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Tea in Honey

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It was a dream. Beckett ran her fingers through her hair, the cold breeze sending chills down her spine. Just a dream. Her legs moved on their own accord, getting her up out of bed and into the hallway. That’s all it was. Shakily, her hands slid down, falling to clutch at her arms. A dream. She forced out a laugh, rubbing her arms as she paced back and forth, the floorboards occasionally creaking due to her repetitive movements.

Are you really going to let this bother you? You don’t get bothered by dreams.

The taste of soot lingered in her throat.

No. I’m not going to allow it. I’m better than that! I’ve dealt with so many things: monsters, marauders, authority, weather, you name it. Am I really going to let some stupid dream get to me? Ha! There’s no way I’m going to let that happen.

Satisfied with her pep talk, Beckett walked to the kitchen, downed a glass of water before returning to her room, collapsing onto her bed with a faint smile on her face. Now, all she had to do was wait for sleep to wash over her like an ocean’s tide.

Only, it never did.

Instead, all she saw when she closed her eyes were dancing flames and plumes of smoke, their acrid fumes burning her lungs until she gasped for breath. Sweat dribbled down her forehead, her eyes wide open with fear as a sickly feeling nestled itself deep in her gut.

There’s no way.

-

It wasn’t the first time she’s stayed up all night. As a matter of fact, it was something she could do quite easily, or so she liked to think. All she needed was something to really get her going, whether it was an unsolved puzzle, a new history book, or someone to ramble too. Once it piqued her interest, it would be as if any ounce of tiredness suddenly melted away. Of course, she just needed to find something that fell into one of those categories. Sure, she always could reread her old notes or recomplete her old puzzles, but after time those became static in her mind, and there was nothing more she hated than something she loved turning to static.

If she ever expressed that to others, well...she’s positive that they wouldn’t understand.

Beckett spun around in her chair, clicking her tongue before abruptly stopping. The sun was up, its morning rays spilling from the crack between her curtains and staining the hardwood floor. With the sun up, that meant that everyone else was either waking up or starting their routine. With the sun up, that meant that she could find something to do that wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

She leaned back against her chair, stretching. It’s not going to be that bad, she mused. You can function a day without sleep. No one’s gonna notice a thing, and you’re going to be fine.

-

Beckett glanced at the clock, tapping her pencil against her notebook. It’s been over 24 hours since she’s last slept (as she could hardly consider what she experienced sleep). Was there a noticeable difference in her ability to do things? Nope! Nothing she could notice, nothing at all.

That’s what she repeated to herself before continuing to jot down notes, fingers absently running through her hair as she circled a location. One that was already circled.

“Hmmm.” She paused, taking a moment to reread what she wrote. It looked fine. At least, until she saw that she had rewritten a few phrases and jumbled up some of her words. That’s okay. You make slip-ups like this all the time. Humming, she erased the mess before returning her gaze at the book, realizing that she couldn’t remember what she had needed to continue off of. This is normal. Beckett leaned closer to the book, taking the time to slowly reread the passage and compare it to her notes. Upon finding her place, she made a vague happy sound and started writing again.

See? Just fine.

-

“You drop this?” Beckett turned around, seeing Imani holding her pencil.

“Oh! I was wondering where that darn thing went. Thanks.” Beckett took it from her, keeping a tight grip on it to ensure she didn’t spontaneously drop it again. “How’s your day been going, by the way?”

“It’s been fairly alright, I suppose.”

“Got something on your mind?” The reserved look in Imani’s eye told her the answer was yes. “It’s okay if you don’t wanna talk about it, though.” Her brow furrowed in debate before she shook her head.

“I think I’ll give it some time.”

“You know I’m always here if you need someone to lend an ear, right?”

“I’m fully aware, yes.”

“Makin’ sure.” With that, Beckett shot her a toothy grin before turning around and continuing down the hallway. Just as she reached the corner, she heard Imani call out to her.

“Keep in mind that the same applies to you, okay?”

Beckett gave her a thumbs up before waving her off.

-

She still couldn’t sleep.

Now, Beckett felt like she deserved some credit for trying. She climbed into bed, curled up under her covers, and closed her eyes. However, she found herself back in that place, where the smoke curled in her lungs and tears brimmed in her eyes. Where fire roared in her ears and the walls groaned with the weight of the building beginning to collapse in on itself. Where—

She left for the hallway again, her nails digging into her arms. The floor creaked with each step, furthering the pit that formed in her chest as she walked towards the bathroom. Cold water would help. It always helped. It jolted her awake. It got her away from the heat.

