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Betrayal

Part 1

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

LINK TO PART 1. 2.

 

                         

It was a lovely May morning in Los Angeles when Paramedic John Gage entered the station 51 locker room. His partner of eight months, Roy DeSoto was sitting on the bench tying his shoes.
“Mornin Palley…” Johnny said giving his blonde haired friend a light slap on the back as he went by.


“Mornin…,” Roy mumbled.


John started unbuttoning his shirt but the halfhearted greeting from his Partner stopped him. “Something wrong…? Johnny asked in concern.


“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Roy replied sounding depressed.


“Did I do something wrong?” Johnny asked a little worried.

“No…it’s personal…nothing to do with you.”

“Okay…” Johnny turned away and continued changing his clothes. Tossing his friend a sideways glance he added… “But if you change your mind, I’m a good listener.”

Roy half smiled, drawing a typical crooked smile from his friend in return. The twenty two year old was a great talker, listening wasn’t always Johnny’s strong suit and he knew it. Roy recognized it as Johnny’s way of trying to cheer him up. The younger man’s brown eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Seriously Roy…if you want to talk I’ll zip it and listen.”

Roy looked at his Partner, aware that the young, single fire fighter probably wouldn’t have any answers but he decided it couldn’t hurt to confide in his friend. “Okay… but not here…, there are too many others around to hear.”

“Kay…,” Johnny agreed.

It never ceased to amaze Roy how fast he and Johnny had become close. He knew he could trust John with his life and his secrets and he knew John had felt the same way. A couple of months ago he and Johnny had sat in the younger man’s apartment talking. Johnny had told him a little about growing up on the reservation and about the loss of both of his Parents by the time he was twelve and that he’d been bounced around from relative to relative until at fourteen he’d been taken to L.A. to live with an Aunt he didn’t remember.

He’d told him about becoming a fireman straight outta high school…about being half white and half Indian. An Ó’xevé’ho’e (half breed) as Johnny so indelicately put it and not belonging completely in either world. He’d told him about the disparaging remarks about his half Indian status, not only from strangers but from his own family. Roy’s heart had ached when John had finally broken one night and told him of the abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his Uncle George while Roy had held him in his arms.

Roy had been touched when John had let him into his private world and told him rather shyly that he was the first really close friend he’d ever had. He suspected there was so much more to this complex young man than he’d been told and he was waiting patiently for the day when Johnny would trust him enough to tell him everything, but he also knew John had been deeply hurt in the past by those who should have protected him…loved him and because of it John had trusted no one…keeping everyone at arms’ length and not letting anyone too close.

The older man had changed that. He’d slipped past his young friends’ defenses…befriended him and taught John to trust him…at least to a degree. Roy promised himself that he wouldn’t be another in a long line of rejections and disappointments. He threw a reassuring grin at his Partner as Johnny watched him curiously. John smiled back.

 

After roll call, Roy and John ran the morning’s calibration and radio checks. Then inventoried the drug box to find out what they were short on. “We’re heading out to Rampart for supplies Cap…,” Roy hollered to their Captain…Dick Hammer.

“Okay Roy…,” he replied as he came out of his office and gave the door switch a slap. The two Paramedics climbed into the squad as the doors began to roll up.

“So what’s up Roy?” Johnny asked.

Roy was quiet for a minute and true to his word John waited quietly for the senior Paramedic to formulate his thoughts. “It’s Joanne…,” Roy finally said.

“What about her?”

“I dunno…something’s goin on with her. She’s really stressed…secretive lately…snappish…with me and the kids. I’ve tried to press her but she just cries or gets angry. We have an anniversary comin up and I don’t know whether to celebrate it or not. If I don’t, she’ll be mad because she thinks I forgot or didn’t care… If I do she’s apt to be mad because she’s not in the mood to celebrate. I’ve got a real dilemma here Junior,” Roy said with a sigh.

“Wow…,”Johnny said softly. “Roy…I’m a single guy, so this is kinda out of my field…” Johnny smiled, “But I’d rather be in trouble for remembering it than for ignoring it. She’d never let ya forget that.”

Roy sat quietly for a minute… “You know you’re right.” He glanced at his Partner, “Not bad… for a single guy.”

“As for the other…maybe you just need to give her some space to work through whatever’s buggin her…”He shrugged slightly, “she’ll tell you when she’s ready,” he said shyly, a little nervous that he’d gotten too personal.

“So you think I need to stop pressuring her and just wait for her to sort things out on her own?”

“Yeah…,” he said brightening up a bit now that he knew Roy wasn’t angry with his bit of personal advice.

Roy could see relief in his young friend’s eyes and realized immediately what it was. He knew Johnny was still a little insecure about where he stood in this friendship with Roy. He gave Johnny’s head a playful scruff as if he were his four year old son Chris. “You’re pretty bright… for a kid Junior.”

John’s indignation started to rise and he swatted Roy’s hand away before he realized he was only teasing. He grinned back… “Anytime Pally…”

The radio crackled to life and the tones began to sound… “Squad 51…woman in labor…2117 Frontier, apartment 305… 2-1-1-7 Frontier, apartment 305, cross street Guava…time out...9:17…,”

The two Paramedics reached for their helmets and flipped on the sirens… Arriving at the scene and pulling the OB kit from the compartment, they headed inside…

They knocked on the door but no one answered. “Fire Department…,” Roy yelled as he knocked again. He tried the door and it opened easily…a low moan could be heard from the other room. “C’mon Johnny,” he said as he pushed it open further and stepped inside, the younger man followed.

They found the woman sitting on the floor of her living room… She groaned softly as she glanced up at the two firemen… “I think I’m in labor…,” she whispered.

“I’d say so…,” Johnny said lightly as he set the OB kit down.

Roy quickly moved to lay the woman down, while John set up the Biophone… “Rampart Base this is Rescue 51, how do you read me?”

“Go ahead 51…,” Joe Early’s voice responded.

“We have a pregnant woman approximately twenty five she’s…,” He looked at the woman… “How far along are you?”

“Eight months…”

“Eight months Rampart…”

Roy had finished spreading a sheet over her and was checking for cervix dilation…he glanced up at his partner…”8 centimeters…,” he told him… “I’ll get her BP and pulse…”

Johnny nodded… “She’s 8 centimeters dilated Rampart…her pulse is…”

“80…respirations 24…,” Roy informed him as he wrapped the BP cuff around her arm.

John wrote the numbers down and waited as Roy finished… “130/90…”

John repeated the vitals to Rampart. “Is this your first…,” he questioned softly…

“No…second”

“Patient is not primigravida Rampart.”

“Is the ambulance there 51…?”

“Affirmative...,” Johnny replied as he heard the sound of a stretcher being pulled into the apartment.

“Transport as soon as possible…”

“10-4 Rampart…transporting…”

They loaded her onto the stretcher and headed out… Johnny climbed into the ambulance and Roy followed in the squad.

Several minutes later the woman let out a moan of pain… “I think the baby’s coming…,” she informed Johnny…

He called Rampart… “Rampart, this is rescue 51…”

“Go ahead 51…”

“Rampart…my patient is delivering …I don’t think we’re gonna make it in time…”

“10-4 51, we’ll stand by and we’ll have treatment two ready when you get here…”

“10-4 Rampart…”

Roy backed the squad into the parking space next to the ambulance…the sound of an infant’s wail brought a smile to his lips as the doors opened and Johnny stepped down carrying a blanket wrapped bundle and grinning from ear to ear as he threw a wink at his partner. The attendants pulled the gurney from the back and wheeled the woman inside.

Roy headed for the base station to pour coffee while he waited for his partner...Johnny joined him a few minutes later… “So what did she have…?”

“A girl…she’s beautiful Roy…,”

“Yeah…? That’s what you say about all the girls Junior…”

“This one’s special…She smiled at me…,” he argued insistently.

Yeah…they all smile at you too.”

“Hey can I help it if women find me irresistible…?” Johnny teased.

Roy shook his head in annoyance…he’d seen that for himself, too bad he couldn’t hang onto any of them. He grabbed his partner’s sleeve “Let’s go home Junior…,” he said with a sigh.

Three days later after an extremely busy shift, the two Paramedics were changing into street clothes before heading for home. “Hey Johnny…”

“Yeah…?”

I forgot to tell you. I had a long talk with Joanne about…what we talked about…,”He hedged, glancing around to be sure no one was listening.

“And…?”

“And I thought she’d take my head off but she just kinda half smiled and agreed with me…said she’d tell me about it later, when she’s ready.”

“Far out…,” Johnny grinned, “She’s a smart lady…,” he added with a grin.

“As a matter of fact…,” Roy continued, “She thinks you’re right and she needs some time to herself to get her head together. Her sister’s got the kids for a couple of weeks so she’s gonna stay with her Parents in San Diego but she’d like you to come for dinner tonight.”

“Joanne’s cookin…?” Johnny said excitedly, “Yeah I’ll be there…what time?”

Roy laughed…, “5:00 okay?” An eager nod answered him. “Partner…we’ve got to get you a wife.”

Johnny’s lip curled, “What for…?”

“Who’d have him?” Chet Kelly interrupted coming into the locker room.

“Shut up Chet,” Roy and Johnny said in unison.

“That’s gettin scary…It’s like living in a stereo with you two lately,” Chet said lookin between the two of them.

“What is…?” Mike Stoker asked, coming into the room.

“Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dummer here,” Chet replied.

John shot Chet an annoyed look but Roy just laughed. “Easy for you to laugh…,” Johnny grumbled, “You’re the one he called Tweedle Dee.”

“What’s up…?” Marco Lopez asked as he entered the locker room.

“Roy’s scarin me man…,” Chet replied with wide eyes, “He’s startin to sound like Gage…they’re even answerin in stereo.”

“Go play on the hose rack Chet,” Johnny snapped. The younger man turned back to his Partner…

“That’s 5:00 right…?” they said to each other simultaneously.

“That’s just creepy,” Chet muttered. Mike and Marco just laughed.

Johnny showed up right on time and the three enjoyed a quiet meal together. Afterwards John began to help clear the table.

“I’m putting on a pot of coffee to go with dessert. Uh…Roy, it’s a little chilly tonight…could you go up and find my green sweater?” Jo asked.

“Sure Honey.” Roy headed upstairs.

Joanne waited for him to get out of sight and then leaned around the doorway to the kitchen where Johnny was rinsing the dishes and stacking them in the dishwasher. She grabbed the startled young man’s hand and pulled him out the back door to the deck.

Johnny looked confused, “Jo…uh…what’re you doin?” He asked wiping his hands on his jeans.

“Johnny, I need your help and I don’t have much time to explain.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“Jo…what’s wrong…?” Johnny asked worriedly.

“Johnny…I saw the Doctor a couple of weeks ago…he found something and…he said…I may need to have surgery…I have to see another Doctor tomorrow…an oncologist…Johnny …I’m so scared.”

“Geez Joanne I’m so sorry….does Roy know?”

“No…and you can’t tell him Johnny…promise me…,” She begged gripping the young man’s arm in a desperate hold...

“Okay Jo…,” he agreed reassuringly. “But what can I do?”

Jo glanced inside to be sure Roy was nowhere in sight before she continued. She’d hidden the sweater at the back of the closet earlier to keep him away for a while.

“I have to see the Doctor tomorrow…Johnny, I don’t want to go alone…,” He looked at her curiously. “I want you to go with me.”

“Geez Jo…It should be Roy…you need to…”

“No…,” she gasped out desperately… “Please Johnny, I can’t tell him…not yet… It would kill him. I have to know what they found out and what they need to do first but I need someone…,” She wept quietly.

“Okay Jo…I… I’ll go…You know I’d do anything for you.”

