A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes.
He was alone. The thought caught Luka off guard as it struck and almost instantly he felt something inside of him change. He was just tired from the walk with Abby...that had to be it. He had to steady himself against the furniture as he made his way slowly across the room, then slumped onto the couch. How long had it been since he'd been alone? Dropping his head forward into his hands he let his eyes close and concentrated on slowing his breathing.
Ever since he'd arrived back in Chicago it seemed someone was always with him..had they planned it that way, or was it simply a coincidence? He hadn't said anything of course, but every time the nightmares had woken him he'd thought it. The nightmares still came...even after so many weeks, and a part of him wondered if they would ever stop or if they would vie for time with those of Vukovar that still haunted him. With that thought came that change inside of him, a change he should know, but couldn't quite face. What was it?
No...even before Chicago, it had been the same at Kisangani; without telling him they had made sure someone was always close by. It was hard to remember, so much had been lost to the fever and drugs, but what he could remember always had someone close, always someone watching. What were they watching?
He'd welcomed them there in the beginning, if he knew someone was close the fear wasn't so strong. The fear...even the thought of it now made his heart beat faster, he'd never known he could be so afraid. Even in Vukovar he hadn't felt the fear that had haunted him in Matenda, and then later in the small, dark hut. Fear of so many things.
He forced himself to his feet as if that would somehow make a difference and made his way slowly across the room, pausing as he caught his reflection in a mirror. He might as well have been staring at the face of a stranger. Did he even know who he was anymore? He steadied himself on the table that sat just under the mirror, his eyes still locked on his reflection. Even after all this time he could see the evidence of his illness and his captivity in his eyes. Was it so obvious to everyone else?
No...he couldn't let his thoughts go there...not while he was alone. He turned suddenly from the mirror afraid he might snap and break it, then had to grab the table to steady himself as the sudden movement left him off balance. He should call someone, but who? It took him a moment before he was sure his legs would support him and yet another before he could trust himself to walk to the bedroom. Maybe he could try and sleep; if he slept he wouldn't know that he was alone.
A half smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he entered the bedroom and saw that Gillian had already turned the bed down. What would he do without her? As he reached the bed his remaining strength seemed to leave him and he sat heavily on the mattress. The table beside it held still more evidence of his condition and he found himself reaching for one of the bottles without really meaning to. Had she counted them all? Had she worried about whether he would continue to take them after she was gone? Or had she worried more that he might for some reason take them all?
He couldn't of course, but she wouldn't know that and with that thought he sat the bottle down again. She'd not known about his being Catholic, not known that his greatest fear was that he wouldn't be reunited with his wife and children upon his death. He'd never told her that he had begged them to let him join Danijela and the children, and instead they had allowed him to live and at the time he wondered if that had been the greater punishment, the one worse then death.
Would she have thought him any weaker had he admitted to that? He found himself staring at his feet, knowing he should take his shoes off but too tired to make his brain process the task. Gillian had seen him at the worst and she had stayed, and a part of him wondered if Abby would have done the same thing. Abby...even after all they had been through he still had feelings for her...but she had needed someone to be something he couldn't...needed him to turn his back on the ones who meant the most to him, and he had known that would never be possible.
He collapsed back onto the bed, but lacked the energy to lift his feet from the floor. Why did his thoughts keep returning to Danijela and the children? Had he come so close to being with them that they felt it time to haunt him again? Or maybe they were protecting him, for if his thoughts were on them they couldn't be on all he had been through. He felt the bile rise for a moment as his mind flashed to Matenda, and with the bile came the fear. He was alone...how could he handle this by himself?
Pushing himself upright Luka' s eyes landed on the table again and on it, for the first time he noticed the small gray piece of paper...a business card? He reached over to pick it up, then forced his mind to process what was printed on it.
Dr. Martin Johannesson
He struggled to put a face to the card and found the image slowly beginning to take shape. He'd still been at County when the man had appeared...an older man with white hair...he spoke with an accent. How had he come to be there that day? He let the images form...
"Luka...you need to try and eat something." Gillian had been there...she had always been there. He was lying in bed...a lunch tray sat on the table over the bed. He forced his thoughts to isolate the details. He hadn't been there more then a few days, the tray held broth, some jello...foods his still unsteady stomach could handle.
"Good afternoon....is it all right if I come in?" The man's question drew his attention away from the meal and to the door as Gillian left his side to greet him.
"Good afternoon." She offered him her hand with a smile.
"You must be Gillian, I'm Dr. Johannesson...and this is Dr. Kovac?" He was already moving past her with the question.
"Yes, it is. Luka, this is the doctor I told you the hospital wanted you to speak to." As she spoke Gillian moved back to his side and gathered his hand in hers in reassurance.
"I don't remember..." Luka tried to locate the conversation in his thoughts only to frown as he failed. Why was it so hard to remember?
"I've been briefed on what you've gone through, and as a condition of your return your supervisors have asked me to set up a time to talk to you."
Luka's breath caught as he realized what the man was saying and he felt Gillian's hand tighten around his in response as she noticed his reaction. His eyes darted to Gillian's and he was sure she would see the panic in them; he couldn't talk about it all...not yet, maybe not ever.
As if sensing his discomfort the doctor smiled. "It doesn't have to be today of course, I'm going to leave my card, in a few days, or weeks, when you feel like talking you call me." He covered the remainder of the distance to the bed and extended the pale gray card. "Call me, anytime, day or night...I know what you're going through."
How could he know? How could anyone know? He needed to sleep...he could escape in sleep..or at least until the dreams came. "Gillian...I'm tired." The words were out before he even realized he had spoken.
"All right, you can try and eat again later, I'll see the doctor out." Gillian moved the tray of untouched food out of the way before motioning the doctor towards the door. "I'll be right back, Luka."
He'd known she had spoken longer with the man, he'd heard the whispers of their voices as he had tried to lose himself in sleep again, Gillian had said no more about him. But, she had kept the card...had left it here knowing he would see it. Why hadn't she said something? He fingered the card as if it might reveal more then what was printed on it, then sat it back down on the table. Not tonight...tonight was for sleep. Drawing his feet onto the bed Luka lay down then turned onto his side and found his eyes settling drowsily on the tabletop.
The nightmare jarred him awake while the room was still dark and as he sat up he shivered, chilled by his now damp shirt. His first instinct was to reach over to wake Gillian and as he turned he remembered she was no longer there. It had been hard enough to face the nightmares with her here...how was he supposed to face them and what they revealed alone? Reaching over to the table he switched the small table light on, then dropped his hand to one of the bottles...did he dare risk another? He stared at the bottle longer then he wanted before he withdrew it. That wasn't the answer, he knew that...but it was so much easier then anything else.
His eyes came to rest on the card again...that simple gray card...did it hold the answer?
He delayed touching it, his hand hovering above it like it held some mysterious power within it. Had Gillian known more then she had said? His hand was shaking now...hell, he was shaking...why? He couldn't take his eyes off the card, that stupid gray card. He let his hand drop, then picked it up...the man had said anytime. His eyes flicked to the phone and then between the pills and the card...it was his choice. Hehad told himself that going to Africa would change things for him...that he could make amends for all he had done. He owed it to Patrique...to Chance and her mother, to so many more to not make their experiences, his experiences meaningless. There was really only one choice if he thought about it. Luka reached for the phone, then glanced to the card before keying in the numbers...as it rang it was all he could do not to hang up, but then came the voice and he knew it was too late.
"Dr Johannesson...I'm sorry to call so late...this is Dr. Kovac...Luka...you said I could call anytime."
to be continued...