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A Beautiful Universe: It Began in Spring
A heavy and tired breath was pushed from her lungs with a deep huff. The air in the transporter room was the same as that in the jefferies tube, but from her perspective it was fresh and crisp. The panic subsided as she all but melted out of the jefferies tube and onto the floor, the kit she had dragged with her nearly dropping to the floor. The hatch closed quietly behind her as she tried to make herself small and unseen. Anxiety pulled at the very edges of her quickly diminishing reserve. ‘Just get through this mission, and- And then what? I’ll have to get through the jefferies tubes again just to get back to my quarters.’ Marielle nearly whined at the thought. She slowly pushed to her feet. There was a slight tremor to her hand as she smoothed away the loose strands of her hair and attempted to tuck them into the low ponytail that was tied by a bright red ribbon. She tugged at her uniform jacket and finally lowered to pick up the engineering kit. Quietly, she made her way to the console and did her best to ignore the questioning gaze from the transporter chief. So lost in her own thoughts that she failed to notice someone else was already waiting for the away team and had witnessed her arrival.
He frowned as he noticed the diminutive woman nearly fall to the floor of the transporter room before picking herself up. Gideon quickly pushed a small smile to his features and stepped toward Marielle with his hand offered to steady her. “Hey, are you okay?” he whispered to her. Concern was evident in his features but he kept his appearance pleasant to keep from alarming her. The security officer had been watching from afar and was quite troubled by what he’d witnessed.
Marielle blinked at the sound of his voice interrupting her thoughts. ‘When did he get here?’ She inwardly winced. ‘Crap. Is he another one?’ Her chin didn’t lift, but her gaze managed to steal a glance. Stunning cobalt irises caught her attention instantly. Had it not been for the panic that lingered in her limbs, she would have felt the fluttering in her stomach. The engineer gave him a weak smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. It was brief. “Yeah,” she managed before her gaze darted away.
He found he was unable to stop himself as he reached to gently caress his calloused fingertips over her temple. A stray tendril of raven hair had fallen from her ponytail and he tenderly guided it back behind her ear. A warm smile pulled at his features as he stared down at her. “You’re a terrible liar,” he mused quietly and with mirth in his tone. Gideon simply wanted to see her truly smile. A faint memory of her laugh pulled at his chest.
His touch had her tensing slightly, but she quickly realized it had been innocent. She’d been ready for him to start with lewd comments, as Fisher had done. A blush coloured her cheeks and she dared to meet his gaze once more. Her brows furrowed slightly in her confusion. ‘What was that?’ Marielle dared to hope that perhaps he didn’t believe the rumours Sen had started. ‘Don’t be stupid. Everyone believes those rumours. You should just transfer.’ She huffed indignantly, though she felt no such emotion. “Am not,” she argued pathetically. She took the phaser he offered. When their fingers brushed at the transfer, she wondered if he was as warm as his fingertips hinted.
Gideon lingered in her presence with a warm smile and his heart in his throat. He winked playfully as if to say ‘sure you’re not’ and chuckled softly as he tenderly gripped her arm in support. Without saying it, he was trying to tell her that he would look out for her as much as he could. His gaze shifted as he noticed Commander Ken Kennesaw and Lieutenant junior grade Kiki Zomaii stepping into the transporter room. The half-Betazoid offered Marielle another smile before stepping away to offer the other officers their phasers.
Throughout their visit to the Borg ship, Gideon inadvertently remained close to Marielle to keep an eye on her. It was nice to see her interacting with the children and he enjoyed the hints of her smile that he could see. His attention got diverted to the mission and by the time they returned to the Hermes, he had lost track of her. The security officer frowned as he made his way to the conference room for debriefing. He knew better than to ask ALICE where the engineer was. His gaze shifted over the gathered officers as he hoped to see the diminutive woman.
