This is something Abby and I have talked about quite a bit, maybe because of my past, but, mainly because I felt she deserved to know that this was something I feel quite strongly about. For a long time I felt that my life had ended with the death of my wife Danijela, and our two young children in that small apartment in Vukovar. When their caskets were lowered into the ground, I couldn't shake my feelings of guilt over having failed them, and in that moment, had I been given the choice of joining them, I would have done so willingly. Despite the number of years that have passed since those burials, I know, and Abby understands, that my place belongs beside my first family, and so, when my time comes, she and Joe will take me home to Croatia and bury me there in that Vukovar cemetery. It's my hope, that in their own time, that they might too join me, but, that is a decision that will be theirs to make and not one I can make for them.

Because I was raised Catholic, and that faith was so much a part of my life with Danijela, and still is important to my family, I've already expressed my desire for a Catholic funeral and burial. I think it's a way too I can honor Bishop Stewart's memory, and thank him again for opening the door that allowed me to re-find my faith after many years away. On that day, when my body is once more reunited with those of my family, and my spirit rises to Heaven, I have no doubt that Danijela, Jasna, and Marko will be there waiting to greet me, just as I one day will be there to greet Abby and Joe when their time comes.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Words: 309
Note: This earlier post from 10/06 deals with this exact event:
"What do you think?" Luka looked up from the journal he was reading as his wife asked the question.

"Hmm? Of what?" His expression shifted to one of puzzlement as he realized that he honestly had no idea of what the woman was talking about.

"You weren't even listening were you?" Abby poured milk over the cereal in Joe's bowl before placing it in front of the toddler.

"Um, sorry, I'm trying to get caught up." Reaching for a second journal, the Croat tucked the second inside the first to use it as a bookmark before setting it aside.

"Tell me again." Pushing himself up off the chair, he made his way over to the short counter that separated the living-room from the kitchen.

"I don't know if I'm ready to let you off that easy." Abby tilted her head slightly as she debated how long she wanted to continue the give and take.

"Hey, that's not nice." As he stood beside his son, Luka found himself unable to resist stealing a piece of cereal from the boy's bowl, and as he popped it in his mouth, he gave him an exaggerated smile.

"Well, that's what happens when you don't listen the first time." As Luka settled next to Joe, Abby couldn't help but smile, the moment for the two of them now passed.

"Yum, good stuff, Joe." Pleased at the attention turning toward him, the soon to be three year old, fished another Cheerio out of the milk and offered it to his father.

"Thank you, Joe." Leaning toward him, Luka accepted the bite, then reciprocated by offering a kiss in return.

"That's enough for me, now, you eat your cereal."

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 281
Are you an only child? Write about your siblings or lack thereof.

For many years I might well have been an only child. After I lost my family I had a difficult time adjusting to the new life that I was being forced into. In those first months I shut myself off from everyone. While I did call both Danijela's and my family I refused to let any of them risk the journey to Vukovar for the funerals, and once they were done, I cut off communication completely. I threw myself into my studies and my work until I was too tired to think, but, it was never enough to stop the nightmares from coming, and I relived that fateful day over and over again so many times.

After the fall of the city I barely made it out with my life, and in truth, more times then naught I wished I had not. I spent months in one of the DPC's recovering from my injuries, with my family not knowing if I was even alive and I myself wishing death would still find me. Eventually I gave up on that hope and realized I was meant to live, even if I didn't want to. Maybe that was my punishment for failing my family, maybe death was too good for me.

In time of course I had to go, I realized that I couldn't hide forever, as much as I might want to. So, as hard as it was, I found my way back to my father's house, back to where all the memories of the happiness that had been stolen from me had been born. I hated everyday I was there, and it was only made worse by the arguments that seemed to daily get worse between my brother Niko and I.

Both my father and my brother felt that being there among those who knew me, those who had known Danijela and our children was the best thing for me. They believed that reminders of our past would comfort me, and in time give me the peace I would need to move on. They were so wrong. The longer I was there the worse it became, until I reached the point where even going to the market was unbearable, and I knew if I was going to survive I'd have to leave.

Once I'd made that decision things between my brother and I fell apart, nothing I said could make him understand why I had to go, and every conversation between us ended in a fight. By the time I left for the United States we were barely speaking and some of his last words to me were of how I was nothing but a coward for running away from my problems instead of facing them.

It took almost 12 years and our father's illness for Niko and I to reconcile and we've both come a long way in that time. I'm not sure he'll ever fully understand why I had to leave anymore then I'll understand why he felt so strongly that I should stay, but, at least we're talking now. Niko's met my wife and my son, he can see that despite what he might have thought, my moving to the United States has allowed me not just to find happiness again, but to build a new family as well. As hard as it might be for him to admit now, in time he may even admit that all those years ago, I was right in leaving.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 579
There was a time when I dreaded being asked if I had children because, even though Jasna and Marko had been taken from me, I still considered myself their Tata. I can't tell you how many nights I woke with the sound of their voices in my ears, hearing them calling me and knowing I could never answer that call. I reached a point that I avoided parks, passing by schools, beaches, anywhere that I might risk hearing a child's cry for their Tata, because I knew I would think it was them, even if only for that split second when hope wished them alive.

It was the same when people asked me if I was married, because I knew in my heart that no matter how many years passed, my love for Danijela would never falter. She was my wife, the mother of our children, and despite how I had lost her, nothing could change that. It took me almost 9 years before I could see anyone else and not feel I was cheating on her, and even then it still didn't feel right. I couldn't know that there were still issues I had to resolve, and until I did, I could never move on.

