This story has been given a rating of PG-13 (US) and 12A (UK)
The three days of the conference, Dreamfinder was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She wanted to be around Data, but she wasn’t sure how to act which only made her more nervous.
Finally, as the Enterprise left Betazed’s orbit and began the several days’ journey to return the diplomats to Sivao, she got up the courage to tell him what was on her mind.
“Would you care to join me in my quarters this evening for dinner, Dreamfinder? I realize that, as an android, I do not eat but you, as a flesh and blood being, do.” he said to her as they ran into each other in a turbolift. Dreamfinder’s face brightened and she smiled.
“Of course…I’ll…I’ll be there.” she stammered, twisting her tail in her hands. Data watched her actions curiously.
“That will be acceptable. I will see you tonight then.” he replied and stepped off onto the bridge to take his station at the helm. Dreamfinder continued onwards, heading for Ten Forward. She’d heard of the proprietress, a Listener named Guinan and she felt in desperate need of advice.
“So…you’re the Sivaoan diplomat, huh?” Guinan said by way of introduction. Dreamfinder shook her head.
“Well no, not exactly. I’m…I’m Dreamfinder, Star’s assistant. You are Guinan, the Listener, yes?” she asked, her whiskers trembling as she continued to twist her tail-tip in her hands. Guinan smiled softly and placed a small crystalline tumbler of aubergine colored liquid in front of the young Sivaoan.
“That’s me…and here. Drink this before you twist that tail of yours right off. You’re as nervous…” and here she chuckled, “as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Guinan’s broad face lit up with amusement at her analogy. Dreamfinder blinked, confused at the metaphor, but she drank anyway. The liquid was slightly warm and had a yeasty, grape-like taste to it which warmed her right through.
“What is this?” she asked, taking another sip of the warming liquid. It was, to her tastes at least, quite delicious.
“Pandorian purp fruit juice. Got it last time we were in the area. It’s a favorite of mine, actually. So…what’s your trouble, little cat? Mouse got your tongue?” she asked, wiping down the bar a bit with a damp cloth. Dreamfinder blinked again, confused. These humans could be so mysterious, hiding their intentions behind words that were meant to confuse you.
“Mouse…um? No. But I do have a problem. See…in my camp, when a juvenile takes his or her Walk to adulthood, once they finish that Walk they’re adults. Pretty soon after, the females have their first…um…I dunno…what do you humans call it? Mating cycle? Anyway…only a few moons before I came on this mission with Star, I made MY Walk to adulthood. And now I’ve come upon my first mating cycle. But I’m scared…scared because the one I’m attracted to most isn’t even my own kind. Not that I find anything really WRONG with that…humans have been living on Sivao for several generations now and we’re um…cross-fertile. So there are human-sivaoan cross-breeds.” Dreamfinder took another sip of the purp fruit juice, trying to stead her nerves because she realized she’d begun to ramble.
“So you’re in love? And you don’t know if the one you love likes you back, is that right?” Guinan asked, getting to the heart of the matter.
“Exactly. You ARE a good listener.” Dreamfinder’s whiskers arched forward with praise.
“I don’t even know how to approach him…or even if he cares about me…like that. I…he’s so different from anyone I’ve ever known and I just don’t…know how to deal with that.” Dreamfinder finished her purp juice and slid the tumbler to one side. She laid her arms on the bar and buried her face in her crossed arms. “Oh he’s going to laugh at me. I just know it!” she mumbled. Guinan placed her hand under the young Sivaoan’s chin, lifting her head.
“Who is it that you’re so in love with, Dreamfinder? How do you know he’s going to laugh at you?” she asked seriously.
“L….L….L…. Lieutenant Commander D..D..Data.” Dreamfinder stuttered, tears welling in her eyes.
Guinan shook her head. “No child, he won’t laugh at you. He can’t…it’s not in his programming for starters, and I know that Data would never willingly hurt the feelings of someone else. It’s just not in his nature. Data swears he doesn’t have any feelings at all, but I think they’re just buried so deep he doesn’t know how to access them. That’s my personal opinion, anyway.” Guinan said, wiping the spilled tears from Dreamfinder’s face.
“So he won’t laugh because he CAN’T? Like…like a Vulcan?”
“That’s right. Like a Vulcan.” Guinan handed her a tissue so she could blow her nose. Dreamfinder honked into it and then chuckled softly at the noise she’d just made, embarrassed.
“What will he say, d’you think, when I tell him..I…I want him to be…um…my first?” Dreamfinder asked, laying the spent tissue aside. Guinan quietly removed the tissue and wiped her hands with an antibacterial solution.
“I think he’ll look at it as something new, something he’s never done before, and Data
is…well…adventurous when it comes to that kind of thing. But he’ll never hurt you…at least not intentionally, and I know he’ll try his best to make things go well, because he doesn’t like a bad experience any more than you or I do. Talk to him…see what he says. The worst he can do is say no.” the older woman counseled. Dreamfinder nodded firmly.
“Right. Ok. Here I go…thanks Guinan. You’re…really good at listening.” she told her. Guinan just smiled.
“That’s my job.” she replied, moving down the bar to wait on another customer who’d come in just then.
Dreamfinder screwed her courage to the sticking place. She would tell Data how she felt about him, and if he didn’t at least have some sort of liking for her, well, that was something she would deal with when it came up.