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A Question Of Friendship

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

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The loud buzzing of an alarm clock broke the early morning silence of the darkened room. A soft groan came from under the arm slung over the face of twenty three year old Paramedic John Gage. The right arm snaked out to swat the offending item, sending it sliding across the polished surface of the bedside table.  Johnny fumbled in the dark until he managed to hit the right button and silence reigned once again.

 

He was on sick leave…it had been a week since the beam had fallen on him in that burning warehouse. His leg had thankfully only sustained a nasty gash but he’d walked away with no broken bones and a lot of ribbing from his partner and the rest of the crew of station 51 as Roy had had to come in and get him.

 

Johnny had bristled in annoyance as Chet had teased him … “You’re lucky Roy was right there to rescue you Gage…again…”

 

“I woulda got out alright by myself Chet…,” Johnny had snapped.

 

“Really…?  I think you’d still be stuck on those stairs if not for Roy.” Mike and Marco both smirked at the younger man’s irritation.

 

“Leave it alone Kelly…,” Roy had muttered as he pulled Johnny to his feet and helped him limp to the squad. The older paramedic was well aware of John’s insecurities and that his young partner hated feeling like he couldn’t take care of himself. Roy was usually careful not to be too over protective in front of the others but Johnny was like a kid brother to him and it was tough not to show it…

 

“You know Roy…you were a lot more fun before you adopted Gage…”

 

Johnny had whirled, almost losing his balance…  “He didn’t adopt me Kelly…,” he growled angrily. “I can take care of myself…”

 

“Johnny just let it go…let’s get you to Rampart.”

 

“But Roy…”

 

“Johnny, we both know what a good paramedic you are…don’t let him bother you…you got nothin to prove…least of all to Chet.”

 

John had nodded at his friend…He didn’t know what he was gonna do when Roy moved on to engineer…the thought had brought a wave of sadness…he was really gonna miss him and he’d be stuck with Chet and without Roy’s calming influence…it could get ugly.

 

Johnny had been putting up a good front that he’d be fine without Roy and that he was happy that he’d be getting that well deserved promotion but he wasn’t … He didn’t want Roy to go but he refused to dump his own insecurities on his friend…but then at the hospital he’d been reprieved when Roy had told him he was passing on the promotion…he’d said it was worth another year in the hopes that you could be a engineer and a paramedic.

 

Johnny had been relieved but had managed to cover it up with a cool… “Next year for sure…,” He hoped it would be a long year. John hated to admit it but he really did need his friend…but not the way Chet meant…Johnny was well aware that he was good at what he did…as good as Roy…that’s what made them such a good team…but it was the friendship John needed and had been afraid of losing.

 

The sleepy haze suddenly lifted and his thoughts came together…Johnny bolted upright… “Damn it…” It was his first day back and he was gonna be late. John rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. He’d have to scramble to be there on time.

 

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Johnny raced into the locker room at 7:58…he threw a rueful grin at his partner. “Overslept…,” he panted. “I forgot I wasn’t on sick leave anymore.” He whipped open the locker hearing the familiar sproing of one of his crew mates…Chet Kelly’s water bombs. “Chet…,” he railed in annoyance.

 

The familiar… “Bwahaha…,” floated through the locker room.

 

Roy was grinning at him in amusement. “Not the only thing you forgot huh?” Johnny whipped off his wet shirt as Roy slammed his locker shut.

 

“Roll call…,” Cap bellowed.

 

“Dammit…,” Johnny muttered as he yanked off his jeans, getting them hooked on the sneakers he’d forgotten to remove. Roy headed out the door to escape the angry rant that Johnny unleashed at his own inability to dress himself this morning. Roy chuckled all the way to the apparatus bay.

 

Johnny slid into line at 8:04… “Nice of you to join us Gage…,” Captain Hank Stanley remarked noting the wet, sable hair that was still plastered to the younger man’s forehead.

 

“Sorry Cap…,” Johnny mumbled shooting a glare at Chet.

 

Cap gave his youngest crew member a pat on the shoulder… “Welcome back pal…”

 

Johnny gave Hank a crooked grin… “Thanks Cap.”

 

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Hank took roll call as a matter of formality as his men were obviously all present and then handed out assignments. “We’ll be doing some drills this morning just to get Gage back into the swing of things…”

 

The men all groaned and Johnny rolled his eyes… “Welcome back pal…,” he mimicked snidely under his breath.

 

Cap struggled not to smile. “Roy…you’ve got the dorm… Mike, Rec Room…” Chet grinned knowing he’d get the apparatus bay while the last one in got latrine duty. “Chet…,” Cap continued. “I think since its John’s first day back that we should cut him some slack…” Kelly’s grin faltered… while the crew began to grin broadly. “So why don’t you do latrine duty… Gage, apparatus bay… Marco… You’re cooking,” Hank finished. 

 

“Cap, that’s not fair…,” Chet whined…

 

“Are you questioning your Captains sense of fair play…?” Hank asked ominously.

 

Chet forced a short laugh… “Oh no Cap…not at all….”

 

“Good…good, Let’s get some coffee."

 

The others broke formation, patting Chet on the back with teasing smirks as they headed for the rec room for coffee. Johnny threw Cap a grateful smile.

 

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The crew gathered around the table in the rec room enjoying their first cup of coffee. B shift was departing but stopped to give the young paramedic a light slap on the back before they left. Cap set a box of donuts on the table… “Glad you’re back John…,” he said, snagging a chocolate donut from the box.

 

Chet reached for the only jelly filled pastry and got his hand slapped by Mike Stoker. “That’s Gage’s.”

 

“Ah c’mon…what’s everyone babying him for?” Chet complained. “First Cap and now you guys…he’s fine for heaven’s sake…”

 

Johnny bristled instantly at the comment…

 

“Oh oh…,” Roy muttered as he saw the angry frown that settled on his young partner’s face. Roy frowned at Chet…he’d just given the young man his obsession for the day.

 

“Chet, I’m not…I mean they’re not…,” John drew a deep breath. “I mean, they aren’t treating me like a baby,” he finally stuttered out. “They’re just welcoming a friend back…but if it’s that big a deal to you then here…take it,” Johnny said as he flipped the donut across the table toward Chet.

 

The curly haired Fireman grinned smugly…knowing he’d hit his mark. He reached for the donut, only to see Roy’s long fingers snap it up off the table first. “Well partner…if you’re sure you don’t want it…thanks.” Roy walked away leaving Chet sputtering and Johnny grinning broadly as he snapped up the only powdered donut left which was Chet’s other favorite. The Irishman slapped the table in frustration while the others chuckled at his annoyance.

 

Johnny plopped down into his chair grinning smugly…he ate his donut, licking the sugar from his lips while Chet glared across the table at the younger man.

 

“Geez guys, Gage gets a cut and everyone around here babies him…,” he complained, only half joking. “How come no one jumps through hoops for me or Roy or anyone else when we get hurt?”  The crew ignored Chet’s whining comment as they headed off to start their chores...knowing he was trying to bait the younger man…it worked.

 

  Johnny had been absently toying with his green pen but at Chet’s barb, he snapped his head up to look at his friends with a frown…none of them had denied it. He tossed the pen down in irritation and opened his mouth to argue but he suddenly felt Roy’s hand grip his shoulder.

 

“Johnny why don’t you go start the morning radio check…”

 

Johnny closed his mouth recognizing that his partner was trying to stop the fight before it escalated. “You comin…?” He asked.

 

“I’m sure he’ll be out to hold your hand in a minute Gage…,” Chet sniped in irritation.

 

“Oh shut up Chet…,” Johnny snapped… “I don’t need anyone to hold my hand.” Roy sighed in irritation… It had taken him months to break down John’s walls and get him to a point where he was comfortable with being close with someone and Chet could undo it all if he didn’t stop taunting the younger man about it. Roy didn’t want those insecurities popping up again. He shot a glare at the curly haired Irish firefighter as he patted his partners shoulder.

 

“Just ignore him junior…he’s just tryin to get a rise outta ya…don’t let him. Go on, I’ll be out after I wash the cups,” he said picking up John’s mug and heading to the sink.

 

“Sure Roy…,” Johnny said as he headed out to the squad. He pulled the equipment out and began to set up…he reached for his pen and realized he’d left it on the table. He sighed and headed back to the rec room. He heard Roy talking to Chet as he approached the door…he stopped when he heard his name.

 

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“Chet…I usually try to stay out of it when you and Johnny get goin…sometimes it’s even funny but could you back off on the cracks about treating him like a baby…he’s kinda sensitive about them…”

 

Chet laughed… “See there…ya just proved it…man has my pigeon got you trained…,” he taunted.  “You know what I think Roy?”


“I try not to Chet…it scares me…”

 

“Ha ha…that’s real funny Roy…Seriously…you know what it is…? I think you feel guilty…”

 

“Guilty…?” For what…?”

 

“For what happened a year ago…and Gage knows it too…he plays you like a fiddle.”

 

“That’s ridiculous…”

 

“Is it…? C’mon Roy…you watch over him like a mother hen…Like you’re his dad or something…But I suppose you hafta since he can’t get through a shift without getting into some kind of trouble. Man…he cuts a finger and you’re right there…he sniffles and you’re at his side….man, he must be wearing you out. Hell you even passed up a promotion for him…,” Chet dug the barb in.


Outside the door, Johnny’s mouth dropped open in shock…He waited for Roy to deny it but he didn’t…there was only silence. John turned away from the door and headed back to the squad…stopping to look back at the rec room in bewilderment. “Wow…is that what everyone thinks…?” he murmured to himself…God…what if it was true. Had Roy really passed up his promotion for him? The younger man remembered his partner had teased him that someone had to look out for him but he hadn’t taken him seriously.

 

He chewed his lip deep in thought…he was hurt that Roy or Chet would think he’d deliberately play him like that. It had never been his intention to take advantage of Roy. He’d never intended to be a burden to his friend and he certainly didn’t want Roy’s friendship out of guilt. Was he holding Roy back? Did he really believe he was unable to take care of himself…Johnny wasn’t sure but  if so then this was something he could fix…His jaw set with determination…he’d prove he could take care of himself…he always had before…he’d prove to them that he didn’t need anyone.

 

Roy would have cheerfully strangled Chet Kelly if he’d realized the Irishman had just ruined months of effort  on his part…tearing down the walls in his young partner’s life by causing him to question Roy’s friendship.  Roy was well aware that John was a master brick layer but he didn’t yet realize that the stones were rapidly being mortared into place.

 

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Roy hadn’t answered right away…he sat quietly…lips pursed in thought, trying to figure out the best way to explain to Chet without giving away too much of John’s personal life or giving him something to taunt the younger man with.

 

“Chet…, I know you don’t understand and I’m not sure this is gonna come out right but you’re questioning my friendship with John so right now I don’t care if it does so bear with me…,” He hesitated briefly and then continued.  “Johnny’s not just my partner…he’s also my best friend…he means more to me than you or any of the other guys realize. I can’t always explain it myself but I feel closer to him than I would to a real brother. A year ago…I did something incredibly stupid and accused him of something he didn’t do.”

 

“What was it Roy…you never told us.”

 

“It doesn’t matter…It never happened and I was wrong, the point is I found out some things about my friend…I didn’t know before…besides that he has Aspergers.”

 

Chet’s eyes lit up… “Yeah…like what?”

 

“That’s none of your business but let’s just say there are layers to John Gage that you haven’t seen and that even I haven’t found…but I plan to… and one of those things is John’s ability to forgive, which we’ve all experienced. Chet… I don’t feel guilt anymore because John’s forgiven me and that’s not why John’s my friend.  He’s unique and special…”

 

Chet threw him a wicked grin…

 

Roy put up his hand to stop the taunting comment he knew was coming… “All kidding aside Chet…I’m being serious here. John can be a bit of a kid sometimes and he’s a little naïve but he’s been through a lot in his life and he’s got an incredible inner strength that you’ve never stopped to notice…He never looks for pity or asks for sympathy and while I sometimes get a little overprotective personally, Professionally, I’m well aware of what an incredible paramedic John is and a great partner…he’s not a child  and I don’t ever make the mistake of thinking of him as one, understand?” I don’t feel pity or sympathy or guilt…It’s admiration and respect.”

 

Chet nodded at the serious words… wondering what exactly John had been through… “Sure Roy.”

 

“I admire and respect his strength but most importantly I made a promise to him a year ago that I’d always be there for him and I meant it…not out of guilt but out of…,” Roy hesitated, concerned that Chet would never let either of them hear the end of it but he’d be sure that didn’t happen if it came up later… “Out of love…” Chet grinned but didn’t comment. “And I’d prefer you didn’t pick on him about that…it embarrasses him,” Roy said in a warning tone.

 

“Not just him Roy…you should see the color of your face.”

 

Roy threw him a wry look but he could feel the heat in his face and knew the color probably matched for intensity but he didn’t care. “Johnny’s my kid brother in everything but blood…I’m not ashamed about how I feel about him and as far as my promotion goes...I gave that up for a lot of reasons…leaving John was the major one but he never asked me to stay and watch out for him and he doesn’t need me to, that was my choice.”

 

Chet nodded, still a little baffled by the relationship but he knew Roy wouldn’t give him anything more about John or what he knew that impressed him so much. Chet, Mike, and Marco knew about Johnny’s ASD and he had to admit he admired Gage’s ability to overcome that as well… “Okay Roy…look I’m sorry about what I said okay…I guess I was just a little annoyed about everybody …you know…treating him special.”

 

Roy could tell Chet still didn’t fully understand but he seemed willing to accept the explanation. Roy could have added that Johnny was special but chose to lighten the mood instead… “Look who’s talkin…,” Roy teased. “I seem to remember the guys tellin me you were the first one down the hill when Johnny got bit by that damn snake a couple of months ago and if I’m not mistaken…wasn’t it you that wanted to take me outside and beat the hell out of me for letting Johnny go to 88’s…?”

 

Chet blushed crimson, knowing in reality that he was as guilty as the others about watching out after their youngest crew member. “Yeah…I guess it was…I guess I’ll go start the latrine…besides Gage is waiting.”

 

“Thanks Chet…and about what I told you…”

 

“I’ll never say a word Roy… not to anyone…I swear.”

 

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Johnny had finished taking inventory of the drug box and had set up the Biophone and cardiac monitor. His mind replaying what he’d heard…it bothered him a lot that Roy hadn’t disputed it…Guilt…? Was it true…was that Roy’s only reason? He’d said it was more than that…John’s face flushed Crimson…he didn’t remember all of it that morning in the Emergency room but he remembered Roy telling him he was like his brother and that he loved him…had he meant it or was he just trying to pull him back from the place he’d retreated to in his mind…? He’d told him he meant it once before as well…but then why hadn’t he argued that guilt wasn’t a factor…John shook his head in confusion…strengthening his resolve to prove that he didn’t need anyone and that he could take care of himself…he’d never be accused of holding Roy back again.

 

He pushed it from his mind for the moment…“Rampart base…this is rescue 51…”

 

“Go ahead 51…,” Dixie McCall’s voice came back…

 

“Rampart…Are you ready for our morning radio check and EKG Calibration?”

 

“Go ahead 51…”

 

Johnny ran off a few seconds of tape before Dixie came back… “Looks good 51…”

 

“10-4…Rampart…” Johnny thought the connection was broken until he heard the next transmission.

 

“Welcome back 51…”

 

“Thanks Rampart…,” Johnny grinned, feeling a bit better.

 

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Johnny was packing it back up when Roy finally joined him… “Sorry I took so long partner…”

 

“It’s not a problem…,” Johnny said quietly. “Contrary to what Chet thinks…I don’t need you to hold my hand...” he finished, flashing a half hearted smile at Roy.

 

Roy looked at him in concern…the dark eyes that didn’t quite meet his worried him… “I never thought for a moment that you did Junior.” John gave him a brief nod… “Well if you’re done, I’ll go make the beds,” Roy said as they both glanced up to see Chet wander through the apparatus bay on his way to the latrine.

 

“Okay…,” Johnny agreed quietly with a shrug… “I’ve got my own work to do anyway,” he said, shoving the equipment back into the squad. Roy watched him…waiting for the angry tirade over Chet’s comments but it didn’t come…John simply turned and walked away to get the bucket and mop…

 

The Station Control Unit began to sound… “Station 51…Station 36, Truck 27…battalion 8…structure fire…715 Rosemont. 7-1-5 Rosemont…cross street Ellwood. Time out 8:31”

 

The crew was racing for the Rig. Johnny was already in the passenger seat when Roy slid in beside him. Cap handed Roy the slip of paper and ran for the Engine. “Sounds like a big one Junior…,” Roy commented. Johnny nodded concentrating on the map.

