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She’d simply disappeared into the crowd after her argument with Gideon and had meandered aimlessly through the hallways. She’d found herself walking from one building to the next and the next through the large glassy skyways. Anything to escape the ridicule of being far shorter than she already was. She’d pulled pins out of her hair with each angry huff. It had been something to do to alleviate the need to fidget. “Of all the stupid, idiotic, asinine, insensitive, gah-! ‘Adorable’ he says!?” The chief researcher ignored the looks from the Driphonalins she passed and it wasn’t until she found herself in a large open area that she bothered to look around.
The enclosed market was encased in the familiar glass structure that defined Nordlingen architecture. Lights strung over booths reflected on the surface and there was a golden glow that filled the space. It was decorated for the month-long celebrations, rich reds and golds and greens bursting to life against the white that covered the planet. Vendors were busy as customers approached. Artisan wares were displayed proudly and each booth appeared to be overflowing with handcrafted items.
She turned quickly to stare at the glass walkway she’d taken. Driphonalins were happily moving to-and-fro as they made their way between buildings. “Damn,” she muttered under her breath. In her annoyance with her idiotic boyfriend, she’d managed to get herself lost. She pursed her lips. It’d be a few hours before the shuttle for the Aldrin was scheduled to depart. Turning her head, she shrugged to herself and made her way deeper into the bazaar. ‘Might as well enjoy myself.’ A small smile pushed its way to her features as she made her It was hard to keep sulking when the citizens of Nordlingen were so happy. It certainly helped that she’d found herself growing back to her original size just five minutes prior.
He watched her from afar and followed at a safe distance. His eyes were discolored by contact lenses, his hair darkened, and his features changed by medical tricorder. The minor tightening of his vocal chords made his voice a pleasant baritone instead of his normal tenor. Brilliant green irises were the same hue as hers. For his daring idea to approach her, he’d taken on an alias that he’d used in his past - Cassius Majors. He dressed in a crisp and tailored tuxedo with a white tie and white gloves. They’d danced briefly before he excused himself graciously. He was sure he’d become drunk on her in the few minutes they interacted.
Her dress swayed with each of her steps, the taps of her stiletto heels lost as festive music filled the warm air. She hummed to the tune and stopped at the center of the large market. The ice twinkled with hints of blue, the rink lined by a decorative iron railing. Trees were decorated with lights and the whole setting seemed perfectly romantic. Her smile dipped slightly at the sight of couples sliding hand in hand over the ice. They looked rather happy, and she was still sour at Gideon for having found such glee in her misery. “Les hommes sont de tels idiots (Men are such idiots),” she grumbled. A part of her wondered if - and knew that - she overreacted, but it wasn’t a part of herself she was willing to acknowledge quite yet. Her hand remained on the railing as she walked along the edge of the rink. She debated grabbing skates and stepping on the ice.
He approached her slowly and rested his hands on the railing next to her. “S'il vous plaît, ne nous mettez pas tous dans un seul seau. Je peux vous assurer que certains d'entre nous sont très agréables. (Please don’t put us all in the same bucket. I can assure you that some of us men are quite pleasant.)” A smile pulled at his features as he dipped his chin to look down at the diminutive woman. He was sure his heart skipped several beats as he imagined her delightful smile.
Marielle jumped and she turned quickly to find him beside her. She relaxed slightly when she realized it was the same young man with whom she’d shared a dance. She gave him a warm smile. “It’s an odd thing to hear these days- Someone who can speak the old dialect with such perfection.” She chuckled softly, her head leaning slightly to one side as she looked up at him. “Fancy meeting you here. Did you follow me, Cassius?”
“Mademoiselle,” he crooned apologetically. “I felt it necessary to make amends for leaving in such a hurry.” His hand smoothed over his tuxedo jacket while the other gripped the railing. Dazzling green irises focused on her expression, his gaze shifting from the tendril of hair that was loose to frame her face, to the faint upward curl of her lip, to the smooth skin of her cheek. Cassius felt warmth radiating from his chest and he had to stop himself from stepping closer to her.
“I really wasn’t expecting you to admit following me,” she laughed as she shook her head at him. “That’s a bit creepy.”
