Christmas Eve, Seattle
Dr. Owen Hunt stands outside in the ambulance bay watching the snow fall quietly around him, enjoying a rare quiet night at Seattle Grace. He's got a jacket slung over his shoulders for warmth.
"Evening, Dr Hunt."
He turns and nods to the security guard on her rounds. "Good evening, Sonia."
"Why are you working on Christmas Eve when you have a family at home? You're the Head of Trauma!"
"Somebody had to work tonight," he smiles. "I'll be home in time to open presents with the girls."
"How old are they again?"
"Mallory is six and Chloe will turn eight next week."
"They must be eager for Christmas," Sonia smiles.
"I'm sure Cristina has her hands full putting them to bed tonight. How old is your son now?"
"He's four." Sonia frowns as she notices a small figure approaching from the left in the shadows. She walks towards the person. "Dr. Hunt, please come here."
Owen walks over, sees that a teenaged girl is holding a bundle in her arms.
"Doctor?" the girl asks him, her face wrapped in a scarf.
He nods. "How can I help you?" He frowns when he sees that the bundle is a small baby wrapped in a blanket, and the girl is dressed in a windbreaker and jeans, not warm enough for the weather.
She says something quickly in Spanish, shoving the baby at him. Startled, Owen grabs the infant, trying not to drop it. He looks down at the baby and turns and runs inside, calling for assistance.
Quickly, his staff assesses the situation, while Callie goes to speak with the teen. A newborn baby boy with an umbilical cord still attached, carelessly bathed and wrapped in a blanket with no identifying markings. 4 pounds, 14 ounces - most likely premature. His temperature is lower than normal, but not dangerously so. They slowly start to warm him. Owen listens to his heartbeat through a stethoscope and frowns, not liking what he hears.
Callie walks over with an update from the girl. "She says her sister had the baby and doesn't want him. I gave her a Safe Haven bracelet and she left." She reaches down and attaches a matching Safe Haven bracelet to the boy's wrist.
"Good," Owen says. "Thanks for taking care of that."
"Social Services is sending someone over."
"Do you think that she was really the mother's sister or was she the mother?" Owen asks.
"Hard to say," Callie shrugs. "She just wanted to get out of here as fast as possible."
Owen goes to his office to deal with some paperwork. He's surprised to see Derek walking in the deserted corridors, wearing street clothes and looking distracted.
"What's up?" Owen asks, approaching his friend.
Derek looks up at him. "Some of the interns got into a fight playing floor hockey in the basement. I had to come in and knock some heads together."
Owen shakes his head and laughs. "Is it just me, or are med schools recruiting from kindergarten these days?"
Derek half-smiles. "Nights like this, I wonder why I ever wanted to be Chief of Surgery. I can't even spend Christmas Eve at home without being called in to mediate a fight or kick someone out the door. This job is sucking the life out of me, some days."
Owen regards Derek thoughtfully. "Got time for a walk?"
"This is where you two go?" Derek chuckles as he looks around the boiler room. "You must literally have dirty sex here."
Owen laughs. "No comment."
"After walking in on Mark's exploits for years, I do appreciate a discreet man," Derek says. "I know I'll never visit the Dermatology waiting room without disturbing mental images again."
"Same with me and the supply closets in the Cardio wing," Owen says. "There are two nurses who still can't look me in the eye."
Derek smirks, and then looks down in surprise as a breeze shoots up from the vent. He laughs, carelessly. "How did you find out about this room?"
"I did a lot of exploring when I came to Seattle Grace," Owen replies. "When my head needed to be cleared, I came here. I brought Cristina here when she had a bad day, and it became our hideout."
"Ah, so this is your 'happy place'?" Derek regards him thoughtfully. "I've almost forgotten how - intense you were when you came here. I thought you were this tight-ass who couldn't adapt to civilian life."
Owen smiles. "And you were a jerk who put Mark up to hitting on Cristina."
"I did, didn't I?" Derek laughs. "Thank God that didn't work."
"He never had a chance," Owen says. They chuckle as another breeze shoots up.
"How is your veteran centre stuff going?" Derek asks quietly.
"Good," Owen replies. "It keeps me busy and out of trouble."
Derek pauses. "By out of trouble, you mean...?"
