Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ghosts 15/37

Chapter  15

An ER Fanfic set following the "Bishop Stewart" arc

Father Joe lay the papers he'd been reading on his desk again and could they do it?  He raised his arms in an exaggerated stretch.  Day after day, they must have seen hundreds if not thousands of people, and yet for some reason they found the time to write personal reflections within their files.  He walked across the room to the window and let his gaze and attention shift for a was still raining and as he lay his hand on the glass he could feel the temperature already dropping, if it continued it would freeze.  He dropped his gaze to his watch, aware that an edge of hunger was nudging at him to satisfy it but as yet unwilling to walk away from the young doctor's story.  He was still a mystery..and he knew he wouldn't be able to fully rest until he had solved him and found a way to do what the Bishop had not had time to.  With a last glance out the window he returned to the desk and the files on top of it...aware that he had only begun to scratch the surface.

Ok, so maybe she shouldn't be snooping through his drawers, but if she didn't find something to keep herself occupied her resolve was going to break and she was going to call Mark.  Abby glanced over to the bed, assuring herself that Luka was still sleeping before turning back to the dresser.  What could it hurt?  She drew her lower lip between her teeth as the question eased it's way into her thoughts.  Everyone snooped, it was a fact of life...she moved his underwear away then smiled as she saw the small envelope laying on the bottom of the drawer.  A quick look to the bed and she had it in her hands, a moment later she had opened the flap.  She slid them out, the first was of rolling hills...the next of a ruined city...she stopped at the third, her eyes widening slightly.  A young man on crutches, squinting towards the older woman to his right almost protectively, watching him.  It took a moment to recognize the man as Luka, he was so thin...and his face held a look she had never seen before on it. She had never thought about what it might have been like for him, she'd never even thought to ask, what kind of a person was she to never have thought to ask?  She moved through the others...more of landscapes, a few of a tent city with the UN Cross visible on each.  She stopped again as another of Luka appeared...sometime later then the first, his face not so gaunt, the crutches gone as well and the hint of a smile for whoever took the picture.  It was the final one that brought tears to her eyes though...a gravestone..and despite it's inscription being in Croatian she knew what it must say...Danijela, beloved wife and mother...Jasna, beloved daughter...Marko, beloved son.  She slid the stack in the drawer, covering the envelope again as she did.  It hadn't been her right to see them and she knew it and as she slid the drawer closed she found herself unable to hide the tears, not just for his losses but for her intrusion into that which he had kept to himself.

It was he'd moved warily through the darkened streets he'd been surprised at the emptiness of it. Making his way up the stairs to the small apartment he carefully slid his key in the lock so as not to wake those inside. As he eased the door open he paused, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness before fully entering. Laying his bag on the floor he walked over to the crib...brushing his lips across his sleeping son's forehead before adjusting his blanket over him. As he moved to his daughter's pallet he stopped... it was empty, the blankets cast aside...he quickly looked to the bed where his wife slept...expecting to see her snuggled there against her mother. A flicker of movement near the window stopped him and only then did he see the small figure on the windowsill. Crossing the distance between them he whispered her name... "Jasna... <Croatian>it's Tata..." The small girl started before she turned to him...then a smile spread across her face as she opened her arms to him. Look, Tata..." Releasing his neck from the hug she turned back to the window. He wanted to chastise her warn her of the dangers the window held for her but something in the moment stopped him and instead he knelt next to her wrapping his arms around her as he tried to see what she saw in the night. "What is it Jasna? What do you see?" He let his eyes move over the scene before them...but there was nothing there and he couldn't hide the confusion that passed over his face as he tried to find what she saw. It was then that she turned to him, brushing her small hand over his face with a smile..."Is like before Tata...before the guns and bombs....can't you see?" In that moment he realized what he had wasn't anything sheactually saw, it was what was missing, it was the quiet that held her transfixed...

