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A Day for Giving Thanks

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

 

 

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Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make everyday a holiday and celebrate just living…Amanda Bradley

 

 

It was the Monday before Thanksgiving and forty two year old Ralph Watson was already over the whole holiday scene. His wife had been nagging him all weekend.

 

“Fix the porch Ralph…I don’t want my mother falling on those rotten stairs. You need to paint the living room…Fix the linoleum in the bathroom. The refrigerator’s making strange noises.” The list went on and on. Did the woman think he was made of money? Worse…When did she think he had the time?  Between work, football and his friends down at the bar, couldn’t she see he was a busy man? He’d fled the house after dinner to go watch the football game with his friends and have a few belts.

 

She’d started on him again when he came down for breakfast this morning. Nag, nag, nag…He’d finally left without eating. He climbed into his car and pulled a silver flask from his jacket pocket. He took a swig of the amber liquid inside and headed off to work.

 

His thoughts returned to his wife and he thumped the steering wheel angrily, taking another belt from the container and then another. The woman was relentless and she was getting worse as his drinking increased. Didn’t she understand that her nagging was the cause of his going out every night?

 

He pulled into the parking lot of his company…K&M Petroleum. He glanced around carefully to be sure none of his co-workers were around before pulling the bottle of whiskey from under his car seat. He refilled the flask and tucked it into his pocket.

 

He slid the bottle of Jack Daniels back into its hiding place. Ralph climbed from his car already feeling a pleasant buzz and headed out toward the back parking lot of the company. He sketched a wave at several if his co-workers who frowned at his slightly off kilter walk.

 

Ralph ignored them and opened the door of his rig and climbed behind the wheel of his forty ton gasoline tanker. He cranked the ignition over and let the engine warm up. Several minutes later he pulled out into traffic to begin his deliveries.

 

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 Three hours later at Los Angeles county fire station 51, the Station Control Unit began to tone… “Station 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…South Alameda Freeway…At the 405 junction…Time out 10:57.”

 

Twenty three year old paramedic John Gage and his twenty seven year old partner Roy DeSoto raced for their rescue squad. Their three crew mates were already climbing aboard the Engine as Captain Hank Stanley responded to the tones.  “Station 51…KMG 365.”

 

The rigs rolled out of the station, arriving at the scene a short time later. Johnny’s eyes almost bugged from his head and then he began a silly giggle that usually drew a smile from his older, straighter laced partner but not today.

 

The younger man’s smile faded and he frowned in concern as Roy threw him a half hearted shrug. He knew Johnny sometimes took his moods personally even when they weren’t directly related to him but today his mind was on other things more important. Johnny knew something was wrong but he couldn’t think of anything he’d done to annoy him…At least not today.

 

Roy sighed in frustration. He was supposed to be attending his six year old son’s first school play this afternoon but the other paramedic that had promised to spell him for the ninety minute production had been injured on an early morning run and wouldn’t be able to now.

 

Roy had been on the phone since Bellingham had called trying to find someone to fill in for him for a couple of hours this afternoon but so far hadn’t been able to find anyone who was available. Now he glanced over to see what John had been looking at and a small, half smile appeared despite himself.

 

A truck carrying a load of pigs had collided with a pickup truck load of watermelons and now the hapless swine were scattered all over the freeway along with the shattered remains of the slippery fruit. Police officers were running, slipping and sliding all over, trying to contain the terrified animals. It reminded Roy of his mother’s slapstick comedy’s he used to watch with her when he was a kid. “The Keystone Cops,” he muttered to his partner.

 

“Who…? Johnny asked, having no idea who the Keystone Cops were. Roy rolled his eyes in annoyance at John’s ignorance of the old 1920’s movies that had aired on television years later in the sixties. He sometimes forgot that Johnny had been raised mostly on a reservation in Montana where televisions were in short supply.

 

Cap stepped from the engine and a rueful smirk played over his attractive face as he shook his head. His eyes swept the scene and noted that everyone involved was out of their vehicles and no one looked seriously injured.

 

He glanced over to see both of his paramedics heading over to check out the drivers, gear already in hand and smiled in approval at their efficiency before he turned to his engine crew. “Okay Marco, Chet…See if you can give the officers a hand.”

 

“Ahh Cap…,” Chet began, looking aghast at the idea of rounding up the panicked pigs through the morass of slimy, smashed watermelons.

 

“Move it Kelly,” Cap growled in a no-nonsense tone of voice that his crew knew brooked no argument.

 

Chet and Marco headed off to help while Mike and Cap headed over to assist their two paramedics. John gave Roy a smack on the arm… “Check out Laurel and Hardy,” he whispered pointing over to where the two linemen were now scrambling about with the police trying to catch the squealing swine. Roy’s blue eyes shifted over in time to see Chet trip and fall headlong into the muck…

 

John’s gleeful snort of laughter was met with another mouth tightening grimace of irritation. John bit his lip wondering once again what he’d done wrong. Chet brushed himself off and glared at the giggling paramedic. “Gage…Roy can handle that alone…Why don’t you get over here and help us out…”

“I have a job thanks,” Johnny taunted as he opened the drug box.

 

“You were raised on a ranch…You know how to handle pigs,” Kelly yelled.

 

John shook his head. “Cattle, horses and sheep…Not pigs,” he said in disgust at Kelly’s ignorance of ranches. “Besides you’re doing such a wonderful job of disguising yourself as one of them...I’m sure you’ll have no problem catching them,” He snickered. Chet shot him an ugly glare as his feet slipped out from under him and he sat down hard. Several more watermelons tumbled from the truck to land in the disgruntled fireman’s lap.

 

Roy shook his head at both of them. “You suppose you might like to do your job instead of arguing with Chet?” He asked his partner snidely as he began checking out the driver of the hog hauler. He already had the BP cuff wrapped around his upper arm.

 

“Sorry,” Johnny murmured with a hurt look as he turned to check the driver of the watermelon truck for injuries.

 

Roy set up the Biophone a minute later and called in the information to Rampart. “Rampart base this is squad 51…”

 

“Go ahead 51,” Joe Early’s voice came back.

 

“Rampart…We have 2 victims of a vehicle accident. Victim one is a thirty five year old male…BP is 120/80…Pulse is 70, respiration 18. Appears to have a fracture of the left radius… Victim two is a male, approximately twenty eight…” He looked at Johnny for the information.

 

“BP is 130/80…Pulse is 60, Respiration 16. Appears to have a minor head injury and facial lacerations…” Roy repeated it to Rampart.

 

“10-4 51…Splint victim one’s arm and transport both victims. Monitor Victim two on the way in as a precaution…”

 

“10-4 Rampart…” They helped both victims to their feet and walked them carefully to the ambulance. “I’ll ride in with em,” Roy said. Johnny nodded and walked toward the squad. He threw one final look at his irritated partner and then at his crew mates as they finally succeeded in rounding up the last of the pigs. Both of them were covered in the slimy, dirty remains of watermelons.

 

John grinned impishly as Chet shot an ugly look at his young friend… “Next time you can be over here with the whole mess in your lap okay?”

 

Johnny threw him a jaunty salute and drove away.

 

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Ralph Watson had been tipping the flask to his lips since he’d climbed behind the wheel this morning. He was tired of his wife’s constant nagging about his drinking. Always complaining that it was making him lazy…That he was wasting their money…That he couldn’t control it…That he was gonna kill himself or someone else someday.

 

What the heck did she know about it anyway? Ralph had always been in total control of his drinking…Just because he didn’t want to work around the house all the time and preferred to hang out at the bar didn’t mean anything. He tipped the silver flask again as he drove away from his latest delivery.

 

The truck weaved dangerously and he never saw the car that skidded off the road to avoid him.

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John joined his partner at Rampart a short time later but Roy was on the phone. “What’s he doing?” Dixie asked with a jerk of her head toward Roy.

 

He shrugged. “I dunno…He’s been on the phone half the morning, lookin like a thunder cloud and I haven’t had a chance to find out…He’s been biting my head off,” John bit his lip worriedly.

 

“What did you do to him that upset him this time?” She teased.

 

“I didn’t…I mean…I don’t think I did anything to make him mad at me or anything?” He said worriedly.

 

Dixie grinned at the young, insecure paramedic. “Well even if he is…When does he ever stay mad at you…For very long anyway?” She asked him with a pat on the long slender fingers.

 

Johnny threw her a typical heart wrenching grin that always melted Dixie’s heart as Roy smacked the phone down in its cradle. He turned toward Johnny and Dixie with a frown. “You ready John,” he snapped sounding angry.

 

John…Not Johnny or Junior… The young man threw a worried look at the pretty, blonde nurse. “Oh oh, maybe he is mad at me,” he said looking worried as Roy snatched up the supplies without waiting for an answer and headed out the door.

 

“Just ask him Johnny,” she advised. “But I don’t imagine it’s you,” she added, looking a little uncertain now herself.

 

John nodded as he grabbed the HT and trotted after his partner.

 

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John glanced at his brooding partner as they pulled out of Ramparts emergency bay. “Um Roy…?”

 

The older man shot a distracted look at his young partner. “What?”

 

“Are you uh…Angry with me about something?”

 

Roy sighed…Johnny was sometimes very insecure about their friendship. It stemmed from his having been a battered child along with a condition known as Aspergers Syndrome and the older man usually took great pains to be sure to handle his very young partner carefully when John got this way but right now his problem was Chris and how angry his wife was going to be with him for not showing up after he promised his son he’d be there…He took his aggravation with the whole situation out on his friend.

 

“No…It’s nothing to do with you,” he snapped, sounding exasperated…“It’s not always about you…I get frustrated at other things too ya know…Personal things.”

 

“I’m sorry,” John said as he threw him a hurt look and retreated into silence.

 

Roy glanced at him and noted the wounded look on his partners face and felt like a heel for taking his anger out on Johnny. As annoying as young partner could be sometimes, Roy cared about him very much and this time at least… he was innocent …None of this was his fault…Roy relented a bit...

“I told you Bellingham was gonna fill in for me this afternoon so I could go to see Chris’ play but he called a little while ago and told me he couldn’t do it now and I already promised Chris,” he said sounding annoyed.

 

John threw him a hesitant look as Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay of station 51. At least his anger wasn’t really at something he’d done but the sharp rebuke about things not always being about him still stung.

 

John tried hard not to get too involved in other people’s lives and make himself a pest to have around but maybe Roy still felt that way since he’d made that comment. Johnny glanced at his partner of eighteen months with a rueful grimace and tried to be sympathetic now that he understood his friend’s frustration.  “So you’re gonna have to miss Chris’ play at school this afternoon huh?”

 

“Yeah… Bellingham fell off a ladder this morning and sprained his ankle…so,” he shrugged dismally.

 "That’s too bad. I'm sorry Roy...Chris is gonna be real disappointed.”

 

“Don’t you think I know that?” Roy snapped with a ‘what can I do…’ Gesture…? John bit his lip worriedly as they climbed from the cab and headed to the rec room. He couldn’t seem to do or say anything right today.

 

The station crew glanced up from the table as the two entered the room. “Your lunch is in the oven,” Engineer Mike Stoker told them.

 

“What is it?” Johnny asked picking up his glass and taking a sip.

 

“Pork chops,” Chet said innocently. John almost choked on his milk.

 

“Its steak,” Mike corrected, drawing a chuckle from the others…All except Roy who was still in his funk.

 

“Thanks Mike,” Roy said sounding depressed.

 

Captain Hank Stanley glanced up at his senior paramedic in concern. “What did you do to him this time John?”

 

John’s mouth dropped open in shock. “I didn’t do anything Cap,” he squeaked in protest, looking hurt.

 

“Then what’s up with him?” Hank asked, looking at Johnny almost accusingly.

 

“Chris’ school play is today. He’s playing Myles Standish and Roy was supposed to go. Bellingham was gonna fill in for him for a couple of hours but he got hurt this morning and Roy can’t get anyone else to replace him this late.”

 

“Worse…,” Roy said as he rejoined them, setting John’s plate in front of him…John eyed it uneasily, making sure it was beef before picking up his fork. “I tried to call Jo from Rampart but she’s not home. She’s probably already headed to the school to get a good seat…She’s gonna be expecting me and I won’t be there.”

 

“There goes your peaceful thanksgiving huh Roy?” Chet teased.

 

“Yeah…There’s nothing worse than a wife who’s been stood up,” Mike tossed in.

 

“And a disappointed kid,” added Marco.

 

“It’s not his fault,” Johnny defended his partner. “Jo will understand.”

 

“Chris won’t,” Roy snapped at him, drawing another injured look from his partner. Roy seldom ever took his temper out on his young partner and the others threw a look at Johnny wondering what he’d done to upset the older man this time. John stared at the table wondering the same thing himself.

 

Hank shrugged his shoulders, remembering well how it felt being a young father and missing those special moments with his own daughters when they were little because he was working and Roy was right…While the wife might be understanding…?The children just knew dad wasn’t there. “So go,” he said easily.

 

“What?” John mumbled around a bite of his lunch.

 

“But Cap, I just told ya…I can’t find anyone to replace me.”

 

“So just stay available…I’ve got no problem with you responding from the school. It’s still in our territory.”

 

Roy grinned. “That’s great Cap…Thanks,” Roy said appreciatively. John grinned too…He was glad for Roy and grateful that his partners mood would hopefully improve and to make it even better…He’d be able to see the play as well.  Roy glanced at his watch. “We can make it if we go right now Junior.”

 

John’s grin faded a bit. “Now…? But what about lunch…?” He questioned as Roy grabbed his arm and half propelled him from his seat.

 

“You can eat later junior…The play starts at one which is in…,” Roy looked his watch. “Twenty two minutes.”

 

“But I’m hungry,” Johnny complained even as he followed his partner…His stomach growling in protest.

 

“You’re always hungry,” Roy shot back. “Think about something besides your stomach for a change.”

 

“Yeah Gage…Think about someone else…Don’t be so selfish,” Chet hollered.

 

The others chuckled as they heard the squad start up and pull out a minute later…

 

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Joanne DeSoto glanced at her watch. Roy should have been here by now. He’d told her last night that he’d found a replacement to take over for him for the two hours he’d need to attend. She hoped they hadn’t gotten tied up at a rescue and he’d be unable to get away or that Johnny hadn’t gotten him mixed up in something silly again. …Chris would be so disappointed.

 

She smiled to herself. She loved the dark haired, dark eyed, handsome paramedic like a member of her own family but that young man could certainly get himself into more trouble and her poor husband frequently wore a confused and beleaguered expression when Johnny got wound up. She hoped he’d managed to stay out of trouble today of all days.

 

She glanced at the back door again. The school’s auditorium was filling up and she wouldn’t be able to hold the seat much longer. If Roy didn’t get here soon he’d have to stand in the back. She shifted Jennifer in her lap and turned her attention back up front. The play was about to start any minute…Where was Roy?

 

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Ralph Watson took another swallow from his silver flask. He’d stopped at a store to buy a new bottle as he’d emptied the container. Now, he weaved his way through traffic, oblivious off the blaring horns and the terrified drivers who jerked their vehicles out of the way of the eighty thousand pound monster zigzagging its way through traffic.

Ralph was barely cognizant of the other vehicles around him…His mind only focused on his nagging spouse and the next slurp of the fiery amber liquid. The truck barreled its way toward an intersection…He didn’t notice that the light was red…

 

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The lights dimmed in the auditorium and Joanne heaved a sigh as her husband’s seat remained conspicuously empty. She hoped Roy had a good reason for missing this. He’d promised Chris after all and the six year old would be heartbroken.

 

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John threw his partner a glance as Roy drove toward Chris’ school. The younger man was still uncertain if his friend was angry with him or just frustrated with his morning in general. The comments he and the others had made left him worrying over what they really thought of him. Did they really believe that he was truly that self centered…Selfish and only concerned with himself...? Did Roy?

 

John chewed his lower lip nervously…“Um Roy…?

 

“Yeah…,” he replied absently as he glanced at the light up ahead. It was green and Roy accelerated slightly in the hopes of making it through before it changed to red again.

 

“I didn’t mean to sound…You know… selfish this morning,” he stammered worriedly. “I mean I…I… don’t really think you should be…You know… that concerned about me or anything and that your…uh family comes first and all I…,” he stuttered out with a shrug, trying to make his friend understand that he knew his place in the older man’s life and that Roy didn’t have to worry about him.  He bit his lip and looked out the window hoping Roy wouldn’t be angry with him. His insecurities were flaring and he didn’t want to impose on his partner, afraid Roy would push him away the way his family had.

 

Roy shot a glance toward Johnny. He felt terrible that his own bad humor this morning had made John feel this way. He opened his mouth to apologize as he entered the intersection. Roy saw the flash of white barreling through the red light at the last moment and cut the wheel sharply to the left.

