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[Deniaud/Salieri] Collaboration Log
Roots & Branches: The Gala
She took in a breath as she smoothed out the fabric of her gown, slender fingers running over the soft silk that covered her body. The long dark prussian blue silk chiffon gown - with its draping off-the-shoulder neckline and its flowing layers - was probably one of her more simple gowns, but it was also one of her favourites. She twisted at the waist, turning so she could search for any sign of imperfection in the reflection. There was none. Her head shook slightly, and she watched as her raven hair, gently curled and left down for the evening, covered the penned ink that graced her spine. Half of her hair had been pulled up and pinned in place by the starburst hairpin she had received as a gift from a kind trader she happened to meet while on Nordlingen. As she often did for special occasions, she left her makeup simple, though she highlighted the vibrant hues of her eyes with black and made her lips shimmer with the faintest of shades. She took in a breath, enjoying the scent of lavender that easily filled her bedroom. The hint of rain lingered in the air, the heaviness that came with humidity despite the chill.
Gideon leaned forward as he pulled the razor across the last bit of his jaw, reaching up with his free hand to smooth his fingers over his face. He worked his cheek muscles to pull his skin in all sorts of directions, feeling his face for any sign of stubble. Satisfied he’d removed everything, he rinsed the blade and set it aside, picking up a small towel to dab at his face. He used a scentless aftershave to condition his skin before turning to move into the expanse of the bedroom he’d been occupying. His thumbs adjusted the belt that held up medium grey slacks, fingers deftly removing the clasp so he could tuck in the white long-sleeved dress shirt once he’d pulled it over his shoulders before redressing. He buttoned up to the final three buttons, then reached over and picked up the dinner jacket in the same shade of grey as his trousers. Gideon slid the coat over his arms and adjusted the collar as he walked out of the room, his black dress shoes clacking softly when they hit wood floor between the rugs. He’d chosen the suit knowing that there would be trouble later and the security chief didn’t mind abusing the fabric as opposed to one of his Bajoran tunics - and they hadn’t been able to get a tux made in time. He also opted against wearing his earring. Humming softly to himself, Gideon let his eyes wander the hallway as he made his way toward the main portion of the house, hoping to catch Marielle on her way to the ballroom.
She made her way quietly down the steps towards the main portion of the house, where the ballroom was filled with dignitaries and nobility. Even from the distance, she could hear the music filling her wing. She couldn’t help but giggle as the dress moved like waves with her steps, the click of her silver stiletto heels muffled against the ornate carpet that ran over the hardwood floor. The researcher stopped in front of the set of double doors, her eyes falling on the guards that kept watch over her wing whenever her family hosted such a gathering. She took in a contemplative breath, fingers gripping lightly at the soft fabric of her dress as her arms dangled at her sides. All she needed to do was get through the evening with little to no incident. Surely, she could be nice for the evening for the sake of her parents.
He continued to hum softly as he waited on the other side of the massive doors, his cobalt gaze shifting around the space as he paced on the carpet. Gideon was a mess of thoughts. From the disaster of his confession to Marielle, to the dinner with Renard the night prior, this gala and what it meant for Marielle, he had no idea what to do or who to be. His eyelids fell closed for a moment as he sighed and slid his hands into his pockets, letting his head fall back so he could stare at the finely carved woodwork on the ceiling. A soft huff escaped his lips as he shivered and looked back toward the doors, willing Marielle to appear.
With a nod to the men charged with protecting her wing, she found herself falling into the stoic persona expected of her. Her back straightened, her shoulders falling back, and her chin lifting ever so slightly. Her smile was just bright enough to be polite, but not overly so that it would have been considered improper. The large doors opened for her at her command, and she took in a quiet breath as she prepared to step beyond the threshold. Vibrant hues caught sight of Gideon instantly, and she couldn’t stop the smile that made her face glow.
As the doors began to open, Gideon straightened, his left arm moving to rest behind his back as his right hand fell to rest at his side. His cobalt gaze focused on the woman standing under the archway and the half-Bajoran felt his breath catch in his lungs. He knew he would never grow tired of seeing her smile as his lips pulled into a serene grin. His heels clicked together lightly and he bowed toward her, not overly much, but in unspoken deference to her. He reached his hand out toward her, palm up, fingers slightly curled.
She chuckled softly as she shook her head lightly. Her strides carried her to him in a matter of two steps, her hand reaching out of his. The layers of her dress easily floated up, curling and dancing as her legs kicked at the hem. “You never have to bow to me, silly,” Marielle giggled lightly as she reached him.
