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A perfect storm: three fronts collided over Lake Michigan after a
warmer-than-normal autumn and snow was falling at a tremendous rate.
It was two weeks before Christmas and all through Chicago, the
merchants were sticking pins into dolls resembling local weather
forecasters. The city was at a standstill. Nothing was moving except
for snow plows and the odd emergency vehicle. Even shop-a-holic
cybernauts were affected. On-line commerce relies on trucks and
delivery persons to convey purchases to their owners---with the
airports closed, UPS and Federal Express were rendered useless.

The staff at Cooke County General Hospital had hung their stockings,
tinsel, and lights with care. It wasn't as if they had anything else
to do. After the first ten hours, vehicular traffic all but ceased.
Parked and abandoned cars cannot run into anything or anyone. Stores
were closed and criminals, who'd looked forward to the wallets of
distracted shopping "pigeons" as their Christmas bonus, were staying
put. There was no one to mugg. Burgulars didn't bother to leave their
own domiciles because their victims too, were at home. Those who
succumbed to cabin fever and beat their spouses or children, did so
without interference from the police and EMTs. Chicago was a ghost

In preparation for the inundation of post-thaw "customers" most of
the ER staff was at work. They'd been called in before the roads
became impassable. Better to be trapped at County than otherwise.
Scattered power outages made Chicago's hospitals some of the only
sure sources of electricity and heat. On-line card games, Trivial
Pursuit, and a two-day poker marathon kept most of the staff busy
after they'd cleaned the treatment and trauma rooms to within inches
of their lives. The medical supplies were nestled, all snug in their
storage rooms. Apart from homeless men and women who managed to
somehow stagger in, or the occasional stranded hypothermic motorist
rescued by the plowing crews, not a creature was stirring.

Carter put on his down parka, watch cap and went out to the ambulance
bay to smoke a cigarette. He'd been at County for almost three days,
and the snow was still falling. The city was silent. John lit up and
watched the white flakes flying around the lights. Despite their
constant vigilence with snow shovels, the bay was covered by about a
foot of the stuff. Luka was on his way to work. A friendly snow plow
crew would be giving him a lift. John tossed his butt into the snow
and turned to go in when he stopped. He thought he'd heard something.

It sounded like a baby crying. Peering into the white-out, John
couldn't see anyone. The sound died away. Figuring it was probably
the wind, John turned once more to go back inside. There it was
again. Pulling on his gloves, he went to find where the noise was
coming from. As he wandered around the parking lot, he didn't see any
footprints other than his own. He uncovered his ears, not sure where
to look and heard the sound for the third time. It was coming from
the trash area containing five huge dumpsters covered with mounds of
snow. Squinting, John observed the receptacle closest to the street
had less accumulation on it than the others; indicating it had been
opened recently.

He swiftly lifted the heavy plastic lid and began rummaging through
the bags of trash. All was quiet. He was about to give up when he
heard a feeble cry. John tossed more bags out onto the ground,
revealing an infant covered in newspaper, lying near the rear wall of
the receptacle. John stripped off his parka and used it to wrap the
shivering little body. Holding the now silent child close to his
chest, he ran back to the hospital. How on earth had she survived?

Entering the warm building made his eyes water. "Hey guys, we've got
a patient! Somebody abandoned a baby!" His colleagues surrounded him
as he headed for Trauma One. "Get warming blankets!" John put the
child down and unwrapped it. It was a baby girl. She was barely
breathing. John pulled his shirt tails out of his trousers and
hastily stuffed the child under his clothing, next to his skin. She
felt as cold as ice. Rubbing the little back, John breathed onto her
head and face as Connie arrived with the warming blankets.

She lifted John's sweater and motioned for him to sit as she covered
his chest with the blanket. John unbuttoned his shirt and transferred
the still form into the blanket, re-wrapping her. He put her onto the
table as Cleo Finch prepared to administer a heated saline solution
to warm the infant from the inside out. While she worked, John rubbed
the tiny hands and feet. There was no evidence of frostbite. She
couldn't have been out there for very long.

"Hey Dave, why don't you and some of the guys look around? Her mother
may still be out there."