It took time, but, I finally succeeded. It's been 18 years now, and I no longer dread those questions. I have a new family now, a wife and a son I love, and a new life without the burden of sadness hanging on it. There are still nights when I hear the call of those long gone, still times when I wake to the memory of their faces, but, I no longer dread them, and though some come with sadness, far more come with memories of the happier times we spent, and it's those I treasure the most.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 374
(Set in 2004/season 10)

He hadn't been sure what to expect from his arrival back at County. Despite the time he'd spent in the clinic in Kisangani, he was still weak, the Malaria, while starting to come under control, still robbed him of strength he didn't have to spare. If he'd had his way, he'd have gone straight home as soon as they'd arrived in the City, but, even knowing Gillian had flown back with him hadn't been enough for them to budge on his admission. Whatever arrangements that Carter had set in motion in the Congo seemed unbreakable and so, here he was, at the mercy of the doctors and nurses entrusted with his care during his recovery.

As he lay in the hospital bed, he'd almost convinced himself that the worst part of being back was dealing with all of those who kept coming by to see how he was. Each time one of them knocked on the door, he was forced to face reminders of his behavior before he'd tried to find his escape in the Congo, even if they never brought it up.

Today though was different. For some reason the symptoms of his malaria had worsened through-out the night and despite adjusting his medications to counter the changes, they'd so far seemed to have little effect. With his immune system already compromised, a "No Visitors" sign was placed on his door, so, with the exception of his doctors and the few nurses assigned to his care, he would be left alone. Alone, with only his thoughts for companionship, in his eye the prospect was almost as dangerous as dealing with all of his well intentioned visitors.

"Good morning, Dr. Kovac, I hear you had a rough night." As she entered his room, his nurse, Elyse approached his bed, moving first to refill his pitcher with fresh water before continuing.

"Morning, yeah, pretty bad." Even as he answered Luka found himself struggling with the worsening symptoms.

"Can you tell me what all's been going on?" Pulling a small tablet from her pocket, she readied herself to take notes on his complaints.

"It started about 7 or 8 last night, just, um, headache and chills for starters, oh, um, yeah, I guess dinner didn't stay with me either, but, I didn't think it was anything to worry about at the time."

"What about now?" She quickly jotted notes about his complaints on the pad then raised her eyes to him as she waited for him to continue.

"I'm tired, and still have a headache, kind of hard to focus on specifics, I feel congested too." As he relayed the short list of his complaints, Luka knew that he was fighting even more that he hadn't mentioned.

"Let's get your vitals, and I have a couple of pills for you to take. Someone will be in to draw blood too so we have the results before the doctor comes in to see you." Setting her notes aside, she started first with his temperature, then pulse, and blood pressure. As she finished she tucked his blankets around him.

"Do you need another blanket?" Her concern for his deteriorating condition crept into the question and before he could answer she had already retrieved one from the closet.

"I'm okay." While he tried to wave off the woman's fussing, she, clearly was not to be swayed and after covering him, she took a few more minutes to tuck the sides around him.

I want you to try and rest, I'm going to call the doctor and see if he can see you sooner. I'll be back to check on you in a little while. I don't want you getting out of bed on your own, so, if you think you need to get up, use your buzzer. I'll leave a basin here on the bedstand, in case you can't wait, all right?"

"Yeah." As nice as the nurse was, it was almost a relief when Elyse left, he wasn't sure how much more of the hovering he could handle, and he didn't want to hurt her feelings since she likely didn't even see it as that. Truth was, as the morning progressed he was finding the similarities to how he'd felt in the clinic too close. As his brain made the connection he grabbed for the basin and within seconds was at the mercy of his purging stomach, by the time it subsided, his shirt was damp with sweat, and it took all his remaining strength to simply return it to the bedstand before retreating under his blankets. He needed to try and sleep, but the continued pounding of his head was making that almost impossible, and despite the instruction to call if he needed anything, he knew, there was little that could be done except for him to ride it out. As his stomach rose yet again, he snaked a hand out to secure the basin. On second thought, maybe he'd be lucky and die first.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 832
It was hard to deny the fear, all those years he'd begged for death, and now it was here in front of him and he was afraid. Kneeling there in the dirt, he could feel the pebbles as they dug into his skin. It was hard to stay still, to keep their attention from being drawn to him, it was cowardly. Hiding behind the others as they one by one were drug off to meet their deaths until he was the only one left save Sakima and Chance. He couldn't protect them anymore then he'd been able to protect Danijela and his own children.

It as all so real, even after so many years, and it was only Abby's gentle hand on his brow and soothing words in his ear that brought him back from the nightmare.

"Luka, shhh. It's all right. " She waited until his eyes opened to pull her hand away, wanting to hold onto her connection with him until the very last moment.

"It's just a dream." She offered him a smile, though there was little doubt in her mind that her husband was still not fully with her.

"Nothing can hurt you here." She returned her hand to his arm, all the while struggling with her own emotions. Even after so long, there was no denying that his fear was as strong as it was in those first weeks after he'd returned home. No matter how much he tried to deny it when he was awake, in sleep he was always betrayed.

"I'm here, Luka, you're safe, they're all safe." She brushed his bangs off of his forehead with the reassurance, the dampness of them yet another confirmation to the intensity of the dream.

"Go back to sleep, Luka, you're safe." As his eyes closed, Abby allowed herself to finally relax, at least for tonight the worst was over. They both battled their demons, and as he had promised to support her through her struggle with alcohol how could she not support him as he relived the horrors of his past? Their decision to move to Boston only confirmed how determined they were to do what was necessary to reclaim their marriage. If he could support her through her fight to stay sober, she would be there for him through this, she owed him that much and more. Brushing his bangs aside she placed a light kiss on his forehead.

