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Echoes of Fear
Gideon Salieri awoke with a shout, sitting up quickly, bare chest covered in sweat. It took only milliseconds to recognize what happened and the Security officer threw his comforter off with a frustrated, agonized yell. The Betazoid mix sprang from the bed and stalked to his dresser as he threw on his lounge pants. Pulling open the drawer, Gideon pulled out a t-shirt and shoved it over his arms as he paced out of his bedroom. The storm within him was raging, waves surging as they battered the shore. The sleep aid provided by Doctor Swift proved useless the last three nights and Gideon was intent on finding some semblance of peace in his slumber.
He’d been so introverted into his thoughts that Gideon only realized his footsteps had carried him into the Acropolis lounge instead of Sickbay when he nearly walked into a table in the middle of the floor. Salieri fell forward slightly, palms flat on the table as he pulled jagged breaths into his lungs.
Sam blinked as he watched the security officer practically storm into the Lounge only to walk into a table. “You okay, Sal?” he called out.
Erik turned around. He watched Salieri carefully as he straightened slowly. “We’ll take a bottle, Sam. Whatever you got.” The Draconian didn’t even watch the barkeep nod. Purple eyes focused on the security officer and waited. There was no need to ask or even read his soul. The Draconian was pretty much feeling the same.
Gideon’s gaze found Sam briefly before he reached up, running a hand through his hair. He looked toward Erik and approached the counselor, hunching over the table as he fell into a chair. Thankfully, the barkeep respected Gideon’s prohibition on liquor and brought two bottles of the strong black beer Erik had already started on. The security officer gripped the cold glass and snapped the cap off but did not move to drink.
“I’ll be in the kitchen if you two need anything.”
The counselor watched as Sam disappeared and he turned to the security officer as he grabbed the beer. Erik had stalked into the lounge without his usual teacup and teapot that night and he was grabbing bottle number three for the evening. “Anything?” He twisted the top and took a log swig. There was no comfort in it.
Once Sam had left earshot, Salieri raised his cobalt gaze to Erik’s dark purple. “It’s been nine days,” he whispered, unaware of the counselor’s question. Gideon hadn’t slept more than three hours the past three nights combined. His sanity was obviously beginning to crumble as he reached up, taking a drink of the thick alcohol. “Something’s wrong,” Gideon muttered, sounding more like a conspiracy theorist than a Starfleet officer. Vaguely, his gaze flickered to Erik.
“No shit, Sherlock,” grumbled Erik as he took another swig. His hands wrapped around the bottle as his fingers drummed angrily against the glass. He slumped over the edge of the table, his leg shaking up and down furiously as he tried to contain his energy.
“You haven’t heard anything,” he stated. It was meant to be a question, but it didn’t need asking. Gideon took another drink.
“The Lush and Nobody haven’t either.” At that revelation, he took another swig.
The Betazoid mix grunted softly. “Or Swift.” He’d visited Sickbay each night the past four days. The sedative helped the first night. Each subsequent evening spiraled into his current state of a waking nightmare. “But,” he interjected, straightening slightly. “I did get a note from the secretary’s secretary. Said El had gone on some sort of retreat.”
The Draconian’s head snapped up and he growled. His canines glinted under the dim lights. “She’d tell us if she was planning some trip. We’d have heard something.” His hands gripped around the bottle and he could feel the glass shuddering under the pressure. With a low and quiet breath, he released the bottle to keep from breaking it. “I hate that guy,” he hissed.
He took a hard pull from the bottle, letting it fall to the table harder than necessary. “Did I tell you about Talador Ren?”
“No. Who the frak is Talador Ren?”
“Wanted by the Federation, we had a run in with him on Korin’Thalis. She said the secretary had met with him.” Gideon paused, blue eyes becoming dull. “She hasn’t responded since I told her about him … oh, Prophets,” he whispered, a realization overwhelming his features.
“Who the frak is Talador Ren and why the frack is he wanted!?” Erik did not like the look on the security officer’s face, and he did not like the sound of his soul as Salieri seemed to have stumbled on some damn explanation.
“He sent someone to kill the commodore and Swift. I think, tried to kidnap Kirk.” Gideon raised his hands to his face. “Some mafia type boss,” he rambled softly.
“Why would you telling her be related to this Talad-” His palm came up to smack himself in the face and he dragged his calloused hand down the span of his face. “Frak. She didn’t. She wouldn’t-,” he growled and grumbled under his breath, “Dammit. Bright Eyes.”
Blue eyes snapped to Erik, hands dropping to the table with a heavy slap. “Did she give you any indication her letters were being read by someone on Atlantis?”
Erik took another long swig of his beer as he shook his head. “No,” came the curt response. “If she was worried, she wouldn’t have told me any of the gossip with the hussies in court or her dealings with that abusive asswipe, Vatia.”
