Monday, June 13, 2005

Ghosts 10/37

Chapter 10

An ER fanfic that takes place following the "Bishop Stewart" Arc

Warning: This chapter contains material that some readers will find disturbing.

Father Joe tossed the pencil on the desk then frowned as he looked at the sermon that lay on the desktop in front of him.  What had he been thinking?  For the past 3 hours he had struggled to put the message down on paper and this was the result.  He picked the sheet of paper up, his frown deepening as he tried to decipher the almost illegible notes before him.  Any other night and the words rushed from him like waters cascading over a waterfall, but not tonight.  He lay it back down and pushed the chair away from the desk.

Who was he trying to fool? His mind wasn't on the sermon. truth was, he hadn't been able to concentrate on anything since the Bishop's Doctor had fled his office.  Would he ever forget the look of panic that had flooded the man's eyes?  What had possessed him to drop the subject of the seminar on him without even talking to him about things first?  He should have known what to expect...he'd listened to the Bishop as he'd talked about the "young doctor from Croatia."  Granted he didn't know the specifics of what he had endured in his past but he could guess, he'd spoken to enough survivors to realize what it might have been like for him. 

Father Joe found himself smiling slightly at the memory of the doctor and the Bishop's early encounters.  There were few people who could stand toe to toe and argue with the Bishop without backing down, he had seen then the Croat was one of them.  He'd challenged the Bishop, a lost lamb that had given him a reason to fight when he might otherwise have given up in those final weeks.  This was how he had repaid the man that gift.

Standing, the Priest walked over to the window, it was still raining, what had the nuns told him when he was a boy?  He closed his eyes a moment as he searched for the memory, then opened them again.  The rain is God crying...that was it...had he believed that it could only be because God felt the pain that the young doctor was feeling now and had chosen to share his grief.

Did he dare go to him, offer him the comfort he knew he must so desperately need?  The Bishop had heard his confession, had absolved him of his perceivedsins, and welcomed him back into God's loving arms, but who was there for him now.  Who was there to ease the pain that he still clung to?

There wasn't any escape...he was sure of that now.  Fear had wrapped itself so tightly around him that he seemed barely able to breathe and he was sure the strangled gasps would bring death to him.  Panic was driving him and as he stumbled blindly through the trees all he wanted to do was get away from the bodies...away from the grave that was meant to hide the secrets. 

The ghosts...he couldn't stop the ghosts..they were all around him now...circling him, beckoning to him.  His stomach lurched and his mouth was filled with the taste of the bitterness as the image of the small foot surfaced as he ran.  He could touch it...oh, God, it was still warm.  He sank to his knees, clawing the mud away as if the boy was still in front of him...he couldn't breathe.  He felt his own breathing alter in response before seeming to stop completely as he uncovered the small boy's face.  His stomach recoiled...oh God...Marko. There was nothing left for his body to give and still it demanded more...he retched until his throat was raw..then almost gratefully he collapsed to the mud in exhaustion.

Abby found her nerves becoming more and more frayed as she watched Luka plunge deeper into his nightmares.  He was beyond her reaching him longer even seeming to register her whispered reassurances.  His restlessness having left his bedding soaked and his skin slick with sweat.  How many times had she reached for the phone, meaning to call someone only to replace it as she realized there was no one she could trust to call.  His breathing was coming faster now...strangled gasps that frightened her still more.  She tried to hold him still as he pushed at the sheets around him..."Isuse Boze."  He repeated the words over and over and she was sure too she heard the name of his son.  When he suddenly jerked out of her grasp she nearly fell off the bed..her own panic rising as his breathing almost seemed to stop with the terror on his face..."Isuse Boze...Marko."  Moments later the keening began...

It was all his fault...they were all dead because of him.  Danijela...Jasna...little Marko, he was the reason they were dead.  Why hadn't he left Vukovar when Danijela had begged him to take them away?  Why hadn't he sent them ahead if he'd felt himself unable to leave?  How could he have placed his career above their lives?  He couldn't breathe...he had known what was happening, he'd heard the whispered stories in the halls and the wards.  He had treated the injuries and seen the bodies and still he hadn't believed it could happen to them.  How could he have thought they would be immune?  How could he have ignored it all?  He drew his knees to his chest, oblivious to the mud, and the rain, and the cold.  He could hear the keening of the victims...they were screaming their pain...they were dead because of him...he had killed them all...the keening grew louder.

She'd lost him...something inside of him had snapped and she'd lost him.  As Luka seemed to curl into himself Abby grabbed for him, surprised at the iciness of his skin despite the sweat that covered him.  He had to know she was here...he had to know he wasn't alone.  "Luka!"  She tried to break through to him with words alone and when that failed she choked back her own tears she did the only thing left to her.  "Luka!"  She slapped him hard across the cheek.  "Luka, come back to me...please..."

to be continued...

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