Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ghosts 5/37

Chapter 5

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

The tolling of the church bells reached deep within him and Luka blinked as if awakening from an unexpected nap.  His face took on a momentary look of confusion as he first oriented himself, then realized that he was standing in front of the old church....the Bishop's church.  He raised a hand to massage the dull ache that had settled into his temple as he tried to remember what had led him here.  He remembered leaving the hospital...walking up the steps to the El, even climbing into the train when it had stopped.  Why couldn't he remember how he had gotten here?  He dropped his hand as his memory released nothing else and from somewhere he heard the voice whispering again...reminding him of the fine line between sanity and insanity he was walking.

Shaking the thought off he climbed the steps slowly, then opened the heavy door that would lead into the safety of the church.  For several minutes he stood silently looking over the chapel as if expecting the old man to be watching him.  He allowed a small smile to cross his face at the memory of the Bishop and what had been returned to him at knowing him.  As suddenly as it appeared though it faded, and he was left knowing that the man represented yet another loss in his life and he would never see him again. 

Moving further into the chapel he paused to genuflect and cross himself before slipping quietly into a rear pew.  Ten years he had been away from his faith, ten years of laying blame where none was due.  Luka leaned forward to lower the small padded bench then moved to kneel on it.  As he crossed himself again he found his eyes drifting to the flickering candles in the alcove.  He should light one for Danijela...for the children...for the Bishop...then suddenly he was faced with another realization, there weren't enough candles for all the deaths.  He rested his forearms on the back of the pew in front of him and closed his eyes as he tried to block the thought in one of the familiar prayers.

The ground was littered with debris, shards of glass, broken bricks, plaster, all creating the cushion he lay upon, but none drawing his notice now.  As he lay there stunned by the shock of the bullet and the subsequent fall he realized how close death really was.  He could just stay here...let them come for him and it would all finally be over.  He had no doubt in his mind if he were captured now it would mean his death.  He would be like those at the hospital, or the man who's screams had reached him in hiding, but more importantly, he would be back with his family.  He closed his eyes at the thought, no more worries about the dangers of going for something as simple as food or water.  No more cold because you were living in a building that no longer had heat or electricity.  He moaned softly as even those thoughts were pushed away by the pain that forced itself into the forefront of his consciousness.

Shifting so he could prop himself up on one elbow he looked first to see if they were coming for him before he brought his other hand to his thigh.  How bad was it?  He groaned as numb fingers probed the wound, a mixture of relief mingling with renewed pain as he registered the second opening in the back of his leg that marked the bullet's exit.  Voices drew his attention back towards the city and his decision was made on survival instinct alone...he had to get moving. 

He forced himself to his feet, a cry of anguish escaping as sensation screamed through the leg at the weight on it. He could see the headlights of an approaching vehicle....he knew it meant death was coming for him....for a moment he was frozen a strange fascination remaining at the realization. A bullet striking the ground near him sprayed gravel and broke his trance...his gaze immediately broke and his eyes moved to see where it was fired from. As if to confirm it, a second shot rang out and without thinking he began to run, his gait a staggered lope as he favored his injured leg. If he could reach the treeline he could be

"Dr. Kovac?"  The memory abruptly ended as he felt the hand on his shoulder and without thinking he shrugged it away.  "Dr. Kovac...are you all right?"  As he shook off the last remnants of the dream and turned to identify the voice he raised a hand to his face and across his eyes.  Father Joe...the Bishop's aide...oh, God, had he said anything he might have heard?  What could he have seen?  He swallowed the fear as he let the hand drop again.

"Dr. Kovac, I thought that was you, I'm glad you decided to visit us again."  The Priest let his eyes sweep over the man's face, unable to stop the frown that found him as he registered the swollen bruise.  "Mother Mary."  He uttered the words without thinking, "Were you you need me to call the police?" 

Luka shook his head as he raised his hand to gingerly touch his face.  "No, Father, it happened at work...I'm afraid I let my attention wander with a patient.  It was my own fault it happened, I'll be fine."  Would he be?  The thought lingered as he tried to focus on what the Priest was saying.  "Bishop Stewart left something for you, I meant to give it to you at the funeral, but you were gone before I could talk to you."  As the man spoke Luka nodded, then stood, his mind left with the question of what the Bishop could have wanted him to have?

As he followed the Priest back through the rectory his thoughts flashed to his last visit here when the Bishop was alive.  If only the man hadn't insisted on leaving the hospital, maybe he could have done more.  Had his prescribing the steroids made his condition worse...had it hastened his death?  He could justify it by saying he had only done what the man had asked of him...but how much of that had been influenced by what the man was?  "This is my office, Dr. Kovac."  He let his doubts recede as the Priest stopped, then motioned him into an office.  "Please, have a seat."  He smiled again before moving around the desk that was the room's centerpiece and taking a seat in the large wooden chair that say behind it. 

"Bishop Stewart was very concerned about you Dr. Kovac."  As he began he leaned down to open a bottom drawer, "In his last few days he spoke often about the burdens you seemed to carry and about your having moved away from your faith."  As he continued he straightened and lay a small white box of the desk across from where Luka had sat.  "The Bishop appreciated your honesty with him, not many people could do that.  He asked me to make sure that you were given these when the time came for him to join our Father."  Resting his eyes on Luka he pushed the box across the desk, then sat back silently watching his reaction.

At first Luka wasn't sure what to think and it took him several minutes before he was able to bring himself to take the small white box.  What was he so afraid was only a box...what could it possibly contain that he should be afraid of?  As he continued to look down at it he wet his lips.  Why hadn't theBishop said anything to him about it?  More importantly, how had he even known he would come back?  He raised his eyes to the Priest then dropped them back to the box before opening it. 

As he lifted the lid and saw the contents his eyes teared and he was forced to set the lid down to wipe his hand across his face before he could continue.  "Did you know?"  He asked the question quietly, as if it didn't matter if the other man heard him.  "He told me of his intentions, yes."  Luka raised his eyes to the man at his response then returned them to the box as he lifted the rosary from it.  He blinked the tears away quickly as his fingers moved across the worn beads.  Why him?  As he saw what remained half hidden under the tissue beneath it the question became even more important.  He lay the rosary on the desktop as he slid the paper aside then withdrew the Bishop's bible...the bible that had offered him comfort in those final hours of his life. 

He dropped his face into his hand as the tears he had fought so hard to hold back finally fell.  "Would you like some privacy?"  He shook his head at the Priest's question then sniffed and wiped the tears away before bringing his eyes back to him.  "He must have family who would want these."  The Priest shook his head with a soft smile.  "He was very definite about my making sure you got them, and you know how he was about getting his way."  The Priest's smile broadened.  "Dr. Kovac, the Bishop did not break the sanctity of your confession with me, but he did ask me to offer you my counsel.  I hope you will allow me to accept that gift from him as you accept this one."  Luka lifted his eyes to the Priest as he realized what he was asking.  "Father..." he paused, what could he say?  He brushed his fingers across the worn leather cover of the Bishop's bible as if it somehow held the answer, then lifted his gaze again.  "I'm not sure that I can..."

to be continued...

No comments: