Disclaimer: Ha'gel, Liam, and Siobhan belong to Tribune and Roddenberry-Kirschner. Vikki technically belongs to them also, but her background and personality are mine. Graeme, much to my annoyance, belongs to me.

Rating: PG-13 for some mild reproductive talk (nothing really explicit).

Author's note: This fic came about because I wanted to finish up the set of stories having to do with Ha'gel's family's initial flight, as well as deal with an issue that many people have about the glorification of events in "The Joining" in season 2. I didn't quite make it, however, since there seems to be one more story lurking around the corner. It was posted on PS fanfiction forum.

Reconcilable Differences
by Estirose (Angel Island)
copyright 2000

It would have normally been a safe place, but Vikki wasn't quite sure. The young woman was learning very rapidly that appearances were deceiving, mostly thanks to her 'mate', Ha'gel, and the children, Graeme and Liam. It also helped that the supposedly beneficent Taelons were one of the big reasons that her family was on the run, two of which had abandoned their normal lives for the sake of their children.

The fact that Siobhan had been edgy didn't help. The former Implant, Ha'gel had told her one evening, had a slight precognitive gift, and Liam had inherited that gift. So, Vikki was not inclined at all to view the place as safe. Sure, they were renting a nice 'vacation home', a nice, 'rustic' cabin in the woods by the lake, but it was hard to feel safe. No matter how good Graeme was at helping with counterfeit IDs and stolen money, their enemies knew that they were out there. Somewhere.

It was enough that Ha'gel had decided that they'd depart, as soon as they were rested. Their initial flight hadn't given the family enough time to rest and relax, and that's what the cabin had been for.

Vikki frowned. As much as she got along with Ha'gel, some things were starting to bug her. While there was nothing like an air of superiority or something like that which she could put her finger on, Ha'gel had set himself up as the head of the family. It wasn't something cultural as far as she knew; his people didn't believe in one sex over another, but she got the impression there was some other traditional family ranking system going on that she didn't quite understand.

Sighing, she stopped leaning on the porch railing and went inside. Siobhan's edginess was no doubt making her tetchy. There was probably nothing more involved than what happened when beings of two very different cultures interacted as a family.

* * *

But nothing happened for the next few days, which made Vikki wonder if she was just jumping at shadows. Maybe it was safe, and she was just oversensitive to the safety of herself and her family. Maybe the walk in the woods that Ha'gel had suggested would help; there was nothing else to do, unless she wanted to listen to him babble to his two sons in his native language about who-knew-what.

"Come on," Siobhan said, and she looked over to find the other carrying a bag and what looked suspiciously like her beach towel. "Ha'gel is talking to the boys about the birds and the bees."

"The birds and the bees?" Vikki echoed. "Aren't both of them a little... young?"

"Nay, apparently not," Siobhan responded. "Graeme could be a father anytime now if he wasn't careful, and Liam is getting just old enough to worry."

Vikki sighed. Why did he tell her this, and not me?

As if reading her mind, Siobhan said, "He didn't say anything ta me, but I understand Kimera, thanks to the CVI. And I don't think this is a comfortable subject for the any of them. That's why he wants us out of here."

"Like separating the boys and the girls out for sex ed," Vikki said, almost to herself. "It's easier to not worry about the opposite sex laughing at you."

"Aye," Siobhan responded. "So, I think we should get out of here, until they're recovered."

She flashed such a wicked little grin that Vikki felt sorry for Ha'gel. Still, who else could do it? Ha'gel was the best candidate in matters like this. She probably wouldn't have even known that Graeme was fertile until it was too late.

Siobhan walked into the woods, leaving Vikki to catch up.

* * *

She knew, remotely, that they weren't too far from the semi-paved road that let up to yet another cabin. Siobhan had brought what turned out indeed to be her beach towel, and enough food for three. No doubt the third portion would go to feed Falcon, Siobhan's skrill. Siobhan had resisted Ha'gel's ideas to remove the symbiote, protesting to separate it from her would mean certain death, and besides, his defensive capabilities could come in handy, and far outweighed his conspicuousness. Besides, Siobhan was good at covering her skrill up.

