"Once More, With Feeling"

This story can be read on its own or as a companion piece to Mrs.Eyre's wonderful story "Critical Path". Her story is told from Abby's POV and this is from Luka's. It follows her stories "Reconcilable Differences" and "Strings Attached" which are well worth reading if you haven't yet. Season 9 never happened, Carby did, but not like on the show. Luka never had his year of wild living or went to Africa.

My thanks to Mrs. Eyre for sharing her wonderful story and characters with me , much of the Abby/Luka dialogue is hers, with me adding in what Luka is thinking, there are some additional scenes scattered throughout. Thanks also to my readers Kate and Katalyn, the first like my mother thought everything was wonderful and the latter made me try harder, a great combination.

I found Luka wonderful to write, although he swears much more then I do, likes to drive fast cars, and well, damn him, he's more beautiful. There is some adult language.

All the usual disclaimers apply, and I must also credit Ivica (Tata), Damir and Tatijana to Mrs. Eyre. Hope you enjoy it!

************************************************************

"No Time Like the Present"

Abby. It's been a long strange ride. A disastrous year together, a fiery, hurtful break-up, then a reconnection, a rebuilding of sorts, that ended with her drinking . . . and Carter. But things can turn on a dime. They did one night when Abby showed up drunk at my apartment asking me to take her to bed. A rather inauspicious start, but a start it was. Oh, nothing happened that night, not between us. But something changed for Abby. She broke-up with Carter, went into rehab. Started doing things for herself, taking care of herself. When she came back from rehab, we struck up a friendship. We even managed to talk about our pasts, our relationship, to forgive and be forgiven one long night. It was clear whatever we felt was still there, even stronger then when we were together. Still neither one of us really knew what to do with it, where we should go next. Eventually I went to Croatia to think. I couldn't hurt Abby again, I had to know I had something worth giving her, that I was someone worth giving her. I made peace with my past, with my ghosts. By the time I got back, all I needed to know was that she wanted it too.

The night after my return she invited me over for dinner and she invited me into her life. We fell into bed, and into each other's lives with an ease that surprised me. Everything that hadn't worked did. And for the first three months it all just flowed. Then I made my first big mistake. My family came for a visit, my father, my brother, Damir and his wife Tatijana. And I didn't tell Abby. I just brought her to the restaurant and there they were. A complete blind side. What an idiot. I don't know why I did that. Fear I guess. And really fear of making her afraid. She's already so good at scaring herself. I thought she might call it quits right there, but she didn't. She ended up spending a day with my father, Ivica, which is more of a challenge then you might guess. She forgave me. I think she made a choice to take me, shit and all, and we went on, moved forward. After that, she was different, more confident, really just more there. She seemed to be finding herself in ways she never had before. There were times when she would get a wistful look on her face, seem far away. When I asked she always changed the subject, and I figured she'd tell me when she was ready. Which she did one night, but it wasn't what I was expecting not by a long shot.

Life is strange. We work and plan and think and worry about our future. But really it all changes in an instant. We sign the papers or we don't, we ask the question or not, we stay or we go. And then there's the other guy. Sometimes it's the nameless, faceless soldier a mile away pressing the button that changes your world in an instant, and sometimes it's the woman lying right next to you in the dark.

I hated staying at her place sometimes, the noise, the neighbors, alarms ringing. It was one of those nights. We lay in the dark and I began to complain saying we should have been at my place and how having two apartments was a waste. And then it just slipped out, the proposal. Of course I had thought about it for awhile, even before we got back together officially, I had thought about it. Sometimes I thought I would take her out to dinner, or cook something, the works, soft music, the ring, the bent knee, something Abby would never feel she deserved, but of course she did. After all we'd gone through, how we had almost never made it to this point, somehow fanfare didn't fit. Marrying Abby now was natural, like breathing, and so the proposal was more of a statement then a question. I can be an arrogant bastard, no?

"I mean we'll have to decide on one place when we're married."

Smooth huh?

I lay in the dark, listening her to her breathe, it seemed like a long pause, but I'm sure it was seconds rather then the minutes it felt like. My whole body was tense, and there was a knot growing in my gut, what if I had been wrong, what if she didn't feel what I was feeling, what if we were out of step again?

Her answer was smooth too. "Somewhere with a garden."

The knot released and I felt a rush of happiness, like when you're a kid and you are going to get that new bike that you always wanted and never thought you would have.

Where she took it then, was where I had never thought we would go. I had thought that I had thrown out the how do you say it? Showstopper? See I can be arrogant, but also a fool.

"Well . . we'll need somewhere for the kids to play, won't we?"

See how she did it, smoother then me. Like dropping a silent bomb, no noise just the impact right in your gut.

