"Watch 'em, Joe, they're going to get the ball." Luka held the conversation over the football match with his son in Croatian, something he's started even before the boy had been born. From the moment he'd learned Abby was pregnant he'd known how important it would be that Joe be bilingual, not just because he was half Croatian, but for those times when his father would call, or they might one day go to Croatia. Unfortunately, his father had passed before Joe was old enough to really talk, but, that hadn't stopped him from continuing the lessons, and when the two of them were together, he found he rarely spoke to him in English.

"Tata, him running." Joe pointed at the at the screen as he spoke, making sure that Luka was catching what was happening on-screen

It was hard to explain how important his time with Joe was to him. Maybe it was because he realized how little time he'd had with Jasna and Marko, or maybe it was just knowing that he and Abby would never have another child. Whatever the reason, the moments they spent together were ones he found himself looking forward to. It didn't matter what kind of a day he'd had, or how tired he felt, the minute he walked through the door and heard Joe call his name it all disappeared.

"Tata, him running, see." Joe tugged at Luka's sleeve to drag his father out of his thoughts and back into the soccer match on the television.

"I see that, Joe." What could be better than this?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 261


"Luka, come to the market with me." Josip Kovac stuck his head in his youngest son's room as he made the request. It had been three weeks since Luka had found his way back to them, and in that time he'd barely left the spare room he now called his own, let alone the house.

"Tata, no." Rolling to his side, he turned his back to the door.

"Son, you can't live the rest of your life like this." It took everything the man had in him not to approach the bed. He knew his son was grieving, he knew his son needed time, but, it had already been nearly six months, and if he didn't start finding his way back from the dark place he was living in.

"Tata, please, just leave me alone." The pain in his son's voice ripped through the man's heart. It would be so easy to do as he asked, to leave him with his memories, with the photo of those lost to him forever.

"I can't, Luka, I'm sorry, I love you too much to let you do this to yourself anymore." As he finally reached his limit, Josip Kovac approached the bed and took a tentative seat on the edge before gently touching his son's shoulder.

"Danijela wouldn't want you living like this, you know that, Luka." As he felt the tremble under his hand it was all he could do to remain as he was.

"Do you remember how much Jasna enjoyed going to the market with us when she was little? How she would eat so many strawberries her face would be stained red, and Danijela would pretend to be so angry when we got back?" As impossible as it seemed he couldn't help but laugh as the memory surfaced.

"I miss them so much, Tata." For the first time since his father had entered the room, the younger man turned to face him.

"I know, Luka, you always will, but, it'll get easier, I promise. Now, go wash your face and put on a clean shirt, we'll go to the market and maybe if we're lucky, we'll find some strawberries to bring back." Extending his hand, he brushed the tears from his son's cheeks with his fingertips.

"It'll get better, I promise, now go, I'll wait for you on the front step."

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 392


I'm not sure how much I ever believed in talismans until I went to the Congo and found my life spared by something as small as the crucifix that Sakima had insisted I take with her gratitude. She and her daughter had nothing but the clothes on their backs, yet she demanded I take something so personal, and I was at a loss for how to refuse her.

For so many years I had turned my back on the church and there, in that place, seeing what I saw, knowing that Patrique sacrificed his life in an attempt to save mine, how could I do anything less than grab for it again. I was raised to believe that my faith would protect me, but, there, in that place, it seemed so impossible to believe. I tried to sense God's presence, but, all I could feel was the fear around me, and as one by one those kneeling with me were led to their death's I began to doubt he was near. And then I was alone.

How do I begin to explain the dread I felt when I realized that I was the last one there in that compound? It didn't seem to matter anymore if I remained kneeling, what more could they do to me then what I knew was to come? For the first time in hours I simply sat and tried to resolve myself to what was to come. I was beyond thinking about what would happen to Sakima and Chance, my own death was imminent, and I needed to make my peace with it.

It was only as I once more climbed to my knees that I began to hear the music, and somewhere deep inside of me I found comfort in that. Despite all my years away the prayers came back to me easily and as I whispered them for my comfort, the world around me seemed to fade away. I was sure then that it wouldn't be long and I would once more be reunited with Danijela and my children and we would once more be a family. How could I have have known that a simple crucifix held the power to change everything.

I wasn't aware that I'd drawn the attention of the Mai Mai, I wasn't aware that the sight of the crucifix around my neck would prompt Sakima to put my life above that of her own life and that of her daughter's as she fought to save me. I only know that one moment I faced death, and then sometime later I woke in a tiny hut, fevered, amid stifling heat, but, somehow still alive. I'll never know for sure what might have happened to me if it hadn't been for that crucifix or for those who put my life before theirs, I only know I will never be able to repay them for the sacrifices they made to save me. I'm forever in their debt.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 493
As Abby and I embark on this new chapter of our lives, it's hard not to look back on all I've been through to get to this point, on all we've been through. There were so many times when my life should have ended, so many times when I should have lost everything and everyone. We've both mistakes, there's no denying that, we could have taken the easy way out like we did the first time we were together, but, we didn't. Instead here we are, together. We have each other, we have our beautiful son, and while our marriage may not have fully recovered from all it's been subjected to, neither of us are ready to turn our back on it.

