Monday, May 7, 2007

Write about a time when you truly struggled./Talking Muses

Vukovar 1991

"Luka, are you awake?" Had it not been for the sound of Danijela's voice, Luka was sure he could have slept for much longer, but as her question roused him, he groaned and cracked an eye open.

"I am now."  It took him a moment more to realize that the reason he couldn't feel his arm was because his daughter was laying on it as she slept and a closer look at Danijela revealed that she similarly held their son in her arms.

"What time did the shelling stop?" His voice grew quieter as he attempted to avoid waking either of the children.

"I'm not sure, I fell asleep not long after you did." From where they lay on the floor she reached out to touch his hand, then followed it with a smile as he laced his fingers with hers.

"You're going to have to go out today aren't you?" The fear at what that meant was in her voice even as she tried to hold it back.

"I'm afraid so, the water is almost gone, and I should see what's in the market, maybe we'll luck out and get some cheese." He dropped his eyes to their daughter as she snuggled closer in her sleep.

"Jasna would love you forever, she's been complaining about the fact that all we've had this week is vegetables and bread." As much as she knew that Luka had no control over the hardships the family was suffering, she still found the blame reflecting in her voice.

"And Marko needs some milk. Luka, where are we doing to find any with as bad as things have been this week?" Despite her efforts to maintain her composure the hold began to slip.

"I'll find something, it'll likely be canned, but, if I need to do the water run too I had better get started. I'll do the market queue's first, that way I'll have those covered before they start running out of things."  Biting his lip, he eased his pinned arm out from under the sleeping five year old as he finished talking.

"Why don't you see if you can get a little more sleep before they wake up, as rough as things were last night you could use it." After brushing a kiss on Jasna's forehead he moved over to do the same to their infant son Marko.

"You'll be careful?" The moment the words left her mouth she regretted them, not so much for what they were but for the fear that she might be tempting the danger they knew was already too real, to come even closer.

"Danijela, don't'll be all right." After moving over and giving her a lingering kiss he got to his feet, you know I know the risks, I see the results everyday, but I have to go, and it doesn't help to worry about it every time I go out." He hated the harshness that seemed to carry through in his words, and he forced a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes as he finished.

"I'll keep my eyes open, I can't do anymore then that. Okay?" He remained standing over her until he received her nod of acceptance.

"All right, I'd better get going, I love you, kiss the kids for me when they wake up." If she had more to say she would have to save them for later, for as soon as he finished he started for the kitchen to gather up the various containers that would hold their water over the next several days. Already she could feel the tightening in her chest and she knew there it would stay until the moment he came back through the apartment door. Fear was a fact of war, fear was a constant part of her life, of their lives, for each other, for their children, for their future. 

When would it all end?


Sunday, May 6, 2007

May 005:Sea/Artistic License

As I lay here watching Abby sleep I find myself wishing I could take her and Joe back to Croatia. Maybe it was talking to my father on the phone after the wedding and realizing how much I missed seeing him, or maybe it was something in his voice that wasn't said. I just know it's been too long since I was back, and I find myself longing for too many things. From the sound of my own language in my ear as I pass people on the street, to the smells of the sea as I sit on the pebbled shore and watch the sunset, it's calling me back.

When I left all those years ago I was sure I would never go back, the only memories it let me see then were ones of sadness and loss. But time has a way of healing things, even when you don't want to believe it possible and gradually I've begun to remember the good times more then the bad. I want Joe to know his Grandfather, to experience the joys I knew as a child, and maybe too, it's time I go back to the one place I never thought I would visit again.

I think it's important for Abby and Joe to see Vukovar, to walk the streets that were so key to making me who I am. I want to show them where I once thought my life had ended, the places where our apartment and the hospital stood. More importantly, I want to take them to the cemetery, I need them to meet those who meant so much to me and who I've finally been able to put to rest after all of these years.

It's's time.

177/Who has made you smile recently?/Theatrical Muse

I love her, and all I need to do is look at her and I can't help but smile.  She's everything to me now, my wife, the mother of my son, and without her, and all she has given me back I am nothing.

Abby and I have come so far in the eight years we have known each other.  From the first kiss she stole from me outside in the ambulance bay, to our decision to finally walk down the aisle, a walk that ensures that we will grow old together, she found a way to complete me.

I can't help but think of all we have been through on the road to reaching this place.  The tears that were shed, the words spoken in anger that could never be called back, the long hours in the NICU as we worried over whether Joe would live or die, that fateful night with Curtis Ames. Maybe we needed those times to show us just how strong our love was, if we could survive things as devastating as what we were forced to overcome we had to know we could survive anything.