My mind shut down, but my body knew what to do, get out of there . . fast. Somehow I ended up at her table smoking down a cigarette, even though I don't smoke. Don't think the irony was lost on me, if I were a betting man, I would have thought the proposal would have seen us in the opposite roles. Her smoking, me sitting quietly watching, waiting.

I struggled to try to figure out why I didn't grab her and kiss her, hold her tight and tell her how happy she made me, but I didn't, I couldn't, I felt a lot of things but happy? No, not happy.

I reached for another cigarette and she pulled them away. She's talking now, and I'm struggling to still the voices in my head so I can hear what she's saying. I realize I'm a dolt for proposing and then running away like she has the plague for mentioning children, I try to apologize "I'm sorry" I stumble, ramble, doesn't really matter what I said.

She tells me to blame my father, she talks about taking risks if you want something badly. Here's the crux, ""If it's what who wants?" I hear myself ask. She reassures me its what she wants and then my body wants to move again, my mind can't keep up, I'm up and out of the house as fast as I can.

"I need to walk" I tell her, it's a lame excuse for walking out on her, but it's all I have, and she lets me go.

I get outside and the cold air smacks me in the face, its good, like a hard slap to bring me out of the fog I've been in.

Children? You think this is crazy, it's what I've wanted for years, even willing to take onanother man's children to fill the void. Now, I can have my own, what's your fucking problem Kovac?

But see, I put that part of my life away. When I was in Croatia, before being with Abby again, thinking things through trying to decide if there was a way for us, I decided to be with Abby, I had to be willing to give up the idea of children. It wasn't easy. I sat on the beach where I played as a child and I took out every memory of Jasna and Marko that I had. I looked at every moment, from Danijela telling me she was pregnant, her eyes glowing; lying with her, her belly swollen her face alight, feeling them kick; the days they were born, the sheer terror of seeing Danijela in pain, the joy holding their tiny, wet bodies in my hands; the nights I would wake up and find the baby sleeping between us. All of it, do you see how I looked at it all? Their first words, steps, ice cream, every moment and then I looked at all the moments I had been cheated out of .. . .teaching them to swim, drive, their wedding days. When I had done that I asked myself if I could give it all up to be with Abby and never have a moment of regret or doubt or blame. I realized that I could, that as crazy as it seems Abby was enough for me if she wanted me too. Most people never have what I had had so young. Abby was more then enough from here on out. I was sure, I was at peace. I had decided.

Now she was showing me how wrong one man can be. How had I not seen it? Is it possible for someone you love so much to change under your nose in ways you can't begin to fathom? Was she doing it to please me? Just now she said not when I asked at the table, but would she blame me later, if the worst happened? No not the worst, the worst had happened to Jasna and Marko, if the child wasn't perfect that wouldn't be the worst, of course children aren't perfect, they are who they are and we love them no matter what. Would a bipolar child bring us any less joy then one who wasn't? There would be challenges, but there always were of course. No child comes with any guarantees. Danijela and I were too young to understand all this, but now I understand far too much about "worst case scenarios". I didn't think about that happening again, there's some shit in life you just can't even consider.

Now I have a new question, a new choice not Abby or children, but no children or Abby's child. The answer to that question well it's easy. But no, I have to be rational, there can never be any regret or doubt or blame in this new scenario. I'll be logical weigh the pros and cons, make sure she understands all the risks. Now I'm laughing because of course there is no logic in bringing a child into this world. So I understand that like Abby I am willing to take the risk because whatever I told myself before I want it badly enough. I want to see Abby with her belly swollen with my child, feel it move, hold her hand with every contraction. I want to wake up at 2 a.m. to find our baby nuzzled between us, and I want it beyond anything rational. I feel warmth wash over me such as I haven't felt in what seems like a lifetime.

I walk home and my steps are quick and sure. When I reach the door, there is a second of hesitation, what will I find on the other side? Is Abby brooding and cold, dismayed that the man she just agreed to marry would walk away? Is she angry? What price will my fear bring me?

I find her in bed, she's pretending to be asleep, but I've watched her sleeping enough times to know when she's faking it. I run my finger along her eyelashes and hope for the best.

"Hey"

"Hey"

I apologize, lamely, but still,"I'm sorry I shouldn't have. . ."

"It's OK. I understand." So that's how it is, she is learning to forgive so easily, she can learn faster then I can adapt.

"Yes?" I ask, it might be ok for her, I'm not sure it's okay for me.

"It's all right. I should have talked to you properly, I just assumed . . I never expected to want . . but no, this is enough for me, us I mean, I probably shouldn't even – "

So this is how it is, her hard won prize cast aside without hesitation all on one word from me. Do you see how lucky I am? To be so loved, twice in a lifetime. My eyes sting.

Then I realize it's my turn to be kind, to be the grown-up, to surprise her.

"How many?" I say as if no time had passed from when she first mentioned the garden and children and it feels natural like taking the next breath.