If I go back to the beginning, the very fact that I'm here when my first family isn't says more than I can with words. When I lost Danijela and our children in Vukovar, I thought my life was over. No, that's not true, I didn't think my life was over, I wanted it to be over. I that first week, I went out of my way to put myself in harm's way, hoping that God would answer my prayers and allow me to rejoin my family, and still I survived. When word came that the City was finally falling I was among those few who somehow escaped. Only later did I learn that so many of those I had called mentor and friends, as well as their patients had fallen when the Serbs massacred all those in the hospital.

Even knowing I had made it out of Vukovar when so many others never would wasn't enough to change how I was feeling. In my escape, I'd been shot, and after two days of travel I'd had enough, exhausted, hungry, and in pain, I was ready to go. When I stumbled onto an abandoned house, and then the next morning I found the bodies of those who had once lived there. What kind of animals murder innocent children only to leave then lying in the mud? I decided right then and there I was through trying, I knew I had to get away from the stench, and I walked until I could walk no more, and then I lay down and prayed that when I closed my eyes it would be for the last time.

It wasn't. When I woke I found myself in a Displaced Person's camp with strangers fighting for the life I was ready to throw away. It took me months to change how I felt, and when the time came for me to leave I went to the only place I had left. My father welcomed me with open arms, but, it didn't take long for me to realize that there were too many reminders there of things I no longer had. Too many reminders of the future that was gone forever. I had to leave, I had no choice. If I wanted to ever have any hope for another life it had to be somewhere other than Hrvatska, little did I know it would put a rift between my brother and I that would take almost 15 years to heal.

My being in the United States wasn't a quick fix for me, I made more mistakes then I was ready to admit to, including wasting years that Abby and I could have shared together had I not been so lost in my past. It took my cheating death for a second time for me to finally realize that my life held value if I was willing to see it. Knowing that Sakima and Chance had been willing to risk their lives to save mine, knowing Patrique had lost his, and then having Carter be willing to travel all that distance just to claim my body is that he could return me to my father. How do you thank people for something like that? How could I keep living the life I'd been living without disrespecting everything they'd done?

It took a while for Abby and I to find our way back to each other, we had our tests, our challenges, from Joe's birth and those first month's of his life, then, all of the events connected to Curtis Ames. I thought marrying Abby would prove the end of the bad luck in our lives, we'd been through so much to get there, more than anything I wished my father could have seen it. All of those years he'd told me there was someone out there who would make me feel like Danijela did, and now I knew he was right.

My father never had the chance to meet my wife or my son, in fact, it was his illness that would provide Abby with the greatest test to our relationship, while at the same time healing the rift that had kept Niko and I apart for so long. Things aren't yet back to where they were with Abby and I, but, we're getting there. Boston is allowing us the chance to start all over again. It's a new City, the mistakes we made remain behind us in Chicago, I love my wife, and I love my son, I know know that our future is what we choose to make it, and the past can only hold onto us if we let it. Boston isn't about the past though, and everyday when we wake up and see Joe's face it only confirms that for us. We belong together, and for the first time in far too long I can honestly say I'm looking forward to all my life has to give.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 949
"Want me to give him his bath?" Luka glanced up from where he sat on the couch as Abby started gathering Joe's toys and dropping them into a nearby basket.

"No, that's okay, I've got him, you look like you could use the rest anyway." The day had been long for both of them, but, more so for Luka who had been forced to pull an early morning shirt due to his lack of seniority at the Boston Hospice.

"It hasn't been too bad, he's more worn out then I am." gesturing to where Joe lay on the floor, Abby couldn't help but laugh. Not quite ready to admit to being ready to quit, the toddler lay on his side by the Christmas tree, his head resting on one arm as he drove one of his new cars around in front of him.

"It's been a good day, hasn't it?" Without thinking he patted the spot on the couch beside him, inviting her to join him.

"Yes, it has." Seeing how contented Joe was, and knowing how close they had come to losing everything because of her mistakes while he'd been gone, Abby hesitated only a moment before taking the seat beside him.

"We made the right decision, didn't we, leaving everything, everyone we knew to start fresh?" Luka slid his arm around his wife, drawing her closer with the question.

"I think so." Abby bit her lower lip, considering for a moment if she wanted to say more, or simply to let him talk. Finally, as the decision was made, she took one of his hands before she laced her fingers with his .

"Luka, can I ask you something?" Instead of looking into his face as she spoke, her gaze remained on Joe.

"Sure, what is it?" Whether he was picking up something in the tone of her voice, or her manner, Luka wasn't sure, but, he found himself inwardly bracing himself even as he gave her permission to continue.

"I'm just curious about something, and if you'd rather not talk about this, I'll understand." She wasn't sure why she gave him a final chance to withdraw his permission, though if she had to come up with a reason she would probably attribute it to the rocky ground their relationship was setting on at the moment. Did she dare jeopardize the gains they'd been making by digging into things that really weren't her concern?

