Thursday, June 9, 2005

Ghosts 2/37

Chapter 2

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

Dropping his eyes to his watch as he entered the ambulance bay only deepened the frown on Kovac's face.  He'd lost the better part of an hour, how could he explain his absence?  He had walked away from a patient, from their family.  He had left them not knowing if the boy were going to live or die, and he hadn't even cared.  A voice inside of him screamed for him to walk away again...he had nothing to hold him here it reminded him.  He paused, resting his hand on the brick wall for support as he tried to quiet couldn't keep running away.  Pushing himself off the wall, he drew a deep breath then let it out as he walked to the entrance..steeling himself for whatever was coming as the doors to the ER slid open and he stepped inside..

"Hey Doc...whoa, you look like hell, something up?"  Malucci glanced at Kovac as he passed him in the hall, "Haleh was looking for you..she didn't look too happy."  The young resident frowned at the chart in his hand...vomiting and diarrhea, some days he was sure Weaver stacked the charts to make his life difficult.  Luka shook his head in dismissal of the question and focussed on the safer part.  "No..just a rough trauma, look," He brushed his hand through his hair as he spoke.  "I need a break..tell her I'll be back in not more then half an hour if you see her again would you?"  Dave nodded, "Sure, I can cover for you, hide while you can..."  He warned with a smile before he headed off to the exam room.  

In a way he was relieved when the young doctor moved off, what else could he say, he needed to clear his head before he talked to anyone else, that much he was sure of.  How to do it?  Without leaving the hospital itself, there were few places he could do that.  Slipping into the lounge he opened his locker and pulled the clean shirt he kept there out. When he flicked his eyes to the small black and white picture he had placed in the door only hours before, he couldn't help but wonder why all this was happening now?  He rested his head against the cool steel tracing his fingers across the frozen images as he drew a calming breath.  Why couldn't it all just stay buried?  He let the thought hang there as he straightened and slammed the door closed then headed out of the room.

He approached the shower room with mild trepidation...what he wanted now, no needed, was to be alone and there were no guarantees that that would happen.  He pulled the door open and stepped inside, his eyes moving quickly around the room before he fully entered.  The puddles of water near several lockers were leftover reminders that others had been here recently, but at least for now it appeared he wouldn't have to face anyone.  Releasing a relieved breath he walked over to one of the metal boxes and after laying his shirt on the bench in front of it, opened the door.  

When he'd returned at the beginning of his shift, he'd thought that the time off had allowed the ghosts of his past to finally be laid to rest.  The Bishop had heard his confession, had offered forgiveness, and given him back his faith.  More importantly, the last month away he'd thought had allowed him to heal what before that he'd only hidden.  He exhaled, looking at his face in the locker's small wonder Malucci had thought something was wrong...he ran his hand across his face, the shadow of a days beard growth scraping against it.  Even he could see the haunted look his eyes held...he dropped his gaze..and his hand before he loosened his tie and pulled it off.  

It was too easy for him to close his thoughts away in mindless tasks, and the pain of others..but then he had had almost 10 years to perfect the skill.  10 years since Danijela and the children had been killed.  10 years since he'd avoided death himself.  He shook the thought aside, focusing instead on the simple task of unbuttoning his shirt.  As he pulled his arms from the sleeves he found his thoughts wandering again...was that it then?  Was it that he had spent the time away thinking only about Danijela and his children?  A month of wondering what his life could have been like if they were all here together?  

A sad smile crept across his face as images of Jasna and Marko entered his mind and without realizing it he glanced down as if he expected to see them tugging on his pant legs as they clamored for his attention.  Within moments it had faded and a soft sigh escaped him as his mind registered that he would never know that sensation again.

He finished undressing slowly, as if he could somehow alter time through the act, then slid everything in the locker and shut the door.  As he glanced across the room his eyes settled on the pile of towels that he'd missed when he entered.  Shaking his head at the forgetfulness he padded naked to it,  pulling one off the stack..then wrapping it around his waist before he headed for the showers

The damp chill in the room was immediate and he barely repressed the shiver that ran through him before he reached in and turned the water on.  After giving it several minutes to warm he dropped the towel and stepped inside...a gasp escaping him as the water first hit...he reached down to adjust the temperature then turned his back to it.  The sting of the water momentarily distracted him and he leaned forward..bracing his hands on the shower stall wall as it seemed to drive tiny needles into the knots in his back.  His respite was short lived and as the tension eased his mind quickly wandered and within minutes the memories he'd fought so hard to suppress crept back into his thoughts...

