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By Candlelight. SL by LtCdr Marielle Deniaud and FstLt Gideon Salieri

USS Aldrin Lounge


by First Lieutenant Gideon Salieri & Lieutenant Commander Marielle Deniaud
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Stardate: 1707.31
By Candlelight

Her favourite season in the Cotswolds - anywhere really - was always autumn.  The rural area of south central English sported rolling hills and grasslands harboured thatched medieval-like villages, churches, and manors.  Her estate was several kilometers outside of Somerset and she had spent a majority of her childhood on the large grounds.  Unless she visited the familiar brick farmhouse of the local sheep herder so that her old canine - who actually belonged to the herder - Gaea, could run over the rolling hills in pursuit of the fluffy animals.  So, it seemed only natural to introduce Archimedes to his grandmother’s home.  “Hot in the night.  Cold in the morning.  The spirit alive is calling my name,” she sang easily, her head leaning to one side.  “The healer inside will pray for the lonely.  Remember the time you stole me away.”

It had been a short visit with his grandmother, but the time was well spent.  Gideon returned to the Aldrin and was not at all surprised to find it nearly a ghost ship.  He remained in casual dress as he walked through the empty corridors.  Something pulled him toward the holodecks.  The security chief sighed softly as he considered what was ahead of the crew.  His talk with Commander Nazir had done nothing to ease his anxiety and his only consolation was that Marielle would be staying.  In the same breath, it was his biggest fear that he would not be able to protect her.  The half-Bajoran had talked in length with his grandmother about the engineer.

With the ship fairly empty and with no work to be done, Marielle had retreated to the holodeck to immerse herself in the illusion of her old comforts.  She sat to one side of the large farm table in the homey country kitchen, complete with its brick hearth with the familiar black AGA oven.  Wooden countertops were clean and free of clutter, but a pot was at the ready on the stove.  At her feet, Archimedes rested on his stomach.  The young puppy was exhausted after the two hours he’d spent running after the simulated sheep.  A soft melody escaped her as emerald eyes focused on the potato in her hand that spun at her command while she held the paring knife in the other.  The peel dropped onto the pile that sat on the open newspaper.  “You didn’t know me, but once in my veins, you had a whole but nothing to say.  You got it all now.  The spirit alive is calling my name.”

He approached the farmhouse with his hands in his pockets.  His gaze moved over the surrounding countryside as his heels clacked quietly on the stone path.  Gideon pulled one hand from his pocket to turn the knob and step into the house.  He had come upon the engineer in a similar setting once before and a smile hinted at his features with the remembrance.  Cobalt searched the space - spotting the damp coat that hung on the coat rack and the muddy boots to the side - as he made his way toward the sound of her voice.

The blue and white checkered head scarf kept her hair from falling over her face as she worked, the dark strands let down to cascade over her shoulders instead of being pulled up into a ponytail.  A short single chain was wrapped low around the slender column of her neck, a single emerald centered over the dip between her collarbones.  The capped sleeves of her dark green dress had slipped off her shoulders, but with her hands dirty, she couldn’t adjust them and the black straps of her lace undergarment remained flush against her skin.  The single wooden beaded stud decorated her ears, the polished and pristinely stained wood shimmered in the candlelight that lit the kitchen.  “I don’t know what you do, but it’s making me better.  Can we lay down, lay down together?”  Mezzo soprano grew strong as she dropped the newly peeled potato and reached for another.  The paring knife pierced into the skin, and the root vegetable was rotated carefully under the still blade.  

He stood in the doorway to the kitchen with his hands in his pockets and one ankle crossed over the other.  Cobalt watched while he remained in silence to observe Marielle as she worked.  Gideon had been afraid that the engineer would be unable to return to the Aldrin after what had transpired with her mother and the whole dissertation, but he was genuinely relieved to see that she was still listed on the roster.  His gaze drifted over her bared shoulders and he thoughts drifted to another time when he might have sought to kiss her neck.  The security chief smiled when he recalled that he’d had the opportunity when the security and engineering departments gathered at the mountain chalet.