 

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They pulled up in front of a large medical complex. The sign out front announced that it was the Charles Lauvergne Epidemiology Research Laboratory… The building was fully engulfed…smoke and flame were pouring from several windows on the first two stories…Fire Fighters began to scramble as their Captains called out orders. Hoses ran in every direction.

 

Johnny and Roy were already in full gear as they trotted toward Hank for instructions. “Johnny, Roy…Work your way to the third floor if you can. Two of their Researchers are in the lab up there. Make it quick…this fire is spreading real fast.”

 

“Got it Cap…,” Roy said, giving Johnny a slap on the shoulder as they turned and ran for the building… “Let’s do it Junior…”

 

“I'm with ya Pally…” They ran past the two paramedics from station 36 who were already bringing out several victims. They tightened the straps on their air masks and set their helmets on their heads as they disappeared inside. “Man…I hate labs…,” Johnny complained…his voice muffled behind his face plate.

 

Roy glanced at him sympathetically, remembering the radiation poisoning that Johnny suffered through just a few months after they’d become partners. “Let’s not have a repeat of that okay Partner…?”


They reached the third floor and began pushing the doors open…moving quickly from room to room until they reached a door that refused to budge. The sign on it read ‘Hazardous Area…Do Not Enter’… Roy tried the door. “It’s locked Johnny…,” The older paramedic shouted…

 

Johnny nodded, waving his partner out of the way. He gave the door a kick…it burst open but Johnny’s knee gave a warning twinge.

 

Roy rushed inside…A woman in a lab coat lay semi conscious on the floor. The flames hadn’t erupted onto the third floor yet but the smoke was still thick and heavy.  Roy tipped his helmet back and pulled his air mask clear, placing it over the woman’s face. “It’s okay…take a breath…we’re gonna get you out of here okay?”  He said soothingly.

 

Johnny leaned down…”Is there anyone else here…?” He yelled, not seeing the other researcher they’d said was in here.

 

She pointed feebly toward a door across from them as she continued to gasp oxygen…Johnny signaled Roy to get her out as he headed across the room. The door read ‘ENTOMOLOGY LAB’…”Well bugs are better than radiation I guess…,” Johnny mumbled. He tried the door but it was locked. Johnny once again kicked the door in…There was no twinge this time…it was a sharp pain behind his knee as his foot connected with the heavy portal. “Oh man…,” he grunted out as he briefly massaged the injury and then moved into the room.

 

The area was lined with what looked like glass fish aquariums…they were carefully labeled.  ‘Flavivirus’… ‘Trypanosomiasis’…along with several others… Two more were set on a table in the center of the room while a third lay smashed on the floor…shards of glass surrounded the fallen Doctor.  The two tanks on the table were labeled Plasmodium Falciparum.

 

Johnny knelt next to the man despite the pain in his knee, brushing the remains of the glass away from the man’s face. He needed to move quickly as the fire was racing toward the third floor. John pushed his helmet away and removed his mask and glove…he felt for the Victim’s carotid and was relieved to feel it beating weakly beneath his fingers…A cloud of buzzing insects rose up from around the man as John leaned over him…placing the air mask over the Doctor’s face.

 

The flames from below began to creep up the walls. The young paramedic slapped at his bare hand and neck to knock away the insects that had settled to bite…He jerked the man to a sitting position, leaning forward to give him a hard yank to pull him up and over his shoulder into a fireman’s carry. He started to stand but his feet hit the shattered remains of the tank and skidded out from under him…his bare hand hit the floor.

 

“Aagh…,” he cried out as the glass bit into his flesh. He briefly pressed the heel of his profusely bleeding hand against his leg to staunch the flow. “Man…Cap and Roy are gonna kill me,” he muttered.

 

Johnny once again swatted at the insects circling around him and then replaced his glove. He readjusted the Doctor and successfully climbed to his feet, disregarding the painful ache in his knee…Johnny made his way to the heavy door and jerked it open…he made it through with his burden and the door swung shut behind him. Flames shot up around him and within moments the room was engulfed.

 

Johnny hobbled through the smoke filled halls. His knee was screaming and his hand was throbbing relentlessly but there was no stopping…Johnny was determined…there was no way he wasn’t getting out of this building on his own. Roy and the crew were not going to have to come in and get him… again. He wasn’t giving Chet any more fuel to think he couldn’t take care of himself or that he needed Roy to babysit him.

 

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Roy was casting anxious glances at the doorway while he contacted Rampart on the Biophone. “Rampart base, this is squad 51…,” he said… “What’s takin you so long Junior…?” he mumbled as he waited for a response. He turned back as he heard Joe Early’s voice…

 

“Go ahead 51…”

 

“Rampart…we have two victims…victim number one is a woman…approximately thirty five…she’s suffering from smoke inhalation. She was semi conscious when we found her but there are no apparent signs of head injury or trauma…We have her on 6 liters of O2…”

 

“51…keep her on the O2 and transport…what about victim two…?”

 

“Victim two has yet to be extricated…stand by Rampart.”

 

“Standing by 51…”

 

Roy again looked to the door, relief washed through him as he saw Johnny exiting the building with the second victim. Roy squinted into the smoke…was it his imagination or was his partner moving oddly? It could just be the weight he was carrying but it was hard to tell. The woman he’d brought out began to cough diverting his attention.

 

Johnny clenched his teeth against the pain in his knee as he knelt next to Roy and carefully began to set the man down as Roy jumped up to help him…John pulled off his right glove and reached over to take the man’s wrist to check for a pulse while Roy picked up the Biophone and called Rampart.

 

“Rampart…this is Squad 51…”

 

“Go ahead 51…”

 

“The second victim has been extricated…He’s a male, approximately fifty five. He’s unconscious and unresponsive. His pupil’s are unequal and his pulse is weak. He has fluid in his ears…respiration is shallow. BP is…?” He looked at Johnny expectantly.

 

“100/50…,” Johnny told him.

 

“100/50…,” Roy relayed.

 

Johnny was continuing the exam…The younger paramedic looked over at Roy… “He has a depressed area over his left temple…” Roy relayed the information to Rampart.

 

“51…Start an IV…D5WTKO…Immobilize his head and neck and transport as soon as possible.”

 

“10-4 Rampart…”

 

Roy glanced at John, noticing the gloved hand and wondered why Johnny had left it on. His partner was usually in trouble for not wearing his protective gear. He started to ask about it when the ambulance backed in…distracted…Roy got up to go and direct them over.

 

A few minutes later they had both victims on gurneys and loaded into the ambulance.  Roy took a final glance toward his partner and saw Johnny struggle to get to his feet, rubbing his knee and wincing in pain as he stood up. Roy shook his head in annoyance…He’d take care of this at Rampart.

 

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Roy followed the gurney into treatment room one. The female researcher was doing great…the ride in with the O2 had done wonders…so unless she developed complications…she’d be home tomorrow. The other…Doctor Rogers, hadn’t fared so well. Overcome by smoke… he’d passed out. His head had struck the table as he fell, causing a depressed skull fracture. Rogers had had a seizure in the ambulance…he’d gone into cardiac arrest and Roy had been unable to revive him.

 

Johnny would be disappointed…He always took the loss of a victim hard. Johnny’s Father had been killed in a fire when he was eight…He’d come home to find two men in his home telling his Mother that she was a widow. He hated the thought of someone else getting that same heartbreaking news...It was what drove him to be the fine paramedic he was, even if he was a bit reckless sometimes.

 

Thinking of his partner…Roy remembered the pain in Johnny’s face as he struggled to get up back at the fire and the hand he’d carefully kept hidden in the glove. Roy headed out to the base station to find his Junior Partner.

 

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Johnny had cleaned the cut on his hand himself, applying pressure until the bleeding stopped. He probably should have stitches but he knew Roy would fuss over him and give Chet more cause to accuse the older man of babying him…

 

Johnny continued to dwell on Chet’s accusation. He didn’t want Roy to be his friend out of guilt or obligation but because it’s what he wanted. Roy had told him he was a huge part of his life…was that the truth or just what he felt he owed him? He didn’t want Roy thinking he had to take care of him. Johnny knew he depended on Roy but he also thought Roy depended on him as well…not in the same way of course…Roy didn’t bring along the same emotional baggage that John carried but he thought they were close.

 

Johnny fretted over his partner’s silence this morning…He hadn’t told Chet he was wrong when he’d said he was wearing him out…or that he’d passed up a promotion for him. He hadn’t argued that it was guilt that drove him to be friends with John…did he regret their friendship…was John a burden on him…his family?

 

“Damn it…I don’t want to be a burden on him too…,” John muttered as he pounded his fist on the steering wheel of the squad. Thinking of the insults his Aunt had called him by his whole life. He didn’t want Roy to feel that way about him too… to not want him around…His partner’s life would be much less stressful if he didn’t have worry about him.

 

Johnny hobbled through the Emergency room doors…His knee aching with every step. His hand was throbbing as he shoved it deeper in his Jacket pocket. His teeth clenched in pain as he forced himself to walk normally when he approached the base station. Roy was already there talking with Dixie.

 

“Hey Junior…What took you so long?”

 

“Hit every red light… How are they?” He asked, nodding at the treatment room.

 

“She’s doin fine partner…,” Roy said as he set his hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “Johnny…The Doctor didn’t make it.” As usual, his young partner’s eyes reflected the deep sorrowful look he always got when they lost a victim. John nodded in resignation.

 

“Dixie is Doctor Brackett available at the moment?” Roy asked the pretty, blonde nurse.

 

“He’s in his office…I can get him…What’s up?”

 

Johnny glanced at Roy suspiciously. “You get hurt or somethin?” He asked warily.

 

“No…,” Roy responded with a frown. “But you did…”

 

John’s eyes widened in surprise… “How’d you know…?” he trailed off. “I mean… why would you think that…?” He asked biting his lip nervously.

 

Roy gave his friend a tight smile… “Because I know you and the way you walk, talk and breathe.”

 

Dixie picked up the phone as the two paramedics argued. “Kel can you come to the base station…John Gage may be injured…”

 

Johnny whirled on Dixie, almost losing his balance on his sore knee. He caught himself, grabbing the counter. “I don’t need a Doctor Dix…,” Johnny protested. He turned to head for the doors… “You comin Roy…?”

 

He felt an abrupt pull on his jacket… Roy had him by the sleeve…“Back up Junior.”

 

“Lemme go Roy…,” Johnny said, trying to shake the older man’s hand off his arm.

 

“Not a chance…Let me see your hand partner.”

 

John held out his right hand… “Happy?”

 

“No Johnny…the left one…,” Roy said with a sigh at John’s childish action.

 

“I’m fine Roy, let‘s just go okay?” Johnny rolled his eyes at Dixie in mock annoyance but she was watching him with a stern expression.

 

Roy didn’t budge. “NOW John…”

 

John not Johnny or junior…the younger man knew that tone and it brooked no argument…he wouldn’t win even if Roy had to play the senior card on him… He pulled his left hand from his pocket and extended it toward Roy.

 

“God Johnny…,” Roy snapped as he gripped the younger man’s arm and hauled him into the treatment room. Catching him off guard… Johnny couldn’t stop the limp from being obvious…Dixie followed.

 

She pointed at the younger paramedics pants. “Take em off…cut em off… your choice.”

 

The younger man sighed in resignation and began to remove his pants. Brackett walked in a moment later. “Johnny…Roy,” he acknowledged the two paramedics. “Dixie what have we got?”

 

“He’s cut his hand and his knee’s injured.”

 

Kel looked back to Johnny… “Let’s take a look.”

 

Kel turned John’s hand palm up…his dark eyebrows furrowed in concern. “Johnny, this hand’s cut pretty deep…why didn’t you let Roy treat it?” John’s dark eyes flicked toward his partner. Roy was talking with Dixie and missed the look but Brackett and Dixie didn’t. “Everything okay between you two…?” Kel asked quietly.

 

“Yeah sure…why…?” Johnny answered quickly…too quickly. Kel guessed something was going on.

 

“Dixie…get X-Ray down here for that knee.” She nodded and moved to the phone. She glanced at the young man on the table and she had the feeling Johnny might talk to Kel if Roy wasn’t around. She finished her call and turned to the blonde Paramedic.

 

“Why don’t we get some coffee…X-ray will be here in a minute anyway and we’ll be done before Kel treats him.” Roy nodded and followed her out but cast a final worried glance back at John…

 

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Kel put a temporary dressing on John’s hand until he could stitch it. He noticed the bites… “What’s this Johnny…?”

 

“Mosquito’s,” he answered absently.

 

“They itch…?”

 

“A little…”

 

Kel handed him a tube of hydrocortisone cream. “That’ll help. What’s up between you and Roy Johnny?” Kel asked. He remembered the last fight these two had had…he didn’t want a repeat performance.

 

“He worries too much and he treats me like a kid…”

 

“Johnny, I don’t think Roy considers you a kid at all, at least not most of the time but he does need to know if you’re injured. Hiding it from him to spare him some worry isn’t the best course to take.”


John frowned at the comment...“I know, but I can take care of myself and I don’t want Roy to think he has to take care of me all the time…”  Johnny’s answer was just short of a whine and Kel almost laughed but he knew the younger man would clam up if he did.

 

Johnny continued… “Chet told Roy this morning that I take advantage of the guilt he feels over what happened a year ago. He said I cost Roy his promotion…Doc…I don’t want to take advantage of Roy or for him to be my friend outta guilt ya know?”

 

“He doesn’t Johnny…you know better than that…”

 

“Chet said Roy didn’t take that promotion because of me…I don’t want to hold him back.”

 

“Johnny…you don’t really believe that?”

 

“He didn’t deny it Doc…,” Johnny said quietly.

 

“Did you ask him about it?”

 

John shook his head. “He’d never admit that to me anyway…so I figure I’ll just take care of myself and he won’t have to worry about me. I don’t want to be a burden on him…”

 

Kel didn’t like the sound of this…“You’re not Johnny…You know how Roy feels about you.”

 

John looked away uncomfortably, refusing to meet Brackett’s eyes. “I thought I did…,” he said softly, still uncertain.

 

The door opened to admit the X-ray technician and his portable machine stopping the conversation. Kel gave John a light slap on his shoulder… “Talk to him Johnny,” Kel advised as he left the room.

 

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Dixie and Roy returned at the same time the portable was being trundled from the room. They joined Brackett as he began to stitch John’s hand. “How bad Doc…?” Roy asked curiously. Johnny sighed at Roy’s worried tone.

 

“No serious damage to his knee. It’s just a slight sprain.”

 

“Great…,” Roy said, giving Johnny a light slap on his shoulder. “How about that hand…?”

 

“Six stitches ought to do it. It’ll be bit sore and he won’t be doing any rappelling for a few days but I think the shift after next, he should be able to go back to work.”

 

“Don’t worry Doc…I’ll keep an eye on him…”

 

John’s head snapped up… “I...I don’t need…I mean you don’t have to…,” He took a deep breath to collect his thoughts… “I don’t need you to keep an eye on me…I can take can take care of it myself,” he finally said softly.

 

Roy’s blue eyes caught and held John’s for a moment before the younger man looked away nervously. The older man could tell something was wrong…the insecurity and that wall of indifference was back in John’s eyes and Roy was worried…something had really upset him. He’d talk to him about it back at the station. The last thing he wanted was to lose the ground he’d gained with his young friend.

 

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Roy glanced at his silent partner sitting in the passenger seat next to him. Johnny hadn’t said anything all the way back to the station. Roy sighed, wondering what was going on with John this time…His friend could sometimes make him nuts but Roy wouldn’t change him for anything and he knew John couldn’t really help it…it was a symptom of ASD and it was compounded by his friend having been a battered child as well…

 

Roy backed the squad in and turned to his partner, hoping he could get him to talk to him and find out what was bothering him. “I called Cap from the hospital…he’s getting a replacement for you for this shift and the next one, so I guess I’ll see ya in a few days…”

 

“I guess so…”

 

“Johnny…you okay?”

 

“Fine…why?”

 

“No you’re not…Johnny what’s wrong…?” Roy asked point blank.

 

Johnny looked at Roy… his partner did know him extremely well… “I…you don’t…I mean I…” The younger man stopped, looking frustrated as he always did when he couldn’t get his thoughts to form correctly.

 

“Breathe Junior…,” Roy told him. “Just slow down…”

 

John looked at his hands for a long moment… “I get so frustrated Roy…I can’t even manage to spit out a sentence sometimes.”

 

“Don’t worry about it…I’ll wait.”

 

“Man…I don’t even know why you put up with me…,” Johnny said quietly, casting his partner a sidelong glance.

 

“Me either…,” Roy said jokingly. He had no idea that Johnny had heard the conversation that morning and desperately needed to hear what he’d told Kelly or that his partner would take the teasing comment seriously until he saw the hurt look that entered the brown eyes.

