Of all the Sickbay staff, Timothy liked Nurse Ogawa the best. She didn’t tell him that he was in the way, or that visiting hours were over and he really should get to bed. Even Dr. Crusher, who was usually so nice to him, had tried to persuade him to go to school during the day and only visit for a short time in the evenings. But Nurse Ogawa simply gave him a small smile when she came to check on her patient and never tried to tell him to leave, and sometimes she even brought him hot chocolate or a bowl of soup.
Data belonged more in engineering than he did in Sickbay, but there weren’t any beds in engineering and his condition needed to be constantly monitored, even in his unconscious state. So they had moved him up here a day after the accident, and Dr. Crusher’s staff sent his vital readings to engineering every hour for analysis. Geordi came by during his shift at least twice to check up on Data, and then when he was off-duty, he would come sit with Timothy well into the night.
Every member of the senior staff had been by to visit. Timothy usually retreated to the cot by the side of the bed that the medical staff had set up for him, and tried to remain as unobtrusive as possible while they had their moment with Data. All of them looked at him with some degree of pity, except for Counselor Troi, who gently tried to persuade him to go to Ten Forward with her for some chocolate ice cream and a chat. He refused, probably more harshly than he should have, because she spoke privately with Geordi about it later on. When Geordi came to visit that night, weary beyond measure, he told Timothy that he needed to watch his tone of voice with the senior staff or he could find himself with restricted visiting hours.
“They can’t do that!” Timothy had protested angrily. “He’s my father .”
“And you are thirteen years old,” Geordi had responded wearily. “You’re lucky they’re overlooking the fact that you’re cutting school and sleeping on the floor of Sickbay. Keep it together, kid.”
So here he was, four days after the attack, trying to keep it together so they didn’t send him away from the only parent he had left. He cradled the now-lukewarm cup of hot chocolate in his hands and stared sightlessly at Data’s too-still form. Data didn’t breathe, and his eyes didn’t move under his lids. The only signs of life came from the computer screen above his head that detailed his brain activity and the state of his various systems. Geordi had explained the readouts to him on that first night, but Timothy had been only half paying attention.
As if on cue, the Sickbay doors slid open and Geordi entered. He had changed into civvies, indicating that he was off-duty. Timothy hadn’t realized that it was already evening.
“Hey, kid,” he greeted, giving Timothy a tired smile. “How’s it been?”
“Quiet,” Timothy said, which was his response every time Geordi asked.
Geordi glanced around the room, ascertaining that no one was around to see, and then turned to Data. He smoothed a hand over Data’s hair and looked him full in the face, as though Data was awake and could look back at him. The expression on Geordi’s face was so tender, Timothy had to look away. He hated feeling like an intruder, and couldn’t find it in himself to leave.
“Hi, Data,” Geordi said softly. “I’m taking Timothy for some food and a change of clothes. We’ll be back soon, okay?”
Of course, there was no response, but Timothy’s head snapped up.
“I’m not leaving,” he said.
“Yes, you are,” Geordi said. “You need a decent meal and a change of clothes, and I need to feed Spot, so we might as well go together. Come on.”
“No,” Timothy said, panic starting to well in his chest. He didn’t want to go home, not without Data there. “Please, Geordi, I can’t -”
“Hey.” Geordi knelt in front of him and took him by the shoulders. “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to wake up and come home and -”
“No, he won’t .” Timothy wrenched himself from Geordi’s grip, shooting him a murderous look. “You don’t know that. You don’t know anything . I already talked to your engineers. They said he might not ever wake up, and even if he does, he might not be the same. He won’t - he might not even remember me.”
Geordi cursed softly under his breath.
“Come on,” he said quietly, giving him a gentle tug. “We should talk, and we both need to eat. Spot does, too. Half an hour, Timothy, I promise. Then we can come back.”
Data had moved into a larger set of quarters when he took Timothy in two years ago, and the two of them lived with the other families on deck fourteen. Most of the kids on this deck were younger than he was, so he didn’t have a lot of neighbors he could play with, but through school he had met some peers who regularly invited him over. Data encouraged fostering these friendships. Timothy sat at the kitchen table, sorting through the cards he had found when Geordi took him home. His friends had slipped them under the cabin door. He felt detached from it all, like he knew he should be fond of these people and feel touched that they cared. But he didn’t feel much of anything.
“Spaghetti with meatballs?” Geordi asked.