A hint of color moved over his neck and he dipped his chin with a soft chuckle. “Truthfully, I find myself drawn to you. I’ve been unable to jar you from my mind.” His eyes lifted to search hers. “I’m sorry if that’s too forward or makes you uncomfortable, but I cannot bring myself to lie to you.” He hid the wince in his features. ‘Idiot, you’ve already lied to her. Cassius.’ His inner voice was bordering on hateful but he gave no outward sign of his conflict.
She felt her face grow warm and she shifted slightly from foot to foot. Her eyes dipped and she stopped herself from giggling like a fool. “I’m sorry,” she began softly. “I think I may have led you to believe I’m-” Marielle paused as she considered the state of her relationship with the security chief. ‘Not like we talked about it- After Tasse- And, it’s not like I can really call myself his girlfriend when I’ll be Mrs. Whatchamacallher soon enough. Bah. Why did I have to fall for the stupid playboy?’ Her eye twitched slightly at her inner monologue. ‘I’ve been hanging around Erik too much.’ She shook her head and lifted her gaze. A small and apologetic smile lit her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m not exactly free to return such advances. I didn’t mean to make you believe that I was interested- Not that you’re not handsome and charming and attractive and-” Her eyes widened slightly and she felt her face warm even further. Her hand waved quickly in the air. “Stop me anytime, please!” She laughed brightly at herself.
“I don’t believe I want you to,” he mused with another chuckle. He turned slightly and motioned out toward the rink. “Have you skated before?” The marquis decided to save her from herself by changing the subject. He knew how she felt about him and he looked forward to expressing his love for her in just a few months.
Emerald green irises fell on the skaters over the ice. “Just a handful of times,” she admitted. Gideon’s interest and hobbies included hockey, which meant he’d attempted to teach her to skate. She’d managed not to fall terribly the last time they stepped onto the ice together. “I’m not very good.”
“I never have.” He smiled and glanced down at her with an impish expression on his features. “Shall we make fools of ourselves?” Cassius lifted his hand toward her and curled his fingers to take hers. “Laugh our cares away for just a while?”
There was a brief hesitation as she considered his invitation. Her gaze moved between the man in front of her and the skaters over the ice. ‘Isn’t this something you should be doing with Gideon? Pfft. He’d just laugh at you for falling. It’s just skating. It’s fine.’ Marielle turned her attention to his outreached hand and bit the inside of her mouth. “Skating yes, hand holding no,” she again gave him an apologetic smile and motioned with her head to the vendor booth situated by the door to the rink.
The offered hand swept to the side in a smooth motion and he followed her toward the table that offered skates. Cassius respected her subtle request for distance but remained at the edge of her personal bubble as they traded shoes for the bladed boots. Once he stood and took a few steps, it took him just seconds to adjust. His martial arts background was helpful in keeping his balance, but he was locking his ankles to remain upright, which went against everything he’d ever been taught. A nervous chuckle escaped his throat as he glided slowly on the ice. “Come on, don’t leave me out here by myself.”
She stepped onto the ice carefully, her hands out to the side as she tried to find her balance. Marielle wobbled a bit then moved to the side with a careful push with her foot. Her hands reached out for him and she laughed sheepishly when she grabbed his forearms. “Gah- I’d so rather be riding the waves than on solid ice,” she admitted with a shake of her head. “Let’s stick some knives on the bottom of your feet and call that fun.”
“Unless we’re cooking, I can’t imagine any other way to have fun with knives.” His wink was accompanied by a soft laugh as he tried to guide her along the ice.
Marielle laughed. “Witty, nice.” She smiled up at him. “Though now I’m intrigued. You dance well, speak a dead language, and cook. I don’t meet many of those these days.” She wrinkled her nose as they moved slowly over the ice. She attempted to lock her ankles without doing the same to her knees. Despite how she could easily replay Gideon’s lessons in her head, her body was unwilling to believe such advice.
He released one arm as they moved cautiously side by side. His body was tense as he constantly fought gravity to remain upright. “I could say the same of you, mademoiselle,” he replied with a slight shake in his voice. Cassius hummed and then gasped as his left leg locked and his right leg slid forward. His free hand swung around as he tried to keep his balance, but he lost. “Ack! Oof!” He had enough forethought to release Marielle before he toppled backward onto the ice.