 

“Must be a guilty conscious or something,” Johnny snapped as he suddenly climbed from the squad.

 

“What are you talkin about…?” Roy called after him as he stepped out the driver’s side door.

 

“Nothin…just… just…nothin,” he said in disgust as he hobbled around the back of the Engine. Roy started after him in confusion.

 

“Roy…,” Cap called from his office. Roy stopped and turned back…

 

“Yeah Cap…,” he answered, stepping into Hank’s office.

 

“How’s Gage…?”

 

“He’ll be fine…he just pulled a muscle behind his knee when he kicked the door open and he’s got six stitches in his hand…Doc said he’ll miss his next shift but he should be fine after that…He’ll be back in five days.”

 

“He tell you he was injured?”

 

Roy bit his lip, feeling guilty now for real. “Uh…no Cap…and I need to talk to him about that…”

 

“Yeah…well let me know how that turns out because I seem to recall a direct order to tell one of us if he was hurt.”

 

“I know Cap…I’ll talk to him.”

 

Roy headed for the locker room as Cap turned away, shaking his head in annoyance.

 

He pushed the door open but Johnny was nowhere in sight. Roy pulled his partner’s locker open. John’s keys were gone… “Damn it…,” Roy muttered as he slammed the door closed.

 

Roy tried to call Johnny several times over the next few days but there was no answer. His friend had been known to take off camping on a spur of the moment whim but Roy didn’t think so…not with an injured knee. He’d either taken off somewhere else or he was sulking in his apartment. Roy decided to leave him alone…Johnny would tell him eventually…he always did.

 

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Johnny showed up for his next shift with five minutes to spare. Chet was leaning against his own locker watching him with a smug grin. “You’re gonna be late again Gage,” he taunted. “Looks like latrine duty for sure this time.”

 

John shot a glare at the older man…He stepped to the side and opened his locker. A ball of water shot out but Johnny was safely out of the line of fire…He gave Chet an ugly look and pulled his shirt from the locker. He began to dress without a word.

 

“What’s eatin you Gage?” Chet asked. John ignored him…He slammed his locker shut and sat on the bench to put on his boots. “You know Roy’s been worried about you.”

 

“He doesn’t need to worry about me…I can take care of myself.” John snapped back.

 

“He’s been tryin to call you for days…he wants to know why you’re uptight…”

 

“It’s nothin to worry over…I mean I certainly wouldn’t want to take advantage of his concern now would I Chet…? After all…my fiddle playin skills aren’t up to snuff just yet…,” he growled, holding up his still bandaged hand. Chet’s mouth dropped open as Johnny hurled his own words back at him.

 

“Roll call…,” Cap bellowed from the Apparatus Bay.

 

“Gage…Were you eavesdropping the other day?” Chet asked.

 

Johnny flushed slightly in guilty embarrassment at his slip… “No…well…not deliberately but yeah…I heard what you said.”

 

“Well what’re sore at Roy for…?”

 

“Well I’ll tell ya…it’s kinda hard to find out your best friend is only your best friend out of a guilty conscience or even worse that he thinks I can’t take care of myself so bad that he has to give up his promotion. Man…I must be the world’s worst partner to be stuck with…”

 

Chet’s mouth dropped open in shock as John returned to tying his boots. He opened his mouth to tell Johnny he’d misunderstood but Cap stuck his head in the locker room. “You two deaf or something…?”

 

“Uh…no…sorry Cap…,” Chet muttered as he turned to leave, Johnny followed a moment later.

 

“You’re late…,” Roy mumbled aside to his partner.

 

“Sorry Dad…,” Johnny growled back.

 

Roy turned to look at him in hurt surprise. “What’s gotten into you John…?”

 

Caps… "Ahem…,” stopped the argument.

 

“Sorry Cap…,” They both murmured simultaneously.

 

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Cap started out with the day’s assignments, he once again disregarded Johnny’s late arrival to roll call, this time in deference to his still bandaged hand. “I was last in Cap, I’m not a child and you don’t need to baby me…I’ll take the latrine duty…,” Johnny muttered through clenched teeth.

 

“I would never treat you like a child John…I was only concerned about the stitches…,” Cap replied shrugging in confusion. “But okay pal…latrine is yours. Let’s get some coffee…”

 

They headed for the rec room…all except Johnny who turned and headed to the latrine to begin his chores. Roy turned to follow but Chet grabbed his arm. “Not now Chet…I need to talk to Johnny…”

 

“Roy…I know what’s eatin him…”

 

“What…?”

 

“He heard us talkin the other day, but I don’t think he heard all of it…” Chet said, looking guilty.

 

“Why…?”

 

“He ah…thinks you’re only his friend cause you feel guilty about what happened to him and that you think he can’t take care of himself and he commented on his um…fiddle playing skills.”

 

Roy groaned, trying to remember everything else that had been said that morning… “That’s just great Chet…now I need to go reassure my best friend that guilt has nothing to do with it and God only knows what else he’s got in his head.”

 

“What about not being able to take care of himself…?”  Chet called after him.

 

“If I told him he was good at that, I’d be lyin…,” Roy said with a chuckle.

 

The SCU tones sounded.

 

“NO…,” Roy practically shouted in frustration but he turned and ran for the squad. Johnny slid into the passenger seat a moment later. He pulled the map from the glove compartment and began to check for the best route as the squad began to roll.

 

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They arrived at a warehouse fifteen minutes later. The inside stacked high with heavy cartons. A man was waving frantically from the corner of the room where a pile of crushed cartons lay in a heap. John and Roy ran over to find another man pinned under the pile of boxes.  Captain Stanley joined them as the first man introduced himself. “I’m Mark Hanson…I’m the foreman. The cartons fell from that shelf up there. They took out the boiler pipes when they came down and Don’s trapped under there.”

 

Johnny dropped to his hands and knees, peering into the hap hazard mish mash of cartons. “Don…can you hear me…?” There was no answer. “I can squeeze through…,” Johnny said, looking up at his Captain.

 

Hank and Roy exchanged a glance and then looked at the cartons assessingly.  “Alright John, give it try…Just take it easy,” Cap told him.

 

He nodded as he removed his helmet and laid flat on the floor…he began to wriggle his way between the cartons. He made it to the man’s side and gripped his wrist. “Roy…he’s got a good strong pulse,” Johnny yelled as he began his assessment from his awkward position. “I’m gonna need a C-collar and a splint. I think his right radius is broken…I probably need the backboard just to be one the safe side.”

 

“Got it…,”Roy yelled back and then turning to relay his partners need to Marco who ran to get the backboard.

 

“Can they start pulling these cartons off…they’re layin on his chest,” Johnny called out.

 

“Cap…what do ya think?”

 

“Yeah…Chet …Mike, let’s get this stuff off.”

 

Roy contacted Rampart while he waited for John to finish checking the guy out.

 

“No sign of internal bleeding…the abdomens soft.”

 

“Okay, Hang on…we’re getting this stuff off.”

 

The victim began to come around and Johnny tried to turn on his side to get a better position to treat his victim. His motion dislodged one of the broken pipes …it swung down and cracked the young paramedic’s forehead just at the hairline. “Aagh,” Johnny grunted, as his vision wavered for a moment and then cleared.  “Oh man…,” he whispered as he reached up to touch the spot…it came away sticky with blood. “Damn it,” he murmured, as he wiped the blood away and continued his exam. “Hang on man…we’re gonna get this off ya…,” he reassured the now conscious victim.

 

“Johnny…?”

 

“Yeah…,” he called back with a slight hitch to his voice.

 

Roy picked up on the tone immediately. “Johnny…are you okay?”

How had he known…? Because he knows you better than anyone, that’s how, a little voice reminded him. Johnny almost felt stupid for his reaction to the conversation the other day but then why hadn’t his friend disputed Chet’s accusations.

 

“I’m fine…,” he called back.

 

“You sure…?” Roy asked suspiciously.

 

“Yeah…” John grinned in exasperation.

 

“Okay then, here ya go…,” Roy called as he slid the C-collar and splint in to John. The younger man got the victim set as the others pulled the cartons clear.

 

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Johnny once again wiped the trickle of blood off his forehead as the last of the boxes were removed. Roy moved in along side of his partner and helped roll the victim over and slid the backboard beneath him. Roy glanced at his friend’s averted face searchingly. He seemed to be okay after all. He decided he was just being over protective again, he shook his head…almost amused at himself. Two and a half years ago Roy would never have believed he’d be this overly concerned about a partner but Johnny was different…he was family.

 

Roy ran to show the ambulance attendants the way in while Johnny took the opportunity to replace his helmet. He quickly started the IV ordered by Rampart and waited for the stretcher. They loaded their patient for transport and Roy glanced at his partner one last time. He did a double take at the slightly glazed look in his young friend’s eyes.

 

Roy’s mouth tightened and his eyes narrowed in annoyance. They were gonna have this out once and for all. Roy glanced at the patient. He was resting comfortably, he was conscious and in no immediate danger. “Pete ride in the back on the way in would ya?” He asked one of the attendants quietly…

 

“Sure Roy…,” he answered looking at the older paramedic in confusion.

 

“Johnny… go with the ambulance okay?”  Roy directed, not wanting his partner behind the wheel right now. Pete would stop the ambulance and signal him if John ran into trouble.

 

“Sure…,” he answered as he climbed inside. He rubbed at his head beneath the helmet absently. His head was throbbing with a dull ache...he’d get some aspirin back at the station.

 

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Johnny accompanied the man into the treatment room. Roy was at the base station when he came out and Dixie was on the phone asking someone to page Dr. Brackett. She looked up into curious brown eyes as he joined them.

 

“Hey Dix, What’s up…?” Johnny asked, not quite meeting her eyes.

 

“Got a patient coming in to treatment four…”

 

“Oh…,” Johnny said as Roy reached out to grasp Johnny’s arm, taking a secure grip as he headed towards the treatment room.

 

“What’re you doin…?”

 

“Makin sure you’re comfortable before Brackett gets here.”

 

“Roy quit…I don’t need to see Brackett again…,” Johnny dug his feet in, trying to pull away from his partner. “Really…I’m fine.”


Roy stopped and whirled on his partner, reaching out with his fingers to touch the cut on John’s head. Johnny winced as Roy held his bloodied fingers in front of the dark eyes. “Fine…you call that fine…?”

 

“Roy I…,” Johnny began.

 

Kel rounded the corner, taking in the two friends arguing in the hall. “What’s up Fellas?”

 

Roy showed him the blood on his hand as he nodded at John…Brackett nodded. “C’mon Johnny, let me take a look,” he said as he walked into the room.

 

“Roy…,” Johnny all but whined…trying again to shake the older paramedics grip from his arm. “Quit treating me like a child…”

 

“Quit acting like one and I will…,”Roy shot back.

 

If Roy hadn’t been so annoyed at his friend he would have laughed at the mutinous pout that played around Johnny’s mouth until the younger man’s face suddenly paled.

 

Johnny felt a wave of dizziness and nausea spread through him…his eyes suddenly rolled up and his knees buckled. He barely felt Roy’s arms wrap around him as darkness closed in.

 

“Uh…Doc…?” Roy grunted, struggling to hold the sudden dead weight of his falling partner. “I could use a little help here.”

 

Kel turned to see Roy holding his unconscious friend and reached out to grab his feet. Together they carried him into the room and lifted the younger man to the exam table. The dark haired Doctor began to examine the wound. “Dix…get X-ray down here… What happened Roy?”

 

“I don’t know…our victim was buried under a pile of cartons…Johnny crawled in with him…I couldn’t see him.”

 

“Roy…I don’t know what we’re gonna do with this partner of yours…?” Brackett said shaking his head in aggravation. “Why didn’t he tell you he was injured?”


“Well Doc…apparently he overheard part of a conversation…”

 

“Oh that’s right…,” Brackett cut in… “You and Chet right…? He did mention it while I was suturing his hand.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me…?”

 

“That was a privileged conversation Roy but I did tell him he needed to talk it out with you…I take it he didn’t”

 

Roy shook his head… “But he’s gonna…” Kel grinned, not envying Johnny the upcoming conversation.

 

A soft groan from the table brought their attention back to Johnny and knowing his partner as well as he did, Roy reached out to snag the emesis basin from the table. Right on cue, John began to struggle to sit up and Roy helped roll him to his side as Johnny cleared his stomach. The dark eyes slid slowly open and he tried to raise his hand to touch his throbbing head but Roy caught it in his own. He gave it a gentle squeeze laying it back down. “Don’t touch…,” he admonished gently.

 

“Did I pass out?” Johnny asked tiredly.

 

“Yeah…”

 

“How do you feel now?” Kel asked.

 

“A little woozy…sick to my stomach.”

 

“What hit your head?” Kel asked.

 

John thought for a moment, bringing his foggy thoughts together. “A pipe…”

 

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


“I didn’t want to make a big deal outta it. It was just a little cut.”

 

“And you didn’t want me to fuss over you or feel guilty or something right?”

 

Johnny’s dark eyes glanced quickly at Roy and then at Kel. He bit his lip nervously. “He didn’t say anything Johnny…Chet did.”


“Jerk…,” Johnny mumbled.

 

“Regardless of that fact, we need to talk.” The door opened and the portable X-Ray was brought in. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

 

Johnny gave a slight nod. “Kay…” Roy’s tone had warned him that he wasn’t gonna like what he had to say.

 

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Kel turned to Roy in the corridor with a grin. “Roy…Just remember, it’s against hospital policy to murder your partner in the ER…,” The older man teased.

 

“Can I hurt him a bit…?”

 

“He’s already done that.But I think you need to muzzle Chet…Johnny’s too insecure just yet to just brush off those comments. Look…I know it’s none of my business, but Roy…why didn’t you answer him…?”

 

“I did…I just needed to word it right. Took me a minute to think of what I wanted to say…”

 

 Kel grinned.  “Hope you can convince him of it.” Kel said as the X-Ray technician left with his machine.

 

They went back inside. Johnny’s eyes were closed but they snapped open as soon as they approached the table. “Can I go back to work…?”

 

Kel shook his head. “We’re gonna get you a room for the night for observation,” he said as he began to bandage the wound.

 

“Aw Doc…it’s just a little cut. You’re not even putting in stitches.” Johnny knew before he started that he’d already lost the fight but thought he’d try it anyway.

 

“Johnny, you lost consciousness for five minutes right here in the treatment room. Did you go out at all when you first got hit?”

 

“No…”

 

“How do we know that…?” Roy cut in… his blue eyes caught and held Brackett’s as he asked the question.

 

“I just told ya…”

 

Roy shrugged. “Can I believe you?” The hurt look in John’s eyes almost made Roy back off but he needed to get this resolved.

 

Kel took the hint from Roy’s glance and nodded at Dix and the two slipped quietly from the room.

 

“I wouldn’t lie to you Roy…,” John murmured.

 

“Really…? Hmm…this is twice now you’ve been injured and didn’t tell me.”

 

John chewed his lip…not quite meeting Roy’s eyes. “You didn’t…I mean I never…I didn’t say…” The younger man stuttered and stopped with a frustrated sigh. Roy waited patiently for Johnny to collect his thoughts.

 

“You never asked if I was hurt…I never denied I was. I didn’t lie.”

 

“Didn’t you…? I asked if you were okay…you said fine…”

 

“I thought I was at the time.”

 

“When you cut your hand, you knew you weren’t fine.”

 

“You didn’t ask me that time.”


Roy heaved a sigh at his partner’s stubbornness. “The act of omission is the same thing…what I need to know is why?”

 

John looked at him briefly before turning guiltily away. “I ahh…heard you and Chet the other day…,” he hedged.

 

“Yeah…and?”

 

“And…,” John waved his hand….”and I heard him tell you I took advantage of your…ahh…concern.”

 

“And…?”

 

“And…” Johnny shifted uncomfortably. “And you only hung out with me outta guilt about what happened last year.”

 

“Do you believe that?”

 

“I didn’t at first but then…”

 

“Then what…?”

 

“You didn’t say no…,” he said quietly as he looked away.

 

“Johnny…if you’re gonna eavesdrop on a private conversation…”

 

John’s face flushed in embarrassment. “It wasn’t intentional…”

 

“Regardless…if you’re gonna do it…listen to the whole conversation.”

 

“The whole…?”

 

“Johnny…I did answer Chet.”

 

“Ya did…?”

 

“Yeah…I just took a minute…I wanted to be sure he understood that our friendship goes beyond partners…we’re family and I’ve never let guilt be a factor in our friendship unless it’s over something like this. I feel bad now because I didn’t know you were hurt. What if I’d let you drive and you’d passed out at the wheel or worse in the ambulance with a patient.”

 

“I didn’t feel that bad Roy…I just didn’t want you to hafta…hold my hand…I…”


“Johnny…putting aside the patients safety for just a minute…how would I have felt if I’d let you drive and you’d had an accident…if you’d been hurt or worse…killed?”

