By Poet

As Mark approached the El, he saw someone sitting on the bench. Taking a closer look, he realized that it was Luka who appeared to be lost in thought. mark stopped where he was, not sure if he wanted to disturb the man.

As he stood there, he reflected over the events earlier in the day: Luka had always seemed to be a nice quiet guy--friendly and polite. So the shouting match between Luka and Benton had been a little unexpected. Poor Kerry had tried to play peacemaker/referee between the two. And at the same time he had so urgently wanted to talk to her about Carter.

At that moment, Luka raised his head to look at Mark, resigning himself to the fact that he was going to have company whether he wanted it or not.

Mark set his shoulder bag on the bench and sat down. "Waiting for the train?" he asked.

"Yeah," Luka replied. He regarded the other doctor for a moment. "I thought you drove a minivan."

"I do. But someone else has it tonight. What about your car?" Mark asked in return.

"Broke down," Luka said and retreated back into moody silence.

Mark studied him carefully, debating if he should tell Luka about Carter. He knew the other doctor was going to notice Carter's absence and would probably find out why. He decided to just go ahead and tell Luka. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled and began. "I wonder if you noticed how carter's been acting lately."

"I noticed a difference but I thought it had to od with Lucy's death, the stabbing," Luka replied quietly.

"It does--in a way. But before I say anything more, you have to promise me that you won't say a word to Romano," Mark said. "We don't want Romano to know."

"I do not talk to Romano unless it is absolutely necessary. So you can trust me not to say anything," Luka assured him.

"None of us really talk to Romano. Luckily he rarely comes down to the ER." Mark said. "You know that Carter is still recovering from his injuries. Well, he's become addicted to his pain medication. We found out today when Abby caught him injecting fentanyl that was left over in a syringe."

"So where is Carter?" Luka asked.

"He's supposed to be on a plane to Atlanta. There's a drug rehab clinic that deals with addiction in doctors," Mark replied.

"It's not hard to become addicted, especially if you're on a lot of narcotics. I could easily become that way myself," Luka admitted.

"We've got time to wait so why don't you tell me about it?" mark suggested, curiously wanting to find out about Luka's life. "You can trust me not to tell anyone."

Luka was silent, wondering if he could trust Mark. But, at the same time realizing that he was being trusted not to say anything about Carter. Finally he said, "I wonder if you've heard that I once HAD a family...a wife and two children." He put emphasis on the word 'had'.

"I think I vaguely heard something about that," Mark replied.

"You notice how I limp sometimes, especially when I stress the leg," Luka continued.

"I've noticed but I didn't think you wanted me to ask you about it," the other doctor said.

"I didn't," Luka told him and paused, choosing his words carefully. "I...was injured...when my family was killed...There was a delay in proper medical treatment and infection set in...For awhile it...was a battle to save my life...without losing my leg."

Mark looked at him but said nothing.

"During that time I was under heavy sedation and on morphine to get through the worst of the pain...And because my family was dead...I wanted so much to die," Luka said quietly and brushed away a tear on his cheek.

Mark looked at the young doctor with a sympathetic expression. He couldn't even begin to guess what the man had been through, experienced. The war in Bosnia, the Serbs and the Croations, had just been something distant. Something heard on the news and read in the paper when he had the time. But actually knowing someone who had lived through it somehow gave the war a more personal perspective.

"As soon as they took me off the sedatives and when I could make up my own mind, I managed to convince the doctors that I could deal with the pain if they put me on a non narcotic medication. I couldn't work and I didn't want to become like one of the addicts I so often treated," Luka continued and then paused. "Mark, I didn't suspect that Carter was using drugs."

"None of us did. When it's someone you know--you don't want to think about that. I guess it was just easier to tell ourselves that he was still dealing with what happened Valentines Day," Mark replied.

Luka had been staring at his hands while he was speaking but he looked up and caught sight of Mark's expression. "Don't look at me like that!" he said angrily and started to get up and walk away. "Now you know why I don't like to talk about to talk about my personal life. When people find out, they have pity on me, they feel sorry for me. I don't need either! I survived the war and I'll keep on surviving." That last statement seemed more to convince himself than Mark.

"Yes. I can see you are," Mark commented, startled by Luka's sudden outburst.

Luka sat back down on the bench and rubbed a weary hand across his forehead. "I'm sorry. It has been a very bad day," he apologized.

"I'll bet. Kerry told me about your patient. It's a tough call sometimes," Mark replied, accepting the apology.

"I did everything to save the baby but it just wasn't enough," Luka said softly.

The rumble of an approaching train caused both men to get to their feet. Mark reached for his shoulder bag and reminded Luka, "Not a word about Carter to Romano."

"Don't worry--I'm not telling. Hopefully Carter can beat his addiction and return to County," Luka replied, reaching in his pocket for the fare.

"That's what we all hope," Mark told him.

The train slid to a stop and they got on the nearest car, managing to find empty seats. Luka leaned back, completely exhausted. All he wanted to do was go home and forget this whole day ever happened.

Mark looked at him for a moment but said nothing. Instead he stared out the window at the various stops, waiting for his own.

Luka roused himself as his own stop approached. He looked up at Mark, saying, "I'll see you in the morning."

"In the morning, Luka," Mark replied.

The train slid to a stop and Luka stepped down on the platform. He wearily headed for the stairs and the several blocks to his own home.

Mark stared out the window, watching Luka as the train headed onto its next stop.

The end


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