Hope and Fear

part 11 by Jen


Luka stumbled home from the park.  By the time he reached his apartment he was nauseous.  What had he said, he couldn’t even remember everything he said, all he could remember was that he said they wouldn’t have to rape her, she was always so eager, but of course they had raped her.  It hadn’t been in Spain, she had told him in such a way to be sure that he would believe that, but of course it hadn’t been in Spain that’s why she never spoke of it.  It had been in Serbia, and she had protected him from the knowledge that they had raped the only other woman he’d ever loved, too.  Protecting him when it should have been the other way around.  He threw up in the kitchen sink because the bathroom was too far away.  Then he went to the bathroom to take a shower and he threw up there, too.  

He slumped in the chair where he had curled with Anna in his lap the night before and foolishly turned down her advances.  He had thought they had all the time in the world.  What have I done, he thought?  How did this happen?  This morning he had woken up with Anna in his arms, frustratingly scrub bottomed and tee shirted, and he had fully expected to fall asleep tonight with her in his arms again, this time naked and flush from making love.  Instead he was slumped in a chair, alone, wondering, what have I done?  Morning found him there thinking, what have I done?  He dragged himself out of the chair, stood under the shower until it scalded him, drank black coffee, and rode the train to work, hoping and fearing that he would see Anna.  He didn’t.

He walked through his days in a fog.  He started picking up extra shifts at the hospital again, causing Mark look at him sideways.  “Everything okay, Luka?” 

Luka brushed him off.  “Fine.” 

“Bullshit, Luka.”  That bruised look around his eyes was back.

“I’m fine, Mark.”

At night he’d lie on his back with his feet on the wall to rest his back and pick up the cordless phone and dial the first few numbers and stop. Who am I kidding?  She won’t talk to me.  What would I say?  What could I possibly say to her?  This isn’t like before, I can’t just show up at the coffee shop and apologize for this.  There’s no apologizing for this.  I’ve ruined everything.  He couldn’t sleep.  When he closed his eyes he saw her shocked and pale face staring back at him.  Even Marija seemed to scowl at him.

Every day it was the same. Luka would haul himself out of bed, stand under the shower until it scalded him, drink black coffee, and ride the train to work, hoping and fearing that he would see Anna.  He never did.  Everything okay, Luka?  Fine.  Luka, talk to me.  I’m fine Mark.  You don’t look fine.  I’m *fine* Mark.

He stalked the ER like a thundercloud.  Except for Mark the staff steered clear of him.  His entry into the lounge for a cup of coffee cleared the room.  Even Malucci seemed to sense he was in no joking mood and worked with him swiftly and quietly, saving his jokes for Abby.  The nurses secretly jockeyed to be on whatever trauma Kovac hadn’t caught. Benton gave him a wide berth and Kerry observed him watchfully out of the corner of her eye.

At the end of a long day Luka was shrugging into his coat to head home when Abby nervously stuck her head in the lounge.  As med student and eternal low post on the totem pole she’d drawn duty to find Kovac.  “Dr. Kovac?” she said softly.  “We have three GSWs coming in.  Dr. Weaver told me to catch you before you left.  She needs you to stay,” she finished apologetically.

Luka sighed.  “I’m coming,” he whispered.  Why not?  What else am I going to do but go home alone?  He leaned against the lockers and admitted for a minute how weary he was.  He closed his eyes and thought he could cat nap for just a minute, here on his feet.

“Dr. Kovac?”  Abby had stepped inside and was approaching him.  She couldn’t tell if he had heard her.  “We have three GSWs coming in?  Dr. Weaver needs you?”

“I said I’m coming!” he shouted and slammed his locker door so hard it bounced back open.  Abby jumped and backed away from him.  She was small and white and pale and afraid, and looked just like Anna had looked.  Luka brought himself up short.  “I’m sorry, Anna.  I’m sorry for yelling at you like that.”  He took a deep breath.  “Tell Dr. Weaver I’m on my way.”  I’m losing my mind, he thought as he watched Abby scurry away from him with a question mark in her face.

Every day it was the same.  Luka would haul himself out of bed, stand under the shower until it scalded him, drink black coffee, and ride the train to work, hoping and fearing that he would see Anna.  He never did.  You okay, Luka.  Fine Mark.  Yeah, well you scared the shit out of Abby yesterday.  And you called her Anna.

Luka’s head jerked up.  “What?”

“She said you called her Anna.  Luka.  What’s going on?  Come on, man, talk to me.”

Luka sighed.  “It’s nothing, Mark.  I’ll apologize to Abby again.”

“It’s not about that, Abby’ll be fine.  How about you?”

“It’s nothing, Mark.”