She threw her arms around the young man and John embraced her tightly, patting her back reassuringly as her head rested on his chest.”

“Jo…Roy’s my best friend…he trusts me…I don’t know that I can keep this from him…I really think we should tell him…”

She took his face between her hands and looked earnestly at him…“No Johnny…promise me please…It’d kill him…I’ll tell him…when I’m ready…when I know what my options are,” she pleaded again.

John looked down in resignation… “Okay Jo.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow when I can and tell you where to meet me.” Johnny nodded in agreement.

Roy came back downstairs, Joanne’s sweater over his arm. He didn’t see Johnny or Jo anywhere. Roy came into the kitchen and glanced around and finally headed back to the dining room. A motion from the deck caught his eye and he turned his head in time to see his wife throw herself into his Partners arms. Johnny wrapped her in a tight embrace. He could barely hear the words…

“Jo…Roy’s my best friend…He trusts me…I don’t know that I can keep this from him…I really think we should tell him…”

She took his face between her hands and looked earnestly at him… “No Johnny…promise me…It’d kill him…I’ll tell him…when I’m ready…when I know what my options are,” she pleaded again.

John looked down in resignation… “Okay Jo.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow when I can and tell you where to meet me.” Johnny nodded in agreement.

Roy turned abruptly and headed back to the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee. Jealousy flared in the pit of his stomach. What the hell had he just seen? It couldn’t be what he thought it was…Jo and Johnny would never do that…would they…?

Joanne opened the slider and stepped inside. She turned back briefly and whispered “I’ll call you tomorrow…don’t forget.”

“Okay…,” He heard John reply.

She turned back as she entered the dining room…stopping abruptly when she saw Roy standing in the kitchen. John almost plowed into her back.

“Hi honey…,” She said brightly.

“I was wondering where you two went…?” Roy said quietly. Jo breathed a sigh of relief that Roy didn’t appear to have heard their conversation.

“I just wanted to show Johnny the new deck furniture you picked up the other day.” Her eyes flicked to John…He picked up on her look.

“Uh…oh… yeah Partner…great choice…,” He nodded animatedly… Johnny knew he’d never be able to lie to Roy and decided that a hasty retreat might be in order…“Ah look it’s getting late and I gotta go. Uh…thanks for dinner…Roy, Joanne.”

Roy was watching him with an odd expression as the younger man headed for the door. “Let me see ya out…Partner.”

“Uh sure Roy…Night Jo…thanks again, that was a great dinner.”

The older man turned back to his wife in time to see the sad smile she threw at John… “Anytime sweetheart…”

Roy and Johnny went to the door. “See you Monday,” John said in farewell.

“Yeah…uh hey…I’m glad you liked the furniture…,”Roy said stiffly.

John looked at him blankly… “Furniture…?” He asked before the dawning came to him… “Oh yeah…great furniture…,” He said backing out the door. “Uh…see ya.”

Roy lay awake long after Joanne had dropped off. He loved his wife and they’d known each other since grade school. He knew she was the only woman in the world for him and he had been sure she felt the same way…, at least that’s what she’d always told him.

I trust my wife, I’m imagining things. Johnny wouldn’t do that to me either. I’m being stupid here, he told himself. But what was all that out on the patio. He finally drifted off to a troubled sleep.

Roy woke early the next morning. He had pushed those wayward thoughts from his mind deciding he’d over reacted to a simple hug from friend to friend. Now he had some errands to run before she headed off to her Mom’s for two weeks. “Joanne…,” he yelled up the stairs.

“Yeah Honey…?”

“I gotta run out for a few minutes…don’t leave until I get back okay?”

“Sure Honey.”

Roy grabbed his keys from the counter and headed out the door.

Joanne heard the front door close and snatched up the phone, quickly dialing John’s number. “Johnny… its Joanne…”

“Did he go out?”

“Yes he just went out. Now the Doctor’s office is that big gray building on Wilmington…You know the one I mean…?”

“Yeah I know it.”

“Look…I hate to impose on you sweetheart but I have another favor to ask…”

“What’s that Jo?”

“I know I’ve been just awful to Roy the last couple of weeks and I want to make it up to him. I don’t know how all of this is gonna turn out today but our anniversary is in two weeks and I want to surprise him. This has to be special no matter how today goes.”

“Okay…”

I want to rent a Suite at the Marriot for that weekend…I’m sending out the invitations while I’m at my Mom’s recuperating. It’ll give me something to do while I’m there,” she said ruefully.

“Okay…,”he agreed.

“Can you go with me to the hotel after my appointment? I need to go over the arrangements and if you could maybe go over on Friday and put up the decorations? I’d do it myself but I won’t be back in town until Saturday and I don’t think the Doctor will release me any sooner…”

“Joanne…,” Johnny interrupted, “You don’t have to sell me and you know I’d do anything for you guys.”

“Okay Sweetheart…If you could make a banner for me and put it up…?”

“Sure, what should it say…?”

“Well Roy and I have always said that we knew when we met we were meant to be together so it should read…”

Roy came in through the Garage door and tossed his keys onto the counter. He hadn’t even made it out of the driveway. “Damn temperamental car…,” He muttered as he went looking for Joanne’s car keys. Roy started up the stairs. As he got closer to the bedroom door he could hear Joanne talking to someone. He knew it wasn’t the kids, they were with Eileen. Then he realized she was on the phone. He thought back to the conversation he’d overheard last night. ‘I’ll call you tomorrow, don’t forget…’ She’d said.

Roy stopped at the door to listen curiously. “I knew you were the one for me from the moment we met…” Roy’s mouth dropped open in shock…Those were the same words they’d always used with each other. “I know that’s a lot but I know you can handle it sweetheart,” she teased, with a small laugh. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Roy turned away sick at heart. How could they do this to him…? “I’ll meet you at his office on Wilmington and then we’ll go to the hotel. Meet me at 10:00…Roy thinks I’m heading straight to my Mom’s so he won’t suspect a thing. Johnny…sweetheart…I love you.”

His temper began to rise. He had to get away…he needed to think...this couldn’t be what he thought. He grabbed Jo’s keys from her purse on the small table outside their door and headed down the stairs at a run.

Roy was livid…he drove for over an hour trying to decide what to do…he finally calmed enough to think rationally… It couldn’t be what he thought…it had to be a mistake but he wanted to be sure. He’d stopped at the auto parts store and picked up a battery for his car and headed for home. He’d just finished installing it when Joanne came into the garage.

“I’m ready to go Honey, can you grab my suitcase?”

“Sure…,” he replied tightly as he went inside. He came back outside a minute later and loaded the case in the back of Joanne’s station wagon.

“I think that’s everything…,”Joanne said looking at her watch… “I’ve got to run Honey…I’ll see you in two weeks.” She kissed him goodbye and then looked at him curiously at the coolness of his kiss. If Johnny wasn’t waiting for her she would have stopped to ask what was wrong. Probably just that she’d be gone for two weeks with her parents who were not his biggest fans. She hoped she could make it up to him when she came home…that is if all went well today.

She climbed into the car and threw him a kiss as she backed down the driveway. Roy waited for her to turn the corner before he jumped into his own car and began to follow. Roy pulled into the parking lot in time to see Joanne step into John’s quick embrace. Their eyes met briefly and John spoke to her quietly before he took her hand and turned and went inside.

John waited on the sidewalk of the office building pacing nervously. He saw the gray station wagon pull into the parking lot. He stood waiting as Joanne crossed the parking lot to join him. She hugged him quickly before stepping back… his eyes met hers. “Are you ready?” She nodded as he took her hand reassuringly and went inside.

Roy climbed from his car and wandered to the lobby. He stood watching the elevator lights as they climbed upwards stopping on the third floor. Roy walked to the directory on the wall…The third floor had a dentist…a podiatrist…three Lawyers…one for Business law and two for divorce. The last office was an oncologist. Roy shook his head…the only thing that made sense was the divorce lawyer. Roy’s heart sank…she was leaving him…leaving him for Johnny. He was numb…how could they do this to him…He’d befriended that kid…taken him in as part of the family…loved him like… he killed the thought as quickly as it came…and Joanne…God he’d given her his heart and soul. Roy sat in his car as tears came and behind them…a blinding rage.

“Joanne...,” The Doctor greeted…

“Doctor…um this is a friend of mine…John Gage.”

“Mr. Gage…” John nodded in greeting as the Doctor escorted them into his office. “Joanne let’s get right to this shall we?” He suggested. She squeezed John’s hand and nodded. The Doctor smiled…, “Joanne, the good news is that the tests came back negative.”

“It’s not cancer?” She whispered.

He shook his head… “No,” he said with a reassuring smile.

She threw her arms around Johnny, hugging him tightly in relief. John embraced her in return grinning broadly. “Okay then…,” She finally said pulling away from John… “What’s next?”

“The bad news…,” The Doctor said…she bit her lip. “It’s still a tumor and it has to be removed or you’ll be in for some serious pain down the road.” She nodded. “I understand you wanted this taken care of in San Diego where your Parents are?”

“Yes, I don’t want my Husband to worry about this. He’d feel he needed to take time from work to stay home with me and I don’t want him to have to do that.”

“Okay…,” He said looking curiously at John.

“He’s my husband’s Partner and best friend. He’s kind of like a brother to me as well,” she explained with a grin.

The Doctor nodded. “Good, you should have a friend to look to.” She winked at Johnny. “Now as it happens I have a good friend in San Diego. He’s ready to do the surgery day after tomorrow, if that’s okay?” She nodded.

“I’m going there today.”

“Good...” he said writing the name and address of the other Doctor down. “I’ll make the arrangements you just call him when you get there this afternoon and I’ll have my nurse make the appointment for you. It could take up to a week or more to really feel well after…can you stay with your Parents that long?”

She nodded. “And then I’m gonna throw an Anniversary party he’ll never forget…that won’t be a problem will it?”

The Doctor laughed in understanding as he reached out to shake her hand. “No it shouldn’t be as long as you’re careful… good luck tomorrow…Your regular physician will be handling the follow up so I won’t see you again…I hope.” She laughed as she pulled Johnny from the office by the hand.

Roy sat watching the door…His blue eyes burning with anger until Joanne and John finally came out.

Joanne was almost dancing with excitement as she threw her arms around Johnny holding his smiling face between her hands and planting an exuberant kiss on his lips. John laughed and hugged her tightly. She pulled back… “Follow me to the Hotel…I have a party to plan.” He nodded as they parted to go to their own cars.

Roy’s blue eyes turned an icy blue as he started the engine and followed behind as they pulled out. Joanne drove into the parking lot of a Marriot hotel a few minutes later with Johnny close behind. Roy parked on the street watching as they met at the door. She grabbed his hand excitedly. Roy’s teeth clenched in rage as he watched his Partner put his arm around Joanne and enter the Hotel.

Roy’s fists clenched in fury. He desperately wanted to hit something…or someone. He got out of the car and entered the lobby just in time to see Johnny and Joanne step onto the elevator with two other people…Hotel employees from the way they were dressed. Roy went back to the car to wait. He closed his eyes as a dull ache began to form in his chest. He could almost see Joanne lying naked in Johnny’s arms, their mouths locked together in a passionate kiss. The rage began to build.

 

 

“Don’t you think you should let Roy know now?” Johnny asked.

“No…I don’t want him to worry… I’ll tell him at the party.”

“He’s gonna be upset…with both of us.”

“Yes, but I’ll see to it that he doesn’t stay that way,” She said with a grin.

“Does he suspect anything….?”

She shook her head… “Not a thing…he was working on his car when I left this morning… he thinks I went straight to my Parents.”

He nodded as they left the elevator to follow the two Hotel employees to the suite. They opened the door and went inside.

