The Greatest Gifts


AUTHOR: Tammy
EMAIL: lildrng7@aol.com
CATEGORY: romance
RATING: somewhere between a PG-13 and an R
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: I only own the character Kate, I made her up, other than that they all belong to those responsible for the show
AUTHOR'S NOTES: this is my first fic and it's taken me a while to write, so I would love any feedback you can offer me. Good or bad, I can take it, so be honest.
SUMMARY: kind of a sappy story about Carter and Abby, and Kate (Carter's cousin) and Gallant.



The Greatest Gifts


*Two couples- Carter and Abby, and Michael Gallant and a new character of my own creation Kate. This story mainly centers on Gallant and Kate, but I love Abby and Carter too much to leave them out of it.

*I don’t know any of the technical terms for the traumas so there really aren’t any in here.
*Romano never lost his arm.

**Everyone knows the background of Carter and Abby, so here’s the background on Gallant and Kate. Kate is Carters cousin. They were very close when they were younger, but Kate went into the army after high school so they have not seen much of each other in years. She is now 23 years old. Gallant is a few years older; he attended college before going into the military. She met Gallant during their first weeks at boot camp. They immediately had a connection. They are very much alike; both head strong, but very respectful and conscientious. They fell in love immediately. Even though they have had sex, their relationship is much more cuddly, and not based on sex at all. They are each other’s first love and are kind of like a high school couple. Gallant still spends a lot of time and energy wooing her, even though he’s got her and knows she’s not going anywhere. Gallant never made the connection that Kate could be Carter’s cousin, and even though Kate knows Gallant and Carter work at the same hospital she never mentions it to Gallant, she figures they would figure it out on their own. They don’t, until a few days before the Christmas party (the Hindsight episode.) That pretty much brings us up to date.



“Who’s the military woman?” Susan Lewis asked John Carter as he was taping the small wallet photo to the inside of his locker door.

“That’s my cousin Kate. She’s great. She was one of my best friends before she went into the army. We were really close. She’s a lot like me. She never let the schema of the family and the business take her over. She knew she didn’t want to go into that kind of work when she was really young. And the Army seemed like a reasonable solution. I guess in that aspect she’s a lot smarter than me.” he said with his adorable little smile. “I’ve barely spoken to her since she got called out. That was a few years ago. I miss her a lot. I really needed her in the past few years. But I’m hoping to see her soon since Christmas is coming up.” He suddenly became self-conscious of the abundance of information he dumped on Susan. All she wanted was a name. He blushed and let out a small laugh. “Wow…sorry. You didn’t ask for her life story. It’s just that I miss her so much and she’s so important to me.”

“I understand. Don’t worry about it.” She smiled brightly at him as she hit him lightly on the shoulder.

“Carter, Susan, we need you! NOW!” Malik yelled into the lounge. “A double MVA coming in. Sounds pretty bad.” Carter threw his stethoscope around his neck and followed Susan out the door.

Forty-five minutes later things in the ER had calmed down. Michael Gallant was sitting at the table in the lounge staring at a wallet photo he had just received a few days prior. His first love and the love of his life. He smiled softly at the picture. Even though the woman’s face was dead serious, he knew her too well. He knew that her amazing smile was dying to come out. He closed his eyes and pictured her as he had last seen her; in his arms smiling up at him with eyes and a heart all too filled with love. He sighed. He was so lost in his thoughts of his love that he didn’t hear Carter enter the lounge.

Carter was surprised to see Gallant just sitting there and not have any books or work in front of him. He was curious to see what had him so enraptured. He quietly leaned over Gallant’s shoulder and was surprised to see him holding his cousin’s picture. He stood up quickly.

“Where did you get Kate’s picture?” Carter asked Gallant. “Did it fall out of my locker?”

Gallant stared at Carter, surprised at the question. He stood up quickly and got right in Carter’s face. “Wait…wait…how do you know Kate? This is my picture, she sent it to me.” Gallant wasn’t one of a jealous nature when it came to anything except for Kate.

Carter read the anger and jealousy in Gallant’s eyes, and even though he was still really confused he smiled and let out a small laugh. “Don’t worry Gallant, Kate’s my cousin.”

Gallant’s face turned from anger to surprise again. Now they both were confused. “Kate is your cousin…Katalina Car…” his voice trailed off as he began to say her last name. The realization hit him. He smiled and let out a sigh of relief. “Really?”

“Yeah. Katalina Carter is my cousin. But how do you two know each other? And I take it by the jealousy I saw in your eyes you two are more than friends.” Carter couldn’t help but smile. This was just too funny of a coincidence.

Gallant got a huge smile on his face and blushed slightly as he told Carter how they had met at boot camp, and how he had fallen for her as hard as a person could fall. Carter was surprised to learn that they had been together for all these years.

“Wow what a small world.” Carter chuckled. Gallant couldn’t help but agree. As they both continued talking about the situation, Abby Lockhart walked in and was surprised to see Carter and Gallant laughing and talking. They weren’t exactly good buddies. She walked up to Carter smiling, but curious.

“Oh Abby!” Carter exclaimed leaning in to give her a quick kiss. “Remember my cousin Kate that I’ve told you about before? Well, she and our very own med student Gallant met at boot camp and have been together ever since then!”

“And you’re just finding out about this now?” Abby asked, still very confused.

“Well I didn’t know that she was Dr. Carter’s cousin…” Gallant sheepishly added.

“I’ve got a million questions to ask you! Wanna go to Doc’s and grab something to eat? I’m off in 10, how about you?” Carter asked Gallant.

“Uh…yeah I’m off in 10 also. Sure, sounds great. And in case you are really protective of her, I’ll tell you straight off that you don’t have to worry about me hurting her. I love Kate more than life. She means everything to me. I would never, ever hurt her.” Gallant said with dead seriousness.

“I am protective of Kate, she’s been my best friend and practically a sister to me. But I know you Gallant. And I believe that you won’t hurt her. Now come on, let’s get out of here! Abby you coming?”

“Yeah, definitely. Then maybe I can figure out what’s going on.” Abby said as she grabbed her coat and put an arm around Carter’s waist. He kissed her forehead as the three walked out the door.


The doors to the ambulance bay seemed to open with a little more power and swing as the uniformed soldier marched in to the lobby area. Frank let his jaw drop slightly as the soldier marched strongly up to the desk. When the soldier asked for Michael Gallant all Frank could do was point. The soldier turned and saw the back of Gallant.

“Lieutenant Gallant!” the soldier shouted. Gallant jumped and dropped his chart at the same time. Purely by habit, he turned and saluted before even realizing who was barking the order. It was only after he heard the soldier giggle a few moments later that he realized who it was.

“Kate! Oh Kate!” Gallant shouted as he gathered her up in his arms and lifted her up in a huge hug. When he finally put her down all he could do was stare into her gorgeous green eyes. He gently traced her face with his fingers. “I can’t believe you’re really here. Oh Kate…” he whispered before she silenced him with a kiss. There were various “aww’s” from the patients and the doctors that were in the crowded ER. Gallant, always the quiet and respectful student, suddenly remembered himself and pulled away gently from Kate. They both blushed at the realization of the show they had just given. He pulled her into the lounge, where Carter was just coming in with Abby.

“John!” Kate exclaimed. She let go of Gallant’s hand and rushed to her cousin’s open arms. Abby just stood there, somewhat confused again. She looked over at Gallant who was just beaming. She could see the love in his eyes. He couldn’t take them off of Kate. Aww…how sweet. she thought. She couldn’t help but smile at the young lovers. Carter enthusiastically swung his cousin around. They were both laughing and smiling ear to ear. Kate pulled out of the embrace but held onto her cousin’s arms.

“John it’s so great to see you! I’ve missed you so much!” Kate exclaimed.

“Yeah, sure you did. That’s why you sent all those letters and stopped by so often when you were on leave.” Carter said jokingly.

“Oh come on. Don’t start with me. I know I’ll get enough of that from Gamma.”

“Yeah definitely. She talks about how she misses her little “Millie” all the time.”

“Oh no…she’s still calling me Millie? I’m 23, don’t you think by now she could get the fact that my name is Kate?”

On hearing the name “Millie”, Gallant and Abby looked at each other, obviously confused.

“Millie? I thought your name was Kate?” Abby said, still trying to answer the questions caused by all the confusion.

“Oh, it is, but my parents decided to curse me and name me after my grandmother as well. You see, all the men in the Carter family are named after previous male members of the family. I.E. John Truman Carter III. My parents decided it would be a nice change of pace to name their daughter and only child after a female member of the family, so I was named Katalina Millicent Carter. Gamma was so honored and excited that she’s called me Millie since the day I was born.” explained Kate.

“Wow, Katalina Millicent Carter… that’s a bit of a mouthful.” Abby said looking impressed.

“Yeah, I don’t like it much either. Kate is just fine. Speaking of names, I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Kate, John’s cousin, which I’m sure you’ve gathered by now.”

“And I’m Ab…”

“Kate this is Abby Lockhart, my girlfriend. She’s also a nurse here.” Carter interrupted proudly. He stepped over to Abby and put an arm around her shoulders.