“Yeah,” Timothy said. “Thanks.”
Geordi replicated two bowls and brought them over. Spot leaped up onto the table, and Timothy automatically picked her up and set her on the floor again. She wandered back over to her own food dish, which was licked clean, and meowed pitifully. She’d inhaled her food when Geordi set it in front of her not five minutes ago, and now acted as though she was starving.
“I’m sorry about my engineers,” Geordi said as they ate. “They weren’t supposed to share that information with you.”
“So you wanted them to lie to me.”
“No,” Geordi said patiently. “I wanted to talk to you myself.”
Fear gripped him. Suddenly, he didn’t have an appetite anymore. “Talk to me about what?”
“Data might not recover.” Geordi delivered the news flatly, without trying to dress it up or soften the blow. “We just don’t know at this point. We barely understand the technology of the weapon that was used against him, let alone what it might do to him in the long-term.”
“When will you know for sure?”
Geordi shrugged, and then said. “It’s hard to say, but I wouldn’t truly start worrying for another week. His systems are repairing themselves. I can tell you that much. Whether that will be enough, though, is unknown at this point.”
Timothy poked at his food.
“And if it isn’t enough?” he asked finally, quietly.
“He will get a funeral and burial according to Starfleet customs,” Geordi said. “All of his assets will revert to you. And - you will come under my care.”
Timothy wasn’t surprised. Geordi stayed over three nights a week now, and he’d overheard them once carefully broach the topic of having him move in permanently. Data had been the one to suggest it, but Geordi had urged caution. Not that Timothy couldn’t handle it, he’d said, but things would change considerably once the crew found out about them.
Timothy couldn’t look at him. “I don’t want him to die.”
Geordi was at his side in an instant, pulling him against his chest.
“Hell, Tim, I don’t want him to, either,” he whispered against Timothy’s hair. “But you know something? He loves you. So much.”
“He doesn’t feel emotions.”
Geordi was quiet for a moment.
“Do you actually believe that?”
“No,” Timothy admitted softly.
“Yeah. Me, neither.”
Four more days passed in the same manner. Timothy would spend all day at Data’s side in Sickbay, and then Geordi would come fetch him for dinner. After that, the two of them would stay in Sickbay through the night, until Geordi finally turned in because he had to be up for a shift in the morning. Timothy knew Geordi was staying in their quarters. He had straightened things up, and he had put some more of his clothes in Data’s closet and some of his toiletries in the bathroom. Not that Timothy was snooping, but whenever he had to track down Spot, she led him to the strangest of hiding places.
“Hey, Timothy,” Geordi squeezed his shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts. “I’m going to bed. Why don’t you come back to the cabin with me?”
Timothy shook his head. “No.”
“I want to stay here,” Timothy insisted. It had almost been a week now. If Data was going to die - they didn’t have much longer with him. “Please.”
Geordi sighed, relenting. “All right. Call me if you need anything, okay? Or if…”
He trailed off, waving a hand at Data. Timothy nodded.
But once Geordi had gone and Sickbay quieted, Timothy found that he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned on the cot, each position more uncomfortable than the last. His mind kept churning. How could Data die? Data was supposed to be immortal. He was supposed to outlive them all. Timothy liked Geordi, he really did, but if Data died - if he lost someone else -
Timothy couldn’t stand it anymore. He pushed himself up off the cot with such violence that he almost fell over. He didn’t want to think about that. He didn’t want to think about the future, especially a future without Data. He just wanted to sleep.
The biobeds weren’t designed for two people, but Data was slender and Timothy wasn’t fully grown yet. There was just enough space for him to lay on his side, pressed up against Data with Data’s arm held loosely around him. With his head resting on Data’s chest, he finally fell asleep.
The sound of Nurse Ogawa’s voice reached him first, and Timothy instantly had a craving for hot chocolate. He came awake slowly, blinking at the faces above him. He knuckled his eyes, and they slowly came into focus.
“Timothy.” That was Dr. Crusher. She gave him a distracted smile. “Sorry, kiddo. We need you to move for a minute.”
Hands helped him off the biobed, and he was on his cot again before he truly comprehended what was going on. A group of nurses, Dr. Crusher, Geordi, and a couple of engineers surrounded the biobed. Something was happening with Data, but he couldn’t tell what it was.
