Death and Taxes. The surety of their inevitability, they whispered.The former, his nemesis. Stoically accommodating to the condolences he was the beneficiary off, he slotted them into two distinct categories. Firstly, pseudo-grief. Predictably mirrored by face to face platitudes coupled with behind the back gossip of acquaintances. Second was real life, real time sorrow. A quiet unavoidable reflection of grief from friends. Both grated on him. Neither allowed him an escape.
Circumstances being what they were, he knew that he would get a pass for any grief induced, normally unacceptable societal behavior, even from his remaining parental authority, but that was conduct he would not indulge in. After all, good manners and etiquette had been ingrained into him since birth. Emotional excess and demonstrative denial in the face of scientific certainty were characteristics very unbecoming of an Avery and in that respect he conformed inexorably to the PR image. He did allow himself the outlet of grief though, but only in the privacy of his aloneness.
He railed at her God. Was the Universe punishing him for his hubris, for his disbelief in a Supreme Power? The fear that he’d had for her safety on the frontlines had, ironically, been superimposed by actual danger. The diametrically opposed plateau of home-court advantage, by residing in the good ol US of A instead of hotspot Jordan, made not a modicum of difference or perhaps a slight variance at best. The accident that killed his wife was classified as “Freak” here but would have been “Death in the Service of her Country” over there. The military speak, which she’d picked up during her tours and which had been an aggravating reminder of her recent absences every time she used it, was even more of a sore point when you consider that she’d never been drafted into service in the first place.
It was a disingenuous state of affairs, deviously duplicitous! Just as he’d forgiven her for her abandonment of him, she went and pulled a 180! While their return to intimacy had heralded a relinquishing of his anger, her perception, based on his reactions, was that he viewed their night of love as signifying the beginning of the end in the form of a beautiful, final hoorah. He had not had the opportune moment to correct the misconception that she’s been laboring under, which interpretation he could not fault as the deliberate vagueness of his expression had been unyielding. So, one degree of his anger was at himself. The bulk of it though was all April – she’d left him yet again! This time, forever…
In his saner moments, and without anger guiding his emotions, he conceded that this was illogical. Of course her leaving this time was involuntary and if there was one thing he knew about his wife it was that she was a fighter, she would never surrender. She had not given up on life, on love and even on them, no matter the extreme provocation. Watching her let go of their baby had been the most selfless act of pure love he’d ever encountered and he knew the toll it had taken on her. Yet she’d persevered and battled for her sanity and existence.And their marriage…she’d been fighting him, for them, till the end.
She’d also fought against hurtful misjudgments of her personality, uncomplainingly, all her life. Throughout it all and to his complete admiration she remained honest in her persona. She took to heart the first rule of fight club; her battles were not, and never had been, for public consumption. She was a one of a kind non-conformist, true to herself and of beautiful spirit and nature. Considering her profession, her looks and her brain, she was the antithesis of the arrogant, ‘know-it-all’ surgeon and the least superficial person he’d ever encountered. She was as deep and unchartered in her depths as the unfathomable ocean. What had amazed him once he delved into her personality was that as much as she felt for others, she was a closed book about her own feelings. While he had utmost respect for her general honesty, she’d been hard to read otherwise, so every “I love you” that she had spontaneously uttered to him he’d taken as a personal victory.
It had become a reflex, an instinctive trust. She felt secure in his love for her. Pondering on this for a moment, he realized that guilt and disappointment in himself added layers to his grief. Why had he hesitated in his own honest response? Was he punishing her for leaving and consequently for him losing the security of his love in the wake of Samuel’s demise?
The much touted five stages of grief were in his case three and he shuffled between those in no apparent order. Acceptance was a stage he knew he would never attain and as for bargaining, who would he bargain with? His belief in a higher power was still glaringly absent. As he remembered telling her at one time, things just happened. He would give anything to have her in front of him just then, arguing their differing points of view but in the end respecting and conceding to each other’s rights of belief or unbelief as it were.