“You two look good together. You’ve gotta tell me all about you two. And John, you’ve gotta catch me up on things. How about tonight the four of us go out?” asked Kate. She walked over to Gallant, kissing him quickly, before turning around for an answer.

“That sounds great!” John said, obviously over excited. Just then Susan Lewis stepped into the lounge.

“Well…party in here!” Susan said brightly.

“Oh Susan, this is my cousin Kate. The one that was in the picture I showed you the other day.”

“Oh, hi! John told me a lot about you. I’m Susan Lewis.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Kate said as she shook Susan’s hand.

“Well, back to the grindstone. Weaver’s on the warpath, so I wouldn’t let her catch you all in here hanging around. See you at the party tonight.”

“Oh the party! I forgot that was tonight in all this commotion. I know the party’s at your house Dr. Lewis, but would it be ok if Kate came with me? It’s her first night back in Chicago and I don’t want to miss a minute with her.” Gallant said as he tightened his arms around Kate.

“Oh sure! The more the merrier! See you tonight!” With that said, Susan left the lounge.

“Well this has been such a great morning, but I don’t want Weaver to ruin it, so we had better get going.” John said grimly.

Abby and Gallant agreed reluctantly.

“Well baby…I get off at 5, so where will you be?” Gallant asked, not wanting to let Kate go.

“Five? Okay…I’ll be at your place at 5.”

“Our place.” Gallant corrected smiling.

“Our place, right. I haven’t even been there yet. I came straight here from the airport. If you need me before then you can call me at Gamma’s. I’m going to stop by the apartment, then go to see her. Okay?”

“Sounds great.” Gallant said. Then he leaned in and lightly rested his forehead against hers. “I love you.” he whispered.

“I love you back.” They quickly kissed. Watching this, Carter and Abby couldn’t help but to hug and kiss each other. There had never been so much love in the lounge at once.

“Okay…now we really need to get to work.” stated Abby, pulling out of Carter’s embrace. She grabbed his hand and began to pull him out of the lounge.

“It was nice to meet you Kate. I can’t wait to talk more with you tonight.”

“It’s great having you back Kate. I’ve missed you like crazy.”

“Same goes for me cos’. See you tonight.”

“Well I think that it’s time for you to go. I’ll see you in a little while.” Kate said reluctantly as she turned to Gallant.

“A little while is far too long…” Gallant kissed Kate again with a little more passion and urgency. Then he led her out to the ambulance bay. He watched her leave. God I love that woman. he thought. He walked into the ER thanking God for giving him the greatest gift.


The hours in the ER passed by all too slowly for Gallant. For the first time since he had started working in the ER, his mind was wasn’t on the game. All he could think of was Kate and how good it felt to hold her again. His arms were aching with a longing to hold her. It was an ache he knew all too well. It was an ache he felt every night he fell asleep without her beside him. But he knew that with both of them being in the Army they would be apart more than together. He was just slipping into another day -dream of her when Weaver’s piercing voice sliced through his beautiful image. She barked some orders, and he got to work. But every extra moment he got, he thanked God for Kate, his greatest gift.


“Carter come on, it’s 5! We’ve gotta get going!” Abby yelled into the lobby of the ER from the lounge. He turned to answer her, but the sight caused a lump in his throat. There she was, the love of his life, smiling at him. He could see the love in her eyes, even if she was teasing him at the moment. She pushed the door to the lounge open and held it there with her body. Then she reached her arm out, waiting to take his hand. The road to Abby had been long, exhausting, and painful. But how she was right now, was how he had always pictured her. The door she was holding wasn’t the door to the lounge; it was the door to a future. A future they would share together. This was one of those moments that he knew he would remember and cherish for the rest of his life.


The party went great. Everyone loved Kate. She was funny and sweet. She made a great impression. Everyone was having a great time. But it was getting late, Carter was on early in the morning, and Kate was exhausted from the trip. So the four of them excused themselves and after much objection from the remaining partygoers the two couples left and went their separate ways.

Carter, Abby, Gallant, and Kate left. The remaining group marveled at how great Kate was. They also commented on how she brought out the best in Gallant. He was smiling and laughing; it was side of him that no one had seen before. He was always so serious and devoted to the work he was doing. They also couldn’t believe how attentive he was to Kate. He waited on her, and held her just right all the time. They weren’t one of those couples that were all over each other and made others around them sick, even if they always had to be touching. They were just sweet. A completely adorable couple. Head over feet for each other.

John was delighted to have Kate back for a while just when his life was going so well. And he was just as delighted that Kate had gotten along so well with Abby. The two of them had really hit it off. By the end of the night they had been talking like two old friends from high school. He was on top of the world on the drive home. Abby was by his side holding his hand with no intention of letting go, and Kate, his best friend, was back. Two great gifts.

Kate cuddled close to Gallant in cab back to their apartment. He had his arms wrapped tightly around her. For the first time in a long time his arms stopped aching. She rested her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. His heart that was so much hers. And hers was his. There were hardly any words shared between the two on the ride home. There wasn’t a need for any. This moment they were sharing in each other’s arms was far too sacred, they didn’t want to risk words getting in the way of the beauty and perfection. The ride ended and they walked up to their home still wrapped in each other’s arms. Gallant wanted to stay up talking to Kate all night, now that they were finally alone together, but Kate was too exhausted. She was falling asleep where she stood. Gallant watched her slip out of her clothes and into a camisole and pajama pants. Her body was beautiful. Defined from the hard work of the Army, but round in all the right places. Her skin was soft and creamy smooth. And despite the month, her skin was touched with a golden tan from her work overseas. Still no words had been shared between them as she slipped into the bed that she and Gallant had shared so many times before. He slid next to her but didn’t lie down. He lightly traced her face with his fingertips. Then he moved down her neck and to the top of the camisole she was wearing. Her breasts were slightly coming out of the top. He traced them too. Her skin here was even more soft and delicate than the rest of her body. He waited another moment or two for her to settle into the same position that she slept in night after night. When she finally raised her arms above her head and laid them on her pillow, he laid down into his normal position when she was there. He always had to fall asleep listening to her heartbeat, so he laid his head in the crook of her shoulder and chest. Then even in her sleep, Kate could feel his presence. Like clockwork her arm lowered and she began to trace small circles on his back with her fingertips.
“Good night, Kate. I love you.” Gallant whispered before he drifted off to join Kate in their dreams.

“Kate is really great. I feel like I’ve known her forever. And I can’t believe that the Gallant at the party tonight was the same Gallant that we see in the ER. I didn’t know that kid was capable of relaxing and having fun.” Abby commented to Carter.

“Yeah I know what you mean. But Kate has that effect on a lot of people. It’s hard just to sit back and not have a blast when she’s around. Even at all the benefits that we have to go to, she always manages to make it an actual party. I’m glad that you two got along so well. I want to see her as much as possible while she’s home. God I’ve missed her.”

“She means a lot to you, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah she does. She’s the only person in my family that really understood me. When Bobby got sick, I faded to an afterthought in the family. She was there for me then. She brought me back to the light. She was the only one to encourage me when I decided to become a doctor and not a suit. And I was in awe of her when she enlisted in the Army. No one thought that she could do it. But I knew better. I know how strong she is. I was so happy to see that she wasn’t going to let Gamma and the rest of the family push her into the business. I had always felt so alone in the family so many times, but she was always there beside me. She made me realize I was not alone. I feel guilty now for all the times in the past few years that I’ve gotten mad at her for not being here when I needed her the most. If she had been here after I got stabbed she wouldn’t have let me slip into the dark as I did. She would’ve brought me back into the light as she had so many times before. I was too selfish to realize how important the work is that she’s doing. She risks her life every day, and here I was blaming her for not saving me…….but she’s back now, and it’s like nothing has ever changed. She’s a great person Abby, just wait until you get to know her even more.”

“I can tell she means a lot to you John. And I do like her, I like her a lot. I hope that we can be good friends, especially since she means so much to you. Now come on, it’s late, and we’ve both got an early shift tomorrow. Let’s go to bed.”

“Yeah, bed sounds great.” Carter said as he crossed the room and put his arms around her suggestively. He slid his hands slowly from her stomach to her thighs. At the same time he began to kiss her neck. Abby let out a small groan of pleasure. She turned to face him and kissed him with so much passion and heat that it took his breath away. As she pulled herself away from the embrace, she whispered to him and said, “Not on your life.” She climbed into bed and closed her eyes, falling asleep almost instantly with a big smile on her face. Carter just stood there for a minute; his jaw dropped. He turned towards the bed to give Abby a word or two, but when he saw her already asleep, with a smile on her face, looking so peaceful, he once again found himself at a loss for words. He couldn’t believe how much this woman took his breath away. He smoothly slipped into bed next to her and carefully took her in his arms. “You put me through hell,” he whispered with a huge grin on his face. “And somehow that only makes me love you that much more.”
***********************************************

Three weeks. Three whole weeks. Gallant thought when he woke up the next morning. He couldn’t believe that he had three whole weeks to spend with Kate. He was so excited and didn’t want to miss a moment, especially knowing that she could still get called out at any moment. Kate was one of only three female members of an elite Special Forces unit that the Army had. Gallant didn’t even know what the work was that she did. She couldn’t tell even him. That’s all he knew about it. He knew that women weren’t on the front lines over in the Middle East, but he knew that Kate was doing extremely dangerous work that could easily cost her her life. He felt so helpless sometimes knowing that she was out there active and could get hurt at any time. And here he was safe in Chicago. He almost longed for those days back at boot camp when they were working side by side together. They got each other through it. But now he wanted to protect her and he couldn’t. He shook his head. He didn’t want to think of that. He loved her too much. All he wanted to think about was having her in his arms for the time being. She was safe now that she was here with him. He got up and started getting ready for work. He was trying to be quiet, but she woke up anyway.

