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Authors' Note: This is meant to take place prior to the sim on 26th February, 2018 (All that Glitters).
AUTHORS' NOTE/WARNING: Alludes to adult situations. It is designed to be read by adults and not intended for children. Caution is advised if any of the above is offensive. WARNING TO THE WARNING: You've been warned.
Cana Graves watched from her usual seat at the game table. Dark chocolate hues followed the research chief as she disappeared into the Helios kitchen and returned with a platter in hand to put on the food table. She turned and nudged her boyfriend lightly with her elbow. “Seriously, go talk to Gideon,” she hissed softly, careful that no one would hear her. “Make sure she’s okay.”
Ryan Winnetka nearly spilled the beer that he’d been sipping from and he furrowed his brows at the nurse. “You remember what happened last time I talked to Sal,” the Chicago native warned in a whisper.
“Yeah, now fix it.” The brunette frowned. In the month and a half since her boyfriend had revealed the conversation with the half-Bajoran, she hadn’t seen much of the researcher. In fact, from what she was able to discover, the diminutive woman had subtly isolated herself. As far as Cana could tell, Marielle worked, returned home, and had dates with Gideon. That was it. There were no bake nights and she appeared at game night to be social, but rarely spoke. Parvenu and Thiross had noted how their department head had refused to join them for lunch, choosing instead to meet with her fiance. The nurse couldn’t remember the last time she heard the small woman’s signature laugh. While there was laughter, it was a whisper of what it was.
The glass bottle dropped harshly on the table and he sighed in his exasperation. His relationship with Gideon had become strained since he returned from Askyria V. Ryan pushed his beer away from him and pushed to his feet. He grumbled quietly about being nosy and shoved his hands in his pockets as he made his way to the bar. Winnetka stood by a barstool as he watched the door for the half-Bajoran to appear.
The security chief backed out of the kitchen and held the door with his backside so Marielle could enter freely for the last tray. He smiled after her and stepped forward to let the door swing closed. Gideon held the largest one on his shoulder, balancing boneless chicken bites in several sauces, vegetable spears, and a couple bowls of creamy dips. He moved easily around the bar and headed for the table.
“Hey, Sal,” the Chicago native nodded once in the half-Bajoran’s direction. He walked alongside his friend kept a small smile to his features to appear at ease.
He glanced briefly to the man beside him and nodded. “Ryan.” There wasn’t necessarily animosity between them, but the friendship was certainly not the same. Since being informed of everything he was doing wrong to Marielle via the Chicago native, Gideon had kept the man at arm’s length. “Ready to lose all your holodeck time?”
Winnetka chuckled and shrugged. “Dunno. Cana’s been giving me lessons.” The retort was poorly delivered and the Chicago native hesitated slightly. He caught Cana’s eye and he rolled his gaze towards the ceiling as he considered the stupid things he would do for her. “How have things been, Sal? It’s been a while.” He slid his hands into his pockets.
The half-Bajoran set the tray on the table and started setting the dishes in place so the large serving tray could be removed. He glanced toward Ryan and shifted his gaze to find Cana watching them. A low murmur passed his lips as he shook his head and straightened once the tray was empty. “Things are fine.” Gideon bit the inside of his lip to keep from making a snide remark about the nurse sending her boyfriend over to get dirt for her rumor mill. “You?” He stepped away to return the serving tray to the bar.
He followed after his best friend. “Uh- Truth be told, Cana’s been kinda riding my ass about Ellie,” he admitted after a soft sigh. “She’s- Well, people have noticed some stuff and Ellie’s just been so quiet lately. Just wanted to make sure things are okay.”
His brows furrowed as he glanced over his shoulder toward Ryan. Gideon stepped behind the bar and set the tray on the shelf that he’d gotten it from and he straightened to face the Chicago native. His hands rested on the bartop and he leaned forward slightly. “We’re fine. Cana’s a big girl, she can talk to El herself.”
“Well, that’s- That’s kinda the thing, Sal,” Ryan ran his hands roughly through his hair, shifting the soft brown strands. “No one is really seeing Ellie these days.” He kept his voice even and he attempted to keep his own suspicions from colouring his tone. “She goes to work and then goes back to your quarters. I mean, the only time anyone ever sees her out of uniform is if you guys are on your way to the holodeck or the Lounge.” Gentle brown eyes studied his friend’s face. “We see you in the Apollo Lounge without her from time to time, but no one ever gets to see her alone. We just- Did we piss her off or something?”