The meeting came and went in a blur. She had lingered in the conference room for as long as possible, hoping with all hope that her commanding officers and his guests would leave and allow her to have a moment to breathe before attempting the journey through the jefferies tubes once more. When it became clear that she would have no such luck, Marielle quietly moved around the table and opened the hatch to disappear into the inner workings of the ship. She failed to notice the security officer following behind her and she paused when she nearly ran into a wall of muscles. She blinked and her gaze slowly moved up his chest, his neck, and finally found the depths of his stunning blues. It took her several blinks to realize she was staring. She frowned slightly and shifted to one side, closed the hatch and turned to start her trek. Her body, however, protested and she found her legs unwilling to move as a tremor moved through her.
“Hold on,” he called to her quietly as he reached for her arm. When she moved into the Jeffries tube, he found himself pulled along with her because he couldn’t seem to let go of her bicep. “Ensign,” he tried again to get her attention. “Why are you taking the tubes?” Curiosity got the better of him and decorum kept him from calling her by name - they hadn’t even really been introduced yet. Something was slightly haunting in her jewel green irises and he wanted to see the laughter he recalled so vividly within the emerald hues.
Marielle frowned. ‘Why are you even in here? Why are you following me? Stalker. Probably heard the lies and doesn’t want to seem like a jerk before he asks.’ She didn’t turn to look at him as she dipped and prepared herself to crawl through the tight space. She shrugged his touch away from her arm. A shiver of fear moved through her and she swallowed her whimper. “Exercise?” she attempted. It was pathetic even to her own ears, but exhaustion pulled at every bit of her. Weeks spent in the tight spaces of the ship had her constantly tense and emotionally drained. There was nothing left to offer a proper response.
He followed her without question, though there was some small part of him that enjoyed watching her hips move from side to side in front of him. “The look on your face when you come and go doesn’t match with that,” Gideon argued as he moved through the tube. He had an inkling that ALICE had something to do with what was happening, but he would have no way to confirm it unless Marielle revealed it.
Her jaw clenched. “Why are you even following me? You could have easily taken the doors and the turbolift.” Her tone was flat and haggard. She wasn’t sure what he hoped to gain, but she wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about his presence - whether she welcomed it or found it a hinderance. She wanted to traverse the jefferies tube without making more of a spectacle of herself. She didn’t need anyone witnessing one of her panic attacks. ‘Just something else they could use against me.’ She huffed softly to herself.
“I was going to escort you out of the conference room,” he admitted quickly. “But you disappeared.” As far as he knew, ALICE couldn’t refuse him entry throughout the ship, so Marielle couldn’t be denied if she walked with someone. Gideon frowned as he considered the irritation from the diminutive woman and he glanced back toward the panel they’d come from. He shook his head and focused on her features, her silky dark hair, the subtle curve in the corners of her eyes, her perfectly formed lips.
She was silent as they crawled through the first set of tubes and she slid into the intersecting junction. A heavy sigh of relief fell from her lips and she used his presence as a distraction. She purposely kept her eyes from the ladder and dared to keep her eyes on him. Dull jewel green irises stared past his eyes to appear as if she could manage to meet his gaze. “Why?” Marielle forced herself to take slow and steadying breaths as she tried to push away her anxiety. ‘Not here. Not with him here.’
It took everything in him not to reach forward and touch her arm, her cheek, anything to help calm her. “Because this isn’t normal.” Gideon leaned back against the side of the junction to give her space, hoping that it would help the rise of tension that he felt from her. “And-” The words stuck in his throat as he started to feel a little anxious himself. ‘This is hardly the time, but you have her attention.’ He winced with preemptive disappointment. “I enjoyed-” ‘Abort! Abort!’ “Uh- We need to be helping Doctor Swift.”
Marielle could only stare at him, her gaze shifting from the bridge of his nose to finally his eyes. ‘I’ve never seen such pristine blues. How the hell are they so clear?’ She raised a brow but said nothing for a long while as she lost herself in thought. ‘Okay- So no blatant innuendo. No request for a date, so maybe he’s not interested? That’s good right? That means he doesn’t care about the rumours.’ He seemed nice enough. Worry that the sentient computer program would punish the security officer for attempting to befriend her quickly took hold of her senses. Finally, she pointed to the left. “If you’re heading to Security, it’s that way.”
