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Flashing red lights cut off abruptly as the gleaming, red rescue squad came to a stop in the apparatus bay of Los Angeles County Fire Station 51. The two men inside continued their conversation. Roy DeSoto…the older of the two and the senior member of the team turned to his young, dark haired partner.
“C’mon Johnny…cut me some slack here…,” the older blonde paramedic complained. “Don’t make me go to this movie with these kids all by myself…”
“Oh man Roy…a cartoon…? You want me to tag along with six five year old kids to see a cartoon?” John Gage argued. At twenty three, Johnny was four years younger than his partner and still a bit of a kid himself.
“I wouldn’t ask except Joanne was supposed to go but Jen’s sick and I can’t very well cancel now…I promised Chris…”
Johnny sighed heavily…he glanced at his partner knowing he owed the other man so much. In the eighteen months that they’d been partners and friends, they’d been through a lot together. They’d become close...so close that other teams almost envied their relationship. Johnny was more than Roy’s Partner or even just his best friend… he’d become more like Roy’s kid brother.
Johnny was an orphan and had been an abused child…being passed from family member to family member…one bad situation after another…a fact that only his partner knew about. John had not only had to deal with the physical and emotional trauma of abuse but had also had to contend with a mild case of a disorder called Aspergers Syndrome. A condition that left him unable to cope with the emotional stress and the rejection of the rest of his family after his parents had died.
Roy had been the one to finally break down the walls the young man had built around himself…He’d pulled him out of a cold, lonely, emotionless shell that he’d been living in. He owed the man a lot more than suffering through a movie with a pack of children, besides…Johnny liked kids.
“Okay Roy…I guess I owe ya that huh…?”
Roy looked at his best friend sharply. “What have I told ya about that junior…?”
Johnny looked down for a moment and chewed his lip nervously as he always did when he thought his partner was upset with him. “I know…I know… I don’t owe you anything…but that’s not what I meant…well not completely anyway…it’s just that you’ve been there for me so many times I…I just meant it’s my turn to suffer a bit for you ya know?” He said with a mischievous twinkle in his dark brown eyes. “So…,” he shrugged lightly. “I’ll go…”
“Just don’t tell Chet…”
“Deal…” Roy said.
“So what are we gonna see…?”
“What’s it about…?”
Roy looked at his partner in surprise. “It’s a fairy tale…”
“You know…once upon a time…?”
John looked at him blankly and Roy sighed…It still set the older man aback sometimes to realize how many ordinary things were an unknown to his young partner who was raised for the better part of his childhood on an Indian reservation in Montana, where he’d been pretty sheltered from the things most other kids knew from a young age.
“You know…Happily ever after…mice, fairy Godmother’s…” At John’s skeptically raised eyebrow, Roy sighed. “It’s about a girl who finds her true love…,” Roy explained dramatically.
Johnny snorted in disgust… “True love…,” he muttered under his breath as he climbed from the cab. “What time do I need to be there?” He asked as his replacement Kirk Carlson wandered from the Rec room…
“Movie starts at one…so be there about noon,” Roy said handing the squads keys to Charlie Dwyer…B shifts senior paramedic.
“The rest of your crew split…,” Charlie informed them.
“Yup…we’re goin too,” Roy replied as he and Johnny headed for the locker room. They changed quickly and walked out to the parking lot. “If you get there early enough, Jo will feed you lunch,” Roy promised.
“Okay…,” Johnny agreed. He rarely ever turned down food unless Chet Kelly, one of their crew mates on A shift was cooking. Roy gave his young partner a light slap on the back…not long ago Johnny would have recoiled from the casual gesture but Roy had broken through that barrier as well. Johnny now accepted Roy’s familiar touch as a matter of course and he grinned at his friend.
“I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” he said as he climbed into his old camper…
“Hey…when are you gonna get rid of this piece of junk?” Roy asked.
Johnny shrugged… “It’s paid for,” he said slightly embarrassed by the VW Vans battered appearance.
Roy grinned at his partner… “See ya in a while junior….”
Johnny showed up at Roy’s house shortly before noon. There were several boys and girls playing on the front lawn where Roy sat in a lounge chair watching. He stood up as Johnny pulled into the driveway. One of the children broke away from the others and raced across the lawn to leap into the tall, dark haired paramedics arms as he stepped from the camper.
“Hey buddy…,” Johnny greeted as he tossed the small, blonde boy high in the air. Roy’s six year old son Chris laughed gleefully as he flew above the young man’s head…Johnny caught him and slung the boy over his shoulder in a Fireman’s carry while the other children stopped to watch the by play between their friend and his favorite Uncle.
John carried him over to where Roy stood shaking his head at his young friend’s antics with his son. “You’re gonna ruin your back someday junior…,” he admonished with a smile.
“Yeah…a couple of more years and he’ll be too big for me to toss…,” Johnny replied, giving Chris a light scruff of his blonde hair and a light push toward the other children.
“Okay kids back yard…,” Roy yelled as he headed inside. The children obediently headed around to the rear of the house. “C’mon Junior…Joanne’s upstairs with Jen but lunch should be ready if you’re hungry?” Johnny nodded eagerly as he followed his friend inside. “Mind if we take your bus…?” Roy asked. “Jo’s wagons’ running rough…got to work on it tomorrow.”
“No problem…you need some help?”
The movie began and the children sat in rapt attention as the fairy tale played out. Mice and birds swarmed around the pretty blonde girl dressed in rags. Roy glanced at Johnny at the end of the row and noted that his partner was just as engrossed in the film as the children were. A small smile tugged at the corners of the older man’s mouth and he shook his head in amusement…John was such a kid sometimes.
As the story went on, Cinderella’s orphaned status came up and Roy winced as he glanced at his young partner. The Wicked stepmother and sisters made an appearance and John’s smile wavered slightly. Even the cartoon heroine’s singing of a dream is a wish your heart makes didn’t help. Johnny slouched in his seat with his arms folded over his chest…the frown deepened.
Roy had forgotten this aspect of the fairy tale and hadn’t considered John’s past when he’d suggested his friend come with him. As the story progressed, Johnny’s frown began to fade as she met her prince…Johns’ eyes narrowed as the villains…the stepmother and her daughters ripped the beautiful dress from the girl and then grinned as the fairy Godmother made an appearance.
Roy found himself watching his partner more than the film. He frowned as he watched the younger man tense and glanced at the screen to see the stepmother locking the girl in the attic room…He wondered what was going through his partners head.
Johnny shifted uncomfortably in his seat and Roy suddenly regretted asking his partner to watch this simple fairy tale…Johnny hadn’t had his fairy tale ending and even though his Aunt had rescued him from the abuse at fourteen…the damage had already been extensive and Johnny had withdrawn from caring about or feeling anything.
It wasn’t until a determined Roy DeSoto had decided his introverted, young partner needed him and his friendship and had refused to be dissuaded. It hadn’t been easy and Johnny had fought him every step of the way but Roy had finally broken through his defenses. Johnny had opened up a lot since then but Roy knew that his past still haunted him.
The older man desperately wished that he’d been a part of Johnny’s life sooner and that he could have somehow changed things for his friend…made his life better, less traumatic. It was a ridiculous wish of course as he was only four years his partners senior and would have only been a kid as well…but it was a dream.
Roy’s attention once again centered on Johnny as he sat slumped in his chair. The younger man suddenly glanced in his direction as if sensing his friend’s concerned gaze. He smiled reassuringly at Roy and tried to perk up as the girl pulled the other slipper from her pocket. A few minutes later the lights came on as the movie ended and the two men ushered the excited children back to John’s camper while the kids talked happily about their favorite parts of the story. Johnny pulled out into traffic and they headed for home.
“Johnny…?” Roy began.
John glanced at him in surprise… “For what…?” He asked in confusion.
“I shouldn’t have asked you to watch that…”
The younger man shrugged. The dark eyes had a look of indifference as the protective walls that he’d built around himself slammed into place to hide the hurt. “It was a just a cartoon pally…,” he said lightly.
“Please don’t do that Johnny…,” Roy said quietly.
John looked at him curiously… “Do what…?”
“Put the walls back up…shut me out.”
“Johnny…I know you to well…I can see the hurt…the pain.”
John flushed in embarrassment… “I know you can…,” he said softly.
“This might only have been a cartoon but it hit close to home…It had enough reminders of what you’ve been through to hurt and I should have remembered that.”
“Man…why do they make such miserable stories for kids…kill off her parents… let her be abused… I mean even if it does get better in the end…man…”
Roy shrugged… “I guess it’s because they can’t show the strength that overcomes without the struggle or the joy of ‘Happily Ever After’ without the sorrow.”
Johnny glanced at him with a grin… “Maybe there’s hope for me then huh?”
They pulled into Roy’s driveway a minute later…there were several cars parked with parents waiting to pick up their kids. Chris and the others piled out of the camper, running to find their mom’s and dad’s while Chris ran toward the front door. One little girl stood looking about but there was no one there to pick her up. Joanne came to the door and waved at Roy to get his attention. “Honey would you and Johnny mind driving Susie home…? Her mom’s got a flat tire and can’t get here…?”
“You mind partner…?”
“Nah…it’s not a problem.”
“Sure thing Honey…,” Roy agreed as he swung the little girl back into the vehicle.
“John backed out of the driveway. He glanced at his friend as they drove up the street and continued their conversation. “It was no big deal Roy…really…I don’t want you to feel bad…I shouldn’t let a kids movie upset me,” he said in embarrassment.
“Johnny…it wasn’t the level of the movie…it was the content.”
Johnny smiled…. “I have to admit…when I was a kid…after my parents died, I used to dream that someone would come along and take me away from there, ya know? Someone like you…I see you with Chris…You’re a lot like my dad was…”
Roy nodded. “I just sometimes wish I could change what happened to you too you know…to have been there then…”
A little girl’s voice began to softly sing the words to A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes… from the rear of the vehicle…
Johnny shot a grin at Roy… “Yeah…sometimes when I watch you with the kids, I think…wow…what if someone like you had come along then…,” he began.
“Turn here Junior…,” Roy interrupted.
He pulled into the little girls driveway…Susie climbed out and gave them a quick wave goodbye. They waited until she disappeared inside before John backed out and headed back to Roy’s house. “Someone that would spend time with me…be there to play ball or just to talk to me,” Johnny continued as he pulled up to a red light…he shrugged lightly… “But that’s in the past…? I mean, you can’t go back right?”
“I guess your right but I still wish it could be different,” Roy said sadly as the light turned green and John pulled into the intersection. Johnny grinned as he turned his head to answer his partner and just managed to catch a glance of the box truck as it barreled through the red light. Johnny swerved sharply to the left but it was too late, the truck slammed into the passenger side of John’s camper.
