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[Deniaud/Salieri] Collaboration Log
Roots & Branches: Meet the Matriarch
“We’ll be on the landing pad in about fifteen minutes time.”
Marielle turned her head to look at the cadet who flew their shuttle, watching as his fingers danced over the console. He was a little too chipper for her current mood, and she only nodded in response. Her eyes fell to her hand, marveling at how Gideon had held her hand for most of the day. In fact, she had woken up that morning to find herself being embraced tightly as he breathed warm air down her neck. It seemed as if he had spent a majority of the day finding ways to stay in contact with her. Throughout breakfast, his knee had kept flush against hers. While they had packed, his hands had rested on her back or her hand or her shoulder. They had held hands through the transport to Starfleet headquarters and as they had boarded the shuttle for their destination. He hadn’t attempted to make small talk or to even discuss her family. He had simply been content to remain by her side. Marielle suddenly felt guilty for having been aloof, and she squeezed his hand gently to draw his attention. Leaning back into her chair, she pointed out the window. “That is the Palais de Papes,” she started softly. “It’s one of the largest and most significant example of Gothic architecture that’s been able to survive the centuries. Restoration attempts keep it standing.”
As she leaned back, Gideon glanced to the window and shifted to press his shoulder against hers as he looked at the palace. It was indeed quite stunning. He let his gaze continue to wander as the scenery flew by. The half-Bajoran had been lost in his thoughts for the majority of the trip, as he suspected Marielle was as well. He’d considered the talk they had after breakfast, when she tried once more to convince him to stay with his grandmother while she went home. Gideon was steadfast in his resolve to accompany the diminutive woman to her home. Yes, he was quite anxious regarding meeting her family, but most of all he wanted Marielle to know that he was with her through thick and thin. “Sono qui per te,” he’d told her. “I’m here for you.”
She watched as the city disappeared and they flew over the thick forests, and she felt the familiar churning in the pit of her stomach. “It’ll be okay,” she muttered under her breath and she wasn’t sure if she was addressing Gideon or trying to calm herself, “Just be respectful, and it’ll be okay.” Her eyes searched for the break in the treeline to signify that they’d soon be flying over her childhood home’s property, and she caught sight of the glaring chateau in the far distance. “We’re almost there,” she told him softly, pointing out the window with her free hand.
“It’ll be okay,” he repeated with a smile. Gideon watched quietly as the confidence began to drain from Marielle’s features. He couldn’t have imagined what she would go through without him there. Not that he was her rock or anything, but he certainly felt better knowing that he was there for her. He could only hope he was actually helping make this trip easier for her, rather than complicating things. His cobalt gaze tore from the researcher as he tilted his chin to survey their surroundings. “And when am I not respectful?” he asked indignantly. “El, you wound me.”
Marielle released a soft sigh. “You’re very respectful, Gideon,” she soothed. Her head leaned lightly against his. “But, my family has a very antiquated definition of respect.” She gave him a small smile. “Just remember what I told you. When you bow, keep your back straight when you do and keep your hands to your side. Bend at the waist, about fifteen-degrees or so.” She paused, her nervous expression making way for something with more finality, “But, whatever you do, do not give them a low bow.” The rest of her instruction died on her tongue. There was no need to tell the security chief.
The cold and unfeeling white stone were bright against the vibrant and lush pine forest that surrounded the chateau. The massive castle-like building was surrounded by an immaculate garden, symmetry and order easily seen from their vantage point in the air. The property itself could have accounted for one whole small city in size alone. One side of the house faced rolling hills of lavender, a single willow tree breaking the lines of purple.
He squeezed her fingers again, chastising himself for the failed attempt at humor. Gideon let it rest, however and as he leaned back into the seat, he placed a comforting kiss on Marielle’s cheek. ‘It’ll be okay,’ he thought. Gideon knew that if he said it aloud it may be too much for the diminutive woman. At this point, he would relax and let things go. Go with the flow.
As the chateau grew larger with their approach, Marielle smoothed the cloth of her skirt. She had dressed in her more conservative dresses - a slate wool dress with long sleeves and a simple boat neckline. Black lace flowers added the finer detail of design around her neck. The skirt of her dress was pleated and reached the middle of her calves. Black pointed stiletto shoes covered her feet. “Just don’t think I’m like them,” she fidgeted, her eyes dipping to her lap.
“I already know better than that,” he whispered.
