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It took John and Luka nearly two hours to fill out the forms. During
that time, Sarah Nicholson reviewed their personnel files. The
contents were pretty benign since the medical records for both men
were kept by their supervisors. Ms. Nicholson jotted down a few notes
and requested copies of both sets of files for her records.

Kerry Weaver looked up from her lap-top to see a middle-aged woman
who looked lost. "May I help you?"

"Yes. You're Dr. Weaver?"

"Yes. And you are?"

"Sarah Nicholson, Child Welfare Services."

"Of course. We've been expecting you. Please sit down." Kerry saved
her file and shut the lid to the computer.

"How long have you known Dr.s Carter and Kovac?"

"I've known Dr. Carter for almost nine years---Dr. Kovac, for about

"You are aware that they would like to adopt the baby found by your

"Of course. I think it would be wonderful. I've had many
opportunities to observe both of them with the baby. She would be an
extremely lucky little girl if their petition was granted."

"I see. Then you can think of no reason why they shouldn't be granted
temporary custody."

"None whatsoever." Kerry replied firmly.

* * * * *

They'd taken the first steps toward expanding their family. John
talked with his father and was not surprised by his enthusiastic
support. They took Kitten home with them after completing the
preliminary forms and signing releases for their medical records.
Mrs. Riordan, the former housekeeper for the Carter family had been
out of the country when John and Luka first met. Shortly after her
return to the United States, she'd lived with them briefly while Luka
recovered from heart surgery. With Millicent's help, Siobhan
Ceindreadh Riordan leased a spacious one-bedroom apartment in the
same building. Her nursing skills proved useful to the numerous
elderly tenants.

On their way home, John and Luka made up their shopping list for
Kitten. County supplied a small stock of diapers and formula to tide
them over until they could get to the stores. When Luka unlocked the
door to their apartment and turned on the lights, he stared. Roland
and Millicent had been busy. A beautifully decorated Douglas fir tree
stood between the living room windows, filling the place with its
scent. On the table was a note: "Dear Sons, I know you've been busy
and since the stores are jammed, I took the liberty of providing some
of your daughter's first Christmas. God Bless the three of you,

The second bedroom contained a new crib, bathing table and two over-
stuffed rocking chairs. Luka un-zipped the carry-pouch and put Kitten
into her crib. She surprised them by immediately lifting her head and
looking around.

"There's diapers, powder, baby linens... Dad thought of everything."
John grinned. "Oh look, a baby monitor. We can hear if she cries in
the night." John's eyes were shining.

"He left it to us to buy her clothes and toys." Luka smiled
appreciating Roland's generous gift.

"I can't wait, but I guess we'll have to. Our vacations don't begin
until Christmas Day. Shopping will be horrendous."

"Well, we can get up at the crack of dawn and hit the stores as soon
as they open." Luka suggested.

"Great idea. Actually, I'm looking forward to this."

"Let's introduce Kitten to her nanny." Luka said laughing as his
husband ran from the apartment.

It was love at first sight. Siobhan Riordan's musical voice soon had
Kitten "purring" for all she was worth. The four of them sat in the
kitchen while John fixed dinner. Looking back, he wondered how he
managed to keep his mind on cooking. It was a miracle he hadn't put
sugar on the roast and salt in the dessert. He kept watching Luka and
Mrs. Riordan as they chatted about Kitten's feeding and bath
schedules. Luka held the little girl, playing with her tiny hands
which persisted in trying to cover his mouth as he spoke.

When he was younger, John had spent a great deal of time in the
Carter family's huge kitchen talking with Mrs. Riordan and the other
staff. He used to wish he'd been born into a normal family that ate
dinner together and talked and laughed. Now, it looked as if his wish
would come true. Finally, the left-overs were heated and served. John
took Kitten and prepared to give the baby her night time bottle while
Luka ate. Siobhan Riordan watched beaming as her godson expertly fed
and burped the infant, laughing when some formula was splattered on
John's shirt after the final burp.

