Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ghosts 16/37

Chapter  16

An ER Fanfic set following the "Bishop Stewart" arc

He couldn't read anymore, not tonight anyway, Father Joe released a resigned sigh at the realization.  Leaning back in his chair he rubbed his hands briskly over his face in search of that second was hopeless, he'd have to give in to his need for sleep. He'd barely touched the surface of the young doctor's past and what he had read hinted at a darker picture then he could have imagined. What had it said?  He'd been found an hour from the camp but almost 20 miles from Vukovar....his physical condition seemed to indicate that he'd spent days on the road....and to cover that much distance on foot, while wounded.  There was the mention of his being he had been on tight rations even before his escape.  He rubbed his hand across his face then rose, how had the Bishop done this time and time again?  The question gnawed at him as well as did the deeper one, was his faith strong enough that he could take over his work and convince these people that God had not abandoned them in their time of need?  Maybe that was it, maybe the young doctor was a test of his faith and devotion.  Was this the gift that the Bishop had left for him?  He let the questions swirl around each other unanswered for the moment as he rose and crossed the room to the door, then switched the light off and headed for his chambers.

Retirement...the very word sent chills down Angelique Forquet's spine.  As she ushered her last private patient of her career to the door she found herself filled with a mixture of emotions.  "We'll all miss you."  The woman accepted the teary eyed embrace from her patient.  "I'll miss all of you too."  She closed the door and leaned her back against it, looking over the waiting room once the woman was gone.  She might miss the patients, but would she miss this?  The truth was she had only been going through the motions for some time.  She pushed off the door and walked down the hallway to her private office.  On the way she found herself lingering...she hadn't taken the time to really look at the photographs that lined the walls for sometime.  These were what made her who she was...they were what gave true value to her career.  She smiled as her gaze fell on the black and white of a small boy beaming to the camera as he took his first steps with a new artificial leg.  There would always be that part of her that wondered where he was, but that was the case with far too many of those here, she would never know what had become of them once they had left her care.

As she reached her office she slipped the white coat off and draped it across the couch.  The photographs that lined these walls were the ones that still visited her dreams...the ones who had affected her life as much as she knew she had affected theirs.  She touched a fingertip to the glass of one, the young woman's body had long gone to dust, but her memory would be forever etched in her mind.  She had walked for days to reach the camp...the baby in her arms less then a week old and three other children under the age of five in tow.  She had known she wouldn't survive even then, but still she had come... she'd lingered for two more weeks, sharing her life's story in whispered conversations until death had finally claimed her and left her four children orphaned.  Angelique brushed her tears away and moved to the next...

He woke to a burst of coughing that left his chest screaming and his breathing ragged, when it had subsided he searched for the blanket as the chill of the room hit him.  "Cold in here.."  He complained hoarsely to himself.  "Luka?"  Abby stuck her head out of the bathroom, not sure if she had actually heard what she thought she had heard, then moved to the bed.  "Luka, do you know where you are?"  Even as she asked it she realized how odd the question sounded.  "Opening an eye Luka settled it on Abby with a slight nod.."Um hm" he wanted nothing more to go back to sleep. "Hard to breathe..."  He voiced the complaint quietly before his eye eased closed again.  Abby found herself biting off the comment she wanted to make in return, in favor of laying her hand on his forehead.  "I think your fever has finally broken."  

As if just realizing something Luka opened both eyes a crease settling in his forehead as his bloodshot eyes swept the room before he half squinted at Abby.  "Went to the church..don't remember..coming home."  His words came slowly, forced out despite the pain brought by his throat, left raw by the coughing.  "Don't worry about that now..."  She reached for the lukewarm tea she'd left next to the bed then supported his head as she eased him up enough to drink.  "I'm pretty sure you have pneumonia..I didn't call anyone but we should get you to the hospital, you need antibiotics."  He shook his head in mild protest before taking several couple swallows, then lifted a hand to push it away.  "I can...write my own."  Anything else he was going to say was lost in a renewed burst of coughing.  "Luka...don't be should have X-rays done."  Even as she spoke she helped him to sit, hoping it would ease the pressure on his chest, then tucked the blankets around him. "No..." He let his gaze linger on Abby a moment, before speaking again.  "You look...tired."  It was all she could do not to laugh out loud.  "You think?  Luka, I just sat up all night with you, listening to you come close to coughing a lung out when you weren't scaring me half to death by being a zombie.  What do you expect me to look like?"  She hadn't meant to sound irritated...or to say all she had and as the words escaped she fingered the blanket before looking back at him.  "I'm sorry, I know it wasn't your just had me scared, Luka."  She let her voice trail off as she moved closer to him then took one of his hands in hers, lacing her fingers with his.  "Luka, I need to know what is going on with you..."