His chin turned as he glanced in the direction that she pointed before blinking back toward the young engineer. He minutely shook his head. “I want you to come out of these tubes and let me escort you,” Gideon revealed easily. His hand reached toward her, his fingers curled slightly in request for hers. There was no care to the rumors, or being seen with Marielle. As he saw it, no one else was going to be friendly to her and everyone needed at least one person who looked out for them. The half-Betazoid knew he could be that person for her.
She was nearly swayed as she stared at his offered hand. His tone was so kind. She gave him an apologetic smile. “I’ve got to go that way,” she explained as she pointed down the ladder. She grabbed hold of the rails and prepared to slide down. Gideon’s presence had been enough to calm the panic for the duration of their conversation, but she was becoming keenly aware that she was lingering far longer than normal. Sooner or later, anxiety would take hold before she even realized it. “I’m good. Really. Thanks.” Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the ladder and she turned to keep from staring at him.
He dropped his hand and fought to keep from frowning. He was marginally confused on why she would refuse him - it was certainly not something he was used to hearing. “I just want to make things easier for you.” Gideon tilted his chin slightly as he watched her fidgeting at the ladder. He knew there was something wrong with this picture. His gaze lifted briefly as if to glare accusingly at the sentient computer. He sighed quietly as he returned his eyes to the diminutive woman. She was like a tiny fluffball kitten curled on the highest branch of a tree and too scared to even mewl pathetically for help. ‘I’ll be your fireman,’ he murmured to himself.
Her eyes fell shut and she sighed softly. Her chin turned so she could glance at him from over her shoulder. The smile she offered him was small but genuine. “I know,” she managed softly. “I appreciate it, but I don’t want anyone getting in trouble on account of me. It may be best that you’re not seen with me. I’m this ship’s version of the plague at the moment.” She stepped onto the rung of the ladder. She silently lamented the timing. Another time, she would have rather enjoyed speaking to him.
“Stab a guy in the heart,” he mused with a small smile as he relaxed further back against the wall of the junction.
A blush crept into her features and she turned to hide her face from him. “I’m not really someone you want to be associated with at the moment, Ensign,” she repeated. “Really.”
Gideon leaned forward and his smile grew as he dared her to look at him. When she didn’t, he chuckled quietly. “I’ll let you go,” he relented. His natural suave burst through his brain and he dipped his chin slightly as he stared at her. “But I want you to know that if you’re the plague, I want to be sick.” Once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. “If you’re trouble, I’ll be the capital T.” The Bajoran mix nearly beamed at the words, believing that they would sway the diminutive woman eventually.
Marielle could only sputter. ‘Oh my gods. That’s a damn line and a half,’ she laughed inwardly. ‘Did he even hear himself?’ Still, the flush that had coloured her cheeks with a hint of pink grew warmer to colour her face bright red. She was sure the very tips of her ears were steaming with her blush. She let her feet move to the sides and she slid down several decks to escape him. She was about to enter the appropriate jefferies tube when she realized that she was essentially being rude. She stopped and stared up, calling out to him. “Thanks for the company!” For the briefest of moments, there was a brightness that invaded her tone. She crawled into the small pathway before he could see her. She smacked the side of her face lightly as she tried to will away the warmth on her cheeks. “That did not just happen,” she muttered to herself.
“Be careful!” he called after her with a smile as he caught the hint of her true self. Gideon waited until she disappeared before sighing and turning to make his way toward Security. “So did that go well?” he mused to himself after pulling himself out of the Jeffries tubes. He leaned against the wall and panted softly at the unexpected exertion. The Bajoran mix shrugged to himself and made his way into the department so he could focus on work.
Copyright 2018. 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.