"Looks as if we both need a bath, Kitten. Say good bye to Luka and
Mrs. R." Kitten did her best, gurgling and smiling sleepily.

"Let me wash the wee one for you." Mrs. Riordan got up.

"That's okay. Kitten and I are pretty good at blowing bubbles." John
hoisted Kitten to his shoulder and hummed his way out of the room.
Luka put John's plate back in the refrigerator then wrote out their
work schedules for the next two days. "Here are our pager numbers and
the phone number for Dr. Welles, Kitten's interim pediatrician."

"Good. I'll have some more formula and diapers delivered in the
morning." Mrs. Riordan tucked the paper in her sweater pocket. Twenty
minutes later, John and Kitten came in to say a proper good-night.
Luka took the very sleepy baby who smelled of powder and baby soap.
He nuzzled her little neck then kissed her. "It's time to make the
journey to dream land, little one. Say good-night to Papa John." He
took her little hand and waved it at his husband. Unlike John, Luka
had a decent voice. He left the room singing softly to the baby.

"You two seem to have already established a routine." Mrs. Riordan
observed as John cleared the table.

"Yeah. We started at work. With my rotten voice, it was easy. Luka
gets the lullaby detail. I supply the bedtime stories. I still
remember most of the tales you told to us when we were little." John
smiled recalling the funny stories of Fin MacCoul and the more solemn
sagas of the Emerald Isle.

"She's asleep." Luka came in carrying the small speaker which would
allow them to hear Kitten.

"I'm not far behind her." John yawned.

"That's my exit cue." Mrs. Riordan got up to leave. I'll be here at
six ack emma to take care of the little one. Good night, pets."

"Did you eat?" Luka asked as he poured his nightcap.

"Nope. I really wasn't hungry. I'll have a big breakfast at Magoo's.
John rinsed the last of the dishes.

"Are you going to join me?"

"Sure." John picked up the speaker and they headed to the living room.

"Where's your night time cigarette?"

"Bear with me, Sacha. I quit. I don't want to smoke around Kitten.
I'll probably gain twenty pounds..." John frowned.

"More of you to love." Luka smiled as John sat next to him on the

"Thanks, but wait until I develop a pot belly."

"Uhhm." Luka buried his nose in John's hair. "I wonder why Kitten's
mother didn't want her?"

"I know. I've been wondering too. She's so beautiful." John yawned
again. "I'm beat, I think I'll shower and turn in."

"Hold on a sec. I'll join you. We'll conserve hot water." Luka
drained his glass and arm in arm they walked to the bathroom. John
stopped off in Kitten's room. She was deeply asleep. He softly
stroked her hair. Turning up the volume on the monitor, he went to
the bathroom where Luka had already stripped and started the water

"I don't know why I'm so tired." John said as he removed his
clothes. "Excitement, I guess."

"And getting over a cold." Luka added and stepped into the shower
stall. John followed and slid the glass door closed. They soaped and
washed each other quickly. John was the first to exit the bathroom.
Shivering, he headed to Kitten's room as he wrapped a bath sheet
around himself. She was on her tummy, sleeping like an angel. He went
to their bedroom to find Luka setting the alarm clock for Kitten's
two o' clock feeding.

"All's well?"

"Yep. I suppose I'm being silly, but we can't really hear her from
the bathroom with the water running." John yawned and pulled on a
pair of silk pajamas.

"Okay. We'll take baths together, but shower separately. That way you
won't be worried." Luka grinned.

"Thanks husband. I've never done this before, so it'll take a while
for me to get used to the fact that babies don't break that easily."
John put on a thick pair of socks.

"Are you cold?"

"Yeah. I could do with a six-foot Croatian hot water bottle." John
yawned and got into his side of the bed. Luka turned out the lights
and joined his mate, wrapping him in a warm embrace. "Ohh, that feels
marvellous. I love you, Luka." John put his head on Luka's chest.

