This is an idea I tossed out on the "Doc and Kes" board; several people seemed enthusiastic about the concept, so here it is. This is far from the first or best retelling of the Cyrano story -- but the legend is used with great fondness and respect, as are these Paramount owned characters. No copyright infringement is intended. All comments are very, very welcome, so please send praise or flames to ImXFScully@aol.com.

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MATCHMAKER
by Amy Vincent
ImXFScully@aol.com
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Doc glanced worriedly over the biobed; Kes wasn't her usual bright self today. Her eyes were slightly reddened, her face pale. His programming automatically kicked in: these were symptoms of certain viruses, particularly those affecting the respiratory tract. Yes, that would explain the sniffling he'd heard earlier.

However, the part of him that was more than just programming suspected there was more to it than that.

"Ouch!" Harry Kim complained; Doc realized he'd been holding the ensign's arm a little too tightly. He quickly finished his work and patted Kim on the arm. "There you go -- try not to strain it within the next twenty-four hours."

"Easy for you to say," grumbled Harry. "You didn't bet B'Elanna three replicator rations that you could master her Klingon calisthenics routine within a week." He was smiling even as he said it, and glancing over at Kes, who normally would have started teasing him right about then.

She didn't. She simply stood there, pale and distant, barely hearing Harry at all. Kim raised an eyebrow, and hopped off the bed. "Thanks, Doc," he called as he went out the doors.

Doc folded his arms across his chest and regarded his nurse more carefully. She didn't notice for a minute, then looked up slowly from her tricorder. "What?"

"I cannot help but observe that you are not behaving in your normal -- cheerful manner. You display some odd physical symptoms. May I ask if you are feeling well?"

"I'm -- just tired -- " Kes began, then stopped, lower lip quivering. "Oh, Doc!" She slumped into a chair nearby and began to sob.

Doc couldn't have been more astonished if Kes had pulled out a disruptor and declared herself Supreme Commander of the Klingon Empire. But after a second, he pulled his thoughts together - she needed comfort. What was appropriate? Whenever Kes herself wished to show compassion, she made some sort of physical contact with the person. So Doc put an arm across her shoulders as he knelt beside her. "Kes, what's wrong?"

"Neelix and I -- we've broken up."

Doc raised his eyebrows. As far as anybody else on Voyager had known, Neelix and Kes were completely inseparable. "What happened?"

"Oh, things have been sort of strange for a while now -- I mean, I love Neelix. We have a lot of differences, but I always thought we could work them out. But last night he just blew up -- he said we shouldn't have to work so hard, that it was unnatural for us to be together when we're so opposite. How could he be so mean?" Kes dissolved into fresh tears, leaning her head against Doc's chest.

Doc, meanwhile, was uncertain of what to say. On one hand, it seemed that the split had truly hurt Kes, and that if he could help her to mend it, that would be the best means towards making her happy once again. Yet he, too, had had some doubts about the relationship between Neelix and Kes. As Tom Paris had once acerbically reminded him, he was far from an expert -- but they *did* seem to be an unlikely pair.

However, he didn't trust his feelings in that matter. He suspected his judgement might be slightly -- biased.

"Do you wish to resume your relationship with Neelix?" he asked.

"I just don't know," Kes sighed. "I mean, among the Ocampa, people usually find a person that they love and then mate for life. That's what I always thought Neelix and I would do. But we obviously have a lot of problems to solve before we can get back together. And I don't think he's interested."

Doc handed her a tissue for her tears, and patted her on the back. "Assuming that nobody else decided to take B'Elanna's challenge, today should be fairly slow. Why don't you go talk to Neelix -- or at least get some sleep? I believe it will be good for you."

Kes laughed softly. "Always the doctor. Thanks," she said, kissing him softly on the cheek as she went out.

Once again, Doc felt a familiar pang of loss -- his own wishful feelings for Kes may have been a secret to everyone else aboard, but he understood them well by now. He loved Kes -- and Kes loved Neelix. No doubt, they'd work through this little spat and be as blissful as ever before long.

He busied himself with some tissue cultures for a while; when the door hissed open about an hour later, Doc expected it to be Kes, face alight with the happiness of her reunion. Instead, it was Neelix -- looking as bewildered as Kes had earlier. "Where's Kes?"

"Kes has apparently gone to her quarters to get some much-needed rest. I believe she spent a sleepless night, due to your little spat."

Neelix groaned in frustration, pulling at his topknot of hair. "Women! There's no understanding them. We don't enjoy any of the same things -- not music or sports or even food!" Neelix, ever the gourmand, seemed most put out about the last item. "But she thinks that we're mated for life!"

"I always thought you understood that, and that you intended to stay with her," Doc said.

