Observational Learning @neelix
Observational Learning

With a quiet, silted pat to Data’s back, Admiral Haftel left the android alone with his daughter. He waited 72 seconds after the door swished shut before closing the cap over Lal’s positronic mind. Before it closed, he watched the development of four new failures.

Data took a step back.

Lal was going to die. Lal was dying. If he did not reactivate her, Lal was already dead.

Data stepped closer again. He ran his hands slowly over Lal’s hair. It had been pushed out of place while he and the Admiral had worked on her. He wanted to fix it. He wanted Lal to be pretty.

Lal cared for aesthetics.

Her hair was smoothed down.

12 days ago, Data had taken Lal to the arboretum. She liked the arboretum. She had beckoned him to “Look, father!” at each different flower, and lean down to smell them with her. Another small child had run through the arboretum, and tripped on a stone. As they cried, their mother shushed softly and pressed a kiss to the child’s scraped knee. Lal had frozen in place to watch, eyes held open, recording the incident.

Data shushed softly. He leaned down, kissing Lal gently on the forehead, 6.32 centimetres from the seam of her skull cap.

Geordi should be here. Data had insisted from the moment he informed Geordi of his plan to have a child that this would be theirs, if Geordi wanted it. Geordi wanted it. Geordi should be here. Data pried open Lal’s head again. Positronics winked dark. Circuitry gave the soft scent of smoke. She was not going to last.

He needed to go get Geordi.

Lal was going to die.

Data thought of Ian, Counselor Troi’s beloved son. She had known he was going to die. She called for Dr. Pulaski and cried and held her baby’s hand. He had died. Ian died, and Data, Dr. Pulaski, and Commander Riker were voyeurs to the tragedy. Deanna had held his form, shimmering light, in her hands and bid her child goodbye. They should not have been there. No one but Ian and Deanna and the quiet.

Maybe Geordi should be here.

Data closed Lal’s head. He scooped her in his arms the way he had seen countless parents hold their babies. Lal deserved a comfortable place to rest. Data cradled her head, protecting the frail neck and pressing his daughter’s face gently into his shoulder.

He gave the computer his code, authorizing a site-to-site transport, and Data was standing in the quarters he shared with Geordi. And Lal. Data had originally planned to leave Lal in the lab when he could not be with her. Geordi had insisted on moving a second bed to their quarters. Now, Data marched there slowly and laid out his child on her bed. Their child. Not just his. Geordi deserved to be here .

A Lieutenant from Security was in sickbay, laying on a bed. His partner, the nurse, held his hand as the other moved a tricorder over the messy gore of a crushed pelvis. Their hands were tightly fit together, and neither could stop assuring the other, promising all would be well. The nurse kissed his partner on the forehead.

Data smoothed Lal’s hair back into place and sat on the edge of the bed. He took her hand in his. Data slid his other hand under Lal’s back and woke her up. He promised all would be well. He kissed her forehead.

When Lal said her last word, it was to Data alone.

He pressed the switch again and closed the door to her room. Data called the computer and created a new lock code. He authorized a second site-to-site transport and walked out of the lab, registering the fallen faces of each person he saw. Geordi’s was haunted.

...

“Go to sleep.”

“Would it kill you to look at me when you’re talking?”

Data blinked. He took a moment to congratulate himself for the blink, it was a very human response to the frustration in Geordi’s voice, even turned away and in the dark where no one would see it. Data stood and walked through the open door of their bedroom. His eyes met Geordi’s VISOR.

“Go to sleep. It will be easier if you remove the VISOR.” With that, Data turned to return to his work, but Geordi’s sigh caught him. Data turned back to his partner. “It is late. You will be unhappy tomorrow if you undersleep.”

“I’ll be unhappy forever if my partner doesn’t communicate with me.”

Data looked over his shoulder at his work desk. He looked at the closed and sealed door of Lal’s bedroom. Spot pushed past him as he walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. “Not forever.”