The young man felt the bus begin to roll…his body was slammed forward into the steering wheel and then his head slammed sideways into the window…his world faded to black.
The first thing Johnny noticed when he regained consciousness was pain. His head pounded mercilessly and his cheek was numb. His entire left side from shoulder to waist screamed in protest as he moved and his upper right chest cramped painfully from his impact with the steering wheel. Johnny forced his eyes open as memory returned…They’d been hit.
The camper was on its side and he and his partner were trapped inside it. Partner…? The fog began to lift from his confused brain. Roy…where was Roy? Johnny turned his face…fighting down the nausea that threatened to erupt as his head spun dizzily.
Roy hung limply from the passenger seat…the rear passenger door and the frame were crushed inward and only an inch had separated Roy’s door from the same fate. Blood ran from somewhere on the side of the older man’s head to trail across Roy’s cheek …dripping slowly onto John.
The younger man struggled to free himself from his seatbelt…choking back a cry of pain as he twisted his slender frame around and pushed himself up. He felt for a pulse on his partner’s neck and breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the weak but steady beat.
Someone suddenly stooped to peer through his windshield. “You okay in there?” A man yelled.
“Yeah…but my friends hurt bad…”
“Okay…just hang on…the Fire Departments on the way.”
Johnny nodded but regretted it instantly as the dizziness and nausea returned. Johnny carefully felt along Roy’s neck, feeling for any sign that it might be broken. He carefully raised his partners head to a level position in alignment with his spine, despite the painful prodding of his own injuries and determinedly held it in place. Sweat beaded his brow and his limbs trembled from the strain. He heaved a relieved sigh as he heard the sounds of sirens approaching.
“Roy…? Roy…can you hear me?” Johnny called to his friend. “Please Roy, open your eyes…I’m so sorry …,” Johnny said softly as he held his friends head steady. God…how could he not have seen that truck coming? “C’mon pally…I need you…don’t leave me huh?”
Johnny’s slender fingers moved carefully over his partners head…Searching for the source of the blood. He found a deep gash over Roy’s right ear…a large lump swelling around it. Johnny leaned his aching head forward to rest against his friends… “Hang on Roy please…I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
John’s right side screamed in pain, his arm ached and head continued to pound with a steady rhythm. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold out but for now, he stubbornly held to his place. A shadow suddenly fell across the open window. Johnny carefully tilted his head back to peer up into the face of squad 45’s senior paramedic Bob Belliveau.
“Gage…?” He exclaimed in shock
“Hurry Bob…Roy’s got a really bad contusion on the head…It’s swelling pretty bad and I don’t know what else.” Belliveau nodded and got to work prying the door open. “How’s the other driver?”
“Stoney’s got him…seems a little shaken but he’s not hurt too bad. What happened?”
“He blew the light and hit me broadside…”
Bob nodded again… “Okay…I think I got it,” he grunted with a final jerk of the pry bar…the door popped open
Stoney suddenly appeared at the front of the camper…he stared in shock at the occupants for a quick moment then scrambled up to the top to help his partner. “You okay Johnny?” He yelled.
“Yeah…I’m fine…,” Johnny said gasping. “Just get Roy…I don’t think I can hold his head up much longer.”
“Got it…here Johnny, can you get this collar on him if I hold his head?” He asked, leaning down.
“Yeah…yeah I think so...,” he replied, taking the collar. He placed it around his friend’s neck and then reached to support his head once more as Bob and Stoney maneuvered the back board into place. Belliveau grasped Roy under the shoulders as Doug grasped the younger man by the belt.
“Johnny…can you unhook the seat belt…?”
“Yeah…” Johnny let go of Roy’s head with one hand, biting down hard on his lip to stop the cry of pain as he reached for the latch…it popped free. The two up top lifted Roy out while Johnny supported his legs and pushed up from below...They laid him on the board and secured him in place before handing him down to the waiting engine crew, who carried him to the squad…Belliveau jumped down to follow while Stoney turned back to John.
“Can you climb out or do you want me to pop the windshield?”
“I can climb up…,” Johnny said, fighting back a wave of dizziness and nausea.
The tall, black paramedic looked at Johnny suspiciously, noting the light sheen of sweat that coated his pale features. “You sure…?”
“Yeah…just give me your hand.”
Stoney reached down and grasped the younger man’s hand. Johnny blanched slightly as Doug pulled him through the open door. He sat on the edge of the crushed door frame for a moment gasping for air as his side tightened painfully.
“I’m fine…I just wanna check on Roy…” he panted, ignoring the light headed feeling that washed over him as he jumped down and headed toward the squad where Belliveau was already working on Roy.
“How is he…?” He asked, kneeling next to his partner.
“He’s got a nasty bump on the head and I think his left shoulder is dislocated…I'm pretty sure his wrist is fractured and he’s got some bad bruising around the rib cage from the seat belt.”
John gave a barely perceptible nod…afraid of moving his head too much and passing out. He felt horribly guilty…
Stoney squatted next to the young, dark haired paramedic… “Johnny, let me take a look at you…”
Johnny waved him off. “I’m okay…”
“Johnny…you’ve got a really bad bruise on your cheek…I wanna take a look at it.”
“I’m fine…Just worry about Roy…”
“Johnny…you don’t look fine…”
“I said I’m fine…,” he snapped, but then softened the sharp retort… “I’m sorry Stoney…look I’ll let Brackett look at it at the hospital…right now all I wanna do is get Roy to Rampart okay?” He said stubbornly.
Doug stared at him in concern, but he knew Gage from training class and he knew that mulish look on the younger man’s face and that he wasn’t about to budge without a fight.
John knew he had a head injury and his side hurt but he didn’t feel that bad…Roy had to come first. Johnny felt terrible…he’d been the one driving and he hadn’t seen the truck coming…He knew deep down that it wasn’t his fault but still…he should have been paying better attention… Man…it was no wonder Roy never let him drive the squad. Johnny knew if he complained that he was injured they’d never let him stay with his friend and right now that’s the only place Johnny wanted to be and he knew he’d be at the hospital… if he felt really bad later, he’d ask for help then.
The ambulance pulled up as Belliveau was inserting the IV ordered by Joe Early and Stoney’s fixed attention on the younger paramedic was finally diverted. “Okay Gage…but you get checked out the minute you get to the hospital,” he said pointing at Johnny to emphasize the order. Johnny nodded and Doug headed for the ambulance.
Twenty minutes later the ambulance backed into the receiving bay at Rampart. The doors opened and the attendants pulled the gurney out. Nurse Dixie McCall was waiting…her mouth dropped open in shock as she recognized the victim. “Roy…,” she gasped. Her eyes rose to the young, dark haired paramedic stepping down behind him. His face was bruised…a stark contrast to the paleness of his skin but he was on his feet.
He threw a glance at the older woman but continued past the stunned nurse. She recovered quickly and followed. “Treatment two…,” she directed, as they rounded the corner. Johnny followed and helped make the transfer from gurney to table, disregarding the stab of pain in his side.
Stoney gave him a pat on the shoulder as he turned to leave missing the wince of pain as he glanced one last time at Roy. “Don’t forget to get checked out…,” he reminded the young man as he left the room. John nodded but had no intention of it…at least not until he knew Roy would be okay.
Dr. Early came into the room as Doug left. He did a double take at Johnny and then his eyes flew to the exam table. “My God…Roy…” He began to examine the blonde paramedic. “What happened Johnny?”
“We got hit broadside…Roy’s side got the worst of it…it was my fault,” he said quietly.
Dixie looked at Johnny sharply… “Did you run a light…?”
“No…I… it was green…but…I shoulda looked before I went I…”
“So the other driver ran a light…?”
“Then it wasn’t your fault Johnny…,” she interrupted. “So don’t go there okay?”
“Won’t blame you either…,” she cut him off gently. “He’d tell you to let it go…”
John looked at the floor for a moment… “I guess…,” he agreed reluctantly.
John…have you been checked out?” Joe Early asked, giving the younger man a quick look before turning his attention back to Roy.
“I’m okay…it’s just a bruise,” he said touching his cheek.
“Dix…get X-ray down here. I want a full skull series, chest, his left wrist and his left shoulder. Johnny…you need to get checked out…Dix…see if Kel can look at him.”
“Sure Joe…,” she agreed. Johnny opened his mouth to argue but Dixie took his arm and turned him toward the door. “C’mon Johnny…”
The young man tried to pull away as he protested. “But I want to stay with Roy…I need to call Joanne and…”
“After Kel’s looked at you…,” she insisted.
Johnny knew if Brackett found that head injury and whatever was causing the pain in his side, he’d be stuck in a bed and unable to stay with his friend but Dixie had him firmly by the arm as she led him from the room and into treatment room four.
She patted the table… “Sit here and I’ll get Kel…”
“Dixie…,” he began.
“Save it Johnny…you’re not gonna win this fight.”
John sighed in frustration but accepted his fate.
Roy glanced at his partner knowing Johnny was more upset than he was willing to admit. It bothered the older man a lot that Johnny had been abused and rejected by his family after his parents had died. He wished desperately that he could somehow change the emotional and mental hurt and trauma that his friend had suffered through. Wishing that he somehow could have changed it for him if he’d been there… It was silly maybe…after all Roy was only four years older than his partner and would only have been a teenager himself but still…it was a dream. He saw his partner turn his head and look back at him. Roy saw a look of horror cross Johnny’s features. John jerked the wheel sharply and Roy’s world went black.
He seemed to wake surrounded by a cool fog. Joanne stood before him… Roy looked at her in confusion…she was younger…as she’d been when they’d first gotten married…her auburn hair hanging to her waist. Her blue eyes teary as she gazed up at him sadly… “Roy…honey…I know you wanted a baby but the doctor doesn’t think I can. He said we may have to consider adoption…,” Joanne said through her tears.
Roy put his arms around his young wife and held her close… “Then that’s what we’ll do…,” he agreed, hoping to stop her tears. “It’s okay Jo…we’ll find a child that really needs us…”
Roy frowned in confusion…They’d had that conversation a few years ago but then they’d beat the odds and Joanne had gotten pregnant with Chris several months later. He wondered vaguely why he was thinking about it now…his head was aching fiercely and he let himself drift off…
A ringing phone woke him… Hello…,” he answered groggily.
“This is Jenna Griffin from children’s services…”
“Hi Miss Griffin…what can I do for you?”
“I know you and your wife are expecting a child of your own and you’re not actively seeking to adopt but…I did the initial interview with you and your wife and even as young as you are…you and Joanne were such a stable couple…” The words were coming out in a rush, as if the young woman was afraid Roy would stop her before she could finish.
“Thank you…,” Roy said politely. “But what exactly are you wanting from us…?”
