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Snuggle Bunnies. SL by LtCdr Marielle Deniaud and FstLt Gideon Salieri

USS Aldrin Lounge


by First Lieutenant Gideon Salieri & Lieutenant Commander Marielle Deniaud
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[Deniaud/Salieri] Collaboration Log
Stardate: 1707.31
Snuggle Bunnies

It was cold out there.  Snow was falling, leaving six inches of pristine white powder to blanket the landscape.  The plan had been to hit the slopes in the next few hours, but with it continuing to precipitate, Gideon had no desire to leave the warmth of the cabin.  He stoked the burning logs within the stone fireplace before reaching to place another on top.  It had taken Jonathan Battey and Ryan Winnetka a lot of talking to convince the security officer to go on the holiday - especially when they revealed that Anya had also invited Marielle.  He hadn’t seen the engineer since she rejected him in the kitchen.  The security chief made sure he had a full hypo to bring along.  He knew he would need it to tune out.  Their tension on the shuttle only solidified his choice.

She entered quickly, the door slamming behind her to keep the cold from entering the warm cabin.  “Holy crap!” she exclaimed as she pressed her back into the solid wooden door.  “That’s damn cold!”  Her boots stomped desperately on the mat under her feet to shake off the last bit of powder that clung to her.  Marielle did her best to calm the sudden rapid beat of her heart at seeing the security chief and no one else.  It had been a complete surprise to her when she entered the shuttle to discover him there, and it was only by sheer politeness to Anya and Jonathan that she hadn’t left the moment she realized he was joining in on the trip to a frigid wonderland.  The moment in the shuttle had been fleeting at best, the connection made to escape the odd relationship the married couple had.  But, it was a moment that disappeared as soon as the shuttle had landed on the planet.  The strange tension returned in full force.  It made her hyper-aware of every glance, to the point she was sure she was being paranoid.

The security officer blinked as he looked up, glancing at the room in the back where she’d slept, then to the door.  With only the one room and the loft available, he was left with the couch.  Something about how Jon looked at him when they arrived led him to believe they thought Marielle would join him.  ‘They’re being awful pushy.’  Gideon frowned.  “I didn’t even realize you’d gone out.”  He stood quickly and walked into the kitchen area.  A shallow pot rested on the burner and the half-Bajoran reached to turn up the heat.  The smell of cocoa lifted to fill the cabin as he stirred the chocolate gently with a metal spoon.  

Marielle ripped the cream knitted hat from her head with her mittened hand.  “I was out there for a few hours building a snowman.”  Her matching mittens and scarf were the next to be removed.  The engineer draped them over the set of hooks by the door before she slipped off her heavy coat and left it hanging to dry on the coat rack.  She fell into the bench, bending over to unlace the furlined boots around her feet.  Free of the outer protective wear, Marielle was left in her fleece lined black leggings, the long form-fitting dark plum fair isle sweater with light grey detailing around her neckline, and her knee high grey socks.

He furrowed his brows and kept his back to her as he frowned.  ‘How did you not notice she was outside?  Oh, right, she’s avoiding you.’  Sighing softly as he picked up the pan, Gideon pulled a mug to the pot and poured some of the hot cocoa from Marielle.  “Sounds like fun,” he called over his shoulder before adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top.  ‘Is there any hope for us going back?  Seems like the only way is forward, but why is she resisting?’  The security officer put a smile on and walked out of the kitchen, holding the mug of hot chocolate carefully as he waited forr Marielle to receive his offering.

“It was.”  There was a heaviness between them that she didn’t like.  After their hot moment in the kitchen over the éclairs, she had no idea how to act around the half-Bajoran.  She couldn’t deny the affection she felt for him, but there were far too many things - in her perspective - that would prove to be problematic.  “We now have a giant snowman guarding the cabin.  He’s not very ferocious, but I think he’ll do.”  The engineer did her best to sound at ease.  “Why anyone would have a holiday in the snow is beyond me.  Give me a hot beach any day.”  The engineer pressed her hands to the bench and pushed off the cushioned seat.  She made her way towards the living room and hesitated briefly as she stared at the offered hot beverage.  “Thanks.”  Her hands wrapped around the mug, fingers brushing against his.  The warmth of the mug immediately cut through the chill in her fingers.