An hour later, Roy watched Johnny and Joanne come out of the hotel. They stood talking for a couple of minutes and then John kissed Joanne’s cheek as she got in her car and drove away. Johnny smiled as he headed for his camper.

Johnny drove straight home, in his pocket was the list of items Joanne wanted him to pick up. They’d spent over an hour with the hotel activities director going over food and drinks for the party. Johnny was to pick up the key on the Friday before to decorate and get the tables set up. The Hotel staff would see to the food and drinks just before the party was to begin.

Roy sat for a long while in the hotel parking lot before he calmed enough to drive. He was still furious and hurt. How long had this been going on right under his nose…Johnny was right, he laughed bitterly…women found him irresistible, apparently even his own wife…he thought of the many times he’d seen Joanne run her fingers through John’s hair while he’d been ill…fluffing his pillows…waiting on him hand and foot…calling him sweetheart…What he’d stupidly thought of at the time as mothering him…

He shook his head at himself in anger…He’d helped that kid through some really tough times, even held him in his arms as Johnny wept through the remembrances of his abusive past…how could he betray him like this? Man…the kid had played him like a fish…He felt like a fool. There was no way he could work with him day after day knowing his beloved Joanne would be lying in John’s arms at night… God…even his kids would be raised by this liar and cheat… He knew he’d never be able to look at his partner again without wanting to kill him. Roy started the engine…he’d take care of this right now…

John had been relaxing in his apartment for about a half hour when there was a knock at his door. Johnny opened it to find his Partner standing on his doorstep. “Roy…? Come on in…” He stepped back out of the way so his friend could enter. Johnny saw the angry look on Roy’s face and wondered what was up. He didn’t have long to wait. He closed the door and turned to face his friend.

Roy moved so fast, Johnny never saw the fist coming. One minute he was on his feet and the next he was seeing stars as Roy’s fist connected with his cheek. Johnny’s head snapped back to thud heavily against the wall behind him. His head began to swim and his knees buckled…the younger man slid down the wall to the floor.

John’s hand flew to his cheek as he desperately tried to blink the cobwebs from his brain. He looked up at his friend in shock. “What the hell was that for…?” Johnny ground out painfully.

“I trusted you…,” Roy shouted angrily, “How could you do this to me?”

“Do what…? What did I do..?” John stuttered out.

“You betrayed me…,” Johnny stared at him dumbfounded shock, unable to figure out what Roy was so angry about. The older man reached down and grabbed John by the shirt and hauled him to his feet. He shook the younger man like a rag doll. “You stay away from me, do you hear me? Me and MY family... Roy slammed Johnny back against the wall, driving the air from his lungs. John gasped, trying to catch his breath. It was short lived as Roy’s fist struck again, driving into John’s stomach. The younger man wheezed, trying desperately to breathe as another blow wheeled his head around to the right.

Roy finally threw him to the floor…Johnny landed in a heap on his left shoulder… he felt a burning sensation rip through him. Tears of pain sprang to his eyes as he lay on the cold tiles in breathless agony, desperately trying to figure out what had happened. Roy was his best friend, why was he doing this? “What did I do wrong?” He whispered in confusion.

John looked up at Roy with such a stricken look that the older man would have caved under different circumstances. The thought flickered through his mind…what if I’m wrong? You’ll have ripped his heart out for nothing. Roy shook away the thought, he knew what he’d seen and he knew what he’d heard.

“You’ve ruined my life Gage…I let you into my family, my life…I helped you, cared about you and this is how you repay me?” John’s vision swam and he was having a hard time comprehending Roy’s words… “Stay away from me,” Roy growled out. He started to leave but turned back for a parting shot… “I hope you have the decency to put in for a transfer but I doubt it so if you don’t I will. I don’t want to see your face again…ever.” Roy stormed out slamming the door behind him.

Johnny slowly pulled himself into an upright position, his left arm was numb, his cheek was throbbing and his head was pounding from the impact with the wall. His back was starting to stiffen and his stomach cramped painfully and there was a coppery taste of blood in his mouth…the emotional pain of what had just happened caught up with the physical… “Roy…,” he choked out, “Why…?” Then his vision faded to black.

Johnny regained consciousness a couple of hours later but by then he’d stiffened up so bad he could hardly move. He managed to draw his legs under him and using the wall for support, pushed himself to his feet. Johnny slowly made it to his couch, his muscles screamed in protest as he fell onto it... his foggy brain trying desperately to make some sense of what had happened. Joanne had told him that Roy was at home working on his car and suspected nothing, so his totally innocent encounter with her never crossed his mind.

He’d never seen Roy that mad but then he’d only known the man for a short time. Johnny had thought they’d grown close. He’d trusted him…opened his life up to that man, told him things he’d never shared with anyone else. Tears welled in his eyes. He’d lost the best friend he’d ever had and the worst part was he didn’t know why.

One thing was sure… Roy had made it clear he didn’t want to work with him anymore. Swallowing back his grief, John picked up the phone and made a call that would take him away from the closest thing he’d had to a family since he was a child.

Chief Houts called Captain Hammer at home. “Dick, we have a little situation.”

“What’s wrong?” Cap asked.

“I just received a phone call from one of your Paramedics… John Gage. “

“My Junior member of the team,” Dick stated.

“Right…well he’s requested a transfer…”

“WHAT…?” Dick shouted down the line, “Um…sorry sir.”

“Understandable under the circumstances... Dick, I really don’t want to break up the best Paramedic team we have but I can’t deny his request. I did stall him a bit though... I told him he had to talk to you.”

“Did he say why?”

“No, just that it was for personal reasons. Do you think you could go to his apartment? Talk to him?”

“Yes sir, I can do that. Did he mention Roy? Does he know?”

“He didn’t mention his Partner but Dick, if you can’t change his mind I’m going to grant his transfer on a temporary basis.”

“Temporary…?” Dick asked.

“Yes…I’m hoping whatever brought this on can be resolved. In the meantime the only place open right now is Station 88.”

Dick groaned. “That’s a pretty rough group Chief. It’s also where Brad Kimmerlin works out of. Gage had a run in with him several times before.”

“I know, and I hate sending a kid as young and competent as Gage into that Station but there’s no other opening for a Paramedic and I can’t waste that training or talent. However, I will give him time to change his mind before I make it permanent.

Dick let out a worried sigh, “I’ll see what I can do chief.”

Captain Hammer got ready to leave. He told his wife Amanda where he was going and why.

“Don’t let him go there Dick. You’ve talked about that station before. A sensitive kid like Johnny will be eaten alive there, besides isn’t that where that man you suspected of trying to kill John last Christmas was working?” She said concerned for the safety of the youngest member of her husband’s crew.

He nodded, “Brad Kimmerlin…yeah it is, but all I can do is talk to him. If he won’t change his mind…,” he shrugged, “There’s nothing I can do except get Roy to try and talk to him.”

Captain Hammer knocked on Johnny’s door. “It’s open…,” a muffled reply answered.

Dick walked into the darkened apartment… “Johnny?”

“In here…,” came the soft reply.

Dick reached for the lamp. “Leave it off Cap.”

“Okay John,” he replied sitting down in the arm chair. “Um…John, the Chief called.”

“Yeah…?”

“Yeah…he …ahh said you requested a transfer?”

“Yeah…I… it’s… I guess it’s time to move on. I…ah don’t stay long in one place.” There was a slight hitch in John’s voice…pain or something else.

“Look John, does Roy know about this…?” Cap asked as he squinted into the dimness trying to see the younger man.

Again that slight choked sound… “He knows…,” he whispered.

“Alright, enough of this…,” Cap muttered, as he reached up and flipped the table lamp on.

John froze like a deer in the headlights, and then quickly turned his face away.

“God… John…,” Dick snapped coming up out of the arm chair and moving to the young man’s side. John lay on the couch cradling his left arm. The left side of his face was a purple and black bruise. Cap reached for Johnny, gripping his chin to try and turn his face toward him. John flinched, resisting the effort. “Johnny, look at me kid.” Johnny continued to stare at the wall until Cap’s voice took on a sterner tone.

“Gage, I’m still your Captain, now look at me.”

Johnny reluctantly turned his face toward his Captain. “Did Roy see this…?” The young man’s eyes flicked away. Dawning finally came to Cap, “My God John, did Roy do this to you?” Johnny’s mouth settled in a tight grimace as his eyes closed. “Why…?”

“Question of the day Cap…If I knew, I’d tell you. Last night I had dinner with Roy and Joanne and everything seemed fine when I left and then today…,” he trailed off gesturing to his face. “He suggested that I transfer…said I’d betrayed him somehow and that he never wanted to see my face again. The Chief mentioned 88’s… they work mostly out of Harbor General so I won’t see Roy much.” His voice caught painfully on the last words.

“John, Brad Kimmerlin…,” John shrugged indifferently.

“It’s okay Cap…It doesn’t really matter anymore I guess.”

“Doesn’t matter…?” Cap said in disbelief… “Look John, I don’t know what’s goin on but I’m sure gonna try and find out.”

Johnny shook his head…“Don’t worry Cap…see you gotta remember I’ve been a loner pretty much all my life…,” Johnny’s mouth trembled slightly before he regained control. “I know when I’ve stayed somewhere too long. I don’t need anyone and Roy doesn’t want me around.”

“You make it sound like you want this?”

“I should have known not to get too comfortable Cap. I let my guard down and let someone get too close. I won’t let it happen again…really… I’ll be fine.”

Cap’s heart ached at this slight insight to Johnny’s lonely youth. Dick rested a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “Will you let me take you to Rampart?” He asked softly.

John shook his head. “Nothing’s broken or anything. They can’t do anything for me that I’m not doin right here,” he gestured to the Ice pack and the bottle of aspirin on the end table. “I just need to sleep Cap. My shift is off tomorrow so I won’t start work at 88’s until Tuesday.”

“Johnny, they’re a pretty rough crew, you gonna be okay?”

“I’ll be fine Cap. I don’t need to be friends with them to work with em. As a matter of fact it’s better if I don’t.” Dick knew Roy had worked so hard to draw this kid out and get him to open up with him. Cap could see Johnny was shutting down emotionally…He’d never trust anyone again. Dick had to talk to Roy. He was the only one who could reach this kid. The only one who could undo what had been done.

 

“Okay Johnny, I’ll let you rest.” Dick stood to leave. This wasn’t over by a long shot. He’d get this young man back to his crew one way or another. “We’ll miss ya John…”

“Thanks Cap…um…tell the guy’s I’ll miss em would ya Cap?”

“I’ll do that John.” Cap closed the door behind him as he left.

Johnny struggled to rise from the couch. A cry of pain escaped his lips as strained muscles and pulled ligaments protested his movement. Muscles cramped and seized. Johnny choked out a sob. He carefully picked up the aspirin bottle and popped three pills. This better clear up in thirty six hours or he wouldn’t be starting at 88’s after all.


Roy DeSoto arrived at work the following Morning. He quickly changed his clothes trying not to look at Johnny’s locker. He was still furious with his Partner… he could only hope John had requested a transfer. Roy didn’t think he could bear to look at him but even so he found himself almost missing the boisterous, younger man already. He mentally kicked himself for it.

Chet and Marco came in discussing a TV show they’d watched last night.

“Hey Roy…,” Chet greeted

“Mornin Roy…”

“Where’s Gage this mornin?”

Roy slammed his locker closed. “Who cares…?” Roy muttered. He almost bowled Mike over as he left the locker room, leaving his three friends in open mouthed shock. They looked at each other.

“What was that all about?” Mike asked. The others shrugged.

“ROLL CALL…,” Cap yelled.

The three Firemen scrambled to finish getting dressed.

