Luka received his miracle. A cursory examination of the Arbitron
ratings given to television stations in the Chicago area showed the
PBS stations were usually in last place compared with other
commercial and cable offerings. In addition, a program devoted to the
discussion of books was near the bottom of other, more popular PBS
shows. That Mrs. Reece regularly watched the program had been one
chance in thousands.
John's health improved rapidly. His depression was lessening. He and
Luka continued to talk, usually when John woke in the middle of the
night. Despite curtailed rest, both men seemed more cheerful. Summer
was approaching and the ER was busy. Allergies frequently triggered
asthmatic attacks. In addition, the criminal elements were taking
advantage of the balmy weather. It was prom season and tragically,
there were also numerous traffic accidents involving celebrating teen-
John's students were in the midst of preparing for final exams and
submitting paperwork for their summer and fall rotations. Taking some
down-time to write up his evaluations, John thought he could hear a
baby crying. It sounded like Kitten. Shaking his head, John decided
he was finally cracking up.
"Hey Carter, you're not going to believe this!" Haleh poked her head
into the lounge. "She's back!" Haleh stood aside as John ran from the
room. There was no doubt in his mind who "she" was. "Exam 3!" Haleh
called out before going to get Luka.
John slowed down to a hasty walk as he entered the room. A tired-
looking middle-aged woman was standing next to a carry crib
containing a highly upset little baby girl. "Doctor..."
She never got to explain her reason for coming in with the baby. John
picked up Katerina who fell silent and smiled at him. Tears standing
in his eyes, John held her close against his chest as he kissed her
head. Not trusting his voice, John looked up at Mrs. Reece. She
nodded and sat down.
Luka pushed his way through the crowd gathered outside of Exam 3.
Haleh had gone through the ER re-enacting Paul Revere's famous ride.
Oblivious to the numerous witnesses, Luka entered the room and shut
the door. Without a word, John handed the smiling baby to his
husband. Kitten startled them all by laughing as she reached for
Luka's face. "We've missed you, little heart." He assumed Mrs. Reece
was another social worker.
"I thought so." Mrs. Reece said thickly. For the first time since she
came to them, Katerina was behaving in accordance with the social
workers' appraisals. "She was with you before they brought her to us."
"Why did you bring her in?" John finally asked as he wiped his eyes.
"Well, I saw you on that book show. You seemed to like kids and
Katerina's been crying ever since they brought her to us. Now, I know
why. Excuse me." She left the room.
"Thank God our friends are outside. I'm tempted to take Kitten and
run for the hills." Luka said smiling as the baby tried to stop his
lips moving. "Here, Janaskja, you hold her for awhile."
John didn't have to be asked twice. Holding Kitten over his head,
John brought her tummy down to his mouth and blew noisily. Kitten
laughed again and reached for his nose. John nuzzled her neck then
settled her in his arms. Luka sat on the bed next to him and reached
for one of Kitten's hands which immediately closed over his
finger. "How long do think we have?" He asked quietly, the little
one's eyes were closing.
"Not long enough." John said sadly as he gently rocked the
baby. "Luka, I don't know if I'll be able to give her back. Help me."
Mrs. Reece was on her third phone call. "I don't care if they're in
conference with the President of the United States!. Get them down
here! If you don't, I'm going to take matters into my own hands."
Banging the receiver down, she headed back to Exam 3. When she came
in, both men looked up. The look on the younger man's face brought
tears to her eyes again. "My husband won't be off work for another
hour. If you don't mind, can we wait here for him?"
Luka nodded. "You said she'd been crying?"
"Almost around the clock. I'm surprised you didn't hear her; half of
Chicago must have."
"My husband did." Luka said looking at John with widened eyes.
"So that's it." Mrs. Reece frowned.
"Excuse me?" Luka was confused.
"They placed Katerina with us because you're gay. Jerks."
"Well, they probably thought she'd be better off with a mother and
father..." John was trying to prepare himself for the moment when
Kitten would have to leave again.
"Bull puckey. Anyone who could write a story like 'Kitten's Tale' is
gentle enough for six mothers. When your partner..."
"I'm sorry, I'm Dr. Luka Carter-Kovac. This is my husband, John Kovac-
Carter." Luka made the introductions.
"Anyway, when Dr. John picked her up, that was the first time she'd
smiled since being brought to us. Katerina obviously knows who she
The three of them talked quietly while Kitten napped. Catching a
glimpse of Evan Ross and his boss through the window, Mrs. Reece got
to her feet. "Do me a favor, leave the baby with me for fifteen
minutes. I promise, I won't leave the hospital without your getting a
chance to be with her once more." She winked and pointed them to the
door connecting with Exam 2. John and Luka left, somewhat confused
but reassured by the woman's conspiratorial air.