"Sure thing, Carter. Any excuse to go play in the snow." Dave, Malik,
and two orderlies went to get dressed for the search. The ng tube had
been inserted and Cleo started the saline solution. As the warm salty
mixture entered the child's stomach, her color improved. John was
still gently stimulating her circulation.

"Her heart rate sounds fine. Body temperature is coming up nicely."
Cleo commented after a while. Suddenly, the little one began to
whimper. "Her lungs are in good working order.", Cleo grinned. "Was
there any identification on her, Carter?"

"No, and I didn't waste time looking for it."

"Quite right. We can search later. In this weather, I don't think our
scheduled trash pick-up will be made before we can get around to
hunting for it. Let's see if you'll feel better when this tube is
taken out." Cleo carefully extracted the tiny naso-gastric tube and
picked up the child. "For a baby you sure make a lot of noise, don't
you?" The crying didn't stop.

"Let me try." Lydia offered. She took the small warm bundle and began
to rock her, making shushing noises. The baby wasn't soothed. John
stood and watched as the other nurses tried to calm the squalling
infant with no success.

"I'll take her." He heard himself say. He hadn't spent much time with
babies since his paeds rotation. Nevertheless, he managed to hold her
correctly. Everyone was surprised when she stopped crying immediately.

"You haven't lost your touch, Carter." Haleh grinned. "And she's not
even blonde."

"Haven't you heard? I'm married to a brunette." Carter said softly as
the baby closed her eyes.

* * * * *

Luka grabbed a satchel with changes of clothing for himself and John.
He wasn't really needed at County, but after three days of being
cooped up alone in their apartment, he missed his husband. Pausing to
make sure everything was turned off, he remembered to leave a trickle
of water running in the sink to make sure the pipes didn't freeze.
Rather than risk being trapped in the elevator by a power outage, he
ran down the stairs to the lobby. Two years ago, he'd undergone open-
heart surgery. Now, the only thing wrong with his heart was John's

The concierge and security guard were dozing. Only a doctor, a
lunatic, or a lunatic doctor in love would have ventured out into a
full-scale blizzard. His massive "taxi" arrived and Luka scrambled
into the front squeezing next to the driver. "You're right on time,
Doc. Next stop, Cooke County General."

The windshield wipers were of little use in the swirling
precipitation. Their progress was slow. Abandoned vehicles would loom
out of the darkness. One street was completely blocked. It took
almost an hour to make a trip which in summer would have taken twenty
minutes. Luka thanked his "chauffeur" and headed for the bay doors.
The lobby was deserted. Had County been closed?

During phone calls to John, he'd heard the sounds of laughter and
recorded music in the background as the staff amused themselves. Now,
all was still. Shrugging, he went to the lounge. It too, was
deserted. Removing his coat, hat, and boots, Luka put on his lab
coat. He smiled at the blue embroidery on the pocket: Dr. Luka A.
Carter-Kovac. He grabbed his stethoscope and went to find his
husband, John Truman Kovac-Carter.

They'd been married for a little over five years. Their relationship
had matured as they grew older. Luka was a contented man; good at his
job, blessed with friends; and at the end of his shifts he went home
with, or to, a loving and generous-hearted partner. Despite two major
crises, and the odd domestic fracas, the bond that united them
remained strong as ever. They made a good couple because they both
worked at it.

When they first met, both men were seeing psychiatrists regularly as
a result of traumatic events in their pasts. A year ago, John and
Luka reached the point where they could dispense with their doctors'
services. Luka observed there was nothing like a brush with death to
bring you to your senses. They argued rarely, recognizing that
differences of opinion or being out of sync with each other
emotionally could be better handled by discussion and the adult
equivalent of "time outs." If one partner was sulky or out of sorts,
he informed his mate who left him alone to get over it.