"Abby, it okay." Luka reached over to touch his wife's chin with his free hand, bringing her head up so that she had no choice but to look at him.

"It's okay, really." Once he had her attention he dropped his hand to cover the other.

"Luka, you never talk about your children with Danijela, and maybe it's none of my business, I just wondered." Abby's words trailed off as she struggled for the best way to say what was on her mind. When he showed no sign of stopping her, she continued.

"I was just wondering, when you look at Joe, does he remind you of Marko? Does he look like him, or have the same personality?" The longer she spoke the harder it became to look at him and by the time she finished her eyes were back on their hands.

"Joe, come to Tata." Luka wasn't quite sure why he called his son to him. Abby's questions were not ones he hadn't asked himself, in fact he had asked himself far tougher ones, and there would likely be many more as the boy grew into manhood. Joe had already passed his first milestone, and while he hadn't said anything to Abby about it, it had felt like a weight had been lifted from him when Joe had moved from 18 to 19 months of age. There would be yet another of course, and he knew the fear of history repeating itself would hang over their heads until Joe successfully marked his 6th birthday.

"Up, Tata." At Luka's invitation, Joe scrambled to his feet, grabbing a couple of the cars he'd been playing with before joining them at the couch. Once he was lifted up, he wasted no time in crawling onto his father's lap.

"Those are kind of tough, physically, they don't look anything alike. Danijela was dark like I am, so both of our children were dark as well." With his son settled, Luka slid his arm around him and kissed the top of his head. As he forced his thoughts back to his wife's question he idly ran his fingers through the boy's hair.

"Marko was just starting to walk, and he was talking very little, but, he had no trouble making known what he wanted." As the memories of the small boy who lost his life so many years before were unburied, Luka's voice grew quieter.

"He had one of those smiles that filled his face, and a way of laughing, it was almost like it filled him up and then over-flowed, he'd start giggling and you couldn't help but join him." The memory instantly brought an image of the small boy to his thoughts.

"Tata, cry." It wasn't until Joe touched his cheek that he realized that tears had followed it and he swiped at the wetness before kissing his son on the top of his head.

"It's okay, Joe, Tata was just thinking about something." He glanced over to Abby and offered her an apologetic smile.

"I guess it's a little harder then I thought." He wiped again at his eyes before gathering Joe into a hug as the toddler turned fully, clearly bothered by what he was seeing.

"Luka, we can do this later." Abby no sooner started to speak then she was interrupted by Joe.

"No cry, Tata, no cry." Luka tightened his embrace on his son, then kissed him again before addressing Abby.

"I want to tell you about him, but, you're right, maybe later is better. Thank you, Abby." Leaning toward her he gave her a kiss before boosting Joe up to his shoulder.

"How about I give Joe his bath, then we'll read him his story and we can talk about Marko after he's gone to bed, is that all right?" As he settled on his father's shoulder, Joe slid his arms around the man's neck.

"Go, bed?" The question came quietly, more for Luka then Abby.

"Yeah, after your bath." Luka kissed Joe again as he waited for Abby's response.

"That's fine, I'll go start the water, bring him up when you're ready." Abby leaned over and gave first Joe, then Luka a kiss before standing.

"I'll get his pajamas too, see you in a few minutes, and thank you, Luka." The image of Luka and Joe was one of those she knew would stay with her for a long time, he was meant to be a father. If she had ever had any doubt of it, she only need watch him with his son to know that of all the things he was, this was what he was most meant to be, more then a doctor, more then a husband. She could only imagine how losing his first two children must have affected him, and while Joe could never replace them, he had given him that gift of fatherhood back again. In a way, Joe had given him his life back. Who would have thought that good things could have come in such a small package?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 1180
What's a daily activity you must do that's not one of your favorite activities?

Since moving to Boston, Luka and Abby had made the decision to stagger their work schedules as much as possible. If they were going to salvage their marriage things were going to have to change and one of those changes had been their decision to cut back on hiring a nanny. When they had started interviewing for positions, they had decided that Abby would work early days and Luka would aim for overnights. The new schedules would leave them with plenty of time in the middle of the day to spend not just with each other, but with Joe as a family, and after almost a year of only having one or the other parent in his life, he needed that.

The mornings belonged to Luka. Once home after finishing an overnight shift at the hospital, he'd spend some time alone with Abby before she left for her shift, once she was gone, it was time for him to wake Joe.

"Hey, little man, you ready to get up and have some breakfast?" As he approached the crib, he wasn't surprised to see Joe already on his feet, his arms stretched upward, ready to start his day.

"Eew...stinky boy." The teasing came after a good morning kiss, and he wrinkled his nose as he got a whiff of his son's full diaper. "Better get you cleaned up first, huh? You ready to try your big boy pants today?"

"Big boy." Joe echoed his father's words with a smile that only broadened as Luka sat him on the changing table and handed him a pull-up instead of a diaper to hold. "Car."

"That's right, there's a car on Joe's big boy pants, no diapers this morning, Joe's going to use the potty like a big boy." As he carried on his conversation with his son, Luka started the process of cleaning his son up before getting him dressed.