"I love you, too. It looks like we're going to have a wonderful

"I wonder if Ms. Nicholson will object if we have Kitten baptized?"
John mused sleepily.

"I don't see why she should. We can call her in the morning and if we
get permission, I'll phone Father Thomas. Be thinking of some names,

"You want *me* to name her?"

"Of course. You were the one who saved her life. It's only right you
should be the one to give her a name." Luka smiled in the dark.

"Nicotina." John said.


"I could really use a cigarette." John admitted. "Listen, if I get
cranky, you have my permission to make me stand in a corner."

"You'll be fine, Janaskja. Just keep focusing on Kitten's healthy
lungs." Luka suggested.

"Okay. That, and a pacifier. I'll need something to put in my mouth
when the urge hits."

"And here I was all prepared to offer you some smoked Croatian

"Ooohh, I like that idea much better." John chuckled. "Good night,
beloved." John shifted his weight as Luka kissed him.

* * * * *

Luka woke up at twenty minutes after two in the morning. The alarm
hadn't rung. John had left their bed. Smiling, he padded into the
other bedroom. John was seated in one of the new chairs rocking
Kitten as she guzzled her formula.

"I thought it was my turn?" Luka said quietly.

"It was. I had to go to the bathroom about ten minutes before the
alarm went off." John grinned. "I figured as long as I was up..."
John handed the empty bottle to Luka and shifted the baby to his
shoulder. Luka sat in the other chair and watched as John patted and
rubbed the infant. Ten minutes and three burps later, John stood up
and handed Kitten to her other father.

The sleepy baby smiled at Luka who kissed her forehead. Softly, Luka
began singing as John tidied the crib. John silently thanked God
while watching Luka rock their child. He'd often watched as Luka
worked with small children at County. He seemed able to gain their
trust in a matter of moments. There was no doubt in his mind that
Luka deserved children. At their wedding reception, he'd hardly been
able to tear himself away from Doug and Carol's twin daughters; who,
in turn, behaved as if they'd know him all their lives. The sound of
Luka's voice died away gradually as he got up to put the baby back
into her crib. She was asleep. John tucked her in.

"She's so beautiful, Luka. Don't you think she looks like you?" John

"Perhaps, but when she smiles, she looks more like you." Luka kissed
John gently on the cheek. "Come on, six o'clock will be here before
we know it."

"Good night, little one." John softly touched the sleeping baby. "We
love you."

* * * * *

Sarah Nicholson agreed to let the baby be baptized, provided that her
surname remained "Doe". John called Father Thomas the same afternoon.
The young priest eagerly accepted their invitation and they set a
time: ten o' clock on Christmas Eve, before the beginning of the
concert which preceded midnight mass. John created an invitation on
the ER computer and gave copies to their colleagues. He e-mailed it
to his family and to out-of-town friends.

The afternoon of December 24th, John panicked. "We don't have a
christening dress."

Luka smiled. Calm down, Janaskja.", he picked up the
phone. "Grandmaman?"

John smiled imagining Millicent's happy look. She loved it when Luka
used the European courtesy title.

"My husband is in a tizzy. He thinks Kitten needs a christening
robe." Luka grinned and gave John the thumbs up sign. "Thank you,
grandmaman. We'll meet you in the vestry at ten."

"So?", John asked eagerly.

"She's going shopping for one. She'd planned to offer the Carter
Family robe, but didn't want to cause bad luck." Luka said softly.
Millicent had explained that her husband, late grandson, and Chase
had worn the elaborate gown. Roland, John, and his sister had been
loaned robes by their maternal grandparents. John nodded. He knew the
story and agreed with Millicent. Okay, so he was superstitious but
with his luck, why take chances?

They finished their shifts and raced home. They'd risen before dawn
and joined the hurried crowd of last-minute shoppers whose ranks had
been increased by the snow storm's delay. Splitting up, John headed
for the infant clothing department while Luka shopped for toys. Both
men agreed that restraint would serve them and their baby better than
extravagance. John freely admitted he would have traded the lavish
playroom of his own childhood, with its superfluity of toys for more
time with his family. Luka's list was short. A teddy bear, a musical
mobile to hang over the crib and a few toys for the bath. When Kitten
was older, they'd purchase more.