He placed a gentle kiss on her knuckle before maneuvering his left elbow and directing her hand to rest within the crook of his arm. “I will if I feel like it,” he replied with a wink as he nodded toward her, then guided her down the hallway. Gideon carried himself with easy confidence.
The diminutive woman walked beside him, her free hand resting over his at the elbow. “Tonight will be a whirlwind of people,” she explained softly as they made their way towards the ballroom. “All you’ll need to do is smile and speak of the Federation and of Starfleet. You’ll have them eating out of your hands.”
“Networking?” he asked with a raised brow, smirking at the remembrance of their evening in the Rialto on the Lorelei. ‘That was so long ago.’ Gideon nodded at the idea, but kept any reaction to himself, as what had been planned for later would only hurt any gains he made if he did attempt to talk up the Federation.
“Very good,” she hummed in approval. “It’s a skill and will help further your career. Never hurts to make friends in high places.” Marielle chuckled lightly as she looked up at Gideon. “I don’t mind being the woman to help you advance up the ladder.”
Gideon dropped his chin and tilted his head slightly so that he could gaze upon the diminutive woman. “They do say that behind every good man is a woman telling him what to do.” He smiled wryly, winking quickly at Marielle. As they neared the ballroom, he felt his heart rate accelerating as he turned his attention toward the gathering.
She laughed softly, her eyes always observant of those around them as they made their way towards the ballroom. The music grew in volume, the sounds of the full orchestra easily filling the large hallway. “I’ve got to make my rounds,” Marielle explained softly, “but I’ll make sure to introduce you to some people I know you’ll like.” She paused as she remembered that the trader would be in attendance. “I was actually hoping to introduce you to Cassius. I promised him a dance for the evening.”
He wasn’t aware of who Cassius was, but he could only assume that he was a friend of hers. “Don’t worry about me, El,” he said quietly, grinning. “I’ll manage, but I do expect a dance as well.” Gideon smiled wider as he straightened his arm, gently sliding her hand from his elbow before releasing her fingers with a squeeze.
Marielle slid her hand back into the crook of his elbow, her eyes lifting up to meet his confused expression. “Can’t walk in there alone, silly,” she chided him lightly. “Besides. I want everyone to know I’ve chosen you to be by my side.” She moved easily with him as they crossed the threshold, and she took a moment to study the room.
Gideon blushed as he dipped his chin. “I’m honored,” he whispered, appreciating the warmth that radiated from his chest. He became easy to guide, very sensitive to her directions by the pressure of her fingers once she headed out.
She leaned over, her eyes the only indication as to whom she was discussing. “That is Coran Orof and his wife, Zirawa. Bolian Ambassadors. Nice people, but they’ll end up snogging in the middle of the dance floor before the night’s end.” Marielle gently pulled him along the edge of the ballroom. “And over there, we have the Ferengi delegation. Stay away from Daimon Tegam. He’ll take anything you say and turn it into a verbal agreement if he thinks he’ll benefit. Even Papa won’t enter into a contract with him.”
“I think they will be easy enough to avoid,” Gideon murmured quietly as his gaze followed her, noting the dignitaries in attendance. He was searching for someone in particular, and Renard as well. The heat within the space had yet to become stifling, but the mass of people and noise was enough to heighten his senses as he became hyper-aware of their surroundings.
“Mariëlle! Sei bella come sempre! (You’re beautiful as always!)”
At the loud proclamation, the chief researcher turned. She smiled widely and her hand slipped away from Gideon’s elbow so she could embrace the elder gentleman that had greeted her. She lifted her heels off the ground, placing a chaste kiss on each of his cheeks. “Signore Alessandro!” Her head turned, her smile only growing wider as she laughed brightly at the elder woman that stood by his side and she repeated the physical greeting. “Signora Gianna!”
“Come stai? (How are you?)” Gianna asked as she appraised the young woman, her head nodding in approval over the gown and the overall look of health of the diminutive woman before her. She was much taller than the man by her side, slim with a gentle face and silver hair. Her gown was a dark burgundy, modest lines that highlighted her femininity.
“Non abbiamo mai vediamo! (We never see you!)” lamented Alessandro as he waggled his finger in Marielle’s direction. The shorter man was rotund, sporting the black tux with a red sash over his chest. “Certamente non dimenticarti di noi, ora che si viaggia le stelle. (Certainly you haven’t forgotten us, now that you travel the stars.)”
Gideon was quiet as he watched, his hands behind his back as he appreciated the Italian rolling from their tongues. As Marielle had asked, he had a smile on his lips at all times.
