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A reassuring presence, A light when times are dark, A hand reaching out, is what friendship is about…Unknown Author.
A cool breeze wafted through the open bay doors of Station 51 but the crew wasn’t paying attention to the weather outside their door. They were gathered around in the day room watching the early morning breaking newscast.
Hurricane Joanne was bearing down on the state of California and Baja looked to take a direct hit and while it posed no immediate threat to Los Angeles, the crew was very aware that the bands of wind and rain could expand for miles beyond the eye of the storm.
They were already feeling the increase of windy conditions and the beaches had been closed due to churned up waves and the horrific undertow they created.
The young weather man was standing on the beach to show the audience just how bad the conditions had already become.
“Wow,” The Senior Paramedic of station 51, Roy DeSoto murmured at the sight of it.
There hadn’t been a Pacific Cost hurricane that had made a landfall since 1939 and none of these men had even been born then.
“Would you look at that,” the stations junior paramedic, John Gage breathed out in awe.
“And that’s only a category 2 John,” their Captain, Hank Stanley informed him. “My wife’s mom used to live in Florida. She said this is mild compared to some of the ones she experienced.”
“Mild?” Johnny questioned in disbelief. “Looks bad enough to me.” He declared, looking back to the screen. “Look at those waves,” he added nodding toward the screen that was now showing the fifteen foot storm surge.
“That’s mostly what we’re gonna see…Some wind gusts and real bad waves,” Engineer Mike Stoker told them.
“Well the surfers are sure enjoying it,” one of their linemen Marco Lopez noted, as the picture switched to show the sea crashing in and some rather foolish young people trying to catch the churning waves.
“What do you bet we get called out to rescue one of those idiots?” Their other lineman Chet Kelly said with a shake of his curly haired head.
John nodded ruefully. “So how does Jo like the name of our little lady out there,” Johnny teased.
Roy grinned.”She’s grateful that it looks like it won’t be really bad...She doesn’t want her name synonymous with total destruction,” he chuckled.
Captain Stanley slapped his hands together and rubbed them briskly as the news turned to other issues. “Why don’t we get our chores done and then we’re going over to the movie studio lot. They’re going to let us do some drills.”
“Far out,” Johnny said excitedly, his dark brown eyes sparkling.
The others grinned at his enthusiasm…Roy tossed a glance at his young partner. Johnny had just turned twenty three a few weeks ago and was the youngest crew member of Station 51.
He’d become a member of Roy’s family over the last two years…A kid brother to the older paramedic. They’d been through some rough times and tough situations in that time but Roy wouldn’t trade one moment of the time spent with his best friend and he knew the rest of the crew was extremely fond of the young man as well.
Johnny always seemed to find the best in every situation despite his early beginnings as a battered child with Aspergers. His eagerness and sometimes naïve attitude brought amusement, laughter and exasperation to the station and the small family that they had become.
“What kind of drills Cap?” Roy asked frowning.
“Mostly rapelling and climbing. High rescue stuff…”
“Great,” Roy muttered unhappily.
Johnny giggled, knowing how his partner hated high rescues. “Good deal,” he said with a grin.
Roy scowled at his young friend. John was absolutely fearless when it came to this stuff while Roy’s stomach turned in somersaults at the thought, though it never stopped him from doing his job well.
“Hey Cap…How about next shift we do some water rescues,” Roy suggested, batting his blue eyes innocently and wiping the grin from his partners face.
John hated water rescues as much as Roy hated heights even though he could swim like a fish. His slender body simply didn’t have an ounce of fat to protect him from the cool water temperatures.
Cap chuckled. “We’ll do those next time Pal,” he teased.
John glared at his older friend. “Cute Pally,” he groused in annoyance as the rest of the crew filed out to do his chores.
They were finishing up their morning chores when the Station Control Unit began to tone. The crew dropped what they were doing and began to run for the rigs.
“Station 51…Car in a tree.”
Several of them stopped in their tracks looking at each other in confusion while Hank stepped to the podium as Sam continued his dispatch. “Off the E Topanga Fire Rd Sector A15…E. Topanga Fire Rd…Sector A15..Nearest cross street…Mulch Trail. Time out…11:23.”
Hank’s hand froze over the mic and he shot a glance at Roy who had turned to look at him in bewilderment.
“Did he say IN a tree?” Johnny asked skeptically. He might have thought he’d misheard the call except for the equally bemused expressions on his crew mates faces.
“That’s what it sounded like junior,” Roy replied as Cap picked up the mic.
“LA Station 51…Please repeat the incident?” Hank requested with a frown.
“Station 51…Caller reports a car IN A tree at the E. Topanga Fire Rd. Sector A15.”
Hank shook his head. “10-4 LA Station 51…KMG365,” he responded disbelievingly. This he had to see.
“Why do we get all the weird ones?” Johnny muttered as he slid into the passenger seat.
“Well…At least it’s an original,” Roy replied as he threw the squad in gear and pulled out, trailed by the engine. The horns and sirens were already blaring as they entered the 223rd Street traffic.
They arrived at the fire road twenty minutes later. Steep drop-offs lined the right hand side while the road paralleled a mountain on the other.
Johnny pointed at a break in the railing up ahead. A young man stood beside it…His motorcycle parked a few feet beyond. He was pointing frantically as they pulled up near him.
“HE WENT OVER RIGHT THERE,” he shouted. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he added shaking his head in awe.
Roy and Johnny were already climbing from the cab as the engine rolled up behind them. Hank stepped down and came to join his paramedic team to assess the situation while the rest stood dumbstruck, staring down at the scene in disbelief.
The small white car had crashed through the rail and sailed into the branches of a nearby tree.
Captain Stanley ran his hand through his dark hair with a shake of his head. “I don’t believe it,” he muttered.
“Ladders?” Johnny asked his blonde partner.
“Seems to be the only way up there,” he replied with a frown.
Hank scowled. “Well this wind certainly isn’t going to help us any, that’s for sure,” he growled as the car below them was rocked by a heavy wind gust. The cracking sound of the branches was clearly audible.
“You two be careful getting them down,” Cap warned the two younger men. “One wrong move and that whole thing is coming down.”
“Yes sir,” Johnny agreed while Roy nodded his head in understanding.
Roy pulled the drug box from the squad while Johnny grabbed the Biophone and a couple of ropes just in case. Mike was already tugging the stokes basket from the squads rear compartment.
“Chet…Marco,” Cap yelled “Get a couple of ladders down there.”
“Got it Cap,” the handsome Hispanic lineman replied, giving his superior a wave and slapping his partner on the shoulder. Chet turned and followed his friend. They were unhooking the ladders as John and Roy began to make their way carefully down the steep incline.
They made their way to the base of the tree and stood staring up. “This is gonna be tricky,” Roy muttered unhappily already knowing that his young partner would have to be the one to go.
John was lighter and less apt to be the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ per se but he didn’t like it. If the car fell John would be underneath it.
A shaky voice suddenly yelled from above. “Hey…You guys gonna get us down?”
They both looked up to see a young man perhaps in his early twenties peering down from the driver’s side.
“Are you hurt?” Roy yelled up to him as Chet set the ladder he carrying against the tree.
“I think my arms busted but my girl friend is hurt bad…She’s bleeding and unconscious and I’m really scared.”
“I’m goin,” Johnny said as he moved to the ladder.
“Just sit tight, my partners coming up there,” Roy called up.
“Okay,” the boy replied sounding a bit calmer.
John gave his partner a ‘here goes nothin’ eye roll and started up the ladder.
John hesitated near the top to try and assess the situation from this new angle.
“What’s it look like?” The senior paramedic called.
“This thing is real unstable,” he replied, sounding a bit nervous.
“Any way to tie it down?”
“Not really,” Johnny replied looking around. He glanced up at the branch overhanging the car. “That branch can’t handle the weight of the car but it should handle me okay.”
“What are you thinkin?”
“I’m gonna climb up there and lower myself down. I want you to move the ladder over by the door. I can splint his arm and get a safety belt on him and lower him down to you on another line. Then I can check the girl out and go from there.”
Roy wasn’t too keen on the idea, especially with this wind but it seemed like the only real plan and at least Johnny would be safely out of harm’s way if the car should fall.
“Alright…I’ll come up and see if I can help from down here,” Roy said waving Chet over to hold the ladder.
“I dunno Roy…You better be prepared to jump clear,” he said sotto voce, not wanting the young driver to hear how precarious his position really was.
Roy swallowed heavily. He wasn’t worried for himself…But Johnny would be hanging next to the unstable vehicle and unable to jump clear if it went.
“I’ll get you a belt and a splint and a second line,” Roy called up.
John nodded and gave their young victim a small reassuring nod as he waited…His dark eyes looking toward the unconscious female trapped next to him.
Roy returned a moment later. He climbed the ladder and handed John the extra rope and belt. Johnny shot him a crooked Gage grin. Roy wasn’t placated. “You be careful,” he ordered quietly.
“I will,” he replied with a shake of his head, not understanding why but knowing the affection behind the soft command.
John turned and began to climb higher while Roy descended and moved the ladder over beneath the car’s driver side door. He waited until Johnny had edged his way out on the overhead limb and tied off both lines. Dropping the belt down to dangle near the door and sending the other end down to Marco and Mike who would bear the weight of the kid after the two paramedics had him secure.
John gave Roy a ‘thumbs up’ and began to slowly rapel down to the car. He came along side and stopped as he came abreast of the driver’s door.
The boy gave him a shaky grin as John swung beside him. “Oh thank God,” he whispered before looking back to the girl beside him. “Shari still isn’t awake…You have to hurry,” he urged.
“You just relax and stay calm okay? I’ll take care of her as soon as I get you down.” The boy started to open the door and the car rocked. “Don’t move,” John ground out even as he heard his partners sucked in breath of fear. “It’s okay Roy,” he reassured his partner.
“Just take it slow,” Roy breathed. John nodded.
Johnny carefully opened the door of the car, letting it swing slowly till he couldn’t stretch any further. Roy reached up and took it from him…Swinging it gently over his head till it hung fully open.
The car tilted minutely and both paramedics held their breath. “Get us outta here…Please,” the boy whispered in terror.
“We’re working on it,” Johnny assured him gently, understanding his fear. “What’s your name?” He asked, trying to distract him while he reached inside and began to run his hands over the young man’s arms and ribs. It was tricky as the gusts of wind continued to set John swinging. He felt his partners hand grip his foot to help stabilize him.
“Okay Ernie…You hurt any where besides this arm?” Johnny asked as Roy looked on from just below him.
“I don’t think so.”
“How about your back or neck?” John questioned running his hands over the boy’s neck and carefully leaning him slightly forward to feel down his spine as well, watching for any sign of pain or even discomfort.
“Alright…” John unhooked the splint from his belt and carefully leaned inside…His dark eyes shooting another glance at the girl who had begun to moan softly.
“Shari?" Ernie questioned, trying to lean toward her.
The car tilted slightly with the motion. Roy gasped but remained on the ladder…His hand gripping his partner’s foot to keep him steady.
“DON’T MOVE,” John barked.
The boy had already realized his mistake and froze, shooting the now irritated paramedic an apologetic glance.
“Sorry man,” he gulped.
John understood his fear for his girlfriend and blew out a frustrated breath. “It’s okay Ernie…just stay still okay?”
“You alright?” Roy asked.
“So far…So good.”
“Okay…Let’s get him out of here.” John turned back to the boy. “Okay Ernie…I’m gonna splint that arm and I’m gonna put this belt around you and then we’re gonna pull you out and the guys down there are going to very carefully pull you from the car okay…You don’t do anything but hold that rope.”
“Okay,” he mumbled, swallowing nervously at the thought.
John quickly set to work. He efficiently splinted the young man’s arm and then slid the belt behind the boys back, buckling it around him. He attached the second line. “Alright guys…,” Johnny called down to his crew.
Ernie gasped as he felt himself begin to rise out of his seat…John gripped him under the shoulders and kept him from spinning as he cleared the vehicle…Roy held his feet and moved him into position from below. A moment later they began to lower him to the ground. Roy and Johnny watched until he was almost on the ground. The young paramedic heard a soft cry.
Roy glanced up to see John pulling himself carefully into the car. “What are you doing?” He said worriedly.
“She’s waking up.”
“Go up and around to the other side Johnny,” Roy instructed.
John shook his head. “I don’t have time...I don’t think she’s coherent enough to not move around,” he replied.
Roy groaned but he knew John was right. “Be careful,” he muttered as the car shifted slightly with the added weight. “I’m gonna go check on the boy.”
“Yup,” was John’s abbreviated reply.
Roy descended the ladder and Marco came quickly to replace him as Roy knelt next to Ernie and began to assess him but his eyes shifted to the scene above him repeatedly. Johnny may not have any fear for his own safety on high rescues but Roy certainly did.
The only time he’d ever seen John nervous was on a rescue high on a crane right after they’d first become partners. The victim had fallen and almost pulled John from their precarious perch along with him before they’d managed to pull him back up but even then, he’d recovered quickly and continued on while Roy’s hands had shook for several long minutes after.
“Miss,” John questioned the young woman carefully.
“Mmmm,” she moaned softly.
“Miss…You’ve had an accident…Do you understand?”
“Mmmm,” was the only answer.
“Okay…I’m just gonna check you out really quick and then we’ll get you out of here okay.” There was no reply. John sighed and began to examine the girl. She moaned as his hands touched her neck. He turned and saw the top of Marco’s head just above the base of the door. “Hey Marco…I’m gonna need a C Collar.”
“Sure thing Johnny.”
He disappeared as John continued. He inspected the large contusion on the girl’s forehead before shining his penlight in her eyes. He frowned worriedly at the sluggish reaction.
“What have you got Johnny?” Roy yelled up.
“Her neck is tender but I think it’s mostly whiplash….Can’t tell for sure without an X Ray though. She’s got a serious contusion above her left eye…It’s bleeding and swelling. Her pupils are sluggish,” he added as he checked her ears. “There’s no fluid in her ears though so it’s probably a really bad concussion.” Another strong gust of wind shook the car and John suddenly gasped as he heard a cracking sound and the branch seemed to drop beneath him and the car tilted.
“JOHNNY?” Roy shouted.
“I’m okay,” John said sounding a bit shaky. “But we gotta hurry…This branch isn’t gonna last much longer.”
“Yeah I see that,” Roy replied as he climbed the ladder with the C Collar.
“Other than that busted arm, he’s fine. A few bruises. Rampart ordered MS and he’s pleasantly buzzed at the moment. Dr. Early is standing by until we get her on the ground.”
John nodded. He carefully leaned over and took the C Collar from Roy’s hand and slipped it about the woman’s neck. He attached the small hand pump and slowly filled the cushion with air. Shari moaned softly and her lids fluttered but then slowly drifted closed.
“How’s her…?” Roy’s question broke off as the branch groaned once again.” Johnny froze. “Okay junior…I think we need to speed this along a bit.”
