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[JL Deniaud/Salieri] Roots & Branches: Of Tea and Dance

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by Lieutenant Commander Gideon Salieri & Lieutenant Commander Marielle Deniaud
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Stardate: 1612.10
Roots & Branches: Of Tea and Dance

Gideon stood against the door jamb, his arms folded over his chest as his gaze focused on the researcher.  He had been in the doorway for about ten minutes now, having gone in search of Marielle after not finding her at breakfast.  Unlike their meetings in the Helios kitchen, it was harder to watch her and not want to interrupt.  It was difficult to see her being abused in such a manner.

Her tutor, a short but built woman with lackluster blue eyes and a tiny mouth, was dressed in a bright green pencil skirt and a flowy pale yellow blouse.  It had been years since the diminutive Starfleet officer had last seen the woman, but Lady Violet was as she remembered her - meticulous about the details and strict about the tradition.  “Again,” she instructed.  Her adenoidal high-pitched voice filled the small dance room, echoing off the tiled hardwood floors and bright walls.

Marielle sighed softly as Lady Violet Ceruti walked around her.  The theorist was dressed in her most modest yukata - soft pink with white blossoms painted near the hem.  Blossom petals adorned up the fabric outlined with gold thread.  She remained kneeling in the traditional stance, with her legs folded under her thighs while she sat on her heels.  Another soft sigh escaped her lips as she felt the forgotten tingling moving up her legs; getting up would take some finesse.  Although her attention was focused on the low table in front of her, her eyes flickered up every so often to find Gideon watching her.  She flashed him a smile whenever Lady Violet walked behind her.  “Ow!” she hissed as her hand came up to rub the sudden sore spot on the back of her head.

“Pour the tea again!” Lady Violet repeated.  The woman pinched the bridge of her nose in annoyance.  “Lady Mariëlle, you have done this a million times.  Please focus.”  Her blue eyes lifted to glare at the security chief as he lingered by the door jamb.  “Focus on your lessons so that we can both continue on with our day.”

She huffed silently as she pretended to pull at the long sleeve.  The length on her yukata was significantly shorter than what her furisode would be, and Marielle imagined having to lift away the extra fabric.  Slender fingers gently lifted the teapot by its handle, as she pulled her sleeve back enough to show the curve of her wrist and a hint of her arm.

Lady Violet grunted in approval.  “Better,” she commented as she stood by the diminutive woman’s side.  “Your arms have lovely lines, and you have beautiful skin.  Make sure that every man who sits by your side sees it at least once.”  She then placed two bent fingers under Marielle’s chin and lifted it up so she could examine her face.  “You’ve blossomed into a beautiful woman.  Have you learnt how to use your eyes?”

Gideon frowned, shaking his head.  The scene had appeared quite unreal.  He couldn’t believe that they were expecting Marielle to serve someone in this way.  “Different worlds,” he muttered, recalling something Marielle had told him before.

Renard had been watching Gideon for some time before he finally quietly approached.  He stood beside the security chief, his shoulder leaning against the other door jamb as his arms crossed over his chest.  His eyes watched his sister and the old family etiquette tutor.  “Strange isn’t it?” he asked quietly as to not disturb the lesson.  “It’s the 24th century, and she’s having to review something that’s typically reserved for historical reenactments.”  He chuckled lightly as he shook his head.  “Though, she’s got to know she’s fallen out of practice.  Mariëlle was always more graceful than Joséphine and Valantine.  Chaos outshined them every lesson, and it was just another reason they resented her.”

He’d jumped slightly as he noticed Renard.  Gideon sighed and shook his head, returning his attention to the diminutive woman.  “I’m sure she did,” he muttered quietly.  It made a little more sense how the two of them were drawn to each other, with their similar family dynamics.

“Uh.  I clearly learnt how to use my eyes to see.  Obviously,” came her sweetly uttered snide remark.  There was a twinkle of defiance in her eyes as she watched Lady Violet’s frown deepen.

Her brother snickered softly.  “I’m glad to see time away from home has only allowed her to sharpen that tone of hers,” Renard muttered to himself as he laughed, truly pleased to see that his sister’s spirit had blossomed with her experiences in Starfleet.  There was a pause as he watched the lesson in earnest.  “Sometimes, I wonder if she wishes she was more like our sisters.  Their lives have been significantly easier than hers.”

