From the time I was a young child I remember sitting and listening as people told stories of finding that one person who they knew was meant for them. From my parents, to my grandparents, to their friends, everyone had a story, if not of finding their own love, than of someone they knew who had. I don't know if I really gave them anymore thought than all of the rest of the stories I heard through my childhood until that moment that I first saw Danijela.

From my very first glimpse of her I knew that she was the one I wanted to spend my life with and nothing anyone could say could sway me. Because of our ages, Danijela was just 16 when we met, we waited two years to marry and during that time we made so many plans for our future. I don't think two years could have moved any slower than those two did, and it certainly wasn't helped by our being separated because while Danijela was finishing school, I was away fulfilling my military obligations.

We married when Danijela turned 18, and nine months later we welcomed our daughter, Jasna into our lives. If I thought I had loved my wife before, it was nothing compared to what I felt toward her once she began to carry that life inside of her, than later gave birth. Can anything be as beautiful as a mother and her child. I could have spent hours just watching them together, envying her that closeness gained with our daughter as she breastfed her. It would deepen still further with the birth three years later of our son.

I'll never know why our love was tested in the ways that it was. I'll never know why the life that seemed so perfect from it's start would end so suddenly, but, it did. I do know though that the love I felt for Danijela, the love I still feel for her will always be with me. It took me a long time to understand that it's okay for me to keep loving her. It took me a long time to understand that there was room in my heart for someone besides Danijela, and once I realized that I not only loved her even more, but, I could at long last move on.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 391
"Luka, you are not giving him a paintbrush." It took every ounce of willpower in her for Abby not to stop what she was doing to prevent just that as she saw Joe hovering close to Luka while he readied the paint for the living-room wall.

"He'll be fine, I'll give him a bath when we finish. Right, Joe, you want to help Tata paint, don't you?" As he asked the question, Luka handed the 3 year old a small brush.

"Joe, paint." The boy gleefully waved the brush before eying the bucket in anticipation of what was yet to come.

"Oops, before we do that, we better put this on you." Reaching for the adult tee shirt that lay next to the bucket, Luka pulled it over his son's head, only to smile as he saw that it very nearly touched the floor on him.

"Maybe I should have used one of yours instead of mine." He joked as he shot a glance to Abby all while still keeping his eye on their son.

"Funny. You do realize we're planning to be in this home for some time, are you sure you want his handiwork on the walls? I can find something else to keep him busy." Abby couldn't hold back the grimace as Joe got closer to the paint.

"Abby, you worry too much, we've got it covered. Isn't that right, Joe? Let's get you some paint." Guiding his son's brush into the bucket, Luka put just enough paint on it to allow him to feel like he was helping before dipping his own.

"Okay, Joe, paint just like Tata, up and down, back and forth." He guided the toddler through several cycles before coating his brush a final time and turning him loose on a section of wall.

"Up, down." Joe echoed his father's words as he slapped the paint on the wall before him, oblivious of the paint that dripped onto his hand and down to the drop-cloth he stood on.

"Joe, paint." His smile spread rapidly across his face as he grew more confident with what he was doing and it wasn't long before he was even dipping his own brush.

"Good job, Joe." Luka reached over to ruffle the boy's hair as he offered the praise, who would have thought it would have gone so well.

The apartment in Chicago had always been his, people came and went, but this place, this was a home, a family lived here, and when people saw it, there would never be any doubt of that.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom : ER
Words: 430
One of the issues that has repeatedly posed problems in my relationship with Abby, since the very beginning have been my feelings toward my first wife.

Danijela and I met when we were both very young and we immediately fell in love. As far as either of us were concerned we knew from that first moment that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together and as soon as Danijela turned 18, we were married. I entered medicine because I not only wanted to help people, but, to give my family the life I felt they deserved. When first Jasna arrived, and years later, Marko, I knew that the sacrifices we'd been forced to make for my career were the right ones. All those hours I'd spent burning the midnight oil, my nose deep in text-books while Danijela was forced to handle the day problems of raising the children, as hard as it was, we knew it was for our children, for our family. How were either of us to know, that those same goals we had for bettering our family would instead be the means for it's destruction? That my doing what I thought was best for my family would instead end in their deaths?

It took me eight years following the loss of my family before I even thought about dating again, and even then, it was because of how much I missed being a father that led me down the path. When I started seeing Carol, I told myself it wasn't for her, it was about Kate and Tess, they needed a father in their lives, as much as I needed to be one again. I told myself I could make myself feel what I needed to feel just to be a father, but, in the end, Carol knew the truth. She knew that her life belonged with their father and I had to understand because what she felt for him, is what I still felt for Danijela.

In a way, I guess you could say Abby was a rebound the first time we got together. She made the first move. Maybe I should have taken what happened that night as a sign that we weren't ready to be together, but, I didn't and we prolonged things for over a year. I tried to tell my left I was feeling something for her, but, the truth was, I couldn't help feeling that I was cheating on Danijela when I was with her and it was only a matter of time before she saw it too. When we finally broke up, we said the ugliest things to each other, things neither of us meant, things that were only meant to hurt.

I guess it took being away from Abby for me to realize that we had more between us then I realized, because once she was gone, I missed her friendship so much. I was lost, and as a result my life began to fall apart in every sense of the word. I became someone I no longer recognized, and even worse, someone I hated. As if all of that weren't enough, I was forced to watch Abby move into another relationship and I found myself bitten by the bitterness of a jealousy I didn't know I was capable of possessing. When my attitude and my behavior began to affect my care of my patients I knew I had to do something, and that decision very nearly cost me my life.