"Big boy, potty." Joe parroted the words happily before his attention was captured again by the image before it was hidden away under his jeans. "Car."

"That's right, okay, let's get your shirt and socks on, arms up." Luka eased the boys tee over his head, then finished up with his socks and shoes before lifting him up off the table.

"How about you sit on the potty before we go eat?" As he made the suggestion, he cleaned off the changing table, depositing the soiled diaper in the trash, and the boy's pajamas in the hamper next to it.

"Eat." Joe latched onto the most familiar of the words as he pointed to the doorway.

"After potty." Luka carried the toddler into the bathroom before letting him down in front of the small blue chair. The day was the start of a new adventure for all of them, he was sure of that, but, if it got him out of changing diapers, it was worth it. No matter how many trips they had to make to the little blue chair.



Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 468
In a way, my best gift, wasn't really a gift in the conventional sense, but, I can't imagine anything I could ever receive that will mean more.

When I lost my family, I lost more then just my wife and children, I lost parts of who I was. In one day I went from being a husband, a father, and a doctor, to being simply a doctor, and the emptiness I was left with was something I never was able to shake. I could try and tell you what it felt like, but, no amount of words can ever begin to describe the emptiness left after you have buried your children.

In the years I've been at County there have been times when I've found my my need to parent drawing me into relationships that I might not have entered otherwise. At the time they happened, I don't think I even realized what I was doing, however, I do know the pain I felt when they ended and one again I was faced with the loss of children I'd allowed myself to get too close to.

Which brings me back to the gift, how do I begin to describe what I felt when Abby told me she was pregnant with Joe? I knew I wanted that child more then anything I could have wanted in my life, I also knew how she felt about being a parent and how delicate our relationship was at that time. As hard as it was for me to do, I gave her the option of terminating the pregnancy if that was what she felt she had to do. Waiting for her to make that decision was harder than I could have imagined, but, as much as I wanted to once again be a father, I knew I couldn't force her to be a mother unless it was what she wanted too.

Abby did finally make the decision to carry Joe to term, and along with that choice we saw a strengthening of our relationship that eventually led to our marriage. Unfortunately, Joe's birth was a difficult one and left Abby unable to have anymore children, but, I'm okay with that because her gift and what came after have made me whole again, and for that, I'm forever grateful.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 385
"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." Oscar Wilde

Part of being a doctor is learning to accept that you aren't going to be able to save every patient who present themselves to you for treatment. As a med student, losing your first patient can be devastating. You question every action you made, and even if you find no mistakes you're still left wondering if you couldn't have done more. In the worst case scenario, the loss can be enough to make a student so unsure of their own abilities that they may very well walk away from medicine entirely. I'm not saying it happens often, but, it happens.

We've all lost patients that we know we shouldn't have lost, whether it's because they were just too far gone when they arrived in the ER, or their condition was just too complicated. As hard as that is when it happens, we accept it as part of being a doctor, no different than knowing that some patients will require x-rays and others will need surgery.

There are those times though when things happen that shouldn't, times that eat at you long after the patient's face and sometimes even their name have faded from your memory. Rick Kendrick is one of those for me, even now, almost six years later I can close my eyes and see his face, see his fiance's face, and know that I was responsible for stealing their future from them. The difference with this young man's life, and his subsequent death is that I remember far too clearly the mistakes that led to his death, and no amount of regret on my part can change what happened.

In my own defense I wasn't scheduled to work on the day that all this happened. The night before was our Department Christmas party, I was going through a difficult time, had drank far too much, and expected to spend the next day sleeping it off. I woke to find Erin standing over me with the phone, and despite my protests that I wasn't supposed to work, Kerry's demand that I do just that. I knew I wasn't in any shape to be seeing patients, I should have stood my ground and refused to go in, but, I didn't.

Rick was one of the first people I saw when I got there, I remember him coming up to the desk to say he was feeling better and he was even thinking of leaving. I convinced him to stay, to at least let us look at him, though at the time even he thought he was fighting nothing more than the flu. He was around twenty I think, and accompanied by his fiance, Laura, I wonder now if I remember them so well because I saw Danijela and myself in the way they acted toward each other. To this day I don't know why I didn't listen to those who tried to warn me that it was more than the flu, even Abby saw it, but, not me, I was too stubborn, or maybe I was just too full of myself. By the time we realized that there was more going on, Rick had to be intubated, and even then I put the tube in wrong, causing even more problems for him.

As hard as it was knowing what I had done to Rick, it was even worse explaining things to his fiance, Laura. I remember wondering how I could look at her, knowing I was responsible for destroying all of the dreams the two of them had for their future. She wasn't angry with me though. Even when I explained that it wasn't the flu but rather Leukemia that was causing all his symptoms. Of all the things she could have said, the only thing she asked was why it had taken so long, he'd been there all day and nothing had been done, if only he'd seen someone sooner, maybe things would have turned out differently. I almost wished she'd yelled at me, she could have hit me in anger, but, no, all she did was ask me to sit and pray with her, as if that could undo everything. By the time Rick left the ER he was as good as dead, a machine was breathing for him, and it was doubtful he would ever regain consciousness again.

