Location: USS Poseidon; Holodeck 4, Deck 6
Timeline: Day 000 - 1830 Hours
The mid-May sun beat down against the red sandstone rock, absorbing its heat and reflecting it. The sky was clear, aside from a smattering of fluffy clouds. Canaan's fingertips gripped a stable handhold, the pointed tip of a shoe angled so that its tread held fast against the rock faces' smooth surface. The weight of his body hung relaxed. A gentle breeze tickled the sweat beaded on his forehead. He carefully surveyed the Cathedral Spire, one of the many unique rock formations comprising the hogback known as Garden of the Gods. It was one of his favorite locations to enjoy a quick climb or hike. Seventeen feet above the ground, Canaan rested. Blood flow returning to his free arm as he chalked up his hand, considering the next move.
The doors to the turbolift opened. The Commodore didn't need much authorization to enter, he had the proper credentials, and under normal circumstances, he wouldn't utilize it due to crew privacy. This situation was slightly different; Canaan was in here, at least that's what the computer had told him. Upon entering, he was blasted with a rush of mid-spring wind, the environment around him one of the rocky surfaces and jutting towers that begged to be climbed. He was in front of one right now, a spire that he should be familiar with, but felt no recollection to the rock formation. When he looked up, he saw his objective.
Far above, Canaan was there, climbing. He never knew the man liked to climb. He gave a smile as the turbolift doors closed.
"Hey, beautiful!" he called upward.
He didn't need to look to know from whom the voice came. It was Gregory. The man he knew so little about, yet with whom he had a strong intimate connection. A man that titillated and terrified him. The man he was falling for hard and fast. A crooked smile was the result of Gregory's words, cheeks red and ruddy. Canaan glanced down, his radiant eyes quickly finding the Commodore among the prickle of the green brush. "Bonjour, mon étoile," Canaan replied from above, his voice echoing against the rock as he started to descend the approximate two decks that separated them.
Gregory felt bad for Canaan; he didn't expect to force him to come down. He watched, however, as his new love did so and amazed at the lack of complaint. When Canaan reached the ground level, Gregory moved forward to help, then to embrace with a rather love-filled kiss. He gazed at Canaan, smiling.
"Thought of you decided to come to see how you were doing," Gregory explained, chuckling. "You having fun here? Sorry to make you come down like that."
Canaan reveled in Gregory's warm embrace, the man's arms tightly wrapped around his lithe torso as the Commodore kissed him deeply. "Mmm..." He hummed, eyes fluttering. "I-*ahem* I do..." He swallowed, savoring the moment while trying to reign in a rising desire. "I waited... but you had work to attend to, and I didn't want to hover or draw attention. So, I came here to clear my head and wait. And look! Here you are!" The emphasis on 'work' had more to do with Johnson and Freya than the man's administrative burden, but Canaan wasn't yet comfortable enough to broach that subject. "Are you good?" He asked with sincerity.
"Now I am," he said, then his voice lowered. It was a sincere voice, mixed with a sincere expression. "I was in there with Freya and had to recount what happened a year ago, and despite last time where I had a few flashbacks, I didn't this time. The funny thing? I felt you there, physically, emotionally, mentally. Supporting me, holding me. It was a weird feeling, but after all was said and done, I can say for one-hundred percent certainty that you are the reason I can move on now."
A silence, then, as he gazed at Canaan, "I love you, Mr. Serine. I really do."
Canaan held Gregory; their foreheads pressed together. "I love you, too." His voice was soft and gentle, void of any pretense. His body relaxed into Gregory's, taught muscles releasing a tension that had built over the last four years, an ever-present reminder of a horrific chapter he'd wished closed for years now. Knowing the flashbacks had stopped for Gregory, even if momentarily, filled his heart with joyful relief. The man deserved happiness. After so much loss, so much destruction, so much heartache. Gregory deserved some small semblance of peace. "I do support you," He reassured Gregory, humbled to have played some small part in supporting the man toward recovery. If the Commodore could find calm in the chaos of the galaxy, so could he. In time.
The Commodore gently held Canaan close, for what seemed like forever and a time, until at least his mind caught up that time was a concept and should be followed. He chuckled to himself, sighing as he kissed Canaan's forehead. He gently brushed a hand across his cheek. His eyes trailed upward, gazing at their artificial yet perfectly real illusion.