“I think you’re right,” John mumbled.
“We need a backboard?”
John shook his head. “No way to get her on one from this angle and no time either,” he replied as the branch cracked once more.”I gotta risk it.”
Roy nodded as Johnny slipped the belt about the girl and buckled it in place. He slid toward his partner carefully and turned to pull the girl toward him, resting her head and back against his chest and shoulder.
“Take up the slack,” he told his partner.
Roy glanced down toward his crewmates. “Take up the slack he repeated.
John felt the rope tighten and slid backwards bringing the girl with him and supporting her body against him as much as possible. He reached the edge and carefully eased himself from the car, letting the crew pull the girl from the vehicle.
Her feet had just cleared the opening when the car began to tilt to the side. “JUMP ROY…!” John shouted as the branch finally gave up the fight. He grabbed the girl about the waist and pulled her toward him.
Roy made a huge leap to the left. The ladder flew to the right as the car and the branches crashed to the ground, narrowly missing Chet and Marco as they let go of the rope and jumped clear.
John swung above them holding the girl and watching anxiously as his friends began to slowly climb to their feet and dust themselves off.
“ARE YOU OKAY?” Johnny shouted from above them as he struggled to hold on to the unconscious woman. Hank and Mike ran to grab the dangling rope while Marco and Chet checked themselves over for injuries.
Roy blew out a breath and a small wince as his knee and ankle throbbed out a minor protest. He glanced down at the shredded trousers and grimaced.
Chet and Marco threw the worried young man a wave and the dark eyes shifted to his partner.
“Just a scraped knee and a turned ankle junior…Nothing serious,” he called up.
Johnny blew out a relieved breath as he felt his Captain and Mike take the weight from his arms as they pulled the girl upward once again. John released her and allowed them to lower her into Roy and Chet’s waiting arms.
As soon as she was on the backboard, John released his rope and rapeled the rest of the way down. Captain Stanley came to meet him. “You okay pal?” He questioned, clapping his hand on John’s shoulder.
John shot him an impish grin. “I’m fine Cap…I wasn’t the one under the ladder this time,” he pointed out cheekily.
Cap smiled back and resisted the urge to tousle the sable locks as he’d seen Roy do a hundred times. His young crewman might tolerate the gesture from his older friend but Hank wasn’t sure he wouldn’t be offended by it from his captain, after all he’d only been at station 51 a short time and didn’t know John as well as the others.
The rest of his crew was pretty open about themselves but John? Well the boy was positively secretive about himself sometimes and Hank often wondered at the looks that frequently passed between his crew, as if they all knew something about the kid that he didn’t but he couldn’t put a finger on it. He did know that John tended to pull away from intimate contact except with Roy and the occasional teasing back slap as he’d just done.
Roy was just as silent when it came to John and even though he knew that the two had had some sort of misunderstanding just before he’d become their captain he knew that they had worked through the worst of it and suspected Roy knew a great deal more about John Gage than he was willing to share.
Hank figured he’d have time to find out more about his youngest crewman eventually…As soon as he learned to trust him a bit more. After all, they had had a bit of a rough start to their relationship.
Hank glanced at the car that now lay on its side at the base of the tree. “Well…I guess we need to requisition a new ladder,” he said ruefully.
Johnny glanced at it and his childlike giggle brought another smile to Hank’s lips. “I don’t think that one will be much use Cap,” he agreed as he noted the now L shaped aluminum structure squashed beneath the car.
John tossed his superior a final smile and trotted over to join his partner in getting their patients ready for transport.
They delivered them to Rampart forty minutes later…Dr. Kelly Brackett whisked the girl away to treatment room four while Mike Morton led the stretcher with the young man on it to three. Much to Roy’s disgust and John’s amusement, Dr. Joe Early gave the blonde paramedic a wry grin and crooked waggle of his index finger as he held open the door to room one. He sighed and headed inside. John followed.
“I don’t think it’ll give you any trouble Roy,” Dr. Early said as he rose to his feet from where he’d been squatting to examine the blonde paramedics knee and ankle.
“So I can go back on duty?” He asked hopefully.
“I don’t see why not unless you don’t think you can stand or run…”
“Or climb,” Johnny interjected with a smug grin.
Roy shot a glare at his young partner and the smirk dissipated with a sheepish scuff of John’s toe against the white tiles.
Joe shook his head at the byplay between the two men and handed Roy his boot.
“Thanks doc,” the senior paramedic replied, taking the offered footwear and pulling it on. He slid from the table to rest his weight experimentally on his ankle. It throbbed and his knee felt a bit tight but it wasn’t enough to keep him from efficiently doing his job.
“How’s it feel?” Joe asked.
Roy nodded. “I think it’s alright doc,” he said as he grabbed the handy talkie from the table.
“Just take it easy…If it gives you any trouble, come back in.”
“I will doc. Come on junior,” he said as he headed for the door.
John threw Early a grin and followed his partner out. They stopped at the base station for a moment to refill their supplies from the last run.
Head ER nurse Dixie McCall glanced up as they approached. She threw Johnny a wink. “Well this is quite a switch Roy,” she teased. The younger man gave her a smile and a giggle of amusement. “How’s the leg?” She asked.
Roy shot a glare at his partner. “Doc says I’m good to go,” he replied but the scowl was quickly replaced with a smug grin as he found a better way to wipe the smirk from John’s face as he reached out to tousle the sable hair. “Thanks to my partner here.”
It worked. “Stop that,” the young man grumbled in irritation as he slapped Roy’s away.
Roy chuckled good humouredly as he continued. “I’d have been smashed under the car if Johnny hadn’t yelled for me to jump though,” he admitted with a smile at his friend.
The dark haired paramedic lost his annoyed look and grinned. “Sorry…I know you hate jumping from heights…,” he teased.
“And with good reason,” Roy said drily, pointing at his ankle.
Dixie grinned at the two as they bickered back and forth. Some people might read this as two men who didn’t get along…Dixie correctly read the underlying affection and brotherly relationship the two shared and tried to keep hidden behind the façade of casual bantering.
Roy caught the twinkle in the pretty blonde’s nurse blue eyes and smiled. Dixie knew Roy held back more than he probably would if Johnny wasn’t so insecure about relationships. John still shied away from affectionate gestures…Uncertain and hesitant to let people get to close or let his own feelings surface.
They’d come a long way since a misunderstanding had driven a wedge between them but there was still a piece of him that John held back…The fear of being hurt still hovered under the surface and Roy knew he still had some work to do to break through but he’d never give up…John meant to much to him for that. Someday he’d make sure John knew how important he really was to him.
Roy gave his partner a slap on the back. “Come on junior…I’m starving. Let’s get back to the station for lunch.”
“And then on to the studio for drills,” Johnny said with a grin.
Roy sighed and shook his head.
They left the ER by the ambulance bay…The wind had picked up some and they wondered if Cap would continue the planned exercises for this afternoon. They were difficult enough under normal circumstances. Roy was hoping he’d call them off while John was looking forward to them.
There was a slight drizzle of rain as they arrived back at the station. The guys were already getting lunch ready when they came into the day room, even though it was still a bit early.
“How’s the leg pal?” Hank asked, glancing pointedly at the torn pants.
“Doc cleared me for duty,” he replied looking down at his leg as well. “Guess I should go change though,” he added.
“Yeah…Well don’t take too long,” Chet said carrying bowls of salad and bread to the table. “Lunch is almost ready. Mike’s making spaghetti.”
“Far out,” John said excitedly.
“Yeah….Like we all need to be scaling and rapeling in the wind and rain and a belly full of spaghetti,” Roy groused as he turned and headed for the locker room.
“No worse than beef bourguignon,” his friend reminded him.
“Ummm,” he grunted as he disappeared through the door.
“What’s with him?” Marco asked.
John grinned. “You know he hates high places.”
“Not that it slows him down any,” Mike added.
“Well I’m with him,” Chet added. “I don’t like em either.”
“Yeah but it does slow you down,” Johnny said snidely.
“Only for a moment…I just have to try and make sure my stomach is in place.”
John patted the older man’s slight paunch as he walked to the sink. “Gravity’s taken care of that Kelly,” he said with a smirk.
“Oh you’re real funny Gage…Just cuz you’re a walking string bean.”
John giggled… “But the Chief never has to tell me to hit the gym.”
Chet scowled at the teasing but Hank’s subtle “Ahem,” warned both men that he’d heard enough of their arguing…Both of them found something else to occupy them for the moment.
Hank sighed at the blissful silence but he knew it wouldn’t last too long.
Roy rejoined them a moment later and they sat down to eat.
The squad pulled up in front of the studio a while later. The engine rolled to a stop behind them and the crew climbed out and began to look around curiously.
The drizzle had stopped for the moment and the studio’s tall buildings effectively blocked the worst of the wind gusts.
Captain Stanley glanced around to be sure they were in the correct lot and then waved the others over. He pointed upward to the scaffolding that hung partway down a hundred foot tower where a crew had obviously been working.
“This looks like as good a place as any to start. We can get the high rescue drills over and move on to the other stuff if the rain starts up again.”
While Hank knew his men had and would have to again perform a rescue in the rain, he also knew his were well trained and there was no point risking an injury for the sake of a drill.
“John…Roy…You’re up…Marco and Chet go with them to help tie off…You can come down on the same line after.”
“Great,” Chet mumbled aside to his friend. Marco grinned.
The two men nodded and grabbed their gear from the compartment of the squad while Hank watched in approval. He seldom needed to direct these two…They usually knew what equipment they’d require in a moment of assessment at a rescue.
Hank was the envy of other stations for this team of paramedics. He was always relieved that he’d figured out his initial incorrect assessment of the young Gage before he’d done something tremendously stupid and transferred half of the best team LA had out of 51.
Hank noted they were prepared for several types of rapeling and rescue drills as they headed for the ladder.
Chet threw Marco an eye roll of resignation that earned him a smirk from the Hispanic lineman.
John gave Roy a pat on the back. “C’mon Pally, this’ll be fun.”
“Hmmm,” Roy grunted unhappily.
Hank grinned. “John…,” he called after them. The younger paramedic turned to look at his captain. “Try to stay ON the scaffolding this time and not hanging underneath it,” he teased reminding John of the time he’d caught the monkey virus and passed out during a rescue and ended up hanging unconscious beneath it. Roy had had to go down and rescue them both.
John scowled. “I’ll do my best Cap,” he said drily.
Roy gave him a chuckle at the disgruntled look and a return pat on the back from his partner. “C’mon junior…It’ll be fun.”
The crew climbed the ladder to the top of the tower and quickly set up. Johnny and Roy strapped the life belts around their waists and buckled them securely. Both men worked side by side to wrap the ropes around the carabineers, finishing at almost the same time, John was a slight second or two faster.
Roy shook his head at his young partner. “One of these days junior, I’m gonna beat you at a rope drill,” he teased as he shouldered his pack.
“You and me both,” Marco said sourly.
John grinned. “Just practice my friends and nimble fingers,” he shot back smugly as he looped the extra coil of rope for the second half of the exercise over his neck.
“You holding on to that rope Marco?” Roy asked.
“Yeah...Why?” The Hispanic lineman asked curiously.
“I don’t want him to fall too far when I shove him off the edge.”
Chet and Marco snickered and the smug look on the younger man’s face dropped away to be replaced with a look of annoyance. “Cute Pally,” he said, sounding chagrinned,
Roy chuckled and patted his shoulder. “The winds picking up,” he noted. “So let’s just get this over with junior,” he said, tossing his partner a wink.
As usual, Johnny couldn’t stay angry with his friend for too long and a crooked smile cracked his handsome face.
The two stepped up on the edge. Roy glanced over and grimaced slightly at his partner. “It’s a long way down huh?” Johnny teased.
“Yeah,” the older man grunted as they tossed the ropes over the side. They nodded to Marco and Chet who were strapping on their own gear to follow them down.
The two linemen moved to the edge to watch as both paramedics stepped off almost simultaneously and began to lower themselves down. Roy was just a bit slower and a touch more cautious and landed on the scaffolding a mere 3 seconds after his young partner,
John tossed him a grin. “You’re getting faster,” he teased as he clipped his belt to the rail of the old looking platform. He inspected his surroundings a bit more closely at Roy’s look of disbelief. “Man…Could this thing get much older?” He muttered at the peeling paint and glancing down at the boards that gave like a springboard beneath his feet. One cracked ominously.
“Be careful Junior,” Roy barked.
*John grinned at the nervous sound of his over protective partner’s voice. He let go of the rope and leaned back. “Hey look Roy…No hands,” he teased his older friend.
“Cut it out John,” he snapped, refusing to watch his partner’s antics.
“C’mon Roy,” Johnny urged.
“I’m not lookin so quit,” he said, starting to sound angry.
John suddenly gasped and began to windmill his arms. Roy’s blonde head whipped around and his face paled as he grabbed John’s arm but the younger man began to laugh.
“Gotcha,” he smirked.
“You little smart ass…Cut it out,” Roy growled back, his brows tangling above his nose.
“You knew I couldn’t fall,” he said smugly as he rattled the belt clip against the rail.
“Accidents happen…Especially to you,” Roy growled back.
John giggled. “You shoulda seen your face,” he teased… “I thought you were gonna hafta go back to the station to change your boxers,” he laughed.
Roy opened his mouth to reply but Cap’s annoyed voice interrupted.
“Would you two like to get to work sometime today or are you just gonna play around up there?”
John grinned sheepishly as his partner shot him a glare. “Sorry Cap…My fault,” John called down.
“I wasn’t scared,” Roy muttered as the two reset for the second part of their descent but they were stopped as the station’s tones began to chime.
“Squad 51in place of squad 110…Meet the coast guard helicopter at the dock. Possible drowning…Time out.12:21.”
Hank lifted the Handy Talkie to his lips as Johnny and Roy quickly began to rapel the rest of the way down to the ground. “Squad 51 10-4 KMG 365,” he replied.
“I knew it,” Chet yelled down from above. “Probably one of those surfers,” he said with a disgusted shake of his curly head.
The two paramedics hit the ground seconds apart and quickly unhooked their belts. “Winds getting bad up there Cap,” Roy reported to his captain as he glanced up at the two linemen.
Hank nodded. “Yeah I noticed it almost blew Gage of the scaffolding,” he said glaring at his youngest crewman as John tossed his belt onto the front seat of the squad.
John’s face flushed a bit at the subtle reprimand. “Sorry cap.”
Hank shook his dark head ruefully. John was incorrigible but he knew the station wouldn’t be the same without him.
“Let’s go Junior…,” Roy said with a grin at his captain, willing to be forgiving now that they were safely back on the ground.
“See ya guys,” Johnny yelled up as Chet and Marco made the first decent to the scaffolding.
“Watch out for that…It’s old,” Roy yelled up.
“Yeah…We don’t wanna have to come back to rescue you,” Johnny said as he slid into the cab.
“See ya back at the station,” Roy said with a grin.