When I returned from the Congo, I came back a different person, or, I thought I did. I learned too late that the mistake I'd made with Carol and the twins, was one I would revisit with Sam and Alex. Despite all of the changes I'd made, all of the lessons I'd learned, I still wanted to be a father, and I was willing to do whatever I needed to, in order to make that happen, or so I told myself. The truth was, I again with Sam, revisited my mistakes with Abby, and I allowed my continued love for Danijela, to affect how I related to her. I couldn't explain to Sam, anymore then I'd been able to explain to Abby, why I needed to continue to hold my feelings for Danijela so close, and in the end, it was too much for her.

My return from the Congo marked not just a transformation for me, but, for Abby as well as I brought back the news that Carter was ending his relationship with her. During the time I was recovering and later as Sam and I entered into our own relationship, we found we were able to rebuild the friendship we had all but lost. When Sam decided that what I wanted and what she wanted were too different to make things works, it seemed only natural for Abby to be there to pick up the pieces as my grief at once again losing my hopes at a family threatened to undo all of my gains.

That Abby and I are now married and have a son of our own shows just how far we both have come. We've both found ways to balance not just our lives together, but, those parts of our pasts that we know we can never let go. It's not easy, and I know we will always have times when one or the other of us may falter, but, we're trying, and I can't help but feel that this time will be forever.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 830
Nothing, and everything, at times I wonder. I start to think that I've figured things out, that I've done what I need to do in order to get my life back on track and then something else happens to derail it. I'm hoping that this move to Boston that Abby and I have made will be the final step in that process.

There's no denying that we've both made mistakes in our relationship. There's no point in going back and pointing fingers, saying one of us is more responsible than the other, or that what she did was any more destructive then the results of my actions. What would any of that have accomplished except to have caused even more harm than had already been done?

I think that's what made us decide that we had to leave Chicago and all that was tied to our life there. It took some time to make that decision, and it wasn't easy, but, we knew our marriage and what we were building was worth saving and we might not be able to do that with the constant reminders that were there.

Was it the right decision, only time will tell. Leaving Chicago meant more than walking away from our careers, it meant saying good-bye to good friends as well, friends who had seen us through the ups and downs of our relationship even before we knew we wanted to make it forever.

I can't think about leaving though without thinking about those who left before us, some by choice, and some through fate, taken by God's hand whether they were ready to leave or not. Nothing can take away the impact they had on helping us become the people we are today, and if we're lucky we'll find people just as valuable in Boston. People who will guide us as we embark on this next stage of our lives and onto the future we'll be setting in motion for Joe.

Life is all about changes, some good, some bad, and as certain as day turns to night they will always be there. I hope that those Abby and I face in the future will be ones of our choosing made out of desire rather than need, but, if not, then we'll face those as we have faced these lessons, and hopefully we'll learn from them. We can't ask for anything more.


Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 386
He wasn't sure what it would be like, coming back to County, not after everything that had happened. He knew of course that they'd gotten word that He'd been killed. He knew too that without that call John would never have returned to search for him, granted, at the time he thought he was only coming back to claim a body, but, if he hadn't come.

"Luka? Are you okay?" At Gillian's touch on his arm he let the train of thought go even before he had fully taken hold of it.

"Yeah, just tired." It was almost a relief when the elevator doors closed, if only because it meant that at least for the time it would take to travel from the ER to the ward, it shut out all the well-wishers. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate their concern, but, it was just, just too soon.

"Your fever is up." Gillian's hand moved automatically to his forehead before she drew it back. "We'll get you settled in your room and you can rest."

"Yeah, been doing that a lot." It was hard not to roll his eyes with the admission, what else could he do? But, at least he was alive, Patrique couldn't say that. He closed his eyes as the unwanted memory once more surfaced, then blinked back the tears that almost immediately collected on his lashes.

"It'll get easier." Gillian's words were quiet, spoken barely above a whisper. She hated seeing him like this, but, she wasn't yet ready to walk away from him, not even here among those that might think him their friend. It she meant to say more she was saved from it by the bump of the elevator as it stopped on his floor.

"I doubt it." He opened his eyes as he made the comment, only to close them again as he read her reaction.

"You're going to be a wonderful patient, I can tell already." The sound of the doors sliding open overrode his answering "Hrumph," as well as her responding laugh.

"Dr. Kovac, hi, I'm Sarah, I'm going to be one of your nurses, let's get you checked into your room." The waiting nurse reached for the gurney as she introduced herself, if Gillian had wanted to say more, it would have to wait, it wasn't going to be easy.

"I'm tired." The words were the most Luka found himself able to muster before his eyes again slid closed.

"That's to be expected, check-in won't take long, then you can sleep." She shook her head as her words seemed to merit no response from him and instead shifted her attention to Gillian.

"Is this common, the dropping off? The question was only the start of a long line of questions that she would ask before Luka's check-in was complete, and as Gillian answered she found herself wondering just how deep into what he'd been through they'd go. Or more importantly, whether Luka would be willing or able to answer.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 505
I am a husband.

I am a father.