"So you like rock climbing, huh? What do you say I grab some gear and you train me on how to do that. Never did it myself."
Canaan nodded, holding Gregory's hand on his cheek for a moment longer before looking to where he'd been climbing. "This may be a bit advanced for a newbie such as yourself." He joked, his loose-fitting tank top fluttering in the breeze. "Let's start small?" He ordered the computer to materialize the basic gear for free climbing and helped Gregory carry it to Camel Head. The oblong rock formation was about the height of a one-story home with lots of different handholds and challenging angles.
"I like the outdoors," Canaan explained, lining up the gear. "Hiking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, even a little fishing... although I'm rubbish at that last one." He said with a chuckle, cracking open the pouch of chalk and pouring the fine silt into the belt pouch. "You'll want to change into something more comfortable." He said, gesturing to Gregory's form-fitting uniform. "Otherwise, you're better off going naked."
It was then that Canaan realized the pair was still learning about one another. They'd not talked much about their hobbies, interests, or passion. Canaan hadn't spoken about his family or homelife much at all. He didn't think Gregory knew where he'd been raised. Truthfully, he didn't know about Gregory's either.
It was time to change that.
"I'm perfectly fine in my uniform," chuckled Gregory. He grabbed the provided gear, placing it on with surprising efficiency as his motions seem to have a rather embedded instinct. He placed his hands around his rope, nodding to Canaan. "Alright, what now?"
There was a slight mischievous smirk there, one that hinted that Gregory might be hiding something that he knew. Either way, he seemed rather content to have Canaan lead things here. A calm and collected demeanor, a stance that showed he was relaxed, yet assured. His occasional glances to Canaan told a story of love and trust.
"Suit yourself, big man." Canaan teased with a playful click of his tongue. He gestured to a side of the rock face that started easily enough, yet grew more challenging with the climb. "Find a comfortable hand- and foothold and start climbing like a little spider monkey. Keep your weight on the front balls of your feet and tips of your toes. Grip with your fingers and try not to tense up." He pointed to two ridges that offered a decent handhold and footstep. "As you get closer to the rockface, it's surface reveals more of its secrets." A holographic attendant took hold of Gregory's safety rig so that Canaan could watch more closely. "Go on then." He urged with a cocked eyebrow that conveyed he was suspecting perhaps Gregory wasn't as novice as he led on.
"Wasn't too long ago I met a Gorn who could climb like that," Gregory said, admiringly. "Darn lizards should could go fast despite appearances."
He gave a sigh, looking first at Canaan, then the attendant. A brief shake of his head as he gently refused help from another attendant that had spawned nearby. Apparently the computer was being polite insofar that it heard him state his novice experience and quickly put in an instructor. The holographic woman was polite enough to step back without expressing too much displeasure. Gregory nodded to himself, then, rather quickly, leaped at the rock face.
Canaan was right in his thinking. Gregory was no novice. In fact, he had let Canaan go up on purpose. His movements almost perfectly mimicked those of his lover, almost to the ball of foot placement and handhold. In just under a minute he had climbed to Canaan's height, then seemed to stutter a bit, wavering. The attendant down below held firmly to his climbing rope, giving a wave that she had him on the line. He waved back, then looked at the Lieutenant.
"Beginners luck," he shrugged sheepishly, almost losing his grip and gulping. "Um....after you?"
"You're no more a beginner than I am an Orion Trophy Boy," Canaan teased with a playful sneer.
Unlike Gregory, Canaan free-climbed, which meant no safety harnesses or ropes. Most found this technique unnecessarily dangerous or reckless, even, exercised by adrenaline junkies that thought little for their lives. When in reality, this couldn't have been further than the truth. Canaan knew his body intimately and trusted he'd go no further if something felt off or nor quite right. He didn't do it for the surge of adrenaline, yet the intimate connection between mind, body, soul, and nature. To him, it felt no different than climbing a ladder or flight of stairs. He could appreciate how others believed differently. Well then, let their feet stay firmly planted on the ground below while he reveled in the heights above.
The breeze whistled through nearby pines, causing the young Lieutenant to stop and hug the rockface, eyes closed. "Do you hear that?" He asked ever so softly; his full lips pulled up in the most blissful of smiles as his biceps tensed with graceful ease. "I love that sound, Gregory..." He opined, feeling a peace reminiscent of the night before.