She felt rather then heard him wake and when she had finished unloading the remainder of the medicines from the box she turned to find his gaze on her. "You're awake."  She smiled at him before moving to his side and taking a seat on the chair she had left there.  Searching his face she noticed a brightness to his eyes that had been missing and she automatically lay a hand on his forehead.  "I think your fever finally broke."  When he failed to say anything in response her brow creased.  "Do you speak English?"  She'd automatically slid into English when earlier she had spoke in Croatian, maybe he didn't understand her. When he closed his eyes she thought she had lost him, but a moment later he opened then and ran his tongue across his dry lips. "Yes," The word came out as little more then a harsh croak.  "Good...let me get you something to drink."  She rose and walked across the room, picking up the cup of hot tea she had fixed for herself before she'd begun sorting the medicine arrivals.  When she was seated again she helped support him as he eased up enough to drink, "Careful now, it may still be hot...just a few sips."  When she'd received his nod in acknowledgment she raised the mug to his lips, letting him take several swallows before withdrawing it again.  "Thank you."  

He lay back again as she withdrew her arm, his eyes following her movements as she sat the cup aside then turned to face him again.  "You're more then welcome, now, I know you have questions and I'll try to anticipate as many of them as I can so you don't have to talk any more then necessary." When he nodded she smiled then continued, "My name is Doctor Forquet...this is an International Red Cross relief station, so yes, you're safe here."  She watched the changes in his expression trying to anticipate his unspoken questions, "You've been here almost 3 days, two of our drivers found you laying in a ditch not far from the road about an hour's drive from here."  She reached for the cup again as he interrupted her with another coughing spell, then as it eased she supported his head so he could drink again.  As he lifted a hand to the cup himself he seemed to freeze and a look of panic washed across his face before he pushed it aside and tried to rise.  "No..."She quickly sat the mug behind her as sherestrained him with her free hand.  "What is it?"  She glanced along the length of the cot as if expecting a snake or something to have somehow found it's way inside.  "My clothes..."His voice had dropped to a whisper as he struggled to force them out.  "We had to throw them out, they were beyond salvaging."  He explained to him almost casually, never expecting the reaction her words would bring.  "Jasna..." The almost strangled cry of anguish was immediately followed by his daughter's name and somehow in the midst of it all Angelique made the connection.  "Your picture..."  She touched his face, forcing him to see her. "Is that someone in your picture?"  As he nodded the tears at the expected loss had already begun to streak his cheeks.  "It's safe..."She rose quickly, picking the small black and white photo up from her desk then carrying it back and pressing it into his hand, making sure he realized it was there before releasing it.  "Jasna..."  His gaze fell to the picture as he traced the little girl's face with one finger.  "She's beautiful..."  The doctor found herself unable not to acknowledge the moment, but was not surprised that all he could do was nod at the compliment, his voice lost to the emotion of it.  

For the next several minutes Angelique busied herself around the tent, allowing him time to gather his frayed emotions again, when she returned she adjusted his IV then resumed her seat.  "There are questions you will have to answer, they debrief everyone we treat.  They'll want to know what happened, I think I can hold them off for a few more days, but not much more then that."  He pulled his eyes from the photograph and settled them on her before nodding his understanding.  "Right now what you need is rest, do you want me to hold your picture for you?"  She extended her hand at the question.  "No."  He closed his own hand around the image as if to protect it.  "Don't worry, no one's going to take it from you."  She offered a reassuring smile then rose and straightened the blanket over him again.  "I do have one question for you if you don't mind."  She reached back for the mug and offered it to him, helping him to raise as he nodded his acceptance then lowering him again when he had finished.  "We don't know you had nothing on you with it, will you tell me?"

Luka found himself fighting the momentary panic at her question, what if this was a trick, what if she wasn't Red Cross?  He swallowed, letting his eyes roam the room as he might see something that might disprove her earlier words.  What if he told and it somehow led them to his father...his brother.  "It's safe to tell me, I promise."  As if sensing his dilemma she lay a hand on his shoulder in reassurance, knowing the fear was more common then she wanted to admit.  So many of those she saw had lost the ability to trust...betrayed by friends and neighbors they had known for years.  She didn't rush him and instead squeezed his shoulder again, "It's all right."  she offered quietly in confirmation.  Luka swallowed before opening his hand and casting his eyes to the picture he held then wetting his lips he raised his eyes to her, the decision made.  "Luka, my name is Luka Kovac." 

to be continued...

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