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An Eye For An Eye

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

Because of a friend, life is a little stronger, fuller, more gracious thing for the friend's existence, whether he be near or far. If the friend is close at hand, that is best but if he is far  away he still is there to think of, to wonder about , to hear from. to write to, to share life and experience with, to serve, to honor, to admire, to love. ...Anonymous.

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It was a beautiful May evening in Los Angeles…The balmy weather perfect for a walk or a ball game with friends but Jimmy Benjamin was too drunk to notice the temperature as he staggered up the sidewalk.

 

“M nah drunk…,” he slurred turning around the way he’d come. He swayed to the right, his feet churning beneath him to keep from falling. He shook his fist in a rage back toward the bar room he’d just left. “M nah comin back here eith…,” he trailed off…losing the thought in mid sentence. Jimmy chuckled at himself… “M…be ‘m drunk…,” he giggled. He staggered to the pay phone to call his brother Frank…He’d come and pick him up…he always did.

 

Frank Benjamin swore as the phone rang. The man glanced at his clock as he fumbled for the receiver…12:11 AM… “Lo…,” he mumbled blearily.

 

“M…morn…Frank…,” a voice slurred.

 

“Crap Jimmy…do you know what time it is?”

 

“Nah…what time is’t…”

 

“Midnight…”

 

“Wow…thas early awrigh…,”

 

“You’re drunk Jimmy…”

 

“Ya no…hic…noticed…”

 

Frank heaved a frustrated sigh… “Where are ya this time…?”

 

Jimmy squinted at the street signs…“Um…corn’r a El…wood and ah…Rose…mon.”

 

“Ellwood and Rosemont…okay I’ll be there…just sit tight and wait for me.”

 

“Alrigh…”

 

Frank hauled himself out of bed…Man he hated it when Jimmy woke him up…he had a business to run and as an electrician…working half asleep could be dangerous. He grumbled under his breath a few times as he threw his clothes on… Jimmy was his kid brother and he’d raised him ever since his parents had died eight years ago…Jimmy was a grown man now but he still relied on Frank to take care of him. Frank grinned…Jimmy could be a pain the ass but he was all Frank had…he was his life…and he loved the kid.

 

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Roy DeSoto and his Partner John Gage had made a day of it…Roy’s wife Joanne had taken their two children…seven year old Chris and three year old Jennifer to visit their Grandparent’s in San Diego for a couple of days, leaving Roy and Johnny a rare two day weekend for themselves.

 

They’d spent the morning fishing and the afternoon lounged out by the river enjoying the peace and quiet, heading back in time to catch the Dodger’s game…they were finally on their way home…

 

“You know Roy…you’ve got a great wife…”

 

“I know…you’ve told me that before but what brought that up…?”

 

“Well…I was just thinkin…”

 

“Oh oh…,”

 

“Cut it out…,” Johnny growled in annoyance.

 

Roy chuckled at his young friend’s irritation…“So what were you thinkin junior…?”

 

“That not too many women would go out of their way to give you time to hang out with a friend...,” he said thoughtfully. “Most women would be uptight over how much time we’re together…I mean between work and home and… you know…I’m around a lot,” he pointed out with a shrug…remembering the last time they’d had this conversation, only that time it had been Chris who’d been a bit jealous of their friendship.

 

“Well she used to be…”

 

“For real…?”

 

“Yeah…when we first became partners and then friends, she was a little…”

 

“What changed…?”  Johnny asked curiously…

 

“I did…”At John’s confused frown he continued. “She was the first one to realize how much I needed you as a friend…a brother…”

 

“Really…?” John asked. His face broke into a broad grin.

 

“Yeah... really…and then she realized how much we needed to depend on each other and she knows that close friendship keeps us safer than if we were just partners…”

 

John thought about it… “She’s probably right…,” he said in agreement.

 

“She usually is… besides…she loves ya…,” Roy said…giving his friend a glance…Johnny could be such a kid sometimes but he’d become so much a part of his life…he couldn’t imagine himself without John at his side.

 

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Jimmy sat for a few minutes waiting for his brother… “Aw…wha the hell…?” He slurred. “L walk up an meet…hic…meet em…,” he mumbled to no one in particular. He staggered up the street, tripping over the curb and falling into two parked cars…he leaned heavily against the rear bumper for a moment before he regained his balance and staggered from between them and into the street…He was blinded by a set of oncoming headlights.

 

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“I’m gonna grab a coke Roy…you want one?”

 

“Nah…I’ll make some coffee when we get home…”

 

“Okay…,” Johnny replied as he unclipped his seatbelt, twisting around to grab a can from the cooler in the back. He reached around to grab his shoulder harness and just caught a movement in the darkness up ahead. “Roy lookout…,” the younger man shouted.

 

Roy had already seen it as well and suddenly stood on the brakes…Screeching tires filled the air with smoke and the smell of burning rubber. Three things happened simultaneously…One was a loud thump…two was Jimmy Benjamin’s body rolling up the hood of Roy’s car and slamming into the windshield before the locked brakes reversed his momentum…propelling him back into the street and three was Johnny’s face impacting the dashboard.

 

Roy sat stunned for five seconds before his training took over. “Johnny…,” he called to his partner, who was slumped forward in his seat. John was groaning and slowly raising his hand to his forehead.

 

“I… ‘M Kay…go check the guy…,” his young friend slurred.

 

“Okay…but you don’t move…I mean it Johnny…”

 

“Kay…”

 

Roy unbuckled his seat belt and climbed out, running around to the front of his car…He leaned down to check the man he’d hit. He rested his fingers on the man’s carotid…but felt nothing…He carefully rolled the man to his back…even as a trained paramedic, Roy felt his stomach lurch…he closed his eyes in anguish….there was nothing he could do for this man.

 

Roy went around to Johnny’s door...opening it and squatting next to his partner. The young man was still leaning forward in his seat…his hand pressed against his forehead. Roy laid his hand gently on the back of his partner’s neck, feeling for any sign of damage before cupping the back of John’s head for support. “C’mon Johnny…I want you to lean back for me…just a little okay…? I need to take a look,” he instructed as he gently sat John upright. 

 

“H…how is he…?” John asked.

 

Roy shook his head… “He’s dead…”

 

Johnny was blinking hard, trying to clear his vision. Blood trickled from his nose and lip. “Let me see junior…,” Roy said as he pried the young man’s hand away from his face. Blood oozed from an inch long gash above Johnny’s left eye. The dark eyes were glazed and unfocused.

 

“I…I… ‘M Kay….,” he mumbled.

 

“Just sit still…,” Roy instructed as he gently swept the dark, sable hair from Johnny’s forehead to take a closer look. He reached over this partner to grab the keys from the ignition and ran around to the trunk, coming back a minute later with the first aid kit and a towel. “Are ya hurt anywhere else…?” Roy asked.

Johnny shook his head…but Roy stopped him immediately… “Don’t move your head, okay? Just say it.”

 

“Doan think so…”

 

Roy pressed the towel to Johnny’s nose and lip. “Lay your head back a little,” he directed leaning the younger man’s head back against the headrest. Roy used a corner of the cloth to gently wipe the blood from John’s forehead. It was already bruising. “Johnny… I’m gonna use that payphone up there to call the police and an ambulance okay? Hold on…stay awake junior…”

 

“Kay…,” he whispered as his head throbbed.

 

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Roy came back a few minutes later and squatted next to his friend once more. “They’re on their way partner, just hang on…”

 

“M okay Roy…,” he said softly. But his eyes were closed and he was biting his lower lip against the pain. A moment later they heard sirens in the distance.

 

Officer Mark Bloom was first on the scene…pulling up behind Roy’s Porsche.  He recognized the senior paramedic immediately. “Hey Roy…you okay?”

 

“Yeah…I’m fine but Johnny’s hurt and this man…,” he indicated the victim in the street… “Didn’t make it…”

 

“What happened…?” Mark asked as he walked toward the front of Roy’s car.

 

“He stepped out from between those two cars there…he was right in front of me. I stood on the brakes but…,” he shook his head sadly. “We were too close…I couldn’t stop in time.”

 

Bloom leaned over the victim… “Whew, he’s a mess…” He headed back to get a blanket, returning a few seconds later… He leaned closer. “Phew…smells like a brewery too. I’ll bet he was drunk,” he surmised as he spread the blanket.

 

“Doesn’t matter…,” Roy said feeling guilty.”

 

“Roy…he s…stepped out in f…front of you…There was n…nothin you could do…,” Johnny murmured softly from the car.

 

“Johnny…” Mark said bending down to look in the open door of the car… “How are you?”

 

John’s eyes were cracked open, his head resting back against the seat. Blood oozed through the bandage Roy had placed on his forehead and a bloodstained towel sat in his lap. “Head hurs…,” he mumbled around his split lip.

 

“Did you see what happened?”

 

“Yeah…The guy… c…came out from between…the cars,” he said tiredly. “I didn’t see…where he came from…he was just there.”

 

Another police car and squad 36 pulled up. B shifts senior paramedic Jay Cameron ran over. “Roy…Johnny, are you okay?” He asked setting down the trauma box.

 

“I’m fine…,” Roy said. “But Johnny banged his head on the dashboard.”

 

“Something wrong with your seatbelt there Gage?” Cameron asked.

 

“I just took it off to get…a coke from the back. When I t…turned around…the guy just came outta nowhere.”

 

“What guy?” Jay asked looking around and spotting the yellow blanket in front of Roy’s car. He glanced at the older paramedic… saw the negative shake of the head. Lewis turned his attention back to Johnny.

 

Jay’s partner, Dave Lewis…joined them a moment later. “Roy…you okay?” He asked seeing Jay working on Johnny.

 

“I’m good thanks…”

 

Cam nodded… “Don’t you two see enough of each other at work?” Dave asked with a grin. Everyone in the department knew the close relationship of this particular paramedic team. It was envied by most.

 

“Hey…I...I’m good company…right pally…”

 

“Right junior…,” Roy agreed with a grin.

 

Jay and Dave grinned at the nicknames. “Okay Johnny, we’re gonna call this in.”


“Ahh …I doan need a hospital Roy, “Can’t we just…”

 

“NO…we can’t…,” Roy cut him off…

 

“Ahhh man…,” he groaned miserably, swatting at Cameron's hand as he shone the penlight in his eyes.

 

“C’mon Gage, you know the routine.” His Partner was already giving John’s vitals to Rampart. “Did you lose consciousness at any time?”

 

“No…”

 

“Sure…?”

 

“Yes…

 

“Okay…well since you were able to tell the police what happened…I guess your memories intact.”

 

“Jay…they want us to start an IV…D5W and immobilize him…”

 

“WHAT…? No…,” Johnny almost shouted as he struggled to sit up but then groaned in pain and laid his head back.

 

“Johnny…you okay?" Roy asked anxiously as he rested his hand on his young partner’s arm.

 

John’s dark eye’s flicked toward Roy… “Doan wanna go to the hospital Roy…”

 

“No arguments…you’re goin…”

 

Johnny looked disgusted. “Roy…,” he began with a whine.

 

“John…,” Roy said warningly.

 

The younger man recognized the warning tone… “Okay…,” he groaned…knowing he’d lost.

 

The other two paramedics smiled and got to work.

 

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Frank Benjamin saw the blue and red flashing lights ahead. Great…Cops everywhere and his brother sitting somewhere up there blind drunk… “Okay Jimmy…where ya hidin…?” Frank murmured to himself as he cruised past the accident scene. He saw the yellow blanket in the street… “Poor slob…,” he muttered as he drove by. He was waved through the intersection by the police and he continued on. “Where are ya…?” he muttered again. There was the phone booth he’d probably called from but there was no sign of his brother.

 

A niggling worry began at the back of his brain… No…no he couldn’t…wouldn’t think that. He turned up the street…maybe he’d just missed him…Maybe he was over by those fire trucks tryin to see what happened.  He pulled up opposite the rescue crews and got out. He approached one of the officers.

 

“Sir…please get back in your car and move along…,” the young officer directed.

 

“Uh…yeah…but I’m supposed to meet my brother here and I don’t see him…I thought maybe he was in that crowd of people over there…,” he said pointing.

 

The officer looked hard at Frank… “What’s your brother’s name sir…?”

 

“Jimmy…uh…James Benjamin.”


The officer’s eyes flicked away for a moment and Frank knew. “Sir…could you step over here with me a moment please… Mark…,” the officer called, getting another officer’s attention. “This man is looking for his brother…James Benjamin."

 

Mark closed his eyes in resignation…he hated this part of his job… “Sir…I’m afraid there’s been an accident".

 

The group around Roy’s car heard the scream…they turned to see Mark Bloom trying to restrain a man from going over to the body…The man was crying… “Ah Jimmy…Oh no…,” he wept. Another officer moved to help Mark. They sat the man down on the curb and moved away to talk quietly.

 

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Jay was trying to get the C Collar on a protesting John Gage while Dave started the IV when they heard an anguished cry… They looked over and then back at each other… “Poor guy…,” Dave muttered.

 

Roy stood staring at the ground…Johnny reached out and touched his friend’s arm. “It wasn’t your fault Roy…Don’t go there.”

 

“I know but…”

 

“No buts Roy…there was no way you could avoid him.”

 

“I know…”

 

“Then let it go…feeling bad about what happened is normal but not guilt okay…?”

 

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Frank saw the group standing by the car… Why were they working on the guy in the car and not his brother…? Why weren’t they even trying to save Jimmy…? He staggered to his feet and headed over there.

 

“Hey…,” Frank said angrily as he approached the group. “Why aren’t you doin somethin for Jimmy…?” He growled angrily, pointing at the blanket covered figure.

 

“Sir…,” Jay responded gently. “There’s nothing we can do for him…he’s dead.”


“Who was driving this car…?”

 

Roy stepped up… “I was sir…I’m very sorry. He stepped in front of me from between the cars…I didn’t see him until it was too late.”

 

“Did you even try and help him…?” Frank asked angrily…his tone implying that he doubted it. “Or just your pal here…?”

 

“Sir…I’m a paramedic with LA County…Your brother was the first one I checked out. There wasn’t anything I could do…I truly am sorry.”

 

“Oh well..., that explains a lot…,” he snarled looking around at the uniformed men… “You’re all sittin here worryin about this guy while my brother’s dead in the street. You’re all pals right…you take care of each other…”

 

Johnny was outraged for Roy’s sake. He pushed Jay out of his way and stood up, fighting off the dizziness and nausea the motion caused. “Now look Mister…My partner tried to help your brother…He was already dead and he’s feeling really bad about what happened but your brother stepped out in front of him. There wasn’t any way to avoid him…He left half his tires back there tryin…”

 

“Johnny…,” Roy said grabbing his arm. “Come back and sit down. You’re not supposed to be movin around.”

 

“Yeah …Johnny…don’t move around…we wouldn’t want ya to get hurt,” Frank said snidely. He reached out and gave the young man a hard shove, knocking him backwards. Roy barely caught his partner before he hit the ground. He knelt…lowering John carefully to the sidewalk.

 

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 The police stepped in hauling Frank away… “Sir…please…just come sit down…,” Bloom said softly but Frank was having none of it…

 

“You all stick together don’cha…? My baby brother’s dead…,” he railed, struggling to free himself from the officers grip. “Maybe someday you’ll know how it feels to lose someone you love,” he screamed back at Roy.

 

“I already do…,” Roy said softly, close to Johnny’s ear…referring to a time only a couple of months ago when they’d thought Johnny was dead. Roy had been unwilling to believe he was gone for several days before he’d given up hope. Roy had been devastated by the loss of his best friend and the young man he’d come to care about like a younger brother.

 

Johnny heard his softly voiced comment and rolled his head around to look at his partner with a grin. “So do I," he replied remembering the plane crash that had almost taken the entire DeSoto family. "But hey Pally…I’m still here.” Roy smiled back at him.

 

“Let’s get you outta here then…,” Roy suggested teasingly, still concerned by his friends injuries. He gave the sable hair a gentle pat as the other two paramedics turned back to them.

 

“While it seems pointless now…,” Jay said drily as he inserted the needle for the IV. John clenched his teeth, clamping his eyes shut until he’d taped it in place.  “Cam’s gonna put the C Collar on ya and get you on the backboard…”

 

“I don’t need a backboard, I’m okay…,” he began to protest.

 

“John…,” Roy said warningly.

 

Johnny heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes at the tone. “Fine…,” he groaned in defeat.

 

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Frank sat fuming in the back of the police car. He watched enraged as they carefully loaded Johnny on a backboard and laid him gently on the gurney while his brother lay in the street like garbage.

 

Officer Bloom approached the group. “Roy…Go ahead with Johnny. We’ve already got your statement and I’ll have my partner drive your car to the hospital when the accident investigators are done okay?”

 

“That’d be great Mark…thanks.” Roy gave a final glance toward Frank Benjamin before climbing into the back of the ambulance with Johnny and Jay.

 

“You’re gonna pay for this…,” Frank muttered under his breath. “My Jimmy’s dead and you’re gonna know how it feels.”

 

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Johnny lay on the exam table in treatment room two…eyes closed against the glare of the overhead lights. Thankfully one of Ramparts better ER nurses had been on duty tonight. Betty had allowed Roy to stay with Johnny while the unfamiliar young Doctor was doing the exam.