“Hey…” Kate said with a yawn. “Morning baby.”

He crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Morning.” He couldn’t help but smile as he pushed some hair out of her face. She sighed as he leaned in to kiss her.

“What time do you get off today?”

“Um…nine I think. I’ll call you and let you know. Do you want to swing by this afternoon? We can pick up some lunch.”

“Oh I’d love to, but I’m having lunch with Gamma today. Besides, you know you never have a regular lunch break and I have some of my business affairs I need to get straight with her.”

“Business affairs?”

“Yeah. I’ve gotta find out how my stocks have been doing and what she’s been doing with them. It’s hard to keep on top of that stuff when you’re halfway around the world.”

“I thought that fighting a war would make you forget about that stuff.”

“Well you know that’s just what I was raised in. It’s hard to forget everything that’s been shoved down my throat since I was old enough to comprehend. Besides, I like playing the market. It’s fun if you know what you’re doing. And I’ve got a pretty good nose for that sort of thing.” She got up from the bed and turned on the radio. “Oh baby listen! It’s our song!” She crossed over to him with open arms wanting to dance as the sound blasted through the speakers.

Coz I am a man who will fight for your honor
I'll be the hero that you're dreaming of
Gonna live forever
Knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love
You keep me standing tall
You help me through it all
I'm always strong when you're beside me
I have always needed you
I could never make it alone
Coz I am a man who will fight for your honor
I'll be the hero that you're dreaming of
Gonna live forever
Knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love

“No baby, this is what you like to think our song is.” The New Found Glory version of “The Glory of Love” is not what he had in mind for their song. But the lyrics did explain almost exactly how he felt about her and how they felt about each other. He did want to be her hero; he would fight for her honor and protect her for the rest of his life. They both laughed as they slow danced to the punk rock song.

“All right babe, I’ve gotta get to work or I’ll be late. I love you.” He kissed her passionately. “I’ll call you as soon as I get a chance okay?”

“Sounds good. I love you back.” She said as she crawled back underneath the covers.

************************************************

“Hello! Anybody home?” Kate yelled as she stepped into the giant foyer.

“Hello Miss Kate. Welcome home. I trust that you are well.”

“Hi Henry. I’m fine, thanks. Where’s Gamma?”

“The missus is in the library waiting for you.”

“Great. Has Mr. Di Yanni arrived yet?”

“No, miss. But he is expected shortly.”

“Okay, thank you. Oh, will you please have an iced tea brought to me? And ah…make it from Long Island…yeah thanks. Hi Gamma! How are you?”

“Oh Katalina! My little Millie. Oh don’t worry about me. I’m not the one fighting a war half way across the world. How are you? I’m so glad that you could finally fit me into your busy schedule.”

“Gamma…you saw me yesterday. And I just got back yesterday. If you want to wait, I can leave and try to fit you in some other day.”

“Katalina Carter, don’t you give me that tone of voice!”

“Gamma, don’t start with that. I’ve been answering to people a lot scarier than you for the past five years. Now come on, I didn’t come here to fight.”

“You’re right dear, I’m sorry. Well I think that you’ll find that your broker has made some good choices while you’ve been gone.”

“Good. I have missed the trading game.”

“You would have made a great broker Katalina.”

“I know Gamma. But I love what I do.”

“I know you do dear, but I wish that you would just come home and settle down into something safe.”

“I am safe Gamma. I know what I’m doing, and I have the best army in the world to back me up. Besides, this work that I’m doing is more important than being a stockbroker ever could be. I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“Mr. Di Yanni is here for you Ma’am.” Henry said as he walked into the room.

“Finally! Send him in.”

“And here’s your drink, miss.” He handed Kate the tall glass.

“Oh thank you so much Henry.” Kate replied taking a big drink.

“Don’t you think that it’s a bit early for that Katalina?”

“It’s the afternoon. I think that I’m okay Gamma. Now lets get started. So Mr. Di Yanni, do I still have some money left?”

“Of course Kate. Your grandmother has made some very wise decisions of when to buy and sell. Here’s your portfolio. I updated it just this morning. Basically as you’ll see, I’ve bought and sold when your grandmother bought and sold. In the last five months since you’ve been home last, you will see a considerable increase in your profit margin. Nearly two hundred and fifty. Even with the dip in the economy you’ve come out ahead. You have a great instinct when it comes to this Kate.”

“Thank you Jack.” Kate replied, not looking up from the charts she was reading. “Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in five months, not too bad. I see you sold my Qualcom stock. What bid is it at today?”

“Just give me a minute and I’ll find out.” Jack Di Yanni said, pulling out his palm pilot. He quickly began pressing numbers. “Ah yes, it is down five points today.”

“And what is the forecast for the next six weeks?”

“Favorable. Not great, but there is talk of a merger.”

“Great. Buy fifteen thousand shares. And keep me posted on the merger.”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“Not that I see. Everything looks favorable right now. I’ll look this over more thoroughly later and give you a call.”

“Great. Now Millicent, should we get down to business?”

“Of course Jack.”

“I’ll be out by the pool. When you two are ready for lunch, you know where to find me.” said Kate.

Jack Di Yanni and Gamma’s business went by fast and sooner than Kate was ready, Gamma was calling her to lunch. The meal went rather smoothly. Kate loved her grandmother dearly, but she could be so exasperating. John knew exactly how she felt. They were both considered black sheep because of their career choices. No one seemed to understand that John just wanted to be a doctor, and Kate just didn’t want to be a little woman in a powerful family. She found a way out that made her proud and happy. Joining the Army was the best thing that she could have ever done. She didn’t think that there was anything more fulfilling in the world. And she was even prouder to be one of the few women in her Special Forces unit. Hours passed as Kate told Gamma about the Middle East and what she could about the war. Gamma told her of the divorce between her Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Roland, John’s parents. She was surprised that John hadn’t told her about it. She updated her on Chase’s condition, and all the grandkids. Kate was thankful when it was time for her grandmother to leave for an appointment. She had been trying to think of a reason to leave for about an hour. Kate grabbed one of the drivers and spent the rest of the day on Michigan Avenue. She spent nearly two hours in Tiffany’s. It was her favorite store. She passed the engagement rings. The Tiffany Cut ring was her absolute favorite. It was a timeless classic. She also picked out her and Michael’s wedding bands. She was so excited about them. She knew that Abby had the next day off and she wanted to bring her here. She wanted to get another woman’s opinion on them before she got too excited. She hurried out of the store before she could buy anything and got back in the limo. It was nearly nine, and she knew that Michael, John and Abby would all be getting off.

“Hi all!” Kate said brightly as she stepped into the lounge to pick up the three of them. Michael crossed the room and took her in his arms.

“I missed you baby. I love you.” He kissed her gently as Carter and Abby “awwwed” jokingly. Kate cuddled against Michael’s chest as they laughed. Luka came into the lounge.

“Well, what’s going on in here?” Luka asked, trying to cover the twinge of pain he felt at seeing Abby in Carter’s arms.

“We were just about to head out and grab a late bite to eat. Would you like to join us Dr. Kovac?” Michael asked before the rest of them had a chance to stop him. Abby and Carter both held their breath as they waited for an answer.

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m on again in six. I’m covering for Chen. So maybe some other night?”

“Yeah, definitely Luka, and I mean that.” Carter said sincerely. Luka nodded his head in appreciation. “Oh Luka, I don’t think that you’ve met my cousin Kate. She’s also Gallant’s girlfriend.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Are you also in the Army then?”

“Likewise, and yes I am. That’s where Michael and I met.” Kate replied taking Luka’s outstretched hand.

“Yeah, and now she’s outranked me.” Michael said, as he tightened his arms around her.

“Damn straight.” she said laughing as she leaned up to give him a quick kiss. “Well, we had better get a move on coz Abby, you and I have a big day of shopping tomorrow.”

“We do?” Abby asked as the group walked out of the door.

“Yep. I’m taking you to Tiffany’s so I can get your opinion on a few little items.”

“Tiffany’s, huh?” Abby asked laughing. Luka watched the happy four practically frolic over to the stretch limo that Kate had arrived in. He tried to be happy that Abby was happy. He had, for the most part, let her go, but it still stung a little. He sighed and walked off in the opposite direction of the car.