"I still can't believe that Graeme's almost sexually mature, or that Liam's going to be. Graeme's two weeks old! Did Ha'gel say anything else that you picked up?"

"Nay," Siobhan responded, after taking a bite from a sandwich and chewing thoughtfully. "But I don't think it was as much a surprise to the boys as something embarrassing. An' I don't think 'sexually mature' is quite the right term - the boys have no interest in women, but if they ended up in bed with someone of the female persuasion, nature could very well take its course."

Vikki sighed. "It seems sometimes like Graeme was just born. I didn't think I'd have to face being a grandmother quite so soon!"

"I think that the reason Ha'gel's having this 'talk' today is so that you an' I don't have to," Siobhan responded.

"Good," Vikki said. "I don't think I could handle it right now."

"And how are ye handling it?" Siobhan asked, as gently as Vikki had ever heard her. "Are ye happy?"

"I'm grateful to Ha'gel," Vikki responded. "He broke me out of my rut. He showed me that there was somebody who could take care of me, and that I didn't have to get my satisfaction in... other ways."

The other woman looked confused for a moment. "Oh, aye," she said. "Well, ye dinna have to worry about sleeping with other men ever again."

"What do you mean?" Vikki asked, feeling as confused as Siobhan had looked a moment ago.

"Ye dinnae plan on leaving Ha'gel, do ye?"

Vikki bit back the automatic response that she didn't plan to leave Ha'gel. "I... really don't know. I don't feel like it's safe to make plans right now. But it seems to me that I should do something with the life that Ha'gel gave me."

"Aye, I understand," Siobhan responded. "But... ye realize that being mated is the same as being married for him?"

"It is?" Vikki asked. "But then that would mean that he's a polygamist. I think I love him... I mean, I do love him... but I don't know if I want to be involved in this."

"What did you think 'twas?" the other woman asked, her voice getting harder.

"To be truthful, I don't know. I never know, when it comes to Ha'gel."

She was wondering what more to say when a small boom came from somewhere, and portions of bark and tree rained down on her from the tree above.

Siobhan was instantly on alert, Falcon uncovered and glowing angrily. Male laughter could be heard from somewhere in the direction of the road, and then a car drove off. "I think someone was just taking potshots," Vikki told her companion. "I don't think they knew we were there."

"Aye," Siobhan responded, her eyes distant. "Still, we'd better go back and tell Ha'gel."

"Um, okay," Vikki said. "Think the boys will survive?"

"Aye, I hate cancelling Ha'gel's little session with them, but 'tmight turn out necessary," Siobhan replied. "Help me get the stuff together."

Vikki did so, ignoring the leaves and dirt that had become attached to the towel. It was a little bit of a walk back to the cabin, and she couldn't help fretting, though, about Siobhan's question. Would she leave Ha'gel? Could she live with him being effectively married to two women? It obviously didn't bother him. Would it bother him if she fell in love with a human man? Could she fall in love with a human man, after Ha'gel?

Ha'gel loved her, no doubt about it. But she sometimes wondered if it was true love, or just because she had given him the first chance to let his species live on, with Graeme. Was it the love that someone gave to a beloved pet, or did he feel like she was his equal? She knew more about him than she knew about Graeme's human father, Randy, but it didn't feel like she knew him that much, not in the important things. And these were the important things that determined if one wanted to spend one's life with one's chosen partner; not reassuring for a long-term relationship.

Later. She could ask these things later, when they figured out if they were safe. Until they were safe, nothing mattered. You couldn't explore a relationship if you were dead.

* * *

Ha'gel was surprised, she could tell, when Siobhan strode in, with her right behind. The two boys looked surprised as well. "Someone took a potshot out in the woods. Had it been several feet lower, it would have hit Vikki," Siobhan said, not bothering with pleasantries or niceties.

Graeme, looking horrified, got up and raced over to her, just like he'd often done when he was physically growing up. Despite the possibly desperate situation, she had to smile. "It's okay. I'm okay," she said, holding her son tightly.