"I'm here, Luka, go back to sleep, you're safe now."

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 419
It's funny how the things you remember are so very often connected to those you most want to forget. I've been thinking a lot about Vukovar lately, not just about the day I lost my family, though those memories are still there. I find myself thinking about our life during the siege, and how desperate the times became.

I remember quite clearly the lines. It didn't matter what they were for, if you saw one forming they became a magnet for people, drawing them from behind the walls where they hid. One could never be sure what you might find at it's end, one day bread, another milk, and oh, if you were very lucky you might even find the unbelievable prize of toilet paper at one's end. Whatever the prize, they came with their own risk, for a line meant something different to the snipers that lay in wait. A line meant a target, another notch on their gun, fresh blood on the street. A line, the difference between life and death, but what choice did we have? We always needed the prize.

The water runs were always the worst, the snipers knew to lay in wait for that line, their targets came in all shapes and sizes, young and old, water was life. Everyone knew the risk, but, what choice did we have? So, we went, we filled whatever we could carry, as many as we could hold so we could stay away as long as possible, we ignored the water that over-flowed, sloshing from one jug to the next, praying for the sniper not to pick us out of all who were there. When we were done the danger really came, our movement made us more of a target, if they'd missed seeing us before they wouldn't as we ran. The race seemed to last forever as we would run across debris strewn streets, trying not to see the bodies of those who hadn't been fast enough, if we could only get to the shelter of the buildings we'd be safe. Safe until we next had to stand in the lines.

Muse: Luka Kova
Fandom: ER
Words: 354
I don't understand, it should have been me, not Patrique. If he, Sakima, and Chance had only left with the others that night in the jungle, none of them would have suffered the abuse that they did, Patrique might very well still be alive. He had his whole life ahead of him, why did he feel that his was any less important then mine?

If I go back to the very beginning, to the very reason I went to the Congo, I can't even say that I went because I wanted to give back something for all that I'd received in my life. No, that wasn't the reason I left Chicago when I did, the truth is, my life was falling apart, it had been for far too long, and I knew if I didn't do something I would lose myself. Even before I left I had been throwing my life away, everything I'd been doing went against all I believed, all I'd based my entire life on, and it made me sick to even look at my reflection in the mirror. I knew that I had to do something when it started to affect how I treated my patients, how I saw them, or rather the way I no longer saw them, I'd stopped caring about them as people, and without compassion what kind of doctor could I be? I thought going to the Congo might help me find the man who'd become lost to me, but, instead I seemed to only sink deeper into a hole I couldn't find my way out of.

I didn't plan to continue with the drinking and sleeping around once I arrived at the clinic, but there was little else to do at the end of a long shift, and there was no shortage of nurses who were willing. I certainly never planned on starting up anything resembling a relationship with anyone, but, I guess that's what you'd call what happened between Gillian and I, even if we did have our ups and downs.

I know I didn't expect my time in the Congo to pull up the memories of my work in Vukovar, but, that's exactly what happened as day after day I found myself coming face to face with the innocent victims of war. It was hard not to draw parallels between what I saw as a young resident and what was happening almost in front of me, and the worst part was realizing that despite the number of years that had passed, so little seemed to have changed. If it were not for the color of their skin and their language, they could have been the same, and all of them were as just as innocent as those I'd been unable to save all those years ago.

I don't know at what point I decided that I was ready to die, maybe it wasn't until the Mai Mai came into Matenda that day. I know now that I couldn't have been thinking straight when I challenged then, almost dared the man to shoot me. When he held that gun to my head, in that instant I swear, I remember thinking, just pull the trigger, I dare you, and when he didn't, I think I was disappointed. Then, seeing him threaten John, and knowing that Gillian might suffer an even worse fate at their hands, I just knew they had to leave, all of them.

I'll never know why Patrique stayed that day or why he, Sakima, and Chance stayed that night in the jungle when all the rest of those from the clinic fled, but, I can't help but feel responsible for what they went through when the Mai Mai took us captive. Patrique's death is a burden I will bear for the rest of my life, not just because I know he stayed to help me, but, because his life was taken while he was pleading for them to spare mine. After all I had been through, I don't understand now, anymore then I understood at that moment why he thought his life was worth less than mine. I can't look at Sakima without thinking the same thing. Here is this woman, with this beautiful little girl, and she put both of their lives at risk to remain with Patrique and I, and even after they had raped her, even after she'd seen what they did to Patrique, she too pleaded for them to spare my life. I don't understand what they saw in me anymore then I understand what John saw that would make him risk his life to try and find my body when word reached him of my death.

Understanding the whys may never happen, but there's no denying that the experience did change me, and I owe it to not just those who survived, but to Patrique as well to pay them back for the good they must have seen in me. It'll take some time for me to recover from the malaria and return to work, but, I know when I do I'll be seeing both my patients and the work I do differently. I plan to go back to the Congo when I'm well enough, this time I'll be going for the right reasons, and in a way it'll allow me to feel as if I'm repaying the debts I owe those there. For the first time in a long time I'm looking toward the future with a sense of hope and promise, I hope it's a feeling that remains for a long time.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom ER
Words: 982
Happily ever after. Is that possible, or is it a dream that can never be achieved no matter how much you wish for it, no matter how strong your faith, no matter how hard you try?