As they lined up in the apparatus bay they saw Cap approach with a tall, young, blonde man at his side.

“This is Mark Blake…,” Dick hesitated and then forged ahead, “Roy’s new Partner.” Captain Hammer saw three sets of mouths drop open in shock.

“Uh…Cap, you meant for this shift…right? I mean Gage just called in sick or something?”

Hammer sighed… “No Chet…look,” he said raising his hand to forestall any further questions. “There’s going to be a meeting in the rec room in fifteen minutes. Take Blake in and show him the coffee pot. DeSoto…my office...” Seeing Roy’s annoyed look, he added… “NOW.”

“I saw John last night,” Cap said after Roy had settled in a chair.

“Yeah…?”

“You did quite a number on him…he was hurtin pretty bad.” Cap didn’t explain that the worst of his pain was emotional. “Care to elaborate?”

Roy felt the familiar flicker of concern for Johnny but quickly pushed it aside. “He didn’t tell you?”

“No…”

Roy shrugged, “It’s personal.”

“Roy,” Dick began…

“Cap, you don’t understand and I won’t tell you anymore than that he betrayed my trust. He may have destroyed my family. I can’t let that go.”

“Okay Roy, I can’t force you to tell me anything but John doesn’t seem to know what you’re angry about. He doesn’t know what he did wrong.”

“He knows…,” Roy said angrily.

“You know John’s not a good liar, so unless he’s become one helluva an actor…he’s telling the truth…and I believed him. He was confused and heartsick over this.” Roy’s arms crossed stubbornly over his chest…the vision of Joanne in John’s arms flashed before his eyes as Cap continued. “What was worse is that he was…,” Cap hesitated trying to come up with a good analogy… “Like he was when he first got here.”

Roy knew what he was implying. When Johnny had started here eight months ago, it was only a week after Station 51 had been incorporated into the county. John was silent, withdrawn and insecure. Roy had befriended him, taking the younger man under his wing and becoming the protective big brother in their relationship.

The men of 51 had watched the change over the months. He’d become more comfortable and less rigid. As he and Roy had bonded, Johnny had opened himself up to his new friend, perhaps the first close friend he’d ever had. He’d seemed to grow more confident, open and eager. He talked incessantly and Cap suspected he was making up for lost time. They’d become the best Paramedic team out there… a team that others pointed out and envied. They seemed to know what the other would need before it was asked for, almost sensing when the other was near and what they were thinking.

Roy shrugged… “He should have thought of that before he did…what he did.”

Cap looked hard at Roy… his lip’s compressed into a thin line. “Okay Roy…I’ll let it alone.” Roy started to rise but Dick stopped him with a gesture. “But I know John Gage would die before he’d willingly hurt you or your family…think about that.”

Roy got up and headed for the door. That voice was back in his head… ‘What if you’re wrong?’ He shook his head to clear the thought.

“Oh…,” Cap called as Roy reached the door… “I know you don’t care but I thought I’d let you know anyway…Johnny’s been transferred to Station 88…B shift.”

Roy whirled around and the fear in his eyes was evident. “You let him go to those animals? Kimmerlin…?” He blurted out before catching himself.

“Only Paramedic opening available and the Chief didn’t want to waste that training.”

Roy gritted his teeth…God they’d eat Johnny alive there but then…why should he care…the kid deserved it…“Good thinking…,” was all he said. He turned and left.

Cap intertwined his fingers and cracked his knuckles. A grin danced around his lips. He’d seen the fear in Roy’s eyes and the worry on his face. He was angry with the younger man, furiously so…but his feelings for Johnny were plainly still there.

Mark Blake sat uncomfortably at the table in the Rec room sipping his coffee while three sets of eyes bored a hole in his back.

“What are you all staring at…?” He finally snapped, spinning around to look at the others.

“You got any idea what’s goin on here Blake?” Chet asked.

“No…they just told me to report to Station 51…So here I am.”

Roy walked into the room and headed for the coffee pot ending the conversation. Those same eyes watched him carefully.

“Roy, where’s Johnny?” Mike asked.

“Home I guess.”

You mean you don’t know?” Marco asked.

“I’m not his Mother guys, I don’t keep tabs on him and I don’t want to talk about him.”

“I don’t believe you,” Chet snapped. “He’s like an extension of you…how can you not care that he’s gone?”

“Leave it alone Kelly,” Roy ground out.

“But…”

“Chet…,” Dick said softly from the doorway.

“Cap…?”

“I’ll explain in a minute,” Dick said. “Why don’t you all get some coffee and have a seat.” They all sat quickly.

“I spoke to John yesterday and this transfer was his request,” Cap told them.

“Why…?”

“I’m getting to that Chet. He said it was for personal reasons and that it was time to move on…” For Roy’s benefit he added. “He said he’s been a loner all his life and he’d made a mistake by getting too comfortable in one place. That’s all I can tell you guys.”

“Cap...where’d he transfer to…?” Marco asked quietly.

“Station 88…,” Cap said watching Roy out of the corner of his eye.

“Madre de Dios…,” Marco whispered.

“What…?” Mike shouted.

“Geez Cap, that bunch will take him apart.”

“I know,” Cap replied.

All eyes turned to Roy in disbelief that he seemed unconcerned. They didn’t know his stomach was in knots.

Cap stood up… “Oh by the way…John said to tell all of you that he’d miss you.”

Roy took Mark out to the squad. They ran the radio check and the EKG Calibration. He showed him where everything was stowed and the drug box.

“So DeSoto, am I gonna have them staring daggers at me forever or are they gonna get over losing this other guy…Johnny?”

“They’ll get over it…eventually.” He didn’t add ‘but I won’t.’ “C’mon, I’ll show you the locker room.”

Chet was already there when they arrived. He had a box and was cleaning out Johnny’s locker.

“What’re you doin Chet?”

“I didn’t want some stranger…,” he looked pointedly at Roy, doin this for Johnny. I thought it should be one of his friends who got his stuff for him.”

“Leave it alone Kelly, you have no idea what’s goin on here.”

“Enlighten me then, cuz the best friend you’ll ever have just transferred to a snake pit and you don’t even care.”

“It’s personal…”

“Personal…?” Chet said snidely, “Well I PERSONALLY liked having Johnny around… it’s a shame that the one person in his life that he’d die for doesn’t feel that way.” Chet grabbed the box with Johnny’s stuff in it and stalked out.

Johnny had spent most of Sunday soaking in a tub of hot water trying to loosen stiff muscles. By Monday most of his back pain had faded, though the purplish bruising was still evident. He had a persistent headache and throbbing from where his head had impacted the wall but he could deal with that. His shoulder still ached if he strained it too much.

Tuesday, he arrived at Station 88 early and searched out his new Captain, knocking tentatively on the office door. Captain Don Brannon looked up… “Come in, come in…,” He said waving the younger man into the office.

He looked closely at the bruising on Johnny’s face. That was just what he needed, another trouble maker but at least a talented one. He knew this young man’s reputation and had been thrilled to get him. He just hoped the others would leave him alone or at the least the bruising meant he was as rough and tumble as the other members of his crew and he’d fit right in and stick around.

“Gage isn’t it?” He asked searching out the transfer orders.

“Yes Sir, John Gage…,” he said offering his hand to Brannon. He shook it.

“Have a seat Gage… we’re not real formal around here.” Johnny sat. “You were in the second graduating class for Paramedics correct?”

“Yes Sir, the first out of Rampart. I was trained by Kelly Brackett.”

“First in your class as well…?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Excellent… I’ve got a competent man here but you have a great reputation in the field. I’m hoping he can learn something from you.” John flushed at the compliment.

“It takes a great Partner to earn that reputation…,” he said softly.

“Well I hope you and your new Partner will be able to reach that stage. We’re pretty loose around here. It’s kind of a rough section of town, so I give them a little more leeway. Let me introduce you to em.”

Captain Brannon led Johnny out to the apparatus bay. Johnny noted the mud on the floor from the engines last run. The squad was coated in dust. “Captain Hammer would have a fit if he could see this,” He whispered to himself as he shook his head in disgust.

“Roll Call…,” Brannon hollered. Four men shuffled out of the locker room. One John recognized immediately... Brad Kimmerlin.

“What’s up Cap? Where’s Sullivan?” One asked as he spotted Johnny.

“Gone…,” the Captain answered. “He left after his last shift…transferred to Anaheim.”

Several of the men grinned smugly at each other. Johnny caught the look and shifted uneasily.

“This is his replacement…John Gage.”

John nodded at the men… “Morning,” he greeted making a point not to look at Kimmerlin.

“John, this mountain here is our Engineer…Ken Foster.” Mountain was accurate. The man was 6’4 and two hundred and ten pounds easily…. “And these are our two linemen…Dave Pierro and Brad Kimmerlin.”

Johnny nodded. “Kimmerlin and I trained together,” John informed them quietly.

“Good, good…so you know each other…It’s nice to have someone you know around…”

“Yeah Cap, we know each other…,”Kimmerlin said ominously. Both of these men easily topped 6’3 and a couple of hundred pounds…John suddenly felt very small.

“John, this is your new partner…Paramedic Scott Jackson.” Well at least Jackson was a fairly normal size.

“Nice to meet you,” John said politely.

The Captain continued. “John here is one of the best Paramedics in the field, so let’s make him wanna stay,” he emphasized.

Kimmerlin and Jackson had bristled at the compliment thrown out to Gage but just gave him a tight smile. “Well we’ll just see what we can do Cap…we wouldn’t want to lose one of the best now would we? Let me show you around Gage.” Jackson offered.

“Okay.”

“So Gage…what happened to your face?” He asked gesturing to John’s cheek as they walked.

“I…uh had a run in with a wall.”

“Looks more like someone didn’t like you much,” Jackson corrected with a smirk.

“Hmm…,” was his only answer.

Roy and Mark responded to their first call a couple of hours into their shift. It was a minor injury but one that still required transport to Rampart. Roy had chaffed at having to ask his Partner for every piece of equipment. Johnny had always known before he asked. They’d get used to each other eventually but Roy doubted he’d ever have that same rapport with anyone else. They got their victim ready for transport and loaded into the ambulance.

Roy arrived at Rampart with the patient following him into the treatment room. He came out a short time later to find Mark standing at the base station talking with Dixie. She glanced curiously at Roy as he walked up to join them.

“Mr. Blake here…”

“Call me Mark Ma’am.”

“Mark here tells me he’s your NEW Partner?”

Roy knew what was coming. “Here goes round three…,” He muttered to himself.

“Pardon…?” Dixie asked.

“Uh…yeah Dix... He…um started this morning.”

“Excuse us for a minute Mark…” Dixie said, smiling sweetly as she grabbed Roy’s arm and hauled him into an empty treatment room…dropping all pretense as she turned toward him. “Roy where’s Johnny?”

Roy clenched his jaw. He knew this was gonna get ugly. Dixie was incredibly fond of both of them but he knew Johnny was special to her. “He transferred.”

“Why?”

“We had a falling out…call it irreconcilable differences,” Roy shrugged.

“Irreconcilable for you or him…?”

“It was something personal Dix…can we just leave it at that?”

“You two have been a team…like brothers…bonded since the day you met. I can’t believe you can’t work this out.”

“Not after what he did.”

“I see…,” She said angrily, though she plainly didn’t.

“Why does everyone think I’m the bad guy and Johnny’s Mr. Innocent in all this?”

“Maybe because we know Johnny well enough to know he’d never do anything to risk your friendship. He’d never hurt you…EVER and if you believe he would, then you didn’t know him at all.” Dixie turned to leave… “Where did he go…?”

“Station 88…”

She whirled… “You’re joking.”

