A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
The first moments spent in the garden were ones of silence. If Dr. Johannesson had recognized nothing more in his newest patient, he had recognized the man's need for time. All that had happened to him, since the loss of his family had been carefully hidden away, and like small treasures he would only reveal each when the time was right.
He'd seen similar behaviors before, usually among older patients, among those who were sure no one could possibly understand the tragedies and horrors that had taken so many around them but allowed them to live. When he had first been asked to see the young doctor he hadn't thought his treatment could mirror the Holocaust survivors he had treated. He had been wrong, even so early he recognized the guilt, and pain, time alone with him would be the only way of knowing how deeply it ran.
He brought his gaze to where the tall, dark man stood in silence. With his hands in his pockets he had paused just before the point where the patio touched the cobbled walk. After several minutes of watching him the doctor broke the silence. "Tell me about Marko, Luka?"
His shoulders slumped at the question, resignation replacing everything else. What was he supposed to say? Did he tell the man that his son had a laugh that could erase whatever anger you might have had with his misdeeds? Did he tell him that he walked with the staggering gait of one still unsteady on his feet? Did he tell the man that his son shared the same dark shock of bangs that fell constantly across his eyes?
Luka found himself drawing a steadying breath before he dared speaking. "Marko...he." He paused, unsure where to begin, why was it so much harder to speak to him of Marko then it had been to remember Jasna only moments before?
"How old was he, Luka?" It was always risky interrupting, but there was a catch here, something that made talking about his son, harder then it was for him to speak of his wife and daughter.
"18 months...he was 18 months old when he died." Luka withdrew a hand so he could wipe his eyes before replacing it in his pocket. "He'd barely had a chance to live...neither of them had."
"I know, Luka..." Without giving his actions a second thought Dr. Johannesson approached, then came to a stop to the right of where Luka stood. After giving the man a moment to adjust to his closeness he began to speak again. "Accepting the death of their child is one of the hardest things a parent will ever be asked to do. It was harder for you because you lost not one, but two children and in a way that left you no means to say good-bye to them. Am I right?" He turned his head so he could read the expressions that passed over the younger man's face with the question.
"Yes...Marko..." His voice shuddered and threatened to break before he could steady it enough to continue. "They were killed when our apartment building was bombed... Marko...he must have been asleep in his crib. He was buried under the rubble...I knew." He pulled his hands from his pockets and wrapped his arms around himself as he forced himself to continue. "I saw his hand...when I entered the apartment, he was reaching through the railings of the crib...but it was too late, and Danijela and Jasna were still alive."
"That was the hardest thing, seeing him like that and knowing you had to leave him, knowing your wife and daughter needed you." As he spoke the doctor brought his hand up to rest on Luka's shoulder, very much aware of the tightrope he was walking.
"Yes...I wanted to uncover him...wanted to believe that he could still be alive..." Luka's voice grew increasingly unsteady and his accent thickened with the telling.
"But you knew better, and in the meantime there was hope for your wife and daughter." He tightened his hold slightly as he felt the shiver run beneath it.
"Yes...Jasna...I thought if I picked her up...I could get Danijela and her to a hospital, but they were too badly injured..." It was getting to be more then he could handle, he could feel the lightheadedness, the weakness in his legs. Drawing a breath that did little to help he lowered himself to a squat in hopes that he could regain some control and keep from falling.
"Luka...you need to sit down..." Dr. Johannesson, recognized the changes as Luka did and he moved to take hold of the younger man's elbow before getting him to his feet again. Sliding an arm around him in support he could feel the trembling the man was fighting to control. "Let's go back inside Luka..."
Exhausted by the very act of standing, Luka simply nodded. He was so tired. Was this what he had to expect from every visit? How could he keep coming back, knowing this was how it would be?
"That's it...take your time." The older man lowered his voice as he offered the comment, and in voicing it knew that the words might well apply to himself and his treatment of the young doctor as well. Time would be the key here, of that he was even more sure then he had been earlier. Each session with the man beside him would be a test of patience, small steps that would someday allow him the freedoms that he had denied himself for so many years. The thought made the doctor smile and he couldn't help glancing to the person responsible. "It'll get better, Luka...you just have to give it time."
to be continued...