I am a son, or am I? Do I cease to be a son when I lay my father to rest? I wonder sometimes what kind of son my father thought I was. It wasn't something we ever spoke about. Was he ashamed of how I lived my life, or proud of the choices I'd made? Though I wasn't with my father when he died, I had spent most of the last six months with him, it wasn't an easy time for either of us. We talked a lot of how things used to be, what life was like when my mother was alive, when Niko and I were young, when our family was whole and we had our whole lives ahead of us. My father had always been a proud man, strong, and independent, his illness robbed him of that and I think of all that he lost, it was that which he missed the most. In those final weeks of his life, the cancer stole more than his ability to walk from him, it stole the very essence of who he was.

I left my father's home, and my Country, in the early nineties. After I did my time in the military, five years of marriage, and a stay in a displaced person's camp after the fall of Vukovar, I'd returned to the safety I thought I would find within it's walls. At the time, I was a shell of the man I had once been. I was grieving for the losses of my wife and children, and still healing from mental and physical injuries of the war. In a way, I think I hoped that by returning to the comfort of my father's house, I'd find the safety that I'd always found there as a child, but, nothing was the same, and as difficult as the decision was, I knew I had to find my way alone. My reasons for leaving were ones my brother couldn't understand and proved to be a constant source of argument between us, and by the time I left we were barely on speaking terms.

As difficult as it was for my father to see me go, he knew if I was to have any hope for moving forward with my life I had to do it, and to this day I still remember his words to me before he placed me on the plane that day. He clasped my hand as if he could channel his strength through that connection, and then with tears in his eyes he met my gaze.

"We only part to meet again." As he finished he pulled me into his embrace, kissing both my cheeks, and then it was time for me to go. I remember watching him through the window of the plane, until I couldn't see him anymore, and I found myself wondering if he had done the same.

In the fifteen years since I left, I'd only returned two other times before he got ill, it's a mistake too late for me to correct, maybe that's why I stayed as long as I did, but, it was too late to undo the pain my absence had caused him. Tata will never meet my wife, he'll never know his grandson, never hold him, never sing to him, or read him a bedtime story, those are things I have to live with. Joe and Abby will know my father though, they'll know of his strength, his humor, his love of family. They'll know how much he would have loved to have shared his life with them, I'll make sure of it, and that's a promise I can keep for him.

I am a husband.

I am a father.

And I will always be my Father's son.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 640
Ever since I lost my family I've dreaded the approach of the holidays. I'd see the decorations and the displays starting to appear and all they would do was remind me of what I no longer had. How was I supposed to celebrate anything when my children and my wife were gone? Once I left Croatia I made sure that the few times I went back were never close to the holidays because of all the memories I had of my family, those were the most painful to remember.

Just about three years ago all that changed...first with the news that Abby was pregnant and then our marriage. It's funny how much things change when you have a child, a family to share the holidays with. I see everything through different eyes now, maybe because I'm not just seeing them through my own. I watch Joe's face light up as he sees the houses with their twinkling lights, I listen to his laugh as we look at the holiday displays in the store windows. Sometimes if I listen carefully enough I think I can hear two other voices laughing with him, and if I close my eyes, just for an instant I think I can see Jasna and Marko's faces as if they were seeing through his eyes.

I don't dread the holidays anymore, though I admit that there are moments of sadness in them for those who are no longer with me. I don't doubt that this year there might be more of those than with the last, if only because it'll be the first year without Tata. I'll get through it though and I know with each year that passes it'll get easier. I never want to reach the point though that I forget, for those that are gone are as much a part of me as those still here, and I never want to completely lose them.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 322
I already see them, see her, especially now as the holidays approach, not intentionally of course, they usually come to me in my dreams, or when it's quiet and my thoughts have begun to wander. I wonder sometimes if Abby understands that she will always be sharing me with Danijela, because no matter how many years pass she'll always be my wife and my love for her will never fade.

When Abby and I first dated, our parting was not a good one, we both said things we knew would hurt the other. I remember one of the last things she hurled at me was that I was married to a ghost and while I know to her it was meant as an insult, to me it was all too true. My family had been taken from me almost ten years earlier and I still grieved for the loss of them as if it had happened yesterday. In all of that time I hadn't even really looked at another woman. Granted, I'd spent quite a bit of time with Carol and her daughters, but, she was alone, and so was I, and while the father of her twins wasn't dead, she felt his absence in much the same ways that I felt Danijela's. I think initially though what drew me to them was my need to be a father, and if anything more came out of it, then I was all right with that. In the end, nothing did, Carol decided that what she felt for her daughter's father was the same as what I'd felt for Danijela, he was her soul-mate and she had to go to him and see if he felt the same about her. I can't begin to describe the sense of loss I felt once they were gone, and I really did question whether I wanted to open myself up to going through something like that again. By the time Abby did come along, I was hesitant, and it was she who initiated the first date.

Having made two attempts to find again what I'd had with Danijela and failed, left me bruised, and I suppose it made me fall back to the habits that had enabled me to survive the loss of my family in the first place. I found myself pulling out the small black and white photo of Danijela and Jasna more frequently, and if I could have done it I would have stepped into it myself. I missed my family, I wanted to hold my wife, to tell her how much I loved her. I would give anything to have her back in my life for even five minutes if only so that I could kiss her once more and thank her for giving me two beautiful babies, and sharing herself completely with me in the time we had, however short it was. More than anything, I wanted us to grow old together and instead, we had only a handful of years, and our babies had even less.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 508
For a long time my brother and I didn't talk, we'd had a falling out years ago over my decision to leave Croatia and come to the United States. I wish I could say that it was no more then one of those stupid arguments that happen between brothers, arguments that are forgotten after a couple of days as quickly as they began. I can't say that though. The words my brother, Niko and I hurled at each other all those years ago caused wounds that ran too deep for any quick fixes, and it took our father's illness to even prompt us to talk.