Marielle frowned as she was once again smacked on the head with Lady Violet’s folded fan.  “Ow!” she grumbled as she recoiled from the woman, her hand once more rubbing the sore on her head.

Gideon shook his head, disbelieving that Marielle would ever think such a thing.  Her sisters were dull and insipid, the researcher had said in so many words.  “We don’t talk about it.  She becomes very distant when anything about family comes up.”  He hummed softly.  “Except her uncle,” he corrected.  

Renard chuckled.  “Ah.  Well.  Uncle Greg is always going to be the exception.  He’s the black sheep of the family.”  He snickered as Violet stepped into the wet spot and nearly slipped.

An endearing smile found his lips and Gideon sighed, turning his gaze to Renard.  “So you’re to entertain me,” he commented, recalling the bit of conversation from their dinner last night.

The eldest Deniaud tilted his head to the side, bright green eyes still watching his sister.  “It seemed to be the best way to avoid a family discussion in front of a guest,” he replied simply.  There was a long pause as he watched Marielle pour her tea, only to spill on purpose.  He laughed as she avoided the smack to her head with a laugh.  “Mariëlle would not be able to focus if you were here,” he explained.  “It was more for her sake than yours.”

Marielle sighed as she stared at the teapot, unwilling to lift a finger to continue the lesson.  Her nose wrinkled at Lady Violet.  “I don’t want to do this,” her voice pulled at the vowels.  She didn’t care that Gideon was watching her whine.  She had been in the dance room since before the sun broke the horizon.  It had been difficult pulling away from the warmth of Gideon’s arms, but they would have found her bed empty if she hadn’t.  Exhaustion and annoyance frayed her thinning patience.

Renard straightened as he watched Marielle protested and he shook his head solemnly.  “There’s so much meaning in the serving of tea, and she knows it.”  The eldest of the Deniaud siblings scratched his chin.  “It’s a shame she hasn’t the heart for it today.”

He raised a brow at Renard, watching him in his peripheral vision.  “What’s the meaning?”

“You have too much fire in you!” Lady Violet huffed in frustration, her hand again moving up to pinch the bridge of her nose.  With a calming breath, her tone softened.  “It’s a good element.  Fire is the element of love, passion, and intuition.  You are warm-hearted and generous, but it is an element that needs vigilance.  If you don’t watch yourself, you’ll lose your finer qualities to aggression, frustration, regret, and disappointment.  It can burn too hot for many, until there is nothing left but ash and soot.  A flame untamed is a wildfire that can destroy.”

‘You’ve got too much life, Maddie, and I just can’t keep doing this.  I can’t keep up with you.’  Her ex-husband’s words filled her ears.  Her eyes lowered to stare at the teapot and teacup in front of her.  She nodded quietly.  “My apologies, Lady Violet.”  Her back straightened and her shoulders pulled back.  She closed her eyes, her mind filtering through her thoughts as she tried to focus on the lesson.  Vibrant green eyes flickered briefly to find Renard and Gideon watching her intently, and the corner of Marielle’s lips pulled into a demure smile as she stared at the teapot and the teacup.

“Hmm,” Renard hummed in thought as he watched Marielle’s expression change.  His own green eyes wandered towards the security chief briefly, moving back to his sister before the quick glance could be noticed.  “It isn’t about the tea.”  Quietly, he watched as Marielle poured the tea with near perfect calm.  There was affection in her eyes as she watched the cup being filled.  “The making and serving of tea represents harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.  It is a shared experience between the maker and her guests.”  He smiled tenderly as he caught her smiling.  “There.  She’s imagining serving someone who matters to her.  You can see it in her eyes.”

Gideon watched, trying to envision what Renard was saying, but he was just seeing Marielle pour a cup of tea.  

“It is personified in the complete ceremony.  The ritual creates a near meditative state where we find ourselves in the perfection of the moment,” Renard smiled, reverence filling his voice as he explained.  “That’s what it embodies - that the meeting of two people should be treasured.  It can never be reproduced because that moment can never be recreated.  To my knowledge, Mariëlle has never performed the complete ceremony for another with her whole being.”  He shrugged.  “She has performed it plenty of times at the insistence of our father, but never with that expression on her face.”  Renard motioned to Marielle, who had a serene expression that made her glow.  “It is a gift, her ultimate gift, to give.  It is an act of servitude, but it is fundamentally about giving herself up to the moment.  And to that person.”