“Excellent,” he said quietly, grinning.  “Because apparently I’m pretty terrible at guarding it.”  In truth, he’d taken the luenalin as soon as the others retreated to their bedrooms and he was quite blissfully out cold for a good six hours.  Gideon chuckled as he motioned her to the couch in front of the fireplace.  “At least the fire’s hot.”  He walked back into the kitchen, turning the burner down to keep the cocoa warm before pouring himself a mug.  He filled it only halfway, choosing to serve himself more of the whipped cream to melt into the cocoa.

The engineer walked carefully with her filled mug.  She contemplated just disappearing into the back bedroom, her eyes drifting up towards the closed door of the master suite.  Marielle sighed softly.  Undoubtedly the junior security officer and his wife were enjoying themselves, and she just couldn’t handle listening to the pathetic sounds that made it past their shared wall.  When Jonathan and Anya weren’t arguing, they pathetically proclaimed their love for all of the cabin to hear.  Quietly, she settled on the rug in front of the fire and crossed her legs under her thighs.  She glanced to the side, a hand holding the mug up as she pulled the large linen bag towards herself.  The mug was placed on the stone floor detailing that surrounded the fireplace and she reached into the bag to pull out a cream coloured project.  She pulled at the speckled orange, red, and green yarn that provided the splash of colour to her latest work.  She prepped her knitting needles as she worked through the small tangle.

Gideon rested his mug on the coffee table behind Marielle before leaning to the couch and pulling the woolen blanket to him.  The security officer unfurled the muted brown and green blanket and draped it on the floor behind the engineer, for her to pull up if she wanted, or leave if she didn’t.  He maneuvered to stand beside her before pulling up on his jeans to adjust them so he could sit down cross-legged facing her shoulder.  ‘Only one way to find out, Gid.’  He lifted his cobalt irises to watch her.

She raised her brow as a muffled whine filtered down from upstairs.  “It sounds like they’re washing a cat up there,” she grumbled.  It had been such a dumb idea to agree to join the married couple on their holiday.  She really should have known better.  There was no way she wanted to endure the Jekyll and Hyde couple after her own mess of emotions.  Her silver knitting needles were crossed in her hands, and the engineer turned her attention to her project.  

He sighed softly, shaking his head.  “Never been so glad for the box,” he muttered.  Gideon rubbed his eye socket with the flesh of his palm as he considered another dose to check out.  The security officer immediately berated himself for depending on the drug.  Shame overwhelmed him and he turned his head so that Marielle wouldn’t see his expression.

“The box?” she asked.  Her knitting needles clinked with the movements of her fingers, a new row created as she created new loops.  Vibrant green eyes remained on the pull of yarn, her left hand guiding colours to create a pattern.  It took her half a moment to realize he’d been making a Malahakir reference.  She reached out for the cup of hot chocolate and drowned her sadness in the bittersweet beverage.  Marielle sighed softly at the texture as it washed over her tongue.  The taste was there, but she’d grown up with a rich sipping chocolate, thick and decadent.  It just served as a reminder of their differences.  “Right.  The box.”  Her voice softened.

“The luenalin, helps me sleep through the night,” he explained.  It was the drug he’d been prescribed since Malahakir to help his constant night terrors.  Erik was even at a loss as to why they persisted.  Gideon turned his gaze to the fire, silently chastising himself for bringing it up.  He could feel the guilt welling within the engineer.  

“Ah.  Still having problems?” she asked as she reached forward to take a sip of her hot chocolate.  “Ryan mentioned it to me,” she explained quickly before he could ask how she had known.  Marielle still wasn’t sure why Winnetka had told her about it.  It wasn’t as if she had any medical expertise to assist in any way.  She placed the mug back on the floor.  Quickly, she reached behind her and grabbed the blanket, lazily draping it over her shoulders, before she returned to her knitting project.

Gideon shrugged as he stared into the fire.  The flannel shirt he wore proved a good choice as it kept him warm enough, though he had been considering pulling the blanket up to cover his back until he saw Marielle reach for it.  He hummed softly, nodding.  “I still wake up with terrors.”  On the rare night he didn’t use the drug, it was always the same thing.  He’d bolt upright screaming, shouting ‘I don’t know’ and his serial number before scooting back against his headboard.  The feel of the cold metal on his back had yet to fail in bringing him out of the terror.