Johnny laughed, knowing Roy was quite happy to get out of the rest of these drills but with the wind...Cap might cancel the rest anyway.
“Stay safe,” Hank yelled after them as the squad pulled away.
They pulled up on the dock twenty minutes later. The wind hit them the moment they stepped from the cab and the two paramedics gave each other a worried look.
The Helicopters blades had begun rotating the moment they’d approached so they knew they were still planning on going. The two paramedics shrugged and began to grab their gear from the compartments.
The side door slid open as they headed toward it and a young officer leaned out. “Lt. Jim Boyd,” he introduced himself as he grabbed the stokes from Roy and shoved it inside the chopper.
“Roy DeSoto and John Gage,” he said nodding toward Johnny as he pushed the Biophone and drug box toward the lieutenant and began to climb inside.
John handed up the defibrillator and oxygen tank before he followed them in.
“We have to hurry…These wind gusts are getting really strong and the surfs really kicking up. Another thirty minutes and the storm will be too close…They’ll ground us till it passes.”
“Let’s move then,” Roy urged as they slid the door closed.
Boyd slid into his own seat and the pilot began to bring the rotors to full power. John and Roy pulled their flotation vests on over their heads and strapped them around their waist before donning the head phones that would allow them to hear the crew above the noise of the blades.
“What have we got?” Johnny yelled.
“Surfer…Sucked out to sea by the undertow…But the waves are gonna make it tough to locate him. He could be miles away by now and we only have a small window.” John nodded.
The craft began to lift and both paramedics felt it shudder and shake as the wind hit it. Johnny threw Roy a worried glance.
“I felt it junior,” he said to his young partner.
“We better find him fast or we won’t have time for a rescue,” John shouted.
His older partner nodded as the helicopter banked out over the open water. The pilot headed northwest, following the currents and the wave surge.
Roy and Johnny both breathed a sigh of relief as they noted that the gusts seemed to ease as they flew out of the bands but it was short lived.
Boyd turned in his seat. “That storm is still paralleling the coast and moving north…Those bands will catch up with us shortly as she moves so we may need to set down further north if she does. She’ll lose strength as soon as she makes landfall,” Boyd informed them.
“But until then, we better move fast or plan to spend a couple of hours in Santa Barbara,” The pilot, Lt Cmdr Sean Clancy added.
“We’ll go visit your Aunt,” Roy teased. Roy had never seen his aunt’s home.
“Far out,” Johnny agreed with a grin.
They had flown quite a distance and they were starting to get a bit worried. They’d spotted no sign of their missing surfer and were beginning to fear that he’d drowned or worse that they’d missed him.
The pilot blew out a frustrated breath. “We may have to turn back soon or head for Santa Barbara,” he said checking with his base. “They said the wind and rain has really picked up in LA…Joanne’s turning east and she’s about to make landfall though so hopefully it’ll be over soon and we can head back.”
The two paramedics hated admitting defeat but they were out of time. They stared anxiously out the windows as they circled around once more…
John’s sharp eyes suddenly caught a flash of yellow. “Look Roy!” He shouted and pointed. “It’s a surf board.”
“Yeah…Let’s hope our surfer is still with it,” the older man said as a wave crashed over the bobbing board. A blonde head suddenly lifted from the water and both paramedics breathed a sigh of relief.
“We got him!” Roy yelled. Boyd gave him a ‘thumbs up’ as they circled again.
“Let’s go Roy,” John said enthusiastically.
Roy looked down…The chopper was hovering higher than he’d like to make the jump but they couldn’t risk the waves by going any lower either. John was already sliding the door open and getting ready. Roy sighed and went to the door. John would never let him hear the end of it if he said anything but it didn’t matter…He could read his partners face as easily as Roy could read John’s.
“C’mon…It’ll be fun and a lot softer than concrete,” he teased as he set himself to leap from the craft.
“You just think so,” Roy said, knowing water could be just as bad if you landed wrong but thankfully both of them had trained for this.
John stepped off the edge and dropped from sight.
Roy glanced down to be sure his partner was clear and stepped off the edge. John was already swimming toward the victim and Roy quickly followed.
This was one of his own strengths…He quickly caught up to his partner with long, well trained strokes.
They grabbed hold of the victim and untangled his foot from the cable that linked him to his surfboard so that when he fell off the board wouldn’t be swept out of reach. It was probably what had saved his life. The board was quickly tossed from their gasp by the pounding surf.
The waves crashed over them and both paramedics struggled to hang on to the teenager. John coughed as the water washed over his face. Man he hated this as much as Roy hated jumping into it.
“Oh th…thank G…God,” the young man whispered between blue tinged lips. His teeth were chattering and for the first time John made note that the water was a bit chilly.
“We’re gonna get ya outta here,” he assured the boy with a grimace.
“You okay?” Roy asked his partner.
“Yeah,” he gasped as he turned his attention to the craft circling above them. He could tell the pilot was fighting the wind gusts. The bands had caught up with them.
John threw a wave toward the helicopter and the stokes basket began to lower toward them. John tossed his partner a relieved smile. They’d made it and would soon be headed for home and dry clothing.
The two paramedics grabbed hold of the basket and slid the half conscious young man into it.It wasn't easy as the waves continued to try and swamp them. Roy tugged the straps tight and gave them a circular wave above his head.
The winch began to hum softly as it reeled the victim in. The wind caught it and it began to swing. Above them Boyd tried to stabilize the wildly swinging basket but it almost ripped him from his perch.
A keening wail of terror came from the young man strapped inside. The helicopter pitched over as the wind caught it yet again and Clancy fought for control.
The cable swung like a pendulum jumping the reel and jamming tightly leaving the water logged victim suspended between the safety of the chopper and the waves. It also left them no way to retrieve the two paramedics that were still battling the crashing waves below them.
“What do we do?” Boyd yelled to his superior.
The older man at the controls bit his lip anxiously. “I’m gonna try and take us down enough to pull the basket on board.”
“The waves…?” The younger man warned nervously.
“I’ll try to stay above them…I can’t just leave them,” he snapped.
“What are they gonna do?” Johnny asked his friend worriedly.
“I don’t know,” Roy replied as he watched the struggle going on above them.
The helicopter began to drop and the blonde paramedic shot a disbelieving glance at his young friend.
“They’re not gonna try…*Cough*… and pick us up?” Johnny asked coughing and spitting out a mouthful of seawater.
“Sure looks...That way,” Roy replied, slightly breathless.
The helicopter was now hovering with the basket just touching the water. Johnny and Roy grabbed a hold of it and watched as the craft rose a bit to avoid an incoming wave and then drop once more.
Boyd reached to grab the stokes and try to wrestle it on board but lost it once again as the pilot lifted the vehicle above the waves.
“Now…,” Clancy yelled as he brought the helicopter down once again.
Boyd heaved and the basket half slid on board. A gust of gale force wind suddenly struck the chopper broadside. Clancy would have simply compensated if he hadn’t been so close to the water but the chopper tilted suddenly and the victim and Boyd were both thrown backward into the interior of the helicopter as it canted sideways. A wave slammed into from the other direction, shoving it even further onto its side.
Roy’s blue eyes widened in horror as he realized what was about to happen. He grabbed his young partner and shoved him under shouting… “Dive…Now…”
They both kicked toward the bottom with everything they had as the water above them exploded into chaos as the blades struck the water and the helicopter began to tear itself apart.
Waves of sea water crashed into it sending it even further sideways and filling the compartment with water. It began to sink.
Roy pulled at John’s sleeve and pointed upward as the bubbles began to thin out and they kicked hard toward the surface. Roy pointed at the demolished helicopter as it sank toward the bottom but they both needed to breathe.
They popped up above the surface and were immediately swamped by a wave that nearly drove them under. Johnny was gasping and coughing and Roy turned away from the incoming waves to try and catch his breath.
“You…Okay?” He panted, as he reached out to grab John. The young man looked toward him in stunned disbelief.
“What just…Happened?” He wheezed wide eyed.
“The helicopter got swamped…I’m gonna check…It out,” Roy gasped.
“I’ll go too…”
John nodded and drew a breath as both paramedics dove down…They spotted the helicopter and kicked toward it. The craft itself was a crumpled mess with sections of ripped and twisted metal.
Roy pulled himself into the water filled compartment and closed his eyes at the sight of Boyd and the young victim. Boyd floated limp…His eyes open and glazed over…The young boy they’d plucked from the ocean was still strapped into the stokes but it was obvious that something had hit his head…hard.
There was nothing Roy could do for either of them. John had wrestled his way to the front and Roy saw the look of sorrow as he took in the pilot’s still form. The dark eyes met his and he shook his head negatively.
Roy nodded and pointed up. They both swam for the surface. They broke through only to be hit with a torrent of wind and water. Rain came down in sheets now as well.
John coughed and gasped for air…Roy reached out to grab him as he too struggled to breath. He turned him away from the incoming waves.
John finally caught his breath and looked to his partner as the two men struggled to stay afloat. “Man Roy…What…*cough* …What are we…gonna do?” He asked anxiously.
Roy looked at the dark clouds above them…There was no hint of sun to give them a point of reference. Even Johnny…As good as he was at telling time and direction from the sun and stars would be lost in this.
“I don’t…know junior,” he panted heavily. “I guess we just try to stay afloat and hope they send a search team.”
John nodded but and as hard as he tried to hide it…Roy saw fear in the dark eyes…He understood…He was scared silly himself but all they could do right now was stick together, stay afloat and pray.
The rain was coming down in sheets at station 51…Hank looked at his watch and calculated how long his two paramedics had been gone. Well over an hour now, he noted. Hank hoped they'd get back soon and shook his head at his own worried musings. He felt for a moment, like an over protective father but he was truly coming to care for the young men that served on his crew and he knew John and Roy were out on a helicopter in this mess and that concerned him…A lot.
The phone rang and he snapped it up…Hoping it was one of the boys calling from Rampart or 110’s base station. He almost smiled as he thought of a sopping wet John Gage driving Roy crazy until he could get back and take a hot shower and get into dry clothes.
“Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking.” The smile fell away as the person on the other end began to speak.
“Hank, this is Chief Sorenson.”
“Ah yes sir,” Cap replied as he sat up in his chair, wondering why the older man was calling.
“Hank…I just got off the phone with the coast guard.” Hanks stomach tightened ominously at the guarded tone of the Chief’s voice.
He licked his suddenly dry lips. “And?” He prodded.
“They’ve lost contact with one of their helicopters.”
Hank’s dark eyes closed and his heart tried to claw its way up his throat. “Roy…John?”
“Yes Hank…That’s the one.”
“Do they uh…Know what happened yet sir?”
There was a long pause. “They received a brief mayday but it cut off. They ah…They think it crashed.”
“Are there…Um…Survivors sir?”
“We don’t know yet…We’re not even sure what happened to it at this point. It’s still only listed as missing.”
“Are they sending out a search team?” The tall lean captain asked hopefully even though he already knew.
“They’re grounded till this weather passes but they do have a starting point…A last location where the pilot reported finding their victim…They’ll start there as soon as Joanne blows over.”
‘JOANNE’… “Oh God…”
“What is it Hank?”
“Roy’s wife…Her name’s Joanne…” He thought he heard Sorenson groan. “I need to call her and let her know what’s happening.”
“Alright Hank. Is there anyone we need to call for John?”
“He has an aunt but um…She’s rarely around…Its really just Roy and Joanne…They’re pretty much his family.”
“Then it’ll be even harder for her to hear,” he said softly, knowing she may have lost both of the men she loved…One her husband and the other a friend. The man had no idea that John was much more than that to the DeSoto family.
“Yes sir,” Hank murmured. “It’ll be hard for all of us.”
He heard Sorenson sigh but there was really nothing more he could say at this point. All they could do now was wait and see and pray.
Hank hung up and rubbed his face with both hands. This was a call he didn’t want to make but he’d promised Roy a while back when Joanne had seen the chief’s car pull up in front of her home and had thought the worst. He hadn’t been there for her but for a friend who was visiting with her whose husband had been killed in the same fire John and Roy had been injured in.
It had almost brought the couple to divorce and Hank had promised after that to be the one to call if he or John were ever injured during a rescue again. He stared at the phone for a long moment before he picked it up and began to dial.
Joanne was on the couch with Chris and Jenny watching Tom and Jerry when the phone began to ring.
She dropped a kiss on Jen’s blonde curls and set her next to Chris. “Watch your sister a minute,” she instructed her five year old.
Chris nodded and moved closer to the toddler and put his arm around her to keep her close and returned to watching the TV.
Joanne snapped the phone up even as her blue eyes turned back to the couch to keep an eye on her daughter. “Hello?” She said inquiringly.
She had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach at the somber tone. “Roy,” she whispered.
“Joanne…Johnny and Roy went out on a rescue for a missing surfer.”
“Yes,” she questioned fearfully, knowing but not wanting to hear.
“They’ve um…They’ve lost contact with the helicopter.”
“Oh God,” she whimpered as tears welled and spilled down her cheeks.
“Jo…We don’t know for sure what’s happened but…I had to call…I don’t want you blindsided if it turns out…Well…You know,” he muttered.
“Both of them Hank…I’ve lost both of them,” she gasped out, barely audible.
“Jo…Please…We don’t know that yet…Lets hang on to some hope here okay?”
“Yeah…Yeah,” she repeated as she swept at the tears trickling down her cheeks. “I’ll try Hank.”
“Look Jo…Do you want me to call Em…See if she’ll come over and just stay with you and the kids for a while?”
“I’ll be okay?”
“I really think you shouldn’t be alone.”
“Alright Hank…But it’s really not necessary,” she replied trying to sound strong.
“Just to help out for a bit.”
Joanne hated to sound weak but she really could use a friend right now. “Alright.”
Jo hung up the phone and drew in a deep breath to try and regain control. She wiped the tears away and went to join the kids. She picked up Jen and held her tightly as she sat next to Chris and pulled him against her.
The young blonde glanced up as his mom hugged him too tightly. “What’s wrong mommy?” He asked at the look on his mothers face.
She leaned over and kissed the top of his head. “Nothing baby,” she whispered against the blonde waves. “Nothing at all.” She glanced upward. “Please God…Please bring them home,” she murmured softly.
Hank blew out a breath after calling Em and asking her to go stay with Jo until they heard more. His wife was just as upset as he was…She’d grown close to Joanne over the last year and she was fond of the members of his crew as well.
His crew…He had to go tell them too and he knew they’d take it hard. They were a tight group and the loss would be devastating for them all if they didn’t come home. He climbed wearily to his feet.
This was a chore he wished he could avoid but they had a right to know and they’d be wondering where they were soon enough.
He entered the day room where the rest of his crew was camped in front of the television watching the coverage of this storm as she came ashore in Baja. Hank shook his head as the image shifted to the surfers off the coast of LA all the way up to Santa Barbara. He may have lost the two best paramedics in Los Angeles because one of these kids couldn’t follow instructions to stay out of the water.