"Oh, I did. Maybe I still do. But you have to understand -- these sort of long-term relationships are strange for Talaxians. We don't stay in romantic pairings for much more than a few months! Ever!"

"Who raises children?" Doc asked, curious despite himself.

Neelix looked nonplussed. "The parents do -- but they're usually not romantically involved far after the birth of the child. I thought I could stick this out for Kes's sake -- "

"She's miserable without you."

The little Talaxian looked guiltier than ever. "Oh, no. Well -- maybe I can. She is a dear, sweet child -- isn't she?"

"Yes, she is. But she knows that the two of you have many problems to resolve before you can reunite."

Neelix rolled his eyes. "You think I'm going to have to win her back?"

"Sounds like it to me."

"How can I? Nothing I do or say seems to please her anymore! YOU know more about what she likes than I do!" As he spoke, Neelix's eyes began to gleam -- an idea was brewing.

Doc shrugged. "I can offer suggestions, of course -- "

"No -- wait. I've got it!" Neelix cried. "YOU can do it!"

"Beg pardon?"

"You can win Kes back for me! Write her notes or something -- poems, maybe. Does she like that sort of thing?"

"Yes, she does, but -- " Doc was completely confused. "Isn't this somewhat -- dishonest?"

Neelix waved off this consideration. "It will smooth her ruffled feathers -- make her happy again. And give me a little time to figure out how *I* can make her happy again. What do you say?"

Make Kes happy. When Neelix put it like that, there was no way for Doc would refuse. "Certainly. One holographic matchmaker, at your service."

***

When Kes awoke from her nap that afternoon, it took a moment to clear her mind. *Why am I here instead of sickbay? Oh -- Neelix.* She slumped back into her pillows for a second, then pushed herself out of bed. *Brooding over it won't help.*

But as she walked by her computer screen, she realized the small green message light was flashing. Curious, she activated the screen.

It was a print message, unsigned.


Dearest Kes -- I know you're unhappy now, and that you want nothing more than
to end all this confusion. But it takes time, patience and love -- all of which I am willing
to give you, if it's not too late. Bear with me, dear girl; I'll learn to love you better, and
I'll prove it to you -- over time. You don't have to do or say a thing, just give me a week
to show you how I feel. Will you?

Kes smiled. "Oh, Neelix. Of course -- " She sighed as she switched off the computer screen, then hugged herself tightly. "Everything's going to be all right after all."

***

The next morning, there was no message -- just a calla lily, replicated to perfection, sitting on her padd. Kes's eyes lit up with delight as she whirled to face the doctor. "Okay, you! Confess!"

"What?" Doc almost dropped his tricorder. The Ocampa was facing him, hands on her hips, an impish look of playful accusation on her face.

"You *must* have seen somebody come in and put this here, right?"

"Oh -- no. I only activated myself a few minutes before you came through the door," he lied smoothly.

"Well, then -- you're off the hook this time," Kes warned, wagging her finger at him. "But I think Neelix is trying to win me back -- and I expect you to be on the lookout."

"Will he win you back?" Doc asked, sadly studying the joy in her eyes.

"It looks like it," she giggled. "But we'll have to see."

***

The next note arrived that evening. It started with a poem, which began:

"She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies/and all that's
best of dark and bright/meet in her aspect and her eyes/ thus mellowed to that tender
light/ which heaven to gaudy day denies --"

It continued:

This is a poem I found in the ship's record banks; apparently it was written by a Lord
Byron, one of Earth's greatest poets. I chose this one to send to you not only because of
its beauty, but because it does sum up what I love best about you -- the contradictions that
are blended so wonderfully and perfectly in you. You are so very young, and yet your
maturity and stability are the equal of any other being aboard this vessel; in fact, I believe
most of them -- including me -- have a lot of growing up to do before we could be your
equals. You look so delicate, so fragile -- almost ethereal, with your slender body and
lamplight hair. And yet you're so very strong, not just physically but emotionally and
mentally. You can be compassionate or mischievous, gentle or fierce, as the moment
demands. And, my Kes, you never fail to know exactly what others need. I only worry
that sometimes, we don't think enough about what you need. But all that is going to
change now -- I promise.

Kes found herself sniffling slightly as she read the note; she reached up to dab her eyes for a moment. "This is beautiful," she whispered, even as she quirked her mouth in confusion. "But it doesn't sound the least bit like Neelix -- "

***

She was a little more observant, over the next few days. Small tokens kept appearing on her desk; more flowers, a delicate pink seashell, a swirled glass pendant, even an old-fashioned book of Byron's poetry. And the notes kept coming -- each one more beautiful than the last. They still filled her heart with tenderness, but Kes couldn't shake the idea that these gifts and letters *weren't* Neelix's work. Neelix had been attentive, yes -- but rarely thoughtful. Every single present, every single word of this deluge of affection seemed too precise, too ideal, to have come from her less-than-perfect former lover.