At first he'd felt like he was choking...the dust from the broken wallboard seeming to fill his every opening...he shifted position..careful not to make any noise as he wiped it from his eyes...not like it mattered...the darkness prevented him from seeing.  He could hear them though....footfalls crunching on the debris over his head...Oh, God, please don't let them find me...he concentrated on not moving...never realizing how difficult that could be as his muscles seemed to rebel.  He lost track of time...knowing only the burning as the dust scratched his eyes..and seeped into every pore.  

As it grew later his panic at being caught shared space with his increasing thirst..he ran his tongue across his much longer until they were gone?  He listened as the Serbian soldiers above laughed about what they had done...he could smell the smoke from their cigarettes...and within it all he knew that his fate would be decided within seconds were they to find him.  He bit into his hand as a cough threatened to break...only pulling it out as the need finally passed.

He must have dozed...though how he could sleep with death so close was a mystery... he jerked abruptly awake as first a gunshot then a scream broke the silence of his hiding place.  Time had no meaning anymore..and after what seemed like hours, but what might have been minutes, the voices were gone, leaving only the sound of passing trucks on the street behind.  He was left with his own thoughts then, and in his growing disorientation imagined that he was home...he could hear Jasna's laughter...smell the scent of Danijela's soap as he nuzzled her neck...feel the softness of Marko's hair as he stroked it.  He shifted slightly then groaned as a muscle cramp tore through his calf and forced reality back into his mind.  How much longer could he stay much longer until they found him and his fate became that of his family, or the gunshot victim, or the thousands of others who had died at their hands?

The steady pounding of the water into his skin made it easy to lose himself to the memories and he no longer felt the sting of it as it reddened his back.  He moved forward resting first his forearms then his forehead against the now warm tiles as the long repressed scene continued to play out in his thoughts.

Eventually it was hunger and thirst that forced him from the safety of the blackness... the gnawing consuming him until not even sleep offered an escape from it.  He bit his lip as he slid the wallboard aside..the sound seeming almost deafening.  They could be waiting for him...the thought came unbidden....could, but was death here any more welcome?  He hoisted himself up so that he could see over the edge, it was still dark and the air held the scent of fresh rain...but it was quiet..almost too quiet.  He shimmied the rest of the way out and crawled forward on his belly, as if his staying low to the ground would somehow make his less visible...then peeked his head around the corner..letting his eyes move up and down the street.

He moved his head and bit into his hand to silence the anguished cry that broke.  Oh, God, please don't make me relive that again...he turned around...reaching over to adjust the water until steam poured from the showerhead.  He flinched in response to the sting of the hot water as it bit into his skin, it's pain the only way he could think to silence the ghosts that continued to haunt him.

As he reentered the ER after tossing his shirt in the locker, his first thought was that he needed a chart, any chart that would take his mind off the increasing relapses into his past.  As he grabbed the first in the rack he glanced quickly around the Nurse's Station, no sign of weaver, or Halah, at least for now he could pretend nothing had happened.  He flipped the chartopen then moved over to the board, "I'm taking the scalp lac in sutures."  He announced to no one in particular as he scrawled his name next to it.  As he dropped the marker in the tray he released a sigh of relief, business as usual, he cast his gaze around the station once more then headed for the suture room.

As he entered the room he smiled at the little girl who sat on the exam table...then to the woman who perched in the chair beside it.  "Hi..I'm, Dr. Kovac."  He laid the chart down on the suture tray as he reached them..."What's your name?"  He tilted his head slightly as he waited for the girl to answer, using the time to give her a quick once over. "Lakisha..." The girl answered quietly.  "How old are you...Lakisha? " He struggled with the name a moment before getting it out.  "4" She bit her lip nervously as she watched to see what he was going to do.  "I'm going to look at your cut...and then I'm going to sew it up for you..ok?"  He waited for her nod then looked over to her mother as he picked up the chart and studied it a moment.  "Her X-Rays came back once I get her stitched up she should be able to go will want to watch her for drowsiness, she could have a mild concussion from the fall.  OK?"  The mother nodded as he readied the suture tray. "That's what the other doctor said too..."  Pulling a stool over next to the bed he took a seat then reached for the needle.  "Good...ok.. Lakisha.. you're going to feel a couple stings when I give you medicine to make it not hurt..."