“Whoa!” She reached out for him quickly, fingers gripping at his tuxedo sleeve. Her feet slid quickly over the ice and she found herself unable to keep him upright. Her eyes widened before they squeezed shut in preparation for the impact. She fell forward when her feet failed to find their balance on the slick ice. “Oof!” She’d released his forearms to cushion her fall with her own.
A boisterous laugh fell from his lips, the sound interrupted only when she fell on his chest. His arm circled around her protectively and his mirth continued to tumble from his throat. Once the magic of the moment had fully encapsulated him, he dipped his chin and smiled warmly at the diminutive woman. “Are you okay?” he asked her quietly, his baritone dipping dangerously low.
Her head was buried, her hands having naturally found their way to his chest so that her fingers could curl into the lapel of his tuxedo. Her hair fanned over his shoulders as she kept her face hidden. For a brief moment, she forgot all about Gideon. Fingers released the lapel of his jacket and flattened over his chest. Palms pressed into the corded muscles under the fabric of his clothes. ‘Oh. That voice- And Muscles. Holy crap- That’s a whole lot of muscles.’ The laughter that had bubbled from her throat died as she felt the heat from his body radiating through the woven threads. ‘He’s hotter than Gid.’ She flushed with the thought and nodded without looking at him. “Yup. Just fine,” she replied quickly.
His arm remained around her torso for several moments longer so he could enjoy her closeness and he chuckled softly at the emotions he felt from her. “Well,” he began casually. “You’re going to have to get up first, Mariëlle.” A teasing twinkle in his eyes told of his joy in being pinned to the ice by the diminutive woman. ‘Just a few more months. It’s already been two years. Just another few months.’ He held her closer, unwilling to let her go just yet.
‘But, he’s so hot,’ argued the devil on her shoulder. ‘You’re seeing Gideon,’ reminded the angel on her other shoulder. ‘But- Hot. In all sense of the word,’ whined the devil. ‘Yeah, he is! I mean- Don’t pull a Gideon, Ellie,’ whined the angel. Marielle sighed silently and somehow managed to push her body into motion. She laughed softly at herself. “Sorry- I tried to save you, but clearly I failed.” She looked down at him, eyes searching his face as she hesitated once more. She shook her head at her thoughts and carefully slid off his body. The ice was cold against her shins and she quickly, but carefully, pushed to her feet. “Come on- We have to manage at least one lap to make this a respectable attempt.”
A light laugh spilled from his lips as he pushed into a sitting position. “But I managed to save you. I’d call it a win.” There was some maneuvering as he shifted to get situated and gain his feet. His stance was wide and his arms flailed slightly before he managed to stand steadily. “One lap,” he conceded with a chuckle. “Most bruises buys hot chocolate.”
She blushed and she ran her fingers through her hair to get the raven strands off her face. Marielle grabbed his hand and carefully pushed off with her foot to get them into motion. “Don’t make me fall on purpose so that you’re not buying our drinks,” she lightly lectured as they joined the crowd that circled the ice. Her gaze fell to the people in front of them as she attempted to mirror the way they moved. Her grip tightened whenever she thought she would fall.
His fingers moved on their own to interlace with hers as they used each other to balance on the ice. A soft laugh accompanied the moments in which it seemed like they would tumble again, but they always managed to right themselves. The circuit was slow and they lapped a second time for good measure. “I think we’ve got this down pat,” he murmured with a bright smile toward her. They made their way to the door off the ice.
“I think this means you owe me a warm beverage,” she mused with a laugh. She released his hand and pushed off to move ahead of him. Stepping onto the padded floor proved to be far easier than stepping onto the ice. She stepped carefully towards the bench to trade her skates for her stilettos. “Oh thank goodness,” she breathed as she slipped her shoes over her heels. “I’d rather walk on pointy sticks than skate with knives any day.” Marielle giggled at herself as tied the laces together to her skates.
He slipped his black dress shoes back on and nodded toward the diminutive woman. “Knives belong in the kitchen. So noted.” Cassius winked and stood up, taking the skates from her to return them to the vendor. When he returned, he offered his elbow to Marielle and motioned with his chin toward the booths that she had yet to visit. “A warm beverage is in our future.”
