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The slender android picked up the violin, setting it neatly under his chin as he laid the bow across the strings. He shut his golden eyes, adopting an expression he'd titled 'sentimental'. Then a smile broke out over his face as he remembered; there was no longer a need for feigning emotion. He could feel.

A vestige of the smile still remained when a chirp sounded in the room, halting him halfway through a song. "Come in," he called, lowering the bow and turning to the door. The doors swept open to reveal a young, square-shouldered young man, wearing the uniform of a Starfleet cadet.

"Wesley," Data said, pleased.

"Hi, Data." Wesley grinned, stepping inside. He looked around, struck as usual by the spartan appearance of the room. "I'm sorry, did I interrupt you?" he asked, noticing the violin nestled on his shoulder.

"Yes, but there is no need to apologize. May I help you?" Data began to set down the violin.

"No, not really--I'm on a break and I haven't really had a chance to talk with you since, you know..."

"The siege," Data nodded, understanding. That had been when he'd implemented the emotion chip. Since then, things had settled down. Today had been his first time playing his violin since receiving the chip, and he was intensely curious to see what the effect would be.

"Yeah," Wesley agreed. "You know, it's been a while since I've heard you play, too. Mind if I listen?"

"Not at all." Again, Data gracefully swung the violin up, the bow hovering horizontally over the strings for a moment while he mentally composed himself. Feel the music, he reminded himself.

The bow began to slide, a delicate pure note filling the room. Wesley watched on as his friend began a series of fluttering, high notes, which then sunk into a deep minor melody. It was flawless--and beautiful. But it was still too precise--still mechanical.

Data hadn't played more than a quarter of the song when he slowed and just stopped. His expression was blank.

"Is something wrong?" Wesley asked, his eyebrows knitting together.

At first, Data didn't respond.

"Nothing," he said in a low voice.

Wesley frowned. "Then what--?"

"No, that is exactly it! Nothing." Wesley's eyes widened as Data shook his head angrily, setting the instrument down against the wall. "I thought...this time...but nothing has changed." He sat on a couch near the edge of the room, looking out into the star-speckled space.

Slowly, Wesley moved and joined him on the seat. "What were you trying to do? It sounded perfect to me," he added, but this only served to make Data shake his head more.

"Perfection is not passion. I thought emotion would affect the quality of the song, but..."

Understanding came over Wesley's face as he realized what Data meant.

"Maybe you just need to try again," Wesley suggested.

"The outcome will be the same."

"Well--then change something about the way you're doing it! What did you do the first time?"

Data glanced at him, interest piqued. "I focused on the notes. Is that not right?"

Wesley smiled. "Not exactly. It depends the person, but usually, music is more about what it makes you think of and less about what you hear . Does that make sense?"

He considered the idea. "No," he confessed. Was music not about sound? He remembered another time, when Counselor Troi had challenged him to fashion clay into a shape resembling music. At first, he'd protested the logic of her request, but when she had pushed, he'd made a treble clef. She had smiled, but hadn't seemed satisfied. He felt similarly bewildered now.

Wesley jumped up and retrieved the polished violin and bow. Data accepted them hesitantly, rising to his feet. "Here. When you played, the song was minor, right? It sounded sad. What's the name of the song?"

Data blinked. "Il Modo Della Famiglia," he said instantly. "Way of the Family, by Tuscan Dorcelli, 1764, published by--"

"So," Wesley cut in. "Think of something that's sad and has to do with family. Keep thinking about it while you play, and try to make the music tell me what happened. Pretend it's your voice." Content with himself, Wesley leaned back on the couch, eager to hear how he would treat it now.

Data was thinking furiously, trying to locate an appropriate memory. He had no blood relatives, he was an android--

Lore.

Instantly, he wished he hadn't thought about it, but it was too late. The memories came flooding. The poison. The battle. The betrayal. The evil contortion of his same features as they twisted into a smile...

Soong. His inventor, who had treated him like a son. His hands going limp as the life faded from his body, while Data cradled him in his arms.

His grandfather. A greedy gleam in his eyes as his hands moved towards Data's off button, then the subsequent struggle as his consciousness hijacked the android's own body, slowly dominating his own personality until there was almost nothing left. Possessed, Data had almost killed Geordi and Captain Picard.

His mother, who still had no idea what she truly was...

Almost of their own accord, his fingers began to move across the instrument, beginning with that high, pure note, and quickening from there.

Wesley's smile faded as the song progressed. He became very still. Something was different this time about the playing--he couldn't put his finger on it. But Data's face had changed a bit too. His facial muscles had tightened almost imperceptibly.

Data hardly realized this. He was lost, lost in memories he hadn't dared to access for years.

His throat suddenly constricted as he seized on a new thought. His fingers faltered, but he did not notice.

Lal.

The notes cascaded from the bow, mournful and like heavy syrup, flowing out like an unstopped dam. He barely registered them, only was overtaken by the flood of conflicting emotions and crashing realizations that had come with the single word.

Lal.

His beautiful, his own daughter.

From her creation, to her insatiable curiosity, to the man who tried to take her away, to the emotions, to the cascade failure...his failure to fix it...

In one last, lingering note, Data shut his eyes tightly.

Then he opened them, and saw that Wesley's cheeks were wet. The boy was motionless, silent. Data was unsure how to respond. It seemed Wesley didn't like it after all. "I am sorry. I tried, Wesley. It seems that I am incapable of incorporating emotion into mu--"

Wesley stood and grasped Data's shoulder. Data noticed his hand was trembling. "No, Data," he said with a smile, his voice breaking slightly, "you did great."

At that point, the android began to realize what had actually occurred. "Thank you," he replied, stunned.

Wesley left, feeling the need to compose himself. The song had brought him back to the day his father died.

After the doors swept shut, Data stood, thinking. Slowly, he drew back to the window.

Lal.

Unseen and unheard, he sunk onto the chair, his hands coming up to cover his face. In a few more moments, sobs were racking his body in silent, sudden jolts. No tears fell, because he had no liquids in his body to shed.

“I love you too,” he whispered to the vacant air. 

Nothing replied, and he felt more alone than ever.