 

Johnny looked away. “Look at me Junior…” The younger man turned his head sheepishly in Roy’s direction. The dark eyes lifted to meet Roy’s pale blue. “Do you remember what I said to you in the emergency room a year ago…?”

 

“Part of it…”

 

“What part of what I said didn’t you believe? Roy saw the insecurity reflected in the dark eyes and understood. “I meant all of it Johnny.”

 

“Really…?” He asked hesitantly, not believing anyone would care about him that much.

 

“All of it…,” Roy said again.

 

“Chet said you gave up your promotion for me…,”

 

Roy sighed. “Partly…”

 

“I’m sorry…you shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“I said partly…Johnny…you did everything but shove me out the door and take the keys to the squad to get me to go. It was my decision to stay…I didn’t want to give up what I had right there with you and the other guys and I love what I do…there were other reasons you were just one of them.”

 

“Because I can’t take care of myself…?”


“Of course you can…most of the time,” Roy teased. Johnny frowned. “Sometimes you need a hand…so do I…it’s okay to need help sometimes remember….?”

 

“I don’t want you to feel like you have to…”

 

“Johnny, I don’t have to feel that way… I just do…you’d do it for me…”

 

“Yeah…,”

 

“Okay then…and Johnny…?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Do me a favor and don’t listen to Chet…just try and trust me?”

 

“Okay…,” he answered as relief washed through him.

 

Kel and Dixie peeked inside… “Okay to come back in…?”

 

“Yeah and thanks Doc…,” Roy said.

 

You ready to go upstairs Johnny?” Dixie asked.

 

The young man pulled his gaze away from his partner. “Yeah…I’m ready.”

 


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Johnny’s head was feeling much better the next morning…the dizziness and nausea had eased up and Kel sent him home with Roy. “I’ll see ya in a couple of days,” the older man told him as he dropped him at the station to pick up his rover.

 

“Okay and…Roy?”

 

“Yeah Junior…”

 

“Thanks…”

 

“No problem Partner.”

 

Johnny climbed into his Rover and headed for home. He was bored within hours and decided to head to Santa Barbara to visit his Aunt. He hadn’t seen her in months and knowing she liked to travel, he hoped to catch her at home and surprise her. He knocked on the door a couple of hours later. The housekeeper opened the door. “Can I help you?” She asked, looking the young man up and down.

 

John didn’t recognize the woman…must be new. “Um…could you tell Rosemary I’m here…I’m her Nephew John.”

 

The woman looked at him suspiciously but nodded her head and left him standing on the porch while she went to let Rosemary know he was there. The door flew open a moment later. “John…come in,” she said grabbing his hand and pulling him inside. Johnny grinned at her excitement.

 

“Hi Aunt Rose…it’s good to see you…”

 

“Oh it’s good to have you home, Na-háahketa.”

 

John flushed crimson at the endearment his parents had always used and his Aunt had taken to when he’d slipped and told her about it. He glanced around the entry way…this had never been home to him…He’d lived in her home in San Gabriel as a teenager but hadn’t been welcomed in what had been his Father’s childhood home. His home was now in Los Angeles with Roy and Joanne…but he’d never tell her that, it would break her heart.

 

“Thanks…”

 

He spent his days off with her catching up. He told her about his friends at the station and the hospital, spending a lot of time talking about Roy and Joanne and the kids. Rosemary saw a different John as he spoke about this special family that he’d become a part of. She was happy to have him talking at all…he’d always been so quiet and withdrawn…unwilling to share anything too personal…but he’d changed.

 

She was thrilled about John’s friendship with Roy though she had to admit there was a hint of jealousy at the relationship, knowing the other man knew things about her Nephew that he refused to share with her but she wouldn’t change it…not after seeing John like this. She wanted to meet this man who’d made such a difference in her Nephew. She wanted to meet Chet Kelly as well…she had a few things she’d like to say to that young man after John had told her what he’d overheard. John was too insecure and he didn’t need doubts raised about his friendship with Roy.

 

She walked him to the door on his last day… “Drive careful Na-háahketa.”

 

“Aunt Rose…,” he groaned in embarrassment.

 

She laughed as she smoothed the shaggy hair from his face. “I love you John…,”

 

He smiled back at her. “I know you do,” he whispered. He turned and walked toward his Rover. Rose sighed…he hadn’t reached the point where he could say it…she hoped someday his friendship with Roy would change that.

 

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Johnny came into the rec room the next morning and headed for the coffee pot. He grabbed a mug and noticed a slightly achy feeling to his fingers. He flexed his hand a couple of times, shrugging it off as stiffness from the long drive the night before. Roy and the others came in a few minutes later…for once they’d all beaten Cap’s summons to roll call.

 

Station 51 had a fairly quiet morning, answering only three calls. Chores done and supplies picked up, Roy and John headed for Caps office to catch up on the log books. Roy noticed his partner flex his hands several times. He finally sat back and rolled his head, rubbing his arms briefly as though he were cold.

 

“You ok Junior?”

 

“Yeah…just feelin a little stiff…Must be from sitting too long.”

 

“You cold…?”

 

“Huh…?”

 

“You were rubbing your arms.”

 

“They’re tingling…like they fell asleep or something. Maybe I need to walk around for a few minutes to loosen up.”

 

“Yeah…I could use a break. Let’s get some coffee.”

 

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Johnny and Roy responded to two more calls that afternoon. Chet was cooking dinner when they pulled back into the station.

 

“What’s this?” Kelly asked when they entered the Rec Room.

 

“What’s what?” Johnny asked.

 

“Five runs and you’re not in the hospital…that’s gotta be a record.”

 

“Oh…shut up Chet…,” Johnny snapped. Roy grinned as he shook his head and went to get a glass of water. Johnny followed him but stopped at the sight of Chet’s dinner cooking on the stove. “What is that…?” The younger man asked sniffing suspiciously at the ugly looking mess in the pan that Chet was stirring. He grimaced…his nose crinkling in disgust as he stepped away.

 

“It’s something I whipped up from the leftovers in the refrigerator.” The smell wafted through the air as Chet waved the pan in John’s direction.

 

Johnny felt the color drain from his face and then his stomach rolled. “Excuse me…,” he gasped as he suddenly bolted from the room. Roy stood up straight.

 

“You could at least try it…,” Chet hollered after him. “Is he okay…?”Chet asked, turning back to Roy who was already moving past him to follow his partner.

 

“I’ll go find out…,” Roy stopped for a moment giving Chet a hard stare and a warning wag of his finger. “Don’t say a word Chet…I mean it. It took me eight days to calm him down from the last time.” Chet nodded as Roy followed his partner out.

 

Johnny raced through the apparatus bay, His hand clasped over his mouth…slipping and sliding past a surprised, open mouthed Marco. He’d barely made it to the latrine. He was still retching miserably when he felt a strong hand rest on his back while the other held his forehead. He felt more than saw his partner kneel beside him. “Easy Junior…,” Roy soothed. Johnny gasped for air, panting slightly. “Better now…?”

 

“Yeah…I think so. Man, I don’t know what brought that on.”

 

“Maybe you should go home?”

 

“I don’t feel that bad now…maybe I just ate something that didn’t agree with me at lunch.”

 

Roy wet a towel and handed it to his partner. “Here…”

 

Johnny wiped his face. “I don’t think I want dinner…,” he said nodding at the kitchen. “I think I’ll just lay down for a while. If I don’t feel better soon, I’ll let you know.”

 

“I got your word…?”

 

“Promise…,” Johnny said wanly.

 

“Okay…”

 

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Roy checked on Johnny a couple of times in the early evening. Thankfully they didn’t get called out and his partner had been able to sleep. Roy turned in himself at 9:30…he sat on the edge of John’s bed, gently moving his left arm from over his face and resting his hand on the younger man’s forehead.

 

Johnny stirred slightly, mumbling incoherently and then drifted off once more. Roy chuckled at his partner’s half lucid murmurings, thankful that Johnny felt only a bit warm and it was probably nothing serious. The older man set his boots and turnout pants and slid beneath the covers.

 

Several hours later Johnny began to toss restlessly. Fire was surrounding him. He tried to run but it closed off every avenue until it became an endless sea… his skin felt like it would burst into flame. “Roy…,” he whispered desperately.

 

Roy wasn’t sure what woke him. He lay there in the darkness for a moment unable to go back to sleep. He decided to go get a glass of milk. He squinted at Johnny in the dim lighting. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

 

The fire continued to scald Johnny… smothering and hot…sweat poured from his body…cooling and drying against the hot flesh. He began to shiver uncontrollably despite the fire around him. A low moan of misery escaped Johnny’s lips.

 

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An odd sound intruded into Caps dreams. His eyes snapped open at the soft murmur and a slight gasp for air. Hank threw back the covers and came to his feet. He glanced first at Mike’s bunk…he was sleeping soundly. He moved around the half wall…he saw DeSoto’s bed empty. He finally realized the sound was coming from the youngest member of his crew.

 

Cap crossed the short distance and reached out to shake John’s shoulder. Hank could feel the heat radiating through Johnny’s tee shirt which was damp with perspiration…his sweat soaked hair plastered to his forehead. Like any parent…Hank could tell from a single touch that Johnny was in trouble.

 

“Chet…,” Cap bellowed. His yell waking all three of the other men who scrambled from their bunks and ran to Hank.

 

“What’s wrong Cap…?”

 

“Find Roy pal…Johnny’s really sick.” The older man turned back to John, who was now tossing restlessly. “Easy John….Roy’s comin pal…,” he said gently as he rested a hand on John’s head…Good Lord…he was burning up. He continued to speak soothingly to the young man thrashing fitfully on the bed.

 

Roy had nursed the glass of milk as he watched a few minutes of a late night horror flick that Chet would have loved. He flipped the TV off and went to wash his glass before heading back to the dorm.

 

He was halfway across the apparatus bay when Chet came bursting from the doorway. “Roy…ya gotta come quick man…Johnny’s bad sick…”

 

Roy ran to the squad and grabbed the drug box and Biophone, Chet grabbed the Oxygen and both men raced for the dorm.

 

Cap shifted over as Roy dropped the equipment and slid to his knees next to Johnny’s bunk. He rested his hand against his partner’s forehead and sucked in his breath at how high the fever had become.

 

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Johnny was swimming in a sea of fire…he couldn’t escape it. It had become a living thing bent on consuming him…he tried to fight it off, flailing ineffectually at the tongues of flame. A reassuring presence invaded his dream…a cool hand rested soothingly on his forehead. A soft groan escaped his lips. He knew this presence.  “Roy…,” he whimpered softly.

 

Cap quickly moved to the radio by his bunk. “L.A. this is station 51…we have a code I at this location. I need an ambulance dispatched immediately…squad 51 will be 10-8 to Rampart.”

 

“Station 51 10-4…”

 

Roy quickly took his Partners vitals while Chet set up the Biophone. He snatched the phone from Chet a minute later. “Rampart Base this rescue 51, how do you read…Mike get me a cool towel would ya?” Roy asked while he waited for a response.

 

“Go ahead 51…,” came an unfamiliar voice.

 

“Rampart…I have a twenty four year old male. He’s diaphoretic, he has chills and a high fever 104.5°…Cause unknown…BP is 130/70, pulse is 90… respiration is rapid. He is extremely agitated Rampart…”

 

“Start an IV 51…Ringers Lactate…get him on O2 and begin cooling measures and transport as soon as possible. Take precautions 51…he could be contagious.”

 

The others gathered close around Johnny’s bed watching anxiously. Roy had his hands full trying to keep his delirious partner in the bed as he thrashed restlessly. He gently bathed the hot skin on John’s face and neck.

 

Johnny’s fever glazed eyes slid open…unfocused and wandering the room. He was shivering so hard his teeth were chattering together. “Cap could you take over…?” He asked as he reached for the IV that Rampart had ordered.

 

Cap took the towel and swept it gently over John’s forehead as Roy inserted the IV and got the O2 mask settled on Johnny’s face.

 

Cap handed the towel to Chet who ran to rinse and re-wet it.

 

“Johnny, can you hear me…? Look at me Junior…” Roy called urgently as he brushed the hair back from his friend’s forehead. Johnny’s eyes tracked to Roy. They fixed on him momentarily before moving on. Roy was scared to death. All he could think of was some kind of relapse of that damn monkey virus Johnny had had a year ago.

 

“What the hell happened Roy?” Cap asked.

 

Roy shook his head. “I don’t know Cap…I checked on him at 9:30 and he was only a bit warm.” Their attention was suddenly called back to their young friend as Johnny began to gag…Mike ran to get the small trash can that sat next to Cap’s desk while Hank helped Roy roll John on his side. Roy whipped the Oxygen mask from Johnny’s face as he vomited over and over…his body jerking under their hands. Roy held him until the spasms stopped. Johnny struggled to catch his breath with a gasping cry.

 

Roy smoothed the hair from John’s forehead and laid the towel over it. His hand came to rest on the top of the sweat soaked head… “Johnny, look at me…please…,” Roy pleaded, trying to get some lucid response but his friend’s dark eyes were glazed and vague. His head rolled from side to side while his body twisted beneath the covers. His hands flailed wildly as if fighting off some kind of imaginary demon, while his breath came in short, panting gasps. Breathing shallowly as he struggled against the nausea that kept rising up. Painful whimpers occasionally slipped from his lips, the soft sound tearing at the hearts of his friends.

 

They heard the sound of a siren in the distance. “I’ll go get the ambulance…,” Marco whispered, not wanting to watch the younger man writhing on the bed. Mike and Chet exchanged fearful glances as they hovered anxiously at the foot of John’s bed. Cap was kneeling next to his junior paramedic, holding his shoulders while Roy continued to talk softly trying to sooth his friends agitated tossing.

 

Marco returned, bringing the two attendants with him. They carefully transferred the thrashing paramedic to the gurney, strapping him down while Roy tucked the IV bag under John’s shoulder.

 

“I’m taking the squad out of service for the rest of the night pal…stay with John,” Cap ordered.

 

Roy nodded absently…his mind only on his critically ill partner as he followed the stretcher out.

The four men left behind stood staring at the empty bunk. “You suppose that’s what Roy and John had to live through a year ago?” Mike asked softly.

 

“I hope this isn’t a repeat,” Chet murmured.

 

“I’m not gonna be able to sleep…,” Marco said quietly.

 

“Me either…,” Chet agreed.

 

“Tell ya what..? Why don’t we go make some coffee while we wait for word from Roy?” Hank suggested, rubbing his hands together anxiously.

 

“Sure…good idea Cap,” Mike said as they headed for the rec room.

 

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The two attendants wheeled Johnny into treatment room three where an unfamiliar intern was waiting. Roy helped them and they quickly made the transfer from gurney to table and left the room.

 

An older nurse brushed Roy out of the way stripping John’s hand from his as she wrapped the BP cuff around John’s arm. The lost contact brought an immediate reaction… “Roy…,” Johnny cried out as his hand lifted weakly.

 

“I’m here Johnny…It’s okay,” he replied from the short distance away.

 

“No…Roy…” Johnny tried to pull his arm free but the Nurse hung on.

 

She turned to Roy, taking in the turnouts… “We don’t need your help anymore…you can go,” She said dismissively.

 

“You don’t understand…that’s my partner…,”

 

“All the more reason…you’re too close to the patient and you’re in the way…you need to leave,” She said, coming to Roy’s side.

 

“Roy…,” Johnny whimpered, trying to get up. The Doctor pinned him down.

 

“Johnny… it’s okay…just take it easy,” he soothed. “Look…he’s not gonna let you touch him…,” Roy protested as the woman took hold of his arm and led him to the door. Short of physically shoving her off there was nothing the blonde paramedic could do as she pushed him out the door and closed it in his face.

 

Roy stood outside the door…he knew as feverish and confused as his young partner was, they were gonna have a problem. He heard a crash and the nurses voice raise in anger as if she thought that would somehow help the situation. He heard the intern yell at her to get the restraints… Roy shoved the door open. The nurse ran around to try and stop him from coming in. Johnny thrashed on the table while the doctor tried to hold him down. “Roy…,” he groaned miserably.

 

“Sir…if you don’t leave…I’ll call security.”

 

“Look…I’m a paramedic…that’s my partner…I can help calm him down but if you put restraints on him he’ll fight…he doesn’t understand and it’s upsetting him even more…,” he tried to explain.

 

“Are you through…?” She snapped snidely.

 

“I need to get to my partner…,” Roy growled.

 

“I’m calling security…,” she yelled as she headed for the phone.

 

“Fine…,” Roy said, backing off… “I’ll wait outside…,” He mumbled…His worried blue eyes taking in the restraint straps being wrapped around John’s wrists. Roy paced the hall listening to the incoherent cries of his partner for a minute or two and then spun on his heel and headed for the phone.