“Kate, why are you going to Tiffany’s tomorrow?” Michael asked with warning in his voice. He knew that the Tiffany Cut ring was the engagement ring she had always wanted, but he couldn’t afford the exact one she wanted. She wanted the three-carat, and he could only afford the quarter carat. But he also knew that Gamma had promised to buy the ring and the bands as an engagement present. He didn’t know how he could accept them.

“Like I said Michael, I just need to pick out some accessories for the charity ball that’s coming up. And to look at a few little pieces…”

“Kate, if you’re going to look for our rings, I wish that you’d let me come.”

“I will Michael, I just want to get another woman’s opinion on them first, and then you, Gamma and I will go. I have to make sure she likes them before she gives them to us. But wait…you want to see them?! Does that mean you’re okay with Gamma giving them to us?”

“I still don’t know, but if it’ll make you happy.”

“Michael, I’m just getting another opinion on them, it’s not for sure. I’ll show them to Abby and then I’ll see what you think. If you’re not in love with them, then we won’t get them, okay? I love you, not the rings.”

“Okay…I know.” He turned his face away from her, but took her hand.

“Now just where are we going?” Abby asked, looking out the window. John looked at Kate with a smile. They had a special evening all planned out for their two loves.

“You’ll see.” John answered as he flashed Kate a sly smile.

“Gallant, are you as scared as I am right about now?” Abby asked, noticing the looks exchanged by John and Kate.

“Yeah, I think I am.” He replied looking at Kate cautiously. She cuddled up to him and looked into his eyes with her most innocent smile.

“I love you.” She declared boldly, keeping the innocent smile on her face. He just looked at her and then laughed. Abby cuddled up to John, who in turn wrapped his arms around her tightly and whispered into her ear. The rest of the limo ride went in silence. The moment was too pleasant and there was just no need for words. The limo came to a stop in front of the Grant Park skating rink. It was completely empty. It was never empty. Gallant and Abby nervously looked at each other while Kate and John exchanged the same sly glances.

“Come on you two. Don’t be afraid. We don’t bite. Well…we can if you want.” Kate joked as she grabbed onto Gallant’s arm. John and Abby wrapped their arms around each other and followed. As the four got closer to the seating they noticed the flicker of candles in the wind, and a whole arrangement of flowers, picnic baskets and blankets that were laid out.

“Good evening John, Katalina. Would any of you be interested in a Hot Toddy?” asked a formally dressed, but bundled man.

“Good evening Henry. I think that we’ll do a little skating first but keep‘em warm. We’ll need them shortly.” John said politely.

“Surprise!” Kate said softly as she turned to face Michael, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist.

“Surprise!” John echoed, as he took Abby in his arms. The two were speechless.

“This…I can’t…oh my God…how did you two do this?” Abby asked as she looked around. She was so surprised and touched that she had tears in her eyes.

“We wanted to do something really special for the two of you.” John said nuzzling his head close to Abby’s. “I love you Abby. You are the best thing in my life. And I thank God for sending you to me.” He kissed her softly, sweetly.

“And you’re mine. I love you Michael.” Kate said as she leaned even closer into Michael’s chest.

“Kate, you are the most amazing…I love you, and I could never express just how much.” He kissed her as he marveled at how she was able to touch his heart in a new way every day.

“Well, we’ve got this rink all to ourselves, so are we just going to stand here all night or are we going to take advantage?” Kate asked as she grabbed a pair of skates.

“How did you two manage that?” Michael asked as he did the same.

“Well there are some advantages to being a Carter. Daly is friend of the family. We pulled some strings.” John said casually.

“And donated a lot of money.” Kate added just as casually. “Let’s go!” She grabbed Michael’s hand and pulled him onto the ice. John and Abby followed shortly. They skated in couples and all together. They laughed when one of them fell, and played around for nearly and hour. Finally they left the rink, drank Hot Toddies, and helped themselves to fresh baked cookies and other snacks. Abby tried to think of a more perfect day, and realized that there wasn’t one. She couldn’t help but stare at John and smile. She didn’t know why she had waited so long, and tried so hard to ignore the way she felt about him. Luka would never have even thought of doing anything like this, ever. Suddenly she was so overcome with feelings of love that she had to catch her breath and wipe a tear from her eye.

Gallant scooted closer to Kate, and took in every smell, glance, and move she made. He couldn’t imagine life without her, and he barely remembered life before her. He didn’t feel like there was one. She had always been in his life in some way. The four of them stayed in the park for another two hours, just talking and cuddling. Finally the threat of frostbite from the cold was overwhelming and they had to leave. They excused Henry who began to collect their things. John grabbed the roses they had laid out and picked out the two most perfect ones he could find and gave one to Abby and one to Kate. They loaded into the limo and again rode in silence. Kate fell asleep against Gallant, as Carter and Abby sighed contentedly wrapped in a loving embrace.

********************************************

The four of them had decided just to go to Gamma’s to save time since they were all so exhausted. The next morning, the group had to laugh. Abby and Kate got up early to make breakfast for their men before they headed off for a hard day’s work. They were both in bathrobes and slippers as they padded around the large kitchen. Gallant and Carter came down and were pleasantly surprised by the feast their women had prepared. It was all like some corny sitcom from the 1950’s. Kate and Abby walked the men to the door and kissed them goodbye. It was a 1950’s sitcom.

“Okay, time to shop!” Kate said excitedly grabbing Abby by the arm. The two ran up the stairs to get ready.

**********************************************
“Oh Kate…” Abby sighed. “It’s so beautiful.” The ring seemed to have a glow of its own. The diamond was crystal clear, no color whatsoever. Abby was almost afraid to even touch it when the salesperson, Judy, held it out to her.

“I know! It’s the ring I’ve always wanted. Oh, and over here are our wedding bands. His is the Lucida Band right there, and mine is the Elsa Peretti Double Wire right here.” Kate said knowingly as she pointed out the rings. Abby was impressed with Kate’s knowledge of the jewelry. But she also got a little unnerved. Kate was picking out a million dollar engagement ring. What if she and John got engaged? She could never walk around all day everyday with something that cost that much sitting on her hand.

“Okay, now that I’ve shown you those, we can pick out the fun stuff for you! I love your dress for the charity ball coming up and I think I know the perfect necklace and bracelet set for you.” Kate turned towards Judy. “It’s the Diamond Line with the Victoria clasp. Can we see them please?” Without hesitation, the salesperson hurried to retrieve. Judy laid out the necklace and bracelet on a velvet cloth. Again, Abby had to catch her breath at the shimmering diamonds.

“Oh, no…Kate…no…I couldn’t…there’s no way I could ever wear anything like that. This has to cost a fortune. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that thing.”

“Well if you don’t like it, we can find something else.”

“No, I like it...it’s like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, but I just couldn’t accept it. I mean how much does that thing cost?”

“The necklace is approximately $120,000, without tax or insurance. And the matching bracelet is $11,000.” Judy chirped quickly, almost snapping.

“A hund…no Kate, I’m not going to let you spend that on me. That’s too much.”

“Oh nonsense Abby. What time is it?”

“Ah…um…” Abby’s mind was frazzled. “About 12:30.”

“Well there, ya see? I’ve probably made about that much in the market today by now, so I’m really breaking even. Plus it’s really Gamma’s money, and she loves you. She’ll be pleased. Okay, we’ll take both of those and also I would like the Hexagonal Link necklace and bracelet, please. And I think that should be it for the day. Oh wait! We didn’t pick out any earrings.”

“No! No earrings. I think that we’ve spent enough. Let’s go.” Abby demanded. Her mind was spinning at the amount that Kate had no trouble spending. Abby didn’t see that kind of money in a year and here Kate was spending it in one store in less than an hour. This was a side of Kate that Abby hadn’t seen coming. She definitely had the Carter genes. Well…she was an only child, an only daughter. She probably grew up like that. Abby reasoned with herself. She had a way with finding a tiny reason to not like people and push them away, and she didn’t want to do that to Kate. She really liked her.

“Okay, no earrings. That will be it. Thank you Judy.” Abby let Kate fill out all the paperwork required for the purchases. The grand total of the two necklaces and bracelets was well over $200,000. The limo ride was pretty quiet until Kate spoke up.

“Are you okay Abby? You’ve been absolutely silent since we left the store.”

“I’m fine. Just a little overwhelmed. That was a shit load of money Kate, even for a Carter. And your necklace didn’t even cost half the amount of mine. I just don’t know why you did it.”

“I don’t have a hidden agenda Abby. And the cost doesn’t matter, and not just because we have the money. We just happened to be there, and we found stuff we liked, so I bought them. No big deal. You’ve got the receipt if you don’t want to keep them, you can return them. If we end up at a Wal-Mart and you find something you like better then we’ll get that. If you think I’m trying to buy you or something, then I’m sorry. That’s not what I set out to do.” Kate said solemnly as she turned to look out the window.

“Kate…I didn’t think that. I don’t think that. I’m just overwhelmed, that’s all. I’m not used to being spoiled like that.”