 

He’d already ordered X-Rays and they were waiting on the results. “That cuts going to require a few stitches Mr. Gage…,” the Doctor informed him.

 

Johnny merely gave a brief nod and a soft moan. He had an awful headache building. His back and neck were stiff and as usual for Johnny, head injuries always brought on nausea and vomiting. He’d been battling it down for the last twenty minutes.

 

Roy was standing close to his head, holding the emesis basin. He knew his partner well and Betty grinned as they both waited for the inevitable.

 

Johnny’s eyes suddenly flew open…He gasped in panic as he struggled against the pain to roll over. Betty quickly stepped in to help as his ever present friend rolled him on his side. Roy gently held his head steady while his partner lost the contents of his stomach.  

 

Betty handed Roy a damp towel to clean his mouth and the sheen of sweat from his friends face before they rolled him onto his back. “Better…?” Roy asked softly.

 

John gave him a tiny nod as the Doctor came over to stitch the wound. A short time later the young physician checked the X-Rays… “You have a minor concussion Mr. Gage…four stitches and a mild case of whip lash.”

 

“That’s all…Can I go home then…?” He asked hopefully. The Doctor looked slightly shocked. Most people wouldn’t have thought of the injuries as trivial…

 

“Well…,” he hesitated.

 

“Look…I have a stiff neck and a headache…I’m fine okay?”

 

“Johnny…,” Roy began warningly. John shot him a pleading look.

 

“Mr. Gage…You really should have neuro checks done every hour or so.”

 

“Roy…Help me out here huh…?”

 

“Johnny, he’s right. You should stay.”

 

Johnny desperately wanted to go home but not for the reason Roy thought. The young Paramedic knew with Jo and the kids out of town, Roy would be alone. He’d dwell on the accident and beat himself up with guilt over the death of that young man even though it wasn’t his fault. Johnny wanted to be there to help him through it and even if it meant suffering through his partner’s over protective handling… Well then so be it. It would at least keep his mind on something besides the accident.

 

“Please Roy…,” he pleaded, turning his dark eyes toward his partner…silently begging for help.

 

God he hated it when Johnny did that…His long suffering friend shook his blonde head in defeat. “Okay junior…Look Doc…I can handle the neuro checks okay? Every hour…Any trouble and I’ll get him right back here…”

 

“Well…this is against my better Judgment…,”

 

“Mine too…,” Roy muttered.

 

“But since you’re a Paramedic… I guess it’d be okay…”

 

Johnny grinned in triumph as Roy shook his head. They both knew they’d never have budged Brackett or Early. “God help you when Brackett finds out…,” Roy whispered.

 

“Maybe he won’t…,” Johnny replied uneasily.

 

“Don’t bet on it…,” Roy warned.

 

“Brackett’s gonna kill you…,” Betty sing songed with a grin.

 

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Roy met Officer Bloom in the waiting room. “Thanks for bringin my car over.”

 

“No problem…How’s Gage…?”

 

“The Doctor’s letting him go home with me…He’s not happy about it but you know how persuasive Johnny can be…”

 

“He’s got your number, that’s for sure…,” Bloom teased with a laugh. Roy chuckled ruefully.

“So what happened back there…?”

 

“We let Benjamin go after you left.”

 

“Good…He was pretty distraught. After all…I know how I felt a few months ago when I thought Johnny was…,” Roy trailed off, flicking his fingers toward the treatment room. He blew out a breath at the remembrance.

 

“Yeah…I bet that was pretty tough knowing how close you two are.”

 

“Yeah…yeah it was…,” he said reflectively. He looked up at Mark a moment later with a rueful smile… “So…am I in trouble for what happened tonight?"

 

“Nah…The accident Investigator determined that you were doing the speed limit. The skid marks showed you tried to stop and that there was no way you could have stopped in time. Plus we have you and Johnny’s statements corroborating that he stepped out from between two parked cars in the dark and the bar owner said he’d tossed the kid out ten minutes before…said he was plowed. The coroner agreed that he was most likely drunk but they’ll have to wait for the blood tests to come back…Anyway they pretty much ruled it an accident.

 

Roy nodded his thanks and glanced up to see Johnny carefully making his way down the hall towards them. The older man hurried toward him. “Johnny…you don’t look too good…I really think you should stay.”

 

“I’m fine Roy, really,” the younger dark haired man protested, easing down into the waiting room chair. “Hey Mark…,” Johnny said, sounding tired. “How’d it go out there?”

 

Roy cut in before Bloom could speak. “I’ll tell you all about it on the way home. Mark…sorry to run but I gotta get him into a bed…soon,” Roy said assisting his partner to his feet. “C’mon junior…let’s get you home.”

 

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Roy woke Johnny every hour, running him through a few quick tests. “Squeeze my hands…Name…?”

 

“John Gage…”

 

“How old are ya…?”

 

“Twenty four…,” he sighed.

 

“Okay junior, go back to sleep.”

 

“How are you doin…?” The softly voiced question stopped Roy as he was shutting off the light.

“I’m fine junior…”

 

“You sure…?”

 

“They said it wasn’t my fault…”

 

“You okay with that…?”

 

“Look junior…I feel really bad about hitting him and it’s gonna bother me for a long time…” Johnny’s dark eyes locked with Roy’s blue.

 

“But you know it wasn’t your fault…?”

 

“Yeah…Somewhere in the back of my mind I do and eventually I’ll listen to you and believe it.” John grinned. Roy looked at him hard. “Is that why you were so determined to come home…? Were you worried about me…?”

 

Johnny averted his gaze… “Well yeah…sorta.”

 

“I wish I’d known that you nut…,” Roy said fondly, giving John’s cheek a light nudge with his knuckle.

 

John grinned up at him… “But I’m a friendly nut…,” Johnny quipped, reminding him of something he’d once told him.

 

“Go to sleep…,” Roy said with a laugh, shutting off the light.

 

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Frank Benjamin lay awake the rest of the night thinking about the scene…The Cops, the Firemen all protecting each other. That guy who’d killed his little brother just walkin away Scott free. He’d heard the investigators…They’d called it an accident. They’d said Jimmy was drunk…well who cared if he was or not. “It don’t make it alright…,” Frank muttered to himself. “I’ll make em pay Jimmy…he won’t get away with it…”

 

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Kelly Brackett sat at his desk Monday Morning…He’d come in early to review Dr. Henderson’s cases from last night. Henderson was a good Doctor but Kel always liked to double check his young Intern’s work just to be safe. One name leaped from the files. ‘JOHN GAGE…’ Kel whipped the file open and read the file over. He checked the results of the tests and his eyes dropped to the bottom line… ‘DISCHARGED…’

 

“Damn it Johnny…,” Kel muttered as he reached for the phone, knowing exactly where to find John Gage…

 

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Roy picked up the phone on the first ring, hoping to keep it from waking Johnny. “Hello…,” he answered, expecting Joanne’s voice. He was only mildly surprised to hear Kelly Brackett instead.

 

“Roy…?”


“Uh…hi Doc…”

 

“Roy…Is Johnny there…?”

 

“Yeah…,” Roy said with a sigh, already knowing where this was going.

 

“How is he…?”

 

“I woke him every hour…He knows his name, his age and what day it is…He remembers the accident and he’s not experiencing any weakness in his grip…He has a headache but he hasn’t complained of any dizziness or nausea…His pupils are equal and reactive.” Roy stopped, realizing he was rattling. Kel’s stern voice came over the line.

 

“I want him back in here…yesterday…”

 

“But why Doc…?”

 

“I don’t trust him…at least not about how he’s feeling…”

 

“I’ll bring him in…,” Roy said with a sigh.

 

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“But Roy…I’m fine,” Johnny complained as Roy informed him that Brackett wanted him back in the ER.

 

“Yeah…well he wants to see for himself. Let’s go junior…”

Johnny wobbled unsteadily as he climbed to his feet, prompting his partner to move quickly to his side to take his arm and slide his other around his young friend’s waist.

 

“He was right…you’re not okay are ya junior…?”

 

“Just a little dizzy…I’m fine,” he argued trying to shake off the assisting hands.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me…?” Roy snapped.

 

“Roy…It’s normal to be a little dizzy after a head injury,” Johnny reasoned, biting his lip nervously. Roy glared at him and shook his head.

 

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“Would you care to tell me how you talked Dr. Henderson and your partner into letting you walk outta here last night?” John bit his lip at the irritated tone of Kelly Brackett’s voice. “I’d like to know so I can start teaching my young Doctor’s how to say no to you...John Gage 101…,” he said sarcastically.

 

Johnny shook his head… “I…I just needed to be with Roy, that’s all.”

 

“Why…?” Kel barked.

 

“We had an accident last night,” Johnny said feeling a little sick to his stomach, he swallowed hard.

 

“I’m well aware of that…,” Kel said, waving the file in front of John’s face.

 

“Someone died…”

 

“Oh…?”

 

“I was worried about Roy…”

 

“You should have been worrying about you…you were the one injured.”

 

Johnny glanced at the door…He knew Roy was right outside it… “It was a kid Doc…he was only twenty one…Roy was feelin real guilty…I could see it in his face. I wanted to be sure I was there if he needed me…”

 

“And if he's fussing over you, than he wouldn’t be dwelling on the accident,” Kel finished.

 

“Exactly…,” Johnny said in relief that the doctor finally understood. “Or at least I’d be there to talk to if he did…”

 

“I see…” Kel picked up the phone. “Carol…I’m admitting John Gage for observation. Get a room for him for the night.”

 

John’s mouth dropped open in surprise… “But…but Doc…I…I just told ya I’m fine and I just explained…,” John sputtered.

 

“You’re not fine…You’re experiencing dizziness and I’ll bet nausea judging from the way you’re swallowing.

 

Johnny looked at him suspiciously… “Roy tell you I was dizzy…?”

 

Kel just smiled. He went to the door and let Roy in. “Roy…C’mon in. Johnny will be spending the night here at Rampart.”

 

Roy glanced at Johnny and got an eye roll of frustration. “Don’t roll those eyes at me either Johnny,” Kel snapped. John looked shocked. Brackett’s back was turned to him…how had he known…? His face reddened in embarrassment.

 

“You all know me too well…,” he mumbled.

 

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“Did he read you the riot act too…?” Johnny grouched at Roy from his hospital bed a while later.

 

“Yeah…He told me I had to toughen up…” Johnny shot him a grin. “But he also understands why you felt you had to…At least this time. Thanks for worryin about me junior but I’ve come to terms with it. So…let’s get you better and back in the squad.”

 

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Frank Benjamin read the accident report. ‘Roy DeSoto…,’ he muttered… ‘285 Washington St….’

 

“Well Mr. Roy DeSoto…Let’s find out how you feel about losing someone you love.” Tomorrow was Jimmy’s funeral but after that…he’d begin his revenge…He wouldn’t rest until Roy DeSoto hurt as much as he did…

 

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Brackett released Johnny the next day… “I think he keeps me there just to prove he can…,” John complained in annoyance as he climbed into Roy’s car.

 

“I think he keeps you here because he knows you too well and he’s more concerned about you than he’d like to let on.”

 

John brightened a bit at that thought. “You really think so…? It’s hard to tell if someone likes you or if there really just putting up with ya…ya know…? I think he’s just one those people that’s really hard to get to know…to know what he’s thinkin…” Roy heaved a martyred sigh…Johnny was off and running. It could be a while before he ran out of steam…Roy started the engine and headed for Johnny’s apartment.

 

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Frank headed out in his work van. The name F&J Electricians wouldn’t arouse any suspicions where a stranger’s car in the area might…especially as DeSoto had seen his car on the night of the accident. He located the DeSoto house very quickly and parked a little way up the street. From here he could see the comings and goings. He’d watch him for a while before deciding his course of action.

 

Two days later he was still unsure of how to bring Roy DeSoto to his knees. Frank had been watching the house for several hours that first day when he’d been approached by one of DeSoto’s neighbors. A middle aged lady, who lived a couple of houses up from his target…She’d seen his van and had asked him to look at the wiring in her basement. He’d quoted her a ridiculously low price for the re-wiring job and had made it a point to befriend the woman.  She loved to gossip and was flattered at the man’s attention…she was a treasure trove of information.

 

Through Miss Watford, he now knew Roy DeSoto had a Wife, Joanne…A son Chris and his Daughter Jennifer. His Mother had made a brief appearance on Tuesday which had allowed him to bring up DeSoto’s family. He was disappointed to learn that he was an only child. He wasn’t up for killing women and children but he do it if necessary…DeSoto would hurt as badly as he did…He’d make sure of it.

 

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Frank sat in Miss Watford’s kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee and watching Roy work in his yard. A white land rover pulled up to the curb and the young dark haired man from the accident climbed out. Frank was sure it was him…he still had the small bandage on his forehead.

 

Miss Watford came up beside him as he watched. She glanced out the window and heaved a sigh at the sight of the man. “You know him…?” Frank asked the woman innocently as she gazed appreciatively at the slender, handsome man up the street.

 

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Roy greeted Johnny as he stepped out of the rover. “Hey Partner…Brackett release you for duty tomorrow?” Johnny nodded… “Great…I’ll be glad to have you back. Joe Hanson’s a nice guy but…,” he shrugged as he trailed off…

 

“Ahh partner…does that mean ya missed me…?” Johnny joked.

 

“Yeah junior…I guess it does…,” Roy replied, wrapping an arm around John’s neck and steering him toward the house.

 

Miss Watford smiled as she watched the horseplay. “Yes I know him. That’s John Gage…Roy’s partner. He’s around all the time.”

 

“Friends are they…?” He asked in disappointment…That wasn’t enough.

 

“Oh more than friends…,” she replied regaining his interest. “Best friends…Joanne said once that Johnny was like Roy’s kid brother and I believe…,” she trailed off, looking at Franks face and the gloating smile that spread across it. Miss Watford shuddered slightly.

 

Frank finished the job that day. The next morning he followed Roy to work. He’d watch for awhile just to be sure. He had an idea and he wanted to be sure the paramedic would hurt as much as he did…but not before he made him sweat.

 

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Roy and Johnny went to work the next morning unaware that they were being watched. The station was called out on a run a short time later and when they returned there was a note on Captain Stanley’s desk addressed to Roy.

 

Cap handed the envelope over to Roy with a grin… “Secret admirer Pal…,” he teased. Roy tossed him a grin as he tore the letter open. Block letters greeted him along with some elementary poetry…

MOTHER, SON, DAUGHTER, WiFE

WHIICH OF THEM  COULD LOSE THEIR LIFE…?

 

Roy stared at the words in shock. Johnny wandered out of the Rec-room a moment later and spotting his partner headed toward him.

 

“Whatcha got there pally…,” he asked, nodding at the paper. “Joanne sending ya love notes…?” He teased with a grin.

 

“No…,” Roy said worriedly… “No not love notes.” Johnny’s grin faded at Roy’s tone and he took the note from his friend and glanced at it.

 

“What the hell is this…?” He breathed, and then looked at Roy in shock… “Do you know who sent this…?” He asked, his brown eyes widening in fear for Roy’s family.

 

“No…”

 

“You should call the police,” Johnny advised. “I mean Vince or someone would know what to do…”

 

“Look, maybe it’s just a sick joke…”

 

“What if it isn’t…? Roy he’s threatening Jo and the Kids…heck even Harriet. You wanna risk that?”

 

“But we don’t even know who…”

 

“The only one I can think of is that Benjamin guy…” Worried brown eyes regarded Roy… “Don’t fool around with this Roy…”

 

Cap came out of his office a minute later… “What’s up you two…?” He asked his two troubled looking paramedics. Roy handed him the note. Cap scanned it…he raised worried brown eyes and took the decision out of their hands.

 

“I’m calling the police…”

 

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“Two weeks…two lousy weeks,” Frank muttered and no sign that the Watford woman had been right about the relationship between DeSoto and Gage. Sure he’d seen them together frequently both at work and at home but that didn’t prove they were anything more than casual friends.

 

Frank was working on another note and he chuckled to himself at the police showing up over the first one. He’d played the innocent victim to the hilt. “Look…,” he’d wept… “First I lose my kid brother and now you’re harassing me too…” He thought he’d deserved an academy award. The police had left feeling reasonably assured that Frank Benjamin was innocent and even if they weren’t…they couldn’t prove a thing. Frank made his second delivery to the fire station that night.

 

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MOTHER, DAUGHTER, WiFE OR SON

DEATH COULD COME FOR ANYONE…

 

The same paper, the same block letters greeted him. “Man. Roy this guy is really sick…I mean what kind of person goes around threatening women and children,” Johnny railed angrily.

 

“Roy…Have you considered sending Jo and the kids somewhere?” Cap asked as Vince bagged the letter as evidence.

 

“Yeah…I’m beginning to think I might have to until they figure out who this is.”

 

“You sure it’s not Frank Benjamin?” Johnny asked the officer.

 

“If it is…we can’t prove it Johnny,” Vince said in disgust.

 

The station control unit began to sound… “Station 51, Engine 45 Structure fire…757 Grace Ave…7-5-7 Grace Ave…Cross Street East 224th…Time out 9:47…”

 

“Station 51…KMG365…,” Cap replied from the podium.

