A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
The few minutes Luka had needed had easily turned into fifteen by the time he had showered, changed and composed himself enough that he felt ready to face the couple downstairs. There was no escaping the apprehension he felt as he made his way down the stairs, the worry about what the doctor might have told his wife overriding all else. He wanted to trust the man at his word, wanted to believe that what they spoke of would remain strictly between them, but the doubt remained.
"Luka, good morning." Mrs. Johannesson's cheery greeting pushed the concerns to the back of his thoughts, and despite them Luka found a smile for her.
"Good morning, I'm sorry I took so long." His apology was sincere and was immediately brushed aside by the older woman.
"You don't need to apologize...now sit...you must be hungry and breakfast is ready." She was already setting a coffee cup on the table and followed it with full glasses of both milk and orange juice before returning to the stove.
"Thank you." Luka pulled his chair out and took a seat across from her husband, who was absorbed with the morning paper.
"You look better." Martin lifted his eyes long enough to give the younger man a quick once over.
"I feel better." Even as he said it Luka realized it was true, somehow, despite his earlier fears, he felt a comfort in the couple's presence that he rarely felt with anyone. When had he been able to say that last?
"Here you go..." Ingrid sat a heavily laden plate before him of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. "Eat now, you're too thin."
"Ingrid." Her husband's warning was complete in her name as he spoke.
"Oh hush, yourself...it's true..the boy needs to eat." She narrowed her eyes at him before letting her face settle into a smile which broadened to include Luka in it. "I would bet he doesn't eat too many homecooked meals, am I right?" She put her full attention on the younger man as she filled coffee cups then finally took her own seat.
"I cook...but not like this." It was the best he could offer in his defense and when the woman simply laughed in response he abandoned it and picked up his fork.
"You cook...like my Martin I would guess, open a can, or put something in the microwave." The tone in her voice was non-threatening and there was no doubt that she was simply teasing.
"I used to do more..." Luka swallowed the bite of pancakes he had speared, before continuing. "I just get tired of cooking for one, and it's easier to order in."
"You're always welcome here, Luka, I like having a young man with an appetite at my table again." Ingrid reached around the table to touch her husband's arm, well aware that she was treading the line he had warned her of crossing.
"Thank you...I'm afraid I wouldn't exactly say I have much of an appetite these days though." He again found it necessary to offer the apology even as he took another bite.
"It'll come, you just have to give it time." She glanced to her husband before dipping her head slightly in deference to the unspoken warning she read in his eyes. "I know, I promised not to nag, but you can't fault me for being honest."
In lieu of answering the man simply shook his head which prompted the woman to rise so she could give him a light kiss on his cheek before retrieving the coffeepot to refill barely touched cups. As Luka watched the exchange he was once more left to question whether the couple's behaviors were what he might have expected to look forward to had Danijela not been taken from him. There was no doubt in his mind that they would have grown old together, he had known that from the first moment he had seen her. The feeling of sadness that accompanied the thought was almost immediate and as it rose Luka laid his fork on the edge of his plate, feeling whatever appetite he'd had vanish with it.
"You're not done already?" Ingrid glanced at the still full plate as she retook her seat.
"I'm sorry..." He wrapped his hands around the coffeecup with the apology, unable to ignore the look of disappointment on the woman's face even as she tried to hide it.
"I'll just cover it, maybe you'll feel like eating more later." Ingrid rose as she spoke and without waiting for his reply picked up his plate. "You'll at least drink your milk and juice?"
"Ingrid." Martin carefully folded his paper as he began to speak. "I know you mean well, but..."
"It's all right, really." Luka caught the exchanged glances between the couple and without giving himself time to think, interrupted. "I don't mind." Asif to prove the statement he picked up the glass of milk and took a long drink.
"I'm an old woman, I can't help it." The woman smiled broadly then tossed her husband a look that clearly said, I told you so, and left her husband shaking his head in defeat.
to be continued...