He leaned back, all poise melting from his body. Gideon’s heart slowed in his chest as he reached up, then froze. “What?” The question hung for several tense moments. “Did he hit her?” Salieri tried to sit up but found himself quite paralyzed, whether with fear or rage he couldn’t tell. Both were churning quite furtively in his head.
The Draconian shook his head. “If he did, she never said,” he paused to take a drink, “but I get the sense he’s never laid a hand on her.” If Vatia had, Erik would have left the ship the moment he found out and killed the foreign secretary himself. “She just says things he says to her, tells me what’s expected of her.” He shook his head. “Defends it too. I don’t know what’s going through her head. She’s not the same.”
Gideon barely shook his head in tandem with Vaeros. “I frakking told her that before she left,” he spat with plenty of salt on his tongue. The security officer’s hand darted forward, snatching his bottle of beer from the table.
“Better than my reaction,” Erik sighed as he took a final swig to finish the bottle. “I just screamed at her for being a frakking idiot.” His thick calloused fingers came up to pinch at his nose. “And what does she do? She starts sending me frakking letters.” He took a deep breath as he muttered softly, “Heart of gold, that one. She’ll forgive anyone and everyone.”
He frowned, displeased to hear about his reaction to her decision to leave. Gideon thought back to the night in the kitchen, indescribably gladdened that they’d been civil. The thought soured as the Betazoid recalled that night was the last time he’d heard her laugh in person. His eyelids fell shut as he desperately searched for the memory, needing in that moment to hear Marielle’s laugh once again. It was faint, but enough. The security officer blinked his eyes open. “What have I done?” he whispered quietly.
The Draconian looked at his bottle. “I can’t believe she’s going to marry him,” he grumbled. His pointed ears twitched at the sounds coming from the kitchen, but he made no movement.
His heart stopped. His breath stopped. The hum of the engines stopped. Everything froze as the words pounded between his ears. Gideon released a ragged breath and he squeezed his eyes shut against the sharp light stabbing at his brain. “Cazzo,” he whispered before glancing toward Vaeros. “What? When?”
Erik only shrugged. “He asked her the last day of Saturnalia,” he grumbled after he took a long sip of his beer. The bottle hit the table with more force than he intended. “Formalized the proposal in front of the court after he received her father’s permission.” The Draconian’s brows furrowed as he turned to look at the security officer. “She- she didn’t tell you?”
It was as if he’d found a reserve. “This isn’t right. I’m going to send a letter through the court.” Gideon brought the rim to his lips and tossed back three swallows, chugging it all. He placed the bottle on the table. “They can’t ignore an official request.” He stood, either not hearing Erik’s question or choosing to ignore it.
“Talk to Billings. He’ll have better pull.” Erik’s eyes wandered to Sam as he approached with a tray in his hands and two more bottles. He took in a deep breath and wondered how he had missed it earlier.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, absently. Gideon’s gaze turned to Sam, watching the barkeep.
“Figured you two will want these.” Sam carefully placed the tray of chocolate chip cookies on the table and the two bottles of beer followed. “Ellie had frozen some dough the last time she was in the kitchen. Made a killer buttermilk cake with this, uh, crap. What was it? Bailey’s buttercream.”
“Irish cream,” Gideon corrected softly as his fingers touched one of the cookies. He picked it up tenderly.
The barkeep smiled. “Yeah. That cake sold out in thirty minutes.”
Erik picked up a cookie and stared at it. “I remember that one. She showed up outside my quarters with a slice on a plate. I was about to bite her head off for waking me up at some ungodly hour, and she just… shoved a fork-full in my mouth and told me to shut up as she laughed that laugh of hers.” The Draconian laughed sadly at the memory. “It was the best damn cake I’ve ever had.”
“Told me to save the cookies for when it was needed. From the looks of you two, I’d say tonight is the night.” Sam shrugged.
“I never got to try the cake,” Gideon recalled quietly, there was no remorse in his voice. He kept the rest of his thoughts to himself as he lifted the cookie to his lips. ~Ho avuto la parte migliore.~ There was a soft sigh as the smell of the freshly baked cookie through back the memory, crisp and clear as if it were yesterday. “Thank you, Sam,” he murmured before taking a bite, but the barkeep didn’t hear. He was already gone.
Erik chewed on the cookie quietly and drank his beer. He lifted a cookie and stared at it. “She’s ...” The Draconian shook his head and stopped himself from completing the sentence. “If you find out anything, you tell me.”
After finishing the cookie, Gideon picked up the bottle and pulled the top off. He dropped the cap on the table and raised the rim to his lips, chugging the entirety of the bottle in a matter of seconds. Salieri was eerily quiet and reserved as he set the glass on the table, picked up another two cookies and turned, walking out of the Acropolis without a sound.