But it could only do so much.

It didn’t stop the burning in her eyes. It didn’t stop the hollow in her chest. It didn’t stop the numb feeling spreading through her body.

No, all it did was wake her up, washing away the images that drifted behind her eyelids. Now, whether that could be considered a victory was...was…

Beckett rubbed her temples, walking back and forth. The word wasn’t coming to mind. Whatever sentence was forming in her mind dissipated, melting into the static that began to clutter her mind. This wasn’t usual. No, she didn’t quite like this.

I can make this work.

-

Does coffee help soothe a sore throat? She wouldn’t know; she doesn’t drink coffee. Normally. No, Beckett much rather preferred a cup of tea in the morning but she knew that coffee was good for staying awake. Maybe she should get a cup of water with it…

She stared at the kettle, tapping her foot. Truth be told, she had absolutely no idea how to make coffee, nor did she necessarily want anyone to see her making it. That would mean that there would be questions. “Why are you drinking coffee?” “Not in the mood for tea?” “How do you like your coffee?” While she’s okay with lying, she wasn’t necessarily in the mood to answer any questions right now. No, the thought of thinking made the incessant buzzing in her head grow louder. Gods, it was so loud…

A loud whistle startled her out of her thoughts. Quickly, she turned off the burner before sliding the kettle off of the hot stovetop. Okay, okay she’s gotten this far.

“Now what…” she muttered, pulling over one of the bags of coffee grounds and turning it around. Beckett would always be grateful for the fact that they put instructions on these things, even if they did differ from what she just did. “I...I think a quarter cup is enough?” Maybe she should’ve just went for tea. She wasn’t even sure if she was going to like coffee. Did people add milk to it? Cream? Sugar? Sugar in coffee sounded weird to her. She always put tea in her honey. Honey in her tea.

Beckett huffed.

-

It was quiet. Not entirely quiet but too quiet nonetheless.

Everything felt wrong. She felt...detached from her body, as if it was something she just carried around with her, which, she supposed that was true. It’s not something she’s supposed to be aware of, though, and that’s what’s key. She didn’t like feeling how heavy her body could be, how it could be so uncomfortable to move. It’s made her more still, and she absolutely despised that. It made her feel disconnected from herself, unable to express anything properly.

Because of that, well, it started becoming harder to talk to her crewmates, to start conversations, to even word just in general. To her advantage, she’s already fairly good at having default responses to a variety of questions. However, her answers just lack her usual flair, her pizazz. Hopefully that’s gone unnoticed. It’s...it’s only been 2 days surely it’s gone unnoticed.

A knock on her door jolted her out of her thoughts, causing her to lean a little too far back in her chair and fall over, hitting the ground with a loud thud. Clutching her head and letting out whatever curses fumbled past her lips, Beckett rolled off of the chair and shakily stood up. Just as she was about to respond, the door opened to reveal the captain.

“Hey Imani,” she greeted, a pained grin curled on her lips. “What brings you here?” Imani tilted her head, looking at her quarters before returning her attention to her

“Your room is a mess.” Beckett turned around, noticing that her bedsheets were strewn about and that some of her books and papers had fallen onto the floor. She must’ve stacked them too high and they just...toppled over at some point.

“Yeah. I’m gonna take a guess and assume that’s not why you’re here, though.”

“Nope.”

“Are ya here to see my cute face?” She flashed her a cheeky grin, prompting the captain to roll her eyes.

“I wanted to check up on you.”

“Huh?” Guess her behavior hadn’t gone unnoticed after all.

“Ever since you got back, you’ve seemed a little...off.”

“Me? Off? Ha!” Imani frowned.

“Did something happen while on that mission?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, no.” She raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say much else. “Look, I’m fine, see? Yeah, this—” Beckett lazily gestured to her room, “is a mess, but that’s only because I’ve been working on solving something. I don’t think you’ve ever seen it, but this always happens.”

“I see.”

“Anything else you stopped by for?”

“That’s all.”

“You suuuure?” Imani pursed her lips, a faint blush spreading across her cheeks before she shut the door in her face. Once she heard the sound of her footsteps growing quieter and quieter down the hall, Beckett let out a heavy sigh, covering her face with her hands.

