Author's Note: This was my offering for ExIsle's Beka Day '06 (known to the unlearned masses as Valentine's Day).
RATING: Completely G (K)
PAIRINGS: Well, isn't that the mystery?
SUMMARY: It's that day again, and Beka's receiving mysterious gifts. Weird, but in a good way.
Read, enjoy, review!
It began as soon as Beka awoke that morning, stretched and knocked a tiny something onto the floor. She squinted at the spot on the deck where she had heard the quiet clatter. "Lights," she said. Illumination flooded the room, and she blinked her eyes against the onslaught. After a minute or two, her eyes adjusted enough that she could peer again at the deck. Yes, there it was. A tiny, pink something.
Beka tumbled out of bed to investigate the pink bit. It was shaped like a heart and bore a miniscule inscription, 'You're sweet!' in bright red Vedran letters. Her first instinct was to glance around the room, convinced that someone was playing a joke on her. She knew what this was, though luckily she had not been reminded for several years. Whoever was doing it probably thought he or she was very clever.
When she saw no one, she shrugged and popped the heart into her mouth. Just like she remembered, the sugary candy tasted vaguely like peppermint. She dreaded leaving the Maru for the Andromeda; the prankster behind this could not be satisfied with a single candy heart. Horrifying visions of red streamers and pink confetti rose in her mind, though chocolate, at least, would not be so bad.
She changed out of the clothes she had fallen asleep in the night before, conducting her monthly check of the Maru's systems. A monthly check was probably not necessary now that the Maru spent much of its time parked in one of Andromeda's vast hangars, but the routine was good for soothing her frazzled nerves. And when the Maru was not docked, someone from Andromeda was likely taking him on another suicide mission.
Dressed and mostly awake, Beka made her way to the mess to see if she had remembered to refill the Maru's coffee supply. On the counter by the coffeepot sat a cleanish mug, like usual, but rather unusually, little red hearts filled it to the brim. She nibbled one and found it was gummy and tasted of cinnamon. It was one of her darkest childhood secrets that she adored gummy.
"Hello?" she called. "Is anyone there?" Nothing. "I could bring these to Rommie and have her scan for fingerprints." Still nothing. "Fine. But I'll catch you."
In a nearby cupboard she discovered a full tin of coffee and grinned. When the savory aroma filled the mess, she unceremoniously dumped the cinnamon hearts from the mug and poured herself a cup of fresh coffee. She considered dropping a cinnamon heart or two into the coffee but decided against it. Who knew how gummy and caffeine might interact? She shoved some of the hearts in a pocket and left for the Andromeda.
"Welcome back," Rommie said cheerfully when Beka entered the hangar. "How did the check-up go?"
Beka chewed on a heart and swallowed before replying. "He's running almost as good as you."
Rommie frowned. "What is that you're eating? My scans show absolutely no nutritional content and… is that gummy? You know, I have not seen gummy since you pulled us from the black hole. Could I…" She dropped her gaze to the floor and fidgeted a little.
"You want one?" Beka asked with a bemused smile. "I have a bunch here and more back on the Maru." She fished one from her pocket and handed it over. "I have no idea who left them. You don't have any record of someone entering the Maru last night or this morning, do you?"
"I know, but I'm gonna figure it out."
Rommie glanced up. "No, I meant the candy. What's the appeal?"
Beka shrugged and continued on her way to Command. About halfway there, she realized she was carrying an empty coffee mug and took a detour to her quarters to drop it off before her shift. As soon as the hatch slid open, she felt something was amiss. No, on second thought, it was not something she felt.
It was something she smelled. Something… good. Good smells rarely emanated from Beka's quarters, though they never approached Harper odor levels. She lay the coffee mug down on a desk she used solely as a flat surface and went to investigate her bedroom. On her nightstand bloomed about a dozen crimson roses with sprigs of a tiny white flower in a crystal vase.
"Rommie!" she called to empty room.
A hologram appeared obligingly at the foot of her bed with a curious expression. "Roses and baby's breath?"
That was the name Beka had tried to remember. Baby's breath. What a weird name.
"I suppose you have no idea again." Beka asked, not really expecting a definitive response. It was mysterious and all too familiar, at the same time. But how could anyone on the Andromeda know?
"I'm sorry, Beka. Do you have any idea what this could be about?"
"I might. It's this old Earth…" Her voice trailed off as she touched the velvety rose petals. "Harper!"
"It's an old Earth harper? I don't understand."
Beka rushed out of the room without answering. She ran all the way to Command and arrived only a little out of breath. "You!" she shouted as she flung an accusing finger at Harper. "This is your doing!" She threw a cinnamon heart at the engineer.
