As the alarm clock sounded Luka's arm snaked out from under the blankets and patted it's way along the nightstand, seeking to silence it without his having to fully come awake. When it's ringing suddenly stopped on it's own before he had found it he surfaced only to groan and squint in the sudden brightness of the new day.
"Luka, I'm sorry, I meant to shut it off when I got up with Joe." Abby's apology came as she stood beside the bed, the alarm in one hand and Joe on her hip. "Why don't you go back to sleep, it's still early."
"Mornin," what time is it?" He smothered a yawn with the question before smiling in response to the toothless grin that he was receiving from his son as the small boy saw his father for the first time that morning. "Hey, Joe."
"You want him?" Realizing the answer even as she asked the question Abby returned the clock to the table then took a seat on the bed and handed the baby over. "It's six, to answer you question. What time did you get in?" She managed to sneak a kiss in around Joe before tucking one foot under the other thigh as she watched the two men in her life.
"I think it was around three, we had a pretty serious pile-up come in just after midnight and it really backed things up." As he spoke he turned over so Joe could sit on his stomach.
"What are you so happy about, little man? Mama get you all fed did she?" He tickled the baby's belly which prompted more giggling on the infant's part. "You going to let Tata go back to sleep? Hmm, are you? What are you laughing at?" He lifted him up in the air which brought on even more laughter from him.
"He's such a happy baby." Abby offered the observation from where she watched the two. "You should let me take him though so you can sleep. Don't worry, you'll still have time to spend with him before you have to go in when you get back up."
"I used to not mind night shifts, but, that all changes when you have kids." Luka shifted his attention to Abby, though he kept half an eye on Joe as he discovered the chain to his crucifix.
"Did you have to work many nights when you had Jasna and Marko?" The ground she was treading on was dangerous, but, she'd been finding it becoming less so since Joe's birth.
"It just depended on how bad things were, in the beginning we traded off so you might work one week of nights and then have two or three weeks off, then repeat, later, it depended how bad the shelling was." He found it harder to look at her as he spoke, and if anything found himself seeing his other children in Joe's face.
"Everything was so different then, I think about how much you enjoy taking Joe to the park, and then I think about all the times Jasna and Marko begged me to let them just go outside for a little while and I couldn't. What kind of a life was that for them, locked up in that little apartment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? He pried the crucifix out of Joe's grasp as he started to chew on it then kissed him. "You can't eat eat that, Joe."
"I'm sorry, Luka, I know it must have been hard for you, for Danijela too, but what else could you have done, you wanted to keep them safe."
"We wanted to, but we couldn't, we didn't..I didn't." The guilt and self-blame immediately changed the mood in the room.
"Luka, don't...it was a long time ago, and there was nothing you or Danijela could have done more then what you did. You're a wonderful father now, and I know you were a wonderful father then, and a wonderful husband to Danijela, that's all that's important and all you need to remember. They loved you, you loved them, remember and cherish the good times you had with them. It's time to let the rest of it go...it's time. Now, let me take Joe, and you try and go back to sleep." Climbing off the bed she leaned over him and gave him a kiss before relieving him of their son.
"Now, try and go back to sleep, okay?" She offered him a small smile, hating that the conversation had taken the turn it had, but at the same time glad that he was beginning to open up to her.
"All right...I'll try." He returned her smile with a small one of his own as he released Joe, then turned over on his side. She was right, it was time to let the guilt he still carried finally be laid to rest, but, that didn't make it an easy thing to do. He breathed a weary sigh with the realization, it would come...one day.
Muse: Luka Kovac