He hummed softly, still reaching to see what the eldest Denaiud saw.  “I’m going to be selfish and hope it’s me, but then not.  I could think of so many other ways she could do that without being a servant.”  

He shrugged as he turned his vibrant green eyes towards the security chief.  “I understand how you could view it as such, but she doesn’t,” Renard motioned to his sister.  “To her, it’s important.”

‘She seemed to be thinking that way before she starting imagining me in front of her.’  Gideon furrowed his brows and then straightened, focusing on Renard.  “So what are we doing, then?  A fox hunt?  Jousting?  Public beheading in the square?”

Renard raised a brow in his general direction.  “You have some strange notions of our family, Salieri.”  Green eyes flickered to find Marielle standing and moving to the open floor space of the dance room.  “Dinner out and wine.  Maybe women.  I haven’t decided.  Mariëlle requested I not leave you in the middle of the woods, so at least you know that will not be in your future.”  The sound of a drum filled the training room, followed by chimes, and Renard’s smile only grew wider.

Marielle’s expression grew somber as she moved.  Her arm swept across her chest languidly, her body couched in a shallow bend.  The hem of her kimono fluttered with her small steps and with the white blossom painted prints, her hurried steps made them look like petals blown by the wind.  There was smoothness in each flick of her wrist and twirl of her hand, a grace as she pulled the sleeve up to show the lines of her arm.  And, when she turned, the tilt of her head combined with the low pull of her collar highlighted the curve of her neck.  Her movements were precise, filled with a deep sense of emotion and dignity.

He shook his head, hopeful that there wouldn’t be any Orion women involved that evening.  It would be enough salt in the wound that Marielle was serving some random dignitary in an antiquated ceremony.  Gideon didn’t need to add to it with the remotest temptation of another woman’s touch.  His cobalt orbs watched her in silence.

“Dance was once the most revered art of our heritage,” Renard smiled.  “And, Mariëlle has always had perfect grace.  I’ve missed watching her dance.  It’s one of many downsides of having her on that ship of hers.”

“Sorry if I show no remorse,” Gideon commented with a smirk, his gaze flickering to Renard briefly.  He returned his curious gaze to Marielle quickly, watching her motions with renewed interest.

Renard chuckled lightly.  “You misunderstand.  I wasn’t complaining.  I’m happy to have my sister traveling the stars.  I simply miss her.”  Renard straightened as the music stopped, and he pulled at his shirt as Marielle barely gave Lady Violet a bow.  “I shall see you in the sitting room at 1700.  Dress to impress, my good lad.”  As Marielle neared, his smile grew.  “Beautiful as always, Chaos!” he praised, placing a kiss on each of her cheeks.

Marielle giggled softly.  “I hope you haven’t been telling him horrid stories about me.”

“Never!” Renard gasped in feigned indignation.  When the sound of her laughter filled the hallway, he couldn’t help but laugh with her.  “I shall leave you to entertain your ‘guest’.”

She stuck her tongue out at her brother as he walked away then turned her attention to Gideon.  The engineer smiled up at him.  “I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

Smiling, Gideon shook his head, having straightened as soon as the music stopped.  “You’re worth waiting for,” he offered sincerely.  He tilted his head slightly as he watched Marielle.  He wanted to tell her she’d been beautiful on the dance floor, but decided against it because he didn’t want to remind her of why exactly she was having to rehearse.

Glancing left and right, Marielle took one of his hands in both of hers and lifted her heels to give him a quick kiss.  She giggled softly.  “I think it’s noon, so I thought we could have lunch in the garden.  I’ve got about two hours before I’ve got to start getting ready.  I asked Arthur to get a picnic ready in the lavender fields.”

He grinned impishly at the stolen kiss, winking as he squeezed her fingers.  Gideon nodded, appearing to anticipate the afternoon.  “I never envisioned you in pink,” he commented, his chin dipping as his eyes wandered her yukata.  Offering his elbow, Gideon allowed Marielle to lead him down the hall.

