An ER fanfic that takes place following the "Bishop Stewart" Arc
Warning: This chapter contains material that some readers will find disturbing.
Abby hadn't had a chance to even think about sleep...Luka's restlessness had kept her awake until near dawn. His breathing had grown more labored and she listened for the signs of congestion in his chest, then frowned as she heard the almost strangled wheezing that she knew was the signal to it. At times his breathing seeming to rattle his chest as he struggled to catch his breath, and she was torn over how much longer to wait before calling for help. Didn't he have enough to worry about?
How many times had she debated waking him, thinking that at least if he were awake it would be one less thing for him to fight? He had tossed the covers aside repeatedly, soft whimpered cries mingling with moans in response to whatever haunted him.
She rose and dampened one of the washcloths, then sat on the bed...wiping the sweat from his skin. "What are you seeing Luka?" She asked the question quietly, not really expecting an answer but feeling the need to voice it nonetheless. How much more did he have to give before he had given enough? She raised her eyes to the ceiling as if she somehow expected an answer to the unasked question, then glanced back at him. Hasn't he given you enough? She brushed the damp tendrils of hair from his forehead, before laying the washcloth on it in an attempt to hopefully soothe him. "You're safe Luka....nothing can hurt you here." Did she really believe that?
Drawing the covers over him again she rose, tucking him in as if he were a small child. "Sleep Luka..." She smiled to herself as he seemed to calm, only to wonder how long it would last, then waiting a few minutes more before moving back to the couch. Rubbing her own eyes she settled back against the cushions...catching sight of the small box and wadded sheet of paper on the table as she did. It didn't matter...she pulled her gaze from them and looked across the room. Why now?
When Luka's cry broke the silence of the room she jerked awake...she hadn't planned to sleep...how had she let it happen? Scrambling to her feet she started for him only to stumble into the coffee table in the darkness of the room. "Shit." She grabbed her leg with a wince then released it before moving to him. "Luka...shh..." She lay a hand on his bare shoulder only to have him recoil from her even in sleep...a frightened whimper his response to her touch. Drawing her hand away as if it had been burned she tried to reach him with words alone. "Luka...it's Abby...you're safe..."
"Isuse Boze..ne." His eyes dropped to the ground in front of him...the mud...they were in the mud. Had it not been for the rain he would have smelled it. He wiped his hands on his shirt in a vain attempt to rid himself of the mud, knowing in truth it covered him. At the realization of what he had found his stomach had already started to heave. "Isuse Boze..." He felt the bile rise and knew the battle was lost... doubling over he spent the next several minutes emptying his stomach of what little nourishment it had held. He was at it's mercy and it's grip was strong...first the grass and turnips, then bile. When he was sure he had nothing left to give he was wracked by dry heaves that threatened to steal what little strength remained to him.
As it finally eased he straightened, dragging his arm across his mouth as dulled eyes registered the carnage in front of him. They hadn't fled...he felt his stomach rise to choke him again as his eyes took in the bloated corpses half buried in the mud around him. What kind of monsters could do this? He swallowed back a fresh wave of nausea as his eyes settled on the foot of a small child less then an arm's length away from him...he had to get away...
His breathing quickened and his restlessness seemed to increase in tandem to it...and in response Abby felt her own panic rising. She couldn't do this...not alone...but who could she call? Who would Luka trust enough? That was it wasn't it...who could Luka trust with his past? He had never shared it with her...but then she had never asked him. Why had she never asked him? She wiped her cheeks as she realized they were wet with tears she hadn't even known she was shedding. How many times had he given her the signals that he wanted to talk about his life in Croatia only to have her ignore them?
She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes as if that alone would stop the tears from falling...how could she have been so blind to what was happening with him?
He retreated slowly...scrambling to his feet in realization that even the ground he knelt on was not safe as his hand came in contact with still another body. Was this his fate? Would the soldiers return only to make him one more anonymous corpse in to be found by the next person who stumbled into this clearing? No...he couldn't think that...he had to believe he would find safety...he had to believe he would survive. He staggered through the trees...aware that he no longer seemed to feel anything. He could hear his labored breathing...he felt the wetness of the reopening of the bullet wound in his leg...he could smell the stench of death permeating his clothing. This was his world now...he paused as a wave of coughing hit him...knowing that that simple act could be enough to signal his death.
As it eased he started moving again...stumbling blindly through the darkness...what if he was going the wrong way? What if instead of moving closer to safety he was returning to those that would kill him? He found his mind circling around thoughts of death...how would he die? Would he be shot on sight? Would they take him prisoner only to torture him before he was killed? Would he be left to starve...to meet death slowly? He tried to push the thoughts away, knowing nothing could be gained from them but unable to fully banish them either. Would his fate be that of those in the forest...or of those he had left at the hospital? He groaned at the thought that so many he had known...so many friends...and even family, were now dead. He bit his lip to hold the anguished cry back...the memories piercing him as deeply as if he had been stabbed by a knife.
Luka groaned in his sleep...tossing the blankets aside again as if that might somehow free him from whatever held him. "No, Luka...you need those.." Abby drew the covers back up over him then reached for the washcloth she'd left on the nightstand. How much longer could this hold him? She wiped the sweat from his face, drawing her lip between her teeth in expectation that he would draw back, then releasing it as she found he did not.
"Who would you trust Luka?" She asked the question without thinking that there was very likely no one..then knowing in the end he would have trusted the Bishop. A smile found it's way to her as she thought of the times Luka had spoken of the man. There had been a hatred there at first, he had blamed the man for the failings of his God. Later she knew his words had been laced with a love he would have had difficulty admitting even to himself. The Bishop's death was the beginning of this..or if not the beginning at least the trigger. Her eyes moved to the table again only to settle on the wadded ball that had been in Luka's coat pocket...was that the answer? Would whoever had given him that hold the key to putting an end to this?
to be continued...