Monday, June 13, 2005

Ghosts 11/37

Chapter 11

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

He was done...let them find him...kill him.  As he lay in the mud, he could feel the numbness of shock moving in on him and as much as he feared it, he found himself welcoming it as well.  This place would be his grave...there would be no marker pronouncing him beloved Husband...Father...Son...he would be one more nameless corpse, left to rot.  He released a sigh of acceptance, lifting his cheek from the mud before he slid his hand under it.  Suddenly it seemed that nothing else existed but the layers of pain, hunger, and fatigue that were drawing him away from all he had known.

An onset of coughing went unchecked as he lacked even the energy to muffle it.  When it had subsided he closed his eyes...he was so tired, and he pulled the layers over him like welcoming blankets. was the strongest...the warmest.  He imagined the tendrils of infection moving through his bloodstream...rivers of death among the life's flow.  The cuts and the scratches left by stone and brambles...fragments of glass... small slivers under his skin...all small remnants to mark the journey that had brought him here.  His lungs seemed to scream for air now...each breath threatening to tear something loose...or so it seemed. 

He drew the next layer over him...hunger...the hollowness holding it's own pain within it, the acid burning a reminder in case he forgot.  The final layer...fatigue...even more numbing then the blanket of pain, a weighted ache that made each limb seem too heavy to lift.  He was warm now, wrapped in the layers, oblivious to the the the night's frosted chill.  Sleep was beckoning was safe there...there would be no ghosts...he could retreat to the the time when his world was intact.  He felt the world fading...a cloud of nothingness billowing around him until it seemed to envelope him...and he couldn't help thinking that this must be death...and he wasn't afraid.

Her slap had silenced the almost animalistic moan but with that gone he seemed to slip even farther away from her. "Oh, God...Luka...don't do this.."  She found herself begging him, her fingers digging into his bare arms as she shook him.  "Luka...please... fight... whatever this is...please...fight Luka...Damn you...Luka...fight." She let the tears fall unchecked as he failed to respond..."Luka...I don't know what you want me to do..." 

Having finished his mass Father Joe found none of the comfort he usually felt at day's end.  The young Doctor haunted him...and he knew he would find no rest until a resolution to his situation was found.  It was that which brought him to the Bishop's the files he had collected...survivors stories he had called them...snippets of lives of people he would probably never know.  So many lives....he'd never understood why it was so important for him to gather the tales...stories passed from person to person, recollections of times most would rather forget.  They were all here though... loves lost...lives forever changed...families destroyed...but there were always survivors... those who had lived to keep the memories alive.  His most recent work still sat in the in basket...envelopes he'd never had a chance to read still there, unopened.  He had worked daily on them...and even after his death the answers to his queries still arrived.  He picked up the most recent envelopes and packages...El Salvador... China... Afghanistan... Croatia, he returned the others to the bin as the last caught his eye.  Had the young man touched him enough that he would ask more about him on his own, before the doctor himself had told his story?

He took a seat in the Bishop's chair and reached for the letter opener that still lay on the desk's surface, then sliced the package open.  It was larger then the others, a testament to what it held and as he withdrew the cover letter he settled back into the chair slightly.  The International Red Cross letterhead was one he had seen before, it made sense he would start there, slowly he began to read.  When he was finished he lay it aside and withdrew the first of the many files it held.  How had the Bishop begun the search knowing nothing more then his name?  As he glanced at the first sheet the answer was clear...Search Criteria: Croatian Males, Catholic, aged 23-27, Medical Students or Doctors, Vukovar, arrived Displaced Persons camps late 1991-early 1992.  The list of names of possible matches followed and as he scanned them he couldn't help but be struck by the enormity of what he was reading.  There were so many...he found the thought bringing tears to his eyes...if these were the ones who survived, how many more filled the lists of those who had not?  He swiped his hand across his nose, willing the tears to stop even as they dropped on the paper he held.

Page after page of names, young men who's lives had been altered forever by war...all the expectations, all of their dreams broken like fragile pieces of glass, shattered beyond repair.  Father Joe suddenly stopped reading...he was here.  His finger traced the young doctor's name in the list of entries...Luka number 176392.  The folders...could he hope that they held the case files?  How had the Bishop managed to persuade them to release copies to him, more curiously, why had he asked for so many..why not just the one he was interested in?

Father Joe lay the list aside and opened the first number 79845...Danko Vrdoljak, aged 24.  They were all here...the stories..fragments of lives...young men who had endured horrors he could never fully grasp.  He closed his eyes, whispering a silent prayer of comfort to the young men on the list and those they must have lost and left behind.  As he finished he glanced back to it..locating the name...Luka number 176392.  God forgive me...he glanced to the ceiling...I have to know...I have to do what the Bishop was not able to finish.  Slowly he began to search the files for the case he needed...the file that held the secrets to unlock the mysteries of the young doctor's past.

to be continued...

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