Let There Be Peace On Earth

AUTHOR: Ash Carroll
EMAIL: GrangersGrrl@yahoo.com
ARCHIVE: Uh, sure.
DISCLAIMER: ER and its characters are the property of John Wells and Constant C Productions. I don't own anything except the story, and I don't have any money either, so please don't sue me.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is my first ER fic, so please excuse any glaring errors. My apologies to Cleo/Peter and Luka/Abby fans. In my universe, Abby and Luka aren't dating, nor are Benton and Cleo. Just thought you should know that. :o)
DEDICATION: For Jessica, who let me know that I wasn't alone in my choice of couples, and who gave me the kick in the butt I needed to write this fic. :o)
SUMMARY: The holidays are a bad time for Luka, but a visit from a friend helps to make things a little brighter.


"Damn, it's cold out there," Cleo Finch said as she shrugged out of her heavy wool coat and brushed the icy crystals of snow from her curly blonde-streaked hair.

"You can say that again," Dave Malucci answered as he wrote his name on the board and headed off to curtain 2.

The doors to the ER opened, admitting Luka Kovac and a blast of frigid air.

"Afternoon, Dr. Kovac," Haleh greeted him.

"Hello, everyone," he greeted them. With a wave and a slight smile, he signed his name on the board and went off to find his patient.

"I guess that's our cue to get to work," Cleo sighed. She turned to Haleh. "What do we have?"

"A kid complaining of a sore arm in 4 and an upper respiratory something in 6."

Cleo nodded. "Hand me the charts."

She went off in the appropriate direction, leaving the gossiping nurses and the Admin desk behind.

~*~*~* *~*~*~

Luka entered the small area and found a little old black woman sitting on the bed. He smiled at her as he introduced himself.

"Mrs. Solomon, I'm Dr. Kovac. What seems to be the problem today?"

She held up the hand wrapped in a bloody towel. "I was chopping vegetables for my special chestnut stuffing. Darn knife slipped. These eyes aren't what they used to be."

He reached for her hand and gently unwrapped the towel from around it. "That's a deep cut. I'm afraid you're going to need stitches."

"Oh dear. I'm so clumsy. My husband used to tell me that all the time."

"You'll be fixed up in no time," Luka promised with a smile. "Just wait here while I get a suture tray."

She nodded as he went off to the supply closet in search of the proper materials.

~*~*~* *~*~*~

"Hi there," Cleo greeted the small child seated on the bed. She sent a reassuring glance at his mother before turning her attention back to the obviously frightened youngster.

"I'm Dr. Finch. What's your name?"

"Adam," he replied in a small voice.

Cleo smiled gently at him. "Well, what seems to be the trouble, Adam?"

"My arm hurts."

"What happened to your arm?"

"I was putting the star on top of our Christmas tree and I fell on it."

Cleo bent down so he could see her face. "I'll tell you what, we're going to send you to the lab so we can get a picture of your arm and see if it's broken or just sprained, okay?"

He nodded as Cleo called for Malik to take him to radiology. "Don't be scared," she said. "It'll be over before you know it."

~*~*~* *~*~*~

A few hours later, both Cleo and Luka had finished with their respective patients and joined the rest of the staff in the on-call room for a meeting.

"As you all know," Mark began, "it's tradition to draw the names of the people who will go and pick out the tree for the ER."

Kerry held up a clean irrigation tray. "Everyone's names are in here, so we're going to mix it up and draw two names."

Mark shook the plastic basin, then placing it on the table, drew out a piece of paper. Kerry took one as well and the two administrators unfolded the sheets and read off the names.

"Dr. Kovac," Kerry said, reading from her sheet.

"And Dr. Finch," Mark added. "Congratulations."

Cleo and Luka exchanged glances.

"So when do we go and get this tree?" Cleo inquired.

"As soon as your charts are done," Kerry replied. "We can trim it in between traumas."

They nodded their acknowledgement as Mark announced the meeting was over.

"Are you ready?" Luka asked, having finished all of his charts already.

Cleo nodded. "Let's go, or all the good trees will be gone."

~*~*~* *~*~*~

They had been walking around the tree lot for nearly half an hour. Cleo stole a sideways glance at her quiet companion and wondered absently what he was thinking about. He looked as though he were a million miles away, and Cleo found herself contemplating what, if anything, she could do to lighten his somber mood. It occurred to her that she knew very little about the Croatian doctor with the dark hair and beautiful brown eyes.