"Show me," Ha'gel instructed, and Siobhan walked over to him, placing her hand on his. The two seemed to lose sight of the rest of the world for a few moments. "Vikki?"

From experience, Vikki knew he wanted the scene from her memories as well. Graeme detached himself from her, standing there as she took the few steps towards Ha'gel. She met his palm with her own, willing him to know what had happened, and trying to remember. Then Ha'gel's mind took over, reviewing the events from her perspective. He paused for a second during her discussion with Siobhan about leaving him, and he gave her a something which clearly meant 'we will talk about this later at a more opportune time'.

Then her mind was replaying the bark falling upon her, and then, next thing she knew, his hand had withdrawn, and he was speaking. "I think that it would be overcautious to depart at the moment. We are not yet rested, and evidence from both your views suggests that this was just a random crime, not directed at us from either the Taelons or the Liberation. Still, I think we should... keep the place tidy, just in case."

In other words, Vikki thought, We should have everything Together so that we can get away... fast.

* * *

Ha'gel didn't seem inclined to continue his lesson, whatever it detailed, after the interruption. Instead, the whole family went to work 'tidying' the place so that everything could be packed and ready to go in a hurry. Vikki had securely packed both her saucer from home that Graeme had brought with him and the little pink saucer that was a gift from Liam.

She found Graeme waiting for her, obviously wanting to be with her, as she finished her own 'tidying'. She left the little that remained of her stuff out and sat down on her bed, motioning for him to sit down. "So, did you learn anything?"

"Yeah," Graeme replied, but didn't elaborate. Vikki smiled at his obvious reticence.

"That's okay; Siobhan said you were talking about sex. I won't press."

Graeme shrugged. "Some of it was about sex. Most of it, though was about how to be a proper mate and father, how not to neglect our mates and kids, and so on. I think Dad's worried that he won't be around when it comes time for me and Liam to start mating."

Vikki nodded at that. "I won't pretend it isn't impossible for that to happen. We could lose your dad... but I doubt we will. He's too smart for that."

"But still, it's something he wanted us to know. Especially when we're mated adults and have all of our kids and mates to worry about."

Her smile faded as her son's statement brought on thoughts of Ha'gel's polygamous state. "Kids and mates multiple?" she asked.

"Well, sure," he said, apparently mystified. "Dad says that once we're safe from being destroyed by the Taelons and others, that we should go out and mate with as many women as we could to pass our Kimera blood on. When you came in, he was just telling us how to fix things so that the women we sleep with can have relations with other guys afterwards, so they're not tied like you and aunt Siobhan are. But, anyway, you'll have a lot of grandkids, I'm sure of that, Mom. I know that Dad would prefer that we wait for a few decades, but we don't have that kind of time. He's hoping that things will happen so that we're fathers by the time we're two."

"Oookay," Vikki responded, trying not to sigh again. She seemed to do that a lot. In order to try to assure Graeme, and make sure he didn't go into another tantrum about her mate status she added, "Sorry, I seem to need to have a long talk with your father. He still has a lot to explain to me about himself and his plans. I seem to be stumbling around in the dark... and it's just making me lost."

"Dad didn't bother to explain things to you. Huh," Graeme said. She could hear annoyance in his voice as he continued. "Tell him that you can't be a proper mate if you have absolutely no idea what that means. I thought for sure that he'd have told you by now. I mean, it's a great honor." He got up. "Don't worry Mom, I'm not mad at you for not understanding. You'll understand sooner or later and we can all be a family the right way."

With that, he left her alone, no doubt to talk to Ha'gel about leaving her in ignorance. Of course, she wouldn't mind getting a few explanations out of Ha'gel. Currently he seemed to respect her and care for her, but 'honored' felt like the 'honor' someone of a low class got when the lord of the manor decided to pay attention to them. She sincerely hoped that wasn't the case; if it was, then Ha'gel was using her. It would be really typical of her life that the person who broke her out of her life of being used only wanted to use her as a brood mare. She knew now that she could just leave if she put her mind to it, but at this point it wasn't really safe to leave. Besides, she would hate to leave Graeme with Ha'gel if that was the case. It was obvious that he was picking up some bad habits.