The researcher looked down at her clothing.  “Well.  Thankfully, I don’t have to wear pink tonight,” she groaned at the thought.  She had no say as to what was being picked.  She knew the kimono would be beautiful, as they all were, but it would have been nice to have been able to pick something for herself.  She walked with him towards the garden, where a small hover car was waiting for them.  Marielle slid into the seat and scooted closer to Gideon when he joined her.  The car moved as soon as they were settled, leading them to the far fields towards the single willow tree in a sea of purple.  She didn’t say much as they flew past the manicured garden, though she did start to hum the moment they entered the lavender fields.  When the car stopped, Marielle stepped off the hovercar and grabbed the picnic basket and blanket.

Gideon offered to take something from Marielle, and the researcher handed him the blanket, after disembarking from the car.  “Are we far enough from prying eyes?” he asked, raising a brow over his shoulder toward the chateau before glancing back at the diminutive woman.  He followed her after she stepped toward the towering willow tree.

Marielle lifted and swept the dangling leaves to one side as she slipped under the shade of the massive draping willow.  She hummed her reply as she waited by the trunk, the picnic basket lightly grasped with both hands.  The theorist watched as Gideon spread the large dark green blanket on the ground before slipping off her lacquered sandals and stepping onto the blanket.  She lowered herself to kneel before sliding off to the side to sit.  “No one really likes to come out here,” Marielle explained as she opened the basket and pulled out their meal - an extravagant charcuterie board filled with a selection of cheeses, cured meats, nuts, fresh fruit slices, dried fruits, and bread.  A bottle of wine - Trenel “Cote de Brouilly” Cru Beaujolais - soon followed, as well as two stemless glasses.

“Their loss,” Gideon commented as he took it upon himself to serve the wine.  After handing Marielle her glass, he raised his own toward her.  “To lavender?” he offered inquisitively, a brow raised to seek  her approval.

She chuckled and nodded as she lifted her own glass, “To lavender.”  Marielle closed her eyes as she took an appreciative sip.  The glass was placed on top of the picnic basket and green eyes examined the provided meal.  “I’m glad to see you’re getting along with Renard.”  She picked up a slice of dried apricot and nibbled.  She took a moment to enjoy the weather.  The unseasonably warm winter made it feel more like autumn than anything else.

He chuckled softly and nodded.  Gideon selected a slice of salami and paired it with a square of colby cheese, popping the snack into his mouth.  Chewing swiftly, he swallowed and took another sip of wine before answering.  “I’m at the mercy of your family, best to grin and bear it.”  He hadn’t really spoken with Renard in regards to the first time they met so many months ago on the Hermes.  Gideon added, “I think we’ve reached an understanding.”

“I didn’t realize you needed to reach one with Renard,” she chuckled.  “Everyone tends to love him.  He’s so much like my uncle.  We used to joke that Renard got all the charm, and I got all the brains.  It left Joséphine and Valantine without much else.”  Marielle popped an olive into her mouth.

“Ah,” Gideon said with a chuckle.  His tone was full of mirth.  “I guess he never mentioned that he’d told me to stay the Hell away from you,” he paused to pick up another square of colby.  “In so many words.”

She had been in the process of grabbing a slice of duck rillette to spread on a slice of baguette when she stopped in surprise.  “That doesn’t sound anything like Renard,” she straightened as placed the baguette down on the blanket and stared at Gideon.  Her brows furrowed and her lips formed a thin line. “When was this?”

“He was looking out for you,” Gideon explained before biting the cheese.  “I didn’t understand it at the time.”  The Betazoid mix glanced at Marielle, noticing that she was still intent on the answer.  “When he visited for the quincentennial.”

Her brows furrowed even more.  “That was-,” she paused and frowned.  “That was a year ago.”  Marielle’s head turned to face the direction of the chateau.  “I don’t understand why he’d do that.  We weren’t even seeing each other at the time, and I hadn’t uttered a word to anyone about you.”

His eyes dropped, staring at the wine glass in his hand momentarily before Gideon glanced back at Marielle.  “I believe he saw in me what I hadn’t had a chance to say to you.”  He grinned gently, some playfulness having returned to his tone.  “Though I think he owes you an apology.”

