The Giving Season
by Judith Freudenthal
circa December 1996

It was December 20th, the ground was covered with a blanket of white.
Snowflakes fell from the sky, gently drifting down towards the ground.
Natalie was in her office trying to finish up her paperwork. The snow had
kept the both criminals and their would be victims inside. That was the good
news. The bad news was that the holiday season had brought on the usual
depression induced suicides. Natalie had completed the autopsy on a
particularly brutal one earlier in her shift and was finishing up the report
on it.

"Hi, Nat." Nick said as he entered.

She looked at him, seeing unusual traces of happiness there.

"Hi, Nick."

He noticed sadness dancing at the edges of her eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Just finished another brutal autopsy. Suicide."

Within an instant Nick was behind her gently massaging her neck, working his
way down to her shoulders and then down her back. He made sure he had every
knot, no matter how small, worked out, along with any noticible tension.
Natalie relaxed totally into his very skillful fingers. It was just what the
doctor ordered, or would have, had she thought of it.

"Nick, about tomorrow night..." Natalie was unsure how he would take what
she had to tell him. She watched him closely as she continued. "I can't come
over. Something came up. I hope you don't mind." She was surprised to see
relief on his face.

He saw the slight disappointment along with a little confusion on her face.
"I was going to tell you that something had come up and I wouldn't be able to
be there tomorrow night." He saw her relief that she didn't hurt him.

The next night Natalie entered the local clinic. She had heard they
desperately needed doctors, especially due to the holiday season. She was a
licensed MD, even if her specialty was the dead, and the undead.

She signed in, was oriented and grabbed a lab coat, stethescope. A nurse
handed her a stack of files, her patient load for the evening.

Before long her first patient arrived. A teen mother with her seven month
old daughter.

"Hi. What seems to be the problem?"

"Amy seems to have the flu. She can't keep anything down. I think she caught
it from me."

"She's a real cutie." Natalie saw the mother brighten. Natalie gently took
Amy from her mother and cuddled her a moment before laying her down on the
examination table. Natalie examined the infant and then the mother. Dr.
Lambert knew that the mother probably had not had a checkup since the baby
was born. She prescribed medication for Amy, along with a product that would
prevent dehydration. She gave Amy's mother a flu shot to help prevent
retransmission of the virus. The young mother appreciated Natalie's
friendliness, seeing that Natalie did indeed care about others as people not
just poor patients. She liked how Natalie had talked to her about things
other than Amy's illness and how she didn't preach or lecture.

Nick wondered where Natalie could be. He had called her apartment and her
beeper, both had been unanswered. He knew that the only times she left her
beeper off were when she was with him, off duty and not on call, or when she
was out of town.

He prepared for his evening. He still wasn't sure it was such a good idea,
but knew it might make him feel better psychologically.

Before long Nick entered the local soup kitchen and was quickly put to work
dishing out food. Nick had always tried to help some of the less fortunate
that lived in the area around his building.

He thought about Jeannie and wondered how she was doing without Topper there
to keep her company. When she had been released from the hospital he had
given her a plane ticket and some money to start a new life. He had received
a Christmas card from her, once again offering thanks for the new start. He
still wondered if things were as good as she made them sound.

Later that evening, Natalie was on her way home and passed the soup kitchen
in time to see Nick's Caddie pull away. Nick glanced in his mirror,
recognizing the car behind him.

Before long both cars parked at Nick's loft. They entered the elevator and
soon entered the loft.

"Nick, were you working at the soup kitchen?"

"Yes. I thought they could use my help."

"I'm very proud of you." She wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace,
her smile glowing. She topped it off with a quick kiss.

"What were you doing in the area?"

"I volunteered to work at the clinic. They were shorthanded with people
taking off for the holidays. I am an MD and it felt good to be able to help
people, before it was too late. I wanted to give something back."

The End