Abby looked at the clock- it was already 9; Luka
had been schedualed to start at 7. Everyone was worried- he was
never late, had never missed a shift before. Everyone knew about
what had happened last night, about the attack and the dead
mugger; they looked to Abby for answers, but she had none.
"Where the hell is he?" Peter Benton growled at her, as
if Abby could produce him with a wave of her hand. .
"Give him a break, Peter," Haleh told him.
"He should have called," was Benton's only response. "If I were Kerry, I'd fire his ass." Both Abby and Haleh had glared at him; Benton wasn't used to running the ER; he was swamped with patients and needed help, and none was forthcoming. But he didn't have to take it out on Luka.
Abby had gotten the number for Luka's hotel from her friend in personnel; she had already called twice, leaving messages, but there'd been no response. Her concern was growing by the minute, she cursed herself for not going after him last night, for letting Luka slip away into the darkness when what he needed most was a friend. But she had been so confused, in shock, even, from the events of the night.
Why did this have to happen? Abby thought. Just when things were going so well. She thought back to the first time she'd met Luka, thinking about how attracted she'd been to him from the start. But she hadn't been free then; the divorce still wasn't final. And he- he had been with Carol Hathaway. Not really, but that's who he was interested in, and Abby never went after another woman's man. So she had pulled back, limiting her contact with him to only professional situations while still stealing an admiring glance now and then. But once her ER rotation was over, it was out of sight, out of mind. Except in her dreams...
Then all hell broke lose when she came in for her second ER rotation. That skunk of an ex-husband had screwed her royally. Then Kerry Weaver started playing games, getting her assigned to the ER so that she could still "observe procedures"- "Good practice for when you return to med school," Kerry had said. But then she wouldn't let Abby do anything after all. The only reason Abby decided to stay was becasue the pay was better. Well, that and Luka.
He had been so kind to her, so supportive. When everyone else looked right through her, seeing only a screw-up med student or a nurse to exploit, Luka had seen what she'd done, seen what she was capable of. She could tell that his words were sincere, that he truly felt she would be a great doctor. She wasn't sure why she had kissed him like that, except that he had said exactly what she'd needed to hear, sincerely, honestly- there was no bullshit. He was just so cute, so nervous and shy and so endearing, and so damn sexy that she just had to kiss him. And he certainly didn't seem to mind...
Abby sighed and looked at the clock again. Time was crawling by; it was 9:30 and still no call from Luka. The police had called, looking for him, saying they needed to interview him, but there was nothing that anyone could say. Luka was missing, and Abby was afraid that he'd run, run away to someplace that he felt was safe. Or worse yet- that he was lying in his hotel room, unconscious from the blow to his head, helpless. She got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach; she had to do something, something more than a phone call, something more than waiting. She checked the work schedual, and found out Chuny was off.
"I'll be there right away," Chunny assured her when Abby explained the situation. Abby smiled; she knew all the nurses tried to look after Luka, even if he were oblivious. It had been Chuny, in fact, who had filled Abby in on the little she knew about Luka's past, about how he'd been married and the fact that his wife and children were dead.
"What happened?" Abby had asked.
"Something in the war," Chuny had told her. "I don't think he's told anyone. Well, maybe Carol, but she would never gossip about something so, you know, personal." Abby had nodded, better understanding the pain she saw in Luka's eyes sometimes.
True to her word, Chuny arrived in the ER within twenty minutes. "A new record," she told Abby. "I'm just glad there were no cops out." Then Chuny's face turned serious. "Do you think you can find him?" she asked.
"I don't know." Abby sighed. "But I have to try. Thanks for covering for me."
"Anytime." Chuny put her hand on Abby's shoulder. "Good luck," she said, her eyes betraying her concern.
"Thanks," Abby said again, then she hurried to her car.
Yesterday kept playing through her mind as she drove towards Luka's hotel. She smiled at how silly she'd been, how afraid she was that Luka would turn down her suggestion for a date. She had been so certain that he'd make some excuse, find some reason to say no. But when he had agreed, had suggestd that same night...she shook her head. It wasn't until they had gotten away from the hospital that she figured out why it was so hard to read the signals Luka sent out- he was so shy, so unsure how to act around her. She wondered how long it had been since he had been on a real date, if he had ever dated at all.