There was a cautious knock on the door. "Vikki?" Ha'gel asked, and Vikki steeled herself for the conversation that would surely follow.

"Come in," she replied, and the door opened. Ha'gel stepped through, closing it behind him.

"It seems like we have a miscommunication," Ha'gel said to her. "I just encountered Graeme. He seemed outraged that you were ignorant as to your role in the family."

"Or something like that," Vikki responded. "I have a lot of stuff to ask you. And I mean ask... not share. The sharing part comes later, after I have the questions out."

Ha'gel nodded. "Perhaps... you would like me to tell you a story first?" he asked tentatively, as if he expected her to leap up and bite him.

"If it clears up my confusion," Vikki answered, "I don't see why not."

He sat apart from her, within arm's reach. "Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the Kimera were a space-faring species, well-beloved by most of the civilizations we came across. We were lovers of knowledge with a special gift... a gift to breed with all the species we came across. We came upon a species, we studied it for a while, we initiated contact, and then we got to know them both personally and by breeding with them. With the hybrids produced by our contacts, we were therefore able to give them a part of ourselves and take a part of them with us, in addition being able to share some of the richness of the other species that we had joined with. We took the knowledge and about half of the hybrids with us, storing all that we'd discovered about them in special repositories.

"On rare occasions, we ran across a species that could benefit from having a little bit of the wisdom from thousands of worlds, but were too dangerous for us to contact in full. This was the case of the ancestors of the Taelons, a matter-based species called the Ul'llitha, a species of what could best be called energy vampires. Still, despite their savageness, we could not bear to see them wiped out when we could help. That was our mistake. Through our matings with them, they became energy-based, like us, or at least some of them did. The ones that became energy-based are known to you as the Taelons; the ones that stayed in matter-based form are known today as the Jaridians. Both species have lost the ability to drain energy that their ancestors had.

"The Taelons and the Jaridians soon hated each other, beginning a lifelong conflict that continues on to this day. However, before their wars started, the Taelons turned upon the beings responsible for what they had become - us. As far as I know, they destroyed all of us, except for maybe anyone like me who was lucky enough to be contained within something that the Taelons couldn't detect. So goes the end of the Kimera, and the reason for us to be together."

"You told me before that you were the last of your kind, as far as you knew," Vikki responded. "But why is it an 'honor' for me that you chose me as your mate?"

"Who told you that? Graeme?" Ha'gel asked. At her nod, he continued, "When we were still numerous, word got out about us and many species thought it an honor to be chosen by the Kimera to mate with. They selected their best individuals. This does not apply here, despite Graeme's notions. I am skulking around in a borrowed form, I didn't ask permission from any of my hosts, and normally, we prefer to reveal ourselves and give our prospective mates a chance to choose."

"But you didn't in my case," Vikki responded, trying to smother a rolling boil of emotions that partly had to do with Ha'gel not asking first , and partly with feeling sympathetic to his plight. Wouldn't she be desperate to reproduce if she was the last of the human race?

"No, I was so desperate, after not being able to feel any of my species, that I went for a healthy young woman who could bear the stress of the rapid pregnancy forced upon her against her normal biology. I needed someone who could bear up the stress of several pregnancies in short sequence. I could help rebuild those things lost during your pregnancy, but you had to be fit to take them in the first place."

"Wait a minute, several pregnancies? You were going to force me? What was your plan anyway?" Vikki asked. "Don't tell me, you were going to use me as a brood mare, and not let me say if I wanted to do it."

She couldn't strike him, not right that second. But she felt like she wanted to do it, but the tone of his voice was a man - a being - of great regrets. If he'd had an arrogant or superior attitude, she could have slapped him and be done with it, but he sounded more remorseful than anything.

"I was... my only defense was, as your people say, my brain wasn't the part of me doing the thinking. I was overwhelmed by the need to survive. I believed that eventually I could make amends for taking the choice away from you, beguiling you into having children multiple times. I was hoping... that you'd get so used to it that you'd come to see it as normal."