-

Beckett stared at the open pages of her book, the words drifting in and out of focus. Whenever she tried to grasp them in her mind, they just...drifted off, no matter how many times she stared at it. It was frustrating.

What was more frustrating was the fact that Imani seemed to be keeping an eye on her. Wherever she went, she always noticed Imani lurking. She knew that she wanted to talk to her, but Beckett wasn’t in the mood to give answers.

There was something familiar about that thought, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“—ket.”

“Huh?” Beckett turned to look at Imani. She had almost forgotten that she was currently sitting next to her. “Sorry, I got really focused.”

“I asked if you got a chance to get anything from the market.”

“Oh, well, yeah. I mean, that was this morning.”

“No...that was yesterday.”

“Yesterday.” The word tasted stale on her tongue. “That’s what I meant to say.”

“Right.” There was an unreadable look in Imani’s eye. “Are you feeling okay?” Beckett scoffed at that.

“Never better! Why d’ya ask?”

“Nevermind.” Before she could further question her, Beckett found herself leaning against her within the span of a blink. When did she do that? She couldn’t remember. Her book was still open, her pencil was lax in her hand...when did…

It was at that moment that she noticed that Imani had wrapped an arm around her, all while keeping her gaze locked in the opposite direction.

-

Something. Something something something there had to be something to do. Beckett paced the halls again, absently gnawing on her thumb, eyes occasionally glancing back. Her heart pounded against her chest, the darkness twisting into shapes that lurked on her mind. Stop looking at it, she told herself, pinning her gaze onto the floor. You know that doesn’t help. I know it doesn’t help but I can’t help but feel like I’m being watched. You’re standing next to a window, of course you’re gonna feel like you’re being watched. Being watched from hundreds of feet in the air, sure. She snuck another peek at the darkness and froze in her tracks. In the heart of the shadows, she could see a pair of pleading eyes peering at her through the haze of smoke, a mouth twisting open to—

The metallic tang of blood oozed onto her tongue.

“Shoot.”

-

“You got a papercut?” Beckett made a vague noise in response, staring at her notes. She couldn’t read them at the moment, but it did give the impression that she was doing something. However, Imani didn’t seem convinced. “How’d you manage that one?” The rocketeer held up a piece of paper in response, miming the action of getting a papercut.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. She hoped that Imani couldn’t hear it.

“Not in the mood to talk?” Imani’s voice had softened considerably. Beckett made that vague nose again before tapping her head.

“Headache. Pretty bad one, too.”

“Do you want a washcloth?” She nodded her head. “I’ll see what I can do.” Then, she was gone, and Beckett was laying on her desk with her head buried in her arms. She had been blinking out more often. That couldn’t be a good sign. Slowly, she lifted her head up, only to reel back in fright. Charred hands clung at the edge of her desk, desperately trying to pull something up. The air was filled with smoke, dark gray puffs that clouded her vision and constricted her breathing. Soot and ash caked her arms, and the walls were alight, fire reaching out through the chips in the grain. A scream rang in her ears, growing louder and louder until she was sure she’d go deaf—

“Beckett!” a voice shouted, and suddenly the fire was gone. And she was on the floor. And Imani was kneeling beside her, a glimpse of concern reflected in her eye.

Slowly, Beckett gave her a thumbs up, and said the first thing that came to mind.

“The floor sure beats laying in bed. You should try it sometime.”

-

The sound of glass shattering snapped Beckett out of her stupor, her eyes opening wide. Around her, her crewmates laughed, clutching stomachs and bottles. At first, she wasn’t able to see what was so funny. It wasn’t until she noticed the broken bits of a bottle littered at her feet, a puddle of rum splattered on the floor.

“You musta...had a bit too much to drink...huh?!” someone asked between laughs.

“Y-Yeah, I...I guess...so.” Her voice didn’t sound right. It sounded foreign to her. How was that possible how could her own voice sound unfamiliar?

“Geeez, ya never learned how ta pace yourself when you drunk.”

“You’re one to dralk.” She blinked. That wasn’t right. “Talk. Talk.” Her crewmate guffawed, slapping her knee.

“Lookit you, ya can’t even word the word right.”

“I’m gonna...” Beckett trailed off. It was almost as if her brain was put on pause. Nothing was coming to mind. No words, no sounds, just a harsh static.