“Oh.”  She slumped slightly as she curled into herself, practically hugging her project.  It was all she could offer, and it sounded so terrible to her own ears.  Marielle didn’t look up at him, instead choosing to keep her gaze locked on her knitting.  The movement of her needles slowed, but she didn’t stop.  She pushed through her own selfish desires to end the conversation and hide in her room.  “What have you tried?” she asked softly.

“Mostly relaxation techniques and hypnosis.  Erik is pretty stumped.”  Gideon’s fingers played with the piles of the carpet underneath them as his eyes watched her needles.  A chuckle bubbled briefly from his throat.  “He tried to suggest shock therapy.”  The look on his face after the words left his lips was something Gideon would never forget.

“Erik’s poor attempt at a joke, no doubt,” the engineer chuckled despite herself.  She shook her head slightly.  “Erik’s a great psychologist, but he’s got a really crummy sense of humour sometimes.  I think his timing is all off.”  Her head leaned to one side, and she took a moment to pull some strands from the yarn hidden within her bag before continuing.

“Good thing he’s smart,” Gideon muttered quietly as his thick finger hooked a strand of the shag, yanking gently against it.  He glanced up briefly to look at the project Marielle was working on.  His gaze returned quickly to the rug.  ‘Is that what it is?  I’m not smart enough?’  The security chief grunted quietly when he tugged at another fiber of the carpet.

Mariele nodded in agreement.  “Good thing he’s smart.”  Her needles continued their work, the soft sound of metal tapping against metal filling the space between them.  “I’m glad you’re working with him though.  I know he’ll help somehow.”

His lips frowned briefly before he shook his head.  “It’s gotten a bit strained,” Gideon mentioned.  The security officer bit his tongue to stop himself from going any further in the line of conversation.  Marielle didn’t need to know about the incident in the armory.  It would only add to her anger after their fight in the holodeck.

She frowned and she lowered the knitting needles down to her lap.  Her eyes settled on the fire and she released a long and quiet breath.  The memory of his fight with the counselor in the simulated ballroom flashed immediately in her mind.  She had no idea what was happening.  Erik had avoided her since that incident.  Despite failing, she was trying to avoid Gideon.  She really didn’t have friends beyond them.  The security team were Gideon’s, and she walked a fine line with the engineers as one of the commanding staff members.  Her mother’s visit, her committee’s overwhelming support for her dissertation.  All of it simply left her feeling more alone than normal.  “Has anything worked?  Even a little?” she asked finally, her voice soft and almost timid.  

“Just when you’re next to me,” he answered easily.  “That was why I asked if I could-”  His jaw clenched briefly before he continued without completing the statement.  “Otherwise, it’s terrors or the box.”  Gideon rolled his cobalt orbs up to the ceiling and shook his head ever so gently before leaning to the side and picking up his mug of cocoa.  He leaned further than was necessary, his shoulder brushing against Marielle’s to quietly let her know that he was there.  The security officer wanted to wrap his arms around her, comfort the sadness he felt within her.  He leaned back and sipped from his cup.

Marielle had no idea how to respond to the revelation.  Her heart simply skipped a beat, then two, then three.  ‘Why do you keep doing this, Gid?  Can’t we just be friends?  I’m trying to protect you.’  She was silent for several long minutes, choosing instead to focus on the knitted work on her lap.  “When I was younger,” she began quietly, “I used to get these horrible night terrors.  I got a whole wing to myself because of it.  I had a hard time sleeping because I just didn’t want to see them.  I’d go days without a wink of sleep.  It was pretty hellish when I was in Oakham.”  Her body shied away from his touch, her torso leaning ever so slightly in the opposite direction.

He sipped again as he listened.  The mug was placed back on the coffee table as Gideon leaned forward slightly.  “How’d you work through them?”  Her gentle recoil from his touch wasn’t lost on him and he turned his gaze toward the fire so she wouldn’t see the saddened expression on his features.  ‘Where do we go from here?  Is it really just friends?  I can’t be that wrong about how you act around me.’

