She had accepted that he was dead, well, maybe accepted wasn't the right word, the nights of endless drinking since she had received word were confirmation of that. She had lost her heart to a man for the first time and now she had lost him, resolved herself was a better way of putting it. Why hadn't he allowed her to stay with him in Matenda? Why hadn't she fought to stay? At least she could have lost her life as he had lost his instead of having to face life without him.
Gillian swallowed the thoughts and tried to focus on what the Mai Mai was saying...Luka a priest? They thought he was a priest? Disbelief overflowed at the words...he could be alive? She needed a drink now more then ever but instead she blindly followed Carter and the others...did she dare hope it was true.
Entering the dark hut with Carter she immediately recognized Chance and her mother, they were alive... but they were alone. Had it all been a cruel joke? She struggled to hold the tears at bay as her stomach twisted and turned inside of her. What was that? She turned her attention to the pile of rags against the wall that Carter was kneeling next to...and she felt her breath catch. Luka...oh, my God...it was him...was he alive? Please...if you exist let him be alive. She couldn't help begging inwardly for what she had, until now, denied herself belief of.
"Is he alive?" She asked the question quietly, as if she was afraid to break a spell that held them all, and forced her unsteady legs to keep her upright as the man checked the pulse in his neck.
"He's alive...but he's burning up, he needs medical attention." Carter's own concern was in his words and Gillian found herself finally approaching herself.
As she knelt next to Luka her stomach lurched as her senses were overwhelmed by the smell of filth, unwashed sweat, blood, and who knew what else that covered him...but he was alive. She reached over to touch his cheek, he was clammy to the touch, but he was alive, nothing else mattered.
"Gillian..we need to go..get Chance." She heard Carter's voice and found herself looking at him as if only just realizing he was there. "Charles and I will get Luka...go, before they change their mind."
She didn't want to leave him...didn't he understand that as long as she touched him she knew he was alive?
"Gillian...now." Carter's voice took on a tone of authority and she knew he was right. Leaning forward she brushed her lips across Luka's warm skin before reluctantly risingand moving to the girl and her mother.
Everything from that point forward seemed a blur...she wanted nothing more then to be at Luka's side and she found her movements almost robotic as she instead tended to Chance and her mother. Only when they were settled in the back of the truck was she again able to fully relax, only when she held Luka's head in her lap, when she could touch him and know he was really here. He was bruised...a cut to his jaw, a large bruise surrounding it..blood trailed from his nose, his lip bore traces of having been split. What else...his face, beneath the filth, she could see the telltale signs of his illness and captivity. She found herself tracing the even more prominent cheekbones as she surveyed every inch of his face. His eyes were sunken, the dark circles pronounced, the rawness of the wound on his jaw made her wince and somehow she knew he had endured it all without letting Chance or her mother know the extent of it.
She could feel his ribs as she moved her hand down his chest and as he moaned in complaint she raised his shirt to expose far too many bruises. She wanted to bathe him, to soothe the wounds with warm water and soft cloths, but that would come later, for now it was enough that he was alive...that he was safe. There was no way of knowing what would happen between them now, if what they had would remain, she returned to stroking her hair, oblivious to everyone around them. Luka had found his way into her heart in a way no one else ever had and she would be there for him as long as he allowed her to. She found herself shushing him as a bump elicited another moan, she, who thought she needed no one but herself. Gillian allowed a grudging smile to form at the acceptance of what she had always denied, even to herself...she was in love, and if she could survive this, she could survive what was to come as well.