A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
"Can you go on, Luka?" The question came quietly, the doctor unsure of just how much more the man could endure before he shut himself down. "Can you tell me what happened after you were captured?"
If there had been a way he could have crawled inside of himself and taken the memories with him Luka was sure he would have used it, but the truth was, there was no escape. All that was left was for him to face what had happened...face it and accept it. He released a sigh, it sounded so simple when he thought about it, but it wasn't simple, none of it was ever that way.
"Luka, what happened next?" The words continued to come quietly, the questions meant to coax him to move on to the next step despite whatever fear was holding him back.
"They raped her..." His answer was barely audible, mumbled as if that could somehow make the act any less horrific.
"Who was raped, Luka?" The doctor hated asking the question as much as he feared the answer.
"Chance's mother...they drug her into the tent...there was nothing I could do..nothing any of us could do...oh, God...they left Chance outside....made her listen to what they were doing to her mother...she was just a little girl." The tears began before he could stop them and rather then wipe them away Luka tucked his hands between his knees. "Why didn't she leave when she had the chance?" He lifted his tear streaked face so he could look at the doctor, hope that he could somehow explain the unexplainable in his expression.
"I wish I could answer that for you, Luka, but I can't...but it's not your fault it happened." He could only hope that the words offered some sort of comfort, something that could ease the guilt the young man before him clung to so tightly. "Where was Patrique while this was happening?"
"He was with me...there were others too...all we could do was wait as one by one they drug someone away." As the memories came with more clarity Luka felt like he was drowning. He couldn't catch his breath anymore and he found himself gasping for air.
"Breathe, Luka...." Martin rose with the reminder and moved quickly to his desk, yanking a drawer open he pulled out a paperbag, then returned to where Luka sat. "Luka, you're hyperventilating...you need to relax." After inflating the bag he took a seat next to him. "Luka...look at me...I want you to breathe into this." He waited until the younger man had met his eyes, then held the bag over his nose and mouth. "Breathe slowly...that's it..." It took several minutes for him to get Luka to breathe normally, but as he did he withdrew the bag. "Better?"
Luka nodded, he was exhausted and yet he knew he had come too far to stop now. Like the blood of a wound freshly opened the memories rose and nothing he could do would stop them. "At first we didn't know what would happen." Unprompted he began again. "When they took the first of us...we didn't know what to expect...then we heard the gunshot. When they came back again we didn't know who would be next...they had been keeping us in the clinic. They forced us to get up...to go outside...to kneel again in the compound. We'd had no water... and in the heat...we would fall, then they would hit, or kick us until we were on our knees again. Patrique...he tried to explain we were doctors...that we were only trying to help..." He was stopped as the words caught in his throat.
"Luka...do you need to take a break?" The doctor's concern was growing as he watched the man beside him, listened to the hollowness of his words as he related what he'd been through.
"He was there...next to me...begging them for our lives and they shot him, I felt his blood on my face." Luka continued, unable or unwilling to stop what he had begun. "It's not so clear after that...the heat, my fever...then I was the only one left...I was so tired...and it didn't seem to matter what they would do to me then. I remember sitting...and then a brightness...and I wondered if maybe God had come to take me to be with my family again..I wanted him to take me, I prayed for him to take me."
What could he say in response? The doctor found himself stunned into silence as he listened to Luka's words. It was almost as if time had stood still, and it couldn't restart until all he had to say had been revealed.
"It's all a blur after that...I know Chance's mother saved my life...somehow she convinced them I was a priest, after all they had done to her, all they still might do to her, she risked her life to save mine. I must have passed out...when I woke up we were in a building...I don't know how we got there...there was no air...no food or water...and my fever kept rising...and then nothing." As he finally stopped speaking Luka leaned forward and dropped his head into his hands, he was past exhausted, but it was out...and with that he felt a sense of freedom he'd been missing.
"It's all right, Luka." Dr. Johannesson laid his hand on the young man's shoulder. He'd known the young doctor had been held prisoner by rebels, he'd read the witness statements in preparation of seeing the man, but to hear what he'd been through in his own words. "It's all right." He moved his hand slowly over Luka's back as he offered the reassurance. They would have to revisit all of this if he was going to help his patient rid himself of the guilt, but there would be time for that later, there were other needs more pressing at the moment. "It's all right." He continued the slow circles on Luka's back, unable to ignore the trembling he felt under his hand. Tonight had marked a major breakthrough in getting him to open up, and as painful as it was, as painful as it would continue to be, it was still a success.
"I'm tired..." Luka's weariness was evident as he spoke, the very effort of expressing how he felt exhausting.
"I know, Luka...let's get you back to bed." There was no question of the man remaining another day, and as he helped the younger man to his feet he was surprised to find no resistance. Slipping his arm around him he moved slowly to the door, the next few days would not be easy ones, too much had been exposed to think otherwise, and in that moment of realization, Dr. Johannesson understood that he would not allow the man beside him to face those days alone.
to be continued...