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Part of USS Odyssey: First Excursion

First Excursion – 8

Verkien VI-B, Verkien System, Kotaba Expanse, Swallow Nebula region, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78508.2
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As the sun rose on the second day of their survival trip, its golden rays shone on the rugged terrain ahead, casting long shadows that danced across the rocky hillside. Jordan and Alfie stood at the foot of the hill, their faces etched with determination as they prepared to face the challenges ahead. Sweat was already pouring down the faces from the humidity. 

Last night, Commander Jirani had told them and the rest of their training unit that they were pairing up every cadet to undertake a survival trip across the island they were on. It would last at least two to three days. Using the Telemachus’ transporters, each pair was beamed to an undisclosed location and left to their own devices. With each of them having a rucksack filled with gear to help them get from one point to another, they had to reach their endpoint within the set time. 

Stuck together, Jordan and Alfie sighed almost in unison as the pairs were read out. The level of tension between them was awful. Alfie had tried to speak to his mother about it, however, she had told him, as he packed his gear, that perhaps whatever was going on between him and his apparent best friend, being away from everyone might be what they needed. Alfie was starting to question his mother’s wisdom now. Yes, she was a Starfleet captain, but did she know what was happening between him and Jordan? He didn’t think so, and he now wished he had been paired up with either Brook or Athena. 

He and Brook had discussed their survival exercise as they had changed into their excursion gear while in their shared cabin on the Telemachus. Brook, like Alfie’s mother, had suggested to Alfie to try and find some way to get through to Jordan for the sake of their friendship. 

Since being ‘dropped off’, neither Alfie nor Jordan had said a thing to each other. The only noise made by them was from their boots hitting the squishy mud on the ground below and the odd beep coming from their tricorders. 

Now they had to climb the side of a rocky hill. 

“Alright, let’s do this,” Jordan said, his voice tinged with a hint of apprehension. He took some of their climbing gear out of his back and started to attach it to himself. They had covered basic rock climbing a few weeks ago on the holodeck, and it had been something that Jordan had naturally learnt. Alfie didn’t mind it, but it wasn’t something he would want to do for pleasure’s sake. 

Agreeing with Jordan, Alfie scanned the rocky slope before them with his tricorder. He wanted to be cautious in such a risky environment. “Just take it one step at a time, Jordan.” He advised then reached into his rucksack and took out his gear.

Jordan ignored Alfie as he started the climb. With each part he climbed upon, he stuck a fusing piton into the rock face and attached his climbing rope to it. Alfie followed close behind. Loose rocks clattered beneath their boots as they clambered upward, their muscles burning with sweat as they continued their ascent. 

“Watch your footing,” Alfie called out, extending a hand to steady Jordan as he stumbled on a loose boulder.

Jordan ignored the offer, his breath mingling with the crisp mountain air. It was obvious to Alfie, that Jordan just wanted to get through this without any more drama. That sent a pain into his chest. A few days ago, they had been the best of friends and inseparable cadets who were eager to become Starfleet officers together. Now they had argued, kissed twice and lost everything they had built over the last year or so. Too much hurt hung in the air between them. 

As they reached the halfway point, they paused to catch their breath, the panoramic view stretching out before them like a vast tapestry of green and gold. The distant roar of a waterfall echoed in the distance, a reminder of the challenges that still lay ahead.

“We’re halfway there,” Jordan said, his voice loaded with determination. “Let’s keep going.”

Alfie didn’t want to argue with Jordan anymore, and in his mind, he was trying to think of a way he could try and clear the air with Jordan. What could he say to change things? What would it take to get their friendship back on track? 

Finally, they reached the summit, their chests heaving with exertion as they gazed out at the breathtaking vista before them. The sun hung low on the horizon, casting a warm glow over the rugged landscape below.

“We made it,” Alfie said, a sense of pride was evident in his voice. 

Jordan nodded in agreement, a smile spreading across his face as he surveyed the view before them. “We make a pretty good team, don’t we?”

Pleased to hear his friend say that, Alfie grinned, his eyes glinting with mischief. “Not bad for a couple of first-year cadets, huh?”

With a shared short laugh, they began their descent down the opposite side of the hill, the rocky terrain giving way to lush vegetation as they entered the heart of the rainforest. Perhaps this is what they needed, Alfie pondered, time away from everything and just the two of them. Maybe his mother and Brook were right, and things would get better. 

He really hoped so. 

The air grew thick with further humidity as they trekked through the dense foliage, the canopy overhead filtering out the harsh rays of the sun. Vibrant insect noises filled the air, accompanied by the occasional rustle of leaves as they moved through the underbrush.