She giggled, her head shaking in response. “Non potrei mai dimenticare te. Il mio lavoro mi tiene così occupato. (I could never forget you. My job simply keeps me so busy.)” The researcher turned, her hand reaching out for Gideon, who stepped forward at her request. “Dove sono le mie buone maniere? (Where are my manners?)” Marielle giggled softly as her hand lightly squeezed his and found its way back into the crook of his elbow as Gideon stood beside her. “Signore Alessandro. Signora Gianna. Mi permetta di presentare una persona molto speciale. Gideon Salieri. (I’m pleased to introduce a very special person to you.)” She leaned towards Gideon, whispering lightly into his ear. “Alessandro and Gianna Moretti,” she revealed softly. “Ambassadors assigned to the Claudian System. Their son was just promoted and heads the weapons department of R&D.”
He’d leaned in a bit to nod as he was introduced before smiling brightly and offering his hand to the gentleman. “Signore, signora,” Gideon greeted after shaking Alessandro’s hand and placing a kiss upon Gianna’s knuckles. “Un piacere di fare la conoscenza di tali amici di Marielle di. (It’s a pleasure to meet friends of Marielle’s.)” A sparkling wink followed as he nodded toward the couple. “Capisco congratulazioni sono in ordine per tuo figlio. (I understand congratulations are in order for your son.)”
Alessandro beamed brightly as he stepped forward and clapped Gideon on the back with his hand. He was easily a head shorter than the security chief. “This one is very pretty, Marielle!” he boomed with a jovial laugh, his thick fingers coming up to pinch Gideon on the cheek. “Does he serve on that starship with you?”
“Alessandro!” chided Gianna as she pulled at her husband’s arm until he released Gideon’s cheek. She offered the Betazoid mix an apologetic look with a sheepish grin. “Mi dispiace. He just gets so excited sometimes.”
Gideon smiled as he raised his hand to show it was okay. “Va tutto bene, mia signora. Mi ricorda mio padre. (It’s quite alright, my lady. He reminds me of my father.)” The security officer chuckled quietly and then nodded toward Alessandro. “Yes, Marielle and I serve together on the Aldrin.”
“A fine vessel! A fine, fine vessel!” cheered Alessandro.
He stepped through the crowd, apologizing quietly to those that he had to squeeze past in order to reach the woman who had caught his eye. Cassius wore a crisp and well fitted tuxedo with a black bowtie. His shined black dress shoes clacked softly on the wooden ballroom floor. When he reached them, he smiled and cleared his throat. “Bon nuit, Mademoiselle Mariëlle.”
Her chin turned at the familiar voice and her smile could not be contained. “Ah- Monsieur Cassius,” she greeted warmly. “Tu l’as fait (You made it.)” Her eyes swept over his attire and she silently wondered why in the world she dared to invite him to the gala when he served only to tempt her. “Tu as l’air bien. (You look well.)” She chuckled softly. “Encore une fois, je vous ai simplement vu hier. (Then again, I did just see you yesterday.)”
“J'ai tué trois dragons et endigué une rivière inondée, mais rien ne pouvait m'empêcher d'être ici, (I slayed three dragons and dammed a flooding river but nothing could stop me from being here.)” he mused with a twinkle in his eyes. Cassius took her hand and gently pressed his lips to her knuckles. “Rien ne me gardera de toi, (Nothing will keep me from you.)” he whispered against her skin. He straightened and smile warmly.
A soft peal of laughter fell from her lips and she shook her head at him, a soft blush colouring her face at the light touch of his kiss on her fingers. “Ah- Où sont mes manières? (Ah- Where are my manners?)” she cleared her throat and motioned towards the ambassadors. “Ambassadors Alessandro and Gianna Moretti, of the Claudian System,” she paused to let them touch hands. Her fingers curled slightly within Gideon’s elbow and she smiled warmly up at the security chief. “And this is Gideon Salieri, a colleague on the Aldrin.” She turned her attention to Cassius as she motioned with her free hand to the man before them. “Cassius Majors. An antiquities dealer.”
Gideon had been staring at the man that approached them with curiosity. There was something so familiar about him that it nearly unnerved him. He reached to shake the man’s hand and nodded politely. “Cassius,” he greeted curtly.
The trader smiled disarmingly and didn’t allow the half-Bajoran to bait him. He relented with a less than powerful shake and withdrew his hand to keep from punching Gideon. Cassius turned his gaze toward the diminutive woman. “May I have this dance?” He offered his elbow and swept his other arm toward the dance floor.