She took his elbow and was rather happy to be on two solid feet instead of the skates. They made their way through the crowd and Marielle smiled at the vendor they approached. Jewel green irises swept over the posted menu and she hummed softly. “I’ll take the hot chocolate topped with the marshmallow vodka, please.”
“I took you for a bourbon type of girl.” He winked at her before nodding to the gentleman running the booth. He lifted a thumb and his forefinger to signal two of the drinks before reaching into an inner pocket of his jacket. Cassius withdrew an aged leather billfold and took out two bills to pay the young woman running the register.
Her brow lifted as she regarded the man beside her. “Why is that?” When their order appeared, her hand slipped from his elbow and she eagerly wrapped her fingers around the sides of her cup. The warmth that seeped past the layered paper soothed her and she brought the beverage to her nose to enjoy the aroma. She sighed happily, her eyes closing so she could focus on her sense of smell. She took a tentative sip and nearly melted on the spot at the burst of flavour.
“You’re classy, educated, a dancer. Such sophistication screams bourbon or sherry.” He grinned and picked up the cup that had been placed on the table for him. “Port wine,” he mused to her tastes before sipping the hot chocolate. He hummed with delight and either failed to notice the bit of whipped cream on his nose or left it for her to giggle at.
Her tongue swept over her upper lip to collect the whipped cream and she turned to reply, only to stop at seeing the cream on his nose. She chuckled and grabbed a napkin to offer to him. “I’m rather impressed. Though, I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. A trader should be well aware of his potential clients, right?”
“But not the cream on his nose,” he chuckled at himself as he blushed and took the napkin to wipe his face. “Thank you,” he whispered and motioned with a tilt of his head to keep them moving. The marquis was careful as he sipped again. As they wandered down the aisle of booths, they stopped at each one to inspect the wares. He offered small bits of information on each item as he could and pointed out which were worth their price.
She found him to be delightful company. Cassius, she was quickly discovering, was intelligent and witty. The banter between them came naturally. She answered truthfully about why she’d wandered away from the celebrations - of not appreciating being turned into what could only be described as an elf. It was hard not to feel attracted, and Marielle reminded herself constantly that she was not one to stray. The crowds forced them to remain close and her shoulder brushed against his arm far more than she cared to admit. She was sure she was blushing the entire time they sipped their chocolate and meandered through the market. “I would have never thought of antiquities as exciting, but clearly I was wrong,” she giggled as she stopped to exam the glass ornaments hanging from a display tree.
“It could be antiquities or weapons and it wouldn’t matter. It’s about the people we meet along the way, Mariëlle.” A genuine smile pulled at his features as he watched her reaching for the hand blown ornaments. The marquis took a sip of his hot chocolate and stepped closer when the crowd encroached on his space. Glittering green irises moved over the bulbs she was inspecting and he smiled again with a thought.
“Please, Ellie,” she corrected without looking at Cassius. Fingers brushed over the glass as she delighted in the colours that swirled together. “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I should tell Gideon to get this for me. He didn’t get me anything for my birthday.” She’d unknowingly giving voice to her thoughts. “Stupid boys,” she muttered to herself. The evening had certainly felt more like a celebration for the security chief than it did for her. She shook her head to remove the disappointment from her thoughts and she turned to the man who kept her company. “I’m going to the booth next door,” she informed her new acquaintance.
“I’ll be right behind you.” He carefully picked the ornament from its branch on the tree and moved further into the booth. The empty cup was tossed into a trash recycler. Cassius kept the glass hidden from her as he approached the vendor and smiled at the older woman. “Very beautiful, signora. Wrap this one for me?” He handed the bulb to her and then took out his billfold to provide he with payment. The marquis didn’t enter in his credentials to the Federation account because it was in a different name. Paper money and latinum couldn’t be traced. He voiced thanks as he took the paper bag with rope handles from her. His steps were quick to rejoin Marielle at the next booth, a jeweler.
Fingers brushed over strings gemstones. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen jewelry sparkle as much as they do on this planet.” She stopped in front of a collection of bracelets. “Joséphine and Valantine would love these.” Marielle hummed softly as she picked out two tennis bracelets and nodded to the vendor that she’d like them wrapped. She made her way through the booth and stopped at a table covered with hair accessories. She found it hard not to touch and she picked up nearly every comb, hair stick, and hairpin that graced the surface. When the vendor motioned that he was done with wrapping the individual gifts, she made her way to the register to enter her Federation identification. “I need some air- I’ll meet you outside once I’ve bought this.”