He was stuck on denial. Not because he couldn’t accept that this could happen to him…them. I mean come on, he was a freaking doctor who saw more than his fair share of unexpected death. Things just happened. Come to think of it even to those suffering from terminal illnesses, death was an uninvited, unexpected and in many cases unwanted guest. He vacillated between anger and depression but denial was his constant. Something was not right.
He was rambling, internally, but still. Much as April was wont to do, although she let it all out, her mouth sometimes out-distancing her brain. He grinned in amusement at the thought of her lecturing him as to the correct implementation of the five stages of grief. She would draw up a list. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance and he would have to adhere to her checklist in the order specified, no deviations allowed. He would rebel though. It would be a rehash of numerous rehashes, the first being their elevator conversation. “You do you and I’ll do me,” he fondly recalled. But the crux of it had and always would be, “Me and You.”
While there had still been doubt as to the corpse’s identity, work had been his solace. That and trying to find out the mysterious identity. Once certainty was achieved by all but him, they inevitably chipped away at his opposing conviction, and his work ethic took a nosedive. His investigation had not garnered enough irrefutable proof to stand up to the other doctors’ foregone conclusions that Jane Doe equaled April Kepner.
He put all the investigative resources at his disposal towards analyzing the events of that day. He eschewed surgeries that he would have given anything to be in on, let alone lead surgeon. Why he’d even been contacted by The Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, on a cleft lift repair and some burn injuries. Since choosing his specialty he’d always promised himself that he would give back to the community, especially to those in need and pro-bono. These surgeries and the satisfaction he achieved at helping others was, aside from April, one of life’s value added benefits, contentment of the soul.
Still stuck in the rut of denial he was yanked out of the darkness and into the light of a different kind of hope. This by a very unlikely source, Dr. Nathan Riggs. Just as before, Nathan brought him the case, for a follow-up visit. Only this time made it all the harder when he couldn’t answer the question.
“Where is Dr. Keps? I need to see her, to show her how I can catch the ball now!” he exclaimed, with a broad grin adorning his young face and for that moment Jackson wanted to pummel Riggs into the ground. Until he realized that it was a deliberate omission. He had to be the one to tell Kamal that April was dead. He had to accept it. He had to grieve. Breaking Kamal’s heart along with his own, he finally gave in to the inevitability.
From Nathan, Jackson learned of yet one more thing that April had kept from him. She had planned to adopt Kamal. His entrance into the country had been predicated on that proviso and the wheels had already been set into motion. April had planned to share the news of impending fatherhood with Jackson, but his anger and their resultant separation had held her back – she’d been waiting for the opportune moment. With or without him though, Kamal was going to be her child. How could he turn his back on that?
“Morning, April. How are you doing today? Any aches or pains? Have you remembered anything new?”
“No, Dr. G, nothing new memory wise. But I am remembering a lot of medical jargon – what do you think that means?”
“Perhaps, you watched a lot of medical drama’s on television! Now I hear that the good father was able to put you up in a halfway house after the shelter, right, and not too far from the Church itself? And I hear that you’ve caught yourself a little tail in the bargain, hey?”
“My guardian Angel, he’s still looking out for me! I’m glad you brought him up. Why haven’t you done anything for him?
“Like what my dear? His mother never brought him in, and I doubt she even knew which of her John’s was the father, except that he was probably a white guy who left Anton with those light eyes. Only once she OD’d did Father MJ bring him here for a full check-up.”
“But why haven’t you done anything about his cleft lip?”
“That’s cosmetic surgery, April, and we don’t have the funds or a Plastic Surgeon on staff. But enough about Anton, I did try to get a doctor from Grey Sloan Memorial to come down here to do some pro-bono work but those rich guys they’re selfish. Enough about Anton. Now tell me about you. You do know what’s been happening to you right? That’s why you’re here?”
“Yes, I do know and by the way I’m going to get Anton the help he needs.”
“April…do you want to terminate?”