"There will always be triggers," Owen says. He holds up his left hand, adorned with a simple wedding band. "But I am motivated to stay on top of things. There are a couple of counselors at the centre that I can always drop in on, as needed."
Just after midnight, Owen visits the NICU. The Safe Haven infant is in an isolette, with a nasal cannula and heart monitor. He's been fed and carefully bathed and dressed and his temperature is normal. He does not appear to be in any kind of drug withdrawal. He's sleeping peacefully.
"What will happen to him if the mother doesn't change her mind?" Owen asks the social worker assigned to the case, filling out paperwork by the infant's isolette.
"Foster care, once he's released from the hospital," she says. "Then he may be put up for adoption. You've ordered a cardio consult?"
Owen nods. "Plus a full blood panel." He looks at the child's face. "I've seen many strange things over the years. As a father, I have to wonder how could someone dump him like that."
"The Safe Haven law is for babies like him," the social worker says. "He wasn't left in a dumpster somewhere."
Sonia walks over and joins them. "He's looking better," she says. "I was so worried when I saw the condition he was in. I had to see him before I went home for the night."
"Has anyone thought of a name for him?" The social worker looks at the two of them. "We have plenty of 'John Doe's in the system."
Owen looks at Sonia and shrugs. "You saw him first," he points out.
"Diego," she says decisively. "My son's name is Diego."
"His name is Diego," Owen agrees. "Good night, Sonia."
Owen checks his watch as he enters the house in the dark. He smiles in satisfaction to see that he still has time. Quickly, he goes into the basement and grabs the presents from Santa from their hiding place. He places them under the huge Christmas tree, and then goes into the kitchen to start the coffee.
He checks the time again as he goes upstairs. He softly knocks on Mallory's bedroom door.
"I'm awake!" Mallory whispers, opening the door. "Merry Christmas!" Owen tries not to notice the riotous mess inside, as she beams and holds out her arms. He picks her up in a big bear hug.
"Did you use your inhaler yet?"
"Do I have to?" Mallory sticks out her lower lip.
"Yes!" He puts her down and ruffles her red hair. "I don't want to take you to the ER on Christmas."
"Fine," she sighs dramatically, heading towards the bathroom. Owen chuckles, and then quietly knocks on Chloe's door.
"Merry Christmas Dad!" Chloe opens her door, her black curls pulled back in her usual ponytail, her bed already made.
"Merry Christmas, kiddo." Owen hugs his oldest daughter.
"Did you just get home?" She looks at his clothes.
"I did. I almost got run over by reindeer on the way home."
Chloe smiles and rolls her eyes. Owen watches her wistfully - he can hardly believe how fast she is growing up. It had been a dark day when she had figured out the truth about Santa Claus.
"I'm done," Mallory announces, coming out of the bathroom. "Now can we wake Mommy up?"
"Yes," Owen laughs, opening the door to the master bedroom.
They quietly creep in. Cristina is lying underneath the blankets. Mallory eagerly climbs onto the bed and announces, "Time to wake up!"
Cristina pulls back the covers, pretending to be annoyed.
"You're waking me up too early," she says, making a face at Mallory, who is tugging at her hands. "Can't you let me sleep in?"
"No!" Their youngest daughter shouts happily. "It's Christmas morning! Get up!"
Cristina sighs dramatically, looking up at Owen, standing by their bed, very amused. Chloe stands beside him, grinning and bouncing.
"Come on Mom," Chloe pleads. "You know Dad won't let us open presents without you."
Mallory jumps up and down on the bed, red hair flying, while Cristina makes a big show of slowly getting up.
"Did you just get home?" Cristina asks Owen, noting he's dressed in a sweater and jeans while the girls are in their pyjamas.
"Yes," he replies with a smile. "We had an interesting case last night. I'll tell you about it later."
Cristina finishes her examination and turns to Owen and Sheila, the social worker assigned to Diego's case.
"I suspect a ventricular septal defect, I'll order an echocardiograph to be sure." She sees Sheila's confusion. "He may have one or more holes in his heart."
Diego starts to fuss and Owen picks him up.
"It may heal on its own, or he may require surgery," Cristina says.
Owen nods, rocking the boy.
Owen goes over the blood test results with Sheila.