Danijela and I were convinced our marriage was the thing dreams were made of, how could it have been anything but? From the first moment I saw her I knew she would be my wife, she would bear my children, and we would spend the rest of our lives together. I was 18, she was just 16 and we thought we had a lifetime to learn all there was to know about each other. We knew without saying it that our children would be raised as we had been raised and how they themselves had been raised. We would have the support of family, the comfort of our faith and our Church, and when the time came, our children would know the same or so we believed. If only it hadn't been for the war. In a matter of months it was gone, they were gone, and with them all my hopes and dreams.

For more years then I want to think about I allowed myself to believe that I no longer deserved those very things that Danijela and I had planned. Having lost not just the woman who had stolen my heart, but our children, I was convinced that I would never again know the joy of being a father again. I prayed for God to take my life as he had taken those of my family. I begged him to allow me to be with those I loved even if it meant ending my life, and when he didn't listen I turned my back on him and the Church that had meant so much to us for so long. Turning my back on my faith wasn't enough for me though, everything brought painful reminders and so, I ended up leaving the only things I had left, my family and my Country. I gave up on life, I gave up on any hope for happiness, I simply moved from day to day waiting for my time to come to an end so I could be reunited with those I loved.

It's funny though, while I was simply existing life found me again, and after more then a few missteps, Abby and I found our way back to each other. We'd tried once before, too many years ago, but, the time must not have been right. I guess we still had some lessons to learn, maybe we're still learning them now. This has to work, for Abby, for Joe, for us as a family. I hope, no, not hope, I have to believe that this move to Boston will allow us to overcome all the mistakes that we both have made in the last year. I want to grow old with Abby, I want us to raise our son together, to be there when he graduates from high-school. I want us to one day see him marry and have children of his own.

Is being happy too much to hope for? I want to believe it's not. I pray it's not. I'll do whatever I have to to make this work, because I just don't know what I'd do if I were to lose everything again.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 562
In a perfect world this would be an easy question to answer. In a perfect world, I could toss off a trivial answer about a busy shift in the ER, or maybe one of those never-ending days that every med-student was warned about on that very first day of Pre-Med. I don't live in a perfect world though and I'm finding it far too hard to narrow things down to just one day, so, I've decided I've no alternative but to include the two that seem to consistently jockey for dominance in my thoughts.

I don't think it would surprise anyone to learn that the day of the bombing in Vukovar holds one of the spots, for from the moment I heard the sound of the strike time might as well have stopped for me. Even after all these years I can call up the details of that day with amazing clarity. I wonder sometimes if that in itself isn't more of a curse rather than a blessing but, then I remember that without those memories I would have nothing of Danijela and my children to hold onto except the small black and white photograph of my wife and daughter taken at Jasna's fourth birthday. If I have any regrets about the memories of that day, it's that they almost always begin with the bombing and that means that while I can remember my last words to Danijela, and the feel of Jasna in my arms, my memory of Marko brings no comfort. For while both Danijela and Jasna were still alive when I reached them, my baby boy was not so lucky, and my first sight of him was merely one small hand which he'd freed from the debris that had buried him alive. I try not to think about how long he was trapped in the darkness before death claimed him. I try not to think about the thoughts that must have been going through his head, though I know he had to be wondering why his Mama and Tata didn't free him. Mostly though I simply pray that he went quickly, I don't want to think about what it would have been like for him if he didn't.

Equally memorable for me is the day of Joe's birth, and the events that led up to it. From the moment I was paralyzed, then intubated, and bound to that gurney I honestly thought I might not live to see my son's birth. Adding to that fear was the moment when I saw Abby outside the room, when she steadied herself on the door before her fall, and knowing that not only could I do nothing to help her, I couldn't even call for help. Worse though was seeing the blood and not knowing if she and Joe were dead or seemed to take a lifetime for someone to find her, to find us. Even then the nightmare wasn't over, from the long delivery, the struggle to get control of the bleeding and Abby's surgery, and Joe's fight for life. I have to wonder what we did, what he did, that would prompt God to put us through so much, and then in the next breath, I'm left grateful beyond words because both Abby and Joe made it through that day despite our worst fears.

There have been other days which came close to these, my captivity with Patrique in the Congo among them, but, I can't dwell on the past when I have so much now to look forward to. I have a future now, a wife and a son who I love and want to spend the rest of my life with. That's not to say there won't be days when my thoughts won't return to those days, on birthdays, Danijela and my anniversary, but, it's not like it used to be, Abby and Joe have seen to that. My life is here now, with my wife and my son, and while we may have our bumps in the road, I can honestly say this is where I belong, and that's a feeling I never thought I would know again.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 702
This isn't easy for me to talk about and it certainly isn't something I'm proud of doing. It happened during a time when I was having some problems and my head wasn't where it should be and instead of talking to someone about it, I was drinking too much, using sex as a way of escaping and I guess trying to live too fast. None of these things were normal for me, but, I had messed up everything in my life that was good, and the people I thought I could count on weren't there for me anymore. I guess I thought that by sleeping around I would feel something, but, even that wasn't really working out the way I meant for it to.

Abby was seeing Carter and I guess I wasn't handling it well, so, I started getting reckless, and I don't mean in how I was treating my patients. It started with my asking out hospital employees, and nurses, I warned them not to expect anything from me but that one night of sex, but, they never really believed I was serious. I suppose it was only a matter of time until it went to the next level, and it did.

She was the mother of one of my patients, she brought her daughter in and we kind of started flirting during the examination. I had to run some tests on the girl and she wanted her mom to get her something to eat, we walked out of the room together and one thing led to another. She left the Janitor's closet before I did, we thought it'd be safer that way, when I opened the door, another doctor, Susan, was standing right there. I fumbled my way through an excuse but, I knew she didn't believe me, I didn't believe me. I knew it was wrong, I was out of control, and it would only get worse before it would get better.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 335
Me, a spy? That is an interesting thought. In some ways I suppose I could very easily fit into the life of a spy, or I could have before Abby and Joe became a part of my life. Maybe I should explain.