“Well…we have a twelve year old boy here…his mother just died a couple of weeks ago…his father’s been dead since he was eight. They’ve taken him away from an Aunt who was very abusive and sent him here to keep him away from his relatives.”
“Sent…sent from where…?”
“An Indian reservation in Montana…”
“Yes…the boy’s half Indian and I’m afraid that’s the problem…his family resent the white half…”
Roy’s mouth tightened angrily. “I see…I’d like to talk to you about it but I need to discuss it with Joanne…I mean she’s pregnant and this could be pretty stressful.”
“I understand and I won’t lie to you…the boys got some severe emotional trauma and he could be a handful.”
Roy bit his lip… “Let me talk to Joanne and I’ll call you back…”
Two hours later Roy and Joanne walked into Miss Griffin’s office. “Roy and Joanne…I’m so glad you decided to come. Let me take you to see him.”
“Where is he?”
“The children’s home…it’s only a few blocks from here,” she said, grabbing her keys.
They pulled up in front of a large white structure…the front lawn was decorated with children’s toys and a swing set surrounded by a high white fence. Children raced around the yard as they climbed from the car…Roy and Jo’s eyes scanned the group wondering which of them they were here to see. They followed Jenna inside. She smiled at the lady who ran the home… “Roy, Joanne…this is Maggie Berns. Maggie this is Roy and Joanne DeSoto…” She smiled politely as she nodded towards a common play room. “He’s in there Jenna but he’s still unresponsive.”
The younger woman nodded… “Come with me…,” she said solemnly to Roy and Joanne as she led them to the other room. It appeared empty at first but a hint of motion caught their eye.
In the corner of the room sat a boy. Small and slender for the age of twelve…his sable colored hair matted and tangled. His arms wrapped securely about his torso as he rocked in a slow and steady rhythmic motion.
They couldn’t see his face as his head was down. He didn’t look up as they entered…in fact…, he seemed oblivious to their presence. They stood watching him for a long moment and Roy’s heart was breaking in his chest…he glanced at Joanne and saw the look of compassion on her face as she watched the child. She glanced at Roy with tears in her eyes and he understood the unspoken communication.
“We’ll take him…,” he murmured to Jenna. She grinned in relief. “What’s his name?” Roy asked.
Roy jumped… “Johnny…,” he whispered. Something was wrong here…he turned to look at the boy again. Something was seriously out of place but he couldn’t think of that right now…this small, troubled boy needed him.
In treatment room two, Dr. Early was checking Roy’s X-rays. He noted with some concern the severe concussion but thankfully there was no skull fracture or hematoma. The cardiac monitor was beeping softly as he glanced at the other films. Roy’s left shoulder was dislocated…his left wrist was broken along with two cracked ribs.
Nurse Carol Williams suddenly called out to him… “Doctor…?” Joe turned as Roy’s head rolled from side to side…the monitor increased its rhythm…“He’s trying to come around…,” she said.
Roy’s body jerked sharply for a moment and then relaxed once more… “Johnny…,” he murmured softly as he lapsed back into unconsciousness. The door cracked open behind them as Joe leaned over the blonde paramedic…
“Roy…Roy…can you hear me…?”
In treatment room four, the young, dark haired fire fighter winced as Kelly Brackett examined his cheek. “That’s a nasty bruise Johnny…,” he commented as he palpated the black and blue area on John’s cheekbone.
Johnny said nothing, afraid that if he moved or spoke he’d betray the fact that his head was pounding and that he was dizzy and nauseas and that his body ached miserably. He knew it was only a matter of time before Brackett figured it out anyway but all he could think of was getting back to Roy.
He finally swallowed hard, getting his stomach under control… “It’s okay Doc…It doesn’t hurt that bad. Can I go see Roy now?” He asked, trying to push himself off the table.
Brackett’s restraining hand stopped him… “Hold on Johnny, I’m not through yet. I want an X-Ray to be sure there’re no broken bones or any other head trauma.”
“It’s fine Doc….really…”
Kel shook his head at Gage’s persistence. “Take your shirt off for me Johnny…” The younger man sighed as he began to comply…and Brackett continued… “Did you lose consciousness at any time or are you hurt anywhere else?”
Johnny looked away…the moment of truth had just arrived. John hated lying and he was terrible at it. He opened his mouth to answer as the door swung open behind him. “Kel… that call you were waiting for is on three…,” Dixie interrupted.
“Okay Dix…Johnny…why don’t you finish undressing, I’ll be right back.” John breathed a sigh of relief as Kel stepped out the door. The dark haired Doctor spotted Mike Morton in the hallway. “Mike…can you finish up with Johnny…I’m gonna need a skull series…he’s got a really bad bruise on his cheek and I didn’t get to check for other injuries yet.”
“Sure Kel…what happened?”
“Car accident…Roy’s in the other room…he’s hurt pretty bad.” The young black intern nodded and Johnny bit his lip in frustration. “I’ll be back as quick as I can and finish up if possible.”
Mike nodded as Kel disappeared into his office. Mike finished with the chart he was holding and slotted it into the holder. He turned to go the treatment room as the orderlies rushed by him with a victim and disappeared into room one. “Heart attack…,” the pretty, blonde nurse Sally called as she followed them in. Morton glanced at four…
The heart attack victim needed a Doctor right now…he knew he could get Kel but the older Doctor hadn’t seemed concerned that Johnny was hurt that badly…Gage could wait. Kel would be back in a few minutes anyway. Mike shoved the door open briefly … “Gage, I’ve got a heart attack…Kel or I will be back soon…” Mike turned and ran for one.
Reprieved….Johnny slid off the table. He felt a hitch in his right side and a wave of dizziness washed through him. He pressed his arm tight against his side and waited for the spasm to pass and then he headed for treatment room two. He pushed the door open and slipped inside. Joe Early leaned over the younger blonde man. “Roy…Roy…can you hear me?” He called.
Johnny stood quietly in the corner chewing his lip nervously as he watched. Roy didn’t respond to Early’s voice…he lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“Doc…how is he…?” Johnny asked softly. Joe looked over at the younger man, noticing the paleness of his features.
“Johnny…are you alright?” He asked in concern.
John waved away the worried tone… “I’m fine…how’s Roy…?” He asked again.
“He’s got a couple of cracked ribs…and his wrist is fractured. His left shoulder was dislocated, but we’ve already taken care of that. It’s the head injury that concerns me most…he tried to come around but then lapsed back into unconsciousness. He called out for you.”
John looked at the Doctor in surprise… “For me…?”
Joe led the younger man toward Roy. “Talk to him Johnny…maybe he’ll respond to you.
“Okay…but I really should call Joanne…”
“Dixie’s already done that…she’s on the way.”
“Oh…okay.” Johnny reached out to touch his unconscious friend’s arm… “Roy…It’s Johnny…can you hear me pally?” Roy’s heart monitor jumped quickly at the sound of John’s voice.
“Keep talking Johnny…he’s responding to you.”
Brackett finished up his phone call and headed back to John’s room. The call had taken longer than he expected and he was anxious to see if Johnny was alright. He stepped inside to find the room empty. Morton must have finished up…Kel headed for Roy’s room.
Joanne DeSoto ran through the waiting room to the base station. She spotted Kelly Brackett coming out of one of the treatment rooms. “Dr. Brackett…,” she called.
He turned toward the slender, auburn haired woman coming toward him. “Joanne…”
“How’s Roy? Can you tell me? Is he in there?” She asked… pointing toward the room he’d just left.
“No Joanne, he’s this way…come with me…Joe Early’s in with him now.”
“Where’s Johnny…? Johnny was with him…Is he okay?”
“Johnny’s fine Joanne and unless I miss my guess he’s probably with Roy right now…,” Brackett reassured the anxious woman with a smile.
He pushed the door to treatment room two open and peeked inside. “Joe…?” Kel noticed John sitting next to Roy, speaking softly. The young Fireman glanced his way and then looked back at his partner with an almost guilty expression. “Joe…Joanne DeSoto is here…can she come in?”
“Sure Kel…I’m almost done here.”
Kel swung the door open… “Go on in Joanne.”
She stepped inside and headed for her husband. Johnny stood up and stepped out of the way. He swayed momentarily but recovered quickly. The dark eyes glanced around but the others had thankfully been watching Joanne and hadn’t noticed the momentary lapse.
Joanne patted John’s arm briefly before stepping close to Roy. She leaned over him… “Honey…it’s Jo…can you wake up for me? Roy…? Sweetheart…please…?” Roy remained unresponsive. “Doctor…?” she questioned worriedly.
“Joanne…Roy’s got a severe concussion but the good news is there’s no fracture. He did come around briefly but then lapsed back into unconsciousness.” At the young woman’s frightened frown, he quickly continued. “He does seem to be responding to a bit to Johnny’s voice but…he hasn’t wakened fully.” She nodded. “He’s got a broken left wrist and a couple of cracked ribs…and a dislocated shoulder. But none of those are a major concern and should heal pretty quickly but I’d be a lot happier about his prognosis if he’d wake up.”
She nodded again and turned to John. The younger paramedic braced himself for the angry explosion that he was sure was coming but was shocked by Joanne’s words instead. “Oh…look at you sweetheart…,” she said softly as she gently touched the bruised cheek. “You’re so pale…are you okay?”
“I’m fine Jo…,” he murmured, not meeting her eyes.
If Joanne hadn’t been so worried about Roy she might have picked up on the evasiveness but she only nodded… “What happened Johnny?”
“I’m so sorry Jo…I didn’t see the truck coming until it was too late…He ran the light and hit us on Roy’s side. I...I tried to swerve but…,” he rushed through the explanation.
“Johnny…stop it…it’s okay sweetheart…it’s gonna be okay.” She put her arms around her young friend and hugged him to her as John returned the embrace…each one consoling the other. She didn’t hear the quiet gasp of pain or see the pain filled wince as John’s body screamed in protest at the tight squeeze. They moved apart and John gritted his teeth until the pain subsided.
“We’re going to be moving him up to a room very soon…,” Joe told Joanne.
“Can I stay with him…?” Johnny asked quietly.
Brackett looked at him…John looked tired. Dark circles under his eyes stood out in stark contrast to the pale, drawn features. A light coating of sweat covered his face. “Are you okay Johnny?”
Knowing all eyes were now on him the younger man kept his gaze focused on his partner as he answered. “I’m fine Doc.”
Kel looked at him suspiciously but he knew Morton would never have released him if he were badly injured. He must be exhausted though. “Johnny I really think you should go home and rest. You may be okay right now but chances are you’re gonna stiffen up and be hurting by tomorrow. Maybe I should admit you anyway…just for observation.”
“No…,” Johnny said quickly. “I want to stay with Roy…Please…,” he pleaded.