Gregory watched Canaan, chuckling at his correct observation. The Commodore hid a blush at the mention of "trophy boy", and was glad his partner didn't think he was such. As he watched Canaan go up, he too felt the breeze. In his instance, he took a brief respite to enjoy it. He looked up as Canaan spoke, then around as he gave a content sigh.
"Yeah...," Gregory replied, trailing off briefly as he gazed around at nature. It was beautiful. "Reminds me of you, almost," Gregory added, truthfully.
He continued upward then.
"Me?" Canaan asked, finding it difficult to understand the correlation. "Explain that one, Mr. Deceiver." He poked fun, glancing toward Gregory below.
As Canaan glanced, Gregory had managed to climb his way to almost beside his lover. His eyes barely lifting up to meet those of the Lieutenant's, the Commodore's head turning as he gazed at the landscape and beyond. He sighed briefly, before turning his body to properly situate himself, starting up again.
"Because here it's endless possibilities, just like with you," he said as he began to pass Canaan.
"'Endless possibilities...'" Canaan repeated Gregory's words, celebrating the complex meaning behind their simplicity. "'Endless possibilities...'" He emphasized, following Gregory's ascent, "So, like, this Gorn; is this the same lady-Gorn as the one pictured in Commander Johnson's Ready Room?" He wondered, quietly repeating both words as a kind of climbing mantra. "Or is this a different Gorn?"
Gregory hesitated at the question, gazing down at Canaan briefly before resuming his climb. He was silent for a moment. Taking in an extra breath through his exertion, taking a hand to wipe his brow when he found a good hold to stop and look back down at Canaan.
"The same Gorn," he said, confirming Canaan's suspicion. "She came to me after Franklin left for the Academy. Apparently, the guy made a deep impression on her. Hard thing to do with those dang lizards. But he did. Claimed they were to be mated."
His gaze reached the horizon again, grunting. "I kept forgetting to tell Franklin. Even when I entered his ready room and saw her picture, it slipped my mind. Wonder if I should."
"Of course you should," Canaan spoke candidly and without hesitation. "My mom used to tell me that sometimes we're only given one opportunity in life to experience the love we know we deserve. If you know she could add happiness to the Captain's life, why wouldn't you tell him?" There was no hint of judgment in the question. He spoke honestly and from the heart, unabashed in his feelings regarding the matter. "Besides, what a pairing." He noted with an endearingly mischievous grin, waggling both eyebrows at Gregory.
Gregory took one serious glance at Canaan, then burst into a chuckle. He shook his head considering - only briefly - the implications of that. He began his ascent again, giving a few short puffs as he readied himself. His guide at the top gave a wave of his hand signaling he was ready, Gregory waved back. He resumed his climb.
"I'll see what I can do," Gregory said. "In the meantime, I'm only worried about us."
Canaan frowned, taking Gregory's concern in the literal sense, "What has you worried about you and me?" Concern etched into his dewy forehead.
Gregory stopped, gazing down at Canaan sincerely before back up. "Pavan," was all he said, not wanting to go too deep on the subject. "I thought about you after it happened."
Canaan nodded in silent acknowledgement, "I understand." He agreed, having thought about Gregory in those same moments, when Pavan was lost in a fluke accident. The truth was they all accepted a certain level of risk in joining Starfleet, some more than others. Pavan may have died well before his time, but at least he'd met his fate head on doing what he loved. Canaan could only hope to be so lucky. Instead, he surmised his end would be all to hasty and undoubtedly at the cruel whims of the creatures they'd unwittingly awoke on Arach VI. "I'm here." He reassured Gregory, hoping the deepness intended in the simplicity of those words was enough to ease his love's concerns.
They were nearing the top, so as the Commodore reached one hand and placed it on the ledge - the holographic man supporting his line holding firm - he reached the other hand down to grab ahold of Canaan. "I know," Gregory said in reply. "I love you."
Canaan's hand was a perfect fit to Gregory's, as if each had been destined to hold one another. Gregory pulled Canaan, lifting the Lieutenant's body to his with relative ease as the couple made their final ascent. With feet firmly planted on solid ground, Canaan leaned into Gregory, wrapping his long arms around the man's sturdy torso. His nose nuzzled the Commodore's neck, breathing him in. "I love you, too." He whispered.