 

Roy and John threw a wave at Vince as they ran for the vehicles. The squad pulled out followed closely by the Engine. None of the Crew noticed the electricians van that pulled out behind them.

 

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The crew arrived at an old three story apartment complex. Smoke billowed from the roof…There was some concern that there were two women still inside. John and Roy shrugged into their turnouts and SCBA tanks. “Ready…?” Johnny asked his partner.

 

Roy gave him a nod and they moved together into the building. Roiling, choking black smoke filled the corridors as the two paramedics moved together through the apartments. They came up empty. The HT crackled to life…

 

“John, Roy…,” Caps voice came over the instrument.  “The missing victims are outside …get out of the building…,” he ordered.

 

An explosion ripped through one of the apartments as they moved toward the stairs. The door blew from its hinges slamming into Johnny as he made his way down the corridor.

 

Roy whirled around in time to see his partner blown backwards into the wall, the apartment door lying on top of him. Roy ran back shoving the wreckage off his friend. Johnny was slumped against the wall...blood trickled from his nose and mouth…he was unconscious.

 

Roy ran his hands quickly over his arms and legs, searching for broken bones, breathing a sigh of relief when he didn’t find any. He gave a quick heave on his partner’s turnouts to pull him to his feet and leaned him against the wall until he could get his shoulder beneath him and let him fall forward. He got a good grip and headed quickly down the stairs.

 

Roy carried his partner to the squad. Cap glanced over and realized his youngest crew member was injured and unconscious. He signaled to Station 45’s Captain to take over the scene for the moment while he hurried to his senior paramedic’s side. He snatched the drug box and Biophone on his way by.

 

“What the hell happened Roy…?” He questioned worriedly.

 

“Got caught in that explosion Cap…He got hit by a door.”

 

Cap nodded and began raising Rampart. “Rampart base this is Squad 51…”

 

“Squad 51, this is Rampart…go ahead…,” Joe Early’s voice came back.

 

“Rampart we have a twenty four year old male…He’s been caught in an explosion. He’s unconscious and he’s bleeding from the nose and mouth.” Cap heard Roy’s voice reeling off John’s vitals and quickly began to write them down. He keyed the mic and began to repeat them. “Rampart his vital signs are…BP is 120/80, pulse is 60, respirations’ are 16…Anything broken Roy…?” He called over.

 

“Doesn’t look like it…”

 

“Victim doesn’t appear to have any broken bones…Rampart…be advised the victim is John Gage…”

 

“10-4… 51…Start an IV, D5WTKO…Immobilize his head and neck as a precaution and transport as soon as possible.”

 

Roy spoke softly as he worked on his partner… “C’mon junior, open your eyes for me. C’mon partner wake up…,” he urged. He was oblivious to the crowd of onlookers who edged close to watch the drama unfolding before them. One in particular was taking careful note of Roy’s gentle handling of his young friend.

 

“Mmmm….,”Johnny groaned in pain as Roy placed the C Collar around his neck…his eyes fluttered as he struggled to regain consciousness. The brown eyes finally managed to open and stay that way. He struggled to sit up.

 

“No you don’t Junior…you just lay back,” Roy said gently, pressing him down on the blanket.

 

“R…Roy…,” he groaned in confusion…the look of confusion in his eyes telling Roy he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here. He reached up to touch his aching head but Roy grasped the fingers in his hand, keeping him from it.

 

“Yeah Johnny, I’m here…,” he said squeezing the fingers clasped in his own before laying it back down.

 

“Wha…what Hap…happened?”

 

“You got caught in an explosion Junior…do you remember…?”

 

“No…,” he shook his head….The motion caused a wave of dizziness to wash over him. Roy saw his friends face pale and rolled him on his side just in time as Johnny began to retch helplessly. Roy held his forehead until the spasms passed and then gently rolled him back.

 

Oblivious to the interest of one onlooker in particular, Roy gently swept the sable hair away from the bruise that was darkening on his brow. “Hang on junior okay…the ambulance is coming…” Johnny’s eyes started to drift closed. “Johnny, stay with me…,” Roy pleaded. “Open your eyes John…”

 

The concern in Roy’s face was proof enough for Frank Benjamin. The fear in his voice was music to his ears. That Watford woman had been correct after all. This young man meant a great deal to DeSoto and it was painfully obvious.

 

John’s eyes fluttered open at Roy’s urging. “I’m s…still here R…Roy…,” he murmured as he raised his hand slightly. Roy caught it in his.

 

“I’m here too junior.”

 

While some in the audience may have been touched, Frank Benjamin smiled a frightening smile.

 

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“Johnny…I’m afraid you’re gonna be a guest at Rampart for at least twenty four hours." The young paramedic groaned in irritation as he rolled his eyes. 

 

“Man…I’m getting tired of the Gage suite Doc…”

 

Kel laughed. “We may have to redecorate so you won’t be bored with the décor… Dix…Get him a room okay…one he hasn’t been in yet…”

 

“Do we have one of those Kel…,” she teased as she brushed her fingers through the dark hair. John crinkled his nose and stuck his tongue out at her, drawing a laugh and a wink for her favorite paramedic. “We’ll get you settled in a few minutes okay? He nodded carefully.

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Roy returned to the station once Johnny was settled and had dozed off. Another note awaited him.

 

SON, MOTHER, WiFE, DAUGHTER

WHIICH OF THEM  WiILL BE LED TO THE SLAUGHTER?

 

“Damn it…,” Roy said handing the note over to Vince. “He’s threatened them all and I don’t know which one to protect.”

 

“Why don’t you send them to visit Jo’s parents?” Vince suggested.

 

“For how long…?” Roy asked plaintively… “Forever…?”

 

“We’re doing our best to figure this out Roy…”

 

“I know…,” he sighed.

 

Roy picked up Johnny from the hospital the next afternoon. Roy was very quiet and Johnny caught the look of concern on Roy’s face. “What’s wrong…?” Johnny asked worriedly. 

 

“Got another note…”

 

“What did this one say…?” he asked, his brown eyes dark with concern. Roy repeated the poem. “Sick animal…,” Johnny said in disgust. “Threatens…babies and…and women.”

 

“Joanne took the kids to San Diego to stay with her parents for a few days so at least they’re outta harm’s way. My Mom’s in Pasadena with her sister. Vince says they’re doin all they can.”

 

“I hope they find this guy in a hurry…,” Johnny muttered.

 

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Roy returned to work the next day with a sense of relief that his family was safely out of reach…Johnny would return by the next shift and Roy was looking forward to that as well. Hanson’s slightly slovenly habits were starting to annoy him. Even Johnny’s habit of talking with his mouth full didn’t bother him as much as Hanson’s sloppiness.

 

Cap came out of his office…the grim look on his face warning enough that there was bad news. “Roy…I’ve already called Vince but here’s another one pal…,” he told his senior paramedic as he handed him the envelope. Roy opened it…His face went pale as he began to read. “What’s it say Pal…Who’s he threatening this time…?”

 

The note dropped from Roy’s suddenly numb fingers… “It’s not a threat this time…,” he whispered. He ran for the phone in the rec room where the guys were having coffee.  “He’s goin after Johnny…,” he yelled back to his Captain. He snatched the handset up and dialed the number as the guy’s looked up in confusion. Cap came in with the note in his hand. “C’mon Johnny, C’mon…,” the phone beeped out a busy signal. Roy slammed it back on the hook.

 

“What’s it say Cap…?” Mike asked as Roy snatched up the phone once more.

 

NOT SON OR WiFE OR DAUGHTER OR MOTHER

AFTER CAREFUL THOUGHT ICHOSE YOUR BROTHER.

 

“Benjamin…it has to be…,” Chet stated as he leaped from his chair.

 

“Who else…?” Marco asked also standing.

 

“Damn it Junior, hang up…,” Roy yelled as he slammed the phone down and bolted for the squad.

 

“C’mon guys…,”Cap said as Roy pelted past him. “Roy and John may need us…”

 

They ran for the vehicles…Cap was already on the radio calling for police assistance at Johnny’s apartment before the rigs had cleared the bay.

 

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John was lounged on his couch. His Aunt had called to tell him she was heading out on a cruise and just wanted to find out how he was after his latest accident before she left. From down in the parking lot he heard the sound of a horn blaring. “Man…I wish they’d cut that horn off…,” he muttered. There was a loud banging on his front door.  “Aunt Rose I gotta go…There’s someone at the door.”

 

“Okay sweetie…I’ll see you later.” They hung up and John went to answer the door.  

 

He opened it to find Jeannie, the pretty red head from downstairs waiting. “Hey Jeannie, you wanna come in for a minute…?”

 

“I’d love to but I’m on my way out…but I thought I’d let you know that that’s your rover makin all that noise down there.”

 

“What…?” Johnny said, stepping out on the landing and looking over the railing.  “Thanks Jean…Damn it…,” he muttered as he padded barefoot down the stairs. He pulled his keys out of his pocket as he went. Johnny popped the hood release and lifted the panel. He fished around underneath for a moment and the horn finally went dead. “Wonder what caused that…?” He mumbled to himself.  Johnny saw a flash of color at the entrance of the parking lot. The young paramedic grinned as he recognized the squad. The grin faded a moment later as he saw the engine pull in behind. “Wonder what’s up…?”

 

Johnny headed towards them, his attention focused on the squad.  He didn’t hear the car accelerating up behind him until the last moment. He saw the look of horror on Roy’s face as he looked past his partner. John turned to see a green car only a few feet away and barreling straight at him.

 

Johnny made a desperate leap almost getting clear…the bumper clipped him and the cars momentum flipped his body like a ragdoll…he landed hard on the concrete…head first with a sickening thud…

 

The green car never slowed down… blowing past the squad and the engine and turning out into traffic. Tires squealing…

 

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Roy watched in breathless anticipation as John’s quick reflexes kicked in and he leaped to the side. He almost made it…Hope turned to helpless shock as his best friend was struck…his body tumbling through the air to land head first on the pavement in a crumpled heap.

 

“JOHNNY…,” he yelled in anguish, throwing the squad in park and leaping from the cab. He ran to his partner’s side. “Trauma box…hurry,” Roy yelled to Hanson. The engine crew was racing to assist Roy. Cap had already called in the car’s description.

 

“Johnny…?” Roy called urgently, his voice close to panic as he checked his pulse… it was there…barely “Johnny can you hear me…? C’mon Johnny wake up…talk to me junior…” The young man was non- responsive. Roy tried a sternal rub without results. “Not good…not good,” Roy whispered looking up at Cap with desperate eyes. “He’s not breathing…” Roy snatched up the airway tube…”Get Rampart on the line now…,” he yelled. “Tell them I’m starting an airway. Tell them he’s not breathin…”

 

“Rampart base this is squad 51…how do you read…?”  Hanson said calmly.

 

“God Cap…," Chet whispered as they gathered to watch Roy battle to save their young crew mate.

 

“Hurry Roy…,” Mike murmured half under his breath.

 

“Go ahead 51…”

 

Roy finished the airway turning the ambu bag over to Hank as he snatched the phone from Hanson… “Rampart…it’s Johnny…,” He yelled, breaking radio protocol. “He’s been hit by a car…He’s hit his head…He’s non- responsive to pain stimuli…He has no spontaneous respiration and I’ve started an esophageal airway…He’s bleeding from a large contusion on the top of his head…he has multiple abrasions on his face.” Roy noted that his left arm was turned at an odd angle as well as his left leg. “I think he has fractures of the left tibia and the left radius as well…His BP is…” He looked at Hanson…

 

“110/70…his pulse is real weak and thready Roy…He was cyanotic and his skin is cool and clammy. His pupil’s are unequal and he’s got blood in his ears…” Hanson said softly…knowing his words were tearing DeSoto’s heart out.

 

“Oh Jesus…,” Roy whispered it as a desperate plea… “Please don’t do this junior…,” he begged as he keyed the mic and repeated it all to Rampart. The fear in his voice coming through loud and clear…

 

Brackett’s voice came back sounding a bit shaky as well but in control. “10-4 on the airway 51…Start an IV D5WTKO…Splint the arm and the leg…use full spinal precautions and transport as soon as possible…”

 

Roy was already working on his partner…his hands shaking slightly in fear for his friend…His crew mate’s watched in frozen silence.

 

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Roy stayed with Johnny all the way into the treatment room…He knew the other’s would be right behind him…They’d stayed to talk to the police.

 

Dixie tried to usher him out as soon as they had made the transfer from gurney to table as Carol began to cut away John’s clothing. Roy shook his arm free of Dixie’s grip. “No way Dix…,” he whispered. “This is my fault…I’m stayin.”

 

“Your fault…? You ran Johnny down Roy…?”

 

“Of course not…but this jerk did it to get even with me…”

 

“Then the jerk is at fault Roy…not you.”

 

“You know what I mean Dix…I’m not in the mood for word games…,” Roy growled.

 

“Kel…,” Joe Early said… “I want to do an EEG right away…I don’t like the look of this…”

 

“Alright Joe…I’m getting a full skull and spinal series…”

 

“He has no spontaneous respirations Kel…,” Joe added worriedly. “We need to get him on a respirator…STAT.” Kel nodded and Joe left the room to make the arrangements.

 

“Roy…?” Kel said looking at the blonde paramedic. “I need you to step out for a few minutes. We’ll be out to talk to you as soon as possible…”

 

“Doc…,” Roy began.

 

“Roy please…,” Brackett said urgently.

 

Roy’s heart climbed into his throat at the look at Kelly Brackett’s face. His eye traveled to his best friend. Dixie was inserting a Foley catheter as Carol Williams hooked Johnny up to the EKG monitor. The X-Ray technician pushed into the room, wheeling the portable ahead of him… Joe Early returned with the EEG, while another nurse pushed a respirator into the room. 

 

Dixie’s face was as pale as Roy’s as she looked at the dark haired Doctor in fear. “Kel…?” She called out catching his attention. She nodded and Brackett glanced down at her hands…She was applying serious pressure to Johnny’s nail beds…there was no response. Tears welled in her eyes as she laid his hands down on the table…She stroked the pale brow of her young friend as she leaned down close. Her voice shook… “Don’t you leave us John Gage…Do you hear me…? We can’t lose you again…,” she whispered in his ear.

 

Kel’s mouth tightened but he turned his attention to hooking up the respirator. “Okay everyone…Let’s let Malcolm do his job…,” He said as he finished taping it in place. They all turned to leave the room. Kel took Roy by the arm. Half dragging him along beside him as the blonde paramedic was reluctant to let Johnny out of his site.

 

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Cap and the crew finally arrived an hour later. They came into the Doctor’s lounge to join Roy and Hanson. The look on Roy’s face was enough to stop the words of greeting…Unshed tears hovered in Roy’s eyes as he rolled the HT in his hands.

 

Cap sat next to him, laying his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “How bad…?” He asked quietly.

 

“D…Doc…,” Roy’s voice was hoarse…he cleared his throat and tried again. “Doctor Brackett hasn’t come out yet…but it’s real bad Cap…Johnny might not…make it.” Roy’s voice caught on the last word as his shoulders’ began to shake and tears spilled over the blonde lashes. “God…Cap…,” 

 

Hank knew if his usually unflappable senior paramedic was going to pieces it was critical. Hank’s heart climbed to his throat and his stomach sank at the thought of losing Johnny…again. He wrapped his arms around Roy as much to give comfort to himself as to console the younger man. Cap had to choke back his own tears, trying to stay strong for Roy…and prayed for another miracle.

 

Chet, Mike and Marco wiped at their own eyes. “We can’t lose Johnny…,” Chet whispered brokenly.

 

They looked at each other in dismay and sat down to wait.

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Thirty minutes later Kelly Brackett and Joe Early came into the lounge. Roy bolted from his seat…the others stood a little more slowly…not sure they wanted to hear what the two Doctor’s had to say.

 

“How is he…?” Roy demanded urgently.

 

Brackett stood staring at the floor. His mouth held tightly in a grim line. “I won’t lie to you Roy…It doesn’t look good…” Kel and Joe felt the weight of five sets of frightened eyes.

 

“What exactly does that mean…? Are you sayin he’s gonna die…?”

 

“Roy…Johnny has no spontaneous respiration…”

 

“What’s that mean…?” Chet asked.

 

“He can’t breathe on his own Chet…,” Mike answered somberly as Kel continued to direct his comments to Roy…

 

“He has a severe head injury…There is some brain swelling and a skull fracture… His EEG wasn’t good at all. We have Dr. Fisher on his way down here from neurology. He’s going to do a neurological assessment with what they call the Glasgow scale. Roy…John is non-responsive to pain stimuli…we have him on a respirator. We’ve already casted his leg and his wrist, both of which were fractured. He’s got two broken ribs…That’s all I can tell you until Fisher finishes up with him…” Kel looked bleak.

 

“Is Johnny brain…?” Roy couldn’t finish the words…

 

“No Roy…He still has activity but…,” he shook his head… “It’s minimal…”

 

“Oh God…,” Cap murmured.

 

Chet, Mike and Marco sat down abruptly… “Oh man Gage…You never do anything half way do ya…?” Chet muttered, wiping his eyes with shaking hands. Marco laid his arm soothingly across his friends back…but his eyes reflected his friends sorrow.