When I first came to the States, I was accused by my brother of running away from my life, when in truth I think I was searching for a reason to keep living. In order to do that, I found that I had to bury my past away. I suppose you could say I became an enigma. I didn't share more than the bare minimum of details about who I was or where I came from with anyone, and I never let anyone get close. I made a point of never staying too long in one place,and it wasn't unusual for me to pick up and leave on a moment's notice. Secrets became a way of life for me, and I became an expert on finding ways to evade the questions that seemed to come far too often when I found I'd stayed too long in any one place. All traits that would have served a spy well, but did nothing for the person I longed to be.

All that has changed now of course, and I no longer find I have to hide from my past. I have a family again, and I long for the stability of a permanent home, a place that my wife and I can grow old in together, a place where we can watch our son grow into a man. So, no, these days I would not make a good spy, the man that would have is no more, and I can't say I miss him.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 295
"That's something I think is growing on me as I get older: happy endings." -- Alice Munro

I remember the day Danijela and I were married, we were both very young, and we thought we had our entire lives before us. Standing at the front of the Church as her father walked her down the aisle, I remember thinking that I had never seen anything, or anyone more beautiful then she looked in her wedding dress. I couldn't believe how lucky I was, not just to have found her, but, to know in just a few more minutes our long wait would be over and we'd finally be husband and wife. Because Danijela was just 16 when we met, we both knew we couldn't marry right away. It made perfect sense to us, she would finish school, I could complete my required military service before the marriage, and it would satisfy both sets of parents, assuring them that we weren't rushing into something that we might regret later. So, almost two years later that moment had arrived, all that remained to make our dream complete was the exchanging of our vows and rings, and we'd be together for the rest of our lives. I remember wondering what I had done to deserve being this happy, and then I realized that it wasn't just me. As I looked around the Church every eye was on Danijela, and their smiles said it all. Seeing her in her wedding dress, her smile seemed brighter then any diamond money could buy, In that moment it dawned on me that our happy ending was at long last about to be realized and as I made eye contact with her, I couldn't help but wonder if she saw it too.

As much as Danijela and I loved each other when we married, it would only grow stronger once we discovered she was pregnant with our first child. We'd only been married about three months when we got the news, and we couldn't have been happier. Danijela and I had talked about having children even before we were married, boys, girls, either, or both, we didn't care, we only knew that it was something we both wanted. That our first was coming so soon meant that things were not going to be easy for us. I was in Pre Med, and we were living in a small apartment, the money we had coming in wasn't a lot, but, we were close to our parents, and with their support, we knew we could make it.

Jasna's arrival nine months later was an experience I'll never forget. She was so tiny, and as beautiful as her mother, and yet again I found myself wondering how we could have been blessed with being so lucky. From the minute we brought her home anything outside of school and my family seemed to stop for me, why would I possibly want to be anywhere but with these two women who held my heart so completely?

For Danijela and I, life had become the fairytale we had only dreamed of. All we were missing was the little cottage we could call our own, the little cottage that would give us our true happy ending, or so we thought.

Shortly after Jasna turned two, we moved to Vukovar so that I could begin my Residency. It wasn't easy for either of us, it was our first time away from our families, away from our friends. We were living in a very small apartment in the City, and the hours I spent at the hospital were long, but, we made the most of it, and somehow in the midst of it all, Danijela once again discovered she was pregnant.

Danijela's second pregnancy was hard on her, but, she never complained. She did it all, caring for Jasna and running the household without family and friends to fall back on. We would have given anything to have shared those months with those we loved but my residency took priority, and so it was left to us to do on our own, and our relationship only grew stronger for it.

When I saw my son for the first time he took my breath away, with his full head of dark hair, and eyes that seemed wise beyond their years. In those early days I would come home from the hospital to find Marko lying awake in his crib, as if he was waiting on me. I cherished those times alone with him. While Danijela and Jasna slept, we would sit near the window, and I would rock him. It was in those moments that I realized, if we had no more children Jasna and Marko would be enough for us. Looking into my baby boy's eyes, I knew that everything we could want for our lives had been granted and I could never offer enough thanks for the blessing that had been bestowed upon us.

I never could have anticipated that the happiness we were living, the happy ending we'd thought we'd found would be ripped away from me in less than 18 months, but, that's exactly what happened. In one day, everything that made me who I was, everyone who gave me a reason to live, they were all gone. For the longest time I questioned why we didn't heed the warnings when the war first began, why didn't I force Danijela to take the children and go to her parents, or mine. Then I realized that the thing that made us so strong as a couple is the very thing that cost me their lives. Nothing I could have said would have made her go, we had waited two years to marry, and the idea of being separated, even for a short time was more then she could endure. I think too that neither of us believed it would get as bad as it did, and by the time the realization hit it was too late to act. How could either of us know that our love would cost them their lives? The guilt I felt over surviving when Danijela and my children did not is something I will always struggle with, just as I will forever live with the images of that day. From my first glimpse of Marko's hand reaching upward through the rungs of his crib as he lay buried beneath it, to my beautiful Jasna as I forced air into her lungs until I had no more breath's to give her. As hard as it is for me to live with the those images though, the far worse memory was my telling Danijela that Marko was gone, and knowing that I couldn't even take the time to free him from the rubble that had claimed his young life. If I could have given my wife anything in those final hours of her own life, it would have been the gift of holding her baby boy one last time, of allowing her the chance to touch his face, of kissing him, of saying good-bye. Danijela died without seeing Marko again, she died without knowing if Jasna would live or die, and when it was all over I was left to bury all three, knowing our happy ending was no more.