"HIV+", she sighs.
"He may not be infected," Owen says. "His mother could be the infected one, and her antibodies are making him test positive. If he still tests positive in eighteen months, there are tests to confirm if he's infected or not."
Sheila nods. "In the meantime, there go his adoption chances. We'll be lucky to find anyone suitable, who will take an HIV+ infant with a heart condition. His medical bills are going to be astronomical."
Owen frowns. "What if nobody adopts him?"
"Foster care. We've got a few homes that are experienced with high-risk cases."
Cristina finds Owen standing by Diego's isolette in the NICU.
"He's looking good," she says quietly. "I don't think he'll need surgery right away. It won't be long until he puts on some weight and can be released."
"And then he'll be swallowed by the system," Owen says, stroking the boy's black hair. "While he waits to see if his HIV status has scared off all potential adoptive parents."
Cristina takes Owen's free hand. "Don't make me be the optimistic one," she jokes.
"Today's a big day!" Diego smiles as the nurses dress him, so he can leave the hospital, in the company of a social worker. "You're leaving us at last!"
Owen watches from the sidelines.
Two months later
Owen is paged to the nursery. The Head Nurse simply points to a corner and says, "Diego is back."
He walks over - and is surprised to see Cristina standing by Diego's crib, watching him sleep.
"What happened?" Owen asks, picking up his chart.
"His foster mother had a heart attack," Cristina replies. "She'll live. Social Services brought all of the kids in to be checked out. Diego and another child have pneumonia."
Owen curses under his breath as he looks at the chart. "He's barely gained any weight in two months."
"Sheila thinks the foster mother got overwhelmed," Cristina says quietly. "She's looking for another foster home."
"And what, so he can get sick there too?"
"Not all foster homes are bad," Cristina reminds him. "Look, you've got me being the optimistic one again. Stop that."
Owen half-smiles. "What are you doing here?"
"I did a cardio consult and ordered another echocardiograph," Cristina says. "I just got the results - he's going to need surgery after all."
"Which Social Services is not going to want to pay for."
"I'll perform it pro bono and work on Derek."
Owen nods. "Diego was pretty popular with the staff, we might be able to get enough volunteers to bring the costs down. I'll scrub in for free."
Cristina regards Owen thoughtfully. "You really like him."
"I feel sorry for him, Cristina. Dumped at a hospital on a cold night, barely born. And now he's already been bounced out of one foster home. And yeah, I like him, and I wish I could do something more for him."
She opens her mouth - then closes it again when her pager goes off. She checks it and frowns. "Gotta go."
The next week, Owen drops by the nursery on his way home. This time he is surprised to see Derek sitting by Diego's crib.
Derek waves. "Cristina's put together a surgical team to operate on Diego pro bono. Thought I'd see him for myself before signing off on the OR."
"He's a charmer," Owen smiles.
"Uh huh." Derek looks at Owen. "I hear that you spend a lot of time with him. What's going on, Owen?"
Owen ducks his head. "I'm just interested in him."
"That's all?" Owen looks up to see Derek smiling softly at him.
"That's all," Owen says.
Derek shakes his head. "I don't believe you."
Owen ducks his head again. "I can't ask her to take on another child. She's - made it clear that she doesn't want any more children, after what happened when Mallory was born. And I don't blame her. I almost lost both of them."
Derek leans over. "I thought the situation was that Cristina didn't want any more pregnancies."
"She doesn't. And the vasectomy was my idea. I do support her."
Derek regards him. "But did you close the door on adoption?"
Owen sighs. "No. But we're talking about a high-risk child. I know, he may not actually be infected with HIV, but we don't know for sure yet. How can I ask her to take on a child that might not outlive us?"
Derek smiles. "She came charging into my office this morning with a well-researched case for getting the hospital to cover the costs of the surgery pro bono. She's managed to find an entire OR team that will donate their services to work on an HIV+ infant. I think she might be more open to the idea than you think."
"Okay, I'm here," Cristina, says, entering the boiler room. "What's up?"
Owen smiles softly at her. "I hear you put forward a great case for the hospital covering Diego's surgery."
"I did," she says. "I just got Derek's sign-off."
"Good." He looks shyly at her.