Marielle had every intention of getting up and taking the hovercar back to the chateau to go find Renard, but she turned to question Gideon instead.  “Me?  Why?”  She chewed on the inside of her cheek.

“For insinuating that I would hurt you.  The nerve.”  He hoped that the tone of his voice would lighten the mood.  Gideon winked and picked up an olive.

Marielle offered him a small smile, though she said nothing.  She reached out for her wine glass and took a sip.  “I see,” she muttered.  She’d need to find Renard before dinner, but she was starting to form a theory of what had actually transpired between her brother and the man by her side.

He lifted the green sphere and outstretched his hand, offering the olive to her, blue eyes searching Marielle’s features.  Gideon smiled gently and raised his brows.  “Have you talked to him since we got here?”

As she often did, the researcher mindlessly took the offered digits into her mouth and removed the olive from their grasp.  A quick swirl of the tongue and brushing her lips along his skin and she pulled away, chewing on the olive as she was lost in her own thoughts.  Wine soon followed.  “Not really.  Yesterday was a blur with our arrival, introductions, and dinner.  Then, bed.  And, this morning I was up at 0500 to prepare for Lady Violet,” she replied.  Her head shook.  “Then I’ve got to meet this possible su-”  The diminutive woman coughed and immediately took another sip of wine.  “Got to play hostess tonight.  I suspect I won’t get a chance until tomorrow.”

Gideon was quiet as his eyes dropped to the charcuterie board and he slowly began putting together another morsel.  ‘A suitor,’ he completed the word for her.  Sighing softly, he held the piece of bread between thumb and forefinger, lifting to take a bite.  He’d leaned forward then, resting his elbows on his knees, one hand still holding his glass of wine, the other holding the bread close to his lips.  Once finished with the first half, he took the rest of it into his mouth, chewing quietly.

Mindlessly, Marielle grabbed the duck rillette coated bread slice and took a bite.  She thought as she chewed.  Once she was done, the engineer took a long sip of her wine to finish the glass and leaned back so she could lie down on the blanket.  The simple box bow of her obi arched her back naturally.  Her eyes lifted to stare at the swaying branches.  “I used to come here almost every day when I was a child.”  She smiled at the memory.  “I would spend hours here or down that row over there, reading quantum theories and jotting down notes in my journal,” she paused as she turned her head enough to look at Gideon.  “I swear the pages still smell like lavender, even after all these years.”

Swallowing against the lump of bile in the back of his throat, Gideon straightened slightly and smiled toward Marielle.  “This is a beautiful place.”  He leaned back, hands holding him up on either side of his hips as he turned his cobalt gaze upward into the limbs of the willow.  The Betazoid mix had been lost in thoughts, nothing sticking long enough in his head to warrant deep contemplation.  “Did you bring the journal?”  He turned his gaze to Marielle then.  “Couldn’t hurt to refresh it.”

Marielle thought on the question and giggled softly.  “No, but I should have now that you mentioned it.”  She propped her elbows behind her and sat up a little, a mischievous glint in her eyes.  “Did I mention no one can see us out here?” she asked with feigned innocence.

He lifted his brows as he nodded.  “Not that they couldn’t see us, but that no one liked to come out here.”  Gideon leaned forward, taking a sip from his glass of wine before shifting his position.  He straightened out his legs and rolled toward his right side, pausing only to move the board of meats and cheeses out of the way as he stretched out onto his side.

She shrugged as she dropped her back back onto the blanket and rolled to her side to face him.  “Honestly, with this family, that’s basically the same thing.”  A hand came up as she picked at the imaginary lint from his tunic.  “Either way.  We’re alone.  In a field of lavender.”

Gideon scooted on his stomach to rest next to the engineer, draping his arm over her stomach as his fingers rested on her elbow.  “There’s a suggestion in there somewhere.”  He glanced over the woman beneath him, also feigning innocence.  “What are you thinking, El?”

She giggled softly as she leaned forward, her head dipping to kiss at his neck. “Dessert.”

Humming quietly as his chin lifted, Gideon smiled tenderly.  “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found someone who’s sweet tooth matches my own.”  

   
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