Luka was approaching forty gracefully. His dark hair had yet to show
any gray. He now wore glasses for reading which John found incredibly
sexy. In lieu of regular workouts at a gym, they took the stairs
whenever possible and walked to work three times a week. John's
youthful good looks had always belied his age. He worked with weights
at home to build up his musculature. Although he would never be able
to win the Mr. Universe pageant, his efforts toned and defined his
slender build. Shortly after their third anniversary, he'd been made
an attending trauma physician. He passed his board exams with flying
colors. Their celebration lasted most of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Noises. Following the sound, Luka went into Trauma One and stopped in
the doorway. The lights were all but out. Dr. Finch, Connie, Haleh,
Lydia, Malucci, and Malik were all standing, watching John Carter who
was seated in a chair holding a baby in his arms. When Carter looked
up at Luka, his friends finally got to see the smile Luka regarded as
his own private treasure. Now, it was different; deeper and if
possible, more joyous. Luka came forward quietly, swallowing past a
lump in his throat. John looked at him in the same way Marije had on
that happy afternoon when Anja was put into her arms for the first

"Isn't she beautiful?" John whispered. At the sound of his voice, the
baby smiled in her sleep. She was clutching the third finger of
John's left hand.

Luka gently moved a fold of the warming blanket so he could get a
better look. She had dark hair that curled over the tops of her ears.
Cool air on her face caused her to open a pair of brown eyes as dark
as those belonging to the man who held her. It was a miracle, Luka
thought. The little one could have been his own Solje as she rested
in her mother's arms.

"Hello, small one." Luka said quietly. The baby's eyes focused on the
handsome face above her own and she smiled again.

"She's got good taste." John grinned and kissed Luka's cheek. "How
was your trip in?"

"It's going to take at least a month for them to clear the streets.
They look like parking lots." "Where are the baby's parents?"

"We don't know. I went outside to smoke and heard her crying. Someone
had put her in one of our dumpsters." John's voice remained calm and
soothing despite his harsh frown.

"Merciful God. They must have been insane." Luka kept his voice low,
but he was also upset. That anyone would willingly throw away a child
was the height of madness. "How is she doing?"

"Remarkably well considering. She's about two months old. Slightly
malnourished. Her blood work came back just before you got in. No
drugs or alcohol in her system. She's HIV-negative. And she aced her
Ackbar exam, didn't you?" John smiled down at the drowsy
child. "Since we don't know who she belongs to, I ordered a DNA
mapping for later. It'll be my Christmas present to her. That way, if
she's prone to any genetic disorders, Child Welfare Services will

"Good idea. Lydia, is Al at work?" Luka asked.

"You bet. I've told him to alert Missing Persons. Considering her
relatively good condition, she might be the victim of a kidnapping."

A pediatric nurse came in with a wheeled basinette. "I hear you folks
have a baby? I've come to take her upstairs."

John slowly stood and reluctantly handed the child to the nurse. The
baby began crying again. The nurse jiggled her to no avail.

"Luka?" John nodded towards the baby. Luka took the infant who
immediately stopped crying. Tears in his eyes, Luka kissed the small
head. Something inside of him which had lain dormant since he buried
his family, stirred into life as he held the baby girl. Carter always
thought Luka was handsome. In more intimate moments, his face became
beautiful. Now, everyone could see it. "Nurse Roberts, we'll take her
upstairs with you." John said as the three of them left the room;
Luka holding the small bundle

"Well if that don't beat everything." Haleh observed drily. The ER
staff had been watching as John had bathed and diapered the infant
while Connie talked him through the procedure. Carter's gentleness
with patients was not new to his colleagues. Nevertheless, they could
see he'd handled the infant with exagerrated care.

"Carter's a goner." Dave Malucci grinned. "Luka's got himself a

"And baby makes three..." Lydia agreed laughing. If Carter's that
proud of her Ackbar scores, I can't wait to see him when she takes
the SATs." *

"Let's get Jerry's book." Malik suggested. "Date, weight, and height
of the baby when they officially adopt her."

"You guys aren't serious?" Cleo Finch was surprised. Two men? And a

"Put me down for twenty." Connie chuckled.

"You really think Child Welfare Services is going to hand that child
over to two men who are living together?" Dr. Finch accepted John and
Luka's relationship, but had never given any real thought to its

"Sure. Why not?" Dave grinned. "Luka's been a father before. He can
teach his husband all he needs to know about diapers and stuff like
that. Besides, her other daddy has got more money than God. No way
this kid's going to end up on the social rolls... the social
register, maybe when she makes her debut..."