Gideon nodded toward Bihraos and took the bottle of dark beer that was set on the counter for him. He shrugged toward Ryan and took a drink before answering. “Not as far as I know.” The half-Bajoran kept his thoughts to himself. ‘Maybe she realized that it was pretty shitty to be talking to everyone about me except me. So now she’s not talking to anyone.’ He lifted the bottle to take another pull as he considered how he felt about the prospect.
The Chicago native turned and grumbled under his breath when Cana gave him a ‘Don’t come back until you get to the bottom of this’ look. Again, he wondered why he was so easily swayed by the woman. He missed his friendship with Gideon, but he couldn’t entirely say he liked what he was seeing either. But, he wasn’t sure if it was simply the normal ebb and flow of the half-Bajoran’s relationship with the researcher - they always had a strange issue with timing. Ryan turned his chin to look once more at the security chief. He attempted another tactic. “Cool- So, would it be okay if I asked Ellie to talk to that trader friend of hers? I was hoping to get Cana something special for our anniversary.”
He bristled and gripped the bottle tighter in his hand. Gideon pushed off the bar and walked from behind it. “Ask away,” he nearly growled. “I’m not keeping you from talking to her or her from talking to you.” The half-Bajoran paused and turned back, to signal Bihraos. Once the Andorian approached, he ordered an old fashioned for Marielle and leaned on a barstool near Ryan. His gaze shifted back to the Chicago native. “What were you thinking of? I might be able to find it.”
Ryan cleared his throat and quickly attempted to think of an answer. “Uh- Was kinda hoping to keep that between me and Ellie?” There was something in mind, but he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know quite yet. With Jonathan Battey’s marriage ending miserably and rumours circulating about Gideon’s and Marielle’s relationship, the Chicago native didn’t want anything possibly changing his mind. He shrugged. “You know how it is.” He waved once at his friend before disappearing into the kitchen. He took a moment to watch as the diminutive woman carefully pluck edible flowers and place them in each serving of chocolate mousse. “Hey, Ellie. That looks pretty fancy.”
The diminutive woman jumped slightly then tensed. She hadn’t expected anyone to find her in the kitchen - she’d actually expected everyone to enjoy the start of their game. Marielle’s gaze met Ryan’s only briefly before her eyes darted away. “Hey Ryan,” she greeted softly. Emerald irises settled once more on the small collection of flowers, slender fingers pulling the small blossoms free from the stem.
He glanced over his shoulder to see through the window in the door whether or not Gideon was watching. Ryan shook his head and stepped closer so he could speak to her in a lowered voice. As he opened his mouth to ask his question, he wondered which would be better to ask first - his actual concern about her well-being, or the secondary query after the trader friend of hers. “Uh, Ellie.” He reached up and rubbed at the back of his head. “How have you been?” The Chicago native explained quickly. “Cana’s been kinda worried that she hasn’t seen or heard from you lately- and so am I.”
There was the slightest pull of her shoulders that had her almost slumping, but she straightened. She pushed a small smile to her lips and nodded, though Marielle didn’t lift her eyes. “Fine,” she answered softly. She twirled the flower by its stem. “Just busy, I guess. Tell her- Tell her I’m sorry.” Since her argument with Gideon, she’d spent most of her time tending to him, hoping to build up his confidence. She hoped her presence chased away his self-doubt. It didn’t leave her time to speak to their friends. It seemed to help ease his jealousy and his fears, so the diminutive woman thought it was best to pull back from her usual bubbly personality. She couldn’t remember the last time she spoke to anyone in depth.
“Are you sure?” Ryan looked again toward the bar and took another step closer to the diminutive woman. His voice was near a whisper. “We’re really worried- you haven’t been baking, there’s no music in your office.” The security officer furrowed his brows. “He’s not- hitting you? Is he?” Gideon’s jealousy was palpable at times and the behavior both he and the researcher were exhibiting was pretty classic to an abusive relationship.
She became tense and she kept her voice low. “No,” she assured him, her voice squeaking a bit. It was nearly a truth. He pushed her from time to time, but she was simply smaller than him. She was sure he’d never meant to harm her. “I promise- Never. He would never.” Her tongue swept over her lips and she turned her chin enough to make sure that Gideon wasn’t standing nearby. She met the Chicago native’s worried gaze briefly, her own softening as she turned her attention to the small plates in front of her. “I just- I just made a choice. You know how he is. He gets jealous and- Honestly, I screwed up. The Jane thing and- I shouldn’t have told Cana anything. I embarrassed him and- I’m just trying to make up for it. He seems happier though- So, I must be doing something right.”