Slowly, carefully, she stood up, her head spinning as she stumbled out of the circle, almost tripping over her own feet. Has she really had that much to drink? She only took a couple swigs from the bottle. Or maybe…?

Beckett held her head in her hands, cold water dripping off of her face. Was the alcohol really having this much of an effect on her? She couldn’t recall a time where a couple drinks made her hyper aware of her own heartbeat while making her thoughts feel so congested. Congested? No, no that’s not the word. What was the word? Did it even really matter?

After concluding that it didn’t, she looked up at her reflection. It was at that moment that her blood turned to ice.

They were standing behind her, their face a ghastly mix of soot, blood, and burns. Despite their lack of eyes, it felt as if they were staring at her, sockets boring into her with the same intensity as the one she saw that day. Slowly, what remained of their mouth moved, a gutteral sound peeling into the air as they spoke.

It’s your fault.

Beckett whipped around, her breath caught in her throat as her eyes frantically darted around the restroom. No one. There was no one there but her.

-

Your fault.
Those words echoed in her mind as she paced the hallway, hands tangled up in her hair.

Your fault.

It made her feel sick to her stomach. Oh, how she wished she could fly right now. Flight meant freedom, leaving her troubles behind. If she could fly, she would be over this by now. But, she couldn’t. Instead, she was grounded, left stranded amidst her guilt and pieces of a memory that constantly found a way to wriggle to the front of her mind. I’m not going to let it. I’ll be fine—

Just then, Beckett bumped into something. No. Someone.

“Watch where you’re—! Imani.”

“You aren’t necessarily in a position to tell me to watch where I’m going, considering that I stood here to see if you were paying attention.” Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“Ah, well,” she laughed, rubbing the back of her head. “Guess I was too caught up thinking about the bonfire from last night.” Imani’s eye widened. Did she not know about that? She could’ve sworn Imani was there…

“Into your quarters.”

“Huh?”

“Now.” Confused, Beckett did as she was instructed, Imani following closely behind. Once inside, she locked the door before examining her room.

“What’s going on?” she asked, crossing her arms. Imani rarely asked any of her crew members to return to their rooms in order to have a private conversation. “Do you need anything or…?” Imani stared at her with a rare, discernible expression.

“Beckett.”

“Yeah?”

“When was the last time you slept?” She laughed.

“Jeez, is that what you’re so concerned about? I’ll have you know that it’s only been…” her smile faltered, “...it’s only been...” It couldn’t have been more than a couple of days, Beckett told herself, brow furrowing in thought. There’s absolutely no...no way. However, no matter how hard she racked her brain, nothing came to mind. All that she could recall were fragmented conversations and th-

No.

“Not long ago.” The gusto her voice had moments before was now gone. Anxiety twisted in her gut, the suddenly apparent truth coming as a shock. “There’s...there’s no way it couldn’t have been more than a couple of days.”

“Days!?” But Imani’s voice fell on deaf ears as Beckett started chewing on her thumb, slightly shaking her head. Lost in her thoughts, she started pacing her room, her fingers digging into her sides. No, it’s not possible. I would’ve noticed. I would’ve noticed and I would’ve done something about it. I would’ve tried to sleep. Besides, only a few nights have gone by since the mission, so there’s just no way it’s been more than a couple of days. The more she thought about it, the more confused she was. Didn’t she go out for drinks with the crew last night? Or was that a few days ago? It seems that they had all melded into one day. One incredibly long, dreary day. It’s just… A faint image appeared in her mind’s eye. The smoke. The crumbling structure. The pleading look. She could feel her blood run cold. ...not…

“Beckett!” The rocketeer jumped, Imani’s voice slicing through her thoughts. She hadn’t even realized that Imani had grabbed ahold of her shoulders, keeping them locked in a strong grip. “Do I have your attention now?” Beckett stared at her, dumbfounded. “What. Happened. On. That. Mission.”

“What happened?” She smiled. “I told you, nothing happened. Something caught on fire and the building’s structure collapsed. That’s all there was to it.”

Imani let go of her shoulders. For a brief moment, Beckett believed that the reminder worked. That she would stop prying and just leave her be. Of course, that was only for a moment. Before she knew it, the palm of Imani’s hands struck her cheek, the sudden burst of pain causing her to stagger back and bump into the wall, clutching her cheek.