Marielle chuckled sadly.  “Hobbies - baking, knitting, spinning, archery.  Something positive to stave off the negative.”  The engineer lifted the project up a bit, smoothing out the knitted work and shifting it along the cable between her needles.  “And when that didn’t work, I’d go find a lavender field somewhere, even if it was just the holodeck, and sleep there.”

The half-Betazoid hummed softly, nodding as he considered the options.  “Maybe I should have brought some of my tools.  I bet there’s some nice deadfall out there.”  Gideon glanced toward the window and noted that the forest beyond the cabin was obscured by a steady torrent of thick white flakes.

“Could try sleeping on your boat,” she offered as she reached forward and lifted the warm mug towards herself again.  Her proximity to the fire kept her hot chocolate warm, though it melted most of her whipped cream.  Marielle took a long and quiet sip.

Gideon chuckled at the thought, nodding as he considered it.  “I’m sure the rest of the crew would appreciate me having a standing reservation in the holodeck.”  He rested his elbows on his thighs, leaning forward to rest his chin in his clasped hands.  ‘There’s already some grumbles about my training days.’

“It’d only be temporary until your brain needed to work out what it needs to work out.”  Her tongue darted out to lick the whipped cream from her lips, her fingers reaching up to wipe along the edges of her mouth.  She placed the empty mug back on the floor.  “I still get some terrible nightmares about things,” she didn’t feel the need to elaborate.  Marielle had a feeling Gideon would understand.  “I go through these nights when I can’t sleep sometimes.  It never goes away, but I think accepting it helped me out a lot.”

A log settled in the firebox and Gideon leaned forward, pushing onto his knees to crawl closer to the fireplace.  He picked up the metal poker and worked on adjusting the embers before setting it back into place and picking up another log to toss onto the fire.  He sat back onto his heels a moment before glancing over his shoulder and leaning back to lay flat on the floor, his hands clasped behind his head.  The half-Betazoid glanced up at Marielle with a nod.

Her needles continued tapping quietly as she easily created the loops for her project.  “I didn’t realize how difficult it was to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry.”  Her eyes remained focused on her work, vibrant emerald hues watching the creation of each stitch.  “I struggled with it.  Forgiving Marcus, Oletak.”  ‘My family.’

“You’re a lot stronger than I am,” he muttered softly as his gaze shifted to the fire.  Gideon had talked at length with Erik about forgiving Nurmeen.  The security officer wasn’t sure what exactly the hangup was.  He was normally a very forgiving person, but the anger would not relent.  Gideon found his jaw clenching as he sighed heavily.

“I don’t think I’m strong.  I live in fear a lot,” Marielle’s head tilted to one side.

“Fear isn’t the lack of strength, El.”  Gideon lifted his chin to look up at the engineer.  After a few moments, he returned his gaze to the fire.  “I think you’re strong,” he said quietly.  “For forgiving them.”  His chest rose and fell in a deliberate sigh.  “I couldn’t.”

The sound of the endearing nickname was bittersweet for her.  She couldn’t help the natural serenity she felt at hearing it, but a strange ache moved through her.  The engineer was quiet for several long minutes, only her knitting and the soft pops of the fire filled the silence.  “Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” she started softly.  “In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud.  Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.”  Her needles kept time as she recited the poem.  “Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid.”  Marielle pulled at the yarn from her bag before her needles continued their motions.  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,” she paused, her voice softening, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

His eye twitched as he listened.  ‘Stupid pitiful unconquerable soul.  What good is it?’  The security officer couldn’t help but think again that Marielle thought him simple.  Gideon closed his eyes and attempted to focus on her words.  His breaths were shallow as he replayed several lines in his head.  ‘Master of my fate.  Captain of my soul.  Cazzate.’  He had remained in silence before humming softly.  “Words you live by?”

Marielle began to tidy the loose yarn strands, and she covered the tips of the needles.  She chuckled lightly.  “No.  I wear mine.”

“Je suis le mien.”  He turned his chin, gazing up at her in silent question.  When it became apparent she wouldn’t look at him to see the curiosity in his eyes, Gideon hummed again, returning to look at the fire.  “All my good tattoo spots are ruined,” he muttered under his breath.