I left Croatia in 1997, it had been six years since I'd buried my family and I still missed them as much if not more then the day I had lost them. As hard as I'd tried to move on with my life, I finally realized that it wasn't going to happen unless I was able to get away from the constant reminders of them, and I couldn't do that in Croatia. As difficult as it had been for my father to lose his daughter-in-law and grandchildren, he was willing to accept my decision to do what I needed to do to rebuild my life, but, my brother was different. Almost from the first day that I broke the news of my decision to go, Niko began to accuse me of running away instead of dealing with my losses and no amount of talking to him could change his mind. I think that's what eventually proved to be the end of things between us, we stopped talking entirely. It didn't matter what subject we started the conversation with, it all came back to my decision to leave and by the time we were finished all that we were doing was yelling at each other. I think that was the hardest thing for my father to accept in all of it, for in the end my leaving was to him was as if he'd lost all of us in Vukovar.

When I received word of my father's illness, I'd been living in the United States for close to ten years, and in all that time I'd only been back to visit twice. There was no question of my going back of course, even as I knew it would finally mean dealing with the distance that had developed between Niko and I, my father's health took priority and as his son I was willing to do what I needed to do. It's funny how time softens things, what once seemed like such vast differences between us, seemed so small as we both sat together worrying about our father's fate. Maybe that's how things are supposed to work out, I don't know, I just wish it hadn't taken something so serious to make us realize our mistakes, and how important the support of family is. Over the six months I ended up being there, Niko and I reached the point that when our father showed slight gains in his condition we felt it would be safe for us both to leave and allow me a chance to go home to see my family. I can't help but wonder if our father planned things for this end, if he held on just long enough to make sure Niko and I would have each other when he was gone. We'll never know of course, but, I just wish we hadn't wasted so many years, and I can't help but feel sad for Joe when I realize he'll never have the chance to know the man he was named for.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 715


Going back to Croatia stirred so many memories, memories that had lay buried for so long. It wasn't even that they were bad memories, but, it's hard enough for Abby knowing that I still love Danijela. When we first dated she accused me of being in love with a ghost, and I suppose it's true, that it'll always be true. Danijela was my first love, she was the woman I lost my virginity to, she was the mother of my first two children, and had the three of them not been stolen from me we'd still be together today. I can't change how I feel about her, but, for the longest time the only way I could get through the day was by not thinking about her and our children.

Going back to Croatia changed all that, and when I wasn't looking after my father I found it easy to call up those same memories I had avoided for close to ten years. I didn't realize how ready I was to face them, and it took so little, a walk down a certain street, a familiar smell, and the sun setting over the water. I hesitated returning to Vukovar, I wasn't sure that I wanted to revisit the memories that lay buried there. It's funny, how one memory can change everything...

It was late, my father had gone to bed hours earlier and I was sitting on the terrace with working on my fourth or fifth beer with nothing but a couple of candles for lighting. I suppose it was inevitable that my thoughts would wander, I just never expected them to go where they did, especially after so long. It started with the flicker of the candle flames, I just remember staring at them, and not being able to pull my eyes away. After a while, things seemed to fade away around me and the only thing I saw were those flames, but, there were more then I remembered lighting, and that confused me at first, until I heard her voice...

"See, that's much better, now come back to bed." Danijela patted the empty space beside her as she spoke, then followed the action with a smile as her husband rejoined her.

"We should save the candles, who knows when we'll be able to get more." As he took a seat on the side of the bed Luka leaned over to give her a kiss.

"Aren't you worried that we'll wake the children?" He kept his voice low as he glanced first to the mattress where Jasna slept, and then to the crib that held Marko."

"You worry too much." Danijela lifted a hand to the side of his face, coaxing his gaze back her before sealing it with another kiss.

"It seems like forever since we've had any time together." She whispered the words in his ear, her lips so close that he would swear he could feel the tickle of them as she spoke.

"I know, between studying and my shifts, and the queues..." His excuse was stopped before he could finish as she captured his lips with hers.

"I don't want to talk or hear about anything out there, let's just pretend nothing exists but us." She gave him another quick kiss before sliding her hands under the tail of his shirt.

"I think you should take this off..." Abandoning the tail she turned her attention to the buttons down the shirt's front, releasing first one then the next from it's hole until it was open and she could push it off his shoulders.

"And what about you?" His question followed a soft laugh as her fingers tickled his skin.

"What about me?" Bracing her hands behind her, Danijela leaned back, as a smile slowly spread teasingly across her face.

"I think that what is good for me, must be just as good for you too." After reassuring himself that both children were still asleep he slid his hands under the hem of the cotton top she wore.

"Oh, you do, do you?" Danijela laughed softly, and while offering no resistance neither did she help him undress her save for lifting her arms so he could free her of her blouse.

"You are so beautiful." Luka leaned over his wife as he eased her back down on the bed, then, almost as an afterthought, he leaned over to blow out the candles, plunging the room into darkness.


So many memories...

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 645
Does anything make you cry? If so, what? Reminders to Danijela and our children, birthdays, the anniversary of when we married, the day I lost them.