“The hell was that f—?!”

“Beckett.” Imani’s shoulders fell, face scrunching up with a worry she was desperately trying to hold back. “I know something happened. You’ve been acting oddly ever since you came back; it’s not like you to be so distracted.”

“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” Beckett replied, her voice quiet.

“Please. I want to help you, but I can’t do anything if I don’t know what’s going on.” The memory resurfaced. The fire roaring in her ears, consuming all in its path. The floorboards creaking, giving away to any weight pressed on them. The person holding on for dear life, blood caking one side of their head. Her inability to move.

“Nuthin’ you really can do.” Slowly, she slid down the wall, burying her face in her hands to hide the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. Her throat felt like sandpaper. Within a few seconds, Imani was at her side, sitting down next to her with a hand on her knee.

“At least let me try.” Beckett looked at her, observing her. Imani wasn’t one to show emotion. Most of the other crew members believed that she had none. She knew that wasn’t true, though. It took months of watching, but soon Beckett was able to read her, to tell when something frustrated her, or when something raised her spirits.

This was not one of those scenarios. For the first time, Imani’s face was painted with worry, lips tugged in a frown and sympathy reflecting in her eye.

Exhaling a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, Beckett told her.

“It was supposed to be in and out, just like you said. Nothing bad. No guards, no worries. I think someone knew, though. As I was walking down the stairs, there was an explosion. Don’t know where, but next thing I knew, smoke filled the air. Thankfully, I had my mask with me so it wasn’t too troublesome, but as I progressed downwards the heat was almost unbearable. I knew I’d have to find that key, and fast. And I did, thankfully. Luckily, the fire didn’t reach where it had been placed, so I was able to grab it, stuff it in my pocket, and make it back to open skies. But...before I did, the place shook. And I saw them. There...there was someone there. A...probably a keeper, given their robes. They were hanging onto what remained of the floor, their knuckles white from a grip that kept them from plunging into a fiery pit. And...they looked at me, a pleading look in their eyes clearly asking me to help. To save them. But I...I...I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move. And the roof gave way, and the last thing I saw was the fear in their eyes as it plummeted straight towards them. And I stood there. I...could’ve saved that person. But I didn’t. And now, here I am, staying awake because of some stupid dream that made me relive the whole damn thing, but only now they told me it was my fault.”

Beckett shot Imani a pointed look. “Are you happy now, Captain?” Imani didn’t respond. Not verbally, at least. Instead, she wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a tight embrace. The sudden comforting action came as a shock, her heart throbbing as she awkwardly returned it, leaning her head against Imani’s shoulder.

“Unfortunately, we have no way of telling when situations like that could happen. Our source told us that all those who attended to the building were off duty that day due to renovations. Either he screwed up, or someone showed up due to diligence. It is possible that the whole thing as a set up, too, given the explosion. For the keeper…these things happen. You weren’t expecting anyone to be there, so seeing them caught you off guard. You didn’t know what to do, and that’s okay.” She paused, adjusting their position. “It’s happened to me, too. Out on the field for Karakesh one time.” Beckett turned to look at her. “It was raining heavily, and we were patrolling out by some cliffs. It was a route we always walked down, but we didn’t know that the ground could become unstable. My partner ended up slipping, able to stop himself from dropping into a raging river down below by clutching onto a crack in the cliff face. He yelled at me to help, but I was caught so unaware that I was frozen stiff. It was as if my body just...forgot how to move. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he could no longer hold on.”

“I’m sorry.” Imani shook her head.

“It happened years ago. It still haunts me, but it no longer has much of an effect on me.” Another pause. “It gets better. Not by much, but I can promise you that it will, alright?” Beckett nodded her head, allowing herself to relax. While the conversation helped her, lifting an invisible weight from off her chest and clearing up her mind, it allowed her lack of sleep to finally catch up with her. Weariness engulfed her, tugging at her eyelids and leaving her unable to pry herself away. Splotches of darkness blotted out her vision, leaving what she could see enshrouded in a dark haze.

“‘m gonna sleep now,” she murmured, turning to bury her face in Imani’s neck. A small sigh escaped from Imani, but instead of moving she reached over to her bed and grabbed a blanket, pulling it over them.

“Goodnight Beckett.”

But the rocketeer had already fallen asleep.