Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ghosts 22/37

Chapter 22

An ER Fanfic following the "Bishop Stewart" arc

One city down, three more to she closed the door of her hotel room Angelique let the wave of fatigue wash over her.  Maybe her decision to do this had been a mistake.  It wasn't just the jetleg catching up with her, she'd long ago learned how to battle that, no, this was a different kind of fatigue.  She'd tried to prepare herself for what she might encounter, she and Alexander had discussed what he was doing, what she could expect, but even those warnings hadn't been enough to prevent her surprise at the depth of the reactions of those attending the seminar.  As her associate spoke she had watched those in the crowd...and she knew their reactions would stay with her long after the tour was over.  They came from different experiences and yet they all shared a common connection and that had been clearly evident tonight as some wept openly while others visibly appeared to close themselves off, seemingly observing from a distance.

She shook her head in dismissal as she slid her heels off and crossed the room to the bed.  It was hard to imagine what it must be like for them to carry the guilt of surviving day after day.  In the camps she had understood, their pain of loss was so fresh...but now, after so many years.  She let the thought hang as she picked up her briefcase and lay it on the bed before sitting herself.  They all had fresh lives, new families in some cases, many were worlds away from what their lives had been, but still the ghosts of their pasts haunted them.  She opened the case and slid the envelope of photos out then settled back against the headboard with them.  "What about you?"  She asked the question aloud as if the faces forever frozen in time on them could somehow answer her.  She flipped through them silently until she paused on the one of the young man on crutches, a slight smile crossing her face as she looked at it.  "What about you Luka, have you moved on...are you happy?"

At the sight of the Priest Luka's face paled....oh God....not here, the thought instantly flooded his brain obscuring all else.  He couldn't do this here...not where they could all see him, his eyes flicked nervously around him, registering who was where and whether they were watching what he was doing.  Why would they be watching?  The question rose but his fears at revealing those hidden parts of himself swallowed it before he could even acknowledge the baselessness of those same fears.  He could feel the panic rising, the early signs already taking root, as he swiped his tongue across suddenly dry lips. Raking his hand back through his hair he tried to pull a rational thought into his actions, he had to do something, but what?  He glanced around where he stood, how long had he been standing there frozen?  The need to flee was gaining strength and his heart seemed to be trying to force itself from his chest with the intensity of it's beating.

"Luka?"  Abby's hand on his arm had the effect of a jolt of electricity running through him and he pulled away at the touch, his eyes darting to her in surprise.  "Are you all right?" She tentatively laid her hand back on his arm, keeping her words quiet and for his ears alone as she spoke.  

"Yes..."  Even as the words left his mouth he knew they were a lie, he wasn't all right, but how could he explain without her thinking he was crazy?  He could feel his breathing becoming more and more irregular as his fear at what had to come rose, and he fought not to bolt.

"Luka....look at me."  Abby's hand tightened as she saw the shift in his mannerisms and on his face.  The underlying tremble running through him caught her off guard but she continued, "You don't have to talk to him, not here...I can tell him you're busy."  She offered him the escape even though she doubted he would take it, then touched the side of his face with her free hand. "Luka, you need to calm down, you don't even know why he wants to see you."

"The seminar..."His voice was barely audible as he spoke and she found herself leaning closer to even hear him.  

"You can't be sure of that."  His nod and the look on his face made any other answer from his unnecessary.  "Luka, he can't make you go if you don't want to."

Wetting his lips again, he closed his eyes as he tried to slow his breathing, then opened them again with a resigned sigh.  "It isn't him asking me to's the Bishop and he knows I can't refuse him."  His words held the weight of a decision already made, even if he had yet to accept it.  The Bishop had been right, he couldn't hold onto the burden of guilt that he'd carried for so long...hadn't he agreed to let the man take it from him the night he'd died? Stepping back he rested his head wearily against the wall as he felt part of the weight ease, then closed his eyes to quell the nausea that fought to gain hold.  

Abby watched in concern as he drew back, retreating inside himself for those few moments wishing there were more she could do and knowing at the same time that this was a battle he had to win alone.  "Luka?"  She spoke his name quietly, then once more lay his hand on his arm.  "Do you want me to go tell him you're busy?"  When he shook his head she was surprised but not so much as she was as he opened his eyes and offered a brief smile of reassurance to her.

"I'll go talk to's time..."  With that he moved away from her, and without saying any more he made his way to chairs and the waiting Priest...

to be continued...

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