“Well, you should get on John about that. I know he doesn’t like to flaunt the Carter name and wealth, but he can do it. He should, you’re worth it.” Kate giggled and kicked Abby in the leg lightly.

“Thanks…I know!” The two girls laughed. The tension was broken. They spent the rest of the day acting like a couple of teenagers. They whistled after hot guys, flirted with men in restaurants, and tried on ridiculous outfits.

“So what time are our men off today?” Kate asked Abby, as they made their way up to their rooms at Gamma’s house.

“Um…should be anytime now, I think. Honestly, I have no idea! They’ll call us when they’re ready for us.” Just as Abby had finished speaking, Kate’s cell-phone rang and Abby’s pager went off. They looked to see who it was, and began to laugh. Abby made her way to the nearest phone.

“Hold on Abby, John’s probably with Michael. Hi sweetie!” Kate answered the phone brightly as she tried to hold back a giggle. “Yeah I’m at Gamma’s. Yeah, we had a blast. Hey, is John with you? That’s what I thought. Yeah, we’ll be here. Does he want to talk to Abby? She’s right here. Oh really? That sounds like fun.” Abby leaned in to hear the conversation. “They already have planned out our evening.” Kate whispered to Abby. “Baby, put John on the phone. Yeah I love you too, I’ll see you in a bit. Hi John, yeah…yeah…” Abby impatiently clawed at the phone. “Okay…okay…here ya go.” Kate handed over the phone with a smile.

“Hey you. Yeah, we had fun. Yeah she did. So what…we are?” John was not letting her get a word in edge wise. Kate began to laugh as Abby let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. “Okay...okay…yeah. Me too. Buh…yeah…buh…bye!” She had to laugh as she handed the phone back to Kate. “Man that boy can talk. I wonder where he gets it from.” she said nudging Kate.

“Funny…true, but ha ha. So where are we going tonight?” Kate asked as the two walked down the hallway.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying that much attention. Some bar with Chen and Pratt.”

“Who?”

“Oh, Jing-Mei Chen and Gregory Pratt. They’re doctors. You might have met them. Jing-Mei’s cool, you’ll like her, and Pratt, well…I don’t know. You’ll just have to see for yourself tonight.”

“Okay…” Kate replied with some uncertainty. “So are the boys on their way over here?”

“Yup. So we had better get ready, you know how they are.”

“Good idea. What are you gonna wear? And can I borrow it?”

“Come on!” Abby said as she pulled Kate by the arm into the bedroom. Michael and John arrived at the house and found the two girls laughing their heads off and trying on different outfits. The bedroom was covered in clothes. It looked like the closet threw up. John and Michael burst out laughing when they saw the girls posing in front of the full-length mirrors even though they both only had on a skirt and a bra. The two girls jumped when they heard the guys laugh. They turned and began to laugh even harder.

“Well this would be a nice picture to come home to if one of these beautiful women weren’t my cousin.” John said jokingly as he walked over to the two. He kissed Kate lightly on the cheek, then tackled Abby, knocking her to the bed. As they began to wrestle around Kate crossed over to Michael and took his hand, pulling him into their room across the hall. Once in the room, she abruptly turned around and kissed him passionately. His hands traveled over her body. She pulled him towards the bed, never letting their lips part as they lied down gently. She pulled at the buttons on his shirt, while he slid his hands under her skirt. Within a few more minutes they had found a gentle sensual rhythm. Both of their bodies rocked together in perfect harmony. Across the hall, Abby and Carter had found a rhythm of their own, although it wasn’t as gentle or sensual as the rhythm across the hall. By the time Kate and Michael had gotten all their clothes off, John and Abby were already “hard” at work, so to speak. Their bodies pounded against each other in a fast dance. Each move brought each of them closer to the edge. After the sweet release, they fell back to earth and into each other’s arms. Across the hall, Kate and Michael were continuing their dance.

About a half an hour later the couples ran into each other as they were leaving their bedrooms. Kate grabbed Abby’s arm and the two girls hurried down the stairs leaving the men in the dust. John and Michael heard the two laughing as they went down the stairs and gave each other worried looks.

“That’s not a good thing.” Michael said as he began to hurry after the two.

“That’s definitely not a good thing.” John followed right after. They ran down the stairs and divided the two gossiping girls.

“Well, I think that it’s time to be on our way.” Michael said, grabbing Kate by the waist and pulling her out the door.

“Are we going in your Jeep, or are we going in style?” Kate asked. “Abby what do you think?”

“Style, baby!”

“That’s my girl!”

“Kate come on, we don’t need the limo.” John said sternly.

“Oh come on, Carter! You’ve got it! Flaunt it!” Abby said as she grabbed Kate’s hand and the two waltzed out the door. John called Henry, and the four finally set off. Due to their little after work romps, they were late. Chen and Pratt had been at the bar for nearly twenty minutes before they arrived.

“Well well well…nice of you all to finally show up!” Jing-Mei said with a smile.

“We had a little business we had to take care of first.” Carter said smugly as he wrapped his arms around Abby.

“Ahh, enough said.” Jing-Mei replied.

“How are you doing Pratt?” John asked taking his hand.

“I’m great.” He replied as he slid an arm around Jing-Mei’s shoulders.

“I don’t know if you two have met my cousin. This is Kate. Kate this is Jing-Mei Chen and Gregory Pratt.”

“Hi, it’s nice to meet both of you. John’s told me a lot about you.” She took their hands.

“It’s nice to meet you too. Gallant and John haven’t stopped talking about you since you arrived. I think we met at Susan’s Christmas party last week.” Jing-Mei said smiling.

“Oh yeah! Nice to see you again.” Kate said as the four slid into the booth.

“So, what’s it like being in the Army? Seen any action?” Pratt asked eagerly.

“Well, I love my work. It’s hard to stay positive sometimes, but I know it’s all worth it. It’ll be nice to sit back someday and watch my children play in a country that is a little safer because of me. Or so I like to think. I have seen some action in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not exactly front lines stuff. I’d love to tell you more, but I can’t.” Kate explained with a voice full of unmistakable pride.

“She’s a member of a Special Forces unit. I don’t even know what she does.” Michael explained with a voice equally filled with pride.

“Wow…that sounds exciting, but dangerous.” Jing-Mei added fascinated.

“Well it is…both, I mean. It’s exciting and dangerous. But I love it.”

“I think that’s enough war talk. Kate has to deal with it everyday and I’m sure she doesn’t want to talk about it.” John said protectively.

“John, it’s okay…I don’t mind. It’s actually good to talk about it.”

“No, Carter’s right. You’re on leave and this is the time when you get to think about anything but the war.” Pratt added with support. “Now who wants what to drink?” He stood up and looked at the group. They all threw in their various orders and he and Gallant walked to the counter. The boys came back and the group talked and joked like they had all grown up together. Then suddenly Gallant whispered something to John and then John relayed the message to Pratt. The three guys suddenly excused themselves and walked to the back of the bar.

“Uh oh…this could be bad.” Abby said with nervous chuckle.

“What do you think they’re up to?” Jing-Mei asked.

“I don’t know. Those guys are capable of anything. But I think we should be scared.” Abby answered, still with the nervous laugh.

“Definitely.” Jing-Mei retorted. The girls talked for a few more minutes about what the guys could possibly be doing when they were interrupted by the opening cords of “The Glory of Love” by New Found Glory. Right away Kate got a huge smile on her face and started to laugh. Just then the guys came back. Kate got right up and into Michael’s arms and they began to slow dance to the punk song. They softly sang alternating lines to each other. Carter and Pratt grabbed their women and started doing the same. Then suddenly the guys pulled away and stood up on the table. When the song got to the a cappella part, they started singing to their greatest gifts at the top of their lungs.
I am the man who will fight for your honor
I’ll be the hero that you're dreaming of
Gonna live forever
Knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love

It was the most idiotic, yet sweet thing the girls had ever seen. When the part was over the guys jumped off the table and took the girls back in their arms. The girls hugged their men back tightly as they laughed and blushed. At the end of the song a roaring applause came from the other patrons in the bar. Carter, Pratt, and Gallant all turned and took bows from their cheering “fans.”

“That was so sweet, what you did tonight. How did you get them to do it?” Kate asked Michael several hours later when they were back at their apartment.

“I wanted to do something sweet for you. And I thought that Carter and Pratt would get a kick out of doing it for Abby and Jing-Mei. And I think that they liked it.”

“They loved it. They were surprised but it was great. You are amazing. I love you.” Their lips met in a passionate lock. He parted her lips with his tongue and eagerly explored her mouth. She requited the favor by massaging his tongue with hers. They pulled apart after a moment, breathless from the passion and love that was over taking them.

“Oh Kate…” he managed to say breathlessly into her hair as he held her close. “I thank God every day for every moment that I have you. You are the best thing in my life. I love you. You feel that?” He took her hand and placed it on his chest so she could feel his heartbeat. “This beats because of you. You are what keeps me going. If I lost you, this would stop. It beats because of you and for you. There is no life for me without you in it.” She pulled away slightly from him in order to look into his eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but he silenced her with another kiss. “Shh…don’t speak. I know exactly what you’re going to say.” He grabbed her hand and led her to bed. They later fell asleep in the most blissful peace; wrapped in each other’s arms.