“You haven’t met them yet,” she nudged him with her shoulder. It was a playful movement, but she carried no joy in her tone. The shuttle began its descent, and Marielle took a deep breath. With one last squeeze of his hand, the researcher pulled her grasp from his. Her head rolled from one shoulder to the other. The cracking sound did nothing to alleviate the tension she carried. Her shoulders pulled back as her back straightened and her chin lifted ever so slightly. With a quiet exhalation, her smile dimmed but remained on her lips. She glanced out the window as the shuttle touched down without so much as a bump.
And with that, his Marielle was gone. Replaced by a proper clone. “Non ho bisogno di, (I don’t need to.)” Gideon whispered. He’d studied her for a moment longer before he set his hands on the arms of the seat, pushing himself to his feet. The half-Bajoran stepped to the back of the shuttle and picked up their luggage, one in each hand. He glanced over his shoulder, smiling after her.
The door lowered and a small greeting group straightened instantly. Those under the service of the Deniauds were dressed in simple tunics or dresses, and they lined the stairs. One moved up to meet Gideon as he stepped off the shuttle, bowing low as he took the suitcases from the security chief’s grasp. He straightened and walked backwards with the cases until he returned to his original spot among the others. Three women stood at the top of the landing. Josephine, the eldest of the Deniaud girls, was a tall and built woman. She was a plain woman with dark brown eyes and her brown hair tied in a low bun. Valantine, the middle of the Deniaud girls, was slender and half-a-head shorter than Joséphine. She would have been a pretty woman with dark brown eyes and black hair, had it not been for the permanent frown lines that had started to wrinkle her features.
Henriette stood in the center of her daughters, and it was clear that Marielle’s features were a near perfect mirror to the svelte woman - save for their eyes. She was tall and commanding in her poise, a woman of extraordinary beauty with perfectly straight ebony hair and sharp almond brown eyes. Where her daughters wore contemporary dresses, Henriette wore a traditional green kimono. She said nothing as Marielle climbed the steps with Gideon following close behind.
Marielle bowed before her mother, her hands clasped in front of her body. “Salut Maman,” she greeted quietly. Once she straightened, she reached up and placed a kiss on each of her mother’s cheeks. She greeted her sisters very much in the same fashion, only she hadn’t bothered to bow before them. “Where is Papa?”
Henriette glanced at Gideon, her eyes sweeping over him from head to toe. She turned her attention to her daughter as she responded to Marielle’s question, “He is in the study with Renard. You will see him at dinner.” Again, her critical gaze moved to Gideon, finding his eyes settled in her general direction, but not focused on anyone in particular.
The researcher nodded and turned, smiling at the security officer. “Maman, I’d like you to meet Commander Gédéon Salieri. He’s, um, a colleague.” A pause. “A friend.” She paused again as she turned to look at her mother, nearly cringing at the cold stare she was given. “My friend.”
As practiced, Gideon took one baby step forward and lowered his hands to his sides, leaning forward slightly as he bowed to the women. It was a smooth gesture as the movements mirrored his deeply ingrained martial arts training. As he straightened, a very faint curl found his lips, giving a hint of his pleasure at meeting the matron Deniaud. “Signora Deniaud,” he spoke quietly, reverently in his greeting.
Valantine leaned over to Josephine and whispered, “She always finds the pretty ones.” She giggled softly as her eyes moved over Gideon’s body slowly.
“Your room has been prepared, and your,” Henriette paused as she stared at Gideon before looking at her daughter once more, “friend will be staying in the wing below. I’ll have Peter tend to him.”
“Merci, Maman.” But the words hadn’t even left her lips before her mother and sisters disappeared into the house. The maids and butler remained outside, waiting for Marielle and Gideon to enter. The researcher remained on the landing, staring into the house. The bright sun made it hard to see any of the finer details, but she could trace the outlines of the shadows, could see the gold and ornate paintings. Her hands hung at her sides, fingers gripping at the fabric, as she willed her legs to move. Yet, they would not.
Gideon stepped toward Marielle, standing close enough to her that his knuckles brushed along the back of her hand. He smiled gently, then took her hand in his, raising it and placing her fingers within the crook of his arm. “Sono qui per te, (I’m here for you.)” Salieri whispered softly and leaned forward, not stepping fully until he knew that Marielle would follow him.
She took a breath, her fingers pressing into his elbow quietly in thanks, as she took the first step inside. Marielle turned her head towards him and smiled brightly. Without her family around, she was free to be who she was. “You’ll be on my side of the house, which means you’ll have a beautiful view of the lavender fields. I think you’ll like it.”
“I hope it’s the lavender,” he answered, allowing his smile to flourish as they stepped into the house.