Your Demons Do Not Scare Me
Location: USS Poseidon; Guest Quarters, Deck 3
Timeline: Day 002 - 1921 Hours
Tags: To Follow "A Social Call"
Canaan stirred, alone in the darkness. He took in a deep breath to push away the fatigue, body wracked with a familiar exhaustion as he slowly swung either leg over the edge of the bed. They twisted in the soft knit of the charcoal grey throw Gregory kept at the foot of the bed. He must have covered Canaan sometime after he'd arrived. Collecting a portion of the blanket, Canaan buried his face in the cashmere-like fabric and breathed in what he knew to be Gregory's scent. Comfort bloomed from within, putting his mind at ease, at least for the moment.
Rising from the bed, Canaan's long stride took him to the bathroom. The warm lights gradually increased in brightness, allowing the Lieutenant's aquamarine-colored eyes to adjust. Canaan leaned over the vanity, staring at the face reflected back. He almost didn't recognize himself in his disheleved appearance. Dark circles lined the underside of either eye, which were void of their characteristic sparkle. It was the first time Canaan had looked at himself and saw the impact of his inner demons. He squeezed both eyes closed, turned away from the tortured soul held captive in his reflection, and stripped away his uniform. Turning on the shower, he disappeared into its mist of steam.
Canaan returned from the shower after sometime, the ache in his muscles tempered by the shower's water pressure, unintentional in its therapeutic effect. Although combed back, he'd intentionally left his hair rather damp. Canaan pulled on a robe, securing its silky tie with a pull-knot before appearing in the doorway to the living area.
He leaned against the open frame, watching as Gregory attended to dinner. Canaan didn't say anything, perfectly content to simply watch the man he'd so quickly fallen in love with.
The Commodore had arrived earlier in the evening. With preparations already underway for the second official senior officers meeting tomorrow morning, he had endured quite the effort to ready the Poseidon's commanding officer for the - hopefully - mute affair. There was a lot to consider, a lot to do, but for now he had done enough. Now was the time dedicated to his new lover, someone who he cherished and adored, someone he deeply cared about.
Gregory had been setting up the two-seater table in his quarters, going to considerable effort to perfectly calibrate the replicator to meet the tastes required for the food. Sure, he could of used the officer's mess in this situation, but no one was eating and if they were, they'd want the food replicator anyway. He finished up replicating an appropriately sized and portioned tray of two steaks, mashed potatoes, with gravy and green beans. Turning, he noted Canaan in the doorway leading to the bedroom. Gregory stopped to smile.
"I can't ever surprise you, can I," he chuckled.
Canaan laughed, "If only you knew." The relationship growing between the two men was surprise enough, how quickly it was blossoming and its magnetic-like strength, even moreso. "What's this?" He asked coyly, stepping closer to the table and gesturing to the meal, its delicious smell filling the living area.
Gregory had by then set the platter of food down. He had even set two individual plates on either side of the utilitarian seating arrangement. A smile to Canaan, leaning in to kiss his forehead in a very un-Gregory like fashion. "Dinner," he said, then smiled. "What do you like to drink?"
He melted into Gregory's kiss, longing for the affection. "Water would be best, but I'll take a glass of red." He went to the table, taking one of the empty chairs. "This looks great and it smells amazing." He commented, not recalling the last time he'd had a full meal. "You're spoiling me..." He chuckled nervously.
Gregory smiled, "Isn't that the objective in a relationship?"
Going over to the replicator, he requested a glass of water and a red wine. Grabbing both, he returned to the table, sitting and sighing happily.
"Got a big meeting tomorrow, don'cha'know. Best to eat up now," the Commodore said, smiling at his love.
Canaan drank the glass of water first, not realizing how parched he was until the first sip. After setting the empty glass aside, he leaned against a hand whilst looking at Gregory. "I'm sorry about earlier, I didn't mean to intrude or cause a scene. I didn't want to be with anyone else, though, and asked for Kana to help me here." There was a vulnerable sincerity in the tone of his voice. Canaan didn't want nor intend to become a burden to Gregory. Both men were battling demons from their past that neither could fully appreciate. The trauma, that was their connection. How far down the pain was inflicted, neither knew. Contrary to the Commodore's actions thus far, Canaan would understand if a moment's pause was necessary. "I'm feeling a bit embarrassed by the entire episode, really." He explained before taking a shaky sip of wine, "I'd thought I was past it..."