He watched her closely for several minutes as he thought on everything that Marielle had said. Ryan finally shook his head and sighed quietly. “Cana really misses you. I’ve heard Parv and Thir do too. We all miss your laugh, the bounce in your step.” The Chicago native smiled sadly at her. “But if you feel this is what you have to do, I’ll let Cana know.”
She nodded with her appreciation. “Thanks Ryan.” Marielle turned her head and her eyes focused on her task.
“Bit off subject, Ellie,” he began, hesitating to continue. His weight shifted from one foot to the other and he shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m looking for something- for Cana- for our anniversary.” Ryan’s lips formed a thin line and he raised a brow toward the diminutive woman. “I overheard that your trader friend could help me get it. Any chance you could get in contact with him for me?”
Her jaw clenched and her eyes closed for the briefest of moments. A wave of melancholy crashed over her. “I, uh, sorry- I actually haven’t spoken to Cassius for over a month,” she revealed. She couldn’t help the tremor in her voice. Marielle rather missed the trader, with his easy laugh and his biting wit. It had been a rough day when she had informed him that she couldn’t speak to him, that she was choosing her relationship over friendship.
Ryan was speechless for several moments, though finally he considered that it was in line with Marielle not speaking to any of her other friends. He scratched at the back of his neck and shrugged. “I’m- sorry to hear that.” The Chicago native tried one last time. “I was really looking forward to surprising Cana with something really specific- I don’t know where else to look.”
Her gaze remained on her task, mindlessly removing flowers from stems to place them prettily on the surface of each serving of chocolate moose. “Sorry, Ryan,” she whispered. “I wish I could help, but- Gideon really didn’t like Cassius. I don’t want to upset him. I’m sure whatever you give her will be wonderful.”
He stared at her with raised brows. “You’re willing to give up all your other relationships for one person? I get that he’s good in bed, but- That’s insane, Ellie.”
Her jaw tightened. “Look, I get that you want to get her something, but you don’t need to be insulting.” Marielle sighed softly and straightened. She looked at him and lowered her hands to rest on the edge of the counter. “Gideon’s the only one who’s been able to stand me this long. It’s got nothing to do with the sex. I would love it if I could get one night off-” She groaned. Even that sounded horrible to her own ears. “He’s a good guy and he deserves to be happy after the crappy childhood he’s had. I’m sure this won’t last much longer. I just need him to see that I’m not going anywhere. That’s all. Once that happens- Once he realizes he’s worth everything, it’ll be back to normal.”
Ryan took a step back and blinked at the diminutive woman. He continued to stare at her for several more moments before he shook his head. “I wish you could hear yourself, Ellie,” the Chicago native said mournfully. He turned and made his way out of the kitchen without a second glance. As soon as his brown eyes met Cana’s chocolate, his shoulders slumped and he realized that he hadn’t really accomplished much. Now Gideon and Marielle were mad at him. “Frak,” he muttered as he made his way to his girlfriend. Once he reached her, he picked up his beer and lifted it to chug the rest of the contents. He winced when he found it warm but guzzled the brew anyway. He fell into his chair when the nurse nearly pulled his arm off.
“Well?” she all but hissed. Cana looked at him expectantly, hope in her eyes that she would soon be seeing the diminutive woman. She really missed Marielle.
He all but dropped the empty bottle on the large table and shook his head sadly. “I screwed up again,” he all but groaned. Ryan reached up and rubbed his hand down his face. “Now Ellie’s mad at me too.” The Chicago native sighed and shook his head. “She’s basically isolating herself from everyone to show Sal that he’s worthy or something.”
“But- But that’s stupid as hell.” She kept her voice a whisper, and she watched Marielle exit the kitchen to deliver a tray of dessert to the food table. “She’s smarter than that. Why the hell is she acting like Suzy Homemaker? Gideon wouldn’t want that.”
Ryan shrugged. “Apparently he does. He says everything is fine between them.” He sighed heavily and shook his head again. He was still having a hard time comprehending how the bubbly researcher had changed so drastically. “Sal’s a good guy- he’s my best friend. But- he’s not really that nice of a guy. I don’t get what she sees as worth all that.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. Cana said nothing as she watched the couple. She couldn’t help but frown as Marielle offered the barest hint of a laugh and as Gideon smiled with pride. “I don’t know,” she whispered. Her hand found his and her fingers tightened in a light squeeze. “But, I guess all we can do is hope they figure it out.” She straightened and grabbed the deck of worn cards. “Alright. Let’s play,” she announced.