"I hope you've learned your lesson," Vikki said, and winced at the trite phrase. Then what Graeme had said flashed before her, almost as if she'd had Siobhan's CVI. "You planned to let Graeme and Liam finish your work for you."

"Yes. That is exactly what my current plan involves. Graeme and Liam can blend into human society, conceive children - many of them - in the way that humans did it. And I have instructed them on how to not tie their partners to them, allow themselves to be ripples in the water, be seen only by the effects they have and not exposing themselves. It must become usual for people to have Kimera ancestry."

"Well, I'm glad that Liam and Graeme are willing to spread their seed," Vikki replied roughly. "Because you screwed up big time, buster. I am not your breeder! Just because I'm unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn't mean you can have me whenever you please."

"You do not have to worry there," Ha'gel responded. "I have learned my lesson. I will not attempt to join with you unless you request it. That is how things should be between mates, not the hiding that Liam and Graeme will have to do. You can be assured that Graeme and Liam know that their mates should be willing, knowing mates as well, at the very least not joining with women who don't desire children."

Vikki shook her head, and what was left of Ha'gel's proud demeanour drooped. "Come here," he said.

"Why?" she couldn't help but ask, and realized she wasn't quite following his orders anymore.

"I am going to do the same thing I taught Liam and Graeme to do to those they mate with. I am freeing you from me. You see, because of the close connections when two people join with each other, sometimes the member of the 'native' species is afterwards not able to find a close connection with a partner of their own species, because they don't know and can't trust the native partner fully. I knew during when I joined with you that humans are susceptible to this. I do not blame you for the lessening of trust between us, and think it is probably best that I take care of this now."

Reluctantly, Vikki scooted up to him. He held his hand out in sharing position and she slipped her hand up against his. She could feel a slight tickling in her mind, as if someone was paging through the book of her memories. After what seemed like several minutes of that, he lowered his hand. "That all?"

"That is all," Ha'gel responded, sadly. "You can go now. Take Graeme; it would benefit him to know his human side a little better, and I would feel better if he was there to help keep you safe. He is as much your son as mine, and in this way, at least he'll remember that."

With that, Ha'gel left silently. Vikki started packing her bags, but sat down. Sure, she wasn't sure if she could forgive Ha'gel, but could she leave him, Siobhan, and Liam? Graeme would surely resent it, and she was willing to bet he would do nothing but urge her to go back to his father. He would definitely not be cooperative to her, not until she came back 'home'.

Maybe what I need is a breath of fresh air. It's almost evening; surely I can stay one more night. Figure out if leaving is a good thing.

She left her bag as it was, and, avoiding her 'family', slipped into the woods. Sitting there, she considered her options. Ha'gel seems quite willing to let me have my say in this. On the other hand, I don't know if what he's told me is the truth. He could just be humoring me. But, heaven help me, I like Liam, and Siobhan, and even Ha'gel has his moments. I need them around me. Maybe I could put up with Ha'gel for that.

Several boom sounds came from nearby, which she assumed were from the same idiots that had shot at the trees earlier. She sighed in annoyance. "Twits," she murmured, before something knocked her over and she wasn't able to get up again.

* * *

Vikki was having the funniest dream. Her family was in the woods with her, and then suddenly, the scene shifted to the cabin. Graeme was arguing with his father again, something about "Iall'uja t'ani oloa yeteu". She suddenly realized they were having an argument about her, not that Graeme needed a reason to argue with his father sometimes.

She could barely see Siobhan kneeling, arm up, with Falcon glowing angrily on the top of her arm. She was talking to Liam, but Vikki had no sense of the words. She wondered what was going on as things started shaking. It was a funny earthquake, she thought. Nothing was falling off the shelves....

Eventually, some part of her recognized that the bumps and the rumbling that was going on was due to a rough road. She wondered how she'd gotten from the woods to the car, and why she seemed to be strapped onto the seat in several places. No doubt someone would enlighten her when she opened her eyes.