“Ah, oui.  Je suis le mien. Avant que je ne sois de tour les autres.  I am mine before I am ever anyone else’s,” she finished the quote.   Marielle carefully folded her project over her needles.  “I will never be able to understand what you went through on Malahakir, Gideon.  What you continue to go through even now.”  She slipped the project into her bag.  “But, I do know that bitterness grows when there is no forgiveness.  What they did to you was awful, but you’re still letting them hurt-”  

‘Wouldn’t want you to,’ he thought to himself before glancing up at Marielle again.  He curled forward, sitting up before he turned to crawl toward her.  He sat down next to her, one leg extended to rest behind her so that he could lean forward and wrap his arms around her shoulders, resting his cheek on her shoulder.  It had been such a natural thing for him to press close to the engineer.  It wasn’t until she tensed at his closeness that he squeezed his eyes shut and berated himself.  ‘Oh, merda.  Too late now, don’t let go.’

“-you.”  She tensed at the sudden incursion into her personal space.  She wasn’t sure what to do.  Her heart thrummed heavily against her chest.  It seemed her body did what her mind was unwilling to do - it relaxed - and she sighed silently.  ‘What is it about you?’  Her eyes closed, her head tilting so she could rest her cheek on the top of his head.  

“Show me how,” he whispered, his eyes still focused on the fire before turning his chin to rub over her shoulder, resting his opposite cheek on the back of her shoulder.  “How do you do it?”  The concept of a personal bubble was foreign to the half-Betazoid.  He was always touching Marielle, resting his arm over her shoulders.  She had always felt so right, so comfortable.

“I laugh.”

“Your laugh is like-” he argued for just a moment.  Gideon sighed as he wondered when the last time he laughed was.  He knew it would have been in some moment with Marielle.

“What?  Do I sound like a hyena?” she chuckled lightly.  She paused, her eyes widening as a mental image popped into her head.  “Oh gods.  Tell me I don’t look like a braying horse.”  Her hand came up to cover her mouth as she wiggled and wrinkled her nose.  Her sisters always told her she had a pig nose.  It took her such a long time to realize it wasn’t.

He pulled her closer, leaning close to whisper into her ear.  “The stars.”  Gideon grinned, he knew she was trying to bring light to the situation.  He touched his lips to her cheek and released her from his arms, leaning back as his hand caressed her shoulder.  

“The stars don’t laugh,” she managed weakly.  Her hand came up to press lightly against her cheek as she stared into the fire.  She cleared her throat.  “Happy memories,” she told him softly.  She lifted her hands up, her palms facing the ceiling.  “Life’s a scale.  Bad memories,” she bobbed her left hand up and down.  “Happy memories,” she paused to do the same with her right hand.  “When the bad memories outnumber the happy ones, either by sheer volume or density,” Marielle shifted her left hand down and her right hand up, “I can’t sleep.  So, I just take it one day at a time.  I spend that day making it a happy one.”  Slowly, her hands switched position, the right lowering while the left moved up.  “Eventually, I get more happy memories and the bad ones just- aren’t as heavy.”

He turned away and leaned to the table to pick up his mug of cocoa.  By now it was lukewarm and diluted with the melted whipped cream.  Gideon brought it to his lips and finished the chocolate treat.  He grunted softly and pulled himself to his feet, watching as she enacted her discussion.  While he appreciated the thought, it was more difficult to live with the constant anxiety of falling asleep and slipping back into a nightmare.  From upstairs, he heard the distinct squeak of the wooden frame in the loft bedroom.  ‘Gods, Jon, there’s more to do.  Give it a rest.’  A quiet groan moved in his chest as he moved into the kitchen.  “Well, then get your layers back on.  Your snowman is lonely out there.”

“Huh?” Marielle blinked.  Her head turned towards the door and she stared incredulously at the layers she had hung with care by the door.  Bright hues shifted to the window to watch the snow fall steadily, flakes thick and fluffy.  “You want to go out there?  Now?”

He’d moved toward the door, opening the closet where layers were available for him to put on.  Gideon nodded before motioning with his chin upstairs.  “They’re about to get heavy again.  Unless you feel like listening to it, I’m going outside.”  He wrapped a thick scarf around his neck before glancing back at Marielle, his brows raised.