Letting go makes me cry...

You would think that I would have reached a point after so long where I could mark these dates without all the emotion they bring, but, I can't. This year would have marked 24 years since Danijela and I first met. We would be celebrating 22 years of marriage. Our little girl, Jasna would have turned 22 as well, and Marko, our baby, Marko, would be nearing 19. None of those things happened though, because of what happened on that one fateful day, all of the tomorrows we had planned for had been stolen from us, leaving me only with one more anniversary to remember.

I've never really sat down and told Abby much about Danijela and our children, I've certainly never told her about the war, or about the day I lost my family. It's funny, I've only really told three people more then the bare minimum of details of that time, and none of them are here now. I can't say why, other then it's just so hard to go back there and realize how much they missed. I look at Joe now, and I realize that he's very near the age Marko was when he died. I hear his laugh, and at times I can swear it's Marko's, and as proud as I was of him when he started to walk, a part of me grieved because Marko never did. I hate that I'm looking at each milestone my son makes as one that Marko never did, and I'm afraid it'll only get worse as Joe nears Jasna's age. All the things that a father looks forward to with their daughter, I never had a chance to do.

The move to Boston is a new beginning for Abby and I. We've realized that neither of us are ready to give up on the other or on our marriage. We are determined to repair the damage that's been done, and that means finding a way to heal the emotional wounds brought on by all that has happened over this last year. As much as I want to give 100% to my wife and my marriage, I don't know if I can unless I find a way to finally put Danijela and our babies to rest. I know I can't continue to lessen Joe's accomplishments by grieving for what Marko and Jasna will never be able to do. I know too that as much as I will always love Danijela, it isn't fair to Abby for me to cling so tightly to my feelings for her. Abby will never replace Danijela, anymore than Joe can replace Jasna and Marko. In my head I know that, I just have to find a way for my heart to reach the same understanding. I know it'll come, it just takes time, I can only hope Abby has the patience to wait for me to get there.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 508
I've made it through another year. It's so hard to believe. Has it really been sixteen years since I lost them? It's not easy being so far away from anyone who understands what I'm feeling, so, I'm left to honor the date on my own. I thought about calling Niko, but, I couldn't do it. It's too close to Tata's death, and there are still so many raw wounds between us when it comes to Danijela and the decisions I made after I lost her and our babies.

Sixteen years...a lifetime in too many ways. The age Danijela was when first we met, the age she was when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I'd never believed you could really fall in love at first sight until that moment when I first saw her. I never believed I could lose myself so completely to one person, but I did, and I know she felt the same.

I remember so clearly the expression on my parent's faces when I told them that I'd found the girl I wanted to marry. I remember their concerns over our age, and all we'd be giving up, by tying ourselves down before we'd even had a chance to experience life. I remember so vividly the looks Danijela and I exchanged because words weren't even necessary between us. How could they think we were giving anything up? No, far from giving anything up, we were filling the emptiness that had been lurking inside of us for longer then either of us could remember.

It wasn't an easy decision for us to move to Vukovar for my residency. We had Jasna by then, and we would be leaving our families and friends, but, we knew it had to be done. I knew how hard it would be for Danijela, spending all those hours alone with just our little girl to keep her company, I should have let her stay with her parents. Even saying that now, I know she never would have done it. We were married, she was my wife, for richer and poorer, sickness and health, til death do us part. If only she could have foreseen what was to come, if only I could have, and then she became pregnant with Marko and travel became even further from our thoughts.

It's funny though how a new baby changes how you look at life. I don't know if either of us could have ever been happier then we were in those early months when we were getting to know our new son and watching our baby girl adapt to her new role of big sister. Jasna loved "her baby" so much, and would have sat for hours holding him if Danijela would have let her. I wish there would have been a way to bottle those months up so I could keep them forever. We managed a trip home for Jasna's fourth birthday, thrilling both sets of grandparents, and allowing Danijela and I a chance to catch up with old friends before work beckoned me back.

Neither of us wanted to believe the war would reach Vukovar, things like that don't really happen, or so we wanted to believe. I seemed to be spending more and more hours at the hospital and Danijela was kept busy with two active children, but, we should have seen the signs. I don't know when we first realized how bad it could get, I tried to convince Danijela to take the children and go to her parents, but, she refused to leave me. I should have forced her, I should have taken her to the bus and put all three on it despite what she said, but, I didn't, and then it was too late.

Sixteen years since since I stood alone in front of those three coffins. If only I'd forced her to take the children and go. If only. What a world we could build on if onlys. Sixteen years and I still miss them as if it were yesterday.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 680
(Editing to add: I'm realizing now that we're coming up on seventeen years, so consider this backdated./JD)
It's hard for me to talk to people about how I feel. It's something that caused problems for me when Abby and I dated before we were married, I'm sure it's part of what led to the end of things with Sam. I'm not sure if it would have led to problems between Danijela and I, we weren't married long enough for me to know, then again, I was a far different person then.

Spending so much time back in Croatia this last year has forced me to re-visit parts of my life that I had buried deep inside of myself. I wish I could say that I welcomed the reminders, but, I didn't. In fact, in those first weeks I was back I went out of my way to avoid anyone and anything that might stir them. The longer I was home, home, it's funny how I still think of Croatia as my home after so many years away, but I do. Anyway, the longer I was home, the harder it became for me to avoid and so, little by little the past that I thought I'd so carefully buried, began to again come to life.