 

Roy dialed the number, feeling guilty about waking her up at this time of the morning but he needed help. Johnny would never allow two strangers to touch him…not while he was this far out of it. The phone was picked up on the second ring and a sleepy feminine voice answered… “Hello?”

 

“Dixie…this is Roy DeSoto.”

 

“Roy…? Is everything okay…?” Dixie asked in concern, knowing the young man would never call her unless something was very wrong.

 

“Dix…I’m sorry to wake you but Johnny’s really sick and they won’t let me in with him.”

 

“I’m on my way…”

 

Dixie was half way out of the bed before she hung up the phone. She immediately picked it up and made her own phone call.

 

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Twenty minutes later she was racing through the Emergency room doors, Kelly Brackett was less than a minute behind her. Roy was pacing nervously outside the door to the treatment room. He waved at them frantically as they approached. He didn’t need to tell them…they could hear the struggle themselves.

 

The door burst open and the rude nurse once again moved to stop the intrusion but stopped short at seeing Kelly Brackett and Dixie McCall come in…an anxious Roy hot on their heels.

 

Johnny’s wrists and ankles were tethered to the bed frame but that didn’t slow him down. His body twisted, bucking up from the table as he frantically pulled at the restraints…his gasping cries of fear alternated with weak, fever induced whimpers… “Roy, help me…” Sweat drenched and burning up…his dark eyes were glazed and terrified.

 

Kel moved quickly to the table… “Tom…what have you got?” He asked the young Intern.

 

“Well I’ve ordered blood work…CBC, Electrolytes, BUN and Arterial Blood Gases. His BP is 130/90…his pulse is racing…his respiration is rapid and his temperature was 104.5° when they brought him in but I can’t get a new reading because he’s combative.”

 

“It could have something to do with being restrained…,” Roy growled. Dixie glanced at him and moved to Johnny’s bedside shooing the other nurse out of her way.

 

Miss Samuels turned on Roy once more… not putting together the obvious fact that if Kelly Brackett and Dixie McCall had allowed the younger man in the room that he probably wasn’t leaving any time soon… “This time I’m calling security…,” she snapped as Roy brushed past her.

 

“Whatever…,” he said absently as he moved to join Dixie at Johnny’s bedside. He listened to the young Intern as he explained further.

 

“We’re having trouble getting the blood sample because he’s being uncooperative.”

 

“And we’re being interrupted by his friend here…,” the Nurse bit out snidely as she headed for the phone.

 

“Leave it Laura …,” Dixie ordered, stopping the other nurse in her tracks. She turned back to see Dix stepping out of the way to allow Roy access to the patient.

 

Roy pulled the restraint straps from his partner’s wrists while Dix tackled the ones on his ankles. Roy took hold of Johnny’s hands, leaning down close to his friend to speak softly… “Johnny I’m here. Can you hear me partner? C’mon junior open your eyes…look at me…Shhh, you need to calm down. I’m not gonna let them do that again…I promise okay? Please Johnny…can you calm down for me?”

 

Roy’s voice began to finally penetrate John’s delirium and the restless thrashing began to calm. His exhausted gaze fixed on Roy. The panting gasps for air eased a bit.

 

“R…Roy…,” he stuttered through a wave of chills.

 

“I’m here Johnny…,” he squeezed his hands reassuringly. “I’m here…,” He soothed.

 

Dixie handed Roy the syringe and a tourniquet. Roy quickly drew the required blood sample and took John’s hand once more. Dixie handed the tube to the older nurse… “Make yourself useful and take this to the lab…we’ll talk later about your bedside manner and dealing with a patient and their family.”

 

Nurse Samuels looked at the two men, one restless with fever but much calmer than he had been…the other sitting at his side, speaking softly as he brushed the sweat dampened hair from his friends face.

 

Kel turned to the woman… “Tell the lab I want that stat…Tell them I want a blood smear…”

 

“Yes Doctor…,” she said contritely.

 

“Dix set up for a lumbar puncture.” She nodded and moved to the cart against the wall for the requested instruments.

 

Johnny began to groan softly…the brown eyes looking panicked. Roy tugged the mask free and quickly rolled the younger man on his side as the retching began. “Easy Johnny…,” he soothed rubbing his friends back as his body heaved violently. Johnny gasped for air as the spasms finally eased. “Okay now?” Roy asked gently. Johnny didn’t answer but the dark eyes closed briefly and reopened as he struggled to remain conscious.

 

“Roy, we’re gonna do a lumbar puncture. I want you try and keep him as quiet as possible okay?” Kel directed.

 

“Okay Doc.” Roy sat on a stool at John’s eye level while Dixie drew Johnny’s knees up to his chest. Roy rested his hand on Johnny’s dark head, bending it forward and holding it steady, speaking soothingly as Brackett began. Roy kept one eye on the Doctor as he inserted the needle between the L3 and L4 vertebrae. Johnny shifted uncomfortably. “Shhh…you need to stay still junior…,” Roy’s voice calmed the younger man. John moaned softly…but stayed quiet under his friend’s hand. He barely twitched as Brackett used the manometer to measure the pressure and drew the fluid.  He finally finished holding up the tube of cloudy liquid.

 

“Dix…,” Kel’s worried brown eyes met hers… “Get this to the lab…I want it right away.”

 

The blonde nurse saw the concern in the brown eyes. “Right away Kel…”

 

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The lab report came back a half hour later. “Good Lord…,” Kel said in disbelief.

 

Roy’s blue eyes looked at him in concern. “Is it that monkey thing again Doc…?”

 

“No Roy…I can’t even imagine how…,” his voice trailed off and a look of dawning began to spread across his face. “Roy…two weeks ago, when Johnny cut his hand…?” Kel picked up John’s wrist, examining the fading bites. “His hand had mosquito bites…quite a few. Do you know where he got them…?”

 

Dixie and Roy looked at each other in confusion. “Doc…what’s Johnny got?” Roy asked worriedly.

 

“Well according to these tests Plasmodium Falciparum to be exact…”

 

“Oh no…,” Dixie murmured. But Roy continued to look blank until Kel clarified.

 

“Malaria…the worst form of it.” Roy’s eyes widened in concern…

 

“Dix let’s get him started on 20 mgs of quinine and 10mgs of Chloroquine to start…then 10 mgs of quinine and 5mgs of Chloroquine every eight hours. I also want 200 mgs of Tetracycline every six hours. Get him up to ICU…,” Dixie nodded and grabbed the phone to make the arrangements for Intensive Care and then left to get the requested medications.  

 

Roy looked at the Doctor anxiously…when John had been sick with that monkey virus they wouldn’t let him stay for very long at a time because Johnny was contagious…he didn’t want to leave him this time. “Doc…can I stay with him…?” He asked hopefully.

 

Kel knew a bit about John’s past and he knew the younger paramedic would be much calmer with his partner present…“Sure Roy…I’ll clear it for you. He’s gonna be very sick for a while.” Roy nodded. “I also need to know for sure where he got those bites.”

 

“We responded to a research lab that day if that helps.” Roy told him… “I’ll call and see if Cap can find out anything more.”

 

“If that is where it came from I need to know if any of those mosquito’s are still out there or John may not be alone.” Roy nodded.

 

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Roy called the station while the orderlies transferred Johnny to ICU… Hank answered on the first ring and Roy knew they’d been waiting by the phone. He heard the scrape of chairs as the others rose from the table to gather around their Captain. “Cap…?”

 

“Yeah Roy…How’s John…?” Hank glanced around at the anxious faces watching him for answers as Roy replied. “He’s got what…?” Cap asked incredulously. “Well where the devil did he pick up something like that…?”  There was a long pause…while the others looked at each other worriedly.  “Yeah, I remember that run…Mosquito’s?”

 

“Mosquito’s…?” Chet asked the others in confusion…They all shrugged, as much in the dark as he was.

 

“I’ll get on that first thing in the morning Roy…I’ll get back to you…Thanks for calling pal and tell John we’re thinking about him…How long do you think he’ll be out…?” Another long pause… “Can we see him? Okay, just let us know.  Good night Roy.” Cap hung up.

 

“Well…?” three voices chorused in unison.

 

“John’s got Malaria…”

 

“How…?”


“Roy and the Doctor’s think it might have come from that research lab a couple of weeks ago…Johnny had a lot of bites on his hand. I guess he could be pretty sick for a while.” The others looked at each other…all of them concerned for their young friend.

 

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Roy spent the remainder of the night at Johnny’s bedside. The younger man tossed restlessly as his fever raged out of control, his every breath was labored…chills spread through him and his body shook from them. He ached in every joint. Roy held his hand, drawing a cool clothe over John’s face and neck. He stayed awake in case John got sick again…he needed to be able to roll him and remove the oxygen mask to keep him from aspirating.

 

First thing the next morning, Roy called his wife. “Jo…?”

 

“Good morning Honey…”

 

“Jo…I’m at the hospital…”

 

“What’s wrong? Are you okay…?”

 

“I’m fine…it’s Johnny.”


“What happened?”

 

“He’s sick Jo…really sick. He’s got Malaria…”

 

“Malaria…? How? Johnny’s never left the country…”


“I know…we responded to a call at a research lab a couple of weeks ago…Johnny was bitten by mosquito’s while he was rescuing one of the Doctor’s there…they think that might be where he got it…the whole place was full of different bugs…”

 

“Yech…,” Joanne said, shuddering at the thought. “I’ll find a sitter and be there as soon as I can Roy…I mean I can see him right?”

 

“Malaria can only be transferred by blood, so he’s not contagious just from being in the room with him…”

 

“Good…”

 

“Honey…I want to stay with him…it could be a few days.”

 

“Stay as long as you need to Roy…I understand.”

 

“I know you do."

" I’ll be there in a while…I’ll bring you some things.”

 

“Thanks Babe…”

 

Roy called headquarters and requested several vacation days. He wasn’t sure how long Johnny would need him but he planned to stay until the fever broke.

 

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Roy had been awake all night but exhaustion finally caught up and he dozed in the chair next to his partner…His hand rested on his friends shoulder so he’d know if John woke or got sick. He snapped awake as Hank came into the room… “Hey Cap…,” he greeted tiredly.

 

“We’re only allowed to stay a few minutes Roy…how is he…?”

 

Johnny shifted restlessly, his head tossed as the fever continued to ravage his body.  Cap’s worried eyes met Roy’s as the gasping, sweat drenched, shivering form thrashed on the bed. “He’s not good Cap…they can’t get the fever down…they’re pretty worried. Brackett and Dixie have been in and out all night…they’ve even called a specialist.”

 

“I called the lab…some of those critters they kept there were carrying Malaria…they haven’t been back in the building…it was pretty well gutted but they’re gonna check it out and get back to Brackett. The guys are here…they want to see him.”

 

Roy nodded…Johnny began to moan softly…his body rolled into a ball and he began to retch violently. Roy pulled the mask free and barely got the basin under his cheek, though it wasn’t really necessary, there was nothing left in his stomach to come up…He groaned in misery as his stomach muscles screamed in protest.

 

“Easy Junior…,” Roy soothed, rubbing his friends back until the spasms stopped.

 

“Roy…,” he whispered… “I wanna go home…”

 

“I know…but you can’t right now…”

 

“Please Roy…I'm sick...I need to go home.”

 

“Shhh…just rest…Cap help me hold him?” Roy said as Johnny lashed out, trying to climb from the bed.

 

Cap grabbed John’s shoulders but the younger man weakly tried to slap them away… “No…no…Please Roy…take me home…” John’s hand reached frantically for his friend.


“Johnny you can’t…you need to stay here…but I’m gonna stay with you okay?” Roy soothed as he gathered the struggling form against him. “Shhh…calm down.”  Cap’s eyes filled with tears as he watched his youngest crew member battle against this disease. The younger man finally calmed and Roy eased him back on the bed.

 

“I gotta go Roy…I’ll ah…let the others in.”

 

The rest of the crew came in one by one but like Cap…they didn’t stay long. They couldn’t bear to watch their friend struggling against the fever and chills.

 

“How can Roy stand that…?” Chet asked quietly, after they’d re-gathered in the hall…  “It about killed me just watching him.”

 

“Broke my heart too…,” Cap agreed.


“He’s gonna be alright, isn’t he?” Marco asked uncertainly.

 

“Roy won’t let him go…not without a fight,” Mike said positively.

 

Dixie and Joanne joined them as they stood outside the door… “Hi guys…,” Joanne greeted. “Have you all seen him?” She asked, looking at their worried faces.

 

They nodded. “I’m gonna go in then.” She pushed the door open and went inside as Dixie stood with the crew.

 

“Miss McCall…Is John gonna be okay?” Chet asked fearfully.

 

“Hank…Fellas…we’re doing everything we can …I promise. We don’t want to lose him anymore than you do.”

 

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Roy looked up at his wife as she came into the room. “Hi Jo…,” he greeted tiredly.

 

She dropped a kiss on his lips and handed him a bag with fresh clothes. “How is he…?”

 

“Not good…This fever’s really wiping him out…they can’t get it under control.”

 

She nodded as she smoothed back the wet hair of her young friend…The dark eyes were cracked open, but weren’t lucid. “Hey sweetheart…,” she whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead. John moaned and panted for air, his face twisting in misery as his stomach once again began to spasm and he curled into a tight ball.

 

“Watch out honey…” Roy said, gently moving her away as he once again began to rub John’s back as his body spasmed in dry heaves…his body shaking under the strain…

 

“Has this been going on all night…?” She asked worriedly as John’s body finally relaxed and Roy eased him back against the pillow.

 

“Pretty much…”

 

She shook her head and picked up a cloth…wetting it and bathing Johnny’s face and neck. His eyes tracked to her face briefly before sliding closed in exhaustion.

 

“It’s okay baby…,” she soothed softly… “You’re gonna be okay…We’re gonna get you through this.” She wet the cloth again and again, stroking it over the hot skin. John finally seemed to rest under the cooling ministrations.

 

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Roy stayed at John’s side throughout the day and into the night…He held his friend in his arms as delirium induced hallucinations claimed him, he held him and rubbed his back soothingly through every new round of vomiting as John moaned in misery, his body aching from the strain of dry heaves. He bathed the hot flesh of his face and chest. He dribbled cool water into his dry mouth and coated the cracked, dry lips with ointment…keeping a running commentary the entire time. Roy hadn’t known he could out talk his partner but the sound of his voice seemed to sooth him and so he kept on.

 

The nurses and Doctors came and went. Checking Johnny, clucking over his deteriorating condition or changing IV’s and taking vitals…The crew popped in and out, never allowed to stay very long. Jo came when she could but she had to be home for the kids. Roy was losing track of the time. He thought it had been at least three days and John continued to fight for his life.

 

Late the third day his fever spiked to a new high and Roy was holding him through a new round of struggles… “Come on Junior…breathe for me…take one more Johnny, you can do it…,” he whispered softly in his friends ear. “One more…,” John began to tremble in his arms…rapidly turning into a violent shake as John began to convulse. His frightened dark eyes locked with Roy’s for a moment before rolling up in his head...his body arcing backward.

 

“Oh God…,” Roy whispered as he hit the Nurse call button and pinned Johnny to the bed…his body bucked wildly. The nurse stuck her head inside the room and saw what was happening…

 

“Call Doctor Brackett…,” she yelled to another nurse as she ran to John’s side. She pulled a tongue depressor from her pocket and wedged it between John’s teeth to keep him from biting his tongue.

 

Brackett blasted through the doors a minute later… “Diazepam stat…” He yelled to the nurse as he took her place. She ran from the room, returning a moment later and injecting the drug into John’s IV.

 

Roy wiped the sweat from his brow leaning against the wall in relief as John’s body began to relax…it was short lived as he once again began to vomit…Kel turned the young man’s head but again there was nothing  but stomach acid and a miserable moan to escape his lips. “R…Roy…,” he whispered painfully from his raw throat.

 

Roy rubbed his tired eyes with the heels of his hands, he was exhausted just watching and he couldn’t begin to imagine how Johnny felt. He took his friends hand, squeezing it reassuringly. “I’m here Junior…I’m here,” he said as he swiped the sweat plastered hair from John’s forehead. John drifted back into the fever induced fog he’d been living in for the last three days.

 

“Why isn’t that helping…?” Roy growled angrily as he nodded at the IV.

 

Kel shook his head. “We spoke to the lab…They’re trying to check their records to find out exactly what Dr. Rogers was working with…they do know that it was a virulent form of the disease.”

 

“That’s just great…Why didn’t they just plant a bomb or something instead…?” he growled angrily. “Why wasn’t there a better warning than they had there? He couldn’t possibly have known what he was walking into.”