 

The squad fishtailed as the brakes locked up, throwing Johnny against the door…His head slammed into the window. He felt dizzy and he barely managed to throw his hands up protectively before the huge gas tanker clipped the right front fender of the squad…

 

The smaller vehicle’s front end was caught in the tankers undercarriage and the lumbering forty ton truck dragged the squad fifteen feet through the intersection. The right front quarter began to crumple under the monstrous weight.

The loud screech of metal on metal and shattering glass filled the air and Johnny and Roy were both thrown forward as the squad’s forward momentum was abruptly halted. John’s head hit the dashboard and Roy’s impacted the steering wheel as the tank section of the truck rolled over on its side on top of the squad's front end …. John felt a horrible, crushing pain in his thighs as the dashboard and glove compartment smashed down on him, pinning his legs. Blackness came at him in a wave cutting off the cry of agony that slipped from his lips.

 

Roy felt a sharp blow to the bridge of his nose and his forehead. He felt himself thrown like a ragdoll around the cab. He heard John’s choked cry of agony before it quickly cut off. His last conscious thought was that he’d just killed his best friend.

 

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The guys at the station were clearing up from lunch. “Man Roy was really biting Gage’s head off,” Chet said in amusement.

 

“I wonder what Johnny did?” Marco asked.

 

“I don’t think he did anything,” Mike said. “I think Roy was just venting his frustration ya know?”

 

“Yes…Well John’s a bit insecure for that and we didn’t help,” Cap said looking a little contrite himself.

 

“What do ya mean Cap?” Chet asked, looking innocent.

 

“Well the first thing we did was assume he was to blame for Roy’s mood. That really wasn’t fair?” Hank admitted remembering the first time he’d met the young paramedic and that he had blamed him several times for things he hadn’t done.

 

“And then told him he was selfish to boot,” Marco said looking pointedly at Chet.

 

“Well I was just kid…” The SCU tones began to sound, interrupting the Irishman’s argument.

 

“Station 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…A fire department squad is involved…Intersection of East 223 St. …Cross street Dolores…Time out 13:42.”

 

The crew glanced at each other with apprehension in their eyes. “That’s right up the street,” Mike whispered as he headed for the bay.

 

“It couldn’t be…” Marco said as he began to run for the engine.

 

“Only one way to find out,” Cap said as he snatched up the mic from the podium…”Station 51 KMG-365.”

 

The doors rolled up as each man spoke a quiet prayer to themselves that it wasn’t Johnny and Roy.”

 

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Roy’s blue eyes blinked open but they were clouded. He couldn’t seem to focus and he could feel sweat trickling down his cheek. He raised one trembling hand to his face to wipe it away. It came away sticky and red. He was leaning forward…His face pressed against something hard and uncomfortable.

 

Roy tried to focus… There was a strange smell in the air…His head hurt and he was bleeding…Why was he bleeding? Accident…He’d had an accident. Where was Johnny? He remembered the sound of his choked cry of pain. He had to get to his partner. “J…J…ohn…ny?”

He gasped as he slowly raised his head and gasped at the sight of the huge metal tank that was lying on the hood of the squad and his young friend. He turned his head to the right. He spotted his partner immediately. He was lying on the seat beside Roy and he wasn’t moving. “Oh God,” he whispered as he hitched his body toward his partner.

 

A man suddenly appeared in the window. “Hey buddy…You alright?” He asked the injured paramedic. 

 

“O…kay…Part…ner needs h…help…P…please.”

 

“Okay buddy…Just don’t move.”

 

Roy ignored that directive…He had to reach Johnny. His shaking fingers reached for John’s carotid. A weak pulse beat beneath his fingers. His fingers found the cut on John’s forehead and the accompanying swelling lump. He brushed the blood from his own eyes once more before feeling along John’s neck, his hand traveled down the younger man's spine but nothing seemed out of place. His hands moved over John’s right arm…Almost crying out himself as his own body screamed in protest with each movement.

 

John moaned softly as Roy’s hands traveled over his belly and down his hip. The dark eyes fluttered open briefly, closing almost immediately before opening once again but they were unfocused and pain filled. “John…ny? Can you h…hear me?” Roy stammered.

 

“Hmmmf,” the younger man groaned in response.

 

“Just lay still…H…helps com…min,” he panted painfully as his eyes traveled downward to long legs pinned beneath the crumpled glove compartment. He lifted the younger man’s head to his lap and slid closer, ignoring the blood that dotted and trickled down John’s face. He leaned over him to feel down John’s thigh. His hand encountered a wet, sticky substance…

 

John moaned in pain as his long fingers clutched at Roy’s sleeve. “Hurs R…Roy,” he murmured softly.

 

“Shhh J…junior,” Roy soothed, grimacing in pain himself. He gritted his teeth as he reached around to pull his knife from his belt clip. He heard the sound of approaching sirens and almost sighed in relief. The smell he’d noticed earlier was stronger… He finally identified the scent… Gasoline… The tank was leaking fuel.

 

He managed to slit the trouser leg so he could get a better look.  Roy gasped at the sight of the sharp shard of metal embedded in John’s inner thigh. Blood spurted freely.  Roy couldn’t access the other leg at all with the glove compartment pressing down on top of them. 

 

His vision was fogging over once more and he used his shoulder to brush the blood away. Darkness was trying to edge its way in but Roy fought it off. John’s leg was bleeding badly and he needed to stop it right now…If he couldn’t, his young partner could bleed to death.

 

Roy fingers found the shard of thin metal. He placed his fingers on either side of it and applied pressure in an effort to stop the bleeding. John groaned and tried to twist away from the new pain making its presence felt. “Shhh,” Roy soothed.

 

A familiar voice intruded into his awareness. “Dear God…,” it murmured softly.

 

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Pain screamed through Johnny’s awareness. One minute he’d been floating in darkness and the next…Indescribable pain. His head was throbbing mercilessly and his face felt as if it were on fire. His legs…Oh God…Why did they hurt so damn bad? He heard a gentle voice he knew well. Roy…Roy was here… He felt hands running over his limbs and then press on his belly. Pain flared again and he tried to tell him to stop but all that came out was a moan.

 

“John…ny? Can you h…hear me?” Roy questioned, his voice sounding muffled and his words jumbled. He managed to force his eyes open but the sunlight brought a wave of agony through his brain and he closed them once again. He had to wake up…Roy? Where was Roy…? He’d heard his voice… He felt hands lift his head and then it was cushioned on something softer than the squad’s hard vinyl seat. He forced his eyes open but he couldn’t seem to focus on anything, but at least the pain inducing sunlight was now blocked by something...

“Hmmmf,” John groaned.

 

“Just lay still…H…helps com…min,” the voice came again but it was disjointed. He felt someone lean over him and a hand ran down his thigh…Pain blossomed as the fingers encountered the major source of pain on John’s leg.

 

John moaned again as his long fingers clutched at Roy’s sleeve. “Hurs R…Roy,” he murmured softly.

 

“Shhh J…junior,” Roy’s voice soothed. John felt movement and vaguely felt his pants rip…He heard Roy’s gasp and wondered if his friend was hurt. He could feel the liquid warmth running down his leg.

 

John’s consciousness was wavering and his vision was clouding over.  Darkness was trying to edge its way in but he fought it off. He felt pain tear into his leg as firm pressure was applied but his cry of pain came out more like a strangled groan as he tried to move away from this new pain. He heard the gentle sound of Roy’s soothing voice. “Shhh,” Roy murmured.

 

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The crew approached the scene and Cap’s heart climbed into his throat at the sight of his rescue squad’s front end crushed beneath an overturned gas tanker. The smell of gasoline was overpowering and he knew he had a problem on his hands if the tank blew.

 

He stepped from the cab and had to stop his terrified crew from forgetting themselves to run to the aid of their friends. “Marco…Check the driver of that truck,” he barked.

 

The Hispanic man froze in his tracks for a moment in stunned disbelief but finally regained his senses enough to obey his Captain. “Yes sir…”

 

“Chet…Get a line…Hose down that gasoline.”

 

“But Cap…Roy and John…”

 

“Now Kelly…I’ll take a look at the squad.” Hank took a deep breath and ran to the smashed red dodge, praying the whole time that his two young paramedics were still alive.

 

He looked inside. Roy was leaning over Johnny. The dark haired paramedics head was in Roy’s lap. Blood ran from multiple lacerations on the blonde fire fighters face as his fingers pressed tightly against a shard of metal penetrating the inside of John’s upper thigh. Blood trailed down his leg in small thin rivulets. “Shhh,” he heard the soothing whisper of his senior paramedic.

 

“Dear God,” Hank murmured softly.

 

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Ralph Watson raised his head from the steering wheel and blearily gazed around…”Wow…,” he mumbled to himself. Musta lost ma brak…es,” he slurred. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back…The company would send someone to fix it…Might as well relax.

 

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep when a tapping on his driver’s window woke him. There was a dark haired man in strange brown coat staring at him. He rolled his window down. “Are you alright?” The man asked.

 

“Ya here ta fix the brakes bub?” He slurred.

 

Marco turned his head at the alcoholic blast from the man’s mouth. “You been drinkin Mister?” He asked angrily. Man… Johnny and Roy could be dead because of this jerk…It was all Marco could do not to pull him from the cab and throw him at the police officer that was making his way toward him.

 

“What if I…Was?’ He asked belligerently. “Ain’t hurtin nobody.”

 

The cop approached Marco. “He okay…?”

 

“Not a mark on him that I can see…He’s drunk…He ran over the squad,” Marco snarled. Scotty’s eyes widened in horror as they shifted to the truck jammed beneath the tanker. “Says he ain’t hurtin nobody,” Marco added as tears of rage and fear filled his brown eyes.

 

Scotty shook his head and took over, waving the distraught fireman away.


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The play was still only minutes in and Joanne glanced back over her shoulder. Where was Roy? He wouldn’t miss this without a good reason and she hoped he and Johnny were both okay. They’d probably just been called out before Roy’s relief had arrived. She hoped he’d come through that door full of remorse for being late. Chris would never know the difference as long as he got here before the play ended but if he didn’t she’d have to come up with a reason for his daddy’s absence and it better not be something Johnny’d gotten him into either or she’d have a few words for that young man as well. “This had better be good Roy DeSoto,” she mumbled under her breath.

 

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Roy carefully turned his head to squint up at his Captain. “John…John’s hurt b…bad Cap,” he stammered. “Legs p…pinned…Need jaws.”

 

“No can do pal…Too much gas around. Let’s get you outta here and we’ll take care of John.”

 

“NO…,” Roy protested. “Bleeding…Fem…oral artery…Can’t l…let go.”

 

“Oh God,” Cap whispered. He raised the Handy talkie to his lips. “LA this is engine 51…Respond two ambulances to our location also another engine company and foam 120…I have a leaking gasoline tanker sitting on top of my squad…I have a code I times two at this location…Respond paramedics.”

 

“10-4 Engine 51…Squad 36 is already in route.” They heard station 36 and foam 120’s tones sound as Sam Lanier’s voice began the call out.

 

Hank heard the sound of squad 36’s sirens moments later. Marco approached his Captain. The look of disgusted rage on his face was obvious. “The tanker driver is fine Cap…He’s just stinkin drunk,” the young Latino growled angrily as he glanced at the police who were leading a protesting Ralph Watson away. “He doesn’t even know he hit anybody,” Marco snarled. "Are Johnny and Roy...Okay?" He asked hesitantly as his eyes moved to the squad.

 

Cap’s eyes swung back to his two injured men still trapped within the squad…One willingly and the other not and his own anger rose. "No Marco...They're not but they're alive. Help Chet on the hoses huh pal?"

Marco looked at him worriedly and he knew one or both of his friends were hurt bad and Captain Stanely didn't want him to see them yet. "Okay Cap," he murmured.

Jay Cameron and Doug Stone ran to Hank’s side. “What’ve we got Cap?” Doug asked as they tried to see around Hank. Their eyes widened in horror as Stanley stepped out of the way. The silver tank of the truck was half on its side and lying across the right quarter of the squad. The windshield of the passenger side and the hood were completely crushed beneath it.

 

They recovered quickly and tried to open the driver’s door but it was jammed shut. “Johnny and Roy…?” Cam asked fearfully.

 

“They’re both alive but hurt bad. John’s legs are pinned and Roy thinks Johnny’s artery’s been punctured.”

 

“Oh God,” Doug whispered.  “We need to get them out of there right now.”

 

“We can’t get him out right now,” Cap said in frustration as he turned and noted the approach of Engine 36 and the foam truck.

 

“We need the jaws.”

 

“Can’t use it,” Cap said dispiritedly. “We’ve got gas leaking from underneath the tank…Looks like it’s been creased…The squad is soaked in it…One spark and the whole mess is gonna go.”

 

“Man,” Doug muttered. “Okay we can at least get Roy out of there.”

 

“Can’t…He’s applying pressure and he says he can’t let go.”

 

Doug sighed in frustration…“Okay…I’ll get Rampart on the line and find out what they want us to do. I’m sure he’s gonna tell one of us to take over until we can get John out and get Roy to the hospital right now.”

 

Doug set up the Biophone… “Rampart base this is rescue 36 how do you read?

 

“Rescue 36, this is Rampart…Go ahead.” Kelly Brackett’s voice came back a moment later.

 

“Rampart we have three victims of a traffic accident. Victim one is en route to Rampart in a police car. Looks to be okay…Just intoxicated.  Victim two and three are code I’s. Victim two is a twenty seven year old male…Victim three is a twenty three year old male…Victim three is pinned and inaccessible. It’s suspected that the femoral artery is perforated. “

 

“Give me vitals on them 36…”

 

“Negative Rampart…Both have yet to be extricated…Victim two is applying pressure to stop the bleeding on victim three…He’s inaccessible and pinned inside the squad.” Brackett looked at the base station radio in concern…Squad he’d said…That meant paramedics…There was only one twenty three year old paramedic in LA…

 

“36…Is this John Gage and Roy DeSoto we’re talking about?”

 

“10-4 Rampart…”

 

Brackett glanced around and spotted Dixie coming out of treatment 3 with Jo Early and waved them over. “Which of them is pinned in the squad 36?”

 

Both Joe and Dixie looked at him intensely at that comment. “Gage is pinned…DeSoto is holding the artery.”

 

“10-4 Rescue 36...What’s the estimate on getting them out of there?”

 

“Rampart…There’s a delay in extrication…There’s an eighty thousand pound gas tanker over turned…About ten thousand pounds of it is lying on the squad.

 

“Oh my God,” Dixie whispered as Stoney continued.

 

“It’s leaking gasoline Rampart. One spark and the whole thing could go.”

 

“How badly is Roy hurt?”

 

“Stand by Rampart…My partner is assessing him now…

 

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“R…R…oy,” Johnny groaned softly. “Leg…legs hurt…God…Roy…H...Help me,” he whispered plaintively.

 

“Shhh Junior,” Roy’s free hand shakily smoothed the dark hair from John’s forehead, leaving behind a dark smear of blood from the multiple cuts on John’s face as well as his own hand. “I know you hurt…Jus hol on…,” Roy slurred as he soothed his friend. His own head was hurting and he desperately wanted to sleep but he knew John would bleed to death if he let go.

 

John tried to shift his body uncomfortably but cried out as the crumpled compartment bit into his bruised and bleeding flesh. The dark eyes opened to look up at Roy. John barely focused on the bloody face above him and realization that Roy was badly hurt himself finally registered.

 

“How b…ad?” He whispered.

 

“You’re gon…na be okay…,” Roy gasped out.

 

“No…You…?” The panted reply came back.

 

Roy couldn’t believe Johnny was worried about him as badly injured as he was himself and tried a reassuring smile but he hurt so much. “Be okay…Once you’re…out,” he assured him tiredly.

 

John’s head jerked suddenly. “Gas…I smell…Gas…”

 

Roy nodded… “Hit a t…tanker,” He explained haltingly. The dark eyes widened and John struggled to sit up. “Shhh…Lay back,” Roy soothed barely able to hold his wriggling partner.

 

“No…No…Let me s…see.” Roy finally lost the battle to keep him down but still managed to maintain the pressure on the artery as Johnny pulled himself upright. The younger man sank back to lean against his friend in horror at the sight that greeted him. The huge silver tank mere inches from the passenger compartment of the squad. “Oh man,” he whispered.

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Joanne DeSoto turned in her seat…Once more glancing back at the doors at the back of the auditorium. Chris would be stepping off the makeshift Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock in just a few moments and right now the children were singing a thanksgiving song.

 

Upon the Mayflower pilgrims sailed
Until America's Plymouth was hailed.
They anchored there in 1620
Food nearly gone, and hardships aplenty.
Indians shared their seeds, meat, and corn...
that’s how the First Thanksgiving was born!!