 

“Can I see him…?” Roy whispered.

 

“As soon as Dr. Fisher finishes…”

 

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Roy slipped into Johnny’s room an hour later. The engine crew had to return to duty and the police had tracked Roy down…going over exactly what he’d seen…the notes he’d received and who his enemies might be…Cap had called in a replacement knowing his senior paramedic was beyond rational thought right now…

 

Roy stopped abruptly as the sights and sounds assailed him. The snap hiss of the ventilator and the beeping of the heart monitor combined with the array of tubes and wires that snaked around Johnny’s head and disappeared beneath the covers. The paleness of Johnny’s skin a stark contrast to the sable hair and the dark lashes that rested delicately on his cheekbones. The long, slender fingers lay unmoving beside him. Roy moved to his friend’s side taking the still hand in his. There was no response…not even a twitch.  John’s face was a mass of purple and black bruises competing in color for the dark red scrapes that marred the handsome features.

 

“Johnny…?” Roy said softly, stroking his friend’s forehead. He squeezed John’s hand, leaning close to speak directly into his young partner’s ear… “I don’t know if you can hear me but I wanted you to know I’m here. I’m so sorry Johnny…He did this to you because of me…We’re gonna get this guy…We will I promise and I’ll be here for you Johnny okay….? We’re all pulling for ya. You’ve got so many friends junior…We want you back partner please…” Roy sat for an hour just talking to his friend, holding his hand and brushing the hair from John’s forehead with the back of his fingers.

 

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Roy picked up the phone with a shaking hand and called Joanne. His eyes welled with tears at the sound of her voice.

 

“Hi honey… Please tell me it’s safe to come home…?” She asked hopefully. His silence alarmed her instantly. “Roy…what’s wrong?” She asked in concern.

 

“Jo…it’s Johnny…”

 

“What…?”

 

“He went after Johnny…,” Roy’s voice caught.

 

“Oh my God Roy…How bad…?”

 

“He’s in a coma Jo…,” he whispered brokenly.

 

“Sweet heaven…,” She breathed in shock. “I’m on my way home…”

 

“No…no, they haven’t caught him yet…It’s not safe.”

 

“Then I’ll leave the kids with my mom, but I’m coming home…I want to be with you and Johnny.”

 

“Jo please…I’ll feel better if I know you’re okay...besides,  I won’t feel so bad spending time with Johnny if I’m not neglecting you and the kids.”

 

“Roy…you never neglect us and I always understand when you need to be with Johnny…even more so now…”

 

“I know but I’d be really worried about you every minute I’m away…please I need to know you’re safe.”

 

Joanne heaved a resigned sigh. “Alright…but Roy if there’s no change soon…,” she let the warning trail off.

 

“Okay Honey…”

 

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Kel came in a few minutes later with a tall dark haired man… “Roy…,” Kel greeted. “This is Doctor Fisher.”

 

Roy nodded a greeting… “What can you tell me about Johnny?”

 

“Well Mr. DeSoto…Kel here tells me you have clearance with Mr. Gage to discuss his medical condition so let me explain. First…the tests show a buildup of inter-cranial pressure. We’ll need to relieve that pressure surgically.” Roy bit his lip, staring at the floor in dismay. “Mr. DeSoto…?” The younger man looked up. “We’ve run some other tests… Mr. Gage is only a category 1 on the Glasgow Scale…That's only a score of 3. ”

 

"I'm sorry,” Roy said in fearful confusion. “I don’t know what that means.”

"Let me show you," he said extending a clipboard with a chart. "It’s a relatively new scoring system for coma patients…"

Glasgow Coma Scale

 

1

2

3

4

5

Eyes

Does not open eyes

Opens eyes in response to painful stimuli

Opens eyes in response to voice

Opens eyes spontaneously

N/A

Verbal

Makes no sounds

Incomprehensible sounds

Utters inappropriate words

Confused, disoriented

Oriented, converses normally

Motor

Makes no movements

Extension to painful stimuli (decerebrate response)

Abnormal flexion to painful stimuli (decorticate response)

Flexion / Withdrawal to painful stimuli

Localizes painful stimuli

 

He ran his finger over the top of the chart..."These numbers are are a scoring system, 1 to 5 points for each response in a category... " Roy nodded. "While these down the side are what we give points for."

"I referred to him as being a category 1...," he explained running his finger down the first column because he isn't reponding either physically or verbally...understand...?" Roy’s face turned pale and he swallowed back tears as the Doctor continued. “He's only scored 1 point for each category... That's only a combined score of 3 out of a possible 15. Mr. Gage is only a point above absolute brain death.,” he said gently. "We’re going to run them again after the surgery.”

 

“Is Johnny gonna die…?” He asked plaintively, his voice just above a whisper.

 

“We’ll do our best to keep that from happening…but right now his brain is simply not communicating with his body…”

 

Roy nodded and looked at Kel… “Will you be there…? I know Johnny would feel a lot better if you were there.”

 

“Joe and I will both be there…,” he reassured the younger man as he patted his shoulder.

 

Roy turned and leaned over Johnny… “You hang in there junior…I need you…”

 

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The orderlies arrived only a few moments later to take Johnny to surgery. “Don’t quit on me Junior….,” he ordered as they took him from the room.

 

Roy went to the phone to call the station. He’d promised Hank to keep them informed. “Station51…Captain Stanley Speaking…”

 

“Cap…? It’s Roy…”

 

“How is he Roy…?”

 

“They’ve taken him to surgery Cap…He’s bleeding…inter-cranially…they need to relieve the pressure but the Doctor said he’s not good Cap…” Roy’s voice cracked as he finished. “He’s in a coma…,”

 

“Roy…do you need me to come down there…?”

 

Roy swallowed hard, regaining control… “No Cap…I’ll be okay…I’ll uh…I’ll call you when they’re done.”

 

“Okay but Roy…?”

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“If you change your mind…if you need me or one of the guys…just call… Are we clear?”

 

“Yeah Cap…We’re clear.” Roy hung up…he appreciated the support but right now all he needed was his partner…

 

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Roy paced the room for three hours…Dixie had joined him whenever she could get away but Roy wasn’t up to talking. He glanced at the clock frequently, worrying over how long it was taking.

 

Roy had tried calling John’s Aunt only to be told that she’d left that morning, just after talking to Johnny. She was on a cruise and was unreachable.

 

Brackett finally appeared in the doorway. “Roy…?”

 

The younger man jumped whirling to face the dark haired Doctor… “How is he…?”

 

“He’s in recovery Roy…We’ll be bringing him back here shortly. We’ve relieved the pressure and repaired the damage to his skull…Now we wait for the swelling to go down.”

 

“And Then…?” Roy asked.

 

“We'll run some more tests and see if his score has changed. We’ll do another EEG as well. Dr. Fisher explained the scoring to you so you can understand what level Johnny’s at…at least for now…”

 

“Doc…If he wakes up…?”

 

“When…Think positive Roy…”

 

The younger man nodded… “When he wakes up…Will he be…okay?”

 

“You mean will there be brain damage?”

 

Roy nodded. “We don’t know…The longer he’s unconscious…,” Kel shook his head. “There will be some difficulties I’m sure but how bad and what kind…? We’ll have to wait and see.”

 

Roy spent the night camped at Johnny’s side. The young paramedics head was swathed in bandages…the sable hair peeking out from beneath…If possible he was even more pale then he had been before.

 

The hums, clicks, beeps and whines of the respirator and monitors became a reassuring sound to Roy that Johnny was still with him as he sat by his bed holding the frighteningly still hand.

 

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Frank Benjamin was enraged. He thumped the newspaper angrily against the table. “Alive…Dammit…he’s still alive…” He read the paragraph again.

 

Twenty four year old paramedic John Gage, victim of a hit and run accident, remains in a coma at Rampart General Hospital. He’s listed in critical condition. Police say the driver fled the scene in a green, four door sedan. If you have any information, please contact the police at 555-2000.

 

“I’ll just bet DeSoto’s at his partner’s side…” Frank reached for the phone.

 

Roy was dozing in the chair when the phone rang. Roy picked it up, answering blearily… “Hello…?”

 

“How’s your friend doin DeSoto…?”

 

Roy came wide awake instantly…“Who is this…?”

 

“Heard he had a little accident…I messed up though, He’s still breathin…He’s pretty fast.”

 

“You sick son of a bit…,” Roy began but he was cut off.

 

“Tsk tsk tsk…DeSoto such language from a fine upstanding Fire Fighter…I’m shocked.”

 

“Benjamin…the police know it’s you…”

 

“They think it’s me…I covered my tracks DeSoto…they can’t prove a thing…Be grateful I didn’t take your wife and kids.”

 

Roy paled at the thought. “Look it’s me you want…I was driving that night not Johnny…Please… Please leave him alone. I’ll do anything you want…”

 

“I don’t want you DeSoto…You get to live with it, just like me…Eye for an eye…you took my little brother, now I’m gonna take yours…You do realize I can’t let him live…”

 

“You Bast…,” Roy started to yell but the line went dead. Roy slammed the phone down but immediately picked it back up and called Vince Howard.

 

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“Roy…,” Vince soothed. “We just don’t have the man power to put a guard on this door twenty four seven.”

 

The Detective who had arrived with the older black officer nodded his head in agreement. “We checked Benjamin…He doesn’t own a green car and he’s got a friend who swears he was with him at the time of the accident.”

 

“I just spoke to him…he admitted he did it…,” Roy snapped back.

 

“Do you have it on tape…? Have a witness?”

 

“No of course not…”

 

“Well then unless his friend caves and gives up being his alibi, we’ve got nothing…It’s your word against his.”

 

“You don’t believe him either then…?”

 

“Roy…,” Vince said. “I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s Frank Benjamin…but we can’t prove it...”

 

“He’s threatened John…”

 

“I know…but as long as he’s in the ICU, he should be safe enough…” The detective added.

 

Vince saw the worried look on Roy’s face. “Look I’m really sorry Roy,” he said.

 

“I’ll tell you what though…,” the detective offered. “I will at least go talk to him again…I’ll make it clear he’s still a suspect. Maybe that’ll trip him up or scare him off…”

 

“Thanks…,” Roy said dejectedly.

 

“Sorry Roy…,” Vince said softly. “He turned to Johnny, laying his hand on the unconscious paramedic’s shoulder. “Get better John, we need you out there…,” he said softly. He nodded at Roy and left.

 

Roy picked up the phone. “Well maybe you can’t guard him…but I can.”

 

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Roy spent his two regular day’s off glued to Johnny’s side. He held his hand, speaking softly and ignoring the comings and goings of the staff as they flushed the PEG tube and catheters, swapping out IV’s and administering medications…Cringing at the limpness of his friend’s body as they bathed him or changed the sheets.

 

When he ran out of things to talk about he read to him…He kept contact with his partner constantly. A hand, his shoulder, a gentle brush against the younger man’s cheek…The hiss , thump and beeps of the ventilator and monitors the only sounds other than Roy’s voice.

 

 When Roy returned to work the next day it was with relief that his call for help had been heard. Johnny had a round the clock guard. The off duty brotherhood of Firemen set a twenty four hour vigil. They traded off every four hours and the young paramedic was never alone.

 

Every run to Rampart would find Roy making his way upstairs to check on his partner.

 

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“Three weeks…” Frank railed. “Damn it…they’ve kept him guarded for three weeks.” He paced his living room angrily. “I thought they’d of given it up by now,” he muttered to himself.”

 

The one good thing about being an electrician was that no one paid any attention to you as long as you were wearing a tool belt and Frank had been a constant visitor to Rampart for the last three weeks but he’d been blocked at every turn…Either DeSoto was with his comatose friend or some other fire fighter sat camped in the chair next to John Gage. He’d befriended a young student nurse and made it a point to chat with her whenever she was on duty. She’d cheerfully explained who the men were that were guarding Gage and why. Frank knew that if he was gonna finish what he started, he’d have to find a more indirect way.

 

Two days later he found his chance. A forgetful nurse had left a syringe at the desk.  Frank grinned as he slid it into his pocket. Frank walked to the bank of payphones and called the nurse’s station. The phone rang and a nurse ran from one of the rooms to answer.

 

“ICU…Nurse Stafford…”

 

“Yes ma’am…,” Frank said respectfully… “You have a Fireman in John Gage’s room…Could you tell him he needs to come down to Emergency and speak to Roy DeSoto... It’s about Gage…It’s really important …”

 

“Certainly sir…I’ll go get him.”

 

Frank smiled as he watched through the doors. A moment later a tall dark haired man left John’s room and headed to the elevator…a deep frown of concern played on his features.

 

Phil was a bit confused…Why would Roy call him away from Johnny instead of coming upstairs…? Phil guessed that Roy felt John was safe enough in ICU…at least for a short time…You had to be family to get inside or as in their case, have special clearance to be there.

 

Frank nodded at the duty nurse as he pushed inside. She barely glanced at his uniform as she went back into the room she’d been working in earlier. Frank slipped into John’s room, pulling the syringe from his pocket. He’d read about this in a book…An air embolism would kill the young man in seconds…By the time that fool returned Gage would be dead… He clumsily uncapped the needle and slid it into John’s IV port.

 

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Dixie had a break coming and as she had been doing for the past three weeks she decided to head upstairs and spend the time with Johnny. She pushed through the ICU doors in time to see a stranger enter John’s room. That was a little odd as there was usually a fireman with him but there had been no challenge. Her woman’s intuition kicked in…she picked up speed.

 

Dixie pushed the door open in time to see the man inserting a needle into John’s IV line. “What do you think you’re doing…?” She snapped from behind him…

 

The man froze briefly but then whirled on the startled nurse…shoving her out of the way and bolting through the door with a muffled curse.

 

Dixie staggered but caught herself against the side table…taken off guard she hadn’t even managed to get a good look at his face. She ran to Johnny’s side, hitting the nurse call button and then yanking the syringe from John’s line…She began checking the young man over carefully. The nurse ran into the room… “Call Dr. Brackett Stat…,” she snapped.

 

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Roy was at the hospital thirteen minutes after he received the call from Dixie. He burst through the door to find Kelly Brackett, Dixie McCall and a contrite Phil Barker standing at John’s bed.

 

“I’m sorry man…They told me you wanted to see me downstairs…I was only gone a couple of minutes…I swear.”

 

Roy threw him a glance but his attention was on Johnny. “Is he gonna be alright?” He asked Brackett anxiously.

 

Kel nodded. “Dixie caught him in time Roy…he didn’t get to finish what he started.”

 

Roy breathed a sigh of relief and he gave a nod to Phil and wrapped his arms around Dixie. “Thank you…,” he whispered in her ear. She hugged him back.

 

The police had been summoned but once again there was no clear Identification on the attacker. Dix shook her head in disappointment… “I didn’t see his face…I’m sorry Roy…All I can tell you is that he was about six feet tall…and had dark hair…He was wearing a tan uniform of some kind.”

 

Roy was furious that the officer who responded had shrugged his shoulders as he’d taken the report.  “Could be anyone…,” he stated.

 

“It wasn’t just anyone…,” Roy growled. “It’s Frank Benjamin…”

 

“Did you see him sir…”

 

“No…”

 

Again that indifferent shrug… Roy wanted to belt him. The police left and Roy turned to Barkman. “I’ll stay with him Roy…I promise…I won’t leave him again…no matter what happens.”

 

“Thanks Phil…,” he said as he moved to his partner’s side. He reached out to touch John’s cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning Junior,” he promised softly. Phil bit his lip against the sudden ache in his chest as he watched the display and gave the blonde paramedic a sad smile as he left the room.

 

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Cap and the crew were outraged over the officer’s lackadaisical attitude. “What does this guy have to do…Kill him to get their full attention…?” Hank snapped.

 

“Apparently…,” Roy said in defeat.

 

“I can’t believe this…Most of the cop’s are John’s friends too…Why won’t they do something?” Chet growled.

 

“They can’t…it’s harassment for them to keep hounding Benjamin without proof,” Roy said quietly.

 

“Harassment…?” Mike snapped. “I’ll do more than harass this guy if he gets near Johnny again.” The others nodded their agreement.

 

“Okay guys…simmer down,” Cap said placatingly. “Let’s let the police do their job…”

 

“We would if they were doin their job Cap…,” Mike argued.

 

“I know…We just need to keep a better watch on Johnny til they catch this guy…”

 

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The next morning Roy entered Johnny’s room to find Dr. Fisher and Kelly Brackett. “Mr. DeSoto…”

 

“Roy…,” they both acknowledged.

 

“What’s happening…?” Roy asked worriedly.

 

“Well Mr. DeSoto… His EEG was better and we’ve upgraded Mr. Gage to a four on the scale. That means he has some response to pain, though it’s only visible on the monitor.” He turned and plucked a small sharp probe from his pocket. He firmly poked John’s finger…The heart monitor jumped in response before returning to normal but John didn’t move. He turned back to Roy. “Several of your fireman friends have mentioned that he’s made some slight sounds…like a sigh or a moan…something like that.”

 

“That’s good right…?” Roy asked hopefully.

 

“Roy… Don’t get too excited,” Kel said stoically. “He’s not out of the coma…not by a long shot. He still has no spontaneous respiration and he could very well stay at this level permanently or even go back down…”

 

“But he could go up too…?” Roy asked.