Hank stood for a long minute before he cleared his throat to get their attention. “Ahem…”
The three crewmen turned to look at their captain. “What is it Cap?” Mike asked curiously.
“I just got off the phone with the Chief…”
The three men rose to their feet to gather round him. “Something wrong Cap?” Marco questioned worriedly.
“Um…They’ve uh…They’ve lost contact with the helicopter that John and Roy were on.”
“Oh God,” Chet muttered.
“Dios,” Marco whispered.
“Are they sending out a search team?” Mike asked.
“They can’t until this weather breaks…”
“How long can they last in the water?” Mike asked in disbelief as their eyes returned to the screen where the waves were tumbling and crashing onto the beach.
“Why…?” Chet whispered.
They all looked at him curiously. “Why what pal?”
Chet spoke aloud what Hank had been thinking. “Why couldn’t those people have just stayed out of the water like they were told to?”
“Chet…,” Cap began.
“He’s right…It’s not just their lives Cap…Now there are four others who may be dead because they couldn’t follow the rules,” Marco added angrily.
“I know…Believe me I know…But they’re both survivors and strong swimmers…”
“I guess,” Mike murmured. “What about Jo…?”
“I’ve already called her…Emily’s going over to stay with her for a while.”
“God…I don’t believe this,” Chet snarled in frustration.
The others nodded absently but their heart was with their friends and they prayed they were still alive out there somewhere.
Waves crashed over the two men bobbing in the surf. John floundered and struggled to the surface once more while Roy seemed to ride it out a bit better.
“You okay junior?” The older man asked his coughing partner.
“Yeah…*cough*…Just took in…*cough*…some water,” he sputtered.
Another wave swamped the two men and John disappeared once more….Popping to the surface and gasping for air several feet away.
Roy struck out after him and grabbed hold of his young friend. “I got ya junior,” Roy told him turning away from the incoming surf.
Johnny didn’t want Roy to have to worry about him…He had to take care of himself right now. “I’m…*cough*…okay…*cough*.”
“I know you are,” Roy assured him, knowing what John was doing and not buying it.
“How long…*cough*… Have we been…*cough*… out here?”
The older man checked his watch. “Almost two…hours,” he gasped.
“Think…*cough*…Think they’re lookin…?” John’s words were cut off as another crashing wave drove them beneath the surface. They both broke through the heaving water and John blinked away the sting of the salt in his eyes…Roy grabbed a hold of his sleeve and pulled him toward him.
“Yeah,” John gasped, almost dog paddling at this point.
Roy looked at his young partner more closely. There was a subtle shiver and his lips were ringed in a pale shade of blue.
“No you’re not Johnny. You’re shaking.”
“Just a lit’l…*cough*…Col,” he replied. “You mus be too,” he added sounding a bit nasally but wanting to shift the focus off himself.
“Yeah…A little…bit,” Roy answered clinging to John’s sleeve.
Johnny didn’t want to burden his friend with having to take care of him and wearing himself out in the process. Roy had a better chance of surviving this than John did and the younger man knew it. He was already feeling the effects of the chilly water where Roy had a touch more insulative weight around his internal organs.
“You can…*cough*…Let me go…*cough*…I’m alright,” he insisted, trying to shake off Roy’s hand.
“Let me…Help you junior,” Roy panted.
Roy shook his head, knowing what John was up to. He wasn’t about to lose his little brother. Another wave swamped them both for a moment, pulling John from Roy’s grip. He came up slowly, sputtering and choking. Roy swam toward him once more.
John blinked hard and looked to his partner. “May…be...you should try….to…*cough*…swim for it,” Johnny whispered tiredly.
“Which direction?” Roy asked with a raised brow.
John glanced around…The wind hit him in his face from the southeast. “The channel islands,” he whispered.
“What?” Roy questioned as he spat out another mouthful of water.
“We were…maybe twenty…*cough*…twenty five miles out…”
“Tides against us…Push,” John stopped to try and catch his breath. “Pushing us…*cough*…,” he spit out a mouthful of seawater. “Out to sea.”
“I know,” Roy agreed.
“Toward the…*cough*…Channel Islands.”
Roy looked away from where he thought land was. Johnny was right. The storm’s wind and wave surge was pushing them out to sea. John was already tiring and showing signs of hypothermia. He’d never be able to battle against the tide but if they used the tide to help them...They just might make it.
“That’s a great idea junior…Let’s…try it.”
John shook his head. “Can’t…Make it Roy,” he said tiredly.
Roy looked at him in shock. “So what?...You think…I’m gonna just…Swim off and…*cough*…leave you here?” He barked.
“It’s the…Only way Roy,” he pleaded as a wave crashed over them and they disappeared for a moment beneath the surf. Roy came to the surface, hauling his young friend with him.
“I’ll go but only…if you go…With me.”
“Slow ya…down,” he panted. “Jo and…*cough*…kids.”
“Together or not…at all.”
Johnny knew he meant it. Roy wouldn’t leave him not even to save himself. “Al…right.”
John turned slowly, trying to get his bearings. He felt the water push him and nodded northwest. “That way.”
“Come on then junior.” The two men struck out. Roy was an excellent swimmer and had in fact been on the swim team in high school and even though Johnny also swam quite well, the cold water was taking its toll on his slender body.
The tidal surge was with them but Roy knew that could change soon as well. They needed to be on land before that happened or neither of them would have the strength to battle against it.
He glanced toward his young partner and noted his strokes were a bit slow and unsteady and slowed his own to keep pace. He wouldn’t, no matter what… leave his young friend behind.
He knew Johnny had no idea of just how much he meant to him. John’s therapist, Dr. Martha Hightower, had been helping Roy understand his young partner and his own feelings toward him as well for almost a year now, though John had no idea about it.
She’d told him to master that ‘L’ word but it didn’t come easily for the blonde paramedic and certainly not where another man was involved. But John wasn’t just anyone…He was part of Roy’s family but still, Roy always felt a bit awkward saying it and John had only managed it once and the older man suspected that it had only slipped out then because he’d been so sick.
He’d keep working at it though until it did come easier. Someday he’d get it through to John no matter how long it took.
Station 110’s paramedic team, Tom Wheeler and his Partner Kurt Anderson ran alongside a gurney, steering it into treatment room two where Mike Morton was waiting. They made the quick transfer from stretcher to table and pushed it toward the two attendants, who quickly left.
Both paramedics were soaked to the skin after spending a couple of hours freeing the victims from a multi car pileup caused by the torrential rain. This was finally the last of them.
“Do you need us Dr. Morton?” Tom asked.
“No I got it…Thanks,” he replied as he began to issue instructions to the pretty, young blonde nurse Sally. The two men nodded and left the room.
They almost ran into Dr. Early coming out of treatment room three where one of their earlier victims was waiting for the X-Ray technician.
“Afternoon gentlemen,” Joe greeted two rather somber looking men.
“Afternoon Doc,” Tom replied as they approached the base station.
Dixie glanced up curiously from where she and Kelly Brackett were reviewing some notes from an earlier run. She wondered what had the usually verbose Wheeler looking so serious.
She noted the wet clothes and smiled, assuming that was the problem. “You’re looking a bit like a drowned rat Wheeler,” she said in amusement.
“Yeah…It’s been raining pretty hard,” he agreed, with a small half smile. It didn’t quite make it to rest of his face. Kurt remained quietly staring at the counter.
Dixie’s alert blue eyes scanned their faces. Something was very wrong…Maybe they’d lost a victim.
“Bad rescue?” She asked.
Kel glanced up from his reading, wondering what was going on.
“No…No the victim’s gonna be fine,” Kurt replied. The pair exchanged a glance suddenly realizing that the team at Rampart hadn’t yet heard about the lost helicopter. They both knew that the pretty older nurse and the surly doctor had a personal as well as professional relationship with Gage and DeSoto. Dr. Early considered them friends as well and neither of them wanted to break this news.
Dixie’s blonde eyebrow arched in irritation. “Well it’s obvious something’s wrong. Someone kick your puppy?” She asked.
Kel set the clipboard aside. “What’s going on? Is something wrong?” He repeated Dixie’s question.
They both sighed…There was no way to avoid telling them at this point.
“Yeah doc…Something’s wrong,” Wheeler said, looking miserable. Both men knew that if they hadn’t been called out just moments before the tones had called Gage and DeSoto out to replace them for the lost surfer call…They would have been the ones on that helicopter.
Tom looked at the three people staring at him expectantly. “Gage and DeSoto were called out a while ago to replace us on coast guard search and rescue…”
Dixie’s heart started to sink into her stomach at the tone…Oh please…Not Johnny and Roy, she mused silently. “And…?”
“They’ve lost contact with the chopper.”
Kel’s eyes widened in concern. “Do they know what happened to it?”
“They think it may have crashed into the sea but we don’t know yet…They haven’t been able to send out a rescue team because of the storm.”
“Oh Kel,” Dix whispered, as her blue eyes filled with tears.
He reached out to put his arm around her shoulders to steady the woman. Kel and Joe were also distressed but neither would let it show.
“Ahem…,” Kel cleared his throat. “Um…You uh…You’ll let us know when you hear something?” He requested, trying to keep his voice from cracking.
Tears slid down Dixie’s cheeks unashamedly as Kel turned her and led her to his office. Joe followed. They closed the door behind them.
“I don’t believe this,” Joe mumbled sinking into the seat next to Dixie.
Kel handed her the box of tissues before settling into his own chair. He wiped at the gathering moisture in his eyes before he tried to smile.
“Let’s not count them out just yet okay…It could be radio trouble…Maybe they had to land on a beach or something…Let’s just wait and see.”
The other two nodded but they didn’t believe that for a minute.
They’d been swimming fairly steady for almost an hour before Roy noticed that even at this slow pace, Johnny was beginning to flag. His breaths were coming in short pants and he needed to stop to tread water every few minutes to rest.
Roy had to admire his determination though…He was exhausted himself at this point. The only upside was that the wind had finally subsided a bit and while still choppy, the waves had ceased to swamp them every few seconds and were simply carrying them along even faster.
Roy shook himself back to the moment and suddenly realized he was alone. He glanced around to see that Johnny had stopped swimming once more.
“Johnny?” He called questioningly.
“Yeah,” he gasped. “I…I’m ccc…coming.”
“That’s alright junior…Just stay where ya are… and I’ll come to you.”
“Kkkkay,” he breathed out through chattering teeth, giving up on the pretense that he was alright.
Roy drew alongside him and reached out to grab hold of the vest to pull him close. John looked at him tiredly. “I’m sorry Rrroy…”
“It’s okay junior…I know…you’re tired…I am too.”
“Not okay…Sh…should go…”
“Don’t finish that sentence,” Roy panted, sounding angry now.
John looked away…Terrified that Roy would stay and drown because of him.
“Jo and th…the kkkids…,” he mumbled through blue tinted lips.
“Would never…forgive me if…I…left you to drown.”
John’s head drooped but he nodded in defeat. “Need to rrr…rest.”
“Me too junior,” Roy agreed…glancing up at the darkened skies. “Please God…,” he murmured softly. “We need some help.”
Captain Stanley was in the day room with his men. They’d been watching the coverage of the storm in anxious silence. They’d been called out twice over the course of the afternoon but had rushed back to watch and wait for word.
Joanne had finally made landfall on the Baja peninsula and they were hoping and praying that the winds would finally taper off enough to send a search team, though at this point…They weren’t holding out much hope.
Johnny and Roy had been missing for nearly three hours and if they’d been lost in those stormy seas…Well…the guys didn’t want to think about it.
They all jumped as the phone rang. Hank practically flipped his chair over as he shot out of it to snatch the handset up. “Station 51…Captain Stanley speaking.”
“Hank…This is Chief Sorenson.”
“I’ve just gotten off the phone with the coast guard…They’re sending a cutter to start searching. They’re hoping to get another helicopter in the air within the hour…They have to wait for the winds to slack off a bit more.”
“You do realize that their chances of survival are slim Hank.”
“Sir…If this was anyone besides Gage and DeSoto…I’d agree with you but…I’ve seen these two young men in action too many times to doubt their determination…”
Daniel sighed. He was afraid this crew would be in for disappointment this time but he didn’t want to take away the hope they were clinging too either.
“Do you want me to call DeSoto’s wife?”
“Uh…No sir. My wife is with her. I’ll uh…I’ll call and let her know what’s happening.”
“Alright Hank…I’ll keep you informed of their findings.”
Joanne had paced the living room fitfully for over two hours. Emily finally managed to get her to go and lay down for a bit by telling her that the kids were getting upset by her fretting.
Emily had just gotten Jen down for a nap as well and Chris was watching cartoons, though he still seemed restless at his mother’s anxious mood.
Emily was pouring another cup of tea for herself when the phone rang. She managed to snatch it up before it could ring again.
“Hank…Did you hear anything?”
“I just got her to go lay down.”
“I’m here,” Joanne’s voice interrupted from the stairs.
Emily sighed. “She’s here Hank…I’ll put her on.” She handed the phone to Jo who cast her a worried glance and took the phone almost fearfully.
“Hank?” She questioned, sounding terrified.
“Jo…Chief Sorenson just called. They’re finally able to send out a Coast Guard cutter. They’re hoping to get another helicopter up as well within the hour.”
“That’s wonderful…,” she said flatly.
“Jo…Don’t give up hope. You know these two better than anyone.”
Tears welled in her blue eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “I’ll try Hank…Please call me the minute you hear anything…Anything at all. Even if its…Well…You know.”
“I will Jo…I promise.”
She hung up the phone and gave Emily a tearful glance. The pretty blonde woman put her arms around her younger friend and hugged her close. “C’mon sweetie…Let’s get you a cup of tea.”
Jo nodded and followed her to the kitchen.
Johnny’s head was nodding. He was so cold and tired. He jerked himself awake and glanced toward his best friend. He realized he was drifting further away from his partner and he started to swim toward him and then stopped. He noticed that Roy’s head was also drooping in exhaustion.
John treaded water as he watched his friend. He knew Roy might not make it if he had to keep waiting for him. The cold was a dull ache in his bones and his body shook with tremors. Roy could go on if not for him. He wanted and needed his friend to live. He cared for this family and this man who called him his little brother, so much. How could he take Jo’s husband and Chris and Jen’s dad from them?
He sometimes wished he could tell him how he felt but that was still something that was difficult to understand for Johnny much less to say to another man…Even a brother or a father figure.
He knew Roy had told him that he loved him in the hospital…Once when the older man had first figured out that John had AS and again when the younger man had had Malaria. He even vaguely remembered saying it back but he’d been very sick at the time but people tended to use the word so casually and Johnny had been verbally demeaned and told he was worthless most of his life by his own people and worse, physically abused to the point where he couldn’t understand the word ‘love’ at all and that, by his own family.
Love and family meant pain and loss as far as John knew and it had taken him a long time to let Roy and his family in. To trust them even a little but while he couldn’t understand their love for him, he knew he felt something special for the DeSoto family.