 

She vaguely heard the words but her mind was on Roy at the moment…Where was he? She glanced at her watch unable to believe he would have let Chris down like this. An average run usually didn’t last this long. Eiither Johnny had gotten him mixed up in something or the run had to be a bad one. She turned her attention back to the stage.

 

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Captain Frank Sullivan from Station 36 made his way around the accident scene with Captain Jack Lynn from Station 120. Their worried glances alerted Marco and Chet that something was seriously wrong as the station crew from 36 joined them with their hoses. Foam 120 was setting up.

 

They trotted back to Hank as he stood watching Stone and Cameron. “Hank…We got a problem…,” Sullivan announced grimly.

 

“I know that Jack…Two of my men are in that squad…One of them is trapped. Now let’s find me a way to get them out and quickly before Gage bleeds to death.”


“That’s the problem Hank,” Lynn said solemnly, ignoring Hank’s sarcasm. “That gas has leaked down into the sewer system under the streets,” he said pointing to the run off. “One spark and we could lose half a city block.”

 

“Oh good Lord,” he murmured looking back at Stone and Cameron as they headed over to the squad.

 

Hank chewed his lip as he looked toward where John and Roy were trapped inside. He could save DeSoto but if they made a mistake, they could easily lose John.

 

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“What’s taking them so long?” Dixie growled angrily at Kel. “Johnny could bleed to death at this rate.”

 

“I know Dix…We still don’t know how bad Roy’s hurt yet either…I’m waiting on 36’s assessment.”

 

“Why can’t they get Roy out?” Joe asked worriedly.


“He’s applying pressure to the artery and unless I miss my guess…He’s not going to willingly leave Johnny.”

 

“Than what do we do?”

 

“I’ll wait for the assessment.” He glanced up at the others. “If it comes down to Johnny bleeding to death or being killed in an explosion…I’ll amputate the leg.”

 

Dixie and Joe both looked horrified at that statement.

 

The base station crackled to life.

 

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Roy heard the grinding and popping sound of the forcible entry tool as it cracked the door of the mangled squad open. He felt hands grasp his arm and turned his head to see Jay Cameron leaning inside the squad.

 

“Hey Roy,” he said casually as his hands began moving over the blonde paramedics arm. “Can you tell me if you’re hurt anywhere?”

 

“Don’t w…worry about me…Get J…Johnny,” Roy breathed out painfully.

 

“Stoney’s gonna take a look at Johnny okay…Let’s worry about you.” Cam could see the sweat and blood on Roy’s pale face and knew he was close to passing out. They’d have to get him away from Johnny and into Rampart as soon as possible. He checked Roy’s eyes quickly. He glanced up as Doug Stone’s face appeared in the passenger side window.

 

The glass was cracked and cobwebbed. Doug tried the door but it was jammed. Cam slid the pry bar over the roof and went back to checking Roy.

 

Doug tried to pop the door but the metal had accordioned and was wedged tightly. He threw a worried glance at his partner. “Cam…I’m gonna have to smash the glass. I’m gonna get a blanket to cover Gage with.”

 

Cam nodded. “Okay Roy…Stoney’s gonna bust the glass out and take care of Johnny okay?”

 

“Gotta g…get him out…Needs a tourniquet for…His leg.”

 

“We’re trying Roy,” he assured him as he took his pulse and respiration. “How ya doin Johnny…?” He asked.

 

“L…legs hurt…,” he whispered. “Head…Too.”

 

“Okay Johnny, just hold on…Stoney’s gonna get to ya in just a second.”

 

Stone returned with a blanket and handed it to Cameron. He leaned in to lay it over Johnny and Roy, covering their faces and John’s body as Doug ran around the squad. Cam nodded and Doug smashed the glass, peeling the lingering shards away and leaning inside to tug the blanket back.

 

“Hey Johnny…,” he said gently as his fingers grasped the younger man’s wrist.

 

The dark eyes lifted vaguely toward the older paramedic. “H…ey,” A small crooked smile tried to make an appearance but it only lasted a second before John’s head dropped back to Roy’s shoulder.

 

Stone leaned forward to rest his hand on John’s abdomen, casting a worried glance toward his partner. Cam leaned over and handed him the BP cuff.

 

“Roy…Here’s what we want to do. Stoney’s gonna come around and take your place and we’re gonna get you to Rampart okay?”


The blonde man shook his head. “N…not leavin J...John,”

 

“Roy…You’ve got a nasty head injury and a couple of cracked ribs maybe,” Cam reasoned.

 

DeSoto stubbornly shook his head. “No…,” he whispered fighting off the dizziness the motion caused.

 

Cam laid a bandage over the cut on Roy’s forehead…and wrapped a gauze roll around it several times. He checked his eyes again. He backed out and squatted next to the Biophone as Doug ran around to hand him his own notes. Cam glanced at them and his face paled.

 

“Rampart base this is rescue 36…”

 

Stoney returned to John’s side to apply a bandage to John’s bleeding forehead.

 

INFERNO21.bmp

 

Hank stood with Captain Sullivan and Captain Lynn as they watched company 120 lay down a thick layer of foam. Gasoline still ran from a crack in the tank. “We have a crane and an empty tanker coming Hank…I think our best bet is to pump this one out and have the crane lift it off. Then we can drag the squad away from the scene and use the K12 and the porta power to get Gage out,” Sullivan informed him.

 

Stanley looked back at his men still trapped in the squad. His engine crew along with the men of station 36 continued to wash down the leaking gas that ran freely from the tanker…All of them casting anxious looks toward the squad and their friends still caught within it.

 

“How long is that gonna take?” Hank asked worriedly, knowing Johnny was in a lot of pain and in danger of bleeding to death.

 

The crane is on its way…It should be here any time. We’re waiting on the tanker. That’s located over on East Willow,” Sullivan replied.

 

“Oh good Lord…,” Hank muttered.

 

“Any chance of using the Porta power now…?”  Lynn suggested.

 

“Not to move that monster and if it doesn’t hold it could drop the whole thing back on John’s legs,” Hank replied morosely.

 

“Not to mention the potential for an explosion if it falls,” Sullivan added.

 

“I guess we wait then,” Lynn replied in disappointment.

HW21.jpg

 

“What the hell’s taking them so long?” Kel asked disgustedly, looking at his watch and knowing Johnny and Roy’s lives were both in jeopardy.

 

“They’re having trouble extricating them Kel,” Joe soothed.

 

“Johnny could bleed to death…”

 

The base station crackled to life interrupting the anxious conversation.  “Rampart base this is rescue 36…”

 

Brackett all but pounced on the button. “Go ahead 36…”

 

“Rampart…Vitals on Victim one…Pulse is 70, respiration 16…BP 120/70…His pupils are equal but sluggish. There are no apparent broken bones but he does have a head wound just above the bridge of his nose…He’s got some tenderness in the upper left quadrant where he impacted the steering wheel. Victim two is pulse 90…Respirations 12…Rampart his BP is 100/60…He’s pale and diaphoretic. His left leg has a puncture wound on the inside of his upper left thigh…The right leg is pinned and is inaccessible at this time…He’s sustained a head injury to his forehead and the right side of his head. He’s in considerable pain Rampart. We’ve applied bandages to the head wounds to stop the bleeding.”

 

“Can you start an IV in their present location?”

 

“10-4 Rampart.”

 

“36…Start and IV…on Victim one and two…D5WTKO on both and transport victim one as soon as possible…Get a tourniquet on the leg and take over keeping pressure on the artery…What’s the estimated time for extrication for Gage?”

 

“Unknown Rampart…We have a crane on the way but the gas is now under the street in the sewer system…It’s a precarious situation Rampart, one spark…One wrong move and everything could go…We also have a delay in transporting DeSoto…”

 

“Why…Is he pinned too?”

 

“Negative Rampart…He simply refuses to leave Gage…”

 

Kel sighed…He glanced up as Officer Scott walked in leading an obviously drunk man who was protesting loudly. “I dunno why…HIC…You’re harr…harr…ass…Botherin me…I d…didn’t do no…nothin…Hic…wr…ong…They…musta…musta run the l…light.”

 

Kel’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as he glanced at Scotty. “Driver of the oil tanker Gage is pinned under?” He asked angrily.

 

“Br…rakes failed... hic...or some...somethin,” Watson complained loudly.

 

Scott nodded in disgust and Kel shook his head. “He means the driver failed to use em,” Scotty muttered.

 

“Mike…?” Kel called noticing Mike Morton coming from one of the treatment rooms up the hall. “Take care of this guy will you?” He said, not sure he’d be able to stay professional with him right now. Mike nodded and Kel turned back to the radio. “36…I’m on my way down there…I may have to get Gage out of there one way or the other…We’ll get Roy out as soon as I get there.”

 

Cam and Stoney exchanged a look of understanding. Brackett would take John’s leg if he had too…They couldn’t imagine Gage crippled for life and shook their heads in despair at the thought.

 

Cam handed Doug the IV kit. “God…Let’s hope we can get him out without doing this?” Doug said softly.

 

Kel turned to Joe and Dixie. “Dix…I need a complete surgical kit and I want you to come with me. Joe be standing by…I’ll be sending Roy in shortly,” he instructed as he headed off to catch the ambulance driver that had just dropped of a patient. Dix turned and left to get the requested items but her stomach and her heart ached at the thought of possibly having to amputate John Gage’s leg.

 

MM35.jpg

 

 

Cam approached his Captain a moment later… “Cap…Dr. Brackett’s on his way…”

 

Hank turned along with the other two… “What for…?” Captain Stanley asked worriedly, concerned that something more had happened.

 

“Johnny’s bleeding bad…His blood pressure is dropping despite the pressure Roy’s applying. He may have to take Gage’s leg if we can’t get him out soon.”

 

“Oh God…,” Hank murmured as his face paled.

 

MM19.jpg

 

“R…Roy…Whas…Happ…pening?”

 

“I dunno Junior,” Roy mumbled against the dark head pressed against his shoulder.

 

John’s body jerked. “Doan feel g…good. R…Real…ly hurs,” he gasped painfully.

 

Roy’s free arm tightened reassuringly around his friend. His own head pounded painfully and his left hand was beginning to shake with muscle spasms from sheer exhaustion...He shook his head to try and clear the encroaching cobwebs. He had to hold on until they got Johnny out.

 

“I’m rea…lly thir…sy… have…wat…er?”

 

 Roy could feel he coolness of Johnny’s skin against his cheek and he was worried about hypovolemic shock but he shook his head.

 

John was so thirsty…His body temperature was dropping as shock set in despite the IV. Why wouldn’t Roy let him have a drink? Was he still mad at him? “C…old Roy…”

 

“I know Junior…I know…J…just hold …on…”

 

“Please…Some wat…er…”

 

“Not un…til we’re sure…You’re not bleed…ing in…ternally,” Roy managed to gasp out, feeling awful at denying Johnny anything right now.

 

John could feel the trembling of his friends hand and tried to turn his head to see his partner…He knew Roy was hurting and badly injured himself and here he was only worried about himself…Being selfish again… “You n…eed help. Sh…should get out…”

 

“Not a chance…I w…won’t l…leave you.”

 

“N…Not a…lways bout m…me…” Roy’s heart turned a flip at his own snide and hurtful words thrown back at him so innocently. “Bout…Jo and Chris…Jen,” he murmured as his eyes closed.

 

“Johnny…? Johnny…?” Roy gave him a light shake and John’s eyes barely cracked open as his head rolled on the older man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry…It is about…You. Right now…it’s all a…bout you o…kay?”

 

The blue eyes looked up into Doug Stones’ understanding brown eyes. The handsome black, paramedic gently wrapped the BP cuff around John’s arm once more…

 

“Roy…” A familiar voice spoke. Roy turned his head to look back over his shoulder. Brackett…? Why was he here?

 

MM38.jpg

 

The stage grew dark and the applause died down as the house lights came up and the fifteen minute intermission began. She shifted Jen on her hip and made her way to the pay phone in the lobby. She picked up the handset and dialed the number for the station. There was no answer and she hung up.

 

Where were they…? The usual rescue didn’t last more than thirty or forty minutes but even if that were the case…They should have returned by now, even if it had been a bad one. What if one of them had been hurt? No…No she wasn’t gonna go there…Johnny…She thought….Johnny got him involved in some silly thing and she’d be furious with both of them for disappointing Chris…

 

She hugged Jen worriedly and cast a glance at the doors, desperately hoping to see Roy coming in but it remained tightly closed.

 

 survival.jpg

 

The ambulance carrying Dr. Brackett and Dixie pulled up at the accident site. The attendant opened the back door allowing them to step down from the vehicle. Dixie’s gasp of horror alerted Kel before he ever stepped out from behind the vehicle that it was gonna be bad.

 

The huge silver tank portion of the truck was tipped on its eight left tires… propped and kept from rolling over completely by what was left of Squad 51. The windshield was shattered and the entire front, right quarter of the smaller truck was smashed flat all the way back to the windshield frame, driving the engine backward toward the passenger compartment.

 

Kel sucked in his breath, knowing that a good part of the engine’s weight was resting on Johnny’s legs. He needed to get to the young man right away. He’d already been trapped for over an hour now, with Roy applying pressure to the punctured artery…Much longer and he’d either bleed to death despite his partner’s efforts or hypovolemic shock would set in sending his heart into tachycardia. The lack of circulation was an even greater risk to Johnny’s safety...If they didn’t get the blood flowing into his limbs soon he could potentially lose both of his legs.

 

Kel shot a glance at Dixie…He could end up taking the trapped leg in order to save the other, as well as the young man’s life. He grabbed his bag and ran for the squad.

 

Marco smacked Chet’s arm and pointed as he spotted the pair from Rampart. “What do you suppose they’re doin here?” Marco asked.

 

Chet’s blue eyes reflected fear for his friends. “Nothin good Marco…,” he whispered. “Please Johnny…I didn’t mean it,” he whispered.

 

“Didn’t mean what?” Marco asked.

 

“I told him that next time…He could be the one with the whole mess in his lap,” Chet whispered, feeling guilty. Marco grimaced in understanding.

 

Hank saw the two as they approached the squad and ran to meet them. “Dr. Brackett…Miss McCall…I’m glad you’re here but I do have to warn you before you go any closer…That tanker could go any minute…If it does there won’t be any way to get you out in time.”

 

Both of them nodded their understanding of the peril they were putting themselves into. “We understand Captain…But Johnny could bleed to death if we don’t get him out soon. Any idea of how much longer…?”

 

Hank shook his head. The petroleum company had to get one of their tankers back in and empty it before sending it out here to empty this one. The crane is almost here and we’ll get it hooked up to move that monster as quickly as possible as soon as it’s emptied.”

 

 Kel nodded… “I have to tell you Captain…We’re running out of time with Johnny…” Hank looked at the ground in understanding and nodded. “I’ll amputate the leg if necessary.”

 

“I understand Doctor,” he said softly. Kel gave him a bob of the head and moved toward the squad.

He nodded to Cameron who quickly stepped out of the way while Dixie ran around to where Stoney was taking John’s blood pressure once again.

 

He leaned inside…Roy held Johnny against him. The dark head lolled on the older man’s shoulder and Brackett wasn’t sure if John were conscious or not. Roy’s body was hunched forward with his fingers pressed firmly against the younger man’s inner left thigh. He needed to get in there and assess John’s condition but he had to move the blonde man first and that was going to be a fight.

 

He glanced at Stoney. “90/60 Doc…”


The older man nodded…“Roy…? Roy…Its Dr. Brackett…”

 

“Doc…,” he mumbled, turning his head to look up blearily at the doctor. “John…ny’s hurt bad…”

 

“I know Roy…What I need for you to do is let Dixie take over for just a minute okay…Then we’re going to get you out and into the hospital while I take care of Johnny.”

 

“No…Can’t…I can’t l…leave Johnny.”

 

“Roy…You’re hurt too…If you pass out then John’s going to start bleeding again right… It could send the clot into his lungs or his heart…You know that.”

 

John’s brown eyes opened at the sound of Brackett’s voice. He was getting weaker. Dizziness was washing through him in waves and he felt cold. His mouth was dry and even as badly as he was injured he knew he was suffering the symptoms of shock and blood loss.

God…Why weren’t they getting them out? He hurt so badly and he knew Roy was hurting too. At least one of them could get out and he was grateful that it would be and should be Roy…His family needed him. “Get him out,” John mumbled.


Roy looked down at the pale and bloodied face of his best friend. The dark eyes gazed tiredly back at him… John nodded his head. “Need ta go,” he whispered. “W…won’t be s…sel…fish…Kids n…need ya more th…than me,” he slurred.

 

Roy almost wept…Why had he said those awful things to his best friend this morning? What if Johnny died believing that?

 

“You’re not sel…,” Roy began as he felt Dixie’s hand close over his shaking, numb and blood coated fingers. He looked up into compassionate blue eyes and a gentle smile as she leaned through the smashed window of the squad.