“Kel…Roy does seem to be able to hear Johnny…he’s responding to him…his heart rate increases when Johnny talks to him.”
Kel pursed his lips in indecision… “Okay Johnny…you can stay with Roy…if Joanne doesn’t mind…”
“Of course I don’t…,” She reassured the younger man. “I’ll have to go home to the kids and it’ll be a relief to know you’re here with him,” she said as she brushed the hair from John’s forehead. Johnny smiled wanly at his friend’s wife before turning back to his partner.
Mike Morton finished up in treatment room one…watching as the orderlies wheeled the patient out on their way to CCU. He stretched his back briefly and then headed back to check on John…the room was empty. Kel must have finished up. Mike yawned and stretched again and then headed for the lounge and a strong cup of coffee.
Roy moved toward the child rocking in the corner of the room, squatting slowly in front of him. Joanne and the other two women moved closer to watch. “John…?” No that didn’t sound right...he tried again. “Johnny…? My names Roy…” The boy continued to rock slowly, seeming oblivious to the man in front of him until the older man reached out to try and touch him…The child jerked back, throwing his hands up in front of his face defensively. His cry of fear ripped at Roy’s heart.
“John…stop that,” Maggie snapped, reaching out to grasp the boys wrist. He pressed fearfully back against the wall. Roy shot her a look that silenced any further outbursts and she dropped her hand and stepped away. He looked back at the frightened child…he didn’t know how but he seemed to know what he needed to do. Roy sat cross legged before the boy…
“Johnny…no one’s gonna hurt you okay…? I just want to talk to you for a minute…is that okay?” John had resumed his position…arms tightly folded…he rocked slowly. “That really pretty lady behind me is my wife Joanne. We’d like to take you out of here Johnny…take you home with us…would that be okay with you?”
The boy refused to look at him… “Johnny, can you look at me…?” The child ignored him. Roy tried again… “Johnny…can you tell me how old you are?” Silence answered him…Roy sighed and tried a new tactic… “Hey did I tell you I’m a fireman…?” Roy didn’t know why but he somehow knew this would interest the boy. “I’d love to tell you about what I do…would you like that?”
The rocking stopped and the dark head tilted to the side…he was listening.
Jenna gripped Joanne’s hand tightly… “He’s getting through…,” she whispered excitedly. Jo nodded.
“Yup…I ride the engine and when we get a big fire like the one we had yesterday…” The older man continued with his story. John’s hands slowly dropped into his lap as Roy went on. His head lifted slightly as he listened to the gentle voice of the man in front of him. Roy leaned forward slightly letting his hands fall within inches of the boys legs as he continued.
The brown eyes lifted to look at him warily but dropped almost immediately. Roy scooted forward slightly as he talked about the run the day before until his hands were just barely touching John’s. His body tensed but he didn’t retreat. Roy continued to talk quietly… “If you’d like to hear some more I’d love to tell you…would you like that Johnny?”
There was a long hesitation but the boy finally gave a quick nod. “Good…,” Roy said softly as his hand moved slowly to touch the boy’s hand. John jerked slightly and he started to pull away but Roy didn’t grab for him…just held out his hand, palm up until John finally relaxed. Roy lightly touched his fingers and the boy tensed once more but he let Roy take his hand.
“Can you get up…we’d like to take you home…maybe we could stop somewhere and get a pizza or something…would you like that?”
The child nodded hesitantly and Roy stood up slowly and pulled the boy to his feet. “Can you come with me?” John took a hesitant step…the dark eyes lifted to Roy’s and he raised his head for the first time. The dark purple bruises a stark contrast to the paleness of the child’s skin. The fearful look in his eyes tore at the older man’s heart. He tightened his grip on the boy’s hand.
“You and I are gonna be good friends Johnny…you can trust me…I won’t ever hurt you Okay?” The child’s eyes flicked toward Joanne hesitantly…he seemed to make a decision and let Roy pull him gently toward the women.
John sat at Roy’s bedside…he’d been there for hours. Joanne had had to leave. The children needed her at home. She would return in the morning. Cap had been here a short time ago and had tried to talk Johnny into going home but the young paramedic had refused… Johnny hurt terribly but there was no way he was leaving Roy’s side until his friend woke up. Roy seemed much calmer as long as John was there…his heart rate always picked up its pace dramatically when Johnny left him.
Johnny took his friends hand... “Man Roy…the shoe’s really on the other foot here…It’s not much fun on this side of the wait huh pally?” He said shifting uncomfortably in his seat. John’s right side tightened painfully and dizziness washed through him. He cried out as he doubled over…he staggered for the bathroom just barely making it before he began to vomit. He sank to the floor, kneeling on the hard tile in a cold sweat for several minutes after the retching stopped.
He lifted his shirt away and saw the black bruising that ran from his left shoulder across his chest to his right side and down to his hip.
Well that certainly explained the pain in his side. He suspected that he also had a mild concussion and hoped that the symptoms would ease soon. It shouldn’t be a major problem as long as he remained quiet. He finally managed to push himself to his feet and made his way back to his partner’s side. “C’mon Roy…I need you to wake up now…I really feel like crap but don’t worry pally…I won’t leave you until you do okay…You know Roy…I know I’ve said I don’t need anyone…,” he whispered softly. “But I know you know that’s not true…I need you Roy please…you’re my best friend…you know me so well…better than anyone. I don’t know what I’d do without you…don’t leave me pally Okay?” He finally laid his throbbing head down on the mattress next to his partner…his eyes drifted closed.
Roy and Joanne loaded Johnny into their car. They tried several times to get him to talk but he refused to speak. They stopped at a restaurant along the way. Roy handed the child a menu… “Can you read that okay?” He asked softly. Roy smothered a grin at the indignant look the child shot him. “Sorry…you can have anything you want okay?”
Johnny scanned the menu…he frowned. Nothing on it seemed familiar. His parents had taken him to the restaurant in Lame Deer occasionally but they catered to both white and Indian foods and the dishes had all been familiar to both cultures. His mother had always ordered the traditional Indian foods and in the year they’d spent in Duarte they’d only gone out twice and his father had ordered for him…Johnny knew what he wanted but couldn’t remember the English words…he chewed his lip and set the menu down in defeat.
Roy looked up as the boy set the menu aside and chewed his lip nervously…the gesture was hauntingly familiar…but Roy couldn’t remember why. “What’s wrong Johnny…not hungry?” Roy asked.
John sat looking at the blonde man across from him…the kind blue eyes watched him in gentle concern…they flicked to the pretty woman next to him as she smiled sweetly back. “Ná’háéána” (I’m hungry), he whispered.
“What…? What did you say…?” Roy asked gently… “Were you speaking Indian…?” John nodded and Roy glanced at his wife… “Well this could be a problem.” She nodded in concern. “Johnny do you speak English?”
“Héeheé (yes)…” John frowned at their confused look. If he wanted to eat he’d have to say it in English. “Yes…,” he finally said quietly.
Roy breathed a sigh of relief. “Are you hungry?”
“What would you like…?”
Again that familiar gesture as Johnny chewed his lip…Roy wanted to reach out to him…The waitress walked by with a tray and the boy pointed excitedly…”Hόévohkōtse, mésêhéstoto.”
Roy followed the direction of his pointed finger and laughed… “That’s a cheeseburger and French Fries Johnny.”
He nodded eagerly. Without thinking Roy laughed and reached out to touch the boy’s cheek. John flinched away in terror… “Hová’âháne (no)… Névé’nēheséve tohόomo’sehve (Don’t do that…don’t hurt me)…” He whimpered as his hands flew up to protect his face…
“Dear God…what did they do to you…?” Roy whispered. Disregarding the curious eyes of the other patrons of the restaurant, Roy slid from his seat to kneel in front of the frightened boy…he gently took hold of the boys wrists and pulled them away from his face despite John’s attempts to pull free. “I won’t hurt you…I will never hurt you…do you understand?”
Roy pulled the terrified child into his arms. John’s body was rigid and shaking. The older man rubbed his back gently until he began to calm down. He finally sat back on his heels and took the bruised face between his hands and lifted the small face, forcing the boy to look at him… “I will never hurt you,” he repeated gently… “I’ll never let anyone hurt you again…”
Joanne sat across from them….tears of compassion for this scared child rolled down her face as she watched her cool, tough husband comfort the youngster. She smiled softly as the dark, frightened eyes met reassuring blue. “I’ll always be there for you.” Roy had a sudden sense of déjà vu…as if he’d spoken these words to this young man before…but how…and when?”
John seemed to wilt into Roy’s arms as the older man pulled him close again…his hand gently stroked the dark head that lay trustingly on his shoulder. Roy smiled at Joanne over Johnny’s head…this was gonna work out fine.
Time suddenly seemed to fly by and Roy suddenly saw Johnny differently. The timid and frightened boy they’d brought home that day had changed…How had that happened? Johnny was suddenly fourteen…a normal, happy teenager. Sure they’d had to overcome some serious issues in those first few months… Johnny had been scared and resistant…He’d had serious outbursts of anger and out of control moments…Discipline had proved difficult as Johnny saw any sign of anger as a cause for fear whether directed at him or each other.
He shrank away from any rapid movement and withdrew into himself if they yelled at him. Roy had finally found a Doctor who told him John had a mild case of Aspergers Syndrome…Roy had never heard of it and yet the diagnoses had been familiar…he'd known what it was. Roy and Joanne changed tactics. Everything was geared toward the positive…If they were angry at him or each other it was never shown in front of him…
Discipline was always meted out gently and never in anger. When John was in trouble he found himself with hedge trimmers and lawn mowing duty…he hated housekeeping so the threat of a toilet brush or mopping floors usually kept him in line. A fact that brought grins of amusement to both of the DeSoto’s and when Joanne had delivered their own child…John had proven to be a great big brother to their son Chris. He always had time for the infant and as Chris grew, Johnny could always be found somewhere nearby, hovering protectively.
Johnny loved to hear about every moment of Roy’s shifts as a firefighter and sat in rapt attention after school to listen to each detail. He confided that it’s what he’d wanted to be since he was six.
Roy couldn’t believe how fast time had flown…Johnny was fourteen today and he’d become a different child. It was amazing what a little love could do. He suddenly frowned…where had the time gone…?
The sun was just beginning to creep up in the sky when Johnny raised his head from the mattress. He groaned as that damn drum began to pound in his head once again. He felt his stomach lurch and bolted for the bathroom…his arms wrapped tightly around his torso as he retched miserably into the toilet…The spasms began to ease and Johnny carefully made his way back to his partner’s side. Roy’s heart monitor was beeping wildly… “Roy …are you okay…?” Johnny gasped out softly, ignoring the pounding in his head and the pain that ripped through his chest and across his right side. He took his friend’s hand and the monitor began to return to normal…
A nurse poked her head inside… “Is everything okay…?” She asked.