It came with the trip to the market and though I had left my father's house alone, I couldn't shake the feeling that Danijela was at my side for much of the journey. How many times had we walked these same cobbled streets together in those two years before we married? How many times had we splurged on fresh pastries and hot coffees, only to take both to the tables outside where we would sit for hours and talk of nothing and everything?

It was worse though when I allowed myself to visit with old friends, for in those times I was forced to listen to their memories of Danijela and I together. I don't think I ever realized how what we shared between us might affect others, I know I never thought about how our feelings might be seen by them. Listening to those stories now, seeing the tears in their eyes as I realized that they feel the grief of her loss just as deeply as I do, even after so many years. How do I begin to apologize for all the years I denied them the chance to share in my losses.

When I buried Danijela and our children, I buried them alone. I know that part of that can be excused because of the on-going siege, but, I could have waited at least until I'd reached our parents. As risky as it might have been, I could have, I should have at least given them the choice of saying good-bye. I didn't though. In my mind, at that time, Danijela was my wife, Jasna was and my daughter, Marko was my son, no one else mattered. How could I have been so wrong? How could I have forgotten that they were more than just my wife, and my children? How could I not have realized that others would grieve the loss of them just as deeply as I was?

I have to credit my father for my being able to finally pull myself out of the past and starting to "live" again. My father never gave up on me, and now he was battling cancer. I wanted to bring him back to Chicago with me, I wanted him to meet Abby, and to spend time with Joe. Maybe I was being selfish, but, I wanted him to see for himself that he'd been right. All those times when he'd told me that I could find someone again, that I'd have another chance at being a father...he was right, I wanted him to see that, to meet them. He wouldn't leave though, Croatia was his home, his friends were there, his home, and nothing I could say would change his mind.

I wish I could have frozen time for those last few weeks, I wish I could have gone back to Chicago for Abby and Joe. I wish he could have met them, that he could have held his grandson in his arms just once, but, he never had that chance. I'd give almost anything to undo that final week, there had to be some sign I missed. There had to be something I could have said to Abby that would have stopped her from making the mistake she made, but, that's another story, something for another day.

For now, I want to remember the good things, I want to remember the sound of Danijela's voice as she lay sheltered in my arms while our children slept. I want to remember Jasna's smile, and how it seemed to brighten an entire room. I want to remember Marko's laugh, and how contagious it was. Above all, I want to remember how Tata never blamed me for the words of anger I threw at him in those early months after I'd lost them. I want to remember the comfort I felt when it all was too much and the only thing he could do was hold me as my tears finally broke free. I look back now at his strength, his compassion, and I wonder if I'll ever be capable of anything close to what he had, and even as I do that, I can't help but regret all the years with him I missed because I felt the need to run away. I miss him, I miss them all, and I know I always will, it's just a matter of finding a way to live with the losses without closing everyone off or running away again, and that I'm still working on.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 865
I wish I could say that I always approach problems with a rational mind and a cool head, or that I'm willing to sit down and talk about things that are bothering me, unfortunately I don't, and I'm not.

I hate to admit to having a violent temper but, the truth is, under certain circumstances I can't deny it. There are only a few things that really set me off, and on one occasion I became so out of control that I killed a man with my bare hands. I suppose I should clarify that by saying that the man was a mugger and he had struck me with a pipe first, and when I came to he was attacking my wife, though she wasn't my wife at the time. I lost it. There's no other way to put it, I remember pulling him off her, then I struck him, once he was on the ground I repeatedly slammed his head into the pavement until Abby stopped me. He was still alive when the ambulance arrived, but, the damage was done, his skull had been shattered, and he died in the ER. The police told me that I was justified in my actions and I was acting in self defense so no charges were filed, but, I still can't forgive myself. Each time I've found myself lashing out at someone it's because I've felt that they've threatened my family or friends. I've never talked to anyone about this, but, I'm sure it has something to do with the helplessness I felt when I lost my family and my need now to protect those close to me.

I'm not really sure why I don't talk about the problems in my life, I do know that my silence is one of the things that ended the relationship I had with Sam. I guess I've always felt it was easier to just go along with whatever my partner said, and then later I used my silence as a way of not talking about my past. I don't know, I think I just decided that in most cases I didn't really see a reason to fight over things and by remaining silent I could avoid doing that.

Now that Joe is here I realize that I have to change how I deal with things, he's going to see what I do and one day he may well follow in my footsteps. This isn't going to be easy for me, I've had close to 40 years to become the way I am, but, for my son I have to change. I want him to be able to talk about his feelings, but more importantly, I never want him to know what it's like to take someone's life because he's lost control.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 451
As strange as it might seem, I have no wish to be anyone other then who I am. I look back at all I have been through, at the people who have touched my life, and as bad as some of those experiences have been, I'm not willing to give up the good to forget the bad. I suppose in a way, things have to be like this, a balancing of the scales, good and evil, right and wrong, happy and sad, you can't have one without the other.

I can't say there haven't been times that I haven't wanted to end my life, I've had more then my share of times like that. I remember the worst of those days, there were far too many of them after Danijela and our babies were taken from me. I used to tempt death in the days immediately following the burials. Where once I had done everything in my power to avoid being targeted by one of the snipers watching over the City, after their deaths, I went out of my way to put myself in harm's way.