She looked up towards the second floor of the cabin and painfully groaned at the idea of being subjected to the awful noises the Batteys made.  “It wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t so bad at it,” she complained loudly.  The engineer sighed and stood up, moving her project bag and the empty mug to the coffee table.  She’d clean up when they return.

“You could do better?” he challenged as he pulled on another sweater.  A smirk found his lips as he slid his arms into the thick jacket.  All thought of their unease dissipated.

“Pfft,” she scoffed as she made her way to the door.  “I wouldn’t even have to try to beat that awful rendition we’ve been getting.”  Marielle flopped onto the bench, sliding her boots from under the seat.  “I bet even Rico could do better.  Parv says he’s a squeaker.”  The engineer slipped her boots on easily, adjusting her socks and the fur of her boots before she went to work lacing herself back into her footwear.

Gideon grunted, turning his face away as he shook his head.  The image of Suave with a Parv underneath him turned his stomach.  “Never say that again, I just threw up in my mouth.”  The security officer slid his feet into his boots and he found his gloves.

She chuckled.  “I have considered just yelling pointers at them.”  She smirked at the idea as she stood up.  Her scarf was wrapped around her neck, and her hat firmly placed on her head.

Battey’s voice boomed from the loft upstairs.  “Put up or shut up!”

Gideon disappeared out the door, grumbling to himself despite the blast of arctic wind threatening to push him back inside.  The security officer shut the door behind him and made his way into the blowing snow.

Marielle slapped her hand to her face.  “Amateurs,” she snickered. The engineer turned as the door shut behind Gideon and she stared at the wooden surface sadly.  Everything was different between them, and she had decided it was probably best if she just let it go.  He’d been part of her life for the better part of a year that the engineer couldn’t really remember a time when he wasn’t.  They’d seen each other almost daily.  A sadness filled her when she realized that the friendship really couldn’t be salvaged after the awkward situation over éclairs.  Not for the first time, she replayed that moment over and over in her mind and she angrily chastised herself for having been foolish.  With a breath, she hurried through winterizing herself.  She tucked her hair into her hat, slipped on the large coat, and covered one hand with her mittens.  She left the other ungloved until she exited the cabin.  With the door firmly latched behind her, the engineer slipped on the last mitten and trudged into the snow after him.  As she looked up, a soft ball of snow flew in her direction, exploding on the side of the cabin beside her.

He’d thrown the snowball before her emotion hit him.  The security officer remained crouched behind a snow-covered bush, his hands moving slowly to pack another projectile for the engineer.  Gideon had no idea what to make of her jumbled mess of sadness, guilt, anger, and affection.  He pushed it all aside with a shake of his head, deciding that he would figure it out later.  Childish joy was quickly filling him as he lobbed another snowball, this time it ruptured on Marielle’s face.

“AH!” she screamed.  Marielle bent forward at the waist, her mittened hands patting at her face lightly to remove the flakes of snow from her skin.  “Gideon!”  Another snowball was launched in her direction.  The engineer ducked, grabbing a large handful of snow.  Her hands began to pack it down tightly between her mittens and she looked around for him.  “Where are you-”

After a short triumphant laugh, he flung another projectile in her direction.  Gideon moved immediately, lowering to pack another snowball.

She was simply no match for him.  While she could ski and manage in the snow, she simply hated it.  It was cold and wet in all of the wrong ways.  ‘Give me blistering rain any day,’ she grumbled silently.  Marielle trudged through the snow, grumbling as she spotted him.  She threw the misshapen snowball in his direction as she ran towards the treeline.  The engineer pressed her back into the tree as she took a moment to crouch down and quickly create a small stack of snowballs.  She managed five, two of which were properly made.  She was sure the other three would fall apart the moment she attempted to throw them.  So consumed by her need to get revenge on the security chief, she forgot about the strangeness that kept them apart.  

Gideon tossed a snowball into the air, aiming at the branches above her to drop their collected snow on top of her.  His cobalt gaze moved down to her, grinning as he winked.  Snow had been part of the best years of his childhood and the security chief relished in the white powder.

She found him, aiming at him and she looked up to only see snow falling over her.  “Ah!” she yelped as she balled into a tight ball.  Marielle tucked her head to her chin, her hands coming up to cover her neck.  She grunted at the weight that fell on her back.  “Cold!  Cold!”  The engineer immediately jumped up, jumping around as snow moved down her spine.  It had slipped under her scarf and jacket.  “Gideon!” she screamed out.  Snow clung to the fibers of her knitwear.  