There was no pause, just a brief moment of thought for Gregory. When he replied, his voice was serene, comforting.
"None necessary, dear," he said as he took a bite of steak and chewed it. When he swallowed, he continued. "I still have nightmares myself. Watching Lieutenant Pavan's fighter explode brought back an episode. I never told anyone until now. I watched, as in my mind's eyes, I literally saw the battle at Operation Return again. Ships and fighters exploding, it was surreal."
A moment's pause this time, eyes downcast.
"I almost lost control, too," he said, more softly this time. "When it happened, it was like someone overlayed the background of the viewscreen with a projection. I saw the battle again, I saw ships exploding and fighting. I saw everything. My body nearly seized. I gained control again, but only because I thought of you."
Gregory glimpsed up, a sweet smile on his face. "My dear, you have become a very firm rock for me. Everytime the demons approach, all I need do is think of you. Then I'm back in reality. It's like I know I need to be here, I have a purpose here. And I have you to thank for that."
Canaan had reached out when Gregory spoke, taking the Commodore's hand in his own. He squeezed it gently, understanding how Gregory felt in that terrible moment on the bridge. "If I can be an anchor for you, surely you're one for me." Canaan declared. "I'm afraid our secret is out, though, at least to the Counselor." He took a small bite of the potatoes and gravy, savoring their intense flavor. "Mmmmm..." Was all he said, waiting for Gregory to chime in.
"Our....secret?" he asked, genuinely confused. He took himself a bite to eat, hand holding that of Canaan's firmly yet gently. He thought on it further for a moment. "You mean....us? How could the Chief Counselor know?"
Canaan blushed deeply, shying away, "I'm sorry, I must have assumed she figured it out when she helped me here." Although the events of earlier in the day were a bit unfocussed, Canaan distinctly remembered the two men showing a degree of intimacy in front of the Counselor. Had he imagined it all? His mind was a bit muddled, after all. "Not that it's a secret, really."
Gregory chuckled, "It's a bit of a hush-hush arrangement," he said as his fingers rubbed those of his lover. "She understands the necessity, and has encouraged me to tell the Commander, but I think this is between us. It should be, anyway. I've informed my superiors about it per protocol and so long as it doesn't interfere with my objective, I'm fine. So far, it hasn't, and I know it never will. You help me, not hinder, in so many ways."
Canaan nodded in agreement. What was happening between them was still new, and they deserved the time to explore it with one another. "I agree..." He confirmed, followed by a sip of wine. "Tomorrow's meeting, the investigation into Pavan's passing... We'll know more then?" He wasn't asking the Commodore to divulge anything specific, knowing he'd hear the details in the AM. Rather, he wanted to confirm his suspicions.
"Yes," he confirmed, smirking. "Then. No spoilers, even if you might deserve it."
Canaan waved a hand in a gesture to dispel any such notion. "No insider trading, I promise. I should probably have the astrometric data ready, none-the-less." That meant Canaan would need to return to his own quarters after dinner. Although, Kana had asked him to take it easy over the next day or two, there wasn't any harm in being prepared.
Gregory smirked, finishing a particularly large bite from his meal with a gentle swallow and sip from his drink. He chuckled afterward, rubbing Canaan's held hand gently.
"Maybe, if you want to be ready. It won't be anything life-changing, but it's nice to be prepared."
He nodded slowly, "Indeed." He fell silent, a look of concern troubling his youthful features. "Do you think all of this is an omen of some kind?" Being a scientist, Canaan didn't often lend weight to such beliefs; but even he was finding it difficult setting aside the pretense Pavan's passing wrought for the ship and crew.
It was a testament to their love how easily they could go about the process of eating and still have their free hand holding their lovers on the table. Gregory was a perfect example of this, easily transferring from fork to drink with casual ease as his other hand kept a hold on Canaan's through their conversation. The easy process came to a halt, if only briefly, as Gregory heard the question from Canaan. After finishing a sip of his drink he had been in the process of taking, halting only a moment as it rested at his lips, he swallowed and set the cup down.
"What makes you think that?" Gregory asked, softly, full attention to Canaan.
