Friday, June 17, 2005

Ghosts 18/37

Chapter  18

An ER Fanfic set following the "Bishop Stewart" arc

For the next few days Father Joe's sleep was restless, his days spent reading and rereading the thick file as he searched for a way to help the young doctor.  Rolling onto his back he stared at the crucifix on the wall of his room, unable to release the questions and concerns that might allow him to sleep.  Pushing the covers aside he slid  out from under the sheet and reached for his clothes...maybe he would find the answers in prayer.  

There had been a time when he thought all of the solutions he sought would be found in prayer.  He moved quietly through the halls of the rectory and to the Chapel, the sound of his footsteps echoing on the wood floors, the only thing breaking the night's silence.  He had been so young then, so naive...he paused to dip a finger in the fount, anointed himself then turned to genuflect before moving towards the altar.  There had to be a way to help him...he only needed to ask the right questions.  He walked to the front of the chapel and knelt on the step...the answers were here...he just had to look deeper.

Once Luka had started himself on antibiotics the congestion in his lungs had dramatically improved, and despite his protests, Abby had persuaded him to take several days off.  As a reassurance to herself, when she wasn't working she spent her time with him, the watchdog he swore he didn't need.  She woke while he was still sleeping and with a smile rolled onto her side so she could watch him.  For the first time in days he had slept without the dreams waking him and his face held a calmness she'd begun to wonder if she would see again.  Biting her lip she lifted and hand and brushed his bangs off of his face, taking advantage of the room's silence to focus on the sound of his breathing.  While there was still a brief rattle it was nowhere near what it had been and she released her own breath in relief.  

They had spoken little about what had been troubling him and though her questions remained she had allowed him the distance he seemed to need.  She caught him several times looking over the wadded flier and despite her curiosity she had held her tongue on questioning him, afraid he would send her away and that she knew she couldn't bear.  Whatever it was it was coming to a head...she'd seen it in his face on the times he'd thought she wasn't watching him...he was at war with himself, and the final battle was at hand.

Angelique had begun the chore of packing the office, unsure of what she would do but never questioning her decision to retire.  Fate works in mysterious ways and as it had always happened in her life she knew the answer to what she would do next would present itself when the time was right.  She folded the newspaper around each picture, laying them carefully into the box in front of her.  How could she get through the day without seeing them all?  Some she knew she couldn't release so easily and those she sat aside, she would take those home with her, the children she never knew.  

<French>"Angelique....telephone..." The sound of her receptionist broke her reverie and she nodded laying the picture in her hand on top of the others before picking it up.  "Dr Forquet."  A smile broke her face as she listened to the voice on the other end.  "Alexander. " She immediately slid into English.  "How are you?  It's been too long... no, I decided to, I haven't decided what I want to do...why?" Her brow creased as she listened, then the smile broke again.  "I'd love's been years since I've been soon?  No, that's fine, yes...I'll look forward to it.''  As she replaced the phone in the cradle she found her eyes settling on the photograph of Luka, he'd been in her thoughts more these last few days then he had been in the last several years, and today was no exception.  With a sigh she settled onto the couch and let the memory take hold.  

She had watched the wariness with which he took in the Sergeant....seen the fear that he wasn't fully able to hide.  At first she could barely hear the answers he gave, his voice little more then a whisper..and as he grew silent it was all she could do not to go to his side.  His gaze had seemed to move past the Sergeant...the questions drawing into the memories she knew he fought to repress.  

He lay in that mist of half sleep, the pillow bunched up, under his head, the noises in the room barely registering.  He'd been working 12-16 hour overnight shifts for close to two weeks and in the confines of the small apartment he took his sleep when he found it.  On those mornings when he wondered where he had found the strength to walk home, let alone climb the stairs to theapartment, sleep came easily, the voices of his children unheard.  

<Croatian>He shifted slightly, nestling deeper into the cushion of the feather pillow, there was some kind of an argument filtering in...gentle coaxing ignored by the protests of his daughter, louder then she intended as she struggled not to wake him.  "Jasna...stop playing in that and eat."  Danijela's voice, still quiet but growing firmer.  "I hate it."  The sound of chairs scraping on the wood floor...and what else?  He was drifting away from it.  "Eat."  The single word enforcing her demand followed by the little girl's cries as she expressed her own futility.  "Jasna..if you wake Tata."  Another warning and sleep was lost, he pushed the pillow aside and rolled to his side to watch them.  "Jasna, listen to Mama."  Propping himself up on one arm he lifted his other hand to wipe the sleep from his eyes.  "But, Tata, I hate it...."  He almost let the smile break as she exaggerated the word in emphasis, and might have had he not seen the look on his wife's face as it deepened to stop him.

He pressed the heel of his hand into his eye in an attempt to break the last tendrils of sleep that held him.  " have to eat."  He couldn't fault the little girl, rations had been tightened and for three days there had been little more then the watered soup flavored by cabbage and turnip, with not even bread to supplement it.  "Jasna...come to Tata."  He forced himself to sit, resting his back against the wall as she came and crawled onto the bed with him.  Folding his arms around her he drew her onto his lap, letting his fingers run through her hair before he spoke. "How about I make you a eat the soup Mama fixed and Tata will go and find some bread and cheese for dinner."  His smile broke as he watched his daughter's reaction.  "Cheese?"  Her own face brightened in disbelief.  " spoil should sleep before you have to go back to the hospital."  Danijela scolded as she scooped their sleeping son up from where he had fallen asleep at the table and tucked him into his crib.  "I can sleep later, with luck it will be quiet tonight...this is more important."  He kissed the top of his daughter's head before releasing her.  "Tata, can I come with you?" He shook his head in refusal.  No...go eat your soup...let Tata get dressed."

He hadn't expected the memory to surface as the man questioned him and he had to shake his head to rid the last of the lingering images before it progressed to the ending he couldn't bear to see.  "I'm sorry....I didn't hear what you asked."  He brushed his hand through his hair as he forced his attention back to the man.  "You said your wife, Danijela was...23?  Any children?"  The Sergeant glanced up from the form in front of him.  "Yes."  His voice cracked before he continued.  "Jasna, my daughter was 5...and son...was just 18 months."  Luka brushed the tears off his cheeks as he struggled to maintain the fragile hold he held on his emotions.  "They died in Vukovar then?"  The man made the additions on the sheet, then glanced up as he waited for the response.  "Yes...a shell struck the apartment building where we lived...I lost all three."  The Sergeant nodded, "I'm sorry."  He offered the condolences automatically, aware that it was just part of the routine of the interviews.  Of those he spoke with almost all had lost someone, many found the emotions overwhelming, others were numb, and some, like the man before him, hovered on the edge of both.  "Any other family?"  The interview continued...

to be continued...

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