"Yeah and both dads are doctors: trauma experts. What's not to like?"
Haleh added.

"I know, but what if their relationship doesn't work out?"

"Come on, Dr. Finch. They've been together for almost six years. If
Carter's grand-dad and the Justice Department can't bust those two
up, nothing's gonna. Fifty years from now, they'll be in Boca Raton,
sipping prune daiquiris and single-handedly keeping the Viagra folks
in business. Besides they're both Catholics; no divorce remember?"
Malucci said.

"Okay, okay. I see your point. But the Child Welfare folks might not
be so open-minded." Cleo reminded them.

"Let's get the book!" Malik led the crew to the deserted admit desk.
John and Luka's friends had no doubts about what the couple would do.

* * * * *

The baby had been fed by Luka and John put her into the see-through
basinette. "Now go to sleep, Kitten. We'll be right downstairs." John
bent over and kissed the child. He straightened up and smiled at Luka
who thought he'd never seen anything so beautiful.

They rode down in the elevator saying nothing. Luka took John into
his arms and kissed him. When the doors opened, both men were
dizzy. "Come on, Janaskja. Let's find something to do." Luka nipped
John's ear as Malucci rounded the corner, whistling Brahm's
Lullaby. "Dr. Dave, if you need us, page us."

"Sure thing, guys." Dave grinned. He figured Luka wouldn't waste any
time. It had been three days since the couple had been together.

John and Luka headed to the room John had been using during his three-
day shift. Luka shoved the two beds together as John began to
undress. "John, your pants are soaking wet." Luka looked down.

"Yeah. I totally forgot. I was outside looking for the baby. One
snowdrift was up to my waist. I meant to change once we'd revived

John pulled his pants off shivering only partly from the cold. Luka
pulled off the sweater and shirt and held John close. "That's much
better." John murmured into Luka's chest then kissed the top of the
faint scar left from Luka's open-heart surgery. It never failed to
make him shudder, remembering the sight of the rib-spreader being
removed from his husband's body. He'd been so close to losing the
other half of his soul. John put his arms around the man he loved.

They shuffled over to the beds. John removed Luka's clothing,
chuckling at the numerous layers that kept Luka warm during his trip
to County. He pushed him back onto the bed and straddled Luka's hips
kissing his lips, neck, and face. John's penis was pointing at his
chin. Luka reached down and fondled it gently making John quiver. "I
love you." Luka whispered. They weren't at home so silence was the
order of the day. Luka scooted down and took John into his mouth as
the muffled cries above him became moans.

Lips, tongue, and teeth were driving John crazy. Supporting himself
on his arms, he thrust into Luka's eager mouth. He was in
heaven. "Ohh, Luka... do it. Make me come.", John gasped as his
husband's technique intensified. Minutes later his wish came true as
John exploded into Luka who wriggled upwards to receive the shaking
body he'd just sent over the edge.

"It gets better every time you do that." John said. His mind was
slowly returning to normal. "I don't know how you manage it." John
kissed Luka's cheek.

"Simple. If you love who you do, the rest is easy." Luka smiled and
licked his lips. "That was very tasty. Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, but I'm also exhausted. Before we slipped her a Mickey Finn,
Kerry had us running drills all afternoon. Will you accept a snow-
check?" John yawned. "Croatian sausage for breakfast?"

"Sure, Janaskja. And afterwards, I'll check your rosebud. Flowers
tend to suffer from want of attention during the winter."

"I like the way your mind works. Love you." John was soon asleep.

Author's Notes:

* For my friends from outside the United States: SAT's, Scholastic
Aptitude Tests. This examination is usually given shortly after
students enter secondary or "high" school. KPP

Serendipitous Coincidence... Crystal Reece, another gifted member of
this group wrote a story I wish I'd thought of first. Since I didn't,
I thought it best to explain. The main plot of this story
was "conceived" and outlined in the waning days of August 2001. Any
resemblance this story has to the final (not posted yet) two chapters
of her magnificent ER-Early Edition cross-over is yet another
instance of a great mind and a wanna-be's efforts moving in tandem.
If you don't want to be SPOILED, read her work before you read this
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