How the Story Ends
Summary: Kes helps the Doctor as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his daughter.
Characters: EMH, Kes
Codes: EMH & Kes
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for #fictober2018 Day 14 prompt: “Some people call this wisdom.” Episode addition to Real Life.
We don’t know how much we are capable of loving until the people we love are being taken away, until a beautiful story is ending.
— Donald Miller
He raises his head from his hands. “Kes, what are you doing here?”
“Tom told me about your daughter. I came to make sure you were all right.” Kes looks around at the pale-green walls, the comfortable couches and nondescript art. “Where is here, exactly?”
The Doctor’s mouth twists. “This is the Relatives’ Room. A meaningless name to describe a place where you send people for whom life has lost all meaning.”
“Belle is dead,” he says harshly. “Her body has been taken to the morgue, and I have been sent here to comfort my wife and son after their loss.”
Kes sits tentatively beside him. “It’s your loss, too,” she points out. “And you’re a family. Shouldn’t you all be comforting each other?”
“I suppose so.”
“Where are they?”
The Doctor straightens in his seat, focusing on his surroundings for the first time in … it seems like days, but his internal chronometer informs him it has only been ninety-three minutes since Belle’s time of death. Jeffrey is sprawled in an armchair in the far corner of the room; his eyes are closed and his mouth slightly open, so the Doctor assumes exhaustion has finally caught up with him.
Through the glass pane set into the door he can see Charlene out in the corridor, talking to a woman in a white coat. Charlene is pale, and her hand occasionally drifts upward to wipe under her eyes or tug listlessly at a fallen lock of hair, but she appears otherwise composed.
“They don’t need me,” the Doctor says.
Kes follows his line of sight.
“I’ve noticed that people react to loss in many different ways,” she says. “Charlene might seem like she’s coping, but she does need you. And you need her.”
“Your daughter just died,” Kes answers gently. “You and your family are going to need each other in ways you can’t predict.”
“More randomised behaviour algorithms?” he almost spits. “I think I preferred my home life a little more predictable.”
“I’m so sorry, Doctor.” Kes lays a hand on his arm.
“I wanted to experience the things you biological beings hold so dear – love, friendship, family – so that I could understand and empathise with my patients.”
“And so that you could grow,” Kes reminds him. “I think it’s commendable of you, and very brave.”
“Some people call this wisdom,” the Doctor says harshly. “But I’m not sure exactly what I’m supposed to learn from it.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t try to see this as a lesson,” Kes suggests. “Try to live with the experience for a little while.”
“I don’t want to live with it!” The Doctor pushes impatiently to his feet. “I want it to be over. This isn’t how Belle’s story was supposed to end! This isn’t an ending at all. This is limbo. What happens next?”
Kes rises too. “What happens next is that you grieve,” she tells him. “You’ll feel as though there’s something enormous missing from your life, a hole that can never be filled. I can’t tell you how long you’ll feel this way; it’s different for everyone.”
The Doctor groans, turning away from her.
“But over time,” Kes continues, “you’ll gradually become more accustomed to the part of you that’s missing. You’ll patch over that hole with other people, other interests, but you’ll never completely fill it. Eventually, though, you’ll be able to peek into that hole without so much pain, and sometimes it will remind you of happy things. Things that make you smile. Things about Belle that were special and unique, that made her the person she was. The person you loved.”
The Doctor closes his eyes, listening intently.
“As long as you live, so will the part of Belle that you keep in your memory,” Kes finishes, moving closer to rest a hand on his shoulder. “And her story will never really end.”
The Doctor raises his head. Jeffrey stands, bleary-eyed and tangle-haired, by the couch where he’d been napping. His gaze switches between Kes and the Doctor.
“Are you okay, Dad?” Jeffrey asks.
The Doctor’s throat swells with a powerful mix of grief and love: grief for the child he’s lost, love for the one left behind. He strides over to his son, pulling him into an embrace that Jeffrey returns just as fiercely.
“No, I’m not okay,” he mumbles into his son’s gnarled and dreadlocked hair. “But one day I will be.”