“As you wish, Mariëlle.” Thick fingers picked up a dark blue gemstone starburst before she could study the hairpin. The silver metal was muted by the brilliant shade of cobalt and small diamonds and pearls that accentuated the piece. Cassius smiled warmly as he turned and followed the diminutive woman toward the register. He waited in silence as she finished her transaction before motioning that he would be purchasing the hairpin. The marquis motioned that he had a bag and exchanged the appropriate bills with muted thanks.
She made her way out of the booth and threw her paper cup into the nearest receptacle. Her eyes lifted to the chronometer and she sighed softly at the time. Time had flown far quicker than she had anticipated and she found herself silently lamenting the idea that she had to cut the pleasant evening short. Cassius proved to be a pleasant enough fellow and she wouldn’t have minded enjoying his company a bit longer. It certainly helped her mood significantly. Marielle turned in time to see him exiting the booth and she smiled warmly. “Find anything worthwhile?”
He slid one hand into the pocket of his slacks and held the small gift bag in the other. “I believe so.” Cassius nodded and smiled warmly as he offered her his elbow. “Where next?” He was well aware of the time but knew that there would be other shuttles back to the Aldrin. He’d silently hoped that she would think to simply catch the next one so they could continue their enchanting evening.
“I’ve got to make my way back to the ballroom, I think.” She gave him a sad smile. She was surprised to find herself hesitant to end their time together, but it seemed best to finally get back to her friends and crewmates. “The shuttle to the Aldrin leaves soon. The next one won’t be back for another six hours- And I should probably apologize to my boyfriend for being so grumpy.”
There was a flash of disappointment in his features, but it didn’t last more than a millisecond, hardly long enough to be noticed. ‘Just a few more months and you’ll have her forever. Patience. This is already a risky move.’ Cassius dipped his chin in acknowledgement and tsked softly. “My heart weeps, mademoiselle. You’ve given me the greatest gift.” He stepped forward and held her elbow gently as he leaned close and kissed her cheek. “Thank you,” he whispered against her skin before straightening.
She blushed and laughed softly. “You are an odd fellow, Cassius,” she murmured weakly. Marielle slipped her hand into his elbow and they walked side by side. “Please tell me you know how to get back because I was not paying any sort of attention. I was actually lamenting being lost before you found me.”
‘Gods, it would be so easy to just take her now.’ His smile remained radiant and he nodded. ‘Not yet, she has to go to the nebula.’ The marquis chastised himself inwardly as he guided them through the crowds toward the glass walkway that would lead them back to the grand ballroom. “Just this way, mademoiselle.” His arm was held close to his torso to grip her hand in the crook of his elbow. Cassius desired to bask in her warmth and emotion for as long as he could. “Presto, (Soon.)” he murmured to himself.
They chatted as he led her back to the ballroom, the walk taking far longer than when she had aimlessly raced through the maze of sky bridges and buildings on her own. The pace was pleasant and allowed them a chance to enjoy the festive atmosphere. “You’ll need to keep in touch,” she mused with a light chuckle. The ballroom was just at the end of the large hallway. “I don’t think I’ve ever made a friend this quickly in my life.”
He chuckled quietly and shook his head. “I doubt that statement very much, but I would be glad to keep in contact.” As they approached the double doors that led into the ballroom, he paused and turned to face her. It took everything in him not to reach forward and brush her hair back from her face and tuck it behind her ear. Dazzling green irises took in every feature of her expression and he swallowed his wistful sigh. He instead lifted the small gift bag and presented it to her. “Happy belated birthday, Mariëlle.”
Marielle blinked, her gaze shifting between the bag and his eyes several times before she finally looked up at him. It was hard to hide the suspicion from her voice. “What? How did you know I just had my birthday?”
A disarming smile pulled at his features and he shook his head. “You mentioned in the ornament booth that this Gideon fellow didn’t get you anything for your birthday. I assumed it was recent.”