 

“Yes of course…”

 

“Then that’s all I need to know…” Roy took John’s long, slender fingers in his hand. “Johnny’s a fighter…he won’t quit.”

 

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The next morning they removed the bandages…Replacing the heavy swathes with a smaller pad held in place by a light wrapping of gauze. Roy lightly smoothed the dark bangs from Johnny’s forehead. “It’s a good thing you’re asleep junior…,” he whispered close to John’s ear. “You’d have a fit if you could see what they did to your hair…”

 

Roy pulled his chair up close to his friends bed and took his hand. He began to tell him about his last shift. As the day wore on Roy progressed as he usually did to massaging John’s limbs with alcohol. Bending and unbending his arms and legs in an attempt to keep them at least functional if not strong and for the first time, heard a soft groan. “Johnny…? Johnny…can you hear me…?” Roy asked urgently. “C’mon junior… wake up…you can do it… I miss you partner…The stations way to quiet without you. Please Johnny…stay with me.” But the younger man remained silent and still.

 

Roy felt a hand on his shoulder and looked to find Joanne standing at his side. “Jo…! What are you doing here…?” He asked as he stood and wrapped his arms around his wife. “God I’ve missed you…but it’s not safe.”

 

“Honey…some nut has tried to kill Johnny twice now…and that young man right there means as much to me as he does to you. Please don’t ask me to stay away,” she pleaded as she untangled herself from her husband’s arms and moved to the bed. She bent to place a gentle kiss on his cheek. “Hi sweetheart… How’s my boy?” she whispered, her eyes taking in the tubes and monitors. “What has he done to you baby…?” She whispered as she caressed his cheek. She brushed a tear away from her face and turned back to Roy.

 

Roy was grinning at her words. “Where are the kids…?” He asked managing not to use the word ‘other.’

 

“San Diego…I might be willing to put myself at risk honey but not our children…at least not until we know he’s gone…”

 

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Frank was frustrated…His business was suffering but he couldn’t quit now. It had been a month since he’d run the young fire fighter down and he was still in disbelief that they hadn’t given up yet. His personal guard was still camped tenaciously around the young paramedic.  He’d been sure if he just laid low they'd give it up but that hadn’t happened.

 

Well…if he couldn’t get at him directly…then he’d try a different route.

 

The next morning Frank made his way into the room next to John’s. His toolbox and overall’s cleared the way. No one gave him a second glance… Each one assuming that someone else had cleared him.

 

Frank pulled out his screwdriver and got to work on the outlet…He had to be extra careful as he was working with live wiring…the heavy rubber gloves were difficult but they added a slight layer of protection. Frank bypassed several circuits and crossed a couple of wires before smiling in satisfaction. He attached the wires to a small clock…when it reached a certain time it would send a surge of power into the outlet in John’s room.  Benjamin pushed the set button and left the room. Once again the nurses ignored his presence. Only the young student nurse gave him a friendly wave. He waved back.

 

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“Roy…Joanne…,” Brackett greeted them a short time later. “Why don’t you two step out for a few minutes and grab a cup of coffee or something. Dr. Fisher will be here soon and he’d like to run a couple of tests with John…It should only be about a half hour.”

 

Roy nodded he wanted to try and reach Rosemary again anyway. They headed for the phones. The phone was answered by her housekeeper. She informed them that Rosemary had just arrived home a short time ago.

 

“Hello…”

 

“Rosemary…It’s Roy DeSoto… “

 

“Yes Roy…How are you…? “  

 

“I’m fine but Rosemary…John’s had an accident.”

 

“Oh my God…How bad…Is he alright Roy…?”

 

“Rosemary…I’m sorry…he’s in a coma…”

 

“Dear God Roy…What happened?”

 

He explained the circumstances… “He wanted revenge on me…He wants to take my brother from me like I took his…”

 

“Yours was an accident, not murder. I’ll be there as soon as I can… It’ll be okay Roy…We all know how strong John is.”

 

They hung up the phone and went to get a cup of coffee.

 

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Kel and Dr. Fisher finished up their tests. Fisher gave Brackett a pat on the back knowing how fond the younger Doctor was of this particular patient. “He’s still looking good Kel…He’s holding his own and he’s not back sliding…that’s always a good sign.”

 

Kel nodded forlornly… “But he’s not getting better either…,” he said softly as he squeezed Johnny’s hand.

 

Fisher grimaced…but answered honestly. “No…he’s not but he is holding steady…hang onto that.”

 

“Thanks.” Fisher left the room leaving the other Doctor alone with their patient. Kel cast a glance at the door to be sure he was alone and leaned over the young paramedic.  “You need to get better Johnny…We really miss you.” Kel’s hand swept the dark hair from John’s face as he’d seen Roy do so many times. There was a soft sigh but the dark eyes remained obstinately shut.

 

Suddenly there was a blue arc from beside the bed. Sparks flew and the smell of burning wiring filled the air. Flames shot up from the outlet beside John’s bed…the Respirator went silent as well as the heart monitor. The sheets began to smolder and burn.

 

“Oh God…,” Kel gasped as he hit the call button and began to unhook John from the machines. A nurse stuck her head inside and saw what was happening. She turned and ran for the fire alarm. She returned a moment later. “Get another respirator set up stat…,” He yelled. She threw a quick nod at the doctor and bolted from the room. Kel finished freeing Johnny from the tubes and wires as the door burst open and Roy ran inside… “Get Johnny outta here now…,” he coughed as the smoke began to fill the room. “They’re setting up another respirator.”  Kel grabbed for the fire extinguisher…

 

Roy didn’t waste his breath answering he simply scooped his partner up in his arms and bolted for the door. Joanne stood in the hall…her face pale with fear as Roy tore past her with John in his arms. The nurse was waving frantically from another room and the blonde paramedic ran toward her.

 

He laid his partner on the bed and watched anxiously as the nurse reconnected the endo-tracheal tube to a new Ventilator. Three other nurses converged on Johnny almost shoving Roy out of the way. Within minutes he was reconnected to a new set of machines just as Brackett burst through the door. He went over John carefully, reassuring himself that his young friend was alright.  

 

He turned to an anxious Roy and Joanne who’d followed Brackett in… “He’s okay Roy, Jo.”

 

“What the hell happened…?” Roy asked.

 

“I don’t know…I was talking to him and all of a sudden there was smoke and fire…I think the outlet shorted out…”

 

Roy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously… “What are the chances that that was a coincidence?” He asked.

 

“Well I’m sure your investigators will figure it out. Your B-shift crew just arrived.”

 

Roy moved to his partner, brushing the dark hair aside and reassuring himself that John was okay before turning to his wife. “Stay with Johnny Honey…I wanna go see what they found out.”

 

Roy went across the unit and stepped into the room. Captain Hookrader glanced up and spotted him. “How’s Gage…?” The other’s turned to look at their friend anxiously.

“He’s okay…How did this start?”

 

Jack Sullivan, one of B-shifts lineman pointed to the outlet. “Looks like it shorted out…,” he said as the other lineman Rob Macpherson pulled the melted outlet from the wall.

 

“Cap…Look at this…,” he said showing his Captain the outlet. “It’s definitely been tampered with.”

 

“Call in the arson squad…Roy I think the police can agree that now something has to be done about this.”

 

Roy nodded. “I'll call them.”

 

The police arrived a short time later. They spoke to Roy, Brackett and the arson team. The detective listened to them as they explained the method used to set the power surge. “It would take someone with a lot of experience to re wire a hot outlet…,” the arson detective explained.

 

“Frank Benjamin’s an electrician…,” The police detective, Sgt Russell said quietly. He looked at Roy. “I believe he's finally slipped up. This would take someone with his kind of experience and I can’t think of anyone else who’d want to hurt your partner.”

 

“Does that mean you’ll finally arrest him?”

 

“As soon as we can find him…”

 

Roy breathed a sigh of relief. At least Johnny would be safe.

 

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Rosemary arrived shortly after the police had left. She was as relieved as Roy that the man behind the attack on John would be arrested but her heart was broken at the sight of her once vivacious nephew silent and motionless. Their relief was short lived…The police called several hours after they had left to let them know that John was not out of the woods yet. Frank Benjamin had disappeared and couldn’t be found.

 

The days dragged by…Rosemary and Joanne took their turn watching over Johnny. Both women stayed with Dixie when they weren’t at the hospital so that Benjamin wouldn’t know where to find them. 

 

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Benjamin was furious…his plan had failed. DeSoto had been in the right place at the right time, whisking his partner to safety like a real hero or so his favorite little nurse had told him dreamily... They’d kept his guard on the door for seven and a half weeks now…He’d been in hiding for the last three of those…but he wouldn’t give up. “Brother for Brother Jimmy…,” He whispered. He needed a new plan…

 

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“Roy…I really think this might be the best thing…,” Rosemary said gently.

 

“No…,” Roy shook his head adamantly. “No Rosemary…I won’t let you take him away.”

 

“Roy…How long can we keep this up…?” She smiled at her unconscious nephew as she trailed her fingers through his soft hair. “This could go on indefinitely. I think moving him to a hospital close to Santa Barbara is the best course. Frank Benjamin won’t know where to find him…”

 

The stricken look in Roy’s eyes was hard to bear. Joanne squeezed his hand, leaving the decision to her husband. She didn’t want John to be taken away either but she understood Rosemary’s desire to see him somewhere safe. “I won’t be able to see him at all…Not there…”

 

“It’s only a couple of hours’ away Roy. You can come up once a month.” Roy shook his head. “Roy…I realize Johnny’s given you control over this sort of decision and this is up to you but…he’s my nephew and if he’s going to live like this for God knows how long. I want him to be near me and I want him safe…”

 

Tears welled in Roy’s eyes… It was like losing him all over again. “I’ll have to think about it…,” he choked out.

 

The next morning, Rosemary and Joanne arrived with Dixie and headed up to Johnny’s room. Roy was already there.  They pushed the door open but stopped as they heard him speaking softly to his young friend. He held Johnny’s hand, stroking the still fingers.

 

“This is really hard for me junior. Ya know I’d take care of you no matter how long it takes if not for that nut wanting to hurt you.” They saw Roy lay John’s hand on the mattress and swipe at his face and they knew he was brushing away tears.

 

Joanne’s face crumpled in sorrow and Rosemary’s green eyes pooled with tears. “I don’t know if I can do this to him…,” she whispered brokenly.

 

Roy’s hand fell back to rest on Johnny’s forehead, brushing the sable hair back. “God I’m gonna miss you partner.” Roy leaned close to John’s ear…the words were barely audible… “I love you Johnny…You’re my kid brother and you always will be.” Roy’s head dropped to rest on his young friends shoulder as his shoulder’s shook in sorrow.

 

Joanne and Rosemary turned away in grief and none of them noticed John’s hand lift weakly for a brief moment before dropping to rest once more on the mattress.

 

A few moments later Roy came out of Johnny’s room… He saw Rosemary and Joanne sitting in the chairs and approached the two women. His reddened eyes gave him away as he stared at the floor. His breaths’ were hitched as he scuffed his toe on the tiles. “Make your arrangements Rosemary. Take him to Santa Barbara…Take him where he’ll be safe…away from me.” He started to turn away but stopped at the sound of Rosemary’s voice.

 

“It’s for the best Roy…really,” Rosemary said softly.

 

He nodded slowly. “I know that in my head Rose…but my heart…”

 

“Is breaking…,” she finished softly.

 

Roy nodded and went back to Johnny’s room while Rosemary headed downstairs to talk to Dr. Brackett. Joanne wiped her eyes and went to spend the day with Roy and their ‘brother,’ knowing it would be a long time before they’d see him again.

 

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The next morning there was a steady stream of Fire fighters coming and going. In the seven and a half weeks that Johnny had been in a coma, these same men had had given up their time to be his personal guard…now they were coming to say goodbye to one of their own. The nurses turned a blind eye to the intrusion.

 

The ambulance would be would be there this afternoon to take him to a hospital just outside of Santa Barbara that specialized in coma patients and Johnny would be receiving the best of care. All of that mattered to them for Johnny’s sake but for themselves…They were all gonna miss their friend.

 

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Frank Benjamin stayed close enough to see what was happening but far enough away to not be seen by Roy DeSoto should he happen to come out of that room. His friendly little nurse stepped out of the elevator and he called her over. “What’s goin on…?” He asked nodding toward John’s room. “Must be fifty people coming and going...”

 

“Their saying goodbye to their friend,” she said sadly.

 

Hope flared in Franks eyes. “Is he…dying or something…?” He asked, trying to sound sad.

 

“Oh no…they’re moving him to another hospital up north somewhere. Some nuts tryin to kill him…,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Anyway…his friends all just wanted to say goodbye.”

 

“He sure has a lot of friends,” Frank ground out through clenched teeth. Well this wasn’t good at all…He never thought DeSoto would let Gage out of his sight. He had to move and he had to do it now.

 

An hour later the flow of Fire Fighters had slowed to a trickle. Frank saw Roy leave the room and head for the elevator. A dark curly haired fireman he’d seen many times had gone into Gage’s room. He’d found out a couple of weeks ago that his name was Chet and he was one of Gage’s crew mates.

 

Frank smiled. There was now only the one man standing between Gage and Frank’s final revenge. He headed for the phone.

 

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Chet wiped away a tear as he said his goodbye’s to Johnny. “I’m gonna miss ya John…Ya know I’d give anything to hear you tell me to shut up right now…,” he said quietly. He squeezed the younger man’s hand. The phone rang… Chet picked it up. “Hello…?”

 

A breathless coughing voice on the other end of the phone greeted him… “Chet…,” (cough)… “It’s Roy…Get down here…We’ve…,” Another round of coughing interrupted the flow of words… “Caught Frank Benjamin…”

 

“What’s wrong with ya man…,” Chet asked.

 

“Been runnin…,” the voice wheezed.

 

“Okay man…I’ll be right down…I wanna see this jerk.”

 

Frank watched the man leave…”Who’s the jerk Chet…?” He laughed as he entered Gage’s room.

 

He knew anything he tried would set the alarms off before he could finish. He needed to handle that problem first. Frank quickly set out his tools. He opened the panel on the back of the respirator. Two quick snips and the alarms were silenced. He cut the power with a smile…clipping the wires to be sure it wouldn’t restart. Gage would slowly suffocate. The tube that was meant to keep him alive was now blocking his airway…so even if he could try, there was no airflow. The heart monitor was beginning to show his distress. A quick glance showed no one at the nurse’s station. Frank shut the alarm on the monitor off before it could sound and began to gather his tools.  He started to turn away when something slammed into him from behind.

 

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Roy was waiting for the elevator. He was surprised when the doors opened and Chet stepped out.

 

“Roy…,” Chet said in surprise.

 

“Who’d you leave with Johnny…?” Roy asked anxiously.

 

“Well…no one. I didn’t need to since you caught Benjamin…”

 

“What are ya talkin about…no one’s caught Benjamin…”

 

“But you just called…,” Dawning came to both of them at the same time. Chet began punching the elevator button.

 

“Oh My God…,” Roy whispered as he sprinted for the stairs. Roy raced up the steps to the third floor.  “Please God…let Johnny be alright,” he prayed as he ran.

 

He burst through the stairwell door, knocking a nurse off balance. “Sorry…Call Brackett,” he yelled back… but he kept running. He came through Johnny’s door and saw the man standing by the bed. Roy leaped at him…slamming into him from behind. They both went down.

 

Frank was a large man but Roy was enraged. He swung with everything he had in him…pummeling the larger man. Frank finally managed to push Roy off and ran for the door. Roy had to choose…Chase Frank or take care of Johnny…Naturally, Johnny won.

 

Roy realized instantly that the respirator was off, since the hiss and thump had been a constant sound for seven weeks. The heart monitor was silent but the readings were going crazy. Roy flipped the respirator on but nothing happened. “Damn it…”

 

Johnny’s lips were taking on the bluish tint of cyanosis. Chet burst through the door behind him as Roy began to pull the trach tube from his partner’s throat. Roy tipped John’s head back and began breathing for him.

 

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Brackett, Joe Early and Dixie raced into the room. Rosemary, Joanne and the station crew hovered anxiously in the doorway. “Roy…what happened?” Kel asked as he whipped his stethoscope from his pocket.

 

“Frank Benjamin…,” Roy gasped between breaths. “Was here…sabotaged…the respirator…” Roy got out as he continued filling his friend’s lungs with oxygen.  “Johnny…Stay with me…please,” Roy panted.

 

Joe was shouting at the nurse to get another ventilator in there stat…

 

“Wait…,” Kel said as he held up his hand in a stop gesture. He held the stethoscope to John’s chest. “Roy, stop a minute…”

 

Roy backed off, sweating profusely and gasping from his exertions as well as fear for his friend’s life but he was ready to jump back in when he was needed.

 

Kel looked up with a grin… “We have spontaneous respirations…” He looked at the room full of people… “He’s breathing on his own…,” he said as his smile widened.

 

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Roy wiped the sweat away, a relieved sigh slipped from his lips and he leaned over Johnny… “I knew you could do it junior…,” he whispered.