There have been others over the years, but few have affected the way Rick did, his death is one that I carry as a reminder. Never again will I let myself be forced into a shift I know I'm in no shape to work, if only the cost of learning that lesson hadn't come at such a high price.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 788
005. You are allowed to place three items from your lifetime into a box that will be opened in fifty years. What do you put in, and why?

I've heard of these boxes before, how towns and families would fill them with things meant to remind others of who they were, or what they stood for, only to then bury or seal them away in the cornerstone of a building for another generation to find. It's hard for me to know even know what I would include, only because I've never really been someone who has much, and what there is, I'm not sure I'm ready to part with. As I think about it more though I realize there are things I have that are much more important then the physical reminders I'd first thought they must mean.

With that in mind, I would have to say the first item I would include would be a copy of my photo of Danijela and Jasna, and attached to it would be my memories on the siege of Vukovar. As young and happy as my wife and daughter are in that photo, I would want people to know that their lives were cut short. I would want people to know that they died that day with baby Marko, and the devastation was so great that all I could salvage of our lives together was this one small photograph. I would want people to know, that for far too many, that even that was more than they were left with when the shelling and killing was done.

For my next additions I would include vials of the vaccines and antibiotics, and a mosquito net, things that are so desperately needed in the Congo, along with a photograph of Chance and her mother. Once again I would have to include a letter of explanation, and here I would have to talk about my shock at finding out that medicines that cost less than lunch in a fast food restaurant are often standing between a child living or dying in the Congo, and violence is often seen as a fact of life, with rape a far too common reality for even the youngest girls.

Finally, I think I'd include a copy's of Joe's Birth Certificate, Abby and my Wedding Certificate, and our wedding photo. The reason for this is to show that no matter how grim life may seem, you can't give up, there is a chance for a new life, you just have to believe, and one day it will find you. For a long time I didn't want to believe it was possible, I even had myself convinced I was being punished for things I had done in my life. But, I was wrong, and once I realized that, once I accepted that I was allowed to make mistakes and the world wouldn't fall apart because of them. I was allowed to be happy again, and I am.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 467
"Luka, are you asleep?" Abby shifted positions so, she could prop herself up on her arm with the question. As she lifted a lock of bangs up and out of his eyes, she found herself smiling slightly.

"Luuu...ka." Despite the problems that they'd been having, despite what she had done, and the angry words on both sides, she still wanted to make their marriage work. She hadn't exactly told him what it meant to her to have him back, but, it was moments like these that she had missed more than others. The thought hadn't even fully formed in her mind when she felt his eyes on her, and she raised hers to meet his.

"Good morning." A smile immediately found it's way to her face before she leaned in to kiss him.

"Morning yourself." Luka returned her kiss before rolling to his side so he could watch her. "Joe still asleep?"

"Yeah, it's still early. Do you want some coffee? I could put some on." Getting up was really the last thing she wanted to do, but, if he wanted it...

"No, I'm fine." It was his turn to touch her, and as his fingers traced the length of her jaw from earlobe to chin, she wondered if he could sense her nervousness.

"Luka, I'm sor..." For whatever reasons he silenced her with a finger to her lips.

"Don't, Abby. We can't change what either of us did, all we can do is try and start over and promise each other that we won't let anyone come between us again." His eyes swept over her as he spoke, looking for the small signs that would give him clues to how she was taking them.

"Do you ever wish you could just go back and change things?"

"Change things like how?" A look of confusion found it's way to Luka's face.

"You know, like the Genie in the bottle, you get three wishes and you can change anything you want." Almost as quickly as she offered the example she regretted it, how could she expect him to choose correcting this over getting his family back. Abby's hand went to her face, what was she thinking?

"I couldn't do it." Luka shook his head slowly, realizing what his words must sound like to her. "You're asking me if I'd sacrifice you and Joe, for Danijela, Jasna, and Marko, and I can't even think about doing that. It doesn't mean I love any one person more or less than another or that any situation is better or worse, everything happens for a reason, it's all part of the plan." Luka finally dropped his eyes from her face.

"We may not understand it, we may not always like it, but it's not for us to change." A smile crept slowly onto his face again.

"Now I need coffee." He flung the covers aside and stood. "You coming?"

"I'm coming." Abby found herself easily returning his smile and in that moment she honestly felt there was hope for them. Wishes or not, they could make their marriage work, she was sure of it.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom:ER
Words: 523
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." -Robert Frost

Standing graveside on that cold October day, I thought my life was over. There was a war going on, and everything we knew was being destroyed around us, my wife was gone, our two children were robbed of their lives as well. Watching first Danijela's coffin, then the two small white ones that held our babies as they were lowered into their freshly dug graves, I wanted nothing more then to crawl in on top of them, to protect them there as I'd failed to do on this earth. As awful as it seems now, I prayed too, for a sniper's bullet to find me in those final moments I had with them, for I couldn't imagine walking away and leaving them alone, but far worse, I couldn't imagine my life without them. I failed them, in life, and in death, and it wouldn't have mattered how long I had stood watch over them, that fact would never change.