Johnny nodded. “I just left him for a minute…he’s fine,” he said reassuringly. “Aren’t ya pally…? Ya gotta be fine Roy…I need you.”
John leaned back in the chair, praying the headache would ease up soon. He once again took up the conversation… “Remember that silly movie Roy? What was it she sang… A dream is a wish your heart makes…man Roy…I sure wish you’d wake up. Are you dreaming…? I wonder what it’s about…?” John’s head continued to pound and his side cramped agonizingly but he never let up…he continued to talk through gritted teeth.
That was one of the things Johnny had become good at over the last year…The silent young man he’d been when Roy first met him was gone and this John Gage could talk your ear off. Johnny grinned to himself… “And it’s a good thing for you that I can pally…,” he said ruefully. “Hey Roy…did I tell you about Debbie? She’s a new nurse in pediatrics…”
Roy I can’t get over how much difference there is in Johnny…,” Jenna Griffin said as she watched the fourteen year old John hold Chris’s hands as he toddled across the grass. “I’ve read your application for adoption and I want you to know I’m all for it. You’ve done such a great job with him…”
“Johnny was pretty excited too…He asked if he could call us Mom and Dad,” he said with a grin.
Jenna took a deep breath… “Roy…Joanne, there is a problem.”
“What’s that…?” Joanne asked worriedly as she reached to take her husband’s hand.
“John’s family in Montana…They won’t sign him over to the state. In fact they’ve petitioned the court to get him back…” At their look of horror she rushed to continue. “I didn’t tell you before because we’ve been fighting them in the hopes that the court would simply put him in protective custody and terminate their rights but now they’ve agreed to hear their petition…”
“What…?” Roy shouted angrily. Johnny looked up from the lawn in alarm at the raised voices… “It’s nothing Junior…go back to what you were doing,” he said reassuringly.
“Junior…?” Jenna said with a grin.
“J.R. Gage…,” Roy said softly… “But we’d really love to change that to DeSoto.”
“Believe me Roy…so would I…I promise you I’ll do my best. I mean they have to see the difference you’ve made in John’s life. They have to take that into consideration. We have his records…photos of the abuse he’d been subjected to…his school records.”
Roy nodded as he squeezed Jo’s hand reassuringly… “We’ll fight…We’ll do whatever it takes…I don’t want to lose him…” Jenna nodded. It would all work out…it had to.
John was still talking when the door opened behind him and the crew of Station 51 came in. Johnny glanced up and the guys gasped in shock at the drawn, gray features…the purple bruise and dark circles under his eyes, a startling contrast against the pale skin. Johnny looked ready to drop.
“John…?” Cap said gently.
“Hey Cap…guys… How’s it goin…?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing…John, you look terrible,” Cap observed.
“Thanks a lot Cap…,” Johnny said wryly.
“Seriously Gage…you look like hell…,” Chet said.
“You need to go home and get some sleep,” Mike advised.
“Roy would understand…,” Marco added.
“I can’t leave him…Doctor Early said he’s calmer as long as I stay with him…they’re not sure why but…”
“But I didn’t intend for you to kill yourself Johnny…,” Joe Early said from the doorway. “You really need to get some rest.”
“I did…some… last night,” he said with a shrug.
“John…you’re exhausted,” Cap pointed out.
“I’ll be okay…” Joe opened his mouth to argue but Johnny turned away… “Forget it Doc…I’m stayin.
Joe shook his head but gave in to the stubborn younger man. They stayed for about a half hour. Chet’s blue eyes watched Johnny in concern as the young paramedic shifted uncomfortably in his seat several times. His arm tightened convulsively over his right side and abdomen a couple of times. Chet noticed a subtle shake of John’s hand as he touched his head periodically as if rubbing a pain away.
The crew finally decided to go, hoping John might be able to get some sleep as well. Cap missed the tightening of John’s face as he slapped the younger man on the back but Chet didn’t. They filed out but the curly haired Irishman had only gone a few steps before he turned back.
He stepped into Roy’s room but Johnny was nowhere in sight. The unmistakable sound of vomiting came from the bathroom. He leaned against the wall and waited.
“Johnny stop it…,” Roy said softly as he held the struggling fourteen year old in his arms. “You know we’ll do whatever it takes to keep you but we have no choice but to fight this out in court.
“I don’t want to go with them…they hurt me Roy…,” Johnny wept as he tried to pull free. “I won’t go back…I won’t”
“Johnny …it’s not your Aunt fighting for you…she won’t get you back…It’s someone else…an Uncle…a George Walking Wolf.”
John froze in terror…his face went pale. “No…,” he whispered. “No…I’ll run away…I…I w…won’t go.” John was stuttering now. Something he hadn’t done in months.
“Johnny what’s wrong…? Did he hurt you too…talk to me son.”
John wrapped his arms around the older man’s neck in a death grip. “He’ll hurt me…,” he gasped. “He used to watch me all the time…he tried to…touch…”
Roy’s blood ran cold.”Okay Junior…okay…,” he soothed, rocking the boy in his arms.
John’s face blanched as his stomach rolled at the thought of being in Uncle Georges hands…he began to gag…Roy scooped the child into his arms and ran for the bathroom…barely making it before Johnny lost the contents of his stomach. “Better now?” Roy asked as he sat on the bathroom floor holding the boy.
“You said you wouldn’t let anyone hurt me…you promised…”
“And I’ll do my best to keep that promise.” Roy assured him.
Johnny came out of the bathroom. He stopped abruptly at the sight of Chet Kelly leaning against the wall. “So Gage…you wanna tell me what’s goin on..?”
“No…,” John said shortly as he moved past the Irishman. Chet reached out and caught Johnny’s arm but let go immediately as John cried out in pain.
“Johnny…Johnny what’s wrong?”
“Nothing…,” John said softly. “I just bruised my shoulder in the accident that’s all.”
“Then what was that all about?” Chet asked, waving toward the bathroom.
“Nothing…I’ve just been a little sick to my stomach…it’ll pass.”
“Does the Doctor know about this?”
John averted his gaze and looked at his partner. “Brackett checked me out the first day.” He said evasively.
“And he didn’t see anything wrong…?” Chet asked in disbelief.
“I guess not…,” John snapped back, his face paling as dizziness claimed him once again. “Just leave it alone Kelly…I’ll be fine.” Johnny mumbled.
The younger man spun around angrily… “Leave me alone Chet…I’m not leaving Roy. He wouldn’t even be in this mess at all if I’d of been more careful.”
“God Johnny…you don’t really believe that? The police cleared you…it wasn’t your fault. The guy was speeding…moving too fast…you couldn’t avoid him.”
“I should have looked…”
“Why Johnny…? The light was green…you had the right of way…John, don’t do this to yourself man…Roy wouldn’t blame you…”
“I know…but I do…” Chet shook his head. “Please Chet…just leave me alone,” he said softly, feeling sick once more.
“You’re hurting and you’re sick…,” Chet reached to feel John’s forehead but the younger man slapped his hand away.
“Don’t…,” he whispered. “I told you I’m fine and I’m stayin with Roy…” Chet gave Johnny a skeptical look. “And don’t go runnin to the doctor either Chet…Brackett didn’t find anything wrong, so don’t make a big deal outta a sore shoulder and an upset stomach. I’ll be fine…I promise.”
Chet still didn’t believe he was fine but John was here surrounded by Doctors and Nurses. Surely one of them would know if Johnny wasn’t okay and Brackett obviously hadn’t found anything to alarm him or Johnny would be in the bed next to Roy instead of the chair beside the bed. “Okay Johnny but I better see some improvement soon.”
Johnny nodded. Chet turned and left. John laid his head down on the mattress …his hand held Roy’s tightly. “Don’t leave me Roy…you promised,” he whispered. “You promised…”
Johnny sat between Roy and Joanne. They’d been in the courtroom for several hours, listening to the two lawyers argue back and forth. Roy and Joanne had both taken the stand to testify to the boys battered and bruised appearance when they’d first taken him in. They had testified to his emotional trauma and his terrified demeanor. That he’d been afraid of everything and everyone.
Of course he was…, the other lawyer had argued from the other side. He’d just lost his only parent and been snatched away from his family and everything familiar and had been thrust into the hands of strangers…white strangers, who couldn’t begin to understand John’s background or culture. Who would strip him of his Indian Heritage and make him one of them.
“You mean being raised in poverty or in a town where being Indian means you’re drunk and worthless?”
“Meaning he has a right to know who and what he is.”
“He’s half white as well…”
“But raised Indian…”
The battle had continued back and forth. John cast fearful glances at the large man and his wife sitting at the other table… His Uncle George and his mother’s sister…his Aunt Mase. She didn’t look at all happy about being here and George had turned frequent leering looks at his nephew. John clutched Roy’s arm in a death grip, pressing against the man’s side…Roy squeezed his hand reassuringly. They finally put the teenager on the stand.
“John…,” the Judge questioned gently… “Do you understand what’s happening here?”
“John did your Aunt Lacee ever hurt you while you lived with her?”
“She hit me…”
“John…do you understand the difference between abuse and discipline?”
“Which did she do…?”
John bit his lip for a moment… “Abuse…Roy and Joanne discipline me.”
The judge gave a momentary grin… “I see…where did she hit you…?”
“She slapped you?”
“Daily…once in a while…?”
“All the time…whenever things didn’t go right or she didn’t like what I was doing…”
“I see…What about Mr. Walking Wolf…?”
“I didn’t live with him…”
“Did he ever hurt you?”
“Okay…,” the judge said, cutting him off.
“What about his wife…did she ever hurt you…?”
“No…she never hit me but…I want to stay with Roy and Joanne,” he said quickly.
“I understand that son but sometimes adults have to make decisions concerning children and it’s not always what the child wants, but what’s best for them…”
“He’ll hurt me…,” John cried out. “What’s best for me is Roy and Joanne.”
“That’ll be enough young man…,” The judge snapped. “You’ve said they never hurt you and now you want to cast those doubts without any indication that they have or would harm you…?”
“Your Honor…,” The states lawyer argued… “You saw the photo’s…you heard the testimony. This child was a mess when they brought him here. His case worker testified that he was battered and terrified. Afraid to speak…starving and dressed practically in rags. Look at him now…The DeSoto’s have worked miracles with this boy…He’s bright…has good grades…he speaks clearly and he’s well cared for and loved. He’s told the DeSoto’s he’s afraid of George Walking Wolf…that he touches him in an inappropriate fashion…”
“That’s a lie…,” George sneered.
“The boy said he never hurt him…,” The judge reminded him…”
“He never had the opportunity but…”
The judge banged the gavel… “You can return to your seat young man…I believe I’ve heard enough…”
John stepped down making a wide and fearful berth around his Aunt and Uncle to slide between Roy and Joanne once more…They put their arms around him protectively as George turned to watch the boy with an angry sneer.