 

“Roy…that doesn’t mean he’s out of the wood's. We’re gonna get Fisher down here to run some tests and another EEG. Let’s see where John’s levels are now okay…He’s still in a coma.”

 

“I know…”

 

“Hey…,” Chet piped up. “Where’s Benjamin?”

 

“He got away…,” Roy muttered.

 

“You let him get away…?” Chet sputtered.

 

“I was a little busy with something more important,” Roy snapped.

 

Chet kicked the broken respirator angrily and let out a yell of pain...hopping on one foot and holding the other.

 

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Johnny had been floating in a sea of darkness…peaceful…silent. He’d periodically heard the sound of his friend’s voices talking to him but he’d been unable to answer. He’d allowed himself to simply drift away but today…today Roy had held him…he’d felt it. He’d wept on his shoulder…told him he loved him and he’d said goodbye…where was he going…?

 

Johnny tried to fight his way back to the surface but it was just too hard…he’d sunk back into that peaceful place but now a new sound was intruding. People were yelling around him…their voices sounding frightened and angry. Someone shouted and he heard Roy’s voice rise in anger and Chet…Chet yelled something… disturbing John’s peace once more…

 

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Chet’s yell of pain brought a grin to everyone’s face and even Roy let his anger dwindle at the comical look on Kelly’s face as he hopped on one foot.

 

The grins faded as a halting raspy voice came from behind them… “Ch…Chet P…pipe do…wn… Sl…sleep…ing here…” The sound was barely audible, the words broken and halting as unused vocal chords,  a throat irritated by a trach tube and a still disoriented brain all tried to come together.

 

“Johnny…,” Roy breathed out softly as hope flared in his eyes. He took two quick steps to his friend’s side as the others moved forward…Their breath’s caught and held… John was awake … a pair of exhausted brown eyes were open but drooping. Roy took his friend’s hand. “Johnny…? Can you hear me…?”

 

After a brief hesitation to consider the question John answered. “H…hear ya…,” he slurred. 

 

Completely uncaring of the audience who stood watching…Roy leaned down and kissed John’s forehead.  “Welcome back junior…”

 

Dixie moved to take John’s hand as Joanne came to Roy’s side. Dix leaned over him… “Do you have any idea how beautiful those eyes are right now tiger …?”

 

Johnny frowned slightly as he struggled to get his sluggish thoughts under control but a half grin finally crossed his features.

 

The Doctor’s moved in around Johnny… “Can you give us a minute Roy…?” They asked. Roy reluctantly let go of John’s hand and stepped back with the others who were grinning and slapping each other on the back joyfully. He hugged Joanne tightly in relief.

 

“He’s back…,” Chet said gleefully. “My pigeon is back…”

 

While the others celebrated Rosemary’s concerned green eyes turned toward her nephew. He was back…but he still wasn’t safe.

 

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The Doctor’s were talking to Johnny from two different directions as they checked him over. Dixie was getting his blood pressure and the flurry of activity was making him more and more confused as the moments passed. Where was Roy…? Why were they all prodding and poking at him? What had happened to him? He couldn’t remember. He felt so weak and he couldn’t seem to think straight… “R…R…Roy…,” he finally rasped out in a panic. His eyes searching wildly for his friend as he tried to lift his hand to bat theirs away but he couldn’t seem to move them much at all…

 

Roy was at his side in an instant. “I’m here Johnny…”

 

Frightened, dark eyes looked into his. “Wh…wha hap…pen me…?” He gasped, his hand clutching Roy’s desperately.

 

Kel, Joe and Dixie backed away to let Roy calm his friend. Roy glanced at Kel for approval before answering. “You were hit by a car Johnny…you hit your head really hard. You’ve been in a coma for seven weeks.”

 

John’s eyes looked dazed at that piece of information but his lips silently formed the words in disbelief. “Seven weeks…”

 

Roy swept the dark hair from his friend’s forehead soothingly. “It’s okay junior…just relax…you’re gonna be okay.”

 

Kel stepped close to the bed once more…“Johnny…Can you remember anything from before the accident…?” He asked.

 

John’s brow knitted in confusion… “G…as spl...osion… D...door hi…t me…,” he said shakily.

 

Roy breathed a sigh of relief. He’d only lost a few days…

 

Kel smiled at John’s slightly confused words. There might be some speech therapy necessary but Johnny appeared to be able to remember okay. “Dix…Get Dr. Fisher down here huh? I think he’d love to talk to our young friend here... don’t you…?” Dix nodded and picked up the phone.

 

Johnny’s eyes were drooping in exhaustion and Roy gave his hand a gentle pat… “You just rest for a minute junior okay?” Roy began to move away but felt a slight tug at his hand as Johnny continued to cling weakly to it. “It’s okay junior…,” Roy said brushing John’s cheek with the back of his fingers. “I’m not going anywhere,” he reassured the younger man with a fond smile.

 

“Roy…?” Rosemary called to him softly.

 

“What is it Rosemary…?” He asked, his grin fading slightly at her grim look.

 

“This really changes nothing. He’s still not safe. Look at him…He’s completely helpless right now and I think we still need to move him. This hospital also deals with recovering coma patients.”

 

“What’re you saying…? He’s awake… He remembers. You can’t take him away from…”

 

“Roy…,” she cut him off. “He’s still in danger and I want him moved…,” she stated adamantly.

 

“No…,” Roy began…

 

“S…stop i…it,” Johnny stuttered. They all stopped and turned to the young man in the bed. He was frowning in frustration as he struggled to get the words out. “S…stop t…t…talk bout m…me l…like ‘m na h…here.”

 

“I’m sorry junior,” Roy said softly. “You’re right.” He smoothed the tangled hair back soothingly. “Just rest okay…?” Johnny gripped Roy’s hand as best he could…the unused muscle’s weak and slow to respond. “D…doan s…sen me w…way. P…p…plea R…Roy…stay h…here,” he struggled to get out. Frightened dark eyes locked with determined blue.

 

“Is that you want junior…?”

 

“Y…ye…s.”

 

“John…,” Rosemary cut in. “Na-háahketa…, the person who did this to you is still out there. He tried to kill you again just thirty minutes ago… You’re in danger here,” she argued. “I’ve almost lost you so many times… I want you safe John…,” she said determinedly.

 

“A…Aun R…Rose… ‘M fire…man… al…lays some d…dan…ger.”

 

“Not like this…,” she argued. “I’m sorry John but I really think…”

 

John weakly raised a hand to stop her words…A mutinous look crossed his face. John’s doctors and crewmates knew the look well…Johnny was visibly agitated now and rasped out. “L…love you… b…but na… you ch…choice… mine…” John’s eyes turned to Roy. “P…plea… wa…wanna stay… you. Doan m…make me g…go.”

 

Johnny was begging and even if Roy had been so inclined to send his best friend away, the frightened, pleading look would have changed his mind. Officer Bloom’s words came back to him. Johnny certainly did have his number. Roy would be hard pressed to ignore the pleading look in the dark eyes now looking into his.  “It’s your decision Johnny…,” he said softly.

 

“He’s been in a coma for seven weeks Roy…look at him…listen to him…He’s not capable of making that decision…,” she rapped out angrily.

 

She was afraid for her Nephew and Roy understood that, he was as well. He knew Johnny was a target but he also knew the biggest key to Johnny’s recovery and well being was his comfort with his surroundings…being with Roy and Joanne and his friends, not locked away in some unfamiliar hospital with a bunch of strangers. The pleading dark eyes were once again locked with his and John shook his head. He started to answer but a different voice cut in from behind him.

 

“I think he is…” They all turned to see Dr. Fisher standing in the doorway. The neurologist smiled at their confused look. “I’ve been listening…,” he said as he came into the room. “And while John is obviously struggling with some speech formation, he’s quite lucid in his conversational ability. He’s making perfect sense and he’s arguing his case quite capably. We’ll get him started on physical and speech therapy as soon as he’s strong enough. Now…if I could have you all step into the waiting room…I’d like to check him out…with your permission Kel…?”

 

“Of course…  Please…,” Brackett said directing everyone toward the door.

 

Rosemary hated admitting defeat…Johnny came by it honestly. She turned and left the room with the others intending to continue this argument out of Johnny’s hearing. If she could bring Roy around, He’d make John listen. She just needed to talk some sense into Roy. He couldn’t put John’s life in danger like this…not if he truly cared about him. She had to make him understand.

 

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Roy started to leave with the others but his partner’s whispered voice stopped him. “N…no S…stay. R…Roy P…plea…,” Johnny stuttered with a frown.

 

Roy glanced at Kel, Joe and Dr. Fisher.  They all shrugged. “It’s okay with me if It keep’s John calm…,” Fisher agreed. Kel and Joe smiled as Roy moved back to the bed beside Dixie and took John’s hand once more.

 

“Okay junior…I’ll stay as long as you need me too.”

 

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Rosemary turned to pick up where she’d left off but Roy was nowhere in sight. “Where’s Roy…?” She asked glancing at the closed door.

 

“I’m sure Johnny wanted him to stay…,” Joanne said reassuringly.

 

Rose’s mouth tightened in annoyance. She loved the DeSoto family and was grateful for all they’d accomplished with John…Their love for him was obvious and great but she had to admit that she was a bit jealous of his relationship with them, especially Roy. Roy had been allowed to stay with Johnny while she’d been dismissed from the room like a stranger instead of his family. She looked at Joanne angrily.

 

“Why won’t he listen…? Why won’t he make John go? Doesn’t he care that he’s in danger?” She snapped.

 

Joanne’s eyes darkened with anger for a moment before she realized it was fear talking. “He does care but he won’t force him to do anything…He loves Johnny, do you?”

 

“What…?” Rosemary asked in surprise. How could she even ask such a thing?

 

“Rosemary…Johnny loves you but he and Roy share a bond that even they don’t understand sometimes.” Jo saw the Engine crew nod, they’d seen it themselves too many times not to understand what she was talking about. “I know you’ve seen it…you know how devastated Roy was when we thought Johnny was dead last Christmas,” She continued. “Try and understand that what’s best for you may not be what’s best for Johnny. You want him safe…we all know that...so do we and so does Roy. He’d give his life to keep John safe…but what you’re not seeing is that Johnny NEEDS Roy…They need each other. Can’t you see they’re only whole when their together. I’ve learned to accept that.”

 

Rosemary opened her mouth but Joanne continued, cutting off her argument.

 

“I welcome what Johnny brings to Roy’s life…Can you welcome what Roy brings to John’s? We love Johnny and that young man is part of our family now too and part of my kid’s lives…I’d like to think you are as well and I sleep at night now because I know they’re watching out for each other. They’ll both do their best to bring the other home safe…and I’m telling you right now…Johnny will not recover as quickly or as well if you take him away from Roy and they’ll both be miserable to boot.”

 

The crew knew all too well the relationship between the two men and once again nodded their agreement with Jo’s words as she laid it all out for the woman.

 

Rosemary’s jealousy evaporated with Joanne’s words. She knew she was right. John needed Roy and his family in a way she couldn’t fill. They’d become the family he’d lost…The one thing she couldn’t give him… She raised teary green eyes to meet Jo’s. “You’re saying I have to let him go…To trust Roy to take care of him because Johnny does…”

 

Joanne nodded as the deep voice of her husband came from behind them. “I’ll always take very good care of him Rose… I promise you.”

 

They turned to face him and Joanne moved to his side as Roy’s arms closed around her. “How is he…?”

 

“He’s sleeping… He’s exhausted but Dr. Fisher thinks with a little therapy he’ll have a complete physical recovery. He says’ the muscle weakness is more from lack of use than brain impairment. He has a few more tests to run and he’s a bit more guarded in his opinion about his speech but he thinks he’ll be okay there too…It just might take a little longer. He’s already conquered speech disorders before as a child with Aspergers … Johnny’ll beat this too,” Roy said with certainty.

 

“You have a lot of faith in him Roy…,” Rosemary said softly.

 

“Damn right…”

 

The others grinned and nodded their agreement as well. They had no doubt John would bounce back…he always did.”

 

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They tried hard to keep Johnny’s waking up a secret but with so many Firemen and Nurses coming and going it was only a matter of time before the papers caught wind of it…

 

The third morning after John woke, Roy and Frank Benjamin both read the paragraph in the Times and while their reactions were similar… their reasons were entirely different…

 

Twenty four year old Fire Fighter Paramedic John Gage…Victim of a hit and run accident nearly two months ago, woke from his coma three days ago. According to our sources he is making remarkable progress and Doctor’s are hopeful for a full recovery. The police are searching For Frank Benjamin…a local Electrician and a suspect in the accident. Benjamin’s younger brother James was a victim in a traffic accident involving Mr. Gage’s partner just three months ago that left the young man dead and his brother out for revenge. Benjamin is believed to have fled the scene in a green four door sedan. If you have any information please contact the police at 555-2000.

 

“Damn it…,” Roy barked. The expletive caused Johnny to jump. “Sorry junior…,” Roy apologized, giving John’s hair a playful tousle…

 

Johnny ducked his head away in annoyance. “C…cut i ou...  Th…they al…re…y mess up… ‘M hair…,” he complained.

 

“So it’ll grow…,” Roy assured him. “You should have seen it seven weeks ago.”

 

Johnny scowled but gestured weakly at the paper in Roy’s hand… “Wh…Wha’s Wr…ong?” He asked, the dark eyes watching Roy tiredly.

 

“Nothin junior…We were just hoping to keep it quiet that you were awake. Benjamin’s bound to find out…He’ll try again,” Roy said worriedly.

 

John knew where this was going…“No… ‘M n…not g…goin p…pal…ly,” he said stubbornly.

 

Roy threw him a fond smile. “Good, cause I wasn’t planning to send you anywhere. You have no idea how much it hurt to make the decision to send you away.”

 

Johnny raised serious dark eyes to Roy’s. “Y…yes I d…do.”

 

Roy looked at his best friend… “I guess you do…,” he said as he reached out to pat his hand. John’s finger’s closed weakly around Roy’s”

 

“R…Roy?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Y…You th…think they b…bring b…rek...fas soon…?”

 

Roy smoothed the sable hair from Johnny’s face affectionately. “Let me check on that for you junior…”

 

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“Damn it…,” Frank Benjamin raged… “What’s it gonna take to kill this kid…?” He snarled as he threw the paper across the room.

 

“His ex-brother in law, Larry Coleman stood in shock in the doorway. Frank had been staying with him for the past three weeks at his home in Bakersfield. He’d told him his home was being renovated and he had nowhere else to go.  

 

Larry picked up the paper carrying it into the kitchen as he scanned the page for whatever had upset Frank. “Kill who Frank…?” He called into the living room. His eyes found the small paragraph.

 

“No one…it’s nothin. Just drop it okay…?”

 

The wheels were turning for Larry… Fireman Paramedic…? Hadn’t it been a paramedic and his partner that had been driving the car that killed Jimmy a few months ago? Two months…That was right about the time Frank had borrowed his green Buick… He’d brought the car back dented and claimed to have hit a deer. Frank had paid to have the damage repaired and Larry hadn’t thought anymore about it.

 

Hit and Run…Green four door…two months. Larry looked up to find Frank staring at him coldly. “He killed my Jimmy,” he muttered angrily.

 

“I thought you said the guy’s name was DeSoto not Gage…”

 

“Gage is his partner but they’re close. John Gage is like DeSoto’s little brother just like Jimmy was mine. Eye for an Eye Larry…”

 

“Frank it was an accident…Let it go…”

 

“NO…,” he yelled. “No…He killed my Jimmy…He’s not gonna get to keep his brother when I had to bury mine. I’ll find a way…just need to think…,” he muttered. He looked up into Franks frightened gray eyes. “And you keep your mouth shut…Understand?” Frank threatened ominously.

 

“Yeah…yeah, sure Frank...” Larry was scared…he had to think about this.

 

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The casts had been removed from John’s arm and leg and Roy took the next shift off to stay with him as he began therapy.  The physical side of it was draining for the young paramedic. Just using his arms and hands at first wore him out and his muscles protested…painfully cramping after only a few minutes. “We can’t get you on your feet til your arms can support your weight…,” The pretty therapist explained to him, drawing an irritated scowl from Johnny who sat holding his cramped limbs against him until they eased up…the pain reflected in his eyes. It was the single silent nod from Roy that encouraged him to keep going.

 

The speech therapy was less physically draining but infinitely more frustrating for John. Roy assured him that as his brain continued to heal and if he worked at it, it would get easier to control his speech patterns. But for now…Johnny was having to relearn to form words and sentences.

 

“Well you had trouble stringing sentences together before…maybe you’ll be better at it…” Roy teased him.

 

“Ha ha…S…smar a…ass,” Johnny growled, pretending to be angry but he couldn’t contain the grin that formed for his partner.

 

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To a man, the Fireman who had been Johnny’s personal guard for two months volunteered to do so again. They got together and set their schedules and Johnny was never alone, whether in his room or during his therapy sessions. They commiserated with his frustrations, urged him on through the pain, corrected his imperfect sentences and celebrated every victory.

 

Johnny was amazed and humbled by their outpouring of support even though he was a bit embarrassed by his limitations. They never let that bother them…just teased him along through the tough times.

 

“Th…they’ve b…been so great …,” he told Roy a couple of weeks later.

