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Lt. Commander Caedan Nkai - Heart on Sleeve


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Another good one from Reynolds. Short, but pointent, full of emotion that you just can't help but feel.

 

-----

 

((Lobby, Emerald Reef Hotel, Deluvia IV))

 

Caedan was sharing a drink with Genkos in the bar of the Emerald Reef, enjoying the underwater landscape the hotel offered while they reconciled past hurts. Their talk had begun with the incident at the Admiral's wedding reception, and while the Rodulan still felt some culpability for his part in the messy affair, it had relieved him to hear that Genkos didn't share that opinion.

 

Perhaps inevitably, their conversation had turned to more recent events and the Betazoid's guilt over his part in them. It had felt a bit like looking in a mirror; one man berating himself for his part in a situation when there really was no blame to place. Caedan had said so, and they'd looked at their reflections again, with him offering Genkos a piece of relief without wiping away all of his guilt.

 

But a casual slip of the tongue had caused Genkos to put Caedan under the microscope in a way the Rodulan wasn't familiar or comfortable with. He rarely talked about himself, especially with difficult subjects, preferring to let the spotlight linger on other people. Most people were all too happy with that arrangement, but evidently the doctor wanted to listen as much as he did talk.

 

Nkai: In some ways it feels a bit like Skarbek. So... ::He lifted a hand, open-palmed, searching for the words to describe the experience of being Over There.:: So divorced from normal reality, it seems like a bad dream. 

 

Adea: I’m no therapist, but that’s probably a good thing. 

 

Caedan nodded. He'd thought the same thing himself; it allowed for some emotional distance, offered the ability to look back without being hit by the full force of the emotions that he'd lived through. There were still memories which brought a lump to his throat and tears to his eyes, moments of particular hardship or sorrow, but he could talk about most of it without breaking down—and that was a victory. 

 

Nkai: I like to think so.  

 

Adea: It just feels like each successive trip there makes it far worse; makes me far worse, and I’m starting to feel hugely phobic of the ship. Of my first adult home. 

 

No response came easily to Caedan's mind. It was a feeling he knew too well, the reason he hadn't gone home to Rodul in decades. A place filled with happy childhood memories that he cherished and held close... but also a place filled with some of his darkest moments and memories he tried to lock away. That was hard enough to do at the best of times, and he could only imagine what it would be like if he retrod those old stomping grounds.

 

Adea: Rationally, I know I’ll get over it, but emotionally, you know, the brain never wins. How do you manage it? You always seem so… well put together. 

 

Nkai: Yeah? ::He scratched the back of his head and chuckled.:: Maybe that's just my advanced age working for me. Mellowed out through the sheer passage of time.

 

He paused there, feeling as though he owed a better response than a joke and a slide away from the question. Maybe because Genkos needed one, maybe because Caedan had played a part in hurting him in the past. His smile slid away as he shook his head, his instinct to keep his past private warring with the desire to help someone in pain.

 

Nkai: I think... ::A sigh blew past his lips.:: I think we have to make peace with the idea that there's darkness in all of us. That knowing that and accepting that is the best way to make sure it isn't the part of us in control when the situation's that bad.

 

Adea: Response

 

Caedan grimaced, trying to corral spiralling thoughts and the expanding crackle of thunder in his chest into something that would make sense. It was hard to keep it from carving deeper lines on his face, to prevent his muscles from bunching into a defensive hunch, and he leaned more of his weight on the bar counter as if it could offer moral as well as physical support.

 

Nkai: You know, I think the Q put me on the Fourcade and away from the worst of it because that wasn't the way to get under my skin. I've already lived it. The Cardassians started their occupation of my homeworld when I was fifteen, and the history books say it wasn't as brutal as their conquest of Bajor, but...

 

But brutality wasn't essential to cause suffering. Callousness and indifference could be a blade just as sharp, incising just as deep, leaving scars just the same. As he thought about it, digging up the memories he tried so hard to bury, raw emotion erupting like crude oil spilling across virgin soil, there was a slight comfort that his thoughts weren't readable. His soft underbelly wasn't completely exposed to the Betazoid.

 

Nkai: I remember people freezing to death in the winter because the Cardassians rationed our energy supplies. People begging for scraps for their children because they rationed our food, even though we produced more than enough for everyone. I remember the—::he swallowed, a lump biting at his throat, Syana's lost smile drifting through his memories::—the protests that turned into massacres they blamed on the victims, and the people who just vanished.

 

All this time later, it had become hard to picture Syana and Vawne's faces. His first love was nothing but wisps of memory; the scent of her hair when she was curled up in his arms, the bell-like sound of her laugh when he amused her, the feel of her breath against his cheek when she whispered something cheeky into his ear. Vawne's big brother scowl when his younger siblings interrupted whatever terribly grown-up thing he was doing, his hearty cackle when he let them win tickle wars against him, the tight grasp of a hug when he was trying to make them feel better.  Gone. Centuries before their time, barely a brushstroke on the Artist's canvas. He frowned, blinking himself out of the reverie, and continued.

 

Nkai: One of them was my big brother. They barged into our house one day and dragged him away for "questioning" and we never saw him again. It broke my parents. And to this day we don't know what happened to him, because they destroyed their records at the end of the occupation. There's now a branch of archeology that specialises in finding mass graves and identifying who's in them, and him being found in one is the only closure we can hope for. Imagine that; your one hope for closure is someone's going to call you up one day and tell you they've found your brother's body.

 

Adea: Response

 

Caedan nodded slowly; in response to Genkos or his own inner monologue, he wasn't sure. These were things he hadn't even told Jo or Valesha, perhaps more than a little afraid that his dearest friends would look at him differently afterwards. 

 

Nkai: What I'm trying to say in a really roundabout way is... I was young, and I was hurt, and I was angry. When my brother's friends asked me to help them fight back, I said yes. And in the next few years I did things I'm not proud of. 

 

He paused for a deep inhale, breathing it out through his nose. Those details he would not dispense. It wouldn't make him or Genkos feel any better to share the gruesome details of Caedan Nkai, bomb-making resistance fighter. The Betazoid had been in Skarbek, and he knew what lengths people could go to in the fight for freedom, especially in the face of cruelty.

 

Nkai: So I know it doesn't feel like it, but it's a gift. To get to face up to that part of yourself without having to do things you can never take back. 

 

Adea: Response

 

--

Lt. Commander Caedan Nkai

Mission Specialist

USS Gorkon

 

simmed by

 

Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds

Commanding Officer

USS Gorkon

T238401QR0

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