This story is a sequel to "Darkness" (previously posted here). If you have not read it, (you really should ... [hint, hint hint ...] but if you took me at my word, and thought it would be too rough for you) a brief summary before the new story begins. (The current story, incidentally, while it has its moments, and is still rated R, is far less intense in content and theme than "Darkness" was.) Darkness is a 're-staging' of the aired episode The Lost.

Luka, while working at his clinic in Matenda, is captured and held prisoner by Mai Mai rebels. He is brutally beaten and raped, and left to die, while those with him (including Patrique and and Chance, and several other prisoners) are shot and killed. After several days, Carter and Gillian, who have not been able to reach him by radio, come to find out what has happened to him. They find him alive but near death, (from his injuries, malaria, and dehydration,) and bring him back to Kisangani, where Angelique is able to treat his injuries. He begins to slowly recover physically, but struggles emotionally with the aftermath of his experiences, becoming increasingly depressed and withdrawn, unable to cope with the memories, with his new image of himself as a 'weak' person; and unable to bear what he views as pity from those caring for him. When severe infection in his broken leg offers him death as an escape (the other alternative would be amputation, a choice he cannot face), he embraces it. But his body is stronger than he expects, and he survives the infection and, with renewed faith in his own strength, is returned home to Chicago, accompanied by Gillian, to continue his physical and emotional recovery.

[Disclaimers: I don't own ER. ER doesn't own me. (Though my spouse may sometime argue otherwise...) I do happen to own this story

"Luka? Luka. Doctor Kovač, it's time to wake up."

The voice penetrated Luka's awareness, and brought with it other awarenesses; of thirst, of a slightly sore throat when he tried to swallow, of vague nausea, of a distant pain in his leg. And the odors of disinfectant and latex and the thousand other faint odors that, all together, said 'hospital.'

He was at County. He was home. The Kisangani hospital hadn't smelled like this. Not only were the underlying 'hospital' smells a bit different, they were also always covered up by the much stronger smells of unwashed bodies, of sweat, of the dozens of different meals being cooked by patients families and, most strongly of all, by the smells of Kisangani itself - the smells of Africa.

"Open your eyes, Dr. Kovač." The voice came again. He didn't know the voice. He'd heard those words, or words much like them, a hundred times at Kisangani - when he'd wakened after surgery, or been fighting to waken from yet another nightmare, and when he had thought he had died, been so ready to die. The voices saying the words then had been familiar; Carter, and Gillian and Angelique. But this voice was strange.

Luka opened his eyes. A nurse, unfamiliar. She smiled at him. "That's right. Your surgery is over, and you're in recovery. Dr. Allenson will be by to talk to you about it when you're a little more awake."

Luka looked around. Recovery. He'd had surgery? Amputation. Angelique had said she was going to amputate - that the doctors in Chicago would have to amputate. But Allenson had said something to him ... was it yesterday? What had he said? Everything was still so fuzzy. Memories blurred together, of Chicago, of Kisangani. The anesthesia, the exhaustion from the long trip, from too many days and weeks of illness. From far too many days and weeks of horror. They all made it so hard to think.

"My leg?" he managed to ask, and realized that the sore throat must be from the tube they had put in his throat during surgery, the vague nausea from the anesthesia.

"Dr. Allenson will talk to you about it a little bit later. He has several surgeries this afternoon."

"Still ... there?"

"Yes, of course."

Luka let his eyes close again, and drifted back into sleep.

When he woke again he was in a different bed, in a different room. His own hospital room. Smooth white sheets, several soft pillows beneath his head, the quiet whirring of the air conditioning keeping the Chicago summer heat at bay. It was only the beginning of June, but he remembered thinking, when he'd arrived yesterday, that it was almost as hot as the Congo had been. Luka smiled to himself. County was far from being the most luxurious hospital in the Chicago area, but compared to Kisangani this was luxury indeed.

Compared to Kisangani ... compared to Matenda. Luka shuddered, his good mood lost in a flash of memory. Memories of brutal beatings, of feeling his bones breaking beneath a steady rain of fists and boots, and of his own voice crying out in pain, moaning. Memories of days, endless days of lying on the floor, alone, surrounded by the corpses of those who had been luckier than he, who had died quickly; waiting to die from thirst, from shock, from pain; praying hopelessly for death to take him away from the agony. And still worse tortures, the ones that still haunted his dreams, but that he still couldn't bear to think about when awake, the memories that he fought to keep pushed down into the far reaches of his consciousness. Then, after he'd been found, rescued ... just hours away from death and brought back to Kisangani, there had been the long weeks of pain and humiliation and struggling to cope with the memories of his agony, and with the new agonies that each day brought him; until death had finally offered itself again as an escape, a release. But, despite his willingness to accept it, his body had, again, fought off death, and he had survived to come home.

Home, where he could begin again to try, somehow, to pick up the pieces of his life and start over again, leaving behind the memories, the horrors of Matenda.