 

“Time to go…,” she said firmly, interrupting his apology.  “We’ll take care of Johnny.”

 

“No,” he began to protest, but he felt himself being gently pulled away from John. His first inclination was to fight but dizziness flowed over him and pain stabbed in his ribcage. “Aagh…,” he cried out as he felt himself lifted and laid on a stretcher. “Don’t let him die Doc,” he pleaded desperately.

 

“You know I’ll do my best Roy,” he assured him.

 

Captain Stanley laid his hand on Roy’s shoulder… “They’ll take good care of him Roy…Let them take care of you right now.”

 

“No Cap…Please…,” he began but Hank jerked his head toward the ambulance. Jay nodded and the attendants rolled him away as Cameron trotted along beside them. Hank turned back to the squad.

 

Johnny had heard Roy’s cry of pain and tried to turn toward his friend but the form of Kelly Brackett suddenly filled his vision. “R…Roy?” He gasped.

 

“He’s okay Johnny,” Kel soothed as his hands traveled over John’s arms and torso in a quick examination. He tilted John’s head and noted the pale and clammy appearance of John’s face beneath the spotting of blood. ..The penlight flashed into John’s eyes, drawing a wince of pain from the young man. He checked the tourniquet…“I need to try and check that other leg Dix so hang onto him okay?”

She nodded and held onto the young paramedic as Brackett leaned over him. He maneuvered around Dixie’s fingers as they pressed against the flesh around the sharp shard of metal. Johnny gasped painfully as Kel brushed against his leg…“Shhh…Its okay sweetie,” she soothed softly as she held John’s body upright.

 

Kel slid his hand beneath the sock and found the pulse in John’s right foot…It beat faintly beneath his fingers. The brown eyes met Dixie’s with a slight negative shake of the head. He moved to the left. He could barely feel it at all. He sat up and tried to smile reassuringly at John’s clouded and vague gaze. “B…Bad huh…?” He whispered.

 

“We’re gonna get you out of here Johnny,” Kel assured him. The dark eyes closed. “Dix…Draw a red top…Let’s get it to Rampart for type and cross,” Kel ordered as his fingers took over for Dixie’s.

 

She nodded…“Right away Kel,” she set about getting the requested blood sample and handed it to Stoney.

 

He smiled grimly. “Thanks,” he said softly.

 

“Tell them I want four units and an OR standing by when we get there.”

 

Doug nodded and headed for the ambulance.

 

“How much longer can we wait?” Dixie asked him quietly.

 

“Not much longer,” he replied.”I’m losing the pulse in his left foot and the right isn’t much better. I may have no choice if I’m gonna save the left leg.” He glanced back at Hank and saw the man’s mouth purse in pained understanding.

 

 Johnny was barely conscious but he’d heard enough to understand what he was saying too. “No…,” he gasped. “No…Don’t.”

 

“Johnny…We may not have a choice, do you understand?”

 

“No…I won’t l…let you…No,” he panted in a panic as he struggled against Dixie’s grip. “Aagh…Aagh,” his back arced and as he cried out in pain.

 

“Johnny…Johnny, settle down,” Kel comforted pulling the younger man against him.

 

“You…you can’t cut off…my…my leg…”

 

“Listen to me…It’ll be a last resort, I promise you.”

 

“No…”

 

Kel looked worriedly at the blonde nurse. “Dixie…Let’s give him .5 mgs of MS,” he said softly.

 

Johnny knew if they gave him MS he’d fall asleep…He couldn’t do that. “No…Doan wa…want it…I…Doan wan…”

 

“Johnny…,” Kel began.

“NO…I…I r…refuse…treat…treat…ment,” he gasped.

 

“Johnny…”


“No…  Cap…Cap…?”

 

I’m here John…,” he said gently.

 

“Promise me…You…w…won’t let…,” he gasped.

 

“John…”

 

“NO…Dead…Rather be… Promise…Mmmmf,” he groaned as dizziness washed over him. John fought it off. If he passed out there would be nothing to stop Brackett from taking his leg. He couldn’t let that happen.

 

“Okay Johnny…,” Hank said. Kel looked back at him in shock and Stanley shook his head warningly. He’d never broken his word to one of his men and John may hate him later but he knew he would today if it would save John’s life…At least he’d be around to be angry.

 

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 Roy fought the restraints as they tightened around him. “Cam…Please…Don’t m…make me l…leave Johnny.”

 

“Roy…you need a hospital. You maybe got a couple of broken ribs and at the very least a concussion. Brackett’ll take care of him…”

 

“No…No…you don’t un…nerstan,” he slurred. “Hurt him…”

 

Cam shook his head as they lifted Roy into the ambulance. “Sorry Roy…Brackett says you go to Rampart…We gotta go…They’re not gonna hurt him,” he said trying to be reassuring and misunderstanding the reference.

 

Roy dropped his head back in defeat. He fought back tears as they forced him to abandon his young partner and best friend.

 

He was struggling to remain conscious as dizziness washed over him. He was remembering John’s words and knew he’d taken what Roy had said to heart and he felt terrible. John had the most generous heart he’d ever met….Oh he knew John wasn’t above letting his partner pay for lunch and swiping a dime from the pay phone when he could but he also knew that stemmed from being raised in poverty…Johnny could squeeze a nickel until it begged for mercy but when it came down to his time, his energy or anything else he had, he’d use it freely to help someone else.

 

Roy remembered many times when he’d been there to help with the work around the house…Jo’s ‘Honey Do,’ list always seemed to extend to Johnny whenever Roy needed him. He knew John had even canceled dates to watch the kids so Roy and Jo could sneak in a night out, though John had denied it.

 

One nurse had yet to speak to him again when she’d found out she’d been canceled in favor of a five year old and an thirteen month old but that’s just the kind of guy John was. If you needed him…He was there and Roy had thanked him by hurting his feelings, calling him self-centered and biting his head off.

 

He knew John would have even run the squad alone today if he could have so Roy could go see the play…The thoughts whirled round and round in his brain until his pounding head couldn’t take anymore. Blackness finally closed in around him and Roy finally passed out.

 

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John’s dark eyes were trying to close and he struggled desperately not to let them. If he passed out…He’d be unable to keep Brackett from taking his leg…His head drooped as dizziness washed over him…The lids slid closed and his head jerked back as he forced the dark orbs open once more.

 

Brackett cast a glance at Dixie… Despite their efforts John was still losing blood…They could only slow the bleeding, not stop it.

 

“He’s losing too much blood,” he said softly. “I’m not gonna be able to wait much longer.”

 

Dixie shook her head… “He’s not going to let you…”

 

“He’s not going to have a choice Dix…Another few minutes, he’s gonna pass out.”

 

“No I’m not,” Johnny whispered stubbornly. “Doan t…Take my l…leg…Please,” he whimpered.

 

Kel’s heart was breaking and even though he knew he’d never hear the end of it from Dixie, his hand came up to gently stroke the dark head he held against him. “I’ll do everything I can to avoid it, I promise you Johnny.”

 

The blonde nurse smiled at him gently until another motion caught her eye…“Kel look,” Dixie said pointing toward the tanker. He saw the towering neck of a crane as it rolled into place.

 

“Oh thank God,” he breathed.

 

“Wha is it?” Johnny mumbled.

 

“The crane’s here John. Once they lift this tank off we can get you out.” He felt the younger man nod tiredly.

 

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Chris ran from the backstage entrance where Joanne was waiting for him. She bit her lip as the boy spotted her and glanced anxiously around to see where his father was. “How’d I do mom?”

 

“You were wonderful sweetheart,” she praised the young blonde and she ran her fingers through the soft blonde hair.

 

“Where’s daddy?” He asked looking around.

 

Jo looked away, knowing Chris was going to be very disappointed. “I’m sorry sweetheart…Daddy didn’t make it.”

 

Chris’ blue eyes welled with tears. “But he promised.”

 

“I know baby…But something must have happened to keep him away. He wouldn’t have missed it otherwise,” she tried to assure him.

 

Chris scuffed his toe on the ground as the tears trickled down his cheeks. “He promised…,” he whispered. Jo hugged him to her.

 

“I know…But honey…You know daddy’s job? He can’t always get away but we’ll be able to tell him all about it in the morning. Maybe you can even act it out for him.”

 

Chris shook his head forlornly and Joanne sighed. “How about getting some ice cream on the way home?”

 

Chris shook his head again. “I just wanna go home.”

 

“Okay baby,” Jo replied, equally depressed. She wondered again what had kept Roy away….

 

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Pain flared in Roy’s awareness and he blinked his eyes open, gasping in a breath.  He felt warm hands pressing against his ribs. He twisted away from the stabbing sensation in his chest. “I’m sorry Roy,” Joe Early’s voice apologized from beside him.

 

He rolled his head over to look at the kindly gray haired doctor. “Johnny…,” he gasped. “Where’s Johnny?”

 

“I’m sorry Roy…They haven’t got him out yet. We’re gonna take some X-Ray’s of your head and ribs. Then we’ll get you into a room…I want to keep you over night.”

 

“I need to find….out about John…ny,” he breathed out painfully.

 

“I’ll do my best Roy…I promise you…Just relax now okay?”

 

Roy fought it but against his will, his blue eyes closed once more.

 

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“Is the other tanker here yet?” Kel asked trying to see.

 

She shook her head…I can’t tell,” Dixie replied.

 

Chet Kelly suddenly appeared with another man. The curly haired Irishman took a moment to look at his friend through the shattered windshield. The sight of John’s pale, bloodied face and semi conscious state sent a fearful shiver down his spine. They needed to hurry.

 

The stranger with him…Ricky McCasland from K&M Petroleum cast a glance at the squad and his face paled at the sight of the doctor and the young paramedic trapped within. Watson had caused all of this. He’d seen him this morning when he’d first arrived. He and his co workers had shared a look of disgust at the idea that he’d already been drinking that morning.

They knew he liked his liquor but they’d never actually caught him drinking on the job before and all of them thought he should be reported but none of them wanted to be the one to do it and so none of them did.

 

Now two young firemen had been seriously injured…One maybe critically so if he couldn’t get him out in time. Gas was leaking…The doctor and the nurse with the young man and every fireman out there along with an entire city block was in danger because all of them had kept their mouth shut. He wished he could go back in time…Go to his boss and warn him that Ralph was a hazard but it was too late now. If any of these people died…He was as guilty as Watson.

 

Chet leaned down and took a heavy tarp from Marco while one the crew from 36 handed up a huge hose and collar to Ricky. Marco ran to the window as Chet shook out the tarp.

 

“How’s he doing?” He asked softly, looking at his young friend as Johnny’s head lolled loosely on Kel’s shoulder.

 

Kel shook his head…”He’s losing a lot of blood…You tell your Captain it’s now or never.”

 

“No…Please,” Johnny moaned.

 

“Shhh Johnny…We’re gonna get ya out pal,” Marco said reaching in to gently touch the top of John’s head.

 

“R…Roy,” he whispered.

 

“He’s at the hospital okay? He’s alright. Doc…We’re gonna put the tarp over the windshield…The feeder valves are damaged so we need to attach that hose and pump up there and it’s gonna pour gas until we get it clamped off so don’t worry if the smell gets worse. Miss McCall…You might wanna back away from here til it’s done?

 

She nodded, giving Johns’ cheek a gentle caress before she backed away from the squad. “Hang in there tiger,” she said softly.

 

The radio crackled to life… “Rescue 36, this is Rampart…,” Joe Early’s voice came through the receiver.

 

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Stoney grabbed it up. “Rampart Base this is Rescue 36…Go ahead.”

 

“36…I have a very worried paramedic here…Can you give me an update on Gage?”

 

“Gage has yet to be extricated but the empty tanker and the crane is now both in place. Brackett say’s it’s now or never. If we can’t get this off first try…He may have to amputate…John’s losing the pulse in the dorsal artery of his right ankle and the left is growing weaker as well.”

 

“Oh no,” Joe murmured. “Thanks for the update 36,” he finally said dismally as he turned and headed for Roy’s room.

 

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Joanne drove slowly toward home…A glance in the rearview showed a disappointed Chris. His lip stuck out in a pout. She sighed in resignation of a sulky afternoon. Hopefully Roy would talk to him tomorrow and explain everything and Chris would get over it but in the meantime…She sighed.

 

Traffic slowed in front of her and she stepped on the brake. She sat for a long minute before it began to creep forward and she realized there was a road block and they were rerouting traffic. Great…That’s not what she needed right now…A pouty six year old in the middle of a traffic jam wasn’t a lot of fun.

 

She mentally chastised herself…She was sure it wasn’t a lot of fun for the person who’d had the accident either…Worse if someone had died…She didn’t want their last moments on earth to be nothing more than an inconvenience to her…

 

“What’s going on Mom?” Chris asked curiously as he sat forward in his seat.

 

“I don’t know Honey…I’ll see in a minute. You sit back and put your seatbelt back on.”

 

Chris sat back and folded his arms, still in a sulk. Joanne’s eyes fell on the wreckage as she got closer. A gasoline tanker had rolled up on its side…The silver section had apparently crushed a smaller truck beneath it…She could just make out the silver grill and the red paint showing under the tank. Jo said a small prayer that whoever was in that truck hadn’t been killed.

 

They were close to Station 51’s territory and she wondered if this is what had held Roy up. She spotted the engine company that had responded…Engine 36… Not Roy’s station…The officer was waving the car ahead of her to the right…She’d have to detour around the accident.

 

She spotted the second truck…Engine 51…That was more than likely where Roy was then and it was bad…She understood if he hadn’t been able to get away from this. She made sure there were no bodies in sight before pointing it out to Chris.

 

“Well Chris…I just found out why your daddy wasn’t there,” she said gently. “He was helping out the people in that accident,” she explained.

 

Chris sat up and turned toward the wreck. “Wow…,” he mumbled in awe.

 

The crane was in place and firemen were scrambling to help hook it up…She recognized Chet Kelly. A second tanker stood near with hoses running into it…Jo guessed they were pumping the other to lighten the load. The smell of gasoline was heavy in the air.

 

The Officer in the intersection looked familiar…It looked like Vince Howard? Yes…It was Vince. He waved her on but she stopped and called to him. “Vince…?”

 

He looked at her and recognition came. The officer looked horrified for a moment. “Joanne?”

 

“Yes…I was just wondering if Roy responded on this call? He was supposed to be at the school and Chris would feel much better if he knew this was why his daddy missed his play,” she said trying to hint that he could help out by telling the boy how important Roy’s job was.

 

Vince looked sick for a moment…This news wouldn’t make any of them feel better.

“Joanne…Could you pull off over there a minute. I’m gonna get Captain Stanley.”

 

“Oh that’s alright…I know he’s busy…”

 

“Jo,” he interrupted. “You need to talk to him…Please,” he said urgently.

 

Jo’s stomach turned a small flip at the anxious tone but she pulled over as Vince waved at his partner to take over the traffic detail. He headed at a quick trot toward the wreck. Joanne turned in her seat. From the new vantage point, her blue eyes could now see the second vehicle pinned beneath the tanker. It was a Fire Department rescue squad…Number 51.”

 

“Oh my God,” she whispered as her breath caught in her chest.

 

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John’s head drooped weakly back against Kel’s shoulder. Brackett shot a worried glance at Dixie. “He’s fading…,” he said softly.

 

John’s head snapped up at his words…”No…I’m a…wa…wake,” he mumbled.

 

Kel shook his head at John’s stubbornness. “What’s taking them so long…?” Brackett growled, his vision blocked by the tarp that had protected them from the gushing gasoline.

 

“I don’t know Kel,” she replied, trying to see what was happening. “The other tanker is hooked up and I think it’s pumping the damaged one.”

 

“How are you doing Johnny?” Kel asked, sweeping the dark hair back as he’d seen Roy do a dozen times.

 

“Still awake…”

 

Johnny…?”

 

“No…” John moaned softly…The upper part of his legs hurt…The burning sensation was agonizing but he could barely feel his lower legs at all now.

 

Kel bit his lip…This couldn’t go on much longer.

 

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“Doc…?” Roy questioned as Joe Early came back into the room.

 

The older man shook his head. “He’s still trapped I’m afraid Roy.”

 

“Is Brackett gonna…,” Roy hesitated. “Amputate?”

 

“I didn’t ask…You know he won’t do that unless he has no other alternative Roy…He won’t take the leg unless Johnny will die if he doesn’t.”

 

“I know…It’s just that.”

 

Joe nodded his understanding. “You can’t imagine Johnny without his leg.”

