Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The Return

One more based off the Africa Er arc...

The Return

By J.D.

(Contains spoilers to the ER episode "Dear Abby".)

Even before they had fully entered the elevator he felt the exhaustion taking hold of him again and with a resigned sigh Luka let his head loll back against the raised gurney before he eased his eyes closed.  Mere moments passed before he felt Gillian's hand on his forehead and with half a smile on his lips he opened them again.

"Tired?"  The simple question came quietly as she brushed his bangs off his forehead.

"Yeah..."  He was more than tired though, he was worn out from something as simple as smiling and saying hello.

"Your fever is spiking again. "  Gillian reached over to adjust the flow on the IV that hung on the right side of the gurney.

"Not that bad..."  His accent came heavier as he accepted that he was too tired to control it.

"You need to sleep."  Gillian found herself glancing to the floor numbers before looking at him again.

"Always sleeping."  His eyes slid closed a moment before he forced them open.

"That's what happens when you're'll get better, give it time.  She found herself smiling at him before laying a hand on his arm.  "It hasn't been that long..."  She regretted the reference before she finished it and let the words trail off.

"Long enough..."  If he caught what she was eluding to Luka let it go.

"You just don't want to be in the hospital."  Gillian's smile came more naturally with her comment.

"Rather be home...with you."  The corner of his mouth curved upwards and Gillian knew a blush was rising on her cheeks with the deeper meaning.

"I'm sure you would, but not today."  She shot a quick glance to the paramedics standing in the elevator with them before looking back at Luka.

"No...not today..."  He repeated her words even more quietly as sleep pulled harder on him and he let his eyes close again.

"Almost there." Lifting one hand she began to brush her fingertips across his forehead.  The heat coming off his skin was hard to miss and she lifted her eyes quickly to the floor numbers before looking back at him.

"Okay..."  His acceptance was barely audible as he sank closer towards sleep.  As the car stopped and the doors opened he barely roused and Gillian was sure he was beyond recognizing that they had even exited the car and were approaching his room.

As they reached the nurse's station the paramedics halted and turned their attention to the older woman who rose from behind the desk.  "We have a patient for you."

The woman looked between them all, her gaze remaining a beat longer on Luka than on the rest before she returned her attention to them.  "His name?"

"Kovac...Dr. Luka Kovac."  Gillian found herself intervening.  "I'm a nurse...if you can show me his room I can get him settled."

"We have procedures..."  Even as she began to talk the woman reached for Luka's chart and quickly scanned it.  "Malaria...contusions...probable concussion."  The nurse frowned as she read through Luka's chart then lifted her eyes to Gillian again.  "His room is over this way, it's one of the observation rooms, we'll be able to watch him from the desk."

"Thank you."  Gillian left unsaid that she had no intentions of leaving him much less transferring his care to anyone else.

"We can take him from here."  The woman took a position to the back of the gurney replacing one of the two paramedics.  "Thank you."

"Yeah..sure, no problem..."  The two men exchanged glances before shrugging and moving away.

"As soon as they had stepped aside two more nurses were there to replace them, and it was this exchange that roused Luka again."

"Hey..."  Gillian gave him a smile as his eyes slid open.

"Hey..."  His voice cracked slightly as he spoke.

"Almost ready to get you settled into your room."

"Okay..."  He swept his eyes over the other nurses as well as the corridor as they moved towards the open door of what would be his home for at least the next week.

"All name is Ada, I'm the charge nurse...from what I've seen I think it's time to get you into a gown and get some vitals."  The older nurse drew her attention to Luka once they were inside. "Let's get you moved into the bed first though."

"I can do it..."  Luka pushed himself upright slightly then immediately regretted it as the room seemed to spin.

"Sure you can, but humor us this time."  The woman might have been talking to a child as she and the others began to get him ready to transfer.

Luka released a breath and lay back againknowing he was in no position to argue with the woman.

"Now..on three I want you to slide this way...okay?"  The nurses had moved around the gurney and began to take hold of the sheets under him.

"Yeah..."  Luka looked between the women before letting his eyes come to rest on Gillian.

"Won't be too long and you can go back to sleep."  Gillian offered him a reassuring smile as she spoke.

"Sure?"    If she had meant to answer she was stopped from it as the nurses moved Luka to the other bed.

"All, here's a gown...let's get you changed...then we need vitals."  She handed him the hospital gown before moving to untie his shoes and pull them off.

"Gillian..."  Luka found himself protesting the thought of the woman changing him even though he knew she was only doing her job.

Reading his needs Gillian smiled and nodded to him.  "Would you mind if I help him change?"

Ada looked between them and for the first time smiled.  "Shy are we? No, go ahead...I'll be right back."

Gillian waited until they had left the room before moving open to help Luka undress.  "Careful."  She eased his tee up and over his head as she cautioned him, then slowly worked the remaining arm down the IV line until she could feed the bag of Quinine through it.  When she turned back she had to force herself not to react to the signs of captivity that his body still revealed.  Though the bruises had shifted from vivid purples to duller shades tinged with yellow, the evidence of abuse he had gone through was undeniable.  As she helped him into the gown she tried not to let her face reflect her shock to at the sight of his thinness, knowing it was only a matter of time before he filled out again.

"Going to do tests?"  Gillian brought her attention to his eyes as the question came.

"Most likely, at the very least they'll draw blood."  As she answered she tied the laces at the gown' s neck.

"No blood left."  His eyes were drooping again and rather then argue Gillian simply smiled in response. 

"Just try and get some sleep while you can."  She knew too well that when the nurses returned he would be poked and prodded as they did their own assessment of his condition, and only when they were done would he be allowed the sleep he so desperately needed.

His fatigue seemed that much more obvious as Luka turned on his side to face her, his eyes visible as little more than slits.  As she reached over to brush his hair back Gillian saw the more noticable signs of his illness.  "Luka...are you cold?"  She noted his increased shivering with the question, a striking contradiction to the sweat that was beginning to coat his skin.

"Just tired..."  The words drifted off, fading into nothingness as his eyes closed and sleep once more wrapped itself around him.

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