As Evan Ross and Jane Franklyn watched, Eleanor Reece gently woke
Katerina. After making her calls, she had "borrowed" some isopropyl
alchohol. The smell of the disinfecting agent did the trick. Kitten
began crying again. Nurse Matheus had remembered Luka explaining the
baby didn't like the smell of the stuff. During her second phone
call, Eleanor had been told about this. Making sure to keep one of
her hands near Kitten's face, Eleanor jiggled the baby praying that
this mild abuse would be forgiven. For the remaining minutes,
Katerina performed like a trouper, squalling and wriggling in an
attempt to get away from the awful smell her infant mind associated
with the naso-gastric tube.
John and Luka came back and John took the highly upset baby into his
arms. The noise ceased instantly as Kitten tried to rub her face on
his shoulder. Luka wiggled his fingers at her and crossed his eyes
and she smiled, bobbing her little head.
"So how much more evidence do you people need?" Kerry Weaver asked
drily as the two social workers stared at the "miraculous"
transformation. "That child belongs with John and Luka. She's been
trying to tell everyone that since you removed her from their care."
"It certainly looks that way." Jane Franklyn acknowledged as she
watched John rocking a smiling baby on his knees while Luka prepared
to change her. The director of the agency tapped on the glass and
beckoned to Eleanor to come outside. "Is there somewhere we can talk
"Use my office. Everyone else does." Kerry grinned and went to wait
for Mr. Reece.
The discussion was taking longer than Eleanor thought necessary.
Finally, she stood up, hands on her hips. "My husband and I have done
everything we could to make Katerina happy. Nothing worked. I can
speak for him. Neither of us want that child returned to us where she
will be miserable. So far, her crying hasn't seriously affected her
health. I'm not willing to guarantee a healthy future if she is
forced to remain with us. And before you decide to place her with
another foster family, I would suggest you show some sense. She will
be miserable no matter who you find. Those two men love that baby and
she obviously loves them. This is a no-brainer folks." Eleanor
stomped from the room.
"Do you have any further objections?" Jane Franklyn asked Evan Ross.
Her expression told him he'd better come up with some good ones.
"No, nothing that will stand up in court.", he admitted. "I just hope
we aren't making a mistake."
"It's too late for that. We already made one when we took the baby
away from them. I'm not saying your concerns about the health of her
caregivers wasn't warranted, but it should have been investigated
thoroughly *before* any decision was made. Let's go and give those
two doctors some good news."
Paul Reece left work early. Kerry introduced herself and gave him a
rapid fire briefing. The stocky man shook his head grinning. "Eleanor
is not shy. She proposed to me.", he explained chuckling.
John and Luka were in a world of their own. Neither man noticed
Eleanor's return. Only John glanced up when Evan Ross and his boss
followed her minutes later. The two men focused their attention on
Kitten who was once again catching up on her rest in John's arms.
"Dr. Kovac, Dr. Carter?" Jane Franklyn spoke softly. "Mrs. Reece and
her husband feel they can no longer keep Katerina where she is
unhappy. If you agree, we would like to have her returned to your
The joyful expression on John's face was blinding. Luka also smiled,
largely for John's benefit. "Janaskja, I'm going to call Mrs. R. so
she can bring the baby's things."
John nodded, too happy to realize that with the temperature outside
in the lower 80s, Kitten could have gone home in her birthday suit
with no ill affect. Gesturing to Ross and Franklyn, Luka went with
them into the next room. "Thank you for changing your minds, but I'm
not sure if we should accept. John was extremely depressed when you
took Katerina away from us. Between overwork and poor rest, he became
physically ill. Frankly, I don't think he could bear it when you
finally place Katerina with another family. I'm not sure I could bear
it either." Luka said gravely.
"I'm sorry Dr. Kovac. I should have explained things better. Yes, we
are returning custody to the two of you as foster-care providers,
but..." Jane held up her hand to forestall Luka's objection. "But
with the understanding you will be her foster parents only until your
petition to adopt Katerina is formally approved. And I don't see any
reason why it should be denied."
"We were told that before." Luka said slowly.
"Well, as the director of Child Welfare Services, there is no one who
can go over *my* head. I'm sorry for the distress our previous
decision caused you and Dr. Carter. Now why don't you go and give him
the really good news." Luka was gone.
"Janaskja!..." the door closed behind him. The social workers watched
as Luka explained to John and were priveledged to see Luka softly
embrace his husband as he held their sleeping daughter.