 

“It’d kill him,” Roy whispered. “It would be my fault…”

 

“No Roy…”

 

“I was driving…,” He almost yelled, wincing in pain. He dropped his voice. “I was t…trying to get to m…my sons play…I wasn’t p…paying attention. God Doc…I bit J…John’s head off all morning like he was responsible for B…Bellingham getting hurt and not sh…showing up…I called him selfish when it was m…me…I was the one…” Roy looked away in despair at the hurt he’d inflicted on his young partner, both physical and emotional.

 

“You still weren’t the one who ran the light…You weren’t the one who was drunk…”

 

“DRUNK…!” Roy barked.

Joe nodded… “The driver of the tanker was drunk Roy. His blood alcohol was .117…He’s been drinking all morning.”

 

“Oh God…,” he moaned. “But I still sh…shoulda slowed down at the intersection.”

 

“Roy…It wasn’t your fault…”

 

“May…be not the acc…ident, but the w…way I treated him…That was all…ME.”

 

Roy laid his pounding head back on the pillow as the door cracked open.

 

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“How’s he doin Doc?” Hank asked as he approached the squad.

 

“He’s lost way too much blood Hank…How much longer?” Kel said sounding desperate.

 

“We’re getting ready to try and lift it right now. We’ll tow the squad backwards out from under it the minute it’s been raised. Chet and Marco will be ready with the K12 and the porta power to get John out the second it’s clear.

 

“You’re only gonna get one shot at this Hank…I can’t wait anymore. I’m gonna lose him if I don’t get him out of here.”

 

John’s head lifted weakly at the quietly spoken words. “NO…NO…You can’t.”

 

“Shhh,” Dixie soothed trying to smooth the dark hair from John’s sweating face but he lifted his free hand to push hers away.

 

“No…No…Won’t sleep…w…won’t pass out…,” he gasped.

 

An older, black officer approached the squad and Hank turned to look at his worried face. “Vince?” Captain Stanley questioned.

 

Vince’s dark eyes looked at Johnny worriedly before turning to the older man…“Captain Stanley…Roy DeSoto’s wife is sitting in her car over there…You might want to go talk to her.”

 

“Oh good Lord,” Hank muttered. “Okay, thanks Vince.”

 

Hank trotted toward the gray station wagon. The look on Joanne’s face was enough for Cap to know that she’d seen the squad. She climbed from the car as he approached and moved toward the back to meet him, so the children wouldn’t hear.

 

Her hands were pressed over her face…“What happened Hank?” She asked anxiously.

 

Roy was on his way to the school to see Chris’ play. The truck blew the light and hit them…The Squad was crushed under it. We’re just about to try and lift it.”

 

“Roy…?”

 

“Roy’s okay…He’s at Rampart…A head injury and some pain around his ribs but he was conscious and coherent. You need to get down there.”

 

“He’s okay?”


“Yes he is…I promise you.”

 

“Thank you Hank.” She hugged him quickly and climbed back in the car. She pulled out into traffic before she suddenly remembered what he’d said. ‘The truck blew the light and hit THEM.’ Johnny? Johnny was in the squad with Roy…Was he alright? How could she not even have asked?

 

She arrived at Rampart s few minutes later. She gathered her two children and moved quickly to the emergency doors. She spotted a nurse at the base station.  “Excuse me?”

 

The pretty black nurse turned toward her. “Yes…?”

 

“I’m Joanne DeSoto…They told me my husband Roy was here…He’s a para…”

 

“I know who he is Mrs. DeSoto,” she said with a smile.

 

“Of course you do…I’m sorry.”

 

“Its okay and Roy’s going to be just fine…He’s in room 234.”

 

 “Thank you…Oh the children…?”

 

“I’ll take them to the doctor’s lounge and ask one of our aides’ to watch them.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Chris…I want you to go with the nurse okay?” She asked handing Jennifer to Carol.

 

“But mommy…I wanna see daddy…”

 

“Not now sweetie…You behave and do what they tell you and I’ll be right back.”

 

She headed to the elevator. She stepped off on the second floor and moved quickly down the hall. She pushed the door open and stepped inside. Her husband was laying in bed…Tears of anguish pooled in his blue eyes and fear climbed in her throat… Johnny! It had to be Johnny he was upset about.

 

“Roy? Are you okay?” She asked worriedly as she moved to the bed and took his hand.

 

“I’m okay J…Jo. My ribs are bruised p…pretty bad and it hurts ta b…reathe and I got a bang on the head.”

 

“He has a concussion Joanne,” Joe clarified. “He’ll have to take it easy for a few days but he’s gonna be fine.”

 

She nodded. Her blue eyes looked into Roy’s… “Johnny? Was Johnny with you?”

 

Roy’s mouth tightened into a sorrowful grimace. “Yeah Jo, he was.”

 

“Was he hurt? Where is he?”

 

“He’s um…,” Roy ran his hand over his face in frustration and sniffed back tears. “He’s trapped in the squad Jo.”

 

She’d been right there…Why hadn’t she asked?  She could have gone to him…“Oh Roy no…How bad…?”

 

“It’s bad…His legs are pinned…He’s b…bleeding badly from a per…forated artery. They may have to amputate his l…leg if they can’t get him out.”

 

Her hand flew to her mouth in horror…“Oh my God no…,” she whispered in shock.

 

“It’s my fault Jo…I w…was such a j…jerk to him…I was in a h…hurry to get to the school…I didn’t look….I…”

 

“Roy,” Joe Early interrupted. “It was not your fault,” he insisted. “The driver blew that light and hit you…”

 

“God…What if he dies Jo?” Roy whispered, hugging his wife against him.

 

“He’s not gonna die Roy…Johnny’s strong…He’ll fight every step of the way, I know it,” she replied unable to imagine their life without John Gage in it. She hugged him tightly in return.

 

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Hank returned to squad… “Okay Dr. Brackett we’re about ready to give this a try,” he assured the man as he glanced back at Mike Stoker who was finishing the lines between the engine and the squad, prepared to pull them away to safety the minute the tank was lifted.

 

“Let’s make this good then Captain…Johnny won’t last much longer.”

 

John’s head drooped but snapped up determinedly once more. “Don’t let him Cap…Stay wake,” he mumbled incoherently.

 

“Johnny…Can you hear me?” Hank questioned.

 

“Out Cap…Please,” he whispered.

 

“We’ll do our best pal,” he reassured him as he signaled the crane driver. Station 120 began to spew its chemical foam once again in case of sparks as as the two vehicles rubbed together.

 

John’s head drooped as the gray closed in…He couldn’t seem to raise his head.  He heard the shouting, the strident squeal of metal on metal…He felt the shifting of the squad and heard the cursing Hank Stanley unleashed as the tank lifted only to drop back onto the crushed red dodge only seconds later.

 

“Damn it…What the hell happened?” Hank shouted angrily.

 

Johnny’s scream of pain froze them all in their tracks as the glove compartment slammed down on his legs once more. His back arced in agony and he had only a brief moment of defeated knowledge that they’d failed to get it off him. A rushing sound filled his ears and then blackness pushed in and his eyes rolled up in his head as he lost consciousness.

 

“God Captain I’m sorry,” the crane drive apologized. “I…The cable slipped…I….musta…”

 

“Just get the damn thing off of him,” he bellowed as he ran to the squad.

 

“What the hell happened?” Brackett snapped, just as angry as Hank had been. Dixie’s face was pale at the agonized scream that had been brutally torn from the young man’s throat.

 

“Cable slipped,” he growled. “How’s John?” He asked anxiously as the tank began to lift once more.

 

“He’s unconscious…Thank God,” Kel muttered in a fury.

 

The squad began to move slowly backward as Mike reversed the Engine and towed the battered vehicle away from the accident site. Chet and Marco moved in quickly. “Excuse us Miss McCall,” they said shifting the pretty nurse out of the way.

 

“Hurry…,” Brackett told them as they attacked the vehicle.


The K12 roared to life and the deafening sound of shrieking metal filled the air for a moment. Marco finally popped the door open. Mike was inside with the porta power within seconds. “Okay Doc…We’re gonna cut the piece of metal free and then we’re gonna raise this up…Chet’s right behind you. The minute Johnny’s clear I need you to pull him straight back toward you. Chet and Marco will take him from there…You just hang onto that leg,” Mike instructed as he pumped the jack.

 

Kel nodded. The crushed glove compartment began to rise slowly. Even unconscious the stabbing pins and needles sensation from the sudden return of blood flow to John’s legs brought a moan of agony from the young man’s lips. Kel and Dixie were grateful he was at least out of it enough not to feel the worst of it.

 

“Go…,” Mike yelled as the weight lifted.

 

Kel wrapped his right arm around John’s chest and gave the young man a hard pull as he backed out of the squad, leaving a trail of blood across the seat. Mike tried not to focus on that or the amount of the precious liquid pooled on the floor, just on getting Johnny out quickly. Chet grabbed John by the shoulders as Brackett stepped out of the cab.  Marco joined him as they cleared the door, leaving Kel free to concentrate on keeping the artery pinched off. Hank grabbed John’s legs and they quickly carried him to the waiting stretcher.

 

The attendants strapped him in while Dixie tucked the IV bag under his shoulder. They climbed into the ambulance with him. Stoney began sticking the electrodes to John’s chest to monitor his heartbeat and Dixie was already slitting the pants up both legs to give Kel a better look at what they were dealing with. The flesh revealed beneath was fiery purplish red and swollen. Dix exchanged a look with Kel.

 

The crew of station 51 watched in solemn silence as the ambulance pulled away.

 

“Were we in time Cap?” Mike asked quietly.

 

“God, I don’t know Mike…All we can do now is wait,” Hank replied.

 

“And pray,” Marco added softly.

 

Chet said nothing but his mouth was tight with a guilty frown. They’d all been so awful to him this morning…Insulting, blaming him for Roy’s bad mood…Calling him selfish. What if John didn’t make it? How would he and Cap, even Roy deal with that?

 

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Dixie’s gentle hands adjusted the oxygen canula under John’s nose before she began to clean the worst of the blood from John’s unconscious face. His soft moans of pain letting her know he was still aware enough to feel the pain even though he couldn’t open his eyes.

 

“Dixie…Give him the MS now…It’ll help.”

 

She nodded as she prepared the syringe, emptying it into John’s IV port. “How’s he doing?”

 

“His heartbeat is irregular…Grab the epinephrine Dix.”

She snatched up the syringe from the drug box… “In…” She announced a moment later.

 

Kel watched the scope and shook his head… “Still rapid…Start a second IV…Ringers, wide open…We’re taking him straight to the OR…Have the portable X Ray unit standing by…I don’t want to have to sedate him a second time.” She nodded and relayed the information to Mike Morton as he handled the base station in their absence. Kel grabbed for the Lidocaine one handed before Doug stepped in to help. Brackett threw him a grateful look. The older paramedic emptied it into the IV port.

 

Stoney sat quietly watching his friend. He’d trained for the paramedics with John Gage and he really liked the quiet and reserved young man, though he’d noted that Gage had opened up a lot with Roy DeSoto as his partner. He, like a lot of others, admired them as a team and could only pray John would get through this.

 

Kel nodded in satisfaction this time as the heartbeat began to regulate itself a bit. The IV was bringing the fluid levels up enough to stabilize him for the moment anyway. They needed to close the artery and soon or nothing would save his left leg…From what he could see… it may already be too late for the other

 

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Joe pushed the door open to Roy’s room. Both the DeSoto’s looked up anxiously. “Johnny?” Roy asked fearfully.

 

“They’ve got him out Roy…Jo. They’re on their way in with him right now. Kel’s taking him straight to surgery.”

 

“His uh…His leg Doc…?” Roy asked dreading the answer.

 

“He’s still got his leg…For now at least.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“Roy…The blood flow was cut off for quite a while and the nerves were compressed…” Kel’s gonna have to see how much damage was done before he makes that call.”

 

“Oh God,” Roy whispered in despair.

 

Jo squeezed his hand. “I’m gonna call Eileen and ask her to come pick up Chris and Jen… I wanna stay with you until we know how Johnny is?”

 

Roy nodded forlornly. “Hang on Junior,” he whispered. “Hang on…I need you.”

 

Joanne and Joe exchanged a sorrowful glance. They both knew the toll it was taking on Roy as well, knowing he desperately wanted to be at his partner’s side.

 

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Pain once again flooded into Johnny’s awareness. He felt the jerk as the gurney was pulled from the back of the ambulance. His upper thighs throbbed and burned and he briefly wondered if the squad had caught fire. He could feel the pressure of someone’s fingers pressing against the inside of his leg but he couldn’t seem to feel his feet…

 

His eyes widened in terror as the lights sailed by overhead. The motion and the fear combined to make him nauseas.  He gagged pitifully…He heard Brackett’s voice and found himself rolled on his side as he vomited what little he had in his stomach. They never slowed down. John felt a needle prick his arm as the gurney continued on.

 

 He’d passed out…Had Brackett amputated his leg…? He had a vague memory of the tank truck crashing back down on him and Brackett’s words… ‘You only get one chance at this.’

 

He heard the voices around him…They were loud and urgent… “Get him to the OR.” That was Dr. Brackett…

 

“Legs are in bad shape,” Dixie’s voice was heard. Her pretty face appeared over him briefly…Distorted and out of focus… “Hang in there sweetheart.”

 

He felt himself lifted onto a hard surface and tried to open his mouth. Someone gripped his arm and a cold sensation flooded his veins. People in masks and gloves surrounded him. “R…Roy,” he whimpered, desperately wanting the reassuring presence of his best friend.

 

“Shhh Sweetheart,” Dixie murmured softly.  He felt himself growing drowsy and his eyes closed.

 

“Waited too long…May not be able to save either of them…,” Brackett’s disjointed voice told someone.

 

“No…No,” He tried to cry out but the words didn’t come just a soft gurgle. He felt his mouth being pried open and a tube was suddenly forced down his throat…Panic flared briefly and he tried to protest but darkness closed in around him.

 

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Roy and Joanne waited anxiously for word on their young friend. Roy had told Jo about the morning’s events. “God Jo…I was such a jerk…Johnny didn’t deserve that. He didn’t do anything but try and be there for me ya know…To be understanding and I bit his head off…Accused him of being self centered…Only thinking about himself but it was me...I was the one being selfish and the other guys too…Even Cap blamed him because of me.”


She bit her lip sympathetically…She’d done the same thing hadn’t she? Blamed John for being the cause of Roy’s absence…Assuming he’d been at fault. They’d both been unfair to take their frustrations out on the young man.

 

“Honey…I’m sure Johnny will forgive you…He knows how you feel about him.”

 

“Does he…? Is what I said to him this morning the last thing he’ll ever hear from me?”

 

“Don’t even think that way honey. He’s going to be okay.”

 

“And if he isn’t? That’s my fault too…I was going faster than usual…Trying to get to the school ya know. I didn’t slow down at the intersection like I usually do…I…”

 

“Stop it Roy…The police cleared you. The truck driver was drunk.”

 

“I know,” he shook his head in disgust. “Some Thanksgiving huh…?” He mumbled.

 

“I think it will be…,” Kelly Brackett said quietly from the doorway.

 

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Hank Stanley and his crew walked into the waiting room of Rampart General. They’d been released from the scene after the clean up and made a side trip to the hospital to check on Roy and Johnny.

 

Hank walked to the base station where an older nurse stood at Dixie’s usual spot. Her name tag read Betty Matthews. “Ma’am,” Cap began… “I’m Captain Stanley…Station 51. Two of my men were brought in…”

 

“Captain Stanley…,” A soft voice said from behind them, interrupting the conversation. They turned to find Dixie behind them still in scrubs. She smiled at them reassuringly.

 

“Miss McCall… Johnny…?  How is he?” Mike asked before the others could.

 

She smiled again. “He lost a lot of blood and there’s some damage and swelling but we think he’s going to be fine.”

 

Relieved smiles broke out on four faces. “His legs…?” Cap asked hesitantly.

 

“They’re both still there…He’s not going to be walking on them for a week or so but he’s still got them…,” she assured them with a grin.

 

“How about Roy…?”

 

“Kel’s with him now. He went to give him the good news…He’s in 234.”

 

There was a slight commotion as Officer Scott walked a man in handcuffs up the corridor. His belligerent attitude making itself loudly heard.

 

“What’s the big deal…So I had a coupla drinks…Everybody does it…So what…? Bunch a do gooders…Just like my wife…Always lecturing me,” he snarled at the officer.

 

Four angry faces looked at Dixie…She looked just as mad. “Is that him?” Hank asked.

 

Marco nodded. “Yeah Cap.”

 

Hank moved toward the officer. Scotty stopped and looked at him warily, prepared to protect his prisoner if necessary…Ralph Watson looked at the fireman antagonistically.

 

“I know you?” He barked snidely.