“We’ve been together for how long now and you still surprise me. I love it!” Abby said as she rolled over to face John. Her naked breasts rubbed against his bare chest.

“I aim to please.” he said smugly. “And by the way you screamed I think I succeeded.”

“Hey, I think you did plenty of screaming on your own there buddy! I know what you like.” She bent down and lightly bit one of his nipples.

“Oh…yeah you do…” She pushed him flat on his back and began to trail her lips south. Carter pressed his lips tightly together to stifle the loud moan of pleasure he felt coming over him, when she covered his erect member. He clutched at the headboard and began to thrust his hips upward in unison with Abby’s up and down movements. She had one hand holding herself up while the other traveled from his thighs and beyond. She stroked and caressed every inch. And he couldn’t get enough of it. After he released, he immediately rolled on top of Abby. She was a little startled but very pleased. She giggled as he started on her neck.

“You do aim to please. And baby…you succeed.” She purred before she let out a small yelp as he forcefully took a hard nipple into his mouth. He sucked with fury as his hand slid down her firm stomach. Another groan escaped her lips as he entered her moist core with one finger then two. He dove deeper and deeper into her, as he continued his assault on her breasts. Her hips arched as he felt every inch of her moist insides. When he was sure she was close to the brink he slid his fingers out and scooted down her body. He parted her legs and penetrated her deeply with his tongue. He sucked, licked, explored until she lost it. The rush was welcome to the both of them. She breathed hard as she reached down and grabbed a tuft of his hair. He didn’t come up right away. He nuzzled her for a moment then lifted his head. He slid a hand back between her thighs and gently massaged her.

“I love you Abby. More than you’ll ever know.”

“Oh I have some idea. That’s how I feel about you. I do love you John.” He felt his heart swell. He sighed with total contentment. They wrapped their arms around each other and fell asleep.

The next morning Michael watched Kate suit up in her combat gear. As sexy as she looked in it, he hated seeing her in it. It just reminded him of how soon she’d be out of his arms again for God knows how long. But at least she wasn’t leaving him. Not just yet. She would be back in a few hours. She had a friend that was a teacher and she had agreed to talk to her class about the Conflict. She thought the combat gear would have more effect. She couldn’t help but slip into Army mode when she pulled her hair back and put on her hat. The smile fell from her face and she became quiet and serious. She looked at herself in the mirror. She breathed in deep and nodded her head. Michael watched it all.

“Hey, lighten up! You’re not going overseas yet. Even though facing a bunch of thirteen-year-olds could seem like a war.”

“Hey! I didn’t mean to wake you up on the one day you get to sleep in.” She sat next to him on the bed and traced his face with her fingertips.

“That’s fine, every waking moment with you is time well spent.” Kate just smiled and shook her head. There was no way she could have a comment for every one that Michael gave her. He was sweet, but sometimes she thought he tried too hard.

“Well, I’d better get going. Don’t want to be tardy for class!” The two let out small chuckles. “I should be back here by one. What time do you get off?”

“Not until ten. Then I’m on again at six. So I’ll probably just come back here and crash. Do you have any plans?”

“Nope, which is nice. I haven’t had a chance to really relax yet. So I’ll be here when you get home.”

“Sounds good.”

She got up and started for the door. Watching her go, Gallant suddenly was overcome with a strong fear. He jumped out of the bed and ran to her side. He grabbed her in a huge hug and kissed her with urgency. Kate was startled.

“What was that for?” She asked when he let her go.

“I don’t know. I just love you.” He replied with the sheepish grin she loved.

“I love you back.” She walked out the door. Gallant still couldn’t shake the fear that he felt.

Come on! Pull yourself together. She’s not going back! She’s fine, she’ll be fine! You’ll see her in a few hours. She’s not going overseas, not today! He scolded himself. He felt the same way every time she left to go back overseas. He lied back down and went to sleep. Later when he went to work he still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. That Kate was leaving him somehow. He couldn’t concentrate on his work and got yelled at multiple times by Weaver. He just couldn’t get his mind on the game.

Elsewhere, Kate was happily walking back to the apartment. It was unusually warm and she was determined to enjoy it. The talk she gave had gone over well, she managed to keep the kids attention and not bore them do death. It was also nice to have lunch with a friend that she hadn’t seen in years. Her happy thoughts were interrupted by the sound of shouting. She looked to the other side of the street where she saw two men fighting. Peacekeeping mode kicked on in her mind and without a thought she bolted across the street. She could see one man had a knife and a third man coming up from behind. She yelled out for them to stop, jumped, and disarmed the man with the knife seconds before he would have stabbed the other man. The action took them by surprise. Then before she could say a word, three shots rang out. The third man had had a gun. She looked towards the sky as she fell to the pavement. The three men took off in different directions. It all happened so fast that she didn’t even realize why she couldn’t get up. Then the pain came. She had received all three shots in the lower abdomen and chest. Everything went black before her head even hit the cold hard pavement.

“Carter! Were gonna need you! Multiple GSW coming in! Single victim! Sounds bad!” Haleh yelled to him.

“Pratt! I’m going to need you! What’s the ETA?!” He jumped up from his seat and ran for Trauma 1.

“Three minutes!” Haleh answered. Pratt rushed outside with Carter to wait for the ambulance. The two talked about the night before, and how the girls had loved it. They were laughing as the ambulance pulled up.

“What have we got?!” Pratt yelled as soon as the doors had opened.

“Twenty something military woman. Took three slugs trying to break up a fight.” Carter fell back as he listened.

No…no…it can’t be. Please God! he screamed in his mind.

“Name’s Katalina Carter, says on her dog tags! Unconscious on arrival, weak pulse.” The paramedics continued, not noticing the horrified glances on the faces of Carter and Pratt.

“Oh sweet Jesus! No!” Carter yelled as he pulled the gurney. He felt his heart break as he looked at her pale, sunken face. His best friend, his baby cousin, had been shot multiple times. He had to save her life.

“Page Corday STAT! Get her down here! Abby I need you! It’s Kate!” Abby spun on her heel, and stared towards Trauma 1 where Carter had just entered.

“What?!” She ran towards the doors, pulling on gloves and a gown. She had to turn away for a moment when she saw Kate’s face. Her uniform was dripping with blood. “No! This can’t be happening!”

“Who is it? She looks familiar.” Malik asked as he handed over some tubing.

“She’s my cousin!” Carter said feverishly as he put in a chest tube.

“Oh shit…” Malik said under his breath.

“Do you want me to get Gallant? John, do you want me to get Gallant?!” Abby yelled.

“No, stay with her. You need to be with her!” He yelled out some directions for Lydia and Chuni.

“Lydia, find Gallant and let him know what’s happened, but try not to let him in.” Abby said as calmly as she could, but she was fighting back the tears. She couldn’t believe the irony. Kate had been overseas on dangerous missions for the past two years and had never received anything more than a scratch. Now she comes home for three weeks and gets shot. Along with the tears, she felt the anger begin to swell inside of her. She watched Carter try to save his cousin and best friend. She saw the tears swim in his brown eyes. A few fell. Everything seemed to be happening in a daze. The room was foggy, and the voices were low and sluggish. Elizabeth Corday came in and shoved Abby out of the way; she barely noticed. Gallant’s screams fell on deaf ears through the doors. Lydia was trying to keep him from entering. She didn’t know Kate, but she was fighting back tears as well. Carter worked as hard as he could to remain stable. But when he heard the sound of the flat line he lost it. He began to cry uncontrollably. He was screaming at Kate to wake up. Corday was yelling at him to back off. Chen was called into the room and she pulled John away as she began to take over. Abby crossed over to him. When she put her arm around him she discovered that he was shaking. The shocks didn’t help. Corday began to crack her chest. Carter turned away. The room was spinning. He could barely see. He knew he was going to be sick. He ran out of the room to the bathroom. Abby wanted to move but she couldn’t. She looked at Gallant. The expression on his face would stick in her memory for the rest of her life. She could see his heart breaking. He went pale. The buzz of the machine signaling the flat line echoed loudly in the room. Suddenly there was a beep. Everyone held their breath. Then another came. She was stable. Immediately Corday yelled for them to move to surgery. Carter stumbled out of the bathroom and back to the trauma rooms. The gurney was gone. Lydia, Chuni, Pratt, Chen, and Abby were just standing there. He sighed a breath of relief; she was stable at least. He knew that Corday and Romano would be working on her, and they were the best surgeons around. He walked into the room and stood next to Abby. She took him in her arms. He clutched her tightly. Pratt wrapped an arm around Chen.

“We’ll go find Gallant.” Pratt said sympathetically. He ushered Chen out of the room.

“We’ll give you two some time.” Lydia said as she and Chuni left the room.

“I can’t…there’s…” the words caught in John’s throat. “That didn’t happen. Abby tell me this is a nightmare.”