Less than perfect. Kes sighed as she thought about that realization, which had set in on the third day. Neelix was a good person -- she never doubted that for a second. But without him in her life, she was more free to choose her activities, to do what she truly wanted. As a result, she was having a lot more fun -- kibitzing with Harry over Tuvok and Chakotay's chess games, doing yoga with Captain Janeway, or -- most of all -- just staying longer in sickbay, doing extra projects she was curious about, and talking with Doc. She was beginning to realize that she enjoyed the Doctor's company more than anyone else's aboard Voyager.

All in all, Kes was beginning to wonder whether maybe her assumptions had clouded her judgement. Almost all Ocampa romances lasted for life; she'd automatically decided her first love would, as well. But maybe it was better for her to move on --

Yet how could she, with Neelix sending these beautiful letters?

***

Doc, for his part, had never been so torn between happiness and misery. In some ways, it was a blessed relief not to have to bottle up his feelings for Kes any longer -- pouring out all the pent-up love and affection of the past year was surprisingly easy, and was a joy in itself.

But he knew he was pushing her back into the arms of another man -- that was the truth of it, and it hurt more than he would ever have thought possible. Still, Doc reminded himself, as he sat down to work on the holographic program he'd spent the entire week perfecting -- I'm doing this for Kes. It's what she wants, and her happiness is more important to me than my own. Maybe finally getting a chance to express my feelings will make it easier for me to accept her reunion with Neelix.

Or maybe not.

***

Finally, on the sixth day, Kes came home from sickbay to see yet another flashing light; smiling in anticipation, she activated the screen.

It was yet another text message, this one rather brief.


Meet me tonight at 2000 hours in holodeck A -- formal dress requested.


Kes raised an eyebrow. "Well, well. Your creativity continues to amaze me -- " Yet even as she went to her closet to look for something to wear, her confusion increased. *Neelix *hates* dressing up, he's said so a dozen times -- *

Just then her door chimed. "Come on in," she called, looking over her shoulder to see who her visitor was -- then stopped short in surprise. "Neelix!"

"Hello, Kes," he said, wringing his little hands together. "I think perhaps we should talk."

"You're probably right -- but I thought that's what tonight was all about," she answered.

Neelix put his hand on his forehead. "Oh, yes, that -- that's what made me realize I had to talk to you right away."

His face was furrowed with concern; Kes felt a strange fluttering feeling in her stomach as she motioned him to a chair. "All right -- go ahead."

"I was trying to figure out what to wear. Then I remembered how much I loathe fancy clothes, and I realized -- I really do mean what I said before. I shouldn't continually have to do things I just don't enjoy to please you. I know there's supposed to be give-and-take in a relationship -- but I think I'm reaching too far. You too, probably. We're just not enough alike to stay together forever." Neelix was quivering with frustration -- he obviously didn't want to hurt her, but knew he had to speak.

Kes expected to feel panicky, sad, angry -- and instead, found only a deep well of relief. "Neelix, I think you're right. During our days apart, I realized that we really are better off separate. I still think the world of you --"

"As do I!" Neelix added.

"But we're just not meant to be." She took his hand briefly, as one friend to another, and they smiled.

"I'm so glad you agree. I would hate to think we can't still be close," Neelix said, getting up to go.

"That will never change, Neelix," Kes promised. "But there's one thing that confuses me -- what about all these notes you sent? And the little presents? Why did you keep doing that, if you were deciding we needed to stay broken up?"

"Oh, that." The Talaxian blushed as he began to explain. "Well, I was so uncertain about how to talk to you anymore, and you're such good friends with the Doctor -- I got him to write a few notes for me. To win you over a little, maybe; I finally realized that if I couldn't write my own love letters, I needed to look at all of this a little more carefully."

"Wait a minute -- DOC wrote these?"

"Yes -- please don't be angry. We were only trying to make you happy -- "

"I'm not angry," Kes whispered, falling back in her chair. The notes had been so personal, so warm, so --- loving --

Neelix didn't notice her shock; he was still aglow with the first flush of relief. "I'll tell him the ruse is over; cancel that holodeck reservation while I'm at it -- "

"No, don't," Kes said, coming to a sudden decision. "I'd like to speak to Doc myself. And leave the holodeck; I think I'd like to use it myself."

"Certainly," Neelix shrugged. "And what do you say to lunch tomorrow? As friends?"

Kes smiled. "As friends."