Figuring she'd been out of it long enough, she opened them. The resulting rustle confirmed that she was lying on the back seat of the minivan. Liam looked over the seat wide eyed for a moment, before turning to his father, who was sitting beside him. That leaves Graeme and Siobhan in the front. Wonder who's driving?

And tied down, since she hadn't gotten to undoing the buckles yet, she couldn't tell. Especially since Ha'gel had chosen to turn around himself and was now regarding her with an unreadable expression. He reached out, leaning over until he could touch her on her left side. The touch was brief and light, as if he dared not do more for fear of hurting her.

Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that he had hurt her. Oh, not physically, other than carrying and giving birth to Graeme. And it was probably not intentional, what he'd done in other times. She had the bad feeling that the whole problem could be chalked up to ignorance of each others' customs, especially on Ha'gel's end. Oh, and a lack of brains that had lead up to this whole thing.

"Liam," Ha'gel said simply, and Liam unbuckled his seatbelt and disappeared out of her sight. Once Liam had gone, Ha'gel turned back to her and spoke quietly. "We are heading in the direction of Ohio. I am afraid our belongings were all placed in quite a jumble last night after our rapid departure from the area."

"What happened?" she asked. "How did I get here?"

Ha'gel looked pained. "You were shot; Graeme, under my guidance, was able to heal you. I would have healed you myself, but Graeme wanted to do it, and I thought it best to let him do so."

Vikki wasn't certain whether he meant that Graeme was having one of his fits, like he'd been having in her dream, or because Ha'gel was trying his best to avoid getting into any more trouble with her. Probably both. "I dreamt that Siobhan was aiming at something or someone with Falcon."

"You did not dream," Ha'gel said solemnly. "Siobhan and Liam defended the three of us until it was safe to move you. We departed rapidly, stayed as low-profile as we could, and resumed our journeys in a slightly different direction than we'd been previously taking."

"Who was it?" Vikki asked.

"We do not know. Siobhan was unable to discover that information. All we know is that they were aiming at us. Siobhan thinks that they shot you first because you were out in the open and easy to take care of. We must hope that whoever it was, they lost our trail. This is why I am hoping to put a great distance in today. I hope that you can tolerate my presence until we can find a place where it is safe for the two of you to leave."

"And what if we decide not to leave?" Vikki asked, wanting to cover all the bases just in case somewhere along the way she did for some reason want to stay.

It took a minute or so for Ha'gel to answer, as if he hadn't been expecting the question. "Then... I would be overjoyed at your patience, saddened at your sacrifice, and hopeful that you can forgive me for what I did to you. I would not touch you unless it was life and death, unless you give me permission, and if you would never want to join with me, I would sorrow, but understand. I have severely botched things, and I will never forget that."

Vikki had heard the same pitiful pleadings from her other one-night stands, the ones who had just wanted her back in their beds, who cared nothing for her and everything for the sex. Certainly Ha'gel's plea had been more flowery, and it was entirely possible that he meant what he said. But hadn't he admitted that he'd planned to use her himself, to produce all the children - the sons - that he could?

She looked up at him and tried not to be swayed by his pitiful expression, the sad look in his eyes, and the fact that no doubt everybody in the car was following this conversation, including whomever in the front was driving. Everybody was waiting to hear her answer.

Should she give him a chance? Would she give him a chance? Was cultural difference enough that paired with his life-and-death struggle would make his actions understandable, forgiveable? That she could count on him to be smart, or at least not lying? Could she take that chance?

Finally, the answer came out of her mouth. "I'll stay." She knew she wasn't staying because she wanted to be him, or because he had rescued her from her rut of a life.

It was because she didn't want to be wrong. Not with two groups after her, two very powerful groups. She had stuck with Ha'gel before because she thought he was right; now was the time to find out if he was wrong.

If Siobhan was right, if this was like a marriage, then it was for the two of them to discover if they had anything in common at all. If, despite the blunders and the ignorance, they could find a common ground in which to be the partners they were supposed to be.

Time. That's all she was giving him, time. No more, no less.

She settled back against the seat cushion and hoped she'd made the right choice.

-end


Earth: Final Conflict fics