This fic is dedicated to the most dedicated lover of Andromeda fanfiction I know, Mary Rose.

Chapter One

"To us."

Blue eyes met blue as delicate champagne flutes clinked. A long, quiet moment passed as the pale gold liquid fizzed and foamed. From an open window, the heady aromas of night-blooming flora perfumed the breeze that stirred the silken curtains. It was beautiful.

And it was too much. Beka's lips twitched, and try as she might to suppress it, a snorting laughing rang through the room a moment later. Dylan raised his eyebrows, but he soon succumbed to his companion's infectious mirth. The two of them giggled and chortled and wheezed until their eyes were streaming and their sides aching.

"Seriously Dylan, 'to us'?" Do people actually say that? In a place like this?" She waved her hand around the lushly decorated suite. "Is there really anyone in the Known Worlds that dedicated to cliché?"

He grinned. "You know, I think I read that exact line in one of those holonovels you pretend not to read."

Beka leaned across the round, spindly-legged table and smacked him on the shoulder. "I told you, those aren't mine! Um, an old crewmate left them on board the Maru. They have, uh, sentimental value."

"I'm sure they do," he replied, his voice dropping with undisguised innuendo. "I'm sure they're brimming with... sentimental value."

Beka thwacked him again. "You're ruining the moment, you idiot."

He caught her hand mid-slap and held it against him. She glared and struggled a bit to free her hand, but he just brought it to his lips, kissed it gently, and smiled. "Need I remind you, you're the one who couldn't keep a straight face after that heartfelt toast I made."

A slow smile crossed Dylan's face as he turned her hand and kissed the delicate skin of her wrist. "I'm really very insulted." He drew her fingers to his lips and kissed them one by one as he continued to speak. "Wounded, in fact. I'm a very sensitive man, Beka." His voice had dropped an octave from his usual commanding tone to a much more intimate register, low and caressing.

Beka shivered as she watched his mouth press against the tips of her fingers. "Okay," she said, with the slightest quaver in her voice. "You made your point. I'm a heartless bitch."

He caught her eyes, and a smile spread oh-so-slowly across his face. "Oh, well," he protested in mock-solicitious tones, "I wouldn't go that far."

With her hand still trapped, Beka stood up and took two steps until she was standing close enough to Dylan to pull him to his feet. "You," she began before tugging him close for a kiss, "are the most difficult man I have ever known. And that's saying something."

"Mm, I'll take it as a compliment." He drew her into his embrace, and the glasses of sparkling cider slowly loss their fizz on the delicate little table as the two of them buckled down and started enjoying in earnest their first night truly alone together.

-o-

On the Andromeda, Trance was tending a new shrub, one that sprouted hundreds of the smallest, pinkest petals she had ever seen. She was humming happily as she snipped away leaves that had not survived the the transit when something dark crossed behind her eyes. Her sure fingers slipped, and one blade of the gardening shears sliced deeply into a live branch. When she returned to herself a moment later, she gasped at the damage and hurried over to her plant first aid kit.

She soon lost herself in her work again, but this time, she was not humming.