It was only when he heard a soft, “Hello, Geordi,” that he was off his cot like a shot and pushing through the bodies pressed around the bed.
“Data?” he asked, grabbing Data’s arm and squeezing. Data turned his head slowly, and the light yellow eyes fixed on his.
“Yes?” he said.
“Do you remember me?”
Data frowned. Timothy’s heart sank, but then Data said, “Of course. You are Timothy. I adopted you.”
Timothy felt tears threaten, so he buried his face in Data’s chest in the hopes that no one would see.
“Did I say something wrong?” Data asked, sounding bewildered.
“No, Data.” Timothy felt Geordi’s hand on the back of his head, smoothing down his hair in a soothing fashion. “You said everything right. Can you guys give us a minute?”
Timothy heard everyone leave, until it was just the three of them, and then he heard Geordi pull the curtain closed around the bed. He lifted his head and scowled at Data.
“I thought you were going to die ,” he said accusingly, his voice thick through his tears. He didn’t care.
Data lifted a hand and brushed his knuckles against Timothy’s cheeks, wiping away the liquid.
“I am fine, Timothy,” he said.
“Well,” Geordi said, and they both looked at him, “that’s relative. You’re out of danger, yeah, but you’ve got a long ways to go before you’re fully recovered. Do you want a list of all your damaged systems?”
“Yes, Geordi, that would be useful. But later,” Data said. He looked back at Timothy. “Are you all right?”
Timothy nodded, but Geordi sighed.
“No, Data, he’s not. He’s barely left your side in eight days. You had him terrified.”
“I did not mean to frighten you,” Data told Timothy.
“It’s fine,” Timothy said. Data looked at Geordi.
“Hell.” Geordi leaned down and pressed their lips together. “You scared me half to death, too. I thought we’d lost you.”
“I will recover.”
“I know.” Geordi sighed, and then a small smile touched his lips. “Remember that discussion about us moving in together?”
“Of course. You did not wish to.”
“I changed my mind.”
Data processed this for a moment. Then, he looked at Timothy.
“Yes,” Timothy said, nodding vigorously. “I want that, too.”
“We will tell Captain Picard in the morning,” Data said. He held out his hand, and Geordi took it. “Thank you for repairing me. I am sorry to have caused you distress.”
Turning to Timothy, he said, “Thank you for being so brave. I will strive not to worry you so in the future.”
Timothy felt his vision blur. “Just - don’t do it again, okay?”
“Yes, Timothy.” Data patted the mattress. “Come here. Like you were before.”
Timothy paused. Then, comprehension dawning, he clambered back up on the biobed and stretched out next to Data. This time, Data’s arm tightened around him. The other was still held in Geordi’s grasp. Geordi squeezed his hand.
“I should head back to engineering,” he said.
Timothy could tell that Geordi was just making an excuse because he thought the two of them might want him to give them some privacy. He was about to tell Data this when Data spoke up.
“You are not on duty,” he said to Geordi. “There is no reason for you to go to engineering. Stay.”
Geordi hesitated. Then, after a moment, he pulled up a stool and settled on it. He wrapped both of his hands around Data’s. Data closed his eyes.
“You should stay awake,” Timothy said quickly, digging his fingers into Data’s side. Panic gripped him.
“It’s all right, Timothy,” Geordi said as Data opened his eyes again to peer at him. “He’s just entering a low-power state so as not to tax his systems. It’s better for his repairs. Honest.”
“I am simply going to sleep,” Data told him. “As should you.”
Timothy shook his head. “I’m not tired.”
Data cupped the back of his head, coaxing Timothy to rest against his shoulder again.
“Yes, you are,” Data said. “Now. We will rest, and Geordi will wake us in the morning.”
“What if Geordi falls asleep?” Timothy muttered, eyelids drooping despite himself.
“The biobed is not big enough for Geordi join us,” Data pointed out logically.
“Geordi has a large, comfortable bed awaiting him, plus a cat who likes to sleep on his chest,” Geordi said. He stifled a yawn with the back of his hand. “He’s gonna sleep there, and then he’ll be back in the morning to check on you two.”
Timothy heard Geordi get up, and then felt the rustle of clothing as Geordi leaned down to kiss Data one last time.
“You, get better,” he ordered softly. Then, Timothy felt a kiss being pressed to the top of his head. “And you, get some rest.”
Later, he wanted to say, but that took too much energy, and then he was spiraling down into sleep.