UNTIL THE END OF TIME
I imagine being wrapped up in your arms
And the feeling of your heartbeat
And I find myself longing to hold you close
It's how I feel
'Cause I've been through a lot these years
And I have lost count of my tears
As always, Luka Kovac woke up and the first thing on his mind was his wife and children. They were his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night. He missed them in a way that words could not describe, but in the past few months he hadn't been as sad when he thought of them.
Maybe it was the fact that summer had arrived or that he was finally settled in a job with a flat and friends to his name, or maybe it was just a natural thing that - because two years had passed - he shouldn't always be sad. He hadn't felt guilty in a long time, and it had been even longer since he had felt anger, over his family's death. He could remember the happy things -his children's smiles when he told them bedtime stories, the way his wife Ana prepared him a cup of black coffee every morning, without fail, when he woke. The happy things were the things he wanted, and needed, to remember.
Luka had officially been an Attending Physician at County General for a year now and he enjoyed most aspects of his job - except perhaps, Romano's sarcastic comments and Mark's unwarranted resentment towards him. He got on well with almost all of his colleagues - especially Carter who he considered his closest friend. The pair hadn't really got along at first but after Carter's attack in the ER, Luka had visited him a lot and they found they shared a lot of interests.
Luka had lain in bed a few minutes - in that state somewhere between waking and sleeping - before his alarm went off. He switched its irritating beeping off quickly and went through his usual shower/shave/get dressed/drink coffee routine and left his flat within thirty minutes. He normally drove to the hospital but his old car was in the shop for the third time in as many months so he headed towards the El station.
As he sat in the almost empty carriage he looked around him. There was an old couple chattering away as well as a teenager listening to a walkman so loudly Luka could hear the constant "thud thud" beat of the 'music'. There were a few other people scattered around, but because the day was a Saturday, the business-people that normally filled the El were not there. Luka's attentions focused on a young woman who appeared to be in a lot of pain, though he couldn't quite tell why. He watched her for a minute before going over. It was almost his stop - maybe he could get her into the ER to see what was wrong.
"Excuse me?" he said as he moved and sat down next to her. "Are you ok? You seem to be in a lot of pain."
The woman grimaced.
"I tripped on my rug this morning - stupid huh? I think I've done something to my foot, it's hurting like hell. Do you know which stop is the hospital, I'm new here and I'm not sure where I'm going."
"Yeah, the hospital is only two stops away. My name is Dr Kovac, I work in the ER, I'll go down with you," he offered.
"That would be excellent," she said.
Luka noticed her voice - he wasn't sure what her accent was, maybe English or Scottish. He looked down at her foot to see a hugely swollen ankle.
"I can't believe I've done this - my first day in Chicago and I'm bloody well going to have to spend it in a hospital."
Luka laughed. He looked around him, Right this is our stop," he said to the young woman.
She stood up, grimacing again and limped behind him to the door.
"It's not far to walk is it? I don't think I can go very far like this," she said through gritted teeth.
"Here," said Luka reaching down for her hand. He took it and wrapped her arm around his shoulder then put his arm around her waist to support her. "Better?"
"Yeah, a bit, thanks," she said sounding slightly relieved.
When the train pulled to a halt Luka led her out onto the platform and she hobbled with him.
"Why didn't you call an ambulance?" he asked.
"I didn't think -ooh- it was too bad until I was -ah- half way to the station. By -ooh- which point it was too -ah- late to turn back and I had to - ooh-persevere."
They moved slowly, but consistently, until she saw the flight of steps.
"I can't -ooh- walk down them," she squealed, not in a spoilt rich-kid manner, but in a "I might pass out from the pain if I have to walk down those steps" kind of way. Before he realised what he was doing, Luka moved his bag from one shoulder to the other and scooped the woman up. She was only around 5"5, and quite small in build so she wasn't very heavy. He moved carefully down the steps and the woman in his arms tipped her head back and laughed.
"Well! This is better that trying to walk down the stairs!" she exclaimed.
When they reached the bottom Luka lowered her carefully back to her feet.
"You mean I don't get carried all the way to the ER? What kind of doctor are you?" Luka laughed loudly and offered himself again as a human-crutch. "It's only a block round the corner," he told her as they began again.
When they reached the ER they entered through the double doors and Luka called to the admin desk, asking which room was free. Randi told him that exam 2 was open so that's where he headed. He passed a wheelchair, which he signalled the woman to sit in.
"God, that feels better!" she said as she slipped into it.
Luka wheeled her into the room and he knelt down to look at her ankle, which was reaching the size of a small grapefruit.
"Ok, you get up on the bed and get yourself comfortable. I'll go and take my coat off and stuff and I'll be back in a few minutes," he said, in his friendliest manner.
"Ok, thanks very much," she said gratefully.
Luka smiled as he left the room.
A few minutes later, after leaving his bag and jacket in the lounge, Luka signed in and Mark ran over the ER patients with him. Luka found himself eager to get back to the woman he had met on the El. It occurred to him that he hadn't even found out her name. When Mark finished, Luka headed back to exam 2, only to find that Dr Dave was already examining the woman.
"Hey Dr K," said Dave, amused at his rhyme. "I've been hearing about your heroics."
Luka just smiled then looked at the woman sitting on the bed. She smiled back at him. "I never found out your name," he told her.
"Oh really? I'm sorry, that was really rude of me." She stretched out her hand. "I'm Adele McEwen."
