DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT own any of the characters from "ER." They belong to Warner Bros and NBC. I do however own Valerie Burke, as well ash er mother, Kimberly. I also DO NOT own the lyrics to the song "Christmas Shoes"." They belong to Newsong.

A/N: I know I've already written a story based on this song for TBAA, but I've decided to do a song fic for it as well. What can I say? I LOVE the song and it sends out a beautiful and heartfelt message that I think everyone should hear.

"Christmas Shoes"

"I'm sorry," Dr. Peter Benton said as he looked at the young woman lying in the hospital bed before him. "there's nothing more we can do. The cancer has spread too fast."

The young woman, Kimberly Burke, nodded, feeling as though time had stopped. And as she stood there, she only had one question for the doctor who had helped her through it all.

"How long?" She asked, her voice barely audible.

"Excuse me?" Dr. Benton asked, not sure he had heard correctly.

"How long do I have to live?" Kimberly asked, her voice determined, but there was a hint of sadness in it as well.

"Dr. Benton hesitated. He had never been hesitant to answering that type of question before. But for some reason, he was at a loss for words this time.

Finally, after a few minutes, he answered the woman's question.

"Five days at the least, a week at the most." He told her, feeling an awkward feeling of sadness settle in his heart. He had never felt sympathy for anyone in his early days as a doctor. But after his son, Reese, was born, Dr. Benton had changed a little bit.

He used to be known around County General as Dr. Personality for this very reason.

"Thank you," Kimberly replied. With that, she laid back and closed her eyes. She wanted to get rest before her daughter came into see her.

Shaking his head, Peter sighed as he went to tackle the mounds of paperwork that Dr. Romano had left just for him.

Two days later, it was Christmas Eve and everyone seemed to be out doing last minute Christmas shopping at the same time.

Unfortunately, Peter Benton happened to be one of those people. HE had never really been into Christmas before, but since he had Christmas off for the first time ever, he had decided to take advantage of it. He was going to spend it with his son, Reese and sister, Jackie.

As Peter made his way throughout the busy Wal-Mart, he sighed in frustration. He had just had a fight with his ex wife, Carla. The argument had been about the amount of time Reese could stay with him for Christmas.

In the end, Peter had won, but it had left him feeling frustrated and irritated with himself and Carla. Why couldn't she be civil just this one time.

As Peter picked up a toy or two for his son, he headed for the line. He tried to pick the shortest one, but God didn't seem to be smiling upon him this day. Or was He?

Peter gathered his items and headed for the line for ten items or less. As he stood there waiting, he spotted a little girl standing just in front of him. She had sandy brown hair to just below her shoulders and her clothes looked old and faded. To be completely honest, they looked to Peter to be hand-me-downs.

As Peter continued to stare at the child, he caught sight of an object in her small hands. It was a pair of gold and pink ballet slippers. She was holding onto them as though they were the last treasure on earth. Little did Peter know how true that was.

Peter sighed as he waited for the line to thin out. He shook his head, silently berating himself for coming out here on Christmas Eve.

It was almost Christmas time,

there I stood in another line

Tryin' to buy that last gift or two,

not really in the Christmas mood

Standing right in front of me

Was a little girl

Waiting anxiously

Pacing 'round

like little girls do

And in her hands

she held a pair of shoes

Her clothes were worn and old,

she was dirty from head to toe

As Peter stood there, he wasn't even aware that the little girl had stepped up to the counter and was ready to pay. She laid the shoes on the counter before digging in her pockets for some money.

Peter watched, unsure if the little girl would have enough to pay for the present. From the state of her, he assumed her family was poor.

Just then, Peter was roused from his thoughts by the cashier. She had started a conversation with the girl.

"Why if it isn't Miss Valerie Burke. How are you doing, darlin'?"

The little girl, Valerie, shrugged. She tried to give the woman a weak smile, but it faltered slightly.

"I'm okay." She replied, her voice as cheerful as it could be.

Peter gasped at the last name. Where had he heard that name before? It was only when the cashier asked her next question, did Peter get hit with realization.

"How's your Mama doing?"

Valerie frowned.

"Not good." She answered, honestly. "She's gotten worse this week. She went to the doctor today and…" Valerie's voice trailed off as she bit on her lower lip to keep the tears from falling.

The cashier regarded the child with sympathy. She had known the Burke family for a long time now.

"Well tell Kimberly I said hi and I'm praying for her." The cashier told the nine year old, giving her a warm smile.

"I will. I know she'll like that." Valerie said, a small smile on her face.

Just then, another cashier came around the counter. She gave Valerie an impatient look.

"Are you gonna pay for those or what?" She asked, her voice conveying the impatience she felt.

Valerie nodded, taken aback by the woman's abruptness.

"Well let's have it." The woman urged. "I ain't got all day ya know."

"Yes ma'am." Valerie said as she once again fumbled in her pockets for the money she had saved up.

As she laid the money on the counter, the woman gave her a curious look.

"So what's a little girl like you buying shoes that are twice your size for? Don't you kids like dolls?"

Valerie nodded and frowned.

"The shoes aren't for me." She answered, her face taking on a somber expression. She heaved a sigh before continuing. "They're for my Mama."

"That's nice." The woman replied, some of her earlier irritation gone for the moment.

Valerie pushed the money towards the cashier.

The cashier counted it. The task took her a few minutes, since there were more pennies than anything else.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the cashier glanced back up at Valerie and shook her head.

"Sorry, kid, but you're short ten dollars."

"What?" Valerie gasped, her heart feeling like it had stopped in her chest. "Tha-that can't be right. Can you please count it again?"

The woman shook her head and gestured towards the six other people who were waiting to pay.

"We have other people waiting. I told you, you don't have enough."