She was unaware of Gideon, her attention focused on her work.  When she finished peeling the final vegetable, she pulled the newspaper to the side and began to roughly chop the vegetables she’d peeled.  “I’m-a take you like a drug.  Can you take me to heaven?  Can you love, can we love-  Can we love-  can we love forever?”  A small curl to her lips pulled her features in a serene smile while she sang.  “Cause I want you.  I want you.  I want you medicine man.”  Once she’d finished, the knife was placed on the far table and she pushed her chair back.  She lifted the wooden cutting board, her hips swaying slightly as she padded barefooted to the stove.  “I don’t know what you do, but it’s making me better.  Can we lay down- lay down together?  But, I’m-a take you like a drug.  Can you take me to heaven?  Can you love, can we love-  Can we love?  Can we love forever?”

‘I think we are and just don’t know it yet.’  The half-Betazoid hummed softly at his thought and his chin dipped as he tore his gaze away from the woman.  There was a brief moment in which he chastised himself for projecting his own desires to the engineer.  ‘However you want me,’ he reminded himself.  Gideon cleared his throat gently as he straightened and entered the workspace.  “Ciao El,” he greeted her softly.

The engineer jumped slightly, the words dying on her tongue as she was shocked out of her reverie.  Her body maneuvered to keep the cubed vegetables from falling off the wooden cutting board.  A relieved giggle tumbled from her lips escaped her when she succeeded.  “Gideon, you surprised me.”  She straightened, the wooden board held by both hands, and looked at him.  There was a moment of hesitation as she looked at him.  He had simply gone to visit his family after the incident with Erik in the holodeck, when he’d confirmed what she had already known.  A serene smile settled on her features as she reminded herself that they were friends above all else.  “When did you get back?”  She turned and faced the pot.  She turned on the stove and threw some oil into the cookware.

“An hour ago,” he answered with a small smile.  He lifted his hands from his pockets and let his fingers caress over her bare shoulders while he stood behind her.  Gideon watched over her shoulder as she threw cubes of beef into the hot oil and squeezed gently at her upper arms.  Her warmth radiated through his hands, up his arms, and settled in his chest.  His thoughts were filled with calm joy at seeing the engineer and muted elation that she was remaining on board the Aldrin.  “What can I do to help?” he offered quietly.

A pleasant shiver moved through her and her chin dipped to her chest to hide her blush.  He’d always been comfortable with keeping physically close, and she’d thought she’d grown accustomed to it until recently.  Every touch had sent warm tingles through her limbs and a flurry of flutterings in her stomach.  She wasn’t sure if i was because he’d been more forthcoming with his intentions or simply because she could no longer lie to herself.  Marielle was only sure she’d been acting like the giggly enamoured schoolgirl.  “Pick out a red wine?” she managed after wetting her lips.  “Something that works for a stew.”  She lifted her chin and turned her head so she could look up at him from over her shoulder.  It seemed oddly natural to have him there.

He couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips.  Her warmth drew him closer and he inhaled deeply of her fruit and floral amalgamation.  Gideon let his fingers fall from her skin as he hummed in agreement and stepped back to make his way to the modest wine rack.  The Bajoran mix took his time to look over the varieties and vintages that were available.  The selection was small but he found a Catena Malbec that would suffice.  He picked up two wine glasses.  

When he stepped away, it was as if she could breathe again.  The engineer stared at the brick backsplash and mentally chastised herself for being so easily distracted.  ‘Come on, Ellie.  Nothing’s different.  Just-  Friends.  You can only be friends.’  Suddenly, she was well aware of the slipped capped sleeves of her dress and she pulled them up to rest on her shoulders once more.  The browned beef was scooped out of the pot and poured some more oil into the cookware before throwing in onions and garlic.

His gaze moved over the space and he leaned back slightly to look into the next space for a dining room.  Gideon straightened before he turned to face the engineer.  “Shall I set the table or would you like to pack it up and head for the hatch?”  The wine glasses clinked together gently with the motion of his hand as he animated the choices.

She considered the offer as her hand maneuvered the wooden spoon.  “I had intended to eat here with Archie,” she revealed.  The engineer looked back to stare at the slumbering pup.  Her eyes fell to the farm table.  She’d planned to eat at the table in the kitchen, but that was before Gideon had appeared.  “He had a long day.”  Turning her attention back to the pot, Marielle motioned to the dining room.  “Candles and matches are in the buffet cabinet.”