John had felt as if he’d been adrift in a sea of loneliness and pain and shame for most of his young life and felt it was rather ironic to be here in this situation now. But just as Roy and his family had become an emotional ‘life saver’ for John, his partner was now a physical one as well.
Would Roy understand what he meant if he told him how he felt? His friend wasn’t exactly the type to express himself very openly either but he knew the older man cared about him and would never just leave him if he gave him a choice.
John knew the greatest gift he could give to his friend to show him how he felt was the gift of living…A chance to make it home to Jo and the kids.
He closed his eyes at peace with his decision. It was only moments before cold and exhaustion overwhelmed him and he let the darkness claim him.
A wave caught Roy in the face…He snapped awake and jerked his head up, realizing he’d fallen asleep. He was feeling pretty cold and he knew Johnny would be feeling it even worse. He needed to stay awake more than ever to keep an eye on his young partner.
Speaking of…Roy turned to look but John wasn’t near. Roy’s heart thudded wildly in his chest. “Oh God…JOHNNY?” He yelled. He suddenly breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted him bobbing but almost half a mile away. Roy began to swim. He came abreast of him.
John was asleep or unconscious, he wasn’t sure which but his face was nearly in the water. He could easily have drowned if Roy hadn’t woken up in time.
“Hey junior,” Roy said, giving him a light shake.
John’s head snapped up. “Rrrroy…?” He questioned, sounding almost disappointed.
“Yeah,” he replied with a smile. “Thought I’d lost ya there for a minute.”
“Th…thought ya www…were a…asleep,” John mumbled through chattering teeth.
Roy’s blue eyes narrowed suspiciously at the unguarded reply and he suddenly knew. John had done this on purpose…Purposely planning on simply disappearing so Roy could go on without him.
“Oh God Johnny,” he mumbled. Understanding what his best friend had been willing to sacrifice for him. What John couldn’t say in words, he’d said with actions instead.
Anger and something stronger welled in him. Didn’t he know he’d have searched until he’d drowned himself before he’d have left him out here alone…And then it hit him…No…No Johnny didn’t know that and Roy figured it was time he did.
“You ddid that on pppurpose didn’t ya?" Roy accused through his chattering teeth.
“Wwa…wanted ya to lllive,” he gasped.
Tears filled the older man’s eyes as he pulled his best friend into his arms. “I want you…to live ttto junior,” he replied. The dark eyes met his and Roy could see exhaustion, desperation and resolve. “So don’t you ev…ever do that again…You hear me?” He ground out. “I won’t ssac…rifice your life…Not even ttto save my own. Not now…Nnnot ever,” he stuttered.
“NO John,” the blonde barked, cutting off the younger man’s argument.
John grew quiet but Roy knew he wasn’t convinced and that he was apt to try it again the moment he fell asleep unless he found a way to keep that from happening. Roy suddenly had an idea for a way to be sure Johnny would remain at his side.
He reached down and unbuckled his own belt and pulled it free from the loops. John watched him, drowsy and shivering but still curious. “What are yyy…you doin?” He mumbled, frowning as he felt Roy’s hands on his belt, tugging it free from around his waist.
Roy’s fingers trembled from the cold but he managed to connect the two leather straps before he reached out and pulled his partner against him and wrapped the paired belts around them both before linking them together securely.
“Making sure yyy…you don’t dddis…disappear again,” he murmured, close to his partner’s ear.
John turned his head and managed an impressive glare. Roy almost managed a chuckle.
The Coast Guard cutter was making good time but even though they’d left almost an hour sooner the helicopter soon caught up. It wasn’t long before they were circling the area where Clancy had called in the report of finding their missing victim.
They were flying in a spiral search pattern…Starting at a single point and moving in an outward circle.
It took the almost forty minutes to locate their downed craft and only five more to have divers in the water.
Captain Donald Morse waited anxiously aboard the cutter…Knowing in his heart that there would be no survivor’s after all this time even if they’d managed to survive the crash but he also had a very concerned Fire Chief waiting on the radio to hear about his men.
After what seemed like hours but was in actuality only twenty three minutes one of the divers surfaced with a limp form in his arms.
Morse’s heart sank at the sight of one of his own even though he’d been pretty sure they were all dead.
The diver waved at his crew and the basket began to lower from the side of the ship.
A second diver appeared, once again holding an orange jumpsuit clad crewman from the first helicopter. Morse punched the console in frustrated rage at the loss of two of their own.
His radio let out a burst of static. “Captain Morse this is recovery one…”
“Recovery one, go ahead,” Morse replied, waiting for the inevitable.
“Sir…We have only three bodies…I repeat…three bodies.”
Lt Cmdr Clancy, Lt Boyd and what appears to be our missing surfer.”
Morse looked shocked. “There’s no sign of the missing paramedics?”
“No sir…Their gear is on board but they aren’t.”
Morse stared out to sea. Were they at the bottom somewhere or had they survived the crash? And if so…Where would they have gone? The sea’s were still choppy from the storm so Morse had to believe they were dead…That even if they’d survived the initial crash, there would be no way to have survived the surging wind and waves.
He sighed…They’d need to keep searching but in the meantime. He picked up the radio. “Chief Sorenson this is Captain Morse…Do you copy?”
There was a burst of static before Daniel Sorenson’s voice came back. “I copy Captain Morse…”
“Chief Sorenson…We’ve found the downed helicopter…We have recovered three bodies.”
“Three?” The voice questioned in surprise.
“10-4 Chief…Only three.”
“Gage and DeSoto?” He questioned, trying to sound resigned.
“Negative…Your men were not on board.”
There was a long pause. “Do you plan to continue the search?”
“Affirmative Chief Sorenson.”
There was relief in the man’s voice. “10-4 Captain Morse and um…Thank you.”
Roy could feel the shaking of his young friend’s body and John’s head lolled on the older man’s shoulder. His lips had long since gone from being ringed in blue to almost totally gray. He no longer even attempted to swim.
Roy was terrified that his friend was going to die in his arms and there was nothing he could do to stop it from happening.
“Should l…lemee go nnn…now,” John whispered as Roy’s arms tightened about him at the thought of his best friend and kid brother’s death.
“Never,” Roy muttered back. As long as John was breathing he’d hold on to him.
“Rrroy,” John almost wept in desperation. “Yyy…ccan still mmake…it.”
Now was the time…Roy didn’t want to let it go unsaid. It was high time he mastered that word as Dr. Hightower had told him…Maybe…Just maybe it would make a difference for Johnny to fight harder as well.
“Johnny...I www...want you to listen to mmme…” The young man didn’t reply and Roy reached over to turn his head toward him. The dark eyes were barely open. “Johnny wwwake up…I need you to…to stay with me here,” he pleaded.
The lashes fluttered against his pale cheeks. “T’red Roy…Nee slee…eep…You gg…o,” he slurred.
“No you ddon’t…Keep your…eyes open…Ddoan leave me here jjun…ior,” he breathed out.
“Nah gon make it Roy,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.
“Don’t you ssay that damn it…I wwant you to lis...ten to me.” He gave John a light shake. “Are you list…ening?”
“Yeah,’ he mumbled.
Roy drew a deep breath…He was so cold himself that it was difficult to speak without shivering but he needed Johnny to understand this.
“John you have to make it…I CAN’T lose you.” John shuddered violently in his arms, the young face screwed up in pain as his muscles seized for a long moment before the spasm passed. Roy rubbed his friend’s arms briskly, trying to stir up the circulation before he continued. “I nneed you…Do you understand?”
John managed a small head shake of negation.
“Do you have any i…idea how mmmuch a pppart of my life you’ve become Junior…My family’s?”
John’s brown eyes blinked in confusion…What was Roy trying to say to him? Roy had everything, why would he need him? “Your parn…ner,” he mumbled in agreement
Roy would have laughed if he wasn’t so determined to make John understand this.
“More than…than that John…A l…lot more. You’re a part of mme…My family. We nneed you to stay...We lllove you. I Love you…Do you un..under…stand? You own a place with me that no one else will ever claim...Not even Jo or the kids. You're my brother.” John frowned as he stared into desperate blue eyes. “Ddoan you give up…You hear? Stay with me…Fight WITH mme here okay…Ppp…Please,” he finished, cupping John’s cheek.
John knew how difficult it was for his usually cool, clear headed partner to say that to him and he saw the truth in his best friends blue eyes. He’d said the words before but never with that much intensity and his own eyes burned with tears and he knew he couldn’t give up…That he had to keep trying until death claimed him…Afraid that if he quit…Roy might too and he couldn’t stand the idea of that.
“Try,” he whispered.
Roy hugged him against him. His chin resting against the sable hair. “Good boy,” he murmured in relief.
It had been a long five hours since the helicopter had gone down and Joanne and Emily were on what was probably their eighth cup of tea. As the time passed, Joanne was becoming more and more convinced that both of her special men had perished and she struggled to keep the tears in check for the sake of the children but it was getting harder and harder as the minutes ticked by.
She glanced up and her teary blue eyes met sympathetic hazel. “You can go home if you want to Emily,” she said listlessly.
Emily smiled gently back “I can stay a while longer,” she said patting Jo’s hand.
“Thanks but what about Becky and Emma?”
“They’ll be okay for a bit longer and Rebecca is old enough to fix something for them both if they can’t wait. Would you like me to make dinner for you and the kids?”
“I’m not hungry Em but I do need to feed the kids,” she said starting to get up.
“Stay put, I’ll take care of it,” Emily replied.
Joanne slowly sat back down and picked up her cup. Her blue eyes gazed absently at nothing as she thought of her husband and her ‘boy’. How could she have lost them both?
In the back of her mind she’d known it was possible and she’d been afraid of losing one of them on a rescue, especially Roy, but to lose them both?
Emily glanced up and saw the absent gaze and knew her friend was thinking about the loss of her husband. She understood exactly how Jo felt. She’d faced these same fears when Hank was a young fire fighter.
She’d come to know Hank’s crew very well over the last few months and they were all good men and so different and yet a cohesive team.
Mike was the serious one, dedicated and loyal…A good family man, while Marco was in the middle. He came from a large family and had a good sense of humor but he could be serious when he had to be. His mom had taught him how to cook along with his sisters which Hank assured her, was a blessing around the station.
Chet…? Well he took a bit more to love…Also from a large family but completely different from Marco’s. Pranksters and practical jokes were the norm for him and poor John was his personal favorite as a target…At least that was what Hank had told her.
Roy…She looked to Jo again. Quiet, thoughtful and tremendously talented as a paramedic…Tenacious as well…Pushing the fight for paramedics against all odds, all the way to the state house floor along with Mike Wolski and the youngest member of Station 51.
Johnny. She knew from what Hank told her that Roy was horribly protective of his young partner. Her husband had chuckled as he regaled her with some of their antics and bickering but he’d grown serious when he spoke of the team’s closeness. He’d laughed when telling her how hard Roy tried to hide his brotherly and almost paternal feelings for his best friend and partner but not very successfully much to John’s chagrin.
John…Roy and Joanne’s ‘adopted’ younger brother. Hank told her that John was pretty much alone…His Aunt Rose whom Hank had met not long ago lived in Santa Barbara but was rarely at home. They’d taken the young man in and treated him as a member of their family.
Allowing him to recuperate in their home when he was ill or injured, being sure he wasn’t alone on holidays.
Hank told her as a rescue man…There was no one he’d hold up to Gage…Not even DeSoto. John had no fear when it came to rescue’s and while Roy was dead even with him as a paramedic, when it came to rescue…Gage was who everyone thought of first.
She hadn’t been able to get to know John as well as the others yet. He shied away from personal conversations and intimate contact with most people but there was something special about the young man that always touched her heart and she wanted to get to know him a bit more one day.
She knew Roy and Joanne protected him and probably knew more about him than they were willing to share with others but hoped one day they’d all be close enough to share those secrets.
She saw the blue eyes suddenly well with tears that spilled over to trickle silently down the younger woman’s face. “Jo?” She questioned softly.
“What’s taking them so long?” She whispered brokenly. “Why haven’t they called?” She swiped at the wetness on her cheeks, afraid that Chris would see them and guess that something was wrong.
Emily wiped her hands on a dishtowel and came to Joanne’s side. She put her arms around her. “Let them go,” she said pulling the younger woman against her.
The dam burst and choking sobs wracked Jo’s body as she huddled against her friend.
Emily rocked her in her arms and rested her chin against the auburn hair. There was nothing she could say that would take the pain away right now. All she could do was hold her.
The phone rang and even though she’d been willing the instrument to ring for the last hour, Joanne jumped.
“Stay put sweetie…I’ve got it,” Emily said as she rose to her feet and went to answer the call. “Hello?”
“Emily…It’s Hank. How’s Jo holding up?”
“She’s scared and worried…We both are. Have you heard anything?”
Jo’s anxious blue eyes were watching her worriedly as she listened to the one sided conversation.
“They found the helicopter,” he said somberly.
“I see,” she said, sounding resigned.
“John and Roy weren’t there,” he said quietly.
“WHAT?” She almost yelled before regaining control. Jo rose to her feet to come over and listen. “Well where…Where are they then?” She asked, shaking her head negatively at Jo.
“They don’t know yet but…I’m hoping they got away before it went down…Maybe they’re out there waiting to be rescued,” he added.
“Realistically?” She asked.
There was a long pause. “No,” he finally murmured. “There’s a good chance they’re both dead and have been swept out to sea,” he added with a slight hitch to his voice.
“I’ll let Joanne know. She’s been waiting. You’ll call if you hear anything else?”
“Of course…I love you Em.”
“I love you too Hank.”
She hung up and looked at Jo, holding up her hand to stop the questions. “They found the helicopter Jo. Roy and Johnny weren’t on it.”
Jo looked at her in shock and then a smile slowly turned her lips. “They’re alive.”
“Now Jo…Don’t get ahead of yourself…They haven’t found them yet.”
“You don’t understand Em. If they weren’t on board then they’re alive,” she said sounding sure.
“After that storm out there…Five hours.”
Jo grinned. “They’re both too stubborn to let the other one die,” she said positively.
Emily stared at her for a long moment before Jo’s certainty rubbed off on her as well. She smiled back.
The cloud covered sun was beginning to dip toward the horizon. Roy’s blue eyes were red from the salt water. His muscles were beginning to ache from shivering as his body temperature began to dip below safe levels... It hurt dammit and he wondered briefly how Johnny had lasted this long.
The object of his musings stirred slightly against him, murmuring softly but indistinctly. His head was tucked beside Roy’s cheek and the dark eyes were closed, and Roy wasn’t sure if he was asleep or unconscious, but no amount of prodding or pleading had been able to keep them open. He’d checked his friends pulse…It beat erratically beneath his fingers.
His trembling hand rose to soothe the distressed younger man that shuddered in his arms and Roy knew John couldn’t last much longer and his heart ached. It wasn’t fair…They’d both fought so hard.