“Uh…no...”

“They teamed Johnny with Scott Jackson? Oh my God…,” Dixie’s face had paled.

Jackson? It was Jackson Dix was worried about not Kimmerlin…God what had they sent John into. “What?” Roy finally asked. “What’s wrong with Scott Jackson? I mean I know they’re a pretty tough group but…”

“He stays just this side of being kicked out of the Paramedic program. I’ve only met him a couple of times, but my Friend Karen over at Harbor General’s told me enough horror stories to last me a lifetime. Ever wondered why he can’t keep a partner? Now pair him with Brad Kimmerlin…,” she shook her head. “I hope you can live with yourself over what they’ll do to someone like Johnny.” She left him to stew on that for a while.

Kel came out of treatment room one in time to see Roy and Mark leave. “Johnny on vacation…?” He asked. Dixie sadly shook her head. “What’s wrong Dix…Is Johnny Okay?”

“For now, but for how long…?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hey you two…,” Joe Early said coming up to stand with them. “What’s with the long face Dix…?”

She looked between the two men. “Roy just told me John Gage transferred out of 51.”

They both looked stunned. “You’re kidding?” Kel said.

She shook her head…, “some kind of argument between him and Roy.”

“That’s awful. Is there any way to get him back?”

“Roy says no. He’s pretty angry at whatever Johnny did but he’s not talking.”

“I don’t like this. They’re the best team out there. The two best Paramedics we’ve ever trained.”

“I know…,” she said softly, “But it gets worse.”

“What’s that Dix?” Joe asked.

“He went to 88’s.”

They looked blank for a moment and then realization hit. “Jackson…,” Kel said in disgust.

“Kimmerlin…,” Joe added.

“Yeah…,” Dixie whispered.

“Johnny won’t stand a chance there. We’ve gotta find a way to get them to patch this up. We’ve gotta get Johnny out of there.”

Jackson took Johnny into the locker room to stow his gear and then to the dorm to show him his bunk. “Can I see the squad?” Johnny asked.

“Sure, we still have to do the morning radio check and calibration so let’s do that now.” He took Johnny to the squad. Gage ran his hand through the dust coating the gleaming red paint.

“When do we do the cleaning?” He asked glancing around.

Jackson laughed at him. It wasn’t a good natured sound. “You spying for the chief or what?”

John shook his head… “No…I just…”

“Don’t worry about it…we’ll get around to it eventually or C shift will handle it...” He told him…after all the other shifts wouldn’t want to annoy the brains of the station. Jackson flipped open the compartments and pulled out the equipment. Scott completed the radio check while John hooked up the EKG Monitor. Jackson handed him the Biophone.

“Harbor General…this is squad fifty…eighty eight …,” he corrected himself… “You ready for the morning Calibration?”

“10-4 88…,” and then after a moment had passed… “Looks good 88…”

“10-4 Harbor….”

John closed it up and pulled out the drug box, flipping it open. He looked inside and then up at Jackson. “Uh…how do you find anything in here?”

“Look Gage I know where everything is but if you wanna alphabetize the damn thing, knock yourself out,” Jackson snapped.

“Sorry man, I’m just used to a little organization…”

“You should be…,” Captain Brannon said coming up from behind them. “Learn from him Jackson, he’s one of the best.” He gave Gage a slap on the shoulder. Brannon missed the grimace of pain on John’s face but Jackson didn’t. He smiled tightly.

“Sure Cap, I’m takin it all in,” He assured the man.

The Station control unit began to sound…“Station 88, Engine 91, structure fire 4165 Carter, 4-1-6-5 Carter cross street Olivia…time out 10:03”

“KMG-371” Captain Brannon responded. He handed the slip of paper to Jackson and ran to the engine.

They arrived at the scene and Cap began calling out instructions. The rest geared up. It was a two story home, fully engulfed but the family was safely on the sidewalk so Johnny and Jackson weren’t needed in Paramedic capacity. They joined the hose crew.

They worked their way into the house, moving from room to room battling it back. Finally after two hours they had it mostly contained, but the house was a total loss. Johnny gave Pierro a nod as he turned to head back out. He passed by an open door and saw Foster and Jackson going through the remains of a badly burned jewelry box in what had been the bedroom. A look of surprise crossed Johnny’s features.

They glanced up and caught Johnny watching them. “Got a problem Gage?” Jackson snarled.

“What’re you doin?” he asked, shocked by what he was seeing.

“Just checkin out the goods…they’ll never miss em now.” He flung the unwanted extras on the floor, kicking the scattered pieces into the debris and smoldering ashes. Kimmerlin joined in until he’d crushed the box into tinder. They turned back to Gage. “See anything you like?”

John shook his head and started backing from the room in disgust... He felt something solid and thought he’d hit a wall. Johnny tried to step to his left where he thought the door was, but someone grabbed his arm and the ‘wall’ behind him suddenly snaked an arm around his neck in a chokehold. Someone had come up behind him and he realized it was Pierro who now had him around the throat.

Johnny struggled until Pierro jerked back cutting off his air supply. His head snapped back hard against Pierro’s shoulder, making his injured head spin. Johnny’s eyes widened in fear and his vision was beginning to dim around the edges. He choked…reaching up and trying desperately to pull the arm from around his neck. He finally threw himself backward, knocking the larger man off balance and slamming Pierro into the wall. The choke hold loosened slightly as the fireman tried to keep himself from falling.

Johnny gasped in a lungful of air as Kimmerlin finally moved to help his friend. Grasping a handful of shaggy, dark hair he yanked John from Pierro’s grip and shoved him to his knees. Snapping his head back until John was looking up at them. Pierro was furious at having been slammed into the wall by someone that much smaller than he was, he moved behind Gage and jerked his arms up behind him.

John’s already abused muscles burned and he grunted in pain. Outnumbered and out muscled the young paramedic stopped struggling, panting for air as he warily watched Jackson saunter closer. He leaned down until he was almost nose to nose with Johnny. John tried to turn his face away but Jackson gripped his chin painfully and yanked his head around.

“You’re gonna forget what you just saw here Gage, you got that? You just be that fool Brannon’s perfect little Paramedic and keep your mouth shut and we’ll get along just fine.” He drove his fist into Johnny’s mid section. John gagged, kept from doubling over by Kimmerlin and Pierro. Johnny was desperately trying to breathe. Opening and closing his eyes several times trying to clear his vision. “Otherwise you could meet with an unfortunate accident. We understand each other…Johnny?” He sneered. John nodded cautiously. Jackson gave him a grin and a not to gentle pat on his already bruised cheek.

They let him go, shoving him onto the filthy floor. Jackson stepped over him and walked out. John lay curled on the floor breathing painfully. He was in a dilemma. He knew he should report this despite the threat to his own safety… that didn’t matter to him at all anymore but the problem was, he had no proof. John decided to wait until he could figure out his best recourse. He pulled himself painfully to his feet and stumbled from the room.

Johnny and Roy both spent the most miserable week of their lives. Johnny spent the first three shifts at 88’s trying to avoid the rest of his crew mates who seemed to take great pleasure in ‘reminding’ the young Paramedic to keep what he knew to himself. Johnny was bruised and ached all over, worse his original injuries weren’t being given a chance to fully heal and fighting back was out of the question, besides they outnumbered him.

At home he found his nightmares had returned in full force and he was unable to sleep…The violence he was enduring bringing back the trauma he’d suffered through as a child…trauma that being with Roy and his new friends had all but eliminated. He’d always been told that the beatings were his own fault… a punishment for his bad behavior. He wasn’t sure what he’d done wrong then and he didn’t know now but he knew Roy was furious at him…whatever he’d done it must have been bad.

And now, just as it had been when he was a child… he found himself flinching warily at every movement… afraid to meet the eyes of his crewmates as they seemed to take it as a challenge to prove their power over the young Paramedic, bringing instant reprisal. To make it worse he was having small memory lapses, losing minutes at a time and he didn’t know why but he knew he’d suffered from them as a child. He hadn’t experienced one since he was sixteen…he’d thought they were gone for good.

God he missed his friends at 51…even Chet and his pranks were a far cry above what he was going through now…He missed Roy especially but he pushed the thought from his mind, slamming the old walls back into place…he didn’t need anyone…he’d be fine alone…he always had been…besides, he could never go back…Roy didn’t want him around.

 

Roy endured the unhappy looks and snide barbs of his crew mates. Even Dixie was being cool. Blake was a good partner but his skills weren’t up to Johnny’s level and he didn’t share the same rapport with Roy that had given them the edge he’d enjoyed with John. At home he was missing his wife and contemplating her return and the ugly scene that it would bring about.

Joanne had called twice since she left. She said she was enjoying her visit with her Mom and seemed happy to be coming home on Sunday but he thought she sounded tired. Roy wasn’t looking forward to her homecoming, knowing he’d have to confront the woman he’d loved his whole life. What baffled him was that she didn’t seem to know about what had happened between him and Gage. Why hadn’t she been in contact with Johnny? Doubts began to niggle at the back of his mind…God…what if he was wrong.

Early on Tuesday morning the Station Control Unit sounded…“Station 88…Battalion 14…station 36…, station 51 structure fire. 316 Fern Tower… 3-1-6 Fern Tower cross street Westwood… Time out …16:54,” Johnny struggled to his feet at the first tone. He heard the call for Station 51. He hoped it wasn’t Roy’s shift. He ran for the squad. Kimmerlin gave him a push, causing him to stumble and ram his shoulder into the door frame. Johnny grunted in pain but kept going.

They reached the scene and found a large apartment complex in flames. The building was being renovated. Paint cans and other cleaners and chemicals were being stored in several areas. Small explosions were heard and the flames were spreading rapidly.

Johnny glanced around as he stepped out of the squad. He spotted 51’s Engine and Squad and looked to see who was around. He spotted Mike at the gauges running the pumps. Damn, that means Roy’s here.

“Gage, Jackson…there’s people still inside,” Brannon yelled at them.

They grabbed their turnouts. Johnny almost cried out as he shrugged into his coat. The weight of the SCBA pulling at his sore shoulder was almost more than he could bear. He gritted his teeth and ran for the building.

John saw the Paramedics from 36, Bellingham and Davis. He lifted his hand in recognition.

“Gage, you and Roy go that way,” they yelled, not realizing that DeSoto wasn’t with John.

“Jackson…,” John corrected but he nodded and headed off in the indicated direction. Bellingham and Davis glanced at each other in confusion, and then entered the apartment.

Roy and Mark ran into their section of the complex. Johnny and Jackson split up and completed sweeping their assigned area. John returned from one room to see Jackson once again helping himself to the victim’s possessions, scattering the rest into the smoldering embers to destroy the evidence of his thievery.

He looked up and saw Gage. Johnny averted his gaze and grimaced in disgust. Jackson brushed past him and gave him a shove, Johnny stumbled backwards into the wall. The air tank jammed into his bruised spine and shoulder. Jackson exited the room while John fought down nausea and finally followed.

As Johnny left the building he saw the Paramedics from 36’s exiting from the next apartment, each carried a victim. Johnny shrugged from his air tank with a groan and then ran to see if the others needed him. He knelt next to Davis. “Can I help?”

“Sure Johnny, set up the Biophone.” John had the radio ready when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Gage…we need to stay together in case we get called in again.”

Davis saw the flash of fear in John’s eyes as he froze under Jackson’s hand. “I… I…uh… they could use the help,” he stuttered.

“They’ll manage,” Scott replied. Jackson knew Gage was friends with these men. He didn’t want him alone with them until he was sure he had the young Fire Fighter under control.

John wouldn’t meet Davis’ eyes as he backed away from his two friends. “I…um… have to go,” He told them. Davis and Bellingham glanced at each other in concern. Davis started to speak but the handy talkie crackled to life cutting him off.