"Pavan's sudden passing moment's after leaving space dock. Freya's errant behavior, especially toward you. The struggles you and I share with demons of the past. The inexperience of our Captain and majority of the crew. Are we equipped to travel the path laid before us?" Canaan's statement was far from flippant. He was genuinely concerned by the series of events that had so quickly transpired after the Poseidon's official launch, only to find itself berthed once more, its very future called into question.
Gregory held Canaan's hand a bit tighter, gently and with concern. He took a bite to eat, swallowing it down and only after setting his drink down did he look back to Canaan. His expression showed that of slight amusement, but also genuine understanding. He smiled, softly.
"I can't reveal the full details to you," Gregory said looking down and away for a moment. "But what I can say is that Starfleet is not concerned. These things, while rare, can and do happen. We're not the exception nor the exclusion. It was a freak accident and Starfleet is bringing in more people to rectify the possibility of future accidents."
He chuckled, softly, under his breath. "Listen, dear. Space is and always has been dangerous. Humans as a species tends to forget that after a period of time adjusting to a new environment, adapting to it doesn't make it any less dangerous. Space can and will kill you given the chance, just as those old Submariners of old had to endure. Each trip they made could of easily been their last, many of them it was. Going into unfathomable - at those times - depths? Water crushing down on the hull that could break at any moment? These are the same risks we face even in our modern day."
Canaan nodded in understanding, soothed by Gregory's calm. He was right, of course. This was Canaan's mind working over a what-if or could-be scenario without remembering the risks accepted by all those who wore the uniform. He'd been stuck in the moment, that he'd not considered the truth of which Gregory spoke. To that, Canaan smiled, squeezing the Commodore's hand before withdrawing it. "I'm famished." He admitted, slicing a small bite of steak before devouring it.
The Commodore allowed the withdraw of the hand-hold, although with some hesitation. Seeing as he soothed his loved one, he took in and let out a satisfied breath as he began to eat in earnest.
"This is some good food," he admitted. Chewing. "Fifteen years ago it would have never tasted this good!"
"No?" Canaan asked curiously. Fifteen years ago, he'd have been twelve. Where had Gregory been all those years ago?
Gregory swallowed his food, then looked up, noticing the curious and questioning look from Canaan. The Commodore thought for a moment, then chuckled. "Oh right, our little age gap here. I'm thirty-five if you didn't know."
Sitting back, Gregory looked out towards the window into space. "Fifteen years ago, I had just been acquainted with Starfleet. One year into the Academy. Another three and I would serve on the USS Nautilus, another Miranda-class." He glanced back to Canaan, smiling a bit. "Replicated food back then, if I recall, actually tasted replicated. Nowadays they seem to have worked those kinks out."
Canaan grinned at Gregory's mention of their near ten year age difference. "I actually did know that." He replied sheepishly, "I may have looked over your service jacket after our first encounter." Canaan looked away, blushing ever so slightly. "What was that first year like for you?" He wondered if it was anything like his own.
Gregory took a bite to eat, unable to help his sheepish smile as he noticed Canaan's blush. At his question, Gregory swallowed his food, taking a drink before answering.
"Brutal," the Commodore admitted. "The people were nice, teachers were quite different. The lectures and tests were absolutely on point for that era, but things changed so quickly in that time - still do, honestly. I got into a few fights as I remember, once with Andorian who almost dropped the floor with me. We became close friends after that, I forgot his name, it's been so long. He helped me study starship construction, in fact. At that time I was planning to become an architectural shipwright engineer. Didn't pan out that way, obviously, but it was a nice first year."
He took another bite, thinking as he looked sideways out into space through the window. He swallowed, taking another sip quickly. He continued shortly after.
"Honestly, I think after my last test I failed and after my first real good teacher got with me, that was when I went forward with starship command. I already knew how they were made, the in's and outs, and while I didn't make par with being an actual designer, I did have the quality to command one. So that's how I got where I was."
After a moment of thought, he asked, "What about you?" before resuming eating and glancing at Canaan.
Canaan smiled, "It went well, honestly. I attended a preparatory school in Paris, so I felt more equipped to handle the regimented environment. I leaned into the academics pretty early on, and genuinely enjoyed the physical demands." Canaan finished his last sip of wine before continuing, "I was a bit of a loner, honestly. If I wasn't in the study halls, I was running the survival course or competing in a field hockey or water polo match. I didn't have a large circle of friends, but I wasn't an outcast either." He said with a smile, liking to think he was the kind of person that got on well with most everyone.