John's list was also relatively short. Undergarments, nightwear, and
one-piece rompers; three of each---one in the wash, one in the
drawer, and one for emergencies. Babies grow very quickly, Kitten
would be much larger in the spring, so they'd shop then for clothes
more suited to warmer weather. The final items on John's list were
linens: washcloths, towels, bibs, cloth diapers and plastic pants for
when she was home. They'd only use disposables when Kitten was

Three hours later, two tired men rendez-voused in the beautifully
decorated foyer of Chicago's largest department store. John put all
of their gaily wrapped purchases into two large garbage bags:
camouflage to ward off would-be muggers. As John observed only half-
joking, "'Tis the season to be ripped off."

* * * * *

Now, they were on their way home. A third garbage bag had been
dragooned into service to hold all of the gifts from their co-
workers. Kitten's first Christmas would be a generous one. Coughing
harshly, John let them into the apartment. He popped a lozenge into
his mouth, stripped off his coat and began arranging presents under
the tree. Luka went to put the clothes and baby linens in Kitten's
room. Mrs. Riordan and her charge were sound asleep.

The noise of drawers opening and closing roused their nanny. "Did you
two babes in toyland find all that you needed?"

"Mission accomplished Mrs. R." Luka grinned as he stacked the cotton
diapers at the end of the changing table.

"I'll make you some tea. Judging from the sound of things, Camille
out there could do with a cup." John's cough could be heard from the
living room.

"All done." John sat back on his heels wiping sweat from his
forehead. Mrs. Riordan was humming in the kitchen as the hot water
came to a boil.

Luka knelt beside John and plugged in the lights. The tree was
beautiful. White and gold ornaments drew the eye upwards toward a
beautiful angel blowing a golden trumpet. Tiny white lights began
blinking resembling stars glimmering through the dark green branches.

"Merry Christmas, beloved." Luka wrapped his arms around John and
held him as they gazed at the tree.

"Merry Christmas, Sascha." John coughed. "Damn. I must be the only
person on earth to develop smoker's cough *after* I quit.

"Probably all of that nasty fresh air." Luka observed wryly and
kissed his husband's cheek. "John? Are you running a temperature?"

"I don't think so. I'm a little warm, but we've been toting gifts all
day. That, plus the undershirt, shirt, sweater..." John nuzzled
Luka's neck. "Tell you what, after our tea, I'll take a shower then
take my temperature. Just in case, why don't you see to Kitten? If I
am catching cold, she'll hardly thank me for giving it to her for

"That's my sensible husband."

"Since when?" Mrs. Riordan chuckled as she brought in the steaming
teapot."That boyo didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain
when he was a lad.

"Give me a little credit, Mrs. R." John grinned. "I've grown up."

"Taller, I'll grant you..." Siobhan Riordan smiled. Doctor or not,
father of his own child or not, John would always be the solemn-faced
little boy she'd watched over.

John walked over to the coffee table on his knees. "You remembered."
His eyes lit up when he saw the sugar and raisin cookies. Mrs.
Riordan always baked them for Christmas.

"Three each. I don't want the two of you spoiling your appetites for

"Yes, ma'am" Luka dead-panned. He'd sneaked two in the kitchen.

John drank thirstily and gobbled down his cookies in five minutes
flat. He laughed when Mrs. Riordan smacked Luka's hand after he'd
eaten one of the star-shaped confections.

"Did you think I was forgetting how to count, me spalpeen? You've
already had two..."

Luka did his best to look contrite. "John, help me out here."

"You're on your own, O knave of my heart. If you need me, I'll be in
the shower." His brother had also tried to get away with purloining a
cookie or two and had met with no success. Mrs. R. had eyes in the
back of her head.
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