Luka shook her hand and Dave watched as the sparks flew. The moment seemed to last forever, until Dave interrupted.
"Yeah, so, looks like a fracture. We'll need to get you up to radiology for some x-rays to be sure, but it looks like you'll be in plaster for a fortnight."
"You're kidding! That's a great way to start off in a new city isn't it? Sitting in front of the TV for a few weeks," said Adele, seeming genuinely disappointed.
"Well, at least you'll get to grips with the unbelievable amount of crap that gets put on TV over here and called entertainment. I'd rather gouge my own eyeballs out than watch half of it," said Luka trying to cheer her up.
Adele smiled again so he guessed it was working. Chuny came into the room, announcing that there was an MVA on its way and Luka and Dave were needed.
"Ok, Adele, radiology will be down for you in a few minutes. I'll see you when you get back," said Dave in that manner of his which was charming and smarmy in equal measure.
When he had gone Luka smiled and told Adele he might check in on her later on. She said she would like that.
A few hours later, Luka was sitting on the roof with Carter and Dave. The sun was out and everyone was cheerful. Dave was informing John of Luka's "heroics", as he liked to put it, and also of the colossal amount of sparks he had seen flying between them. John was listening intently, Luka was saying nothing. He was slightly confused. He hadn't been romantically involved with anybody since Ana. In fact, he had never been involved romantically with anyone other than Ana. He wasn't sure if a relationship was what he wanted, or even if he could handle one. Wouldn't it be like cheating on his dead wife?
Dave's pager went off. Adele's x-rays were back from radiology.
"Well, no rest for the wicked," he said.
"Yes, I guess that means you deserve less rest than most doesn't it Dave?" John said.
"Yeah - very funny, I'll see you both later," and off he went.
Luka didn't say anything, but Carter picked up the sense of unease around him.
"You really like her don't you?"
"Huh," said Luka, disturbed from his thoughts.
"This Adele woman, you really like her."
Luka thought for a moment.
"I don't even know her," he reasoned.
"That doesn't mean you don't like her, does it?" John pointed out. "But there's something else isn't there?"
Luka paused before nodding.
"Yeah, it's um well, it's over two years since my family were killed, and I haven't had anyone * really * important in my life since. I guess I feel like, getting into a relationship with anyone would be the wrong thing,"
"Why would it be wrong?"
"Because I would be like cheating on them. I know that I wouldn't be, but something in me feels like it would be disrespectful to them." Luka felt glad that he'd said that out loud. John stayed quiet for a few seconds before he spoke.
"I might be out of line in saying this, if I am, tell me and I'll shut up, but I don't think that a relationship would be disrespectful. Obviously, I never knew your wife, but from everything you've told me, it sounds to me that she was the sort of woman that would want you to get on with your life and be happy, whatever that would involve."
Just then, Carter's pager went off and he stood up. He looked down at the man beside him and said, "If you have a new relationship, it won't undermine anything about your family and the time you spent with them. You'll always have those memories - forever - until the end of time - but that was before, this is now, and you need to do whatever will make you happy." John patted Luka lightly on the back as he walked past.
"Thanks," Luka called after him distractedly.
A few minutes later, Luka stood up, brushed off his trousers and headed back down to the ER. The waiting room was almost empty so he headed straight to exam 2. Dave was working on Adele's cast.
"Hey Luka," said Dave cheerfully.
"Hello. How are you doing Adele?"
"Not too bad, whatever it was that Dr Dave gave me to take away the pain, it's certainly working," she said. Luka couldn't help but notice how nice her accent was. It was definitely Scottish, he had decided, and it was very soft and lilting. He decided that now was his chance to ask her out for a drink.
"Dave, do you want to take a break? I'll finish this off," he offered, hoping that Dave would catch Luka's hint that he wanted to be alone with Adele.
Luckily, Dave caught on immediately and went over to the sink to wash his hands. Luka sat down on the stool in front of Adele's bed and carried on with the plastering. As Dave left he winked at Luka, but Luka just shook his head and laughed lightly under his breath. The pair sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes before Adele broke the ice.
"So I'm not sure if I got a chance to thank you for getting me to the hospital," she said.
"I'm sure you would have made it on your own," he pointed out.
"Nah, I think I probably would have collapsed in a heap at the sight of those stairs if you hadn't been there."
"Well, I'm glad I could help."
They went silent again. Luka took a deep breath and focused his eyes on Adele's ankle.
"I know that you can't drink alcohol today, because of the drugs they gave you for the pain, but I was wondering if you would maybe like to go for a drink. With me."
Once he had said the words there was nothing he could do. They seemed to float around in the air for what seemed like forever until Adele replied.
"Um, well, ok," she seemed to turn shy all of a sudden.
"Ok, well you probably won't feel like going out with your plaster cast on, so maybe if I give you my phone number you could phone me when you feel up to it."
Luka felt that that was the best solution - he put minimal pressure on Adele to go out with him, but still left the ball in her court. They sat making polite conversation as he finished her cast, then as he was washing his hands Adele asked him,
"So, do you ask all of your patients out on dates?"
Luka turned around to see that she was smiling. He smiled back, "No, just the ones I rescue in train stations." He shook his hands dry and walked over to the door. As he pushed it open he heard Adele say
"I think you make a good knight in shining armour."
He smiled to himself and left the room.
To be continued
Song by Westlife "Until The End Of Time"
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