It's been over seventeen years since I buried my family, I have a new wife, a new son, and while I love them both with all of my heart I don't know that I dare allow myself to dream of a happy ending with them. Call it fear, call it paranoia, I don't know, I want to believe that it's possible, that one day it will be there for us, but, deep down inside me there is that little voice whispering to me...

"What if." it says...and I'm not sure I'm willing to risk the lives of these two to believe it's possible, I just don't know if I could survive if I were to lose Abby and Joe too. Maybe happy endings are only possible in fairytales.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom ER
Words: 1339
His life was over, it didn't matter what anyone said, in his mind it had ended when he'd laid his family to rest, even if he could manage to get past the grief, what did he have left? A wave of nausea surfaced with the thought, a reminder of the truth he wanted to forget. He could hide from it, deny it to others and himself, but it would always be there, that feeling of emptiness, of knowing he would never again feel complete. It had only been three days since his world had come crashing down on him, three days since Danijela and their beautiful babies had been stolen from him. It might as well have been three years for the emptiness he felt without them. They were his life, but, Danijela was his other half, he'd know it from the first time he'd caught sight of her, and now, they were all gone.

When he had asked her father for permission to marry Danijela, he had promised to love and protect her, and now he had failed not only her, but their children as well. How was he supposed to tell them that they were all gone? How was he supposed to tell them that nothing he had done had been enough? As hard as it was for him to accept, he would never be able to forgive himself for what the news would do to either of their parents. You're not supposed to outlive your children, and you're certainly not supposed to outlive your grandchildren, and yet now it was up to him to tell them that they had done both.

Forcing himself to his feet, he left the cot in janitor's closet that had become his home since the apartment had been destroyed. As small as the room was, he still found himself sharing the space with another doctor, a man who like Luka, had also lost his home and family. For the last hour or so, he'd had the tiny room to himself, a rarity as more and more hospital staff found the lines between home and work blurred. Were it not for the knock on the door informing him that a phone connection had finally been made, he would have hidden himself away until time for his shift to begin. At least behind that door he was free from the pitying glances, free from the uncomfortable silences born from those who knew there was nothing they could say that would make things easier. Secreting his photograph of Danijela and Jasna away, he reluctantly left the safety of the small room,it had been 3 days, he couldn't avoid it any longer.

As he dialed the first of the two numbers he could already feel his stomach beginning to twist into knots. As he heard first the click, then the greeting on the other end, it was all he could do not to hang up. Why had he chosen this for the first of the calls? How was he going to tell him that he'd lost not just his daughter but his grandchildren as well? How was he going to tell the man that all the plans they'd spoke of for their future would now never take place?

"'s Luka..." As he started to speak, he couldn't help but hear the intake of air on the other end. Did the man know the reason for the call before he could even reveal it? It took everything he had to find his voice again so he could continue.

"I'm sorry..." His voice broke, and the tears he'd fought so hard to hold back washed over his words as he forced himself to relive his families final hours for Danijela's father. It did not get any easier when he repeated the call with his own parents.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 639
I thought I was beyond being scared, I'd lived through a war, and all that came with it. Years later I found myself kidnapped by the Mai Mai in the Congo, forced to watch as one by one those around me lost their lives while mine was repeatedly spared. I was taken hostage at gunpoint by a crazed patient after he had terrorized my wife and young son. For hours I endured physical and emotional abuse at his hands, with the threat of death a constant thought until that moment when he took his own life instead of mine.

Of all of those instances and the people involved however, I can honestly say that none scared me worse then my own infant son, and I know, it's not the same type of a fear, but it's fear nonetheless. I look back now on those first months of his life, all those days that I watched him struggle to do nothing more than breathe. I don't know that I have ever known a fear as great as what I experienced during that time, but, it was more then just fear, it was the helplessness. I'm a doctor, I'm supposed to save lives, and all I could do was stand there and pray that those into whose hands I had entrusted his care, could keep him alive.

I remember standing there in the NICU, listening to the sound of the vents, and all of the other noises in that small room that come together to create a symphony of life and hope. I remember wishing I could do something for him as he lay there, swallowed up by all of the tubes and wires. I remember thinking how tiny he looked laying there, how he didn't deserve to go through all he was going through, and as much as I wanted him to live, I didn't want him to be in pain. I remember thinking about how hard I had fought to save Jasna's life only to fail, and here I was doing nothing for Joe, and I very likely was going to lose him as well. Then I remember hating myself for allowing doubts of his survival to even enter my thoughts.

In the end though all I really could do was pray. I begged God to let me keep my little boy, after all, I'd already given him two children, wasn't that enough? I don't think I've ever been as scared of anyone or anything as I was in those early weeks of Joe's life. Making it through his surgery, and then watching him grow strong enough to one by one lose the various tubes and wires that had been his lifelines in those early weeks. It took longer for the fear to leave, and I hope I never again have to experience anything like it.

We were lucky, Joe is a happy, active, normal two year old now, and I thank God for every day I have with him. I know too, that as lucky as we were, many other parents were not. Not a day goes by now that I don't look at him and count our blessings, he truly is our gift from God.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 554
It's your birthday! If anything were possible, what would be your perfect way to celebrate?