The security chief made his way into the room that adjoined the kitchen and he hummed to himself as he set the wine and glasses on the table.  “That was a backhanded way to ask,” he murmured to himself.  Gideon straightened and walked to the threshold between the two spaces and leaned against the wooden frame.  “I kind of barged in on your plans,” he started quietly as he watched the engineer.  “Would you like me to stay?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she chuckled at him.  “Why wouldn’t I want you to stay?”  The engineer threw the beef back into the pot and looked back at Gideon.  “Do you happen to have that wine?”

“Am I pouring you a glass or is it for the stew?”

“Stew.”  She began to throw vegetables into pot, scraping at the bottom.  Marielle hummed quietly to herself, her hips swaying from side to side as the melody filled her.

At her answer, the half-Bajoran shook his head and pushed off the frame to make his way back to the wine rack.  He picked up an open bottle of bordeaux and brought the wine to the engineer.  “The malbec is actually decent, this is good enough for cooking.”  He pulled the stopper from the mouth of the bottle and lifted to add some of the earthy red to the stew at Marielle’s direction.

She stirred as he poured the wine into the pot.  One hand held the handle of the copper cookware and the other pushed the wooden spoon to scrape the bottom.  “It’ll take at least two hours for this to cook.  We can chat in the sitting room by the fire.”  Once he’d emptied the entire bottle, she turned off the stove, stepped back, and opened the door to the AGA oven.  She covered the pot and placed it into the oven carefully.  The door was closed carefully and she patted her hand clean.  Smiling up at him, she motioned to the fridge and the vegetables that decorated the counters.  “If you’re very hungry, I can make you an appetizer.  Or, I could bake the bread I’m proofing.”

He gave her an appreciative smile and shook his head at the offer.  “Not that hungry,” Gideon assured her as he set the empty wine bottle onto the counter by the sink.  He crossed the kitchen and opened one of the windowed cupboards to pull out plates and bowls.  “Go relax, I’ll join you with the wine.”  The security chief turned his chin to wink at the engineer over his shoulder.

Marielle clapped her hands twice, the action causing Archimedes to jump awake.  “Ici, mon amour (Come, my love),” she commanded as she made her way towards the living room.  Although it was still technically early, the holodeck had set the time for the early evening.  The sun had started to set and the room was covered in shadows.  It would only be a matter of time before it was too dark to see.  She moved quickly to gather the old matches from the nearest drawer and stood by the candelabra, striking the head against the tinder box.  She lit the three taper candles then blew out the match, which she left on the surface of the console table.  A soft glow filled the quaintly decorated room.  The tall hearth of the fireplace was covered in ash from use.  She lifted the hem of her skirt before falling to her knees.  She adjusted the coals before placing a few new logs over the cast iron grate.  

He made several trips to be sure the table was completely set with silverware and napkins.  Gideon gathered the bottle of wine and the two glasses to join Marielle once he’d finished.  He approached the brick hearth and set everything on the surface.  He knelt beside her and held the bottle between his knees while he worked the cork.

She leaned back and stared at him with a smile.  For a second, her eyes dipped to the bottle as he gently popped the cork.  “Did you want to do this?  I don’t mind, but I’ve done it plenty of times.  It’s not something everyone does, but it’s satisfying lighting a fire by hand.”  She turned and pulled open the drawer, pulling out a knife with a wooden hilt.  She grabbed a smaller log, setting it on its side and began scraping slivers from the wood.  Curls fell onto the brick.

The half-Bajoran replaced the cork into the wine bottle after pouring them both a glass of the Malbec.  He was grinning as he looked toward Marielle and nodded.  “I can,” he answered easily.  When she passed the knife and log to him, he turned the piece of wood in his hand to inspect it.  He settled the log into his arm and pushed the blade of the knife through the soft wood to create longer shavings.  The cuts were meticulous and precise.

The small pile of shavings she’d managed before passing off the task to Gideon was placed on the log within the fireplace and she slid the box of matches to the security chief.  “How was your visit to your grandmother?”  The engineer dusted her hands clean of ash, soot, and wood splinters.  Her feet pulled along the floor, her hands smoothing out the dress over her legs as her knees moved to press against her chest.  Her chin rested on her knees as she watched him.