Years later I would again find my life spared while another died in my place and I would find myself wondering why my life held any more value then theirs. How do I begin to thank someone who sacrifices their own life for mine, or a mother who puts not just her life, but that of her daughter's below the worth of mine? How do I begin to repay them for caring for me, when there is little enough food and water for one? How do I thank them for staying and sacrificing the quality of their lives to ensure I was cared for?

Even as I know these are likely the most important reasons for my being here, I know there are others I owe my life to. There are people whose memories I am destined to carry in not just my head, but my heart as well, people who have touched me on so many levels, and whose memories would be lost if I were to become someone else. Danijela, our babies, The Bishop, Sakima and Chance, Patrique, Rick Kendricks, Erin, even Abby and Joe.

I can't run away from my life no matter how much I might want to, I can't escape into someone else's life. If I've learned nothing else after all these years then that is the one lesson that remains, the memories of the lives of those no longer here are entrusted to me. The mistakes that I made had consequences whether they were good or bad, they impacted other lives and they deserve to be remembered. I am the voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves and so, in the end, I can only be myself.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 476
A number of years ago I went through a difficult time, Abby and I had broken up after our first time together and she was seeing someone else, and I wasn't handling it very well. I found myself thinking too much of the life I'd had with Danijela, and without even realizing it, I began comparing the success of my marriage, to the failures I seemed to experience when I ventured into relationships with first Carol and then Abby. I couldn't tell you exactly when it happened, but, somewhere in the midst of all of that I decided I didn't deserve to have anyone care about me anymore. I started drinking too much, living fast, sleeping around with different women, but, worst of all, my carelessness cost a patient his life, and it almost cost a medical student hers as well.

I woke up one morning and I realized that everything I thought I had was gone, gone or broken, and I knew I had to get away. I don't know that I consciously had a death wish when I went to the Congo, but, I do know that I was taunting it. In the beginning, even there I didn't change my behavior all that much. I would work 16 hours straight, then I would drink whatever was handy until my mind was numb before I would head for bed, and I rarely ended up there alone.

I'd lay awake in those early morning hours, and I would sometimes wonder what Danijela would think of me if she were to see the man I had become. The answer inevitably would lead me back into whatever bottle was closest because I had no doubt that I would disgust her, everything I'd become was what she'd been warned against in those earliest days of our relationship. I began to wonder why Gillian would want my company, until I realized she was just as lost as I was, she just hadn't recognized it in herself yet.

My capture by the Mai Mai and the murder of Patrique changed me, even now it's difficult for me to talk about. To know that Patrique forfeited his life to save mine, to know that Sakima put her life, and that of her daughter's at risk to protect me after all they had endured. I'm alive because they saw something of value in my life, something that I hadn't been able to see for far too long.

When John found the three of us in that windowless shack I was near death. I suffered from not just physical injuries inflicted during my captivity, but, the effects of dehydration, and malaria. While I didn't know it at the time, I found our later that he'd come to claim my body, somehow word had gotten back to County of my death, and he felt he owed it to me to bring me home.

Home. I had plenty of time to think about what I'd been doing with my life and what the future held for me as I recovered. I knew that I couldn't keep going the way I had been, Patrique had given his life for mine, Sakima had risked hers and her daughter's, I owed it to them to turn my life around. I couldn't undo the mistakes I'd made in the past, but I could do my best to make sure that no more lives were lost because of my carelessness, to make sure that no more innocents were hurt. Because they had seen the value in my life, I could once more become the man Danijela would have been proud to call her husband. I'd been given the chance to once more start over and I wasn't going to waste that gift.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 742

This last year has been a difficult one for my wife and I, both for personal and professional reasons. Even before we had a chance to take our honeymoon, I received word that my Father was seriously ill, and without really discussing it with Abby, I knew I had no choice but to fly back to Croatia to be with him.

I've been living in the States since 1999, in the time since I've only been back to see my Father twice, and even then, there were things left unsaid that I knew needed to be dealt with. As difficult as it might be for me to leave Abby and Joe, I wasn't willing to take a chance of something happening to him before we had a chance to smooth over the differences between us.

In a perfect world I would have been able to take Abby and Joe with me to see my Father. In a perfect world I would have been able to use the trip as a way to allow my family to meet them, for my Father to meet the grandson he thought he would never again have. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and when the time came for me to leave, I went alone.

I don't think either Abby or I realized what might happen in the time I was away, I know I certainly never intended to be gone as long as I was, but, I also had forgotten how stubborn my Father was. I thought I could go back home, I could see what was wrong with him, and after talking to his doctors I could convince him to return to the States with me for treatment. Did I say that I had forgotten how stubborn my Father could be?

My Father had other plans. He knew his time on this earth was running out and he wanted to spend it among friends and family in the land he had been born on. No matter how much I pleaded with him, or how hard I argued, he refused to budge, and all that I was left was for me to stay, at least if I was there, I knew he was getting the care he needed.

It wasn't just my Father's physical needs that kept me in Croatia though, there were ghosts hanging over us, issues that we had avoided facing since I'd left Croatia for the States, and some even longer then that.

When I arrived in Zagreb and saw just how ill my Father was, I knew that I couldn't just arrange for his care and leave again. As much as I missed Abby and Joe, I knew that the time I had left with my Father was time that I would never have again, and there were things that needed to be said, amends that needed to be made. Most importantly, was making peace with Niko, something that I knew would not come easily for either of us.

