((Flashback – Six Years Ago))
Kivik: I’m telling you, Hal, this ‘choice’ is no choice. We have a moral obligation to share our findings, unadulterated, with the public. We cannot - I cannot - be part of a system that ignores scientific fact in favour of bigotry and oppression.
Kivik held aloft the decree, shaking it furiously in the air. After all the work that they had done, all the meticulous biological and neurological study, pouring through decades of prior research, and their time spent gaining access to the clandestine psychotectic treatment facilities… oO For this? Oo
Halin: Like it or not, we are part of that system.
Kivik: The results are conclusive. There is nothing harmful or deviant about gendered expression among J’naii aside from the discomfort of the close-minded. Psychotectic treatment does not work, except as a form of torture, and the ‘reformed’ are left permanently debilitated. That’s the result.
Halin: The objective result, yes. But think about the bigger picture -- the bigger picture of our current society. If we go ahead with this, we will be ostracised by the greater community.
Kivik: You’re right. ::Sighing:: If we publish, I doubt we’ll ever work again on J’naii… But if we don’t publish, how could we live with that decision? ::Silence:: Could you live with that, Hal?
Ne spoke the word without hesitation, with complete conviction. Kivik sat in nir chair and set the dataviewer down on nir desk, unable to even look at it anymore. The sick feeling in nir stomach threatened to burn a hole right through nem.
Kivik: I don’t believe that.
Halin: Then perhaps you’re no better than those who demand our society norms.
Kivik: If our government won’t support us, maybe we have other options. The Federation-
Halin: Will care very little for our plight after our first contact. They saw how we act in the face of diversity and they cowered away, never to contact us again. We are not their problem.
Kivik knew what Halin said was true. As optimistic as Kivik wanted to feel about the Federation, that authority was nothing but a distant legend on J’naii - a cultural behemoth lurking among the stars which many felt threatened to consume them. As such, communication with the Federation was spare, limited to traders operating on the Fringes of J’naii space. A Starfleet Officer hadn’t set foot on the planet in over twenty years. The Federation wasn’t coming to save J’naii from itself.
Kivik: So, what? We just stand back, wring our hands, and offer the same meaningless inconclusivity that our predecessors determined?
Ne paused to consider nirs words.
Halin:::quietly:: I don’t want to become a target. That may be selfish, I know. But I want to feel safe.
There was a great deal of silence then, as both J’naii considered their predicament. Kivik felt determined. There was only one course of action that ne could live with and if Halin couldn’t - wouldn’t - be a part of that, then ne wasn’t about to force that hardship on nem.
Kivik: I understand that you’re scared. I’m scared too. Let’s just… think on it a while? We’ve got time.
The young scientist stepped forward, reaching out to nir partner and holding nir hands. They rested their foreheads on one another and Kivik felt reassured. Then, a deep pit formed in gut at the thought of what ne must do. Kivik didn’t know how ne would manage without Halin, but it was becoming clear that that was the future. The Federation wouldn’t come to J’naii, but Kivik could go to the Federation.
The two J’naii stood in the middle of the courtyard as other scientists and students moved warily around them. Both were reliving the last moments they had spent here together, the day before Kivik had left. Six years had passed since then, but the hurt still felt new.
Kivik: Your anger with me is justified. When I published our results under my name, I did so to protect you, because I knew you would not leave with me. I’d hoped that most of the public’s vitriol would follow me off-world and let you live in peace, as you had wanted.
Halin:::bluntly:: It did not.
Halin ran a hand through nir hair.
Halin: But I’ve been… making do.
Kivik: I hope that you’ve found… someone else. Jasken told me that you had ‘moved on’ but I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask nem about your private life.
Halin: It is not. ::beat:: But yes, I have. “Moved on,” I mean. I have a child.
Kivik felt nir breath catch in nir throat. Somehow, even though ne had understood, logically, that things would never be the same between nem and Halin again, this revelation brought with it a painfully unwanted emotional understanding.
Kivik: ::Weakly:: I’m glad for you. ::More resolute:: For both of you. May I ask, how old they are?
Halin: Ne turns five in the summer.
Kivik was momentarily taken aback. Ne hadn’t considered the possibility that Halin would have moved on so easily, so quickly. Kivik had hoped ne would find new happiness in nir absence, but it stung to hear that it had happened so quickly.
Kivik: ::Swallowing the hurt:: That is so wonderful. I’m sure you are an excellent parent.
Halin: I try.
Kivik: Will you walk with me? Just here, in the courtyard. I want to hear what you have to say to me - or if you have nothing to say, then I would appreciate your silence for its worth… I do not think that I will back to J’naii again - at least not for a very long time.
Halin sighed, looking far off -- at nothing in particular.
Halin: So… you’re abandoning your people once and for all?
Kivik: I’ve joined Starfleet, Halin - the Federation. I’m being posted to the Delta Quadrant. As far away from here as I can go. We likely won’t ever see each other again, but I couldn’t just leave again - not without telling you how much I regret the pain I’ve caused you... I’d like to get to say “goodbye” to you this time.
Halin turns once more to look at Kivik. Nir jaw flexed, lips pursed as ne considered the idea for a moment.
Halin: I understand. I will listen not to excuses, but the promises of your future. Assuming you wish to make one of yourself, of course.
That was it then. Six years of wondering had led Kivik to this moment, this final understanding. The wedge ne had driven between them that day had severed the ties that bound them together - all of them. And that severance had dealt Halin a wound that might never heal, certainly one which Kivik could not heal with platitudes or apologies.
Perhaps, in time, ne would return to J’naii after all - but much would hinge on the conversation ne’d had with Jasken earlier in nir visit… If things really could begin to change on J’naii, and a more connected future was possible for the planet, then…
oO It still won’t fix this. Oo
Kivik sighed and looked Halin in the eye, accepting the mistakes of nir past and committing, resolutely, to the new path ne was forging ahead of nem - a path of bold discovery, a path of unflinching truth and moral integrity. A path with no regrets.
Kivik: The future is only going to get brighter, Halin. For both of us.
Ensign Kivik (ne/nem/nir)