“How’s Anna?”

“It’s nothing, Mark.”

Mark sighed.  He was getting nowhere.

That night on the El Elizabeth tapped Mark’s arm.  “Is that Anna, Mark?  Luka’s Anna?  By the door?”

Mark looked down the length of the car.  “Yeah, I think it is.”

“Good lord, Mark, she looks worse than he does!”  Elizabeth turned to him.  “What happened? Are you going to talk to him?  I like her, Mark, and I like Luka with her.  Are you going to talk to him?”

Mark sighed in exasperation.  “I’ve tried, Elizabeth.  He won’t have it.”

“Well try again, Mark.”

“He won’t hear of it, Elizabeth.  I bug him every day.  He’s getting to hate the sight of me.  Why don’t you try?”

“Oh, very funny, Mark.”

“I’m serious, Elizabeth.  Maybe it would be better.  I’ve been bugging him for a couple of weeks already and he’s not going to talk to me.  Besides, maybe he’d feel better talking to a woman, I don’t know.  You might as well try, Elizabeth.  I’m telling you, he won’t talk to me.”

The next day Elizabeth approached Luka in the lounge.  “Luka?”

He looked up.

“If you have a minute today, could you see me upstairs?”

Luka wrinkled his forehead.  “What is it, Elizabeth?”

“Please, Luka.”

“Oh, alright.  I’ll try to get free.”

Luka used what could have been an actual lunch break to knock on Elizabeth’s door.

“Luka!”  She hadn’t really expected him to show up.  “Come in.  Shut the door, Luka.”  She took a deep breath and dived right in.  “I don’t mean to pry, Luka, but I’m going to pry.  I saw Anna on the train yesterday.”

“You did?”  Luka looked up.  “Did you talk to her?  What did she say?  How does she look?” he asked eagerly. 

“I didn’t talk to her, Luka.  But she looked awful.  Just like you do.  Luka, is there something I can do, or Mark?  Won’t you talk to us, Luka?”

Luka shrugged.  “What’s to say, Elizabeth?  I ruined everything.”

Elizabeth sighed.  “Luka.  What happened? You do tend to be hard on yourself, you know.  It can’t be as bad as all that.”

Luka let out a short laugh.  “Oh, trust me Elizabeth, it’s as bad as all that.  I said unforgivable things.”

“Luka.  Unforgivable?  That’s a pretty strong word.  Did you talk to Anna?  Won’t she talk to you?”

“I can’t face her, Elizabeth.  I said horrible things.”

“What do you mean you can’t face her?  You mean you haven’t even tried!?  You’re scowling around here like the grim reaper making everybody miserable, scaring the hell out of the nurses and yelling at poor Abby and YOU HAVEN’T EVEN TRIED?!  Oh for the love of god Luka you’re insufferable!”

Luka dropped his head.  “You don’t understand, Elizabeth.  I said horrible things.”

“Everybody says things they don’t mean when they’re fighting, Luka.  Anna’s a big girl, I’m sure she knows that.”

Luka stared at his feet.  “I called her a whore, I didn’t use that word but I made sure she knew what I meant, and I asked if she enjoyed sleeping with the men who raped my wife.  I said unforgivable things, Elizabeth, and I ruined everything and will you tell Mark to please stop asking how I’m doing every morning before I kill him?”

Elizabeth stared.  “I should slap you on her behalf Luka,” she finally said.

“I wish you would.  It would be the start of what I deserve at least.”

“Luka, the only thing that could make you more insufferable right now is if you start getting a martyr complex.  You’re right, you sure screwed up, Luka.  But I think it’s high time you figure out how you’re going to deal with it. You can’t go on moping around like this.”

“I know I ruined things, Elizabeth.  Why do you think I look like this?  I know I did.”

“So fine.  Now do something about it.  The way I see it you have exactly two choices.  You need to either admit that you messed up and give up and move on and stop making everybody around you so miserable or you need to go throw yourself at Anna’s feet and beg her to forgive you.  Either way, Luka, I think it’s time you grow up and take responsibility instead of storming around like a miserable fifteen year old angry at the whole rotten unjust world.”

She was right.  He had to do something, either give up completely or try completely but this middle ground was killing him.

“Would you want to see me?  Would you forgive me, Elizabeth?”

 “No, Luka, I wouldn’t.”  Elizabeth watched his face fall, if were even possible to fall further.  “But I’ve seen her with you and that girl’s in love with you, Luka.  Maybe she will.  If you throw yourself at her feet and beg her to forgive you, maybe she will.  You might as well try, Luka.  You’ve nothing to lose.  You never know.  People do such unexpected things when they’re in love, don’t they?”

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