In those first months when I came home after losing my family I was lost, I wanted nothing to do with anyone from my past, and the very thought of being anywhere that I'd been with Danijela or my babies left me sick. At the time that I made the decision to leave Croatia I knew that I had to go if I had any hope for moving forward with my life, but, my brother saw it only as running away. The arguments we had in those days leading up to my departure were angry ones, we both said things we didn't mean, we both said things that even now cause pain to us. I couldn't take back what was said anymore than he could, but, by going I knew I could try and explain why I felt as I did and as hard as it was, I could listen to him as he explained why he felt as he did.

Six months. It took six months for me to reach the point where I felt that my Father's condition was stable enough for me to return to Abby and Joe. Six months. In that time there had been successes in Croatia, with my Father's health, with my relationship with Niko. In six months I had been able to do more to find peace with the ghosts of my past then I'd been able to do in almost 17 years, but, at what price?

I have to believe that my staying there with my Father was the right thing to do. I have to believe that the mistakes that Abby made, are ones I can forgive her for. I have to believe that our love is strong enough to survive all of this. Even as I try to believe all of these things, I struggle not to blame myself for not being there in those final moments of my Father's life, but, I have to believe that God had his reason's for that as well, and in the end that is the greatest change that has come over me in all this time.

So, once more I returned to Croatia, only this time I did not go alone. This time I had the support of my brother, the comfort of my son, and in time, my wife as well. We're a work in progress, but, I have to believe that given the choice to do things all over again, I would change nothing, except perhaps to have found a way for Joe and Abby to have joined me. If I have any one regret above all others, it's that my Father never had a chance to spend time with Joe, and that is the one that will haunt me, even as I know it was out of my hands to control.


Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 1078

How am I? That is the big question isn't it? My father has just died and I wasn't there with him because I decided to leave his side to go to my wife and son who I had neglected for the six months I was with him. In the time I'd been gone, I find out that my wife had begun drinking again, she'd put our son's life in danger at least once, and she'd betrayed our vows by sleeping with her boss. If it were possible for me to ignore all of those things, I'm also coping with having had to return to Croatia with my son to bury my father while my wife entered rehab. When we came back to the States I thought that space to think would be enough for me to come to terms with everything, but that wasn't the key, I can't run away from this, Abby and Joe mean too much.

So, back to the question, how am I? I'm hurt, and wounded, I feel betrayed, and at the same time ashamed. I know there should have been a way for me to be there for both my father and my wife and son, I just didn't see it, and I'm not even sure I see it now. I don't want to lose this family and I'm afraid that unless I find a way to fix this Abby might just decide to leave us, and I know I couldn't survive that loneliness again. You tell me, how should I be?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 256
2.1 Talk About the One Event In Your Life That Has Effected You the Most

I don't know why, but Danijela and our children have been on my mind a lot lately. That's not to say they are ever far from my thoughts, it's only that it seems lately more and more things seem to bring up reminders, and all to often those reminders end with the day I lost them.

If I look back at all of the things that have happened to me in my life, if I look at the times I have cheated death, I have to wonder why am I so lucky? What makes my life so much more valuable then those who have died around me, who have died to save me? Even with those questions, I still believe that nothing in my life has impacted me more then losing Danijela and our babies.

I look at the person I was all those years ago, I think of the innocence we shared, and all of the plans we had for our future and then I look at the things I have done, the man I have become, and I wonder what she would think of me. If we were to meet now, with me as I am, would she even look twice at me?

I recently reconciled with my brother, we had exchanged little more than pleasantries in the 14 years since I'd made the decision to leave Croatia and come to the United States. In my brother, Niko's eye I was a coward, I was running away from my past rather then facing it, and he just couldn't forgive me for that. I on the other hand saw it differently, and I know if I hadn't left, if I'd had to spend my life surrounded by all the memories of those I had lost, I very likely would have taunted death until she found me and took me to be with my family.

So, despite what my brother might have felt, I wasn't running away. As difficult as it was for me to admit, leaving was the only option there was for me, it was the only hope I had to survive. For as hard as it was to say good-bye to those I would leave behind, I knew I was running toward life, and the only future I could see if I had stayed was my own death.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 391
My name is Luka Kovac, I'm a doctor, I'm married, and we have a son who is almost two. I'm not exactly sure what you need me to say, so, I guess, maybe, I should just tell you why I decided I should talk to someone.

This is the second marriage for both my wife and I. I was married to Danijela, my first wife, for five years, we married very young, she was just 18, and we were very much in love. We had two children, our oldest was our daughter, Jasna, and a little over three years later we welcomed our son Marko. I lost all three during the siege of Vukovar.

My wife, Abby and I married a little over a year ago, though we have known each other for close to eight years. We dated early on in our relationship, but, things happened, and it didn't work out. We went through a period of time where we didn't even talk, but, gradually we realized our friendship was important to both of us, even when we were seeing other people.

I don't think either of us planned for us to get serious again, things just kind of happened and one day there we were. I guess in a way, it was the same with learning that Abby was pregnant, neither of us planned for Joe to be here, and though I always wanted him, I would have accepted her decision had she ended the pregnancy.

Once we knew Joe was coming I knew I wanted to be part of his life, and it just seemed natural for us to move in together. The decision to marry took a little longer, and we've made far too many mistakes since the day we said "I do." So I guess that's why I'm here, to try to fix what is broken, to understand the things about myself that make it hard for me to let go of my past. Mostly though, I love my wife and son, and I don't want to lose them.
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