 

Hank looked him up and down for a moment. “No you don’t know me…I’m Captain Hank Stanley from the LA county fire department. You just asked ‘what’s the big deal?’” He questioned softly. “The big deal is that because of your drinking today, two of my men…One, a twenty three year old kid …A young paramedic who goes out there,” He growled pointing out to the street as he continued. “Every shift to rescue people hurt and killed by fools just like you, almost lost his legs and his life. He was pinned in the squad YOU hit for almost two hours. He just got out of surgery and mister…That’s a damn big deal to a lot of us and to a lot of people whose lives he’ll continue to save in the future despite you.”

 

“I…I…Uh,” Watson stammered in the face of Stanley’s wrath.

Hank was shaking with rage as he continued. “You’re a very lucky man. John’s going to live and so is his partner who you also almost killed...Who’s lying in another bed upstairs.” The man’s face blanched with each word. “John is a very special young man and he’ll most likely forgive you…That’s just how the boy is…But I’m not that forgiving mister…I’ll see you prosecuted…If I have to drag him in there and sit on him to make him testify to what he went through because of you…You can count on that.”

 

Scotty nodded his agreement as he led the stunned looking and now silent, contrite man away.

 

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“Doc…?” Roy questioned worriedly. “How’s Johnny?”

 

“He’s lost a lot of blood Roy…He’ll be very weak for awhile.”

 

“His legs Doc…?” He asked urgently as Jo bit her lip worriedly.

 

“He’s got both of them Roy…” The younger man breathed a sigh of relief as Brackett continued. “We stopped the bleeding and repaired the artery. We’re giving him transfusions now. There’s a lot of bruising and swelling and the nerves were badly compressed. The circulation was cut off for almost two hours so he’s gonna have a lot of pain and he’s going to need some care.”

 

Roy nodded. “We’ll be there for him.”

 

“Good. I brought in Dr. Wade…He’s an excellent neurologist… He’s sure the nerves were compressed but not severed.

 

“Oh thank God,” Joanne breathed in relief as she hugged Roy.  

 

“He may need some therapy and we’ll have to wait until he wakes up before we know for sure but we’re pretty certain he’ll regain full use of both legs.”

 

Roy squeezed Jo’s hand until she winced but she didn’t complain, just squeezed back. John would be okay…They’d bring him home and they’d take care of him until he was well.

 

“Can you put him here with me? I…I’d like to be able to keep an eye on him and I uh…I need to talk to him.”

 

“I can do that Roy.”

 

“Can I see him?” Joanne asked, knowing Roy would go if he could.

 

“Sure Jo…He’s in recovery. I’ll take you down there if you’d like.”

 

“Thank you.” She kissed Roy. “I’ll be right back.” She followed Kel out.

 

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Joanne stepped into the recovery room and bit her lip worriedly. Johnny looked so pale, almost ashen. His left leg was elevated and bottle’s of blood and IV solution dripped slowly into his arms.

 

Joanne took his still hand, smoothing the dark hair away from the bandage on his forehead with her fingers. “Hi baby….,” she said softly as she leaned down to softly kiss his cheek. “Johnny…? Sweetheart…? Can you wake up for me?” She questioned softly.

 

John was floating in a sea of darkness…He heard a gentle voice he knew well. “Jo…,” his lips moved without sound. He struggled to get to the surface but pain seemed to push him back…Pain and something else…His legs… Was that what he was feeling? Oh God…He’d passed out and they’d cut off his legs. The pounding of his head, the burning of his upper legs and the agony of knowing he’d lost the ability to be a paramedic tore at his soul and John stopped struggling. He moaned softly in despair, sinking back into unconsciousness.

 

Joanne heard the soft whisper of sound…It was her name that barely slipped from his lips but it didn’t last long. Johnny moaned and sank quickly back into unconsciousness.

 

Johnny…? C’mon baby…Wake up,” Jo urged but Johnny remained unresponsive. “Okay sweetheart…,” she sighed in disappointment. “You just sleep then…I’ll see you in a little while.” She kissed his cheek

 

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Jo returned to Roy’s room to find the crew of station 51 there. Five anxious faces looked at her and she shook her head. “He’s still sleeping. He tried to come around for a minute but…,” she shrugged.

 

“Dr. Brackett said he’d be weak so he may need to sleep a lot…He said he’ll put him in here with me so I guess you’ll see him in the morning if you can’t wait.”

 

Hank nodded, looking a bit disappointed. So did the others.

 

“We saw the driver of the tank truck downstairs,” Mike told Roy and Jo.

 

Roy looked at them in dismay. “What did he have to say?”

 

“Cap didn’t give him a chance to say anything,” Chet said proudly. “He just let him have it for what he did.”

 

Roy looked at his soft spoken captain in disbelief and with appreciation. “Thanks Cap…For me and Johnny.”

 

Hank nodded. “He deserved it. He almost cost me two of my men….We’re family”

 

“Yeah family…,” Roy sighed. “That’s not exactly how I treated Johnny is it?”

 

“None of us did…Several of us owe him an apology,” Cap said quietly.

 

“And a reminder that we really do care about him,” Marco suggested.

 

“I think that’s a good idea Marco,” Mike agreed.

 

Half an hour later the door opened and two orderlies wheeled Johnny into the room on a gurney. The others waited while they transferred the still sleeping young man onto the bed. A nurse adjusted the IV’s and propped his foot on several pillows before she pulled the covers over the young man.

 

“Did he wake up?” Roy asked, looking concerned at the paleness of his partners’ features.

 

“Not yet but his O2 levels are good and his response to pain stimuli is normal so Dr. Brackett told us to put him in here with you…He said you’d be the one voice he’d most likely respond to so feel free to talk to him.”

 

“Thanks…,” Roy replied. She nodded and left the room.

 

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Roy sat up and swung his feet off the bed. “What do ya think you’re doin?” Cap asked in disbelief.

 

“I’m gonna sit with my best friend and tell him how sorry I am for being a jerk,” Roy said matter of fact.

 

“Honey…You’re not supposed to be out of bed,” Jo reminded him.

 

“I have to talk to him besides, you heard the nurse.”

 

“She said talk to him pal but I don’t think she meant for you to get up,” Cap added.

 

Roy shrugged as he carefully pulled a robe on and made his way to his partner’s side, easing into the seat next to him. He gave a quick glance at the crew and knew he’d probably never hear the end of this and John would be mortified if he knew what was happening but Roy didn’t care right now.

 

He laid his hand on Johnny’s…Picking the slender, limp fingers up in his own. “Hey Junior,” he spoke softly as he laid his hand on the top of John’s head…His thumb gently sweeping over the younger man’s forehead. “Johnny can you hear me? I need you to open your eyes.”

 

He glanced at the others who were watching him with poignant smiles but the dark eyes of his friend remained obstinately closed.

 

“Johnny…You need to wake up now. They said the drugs shoulda worn off by now so I know you’re in there. The guys are here to see you…Their worried about you. Can you wake up?”

 

“Anything…?” Mike asked.

 

Roy shook his head and bit his lip anxiously. “He should be awake…I mean, they said his O2 levels were good and he was responsive so…,” he shrugged.

 

“Maybe he’s just exhausted Roy,” Chet suggested.

 

“Dr. Brackett said he’d be weak and tired,” Joanne reminded him.

 

“That’s right I did, and why are you out of bed?” Kelly Brackett’s voice came from behind them.

 

They all turned to look at the man as he approached the bed…“The nurse said I should talk to him…That you thought he’d respond to my voice.”

 

“Yes…From over there. Now, get back in your bed Roy.” Roy sighed and did as he was ordered. “Did he wake up?”

 

“No…There was no response at all and I’m worried.”

 

“Don’t be…He took a couple of blows to the head. He lost a lot of blood. He was in shock and a lot of pain…He was pretty heavily medicated because of it. He’s suffered a major trauma to his body Roy, so don’t panic okay?” Kel flashed the penlight in John’s eyes. There was a slight head jerk of annoyance but the young fire fighter remained unconscious.

 

Kel moved to the foot of the bed and pulled the sheet back. He dragged the back of his penlight up the bottom of John’s foot and the toes twitched weakly. He did the same to the left drawing a slightly stronger response. Kel pinched the Achilles tendon and John’s head rolled on the pillow with a slight moan.

“He’s responsive so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about just yet. We’ll keep an eye on him. He should wake up soon.”

 

The tones began to sound on Hank’s handy talkie. “Engine 51…Squad 110 in place of squad 51…”

 

Hank threw Roy and Jo a rueful look. “Well…Gotta run. We’ll be back in the morning. Maybe Johnny will be awake and up to company.”

 

“Thanks Cap…Guys.”

 

Jo threw them a wave as they all ran for the elevator.  “Station 51…10-4,” Cap replied as the doors closed.

 

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Johnny was floating once again…He liked it here in this place…His place. That safe place in his head where he’d blocked out the pain. The thought of going back to face the loss of his legs was too much.

 

He heard a voice…Roy? He thought it was him but Johnny couldn’t go there right now, afraid Roy was still angry with him. He’d snapped at him several times this morning. Johnny desperately wanted to see his partner…To have him reassure him it would be okay but he couldn’t if Roy was angry with him besides Roy had been hurt too. Wouldn’t it be selfish of him to expect Roy to help him? He didn’t want that.

 

God he just needed his friend right now but maybe Roy would be relieved to have an excuse to get another partner. After all…The others all seemed to think he bothered the older man even when he hadn’t done anything, so what must they think when he really was annoying him? Besides John couldn’t be a paramedic with only one leg or none. Brackett’s words came back to him. ‘Waited too long…May not be able to save either of them.’  Pain… Emotional and physical, flooded his awareness …John retreated once again to the grayness…Yes…This was easier.

 

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Joanne left to pick up the kids. She promised she’d be back in the morning once she found a baby sitter for Jen and Chris went off to school.

 

John remained unconscious and Roy was getting very worried. Brackett had called for a new skull series just to be safe but there was nothing abnormal. He’d assured him that it was a fairly severe concussion John had sustained and he’d wake up in his own time but Roy had seen the frown of concern between the doctor’s dark brows.

 

Roy’s blue eyes slid to his partner at every sigh and every twitch of his fingers but the younger man didn’t wake. He noticed that John never once moved his legs and the worry grew that something was wrong.

 

Roy finally fell asleep in the small hours of the morning.

 

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The sound of voices woke him early. The bustle of the nursing staff as they checked John’s IV, his vitals and his temperature and then came to do the same for Roy. “Good morning Mr. DeSoto…How are you feeling this morning?”

 

“I’m fine…I’d be better if he’d wake up though,” he added worriedly.

 

The nurse smiled and went over to gently shake Johnny. “I’m sure he’s fine Mr. DeSoto,” she assured him. “Wake up Mr. Gage…Breakfast will be here soon.”

 

John seemed to stiffen and barely flinch away from her touch but the eyes remained closed. She frowned and checked his eyes and again there appeared to be a small reaction though he didn’t wake up. She made a few notes on his chart and disappeared out the door.

 

Roy was contemplating risking Brackett’s wrath and going over there to his partner when the object of his ponderings pushed the door open and came inside.

 

“Good morning Roy.”

 

“Morning Doc…”

 

“Any sign of him coming around?”

 

“No and I’m getting really worried. Doc…I noticed that he hasn’t moved his legs at all.”

 

“He may still be experiencing numbness or even pain Roy…Even subconsciously he’d keep from moving them too much if it hurt.”

 

Roy nodded. “I guess.”

 

Kel smiled at the blonde fireman and his obvious fondness for his young partner. “I’ll order an EEG if he doesn’t wake up soon…Just in case.”

 

The door opened and Hank and the rest of the station crew peeked in. “Okay for us to come in?” He asked, his eyes taking in his senior paramedic and then the still, quiet form of the other. “Did he wake up at all?” He asked worriedly coming inside without waiting for an answer to either question.

 

“Not yet Captain.”

 

“Is that normal?” He asked looking at Brackett.

 

Kel frowned. “Sometimes…He sustained a serious concussion and some very severe trauma and…”

 

“I don’t understand…He was awake yesterday…Why won’t he wake up now?” Chet asked anxiously.

 

Kel shook his head. “His body is healing…He’s lost a lot of blood and sleep’s the best thing for him. I explained to Roy that we’re going to run a few more tests just to be sure but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about…He’s still responsive.” He turned to Roy… “I’m going to release you to go home after breakfast Roy and I want you to rest.”

 

“You best keep me then Doc…I won’t leave Johnny.”

 

“Roy…”

 

“No…You made me leave him yesterday but not now…He needs me to be here…Don’t ask me how I know that Doc…I just know okay? I have to be with him.”

 

The others seemed to understand and Kel finally nodded…He’d seen the bond between these two at work too many times to dispute it though he doubted he’d ever completely understand it.

 

Brackett shook his head but he knew better than to argue with the blonde fireman when it came to Johnny…“Alright Roy but I want you to rest some too…Johnny’s going to be fine.”

 

An aide pushed the door open and came inside with a breakfast tray for both Johnny and Roy. Kel cast a glance at the unconscious paramedic and waved her off. “If he doesn’t come around we’ll have an NG tube inserted.”

 

Roy frowned. Johnny would absolutely hate that.

 

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John felt hands touching him…He stiffened and flinched from the contact but remained locked in the safe place. There was no need to fight…The hands went away quickly. They weren’t trying to force him back from his refuge. He wanted to move his legs but he couldn’t force himself to try…He couldn’t feel them and he knew they were gone…fear gripped him…

 

He vaguely heard Roy’s voice from a distance and almost tried to reach toward it but pain pressed itself into his awareness…When would it stop hurting? Maybe never…He’d lost his legs…His career...His friend.  Other voices over rode Roy’s and Johnny slipped back into himself once more.

 

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Roy was finishing his breakfast when the nurse returned. He knew the crew would be back soon and Joanne would be there as soon as she found a baby sitter for Jennifer. The nurse smiled and moved to John’s bedside.

 

She tugged the blankets down and began to roll John on his side to change the sheets. Roy saw his partner stiffen at the woman’s touch and his mouth dropped open in surprise as realization set in and he finally understood… Johnny wasn’t unconscious…He was awake and aware of her touching him. Why hadn’t Roy seen it before? Johnny was in withdrawal.

 

Johnny had Aspergers Syndrome…Emotional stress would sometimes send him retreating to a safe place in his own mind but what would have caused him to retreat now? What would have driven him to this? The stress of the injury maybe but Johnny had suffered other injuries and not withdrawn. Roy chewed his lip worriedly.

 

“Is something wrong Mr. DeSoto?” The nurse asked curiously at his expression.

 

“No…No um…I just need to talk to my friend…When you’re finished,” he added with a tight smile.

“Oh…I’ll only be a minute,” she replied as she efficiently changed the linens and finally rolled John back. She tugged the covers over him and left. John seemed to relax back into his unconscious state.

 

Roy pushed the tray away the moment she left the room. He gritted his teeth against the pounding headache and the throbbing of his ribs as he eased himself into the seat next to John. He took the younger man’s hand and set the other on the top of John’s head.

 

John’s body grew rigid under his hands and his head jerked away and Roy knew for sure what was happening.  “Oh no you don’t junior…You’re not hiding from me.” Roy once again turned the younger man's face toward him and a low moan slipped from his lips and his body arced weakly. He leaned closer to speak softly in his partner's ear. “Johnny…I know you can hear me…I’m not sure where you are junior or why you slipped away but it’s time for you to come back now,” he said softly.

 

John tried to turn his face aside but Roy wouldn’t let him.

 

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John felt hands and he heard Roy’s voice close to his ear. “Johnny…I know you can hear me…I’m not sure where you are junior or why you slipped away but it’s time for you to come back now,” he said softly.

 

Johnny moved closer to the voice and the gray began to lift. Pain intruded…God his legs hurt…No wait…He couldn’t feel them…It was his thighs that burned like fire… That’s what hurt so bad…His legs were gone… They’d cut them off…He’d passed out and had been unable to stop Brackett from taking his legs…That’s why he couldn’t feel them...He’d failed.  He heard the words again… ‘Waited too long…May not be able to save either of them.’ John’s breathe hitched and he tried to retreat but Roy’s voice called him back once more.

 

John gasped and his head twisted away but Roy tugged it back again. “Don’t leave me…Talk to me junior…I need you to wake up now.” His fingers stroked the sable hair back from John’s forehead.  

 

No…no…he just needed to be left alone but the hands wouldn’t go…The voice was calling him back.

 

John’s hands rose to grip Roy’s hand. The older man wasn’t sure if he intended to push it away or hang on for support…Neither was John…He just needed his friend but he was afraid. Roy would help him through the pain and the loss but he’d been angry with him hadn’t he?  

 

“I know I hurt you yesterday and I’m so sorry… I know you’re hurting and I wanna help. C’mon junior…You’re so close to coming back. C’mon Johnny…I know you're there.”

