|USF Personal Log|
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The hallway was quiet, the lights dimmed for the evening. As far as she could tell, the crew had retired for the night. Many were exhausted - having endured the training session, meetings with department heads, and the repeating loop of the recording all within a few hours of returning to the cargo bay. When officers weren’t in individual training sessions, they returned to view the recording in the general lounge. Marielle was sure that a number of the empaths were a bit overwhelmed by the wave of strong emotions. She wasn’t an empath, and even the diminutive woman was sure she could feel the tension and disappointment in the air. It was well past midnight, and she was exhausted. She had waited for as long as she could before the shadows seemed to creep up on her, the anxiety nearly overwhelming. She had thought Gideon would have made an appearance, but the security chief was absent. As the hours passed, concern easily overwhelmed any sense of panic and she ventured towards the lounge. The physicist had an inkling.
He remained rooted in the chair that he’d occupied the entire night. His body was curled forward with one elbow propped on his knee and his chin held in his hand. Gideon’s other arm was crossed over his stomach in a subconscious effort to ward off the hunger that intermittently gurgled. The security chief kept his cobalt gaze focused on the screen as he watched the loop of their mission in the jungle over and over and over. Not once in his many viewings had he found something worthy of praise. The self-degradation continued with each second that ticked on. His features were glued in the same twisted visage of disgust and disappointment that he’d worn all night. ‘We’re better than this. Che spettacolo merda.’
Marielle lingered at the open entryway, her gaze settling on the back of Gideon’s head. It moved, briefly, to the screen and she watched as the scene unfolded. Her hand came up instinctively as she watched the first dart hit her neck. A few seconds later, she watched as her body simply crumpled to the ground. She couldn’t help but giggle, however. “At least I was graceful,” she offered in greeting, her tone light and friendly. Flawless emerald irises fell to the security chief.
Gideon turned suddenly toward her and straightened. He blinked as his irises struggled to focus and then shook his head. The half-Bajoran grumped quietly and resumed his posture as his gaze once again focused on the screen. ‘I’m not sure failing gracefully is going to fly anymore, El. We were lucky before.’ His sarcastic and completely biting remark was kept to himself. “You were,” he agreed without emotion.
She frowned when he barely glanced her way. The look was so quick and only served to highlight how he was not himself. Quietly, she made her way towards him, sidestepping down the row until she reached the security chief. Marielle lowered to sit next to Gideon and her eyes returned to the screen as she leaned back into her chair. “Have you been here since they started the recording? Have you even eaten?” she asked him softly.
His stomach rumbled on cue and Gideon frowned to himself as he grumbled in complaint. The security chief pulled himself straighter in the chair and then fell back. He sighed softly as he twisted his upper body slightly to give Marielle his attention. The half-Betazoid knew it was what she wanted. He subtly worried the inside of his lip as he watched her smiling gently at him. The silence stretched for several moments before he draped his arm over the back of her chair. “I’ve seen it seventeen times,” he informed her quietly. ‘And I see a new failure each time.’ There was another gurgling from his gut to answer her second question.
Marielle hummed softly in understanding, though she couldn’t help the soft and delightful giggle at hearing his stomach speak its complaint. She shook her head at him and pushed to her feet without saying a word. The physicist made her way down the row and headed straight for the replicator. Her fingers danced over the panel before she spoke, “Computer, twelve balls of arancini de riso, side of seasoned tomato sauce, and a glass of water, twenty-two celsius.” She watched as a glass of water appeared next to a small bowl of breaded and fried risotto balls appeared, the very top speared by a toothpick. A smaller container of red sauce was tucked to the side of the bowl. She carried the bowl and glass carefully back to the security chief and she offered it to him. “Eat.”