I wrapped myself in my grief as if it were a blanket in those early days, isolated myself from anyone who tried to offer the comfort I knew I didn't deserve. At first I hid from sleep, fearing the dreams that would force me to relive those fateful hours, then in later days I begged for it, hoping but failing to call up even earlier, happier memories. I became a zombie, moving through my days as a mere shadow of the man I once was, convinced that I had nothing left to live for.

If you were to ask me for the exact moment when things changed I couldn't tell you, I only know it came slowly for me, first in seconds, eventually minutes, then one day I smiled again. It took longer for me to see farther then a day ahead, but, slowly that came too, and only then did I truly accept that life did go on. As much as I might have thought it had stopped for me, it never did, it was what I made of it, but, it took me much longer to see that.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 349
As children, we all have our share of fears, whether it's a fear of monsters that hide in the darkness or under the bed, of thunderstorms that rumble and groan before sending their lightening cracks to illuminate the sky, or for some, dangers far more deadly. As a parent, we all know it's our responsibility to protect our children, to offer them safe haven from every danger that might touch them, real or imagined. But, do our children know that? Do we tell them through word or deed that they are always safe? Even as we make those assurances to them, how do we then live with the consequences if those very promises prove to be lies?

As a child I remember knowing without ever being told, that I could always find safety within the sanctuary of my parents arms. If I woke in the middle of the night, terrified by a nightmare, one or both were there at my bedside within seconds, soothing me, protecting me. I don't remember at what age I decided that I had grown too old to seek safety in my parents arms, I suppose it was just one of those things that just happened, like waking one day to find you'd outgrown your favorite shirt. If I had one regret in life stronger than all others, it's that my own children couldn't have experienced that sense of safety I had known, and I'll never forgive myself for not being able to give them that.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 250
"I've had a wonderful time, but this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

Cold.

Despite the stifling heat, Luka still found himself shivering uncontrollably, and in the silence of the tiny hut, the sound of his chattering teeth seemed almost deafening to his ears. Even in his present condition he recognized the danger of his untreated malaria, but, what could he do? There was no chance of getting the medicine he needed, and even if he could, anything he did get would need to go to his patients. Patients, patient, only one was left, Chance, the little girl and her mother were the only ones left. He had to remember. In those rare moments of awareness he found himself struggling to hold onto the details of those he knew he should be taking care of. The little girl was depending on him, and as brave a face as she managed to put forth, there were far too many times he was sure he heard her cries in the darkness.

Thirsty.

Always thirsty. He wasn't going to make it, he was sure of it and as if to confirm that he found his moments of lucidity lessening. Even now, as Sakima tried to coax him to take a few sips of water, or even more importantly a swallow or two of the porridge, he was finding it hard to comply. Under other circumstances he would have recognized the symptoms he was exhibiting, the symptoms that he had seen far too often in the short time he had been in the Congo, but, it was too late for him.

"He's alive. Luka." Hearing Carter's voice, then Gillians seemed only to confirm how close to death he was, and he opened his eyes only to close them again without really seeing them. He hadn't expected to see them again, but, Danijela she had already begun calling him to her, and he wanted so badly to go to her, he didn't want to decide between them.

When he awoke again he knew immediately that something was different. He'd laid on that dirt floor for too many days not to notice the softness of the mattress that he now laid on, he'd breathed stale air too many days not to notice it's absence now. Even with noticing those changes he found it hard to accept that it might be real. With no one around yet to confirm things, he was sure the fever was distorting his reality, taunting him with things he could no longer have.

"You're awake." Gillian's voice was quiet as she caught his movement on the cot. Dipping a washcloth in the basin of water at his bedside she squeezed the excess off before wiping the sweat from his face. As he seemed to actually focus on her for the first time since his arrival she couldn't help but smile.

"Hi." She issued the simple greeting as she reached for a cup of water on the table beside his bed.

"How about something to drink?" Supporting his head she coaxed him into taking several sips before replacing the cup on the table.

"Gillian?" His voice cracked from disuse.

"You're safe, Luka, Chance and Sakima are here too." She offered the information before he could ask, seeming to know what his first concerns might be.

"Patrique." He whispered the Congalese man's name quietly, needing to share the news of his sacrifice.

"We know, we brought him back with us." Gillian found herself rubbing his arm as she filled him in.

"I'm so sorry, Luka." She was finding it so hard to look at him, and she wondered if her own guilt at leaving them behind wasn't partly to blame.

"He saved my life, they all did. him, Sakima, they both were willing to put my life before theirs, how do I thank them for that?" The question was one he knew the nurse couldn't possibly have an answer for, but, he still found himself asking it.

"What happens now?" He pulled his eyes away from her as he spoke.

"You go home and get well, and you go on with your life." Gillian watched his face, sensing there was more to the question then what he had asked.

"How do I go back, how do I forget this?" His words held a touch of fear in them.

"You go back because you have to, we all do, but you never forget, and that's why we keep coming back, it's why you'll come back, even after this. Now, you need to rest." As she finished speaking Gillian offered Luka another sip of water before kissing him.