 

Roy was there and he wasn’t upset with him…He’d help him. John let the gray fade away as he reached for the surface…The real world returned as his eyes fluttered open but so did the pain. John’s teeth clenched as fire lanced through his legs. He needed to see…He had to know.

 

“Hmmm R…Roy M…my legs,” he gasped as he struggled to sit up. Roy grabbed his shoulders and tried to hold him down but it only increased the frenzied twisting of John’s body. Roy gasped as pain shot through his ribcage.

 

John’s head pounded ferociously and he felt sick…His thighs burned like fire. He panted for breath, pushing at his hands. “I need to see…P…Please…Oh God R…Roy…I can’t feel em,” tears of pain and fear welled in John’s eyes and trickled down his cheeks.

 

“See?” Roy questioned in confusion wincing in pain again as he gathered John against him to still the struggling body. “I…I don’t understand.”

 

The door opened and Joanne came in. “Oh my God…,” she whispered seeing Roy hanging on to John as he fought to free himself. She ran to the bed and started to push the nurse call.

 

“No wait…,” Roy said quietly. “Johnny…What do you need to see…Tell me?”

 

“Legs…My l…legs…I p…passed out…I heard him…can’t s…save em…”

 

“Johnny…I’m sorry. I don’t und…,” Roy eyes widened as understanding came. “Oh no…Johnny…Johnny listen to me. It’s okay.”

 

“No…No…H…he cut …off my legs.”

 

John was shaking and terror stricken brown eyes looked into Roy’s…His face twisted in pain and grief as the tears spilled over. He began a soft rocking motion…“Jo…Uncover his legs…Let him see them,” Roy commanded.

 

Joanne nodded and quickly pulled the blankets off of John’s feet. Roy turned the dark head away from him and toward the bed. “They’re still there…See…It’s okay…Your okay.”

 

John saw his feet at the end of the bed and he gasped in shock…They were still there but why couldn’t he feel them? The burning and the pain was in the upper areas of the thighs…He reached out to try and touch them but he pressed against Roy as pain shot through him…His body stiffening.  “C…Can’t f…feel em…,” he panted.

 

The door opened and Hank and the crew came in. They stopped short at the sight of a semi hysterical John Gage held in Roy’s arms. The senior Paramedic barely cast them a glance. His only concern right now was Johnny.

 

“Squeeze his feet Jo…”  His wife complied, squeezing his toes and running her hands over Johnny’s feet and swollen, discolored ankles.

 

“Did you feel that sweetheart?” She asked gently.

 

The dark head nodded hesitantly. “A l…lit…tle.”

 

“The nerves were compressed but they’re okay…The feeling will come back okay…You just gotta give them time to heal. You gotta relax alright?” Roy soothed the younger man softly as he continued to hold his trembling body against him as the slow rock stopped but John continued to grip Roy’s robe tightly. The older man wasn’t sure if it was pain or fear that had locked John’s hands in a death grip. “Shhh…It’s okay…I’m here…I won’t let anything hurt you okay?”

 

The younger man finally began to relax against his friend. “Okay…,” he whispered, trusting his partner’s promise that he’d be alright. Roy stroked the sable hair soothingly.

 

“You need to lie back,” he said quietly as he reached out to press the nurse call. The others moved closer as Roy finally got Johnny to ease his grip on his robe…The older man’s ribs were throbbing but he didn’t let go of his partner.  The nurse poked her head in as Johnny rested against Roy’s chest. “Would you call Dr. Brackett?” He asked quietly. She nodded and left.

 

The brown eyes looked up into pain filled blue ones for a long moment. “I’m s...sorry,” he gasped, seeing the obvious discomfort in his friend’s eyes.

 

“Why…Why would you be sorry? I’m the one that needs to be sorry.”

 

John frowned in confusion at that. Why should Roy be sorry?  “Hurt you…,” he mumbled with a hitched voice.

 

“It’s alright…You didn’t hurt me but I need you to lie back though okay?” He reassured the younger man as he laid him against the pillows. “I want you to rest,” he instructed as his fingers once again stroked the dark hair back. John’s eyes closed slowly.

 

Brackett pushed the door open and came quickly to the bed. “What happened? The nurse said he was awake and combative?” He asked as he began to check Johnny over. The crew looked at Roy curiously as well.

 

“I finally realized that he wasn’t unconscious… exactly,” he hedged, not wanting to say too much about Johnny being in withdrawal. Hank Stanley didn’t know about John having AS and Roy wasn’t positive he’d keep it to himself if he did. He hadn’t been their Captain when Roy and the others had found out about it. Captain Hammer had been aware and kept the secret but Hank had only been there a few months. What if he felt he had to tell HQ? It would ruin John’s career.

 

He glanced at the others with a slight frown before looking back to Brackett. “He just didn’t WANT TO WAKE UP,” he stressed. “Once I got him to uh… come back…He panicked. He thought you amputated his legs doc.”

 

A look of understanding crossed their faces and they shot a concerned glance at Hank Stanley. Kel nodded as well. “Morning Johnny,” he greeted as the dark eyes opened tiredly.

 

“Doc…?”

Kel ran his hands over John’s legs… “Can you feel that?”

 

“Some,” he whispered. “Thought they w…were gone…Heard you…”

 

“I want you to relax alright? You’ve been through a major trauma and you need to rest. I promise you the feeling will come back.” John nodded weakly. “I’m sorry I scared you Johnny. I had no idea you heard me in the O.R .or that you thought that I’d amputated them,” Kel explained as he leaned over the younger man. “You’re gonna be okay,” he assured him as he patted the younger man’s shoulder.

 

John’s hand tightened around Roy’s. The older man gave his a reassuring squeeze. “We have some talking to do when you wake up Junior but right now…I think you need to sleep.” The brown eyes drifted closed.

 

 

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“I’m so sorry Roy…I had no idea he heard me in the O.R…. I thought he was sedated,” Brackett explained sheepishly.

 

“It’s okay doc…At least we know what kept him out so long…I’m just glad he’s alright,” Roy added cryptically.

 

The others were relieved as well and Hank cast them all a wary glance. They all seemed to know something very odd had happened with Johnny but none of them volunteered anything further. Hank’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully but he didn’t pursue it, whatever it was…John seemed fine now.

 

“The feeling in his legs should increase over the next few hours but that’s not going to be a fun experience either,” Kel explained as the nurse came into the room. “It’s going to feel like a serious burn and a thousand needles stabbing him as the nerves begin to reawaken,” he continued as he took the syringe from her and injected it into John’s IV port.

 

The others winced in sympathy at the thought …“Like he hasn’t been through enough,” Mike muttered.

 

“That’s probably why he thought I’d amputated them. He couldn’t feel too much in the lower half of his legs yet, just the pain in the upper part. Meperidine should keep the worst of it manageable at least…Poor kid,” he said feeling bad that John had been that frightened by his comments.  Kel threw them a small smile and left the room.

 

Roy resumed his place at John’s side and it was pretty clear by the way he settled himself that he had no plans to leave it in the near future. Jo smiled and retrieved his pillow, placing it behind him to make it more comfortable.

 

He glanced up at the crew. “I think he’ll be asleep for awhile,” he said with a relieved smile. “But I have a lot of apologizing to do when he wakes up.”

 

“So do I,” Hank admitted.

 

“Me too I guess,” Chet said ruefully.

 

“What did you do?” Roy asked them.

 

“I just assumed your bad mood was John’s fault. That he’d done something to upset you.”

 

“And I accused him of being selfish,” Chet admitted.

 

“We all assumed he’d done something to upset you,” Mike added. “It was pretty unfair.”

 

“So did I…The worst part is he hadn’t done anything at all to me…Today anyway,” he said with a rueful smile. “He’s the least selfish person I’ve ever met. I’m just really thankful he’s going to be okay and I’m gonna get a chance to tell him how sorry I am,” Roy said softly and despite the presence of the others he reached out to swipe the sable hair from John’s forehead.

 

“This is gonna be a true thanksgiving then,” Jo said softly as she watched the fond gesture. “Maybe we can all get a chance to tell him how thankful we are that he’s okay and part of our family.”

 

“Maybe that would be a nice gesture,” Cap added. “We all tease him about being a kid and stirring things up…Maybe we should try to think of something to let him know how thankful we are that he’s a part of this team instead.

 

They looked thoughtful at that…All except Chet who threw them a smirk. “I wouldn’t get that mushy,” he teased. “It would ruin our relationship.”

 

“I didn’t know you had one,” Marco taunted.

 

“Not that I’ll admit to him anyway,” Chet grinned. “And if ya tell him so, I’ll deny it.”

 

They all laughed.

 

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The others left. They’d be back on duty tomorrow and off for Thanksgiving Day. They hoped John would be able to be home with the DeSoto’s for the holiday but if not…They’d all be sure to pop in to visit him here. They all had a few things to say to their youngest crew member.

 

Jo and Roy stayed at Johnny’s side for several hours talking quietly. Johnny tossed restlessly a couple of times, obviously in pain. “Roy…? My legs…Hurt…still there?” He murmured fearfully.

 

The older man rubbed his friend’s legs reassuringly. “Still there partner,” he soothed as John slipped back to sleep.

 

“Poor thing,” Jo commiserated, as she stroked the long fingers she held in her own.  “He was really scared.”  

 

“I woulda been too but he’s gonna be okay. We’ll get him through this. I’ll tell you what though…I was kinda scared that I was gonna lose him for a while there too and it taught me something.”

 

She smiled at him. “What was that?”

 

“To be more careful about what I say to him or to anyone else for that matter…I may not get the chance to tell him I’m sorry next time…Especially in our line of work.” He shook his head. “That’s all I kept thinking…He was gonna die and the last thing he’d remember is the rotten way I treated him.”

 

Jo smiled at him. “You seem to learn something new from Johnny a lot honey,” she teased him.

 

Roy chuckled at that. “He’s a pretty good teacher and an even better friend…I forgot that.”

 

John moaned softly and Roy reached out to rub his leg… “It’s okay junior…I’m here,” he soothed reassuringly.

 

The dark eyes blinked open slowly. Joanne smiled at Roy. “No time like the present,” she urged as she stood up and leaned over Johnny. “Hi baby,” she greeted the young man as she brushed his cheek.

 

“Jo…,” he murmured, too tired to blush at the endearment.

 

Roy squashed the slight jealous twinge at the nicknames Jo had taken to calling him but he’d already made that mistake once and he’d never doubt his wife or partner again. Roy knew his wife thought of Johnny like a little brother and he suspected she sometimes forgot he wasn’t one of her kids.

 

“Roy wants to talk to you so I’m gonna go tell the nurse you’re awake and get us some coffee sweetheart.”

 

“Kay.”

 

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“Are you in pain?” Roy asked.

 

“It’s n…not too bad…Headaches.” Johnny looked up at his partner hopefully. “Can I h…have water?”

 

Roy remembered the plea he’d had to refuse earlier and quickly grabbed the glass…Angling the straw for Johnny to take a drink. “Just take it easy okay?”

 

John sipped gratefully before laying his head back. He looked at his partner warily. “J…Jo said you w…want…ed to talk. I’m sorry bout yes…terday,” he said softly, hoping to nip Roy’s annoyance with him in the bud.

 

Roy looked at him in disbelief. “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 

Johnny cast him an apologetic glance. “Chet said I was self…ish and I know I m…make you crazy sometimes…The whole crew knows th…at,” he murmured unhappily.

 

Roy his head as his hand came to rest gently on Johnny’s shoulder. “Johnny…You weren’t the one who was selfish…I was and I’m so sorry I took my attitude out on you.”

 

“But I still make you c…crazy,” he stammered.

 

“Sure ya do junior,” Roy teased as his hand moved to rest on John’s head. “But ya know what?” John shook his head. “You also make me laugh…,” he shrugged. “And cry and rub the hair from my head in frustration but you always make it alright to come to work every shift cuz my friends gonna be there. I never enjoyed my job as much as I do here at this station and that’s because of who my partner is. You make me feel and you go out of your way to be there for me every time I need you and I forgot that yesterday…I took my frustration with the situation out on you and that was unfair and I’m so sorry.”

 

John bit his lip as Roy agreed with his assessment of his ability to drive his partner crazy but it faded into a sideways glance and a small smile as he’d continued.  “It’s o…kay Roy,” he said softly when he was finished.

 

Roy was so grateful for John’s forgiving nature but he’d come so close to losing his young partner yesterday morning with that hurt hanging between them… There was more that really needed to be said. His fingers brushed the sable hair back, drawing the usual shy blush from Johnny at the fond gesture.

 

 “It’s not okay Junior…You know, I told you once before that I wouldn’t say this very often but maybe I need to today huh?” John looked at him curiously as Roy gave a cautious glance around to be sure they were alone. “I almost lost you yesterday and that would have killed me too…You’re my best friend Johnny and um…,” he shrugged, looking a little flustered. “I love you, ya know?”

 

John’s face flushed crimson…Almost a perfect match for his older partner’s embarrassed blush but he grinned back at him anyway. “Thanks Roy…I um…I  guess I k…inda needed to hear that.”

 

Roy scruffed the dark hair gently… “You hungry Junior…?” He asked as if neither of them had just been ready to climb under the bed in mortification ten seconds ago.

 

Johnny nodded… “My legs are st…starting to hurt too.”

 

“Okay…I’ll get the nurse to get you something to eat and your meds okay?” He pressed the nurse call.

 

John nodded… “Are you okay Roy?” He asked worriedly, realizing that the older man had looked uncomfortable.

 

Roy was hurting but he wouldn’t admit it…“I’m gonna be fine now that I know you’re not mad at me…I can get some sleep tonight,” he teased as the nurse came in.

 

She smiled in relief to see John awake but frowned at the grimace of pain on his face. She threw a glance at Roy… “I’ll get his meds,” she said as she spun on her heel.

 

“He’s hungry too,” Roy called after her.

 

“I’ll take care of that,” she promised.

 

The door opened a minute later as Joanne returned. She looked at Roy curiously and received a relieved smile. She grinned, thankful that all was well between the two men. She didn’t want either of them to be hurt and she knew Roy would be miserable without his young partner and that Johnny would be lost without Roy as well. Both of them only half of their potential without the other.She threw Roy a wink and came to Johnny’s side. “Hi sweetheart,” she greeted, dropping a kiss on John’s cheek. “Feeling better?”

 

John grimaced painfully. “Legs are r…real…ly starting to hurt.”

 

The nurse pushed the door open, bringing the younger man’s medication. She emptied the Meperidine into his IV port. “That should start to ease up soon Mr. Gage…The aide will be in with your lunch in a few minutes.”

 

“Kay.”

 

Jo swept the dark hair back… “I’m gonna go home now sweetheart. I have to pick up Jen, and Chris will be home from school soon. You hurry up and get better so you can be home for Thanksgiving.”

 

The handsome paramedic tossed her a crooked quirk of a smile that always melted her heart. “I wouldn’t miss it”

“Good…It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without you there,” she added, dropping a light kiss on the paramedic’s mouth. “I won’t be able to see you tomorrow baby…The kids are home and I have a lot of cooking to do but I’ll see you Thursday.” She kissed her husband. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said warningly as she turned to leave, almost bumping into Dr. Brackett as he entered the room.

 

“Jo…,” He greeted.

 

“Dr. Brackett…,” She returned with a smile. “I was just leaving but…,” she looked toward Roy. “I was wondering if Johnny’s going to be well enough to come home for Thanksgiving?”

 

Kel smiled… “Why don’t we take a look,” he said as he stepped over to Johnny. He pulled the sheets up to check the swollen and discolored limbs. He frowned worriedly and blew out a breath. “How are you feeling Johnny?”

 

“Pretty good right now,” he mumbled sleepily.

 

Kel grinned at the obvious drugged response. “Good…” He turned to Jo with pursed lips. “I don’t know Joanne…I think the swelling should be down by then but he’s still pretty weak…,” he added hesitantly.

 

She frowned in disappointment… “You and Dixie could come with him she, she said you were both off and weren’t really planning anything and I make a good turkey,” she tempted him with the added the incentive.

 

John grinned at Roy as they watched Joanne try to twist the doctor around her little finger. “I’ll have to think about that…Why don’t we see how he is Thursday before I make that decision?” They all gave him a disappointed nod and Brackett heaved a sigh of frustration as he remembered last Christmas. John had breathed in toxic gas and Kel had been reluctant to let him leave the hospital. Roy and Dixie had double teamed him, badgering him about allowing the troubled young fire fighter to be with the only family he had until he’d finally caved but not this time. If Johnny was still in pain and weak, Kel would stand his ground. “Roy…You need to get some rest yourself,” he commanded as he made a hasty retreat.

 

“Promise Doc…Tomorrow.”