“She’ll be okay, John. She’s so strong, she’ll pull through. She has to.” Abby said as she rubbed his back. Just then the doors to the trauma room opened up and Gallant staggered in. Abby pulled out of John’s embrace and hugged Gallant. He was shaking and still pale. He felt cold and clammy. He was in shock. Suddenly his knees buckled and Abby struggled to hold him up. John crossed over to him and the two helped him walk to the lounge.

“What happened? How?” Gallant asked a few minutes later. His head was hanging. His voice was a hoarse whisper. Abby looked at John and saw that he was unable to answer, so she crossed to the couch and sat down beside him.

“We don’t know how it happened. She took three shots, two to the abdomen and one to the chest. She lost a lot of blood. They think the shot to the chest nicked her aorta. She flat-lined for almost twenty minutes, but she got a rhythm back. Romano and Corday are working on her. They’re the best surgeons around. She’ll pull through.” Then looking away in a hushed tone she added, “She has to.” There was a knock on the door and Weaver entered.

“I just heard what happened. Kovac and Lewis have been called in to cover your shifts. You can go upstairs and wait for news or go across the street or whatever. Okay? I’m really sorry.”

“Thanks Kerry.” John said as he managed a weak smile. She just nodded her head sympathetically as she slipped back out the door.

“I live and breathe for that woman. She keeps me alive. She’s all I got. I love her so much, I can’t lose her, not now, not like this.” Gallant sobbed. “I love her. I love you Kate. Please God, don’t let her leave me. I love her too much.” He looked up towards the sky and let the tears stream down his face.

“Come on, let’s go upstairs.” Abby said as she wiped tears from her eyes and cheeks. John and Michael just nodded and slowly got up. The three walked like zombies to the elevator. As the doors were closing, a hand shot in and opened the doors back up. It was a police officer.

“Hi, I’m sorry to have to do this, but I understand that you, Dr. Carter are the patient’s cousin and physician. I need to ask you some questions.” Officer Gardner said politely.

“Come on, were on our way up to surgery. Do you know what happened?”

“We have multiple witnesses that say Major Carter jumped in the middle of a fight to break it up. Saved a guy from a stab wound. Then when the man with the gun saw the uniform, he just freaked out and shot her. He was probably an illegal and was thinking she was coming to take him. We put together some descriptions. We’re looking for the suspects right now, but it doesn’t look good. We also notified her commanding officers of the situation. They’re sending in a couple of officers.”

“Oh shit…why did you do that?!” Gallant yelled suddenly at the officer.

“Gallant! What’s wrong! Why is that bad?” Carter asked with urgency.

“They’ll take her away that’s why! And none of us will be able to see her!”

“They’ll what? Why?”

“She knows top-secret information. She’ll need to be in protective custody while on the narcotics and anesthetics. They’ll take her away.” He put his head in his hands and began to sob.

“Dear God…” Abby muttered. “Can they do that?”

“I…I’m sorry…I didn’t know. But it’s standard procedure.” Officer Gardner said quietly. They stepped off the elevator and walked slowly to the waiting area.

“I need to call Gamma. She’ll know how to get a hold of my aunt and uncle.” Abby gave John’s arm a quick squeeze as he walked towards the desk. She then got up and walked towards the operating room.

“Hey Shirley, can you grab me a gown? I just want to see how things are going.”

“Do you know her?”

“Yeah, she’s Carter’s cousin, and good friend.” Abby felt a twinge in her heart when she realized just how much she liked Kate. She truly felt as if they had been best friends for years.

“Sure, just a minute. But try and be quick. You know Romano.”

“I will, I promise. Thank you.” She quietly slipped into the OR. “How’s she doing?”

“Ms. Lockhart, I don’t recall inviting you here.” Romano snapped.

“She’s a good friend, Gallant’s fiancée, and Carter’s cousin. I just want to know how she’s doing.” Abby snapped right back. Romano just looked at her then hung his head. He knew he crossed a line that you don’t ever cross.

“She’s pulling through. Vitals are good. And her aorta’s intact. I think she’s going to be okay. But we did have to remove her spleen, and it looks like we’ll have to remove a part of her liver. It’ll be another couple of hours.” Elizabeth said with care.

“We’ve got a bleeder! Five units lost!” one of the OR nurses shouted. Buzzers started going off.

“You can’t let her die! Please! You have to save her!” Abby yelled over the buzzing.

“We will! We’ll pull her through.” Romano said with confidence and all seriousness. He looked up quickly at Abby. She could see the promise in his eyes. He was an asshole, but she also knew he was the best surgeon they had. She believed him.

“We lost a pulse! Three more units are out!”

“Internal paddles! Clear!” Abby watched Kate’s lifeless body twitch from the shock. No response.

Come on Kate. Don’t do this to him. Don’t do this to Michael. Don’t do this to me. Please God, pull her through. She’s got too many people that desperately need her. Abby prayed as she watched in horror. She looked out the window to see Gallant crumbling. She hurried out of the room to him. “They won’t let anything happen to her Michael. They promised. She’s not going anywhere.” She turned back to watch through the window. Kate was shocked again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. After the third time Romano looked out at the two, and nodded his head letting them know she was back.

“She’s back.” Abby said breathlessly. She didn’t realize that she hadn’t taken a breath since Kate crashed again. “Come on Kate, quit dying on us. We need you, we love you.” Gallant looked at Abby and put an arm around her. She didn’t realize she had said that out loud. Carter ran over to them.

“What happened?”

“She was doing good, then there was a bleeder. She lost about eight units. They had to shock her again. But she’s back. They removed her spleen, and they’ll probably have to take out part of her liver. But she’s gonna make it. I just know she is.” Abby explained before burying her head in John’s chest. It took him a minute, but he wrapped his arms around her. Then he reached out a hand to Gallant and placed it on his shoulder.

“Come on, she’ll be ok. Let’s sit down.” The hours seemed to take years to pass. Abby eventually fell asleep against Carter. Susan came up for a little bit to see how Kate was doing, so did Kerry and a couple of nurses. In the meantime, Gallant and Carter talked about Kate. John talked about her when she was little and Gallant told them of things they had done and what they had planned for the future.

“You know, when I saw Kate get dressed today, in the combat gear, I was so afraid when she walked out that door. Like I knew that something was going to happen. But I ignored it. It’s the same feeling I get every time I see her leave.” He put his hand to his heart. “I can feel my heart slowing down, I can feel it breaking. My heart beats because of her. She’s what I live for.”

“I know what you mean. When I realized it was she on that gurney I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. She not just my cousin, Kate is my best friend. She has been our whole lives. I look at her and I feel like a proud big brother or something. She’s a huge part of my life.” Gallant and Carter just looked at each other knowingly. They knew that from this day forward they would always have a strong connection. That connection was Kate, whether she lived or died. After what seemed like a decade, an exhausted Elizabeth Corday and Robert Romano came out of the OR. John gently woke Abby up.

“She’s going to be okay. We had to remove her spleen and a small section of her liver. It was touch and go there for a while, but she’s going to be okay. Once we got the bleeding under control her vitals continued to rise. Pending any post-op complications she’s going to be just fine. We’ll be constantly monitoring her. She’ll have the best care.” Elizabeth said with confidence.

“Actually, we’ll be monitoring her care.” A uniformed soldier interrupted. Another officer followed him. Gallant stood up and saluted his superiors.

“Lieutenant Michael Gallant, sir!” He stood at attention.

“At ease Lieutenant. Michael Gallant, oh yes we heard that we could find you here. I’m General Skinner and this is Major General Crawford. You are connected to Major Carter are you not?”

“Yes, sir. She is my fiancée.”

“We see. And she is going to be okay?”

“Ah hello, I’m Dr. Robert Romano, Chief of Staff here at County General, and this is my associate Dr. Elizabeth Corday. We preformed the surgery on Lt. Carter. She took three slugs to the chest and abdomen. She lost a lot of blood and we had to shock her multiple times but she’s stable now and in recovery. In time, she should make a full recovery.”

“Is she conscious? Has she said anything?” General Skinner asked urgently.

“No, she has just been intubated. And she’ll be asleep until late tomorrow evening. That is, if she wakes up at all. If and when she wakes up, we’ll remove the tube.” Romano explained.

“Then she’ll be ready for transport?”

“Transport? No, she’s still in very critical condition. Moving her now would kill her.”

“That’s not an option. We need to get her to a medical facility on a secure base. While under the influence of anesthesia and narcotics there is a chance that she may say things that are not meant to be heard. She must be constantly monitored by the proper authorities.”

“If we move her, she could die. What, you think we have Middle Eastern spies crawling our hospital?” Romano was getting impatient.

“We understand the risks sir, but this is a high security matter. How long before her condition is upgraded?”

“Well there is no definite time frame. Could be a week could be a month.”

“You have it, one week, but we will be bringing in our own personnel. And she’ll have to be kept in a private room. And no one without the proper authorization will be allowed to see her.” Romano paced a little circle while he thought about it. It didn’t seem like he had much of a choice. This was the United States Army. Not something that even he could screw around with.