A dot in the sky caught his attention and he squinted his eyes to see what it was. A few seconds later it drew close enough for Roy to see. He recognized the bird as a Sand Piper and frowned. They usually didn’t fly too far from land so what was it doing out here?
His eyes strained toward the direction the bird had come from and hope flared…Land...A strip of brown beneath gray clouds. They could still make it.
“Johnny? Johnny, wake up,” the older man urged. The younger man’s head lolled weakly but the eyes remained shut. “Okay junior,” Roy said quietly but with determination.
Roy unbuckled the belts that linked them together before letting John drift away a bit. He looped them once again but this time through the strap of the life jackets, leaving his arms free to swim.
He struck out toward the narrow strip that beckoned him to safety. His arms and body ached with the effort but at least it seemed to get his blood flowing in his veins. He swam on towing his young partner along beside him.
He lifted his head after a long while and saw the shoreline. It was much closer now and Roy almost yelled out a shout of joy but then a wave hit him. He felt it push him backwards…Back out to sea.
The tide was going out. No…No this couldn’t be happening. Roy was exhausted and he couldn’t fight the outgoing tide…Not towing Johnny.
The waves crashed against the rocks in the distance and Roy could feel the pull as they were sucked back out. He felt like crying in despair but they weren’t done yet. They hadn’t survived all of this to die here, this close to land.
Roy pulled John against him. The young man’s head drooped. “Johnny? Johnny I need you to wake up now,” Roy urged his friend desperately.
John’s head lifted briefly as his friend’s voice penetrated the darkness he was floating in.
He was dying…He could feel the coldness pulling the warmth and life from his body but his friend was calling him. Would Roy hate him for leaving him this way? He wondered. Leaving him out here alone? Something tapped his cheek and John’s head jerked up briefly but dropped once again but then something hit him…HARD and pain flared. His mind snapped back to awareness
Roy watched his friend struggle to wake before he gave up and sank back to sleep. “No you don’t Junior…,” he said patting his cheek lightly. “I need you to wake up,” Roy urged his partner loudly. John’s head jerked a bit but once again sank to rest on his chest.
Roy sighed…He hated doing this but he needed John conscious and right now. His landed a hard slap to John’s face. His head reeled slightly but he jerked awake. The dark eyes bleary and pain filled.
“Rrr…oy,” he murmured through gray lips.
“Johnny ww…wake up…There’s a…an Island.”
“I…Ilan?” he slurred in confusion.
Roy pointed. “R…right th…there,” he added, turning John’s face. The chocolate brown eyes blinked as the land wavered within his vision. They swiveled back to his friend. “But the tides going out and I need you to swim John.”
John shook his head. “Can feel mmmy arms an’more R…Roy,” he whispered. “Too t’red,” he murmured as his eyes closed. “You ggg…go..”
Roy shook him. John’s head rocked but his eyes opened again. “Don’t you ggg…give up. I nnneed you to hhhelp me here.”
John gave him an empty stare and Roy’s shaking hands rose to cup the young face between them. “Johnny…Look at me.” John managed to focus on his partner. “I need you to swim…Oone mmmore time…Give me every…thing ya got…I ww…won’t leave you…Ppplease John…I cc…can’t do this without yyou.”
John licked his salt coated lips…He was so tired and thirsty. His body cramped with shivering muscles and his stomach rolled with nausea. His body was shutting down and he just wanted to float peacefully away but he couldn’t leave Roy. He had to try for him.
“Kay Roy,” he whispered.
“Good boy,” the blonde said pulling his young friend against him once more. He unhooked the belt that linked them together. “Let’s dd…do this junior.”
The two men began to swim. John’s strokes were slow and erratic and Roy kept pace with him…Ready to grab him if he floundered.
They were making steady time but all too soon they felt the pull of the outgoing tide. John began to struggle. “Ccc…can’t make it,” he breathed as the tide pushed against them.
“Yes you cc..can,” Roy urged. “Swim…I kn…now you’re tired. Sss…so am I but you gg…gotta try for me….Please,” Roy panted. “I can’t go www…without you… Jo an the kids…You nn…need ta try…For them Johnny,” he gasped tiredly.
John looked exhausted and Roy knew he was playing unfairly here by using Joanne and the kids but he wouldn’t lose John no matter what it took. All was fair in love and…And well love.
Dr. Hightower would be very proud of him here. “I love you junior…You ggg...gotta keep trying…Ppplease,” he begged.
John nodded tiredly. “Try,” he whispered as he flipped on to his stomach and began to swim. They were almost there…So close Roy could almost feel the sand beneath his feet.
Johnny was trying, Roy could see him struggling and despite the fact that he was also exhausted, he reached out and grabbed his partner. “C’mon junior…Yyyou’re doin it.”
Both of them began to flounder but they drove forward until they felt a wave pick them up and hurl them toward the rocks. Roy lost his hold on his partner as they were both driven under the surface.
The older man kicked toward the surface. He broke through to find himself face to face with the rocks that jutted out in a natural pier. He grabbed hold and looked around desperately for Johnny.
He saw his young friend bobbing in the surf and he let go to swim to his aid. He grabbed hold and flipped John onto his back. The younger man was limp and unresponsive but he quickly began to choke up the water he’d just swallowed.
The dark eyes fluttered open and Roy breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay junior…Ll…let’s get to shore.”
Now that they were past the worst of the waves and the undertow, Roy managed to pull Johnny the rest of the way. He staggered up the beach dragging his half conscious partner with him before he collapsed next to him to pant heavily on the hot sand.
It took Roy a few minutes to catch his breath and he wanted to just lay here and let the warmth of the sand flow over his chilled body but he knew Johnny still needed him, for as cold as he was, Johnny was in worse shape and he needed get his body temperature up and fast.
The last time he’d checked, John’s pulse had been erratic and Roy was very afraid he could still lose him. He pushed himself upright to find John curled into the warmth of the sand even as his body shuddered violently.
Roy needed warmed fluids and hot water bottles… blankets and a warm bath to do this right but he had none of those things available right now. The first thing he needed to do was get the wet clothes off of both of them.
The cool breeze coming off the water was doing nothing to warm either of them and everything to send a chill through the wet cloth and into their body, making them shiver from the inside out.
The blonde fire fighter blew out a breath as he began to unbutton his own shirt and tossed it aside. His sopping wet trousers soon followed. He could feel the heat from the sand burning against his knees and suddenly grinned.
John was curled in a ball and he could feel the warmth beneath him and tried for all he was worth to burrow into it.
His shook with tremors and he ached all over…His muscles cramping into tight balls of agony before relaxing only to seize again a few minutes later. His chest hurt and nausea from dehydration and swallowed sea water was rolling in his belly.
He suddenly felt hands turn him onto his back and he moaned in protest. “Mmmm,” he murmured, pushing futiley at the hands touching him.
“Shhh shhh,” Roy soothed as he easily brushed the trembling hands aside and unbuttoned John’s shirt.
It wasn’t easy as his own hands were shaking from the cold as well. He eased him up enough to slip the sopping garment from beneath him and laid him back.
John’s eyes cracked open as his partner began to work the heavy blue trousers off of his young friend.
“Wha arya d…doin?” He slurred through chattering lips.
“Warm…ing you up the on…ly way I can,” Roy panted in reply, struggling with the wet pants.
The dark eyes widened a bit. “Doan e…even thi…think of it,” John growled.
Roy stared at him in confusion for a moment until it sank in and even as exhausted as he was he began to laugh.
“Doan wor…ry Junior…You ain’t my ty…type,” Roy said between snickers.
John gave him a tired crooked smile as Roy tossed the wet pants aside. The blonde paramedic left the wet boxers as John wouldn’t thank him for sand in places he didn’t care to think about.
The younger man finally understood his best friend’s intent as he pushed the sun heated sand around John’s shaking body. It took a few minutes as the blonde paramedic was also cold and exhausted but he soon had Johnny cocooned under the warm sand.
John sighed blissfully as the warmth enveloped him and his eyes drifted closed.
Once Johnny was successfully blanketed, he took a moment to toss their clothes over the bushes to dry…They’d need them when they woke up. He finally lay down near enough to John to know if he woke and did the same thing to himself, at least up to his chest and finally laid his head back, basking in the warmth. He turned his head to check on his partner before his eyes closed in exhausted slumber.
The Coast Guard was once again engaged in a spiral sweep working outward from the location of the downed helicopter. The cutter had the bodies of their two crewmen and the young man who’d been the cause of the search on board.
The sun was sinking on the horizon and it wouldn’t be much longer before they’d need to call off the search and start again in the morning.
Captain Morse sighed. He really had no choice and it probably wouldn’t make a lot of difference in the long run. He was sure this was a recovery mission and not a rescue at this point.
He picked up his radio and made the call to suspend the search until sun up the next morning.
“WHAT?” Joanne shrieked in outrage as Hank explained that the Coast Guard had suspended the search for the night . “What about Roy and Johnny? They’re still out there somewhere. They may not last till morning,” she said shrilly as tears welled in her eyes.
Emily stood next to her listening to the one sided conversation. She heard the distress in Jo’s voice. “What’s happening?” She questioned worriedly as tears rolled down Joanne’s cheeks.
Jo covered the mouthpiece. “They’re suspending the search,” she wept bitterly. “What am I gonna do. They’re st…still out there,” she gasped with a hitched breath.
Emily took the phone from her and gently pushed her toward the table. “Hank?”
“Hi Em,” he replied tiredly.
“Why are they stopping the search?” She asked her husband, sounding angry.
Hank blew out a breath. “Honey…It’s too dark. They can’t search that much open water without light. They could fly right over them and miss them completely.”
“I guess,” she agreed reluctantly. “But what if they’re still alive? How long can they last..?” She argued.
Hank sighed. “Em…?” His tone halted her rejoinder. “They’re pretty sure this is a recovery effort at this point,” he explained gently. “The seas were just too rough for anyone to have survived out there,” he said quietly.
“You don’t know that…,” she began as tears welled in her own eyes at the thought that Jo and her two children would lose their husband, father and uncle all at once. She desperately wanted to believe Joanne’s assessment that both men would do anything to keep the other alive.
“Emily,” he said softly. “Don’t you think I want to believe that too but…It’s just been too long.”
“People have gone longer…,” she began.
Hank blew out a resigned breath. “Not in a tropical storm,” he said in frustration.
Emily grew quiet, she knew he was right but she didn’t want to admit to herself or to Joanne.
“Okay Hank,” she finally replied, hearing the pain in her husband’s voice as well. She wished there was same way to take away the pain they were all feeling.
“I won’t be home in the morning…The guys and I volunteered to go out with the search teams. I just think we owe it to Roy and John to be there ya know?” He said softly.
“Alright…I’ll tell Jo.”
“Goodnight Em…I love you.”
“I love you too,” she replied before hanging up.
Jo sat at the kitchen table holding her head in her hands as she cried softly in defeat.
“Jo?” The younger woman looked up at Emily as she sat down opposite her and took her hands. “Hank says it’s just too dark out there to see anything and they don’t want to risk missing them,” she explained.
Joanne had heard enough to guess the rest. “He thinks they’re dead doesn’t he?” She asked dully.
Emily looked away from the anguished look on her friends face. “Yes Jo,” she replied gently.
“Oh God,” she sobbed.
Emily came around to hold her tightly as she cried out her grief.
Across town at Station 51…Hank Stanley was doing the same thing.
The moon was riding high in the night sky when Roy awoke. The sand about him had lost its warmth but it was still some protection from the chilly night air. Roy sighed. He had to get up. He needed to check Johnny who was also stirring restlessly like a giant heaving sand castle.
The older man sat up and brushed the sand away before he climbed to his feet. He found his shirt which had dried in the same breeze that was now wafting over his bare skin and slipped it on. His stomach felt like it was rolling and Roy licked his dry lips…He’d about kill for some water right now and he knew if he was this dehydrated that his young partner was probably even worse.
He knelt next to his friend. “Johnny...Can you hear me?” He questioned.
“Mmmm,” A lone, soft whisper of sound slipped from the sable haired paramedic.
Roy swept the salt matted locks from John’s forehead to feel his skin. It was cool but thankfully no longer cold to the touch and he wasn’t shivering and Roy was grateful for that much.
He pushed the sand away from his friends arm and gripped his wrist. It was a touch too slow but regular. On the other hand, John’s mouth was dry and cracked from exposure and dehydration, much the same as his own.
“Hey Junior,” he said soothingly as the dark eyes began to flutter.
“R…Roy?” he murmured tiredly as he wakened.
“Yeah…How ya feelin?”
“Kinda sick…Re…ally thirs…ty,” he murmured with a grimace as his stomach pitched uncomfortably.
“I know junior…I am to,” he admitted.
John shook his arms free and began to struggle to sit up. Roy moved to help him, shoving the sand away. “You really… should rest some more,” he advised…feeling a bit shaky himself.
“Itchy,” he groaned, rubbing the loose grains from off his body and arms.
“Well…At least…You’re not cold anymore junior,” he said with a tired smile, defending his rather unique method of dealing with hypothermia.
John’s quirky crooked grin made an appearance. “Thanks,” he said quietly, acknowledging the fact that Roy had saved his life.
“Other than being nauseous…How do you feel?” Roy pressed, knowing Johnny had a tendency to keep his illnesses and injuries to himself.
“A lit…tle cold and shaky,” he admitted holding out a trembling hand.
“I’ll get your clothes…You’ll be warmer,” Roy said sounding pretty tired himself. He’d give a lot for a drink of fresh water right about now. He sighed in resignation. There was no way he was up to exploring their haven at this time of night and in the dark. They had no option but to wait for morning but he didn’t like it. He and Johnny needed fluids and they needed them now but Roy was mostly concerned about his young partner…
He retrieved John’s clothes and his own pants. He quickly pulled his own trouser’s on and knelt once again to help Johnny get his shirt on.
The younger man struggled to tug his navy blue pants on and blushed when Roy had to help him…His fingers still didn’t seem to be working properly yet and shook slightly.
“Thanks Pally,” he mumbled again.
Roy smiled. “Sure junior.”
Roy helped him to his feet and held him securely as the two made their way further up the beach into the shelter of a stand of palm trees lining the sand before Roy eased him down and flopped beside him, exhausted himself.
John hitched himself up against a fallen tree. “How long…Do you think it’ll take…For them to find us?” Johnny panted tiredly.
“Doan know Junior…I’m not even sure where we are.”
“One of…the Channel Islands,” he replied with a hitched breath.
“You okay junior?” The older man asked worriedly as he moved closer to John.
“M okay, jus feel a bit li…headed an nauseous,” he murmured. Roy gripped his wrist for a pulse but Johnny tried to shake him off. “M kay,’ he muttered again.
“Quit John,” Roy said, finally winning the battle.
“M no worse off than you,” he mumbled mutinously.
“I have a bit more insulation,” Roy teased his slender friend.