"You can't focus on this or you'll never come back, but, if you remember Chance, and the future she will have because of you, and all of those like her, those are the memories that will give you the strength you need to keep coming back. Those are the memories that keep us all coming back."

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 717
"What do you see, Joe? Do you see Mama? Yeah, that's, Mama, she loves you very much, Joe, and she misses you." Luka struggled to keep his voice light as he carried on the conversation with his young son, the video of their wedding currently the only connection the toddler had to his absent mother.

"Mama." Joe raised his hand and pointed to the screen as Abby again appeared, then giggled and crawled to the television as he himself appeared.

"That's right, that's you, Joe." This wasn't the life they had planned for their son, him living first with one parent, then the other. Reaching for the remote, Luka switched the tape off, then rose and retrieved his son.

"Let's go outside, Joe, we'll see if we can find Niko." He swung the toddler comfortably onto his hip as he headed for the door. He wasn't going to spend the days he and Abby were apart in mourning, she wasn't dead and he wasn't going to act like she was, it wasn't fair to Joe.

"Do you want to walk, Joe?" He lowered the toddler to the ground as he asked the question of him, then began to follow him as the boy began to wander along the walkway. These past months had been so unfair to him and while they certainly didn't compare to the sacrifices that Jasna and Marko had been forced to endure, he was still being forced to face things he shouldn't have to.

This wasn't the life he wanted for his son, neither had it been the life he had wanted for Jasna and Marko. In the case of his first children the choice had been taken from his hands, this was not, or most of it wasn't. He couldn't erase the months he had already missed being with Joe, but he could make sure that he missed no more, and if it meant giving up his work at County and taking a position at a smaller hospital, or moving back to Croatia to do it, he was willing to make those sacrifices.

"What did you find, Joe?" As his son stopped and seemed drawn to something on the ground, Luka first moved up behind him, then dropped to a squat at his side. As he caught sight of what had captured his son's attention Luka couldn't help but smile.

"Bug, Joe...can you say, kukac?" He coached the boy through the word first in English, and then in Croatian. Of all the things he could give to his son, of all the things his son might remember about him when he was older, nothing could be more important then to know that he would most remember that his father had been there for him. What better legacy could he leave to his son than that of the importance of time spent with family?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 484
005. Do you believe in ghosts, the occult, aliens, or the supernatural? Why/Why not?

Laying in bed, on that fine line between sleep and consciousness they come to me. I hear them calling my name, sometimes it's their cries of terror and I know they are searching for me in those final minutes before I made it back to the apartment. Other times I hear them as if they are simply in another room and it's those times that cause me the most pain because if I'm too close to sleep I can almost believe they are real. Maybe, the truth is, I need to believe they're real because, even after all of these years, if I don't have that to cling to then I have to let them go, and I can't do that.

I look at my faith and think of how we have always been taught to honor the Holy Ghost, to be aware of the spirits both good and evil that may influence our actions, or possess us. I can't help but wonder how my holding onto my loved ones is any different, what harm is there in my allowing them to remain close to me? Then again, am I by doing this preventing them from moving on to their Heavenly rewards? I wish I had the answers, but, I don't, and as selfish as it may be, neither am I ready for them to abandon me completely.

I tell Joe they're his angels, watching over him, making sure he is safe, I'd like to think that's true, what harm can there be in it?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 252
We buried our father today. Niko and I, with my son Joe in my arms, had come home to say our good-byes. I wanted so much for him to meet his grandson, for Joe to have a chance to know his grandfather, but, it wasn't meant to be. We stood there at our father's grave, among his friends, and despite the sadness we felt at his loss, we couldn't help but be touched by the love that those present felt for him.

My father's house is quiet now, both my brother and my son long ago gave into the sleep that I am still resisting. As I sit in my father's chair I can still feel his presence and it's hard not to believe that any minute the door will open there he'll be and I'll awake to find the news of his death was nothing more than some horrible dream.

Niko has decided to keep the house as our father left it, and I can't help but wonder if that's going to make things more difficult for him. There are so many memories here, reminders of those that have passed before him. That's always been the difference between Niko and I however, where I fled from the reminders, he drew them closer, clinging tightly to each as if they were pieces of a puzzle.

I wonder what traits Joe will embrace as he grows older, will he carry only what he sees in Abby and I or will I see some of my father in him? I think back on all we've been through, what we continue to go through even now, and I pray he is half as resilient as my father was. I pray that he will forever see the good in people instead of the bad. Most importantly, I pray that he will know that his greatest strength will always be found in family, and in times of trouble he should turn to them, not away from them. I only wish I had learned that sooner.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 345
I killed a man with my bare hands. Even now, years after having been cleared of the responsibility by the police, my own guilt remains. It doesn't matter how many years pass, the memory of that night can surface in an instant and the feelings it brings with it are enough to drive me into a depression as dark as any in my life.

It wasn't like I woke up on that particular day and said, "Today I'm going to kill someone." I didn't plan for it to happen. How could anyone have planned for something like that to occur?

It was Abby and my first date, and it should have been one of those nights that we would remember forever as one of happiness, but, it never will be, all because of how I reacted in that one split second.