Marielle smiled warmly at Cassius and nodded. “I’d love to,” she slid her hand from Gideon’s elbow and slid her fingers into the crook of the offered elbow. She turned to look at the security chief from over her shoulder. “I’ll be back soon,” she chuckled as she smiled at the ambassadors. “You’ll be sure to keep him entertained for me?” She didn’t have much chance to hear an answer as the antiquities dealer pulled her through the crowd.
“Ah! Mariëlle, you do find the most handsome men,” chuckled Gianna. She turned her attention to Gideon. “Now, young man. Do tell me about what you do on the Aldrin.”
Gideon watched Marielle briefly before turning his attention fully to the ambassadors. “Sono il capo della sicurezza e dei reparti tattici, mia signora. Supervisiono quasi una trentina di ufficiali, creo esercizi di allenamento. (I'm the head of the security and tactical departments, my lady. I oversee nearly thirty officers, create training exercises.)” Despite his unease for the trader, the half-Bajoran fell into comfortable conversation with the Italians. It felt good to speak freely in the language of his childhood.
Cassius smiled as he led Marielle in the steps of the dance, his movements graceful and light yet powerful and steadfast. “Je crains de manquer d'adjectifs qui rappellent votre beauté, mademoiselle, (I fear I’ll run out of adjectives that come close to describing your beauty.)” he offered her with a soft chuckle.
“You are quite the flatterer, aren’t you?” she laughed brightly, the joyful sound lifting over the orchestra. She found herself unable to keep from blushing. A hand remained in his while the other pinched at the skirt of her gown to keep from stepping on the hem. Just as she had been on Nordlingen, she was pleased to find him adept at leading her around the dance floor. Her steps were light and carefree, and she found herself able to trust that the trader wouldn’t step on her feet. There was joy in finding a dance partner who could actually command the movements.
“I simply cannot contain myself, my heart is bursting with joy.” He had noticed that she chose to wear the hairpin he’d gifted her and was delighted at how well it looked against her raven hair and olive complexion.
“Do try,” she chuckled to ease away the discomfort of her guilt. Eyes were on her, more so a certain pair of stunning cobalt irises. ‘I am not one to stray,’ she reminded herself. “I fear I need to remind you, yet again, that I am quite spoken for at the moment.” Marielle twirled under his lifting arm and her breath hitched slightly when she found herself pulled closer when she stepped into his receiving arm. Emerald irises grew dark as the heat of his body surrounded her. “How- How did your negotiations with my father go this morning?”
He dared to lean close enough and caress the tip of his nose over her smooth cheek. A silent but deep breath reminded him of the amalgamation of peonies, orchids, wild orange, and plum blossoms that soothed him completely. It was the afterthought of lavender that caused him to sigh quietly. “I could only pray to be here the moment you are not spoken for,” he whispered before directing her back into the steps of the dance. “I’m afraid I’ll be unable to trade with your father. He has no use for the antiques I have in stock.”
Her eyes fluttered at the ghost of a touch along her cheek and she bit back a groan of desire. ‘Why did I agree to dance with him again?’ Marielle counted slowly in her head, reciting the digits of pi to try and keep herself from falling into a swirling mess of desire. ‘Cause hot,’ reminded the angel and devil on her shoulders. ‘Not helping,’ she chastised herself. ‘Come on. He may be handsome and witty and smooth and hot and muscles- Gosh, there are muscles under that tux.’ She blinked as she lost her train of thought. ‘But- where’s the but-’ The devil on her shoulder chuckled darkly. ‘Behind him. You checked out his ass last night, remember? You wanted to bite it.’ “I’m a lost cause,” she muttered to herself. The diminutive woman shook her head at herself. “I mean- I’m sorry. I hope it isn’t too much of a disappointment for you.” She looked up at him from under her lashes, hoping against all hope that she’d find some semblance of self-control.
“You have more than made up for my failure at negotiations, mademoiselle.” He continued to hold her close, though at a socially respectable distance. His palm was warm against hers and he was sure that he would find his skin smoldering when he let her go. Cassius was unwilling to do so anytime soon. He was pleased to find that she was as resistant to ending their dance when they easily carried into the second song. Their conversation was easy and filled with light laughter. He learned of her as if he’d known nothing before and was less than forthcoming with his own background.
Despite the easy conversation with the Claudian ambassadors, Gideon couldn’t help his unease. His gaze constantly shifted over the dance floor to find that Marielle continued to entertain the trader. The half-Bajoran chuckled when Gianna quipped about the ostentatious decor. He was sure to ask for more details regarding their son so he could properly network. It became? more and more difficult to keep the smile on his features as the night progressed.