He should have realized it was coming, the date was one of a number that were forever etched in his memory, but unlike Jasna's birthday, there were no photographs to capture the moment. Of all the regrets, he hated being unable to let go of something so trivial, he had lost so much, and yet he returned time and time again to the photo he didn't have, the image he alone was responsible for never losing. Was there any doubt then that when Abby asked him what his perfect birthday would be that he would ask to go back to that day, despite the reaction from her it prompted.

"Tata...Marko is messing everything up." Jasna's complaint carried across the small patio to where Luka sat with several of his friends.

"Hold that thought. I'd better get him before she does something she'll regret." Tipping his beer up, Luka took a deep swallow before returning it to the table and standing.

"I'm coming, Baby." Working his way around the clusters of party-goers, it only took him a moment to hone in on the current source of his eldest child's misery. Jasna and several other girls close to her age, had chosen a spot not far from the table that held the birthday cake and other refreshments to play with their dolls. Unfortunately, they hadn't counted on an unwelcome addition to their playgroup, and a not too clean one at that.

"Marko...stop it." Luka reached the small group just as his four year old daughter was preparing to hit her baby brother over the head with her doll, and he quickly scooped him up and out of harm's way as the toy just missed him, despite the cry of protest that followed.

"Jasna, no hitting." He offered the chastisement before leaning down and kissing the top of her head. "Play nice." It was only as he straightened to return to his friends that he noticed the chocolate that covered not just his son but, now him as well.

"What'd you do, fall in the chocolate ice cream?" Whether it was the question itself, how it was asked, or just Luka's expression he'd never know, but, it was enough to send Marko and the group of girls into a fit of giggling.

He would never know how it was that he'd been able to salvage the photo of Danijela and Jasna from their apartment after the bombing, yet none of Marko could be found. Even as he mourned the losses of everything except that one small photograph, he found he could close his eyes and in an instant he was back at the birthday party. Even more amazing though was the clarity of which he could call up that image of his son, chocolate on his face and hands, a smile forever captured on his face.

How could he not return to that day if he were ever given that chance?

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 495
We've decided to leave Chicago, for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our family, we've decided we have to start fresh. It wasn't an easy decision, but, when Abby and I sat down and looked at all we had been through, when we looked at where we were with our marriage and our lives, and where we wanted to be, we realized we had no choice. If there was going to be any hope for us moving past the things that had happened over this last year, we have to to start over again.

I'm not exactly sure how we decided on Boston, though now that we have I find myself looking forward to it. Before that can happen, we must first say good-bye to things here in Chicago, and that means packing up the apartment and saying good-bye to the friends we've made while working at County.

I've been in Chicago for almost 9 years, and in that time I've only lived three places, when I first arrived I was what they called a "moonlighter." I worked at County only when they were short a doctor and I lived on a boat, as the weather turned, I pulled up anchor, and like the birds, I headed south. I think in a way, it allowed me in those early years I was in the States, to keep a connection to some of the happier memories I had of life back in Croatia.

When I made the decision to settle permanently in Chicago, and sold the boat, I moved into one of the downtown hotels, which seems strange to most people, but, for me it was a good deal. In exchange for me acting as an in house doctor for any guests or staff who needed one, and they gave me a discounted room rate. So, being single, I got not just a place to stay, but, room, maid, and laundry services. It seemed like a perfect arrangement for both of us.

When I first found the apartment we have now it was just a huge empty space. I remember when I the first real furnishings I bought for it in fact were my Sony Play Station and a large aquarium, coincidentally, it was also at that same time that Abby and I broke up the first time we were dating. In a way I think I used the renovation of the apartment as a means for me to keep distracted, but, it didn't work real well, and I went through some very dark times in that year including my making the decision to go to the Congo, which almost cost me my life.

I don't think their would ever be any doubt that the two bedroom apartment was decorated by a man, it's colors are mostly earth tones, and it leans heavily to dark greens. Except for the short period of time that first Nicole, then Sam and Alex stayed here, I'd always lived here alone. I opened my door to Abby the first time before we started seeing each other again. When one of her neighbors attacked her and she didn't feel safe in her own apartment, it made sense for me to me to make the offer, but, it wasn't until she'd broken up with Carter, and I with Sam that she started spending more time here again. As we became more serious and she learned she was pregnant, it seemed like the right time for Abby to move into my apartment and in time Neela moved into hers.

Now though, it's time to let it go, it's time for us to let all of this go. There are too many things here that we both need to forget and we can't do that if we are constantly surrounded by reminders of the mistakes we've made. I can't say I won't miss the apartment, it's been my first real home since the one I had with Danijela all those years ago, but this one was always mine, and now it's time that Abby and I got one that is ours. Yeah, it's more then time.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 784
Is there a situation where it's appropriate to be unkind?

Who is the one to decide what is or isn't unkind? What gives anyone the right to make that judgment call just by looking at another person's actions? How can you know what took place in the moments, days, weeks, months, or even years before the point that you are witnessing and deeming that individual "unkind?"

There have been many times in my life that someone likely saw me as such, times when I most probably would have strongly disagree and others when I would have used words far harsher to describe the place I had reached in my head.

I think of those days after my family died in Vukovar, the way people wanted to offer comfort, and how I shoved them away. I didn't want their sympathy, I didn't need their pity, neither of those things were going to bring Danijela or our babies back to me. I wanted the hatred that was welling in me, I needed to feel that anger because with my mind on that, I could forget how much pain I was in. Did that mean that the words I hurled at those who only thought to help me through those days was justified, to me it did, to them, likely not.

What of the violence I have been capable of in my life? I think of the death of the mugger, the threats I have made to those who have harmed those close to me, were any of those incidents justified, were my actions appropriate? The mugger, the wife beaters, the man who held a gun on my wife and child, who threatened me with death, yes, I was unkind, and if I had to live through those days again I am not sure that my actions would be any different.

