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Chicago's weather weenies were having a field day. The freak pre-
Christmas blizzard was followed by even more freakish warm
temperatures. John and Luka formally submitted their petition to
adopt Katerina. The supporting paper work included their certificate
registering themselves as a couple. Although not as legally strong as
a marriage certificate, it did provide an official 'starting' date
for their union. Statements of income, citizenship papers for Luka,
proof of their ages... no aspect of their lives would be un-
documented. Luka met with Dr. Romano to inform him of their
intentions while John formally notified Kerry.

"Between you two and Lizzie Greene, we're going to be hip-deep in
dirty diapers around here." Romano groused. "I suppose you'll want me
to say wonderful things about you and that husband of yours.", he

"No, Dr. Romano. Just tell the truth. John and I talked about this
and we figured Child Welfare Services will be turning over every
pebble and examining us with electron microscopes. If we *don't* tell
the truth and they find out something, they'll probably call a halt
to the entire process. Both of us have done things we're not proud
of, but we won't try to lie about any of it. That'll only make
matters worse." Luka said calmly.....

....."Yeah, Dr. Weaver... If they ask about my addiction, tell them
everything. We've already signed releases for our medical records.
It's all in there anyway." John sighed. "If I had it to do over
again, needless to say, I wouldn't have become a drug-user, but since
I did, we have no choice but to tell the truth about it. Hopefully,
they'll understand. After my one relapse, I've been clean for over
eight years. I still attend meetings and volunteer as a counselor for
other docs who're in the same predicament. When they start
interviewing you and our colleagues, tell them whatever they want to
know. They'll more than likely find out about everything anyway, at
least they won't catch us lying about it or trying to cover stuff
up." John explained.

Kerry and Rocket Romano approved of this strategy and everyone
prepared themselves to be interviewed. John left the lounge and
headed to Exam One. The med students were already there, working with
Jing-Mei. She grinned at Carter as she walked them through intubation
and the procedures for inserting Foley catheters. The budget for the
ER had been increased significantly four years ago thanks to the
lobbying efforts of one of Chicago's most influential Alderwomen.

She'd met John and Luka when the former saved her son's life and like
most politicians, Laurencia Carlton made sure she returned a favor.
Between her genteel arm-twisting and an 'anonymous' philanthropic
donation, realistic dummies were now available for the preliminary
instruction of students. They did not replace working with real live
patients, but they did make sure that students were better prepared
when the time came to draw blood, insert catheters or drainage lines.
However, the best part of the budget increase was the augmentation of
available staff.

Laurencia, armed with statistics supplied by Kerry Weaver, was able
to argue successfully that well-rested doctors and nurses would serve
their city better than stressed out, exhausted ones.. Shorter shifts
meant fewer malpractice lawsuits, she pointed out. It went without
saying that John and Luka's co-workers appreciated eight- or ten-hour
shifts versus twelve- and fourteen-hour marathons; and would say
wonderful things about the couple and their fitness as parents.

Unfortunately, as January dragged its way into February, John wasn't
feeling very fit. A series of colds had plagued him since Christmas.
Although he'd successfully quit smoking, his coughing could be heard
all over the ER. He wondered if Kitten would recognize him without a
face mask. He dutifully drank orange juice and took vitamins but
still managed to catch cold.

* * * * *

"Good morning, Ms. Nicholson. Let me take your coat." Luka ushered
the woman into their apartment. Sarah Nicholson accompanied by a
nurse had arrived to interview Luka and observe the home environment
he and John had provided for Katerina. "Did you have a nice holiday?"
Luka braced himself as he led them to Katerina's room. He and John
had been busy.

Stencils created by Cyril had been used to put images of kittens all
over the cream-colored walls. Some were playing with balls of yarn
while others with butterfiles. The beautiful icon was hung in one
corner, a soft blue lamp glowing before it. The small electric bulb
served as a night light Luka explained. On the opposite wall, Cyril's
portrait of John and the baby hung over the changing table and
bathing stand. Luka sat on the end of the chaise lounge as the ladies
took their seats in the matching over-stuffed arm chairs.

While the nurse examined the baby, Sarah Nicholson switched on a tape
recorder and hauled out Katerina's file. "You've been a citizen

"Nearly seven years, ma'am."

"Do you have any relatives here in the United States?"

"Apart from John's family, no. My father was an only child. My mother
had two sisters. I have five cousins in Croatia. I haven't seen them
since I came to this country."

"Why not?"

"Well, at first, I couldn't afford the air fare. Afterwards, I've
been too busy. We exchange phone calls and keep in touch via the

"Your average work day lasts..."

"With commuting time, anywhere from nine to eleven hours or so. John
and I have matching shifts on most days. As a matter of fact, I had
to take leave to be here today."

"Who cares for the child when you're at work?"

"John's godmother and former housekeeper. She lives two floors below
us. She was a nurse in Korea before coming to work for John's family.
She practically raised him. I know you will want to talk to her also.
Here is her address and phone number." Luka handed over a small card.

"I understand you had two daughters of your own."