"But I have to get these shoes for her!" The little girl protested, tears in her brown eyes. "I have to! It's important!"

"Well, tough nails, kid. You should have thought about that when you were saving up. Next!" With that, the cashier prepared to help the next person in line.

Peter gazed at the child as she turned around to leave the store. He could tell there was something more to her story. What's more, he felt a tug in his heart to help her out. He had never felt this way about anyone before. But this little girl, Valerie, she was different.

As she was about to leave, Valerie turned around and decided to make one last effort to obtain the gift for her mother.

"Please, ma'am, I need to buy these shoes for my Mama."

The cashier gave Valerie an annoyed look.

"What part of "you don't have enough" don't you understand?" She asked, making Valerie cringe.

"Ba-but you don't understand!" Valerie protested, tears falling freely down her face by this point.

"I understand perfectly." The cashier retorted. "It's you who has the problem. Now beat it! Get out of here."

Dejected, Valerie turned around and headed for the door. She wasn't even aware of how far her feet had carried her, when she felt her body collide with another person's.

The impact of the collision made Valerie fall backwards onto her bottom. Instead of getting up, Valerie just buried her face in her hands, letting the tears fall. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that she was losing her Mama on Christmas and it wasn't fair that she couldn't buy her the one thing she knew would make her Mama smile.

A male voice made Valerie raise her head up.

"Hey, hey. Are you all right? I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going."

Valerie gazed up to see a man of African American descent staring back at her. He had brown eyes and a lab coat on, which lead Valerie to believe he was a doctor.

"No," Valerie replied, her voice tearful and full of distress. "I'm not okay."

Peter nodded. He frowned upon seeing the tear stains on Valerie's peach cheeks. And he could tell by the way Valerie was breathing, more tears were not far behind.

"I'm sorry about the cashier." Peter said, sitting down beside Valerie. "Some people were never taught to be kind."

Valerie shrugged.

"It doesn't matter now." She whispered, more tears falling from her honey colored eyes. "Mama's last Christmas is ruined."

Peter caught onto the second word and something inside of him wanted to know more.

"What do you mean her "last Christmas"?" He asked, his voice full of concern.

Valerie let out a sob before telling this stranger her story.

"My Mama's dying. She's really sick and she doesn't have much time left. I wanted…I wanted to buy her the shoes so that she would look beautiful when she met God."

Peter's insides twisted with guilt at Valerie's last sentence. Here he was, complaining about having to shop when there was a little girl who didn't have enough money to make her mother's last Christmas special.

As Peter continued to gaze at Valerie, he knew what he had to do.

"Come on." He said, holding out his hand to the distraught little girl. "We're going to get your mother those shoes."

Valerie glanced up and gave the man a tiny smile.

"I couldn't ask you to do that." She said, always one to be considerate of others.

Peter winked at her.

"You didn't ask. I offered. Come on." With that, he led a reluctant Valerie back to the counter.

When the cashier saw them, she glared at Valerie.

"Didn't I tell you to beat it?"

Valerie winced, but Peter intervened before things could go too far.

"How much is she missing?" He asked, digging into his pocket and pulling out his wallet.

The cashier looked stunned for a minute. When she regained her senses, she checked the price of the shoes once again.

"Ten dollars." She replied.

Peter nodded. He pulled out a ten dollar bill and laid it down on the counter.

Valerie smiled as she approached the counter once again. She handed the cashier her money and gave her a small smile.

"Ma'am, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please

It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size

Could you hurry, please, there's not much time

You see she's been sick for quite a while

And I know these shoes would make her smile

And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

The cashier was taken aback at the little girl's words. She felt a lump form in her throat at the conclusion of Valerie's statement. If she had only listened before, maybe she could have helped her sooner.

"I-I'm sorry." The cashier said, sincere sympathy in her voice. "II didn't know."

Valerie shook her head.

"It's okay."

"No, it's not." The cashier replied. "I shouldn't have treated you so badly. I'm sorry, sweetheart." With that, the cashier went to a display of bears and picked a purple one off the shelf. She handed it to Valerie and smiled. "Merry Christmas, honey. It's on the house." She added, seeing Peter about to put an additional fifteen dollars down.

Peter shook his head and laid the money down anyway.

"I wanted to donate this to the cancer society." He stated, a smile on his face.

The cashier was taken aback by Peter's actions. She had been treated by him at County a few times before and her first impression of him wasn't a good one.

"Thank you." The cashier replied. She then turned to Valerie. "Merry Christmas, Valerie."

Valerie smiled back while hugging her new bear tightly. She took the bag the cashier was offering her and grinned.

"Merry Christmas, ma'am." With that, she turned to face the man who had helped her. She flashed him the biggest smile he had seen yet. "Thank you, sir. You don't know what this will mean to my Mama. Merry Christmas." With that the little girl was gone.

Peter shook his head as he stared after her. He could feel a smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he watched Valerie Burke leave the store.

"No, Valerie. Thank you." He whispered. "Thank you for showing me what the true meaning of Christmas is."

So I laid the money down,

I just had to help her out

I'll never forget the look on her face

As she said Mama's gonna look so great

Ma'am, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please

It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size

Could you hurry, please, there's not much time

You see she's been sick for quite a while

And I know these shoes would make her smile

And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love

As she thanked me and ran out

I knew that God had sent that little girl

To remind me just what Christmas is all about

As Peter left the store, five minutes later, he glanced down the street and smiled to himself. If there was one thing he was sure of, he would never forget this Christmas as long as he lived.

Peter got into his car and drove off, a contented smile on his face.

"Merry Christmas, Valerie. I hope you and your family have a good one. And thank you for showing me what Christmas is truly about."

THE END