“We must be getting close to the waterfall,” Jordan remarked. He scanned the dense forest around them, trying to determine if they were still going in the right direction.

Alfie nodded in agreement; his gaze focused ahead as they pressed onward, the sound of rushing water growing louder with each step.

As they emerged from the dense thicket, they were greeted by the sight of the waterfall in all of its majestic glory. A curtain of crystal-clear water cascaded down from the rocky cliffs above, its mist creating a shimmering rainbow in the afternoon sun as it continued on its journey into a deep lake that eventually broke into several rivers. 

“It’s beautiful,” Jordan breathed, his voice filled with amazement.

Alfie nodded in agreement, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Let’s get closer.”

They made their way towards the waterfall’s base, the cool spray misting their faces as they approached. The sound of the rushing water filled their ears, drowning out any other noise as they stood in silent reverence before the natural wonder. Alfie pulled his jacket off before yanking his shirt off. He put his hands and arms out, reaching the mist as it smacked against his skin. He dampened his face and neck with the coolness. It was refreshing. 

“Jordan, we need to talk,” Alfie said, his voice barely audible above the roar of the waterfall. He looked at his friend. He was ready to talk, and he was desperate to talk.  

Jordan turned to face him, his expression guarded. “What is it now, Alfie?”

“I can’t take this anymore,” Alfie admitted, frustration seeping into his tone. He sounded like a little child who was close to having a tantrum. “We can’t just pretend like nothing’s happened between us.”

Jordan’s temper flared; his patience was wearing thin. “And what do you suggest we do, Alfie? Have a heart-to-heart in the middle of a waterfall? You had an affair with my girlfriend behind my back, you lied to me, you made me think you had feelings for me, and you messed up our friendship.”

“I know, and as I said before, I’m sorry. I wish I could take it all back, but we had it good, Jordan as friends. Come on, please, Jord,” Alfie reached out to touch Jordan on the shoulder, but before Alfie could respond, Jordan’s anger boiled over and in a moment of recklessness, he shoved Alfie, sending him tumbling into the icy water below. 

Shocked by his actions, Jordan watched as Alfie resurfaced, his eyes burning with a mixture of hurt and betrayal.

In a fit of remorse, Jordan leapt into the water after him, the icy chill biting into his skin as he reached out to pull Alfie close. They grappled with each other for a moment, the water churning around them, before finally, they both stilled, exhaustion washing over them.

“I’m sorry,” Jordan whispered, his voice barely audible over the waterfall smacking down against the lake’s surface nearby. “I didn’t mean to—”

Alfie cut him off with a shake of his head, his gaze softening. “I know, Jordan. I know.”

They stayed like that for a moment, the rush of the waterfall wrapping them in a bubble of solitude. And then, with a heavy sigh, Jordan spoke again.

“I forgive you, Alfie,” he said, his voice raw with emotion. “For everything. And I’m sorry for being so stupid and definitely for kissing you. Twice.”

Alfie’s eyes widened in surprise, his lips quirking into a faint smile. “I was surprised by it all, Jord. But I’d like to try and get back to being friends if we can.”

Jordan nodded and pulled Alfie into a tight embrace. Without overthinking it, he leaned in and kissed Alfie again. This time, the kiss was longer than before, silently conveying his promise of forgiveness and reconciliation.

After their lingering kiss, Jordan and Alfie sat by the tranquil waterfall, the sound of rushing water creating a soothing atmosphere around them. They gazed at each other in the faint light filtering through the canopy above, their expressions a mix of uncertainty and longing.

“Alfie,” Jordan began tentatively, his voice barely above a whisper, “what do we do now? Which way do we go?”

Alfie’s gentle smile misrepresented the turmoil in his eyes as he reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from Jordan’s forehead. “I think… we need to be honest with ourselves,” he replied softly. “If we want to salvage our friendship, we can’t keep crossing lines like this.” This time Alfie kissed him briefly and held Jordan’s hand for a moment. He eventually released his grip. 

Jordan nodded, a pang of regret tugging at his heart by his expression as they let go of each other. “Yeah, you’re right,” he admitted, feeling a sense of disappointment mingling with relief. 

After getting out of the water, they sat in silence, the rhythmic rush of the waterfall provided a tranquil backdrop to their conversation.

“I never imagined things would turn out like this,” Alfie confessed, his gaze fixed on the dancing patterns of the water by their feet. “But I’m glad we had this chance to talk, to… figure things out.”