"Yes. Anja and Solje. Anja was five and her sister eighteen months
old when they were killed." Luka stated simply. "I had left our
apartment to obtain food and as I returned, a bombing raid began.
Unfortunately, the girls and their mother died."

"I'm sorry. You are bisexual or homosexual?"

"I suppose most people would say I am bisexual. But since I met John,
there won't be anyone else in my life. So, I guess that would make me
a functioning homosexual." Luka answered quietly. Despite the nurse's
best efforts, Katerina began to cry. "Excuse me." Luka got up and
took the little girl into his arms. "She's usually very good with
strangers but we've discovered she doesn't like the smell of rubbing
alcohol." Luka held Kitten on his lap. She'd stopped crying as soon
as he picked her up.

"Are you the baby's principal caretaker?"

"No. John and I share equally. We take turns feeding, bathing, and
putting her to bed. We play with her together. I'll admit things have
become easier now that she's sleeping through the night.* I don't
think I know of any parent who isn't glad to be able stop getting up
at two in the morning." Luka smiled and rubbed his nose on the top of
Katerina's head and she made a happy little noise in return.

"If something happens to the two of you, who will care for the child?"

"John's father and grandmother agreed to take her. Mrs. Riordan would
continue as her nanny until she's old enough for school. God forbid,
if something should happen to the two of them, John's sister agreed
to care for Kitten although that means she would have to live in

"You and your husband are both Catholic?"

"Yes. John converted to the faith while in high school. I've been an
observant Catholic for all of my life."

"And yet, you both entered into a homosexual relationship."

"Yes. We loved each other. Both of us believe that God's idea of sin
is different from that of our Church. No matter the issue, organized
religion has tolerated even encouraged behavior we know Christ would
disapprove of. Most churches in this country accepted even condoned
the practice of slavery at one point. Many churches ruled that women
shouldn't vote. My husband and I love each other and are faithful to
our marriage vows. If God spares us, I hope to grow old with him.
Very old indeed."

"What about sex?"

"What about it?"

"Will you have sex with the child in the house?"

"When she starts school, no. Until then, yes. Tell me, at age three,
were *you* aware of your parents' sexual activities?"

Sarah Nicholson grinned for the first time and shook her head. "How
will you explain your relationship to Katerina?"

"If she asks questions prior to puberty, we'll tell her that some
people fall in love and marry persons of the same gender. I don't
think sharing details regarding the physical aspects of our union
would be appropriate at any age. After puberty, and only if she asks,
we'll tell her that we 'sleep' together. However, knowing teenagers,
she'll probably know more about it than we do. I hope by then,
society's attitudes regarding same-gender relationships will have
changed for the better."

"So you *are* prepared for negative reactions."

"Of course. Any reservations you may have, John and I already
discussed at great length and set aside. Unfortunately, there will
always be well-meaning people who can find fault. If the prospective
parents were male and female, somebody would observe that the husband
or wife is too old or young, or speaks with an accent, or is Jewish,
or Prostestant, or whatever. The two of us are very confident that we
can help our daughter cope with the issue of our relationship

"I understand you were investigated by the Justice Department."

"Yes. Due to mistaken identity, I was investigated as the alleged
perpetrator of war crimes. The matter was dealt with when it was
discovered I had proof I was not responsible. The accusing parties
accepted this proof and the my name was officially cleared. Apart
from assisting a co-worker who would have been mugged, I've had no
contact with any segment of the law except for giving evidence as an
attending physcian in rape or assault cases."

"I assume you were aware of your partner's drug addiction prior to
entering into a relationship with him?"

"Yes. He will be able to give you all of the details. Since we've
been together and before, he has not used any drugs stronger than
aspirin. He was being treated with an anti-depressant, but five years
ago his therapist determined he no longer needed it. Other than wine
at communion, John rarely drinks: a glass of champagne for Christmas,
our anniversary and birthdays is the extent of it."

"And yourself?"

"I usually have a glass of wine before going to bed and sometimes
with dinner. Getting up at all hours and having to be prepared and
alert for my patients compels me to monitor my alcohol intake.
Anything else would be irresponsible." Luka smiled.

"John is a smoker?"

"Not anymore. He quit the day we brought our daughter home."

"Well, that's it for now, Dr. Kovac."

"Actually, it's Carter-Kovac, but please, call me Luka."

"Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Luka. Oh, by the
way, when she asks, and she will, what will you tell her about her

"When she's young, we'll tell her that God and the angels brought her
to us. When she's older, she'll more than likely want to know about
her birth parents. As of now, neither John nor I have a clue to their
identity or whereabouts. Frankly, we'll need your agency's help on
this issue. Neither of us want her to think someone just threw her
away, but we don't want to lie to her either. I hope we'll have the
time to come up with an appropriate response."

"Thank you for your honesty. I've interviewed numerous prospective
parents and foster-care providers and I'll admit you never hesitated
to answer truthfully."

"Thank you Ms. Nicholson. Thank you for granting us temporary
custody. Say good-bye Katerina." Luka stood up as Kitten did her best
to follow orders. She had gurgled and made small happy sounds
throughout the interview.