 

“Hey…I told you a long time ago to accept that you’re a fairly lovable guy…Even if you are a nut…”

 

“Th…thanks a…a lot…” They both laughed.

 

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“Roy…I think we need to bring the kids home. They’ve been gone all summer. Kel’s going to release Johnny soon and his birthday’s only a week away. No one’s seen or heard from Frank Benjamin in three weeks…”

 

“That’s what worries me,” he muttered.

 

“I want to bring the children home…”

 

“What if he’s waiting for us to let our guard down?”

 

“We have to bring them home sometime…We can’t keep them away forever and the guys have said they’ll all come there to watch out for Johnny until he’s ready to go back to work. They all have to come home eventually.” Roy nodded in resignation.

 

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They drove down to San Diego the next morning to pick up the kids. They stopped at Rampart on the way. “Hey Doc…,” Roy greeted as they approached the base station.

 

“Roy, Jo…Are you heading up to visit Johnny?”

 

“Uh…we were just wondering if we can kidnap Johnny for a family outing…?”

 

Kel pursed his lips uncertainly. “He’s still a little weak Roy…He tires very easy.”

 

“I promise I won’t let him go jogging…,” Roy teased persuasively.

 

“Very funny…,” Kel growled with a smile. “Maybe some family time would be good for him and I think Johnny would love to get out of here for a while and I was planning on letting him go home soon anyway,” he said with a shrug. “Let’s go see if our star patient feels up to a road trip.”

 

Even the thought of spending time with Joanne’s parents didn’t deter the young man. Johnny nodded eagerly when asked if he’d like to go with them. Kel helped them load one of the hospitals wheel chairs in the back of Joanne’s station wagon along with a pillow and blanket in case Johnny tired. The younger man sighed in exasperation at the coddling. “F…feel l…like f…five year o…old,” he muttered.

 

I feel like a five year old…,” Roy corrected.

 

“Y…you T…too…?” Johnny quipped.

 

The three burst out laughing.

 

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“Well Frank subtle hasn’t worked. I guess direct is the last resort…A direct assault may be the only way,” he muttered. The paramedic was awake but he was still weak and helpless.

 

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Joanne’s parents weren’t fond of Roy…not that it was personal but they simply felt that she’d wasted herself on a Fire Fighter when she could have had a doctor or a lawyer. They hadn’t been fond of Johnny when they’d met him either, he was after all another Fireman but regardless of that, Arlene had learned her lesson.

 

A few months ago she’d made the mistake of talking to her grandson about the friendship between the two men…Joanne had called when Chris had let it slip where his negative attitude had come from. Joanne’s threat had been short and to the point. If it happened again the children would not be allowed to come and visit.

 

She’d made it clear that the young paramedic was as special to her and her kids as he was to Roy and would be heartbroken if she lost that relationship and so would the children. Arlene didn’t understand it but she wouldn’t risk losing the kids or her daughter. It was bad enough that the children seemed to prefer the young man’s company to hers anyway and they talked about him all summer. Uncle Johnny said this and Uncle Johnny does that…She’d been heartily sick of hearing his name and had sighed in frustration when Joanne called to tell her they were coming to pick up the kids and would be bringing the young man with them.

 

She heard the car pull into the driveway and braced herself for an unpleasant afternoon. She went to the door pulling it open just in time for Roy to lead his exhausted partner into her living room.

 

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The trip had been long and tiring for Johnny but he’d been determined to stay awake. His eyes were drooping and his head nodded frequently before snapping back up. Roy watched him in the rearview. “Johnny, just go ahead and go to sleep,” he said in amusement.

 

“M kay…,” he mumbled sleepily. “Wanna s…see kids…”

 

Roy knew his stubborn partner would have his own way so he gave it up, hoping he’d simply drift off on his own but he was still awake when he pulled into his In-laws driveway…barely.

 

Roy came around and opened the door, “C’mon junior…,” Roy said as he helped his partner from the car. His legs were still a bit shaky and he leaned heavily against his partner…His head tipped sideways to rest on Roy’s shoulder. Jo smiled as she grabbed the pillow from the seat and followed.

 

The door opened as they approached and Roy’s mouth tightened in resignation as his Mother In law stood there with her usual scowl. Her eyes turned to the exhausted young man Roy held against him and the expression softened. He looked like such a child, her heart melted. She stepped back to let her son in law inside. “Lay him on the couch…,” she directed quietly.

 

Roy sat his partner on the sofa and Joanne set the pillow in place so he could make him comfortable. Roy eased him back and flipped the shoes off his feet, before lifting them onto the cushions. “I forgot the blanket…,” Jo said as she headed for the door.

 

“Oh don’t bother dear…I have plenty,” her Mom said as she headed up the stairs. “Ron…Jo’s here…,” she informed her husband as she picked up a hand sewn, down filled quilt from the foot of her bed…her husband’s eyebrow arced in surprise.  

 

Joanne’s mouth dropped open in shock as her mother returned to lay the blanket over Johnny. “There you go dear…,” she said softly.

 

“Well I’ll be darned…he’s even done it to my Mom…,” she whispered in awe… Roy looked at her in confusion. “My Grandmother made that…,” she whispered to her husband. “She won’t even let me touch it…”

 

Johnny had long since won over Roy’s mother Harriet and they both chuckled as Roy muttered… “Gage charm…he’d be rich if he could bottle it.”

 

Jo’s father came down the stairs followed by Chris and Jennifer who were both very excited to see their parents and their Uncle Johnny and had to be restrained from pouncing on the half asleep young man.

 

John turned his head and his eyes cracked open… “Hey b…bud…dy…P…Prin…cess,” he stuttered out. He reached out and snagged the children, pulling them weakly toward him for a hug. Their worried eyes took in every detail of their Uncle’s drawn features, tired eyes and his difficulty speaking. “M…miss you…”

 

I missed you…,” Joanne corrected.

 

Johnny’s eyes lifted mischievously… “You t…too…?”

 

Jo chuckled and dropped a gentle kiss on the young man’s cheek. “Very funny Sweetheart…” She tousled the sable hair as his eyes drifted closed.

 

“Why’s Uncle Johnny talkin so funny…?” Chris asked his Father. Roy and Jo exchanged a look before they led the children out of the room. Jo’s parents followed.

 

“Uncle Johnny had a bad accident.”

 

“In his car…?” Jen asked.

 

“No honey…,” Roy said chewing his lip in indecision as to how much to tell them. The children weren’t stupid and they’d know something was very wrong when there was a fireman in the house constantly. Jo met his worried gaze and nodded her head.  “A very bad man was angry at me…He tried to hurt Uncle Johnny to get even with me…”

 

Their eyes widened fearfully as they turned toward John. “What did he do…?” Chris asked worriedly.

 

“He hit him with his car…Johnny was in a coma the whole time you were away.”

 

“What’s a coma…?” Jen asked.

 

“It means he was…sleeping,” Roy explained.

 

“For that long…?” She asked in disbelief.

 

“It hurt his head and he couldn’t wake up…that’s why he’s talking funny and he’s still pretty weak and he gets tired very easy…so we need to be very patient and help him.”

 

They nodded. “What did you do that made that man angry?” Chris asked.

 

“Do you remember the accident I had a few months ago…?” They nodded. “A young man stepped in front of my car and I couldn’t stop. He died and his brother is very angry at me…and he wants to take my brother away as well…”

 

“That’s not fair…Uncle Johnny didn’t do anything wrong and it was an accident…,” Chris said quietly.

 

“I know son…but sometimes grieving people don’t think clearly. Remember when we thought Uncle Johnny was dead?” Chris nodded. “It hurt a lot didn’t it?” He nodded again. “I’m not making excuses for him…what he’s doing is wrong but I understand his pain.”

 

The children nodded… “We’ll take care of him dad…,” Chris promised.

 

“I know you will. Now I tell you what…? You go get packed and let us talk for a while and maybe Uncle Johnny will be awake and you can spend some time with him. I think he’d like that.”

 

“And…,” Jo added in a whisper… “It’s Uncle Johnny’s birthday next week…So we’re going to have a BIG birthday party for him…Okay…?”  Both children nodded excitedly and ran for the stairs.

 

Their parents shared a grin as they sat at the table with Ron and Arlene. Roy cast a glance at his sleeping partner before turning his attention back to the others. “So what’s been happening Roy…?” Ron asked nodding toward John.

 

“That nut is still out there somewhere but no one’s heard or seen him for three weeks now…That was right after his last attempt on Johnny.”

 

“You think he’s given up…?”

 

“We hope he has…John’s still pretty weak and the Doctor will be letting us bring him home soon but…”

 

“Is it safe to bring them home…?” Arlene cut in worriedly, her eyes resting on the young man sleeping on the couch. It was obvious she was including him in her concerned question.

 

“We can’t keep them hidden forever…,” Jo said.

 

“Will the children be safe…?”

 

“It’s not the children he’s after …it’s Johnny…,” Roy answered.

 

“But he’ll be staying with you right?” Ron stressed.

 

“Yes…and there will always be someone at the house with them…They won’t be alone.”

 

“Besides, he’s disappeared…So let’s hope he’s given up…”

 

“A…an if h…he h…hasn’t…?” Johnny asked softly from the couch.

 

They all turned to look at Johnny as he struggled to sit up…a look of determination as he forced his arms to push himself upright. He looked at them triumphantly when he’d succeeded but then turned serious. “W…won’t p…pu J…Jen and C…Chris at r…risk. M…maybe should g…go a…away.”

 

Roy and Joanne didn’t correct him. “Don’t Johnny…,” Joanne responded before Roy could answer. She went to kneel in front of him cupping his face in her hands. “You’re coming home where you belong.”

 

“But J…Jo…,” he began.

 

Her fingers pressed over his mouth gently… “You’re coming home…and God help Frank Benjamin if comes after my kids there…you included.” She said with a look of a lioness defending her cubs.

 

Roy was so grateful for Joanne. No other woman would be as understanding as she was. While most women would be resentful of their relationship, she’d taken his young friend into her heart and her home as one of her own. Roy loved her for it more all the time.

 

Johnny’s dark eyes met Roy’s briefly, both worried and amused as Joanne pressed him back on the pillow. She pulled the quilt back over him. “Go to sleep…,” she directed, dropping a kiss on his cheek…her fingers brushing through the sable hair.

 

“Doesn’t that bother you…?” Ron asked in surprise at his daughter’s blatant show of affection for the younger man.

 

Roy grinned at his in-laws and their expressions of bafflement.  Had it been anyone but John, they would have been picking their teeth up from floor but Roy shook his head as Joanne returned and dropped her hands on his shoulders. “Not at all…should it…?” He asked challengingly. Ron met his eyes and Roy continued. “I trust my wife and my partner…Besides, John’s like a brother to her too. He’s family.”

 

“R…Roy…?” John called from the living room unwilling to give up the argument.  “M…maybe I Sh…should…” He started in his usual obsessive thought patterns.

 

“Go to sleep…,” Roy and Joanne yelled together.

 

The younger man heaved a sigh of resignation as the others laughed softly.

 

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Roy called Dr. Brackett several hours later… “We’re running a bit late…You want him back at the hospital or can we take him home…?”

 

“How is he…?”

 

“Exhausted… but happy and havin a ball with the kids. I wish you could see this Doc…Jen’s got him playing jacks…He’s getting pretty quick too…”

 

Kel grinned…Roy’s kids were good for Johnny and probably better therapy than he’d receive at the hospital.  “Take him home Roy…the kids are good for him…,” he voiced his thoughts.

 

“You got it doc…” Roy hung up and turned to the others. “Well junior…you’ve been officially sprung.” John looked up happily but then the smile faded. Roy knew what he was thinking. “It’ll be alright partner…you’ll see.” Johnny nodded but he still wasn’t sure.

 

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The drive home was exhausting for Johnny. He, Chris and Jen shared his blanket in the back seat. The children curled up on either side, using Uncle Johnny as a pillow…one arm holding each of them as they cuddled against him.

 

When they arrived home, they roused Chris long enough to sleepily stagger his way inside to collapse on the couch and fall back to sleep while Joanne carried her daughter upstairs. Roy shook Johnny awake… “C’mon junior, let’s get you to bed.”

 

John’s dark eyes drooped tiredly but he eased himself out of the car, standing on shaky legs as he leaned against his partner. Roy wrapped an arm around John’s waist and led him inside. The younger man was almost asleep on his feet.

 

Roy shook his head as he sat him on the edge of the bed and unbuttoned John’s shirt. “Hold on a minute junior…,” he chuckled as his young friend tried to crawl beneath the covers. Roy tugged his shoes off, followed by his jeans before letting John fall back on the pillows. He hoped he wouldn’t remember this in the morning…he’d be horrified. Roy pulled the blanket over the younger man, giving his shoulder a pat. “Good to have you home Johnny….,” he whispered…Then went to carry Chris upstairs.

 

Roy fell back on the bed a short time later. “How’s Johnny…?” Jo asked as she curled up against her husband.

 

“Asleep on his feet… I barely got him to bed before he was out cold but God Jo…it was good to see him playin with the kids and laughing,” he said thinking back to the still and silent form of his partner just three weeks ago…

 

Roy chuckled as he remembered Johnny complaining… “M…man I got b…beat at j…jacks by a th...three year old.”

 

Joanne giggled as Roy repeated the comment made by his annoyed partner. Roy sobered… “For awhile there I didn’t think I’d ever hear him speak again…,” he said quietly.

 

“Neither did I honey…but I guess we should have remembered who we’re dealing with…”

 

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Frank showed up at Rampart the next day taking care not to be seen by too many people. He knew they would be watching for him and had left his uniform and tool belt in his car. He checked the ICU through the window but only saw one nurse who’d be likely to recognize him. He pushed the door open and strolled in, hoping no one would challenge him. He glanced at the open door to Gage’s room but was shocked to see an elderly woman lying in the bed. “Damn it, they’ve moved him…,” he muttered. He headed toward the exit but a nurse stepped out of one of the rooms and spotted him.

 

“You shouldn’t be in here…Can I help you…?” She asked.

 

“I…ah…I was just looking for a friend of mine…They uh…told me he was here…”

 

“Who would that be…?” She asked kindly.

 

“John Gage…”

 

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously but she guessed there was no harm in giving him this small piece of information. “The Doctor released him yesterday…”

 

“But…he was so sick…?”

 

“He was doing much better…They only kept him here the last few weeks because it was safer than a room downstairs.” She politely waved the man toward the door and Frank knew he’d get no more from the woman…but he really didn’t need her. There was no way DeSoto would let Gage out of his sight and return to his apartment…that meant there was only one other place where John Gage would be…Stashed away at the DeSoto home. Frank grinned. They were making this way too easy.

 

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Bob Belliveau showed up bright and early the next morning. “Hey Roy…Jo, so where’s are star patient…?”

 

“He’s still sleeping… We wore him out pretty good yesterday. He may not be real good company,” Joanne said.

 

“Yeah…, He gets pretty grouchy when he’s tired,” Roy advised.

 

“So I’ll watch TV til his therapist get’s here.”

 

“Thanks Bob…Hey…take good care of him huh?”

Bob grinned at the younger man’s concern. “I will Roy…” Roy planted a kiss on Jo and headed out.

 

“Did you have breakfast Bob…?”

 

“No Ma’am…”

 

“I’m making breakfast, would you like some…?”

 

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble…”

 

Every fireman in LA knew what a good cook Joanne DeSoto was…They envied Roy and for the moment Johnny.

 

Joanne fed Bob and the kids and then went to check on Johnny. She lightly shook his shoulder. “You hungry sweetheart…?”

 

As tired as he was, John Gage had to be at deaths door before he’d turn down food…especially Jo’s.” His eyes snapped open…

 

“Y…yeah…”

 

“Do you want to eat here or should I get Bob to help you out to the table…?” John bit his lip. As much as he’d rather go out to the kitchen, he detested the idea of asking for help …He accepted it from Roy and Jo but they were family.

 

“Here I g…guess…”

 

Bob poked his head around the door… “You decent kid…?” He asked with a grin.

 

“M…more so than y…you…,” Johnny shot back.

 

Bob laughed as he came into the room. “Let’s get you up and dressed Gage…” John flushed in embarrassment but was unable to come up with a reason to refuse and let Bob help him. Belliveau grinned as he watched Johnny move slowly to the table by himself. He, like the other firemen was impressed at how far John had come in the last three weeks…even if the kid didn’t think so.  

 

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The speech therapist spent an hour with Johnny and was packing up her things to go… “You’re doing very well John…,” she praised him.

 

“H…ow long b…before I S…stop S…stutt…tering? “C...can’t work l…like this.”         

 

“That’s up to you John…Talk as much as possible…”

 

“That’s not a problem for Gage…,” Bob quipped.

 

“Ha ha…,” Johnny said with narrowed eyes, but Jo and the therapist laughed.

 

“Seriously though…the more practice you get in the better you’ll get. You’re pulling your thoughts together very well…The structure is better…we just need to lose the stutter.” She looked at Jo and Bob. “Keep correcting him when he doesn’t say it properly. It needs to be a habit to speak correctly.”

 

“It never was before…,” Bob teased. John shot him a glare. “Just kidding,” he mumbled.