She lay a hand to each of the photographs as she revisited them in her a way they were the children she had never had.  She'd known from the day she entered medical school that she wasn't meant to marry and have children...her career had been her life from that moment forward...and she'd never regretted that decision.  She paused, letting her touch linger on the photo before her...he'd been so hesitant. She lifted the picture of the young man on crutches from her wall and carried it with her to the couch...and as she sat she found the scene that led to it's taking already begin to unfold.

"Today's the day, Luka."  Angelique smiled as the young man lifted his eyes from the book he held propped in his lap.  "Don't give me that's the day you walk."  She thought for a moment he might argue that he wasn't ready...she'd inwardly hoped he might, but maybe it was too soon to expect that of him.  She had to remember to give him time.  It had only been a week since Andre and Rene had found him...a week, and half of that time he had hovered in and out of consciousness.  Carrying a pile of clothing over she laid them on the cot next to him before drawing a chair up next to it and sitting.  "I've found you something to wear, we'll get you dressed and then we'll take a walk outside."  She watched as his face dramatically paled at the suggestion.  "Outside."  His voice was almost nonexistent, his throat still raw from all the coughing he'd done.  "Outside."  She reemphasized the word with a smile.  " don't have to worry..."  She lay a hand on his arm, "I'll stay close by, but you have to start exercising the leg if you want to regain full use of it."  As she caught the hesitation on his face she realized his fears went far deeper and she squeezed his arm in renewed reassurance.  "You don't have to worry about anyone seeing're safe here."  Even as she said it she knew that was their biggest fear...there were no guarantees.  If the Serbian soldiers came into the camp they knew the few medical people there couldn't protect them...or keep them from taking them away.  She watched the war going on within him...then reluctantly he nodded and she released a smile in acknowledgment.  Good...let's get you up and dressed then, and then you can try the crutches I found out for size."

Fifteen minutes later, with the assistance of one of her nurses she was ready to get him on his feet.  "Luka...look at me..."  She waited until he drew his eyes to her before continuing.  "We're going to help you up...have you ever been on crutches before?"  When he shook his head she nodded then continued.  "That's all right, they aren't hard to just have to remember to take things slow and let the crutches take your weight, not your leg.  Ready?"  The two women moved to either side of him, easing him to his feet then supporting him while he caught his breath from the effort.  "Good..."  Angelique could feel the small shiver running through him...and she rubbed a hand across his back in unspoken reassurance.  "Simone...would you get the crutches?"  As the nurse moved away she tightened her hold on him.  "Easy...wait for the crutches..."  She found herself reminding him in case he decided to move on his own. Through it all Luka said nothing, his face fixed into a determined mask as he searched for strength he wasn't convinced he had.  

Ten minutes later and they reached the moment of truth..."Ok, Luka...slow steps..use the crutches to move forward then move to them...that's it...not such large swings..."  She talked him through the walk to the tent entrance...stopping frequently to let him catch his breath, remaining close enough that she could move to catch hold of him if his balance faltered.  "You're doing fine, take your time...we're not in a hurry."  She flicked her eyes to his face, taking in the grim determination on his part, and smiling slightly as he bit his lip in concentration on the task.  When they reached the doorway she stopped him... allowing him those moments to steal himself for the move outside.  "Ready, Sweetie?"  He lay her hand on his back again, "You can do yourself..."  She stepped off to let him take the first steps alone...

It was that moment the photographer had captured in the image...she hadn't known he would be there..she had stepped outside with Luka only to hear the man's voice call to them to look his way....and the moment had been frozen in time, the moment of his rebirth.

to be continued...

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