Once he’d created enough tinder, he leaned forward to place the log into the firebox.  Gideon hummed softly in response to her question and the grin on his features never faltered while he pushed the large splinters into place.  “Pretty well,” he replied with fondness.  “Adrianna brought the kids over and we went to the beach.”  He turned his head to watch her with a smile.  “My niece and nephew,” he explained.  “Rosaria and Matteo.”  His attention returned to the fireplace and he struck the match before placing it within the bed of kindling they had created.

She smiled as she imagined Gideon being carefree on the beach with his family.  Marielle reached for her glass of wine, silent as she took thoughtful sips.  She watched the first sparks of the fire as the flames burnt at the tinder to heat the larger logs.  “That sounds lovely.  Build any sandcastle?”  Her feet slid along the short haired rug and stretched out in front of her.  Her head turned as the shetland sheepdog settled beside her with his head on her lap.  A gentle smile pulled at her features and she ran her fingertips over the top of his head.

“We built starships,” he revealed with an adoring smile.  Gideon chuckled quietly at the memory and nodded his head.  The Bajoran mix remained close to the fire to tend to it.  He shifted from sitting on his legs to settle with his legs crossed underneath him.

“Ambitious,” she giggled before sipping her wine.  Marielle continued to gently run her fingers along her pup’s head and the scruff of his neck.  “You didn’t miss anything here.  Met some of the new crew members, had a few meetings with Nazir.”  She took a longer sip of wine.  “Honestly, it’s been a bit boring.  Everyone’s off enjoying their holiday.”

His fingers tightened slightly around the bulb of his wine glass and he sipped quickly to help ease the tension that had arisen within at the mention of the new executive officer.  The red wine did nothing to ease him.  Gideon sighed quietly to himself and turned his head to look upon the engineer.  “I’m back.  We can do whatever you’d like.”  His smile was genuine and hopeful.

Marielle chuckled as she looked at him.  “Anything, hmm?”  Her head leaned to one side, emerald lifting to the ceiling as she considered pushing his buttons.  Her teeth worried the corner of her lower lip as she attempted to keep from laughing.  “So, you won’t stop me if I decide to just go streaking down the hallways?”  Her gaze dip to Archimedes before lifting to meet the richness of Gideon’s cobalt.

He blinked.  Twice.  Thrice.  A brow raised as he regarded her.  There was a jovialness within her that was good to see.  He fought the smirk that was eager to surface before considering the bait.  Gideon took it willingly.  “There’s a couple regulations against that, El.  I would definitely stop you.”  

She chuckled quietly, shifting slightly and leaning towards him.  The wine glass was lifted in his direction.  “You’d have to catch me first,” she giggled as she sipped her wine.  

“If I was naked too, would you really run from me?”  He smirked at the idea and raised a brow in challenge.

“Probably not,” she answered before she could stop herself.  Her imagination went wild with the idea.  The engineer paused as soon as the words reached her ears.  She straightened and sipped her wine, attempting to appear as if she hadn’t slipped.  “I mean-  It’d be easy enough to transport you to the middle of New York.”  Her gaze fell to the pup and she chuckled quietly when she found him asleep.

Uneasiness moved quickly through him and Gideon’s hand moved without his knowledge to cover one of the scars on his arm.  He remembered a time when he wasn’t self-conscious of his appearance.  “You’re assuming you could make it to a panel,” he retorted.  There was a hint of strain in his tone.  “I’d be throwing up force fields to keep you contained.”

Her head turned and leaned to one side as she studied him.  She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it, but Marielle was sure she’d heard tension in his voice.  Her gaze softened as she looked at him.  “Well, I’m not a fan of being caged,” she chuckled sadly, “so no streaking for me anymore.”  She took a sip of her wine and settled the empty glass on the floor.  Her gaze moved to the window.  She had failed to notice that the sun had dipped well past the horizon and only the light of the fire and candlelight filled the living room.  “My brain is going to freak out when we leave the holodeck.  It’s only 1700.”  She chuckled as she shook her head.  She looked to Gideon once more.  “Are you working tonight?”

‘There’s my overprotectiveness making you sad again.’  His eyes shifted to the fire as he silently berated himself for ruining the mood.  A gentle sigh caused his chest to lift and fall with the breath.  The security chief nodded in response to her question.  “Most likely.”  If it wasn’t working on his projects or in his office, he would have to use the luenalin to sleep.  His fingertips picked at the nearly invisible scar on his forearm.