For his part, Luka was lost, far away from the lot full of fragrant evergreens. He made the mental journey every year around Christmastime, remembering the last year that he had spent the holiday with his family. The four of them had stood in the mountains, in a grove of fir trees similar to this one, laughing and singing Christmas carols and debating about which tree would look best in their house. The next year, his wife and children were gone, killed in the war. He hadn't had a Christmas tree since.

"What about this one?" Cleo asked, fingering a Douglas Fir.

Just because he was depressed on Christmas didn't mean everyone else had to be. He looked at the tree for a few moments, sizing it up. He finally decided that they could do better.

"It's not full enough."

"I guess you're right," she replied, frowning as she noticed a few empty spots on the sides. She walked over to another row, looking for a more suitable specimen.

She heard him call her several minutes later.

"Cleo! I found it!"

She made her way over to where he was, standing next to a magnificent blue spruce, at least seven feet tall and flocked with icy white snow crystals.

"It's perfect," she agreed.

Luka nodded before going off to find an attendant. After they'd paid for the tree, the teenager made sure that it was netted and ready to be transported. Luka hoisted the shrub over his broad shoulders and followed Cleo back to where they had parked her car. After securing it to the roof, he climbed into the passenger seat as Cleo headed for the hospital.

~*~*~* *~*~*~

The Admin desk was a sight to behold: garland strung around it in perfect scallops, lights lining the corners. A candy cane Christmas tree sat atop the desk, ready to be offered to youngsters. Christmas music floated from the radio as the doctors and nurses of Cook County General used the slow shift to make merry for the holidays.

Cleo's smile at Mark and Elizabeth cuddled up together turned to a chuckling smirk as she watched Malucci try to drag Abby under the mistletoe.

"It doesn't work that way, you moron," Abby said as she wrenched her wrist free from his grip.

"Yeah," Malik added, "you're supposed to *catch* the person under the mistletoe, not drag them there."

"But she won't go one her own," Dave whined.

"Damn right," Abby replied. "I am not falling for any of your tricks."

Luka watched his co-workers and the clock simultaneously. His shift was over in five minutes and he couldn't wait to get out into the crisp cool air where he could breathe. He felt as though he were suffocating, watching couples kissing under the mistletoe and dancing in the hallway. He doubted they'd notice his absence anyway, so engrossed in the festivities were they.

The minutes ticked by slowly, but finally it was time for him to leave. "Good night, everyone," he called, gathering his belongings.

A few people waved, or bade him farewell, but for the most part, he slipped away unnoticed.

Or so he thought.

A pair of light green eyes watched him walk through the sliding doors and into the cold.

~*~*~* *~*~*~

He awoke to a knocking on his door. Throwing on a t-shirt, he padded over to answer it.

"Cleo," he greeted her, rubbing his eyes blearily, "what happened? Did I miss my shift?"

She smiled nervously. "Not at all. I wanted to bring you something. Wait right here for a minute while I get it."

He nodded, too tired to move from the spot where he stood. Cleo returned a moment later bearing a small potted tree. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was an evergreen tree, red foil cellophane wrapped around the pot. She handed it over to him, stooping to pick up a plastic bag at her feet, which she handed over as well.

"I didn't think you had one," she explained with a shrug, "and, well . . . Merry Christmas."

He was stunned into silence for a full five seconds, but finally managed to find his voice. "Thank you."

"You don't need anything extra," she said, pointing to the bag. "Ornaments, lights and garland. Everything's taken care of."

"You didn't have to do this," he began, but she cut him off.

"Yes I did," she insisted. "I thought you could use something to brighten up your spirits."

He looked awkwardly at the tree, reliving for a fleeting moment, the last Christmas spent with his family. Cleo watched his reaction and sensing that he needed some time, attempted to make a getaway.

"I should be going. I just wanted you to have this." She turned away, but his voice stopped her.

"Cleo? Would you like to stay and help me decorate it?"

She turned back around to face him. "Are you sure?"

He nodded and she thought she detected the glisten of unshed tears. "It's been a while since I've trimmed a tree."

She smiled as she stepped past him and he closed the door behind her. "Come on," she grinned, "let me show you how it's done."

The End.

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