Joanne pushed the door to her husband’s room open and stepped inside. Roy was still unconscious and Johnny lay sleeping with his head on the mattress…his slender fingers wrapped around Roy’s. Jo smiled softly as she approached the bed. She kissed her husband gently and then turned toward the young man sleeping next to him.
He looked so young…almost childlike. She reached out to run her fingers through John’s tangled, sable hair. She felt the lump just above his left ear and gasped in shock. Her hand returned to sweep the sweat dampened hair from Johnny’s forehead and felt the heat emanating from his brow…Dear God he was burning up…She squatted in front of him…
“Johnny…sweetheart…wake up. C’mon baby look at me…,” she said in the tone she used with her children as her hand continued to stroke his brow.
John’s eyes cracked open slowly… “Jo…,” he whispered, trying to sit up…His face tightened as pain flared through him and his head spun dizzily. Joanne caught his shoulders as he swayed in the chair.
“Easy sweetheart…I’m gonna call for a Doctor okay?”
“No…,” he gasped. “They’ll make me leave Roy…I can’t leave Roy.”
“Sweetheart, you’re sick…you need to be in bed not sitting here exhausted and ready to pass out.”
“Roy’s better if I’m here…he needs me and he’d be here for me…it's my fault. ”
“Sweetheart …Roy loves you…you’re his kid brother, don’t you know that…?”
“Yes…and I feel the same way…that’s why I have to stay…,” he argued stubbornly.
Joanne sighed as she took his face between her hands. “Sweetie…he’d be furious if he knew you were putting yourself at risk for him and you know it…”
“He’d do it for me…,” Johnny said softly.
“Yes he would…he loves you that much…but Johnny he’d want to be sure you were okay first. He would never let you sacrifice yourself for him.”
“I would…I’d do that for him…”
“I know that baby and so does Roy…,” she kissed his hot forehead… “Now you just sit here while I get a Doctor.”
Roy stirred suddenly… “Johnny…,” he gasped out… “No…don’t go…don’t take him.”
Johnny stood up, disregarding the flair of pain and the dizziness washing through him… “Roy…Roy I’m here…,” Johnny said anxiously, taking his partner’s hand. “Jo… get the nurse quick…tell her to call Early…he’s trying to wake up.”
The crew of station 51 met for lunch…they’d just finished eating but worry was still gnawing away at Chet. “Cap…,” he began hesitantly.
“What’s up Kelly…?”
“It’s Gage Cap…”
“What about him?” Hank asked.
The others looked at the curly haired fireman curiously. “I think he’s sick…”
“What…? Why do ya think so…?”
“I went back this morning…John was in the bathroom puking…,” he said descriptively. “I asked him about it but he got real defensive and tried to walk away. I…I grabbed him and I thought he was gonna pass out for a second and he cried out in pain…Cap he was real warm to the touch. I tried to check but he wouldn’t let me. I told him he needed a Doctor but he’s blaming himself for Roy getting hurt and he won’t leave him…”
Cap stood up abruptly… “He’ll leave Roy…If he’s sick I’ll pick him up and put him in a bed myself…”
“We’ll help ya Cap…,” Mike agreed.
Marco nodded. They paid the bill and headed back to Rampart.
Kel carried a chart from the last case to the base station. Mike Morton was sipping a cup of coffee. “Afternoon Kel…”
“Afternoon…did you enjoy your day off?” Brackett asked.
“Yes…it was very relaxing…oh I meant to ask…How’s DeSoto…?”
Kel shook his head… “No change…still unconscious I’m afraid.”
“Oh…,” Mike said looking down dispiritedly. “That’s too bad. How about Gage? I never got a chance to ask how he was…”
Kel stared at him in surprise. “I was about to ask you the same thing. Are you saying you didn’t check him out…?”
“No…,” Mike said, setting his cup down abruptly. “I had a heart case come in…by the time I was finished the room was empty…I thought you’d come back.”
“No…by the time I finished my phone call and came back, there was no one there.” They looked at each other in concern. “Damn it Johnny…,” Kel growled angrily. “He’s done it again…so help me…I’m gonna kill that kid myself.”
“If he doesn’t do it for you…,” Mike said drily.
“It’s no wonder he’s looked so ill…,” Kel said turning away to head for the elevators. “It’s because he is.”
Mike nodded and followed Kel. They’d just stepped inside when Joe Early hustled around the corner… Dixie was close behind. “Hold the elevator…,” Joe called.
Kel stopped the doors from closing… “What’s up Joe…?”
“Roy DeSoto…they said he’s coming around,” he said stepping into the elevator.
“Well that’s convenient then…we’re both heading to the same place.”
The Judges gavel banged… “I’ve reached my decision…and it wasn’t an easy one. I agree that the DeSoto’s have been excellent Guardians for this boy…you’ve brought him along through some difficult times over this year…” Roy and Joanne smiled at each other, tightening their grip on John hopefully but the Judge continued on…dashing their hopes with one word… “However…it’s my opinion that a child should be raised by his family and within the confines of his own culture. I am therefore awarding custody of the boy…John Roderick Gage to his Uncle and Aunt… George and Mase Walking Wolf…”
“Nooo…,” John’s wail of terror ripped at the hearts of the people in the gallery. Joanne began to weep as John clutched at them desperately…even the judge turned to look at the boy. The look said he might be second guessing himself.
Roy held Johnny tightly to him… "We won’t give up…we’ll appeal this…we’ll get you back,” he promised as the bailiff moved to pull the boy away.
“No…no…you promised you wouldn’t leave me…you promised,” he screamed, holding tightly to Roy’s hand. Roy didn’t let go even as a second bailiff gripped his arm and pulled the boy’s hand free.
“Johnny…,” Roy cried out… "No…don’t go…”
George Walking Wolf grasped the boy roughly by the arm and began to drag him from the room…
“Don’t take him…,” Roy yelled.
He heard the reassuring voice he’d come to love like his own family… “Roy…Roy…I’m here…”
“Johnny…,” he gasped.
Joanne moved to her husband’s other side, taking his hand. “Honey wake up…open your eyes Roy…,” she urged her agitated husband. She looked up at the wan face of her husband’s young partner. “Roy…Honey…wake up…Johnny’s here and he needs you…we need you…,” she amended at John’s surprised look.
The door opened behind her and Doctor Early rushed in followed closely by Kelly Brackett, Mike Morton and Dixie McCall.
“Roy…,” Joe called urgently. “Can you hear me?”
“Johnny…,” Roy gasped again.
“Talk to him John…,” Joe instructed.
“Roy…Roy…I’m here…Can you hear me Roy?” John called to his friend. None of them heard the crew of station 51 come in as they crowded into the corner of the room, watching quietly as the young firefighter urged his friend back to consciousness.
Roy suddenly bolted upright…seemingly oblivious of the pain around his ribs or shoulder and the cast on his wrist. He reached for Johnny…He grasped him by the shoulders pulling the younger man into a tight embrace.
John gasped in pain and his pale cheeks flushed in embarrassment at this open display of affection. He began to pull away but he suddenly realized that Roy was still gripped in whatever nightmare he’d been caught up in and that he needed the reassurance that John was okay. He tamped down on his embarrassment and relaxed against his friend and let him hold him.
“It’s okay Roy…I’m here…,” he whispered painfully as the older man crushed him against his chest.
Roy finally pulled back… his hand gripped John’s chin as he searched his face anxiously. “You’re okay…you’re here.” Johnny nodded as Roy’s hand roamed over the bruised cheek, his fingers slid into John’s hair briefly. He felt the lump over his ear. John winced in pain…
Roy may have been injured but he saw the paleness of Johnny’s face…the dark circles, the bruise and the weariness and pain in the dark eyes looking back at him…Pain that he’d successfully hidden from the others. Roy’s hand returned to his partner’s face to hold it steady and felt the heat radiating from his friends skin. “God Junior…you’re burning up…where else do you hurt besides that lump on your head? Tell me what hurts?”
Kel’s head snapped up to look at the younger man worriedly. He glanced at Dixie with a nod toward the door. She acknowledged it without a word and left the room.
Dixie grabbed an orderly and directed him to Roy’s room and then picked up the phone at the nurse’s station. “Sally…set up treatment room four…we’ll be bringing John Gage down in a minute…have X-Ray standing by…” She hung up and pushed the door open and let the orderly enter ahead of her.
“I’m okay Roy…really,” John said softly… “Just worried about you…”
Roy knew John too well. “Don’t lie to me junior…you’re not okay.”
John looked down guiltily as Roy let go of his chin. “Ahh,” he cried as Roy’s hand moved over his body searchingly…his fingers finding the bruises. John twisted and tried to push his partner’s hands away.
“What’s wrong…is this where it hurts…?” Roy asked brushing John’s hands aside.
“No…it’s nothing,” he breathed out painfully. “You need to lay back…you’re the one who’s hurt,” he said as he pushed his partner back on the bed. He took Roy’s hand in his. “So what were you dreaming about anyway…?” he asked softly, trying to distract his friend. Roy didn’t fall for it. The blue eyes looked over John's shoulder to follow Captain Stanley and Kelly Brackett as they came up behind John and grasped his shoulders.
John immediately began to struggle as he felt himself being lifted from the chair. “No…no I want to stay with Roy…please…I…”
Joanne started to come around the bed to try and talk to her young friend but Roy sat up… “Johnny…,” he called out. Johnny stop fighting…look at me.”
John stopped struggling, gasping for breath but he raised dark eyes to Roy’s… “I want you to go with them…let them check you out…I’ll rest a lot easier if I know you’re okay. Please Johnny…They’ll bring you back when they’re done, right Doc?” Kel nodded. He’d promise anything if it would get John to quit resisting. “Please Johnny…,” Roy urged. John finally nodded hesitantly as he once again felt hands grasp him. They lifted him onto the gurney.
John hurt so badly…and two days in pain and with very little sleep had left him exhausted. Roy was okay…it was gonna be alright…he could rest now. John’s world shrank to a pinpoint as he lost consciousness.
The others gathered around Roy as Kel and Dixie followed John’s stretcher from the room. “Doc…you’ll let me know how he is…?” Kel nodded and the door swung closed behind them.
“Hey Pal…you really had us all worried,” Cap told the younger man.
“Especially Gage…,” Chet added. “He’s been beating himself up for two days.”
“Why…?” Roy asked.
“He’s blaming himself for the accident.”
“But it wasn’t his fault,” Marco said quickly. “The other guy blew the light.”
“Then why’s he blaming himself?” Roy asked in confusion.
“Because he’s Gage…,” Chet said, as if that explained everything which in a way…it did.