John’s lip curled and he rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Not that much,” he grumbled, tugging his wrist free and closing his eyes. The younger man’s face suddenly paled and his eyes flew open as his rolling stomach finally won the battle. He gagged…
Roy grabbed him and leaned him over but there wasn’t much in his stomach to begin with but sea water. Still dry heaves could be just as miserable and John was already badly dehydrated. This was the last thing he needed.
The spasms finally stopped and John gasped painfully as he tried to sit up. “Okay now?” Roy asked as he eased John back against the tree.
“Yeah,” he whispered tiredly as he shifted uncomfortably against the hard surface.
“Here,” Roy said, scooting closer and pulling his young friend against him so John could lay his head back against his shoulder. “No worse than me huh?” Roy teased.
“Oh shut up,” John grouched, making the older man chuckle. John rested quietly for a long while, replaying the last few harrowing hours in his mind. He finally turned his head to look at his partner…No…Not just his partner. He was more than that to him now. An older brother, the best friend he’d never had before while growing up…His confidant and sometime father figure. The only person he trusted with his secrets…Well most of them anyway. “Roy?”
“When we were…out there…,” he began, sounding unsure.
“All that stuff you said…About needing me?”
“What about it?”
John hesitated, not sure he wanted a truthful answer. He finally drew a deep breath. “Did you mean all of it…Or were you just…Ya know…Trying to keep me…From giving up?” He asked wearily, looking away as if afraid of the answer.
Roy flushed a bit but he smiled at his young friend and reached over to turn his face back toward him. “I meant every word of it junior.”
“Oh,” Johnny said wonderingly. He finally grinned at Roy’s embarrassed flush and glanced away. “I uh…I’m ya know…I kinda feel the same way about you guys…I mean…The loving you like family stuff an all…That’s why I…Um…You know…,” he stuttered, not sure how to say it or explain any better.
“I know.” Roy did know, just as he’d understood at the time…He’d understood John’s willingness to sacrifice his own life so Roy would have a better chance to live. “I know,” he said again softly as he rested his cheek against the sable hair.
John’s dark eyes closed and he smiled. He’d actually said it and it hadn’t been as hard as he thought it would be to tell him how special he and his family had become in his life and…He actually felt better for having said it. He let the thought lull him to sleep.
His even breathing told Roy he’d drifted off and he grinned. They still had a long road to go but Johnny was taking baby steps down that road and Roy and his family would continue to make the journey with him. Chipping away at the walls until they all came down for good.
Roy’s eyes closed and drifted off to sleep as well.
Hank and the crew of Station 51 were at the dock fifteen minutes after their shift ended. The helicopter had already left with Station 110’s B shift paramedics, Javier Martinez and Danny Canton on board.
The Coast Guard cutter was waiting for the crew to arrive before following to begin
Their search where they’d left off the evening before. They quickly climbed aboard and cast one another anxious looks, each wondering what they would find and none of them willing to voice those fears.
Joanne hadn’t slept for most of the night. She’d wandered into the kids rooms to check on them several times. Sitting on the edge of Chris’s bed to stare down at the face that looked so much like his daddy’s that it hurt.
She’d finally poured some coffee and gone out on the deck to sit…Silently praying for their safe return and wondering what she’d do if neither of her men came home.
Tears trickled down her cheeks at the thought and she brushed them away. She’d set the cup down and fallen asleep about the time the sun was beginning to creep up on the eastern horizon.
The sound of Chris’ voice calling her name woke her a couple of hours later. “Mommy?”
She sighed and sat up. “Out here baby,” the nickname brought an ache to her heart at the familiar endearment that she also used with Johnny. Chris stepped through the open doors and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Good morning Chris,” she said softly hugging her son.
“Are you hungry?” Chris nodded. “I’ll get Jen up and we’ll have breakfast okay?” She said starting to stand.
“Aren’t we gonna wait for daddy?” He asked innocently.
Jo sniffed back her tears as she pulled Chris into her arms and held him tightly.
“Daddy’s gonna be a little late this morning,” she whispered against the tousled blonde hair.
The sun was beginning to climb toward its noon arc when Roy’s blue eyes blinked open. It was going to be a normal, sunny California day and probably welcome by most after yesterday but not by Roy.
He was terribly thirsty and dehydrated and he knew he and Johnny were both desperately in need of water and soon. He felt weak and tired and he knew John was feeling it even worse.
He glanced down at his partner’s face and saw the cracked lips and pale face still resting against his shoulder…His cheeks flushed with sunburn.
“Junior? He questioned worriedly. His finger’s sweeping the sable hair back from his forehead.
“Mmmm,” John moaned, stirring restlessly. His lids fluttered momentarily and the dark eyes made a brief appearance before the black lashes settled back against the high cheekbones.
Roy licked his dry lips but it didn’t help much…His mouth was dry too. They were both going to be in trouble very soon if they didn’t get water.
The cutter and the helicopter had been circling once again in an outward evolving spiral pattern and they were beginning to get discouraged. There was no sign of the missing paramedics anywhere.
The helicopter would have to leave soon to refuel and the sun was beating down on the men standing on the deck but none of them complained. None of them wanted to give up and return to the dock without Johnny and Roy.
Their eyes felt as if they were being burned from their sockets as the brilliant beams of sunlight reflected back from the water but none of them would stop scanning the waves until the sun set later this afternoon.
There was little conversation…None of them wanted to be the one to say that the boys were gone or let the fear that they were show, but hope was fading with every passing moment.
They were approaching more of the Channel Islands. They’d already swept over several others without finding any sign of their missing friends and they’d covered almost a hundred and seventy square miles of open water along the coast in the last day and a half.
Captain Morse stepped off the bridge and came down to stand near Hank as they approached the strip of land.
The tall, slender fire fighter looked at the older gray haired man as he stood alongside of him. “San Miguel,’ he said nodding toward the Island.
Hank nodded tiredly. “Another lost cause,” he muttered quietly so his men wouldn’t hear him.
The Captain shrugged dismally. This job was never easy and often ended with them bringing home nothing but the bodies of missing loved ones…he’d hoped for a better ending this time and for this crew who were obviously very fond of their missing friends.
The static burst of a radio broke the somber stillness… “Captain Morse…This is Lt. Hayden on Recovery one…Do you read?”
“I read you Recovery One…Go ahead,” he replied onto his walkie talkie.
“Captain…There’s a yellow surf board floating beyond the surf line of San Miguel.”
“Anyone around it?”
“Negative but…We’d like to do a fly over to check it out?”
“The kid that went missing yesterday had a yellow board. It wasn’t with them when we recovered the bodies so I thought…” he trailed off.
“Maybe they used it to swim to shore?”
“Maybe… but even if they didn’t…If this is where it ended up…”
“Then maybe it’s where the storm surge pushed them too.”
“Give it a fly over…See if you spot anything.”
Chet, Mike and Marco trotted over to their Captain and Morse. “What is it Cap?” Mike asked.
“Maybe nothing guys but they think they found the young surfers missing board and they were thinking that maybe Johnny and Roy ended up here with it.”
The guys strained their eyes to see the misty strip of land in the distance as the helicopter banked toward it.
Time seemed to stop as the chopper flew over the beach…They moved along slowly as they approached the yellow board and checked to be sure there was no one with it. They moved on…Motion caught the eyes of the young Lieutenant in the seat next to the pilot.
“WAIT,” he yelled. “Go Back?”
“What is it?” Hayden asked as he banked around. Martinez and Canton pressed their faces against the window anxiously.
“I thought I saw something in the bushes right on the shoreline,” he said excitedly.
On the ship, Chet suddenly grabbed Hank’s arm. “They’re circling,” he said softly.
“Does that mean anything?” Marco asked the ship’s Captain hopefully.
“They may just be checking out a spot of color…Don’t get excited guys…Tourists come here all the time to hike. Someone might have just left a towel or something.”
The four looked visibly deflated but a moment later another burst of static caused them all to jump.
“WE’VE FOUND THEM,” the voice of 110’s paramedic Javier Martinez’s yelled.
The five men on board waited with baited breath…Were they dead or alive?
Roy held his unconscious partner against him…He was having more and more trouble staying awake himself and he was truly afraid he’d fall asleep and wake to find John dead in his arms.
“God please,” he whispered softly as his the blue eyes began to close against his will. His fingers swept through the dark hair briefly and then he let his mind drift to thoughts of Joanne and the kids and a small, sad smile curled his lips as he silently said goodbye, praying Jonne would be able to go on without him.
A soft whopping sound suddenly intruded into his thoughts, breaking his reverie. He forced his eyelids open and looked out toward the ocean. A small dot seemed to be coming toward them.
Roy sat up a bit, taking care to hold his young partner securely. The blue eyes widened as he realized what he was seeing…A helicopter and it was coming straight for them.
“Johnny…Johnny?” Roy called giving John’s cheek a gentle tap. “Wake up for me Junior…Help’s coming.”
John heard the gentle urging through the sea of darkness. He hurt all over and his head was pounding miserably. And even though he was nauseous, he was hungry and he’d kill for a drink of water right now.
The dark eyes fluttered open to look up into Roy’s face. He was smiling. How could he smile at a time like this…? He could see his friend’s lips looked as dry and cracked his own felt. His face was red from exposure and he knew his was probably about the same hue as well...It hurt and felt tight.
Roy had to be feeling almost as miserable as he did. “R…Roy….mmmm,” he moaned softly as his stomach turned once again.
“We got help,” Roy said softly.
John looked hopeful. “For r…real?” He asked, struggling to sit up.
Roy pointed as the chopper drew near and John almost wept in relief. “Thank God,” he whispered.
The Helicopter flew over the water, stopping to look at something just beyond the surf. Roy strained his eyes trying to figure out what had stopped them but all he could make out a small patch of yellow.
The craft moved closer, flying over the beach toward them as Roy fought to stand up. He managed to get to his knees. “C’mon Johnny…Help me here…We gotta…Get where they…can see us,” he urged.
John pushed at the ground trying desperately to get his feet under him. “Doan wait….for me,” he gasped. Roy made it to his feet and staggered slightly.
He reached down and grasped John’s hand. He had no strength left but he still had physics. He leaned back, wobbling like a drunk but his weight pulled John upright and the younger man gave one mighty push with the last of his reserves and managed to get to his feet as the helicopter flew past.
“NO…,” John yelled as they staggered onto the stretch of sand between them and the ocean. “Where…They goin?” He asked, sounding desperate.
Roy could only watch in horrified disbelief as the craft continued on…But then it suddenly stopped and banked back toward them.
“They see us,” Roy said, feeling tears build in his eyes. “Hang on…Junior…they see us.” John nodded as he sank to his knees in the hot sand. Roy sat down beside him… “I’m comin home Jo,” he said softly.
“THEY’RE ALIVE,” Martinez yelled.
Loud cheers reverberated over the open water. Hank looked at Morse. “Let’s go get my boys huh?” He asked softly.
Morse grinned. “We’ll do that Captain,” he replied gently with a pat on the younger man’s shoulder.
“Captain Morse…This is rescue one…We can’t land on that beach…Not enough room. You’ll need to send a landing craft and we’ll airlift from there.”
“Can we go?” Hank asked.
Morse nodded and within minutes, two smaller boats were angling their way across the water toward the beach.
Johnny was watching the chopper as it hovered over the water just offshore. “What’re they…waiting for?” He asked as he drooped tiredly.
“They can’t land…Not enough…clear space here,” Roy replied turning to John. “Here…Lay back okay. They’ll get us,” he assured John as he laid him down on the sand.
John didn’t fight him and that worried the blonde paramedic more than anything,
He couldn’t hear anything but that slapping sound of the choppers rotors so the first he knew of anyone else was the sight of the two smaller rescue craft rounding the headland and coming toward them at a fast clip. Roy sat back beside Johnny in relief. They were gonna make it.
The two boats were soon on the beach and the men piled out and while it wouldn’t have taken much more than a feather to knock the weakened paramedic out at this point, he was more than surprised to see his Captain and his three crewmates climb out with the rescue team.
“Cap,” he murmured as they ran toward them.
“Roy…John…Boy are you two a sight for sore eyes,” Hank said brusquely, trying to hide the cracking of his voice.
“You look…Pretty good too Cap,” Roy agreed weakly. “Do you have water?” Roy asked pleadingly.
“You bet,” he said waving one of the men over with a canteen. They handed it to Roy but he didn’t drink. He leaned over and carefully raised John’s head, letting the cool liquid slide down his friends parched throat. John’s hands lifted weakly to try and hold the can as Roy moved it away.
“Slowly junior,” he warned. “I don’t want you to get sick.”
“Kay,” he breathed out, letting Roy hold it to his lips once more. He swirled the water in his mouth before swallowing it. “Your turn,” he whispered.
“Okay,” Roy didn’t argue any further. He raised the canteen to his own lips and savored the feel of it in his mouth. He’d never realized water could taste this good.
Hands took it from him a few moments later. He looked up into the face of his captain. “Slowly Roy…I don’t want you to get sick either.”
“Thanks Cap,” Roy mumbled.
“Let’s get you out of here,” he said as he knelt next to his senior paramedic. Chet was already next to John. “John…You okay pal?” Hank questioned as they loaded the two men into stokes baskets so they could transfer them to the boat and out to the waiting helicopter.
John nodded but Roy shook his head. “He’s not okay. He’s badly…De…hydrated. More than…Me,” he affirmed.
John’s eyes were closing… “Take Gage first then,” Hank said as they lifted the baskets.
They quickly loaded the two men and moved out to where the chopper was waiting. Hank patted John’s arm as they hooked the basket onto the cable. “We’ll be right up to join ya pal,” he promised. John nodded. He’d never experienced it before from this position and he remembered all too well what had happened the day before.
He turned his head to look at his partner. Roy smiled… “The winds not blowing this time and I’ll be right behind you,” he assured him, correctly reading the nervous look.
John grinned as he began to lift into the air. It wasn’t long before they lowered it to bring Roy up as well.
Hank turned to his men as soon as Roy was on his way up. “I’ll see you guys back in LA,” he told them.
“Call us when you know anything?” Mike asked his Captain as the cable lowered once again. Hank nodded. He had to go with his two paramedics besides….There was a young wife waiting for a phone call and it had to come from him.
“Tell Johnny and Roy we’ll be thinkin about em,” Marco said.
Martinez and Canton were already on the Biophone with Cottage Hospital when Hank was brought on board and he’d barely gotten the cable free and knelt next to his two paramedics and watching the hurried activity around them when the helicopter banked and flew toward shore.
Within minutes both paramedics were on IV’s. Johnny licked his lips. “Can I have…Another drink?” He pleaded.
“Sure John,” Javier agreed, holding the canteen to his lips and then handing it to Danny to do the same for Roy.
“Cap…Is Jo okay?” Roy asked.
“She will be. She was worried sick about you. Both of you,” he amended. John grinned. “Emily stayed with her most of the day yesterday…I’ll call her the minute we get you two settled.”