I don't know that I even knew I was capable of the level of violence that found it's way into me that night, but, it was there, lying in wait just below the surface, waiting.

The mugger that night, woke something in me that I wished I had never knew existed, and once unleashed it cost him his life. When I saw him struggling with Abby all I could think about was stopping him, and once I had hold of him I couldn't stop myself.

I'm not sure if I would have reacted differently had he not attacked Abby, and I can ease my guilt somewhat by telling myself that my actions were the result of my needing to protect her but, either way the man's still dead. In the end the fractures to his skull and the injuries to his brain were too severe, he never made it out of the ER.

Self defense, that was how they excused my actions. A man was dead, beaten to death, and they were okay with that because he had hit me with a pipe before I repeatedly pounded his head into the pavement. I wish I could wash my hands of the guilt so easily.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 347
"Luka...can you come and help me?" At his wife's call, Luka pulled his attention away from the textbook he was reading.

"Danijela, I'm studying...I have a test tomorrow, you know that." Even though he tried to keep his words free of any real irritation at the interruption, he knew he didn't quite succeed.

"And I'm trying to give your son a bath, entertain your daughter, and trying to cook dinner, a little help would be nice. Jasna, stop playing in that." Danijela's own frustration was growing, the difficulty of the situation they were living under seeming to worsen with each passing day.

"Luka, please?" As his wife's plea's grew more strained, he finally slid his sheet of notes between the pages of his textbook and pushed his chair away from the small desk.

"All right. Jasna, come to tata." He issued the call for his eldest child even before he was out of the chair and was rewarded with a squeal of delight before she appeared from around the corner and launched herself at him.

"You're getting to be too big for that." He issued an exaggerated groan as he caught her and lifted her into the air, an act which only served to fuel the giggles that overflowed from her.


"Luka, it's just a dream." Abby touched her husband's shoulder lightly as she came awake only to realize that he was still asleep.

"It's just a dream" She repeated the words as she brushed her fingers through his hair, easing him closer to consciousness. When he finally did wake, it was to the wetness of his own tears on his pillow, the memory of those long gone still fresh in his mind and it took him a moment longer be able to do more then lay there with his eyes open.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Abby opened the door slowly, unsure which of the nightmares had made their reappearance to him.

"I don't think so, not now anyway." His voice was quiet, and even without him saying so she knew that he was still back in whatever place his dream had led him.

"You know I'm here if you need me." She ran her hand over his shoulder before finally withdrawing, accepting his nod as the only response he seemed ready to give.

"You can go back to sleep, I'll be fine." He offered her the reassurance before turning away from her and once more closing his eyes. If only he believed it himself.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 419
I don't even have to think about my answer, it's there instantly, and I know without question I would give my life to ensure it's safety. The truth is, I almost did.

I never realized how important family was when I was growing up, it was just something I took for granted. What I mean is, my parents were always there for me, but so were every other kids, and while we were never rich, we were happy, and my brother and I always knew we were loved. We still do.

When it came time for me to think about starting my own family I knew I wanted to have what my parents had, but, I knew too that I wanted more for us. I didn't want my family to know hardship, I didn't want them to know sadness or pain, and in my innocence I thought I could somehow protect them from that. I was wrong.

It took me fifteen years to finally allow myself to believe that I was worthy of having again the happiness and love I had lost all those years ago. Fifteen years to trust the feelings I had been denying were real. Fifteen years to re-open those parts of who I am that I had buried with my family in that Vukovar cemetery.

I can't undo the terrible things I said to Abby that night we broke up, and even though I apologized for them I will always carry the guilt of knowing I was, and maybe still am, capable of saying such things to someone I claimed to love. Abby has said she forgives me for that night, and I've said the same to her for the words she hurled at me. We wanted to hurt each other that night, and the words we chose did just that, but, never again.

Curtis Ames proved to me that I wouldn't hesitate to give my life up for Abby and Joe, as much as I loved them, as hard as it would be to walk away, if it meant they were safe, I could do that for them. I don't think I could give them any greater love than that.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 366
After I lost Danijela and our children, work became an escape for me, a place to hide from the past I didn't want to think about. In the early years of my career I threw everything into it, even to the point of leaving the Country I was born in, thinking the farther away I was from the memories, the easier it would be for me to move on. For fifteen years I put my career ahead of everything else, I became an enigma, a moonlighter, never staying long enough for anyone to get close enough to find out anything about me, until Chicago.

County was different, so different that even I didn't see it at first, and over time I found the life I had thought would be my future, no longer the one I wanted. Little by little I began to reveal pieces of the past I had concealed for so many years. With those revelations came another and as much as I thought my career was so important I began to realize what I had sacrificed with the loss of my family all those years before.

My eight years at County have had it's share of ups and downs and just recently it's brought me back full circle to that place I was in that small apartment in Vukovar. I have always wanted to be a doctor, but no less then I've wanted to be a husband and father. Abby and Joe have given me back what I never thought I would have again and as much as I love medicine, I would walk away from it in a minute if the choice were it or them.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 280
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