“How come no one noticed he was sick?” Roy asked looking at Joanne and then the others. It had been so obvious to Roy…he couldn’t believe the others had missed it.
“I did just before you woke up. I was about to call for Dr. Brackett but then you started to come around and everything got hectic.”
“He looked really bad…,” Roy said worriedly. The others nodded in agreement.
“That musta been some dream you were having…can you remember what it was about? You seemed real concerned about Johnny…?”
“Yeah…I’d say so Roy…you were holding Gage awful close there,” Chet teased. He grunted in pain as Marco’s arm met his ribs.
“Chet…,” Roy said warningly. “Don’t harass Johnny about this,” he said, knowing Johnny would be humiliated and might reestablish the touch me not attitude that the older man had finally broken through several months ago. Chet threw him a wicked grin. “I mean it Kelly…”
“Oh don’t worry Roy…,”Cap said. “Chet won’t ever say a word about it, will you Kelly?” The threat was implicit and the curly haired Irishman saw months of latrine duty in his future.
“Sure Cap…my lips are sealed,” Chet promised earnestly. He loved to tease Johnny but he’d never really do anything to hurt the younger man and he sensed from Roy’s concern that it could somehow do serious harm to their young friend if he broke that promise. He’d love to know what he suspected Roy did about their youngest crew member.
“Anyway Cap...I don’t remember all of it…,” he hedged, unwilling to break his promise to his young partner and tell them of the abuse Johnny had suffered through as a child. If they ever found out, it would have to come from Johnny himself.
The others looked at him in concern but sensed his reluctance to talk about the dream and let it go.
“Well I guess we’d better let the Doctor check you out…I want to go down and find out how John is anyway,” Cap said.
“We’ll come back and let you know what’s happening,” Marco promised. Roy nodded as they left.
Joe Early gave him a quick once over… “Are you in a lot of pain Roy?” He asked.
“No…my head hurts some and my shoulder feels stiff. I guess the worst is my side.”
“You have a couple of cracked ribs. Let the nurse know if you’re in pain. I’ll leave word with the desk if you need something later.”
“I’m glad you’re back Roy…,” Early said as he left.
“Wanna tell me about it?” Joanne asked after they were finally alone.
Roy told her about the dream… “It seemed so real Jo…,” he said when he finished. “We’d really changed his life,” he said sadly, disappointed that it had only been a dream.
Joanne hugged him… “And we still can…,” she whispered against his ear.
Johnny regained consciousness…the glare of the overhead lights brought a gasp of pain from the dark haired paramedic. He reached up to shield his eyes but a soft hand caught his. “Don’t move your arm Johnny, okay?” Dixie said gently, brushing the hair from his face and effectively blocking the light.
John finally noticed the IV in his arm and the fact that his clothes had been removed and he was naked beneath the sheet. The light moved away from his eyes and he blinked rapidly, turning his face toward Brackett as he moved his hand away from the overhead.
“Johnny, we’re taking you up to surgery,” Kel said. “You have a broken rib and we think you may be bleeding internally…do you understand?”
Johnny nodded weakly. “Roy…?” he whispered.
“Roy’s fine…you just relax now and worry about you and we’ll discuss your ah…little disappearing act from the examination room when your better,” he warned.
John nodded tiredly as his eyes drifted closed once more.
Kel raised the sheet to examine the bruised and swollen area around John’s upper right quadrant and shook his head. “Dix…I don’t understand it. Roy wakes up from being unconscious for two days with a severe head injury, takes one look at Johnny and knows something’s wrong…but a hospital full of trained Doctor’s and Nurse’s missed it completely."
“He didn’t want you to see it Kel and he’s always been real good at hiding things…but Roy…Roy knows Johnny inside and out. He looks at what we don’t see…his eyes, his movements and mannerisms…he hears what he doesn’t say. That’s the depth of their friendship Kel…They know each other that well,” she said succinctly.
Joanne sat with her husband over the next two hours… She told him how worried they’d all been and how Johnny had been at his side the entire time. She’d seen the fear in his eyes when Hank had returned and informed them that Johnny was headed for surgery and why. Roy was furious… “Two days Jo…he let it go for two days…what the hell was he thinking?”
“He was thinking about you…that’s all he was worried about.”
“I know but he could have died…”
“I know honey…I know,” she said worriedly…afraid that he still could.
She stroked his hand talking softly about the kids and telling him that they sent their love. Roy tried to pay attention but his eyes were constantly flicking between the clock on the wall and the doorway.
Jo breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally rewarded with the sight of Kelly Brackett standing there. Roy spotted him and tensed with anticipation. “Johnny…?” he asked anxiously. That one word asked a hundred questions.
Kel smiled… “He came through it fine Roy… He’s lost a lot of blood but thankfully the broken rib only nicked his liver and not a lung. It was a small tear and thankfully a slow bleed. He’s got some severe bruising of the left kidney as well and two cracked ribs from the arm rest…and a pretty nasty concussion but I think he’s gonna be okay…at least from those injuries. He may not be so lucky when I get my hands on him.”
“You’ll have to get in line…Caps already got dibs on him after me,” Roy said with a relieved grin. “Are you gonna bring him back here?” Roy asked, nodding at the other bed.
“When he wakes up…he’s in recovery. I think you’d both rest easier if you’re in the same room.”
“Great…I’d ahh…kinda like to keep an eye on him.”
Joanne smiled in relief. “I’ve got to go pick up the kids…I’ll see you and Johnny in the morning okay?” She said kissing her husband’s cheek. “Bye Doctor.”
Kel nodded in farewell and then turned to the younger man. “Roy…you seemed pretty upset when you woke up.” Roy blushed slightly, remembering the way he held John in his arms. He was sure his partner would be horrified. He’d promise Johnny he’d never embarrass him like that but it had just happened so quickly that he hadn’t had time to think. But what the hell... after what Doctor Hightower had told him about showing his feelings more often …Johnny might just have to learn to accept it.
Roy looked at the older man with an embarrassed grin. Kel was one of only four people who knew John had been a battered child…Joanne and Joe Early were the other two and even they didn’t know to what extent…Johnny had only confided all of it to Roy. “We’d been talking about his childhood just before the accident,” He told Kel. Brackett nodded in understanding. “I said I wished I could have changed it, ya know…Somehow have been there for him then when he really needed it. I guess I just incorporated it into my dream.”
At Kel’s curious look he continues. “I dreamed Johnny was a child…but somehow I was still me…younger but still an adult. We took John in as a foster child…he was frightened and hurt but we managed to change that. I know I kept thinking something wasn’t right and that I somehow already knew him but I think the lure of helping him kept me from waking up, ya know?” Kel nodded again.
“But then suddenly his family wanted him back and the court said we had to give him up and he was afraid…screaming that I’d promised him that I wouldn’t leave him and they dragged him away from me.”
Kel understood…”Roy …sometimes our dreams are just a way to play out what our heart wants most…you want to take away the hurt and pain and the rejection your friend went through…that’s understandable…” He grinned at the younger man… “You can’t take away his past Roy…but you can change his future.” He patted the younger man’s arm gently… “Get some rest Roy…you won’t get too much once he wakes up…,” He teased. Roy smiled as Kel headed for the door. “They’ll be bringing him up shortly.” He acknowledged.
They brought the younger man up a while later but he was still heavily sedated and had barely cracked his eyes open as they made the transfer from gurney to bed. He’d been asleep again before they’d left the room. Roy glanced over several times as the afternoon wore on. Finally a soft moan brought his head around in a hurry as John’s eyes opened slowly. The lids drooped closed again only to flutter back open a second later as Johnny fought to wake up.
Pain assailed his brain from several directions. His right side hurt horribly and throbbed out a rhythm completely separate from the one pounding in his head, leaving him no respite. The stitches pulled with every breath and his stomach began to roll as his brain finally won the battle and forced his eyes to stay open.
He tried to move but found that was a mistake as the room spun wildly…His groan of misery was followed by wide eyed terror as his body rebelled. He tried desperately to roll to his side as the contents of his stomach threatened to come up but pain lanced through him and kept him from moving.
He suddenly felt strong hands turn his head and roll him slightly onto his left side. An emesis basin was shoved beneath his cheek as he lost the battle…his body spasming repeatedly until there was nothing left. Sweat beaded his brow and he closed his eyes moaning softly as he felt himself resettled in the bed. That same hand returned to gently brush the damp hair from his forehead.
There was only one man who’d be that familiar with Johnny. “Roy…,” he gasped softly.
“Shhh Junior…it’s okay I’m here,” the older man whispered.
“Hurs…bad,” he slurred.
“Okay Johnny, just try and relax and I’ll get somebody okay?”
“Kay…,” he murmured tiredly.
A moment later he felt Roy take his hand and a damp towel was drawn across his face. “Someone’s comin Junior…just hang on…”
The door opened a few minutes later and Kel came in. “Roy…what are you doing up?”
“Johnny was sick…I didn’t want him to aspirate and then he was hurting pretty bad…I couldn’t leave him until someone came.”
Kel nodded as he turned to John. “Are you still feeling sick?”
“Yeah…,” he mumbled.
Kel turned to the nurse who’d come in with him. “I need Compazine and 50 mgs of Meperidine,” he ordered. She nodded and left. “Roy get back in bed…I’ll take care of Johnny.”
The blonde paramedic hesitated, unwilling to leave his friend but he finally gave John’s hand a reassuring squeeze and headed back to his own bed.
The nurse returned a moment later, handing the requested medications to Kel who inserted them into John’s IV port. A minute later the young man visibly relaxed. “You rest now okay John…?”
“Umm…hmm,” he murmured.
“Roy…You stay in that bed,” Kel ordered, but he slid a chair closer to the younger paramedic’s bed…well aware that if Johnny was in trouble again…Roy would be at his side. At least he could sit down.
When Johnny woke again, the dizziness had receded somewhat. The room no longer spun or tilted crazily and though he still hurt, he could at least turn his head without his stomach rolling. His soft groan brought a stirring in the other bed. The rustling of bed covers letting him know that Roy was awake. John turned his head slowly to see his partner lowering himself into the chair next to the bed.
“Roy…you’re not supposed to be up…,” he murmured.
“I know…I just wanted to be sure you were okay…”
“I’ll be fine,” he whispered.
“That’s what you told everyone for the last two days Junior, but you weren’t fine. You damn near killed yourself.”
Contrite dark eyes met angry blue… “I’m sorry Roy…I just thought it was a bad bruise…”
“You knew you had a concussion…You knew you should have been in bed resting…”
“Resting? How could I lay in bed resting with you hurt so bad because of me…?” He said, trying to sit up.
“Because of you…?”
“Yeah…because I wasn’t paying attention…because I didn’t see that guy in time.”
