A/N: I started this story months ago to post on Valentine's Day but didn't finish it in time. So, although I should have been writing Tomorrow Has Troubles Enough, I finished this story instead. It is short and sweet. It fits into the Constellations series after Martha's Tears and before A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing(WIP).
Strawberries and Coffee Beans
Charlene absolutely hated Valentine's Day. Sure, it was a fun holiday when she was a little kid. She enjoyed making handmade valentine's at home with her mother to share with her classmates. In grade school everyone got a cute holovid and some chocolate. No one was left out. How things changed when you grew older and Valentine's Day no longer was a time to share candy with your friends and family. If you were in a relationship, you had to plan the perfect night out. If you were single, like Charlene, you had to have a hot date to avoid bearing the stigma of the loveless and sexless.
That morning when she rose from bed and checked her messages out of habit, she felt a momentary thrill when she noticed that she had two new messages. Despite telling herself the night before that the holiday was silly and archaic, she still secretly hoped that this Valentine's Day would be different. She opened her inbox, her breath held in anticipation. The first message was predictably from her mother. Venus Masters never missed an opportunity to tell her children that she loved them and Valentine's Day was her favorite opportunity to do so.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Boo-Boo," her mother said, her bright smiling face filling the view screen. "Remember momma loves you! I hope that you have a wonderful day. Perhaps you should ask that nice gentleman in your department to dinner. You know, us ladies don't have to wait around for the men to do the asking. That is so 20th century. How do you think I landed your father?"
Charlene zoned out momentarily as her mother began doling out unsolicited relationship advice. She knew that her mother meant well and she did not often nag Charlene about such things, but Charlene still felt the warmth that had filled her chest after her mother's greeting begin to cool into annoyance.
"That Mr. Scott seems like such a lovely man. It was so sweet of him to send us that message when you were hurt in the fire. He's definitely a keeper. You better snatch him up before someone else does. Have a great day, sweetie. Oh, and would it kill you to call home once in a while? Love you!"
Charlene watched as the picture of her mother throwing kisses to the camera dissolved before opening her second message. It was a text message from Christine.
Tonight. 1800 hours. My quarters. Edosian chocolates. Alazé. All the apple martinis you can drink. Tonia and Janice are coming. Nyota has a hot date—no surprise there.
Charlene's fingers hovered over the keys. She was sorely tempted to type in a quick acceptance. She loved Edosian chocolates and Alazé. Plus, a night with her girlfriends would be a lot less pitiful than sitting in her quarters choking down a replicated dinner. However, she knew that the night would primarily consist of Christine lamenting over Spock's obliviousness, Tonia salivating over Sulu's abs, and Janice nattering on incessantly about her crush on the captain. In typical fashion, Charlene would amaze her friends with her talent of tying cherry stems into knots with her tongue, an acquired skill rendered useless by her single status.
Charlene sighed. Who was she kidding? She had nothing better to do. Why not spend the night with her friends? Just as she finished composing her reply, her commlink sounded. Perhaps not all hope was lost.
She accepted the call and bit back a happy squeal as Scotty's face filled the screen. Ever since her ordeal with Lazarus, she spent more time with the chief engineer outside of work. They ate most of their meals together, watched classic Terran movies in Scotty's quarters on Thursday nights and played on the same team in the Enterprise bowling league every other Saturday night. Charlene's nascent crush had grown into something that looked suspiciously like love.
"Good morning, Monty," she greeted brightly as she took in his broad features.
"Good morning, Charlene. I trust ye slept well," Scotty answered, making no effort to hide his pleased grin.
"Well enough," she shrugged before grinning. "Is this call business or pleasure, Mr. Scott?"
"Nae," Scotty replied, his happy visage deflating. "I wish it were pleasure, Charlene. But, I'm afraid I have to ask ye a favor that ye may not be too keen on agreeing to."
Charlene's expectant look faltered. "You know you can ask me anything, Scotty. I'll be glad to help if I can."
"I was wondering if you would be willing to work beta shift this evening. I've been running some experiments to increase the energy outputs of our warp engines per the captain's request. I thought I'd have clear until next week, but the captain wants this done by tomorrow evening."
"Oh," Charlene sighed. She hadn't heard about any experiments on the warp engines, but perhaps the captain had just requested the upgrades last night.
"I only bothered you with this after bugging Lt. Kline and Ensign Ling, but they already had firm plans for the evening. I promise to make it up to you, Charlene. I know its Valentine's Day, but you are the most capable person available."
"Its no problem, Monty. I'm happy to be of help," Charlene replied, painting a false smile on her face.
"Thank you, lass. I knew I could count on you."
Charlene shut off her commlink and sank into her seat with a heavy sigh. So much for her evening of Alazé and chocolates.