 

“I don’t know Roy…but being angry won’t help.”

 

“I know…,” he whispered as Johnny began to toss under the covers once more…his panting breaths tearing at Roy’s heart. “Shhh partner…I’m here…,” he said leaning close to John’s ear. “I’m not gonna let ya go.”

 

“Roy you’re exhausted,” Kel said. “You need to get some sleep.”


“I have slept…”

 

“I’m not talking about the half hour cat naps you sneak in when he’s quiet,” Kel replied.

 

“Save your breath Doc…I’m staying.”

 

“I’ll have them put a cot in for you…”

 

Roy shrugged… “Don’t need it.”

 

“Look Roy…he’s calm right now…get some sleep.”

 

Roy looked at Kel and let go of John’s hand. His young partner began to toss restlessly…. “Roy…,” he whimpered softly.

 

Roy took the younger man’s hand once more… “I’m here Junior….I’m here.”

 

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The next morning John’s fever had dropped to 101° and Roy breathed a sigh of relief. Johnny’s skin was dry and he’d fallen deeply asleep. Roy’s hand rested lightly on his shoulder as he slept in the chair next to the bed.

 

Kel came in to examine John and the blonde paramedic jerked awake. “Doc…?”

 

“Sorry I woke you…”

 

“It’s alright…I’m just glad he’s better.”

 

Kel shook his head… “Roy…I’m sorry to have to tell you this but…”

 

“But what…?” Roy said throwing a frightened look at his partner. “What’s wrong?”


“No…no, that’s not what I meant…,” he said quickly. “Johnny’s okay…but Roy…Malaria is biphasic…”

 

“Oh no…”

 

Kel nodded… “The fever will most likely come back…This is a temporary reprieve only. You should probably be resting while you have the chance.”

 

“How long…”

 

“It should run its course in seven to ten days…”

 

Roy looked dismayed… “Good Lord…can he hold out that long?”

 

“Hopefully it should ease up before then Roy…it usually does but this one’s fighting us and we don’t know why…hopefully the lab can give us some answers soon.”

 

“In time…?”

 

“We hope so…”

 

Roy managed to get some sleep in the extra bed Kel had had brought in before Johnny woke. His first quiet movement sounding like the Station tones to Roy. He quickly got up and moved to his friend’s side. “Hey Partner,” Roy said softly as he brushed the dark hair from John’s forehead. Bleary dark eyes regarded him tiredly.

 

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Dixie was at the base station. She glanced at her watch and noted it that it was almost time for her break. She planned to go up and visit her favorite paramedic as she’d been doing everyday. “Excuse me…,” a softly, cultured voice interrupted her thoughts.

 

“Can I help you…?”

 

“I hope so…I’m looking for a young man named John Gage…his Captain said he was here.”

 

“Johnny’s in ICU…,” Dixie explained gently. “I’m sorry but you have to be a relative…”

 

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“Roy…,” Johnny rasped… “Stop it…” The younger man weakly tried to swat Roy’s hand aside as he turned his face away.

 

“Quit Johnny…,” Roy said as he forcibly turned John’s head toward him. “Your mouth is cracked and bleeding from the fever….this’ll help,” he said as he applied the ointment to John’s mouth. The younger man tried to twist his head away.

 

“Hurs…,” he slurred stubbornly. “Lemme go…You’re hurtin me…I wanna go home.”

 

“Not yet partner…,” Roy said, not having the heart to tell him he’d most likely be sick again soon.

 

Having gotten it in his confused mind that if he wasn’t in the hospital then he wasn’t sick…a mulish pout settled over John’s face. “I’m goin home…”

 

Roy chuckled… “I’d like to see ya try…”

 

Johnny struggled to sit up but his face paled suddenly… “Roy…”

 

Roy quickly rolled him on his side as the retching began again. John’s face twisted painfully as his abused stomach muscles cramped in agony.  “Oh no…,” Roy said softly as he held John’s head until he stopped heaving. He could feel the heat from John’s skin against his fingers. He rolled the younger man onto his back. Beads of sweat were gathering on his upper lip and forehead. “Reprieve’s over Junior…,” he said tiredly.

 

“R…Roy…?” He gasped.

 

“Yeah Johnny…”

 

“M I gonna die?” He rasped out weakly as his body began to shake with a new wave of chills.

 

“No you’re not…You hear me…You’re gonna keep fighting…you’re gonna be okay and I’m gonna be here with you every step…I promise.”

 

A weak nod answered him and John clutched his hand…the glazed eyes trying to focus on his partner. Johnny struggled to sit up… “I wanna go home…I don’t wanna be here…” Roy held the struggling figure against him.

 

“Shhh Johnny…I know…I know… I don’t want you to be here either junior…,” He whispered, rocking his friend until he calmed once more. He laid him gently down and brushed the hair back with his fingers.

 

A noise behind him caused him to jump. He looked back to see a tall, slender, older woman in the doorway. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she quietly watched the exchange between the two and the gentle care the older man gave to his critically ill friend. The sable haired woman wiped the tears from her face as she moved into the room. Her green eyes never left the still form on the bed.

 

“Ma’am…I’m sorry but you can’t be in here…Can I help you…? Are you looking for someone?”

 

She nodded at Johnny.  “I’m looking for John,” She replied softly. “You must be Roy…”

 

Roy thought she reminded him of someone and the voice sounded familiar but he knew he’d never met this woman. “Yes Ma’am and you’re…?” He prompted…

 

“Rosemary Hughes…” She supplied.

 

Roy looked blank and then it clicked. “You’re Johnny’s Aunt.”


She nodded and smiled, moving to Johnny’s other side. She took his hand and kissed the scalding forehead tenderly. Johnny shivered but his eyes remained closed. “What have you gotten yourself into this time Na-háahketa?”

 

Johnny’s head rolled toward the voice…his eyes cracked open, trying to focus on her face but then moved on to travel back to Roy. She thought for a moment that Johnny hadn’t recognized her until his hand lifted weakly toward her. “A…aunt R…Rose…,” he murmured tiredly.

 

“Yes…I’m here sweetie.” She stroked his face gently.

 

“Would you like me to step out and leave you alone for a minute?” Roy asked politely, not really wanting to leave John.

 

The younger man made the decision for him… “No…doan…go…,” he slurred, barely audible. He struggled to sit up and clutched at Roy’s hand… his dark eyes pleading and glassy.

 

“Okay Johnny…calm down…I won’t leave. I’ll stay with you.”

 

John groaned miserably as his agitated state triggered his stomach… Roy rolled his friends head to the side as John vomited. Dark spatters of blood hit the basin. Roy rubbed Johnny’s back gently until the spasms stopped. Roy closed his eyes and shook his head in frustration at this new development. 

 

“What is that…?”

 

“Blood…he’s been vomiting so much, his throat’s just raw from the acids…,” The older man replied with a sigh of resignation. Could anything else hit his partner?

 

“Can’t they give him something?”

 

“They have…,” He said nodding at the IV bags hanging over Johnny’s bed. “Nothing’s touching this fever and they can’t get the vomiting under control.”

 

The door opened and Doctor Brackett came in with Dixie. “Roy…,” he greeted the exhausted, younger man. “Did you get any sleep at all?”

 

“I got a couple of hours before he woke up. His fevers back Doc…he’s vomiting blood.” Kel shook his head as he moved to his pale, sweating patient and began to check him over.

 

“Did you check his temperature…?”


“104.7°…”

 

“I swear John Gage…You seem to go out of your way to find a new challenge for me,” He admonished as he gently ruffled John’s sweat dampened, dark hair. Dixie bit her lip, touched by the gruff Doctor’s compassion for the younger man. Though he’d never admit it…he was really quite fond of Johnny.

 

“Kel…,” She said, drawing his attention. “This is Johnny’s Aunt…Rosemary Hughes. Mrs. Hughes this Is Johnny’s Doctor…Kelly Brackett.”

 

“It’s Rosemary please and I’m just really glad to meet you all…Johnny’s told me all about you…he talks about you all the time.”

 

“All good we hope…?” Kel teased.

 

“Very…well except for a Chet and a Doctor Morton…,” she trailed off briefly. “They frustrate him no end.” They all laughed.

 

“So Doctor…I think Miss McCall would like to visit with my Nephew, so why don’t you fill me in on what’s happening.”  While Kel explained to Rosemary what Johnny had and what they were expecting over the next few days, Dixie spoke quietly to Roy.

 

“You are a mess Roy…you need to go home and get some sleep.” Johnny stirred restlessly.

 

Roy nodded at him…“I can’t if I wanted to…I even mention it and he gets upset,” he said nodding at John as he tossed fitfully. “Relax Junior…I’m right here…I’m not goin anywhere…” The younger man calmed at the sound of his voice. “Joanne’s bringing me some more clothes and I’ll shower here.”

 

Kel and Rosemary rejoined them. “Roy…I’ve spoken to the people at the lab. They’ve reviewed Roger’s notes and they’re pretty worried…they said they had no idea themselves that this particular strain was not only virulent but resistant to some of the more standard drugs.”

 

“What? Why would he do that…?”

 

Kel shrugged… “Probably working a new strain but we’ll never know for sure now…we do know that nothing survived the fire…the lab was wiped out. We’re probably going to have to change his medication. I’m putting him on quinidine along with Chloroquine and tetracycline and diazepam to control the seizures. I was hoping to avoid that…but I don’t have an option now.”

 

“What’s wrong with it?”

 

“It’s a dangerous drug and it has some nasty side effects. I really didn’t want to add any more strain to Johnny’s system but…I don’t have a choice.”

 

Roy’s worried eyes looked toward his friend. “How much more can he take…?” He whispered.

 

“Keep up the cooling measures and hang tight Roy…I know you’re tired too so if you need to, just call a nurse and go lay down for a while.”

 

Roy shook his head stubbornly… “I’ll be fine.”


Kel and Dixie left and Roy went to retrieve another chair for Rosemary. “Here you are ma’am. Can I get you anything else?”


“Roy sit…,” she urged. “You’re already doing enough by staying with him…this must be wearing you out…,” she said, unknowingly echoing Chet’s words. “I know you have a family at home and I appreciate what you’re doing for John.”

 

“I have family that needs me more right here…,” he said patting Johnny’s hand. The younger man’s fingers curled around Roy’s.

 

“You truly care for him don’t you?”

 

Roy flushed and ducked his head in embarrassment but he nodded. “He’s my best friend…a kid brother. I guess that’s the closest analogy.”

 

“He loves you Roy… you know that?” Roy grew red in the face again but he nodded. “He’s never said so of course but I think he does… a Doctor once told me that he can’t say it…he doesn’t know what it is that he feels yet and he has trouble trusting someone enough…he’s been hurt too many times.”

 

“The Doctor’s right Roy…Do you know I’ve never heard him say I love you…not ever…”

 

Roy nodded… “She said it was up to me…well… me and my family to teach him what it is.”

 

She nodded forlornly…“I tried, but he’d buried his emotions away so deep…no one could reach him…at least not until you came along…I think he’s learning to trust and to love…and that’s because of you.  God knows my family certainly couldn’t show him how…” She said in disgust at her own parents and children’s behavior… “He was at the house a couple of days ago…Did you know it’s the first time I didn’t have to ask him to come. He stayed overnight and mostly what he talked about was you…you and your family. Johnny’s so insecure about relationships…he just doesn’t believe he’s worth loving and I didn’t know how to reach him…but when he talked about you and your family…he was different…like he knew he was special to you.”

 

“He is…to my whole family but He told me you were great too…”

 

“I love him like he’s my own…but he didn’t trust me…he wouldn’t talk to me back then and I guess after a while I just gave up…but you didn’t. I knew I’d never get through to him…but you did…You and your Family have brought him so far.”

 

Johnny groaned, he shifted restlessly until Roy’s hand smoothed the hair from his forehead… “Shhh junior…I’m right here…” John’s breathing was raspy with short hitched gasps of air but he settled down under Roy’s hand.

 

A nurse came in and switched out John’s IV…she injected quinidine into the port and pulled the gown away to hook Johnny up to a cardiac monitor. “What’s that for?” Roy asked in concern.

 

“Quinidine causes an irregular heartbeat Mr. DeSoto…we’ll need to monitor that.” She left the room.

 

“Great…just what you needed huh junior…?” Roy said softly as he rested his hand on John’s dark hair. The younger man’s face turned toward him and his fingers tightened briefly around Roy’s.

 

“Junior…?” She questioned with a grin. The blonde man shrugged but didn’t answer.

 

 “Roy…he never told me what happened to him after his mother died…but he’s told you hasn’t he…? My lawyer told me he'd been beaten but there's more isn't there? ” She looked at him curiously, with a hint of jealousy. Roy looked away uncomfortably. “Oh don’t worry…I’d never ask you to betray his trust."

 

“Yeah…he did tell me and I think you’re better off not knowing Rosemary.” 

 

She nodded ruefully… “You’re probably right.

 

“Rosemary…can you tell me about him? I mean when he was a kid?”

 

She smiled sadly… “When I first went to the reservation to get John I was shocked. They were awful to him and he was a mess. He was afraid of everything and everyone. He flinched away if I moved too quickly…he ducked away from even the most casual touch.” Roy remembered that quite well from when he’d first met Johnny. Rosemary continued “He’d slip into withdrawal at the drop of a hat…especially when he was scared or frustrated. He barely spoke and when he did…he stuttered terribly.  Sometimes he’d just explode in anger…lash out and he was obsessive about things that bothered him.”

 

Roy grinned… “Boy don’t I know it…” She smiled.

 

“Sometimes he’d slip away for days…and he’d be so frustrated that he couldn’t remember and other times he’d just shrug it off. I couldn’t tell him what he had…I was afraid he’d just quit.”

 

“Johnny’s not a quitter Rose…,” Roy said with certainty… “But how did you deal with the withdrawals?”

 

“Just grabbed hold and hung on…”

 

“Hold therapy…?” He asked, remembering Doctor Hightower’s conversation.

 

“That’s what they call it now…back then it was called rage reduction.”

 

Roy nodded. “The doctor told me about that too.”

 

“Is Johnny seeing someone then?”

 

“Good Lord No…he’d never talk to a therapist…so I do for him but he doesn’t know that.”

 

“I see… Roy can you tell me something…?”

 

“I’ll try.”

 

“Did those people…hurt him? I mean…abuse him…physically?” She asked hesitantly.

 

“Rosemary…I promised him…”

 

“I don’t want the details Roy…I don’t think I could handle them…I just want to know… yes or no…The Doctors I took him to questioned several old fractures but he wouldn’t tell them and I couldn’t.”

 

Roy didn’t answer her directly but the sorrow in the blue eyes was enough. Tears welled in her own eyes as she understood. “That poor child…,” she whispered as she slid her fingers through his hair. “Na-háahketa…”

 

“What does that mean…,” Roy asked curiously.

 

“My little one…,” she said with a grin.

 

He chuckled… “I’ll bet he loves that…”

 

“He hates it…,” she whispered conspiratorially but it’s what his mom and dad called him and I just picked it up after he told me.

 

“Sort of like junior…,” Roy said with a laugh.

 

“Exactly…” She looked at her Nephews long slender fingers clasped securely in Roy’s. “Oh Roy…I’m so glad he found you,” she said as she came around the bed. “He’s my Brothers only child and I felt like I failed them both when I couldn’t get through…but you’ve given him a second chance…you must be a very special man Roy…,” she said as she leaned down to kiss his cheek in thanks.

 

Roy flushed in embarrassment as he looked up at the woman standing next to him… “Thank you…but Johnny’s the one who’s special.”

 

Johnny’s groan of distress ended their conversation … his eyes blinked open and he tucked into a tight ball as his stomach cramped painfully…Roy could tell from the pitiful moan that the younger man was about to be sick. “Excuse me a minute…,” he said as he quickly slid the basin under Johnny’s cheek.  John’s body spasmed and blood and saliva splattered the basin once again …Johnny choked back a gasping sob as he tried to breathe.

 

Roy wiped his face with the cloth as he leaned over his partner talking softly. “It’s okay junior…we’re gonna get through this…okay? I’m here…I’ll be here till you’re better. Just keep fighting for me Johnny…I need you…breathe for me…don’t you give up.”

 

Johnny’s shoulders were shaking and it took a moment for Rosemary to realize it wasn’t chills that gripped her nephew…John was crying…something he’d never done in her presence even as a child. Roy sat on the edge of the bed and gathered him into his arms, his chin rested against the top of John’s head as he stroked the damp hair, rocking him gently until the shaking subsided. “I know you’re scared…so am I…and I know you’re hurting…I wish I could do this for you…it’s gonna be okay?” There was a slight shakiness to Roy’s voice but he held it together. John’s head tipped back and his dark eyes slid open to meet Roy’s... they held the contact for a long moment before sliding closed.