Canaan's hand went to Gregory's cheek; his palm pressed the rough stubble, its texture prickled the younger man's soft, supple skin. Their eyes locked in a gaze that silently conveyed a multitude of feelings between them. While one hand pressed against Gregory's cheek, the other gripped the man's waist. Canaan's lips went to Gregory's, playing against them at first with a vulnerable tenderness which gradually turned eager.
As they met stable ground, Gregory silently undid his safety equipment as the holographic helpers had the mind to busy themselves in other matters. As Canaan cupped the Commodore's cheek, Gregory returned the kiss and let himself relax in the embrace of his relatively new lover. He held the man firmly close, eyes closing after a moment as the plateau in which they stood presented an extraordinarily wonderful view of the horizon and surrounding area. It was, quite literally, a beautiful place to be.
In that moment, as with all moments with Canaan, Gregory felt the demons of his past melt away against the happiness and joy of the moment; being contented to the happiness of his lover. He let the kiss linger - not lustful, not wanting, simply appreciative and loving. This was a perfect moment he wanted to last forever.
When the kiss faded, Canaan pressed his forehead against Gregory's, a gesture he often repeated where the Commodore was concerned, he thought perhaps as a way of rooting himself to the moment in appreciation for what they'd discovered in each other. "W-we should take a picture," Canaan suggested timidly, not certain of what Gregory would think.
Gregory felt Canaan's forehead against his, both of them leaning into each other. He sighed happily, then chuckled at Canaan's suggestion.
"With what?" he asked softly, "I didn't bring anything."
Canaan mirrored Gregory's laugh, shrugging slightly as he gestured around them. "I think the holodeck has a way of helping with that?" He asked. Even if the camera were holographic, surely the computer could capture an image and store it similarly like a program. Canaan couldn't be sure though, as he was far from versed in all the capabilities of holographic systems.
Gregory thought a moment, then nodded. He looked to the helper after gently holding Canaan to him.
"Hey you," Gregory said. "Mind taking a picture of us? We'd like a copy."
The man, adorned in safety gear, somehow pulled out a retro-looking camera. He smiled, rather jovially. "Sure thing man! Just stand still..."
Gregory smiled, holding Canaan to him as he leaned his head against his lovers. "Smile," Gregory whispered softly as the man took the picture. Once the man handed his camera over to look, Gregory shared the display for Canaan to view.
Canaan and Gregory were in view, behind them the mountains and forests of this alien landscape - though similar. The reflection and lighting was perfect, easily portraying Canaan and the Commodore with their happy expressions and comfortable postures.
"You like it?" Gregory asked.
Canaan grinned, chewing at his bottom lip while offering a happy nod of the head, "Very much." He managed, feeling a bit giddy. "It's perfect, actually." It surprised Canaan how the camera perfectly captured their relaxed contentedness; they looked utterly enamored by one another. The picture had him wondering how it'd been so simple to find this kind of love in Gregory. Why, after so many years of trying, had it'd been so seamless with this man? Canaan knew he shouldn't question why, but he couldn't help feeling it was all so temporary.
Part of Canaan's questioning was mirrored in Gregory, in his situation however his mind seemingly passed over it. He had finally found happiness, that was that. The nightmares were over, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had almost completely abated his nightmarish "moments". He could live again, normally. All because of this man. With a wider smile, he leaned in and kissed Canaan, some part of him yearning to explore that more in the future. For now though...
"So," Gregory began, with a smile, "want to grab a bite to eat? I hear a certain Commodore can cook a killer meal.."
"That is literally the best idea ever." Canaan declared. "Computer, end program..." The pair, arm-in-arm, walked toward the arched exit, playfully arguing over what meal sounded most delicious. Canaan would leave this decision to Gregory, who was far more qualified in both skill and knowledge compared to his lazy palette. In truth, he didn't care if the man served a bowl of oatmeal, so long as they were sharing it together.
"Standing on the cliff face
Highest foe you'll ever grace
It scares me half to death
Look out to the future
But it tells you nothing
So take another breath
Your hands protect the flames
From the wild winds around you"