I look at Abby now and all I see on her face is joy and happiness, and I wonder how I could ever have told her she couldn't know how to be happy. I can't say for sure who is responsible for giving us this second chance, for giving us Joe, and the life we'll have with him.  I do know that this is the life I was afraid I would never know, but it's here and every moment I'm with Abby and Joe is one that brings a smile to my face, and I can't think of anything more perfect then that.

9A What makes you laugh? /Canon Muses

There was a time when I thought I would never laugh again.  I had wrapped myself in a shroud of grief and mourning and I walked through life in a daze. I lived with a cloud hovering over me, one that kept me in a darkness of my own making, one that blocked even the slightest glimpse of sunlight, because I was sure I deserved nothing more. I had convinced myself that I had failed my family, that I had killed them and my punishment for that was a life void of the joy that being with them had brought me.

Time has a way of changing things though, whether we realize it or not, and one day without my even noticing, that cloud disappeared.  Over the years I began finding the person who had married Danijela all those years ago.  I discovered the man who had been father to Jasna and Marko hadn't been buried with them as I'd always thought he had been, he'd only been lost, so very, very lost.

I laugh easily now, at the smallest little things, like at the apricots that seem to end up everywhere when Joe feeds himself. Or at the smile that greets me no matter how long it's been since he last saw me. 

I can't say I'll be the same father to Joe that I was to Jasna and Marko. I'm older, and I've seen so much more then he ever did, but I'll be a good father, and I'll love him every bit as much as I loved them.  I think that's all that matters when it comes down to it, and one day, when he's old enough, I'll tell him about the brother and sister he'll never meet, and maybe we can laugh together over those things which I'd laughed about all those years ago.



8C: Pain Quote/Canon Muses

"Pain is your friend, your ally it will tell you when you are seriously injured. It will keep you awake and angry and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain? .... it lets you know you're not dead yet. Viggo Mortensen (Master Chief John Urgayle) in G.I. Jane

"We need to let the paramedics check you over." The officers who had escorted Luka off the roof had allowed he and Abby a few moments for their reunion, but, having seen what they had, they knew too that he was in need of medical care, whether he would admit to it or not.

"Luka, what's wrong, your face."  For the first time Abby really looked at him, bringing a hand up to touch lightly the bruise from the gun-butt on his face.

"Abby, don't" Luka winced, then gasped as she inadvertently brushed against his hand as well.

"What?' His eyes dropped immediately to his hand as he pulled it back and tight against his body.

"Oh my God, Luka, your hand...what did he do to you?" As she reached out to take hold of it for a closer look he took a step back from her.

"No, don't." He shook his head, concealing the damage from her with his good hand.

"Dr. Kovac, the paramedics are waiting."  The officer touched his arm, then motioned toward the waiting ambulance.

"This way." Keeping hold of Luka with one hand he turned to Abby.

"They'll have to take him to the hospital, my partner will give you a ride in, I need to get your husband's story before he forgets anything. He'll be fine." Without giving her a chance to argue he turned his attention back to Luka.

"I don't need to go to the hospital, I just want to go home." He wanted to be anywhere but here.

"It's procedure, you have to go in, look at your hand, come on." Registering the state of what was clearly shock settling in on the man's face he applied more pressure into his pull as he initiated the move toward where the paramedics waited.

"You were could have been a lot worse..." The words offered little comfort as Luka started the slow walk with him. So many emotions were surfacing, intermingling with the pain, but none quite as strong as the fear of just how bad the damage was and what it could mean to his future.  If this was what Ames had planned for him it was working.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

7C: Experience Quote: Canon Muses

"Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him." Aldous Huxley

It was too hot to sleep, it didn't matter that he had been on his feet for close to twenty hours straight, and it didn't matter that likely he would do the same come morning. Taking a drag off the cigarette he held, Luka pulled the smoke deep into his lungs and found himself wishing it was something stronger.

"Dr. Luka, you should get some sleep." He turned at the sound of Patrique's voice in the darkness then shook his head as the man moved to stand beside him.

"I will." He held the cigarette up so it could be seen.

"Just finishing this. Why aren't you sleeping?" He took another pull before looking over at him again.

"I was just making sure everything was stocked for the morning clinic, we will have many patients I think." He grew silent as he finished, weighing his next words carefully.

"Dr. Luka, may I ask you something?" Where he had only been halfway listening when he started talking Luka found something in the question drawing his full attention and he turned to him before responding.

"Of course." He took a final drag on the cigarette before letting it drop and crushing it under his boot.