 

Rosemary stared in amazement…They’d never said in word in that brief moment but she’d witnessed an entire conversation. She’d seen John’s promise to fight and Roy’s to be there while he did. Roy laid the younger man back on the bed and replaced the oxygen canula.

 

Rose wiped the tears from her eyes and she turned quickly as she heard a soft, feminine voice from behind her… “Don’t worry…you’ll get used to it.” She looked up to see a lovely auburn haired, blue eyed woman standing in the doorway.

 

“Hi honey…,” Roy greeted.

 

“Hi sweetheart,” She replied as she entered the room. She carried a bag which she handed to Roy. Change of clothes and a couple of other things…,” she explained as she leaned down to kiss her husband. Joanne looked at the older woman. She picked up on the resemblance immediately. “You must be Johnny’s Aunt?”

 

“Yes I am…”

 

“Oh sorry…,” Roy said tiredly. “Rosemary…this is my wife…”

 

“Joanne…,” The older woman finished. “Johnny told me all about you and Chris and a lovely little girl he calls Princess…”

 

“AKA Jennifer…,” Jo said with a laugh as she moved to Johnny’s side. “Hey Sweetheart…,” she said softly as she noticed the dark eyes were cracked open. A weak version of the infamous Gage smile briefly curled his mouth despite the effort he was making just to breathe. He winced as his lips cracked…Joanne kissed his forehead tenderly as she stroked his cheek. She readjusted the blanket and picked up the cloth to dab at the blood on his lips. She rinsed it out and wiped the sweat coated face. “Any better today,” she asked her husband as John’s eyes slid closed.

 

“Fever’s back up…”

 

“Oh no…”

 

“Chills and vomiting are back too. He’s throwing up blood.”

 

Joanne’s worried eyes met Roy’s. “Isn’t there anymore they can do?”


“They found out this is a particularly nasty form of Malaria, so they changed his medication…but that’s just putting more strain on him…,”

 

“Great…” Johnny gasped softly in his sleep and brought Jo’s attention back to him. “It’s okay baby…Shhh”

 

Rosemary’s eyes filled with tears… These people loved John so much and it was undisguised…How could Chet Kelly have ever questioned a friendship that was so blatantly obvious.

 

“Roy honey…why don’t you go shower…? We’ll clean Johnny up and get a fresh gown on him. You’ll both feel much better.”

 

“Okay…” He leaned over his partner. “I’m just gonna be a minute junior…Jo and your Aunt are gonna stay with ya…so mind your manners okay?”

 

John’s dark eyes blinked open briefly and closed once more. Roy headed for the small bathroom.

 

 

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For the next two days John’s fever rose and fell…leaving him alternately shaking with chills or thrashing in delirium…he gasped for every breath, vomiting blood and stomach acids…His voice was no longer audible. His body cramped in agony as his stomach spasmed…tears of pain and fear mingled with his sweat…his eyes glazed and unfocused.

 

Roy held him through it all…whispering encouragement, pleading with him to take one more breath…to keep fighting…to stay with him… Bathing his face and body to bring the fever down, breathing a sigh of relief when it fell enough to let John drop into an exhausted slumber…his hand holding tightly to Roy’s. No longer able to talk, John communicated only through hand and eye contact.

 

The station crew stopped by but only Cap had been allowed in… it didn’t really matter John was too out of it to notice. They all admired Roy’s determination to stay at Johnny’s side though Cap had tried to get him to go home and rest. “How long do you think you can keep this up pal?” Hank asked him…

 

“As long as Johnny can Cap…I only have to watch it…he has to fight through it.”

 

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Rosemary stayed at John’s side during the day but at night she found herself as a guest at the DeSoto’s home. Though she’d assured them that John’s apartment would be fine…they’d insisted and she quickly found herself understanding why John thought these people were so special.

 

Roy was bathing John’s fever racked body when he heard the door open…he looked around and was surprised to see Chet slip through the door. “What are you doing here…it’s late?”

 

“I wanted to see Gage and the Gestapo out there won’t let us in.”

 

“He’s real sick right now Chet…he won’t know you’re here…”

 

“I will…”

 

Roy smiled and continued to gently bath John’s face. Chet watched the strong hand gently sweep the damp hair from Johnny’s forehead as he spoke softly to the restless younger man. The Irishman felt like a heel for his earlier words…how could he have missed this? The whole crew knew the two men were close but now he saw what he’d missed or they’d successfully kept hidden. A bond of family…brothers… Roy had said. Chet nodded softly to himself…he’d never seriously question their friendship again…he didn’t have to.

 

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Roy was wiped out…he’d been at Rampart for nine straight days…Johnny’s fever was on the downswing at 101.4° and he’d fallen into an exhausted sleep giving Roy a respite as well. He lay on the extra bed, listening to his Partners hitched breathing. The sound had become a familiar reassurance that Johnny was still holding on. Roy wasn’t sure how his young partner had endured this whole ordeal…he was worn out just watching it. Kel Brackett, Dixie and Joe Early had all tried last night to get him to leave but Roy had refused…they knew it would take an act of God to move the blonde paramedic from his friends side.

 

Roy had apologized to Joanne… “I’m sorry I haven’t been home…,” her hand touched his face gently.

 

“Don’t apologize…I know what Johnny means to you if no one else does…believe me I understand…I love him too and right now he needs you more than we do…You made a promise to him…you need to keep it.” She was the greatest…and she always understood.

 

“I love you…”

 

“I love you too.” She’d kissed him hard. Roy smiled at the memory.

 

It suddenly occurred to him that could no longer hear John’s panting gasps for air. He was still and silent. Roy bolted from the bed…fear causing his heart to pound in his chest. “Johnny…!” He reached out to grasp his partner’s wrist…the pulse beat weak but steady. Johnny was breathing normally.

 

Roy’s hand flew to his friends forehead…it was cool. Johnny’s body, finally free of fever and the shaking of chills was still. His eyes fluttered open at Roy’s touch. “You scared me Junior…” The dry, cracked lips moved but no sound came out…Roy understood…”It’s over Johnny…you made it through,” he said softly as he brushed the still damp hair from the younger man’s face.

 

Exhausted but lucid brown eyes met Roy’s as he applied the ointment to the cracked, bleeding lips, Johnny was too tired to fight him. He dribbled a small amount of water into his friend’s dry mouth, hoping Johnny could keep it down. John grimaced as he swallowed.

 

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Rosemary, Dixie and Kel entered the room a short time later. Both Roy and Johnny slept peacefully. Roy’s head rested on his folded arms on the mattress beside his partner…John’s hand rested on his arm.

 

Kel moved to the other side of the bed…He rested his hand on Johnny’s forehead. A smile broke over his face as he looked over at the two women… “The fever’s broken.”

 

Roy felt someone gently shake his shoulder. He snapped awake, looking first at his partner to reassure himself that this morning hadn’t been a dream. Johnny was sleeping quietly. Roy sat up and took John’s hand giving it a brief reassuring squeeze as he turned his attention to the three new arrivals.

 

“Mornin…,” he greeted them, rubbing tired blue eyes. “His fever broke a while ago and he’s been sleeping since then.”

 

Kel nodded… “Good, now that he’s finally resting why don’t you go home and do the same…?”

 

“I can’t leave him…what if he wakes up…?”

 

“I’ll stay with him…,” Rosemary said. “If he wakes up…”

 

“Which I highly doubt since he’s more exhausted than you are,” Kel cut in.

 

“Then I’ll call you…,” Rosemary finished.

 

“Well…,” Roy hesitated. “Okay…but only for a few hours.” Roy held out a tube of ointment to John’s Aunt. “This is for his mouth to help the cracking and he has ice chips and just a bit of water…but be careful cause he still has trouble swallowing and…”

 

“Roy…,” she cut in. “I’ve been watching you take care of him for days…I know what to do.”

 

“Okay but…he can be a handful when he gets stubborn…” He trailed off, looking at the woman who’d raised the stubborn handful.

 

She grinned at him… “I know…”

 

Roy started to gather his things to take with him. “Oh, I forgot…he still can’t talk so…”

 

“Roy…I may not be as adept at hearing him without words as you are, but I’ll manage…now go home…the rest of your family’s waited long enough.”

 

“You’ll call me if…there’s a problem or he wakes up right…?”

 

“I will Roy…I promise.”

 

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Roy arrived home a short time later and stepped wearily into his living room. Joanne came out of the kitchen and her eyes looked fearfully into Roy’s… “Johnny?”

 

“His fever broke this morning…he’s still pretty weak but…He’ll be okay.” She smiled as relief flooded through her.

 

Roy wanted a shower, breakfast and sleep. He was exhausted…his daughter came from behind her Mother, her smile lit the room when she saw him. She ran to throw her arms about his legs hugging him happily. Roy bent and scooped her into his arms.

 

“Dad…,” Chris yelled from the top of the stairs. The six year old came racing down the stairs. Roy was so glad to see his son he even forgot to tell him to walk. Chris threw himself into his Father’s arms. “I missed you dad…”

 

“I missed you guys too.”

 

“How’s Uncle Johnny?”

 

“He’s still very tired…but he’ll get better now…”

 

“Good…,” Chris said snuggling against his father’s side. Roy closed his eyes just enjoying his kids and the peace.

 

“Is Aunt Rosemary comin back Dad…?” Chris asked.

 

“I’m sure she will. She won’t want to leave until Johnny’s better and I’m sure she’ll want to say goodbye,” he replied.

 

A honk from outside interrupted the reunion as Chris’s ride to school showed up. “See ya later dad…tell Uncle Johnny hi for me.”

 

“I will…,” he said as Chris ran for the door.

 

Joanne dropped down next to Roy and snuggled against his side.  “How are you?”

 

“Tired…relieved. Still a little worried…he looked so whipped Jo…” He rested his head against hers. “He really scared me this time…I thought we were gonna lose him a couple of times.” His voice cracked a bit.

 

“How was he when you left?”

 

“He’s exhausted…his vital signs were weak but stable…he’s hurting all over. He was sleeping when I left him and Brackett wants to start him on clear liquids to get something into him…he’s dropped twenty pounds. I’m going back in a few hours.” He glanced at his wife to see how she’d take that piece of information but she only smiled.

 

“I knew you wouldn’t stay away for very long. Don’t worry honey...” She took Jen from him. “Go shower while I get your breakfast and then you can sleep for a while.”

 

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Roy stepped from the shower feeling a lot better. He sat on the edge of the bed and called the station. Cap answered the phone. “Station 51 Captain Stanley speaking…”

 

“Cap…it’s Roy.”

 

“Hey Roy…How’s John?”

 

There was a scraping sound in the background as three guys came to their feet to crowd around their Captain.

 

“His fever broke this morning Cap…”

 

“That’s great…,” Relieved smiles broke out on all their faces.

 

“I should be back by our next shift in three days…”

 

“Three days…? Great… Can we see John?”

 

“Sure Cap…they’ll probably move him out of ICU as soon as he’s strong enough. Probably by tomorrow…”

 

“We’ll be there.”

 

Cap hung up holding out his hand to halt the barrage of questions… “John’s fever broke this morning…Roy will be back by our next shift in three days and we can see John tomorrow.”

 

“YES…,” Chet shouted gleefully. He grew red faced as the others stared at him in amusement.

 

“Well…I…I miss my pigeon…you guys are no fun…” They stared at him in disbelief. “Alright…so I was worried…geez…,” he grouched as he stomped out of the room.

 

Roy ate his breakfast with Joanne and then went up to lie down. He managed about six hours before he woke up.He was worried that John would wake and he wouldn’t be there. He got up and headed downstairs to spend time with Jo and the kids before heading back to Rampart.

 

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Rosemary wandered down to the gift shop in the lobby and picked up a book. She spent the next few hours reading and patiently waiting for John to wake up. She glanced at the clock…Roy would be back any time now…she’d be willing to bet money on it that Roy wouldn’t stay away for very long.

 

Johnny had stirred restlessly several times. His hand moved weakly as if searching for something or someone. Rosemary had reached out to hold it. He gave her hand a weak squeeze but it was obvious she wasn’t who he was looking for.

 

Johnny’s eyes finally cracked open. They drifted vaguely about the room, searching. A light touch on his shoulder brought his eyes around. A small smile emerged as he saw his Aunt but then his eyes continued on.

 

“He’s not here…,” she told him softly. His eyes snapped back to her face. He licked his cracked lips while he struggled to get his still foggy brain and raw throat to form words.

 

“Home…,” he croaked, barely heard.

 

“Yes sweetie…he went home. He’ll be back anytime now though. We practically had to throw him out…he was exhausted and needed to sleep. He’s been with you for nine days.”

 

Johnny looked away and a frown crossed his features. Rosemary thought it was because Roy had left. She picked up the cup of ice. “Here sweetheart…try to take some of this okay.”

 

John shook his head… “Doan wan it…,” he mouthed the words without sound.

 

“Just a little Johnny, your Doctor wants you to try and get some clear fluids…” She scooped some up with the spoon to hold it out to him but he turned his face away.

 

“No…hurs…”

 

“Okay sweetheart, how about we take care of that sore mouth first then and maybe you’ll feel better.”

 

Again the dark head shook in the negative. Rosemary tried to turn his face toward her but Johnny weakly pushed her hand away. “No…hurs…,” he mouthed stubbornly.

 

“John Roderick Gage…,” she snapped in annoyance. Johnny cringed at the tone he remembered from childhood but his mouth remained stubbornly set. “What’s wrong with you…?”

 

“Feel bad…,” he rasped painfully.

 

She had to strain to hear him…“Well of course you feel bad…you’ve been sick for days…

 

“No…Roy…t’red…bay sit again…,” he slurred tiredly. The words so faint they were almost inaudible. Johnny was panting with the effort of speaking.

 

“Just what does that mean…?”

 

“I’d like to hear that myself…,” Roy said from the doorway. Rosemary and Johnny both turned to look at him. Johnny gave him a weak smile and then winced as his mouth cracked and began to bleed. Roy moved to the bed and picked up the tube. John turned his face away but Roy reached over and forced his head around applying the ointment while John weakly tried to push his hand away.  “Johnny stop it…I’m gonna win anyway.”

 

“M sor’y Roy…,” he rasped out.

 

“For what…?” Roy asked softly as he scooped a small amount of Ice chips into his friend’s mouth. John swallowed painfully, Roy set the cup aside and swept the dark, sweat matted hair from John’s forehead. Rosemary backed off to let Roy work his magic with her stubborn nephew.

 

John’s eyes held a guilty evasiveness… “T’red…cause me…made you stay…gain…sorry…m probl…m” the words were disjointed and jumbled… only half heard but Roy understood. At that moment he could have cheerfully hung Chet Kelly by his toe nails.

 

He leaned down close to his partner’s ear. “We’ve had this conversation before…when are ya gonna get this junior?”

 

John’s eyes flicked toward him.  “What…?” he croaked.

 

Roy remembered his conversation with Rosemary…he needed to make John understand this once and for all. “Johnny…I’d have stayed a month…more if you’d needed me…”

 

John frowned in confusion… “Why…?”

 

“Because you’re my best friend…Can’t you understand that…? Can you just try and accept the fact that people care about you…I care about you…” John’s eyes darted away…his brows knitted uncertainly. “Just let them…let me. Johnny…I love you…you’re my brother…your family.” Roy had always had trouble saying those words but he’d learned to use them more freely over the last year and a half…not only with Johnny but with his wife and kids…even his Mom.

 

Joanne had always known how he felt and never pushed for the words, His mom had never been the type to gush over him and hadn’t expected them in return but John was a whole different ball game. His friends deeply rooted insecurities forced him to spell it out.

 

“L…love you too…why…feel bad…”

 

The words were a bare whisper…disoriented and jumbled, but they were heard loud and clear by his friend and his Aunt. Roy and Rosemary both froze and they exchanged a quick look. Tears sprang to Rosemary’s green eyes and a smile broke out on her face as John spoke those words for the first time in thirteen years.

 

Through his own suddenly watery eyes and choked voice, Roy asked… “Why Junior…?”

 

John frowned tiredly, struggling to make himself understood. “Al…ays pro…lem…can’t…be… lone…five minutes…,” he mouthed softly, quoting his crewmate… “al…ays have…stay,” he finished with a gasp.

 

Roy’s mouth tightened angrily… “Yup Chet…I’m gonna kill you…,” Roy promised quietly. “Wanted to junior…”

 

“Wha…?”

 

“I wanted to stay…no one made me…I stayed just like you did when I got hurt. Because you thought I needed you…and you were right…I did. Well I thought you needed me…I didn’t stay because you made me but because I wanted to…I didn’t want you to go through this alone. Understand?”

 

“Sure…?”