She hummed quietly as she watched the fire.  “I love this house.  It was always filled with laughter,” she revealed softly to fill the silence between them.  “Mister Braunstone was a character.  He made the corniest jokes, and his wife made the best mince pies.”

“Why don’t you have them here?”  His body unfurled so that he could pick up his glass of wine and he shifted on the floor to sit next to her.  Gideon sipped of the red and set the glass on a table nearby.

“It’s a bit weird, don’t you think?”  She leaned towards him as she curled her calves to her thighs.  “Creating a program of real people who aren’t really around anymore?”  She reached for her wine glass and took a thoughtful sip.  “I always wondered what happened to Daniel.  He was cute.  I had the worst crush on him when I was younger.”  She giggled and shook her head.

He rested his arm over her chest to direct her to lean against him.  His chin dipped and he let his cheek press into her hair.  A deep breath filled his lungs with her scent.  “He’s their son?”  There was a soft hum to answer the affirmative.  Gideon had decided against offering an explanation about having people in their holodeck programs to enjoy the relationships they had.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a crush on you, too.”

“Doubtful,” she giggled.  “I was an ugly little thing until I was about fifteen.”  Marielle sipped her wine then placed the empty glass on the floor.  She shifted to sit closer to the security chief and she leaned against him.  Her chin lifted to look up at him and smile.  Her gaze lifted to the ceiling.  “Mis’ess Braunstone had a fantastic craft room.  She was the one who taught me, well, everything.  She used to hand quilt everything.”  She hummed quietly as her chin dipped and the side of her head rested against his shoulder.  “I really love this house.  Everyone was so happy here.”

‘Including you.’  He wondered why she wouldn’t be interested in revisiting that happiness with the people that inhabited her memories of the place.  His fingers massaged her arm gently.  “Maybe you could take a trip down to visit and see how they’re doing,” he suggested quietly.

Marielle tensed at the suggestion and her chin dipped.  Shame moved through her as she considered what’d happened to the Braunstones.  Believing they’d been a poor influence on her, she’d discovered that her father had stripped the family of their land and ruined their business.  She lost contact with them and there was no way to know whatever happened to the kind and happy family.  She imagined they were fine, but saddened by the loss of their family’s land.  “Maybe,” she murmured softly.  Her eyes closed briefly and she leaned against him, seeking comfort from her memories in his warmth.  “Glad you’re back.  The ship’s not the same without you,” she offered instead, hoping to move past the topic.

‘Now what was that about?’  He tightened his arm over her gently in an attempt to soothe her emotion.  Gideon lowered his chin and placed a kiss into her raven hair.  The cogs in his mind turned with ideas to bring her mood back up.  He hummed in agreement to her statement.

She straightened and pulled back a bit.  “I’ve got to check on dinner.  I’ll be back.”  Marielle lifted the pup and placed Archimedes on his lap.  She pushed up to her feet, grabbing the candelabra to light her way, and disappeared from the living room.

After removing the pup from his lap, the security chief shifted back to sit on his legs near the fireplace.  He had refilled the glasses of wine and was tending to the fire.  His head turned when he saw the engineer returning.  Gideon moved to retake his place on the rug where they had been cuddled before.  His fingers ruffled the tricolored fur when Archimedes settled beside him.

The engineer leaned against the door jamb, her fingers wrapped around the brass shaft.  She watched Gideon for several long breaths.  There was a serene sense of joy at seeing him simply enjoying the fire with the sheepdog by his side.  “Dinner’s ready.”  She smiled down at him.  “I didn’t realize we’d been talking for two hours.”

He responded with a soft ‘oh’ and quickly pushed to his feet.  Gideon collected both of their wine glasses and the bottle before calling the pup to join him.  He smiled toward Marielle as he approached.  With his arms full, all he could do was lean forward and press a kiss to her cheek.  “Smell delicious,” he said quietly, his voice raising in volume with each syllable, as if there maybe have been something he said before she could hear him.  “Thank you.”

A dusting of pink coloured her cheeks as she looked up at him.  “Any time, Gid.”  She followed him to the dining room, the tapered candles lighting the way through the darkness.

   
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