 

“It will start to smooth out…You’ve done very well today John…”

 

Bob gave him a congratulatory slap on the back, almost knocking the young paramedic off his feet.  John regained his balance and shot a dagger look at Bob.

 

“Sorry kid…,” he mumbled sheepishly.

 

“And if you survive your friends over exuberance…,” she teased. “You could be back to work very soon…but let’s see how your physical therapy goes…”

 

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The phone rang at Station 51. “Roy…!” Hank bellowed from the rec room.

 

“Yeah…,” he yelled back as he and the guys finished up polishing the rigs.

 

“Phone for you…”

 

The guys trooped in along with him and headed for the coffee pot as Roy picked up the phone. He expected it to be Joanne calling with an update on Johnny. “Hello…?”

 

“Roy DeSoto?” Roy’s stomach tightened at the strange male voice on the other end…

 

“Yes…”

 

“You don’t know me… My name’s Larry Coleman.”

 

“Yeah…?” He questioned curiously.

 

“I’m…well I was Frank Benjamin’s brother in law…”

 

“I see…What is it you want Mr. Coleman?”

 

“I think Frank used my car to run down your friend a couple of months ago… I know for a fact he wants him dead. He told me himself…He told me… “his brother for my brother…’ that’s why I’m callin…”

 

“Will you tell this to the police…?”  The guys all looked at each other curiously, wondering who Roy was talking to… “The police know it’s him but it would be great if you’d tell them that…I can give you their number.”

 

“Okay…yeah I’ll do that…Franks scaring me…”

 

“Give me your number…I’ll have them call you…”

 

“It’s 555-9561…”

 

“Okay…”

 

“Look…now’s a good time, Frank went out a while ago…Said he had to finish something.”

 

Roy’s face went pale… “Oh God…Johnny…” Roy slammed the phone down. He picked it up and dialed his home number. The phone rang several time but there was no answer. Roy waited impatiently, bouncing on his toes in frustration. “C’mon…C’mon…pick it up…You gotta be there…” Roy finally slammed the phone down. “Cap…,” He shouted as he ran for the squad…

 

“What is it Roy…?”

 

“I think Frank Benjamin’s gonna take another run at Johnny and I can’t raise anyone at home…I’m heading over there.”

 

“Guys…,”Cap hollered. “Let’s move, John could be in trouble. The sound of running feet was Cap’s answer as the door began to roll up…

 

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Frank had been watching the house for several hours now. He’d found an empty home just two doors down from the DeSoto’s and now sat in the bushes watching. When Jo, Bob and Johnny had walked the therapist out to her car he made his move. He made his way through the bushes and around to the side of the house, slipping inside the unlocked door. 

 

He slipped into the downstairs closet holding the tire iron from his trunk. There was no more playing games…this time Gage was going to die. He held his breath as the quiet sound of conversation made its way through the door but after a few minutes the house grew quiet except for the sound of the TV…Frank quietly pushed the door open and stepped out.

 

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Johnny and Bob came back inside from seeing the therapist off. Joanne had gone next door to check on the kids who were spending the afternoon with their friends. Johnny had shook off Bob’s helping hand and walked on his own. It was a slow pace but it was unaided. Bob grinned with pride at his young friend and his determination to get back to work. John shot him a return smile as he stepped through the door but Bob could tell that he was beginning to tire.

 

“I’m g…gonna call R…Roy,” he said picking up the phone. He hung up after a moment and shrugged at Bob. “M…mus be on a r…run.”

 

“How ya feel…,” Bob asked him as he plopped down on the sofa. “Ya look a little tired.”

 

Johnny nodded. “A l…li..tle.”

 

“Why don’t ya go lay down…?”

 

“Jo will p…pro… bly be m...akin l…lunch s…soon.”

 

“So I’ll get ya up then and we can run through your exercises…” Johnny hesitated and Bob looked back at him over his shoulder. “Don’t push yourself so hard Johnny…”

 

John bit his lip in frustration. “Kay…” Bob watched him make his way back to his bedroom and then flipped on the TV.

 

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Frank saw the big man sitting on the sofa and gripped the tire iron tightly, creeping up behind the man as he sat watching the Price is Right…He had no beef with this guy and only needed to get him out of the way. Bob never heard Frank Benjamin, he never saw the tire iron or felt the thump that knocked him unconscious.

 

Frank heard a sharp intake of breath from behind him…

 

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Johnny laid on the bed for a few minutes…but his mind was racing too much to sleep. He missed his job, his friends. He needed to crack down and work harder not sleep. He really wanted to talk to his partner…Find out what he thought. He pushed himself from the bed and made his way to the door. He stepped through and glanced towards the living room in time to see Frank Benjamin deliver a hard blow to the back of Bob Belliveau’s head. Johnny gasped in shock.

 

Frank whirled around and for the first time since Jimmy had been killed, came face to face with the young man he’d been trying so hard to kill.

 

Johnny’s dark eyes took in the tire iron in Franks hand and they widened in fear. Johnny’s only thought was for Joanne and the kids. If she came home now, she could be killed. Worse…what if she brought the kids? He had to get Benjamin out of the house. Casting a final look at his injured friend and then the tire iron Benjamin was swinging in his hand… Johnny turned and bolted for the sliding doors that led to the deck…John knew he couldn’t outrun Benjamin. All he wanted was to get far enough away for Jo and the kids to be out of danger.

 

Frank smiled at the fear in the younger man’s eyes but misunderstood why it was there…John was fully prepared to give his own life for Joanne and the children. Benjamin took off after the fleeing paramedic.

 

John was on the deck, his weakened leg muscle’s making it impossible for him to move quickly. He tripped over some of the kids toys, struggling to maintain his balance. Getting down the stairs and away from the house was all he could think of. He didn’t make it…He felt a sharp blow across his back, John lurched forward, crying out in agony as he hit the floor…he rolled onto his back and threw up his hands to ward off the blow he knew would be coming.

 

Frank grinned spitefully…He dropped to his knees, straddling the younger man. He easily knocked his hands aside and raised the tire iron.

 

Johnny felt his hands batted aside. His right arm hit the decking, his hand struck something heavy and metal…He closed his fingers over it and swung, clipping Frank on the side of his head with one of Chris’s Tonka trucks.

 

Benjamin dropped the iron to clasp his head in agony and Johnny managed to push him off. The young paramedic was panting for air and his back was aching. He was afraid he had a couple of broken ribs from Frank’s first blow but he managed to struggle to his feet.

 

He’d made it only a couple of steps when Benjamin grabbed his ankle…Johnny’s balance…already precarious, was lost. He went down hard driving the air from his lungs. He flipped onto his back, scrambling backwards to get away from the advancing Benjamin…Johnny kicked out at him as he was slowly backed up against the railing. He’d run out of room and had nowhere to go…

 

Frank was on Johnny in moments. Blood trickled from the wound on the side of his head. He drove his knee into the younger man’s stomach, pushing the air from him.

 

Johnny gasped, trying to draw oxygen into his starved lungs. Johnny weakly raised his hands to block Franks, His body bucked trying to throw the man’s weight off but Frank slapped the hands aside, his fingers closed around Johnny’s throat. The young man knew he was done. There was a roaring in his ears and his vision began to fade. His hands fell limply to the ground. Frank smiled and pressed harder.

 

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Joanne threw her neighbor a wave. “Thanks for watching them Deb…I’ve got to get back before Johnny starves to death…,” she teased.

 

Deb grinned… She’d met Roy’s partner on several occasions and if she hadn’t been happily married would have made a play for the handsome young man.  “Better hurry…he’s a bottomless pit…,” she giggled.

 

“I’ll be back for the kids at 5:00," she promised. She opened the front door and saw Bob on the couch. He appeared to be asleep until a painful groan escaped his lips.

 

Joanne ran to his side. “Bob…? Bob…,” She called as she tried to rouse the man by shaking his shoulder. She took his head in her hands but drew it back quickly at the warm, sticky feel of blood. Her eyes flew to Johnny’s room in terror. “Johnny…”

 

Jo ran to John’s room and flung the door open… Empty… “Oh God Johnny…” She heard a thump from the deck and ran to the open sliders. A large man was straddling Johnny, his hands locked tightly about John’s throat.

 

She saw John’s hand’s fall to the deck limp and motionless. Her eyes fell on the tire iron. A look of steel entered Joanne’s eye. She picked up the tire iron and carried out her promise.

 

Frank was squeezing hard. He saw a bluish tint around Johnny’s mouth and grinned triumphantly. He never heard Joanne come up behind him, but everything suddenly went black.

 

Joanne shoved the man off John. “Johnny…? Johnny, sweetheart…Can you hear me…?” Joanne reached for Johnny’s throat, she found the pulse. “Oh baby…,” she whispered stroking his cheek. Her fingers gently touched the bruised flesh around his neck.

 

John’s breath was coming in short sharp gasps… “C’mon sweetheart, breathe for me…,” she whispered as she pulled him upright to cradle the injured young man in her arms. Joanne heard sirens in the distance. Jo held him against her, his head resting on her shoulder. She rocked him slowly as her fingers slid through John’s hair, searching for any sign that he’d hit his head.

 

John’s breathing was a wheezy rasp. “Oh please Johnny…c’mon…,” she pleaded, tears trickling down her cheeks as he continued to desperately suck air past his bruised windpipe.

 

John’s body began to shake in her arms as shock set in. “C’mon baby, you can do it…,” she soothed. “Hang on sweetheart, helps coming.”

 

She felt someone come up behind her and looked up quickly in fear expecting to see Frank Benjamin…Instead a still slightly woozy Bob Belliveau stood over her.

 

“Let me take him Joanne…,” He said gently as he leaned down. Jo hesitated but finally allowed the man to lift John from her arms. “Man…I’m sorry Johnny…,” he said to the younger man as he laid him on one of the lawn chairs. “Joanne…Get me a blanket okay…?” He directed as he tipped John’s head back to open his airway.

 

Bob heard the sirens go silent as Jo returned with a blanket and tucked it around Johnny’s shivering body.

 

Suddenly Roy was there. “What the hell happened…?” Roy barked. His eyes flicking to Joanne to be sure she was okay and then returning to lock on his partner.

 

“Frank Benjamin tried to strangle him…”

 

“Bob…Get Rampart on the line…”

 

Belliveau snapped up the Biophone while Roy began to check on Johnny. The rest of the crew gathered around their friends casting ugly looks at Frank Benjamin as Joe Hanson began to look him over.

 

“Rampart base this is squad 51…how do you read…?”

 

“51…this is Rampart…go ahead.”

 

“Rampart…we have two victims. The first is a twenty four year old male… His throat is badly bruised from an attempted strangulation. He’s unconscious. His BP is 130/90, pulse is 60…his respirations are weak and labored."

 

Roy’s hands followed the path Joanne’s had taken as she told him all she’d seen. “Oh God Roy…I thought he was dead…,” she sobbed.

 

“Take it easy Honey…He’s gonna be okay…” Roy felt down John’s limbs and torso. His hand ran around John’s ribs to his back. John gasped and writhed beneath his hand. Roy raised his eyes to see dark, pain filled brown eyes cracked open and watching him vaguely. “Hang on junior… we’re gonna get you to Rampart.” Roy took the phone from Bob… “Rampart…victim one also has a fractured rib and is exhibiting signs of shock…be advised Rampart. Victim is John Gage.”

 

“Roy…?” Brackett’s anxious voice came over the Biophone. “Did he sustain any head injury…?”

 

“Negative Rampart…He’s also regained consciousness though he is disoriented.”

 

“51…is his windpipe crushed…?”

 

“Negative…just badly bruised and swollen…”

 

“Is he breathing any better…?”

 

“Negative…still struggling… I have diminished breath sounds on the right side…he’s in a lot of pain Rampart…”

 

Kel bit his lip… “Start an IV 51 D5WTKO…Give him 5 mgs of MS. Let me know if his breathing gets any worse…I don’t want to start an airway unless we have too until I can get a look at his throat. Get him in here as soon as possible.”

 

“10-4 Rampart…”

 

He handed the phone to Hanson, who began giving Benjamin’s vitals to the Doctor.

 

Vince Howard stepped out on the deck, taking in the scene before moving to Frank Benjamin. He looked back at Roy… “How’s Johnny…?”

 

“Serious, but not critical…”

 

“Who did this to Benjamin…?”

 

“I did…?” Joanne said vehemently.

 

Roy and the crew looked up in surprise…They had assumed that it was Bob… Bob shrugged as they all looked at him. “I was out cold…,” he admitted.

 

“I had no choice Roy…He was strangling Johnny…I…”

 

“Honey…I’m so proud of you…,” he said, cutting her off and looking her in the eyes. “You did great…”

 

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Hanson started an IV on Benjamin. Vince would be accompanying him to Rampart and would get their statements there. He patted Joanne’s shoulder. “You did what you had to Joanne. Don’t worry it was in defense of another…”

 

Roy was bundling a drowsy Johnny onto a gurney..Bob had a pressure bandage wrapped with gauze to hold it in place. He assured them that his hard head would be fine, apologizing repeatedly for having let Frank Benjamin get the best of him.

 

“Bob… at least this nightmare is over and Johnny will finally be safe. That’s all that matters,” Roy assured him. “We can all get back to our lives.”

 

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Johnny’s family and friends had once again gathered in his room to hear what Brackett had to tell them. Kel glanced at Dixie as six sets of anxious eyes watched him intently and knowing that half of LA’s fire fighter’s, alerted by Bob Belliveau were waiting word on Johnny’s condition. “I feel like a guest speaker at a Fire Fighter’s convention,” Kel joked.

 

Dixie swatted his arm… “They’ve been guarding our boy for over three months Kel…They want to be sure it wasn’t wasted.”

 

Johnny was sleeping. One hand held by Roy and the other by Joanne. The oxygen mask and IV the only sign of medical technology…A stark contrast to the tubes, wires and machines from the last time… Roy was in a chair at his partner’s bedside but his attention was on Brackett. Joanne sat on the other side, her fingers absently stroked John’s hair back as she focused on the dark haired Doctor…

 

“Okay…First let’s just get to the bottom line…Johnny’s gonna be fine…”

 

Relieved smiles broke out all around the room. “Dr. Fisher,  Joe Early and I spent some time with him and there is no sign of trauma and he shouldn’t have any setbacks from this at all in his recovery from the coma. However…” The smiles faded slightly and a collective groan came from Johnny’s friends.

 

“Man…I hate the howevers…,” Chet grumbled.

 

Kel smiled, “However…,” He said again, looking at Chet. “He does have a broken rib…and we had to inflate a punctured lung…His windpipe is badly bruised. His physical therapy will have to be curtailed a bit until he heals but as soon as he gets his voice back he can continue with his speech therapy. He’s got a lot of bruising, but the rib is the only serious issue. He’s on prophylactic antibiotics for the lung puncture…just as a precaution against infection…”

 

Kel turned to Roy’s wife. "Jo…You did a great job protecting our friend here and I know you’re concerned that you may have killed Frank Benjamin…” She nodded. “You didn’t…He woke up this morning, furious and with a whopper of a headache…but he’ll live and will most likely be heading for prison for a very long time…”

 

“Let’s hope Benjamin and Scott Jackson don’t hook up…They have a lot in common…,” Chet quipped.

 

A low raspy voice came from the bed… “D…didn’t need to h…hear that Ch…Chet,” Johnny growled.

 

“Yeah…,” Marco agreed punching Chet in the arm…

 

“Johnny…sorry we woke ya junior…,” Roy said softly.

 

“S’okay…,” he murmured.

 

“Hey Johnny…Man I didn’t know you were awake or I wouldn’t a brought that up…I swear,” Chet said.

 

“Don’t worry Johnny…,” Mike added. “I don’t think either of them wanna take on the DeSoto family to get to you.”

 

Johnny looked confused while Roy and Joanne flushed in embarrassment…The others just laughed.

 

snakebite 30.JPG

 

“Wha..t’s he talkin b…bout R…Roy?” Johnny rasped out.

 

“Nothing…,” Joanne said quickly.

 

“Joanne took a tire iron to Benjamin…,” Marco said innocently.

 

Joanne shot him a dirty look as Johnny began to grin broadly. “You d…did that for m…me? Th..thanks Jo,” He said turning his head to look at her.

 

She kissed his forehead… “Go to sleep…,” she told him sternly… “You all…Out…”

 

john laugh 2.JPG

 

Seven weeks later Dixie was getting an early morning cup of coffee when the base station speaker sounded. “Rampart base Th…this is Squad 51…” She grinned at the familiar and well loved voice on the other end…

 

“Go ahead 51…”

 

“Ready for our morning r…radio check…and EKG Calibration…?”

 

Almost perfect…only the slightest of hesitations that would also fade in time.

 

“I hear you loud and clear…welcome home 51…”

 

“10-4…”

 

THE END

 

audit 67.JPG

 

The Character’s of emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Mark VII Limited and Universal Studios. Thanks for letting me play with the gang from time to time. Any Medical mistakes are mine.

 

Published to Site 01/29/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home | Emergency Stories by Tammy | Send Stories

The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.

Copyright 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012
Send your feedback or Post your story by sending an email to Tammy at tbillings51@gmail.com.