"Ah," Gregory chimed, "so an everybody type of person? I can see you making friends easily, honestly. I think the fact we get along so well is a testament to that fact."
Canaan nodded in agreement, "There's always one in the bunch that doesn't care much for the congenial type of personality." He thought back to Cadet Remy Silva, the only one of his cadre that seemed to have a problem with Canaan. "Where'd you have your cadet cruise?"
"Me?" Gregory asked, genuinely surprised at the question. Not because of the type of question, but because he had never been asked that. He thought back, motionless for a second. "It was an old constitution refit, I think the Charleston or some such. They retired her shortly after. Wasn't much, but I did get a handle on starship life. It happened to be everything I had expected and trained for. Gave me a boost of confidence. You?"
"Oh wow! A Connie refit? What was that like?" He wondered. The Poseidon may have been from the same era, but she'd been completely overhauled for this next generation service.
"It was...," Gregory began, then trailed off. He looked like he was in deep thought. He slowly smiled. "It was unique, I think," he finally answered, gazing up at Canaan. "It reminded me of the stories of Captain Kirk and his crew. I felt like I could reach out and touch them just by being on something so similar. And there was the facet of being around such an old design. Honestly, I think being on the Charleston better prepared me for the Poseidon than the manuals and lessons did."
Canaan smiled, listening attentively as he described the experience, reveling in the nostalgia of it all. "I can imagine how that must of felt. I was originally assigned to the Osprey." Canaan answered Gregory's earlier question. "She was a small Raven-class expedition ship. There were about twelve of us on board... So a bit of a different experience than yours, really." He pushed the plate aside, content with what he'd eaten. "It was a ship full of science cadets, aside from the pilot, of course. We spent the better part of a year on an anthropological study very near Klingon space." He explained, wanting another glass of wine.
"Oh wow," Gregory replied, once again surprised. "Near Klingon space? Didn't that entail the dangers of piracy and whatnot or did you have a security detail?"
Canaan nodded, "There were several close calls, but there was always a Federation ship relatively close by. I guess we didn't really think about our mission as being dangerous, even with the Klingon factor. It was a time of peace, on both sides of the neutral zone."
The Commodore nodded solemnly. "The Charleston responded to two such calls, one of them was a cadet cruise. It's why I asked, maybe we had met before and never knew."
"Oh no, Commodore... You're not someone I'd so easily forget." Canaan said softly. But, those close calls are the reason I don't like our mission profile." He stated honestly, taking his and Gregory's plate, placing them in the replicator. "A ship full of cadets and trainees against pirates?" And he left it at that, watching as the dishes dematerialized.
Gregory nodded, and it was at that point that his expression changed. He turned distant, looking down at the empty table. His mind thinking of the overall plan for this cruise. His fingers fidgeted. He had grown so close to Canaan, he deserved to know the truth. Almost at the point of revealing the truth, his lips moving, his voice cut off before it could utter a sound by his communicator.
= /\ = Commodore Paladin, you have a priority message from Starfleet. Your eyes only. = /\ =
His breath caught, his eyes were on Canaan. If he had been looking he had to of seen he was almost at the point of speaking. His expression darkened, then he sighed as he tapped his combadge.
"Transfer it to my quarters, I'll be there in a few minutes," he replied.
= /\ = Right away, Commodore = /\ =
"Well," Gregory uttered quietly. "Looks like I have business to attend to before the meeting."
He stood, walking towards Canaan, then wrapping his arms around his lover. He held him close, kissing his neck, then cheek. "I love you," he said softly. "I'll see you soon."
Canaan nodded slowly, "I love you, too." There was concern hinged in those words, a result of seeing Gregory's expression. He'd seen a desire in the man's eyes, a want for lack of a better word, to share something more with the Lieutenant. Fate, as it would, decided now wasn't the time.
Canaan quickly changed and gathered his items from Gregory's bedroom. He needed to get back to his quarters anyway, and possibly even the labs. As he left the Commodore's quarters, Canaan glanced one last time over his shoulder, smiling at Gregory before the doors closed between them. What had Gregory wanted to say? That one question dominated Canaan's mind as a restless night of thought lay ahead.
"Be careful fighting someone else's demons, it may awaken your own."