Roy grabbed his shoulders, pushing him back against the pillows. “Johnny, stop it,” Roy said trying to keep him still. “He blew the light and Vince told me what happened when he came to get my statement this morning… he said the guy behind us told him if you hadn’t swerved when you did, he would have hit my door…I’d be dead now if not for your quick reflexes.”
“Still if I’d seen…”
“Johnny stop it…this was not your fault…” Roy insisted, pressing the agitated younger man back on the bed. “You need to lay back. You shouldn’t be moving around…you’ll bust those stitches open…” Johnny settled back pressing a hand over his side and biting his lip as his body protested the motion. “Now see there…you’ve hurt yourself…,” Roy pointed out angrily.
“Don’t be mad at me Roy…,” Johnny whispered, raising pain filled eyes to meet his friends.
“C’mon Junior…you know I can never stay mad at you for very long…”
John grinned tiredly as Roy’s hand closed over his. “So Roy…I never found out what you were dreaming about that scared you so bad…I mean when you woke up you looked at me like you thought I was…dead or something…?” John asked softly, blushing at the memory of the way Roy had held him in front of the crew.
Roy glanced away…a little embarrassed himself…not at holding Johnny but by the dream itself.
“Remember what we were talkin about before the accident?”
John nodded… “That movie…my childhood…,” he answered hesitantly.
“Right…and I said I wished I could have changed what happened to you…made it better.”
John nodded and looked away unable to meet Roy’s eyes. He was a little embarrassed by the conversation. He hated talking about his past and even though he’d told Roy everything, it was still humiliating to talk about the abuse…his fear and how close he’d come on several occasions to being sexually abused by his Uncle. Johnny shuddered at the memory of the man’s hands on his body.
Roy’s hand dropped to the top of John’s head…The strong fingers turned the younger man to face him. “Johnny, don’t do that…you shut me out whenever we talk about this. I’m your friend and I know what happened to you was horrible and you’re embarrassed by it but it doesn’t change the way I feel about you Okay?”
Johnny nodded… “Kay…,” he mumbled.
“Anyway, when the accident happened…I guess I was so into the discussion that I just pulled it into my dream and there we were…You were twelve and your mom had just died…” Johnny nodded encouragement as Roy hesitated.
“Go on Roy…it’s okay.”
“You’d been hurt…abused by your Aunt so they sent you to California Children’s services to keep you away from them.” Johnny was paying rapt attention despite the tiredness and the pain. “I don’t think I ever told you that when Joanne and I first got married her Doctor told her we might not be able to have children and we might have to adopt.” Johnny shook his head. “Well we did look into it before she got pregnant with Chris but…anyway in my dream… they called us to tell us that they wanted us to take this twelve year old boy as a foster child.” Roy looked at Johnny.
“So did ya?” He asked curiously.
“What do you think…?” Johnny blushed but nodded with a grin. “Anyway…I know it was only two days but in my dream it was over a year that passed.”
“Was I a good kid?” Johnny teased.
“Pretty much…I mean you had your problems but we figured out how to keep you in line.”
“What did ya do…spank me or something?”
“Or something…,” Roy replied with a grin, without answering him directly.
John’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Did I get to call you Mom and Dad?”
“We were just getting to that part…Jo and I had filed adoption papers…” Johnny grinned broadly. “But then they told us there was a problem.” Johnny looked at him curiously. “They told us your mother’s family wanted you back.”
The humor left John’s eyes and the smile faded… “They never wanted me to begin with…,” he said softly.
Roy’s hand brushed the hair from John’s forehead. “It was your Uncle George who wanted you back…”
John’s eyes snapped up to meet Roy’s… “Oh man…that was some dream.”
“More like a nightmare at that point…anyway…you were really upset when I told you we had to fight for you…I’d promised you I’d never let anyone hurt you again…that we’d be there for you and then here they were trying to take you away. I kept thinking I’d made that promise to you before.”
John shot his friend a small crooked grin… “And you’ve kept it…,” he murmured. Roy smiled back.
“Anyway…we were in court but that stupid judge wouldn’t listen. At that point George had never hurt you and even though he admitted that we’d brought you along so well…” Roy grinned ruefully while Johnny snorted with suppressed laughter and then winced as his side hitched.
Roy’s hand once again returned to lightly brush John’s forehead in a soothing gesture. John’s face eased and he gave his friend a tired smile. “They ordered you back into their custody and they were dragging you away and you were afraid…” Johnny flushed a bit at that. “And you were screaming…You promised you wouldn’t leave me and I was yelling your name and begging them not to take you and then…I woke up and you were there…”
“So that’s why you held me like that?”
“Yeah…I just needed to be sure you were really there I guess. I guess the dream was just my hearts way of changing things…I guess I just wanted to make things better for you so badly…,” he said, thinking of Brackett’s words.
John looked at Roy in surprise as he reached out to take his friends hand in his…he gave it a light squeeze. He grinned a little as his older partner looked at him sadly.
“Roy…don’t you know you already have?” He said softly.
Roy stared at him for a long moment and then smiled in understanding… “Then the dreams that you wish do come true huh partner?” He quoted with a raised eyebrow.
John’s laughter broke the tense moment… “Thanks for caring pally.”
Cap and the guys showed up a short time later…John was dozing, once again pleasantly adrift on Meperidine while Roy watched the television. His blue eyes flicked occasionally to his partner as if to reassure himself that Johnny was really there and okay.
“Hey Roy…?” Cap greeted.
“Hi guys…Cap… c’mon in…, Roy said quietly nodding toward his sleeping friend. He hitched himself up in the bed as they gathered around him, casting glances at the younger man in the other bed.
“How ya feelin Roy…,” Mike asked.
“Pretty good…better now that I know he’s okay.”
“How’s Gage feelin?” Chet asked.
“Has he been awake at all?” Marco questioned.
“Yeah… a little while ago…we had a long talk,” he said nodding subtly at Cap.
“Good…because it’s my turn next,” he warned.
“Did he say why?” Mike asked.
“Guilt…,” Chet piped in.
Roy looked at him sharply… “He didn’t do anything wrong…”
“I know that man…, but Gage was beating himself up for not seeing that truck comin…”
“Besides…you were much calmer when Johnny was with you…,” Marco said.
“That’s part of it too…,” Cap said.
“I thought you needed me…,” Johnny said quietly from the other bed. They all looked over toward the dark haired paramedic.
“Hey pal…,”Cap said, moving to his junior crew member’s side. “How ya feelin…?”
“I’m okay Cap…”
“We’ve heard that before…, “Chet reminded the younger man. Johnny shot him a glare.
“He’s right John…,” Cap said quietly. “You told us you were okay but you weren’t.”
“I’m sorry Cap but Roy was hurt and whether or not it was my fault isn’t an issue…I thought he needed me.” John’s dark eyes turned toward his partner. “I stayed for you…and you know if it had been the other way around…you’d have done it for me…”
“In a heartbeat Junior…and thanks Partner.”
Johnny frowned… “For what…?”
“Caring enough to put yourself on the line for me…thanks…” Johnny flushed but grinned at his best friend.
Chet snorted… “Caring about you…I’d say so after the way you oomph…,” Chet grunted as Mike’s elbow dug into his ribs.
Cap’s brown eyes promised retribution if one more word left the Irishman’s mouth. “What was that pal?” He asked with a warning growl.
“Uh…after the way he was glued to your side…,” Chet finished lamely.
Cap nodded in agreement and John smiled at his superior but it wavered as Hank continued, turning that pointed stare at his junior paramedic. “However…I seem to recall a direct order to tell me if you were injured.”
John chewed his lip nervously. “I wasn’t on duty Cap…,” he said hopefully.
“That’s a technicality John and you know it.”
“I’m sorry Cap…but I’d do it again…,” he said honestly.
“I know you would John but I can’t have that…”
“And I can’t either…,” Kel Brackett said from the doorway.
John sighed… “Round three…,” he mumbled aside to Roy.
“That was a sneaky trick you pulled Johnny…playing Mike and I that way. Letting us believe the other had checked you out.”
All eyes turned to Johnny… “You WHAT…?” Cap barked angrily.
“You lied to me…,” Chet said incredulously. “You said Brackett checked you out.
Roy looked at his partner questioningly. He knew Johnny was a terrible liar and hated doing it…he must have felt desperate to have done it.
John ducked his head guiltily… “He did…sorta…”
“I looked at your at your cheek Johnny…you knew I wasn’t done and you knew either Mike or I would be back to finish the exam but you snuck out and let us both believe that you were released by the other…
“Johnny…,” Roy sighed in exasperation…
“I’m sorry Roy…but I needed to be with you…I…”
“I know Junior…,” Roy said. “I know…” Neither of them had to say the words out loud right now but the depth of feeling ran both ways and was understood by the other without the words. Either one would die for the other…“I guess it was just a question of friendship guys…and what was most important…” The crew and the Doctor glanced at each other… “A friend in need or yourself…” Roy finished. John smiled in understanding but Roy wanted to be sure his young partner would be safe in the future. “But I want you to promise me…us…,” he corrected, glancing around…”That you’ll tell us next time…” There was no answer. Johnny…? Johnny…?” Roy sat up to look at his partner.
Brackett sighed in exasperation and Cap snorted with laughter. The guys grinned at each other and Roy threw his hands up in frustration…Johnny was sound asleep. The rest finally joined Hank and laughed in amusement at their young friend. Johnny was irrepressibly impossible but none of them could imagine their lives without him in it. He sure did make life interesting.
A month later Roy and Johnny returned to work. Roy was climbing out of his Porsche as a white Land Rover pulled into the lot…Roy stopped to see who it was and was surprised to see his partner step out. “Hey Junior…I was wondering why you didn’t call for a ride to work.” Roy said walking over to where John was parked.
“The insurance money on the camper finally came through…,” he said with a shrug. “You like it…?”
“It’s you partner…,” He said as they headed for the station. They lined up with the others a short time later. Cap took roll call and handed out the chores.
“John…Latrine…maybe next time you’ll remember to tell me you’re injured…,” Cap said warningly. “A week of Latrine duty might be a good reminder…” Chet laughed in glee.
“Shut up Chet…,” Johnny shot at the curly haired fireman.
They broke up and headed for the Rec room… “You didn’t like it much as a child either…,” Roy quipped to his irritated partner.
“You mean you gave me latrine duty…?” John complained as they followed behind the others… “You musta been a slave driver…Dad…” Roy grinned as they disappeared inside.
The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. Thanks for allowing us to borrow the boys…My apologies to the Judges out there that do use some common sense but I have heard too many horror stories from these kids that are handed back into abusive situations because they are “Family” only to see them back in the system or worse…Any medical mistakes are mine.
Published to Site 11/02/09
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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