“Yes, dear?” he called in answer as he maneuvered to a snowbank.  Gideon settled onto his knees to create some more snowballs.  His chin lifted every so often to be sure that he was safe while he packed snow.

His tone made her eye twitch.  The snowballs were abandoned as she rushed in his general direction.  She huffed at the snow that fought against her strides.  Marielle leapt onto his back when she reached him.  It had been a bit of an amazement how she flew into the air to tackle him.  She laughed as she landed on top of him, essentially pushing him face first into the snow.

“Wha- Oomf!” Gideon was caught by surprise as she face-planted him into the snow.  He pushed up quickly, snow sticking to his eyebrows and eyelashes as he shook the loose powder from his face.  His face had immediately flushed red from the suddenly cold.

Marielle rolled off him, falling into the snow with a laugh.  “HA!” she gloated.  She relished in her triumph, her dazzling smile warmed her face and mirrored how her heart soared.

He got to his knees, sweeping an arm aside to kick up snow in her direction.  Gideon smirked at her and pounced, pushing her back further into the drift.

She laughed as she sunk into the drift, giggling wildly.  “Ah!  Cold! “  She squirmed as she felt snow pushing into her scarf.  “Oh, gods!  How the hell did does anyone live in this crap?!”

His protective instinct kicked in and Gideon wrapped his arms around her and rolled over so that he would be on his back, holding her on top of him.  “There, how’s that?”  

The engineer shivered, her forehead falling to rest on his chest.  “Less cold, but that’s not saying much since I’m pretty sure I’ve turned to ice,” she muttered into the layers of his jacket.

“I could warm you up,” he offered, grinning as he glanced up at the engineer.  It had been an innocent comment, but there was so much that they’d gone through recently, Gideon didn’t realize how much weight was in the words.

His words hit her like the snowball to her face, and she tensed immediately.  There it was, the flirtatious and easy-going personality that defined Gideon’s character.  Marielle was thankful her face was hidden as the rush of warmth moved through her.  She was certain the security chief had no idea how flippant his remarks were.  “I should get inside,” she muttered as she slid off his body.  

His hands fell away from her and landed straight out in the snow.  Gideon lifted his head before dropping the back of his head back into the snow.  Sighing softly, he finally pressed the issue.  “El, do you really not want me?”  He pushed up, resting on his elbows to look after her.  “Because you’re saying and doing things and then going the opposite direction.”  It was hard to force the words from his lips, but the constant barrage of emotions was surely more unhealthy than not.

Marielle straightened, brushing the snow from her knees and her jacket.  “You are in no condition to even know what the hell you want, Gideon.”  She felt her annoyance growing with every passing second.  She knew how powerful words could be, and the engineer never wanted him to be at the receiving end of her anger.

“I want you in my life, that’s been the only constant for me.”  He could feel the snow soaking through his pants, the cold biting at his skin.  It was ignored as he sat up.

“Really?” she argued.  “For what?  A night?  Then what?”  She pulled at her hat, her scarf, and her mittens when she suddenly felt warm.  “We kiss and then you ask me to your quarters!  We play in the snow, and you tell me you could warm me up!  Is that what you think of me?!  Some easy conquest?  That I’m going to be another notch on that bedpost?”

Gideon watched, his heart pounding in his throat as he started going numb.  “I didn’t know when I asked that you were just playing, I thought you were telling me you were ready to take that step with me.”  His eyes were searching for hers.  “It’s absolutely not what I think of you.  That’s just a natural progression of my feelings for you.”

“Natural progression?!” she screamed at him, her eyes finally meeting his.  “What natural progression?!  We went on one date!  One!  Before I left for Atlantis-  You didn’t talk to me and acted like it was the weirdest thing that I moved on!  Then-  Then everything happened and then you tell me to go!  Even I never told you to go!”  The engineer sniffled, desperate to keep herself from falling apart.  

“I thought we went through this,” he muttered and his expression melted as he saw Marielle unraveling.  Gideon shook his head, wishing he could get up and go to her.