This was turning out to be the worst Valentine's Day ever. Her laboratory doors had seen an almost endless parade of red shirted yeoman delivering bouquets of roses, chocolates, stuffed animals of various species Terran and alien and old-fashioned cards. After suffering through a third love song sung to a blushing assistant by a member of the Enterprise Glee Club, Charlene finally snapped.
"That's it! No more deliveries or singing telegrams of any sort is passing through these doors on my watch," Charlene cried as she pushed a singing red shirt towards the door. "Any of you with flowers and other gifts cluttering up the tables, take them to your quarters on your break or face the threat of having them recycled with the garbage."
Work in the lab ground to a halt at her announcement, ten pairs of eyes trained on her person in shock. Charlene sighed. Perhaps that had been a bit of an over reaction.
"Riddle, you're in charge of things while I nip out for coffee."
Charlene did not even wait for her flabbergasted assistant to mumble his reply before she left the lab. A strong cup of espresso—even the replicator's sad version—would do just the trick. If she was already seeking the solace of coffee when it was barely one in the afternoon, how would she ever make it through Beta shift?
Charlene arrived in the engine room at 1800 hours as Scotty requested. She stopped just inside the doorway looking around the room in surprise. The lights were dim and only the gentle whirr of the warp drives could be heard.
Odd, Charlene thought to herself. Beta shift is usually a pretty busy time. Maybe everyone's out on dates.
"Computer, lights at one hundred percent," she ordered as she walked further into the engine room.
The lights came on just as Charlene stepped around a large console. She stopped with a gasp, her PADD clattering to the floor as her hands flew up to cover her mouth. There, on the floor in front of the dimly glowing warp drives was a picnic blanket set out with champagne on ice, a plate of chocolate dipped strawberries and two covered dishes. A candelabra complete with faux candles sat on the floor beside the blanket. Charlene knelt beside it and passed her hand through the hologram of the flame as she laughed gently.
"We can't have an open flame near the warp drives, now can we?" Scotty said as he stepped into view. "That is unless we have a mind to blow the ship to bits."
Charlene got to her feet, her eyes wide. "Is all this for me?"
"Aye," Scotty said with a smile as he stepped towards her. "I'm not expecting another bonnie lass to walk through those doors."
"Oh, this is so lovely, Monty," Charlene exclaimed before throwing her arms around his neck.
Scotty laughed and lifted her off of the ground as he hugged her tight. "I'm pleased that you like it."
"Its perfect," Charlene laughed before kissing him on the cheek.
Scotty set her on the ground again, his cheeks bright red. "Well, I wanted to do something special fer you. Seeing how it is Valentine's Day and…ow!"
Scotty grabbed his arm and rubbed it dramatically. "What'd you hit me for?"
"For tricking me into thinking that I was going to spend my night snuggled up with the warp drives," Charlene bit out. "I've been absolutely miserable all day surrounded by roses and chocolates and Riley serenading my assistants! I thought you were my friend. Why would you trick me?"
Scotty mimicked a fish, his mouth working dumbly as he tried to come up with a proper reply. Just as he managed to form a coherent word, Charlene began to laugh.
"See, I am not the only one who can act."
"I suppose I deserve that," Scotty replied with a sheepish smile. "But you can't blame a bloke for trying to find a creative way to woo a beautiful woman."
Charlene dropped her eyes demurely. "So you're trying to woo me?"
"What do you think I've been doing for the last few months, lass?" Scotty exclaimed. "Do you think I'd drink that swill they call coffee for fun? I figured you were a bit sharper than that. Now you got me reconsiderin'…"
Scotty's retort was cut off by the press of Charlene's full lips against his. He wrapped his arms around her slim waist and pulled her flush against his body as they kissed. Charlene pulled back a few minutes later, her expression dreamy as she ran one hand through his dark hair.
"Well, you've wooed successfully, Mr. Scott."
The pair settled down on the blanket, Charlene leaning comfortably against Scotty as they ate their replicated dinner and real strawberries for dessert, a gift from Sulu's botany lab. They chatted amicably; the whirr of the warp drives providing gentle background music. An hour later, when the champagne was finished and all the strawberries, consumed, Scotty got to his feet and trotted over to his desk.
"I got you a present," he explained unnecessarily as he returned to the blanket with a medium sized box wrapped in red foil and tied with a white ribbon.
Charlene smiled up at him as she took the box. She laughed in delight after opening the present and leaned over to plant a brief kiss to Scotty's mouth.
"Its perfect," she said as she pulled out a bag of coffee beans, a small chrome plated coffee grinder and a replica antique French press. "Just like tonight."
"Aye," Scotty replied gently, his eyes soft. "And we're just getting started."