 

“Positively…”

 

John smiled hesitantly but it was obvious from the hitched breathes and winces that the conversation had taken its toll on Johnny.  He was hurting and tired. “Okay Junior, you need to rest now…”

 

“Home…?” Johnny rasped.

 

Rosemary thought he was asking if he could go but as usual Roy understood the one word question. She’d love to know how they did that… “No partner…I’m stayin.” Johnny’s mouth twitched with just a hint of a smile as his eyes slid closed in exhaustion.

 

John drifted off and Roy turned to find Rosemary at his shoulder. She planted a kiss on Roy’s cheek. “Thank you…”

 

“For what…?”

 

“For those three little words I thought I’d never hear him say…you taught him how…” Roy's face flushed but he only smiled at the older woman.

 

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Johnny was moved to a regular room a while later and the afternoon passed quietly.  By evening, the young paramedic still hadn’t regained his voice or his strength but he had regained his usual stubbornness. Johnny was extremely weak but he managed to resist every attempt to help him until he was forced to give in. He pushed Roy’s hand away or turned his face…he twisted away stubbornly…his abused muscles screaming in protest, drawing soft moans of pain from his lips.

“No…hurs Roy…” or “Can’t swa…low… stop it…nah…hun…gry.” were becoming common phrases and Rosemary was getting frustrated but Roy never got upset as he patiently worked with his friend…cajoling him along or occasionally forcing the issue until Johnny would yield with a pout.

 

Doctor Brackett came to check on his patient before leaving for home. “How’s he doing Roy?” He asked, reading John’s chart.

 

“Still a battle Doc. He’s not hungry…it hurts to swallow…it makes him gag and I’m mean…,” Roy said with a grin.

 

Rosemary giggled while Kel chuckled in amusement … “I’ll keep him on IV feedings for a while longer then…The NG tube will just trigger his gag reflex and I don’t want him to start vomiting again…but if he doesn’t eat soon…I won’t have an option. Keep him on the liquids and maybe try some jello for another day.” Roy opened his mouth to protest but Kel held up his hand to forestall Roy’s argument. “Look I know he’s resisting you but you do manage to win the battle, so keep trying okay…my money’s on you.”

 

“Okay Doc...,” Roy agreed with a tired sigh, understanding that he needed to be patient...Johnny still wasn’t completely with it even now.

 

Cap and the rest of the crew showed up first thing the next morning. A light knock on the door brought a frustrated growl of “Come In…,” from Johnny’s Aunt…

 

They filed in and greeted Roy but their eyes were on the younger man, reassuring themselves that he was really alright. “Hey Roy…” Cap greeted.

 

Roy was once again engaged in a battle to get liquids into his willful partner…“Hi guys…Cap…give me a minute okay?” He asked turning back to his stubborn friend. “C’mon junior, give me a break here would ya?”

 

Johnny rolled his head away, slapping weakly at Roy’s hand. “No…,” he groaned miserably. “Quit...sick…it hurs…Can…swa…low…,” John whispered.

 

Roy set the cup aside and reached out to take hold of John’s chin, forcing his head around and making him look at him. “Johnny here’s the deal...you have to try.” Johnny made a weak attempt to turn his head away but Roy held on. “Either you do this on your own or Brackett uses an NG tube.”

 

“No…,” he whimpered.

 

“Will you try for me…please?” Roy pleaded.

 

“Roy…what’s up with Gage? I thought you said he was better?” Chet asked.

 

John’s dark eyes shifted to the crew tiredly, Roy saw the embarrassed look cross John’s face at his helpless condition and almost childish behavior…even if he did have an excuse. He remembered Chet’s last ill timed comments and there repercussions. Roy’s pent up frustrations that he couldn’t show with his young friend vented at Chet…

 

“Well Kelly…it could be that after nine days of vomiting from his toenails, that every muscle in his body feels like it’s been run over by a steam roller or maybe that his throat feels like someone fired a blow torch down it with a sandpaper chaser or that he’s so weak he can’t lift his head off the pillow by himself because he’s sweated away his body fluids faster than we could replace them and that  104° degree temperature has his mouth as dry and cracked as the Sahara Desert in August…take your pick pal because no matter which one you choose, he’s not feelin too well,” Roy snapped at the stunned Irishman.

 

Rosemary stared in shock at the first display of temper she’d witnessed from this normally patient man. The crew stood in stunned disbelief. John’s mouth dropped open in amazement.

 

“Hey man…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean anything by it…,” Chet said, sounding hurt.

 

Roy stood breathing heavily in anger. He felt a weak touch on his arm and turned quickly back to his partner…taking his hand. “What is it Junior?”

 

Tired, brown eyes met his… “Doan…be mad,” he whispered.

 

Disregarding the people watching, Roy reached out to smooth the sable hair from Johnny’s forehead. “I’m not mad at you junior…,” he said quietly. The crew looked at each other with a grin at their friends close bond. They’d long suspected that John was more like Roy’s brother rather than just his partner…he’d just confirmed it.

 

“Doan…mad…Chet?” He gasped out.

 

Roy ran his hand through his blonde hair in frustration. “I’m not mad at Chet either junior, okay?”

 

“Kay…”

 

Johnny’s eyes flicked to his friends, his mouth tried to curl in a tired smile but as if to prove Roy’s words, quickly turned to a wince of pain as his mouth began to crack and bleed…  “Cap…guys…,” he rasped from a sore throat.

 

“Hey pal…,” Cap greeted coming over to stand near John. Marco and Mike followed while Chet hung back still a little unsure of his welcome.

 

Johnny licked his lips before he tried to speak…his mouth formed the words but the sound was a low croak… “C’mon Chet….” His hand weakly waved him forward. Chet moved over beside the bed.

 

Roy glanced at Rosemary, shaking his head at John’s forgiving nature. “Guess I can still learn a thing or two from my junior partner,” he said.

 

She grinned in understanding. “Me too…I had a scathing set down all planned for him…” She ran her fingers through her nephew’s dark hair…

 

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Roy suddenly remembered that he hadn’t introduced his friends to Rosemary… “Uh Cap…this is Johnny’s Aunt…Rosemary Hughes. Rosemary this is our Captain…Hank Stanley.”

 

“We’ve spoken several times on the phone…Johnny speaks very highly of you.”

 

Cap grinned in pleased surprise. “Good…good, glad to hear it.”

 

Before Roy could continue she turned to the others… “You’d be Mike…?” She asked extending her hand to the tall young Engineer.

 

“Yes Ma’am…”

 

“And Marco…,” she guessed correctly.

 

“Si…uh…yes ma’am,” Marco answered.

 

“Johnny tells me you’re a really good friend…both of you…,” She said including Mike with a smile. Both men beamed at the compliment.

 

She turned to Chet and her smiled faded. “You’d be Chet Kelly…?”

 

“Ah yeah…ah yes Ma’am…,” he stuttered under the icy green stare. “I had a few things to say to you but…” she trailed off glancing toward John who subtly shook his head. “But I’d have to say that your being here tells me you care about my nephew more than you let on…” She looked toward Johnny who returned the look with a small smile of approval. “I’d say the feelings mutual…but do me a favor Mr. Kelly?”

 

“Yes Ma’am…?”

 

“Be more careful what you say in the future.”

 

“Yes Ma’am.”

 

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Johnny’s eyes were drifting shut. “Oh no you don’t junior…,” Roy said quickly. “Breakfast…”

 

The dark eyes were frightened and pleading. “No…hurs…sick…,” he whispered.

 

“For me partner… Please… try…?”

 

Johnny closed his eyes in resignation… “Kay…”

 

It took them an hour but John managed to down a half a bowl of broth and a glass of water, swallowing painfully after each sip or spoonful. The Jello made him gag and Roy quickly set it aside.  He ruffled the sable hair gently…“Thanks junior…I know that hurt…”

 

“Kay pal…ly,” the words were softly whispered as John drifted off.

 

The threat of the NG Tube and the younger man’s desire to please his friend kept him going through the rest of the day. He managed to drink several more cups of water and some broth. By evening his voice was beginning to return, though it sounded more like sandpaper on rusty metal. Swallowing was still an ordeal but less painful than it had been.

 

Kel and Dixie returned the next morning to check on Johnny and were pleased to find him stronger and at least able to drink some. “Keep it up Johnny…the more you drink the less we’ll have to pump into you…,” he teased nodding toward the IV stand.

 

“No tubes…?”

 

“No tubes as long as you cooperate with Roy.”

 

“O…kay.”

 

“Okay…just don’t overdo it Roy…I don’t want to start him vomiting again.”

 

“Got it Doc…”

 

By that evening, Johnny had graduated to sitting up in bed and drinking from a straw. Roy still had to hold the cup as his partner was still too weak and shaky to hold it on his own.

 

After that he began to make good progress. His mouth was beginning to heal with only a couple of tiny scabs left to remind him not to smile to broadly. His throat felt less like a fire pit and his voice had increased to an audible rasp. When Jo arrived that night John triumphantly held his own glass with only a slight shaking of the hands though he still needed assistance to walk to the chair or the bathroom.

 

Jo beamed at him proudly. “That’s great Johnny…You’ll be home soon sweetheart…,” she promised, already planning on having a houseguest for a while. John grinned back…understanding that she meant his place was with them.

 

Roy had to return home the next night. He needed to sleep in his own bed to be ready for his first day back to work. He hated leaving Johnny alone but Brackett had assured him that if the patient continued to make such rapid progress, he’d let Roy bring him home to stay with them in a day or two.

 

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The next day Roy ran upstairs every time they had a run. He found Kelly Brackett and Rosemary with Johnny on the fourth trip. “Hey Doc…Rosemary…Hi junior…”

 

“Hey pally…,” Johnny rasped out.

 

“What’s wrong…?” Roy asked, seeing the apprehensive look in his partners brown eyes.

 

“I was just explaining to Johnny and Rosemary that Malaria is a recurring disease. It is possible for it to come back months or even years later.”

 

“You’re kidding…?” Roy said in disbelief.

 

“No…I’m afraid I’m very serious.”

 

John’s desperate eyes said he wasn’t sure he could go through this again. “Well…I guess we’ll cross that bridge together if it comes to it, won’t we partner?” Roy asked as he took John’s hand. The promise to be there if it came back was understood.

 

John nodded…“Thanks Partner.”

 

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Kel released Johnny the next day to finish his recovery at Roy’s home, knowing there were more than enough willing hands to help out. Rosemary and Joanne cared for him while Roy worked and he took over when he was at home.

 

After two weeks Johnny was becoming stir crazy. His voice had returned and he’d gained back ten pounds being spoiled by Joanne and Rosemary’s cooking. Chris dragged him outside daily and soon had the young paramedic chasing him about the yard, playing tag or hide and seek or a half a dozen other games.  The DeSoto’s and Rosemary watched his physical therapy take place without his even being aware of it.

 

Rosemary finally decided it was time to go home. Johnny was almost ready to go back to work and she had her own life to get back to. Johnny and the DeSoto family walked her to the car.

 

She hugged Joanne and the kids, promising to come back and spend Christmas with the family. She turned to the older man… “Roy…Thank you for everything,” she said nodding meaningfully at her nephew. “Take care of him for me.”

 

“You have to ask?” He teased. “You know I will.” She nodded and kissed his cheek.

 

She turned to her nephew, taking his face between her hands. She made eye contact. “Na-háahketa…,” Johnny rolled his eyes in embarrassment drawing a chuckle from the older woman but she grew serious after a moment. “You be careful…”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he said with a smile. She kissed him goodbye.

“You’ve got a wonderful family here…let them love you,” she whispered. John flushed but nodded. “I love you…,” She told him, hoping but not expecting a response. John frowned and there was a long pause. She was about to turn away but John’s hand on her arm stopped her.

 

“I love you too,” he whispered softly.

 

She cupped his cheek and then wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. She kissed him quickly one final time and turned away before he could see the tears that welled in her eyes. She got in her car throwing one last grateful look at Roy and his wife as she drove away.

 

“Na-háahketa…?” Roy said questioningly.

 

“You don’t want to know…,” Johnny said as he started toward the house.

 

“My little one…”

 

John whirled to face his partner…his brown eyes wide with surprise. “She told you…?”Roy chuckled at the horrified look, his blue eyes widened innocently. “You wouldn’t..?” Johnny said nervously.

 

Roy wrapped his arm around his young friend’s neck pulling him close in a good natured wrestling hold as he scruffed his dark hair affectionately. “It’ll never leave my mouth…”

 

Johnny laughed in relief as he pulled away to follow his friend into the house.

 

“Well almost never…,” Roy amended as he disappeared inside.

 

John stopped in his tracks… “Roy…,” he wailed. The other man’s laughter echoed back.

 

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The next day…a full month after John had become ill, he finally returned to work. He walked into the rec room and spotted the box of donuts. Roy was getting his coffee and turned to see Chet and Johnny reach for the last jelly filled pastry.

 

Mike smacked Kelly’s hand. “That’s Johnny’s.”

 

Roy had a sudden sense of déjà vu but Chet smiled. He took the donut from the box but pulled another package from his lap and shoved it across the table toward John. “Welcome back pal…”

 

Johnny opened the box carefully to find a dozen Jelly donuts. “What’s in em…?” he asked suspiciously.

 

“Nothin’s in em…,” Chet assured him.

 

Johnny pulled one apart and tasted the filling…he grinned at Chet. “Thanks man…”

 

“You’re not coddling him just a bit, are ya Chet?” Roy asked.

 

“Nah…the phantom will return another day but I promised his Aunt I’d give him a break.”

 

John’s mouth dropped open… “When’d you see her…?”

 

“She dropped by on her way home yesterday…”

 

“To see you…?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Why…?”

 

“Well she just asked me to back off until you got into the swing of things…”

 

“That’s it…?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“And you agreed…”

 

“Sure…”

 

Johnny eyed him suspiciously but finally dropped it… “I’m gonna go check out the squad…,” he said throwing one last incredulous look at his nemesis.

 

Roy watched him go with a smirk but turned on Chet immediately. “All right what gives?”

 

“Well, when she was talking to me…I …kinda slipped and admitted how fond I was of Johnny. She threatened to tell him if I didn’t agree to give him a little time…ya know… to get back into the swing of things…”

 

Roy began to laugh while Chet looked indignant. “Aw Chet…I’m touched…,” Johnny said from the doorway.

 

“Gage…Were you eavesdropping again…?” Kelly shouted as he charged after the younger man. John’s laughter floated behind him as he ran from the room. “Deals off Gage…” their voices trailed off…and Roy shook his head.

 

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Two weeks later Joanne took the kids and went to visit her Mom for a few days. Roy came in to work but it was obvious he wasn’t feeling well. Johnny sat beside him on his bunk…his hand lifted to feel his partner’s forehead but Roy pulled away… “Alright junior quit playin paramedic with me…,”

 

“I’m not playin paramedic…I’m playin best friend…Roy…you’re really warm. You should go home and rest.”

 

Cap stuck his head inside… “How’s he doin John?”

 

“He’s pretty warm Cap…,”

 

“Roy…Pal…Johnny’s the boss here…”

 

“I’m stayin…”

 

“You’re goin…”

 

“Hope you feel better Roy…I’ll get a replacement John.”

 

“Thanks Cap,” Johnny said as he turned back to his partner. “Guess I’ll see ya later.”

 

“Look Junior…”

 

“No arguing…I’m the boss here.”

 

“You’re really enjoying this…”

 

“Heck yeah…well not that your sick of course but yeah.”

 

“I have my own weapons… Na-háahketa…”

 

“Roy…you promised…and…and…that’s cheating…,” He stuttered indignantly.

 

“Okay…okay simmer down. I really don’t feel all that well anyway. With the kids gone I should be able to sleep some.”

 

“Good idea.”

 

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Roy woke the next morning feeling awful…his head pounded miserably and his chest hurt from coughing all night. He suddenly felt his stomach begin to roll and knew he was gonna be sick. He bolted from the bed and made it to the bathroom just in time as he lost the contents of his stomach.

 

He suddenly felt a hand rest on his back as his best friend knelt beside him holding a damp washcloth. “Hey pally…,” he said wiping the light coating of sweat from his friends forehead before handing it to him and helping him to his feet. He led his partner back to his bed.

 

“What’re ya doin here…?” Roy gasped, trying to regain his breath.

 

“Oh…takin care of a sick brother…”

 

“It’s your day off Johnny…I don’t want to make you do that junior…”

 

“No one made me pally…understand? I want to.”

 

“Sure…?”

 

“Positively…”

 

Roy smiled tiredly…Johnny was learning…

 

                                               

 

 

THE END

 

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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. My grateful thanks for allowing me to take the boys out to play. Any Medical mistakes are mine.

 

 Posted to Site 11/15/09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
Post your story by sending an email to Tammy at tbillings51@gmail.com.