His gaze had shifted back to the screen when the engineer walked away. When she approached again, he jumped slightly at her instruction and blinked up at her. His lips pulled into a thin line as he glanced to the offered bowl and glass. Gideon hummed quietly and reached to take the items. “Thank you,” he murmured and gave her a quick grin. He set the glass into the chair next to him and poured the tomato sauce over the piled risotto balls. After setting the empty dish aside, he picked up the first ball by the toothpick and devoured it with an appreciative and muffled groan.
She hummed softly in acknowledgement. She sat next to him and remained quiet as he ate, her eyes falling on the screen. When he had had nearly half of the bowl, Marielle decided it was time to break the silence. “Seventeen times is a lot. Did you catch anything new?” Her tone was mellow, her demeanor light. Her worry for the security chief had grown at his revelation. It had become clear in that one confession that Gideon had taken the failure personally.
“Each of my officers had delayed reaction times, we all wasted time waiting on OIC orders, science officers wandered off, our medical officers were taken out,” he easily listed every detail that he deemed a failure. The half-Bajoran continued to ramble as he stabbed the toothpick into one of the risotto balls and shifted to pick up the glass of water. “Higgs and Kalmaku were distracted,” he continued to rant.
“And engineering?” she asked as she watched him in the corner of her eye.
His list quickly switched gears. “K’hevok was indecisive, Otretal distracted.” Gideon set the bowl onto the chair next to him and took a drink of the water. His chest lifted and fell with a deep breath and the corners of his lips fell into a frown as he glanced toward the researcher. The muscle in his jaw twitched with his inner thought. ‘You got emotional, which delayed you.’ He shook his head slightly and then set the glass next to the bowl. “You recovered well, but the other engineers couldn’t step up after you went down.”
Her head leaned to one side as she studied him. Her brow lifted ever so slightly. She hadn’t failed to notice how he’d been critical of everyone else and had side-stepped his assessment of her performance. Curiosity had her wanting to push for the truth, but Marielle had a feeling it’d only end up in an argument. “How’s the food?” she asked instead, hoping to distract him.
“Good choice,” he murmured with another small grin. Gideon reached to the chair to set the glass down and pick up the bowl as if to prove that he liked the risotto balls. “What are you doing back here?” he asked quietly as he picked up one by the toothpick and slid it into his mouth.
“It’s nearly 0100,” she informed him easily. There was no need to explain beyond it.
He paused mid-chew and blinked at the revelation. His groan was muffled by the food in his mouth as he twisted to glance behind them to the chronometer on the wall. Gideon let his eyelids fall closed with a heavy sigh as he swallowed the last of the risotto. The security chief straightened and frowned apologetically toward Marielle. “I’m sorry,” he murmured as he reached to pick up the glass and the empty sauce dish.
“Why are you sorry?” she asked, her brows furrowing as she watched him. “You’ve no obligation to- to share my bed. But, I- I guess I was worried. You haven’t been yourself today.”
His chin turned so that he could look up at the screen. “We failed pretty miserably,” he lamented quietly.
“We are explorers,” she reminded the security chief. “We’re not trained to walk into a field and think the worst. We didn’t fail, Gideon. We simply expected our normal work. It isn’t failure. It’s an adjustment, and one we’ll make.”
“How could we think that anything was going to be normal about this place? C’mon, El,” he frowned as he shook his head.
“How could we think anything else?” she asked him pointedly. “We live in a beautiful universe, Gideon. We don’t exactly wake up every day and expect it to come after us.”
“Nazir, the cloak and daggers around this place,” he explained with a sigh. “They’re Intel. We’re going to get further and further away from the beauty.” Gideon tensed with the reminder that Yari had asked him about Malahakir.
“We will learn, adapt, and grow,” she assured him, “but we aren’t going to fall victim to the darker vision. I believe- I choose to believe that we’re stronger than that.” Marielle gently patted his knee. “But, sitting here and reliving our first training isn’t going to do anyone any good. It’ll just make you feel less than you are, and you Gideon Salieri are more than delayed response times.” She motioned to the screen. “You’re going to make yourself crazy if you nitpick at every failure. You’ll miss the triumphs.”