“HT 51…I have a Paramedic missing in the building…get your gear…” It was Dick Hammer’s voice.

Johnny looked over to Squad 51 and saw his replacement bent over a victim and he knew in his heart that it was Roy inside. The young Paramedic shook Jackson’s hand free and sprinted for the building. “Gage…,” Jackson bellowed angrily. “Get back here…,” John kept going.

Dick Hammer waited at the bottom of the stairs. Chet and Marco were at the Engine, gearing up to go in again. Dick heard the sound of running footsteps. He turned in time to see Johnny racing toward him and up the stairs. Cap grabbed for him just barely catching hold of his turnout. “John...stop…!” Cap ordered.

Johnny shrugged off Cap’s hand and disappeared inside. “Gage…,”Cap yelled, “Get your butt out here now…that’s an order.”

Chet and Marco arrived...They saw the worried look on Dick’s face. “What’s wrong Cap…?”

“Gage just went in after Roy. He went in without his air tank.”

Kelly and Lopez looked at each other. “Let’s go Marc…,” said Chet, “don’t worry Cap… we’ll get em both out.”

Johnny’s eyes were burning but after a few minutes he managed to locate Roy. Chunks of concrete ceiling were laying next to the older Paramedic….a good indicator of the cause of his unconscious state. John let out a deep, rasping cough. He lifted the heavy piece of concrete pinning the blonde fireman, gritting his teeth against the pain in his shoulder.

Johnny wiped at his burning, tearing eyes and ignored the sharp stab in his back as he hefted his former Partner over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. He staggered to the door, coughing harshly and slipping to his knees but he managed to keep Roy in place. Johnny struggled back to his feet, coughing heavily…he continued on.

Chet and Marco saw the unsteady figure emerging from the smoke. They ran to help John. “C’mon Johnny, let us take Roy.” Johnny shook his head and kept moving. They grabbed his arms and held him up. They cleared the building together and John finally dropped to his knees coughing and gasping for air.

Marco took Roy from him and placed his mask over the older man’s face while Chet placed his over Johnny’s. Chet sat the younger man down. “Breathe deep Johnny, c’mon,” Chet urged. The younger man gave a weak nod. The Paramedics from 36 were suddenly there and began working on Roy.

Chet was getting ready to help Johnny over to where Davis and Bellingham were working when Scott Jackson walked over. He laid his hand heavily on John’s shoulder… John’s eyes widened in resignation…already knowing what was coming.

“I’ll take care of my Partner, thanks for your help.” Jackson solicitously pulled John to his feet and headed for their squad, dragging the weakened younger man along with him. Chet started to turn away deep in thought about the look on Johnny’s face. He’d never seen that kind of defeat and fear in John’s face before, not ever until tonight.

He turned back in time to see Johnny defiantly try to jerk his arm free of Jackson’s grip and the older man land a ringing backhand to John’s face. Johnny staggered backwards, his hand flying up to protect himself from further assault. Chet blinked in disbelief…had he really just seen Jackson hit Gage…he wouldn’t dare…would he? He knew the reputation this crew had and he knew Kimmerlin might have it in for the younger man but why Jackson? Chet thought about going to John’s aid but then he saw the rest the crew from 88’s headed in their direction to help Jackson. He realized he was out numbered. He headed for his Captain instead.

Chet ran to Dick Hammer as he stood conversing with Captain O’Malley from Station 36…“Cap…,” he said urgently cutting off their conversation. “Johnny needs to go to Rampart…right now.”

“His Partner will look after him Chet,” Cap said absently.

“No Cap…I’ll explain later but Johnny’s in trouble, right now Cap…Please.” Chet was practically dancing with anxiety. Cap looked at the curly haired Irishman in surprise…What could possibly be that serious that John’s own crew wouldn’t be taking care of it? He glanced over at Gage who was surrounded by the men from 88’s. Everything seemed to be calm…he turned to talk to Chet but out of the corner of his eye he saw Brad Kimmerlin reach toward the young man. Caps heart climbed into his throat as he saw Gage flinch away. The crew laughed at the younger man’s reaction. Fury welled in Johnny’s former Captain…It was all Hammer needed to see.

Dick headed for Captain Brannon as he stood talking with the Battalion Chief. He needed to get John out of reach of these people, at least until he could talk to Kelly about what he’d seen and figure out how to get Gage out of there. “Uh…Brannon?”

“Dick…what’s up?”

“Uh…John Gage... He went into the fire after one of my men and he…ah took in a lot of smoke. He needs to be checked out.”

“He didn’t say anything to me.”

“Well John wouldn’t, he tends to downplay his own injuries…You’ll uh… need to watch him on that.”

“Gotcha… I’ll watch out for that…,” he said as he turned toward his men. “Gage, Jackson…get over here…”

Scott threw a cautioning look toward John and headed for the two Captains, hauling Gage with him. John stood eyes downcast. “Yeah Cap?” He said softly.

“Dick here says you took in a lot of smoke.”

“Yes Sir…”

“Not to mention that you defied a direct order and went in without your air tank,” Hammer snapped at him.

“Aw Cap…,” he rasped out, “it was Roy in there…” John coughed harshly.

“That’s no excuse Gage, I ordered you out…,”Hammer snapped back.

“Yes sir…,” he whispered dejectedly, he glanced away. He turned his face away and Cap could see a vivid hand print already starting to bruise. He reached for John’s face but the younger man ducked away.

Hammer was furious but he knew the best thing was to get Johnny out of here. He’d talk to him later alone and find out what was going on. He turned to Brannon…“We’re closest to Rampart from here so why don’t we send him there to get checked out?” Dick suggested, knowing Johnny would be well cared for there.

“Good idea,” Brannon agreed… “Jackson, follow him in with the Squad.”

“Yes Sir,” He replied with barely concealed annoyance.

“I don’t need a hosp…,” John began, not wanting anyone at Rampart to see him like this.

“Can it Gage…you’re goin,” Dick said sternly. Johnny chewed his lower lip anxiously but finally nodded in defeat.

“Kelly…Take the squad in and pick up Blake…I wanna talk to you when you get back to the station…”

“Yes sir…”

John rode in the ambulance with one of the victims of the fire. He’d desperately wanted to go with Roy but was afraid of what would happen if he woke and saw him there. Johnny hoped at 7:00 in the morning there would be no one he was close to at Rampart.


In the Doctor’s lounge Dixie stretched and yawned widely. She wasn’t accustomed to being here before 8:00 A.M. unless she’d pulled a double shift but her car had been giving her fits, so Kel had offered to follow her to the dealership and drop it off and then give her a lift to Rampart. Since he liked being here early to go over his patient records, she had no choice but to be here a little early as well. Oh well, she’d get her coffee and go see what was up since last night.

Dixie strolled to the base station area. Her evening shift replacement, Martha Hayes…was looking harried. “Dixie…please tell me you’re here to help…?” She said sounding hopeful.

“Sure…what do you need?”

“Big apartment fire this morning, several residents hurt and a couple of fireman coming in any minute with smoke inhalation.

Dix set her coffee cup down. She looked at the wall chart. “I’ll go set up treatment room one and four for the smoke victims.”

“I’ll handle the other three then,” Martha said… “And thanks Dix.”

The ambulances began arriving. The two evening shift Doctor’s took the first two people into treatment room two and three. Doctor Early, who had just arrived and Doctor Brackett who’d been summoned by Dixie were waiting in the hall.

The gurney carrying Roy DeSoto was wheeled through the ER doors. “Kel…,” Dixie said, “It’s Roy.”

“I’ve got him…,” Joe Early said as he pointed at room one.

Kel and Dixie were almost hoping to see Johnny following after his friend. They looked at each other in disappointment as Blake strolled by. “You think we’ll ever not expect to see him Kel?” Dix asked sadly.

“I don’t think so…”

The last ambulance pulled in. The gurney was pulled from the back and was wheeled into Emergency. Mike Morton walked up as they passed by. Kel and Dixie turned to follow them when a movement in the back of the ambulance caught Brackett’s attention. “Dix,” he nodded toward the young, dark haired man stepping down from the back. “Mike?” Kel gestured to the treatment room the gurney had disappeared into and then turned back to the door with Dixie.

Johnny held the oxygen tank in his hand, periodically lifting the mask to his soot covered face as he walked to the ER doors. Scott Jackson intercepted him before he could get inside. Kel and Dixie were surprised by John’s reaction. The cocky, over confident young man they knew suddenly froze as Jackson got in his face, his finger jabbing Johnny in the chest.

They took in John’s downcast expression as he warily nodded in response to whatever Jackson was telling him. They waited for John to lose that famous Gage temper…to push back but he didn’t. Jackson raised his hand to gesture toward the door and Dixie and Kel gasped in horror as Johnny dropped the O2 canister, his hands instinctively raised defensively to protect his face as he recoiled away from Jackson.

Brackett found his voice “What the hell? Come on Dix.” They headed out the door.

Jackson glanced around as he heard the approaching footsteps… “Remember what I said…Tell them your fine and get your ass back out here as soon as they clear you and keep your mouth shut or else,” he muttered quietly.

Dixie and Kel arrived and Dix shot a glare at Jackson that should have frozen him solid. “Johnny…,” Dixie said gently as she took the young man’s arm and slid the other around his waist…she felt him tense under her hands… “Come with me sweetheart…treatment four.” She led the shaky Paramedic away from his Partner.

Kel looked back at Jackson. “You want to tell me what that was all about?”

“Don’t know what you’re talkin about Doc. We were just having a little disagreement,” He said insolently. He knew Gage would never open his mouth to dispute that.

Kel folded his arms across his chest in anger…“Let me let you in on a little secret Jackson. There’s something you need to know about John Gage. That young man is not just another Paramedic to me…”

Jackson started to get a bad feeling as Brackett continued. “He’s also a personal friend to me and a good many of the people who work at this hospital. Now I’m still the Head Physician in charge of the LA County paramedic program, and regardless of the fact that you…,” He gave Jackson a taste of his own medicine by jabbing him in the chest… “Work mostly out of Harbor General…I can still make your life miserable…now I don’t know what was going on between you and Johnny but it better not be what it looked like.”

And what might that be?”

Brackett raised one eyebrow. “You lay one finger on that young man again and I’ll wash you out of the Paramedic program so fast it’ll make your head spin…and then I’ll go for your job with the fire department…are we clear?”

Jackson was furious but he knew Brackett could and would do it. Kimmerlin had told him that that’s what had happened to him. He also knew if that happened, the Fire Department would start asking questions. They’d played their little game with others before Gage, either recruiting them to join them or driving them out with their threats and violence…none of them had dared stand up to Jackson and his friends, even Brannon turned a blind eye to their slightly dishonest ways out of fear…but none of the others had had such highly placed friends…Gage was quickly becoming a liability they may have to deal with…Oh well, being a fire fighter was a dangerous job, who knew what could happen. He knew Kimmerlin would help, he’d already tried to kill the young Paramedic once before and Pierro and Foster would do what they were told…Yes… Gage had to go. He had too many friends. He’d eventually confide in one of them about what he’d seen. He looked back at Brackett…“Uh sure, sure…look you’re makin too much out of a minor disagreement.”

Kel was shaking in a rage. He pointed in the direction Johnny had gone. “That was not a minor disagreement, that was fear and that’s not Johnny…not without a damn good reason.”Kel spun on his heel and followed Dixie.