All finished."  Luka dropped the scissors on the tray next to him..then looked into the small girl's face.  "You were very brave."  He said with a smile, before looking back to the dressing he was readying to cover his work.  Tearing several strips of tape from the roll he looked over to the child's mother.  "I'll have them give you wound care instructions when you sign out, and you should follow up in a week to have the stitches taken out."  When the woman nodded her assent he turned back to Lakisha and began to apply the bandage over her stitches, when he had finished he stood.  "No more running down stairs now...agreed?"  He let his gaze settle on her for a moment until she replied.  "I won't."  

Picking up the chart he jotted a few final notes on it then raised his eyes back to the mother.  "You cangether dressed now, and I'll have what you need at the desk for you to pick up when you sign out."  He gave her a reassuring smile then headed for the door.  "Thank you."  The woman said as she rose and began gathering her daughters clothes.  "You're welcome...good-bye Lakisha."  He added the last as he opened the door...then stepping out into the corridor he headed back to the Nurses Station.

"Luka, we need to talk."  Kerry Weaver's voice broke into his thoughts as he signed off on the girl's chart and dropped it back in the rack.  Forcing his emotions aside he slipped his hands in his pockets and turned to face her.  "About what Kerry?"  The question was obvious, even to his own ears.  "About what's going on with you...I know you just got back from vacation, but you can't just walk away from your shift...especially in the middle of a trauma."  The redhead let some of her irritation ooze into her words.  "It wasn't in the middle of a trauma Kerry...the boy was on his way to surgery, I was finished with him."  Luka clenched his jaw, fighting hard to keep his rising anger in check.  "You left his family sitting in chairs not knowing if he was alive or dead.  Luka, what were you thinking?"  He shook his head his face hardening even more.  "I just needed some air."  He threw the excuse out blindly.  "Air?  You just needed some air?  Luka, you can't just walk away on patients, if something is going on, work it out or take more time off.  I don't want to hear of this happening again.  Do I make myself clear?"  Her eyes were blazing as she leveled them on him, aware that the attention of everyone present was now on the two of them.  "Perfectly, Kerry, are you finished?"  Luka held his own barely controlled anger in check though his face easily reflected it.  The woman noted his posture and reluctantly nodded.  "Sign out Luka, go home and get some sleep, we'll cover the end of your shift."  When he started to protest she shook her head.  "Sign out, now."  She added with a firm finality that left no room for further argument.

He'd thought far too much about his family today...far too much about the horrors of his past and then to be shot down by Weaver in front of was too much.  The result to it all was that he now sat nursing his 6th beer and avoiding the sleep that he knewhewould eventually have to give in to.  Luka stretched his legs out across the bed..staring at the infomercial that played soundlessly on the hotel television.  With a sigh he leaned across to grab his wallet from the nightstand and pulled the small black and white picture from it. Settling the beer bottle between his legs before he ran his finger over the images.  He had looked at it so many times over the years that he knew every crease...and if he closed his eyes he could call it vividly into focus, but he still took comfort from holding it.  He remembered the day it was of the last before their world fell apart... before they were forced to live in fear and the children had to stop being children and instead became prisoners in their own home.  

He took another draw off the many more would he have to consume before he could put the memories to rest for the evening?  Even after all these years such small things could bring the ghosts out of the shadows...ghosts...he hated to think of them that way.  He downed the rest of the bottle before leaning over to set it on the nightstand by the other empties...then frowned as he saw no more full ones.  With a mild groan he pushed himself into a sitting position...his brow creasing as the room seemed to roll..then swung his legs over the side of the bed.  He had to have more in the frig...he stood, swaying slightly as he made his way to the small box... then opened it. Success... he pulled the six-pack out and carried it back over to the bed.   

How long had it been since he'd had to lose the memories in alcohol?  He slid the picture back into his wallet before opening the new bottle...there had been a time when there had been no other way to silence them, but that had been when they were still fresh, when the wounds of their loss were still raw.  He drank deeply... praying for the release from them that the beers would more, please...he found himself asking silently. It took most of the second six-pack before the peace finally came, and he gratefully slid into the alcohol enhanced fog of sleep...the memories at least for now.

to be continued...

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