“Which triumphs?” he challenged her quietly. Gideon had subconsciously leaned slightly closer to the woman when her hand rested on his knee.
She watched the replaying and a small smile pulled at her lips. “No one cut and run,” she told him gently. Marielle turned to look at the security chief. “Despite the chaos, despite the sudden attack, no one deserted the group.”
His smile was bittersweet. “We all stayed to die.” Gideon nodded and then immediately shook his head.
“No, you pessimist,” she reached up and flicked his forehead. “We all stayed to fight for each other. It means we’ll learn quickly. Because we’ll want to protect one another. That’s our strength.” Marielle shook her head and chuckled softly at him. “Have you always been this negative and I’ve just failed to notice?”
The security chief shook his head to dispel that illusion for her. “I thought I had a pretty tight department, but our performance was dismal,” he muttered as his chin nodded toward the screen. “Their failure rests on my shoulders.”
The physicist studied him for several long minutes. She forced herself to swallow her sigh. “It wasn’t a failure, Gideon. When you’re thrown into a situation that is foreign, not knowing how to react isn’t a failure,” she attempted to reason with him. Her tone was almost pleading as she attempted to ease him out of his self-deprecating state.
One corner of his mouth turned up in a rueful smirk and he suppressed the desire to shake his head. Gideon turned his chin to look up at the screen once again and his cobalt irises shifted over the image. He sighed softly and frowned. “So am I the only one that felt like a fool?” His brow raised slightly as he glanced back toward Marielle.
“I can’t speak for the crew, but if I were to speak for everyone currently in this room,” the researcher paused to glance around the empty lounge before looking at the security chief, “I would say yes. Yes, you are.” She forced a smile to her features. “Now, you can stay here, watch the recording until you’re blue in the face, and then walk into your training tomorrow completely drained from your pity party.” Marielle pushed to her feet and looked down at him. She couldn’t help but smirk. “Or, you can go to bed. With me.”
His chin lifted as he watched her stand. The dishes in his hands were gripped as he gained his feet. Gideon had already decided that it was past time to try and sleep. “So you’re still okay with me- with us- just cuddling?” He sidestepped through the row of chairs.
She stopped when she reached the end of the row. She turned enough to look back at him. “I was, but the whole pity party,” she motioned towards him with a circle of her hand, “isn’t all that cuddle worthy.” Marielle raised a brow at him. “If you’re going to wallow-” She paused and shrugged.
He stood next to her and then shrugged to mirror hers. ‘I can put on a face.’ A smile pulled at the corners of his lips and he raised the empty sauce dish. “Going to put this back in the recycler,” he mentioned quietly.
Marielle stepped out of the row to allow him to pass. She watched as he made his way to the replicator and she silently sighed to herself. Her gaze lifted to the ceiling. ‘Don’t quit your day job, Ellie. You should have sent him to Erik,’ she chastised herself. A feeling of inadequacy easily made its appearance. She and Gideon had yet to talk about their relationship, if there was one, and she was acting as if she was his girlfriend. ‘I’m an idiot. I should have woken Erik up to deal with this. What was I thinking? That I could help? Gods, I’m an idiot.’ Shaking her head, she quietly made her way out of the lounge.
Gideon glanced over his shoulder and watched as she headed for the door. He picked up one last risotto ball and shoved it into his mouth before dumping the bowl and the glass into the recycler after the sauce dish. His hands found his pockets as he looked at the viewscreen while he walked toward the exit. A frown pulled at his mouth and he turned to leave the lounge. Marielle’s doubt only caused him to withdraw further and he grumbled quietly as he headed for her quarters. ‘Am I wrong?’ The security chief scoffed and shook his head to himself. ‘Of course I am.’ His eyes rolled to the ceiling as he walked down the hallway. ‘At least I’ll never worry about failing spectacularly.’ His shoulders slumped forward as he picked up his pace to catch up to the engineer.