Dixie helped the young Paramedic onto the exam table. “Johnny, can you take your shirt off for me please,” Dixie asked as she turned to pick up a cloth. Wetting it…she turned back to find Johnny hadn’t complied but sat staring at the floor, a faint rocking his only motion. “Johnny?” she questioned softly. His eyes flicked in her direction but he didn’t move. Dixie was extremely concerned by the lack of response and the slow rock. She carefully reached out to raise his chin and he jumped at her touch as if just noticing her presence. Dixie didn’t comment on his reaction… she watched him closely as she began to clean the dirt and soot from his face but Johnny wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Johnny winced in pain as she touched his cheek and turned his face away. “Let me see…,” Dixie said as she once again firmly turned his head toward her. “Oh Johnny,” she murmured when she saw the blackening bruise along the cheekbone. She set the cloth aside and began to unbutton John’s shirt.

He reached up and grabbed her hand to stop her. “I’m fine…really… I’m not even coughing anymore,” he said softly, still not meeting her gaze.

Dixie raised his chin until he was looking her in the eyes. “John Gage…when have you ever won this argument?”

Johnny gave her a weak version of the Gage smile. “Okay Dix.”

She squeezed his hand gently. “Let’s get you undressed my friend.” Dixie eased John’s shirt off…he heard her sharp intake of breath as she saw the bruises, both old and new. John once again averted his eyes as Dixie softly traced the bruising around his throat from Pierro’s choke hold. John closed his eyes in embarrassment. Dixie eased Johnny onto his back, her heart aching for her young friend. She laid a sheet over him and gently brushed the dark hair from his forehead.

John started violently as Kel burst into the room in a fury. “Minor disagreement…,” He raged.

“Easy Kel…,” Dixie soothed as she nodded to a wide eyed John.

“I’m sorry Johnny…let’s get a look at you okay?”

“Doc, how’s Roy?” John asked quietly.

“I don’t know Johnny…I’ll get Dixie to find out for you as soon as we’re done here, alright?”

“Kay…” Kel patted John’s shoulder.

Kel eased the sheet down to Johnny’s waist. He glanced at Dixie, the fury building again. Kel was one of the few people who knew of the abuse John had suffered as a child. He’d discovered it months ago while reviewing his X-rays after another injury and though Johnny had never discussed it with him, Roy had all but confirmed it, albeit in a roundabout fashion. The idea of someone once again inflicting this kind of violence on the young man raised Kel’s ire.

“I took an oath to do no harm Dix but I may have to renege on it.” He muttered as he ran his hands over Johnny’s bruised body, expertly probing…noticing every grimace and involuntary shudder. Johnny stoically endured the exam. Kel sighed… “When did you hurt this shoulder Johnny?”

The younger man looked away… “Last week,” he finally murmured.

“Why didn’t you come in then?” The younger man shrugged indifferently. “What about this bruise?” He asked turning John’s head to see the fading bruise from Roy’s fist. It was obviously older than the others.

“Same time I guess,” he whispered.

“I see…well Johnny, you’re going to be a guest here tonight.”

Remembering Jackson’s warning, a flash of panic entered John’s eyes… “No! I… I c…can’t…I,” he stuttered.

Ignoring John’s protest, Kel turned to Dixie… “Get X-ray down here. I want his left shoulder and a chest film.” Dixie nodded.

Kel turned back to the young Paramedic… “Johnny who did this to you…? Jackson?” John flushed in humiliation and turned his face away but he remained silent. “Talk to me John…I’m your friend, I want to help you.” There was a long pause and for a moment, Kel thought he wasn’t going to answer.

“Don’t be mad at him Doc…I musta done something…I… I guess I made him,” There was a brief hesitation… “Mad…,” Johnny finally whispered. There was hurt and confusion in the dark eyes.

“Don’t defend them to me John and don’t take the blame for what they’ve done to you,” Kel snapped angrily. Johnny tensed at the anger in Brackett’s voice. “You’re letting them make you responsible for this.”

Dixie saw the raw pain in John’s eyes. Pain from inside not the outside and she suddenly understood. “Kel, I don’t think he’s talking about Scott Jackson,” she said with suspicion in her gaze.

“What?”

Dixie shook her head at Kel and moved closer to John. “Sweetheart…did you make Roy mad?” Johnny looked away. She touched his cheek gently… “Johnny, did Roy do this to you?”

“Yes…No…! Well…some of it. I did something wrong…, I made him angry,” he whispered, his brow furrowed in confusion.

“How Johnny…?” Dixie asked. “What did you do wrong sweetheart?” Dixie asked as she waved Kel back. She had Johnny talking and she didn’t want him distracted.

“I don’t know…,” his voice hitched in puzzlement.

“What don’t you know Johnny?” She asked gently, brushing the dark hair back. He shook his head and stayed silent. “You mean you don’t know why Roy’s mad at you?” He shook his head forlornly.

Johnny suddenly struggled to sit up. “I have to go… my partner's waiting for me.”

“Johnny lay back...You’re not going anywhere my friend,” Kel said moving quickly to press him back on the table.

“You don’t understand…,” Johnny gasped, still struggling.

“Oh yes I do. Roy’s not the only who left some marks on you…most of these are fresh and I’m not going to tolerate it, now stay put…I’ll handle Jackson.” The X-ray technician pushed the door open.

“We’ll be right outside Johnny,” Kel said.

They left the room. Out In the hall, a furious Dixie turned to Brackett …“He’s punishing himself Kel and he doesn’t even know what for. He just knows Roy’s mad and he’s somehow to blame. It’s almost like he’s given up…he’s allowing them to hurt him to somehow make it right.”

Kel nodded. He knew that having been a battered child, John would feel responsible for what he was going through. That he wouldn’t defend himself even if he could. He wished he could explain it to Dixie but that would be betraying Doctor/patient confidentiality. What he didn’t understand was Roy, because Roy did know…all of it. Even more than Kel did…how could he do this to Johnny? Expose him to this kind of trauma again…? What could he possibly have done to make Roy this angry? “We have to find a way to get him out of there.”

The X-ray technician left the room. Dixie went back inside to wait with John.

Kel found Jackson at the base station. “Well Doctor, how’s Gage?”

“Johnny’s pretty banged up, but then you knew that didn’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin about Doc,” Jackson denied hotly.

“No, of course you don’t but then we’ve already covered that ground haven’t we so let me put it plainly…don’t touch John again Jackson…I’ll make your life Hell.”

“You threatening me Doctor…?”

“No…I’m promising you,” Kel snapped. “We’re keeping John overnight…when’s your next shift?”

“Thursday…”

“Get a replacement. I’m not releasing John for duty until Saturday but I’m going to insist on follow ups and he better not have one more bruise on him…,” He lifted his finger in Jackson’s face for emphasis as he finished. “That I can lay on you… Now get out of my ER.” Jackson turned and stalked down the corridor.

“What was that all about?” Joe Early asked, coming up behind him.

“Joe, you wouldn’t believe me, so I’m gonna let you go tell Johnny how Roy is and you can see for yourself.”

Joe walked into the treatment room with Kel. Dixie was holding John’s hand speaking in soothing tones. She stroked John’s forehead gently as she spoke. Johnny’s eyes were closed but Kel heard him softly answer Dixie, so he knew he was awake.

Dixie glanced up without stopping her monologue. Kel nodded at John. The nurse carefully raised and adjusted the covering, giving Joe a clear look at the bruising. Joe’s eyes widened and he looked at Kel in disbelief, raising his hands into a fighting position…fists clenched. Brackett nodded. Dixie resettled the sheet.

Dixie rested her hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “Johnny, Joe’s here.”

John slowly opened his eyes. He turned his head… “Hi Doc, how’s Roy?”

“He’s fine Johnny. Minor concussion…we’re keeping him overnight for observation.”

John let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks.”

A moment later a nurse stuck her head inside the door …. “His X-Ray’s Doctor.”

Kel took them and slapped them into the reader. He looked them over carefully. “Nothing’s broken Johnny but you’ve got some serious bruising and a strained shoulder...both the deltoid and the pectoral. We’re gonna get you upstairs for a goodnights sleep.”

John once again became agitated. “No…I can’t.”

“You can. Jackson’s already gone, so you can rest now. Dixie, get me 40 mg’s of Meperidine.”

John flinched as the needle pierced his skin but within minutes his eyes were closing in sleep. “Dix, get him upstairs, see that he rests...keep him quiet until tomorrow at least.” She nodded.

Kel took Joe to his office to brief him on John’s case. He gave him all the information he had including his own run in with Jackson.

“You mean you think Johnny’s allowing them to hurt him?”

“Not allowing them to Joe…it’s more like he just doesn’t care that they are…Dixie and I think that John’s given up…he’s punishing himself for whatever Roy thinks he did.”

“But according to Dix…he doesn’t even know what he did?”

“He’s so confused Joe…he’s hurt, he’s lost everything he’s worked so hard to gain including his best friend. Joe, I don’t want to lose this kid…my guess is he’s slipping into old patterns of abuse…he won’t fight back and he feels he has no one to turn to. I think there’s more to John’s emotional state than we even know…I want to find out what that is.”

“Kel… The key is Roy.”

He nodded. “I received an Invitation to his Anniversary Party a couple of days ago.”

“Yes…I did too…”

“I’ll try to get him alone at this party,” Kel said…“maybe I can get some answers.”

Joe laughed softly, “Maybe we can double team him…I want to help too.”

Dixie got Johnny settled in his room. She made sure he was sleeping peacefully, relaying Brackett’s order to keep him that way to the duty nurse.

Dixie knocked on Roy’s door a few minutes later and hearing his muffled reply, went in. “Hey, how are you feeling?” She asked.

“I’ve got a mean headache Dix but other than that I’m doin pretty good.”

“Good, that’s wonderful…look, should we call Joanne…I know you told me she was away but…”

“No… no, don’t worry her over this,” Roy interrupted.

“Okay, but I don’t want her to be mad.”

“She won’t be,” he said quietly. Roy figured she was done with him anyway. “Um…Dix, do you know who pulled me out of the building…? I’d like to thank him.”

“I’d help you if I could, but I don’t know who it was. I’m sure the guys will know.” Dixie suspected it was Johnny but didn’t know for sure. She looked down at her hands hesitantly. “Roy…what happened between you and Johnny?”

Roy grimaced, “I don’t want to talk about it Dix…it was a disagreement.”

“Roy…Johnny’s upstairs. He’s covered in bruises. He’s pretty battered.”

Roy felt his heart drop into his stomach at her choice of words, reminding him of John’s past and then got angry at himself for caring. “Yeah…? Um…is he gonna be alright?”

“Yes but…he admitted that you gave him some of them. That must have been some disagreement.”

“Dix…”

“Roy he’s in a bad way. I mean beyond physically. He’s hurt and confused…”

“Dix…please,” Roy angrily cut her off. “Please I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care.”

“I don’t believe that Roy…I know what John meant to you…”

“Meant…past tense…you don’t know what he did,” he snapped.

“Funny…,”Dixie said, getting angry now herself. “That’s exactly what Johnny said…” At Roy’s blank look, she continued… “He doesn’t know what he did either.” She turned and stalked out.

Roy laid there for some time thinking about what Dixie had said. That was the third time now someone had told him that. Was it true or was Johnny just covering. He wouldn’t admit he’d stolen his best friend’s wife to anyone would he? But then Johnny was such a terrible liar…could he play the innocent that well if he wasn’t?

A knock at the door interrupted his musing. Chet, Marco, Cap and Mike came into the room at his response.

“How ya doin Roy…?” Dick asked.

“Fine Cap, They’re gonna spring me later today.”

“That’s great Roy…”

“They said it was a minor concussion.”

“Must be that hard head…,” Chet sniped.

Roy shot him a look but ignored the barb and changed the subject. “Hey…um, do you guys know who pulled me out of the building?” The guys looked at each other hesitantly. “What?” Roy asked suspiciously.