He ducked and looked past him where the red gummy sailed to land on the floor. "Beka, did you wake up on the crazy side of the bed this morning? I don't know what that is or why you're throwing it at me."
Beka glared and stalked closer. "You're the only one who could possibly know about…" She stopped abruptly. "You're the only who could know what day it is."
"Tuesday? Sorry, but that's no secret."
Dylan worked up the courage to finally venture from behind his console. "Is everything all right here?"
Beka turned on one heel and took another heart from her pocket. "THIS was in my coffee cup this morning!"
From his post, Tyr leaned forward to get a look at the tiny object causing all this ruckus. "A heart? The nerve. Captain, we must scour every inch of the Andromeda so that we may run down the scoundrel before he strikes again."
She spun around again and regarded Tyr for a moment. "On the other hand, it wouldn't be that hard for someone to figure out with a little bit of research. It would take a little more skill to pull it off, and no one pulls…" She paused to consider her words. "I mean, you're a pretty sneaky guy, Tyr."
"I'm flattered, and you're mistaken."
Despite her best efforts to wheedle the truth out of somebody, Beka still could not imagine who had sent her the gifts by the time her shift ended. She took one final look around Command and left with a single gummy heart, wishing she had taken more with her from Maru. On her way back to fill her pockets up again, she found Trance bouncing across her path.
"Here," she said, "have a candy." She watched Trance's expressions carefully but could detect only genuine delight at the cinnamon heart.
"Thanks, Beka! Happy Valentine's Day to you, too!"
Beka's eyes popped. Of course! "Ah-ha!" she exclaimed. "It was you all along! Who else would be able to find roses and whatever-it-is in this part of the galaxy?"
"Someone got you flowers?" Trance asked with a giggle. "That's so cute! It wasn't me, though, Beka. Did you ask Harper? Or Dylan? Maybe it was Tyr… you know, the last person you'd expect."
"Everyone's playing innocent, but someone left these on the Maru, and I'm going to find out who."
"It is pretty weird, but in a good way."
"Yeah," Beka said slowly. "I guess it is. I'll see you later, Trance."
She ambled to the Maru, deep in thought. Trance was right… maybe she should focus a little more on being grateful for the thoughtful gesture than catching the perpetrator. After a few minutes, she shook her head. If it weren't for the fact that her father had always celebrated Valentine's Day with her and her brother, she though she could drop the investigation, but this was hitting too close to home.
When she arrived at the Maru, she did not make her way directly to the mess but went to sit in the pilot's chair for a little while. With the shield closed over the big front window, she could almost imagine that she was deep in space, drifting quietly in her ship. She tried to enjoy the illusion, but without the steady rumble of the engines, the silence chilled her.
When she stood up, her foot knocked something wedged under the seat. "What the-?" She bent down and found a small red box, shaped like a heart, with a lacy covering. It was heavier than it looked, which she took to mean that something was inside. She was reluctant to rip the lace off and found after a moment where the cover could be untied. As she walked, she carefully removed the lace and opened the red box to find squares of chocolate nestled together on white paper. She pulled the paper out from underneath the chocolate, hoping it would prove a note to solve the mystery, but it merely listed the flavors of the different chocolate squares.
She knew that she should have waited until Andromeda analyzed it, but if she was going to die, poisoned chocolate was one of the best ways she could think of. Her puzzled frown dissolved when she bit into one the squares and found it full of a creamy mousse, flavored with some kind of nut.
"Weird," she muttered. "But in a good way."
"I do hope you're enjoying Valentine's Day," a figure said quietly to a framed picture in a shadowy room. A finger reached out to touch the silvery frame before retreating again. To a man as wealthy and familiar with that ship as he, it was a trifle to hire one of the best mercenaries in the system to infiltrate the vessel a few months before while it docked at a public drift and plant a few things here and there, along with tiny robots that would arrange them at just the right moment. It was even easier to implant them with programming that would make them appear as helper 'bots going about their normal routine to the Andromeda's AI.
So he had once tried to addict her to a deadly drug and then kill her, and so she had tried to kill him more times that he knew. Each remained the closest the other had to family.
"Your jet will arrive in a few moments," a speaker chirped from one dark wall.
The man acknowledged the message and left the room with the picture and its frame. In the next, he passed an expansive desk of fitted planes of genuine maple and dipped his hand in a cut-crystal dish. On his way to his private jet, the man chewed a cinnamon gummy heart and smiled and shook his head.
"Weird," he said.