"Are you finally going to ask?" Cristina smirks, taking his hands.
"Ask if we can keep him," she replies smoothly. "I've never seen you bond with a patient like this. Everyone sees it. I think you want to take him, and I've been wondering why you won't say so."
He looks down and speaks gruffly. "This is big. It's not like bringing a puppy home."
"I know." She lifts a hand to stroke his face. "We need to consider the girls. We need to research the current information on AIDS. But I'm not saying 'no'. I'm saying 'maybe.'"
Owen looks up to face her, feeling a sudden hope.
"I like him," Cristina says simply. She checks her pager as it goes off.
"We will talk when I get home tonight," Cristina says, touching his shoulder before she leaves.
When Cristina gets home, the girls are busy with homework in the study. Owen brings her a plate of food and sits down with her in the dining room.
"We have everything we need," Owen says. "We have a very full life. This isn't about wanting to fill a void. I don't need a son. This is about Diego."
"I know," Cristina says, between bites. "He's quite the charmer. I don't think he's thriving in foster care. I - think he would do better if we could take him in."
"He's not well," Owen says quietly. "He may not live to adulthood. I thought you didn't want another high-risk child."
"I didn't want another high-risk preemie," Cristina says. "With Diego, we know what we're facing."
"I did some quick research on raising HIV+ kids," Owen says. "We will do more, but with the proper course of treatment started as soon as possible, his viral load could be virtually non-existent for a long time. And of course, we don't know for sure if he's infected, or if it's the mother's antibodies."
Cristina nods. "We have two smart children, they can be taught to avoid his blood. I don't think they'd hate the idea of bringing him home, but it will impact them. Especially if he doesn't make it."
"So it's something we can consider further?" Owen squeezes her hand. "It's a huge decision, we should not rush into this."
"We can consider it," she says. "But I'm stating, up front, I don't want to take maternity leave again. I am a Cardio Goddess. That is my deal-breaker."
After a couple of weeks of research, Owen and Cristina sit their daughters down in the living room.
"We have some news," Owen starts, looking serious.
"You're getting a divorce?" Mallory blurts out.
"No!" Cristina and Owen look at each other, and then the girls. "Why would you think that?" Cristina asks.
"That's what Jonah's parents said before they told him they were getting a divorce," Mallory replies, eyes wide.
"We're not getting a divorce," Owen says. "But we are making a change-"
"We're moving?" Chloe gasps. "I don't want to move!"
Owen sighs. "We're not moving."
"What is it?" Chloe looks scared.
"It's good news," her father assures her. "Well, we think it's good news and we hope you will too. We want to make an addition to our family-"
"Mom's pregnant?" Mallory perks up, eyes dancing.
"No," Cristina sighs. "I've had enough of that."
"A puppy?" Chloe asks hopefully. "We're finally getting a dog?"
"Not a dog," Owen replies. "You know that we can't have a dog with Mallory's asthma and allergies."
"But we can get a shitzu or another hypoallergenic dog," Chloe whines.
"Those are toy dogs," Owen says dismissively.
"They're too messy and loud," Cristina snaps. "No. Dogs."
"You don't clean," Mallory tells her mother frankly. "Why do you care if they're messy?"
Cristina rolls her eyes as Chloe and Owen laugh conspiratorially.
"What's your news?" Mallory asks Owen.
"I'd tell you, if you two would stop interrupting me," he sighs.
"Be quiet," Chloe scolds Mallory.
"There's a little baby boy who has been in and out of the hospital," Owen starts. "He was abandoned and he's been sick and nobody wants to adopt him. Except us."
The girls stare at him.
"He's cute," Cristina adds. "His name is Diego and he's three months old and we have pictures!" She produces a stack of photos and hands them to the girls.
"We like him very much," Owen says, carefully watching their reactions. "Everyone who meets him likes him. We hope you will too."
"Aw, he's cute," Mallory says.
"What's wrong with him?" Chloe asks, peering at the photos.
"He has a hole in his heart which I will fix," Cristina says. "And - he's testing as HIV+ right now."
"He could die?" Chloe's eyebrows shoot up.
"What's HIV?" Mallory looks to her parents.
Chloe nibbles her bottom lip. "A dog would be less messy."
"No dogs," Owen sighs.