Jordan nodded in agreement, feeling a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to reconcile with his friend. “Me too, Alfie. I don’t want to lose you as a friend,” he confessed sincerely.

Alfie’s smile widened, a warmth spreading through his chest. “You won’t, Jordan. I promise,” he reassured, squeezing Jordan’s hand in solidarity. 

As dusk settled over the forest, casting long shadows among the trees, Jordan and Alfie rose to their feet, their movements synchronised as they began to set up their camp for the night. Again, remembering all of their training, the two cadets got on with getting their shelter sorted for the evening. With practised efficiency, they gathered dry wood and kindling, their hands working in tandem as they built a small fire pit near the edge of the clearing.

The crackling flames danced to life, casting a warm glow over the campsite as they unpacked their supplies and set up their tent. It wasn’t long until they started to sort out something to eat. A few emergency field rations could be heated up over the fire. 

As Jordan and Alfie sat by the crackling fire, Alfie couldn’t shake the lingering memory of their kiss from his mind. The warmth of the flames seemed to pale in comparison to the heat that had passed between them, and he found himself unable to resist the urge to break the silence.

“That was one hell of a kiss back there, Jordan,” Alfie remarked, his voice low and tinged with amusement. “But I have to ask… why did you keep kissing me?”

Jordan’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he looked away, struggling to find the right words. “I… I guess I was just confused,” he admitted, his voice barely above a whisper. “Everything’s been so complicated lately, and you were the only person I felt close to.” He paused. “Ever since Frontier Day, I can’t work it out, but my brain, my heart and my gut keep drawing me to you.”

Alfie’s expression softened, a small smile playing on his lips. “I understand, Jord. It’s been a confusing time for most of us since then,” he replied gently. “And I know what you mean; I suppose the whole thing with Beatrice started after Frontier Day. It’s just been weird. I never wanted to hurt you, the whole thing was so ridiculous at how we were with one another. We were drawn to each other for no reason. I’m so sorry, Jordan.”

Jordan, once again showed his appreciation for the apology. He placed his hand on Alfie’s shoulder to assure him that he had forgiven him. “Maybe it’s some sort of residual Borg connection we have?” Jordan offered with a shrug. “Or some other messed up experiment the Changelings all did to us. Some Great Link…linkage?”

Alfie burst out laughing at Jordan’s attempt to blame what had been happening on the rogue Changelings and the last futile attempts by the Borg Queen. “Maybe,” He agreed with a nod as he calmed down after Jordan had joined him in seeing the comical idea of the former Dominion leaders attempting to make their own Great Link among ‘solids’. “But I want you to know that I genuinely want to be friends with you, first and foremost,” Alfie added. He knew that may cause more heartache, especially as he had kissed Jordan back earlier. They were messed up and he knew it, but maybe they needed one of them to start to draw a line of distinction here. Maybe that was how they would try and get back to how things were before. 

Jordan nodded, relief washing over him at Alfie’s words. “As I said earlier, I want to feel the same way, Alfie,” he confessed, meeting his friend’s gaze sincerely. “I don’t know how to control these feelings I’ve had when I’ve been with you recently, but I know I value our friendship more than anything. Have I messed things up?”

Alfie smirked, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he pulled Jordan closer to him. “I don’t know if we’ve messed it all up, but let’s see what happens,” he whispered. He pulled Jordan in for another hug before ruffling his wet hair. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a chill from wearing these wet clothes. Can we please get out of these clothes before I die of hyperthermia!”

Jordan’s smile widened, showing his appreciation for Alfie’s understanding and he agreed to them getting warm and having something to eat too.

Maybe it was something from Frontier Day that messed them up. Alfie couldn’t tell. For all he knew, it was something to do with how the Borg and rogue Changelings had re-written their DNA, or it was linked to that stupid temporal anomaly the Odyssey went through in the Paulson Nebula over a year ago, or maybe it was his own stupid feelings and hormones messing everything up. 

“Thanks, Alfie,” Jordan softly said after they had set up the camp a few hours later and were wearing dry clothes. “Can we keep what’s happened between us the last few days just between us? I don’t want anyone else to know.”

Alfie nodded, his smirk turning into a grin. The warmth of the fire reflected in his eyes, adding a twinkle of mischief to his expression. “Of course, Jord. Our little secret,” he replied, his tone teasing. “Just don’t go falling for either of my brothers now. I don’t think I could handle that.”

Jordan chuckled, the tension between them easing as they shared a moment of lightheartedness. The crackling flames cast a warm glow over their laughter. “Don’t worry, Alfie,” he joked back. “I think we’ve had enough drama for one trip.”