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“Why are they taking so long?” Tasha stalked back and forth across the floor, arms folded tightly against her chest. Data tracked her with his eyes. He had seen Tasha in many states of anxiety, anger, and frustration, but even though she was a woman of action, Data had never known her to pace.

“It is a complicated subject,” he pointed out. “Making a decision may take longer than anticipated.”

“It’s been half an hour already!”

“And may be an hour more. We do not know.”

Tasha halted in the middle of her stride, rubbing her forehead with one hand. She sighed. “You’re right. You’re right.” She huffed and dropped down to sit beside him, resting her head against his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Data tilted his head. “I believe I did, in fact, ask for this. Is that not the reason for us being here?”

In spite of herself, Tasha chuckled. She shoved him lightly, and although such force could not have budged him if he was of a mind to stay put, he swayed with the momentum and then leaned back into her. “That’s not what I mean,” she mumbled, turning her cheek so that she spoke directly into the fabric of his uniform, hiding her face. “I know you signed up for me, for all my emotional human outbursts and illogics.”

“I enjoy your outbursts and illogics.” Data bent down, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. There was a time when he would have hesitated, unsure how to approach the act, but affection with Tasha had long since become easy.

She lifted her head, blinking rapidly, and Data realized that she was attempting not to cry. Tasha was not often moved to such an act, and Data frowned accordingly. She shook her head. “I know you do. I just wish…”

“You wish your chosen life partner was not mechanical, and therefore not of indeterminate social status in the eyes of the Federation.”

Tasha blinked, but in this instance, Data determined it was no longer due to watering eyes, but to surprise at his statement. She grasped his hand tightly. “It’s not you, Data,” she insisted with a ferocity he had become accustomed to. “I wouldn’t change anything about you.”

Data stroked her cheek. Her skin was soft beneath his hand, and his lips quirked into a small, natural smile. “I did not mean to imply you found me lacking. I simply meant that, were I human, this decision would be between us. Starfleet would not be involved.”

Tasha squeezed his hand. “I love you, okay? No matter what happens.”

“I love you, too.” He did not always believe the words. He did not feel emotion, after all, or at least, not in the way humans understood the sensations. But Data knew that if was capable of emotion, now or in the future, that he would certainly love Tasha with every fiber – synthetic or otherwise – of his being.

The door slid open, and then shut again behind their captain. Picard’s expression was a careful mask of dignified neutrality that, were it deployed on one of the poker nights that the captain never frequented, would make even Commander Riker hesitant to bluff against it. Data and Tasha stood, Data’s hand still firmly in Tasha’s clutch. “Well?” Tasha pressed. “What’d they say?”

Picard looked between them, first to Data, then to Tasha. Then he smiled. “I believe, Mr. Data, that congratulations are in order. You’re about to become a married man.”

A sharp laugh burst from Tasha’s throat, a sound Data understood as part joy, part relief. She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tight, and Data returned the embrace, closing his eyes to savor the moment. Then he met his captain’s eyes over Tasha’s shoulder. “Thank you, sir.”

Picard shook his head, dismissive but affectionate. “I look forward to the day where you don’t need me to advocate on your behalf. But until that day comes, I am more than happy to do so.”

“We’re going to be married,” Tasha murmured. She sounded close to tears again, but for a much better reason this time. “Really married.”

Data buried his nose in her hair and inhaled. He was not supposed to be capable of joy, or of relief. But when he responded, his words were colored with something that Tasha would have undoubtedly labeled emotion. “Yes,” he said simply. “We are.”