A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
"Can you tell me about it, Luka?" Sensing that they were entering another sensitive topic Dr. Johannesson, went back to gentle coaxing to ease Luka into it. "Why did you think you shouldn't be at work?"
"There'd been a Christmas party, I shouldn't have even gone, but I did, and I drank too much...said some stupid things...I wasn't supposed to work the next day...it should have been okay." His tone became more defensive the longer he spoke.
"It's all right...take your time." The doctor allowed himself to interrupt with the quiet reassurance.
"I was too drunk to drive, Erin offered to take me home, and I let her."
"Who's Erin, Luka?" He filed the new name away for reference.
"She's a med student, was a med student...nothing happened with her, but I think I tried."
"How does that make you feel?" Johannesson kept his eyes firmly on Luka, watching the nervousness in his actions.
"Disgusted with myself...she was only trying to help me and I tried to get her into bed." He rubbed wearily at his eyes with his fingertips .
"Why do you think you did that?" Gently, he reminded himself, he was walking the tightrope again, and he would have to move slowly if he was going to keep the man talking.
"I don't know." It was an easy way out, even he knew it as he spoke the words.
"I think you do know, Luka, it's the same reason you kept going back to the other women, what was it?" Things were getting more dangerous, he could see that in the young man's eyes as they darted between the window and door, everywhere but on him. "Luka?"
He couldn't find the words. Luka reached for the now cold tea and took a sip before sitting it back down, he was so dry...but it was just another way of delaying things. He had to talk about it if he wanted to get past it...it was just so hard. "When I was with them...I felt alive...they didn't care who I was, or what I had done...they just wanted to be with me..then after, they were gone...I didn't have to talk about any of it, or see them again." His eyes fell to his hands as he rubbed them together.
"That made things easier for you?"
"I thought it did...but I think in other ways it made it worse." He was suddenly freezing and as he lifted his eyes he wrapped his arms around himself.
Without asking, Dr. Johannesson rose and retrieved one of the afghans from the closet only to drape it around Luka's shoulders before sitting again. "How did it make things worse?"
"I began not to care anymore, I would just show up for my shifts and do my job, I didn't even see my patients as anything but their symptoms." He pulled the blanket more tightly around him though it seemed to be doing little to stop his trembling.
"This was before the party?" The doctor felt the need to ask for the clarification.
"What about after the party?" There couldn't be any turning back now, he had to get the young man to confront what he'd been avoiding.
Luka wet his lips, then swiped his tongue around the inside of his mouth, delaying the inevitable. "Erin stayed the night...nothing happened...I had passed out, they called from work and she answered, they wanted me to come in. I knew I shouldn't...I was hungover, but Kerry ordered me to. When I got there it was a mess...and I missed things...things I should have seen, would have if I hadn't been drunk the night before. I could have left a couple times, I just kept staying...and because of that I ruined a kid's life. Then, when I did leave I almost killed Erin because I was so angry with myself." The confession was exhausting and Luka leaned back against the couch and let his eyes close for a moment.
"Luka, we all make mistakes...it's part of being human." He watched the man in front of him carefully.
"But most people's mistakes don't kill someone, or worse." He opened his eyes when he spoke.
"Luka...you can't expect yourself to be perfect all the time, and you can't know that whatever happened, wouldn't have happened regardless of whether you had been at that party the night before."
"I can't know that it would have happened either..." The truth was out, and that was it wasn't it?
"No, you can't know that, but if we all lived everyday second guessing every move we made where would we be?" The question wasn't meant to have an answer and even as he asked it, the doctor continued. You can't keep punishing yourself like this, holding yourself up to a higher standard for blame."
"But..." Luka started to protest only to have Dr. Johannesson silence himwith a raised finger.
"No, buts, Luka, you have to stop second guessing yourself. Things happen, they aren't always the things we want to happen, or even good things, but they're still going to happen. All you can do is learn from them and move on, but nothing is served by you repeatedly punishing yourself." The words were difficult ones to say and likely ones he would repeat on many more occasions, but they seemed to register as Luka leaned back against the couch again and closed his eyes.
He might have run a marathon for the exhaustion he felt. "What if I can't?" The question came hidden behind still closed eyes.
"I think you can, you're a strong man, Luka, stronger then you're ready to admit. Give yourself time, it'll come." The doctor let his voice soften.
"What if I'm not?" He still wasn't persuaded to the truth of the older man's words.
"Trust me, Luka...you are." He rose and walked over to the desk to switch the light on it's surface off. "Why don't you rest for a few minutes, think about what we've talked about." He read the fatigue in the young doctor as he spoke, then offered the permission he knew he needed before he would willingly let go. When Luka did little more then nod, the man knew he'd been right. The young doctor had come a long way in the weeks he'd been seeing him, but it was clear they had much farther to go before he could begin to claim the young man healed, if he would ever truly be that. At worst though he could find a way to help him manage his past, and for the first time in far too long perhaps even see a future. The thought made the older man smile, if he was successful in nothing else he wished that for the dark man in front of him.
to be continued...