A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
Dr. Johannesson studied the man in front of him for a moment before speaking. "Where are you comfortable starting, Luka?"
"I wish I knew...." That was the truth wasn't it? His past had always been something he'd kept to himself. Oh, sure, there had been some people who he had shared small details with, Carol, the Bishop...but rarely had he offered them anything that would allow them to see the person he used to be.
"What if I ask you some questions?" He made the offer cautiously, not yet sure how much he could push before the younger man closed himself off.
Luka swallowed as immediate fear surged...what if he asked the wrong thing? What if he asked about something he couldn't share?
Reading the wave of reactions that passed through the man in those few moments gave him a clue to how risky his request was. "If there is anything I ask that you feel you're not ready to answer, just say so, I won't hold that against you in any way."
A slow nod followed the additional reassurance before he dared reply. "All right."
"Good..." The doctor offered a smile before taking a sip of his own coffee and then setting it aside again. "You're not from America, how long have you been here?"
"Close to six years..." His response came quietly and there was a brief hesitation before he volunteered, "I was born in Croatia...I left a few years after the war."
"That must have been difficult, leaving all you knew...your culture...your language...your family." How far could he take this? He stopped as his mention of family caused the man to tense...he would have to be more careful.
"Yes...and no...it was time for me to leave." That much was truth. How could he have stayed?
"Why was it time, Luka?" Dr. Johannesson watched him even more closely with the question.
"There wasn't anything left for me there..." The words were out before he could stop them.
Why, Luka? What had changed things for you?" It was a risky question, one that could open him up as much as it might close him down, but it had to be asked.
Luka's initial responses were all ones of nervousness, the wiping of his hand over his face, a glance to the window, and then finally a wetting ofhis lips. "The war...nothing was the same afterwards."
"War is always difficult." The sadness in his patient's eyes seemed to have deepened and he knew his thoughts would be drifting...he needed reassurance, needed to know someone understood. "Who did you lose, Luka?" At the asking of the question, Luka's eyes shot to the window, then flicked around the room...the need to flee clearly evident to one who had seen the look before. "It's safe to talk about here, I promise."
He had known this question would come, he'd just never expected it so soon. Raising his hand he chewed at the side of his thumb as he debated with himself how much to reveal. When the decision was finally made he let his hand drop and ran his tongue over hip lips. "My family..." The words came slowly and he would have sworn his mouth was filled with cotton, he wet his lips again. "My wife, Danijela...my daughter, Jasna.." His voice broke but he forced himself to continue. "and Marko, my son."
"I'm sorry, Luka...I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you. Can you tell me something about them?" It would get harder from here, he knew that, but it was also evident that this was something the young man rarely spoke of, something that even after so many years, still weighed heavily on him.
Luka nodded as he struggled for the words to answer...he'd kept them to himself for so long. "Danijela...she was beautiful." He blinked back the tears before they could start. "We met while I was in college..." He wiped his hand over his face with the pause.
"Take your time, Luka..." The doctor offered the reassurance quietly so as not to break the spell of the moment.
"I think I loved her from the moment I saw her." His smile came easily with the recollection. "She had long dark hair..." He squeezed his eyes shut as her image came so clearly to mind, then opened them again. "She was just 18 when we were married, and within a month she was pregnant with Jasna. She was so happy...all she wanted was to be a mother." It was so hard to remember the good things...he lifted his hand to his face as he fought to hold the tears back.
"You're doing fine, Luka...you're doing fine..." Was there no one he'd been able to share these memories with? All the years that had passed and he had kept them all to himself? "Tell me about Jasna, Luka."
He let his hand drop with the man's request. "She was beautiful...like her mother." His words came unsteadily. "They had the same hair...and eyes...she deserved so much more then I could give her...they all did." It was too much...without another word Luka rose and looked first to the door then around the room before his eyes settled on the window. He needed air..."Could we take a break?"
Dr. Johannesson rose as Luka had, watching his reactions carefully, at the request he nodded. "Would you like to go out and see the garden?" Let him take the time he needed...there was no need to rush him only to have him leave and not come back.
"Yeah...I think I just need some air." The relief shown clearly in his response.
"Then we should take a break..." He motioned Luka towards the door then lay his hand on the young man's shoulder. "You're doing fine, Luka."
Was he? That was his first thought...to his own mind he was a wreak...but maybe this was what had to happen before it could go the other way. He had to trust someone, for too many years he had tried to make it on his own. "I don't know." The admission came barely audible.
"But I do...you've held these things in for too many years, let me help you let some of the weight go." Without intending to he tightened his grip on the man's shoulder and was rewarded by a relaxing of it under his hand. "Let's go outside now.."
to be continued...