“Fine, one week, and then I’ll consider her release. And if I think she is stable enough to move, then you can move her. Deal?”

“I will be removing her from these premises in exactly one week. Deal.” General Skinner gave Romano a look that told him the negotiation was over.

“Doesn’t her family get any say in this?!” John said stepping up. “I think that she should stay here where we can be near her. We can help her here.”

“And who would you be?” Major General asked as he spoke up for the first time.

“I’m Dr. John Truman Carter, Kate’s cousin. And I think that she should stay here.”

“Well I’m sorry Dr. Carter but that is not an option.”

“There’s no use Dr. Carter. It’s standard procedure. Any military officer that is harmed is treated at a military hospital. So please just stop fighting over her! She needs our prayers now, not our angry words.” Gallant walked over to a window to the outside world. Everyone in the room became deathly silent as they hung their heads.

“Alright, one week. And bring in whoever you see necessary.” Romano said softly conceding.

“Dr. Romano, can I please see her?” Gallant asked desperately.

“It’s fine with me.” Gallant looked towards the officers. The General nodded his approval.

“I’ll take you to her, Gallant.” Elizabeth said as she held out an arm to lead the way. Abby walked up to Carter and put an arm around his waist. He reciprocated by wrapping an arm around her shoulders and kissing her forehead.

“I think we should head home John, we can’t do anything more tonight. You need to get some sleep.”

“We’ll go in a little bit. I just want to hang around for a little bit longer.”

“Okay. I’m gonna run to the bathroom. I’ll be back in a minute.”

An hour passed, and Gallant emerged from the ICU. He told Kate, and John that he was going to stay for the night. The officers and doctors that would be taking over Kate’s care arrived, and she was moved to a private room. Abby and John wearily left the hospital and made their way to Gamma’s. She was still awake and waiting for them to come home. The two filled her in on Kate’s condition and Gamma told them that her parents were on their way home from Italy. Then the two made their way to bed. They slept until late morning from the exhaustion. When they woke up neither had appetites so they made their way to the hospital. They were let in to see her for only a half an hour. She still hadn’t woken up yet. Gallant was exhausted. He didn’t sleep the whole night. After much debate he left with Abby and John. They took him to Gamma’s and told him that he could stay there as long as he liked. He was too exhausted to resist. He took a quick shower and fell into a restless sleep. John introduced Abby to his Aunt Olivia and Uncle William, they too were exhausted from the trip and the emotion. Abby politely greeted them and wished they had met under better circumstances. The Carter mansion had an eerie silence about it, even though it had more people in it than it had in a long time. Nobody spoke. Occasionally there were tears and words of anger, then words of prayer. John phoned the hospital to see if Kate’s parents could visit. The request was denied. They would have to wait until tomorrow. Days passed, and John, Abby and Gallant went back to work.

The week after the incident passed in a haze. Kate had been upgraded and it was time for her to be moved. She was flown out of County General to the nearest military hospital. Gallant went with her. He would be the only one that would be able to see her for a while. He visited as often as he could and returned with reports. She was extubated a few days ago, but she still had not woken up. She was in a coma. There was no assurance she would wake up. Her heart had stopped beating multiple times. There was no way to tell if the lack of oxygen to the brain would have a lasting effect. Gallant was falling far behind in his work, but he didn’t care. It wasn’t worth it. Nothing mattered except Kate.

The day she woke up, Gallant felt his heart beat again. It had seemed dead since the moment he heard she had been shot. He was lucky enough to be by her side. The first thing she did was smile. Later, she spoke for the first time. And she said, “I told you I’d never leave you.” He began to cry, but he was smiling ear to ear. He felt alive again, he had his breath back. After spending some time with her, basically praising her, he called her parents, John and Abby. Upon hearing that she was awake, John collapsed in joy. Abby joined him on the floor and the two cried together. They jumped in a car and drove the three hours to the hospital. There weren’t any words to describe how ecstatic they all were. She was back.

John took this as a sign to never waste a moment of life. He too, had come close to dying himself, and now he had almost lost his best friend. He wasn’t about to waste time. During a visit to the hospital after Kate had fallen asleep, he pulled Abby out into the hallway and took her in his arms.

“Abby, if there is one thing that this whole thing has taught me, it is not to waste a moment of life. Almost losing Kate made me realize how much I love you. I looked at Gallant and saw the pain that he was in, knowing that he could lose his true love and I knew I would feel the exact same way if anything ever happened to you. I don’t want to waste another moment of this life. I love you, and I can only hope that you would do me the great honor of becoming my wife. Please, let’s not waste another moment.” He bent down on one knee and felt a tear drop from Abby’s cheek onto his. He looked up into her eyes and saw love.

“I never knew that I could feel this way. I’ve never known anyone who cares like you do. And I never thought that I would find someone who was willing to put up with all my shit. I know it’s been a hard road, and I haven’t always seemed to care, but I always have. I always will. I need you to know that even though I push you away sometimes. I need you more and more everyday. You’ve helped me break down the wall that I put up. You let me into your life, your heart, and your family. I can’t imagine life without you. I love you, more than I ever thought I could love someone. So the question should be, will you have me?”

“I will.” They laughed as their lips met in the most passionate kiss they had ever shared.

***************************************************
Months passed, and little by little Kate recovered. The biggest side effect was that she had to be discharged from the Army. She had no spleen and a weakened liver and heart. She was crushed, but she was never one to let things get the best of her. She had too much to be thankful for. It was a miracle that she was even alive. Now she could concentrate on the next part of her life. She and Michael wanted to be married and raise a family someday. Michael wanted to get married right away, but Kate wanted him to finish med school first. He reluctantly agreed. He finished school and became a Junior Resident at County. Being in the Reserves, he spent very little time away from Chicago. He was becoming a great doctor. Kate went to school and got her degree in business. She became a broker. Gamma couldn’t be prouder. Kate’s parents went back to Europe and life although forever altered, went back to normal.

**********************************************

*Five years later…

The wedding march swelled in the great church. A beautiful little girl with wavy brown hair awkwardly walked down the aisle tossing a mixture of red, white, and pink rose petals. She was smiling ear-to-ear and giggling. There were various ‘awws’ coming from the pews. The bridesmaids followed; adorned in gorgeous pink gowns with accents of silver. There was a gasp from the crowd as the bride came through the doors. She took each step with her head held high. Tears of joy swelled in her eyes, and she had a radiant smile on her face. She herself had to catch her breath when she saw the man that would be her husband within the next few minutes. She saw the love in his eyes; it shimmered from the tears he tried to hold back. It seemed like the longest walk of her life, yet before she knew it she was by his side. Just like she would be for the rest of her life. The moment was perfect.

“Mommy!!!” The flower girl cut the silence with her shrill scream. Muffled laughter sounded throughout the church.

“Shh! Baby, you’ve gotta be quiet!” Abby scolded the child quietly as she lifted her over the bump that was growing in her stomach. She glanced over at John for help. He was laughing to himself but his eyes were full of pride and love. He walked over to them and took their baby girl into his arms.

“Lina, what’s wrong, you know you’re supposed to be quiet during your “Aunt” Kate and “Uncle” Michael’s wedding.”

“I know. I didn’t want to stand anymore. I’m tired.” Katalina Hope Carter told her daddy as she curled into his shoulder. John just laughed and kissed his little girl’s forehead. He knew he and Abby would have a lot of hard times in their marriage. But when Abby had become pregnant he became full of hope and love. He didn’t want to waste a moment of his daughter’s life either. When it came to naming her, there was no debate. Both he and Abby wanted to name their daughter after Kate, so they named her Katalina, and Hope was an obvious middle name. Now he was about to be blessed for a second time. He couldn’t imagine a life any better. He nodded his head towards the minister signaling to continue. The couple exchanged their vows, which they had written themselves. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. During the kiss that sealed the pact, John looked on Abby and mouthed, “I love you.” Then he turned his attention back to Kate and Michael. He was filled with pride and love.

At the reception, Michael couldn’t take his eyes off of Kate. It almost seemed like the room was empty and it was just her. The center of his world. She glanced at him from the dance floor. Her face lit up in the most radiant smile; one that would have made the angels jealous. The wedding party took a break from the dancing to have the pictures taken. They stood outside on the Carter family grounds. It was a beautiful day in May. While having a picture taken together, Michael whispered sweet nothings softly into Kate’s ear. As she smiled at him and blushed, he stole a glance at the heavens and he thanked God for the millionth time, just that day, for his greatest gift.

John stood by and watched as Kate, Abby and his little Lina posed for their picture. Michael came up to his side and placed a hand firmly on his shoulder. They exchanged knowing glances, and looked back at their women.

“Michael…have you ever seen a more beautiful sight in your whole life?”

“Never. They are all so beautiful. They look like angels. Angels sent to us from heaven. The most perfect angels God has ever created.”

“That they do. And that they are. Those women are the best things in my life. I thank God for them everyday of my life. They have shaped my whole being, and have given my life meaning and a reason to live. They are the greatest gifts.”




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