"Call me Sarah. Good-bye Katerina." The two women left smiling as
Kitten crowed her farewells.

* * * * *

"Dr. Chen, how long have you known Dr.s Carter and Kovac?"

"I've known John for almost ten years; Luka for a little over five
years." Sarah Nicholson was on her third staff interview. So far, the
opinions of their collegues were universally positive. Dr. Malucci
and Nurse Lockhart had volunteered information regarding Carter's
former drug problem before being asked and spoke well of his efforts
to cope with it. Sarah Nicholson was beginning to think the
prospective parents would be a good match for the little girl. As
Jing-Mei expressed her gratitude for John's assistance to her when
she had her baby, Sarah wondered how her colleague was faring with
Carter's family.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Ross?", Roland was seated comfortably in
his office.

"You are aware that your son and his...", the middle aged man

"...husband." Roland smiled warmly.

"I take it you approve of their relationship."

"Yes. Unreservedly. Both of them are very fortunate in finding each
other." Roland nodded. "I'll be the first to admit, that the idea
took a little getting used to at first. But after observing them
together, I realized how right Luka was for my son, and vice versa."

"Do you assist your son financially?"

"Yes and no. John had a trust fund which he turned down. He felt it
wasn't fair that he should benefit from our family's wealth when he
was not working for our company. We've offered to restore it, but he
hasn't accepted. However, I did arrange for them to pay a somewhat
reduced rent on their apartment in exchange for their medical
services to their neighbors. Apart from birthday, anniversary, and
Christmas gifts I don't make any regular contributions to their

"Will your son inherit any monies from you?"

"Again, yes and no. According to his will, John has established that
at his death, a sum equivalent to his annual salary from Cooke County
General will be paid to his surviving spouse, Luka, for the rest of
his life. The rest of his inheritance will be held in trust for their
heirs, if any."

"Do you have any idea how much this will amount to?"

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty million dollars." Roland said

"And if there are no heirs?"

"John has requested that the money be turned over to our family
philanthropic foundation to be dispensed to aid medical research and
provide care for indigent patients." Roland said proudly.

"For the son of a wealthy family, he doesn't seem to care too much
about being rich.", the social worker observed.

"Let me explain. For some time, John's choice of profession angered
my father. Prior to John making the decision to become a doctor, my
father continually criticized him and made his life very miserable.
Unfortunately, my wife and I were not there to help John. It's no
wonder he soon developed the belief that money isn't all it's cracked
up to be. He's often said our approval and love are worth far more
than cash and that he values these 'gifts' over and above material
comforts." Roland said quietly.

"I see. Your son was the victim of child abuse?"

"Yes." Roland didn't hesitate in his reply. "My father's idea
of 'discipline' included yelling cruel, hurtful things and
occasionally striking my son. My wife and I were unaware of what was
going on at the time. We thought ourselves fortunate that John was so
quiet and well-behaved. We didn't know he was terrified." Roland's
voice was tight.

"When did you find out about the abuse?"

Not until John was an adult; two years ago. He wrote my father a
letter, forgiving the old man which was returned to us unopened. I
share power of attorney for my father, so I read the letter. John's a
better man than I am in many ways. I find it very difficult to accept
my father's abuse of John or my own neglect." Roland admitted. "It is
characteristic of my son that he did not tell me. He said he wanted
me to be able to maintain the relationship I had with my father."
Roland shook his head remembering John's matter-of-fact explanation
of why he'd kept this secret.

"And your father is...?"

"In a rest-home in Arizona. The public version of the story is that
he'd suffered a massive stroke shortly after John was returned to us
after being kidnapped. Actually, Father violently opposed my son's
relationship with Luka and had John committed to a rest-home without
telling us. When we discovered what he'd done, I wanted to prosecute
him for kidnapping and reckless endangerment. John refused to have
anything to do with it. My mother came up with the idea of committing
Father instead. As far as I know, he's perfectly healthy physically.
I would not like to go bail on his mental health, however." Roland

"Listen, John will tell you anything you want to know about what
happened to him in my house and the steps he's taken to make sure any
children he might have will not suffer as a result of what he
endured. I know he was seeing a therapist off and on since prep
school. The details of those sessions you'll have to get from John
and the doctors he worked with. Is there anything else I can do for

"Not at the moment, Mr. Carter. If I have any follow-up questions,
I'll make an appointment with your secretary."

"That won't be necessary. Here's the number for my private cell
phone. I'm never without it. Call me at any time. Whatever I can do
to assist Luka and John in this process I will do." Roland stood and
shook the social worker's hand. "*I* may not have been the best
father to my children, but they learned from my mistakes. I fully
believe John and Luka will make excellent parents."

"Thank you for taking the time to see me, Mr. Carter. And thank you
for your honesty. Good day."

Author's Notes:
* Believe it or not, this is actually based on my own experience.
When I came home from hospital as an infant, I slept through the
night about a week afterwards, sparing my luck folks from the 2 am
feeding. KPP
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