***

Tom Paris went off duty at 2000 hours; after a long, hard day like this one, he decided, the holodeck was calling his name. The ship's BBS informed him that Carey was having an evening of rhythm and blues in holodeck B, come one come all -- Paris decided that sounded ideal. Nothing could be more perfect --

"Except her," he whispered, skidding to a halt in the corridor outside the holodecks. Kes was standing there in a floor length gown of silver silk, her golden hair fluffed up like an angel's halo. "Kes!" Tom called, remembering with a surge of hope that she was single now. "Coming to the rhythm and blues club? Mississippi Delta, circa 1950 -- Carey says it's great stuff."

"No thanks, Tom," Kes said, smiling softly. "I've got a date."

Paris folded his arms across his chest. "A guy tries to wait a decent interval to make his move -- and it turns out you're already taken?"

Kes returned his teasing smile. "Afraid so. But you shouldn't be lonely for too long -- I just saw the twins going in."

"Really?"

"And they were wearing red," Kes added.

"Gotta go. Have a nice time tonight, Kes," Tom called, as he hurried through the doors of holodeck B.

Kes laughed softly as she stepped into holodeck A. Tonight, a beautiful terrace garden filled the room -- lush, fragrant blooms curled over the bowers, or waved softly between the fronds of the great ferns that surrounded the low, stone walls. One side of the garden was open out onto a cliffside, from which Kes could look down and see an ocean, crashing against the shore. She breathed in the soft sea air for a second, and allowed herself to appreciate the view of the starry sky above. Then she sat down on a small bench and said, "Computer -- initiate emergency holographic medical program."

Doc appeared in the middle of the garden, and looked around in surprise. "What the --"

"Hello, Doc," Kes said, smiling.

"Kes! Where's Neelix? Why am I here?" Doc looked at her, worried that she'd somehow managed to slip and hurt herself -- but she simply looked lovely, happy -- and alone.

"Neelix has gone -- for good. We decided that, honestly, we're better off apart."

Doc studied her closely for a second. "How do you feel about that?"

"I'm happy about it, actually. It really is for the best."

"Then I'm happy for you," Doc said. The suspicion that he might be in trouble was dawning on him. More timidly, he asked, "And why have you brought me here?"

"Well, it's your handiwork, after all -- I thought you ought to get a chance to see it."

"My work? Why, I never -- I couldn't -- " Doc blundered about for a second, desperate for an explanation. But his programming was weak on prevarication. "When did you know?"

"I always knew the letters didn't sound much like Neelix. But I wasn't sure until this evening, when Neelix and I spoke. I think I would have figured it out on my own before long, though."

"I apologize for the deceit, Kes -- I thought a reunion between you and Neelix would make you happy," he said, pacing to the other edge of the garden. "But it was still dishonest, and so I shouldn't have done it."

"It was very, very deceitful of you," Kes chastised him. However, there was no anger in her voice -- and he wouldn't begin to interpret the dancing light in her eyes. As she rose from the bench, she added, "But I don't know if I'd say you shouldn't have done it."

"What do you mean?"

"Doc -- I'm only going to ask you this once, so answer very carefully, and very honestly, all right?" When he nodded, she continued, "Those letters were the most beautiful, passionate letters I've ever read. I don't think I've ever felt as happy -- as loved -- as I did when I was reading them." Her voice grew uncharacteristically soft as she asked, "Doc, were you just making all of that up?"

*This is it,* Doc thought, in something like panic. *She's figured out the truth, and she's going to feel awkward, and she won't want to work in sickbay anymore, and this will ruin everything --* Still, all his fears didn't change the fact that it would be wrong to lie to her any more. "No, Kes," he said. "Those letters -- that's how I really feel."

She folded her pale hands over her heart. "Oh, Doc. And you never said a word --"

"You're not -- upset?" Doc saw that her eyes were soft with tears.

"I'm happy, Doc. Happier than I've ever been before. Will you dance?"

If she hadn't asked him such a simple question, Doc never would have been able to think of an answer -- his mind was wild with a totally new, unexpected joy. As it was, he could barely stammer out, "I -- I can try -- I never did before --"

"We'll work it out," Kes said. "Computer, play 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' Slow tempo."

As the old-fashioned song began, Kes walked towards Doc and held out her arms. He hurriedly accessed the appropriate data, then held her close and began to dance slowly in the moonlight. "I never dreamed this would happen," he said, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair.

"Me either," she admitted, looking up into his eyes. "See what happens when you play matchmaker?"

"I'll have to do it more often," he teased.

"Don't you dare!" Kes took his face in her hands and drew him close into their first, perfect kiss.

***

THE END

Copyright 1996 by Amy Vincent. Reproduced on the Official Robert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author.


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