds for the crashes and clatters to grow so close together that one was barely discernable from the next; a frenzied cacophony of metal on metal that continued, relentlessly for some time. And then it stopped. Tasha turned side on to the door, the side of her head and an open palm pressed against it as she drank in the silence.
The smashing sounds started up again, with a slow, almost organic rhythm this time, and Tasha stepped away from the door, pushed back her hair and walked away.