A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
Once inside Dr. Johannesson helped Luka to a chair in his office, he was openly shivering, his arms still wrapped around himself. "Let me get you a blanket." The older man moved across the room to retrieve an afghan from the couch then returned to drape it around him before refilling a coffee cup and offering it to him. "Take this, Luka."
It took him a minute to register the doctor's actions and still another before he could draw himself out of his thoughts to react to the offered cup. "Thank you." Not trusting the steadiness of his hands he used both to cradle it.
"Can you continue?" The question was yet another risky one, but they were too far in to stop now.
"I...I don't know...I'm so tired." He was, that much was true...and he was cold...too cold. Raising the cup he took a tentative sip before leaning forward to sit it back on the table. As he sat back again he pulled the afghan more tightly around his shoulders.
"Luka...tell me what happened after your wife and daughter died. Tell me what makes talking about Marko so much more difficult then talking about them." That he didn't phrase the requests as questions left it assumed that the man before him would answer, and when he began to speak the doctor wasn't surprised.
"No one came...I called to them...but I had to keep breathing for my daughter." His words came quietly, the accent even thicker then it had been before. "There was smoke, I knew the building was burning, but I couldn't stop...I couldn't leave them there alone." He drew the afghan even tighter around his shoulders for comfort. "I finally had to stop..."
"Knowing when you did your daughter would die." Dr. Johannesson offered the words he know would be most difficult for the man to say.
"Yes...and then I realized I had lost Danijela too." He was beyond stopping the tears that wet his face now. "I couldn't leave them. I don't know how long I held Jasna...she got so cold." His eyes had grown distant as he continued to talk and without asking the doctor know that his patient was seeing far beyond what was in the room.
Luka cradled his daughter to him, she seemed so small in his arms now...so different from the girl who only hours ago had begged to go to the market with him. How many hours had he been holding his firstborn? His firstborn...oh God, how could he have forgotten about Marko?
"I'm sorry Beba..." He lay a kiss on Jasna's forehead before arranging her carefully in her mother's arms and kissing his wife as well. "Take care of her Danijela...I'll get Marko." The smoke in the room burned at his throat but he barely noticed...all that mattered now was getting to his son. Stumbling to his feet he backtracked to the door and then dropped to his knees by the remains of the crib, oblivious to the debris that he knelt on.
"I'm sorry...Tata will get you out." He offered the reassurances as if the small boy could hear him before beginning the grim task ahead. Maybe there was a chance...if he hurried. The hope gave him a renewed strength and Luka hurriedly pulled the chunks of cement and broken wallboard from atop the crib. By the time he was to the point he could lift the side of the crib away his hands were raw and bloodied. Let him be alive. The prayer was repeated over and over in those moments despite the hopelessness of it, and then he was free..and it was all too evident his prayers would go unanswered. Marko might have been sleeping for the care his father used in picking him up. "Tata's here, Marko...Tata's here." He cradled his son to him before he gave into the exhaustion and shock of it all.
"I was still holding him when they found us...I knew they were gone...but I didn't want to believe it. I begged them to let me die with them." He turned red rimmed eyes to the doctor, his awareness now fully back on the room.
"You can't keep blaming yourself for living...you can't keep punishing yourself." The doctor offered the words of comfort easily. "You did everything you could to save them, more then many might have been able to do."
"Did I? Maybe if I had left Jasna, Danijela would have lived...but I couldn't."
"You couldn't leave your children, Luka...you were their father...how could you make that choice?"
"I couldn't...so I lost them all." Luka buried his face in his hands, giving into the grief of the losses as deeply as if they had only just happened.
"Let it go, Luka...you did everything you could for them." The doctor rose and moved over to where the younger man sat, then lay his hand on his shoulder in comfort. The first of the carefully hidden pieces of his past were out, and it would take many more sessions before he came to terms with what was revealed.
"I'm tired..." Luka's words were almost to quiet to hear.
"You need sleep...let me help you to the couch." Had the young man before him not lived alone he might not have made the offer, but his state was too fragile to let him go home to an empty apartment. When there was no protest in response to the offer, Dr. Johannesson helped him to his feet and across the room. Once Luka was settled on the couch and recovered with the afghan he moved over to pull the blinds, letting the room retreat into darkness. As he took a seat behind his desk the older man let his eyes come to rest on the young doctor. That he had come so far said much about him, but at what price? He had been in pain for years...wounds that had been scabbed over only to fester as they remained untreated. He could change that though, he could give the man what he had failed to find until now, someone to listen, someone to understand, and with it all a means for healing.
to be continued...