“Yes, forever. Put on your pajamas, get in here, talk to me.”

He did two of those things. These pajamas were a gift from Deanna. When Data had decided, years ago, that he wanted more civilian clothing for when he was off duty, many of his friends had given him gifts of clothing. His friends were always supportive. Data laid in bed, flat on his back, looking to the ceiling. Spot complained when he moved her from his pillow.

“Look at me.”

Data turned onto his side.

“Hey.”

“Hello, Geordi.”

“I miss you.”

Data blinked. He reached out and took Geordi’s hand in his. Geordi liked when Data initiated physical intimacy. He said it made things feel fair. "Why?" Data frowned at how Geordi's hand laid limp in his. "We are spending approximately the same amount of time together per week as we have for-"

"Stop it." Data stopped it. He let go of Geordi and tucked his hands under the pillow, curling a little into an appropriate sleeping position. “I know…” Geordi cleared his throat, “I miss Lal, too.”

“Yes.”

“Deanna said you still won't talk to her.”

Geordi liked talking to Deanna. It had been Data who started, though. At the very beginning of their relationship, he’d ask her how to talk to Geordi, what to say. What was appropriate? Could he do this?

Data likes diagnostics. Data likes to troubleshoot. Data likes approaching a problem with a solution. Counselor Troi insisted, always, that human relationships were not equatable to a malfunctioning LCAR.

“I have spoken several times with Counselor Troi.”

“You didn’t show up for your appointment with her today.”

Data closed his eyes. He wanted to go to sleep. Geordi needed to take off his VISOR so they could sleep. Once, words slurring with drink, Geordi had fallen asleep mid-sentence, curling against Data’s chest. Data wanted to claim that he was simply tired and hadn’t meant to fall asleep when Geordi was talking to him.

“Data, don’t ignore me.” He opened his eyes again. Geordi was frowning. “It’s not fair, Data, I’m-”

“I notified Counselor Troi that I would not be able to attend my appointment.”

“You sent her a cancellation notice.”

“Yes.”

Geordi sighed. Data decided then and there that he did not like sighing. Humans sighed too much. Too often. Too many ways. It never meant the same thing once and Data did not like sighing. He considered informing Geordi that he did not like it, but his thoughts were interrupted. “I think you should be taken off duty until you’re done mourning.”

“I am not in mourning. I am grieving, as much as I can, but-”

Geordi cut him off again. “You’re not well!” He pushed himself up to sitting, and the combined movement and shout sent Spot off the bed. She yowled and complained at the closed door before shooting off into Geordi’s closet. Data already knew he did not like interruption. He had told Geordi so on four occasions. It felt excessive, now. Perhaps purposeful. “You- you work, but you’re silent, and you won’t talk to our friends, or Deanna, or anyone, and you lock yourself in her bedroom - you lock me out, Data! I haven’t had a real conversation with you since…” Geordi was crying. Data laid silently and watched tears track from under the VISOR.

“Clenching your jaw like that may harm your teeth, Geordi.”

“Shut up.”

Data was quiet. Geordi kept clenching his jaw. Grinding his teeth. He took off his VISOR with a previously-unknown ferocity, sending it bouncing across the bed, onto the floor with a clatter. He wiped angrily at his eyes. “I want you to just leave her alone, Data. Let her be dead.” Data rose as quietly from the bed as he could. He changed silently into his uniform. Spot wound his ankles as he picked up Geordi’s VISOR and sat it on his bedside table, where it belonged. Geordi was shaking.

Deanna held her son’s hand and spoke with love.

A Lieutenant laid in sickbay, never to walk again. His partner wept and promised to heal him. Promised to fix it.

A child in the arboretum has skinned their knee, and their mother is giving it a kiss. Telling them all will be well.

Geordi sits in bed, angry and grieving and hugging himself around the knees. Data blinks twice, and closes the door behind himself.

1. Observational Learning 1562 0 0