She stammered, her face growing red with her embarrassment at having her complaint caught by a stranger. Suspicion melted away quickly and she silently chastised herself for having doubted his intentions. “Right- I’m sorry you heard that,” Marielle grimaced. “I don’t think that gave a very good impression of me.” She gently pushed his hand back. “Though, you really shouldn’t have. I didn’t get you a thing- And we barely know each other.”
“You’ve given me everything,” he argued. “Please. It’s a gift.” He took her hand in his and pulled her fingers apart before placing the handles of the gift bag on her palm and closing her delicate digits over it. Cassius reached up and cupped her jaw in his palm. His thumb brushed quickly over her cheek before he stepped back. “I’ll message you on subspace and we’ll get to know each other better. Bon nuit, Mariëlle.” A heated breath escaped his lips before he turned to leave her.
Marielle watched him carefully, unable to keep her face from returning to its normal colour. It seemed as if she had been living in a perpetual state of pink since she stumbled across him. Her hand came up to rest over her cheek and she watched him walk away. “Get it together Ellie. You’re seriously pulling a Gideon right now,” she muttered to herself. With a shake of her head she peered inside the bag to find two wrapped gifts. Curiosity pulled at her senses and she made her way to the closest chair. She unwrapped the first box to find the glass ornament she’d been admiring and she couldn’t help but smile. “Observant,” she whispered. The bulb was carefully placed back into its box and she opened the smaller flat package to find the blue gemstone encrusted hairpin. A soft gasp fell from her lips and she looked down the hallway in search of him before she saw the handwritten note that had been tucked under the pin.
‘Brillez toujours brillamment. À bientôt.’ (Always shine brightly. See you soon.)
She lifted the hair pin and her thumb ran lightly over the gemstones. It was beautiful and she admired the craftsmanship. She gathered her loose hair and twirled it into a bun, weaving the metal sticks into her hair. It didn’t match her dress at all, but the gift had warmed her in a way she didn’t expect. It was a messy bun, but it was rather nice to wear the thoughtful token of friendship. Marielle put the note back in the box and slipped the package back into the small bag, her thoughts replaying the memory of the last few hours.
“El!” He moved quickly toward her and stopped short of grabbing her arm in his state of mixed emotion - panic and irritation. “Where the frak have you been?! Everyone’s been looking for you.” Gideon had dipped heavily into the spiked eggnog and his dress tunic was unzippered to hang loosely from his shoulders.
His tone pulled her from her reverie and she wrinkled her nose at him. “I went for a walk,” she replied honestly, pushing to her feet to walk past him. Marielle paused to take in his appearance and she sighed softly. “Geez. What happened to you?” She reached out and tugged at his dress uniform to close the tunic and right it on his shoulders.
The half-Bajoran grunted softly and barely resisted batting her hands away before pulling the zipper up on the tunic. His pips had long disappeared into his white slacks pocket. “What’s this?” He tugged at the gift bag and nearly ripped the paper. Gideon avoided explaining that he’d gotten into a drinking contest with some of the crew by redirecting to her.
“Hey!” she released the bag handle to keep the paper from tearing. “Careful! There’s glass in there.” Marielle grabbed him by the arm and gently pulled him towards the hallway that would lead them to the shuttle bay. “I ended up in some festival market. I got gifts for my sisters. The ornament in that bag is for me.” She reached for the bag. “So could you please give me back the bag?”
He hummed softly and released the bag back to her possession. A wry grin pulled at his lips. “Wait til you see what I got for you.” His hand draped over her lower back as he pulled her hips against his.
Marielle shook her head at herself and ignored Gideon’s innuendo. She bit back the sigh that threatened to escape with her breath. “Come on, silly. Let’s get you back on the ship.” She forced a smile as the security chief attempted to joke with her. She unknowingly reached for the hairpin tucked in her hair. The gemstones were cool under her fingers, but the memory of her evening warmed her completely.
Copyright 2017. All works involving Mariëlle A. Deniaud and Gideon M. Salieri, including character biographies and published stories, are the property of the United Space Federation and its author. It cannot be reproduced, imitated, and copied without written permission from the authors. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction using aspects of the Star Trek universe as created and copyrighted/trademarked by Gene Roddenberry, Paramount, and their affiliates.