“Then, you tell me to stay!?” she continued, her body shaking as she just kept revealing the mess of her emotions.  “There was nothing-  Nothing!  Nothing from you to tell me what you wanted!  You went on.  Business as usual.  You never bothered to actually talk to me about what I wanted to do.  It was just Gideon and Marielle.  Back to the same damn flirtations.  Throw your freaking arm over my shoulder-  Don’t even see how that confuses the hell out of me!”

Gideon pushed further up as he got to his knees.  “El, I’m sorry.”  He sighed.  “I was trying to be friends, I thought that’s what you wanted, what you needed.”

“You don’t get to determin what I need!  You never bothered to ask me what I wanted!”  She stepped back from him.

“Well I’m asking you now!  What do you want from me!?  Because I want to give it to you.”  He shifted his legs underneath him, surprised he could feel them still.  There was a cold bitterness that surrounded him, but it had nothing to do with the weather.

Marielle tilted her face to the sky, her breath appearing in a soft white cloud as she steadied her breath.  She gripped her hat, mittens, and her scarf in one hand.  Her fingers were freezing, and she could barely feel her face.  The cold had started to move through her, and the engineer knew she wouldn’t last outside much longer.  “I just want-  I want you to feel better, Gideon.”  She shook her head, her gaze falling from the sky to the depths of his blue.  “I just want you to feel better.  To regain whatever it is you’ve lost.  Because listening to you talk about your scars the way that you do?  About how much you’re still suffering?”  She shook her head.  It was a selfish request.  She was faced with that guilt whenever he spoke of it.  It only added to the mess of everything else - of how he never really talked to her of where things would go and how that confused her, of her own damn family obligations and how it trapped her.  

He stood up and moved to her, trudging through the snow to usher her toward the cabin.  Gideon would put the conversation on hold so they could get inside and warm up.  They were both soaked through.

She didn’t move as she remained rooted in place.  “I had to hear about your nightmares from Ryan.”  She shivered from the cold.  “You couldn’t even tell me yourself.”

“Why would you want to hear about that kind of thing?  You’ve got your own stuff, you don’t need mine, too.”  The security officer looked down at her and his head shook slightly as he considered why she would bring it up.

“Ryan is the one who tells me everything!  Every.  Single.  Time!”  Marielle looked at him with hurt in her eyes.  “He’s the one who told me that you weren’t eating.  He tells me to pull you out of your office.  He’s the one telling me to show up to those stupid socials just so you’d go!”  She remained in the snow, looking up at him with a pained expression.  “Have I done anything that told you I didn’t want to be there for you?”  She tapped her heart with her hand.  “How do you think that makes me feel?  You’ll get close to me physically but nothing else?  Just like every other vapid girl, right?”

‘You have no idea how I was before.  What gives you the right to decide I’m not giving you everything?’  He furrowed his brows, still shaking his head.  ‘I’m sorry I didn’t want to burden you with what I go through.  You’re already guilty about it.’  Gideon sighed.  “Can we go inside, we’re going to freeze.”  It wasn’t a question.  He moved his hand to her shoulder in an attempt to guide her to the door.

Her jaw clenched as she hurriedly stepped out of his reach.  She didn’t want to go inside.  She wanted answers.  She fought against the snow around her feet.  “You go,” Marielle gripped at her knitwear tightly to keep herself from screaming.  “I’m going for a walk.”

“Are we done talking?”  Gideon tilted his chin slightly.  “El.  I’m sor-”

“Yeah.  We’re done.”  The engineer turned away and trudged through the snow.  She fumbled with her hat and her mittens.  She wrapped the scarf around her neck, ignoring the wet fibers as they pressed into her skin.  She sniffled into her scarf and disappeared into the forest.

“Cazzo!!” his face screamed at the sky before he stalked toward the cabin.  “Non voglio essere il mio, voglio essere tuo! (I don’t want to be mine, I want to be yours!)” he shouted over his shoulder as he kicked at a snowbank.  Gideon ripped away his hat as he pulled the door to the cabin open and shuffled inside.

From upstairs, Anya whispered in Jonathan’s ear.  “I think you lost, Papa Bear.”

Jon sighed, whispering in return.  “I don’t think I’m the only one.”


   
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