I don't know that we can ever second guess ourselves, we do what we have to do because we have no choice. Life isn't always roses and sugar, life is blood, and violence, and sometimes it steals lives from those that have barely had a chance to taste it, and that isn't appropriate either.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 356
Name three things that you're looking forward to in the near future and why.

As I look back over this last year, there is no denying that Abby and I both made our share of mistakes. I'm not sure that either of us saw what we were doing at the time it was happening, and as easy as it would be to use that as an excuse, I'm not saying it for that reason. I don't think there is any doubt in Abby's or my mind that we want to fix the parts of our marriage that are broken, and regardless of the difficulties we've had, the love we feel for each other remained. I think it's that which is allowing us now to take this next step, the step we know will restore what the last year has stolen from us, but, more importantly allow us to finally look to the future.

If I were to pick the three most important things I was looking forward to, I would have to start with both Abby and I being able to share in Joe's growth. One of the most difficult things for me in his last year has been being separated from he and Abby, and I know she feels the same, having experienced a similar separation when I took him to Croatia with me. I think about the six months of time I lost with Joe, how I left this little baby when I went to take care of my father, and I returned to find this little person. I wasn't there for his first step, and I don't want to miss anymore times like that. I didn't have a choice about being able to share in Jasna and Marko's lives, they were stolen from us before they had even had a chance to start living them. Even before that though, they were denied so many things because of the restrictions placed on them by the war. I never want Joe to know that kind of hardship, that kind of suffering, and I'll do anything I have to, to prevent that happening.

The next thing I'm looking forward to is starting over. Abby and I both have realized that we've done things that we shouldn't have done, and as long as we remain in Chicago, those reminders will always be hanging over us. Nothing we have here is worth our marriage, our friends, our jobs, our home, all those can be replaced and so, we've decided it's time to move away from Chicago. Of course, my first thought was to take Abby and Joe back to Croatia, but I know that wouldn't be fair to them since the point of moving is to start fresh, and I can't do that among the reminders of Danijela and my father. No, the place we choose will be new to both Abby and I, allowing us to start with clean slates and enabling us to work on strengthening the bond between us.

If I had to pick a third thing I was looking forward to after reconnecting with my wife and son, it would be doing the same with my brother, Niko. When I originally came to the United States, he had accused me of running away from my life. It was not long after the War, I had lost my wife, my 5 year old daughter, and my 18 month old son during the siege of Vukovar, and while I myself had survived, the emotional toll on me was devastating. I had barely escaped the City with my life when it fell, and only learned later that many of those at the hospital I had worked at were killed in a massacre. But,I was one of the lucky ones, I escaped, and I'd spent several months in a displaced person's camp before finally returning to my father's home to recover. I couldn't stay there though, there were too many memories, too much pain, too much grief, and through it all, my brother's anger at me because I was running away. It took our father's illness for us to heal the wounds that had festered between us for over 15 years, and now that he has died, I don't want to lose my brother again. I want Niko to be part of my family, more importantly, I want Abby and Joe to know the big brother I grew up with. I love Niko, and I don't know that I realized how much I missed him until I was back with him again. I'm so glad my father was able to see that we had reconciled before he died. I know it was something that meant a lot to him, and I know I would never have forgiven myself if I'd thought we had denied him that final wish.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 707
"Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live." Haruki Murakami.

"One, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe." Over and over despite his own weariness.

"Breathe for Tata, Jasna...breathe, one, two, three." Even as he forced more air into his young daughter's mouth he realized the hopelessness in the act, she was gone. The cry of grief found it's way from him before he collapsed over her in exhaustion. No, not his little girl too.

"One, two, three, breathe." From somewhere he found the strength to begin the compressions again, even as his mind screamed to him the futility of the act. His wife and baby son were already gone, he couldn't lose his little girl too.

"Come on, Jasna, please, please, baby, breathe." His own breathing seemed to come in shallower breaths as the smoke from burning fires hovered in the ruins of what had been their home.

"One, two, three." He forced another breath into the small girl's mouth before sitting back on his heels, his gaze fixed on her chest.

"One breath for Tata, just one breath." As her chest remained still he knew the prayer would go unanswered and the tears he had fought so hard to hold back were at long last released. Leaning forward he lifted his daughter into his arms, cradling her close as he gave way to the grief of his failure. He'd lost them all. Ignoring the rubble beneath him he crawled over to where his wife had lay.

"I'm sorry, Danijela, I tried, I tried..." His voice broke as he settled his daughter in her mother's arms.

"I have to get Marko." Leaning forward he lay a kiss on first Jasna, and then his wife, hating to leave them but, hating more what was still to come. Turning away from them he forced himself to his feet, the crib had stood by the door, and it was there that their baby boy had lost his life. The sight of the toddler's hand reaching for help through the crib railings drew another cry from him, the pain ripping deeper then he had thought possible. Dropping to his knees he pulled broken wallboard and plaster aside, and it was only when the railing was completely clear that he paused.

"Marko." He whispered the toddler's name as he lifted the railing off of his small body. If not for some small scratches and the dust from being buried he could pretend he was asleep, but as he held him close he could feel the lie. His baby boy was gone, and he would never again see his smile, or hear his laugh. Climbing to his feet he carried his son back to where his wife and daughter lay, only to again kneel beside them as he reached them.

"I found him, Danijela...I found him." As he had with his daughter, he tucked his son into the safety of his mother's arms, only she could protect them now.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 489


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