"Many who come here, cannot take what they see, but you, it is different for you." He stopped short of asking the reason for that, but the question was left hanging in the darkness nonetheless, and neither man could ignore it.

"'s different" Luka sighed, then rubbed his hand across the stubble of beard on his face.

"When I was young...still a medical student, my Country went to war, you don't want to believe it can happen to you, I mean, it only happens other places right?" He flicked his tongue over his lips as his mouth grew increasingly drier.

"It doesn't matter how much they teach you, nothing can prepare you for a child who has had their leg blown off, or for trying to treat patients when you don't have electricity or running water. Until you see it first-hand you can't really know what it's like, and then it's too late, because by then you know that no matter what you do, how hard you work, it'll all happen again, and all that changes is the location." His voice had grown quieter the longer he spoke and his gaze had traveled out across the compound, though he didn't really seem to be seeing it.

"Dr. Luka?" Patrique touched his arm as he went silent.

"Go to sleep Patrique, I'm going to smoke another cigarette, then I'll try to get some rest myself, I promise." He fished the pack from his pocket as he finished and tapped a filter free, only to slide it between his lips, letting the match illuminate his profile for the few seconds it took to ignite it.

"You won't stay out too long?" The man watched him for a moment before moving.

"No...not too long." Luka looked away from the man then took a pull on the cigarette as he listened to the sound of his retreating footsteps, if only his words were true.


"Ashes and ghosts are all around me"/ Ineffable Fandom

"Danijela, Marko mrtva..." Gillian looked over at the hospital bed as she heard Luka's voice, then rose and went to his side as she saw him struggling to free himself of the bedding that he had somehow gotten tangled in.

"Luka, shhh." Brushing his damp bangs off of his forehead, she frowned, his fever was spiking again, the malaria still riding it's peaks and valleys as it raged through his weakened body. She should call his doctor in, see if they wanted to increase his medication, but that would mean leaving him alone with whoever haunted his dreams and she couldn't do that.

"There's no one one here but me, Luka." She whispered the words, unsure whether he would hear her or not as she pulled the sweat soaked linens free.

"Marko...mrtva." When his eyes flickered open she tried to smile, but found instead tears coming as he seemed unable to recognize her.

"I don't understand."  Luka, it's Gillian...I don't know who Marko is, there's no one else here but us." Reaching for a towel she dampened it, then wiped his face with it, hoping it might break into the fever enough to allow him to at least recognize his surroundings.

"Don't cry." It took her a moment to realize he had spoken to her, and she moved closer as she saw him lift his hand to wipe the tear that had fallen from her cheek.

"Am I that bad?" He managed a weak smile of his own as he let his hand drop to the covers.

"No." She shook her head before leaning down to kiss him.

"I think you were dreaming, but it didn't make any sense to me." Gillian pulled her chair over by the bed so she could sit as she began to explain.

"What did I say?" A crease formed between Luka's brows at his question.

"Luka, I don't know, it was just a few words, maybe a name...Marko?" Gillian frowned as the news seemed to erase the spark that had surfaced in him.

"Talk to me, Luka." She reached for his hand with the request, only to find disappointment as he pulled away from her physically as well.

"I need to rest...please." Turning his face away from her scrutiny, Luka closed his eyes, why now?  It wasn't until he heard the sound of Gillian rising and her footsteps as she left the room that he opened his eyes again to find himself alone, but, he wasn't alone, not really.  He released a sigh with the realization. 

"You're always here aren't you?"  He voiced the question aloud as if he expected those long gone to be able to answer.

"Always part of me..." The words trailed off as he closed his eyes again and allowed himself to be drawn back into his past. Back to Vukovar, to the smell of the fires that still burned in the ruined apartment building. Back to the ghosts of his family, of his wife and small children taken too soon from him.


"I used to think..."/Talking Muses

I used to think...I'd spend the rest of my life alone.  After all, I couldn't possibly reclaim the experience of holding my child in my arms, or find anyone who made me feel the joy of just being in their presence the way that Danijela did. 

How could I have been so wrong?

When you lose someone to war, or to a violent death it blinds you.  You become so obsessed with the act of how they were lost that you lose the ability to see anything beyond that, or at least it was that way with me for a very long time.  I can't say exactly what changed, or even why it did, only that it did, and because of that I was given a second chance at living, at loving.

This week marked a turning point in my life, the accomplishment of a goal I thought I would never again experience.  Slowly, over the last year Abby and I found our way back to each other, we discovered that the love we had shared was stronger then any differences we might have had in the past, and powerful enough to support the addition of a child. Only one final test remained and that barrier was crossed this week when Abby and I were wed. 

I think Danijela would approve