“And by the way,” he looked at John before turning back to Roy… “I thought I told you two to stay safe.”
“Sorry Cap,” Johnny murmured. Hank grinned.
“As long as you’re both okay I guess I can overlook you not following orders…this time.”
“Thanks…Hey Cap?” John questioned softly.
“Can we skip…The water drills…next shift?”
Roy smiled while Hank and the two paramedics laughed. “Sure John…I think you’ve had enough of it for a while,” he agreed.
Hank ran alongside the two gurneys as they wheeled them into the ER at Cottage Hospital. He stopped as they rolled John’s stretcher into one room and Roy’s into another. He ran his hand through his dark hair and sighed. It had been one hell of a day but his family was back together and that’s all that mattered.
He looked around and spotted a bank of pay phones. He had an important call to make.
Joanne had just gotten the two kids down for a nap. She’d been trying hard all day to appear as though nothing was wrong but it was getting harder and harder as the minutes ticked by.
Her eyes glancing repeatedly toward the clock which she swore was running faster than normal. Tears filled her eyes as she sank down next to the phone and willed it to ring.
There was a knock on her door and she slowly climbed to her feet, almost afraid to look out the front window for fear that the Chief’s car would be parked out front. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Emily’s Edsel instead.
She pulled the door open to see Emily Stanley smiling at her happily. “Em?” She asked hesitantly. “Did they find…?” She began but Emily held her hand up.
“I don’t know for sure Jo…Hank just called and told me to come over here. He said he was going to call you and it was good news.
Jo’s hands flew up to cover her mouth in shock and tears spilled over as Emily pulled her into her arms and hugged her tightly. She didn’t need to ask why…She understood perfectly.
The ringing of the phone pulled the two women apart. Joanne brushed the tears away and snatched the phone up. “Hello?
“Joanne...Its Hank,” he said quietly.
“Hank…Please…Is Roy okay? Johnny?” She asked desperately.
“Roy’s doing pretty good…”
“Not as good as Roy but he’ll be alright.”
“Tell me,” she said softly in relief.
“They’re both pretty dehydrated and they’re on IV’s at the moment for that. They’re both sunburned and weak from exposure. Johnny was vomiting some and Roy complained of being a bit nauseous himself. I’m still waiting on the doctor but all in all…I’d say with a little rest and TLC from you, they’re both gonna be fine.”
“Oh Hank, thank you…Thank you so much. Where are they?”
“Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.”
“How in the world did they get there?”
“That was some major wind and storm surge yesterday. It pushed them out to sea and that’s where the tides carried them. I’ll find out how long it’ll be before I can bring them home.”
“I’ll call Kel…Maybe he can help me arrange an ambulance. Please have Roy call me as soon as he’s able.”
“I will Jo.”
The pretty auburn haired woman hung up the phone and turned to look at Emily. She smiled and threw herself into the older woman’s arms and the two began to laugh. “I told you they were both too stubborn to let the other die,” she said tearfully.
“And you were right.”
Dixie had been dragging about all morning. She’d spent a restless night worrying about Roy and Johnny and had gotten very little sleep. She’d shed many tears and had contemplated calling Joanne but had been afraid she’d wake the kids or Jo if she’d somehow managed to fall asleep.
The radio near the base station burst to life and she moved closer with a notepad to begin taking vitals until a doctor arrived. She heard footsteps and glanced up to see that she had more than she’d bargained for. Both Kel and Joe were coming toward her as Squad 36 began calling in their victims symptoms.
She stepped aside and let Kel take over. Both of them looked almost as tired as she did and she assumed neither of them had slept very well either, though none of them had wanted to be the one to bring up Johnny and Roy’s name first.
She assumed they’d discuss it once they’d found the…Once they’d found them, she amended her thoughts. She’d grown very close to both of them and the idea that they were both gone was tearing her heart out but she’d grown particularly fond of Johnny over the last year. The lost little boy look in his eyes had faded some and been replaced with a look of impish mischief.
Tears welled in her own, at the thought of never seeing them again. She was grateful when the phone on the desk began to ring so she’d have something to take her mind off their loss.
She swiped at the moisture in her eyes and reached out a well manicured hand. “Emergency…Miss McCall,” she answered as Kel began reading the EKG strip.
“Dixie…It’s Joanne DeSoto.”
Tears flooded her eyes once again. “Hello Joanne…I…I’m so sorry about Roy and Johnny.”
Both Kel and Joe threw her a curious glance when they realized who she was talking to. Dr. Early stepped closer to listen.
“Oh Dixie thank you but you haven’t heard yet?”
“Heard what?” She asked, curious why Jo didn’t sound very upset.
“They found them this morning…They’re alive Dix.”
“WHAT!” The pretty blonde, in control every moment nurse shrieked.
Heads turned and several of her staff stopped in their tracks to stare at her in dumbfounded amazement.
“What is it Dix?” Joe asked worriedly.
Kel was looking at her in shock. “Stand by 36,” he said quietly. “Dix…”
Tears were rolling down her face but she was smiling. She covered the mouth piece. “They found the boys…They’re alive,” she gasped before turning her attention back to Joanne. “How are they? Are they okay? What can we do to help?” She asked rapid fire.
Kel and Joe’s mouth’s dropped in shock and they exchanged a glance before a smile lit both faces. Kel turned back to his call but in a whole different mood.
Jo was laughing. “Slow down Dix…Can I talk to Kel? I need to make arrangements to get them home from Santa Barbara.”
“Santa Barbara? How in the world did they end up there?” She asked, repeating Jo’s own question.
Hank said the wind and waves just pushed them out to sea…They ended up there…I don’t know the whole story myself yet but I was hoping to get an ambulance to go up and pick them up tomorrow and I thought Kel could help me.”
“We’ll help you…Don’t you worry. Even if I have to drive it myself,” she assured her friend.
“What’s going on?” Kel asked again as he finished with 36’s call.
“She needs an ambulance to go pick the boys up in Santa Barbara.”
Kel’s eyes widened but he nodded in agreement. “I can arrange that…I’ll call up there and find out when they can be released.”
“Kel says no problem…He’ll call up there.”
“Thank you…Thank you both.”
“No Joanne…Thank you for calling. It’s gonna be a much nicer afternoon now.”
Kel and Joe nodded their agreement. Dixie hung up the phone and disregarding the curious looks of others threw her arms around Joe in a huge hug and then into Kel’s who held her a bit longer than necessary.
She finally stepped back and wiped at her cheeks.
“Let’s go to my office,” Brackett said with a grin. “I have some calls to make.”
Hank pushed the door open an hour later. John and Roy were in bed and at least the senior paramedic looked fairly perky. John shot his Captain a small smile but the dark eyes still looked tired after his ordeal, though the doctor had assured him that both men would recover quite well within the next few days.
“How you feeling?” He questioned his two crewmen.
“A lot better Cap,” Roy said, setting his magazine aside.
“John?” He questioned.
John’s lip curled in annoyance. “Still a little sick Cap…They won’t let me eat,” he pouted.
“They’re afraid he’ll just bring it back up if they do,” Roy said answering Hank’s questioning gaze.
“When aren’t ya junior?” Roy teased.
“They let you eat.”
“I wasn’t vomiting.”
“You two are gonna make me old before my time,” Hank said with a grin, glad to see them back to the playful brotherly banter he knew he’d have missed terribly if they hadn’t come home.
Roy and John exchanged a grin as Hank sank into the chair between their beds.
“I called Joanne…Needless to say, she’s very happy to not be making funeral arrangements for you two.”
Roy smiled. “Well that’s a relief.”
“Yeah…She coulda been calling in his life insurance policy,” Johnny teased. Roy shot him a dirty look and Hank chuckled.
“Dr. Brackett made some calls…We’ll be bringing you home in the morning if there aren’t any complications,” he told them.
“He’s talking to you junior,” Roy told his tired young partner drily.
“Real funny Roy,” he replied as his eyes struggled to stay open.
“Go to sleep junior,” Roy said softly.
“That’s an order,” Hank added as the younger man opened his mouth to argue.
“Yes sir,” he mumbled as his eyes drifted closed. The blonde paramedic watched him for a long while before he looked to his captain. Hank had been observing his senior paramedic with a poignant smile.
“I almost lost him Cap,” Roy said quietly after a few moments. “I don’t know what I would have done if I had.”
Hank felt a burn behind his eyes at the softly spoken words. He cleared his throat. “Ahem…Well…I guess you won’t have to find out,” he replied brusquely.
“Yeah…I guess not…Thank God.”
“Look…I have to get back to LA…But I’ll see you at Rampart tomorrow okay?”
“Sure Cap.” The older man gave them both a pat on the shoulder. John stirred a bit but didn’t waken.
“Helicopter’s waiting. Gotta go.”
“Thanks for coming after us.”
“We’re family Roy…It’s what we do for each other,” he said as he turned and left.
Roy looked over at John. “Yeah little brother…Family.”
Kel and Dixie were waiting at the bay doors when the ambulance carrying Roy and Johnny backed in the next morning.
Dixie was bouncing on her toes anxiously as they pulled the back open and pulled Roy’s gurney from the back. He smiled up into her happy face as she leaned down to kiss him on the cheek and hug him gently.
“It’s so good to see you Roy,” she said softly.
Kel reached out to pat his arm. “We’re glad you’re safe Roy. We thought we’d lost you there for awhile,” Kel said, trying to sound nonchalant about the idea.
“We thought you had too,” Roy teased as they pushed him toward the elevator.
Johnny’s stretcher was next. “Hey tiger,” Dixie said as she leaned down to kiss his cheek as well.
“Hey Dix,” he said tiredly. The dark eyes were drooping heavily with sleep.
“Welcome back John…,” Kel said patting his shoulder.
“Thanks Doc,” he replied with a small smile but Brackett could see that the trip had plainly taken its toll on Johnny.
“Let’s get these boys into a room so they can rest,” he suggested. They pushed the gurney into the elevator next to Roy’s. “Joanne is on her way,” he informed them both, though he doubted Johnny would last long enough to see her. “She’s really anxious to see you both.”
Roy grinned happily at that news. All he wanted was to hold onto her for a long time.
John threw his partner a sleepy grin, knowing Jo was really anxious to see Roy more so then himself.
They wheeled them into room 214 and made the transfer to the beds before Dixie tucked Johnny in and swept the dark hair from his forehead. She kissed him softly on the brow. “Go to sleep handsome,” she teased lightly. “You can tell us all about it when you wake up.”
“Kay,” he breathed out as he let his eyes close.
“Hey…,” Roy protested. “Jo’s gonna wanna talk to him too.”
Dixie moved to Roy’s side and pulled the covers over him. She checked his IV and raised the rail. “She’ll want a few minutes alone with you first I’m sure,” she said with a grin.
Roy had to admit…Johnny being asleep for a few minutes at least might not be a bad thing.
Now that they were settled, Kel and Dixie had some questions about what had happened. They were about to ask when the door opened and Joanne came inside.
“Oh Roy,” she breathed out as she crossed to the bed with rapid steps. She threw her arms about him and wept against his shoulder. “I thought I’d lost you,” she mumbled against his neck.
Roy held her with his free arm, his hand smoothing the auburn hair gently. “You and the kids…You were all I could think of when I thought we were done ya know?” He whispered with tears of his own. Her head lifted to look into his eyes before she leaned down to kiss him gently, taking care not to hurt his mouth that looked sore and cracked.
Roy didn’t care about that…He pulled her against him and kissed her long and hard. She finally pulled back and sat on the edge of the bed. Her blue eyes shot over to the still occupant of the other bed.
“How’s our boy?” She asked with a grin.
“Better now…Yesterday morning...,” Roy shook his head and let the sentence hang.
“Bad?” She asked. Her husband nodded.
“Can you tell us what happened?” Kel asked curiously.
Roy explained everything from the beginning of the rescue of the young surfer to the moment when they were rescued themselves.
Kel and Dixie were amazed that they’d survived this…Either of them and chuckled over Roy’s rather unique method of warming them both up. “We’ve got to get back downstairs,” Brackett said when he was done and shaking his head in wonder.
“See ya later doc…Dix.”
He looked to his wife after they left as she sat on the edge of his bed. He glanced over to where Johnny was sleeping. “He tried to give his life for me,” he said quietly.
“What do you mean?” Jo asked, looking curious. Roy hadn’t mentioned that in his story.
“I’d fallen sleep…He was afraid if I stayed to help him that I’d die with him. He let the waves push him away from me.” Tears pooled in Roy’s eyes but he blinked them away.
“What?” She said in horror.
“He thought I could swim for it if I didn’t have him to worry about.”
“Oh sweetheart,” she said as she gazed at the young man who’d become a young brother to her and loved him all the more for what he’d done.
She stood up and moved to Johnny’s side…Her fingers sweeping through the sable locks gently.
The dark eyes fluttered open and he looked up into blue eyes that glistened with tears. “Jo…What’s wrong?” He asked blearily.
“Not wrong…Right,” she replied as she leaned down to kiss his mouth lightly. “Thank you baby,” she said.
John flushed with color at the endearment but he smiled despite it. “For what?”
Her smile faded a bit. “For what you tried to do…Roy told me what you did baby.” The tone was almost accusing now.
John shot a scowl at his partner. “Big mouth,” he mumbled.
Roy grinned as Jo turned his head back toward her. “Don’t you know yet sweetheart?”
John frowned. “Know what?” He asked.
“That you’re a part of this family…that Roy would never be the same man without you now.”
John glanced at his partner and the older man nodded. “I told you that out there.”
John chewed his lip and shrugged. “I just thought…You needed him and I was slowing him down.”
“I do need him…More than you know…But we need you too baby, do you understand? I appreciate what you wanted to do but I don’t ever want you to do something like that again…Promise me Johnny.”
“I promised you I’d always do my best to get him home safe,” he said softly.
“That doesn’t mean killing yourself John…We take care of each other…Understand?” Roy questioned with an arched brow. “You’re not alone anymore…You have a family that loves you…We need you.”
“Promise me Johnny?” Jo pressed. “I love you…We love you.”
John’s heart felt as though it had turned a small flip within his chest at their words, as if they somehow knew his innermost thoughts and the loneliness he’d lived with most of his life. They were throwing him a life preserver once again. He was part of a family. He wasn’t by himself anymore and there was no more drifting alone.
“I promise,” he said softly.
Her fingers swept gently through the sable hair. “I love you baby.”
“I love you too Jo,” he said without hesitation.
He looked to his partner and Roy smiled back…No words needed to be spoken…the look was enough… They’d already been said.
This story is dedicated to my Step Mother Ann E Billings who passed away May 9, 2013. I love you and miss you.
*Based on an interview with Randy Mantooth and the rather tortuous abuse he heaped on Kevin Tighe when they were filming. Kevin really doesn’t like heights and Randy really doesn’t like the water at least not for too long.
Posted to site May 12, 2013
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. 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. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.
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