 

Kel heaved a sigh of defeat as the aide brought John’s lunch in and he followed Joanne out.  He shook his head almost with envy at the relationship between John Gage and Roy DeSoto and he was thankful they’d been able to save the young man’s legs and his career. Roy wouldn’t be the same without him. Kel shook his head at his own musings…He didn’t need Dixie and Roy, he was already second guessing himself.

 

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Joanne laid a hesitant hand on Kel’s arm as he left the room behind him. “Dr. Brackett…,” she began.

 

“Kel, please…”

 

She smiled uncertainly, not sure if the renowned surgeon would accept the invitation to her average home with her family without Johnny as the reason as he’d been last year but she thought she’d ask. “Kel…Um…I just wanted to invite you and Dixie for Thanksgiving even if Johnny can’t come home…I…I know it’s probably not what you’re used to but…”

 

Brackett grinned at the pretty young woman, touched by the invitation and amused that she thought he lived in some haughty manner and might be insulted by the offering. “Thank you Joanne…I’ll check with Dixie but I think she’d be happy to join your family and I know that I would.”

 

She smiled in relief. “Good.”

 

“And I promise you…I’ll do everything in my power to get Johnny home for Thanksgiving Thursday.”

 

“Thank you Kel…It would mean a lot to us and to his friends. We have a lot to be thankful for this year.”

 

Brackett looked at the floor in indecision. If he said no, he was afraid Roy would refuse to leave his partner’s side not to mention Dixie’s badgering him if she found out they’d be at the DeSoto home for Thanksgiving and Johnny wouldn’t be but Johnny and his best interest was his main concern right now.

 

He’d be there to keep an eye on him, he reasoned with himself.  “I’ll seriously consider it Joanne but if I let him go, I’ll bring him myself on Thursday morning…I want to keep him tomorrow at least but I’d rather you didn’t say anything about this to anyone until I’m sure there won’t be any complications... That would be a bigger disappointment.” Not to mention more harrassment for him but he didn’t say so.

 

“Alright and thank you…This will make it a very special day.”

 

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Roy remained uncomfortably camped in the chair next to John’s bed through the night. His ribs were still hurting and he had a headache but he wouldn’t leave his best friend. John woke several times, gasping in pain as nerves began to slowly reawaken. Miserable dark eyes rose to meet the older man’s. “God…It hurts,” he gritted out through clenched teeth.

 

“I know junior…Brackett told us it would be rough on you…I wish I could help,” he said, squeezing his hand sympathetically and carefully rubbing the legs until the burning and tingling eased and Johnny would drift back to sleep.

 

By morning Johnny seemed to be resting more comfortably. The swelling and discoloration had diminished and the rippling of teeth clenching pain had dwindled to a more manageable level. “You can go home ya know Roy…You don’t have to stay with me,” Johnny urged tiredly.

 

“Not a chance Junior. They made me abandon my best friend yesterday but I’m not leaving you again until I’m sure your okay.”

 

John grinned wanly at his over protective partner. “Go home Roy…See your kids,” he said sleepily. “Chris is probably pretty upset about you missing his play. You need to be with your family.”

 

Roy turned his friend’s head… “You are my family junior.”

 

John smiled at that. “Thanks pally but I meant your wife and kids,” he teased softly. “Besides, you promised Brackett.” John knew Roy was in pain and feeling guilty about Monday’s argument.

 

Roy gave him a gentle scruff of the head. “Alright, I’ll head for home…At least for a little while.”

 

John was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to be at the DeSoto’s tomorrow but he was determined not to ruin Roy’s holiday…He shook his head. “I’ll be okay…You stay home and sleep in your own bed…Tomorrows Thanksgiving…Your Mom’s gonna be there…The guys are gonna stop by and you’re still recovering too. You need to be there.”

 

“Johnny…,” Roy began but the younger man gave him a weak gesture not to argue.

 

“This is not your fault Roy and you don’t have to pay for it okay partner…I’ll probably only sleep tomorrow anyway now that it doesn’t hurt so much,” he said dropping his head back on the pillow.

 

The older man heaved a frustrated sigh…John still thought it was guilt driving him but he was wrong. Roy cared deeply for the younger man and he couldn’t seem to drive that concept home. Johnny still harbored too many insecurities from his past and it didn’t help when Roy inflicted such damaging things as he had on Monday, leaving Johnny feeling selfish to ask him to come and abandon his family for him…Johnny couldn’t grasp that he was family. The kid brother Roy had never had.

 

He also knew Johnny didn’t want to spoil his holiday and he knew he should stay home with his wife and kids but the idea of his young partner lying here alone tomorrow weighed on his heart. Johnny didn’t have anyone but Roy and his family and he had no intention of leaving him alone for the holidays but he knew better to argue…He’d just show up and the younger man would just have to get over it. He stood up and stretched carefully before flicking the sable hair from John’s forehead. “I’ll see you later okay?”

 

“Okay and Roy…?”

 

“Yeah Junior…?”

 

“Thanks for not leaving me out there the other day…”

 

“I’ll always be there Johnny…I promised you that.” John smiled as his dark eyes drifted closed.

 

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Roy was up early the next day. He planned to spend at least the morning with Johnny at the hospital before the guys showed up. They were all planning to meet here first before heading off to their own families. They’d all been hoping Johnny would have been home by now but maybe they could leave a few minutes early and stop by the hospital on their way.

 

He stepped from the shower as Joanne was just climbing from the bed. “Morning babe…Happy Thanksgiving,” Roy greeted as he entered the bedroom wrapped in his towel.

 

Her eyes traveled over him warmly as she stood up and stepped into his arms. “Good morning honey…How are you feeling this morning,” she returned as her fingers plucked the towel loose and let it drop to the floor…Letting her hands travel over up over his chest.

 

“Much better today,” Roy sighed in disappointment, she was killing him here...He wanted to get to the hospital but how could he turn down the obvious invitation. “Uh Honey…?” He began.

 

She giggled, knowing he was trying to tactfully tell her he wanted to go to the hospital early so he could be home for the afternoon… “It’s okay honey…You don’t need to go to the hospital…Johnny may be here this morning anyway…,” she teased lightly as she kissed his chin.

 

“What…But Dr. Brackett said…?”

 

“He said he’d seriously consider letting Johnny come home if he was doing better…”

 

“When did he say that?” Roy asked.

 

“Tuesday…After I left the room I spoke to him in the hall. I invited him and Dixie for dinner and he said he’d bring Johnny with him if he was doing better…”

 

Roy grinned. “Well in that case…,” he teased as his fingers began to free the tiny buttons at the top of her nightgown, letting it slide down to pool around her feet. He slid his hands around her slim waist and gave a gentle push…Lets make the most of the time then.”

 

She grinned as she felt herself dropped gently back on the bed.

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 Johnny woke to two nurses bustling around his room. One began taking his vitals before removing the IV from his arm as the other pulled a pair of pajamas from the closet. "Good morning Mr. Gage,” the first one said as she noticed the dark eyes watching her.

 

“Morning,” he mumbled wincing slightly. “What are you doing?” He asked nodding toward the second nurse who was now laying a robe on the bed.

 

The door opened and Dixie came into the room. John looked at her curiously…She was dressed in street clothes and she was supposed to be off today. “Good morning handsome…Happy Thanksgiving.”

 

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he murmured tiredly.

 

“Feeling okay this morning?”

 

He shrugged a little indifferently. He wanted to be home with Roy and his family and he was stuck here but he didn’t want Dix to see the disappointment in his eyes. “A little tired…My legs feel better though…But what are you doing here?”

 

Dixie smiled knowingly...She knew he wanted to be with the family who’d adopted him into their lives and was trying not to let the dejection show. She tugged the sheet up to take a look …The swelling was down and the discoloration had faded but they still looked painful.

 

“Bring me John’s meds please,” she instructed the nurse. She nodded and left.

 

Dixie pulled the blankets off and gently helped him to sit up. “What are you doing?” He asked in confusion.

 

She grinned as the door opened and Kel came inside. “We thought you might be up to taking a little ride with us sweetie,” she teased.

 

“Where…?” He asked warily.

 

“Well this very nice couple invited us for dinner today and we thought you might like to come along?”

 

John grinned as dawning came… “Far out,” he said as he tried to swing his legs off the side of the bed.

 

“Slow down tiger,” Dix warned as Kel came over to scan his chart. He smiled at Johnny and checked his legs over, frowning slightly but giving Johnny a wink.

 

“Well, what do ya think Doc…?” Johnny asked worriedly, afraid Brackett wouldn’t let him go after all.

 

“Well…You’ll still have to rest while you’re there and you’ll have to have dinner in your pajamas since we had to cut your clothes off of you but I don’t think anyone will care much about what you’re wearing my friend as long as you’re there.”

 

 John grinned as Dixie began to untie the gown from around his neck.

 

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Several members of the crew were already there and looked a little disappointed that Johnny wasn’t. Roy chewed his lip and paced by the front window. “You don’t suppose Brackett decided not to let him leave do you?” He asked worriedly.

 

Jo smiled at his obvious worry over his young friend. “I think he would have called and told us so if he had,” she assured him.

 

“You think Gage may be here after all then?” Chet asked hopefully.

 

“We hope so,” he answered worriedly.

 

A brown car pulled up in front of the house and Joanne saw the smile of relief on Roy's face as Brackett assisted Johnny from the car and into a wheel chair. He and Dixie pushed him up the walk.

 

Roy held the door wide as they brought him inside. “Hey junior…Happy Thanksgiving,” he greeted, giving Johnny a scruff on the dark head.

 

John grinned broadly. “Happy Thanksgiving,” he replied.

 

Roy looked to Dixie and Kel… “Thanks for getting him home for the holiday,” he said holding out his hand to dark haired doctor.

 

“You’re both welcome...I don’t think it would have been a great holiday for anyone if I hadn’t let him come today.”

 

Roy nodded his agreement as he kissed Dixie in greeting. “Come in,” he said stepping aside. Chet and Mike moved to help Brackett lift Johnny and the chair up the stairs.

 

They quickly got him inside and settled on the couch.

 

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Cap and Marco arrived not long after and Joanne turned to Dixie and Kel. “Why don’t we step into the kitchen for coffee,” she invited. They nodded and followed her out.

 

“We can’t stay too long John,” Hank explained. “Emily’s family is expecting us and Marco’s mom has a ton of things she wants him to do before her family arrives and Mike is supposed to be…”

 

“You didn’t have to come here guys,” Johnny interrupted quietly.

 

“Yeah,” Hank said softly… “Yeah we did.  John,” Cap began contritely. “We were very unfair on Monday.”

 

“We all were,” Mike added.

 

“We just assumed that whatever was bugging Roy must have been your fault,” Marco put in. “And that wasn’t fair.”

 

John glanced around at all of their apologetic faces and flushed a bit. “Am I really that bad to have around? I mean, that you all thought I did something wrong?” He asked forlornly.

 

“No John…No you’re not and that’s what makes it all the worse. I asked the guys to think of what it would be like without you at the station.”

 

“Great…That’ll make me feel a lot better Cap,” he mumbled, looking discouraged.

 

Roy reached out to rest his hand on John’s shoulder reassuringly. Cap chuckled at the downcast look John wore and knew he’d misunderstood. “I guess I should start…,” John glanced up worriedly and winced at what he was afraid was gonna be a lecture from Hank about his sometimes off the wall behavior.

 

“John…I had a few mistaken assumptions about you when I first started at Station 51…I figured out pretty quickly that I was wrong about you.” John glanced up cautiously at those words, hoping it wasn’t going to be as bad as he first thought.  “I see us as a small family and,” he shrugged. “You’re the baby of it…” Johnny looked indignant and Hank laughed as he continued. “Sometimes…I  take for granted what a valuable member of the team you are…I forget what an incredible paramedic you’ve become…An exceptional  fireman...Half of the best team in the business and I still see the talkative, energetic and sometimes slightly nutty kid inside of you when you’re not being that professional Fireman… ,” Johnny bit his lip, looking chagrinned. “I’ve seen Roy with that frustrated look a few times and I just assumed that you were up to something and got Roy shook up and I’m sorry.”

 

John grinned knowing he was guilty of driving Roy to exasperation on more than one occasion…Hell a lot of occasions.  He supposed it was an easy assumption to make. He shrugged a bit in embarrassment. “It’s okay Cap…I guess it was an honest mistake...I mean…I do drive Roy nuts sometimes,” he admitted ruefully.

 

“Maybe so but I shouldn’t have assumed that his mood was your fault. I’m thankful that you’re both okay and that you’ll be coming back to work. I don’t think that station would be the same without you and I don’t mean as a paramedic.”

 

Mike grinned at Johnny's obvious discomfort with the sentiment and sat down next to his young friend. “You’ve always got a bounce to your step and more energy than anyone else and I’m thankful that you have the ability to make us see the bright side of every bad situation.”

 

John smiled at the quiet spoken engineer. “Thanks Mike,” he said softly.

 

Marco sat on the other side…“I’m thankful for your sense of wonder about the simple things we take for granted,” Marco said, drawing an embarrassed blush from Johnny. “We see things everyday that make it hard to see the good things in the world but you still do…And you help us to see it too.”

 

“You make us laugh,” Chet added, looking red faced at having to say something nice. “And you even put up with my stupid jokes…I guess I’m thankful for that and I’m really sorry about calling you selfish…You never have been Johnny and um…That wasn’t cool.”

 

“It’s okay Chet…,” he mumbled. The dark eyes turned to Marco. “Thanks Marco.”

 

“No John…We wanted to thank you…That’s what today’s all about. Remembering to be thankful for what we have and the people in our lives,” Hank said quietly.

 

Roy squatted next to his partner. “I think it’s my turn junior,” he said softly.

 

“You don’t have to do that Roy…You already apologized at the hospital…I…”

 

“Yeah I do…Cuz I forgot to be thankful for my best friend and took my frustrations out on you. You’re my other half… My kid brother and I almost lost you the other day. You’re always right there when I need you and I’m thankful for the day you walked into that office to sign up to become a paramedic.”

 

John looked around at the crew and a small grin appeared on his face... “Thanks guys…I really appreciate that you all did this for me this morning…I guess…I’m thankful that I have good friends.” He looked to Roy. “For giving me a family again,” he added with a flush of embarrassment. “Thanks…All of you.”

 

Hank gave him a pat on the shoulder. “We’ve got to go Johnny but we just wanted to be sure we told you how we feel and how sorry we were for hurting you Monday. We’re all real glad you’re gonna be okay and able to come back to us.”

 

Johnny nodded. “Thanks Cap.”

The crew left and Dr. Brackett, Dixie and Joanne came back to the living room and sat down. Kel reached out to pat John’s arm. “I might as well keep the moment going Johnny…,” he said with a grin. “I’m thankful for both you and Roy…You both make my job a lot easier and I'm very thankful that your incredibly stubborn and wouldn't pass out in the squad the other day.” John smiled and glanced away from the doctor in embarrassment.

 

Dixie kissed his cheek. “And you both brighten my day when you come in to the hospital…So thanks for that as well.”

 

Jo squatted in front of him and took his hands as she looked up into his face. “I’m thankful that you’re always watching Roy’s back…That you’ve become a member of this family and that you’re here today…That you’ll be back in that squad and keeping each other safe.” She kissed his cheek softly drawing another grin from the young man. “Thank you sweetheart…”Joanne stood up, trailing her fingers through the sable hair. “Now...You look tired so why don’t you lie down for a while? The kids will be down soon and Roy can turn the parade on. I’m gonna go fix breakfast…I bet you’re starved.”

 

Johnny nodded enthusiastically as the three headed for the kitchen. Roy patted the pillow in the corner of the couch and Johnny slid around to make himself comfortable. The older man tugged the throw off the back of the sofa, spreading it over his young partner. “Thanks junior,” he said softly as he patted the dark head. “Thanks for hanging in there on Monday. For giving me the chance to tell you how sorry I was for being a jerk. To be thankful everyday for our friendship…I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

Dark eyes locked with Roy’s… “Thanks Roy…This was a little embarrassing but I guess if it all had to be said…Today was the perfect day for it huh? A day to give thanks…For all of us…,” he replied with a tired smile.

 

“Get some rest junior…I’ll wake you when breakfast is ready.”

 

The dark eyes slid closed. “I’ll really be thankful for that…Hospital food stinks,” he murmured as he drifted off.

 

 

THE END

 

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Sorry it didn’t make it to the site in time for Thanksgiving…Too much cooking to do. This is inspired by a true story of a friend of mine. Several years ago, the day before Thanksgiving he and his wife had been arguing. His wife was on the way to a dinner party when she was hit by a Tanker truck driver…He was drunk. It took the paramedics several hours to get her out of the car. She, unlike Johnny…Didn’t make it. His big regret was that he’d never been able to say he was sorry. I just thought I’d dedicate this to them.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving…Hope you have a safe and happy holiday season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published to Site 11/25/10

 

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