But he had warmed up fast enough when they had gotten to the bar. Foosball had been a good ice-breaker, even if she had kicked his ass. He had been smiling, joking, having fun, and she found herself drawn to him even more. Luka had been so sweet, so awkward at times, so embarassed when he realized the implication of "Come see my hotel room." She chuckled to herself, knowing that if he had just asked, she would have gladly gone with him then and there, knowing that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
She pulled into the lot at Luka's hotel and hurried inside. When she told the desk clerk what had happened, he was just as worried as she was. Together they went to Luka's room. The maid met them in the hall; she told them it looked like Luka hadn't been back at all yesterday- the bed was still made up.
Abby looked around Luka's room, struck by the intitutional feel of the place. There was one picture on the desk, of a woman with a little girl in her lap-she had to wonder if that were Luka's wife and daughter. And if so, what about his other child? But that would have to wait; now she had to find Luka. She gave the clerk her number; he promised to page her if he saw Luka at all. Then she got in the car. She had no idea where to go next. Finally she decided to try the police station- perhaps they had found him. If not, she could at least get her statement out of the way.
The detective interviewed her right away; he gave no indication of having seen Luka. Abby had a hard time concentrating on the questions; it didn't help that the detective seemed to not care about the dead man at all. His questions were leading her to the answers he wanted; he never asked how many times Luka had hit the mugger, never asked if she thought Luka had used too much force, only if she had been afraid, if she thought she was in danger. The whole interview was done in less than ten minutes.
"Thank you, Miss Lockhart," the detective said. "I don't think we'll be bothering you with this again, but like I told the doc before, stay close,okay?" Abby nodded, then latched on to what he'd said.
"When was Lu- Dr. Kovac here?" she asked.
"He left about ten minutes before you got here, I guess," he answered. Twenty minutes- a half-hour at most, Abby thought. Not much of a head start...She thanked the detective and almost ran out of the station.
Where could Luka have gone? Abby thought, looking up and down the street . She thought of his face last night, how it had dissolved from rage to confussion to disbelief to horror at what he'd done. She'd watched as he'd withdrawn from her, from everyone, not talking, flinching at every touch, every question. She could see the self-recrimination in his eyes, and she remembered feeling the same way. She had never killed anyone, true enough, but she knew what it felt like to have something take over your being, controlling you, how it felt to "come to" in a situation that made no sense, that was horrifying. Luka hadn't frightened her, despite the violence of his actions she knew he was only being protective, that he would never harm her. But she knew he needed help, needed someone to show him that they cared. She wasn't about to lose him now.
She caught a glimpse of the lake, and instantly knew she would find him there. He had told her last night of the sea, of the draw of the water. Please, God, she prayed as she hurried towards the lake, let him be safe.
Abby spotted him instantly, sitting on a bench, head in hands. She stopped, preparing something to say but finding no words. She was so relieved to see him there... But even from this distance, she could tell that he was preparing to leave, to run away and hide; she could see the self-hatred. But she knew all too well that he couldn't hide from himself.
Luka started to stand, and she knew she had to act quickly, or he'd simply disappear, would go some where that no one would find him.
"Luka," she called softly, "Luka, are you all right?" It made no sense, she could tell that he was anything but all right, but she had to stop him. She stood in front of him, looking into his face; finally he seemed to realize she was there.
"Abby," he rasped, almost like a prayer.
"I was so worried about you," she told him honestly, her voice filled with relief on find him but concern over how he looked. She could tell he hadn't slept, probably hadn't eaten; she took his arm and felt him shivering. She lead him up the street to her car; saying nothing; there were no words she could find. Instead she tried to reassure him with a look, a touch. She helped him into her car gently, then drove towards her condo. There was nothing to say to make it better, she knew; there would be time for words later. Now Luka needed to know someone cared, that someone was there for him.
It seemed natural somehow to take him home, to have him shower in her shower, to have him eat the soup she'd made, to lead him to her bed. They were in this together, come what may she would be here for him. The other day he had said what she had needed to hear, with the words coming from the heart. Now she knew the words he needed to hear, knew what he needed most.
"You're safe her," she whispered as she tucked him in. She could see the tension drain, at least a little, from his face.
"Safe here,"he murmered. "Thank you, Abby..." and he was asleep. She kissed his forehead and went to the phone, leaving the door open so that she could hear if he woke up. She dialed the number for the ER.
"Chuny?" she said quietly into the receiver. "It's okay; Luka's safe. He's home." And she smiled to herself. How good that truly sounded.
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