Chet grinned smugly… “It was Johnny,” he crowed gleefully before anyone else could answer.

Roy was in shock. Chet took the opportunity to make sure Roy got the whole story. “He ran in without his tank Roy…Cap tried to stop him but not Gage, he just brushed Cap off and ran right past him. Heck by the time Marco and I got there… he was already on his way out with you. You owe Johnny your life man…again.”

“That’s enough Chet,” Cap said. Dick knew enough not to push too hard. He’d let Roy think about everything for awhile. Let him think about the risk John had taken to save the life of the man who’d hurt him as badly as Roy had. Then he’d talk to him about it again. “So you got a ride home Roy?” Dick asked changing the subject.

While the rest of the guys were talking to Roy, Chet slipped out the door. He made his way upstairs to Johnny’s room. Chet peeked in. The younger man was sleeping restlessly and a low groan escaped his lips. Chet quickly went to his bedside… “Easy Johnny,” he said quietly as he laid his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Man this should be Roy here with you…” Johnny’s eye’s cracked open, focusing unsteadily on Chet.

“Hey pal…,” Chet said.

“Chet…?” Johnny whispered groggily, “Thirsty…could ya get…?” he trailed off. Chet took the cup and held the straw for him to take a sip. “Thanks,” he whispered as his eyes drooped.

A nurse peeked in… “Oh…I’m sorry, I didn’t know he had a visitor. I was just checking on him. Um…Dr. Brackett wants to keep him sedated so you can stay until I get back, but then you’ll have to leave okay?”

Chet nodded and turned back to his friend. He’d never admit to anyone how much he cared about Johnny…heck about all the guys, but John was special. He took everything Chet dished out with forgiving, good humor… giving back as good as he got. The youngest member of their crew and by unspoken rule, the one they all watched out for.

John would be mortified if he knew that but Chet also knew it went both ways. He knew John watched out for them as well and he wouldn’t have hesitated if it had been him or one of the others inside that building. He might have just put his tank on first. He grinned ruefully at the thought.

Chet didn’t understand what was going on between the two men but he did know Johnny would die for Roy and not long ago Roy would have done the same for Johnny. He knew the depth of feeling between the two that they both tried to hide... brothers in everything but blood. What could have gone so terribly wrong? How to get them past whatever it was? Chet wanted his pigeon…no…he wanted his friend back.

John groaned softly and turned his head slightly. Chet leaned closer to the younger man and looked at the bruises on Johnny’s face. The pale skin along the cheekbone was now a purplish, black color instead of the vivid red it had been this morning. Chet had needed to be sure in his mind that what he’d seen in the poor lighting and heavy smoke at the scene was for real. The discoloration was the proof.

He’d explained what he’d seen to Cap this morning…Hammer had shaken his head in disgust… “I’ll call Brannon…see what he can tell me and what I suspect but if Johnny won’t file a complaint or ask for a transfer…,” he’d shrugged in helpless frustration. “He’s got to be willing to ask for help…”

Chet wondered idly why Brackett wanted Johnny sedated until he realized that the younger man was beginning to toss restlessly and was getting more agitated by the moment. “Chet…gotta to go back to work… he’ll be mad…can’t stay here…Roy’s mad at me.”

“What Johnny…? Why do you have to back to work…? Why’s Roy mad at you pal?” Chet asked not understanding John’s confused comments.

“Help me Chet…,” Johnny moaned as he struggled to get up.

“Johnny lay back…,” Chet said, pinning his friend to the bed…realizing that the younger man wasn’t lucid.

The nurse came back in a moment later with his medication. She rushed to his bedside, “Mr. Gage, you need to settle down now okay,” she said soothingly…. “You need to rest.” She looked at Chet… “Can you hold his arm still for me?”

Chet got hold of John’s arm and let the nurse inject the sedative into his IV port. Johnny slowly relaxed, his eyes closed in sleep. Chet patted his arm, “I’ll bring your stuff by later okay?” He said softly. He threw Johnny one final look before he turned and left.

Cap had headed to John’s room when they were through in Roy’s…he wanted to talk to him…try and find out what was happening…he was disappointed to find the young paramedic sedated...and he was a bit confused by it…John hadn’t seemed to be that badly injured. He’d have to try again later.

Several hours later, Roy was dressed and ready to go. They’d told him it would be about fifteen minutes before his release papers would be ready but now, a half hour later, he found himself pacing the room in boredom. He finally sat on the edge of the bed for a moment. What the guys had told him about Johnny rescuing him weighing heavily on his mind.

Why? Why would Johnny risk his life for him after what Roy had done? Why save the life of the man whose wife you’ve stolen? Maybe it was guilt or the idea that he owed Roy for something and that odd sense of honor Gage held to. Roy didn’t know what prompted Johnny to do most of the things he did. His past was probably a good part of it but then Roy didn’t know all of that either. He knew Johnny had been badly abused by his Uncle but…

”Damn it,” Roy muttered as he got up and headed for the door. Nothing had changed…he told himself, but he did at least owe him a thank you for saving his life.

Roy peeked in the door. Johnny was asleep and the older man breathed a sigh of relief. This would be easier. He’d just leave him a note to thank him for what he’d done and he could avoid those dark eyes that could tear at his heart.

Johnny’s head rolled toward him slightly in sleep. Roy noticed the odd discoloration and leaned closer to look. “What the hell…?” He muttered softly to himself. A dark bruise decorated his right cheek…a match to the fading bruise Roy’s right hook had left two weeks ago on the left. The clear hand print was unmistakable. Someone had hit Gage hard…hard enough to leave that ugly a mark…more than likely Brad Kimmerlin…no one else would have had a reason.

Roy didn’t even think, he reached out and touched Johnny’s face. Even in sleep, the younger man’s head instinctively turned in his direction… “Roy…,” he mumbled softly and drifted into oblivion once more.

Roy snatched his hand away, more angry now at himself than Johnny. Damn it…why couldn’t he stay mad at him. He’d destroyed his life, his family… Roy snatched up a piece of paper from the notepad next to the phone. He quickly scribbled a paragraph … still furious with himself for letting his feelings for this young man cloud his righteous anger. He set it on the tray table and left.

 

Johnny slept Wednesday away but by Thursday morning Brackett had eased off the drugs and allowed John to fully awaken. He came in to check on him early that morning. “How are you feeling Johnny?”

“Better…”

“Shoulder still hurt…? Truth please…”

John half smiled…“Yeah..., a little…more weak than painful really.”

“I’m gonna release you this afternoon.”

“Kay…”

“I’m not releasing you for duty until Saturday, so you rest tomorrow as well, and you let Jackson handle anything that will stress that shoulder…understand?”

“Yes…,” he answered with a nod.

Kel hesitated… “Johnny, about what’s happening at 88’s…?”

John could feel the flush of humiliation climb up his cheeks. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Johnny you have to talk about it. This can’t continue.”

John shrugged indifferently, “Doesn’t matter anymore…,” he mumbled.

“Johnny you can’t mean that?” The young Paramedic had such a look of hopelessness and hurt…Kel’s heart ached.

“I guess I don’t know what I mean any more.” He sighed heavily… “Roy was here Doc…”

“What…? When…? That’s wonderful…did you get to…”

John raised his hand up to stop him. With a defeated look in his brown eyes, he bit his lip and reached into his bedside table and handed Kel the note Roy had left. Kel unfolded it and read…

I was told it was you who pulled me from the fire and while I appreciate you saving my life, it changes nothing…stay away from me and my family. R. DeSoto…

“My God…,” Brackett looked at John in shock… “Can you think of anything you did that made him this angry?”

Johnny shook his head in frustration… “No… I don’t know…maybe… I… just got to be too much of a problem…,” he said sadly.

Kel couldn’t believe this. Roy had felt so strongly toward his young Partner. He’d been like an over protective father, an older brother…how could he just turn that off without a reason? He patted Johnny’s shoulder comfortingly, he couldn’t think of anything to say to ease the hurt. “I’ll have your release sent up this afternoon. You rest until then okay?” The young man nodded in resignation.

Johnny was reading Roy’s note when Dixie came in later that day. He looked up as she entered the room and the sorrow in his eyes was unmistakable. Kel had already told Dixie about the note and she was furious with Roy...who, more than anyone knew John and his insecurities so well…how could he do this? “You ready to go Johnny?”

John shoved the note in his jacket pocket and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Yeah Dix, I’m ready. I just need to call a cab?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m taking you home.”

“You don’t have to do that… I can get home on my own,” he protested.

“I’m sure you can but I’d rather take you myself and be sure you’re nice and comfortable… in your bed.”

John flushed but knew he’d never win this argument, besides he wasn’t up for a fight. It was easier to let Dix win. The pretty blonde nurse got Johnny in her car and headed for his apartment. She watched the young man from the corner of her eye. He was silent, rocking softly back and forth…his eyes fixed on the dashboard in front of him. He seemed deep in thought.

“Johnny… Are you okay?” She asked.

He didn’t answer… his fingers playing with the note Roy had left…twisting it, folding and unfolding it over and over.

“Johnny…?” She asked again, reaching to touch his arm. John pulled away and continued with his preoccupied folding of the note, seemingly oblivious to her presence. He had pulled into himself, she could see it clearly. She became concerned by his resistance to being touched and his refusal to talk to her. It was the way he’d been months ago when they’d first met only much worse.

Dixie had long ago suspected Johnny was a battered child but now the rocking along with these other things was setting off alarm bells. She suspected there was something more, something deeper involved here. She’d seen it before…

She didn’t know John’s past. She knew nothing about his family or even if he had one other than an Aunt he’d once mentioned. She desperately wanted to help her young friend but didn’t know for sure how to, not without being certain that he had what she was beginning to suspect he did. She had to be sure…She needed to talk to Kel.

She pulled into his apartment complex and parked. “Johnny…?” She questioned softly… “Johnny…can you hear me?”

John suddenly looked up, as if he’d just awakened. He looked around in surprise that he was home… wondering how he’d gotten there. He turned sad, brown eyes toward Dixie. “Sorry Dix, I guess I musta been lost in thought,” he said in confusion.

Lost somewhere anyway but she said nothing. She smiled reassuringly at the younger man… she wasn’t sure Johnny even knew what had just happened, that he’d slipped away from himself so completely that he didn’t even realize he’d lost fifteen minutes.

She walked with him into the apartment. Dixie got him settled in his bed and reminded him of Kel’s orders to rest. She kissed his cheek and tousled his hair gently and returned to work. She hated the hopeless, defeated look she’d seen in John’s eyes and prayed that she and Joe and Kel could somehow reach Roy at this party or Johnny could be lost for good.

She returned to the hospital a short time later and headed for Brackett’s Office. “Kel…we need to talk.”

When they were done Kel picked up the phone…he had some checking to do.

Johnny woke once late on Thursday night. He found himself something to eat and curled up on the couch, finally falling asleep in front of the TV. He woke later in the morning to find he'd stiffened up again. Man… when was this nightmare gonna end? Johnny groaned painfully as he climbed to his feet. He knew Dixie and Brackett would get all over him if they found out, but he’d made a promise and he intended to keep it. He had some work to do.

John spent most of the afternoon at the Marriot putting up decorations for Joanne and Roy’s party. It took a bit longer than it should have as his movements had been slow and painful and he’d had to stop several times to rest. He set up tables, blew up balloons and hung the banner he’d made up earlier.

When he was done, he stood gazing sadly at his handiwork. He knew he wasn’t welcome at this party. Johnny felt that hollow, lonely feeling he’d hoped to never feel again after he met Roy and his family… but like everyone else in his short life, they were now gone too…he turned and left the room…trying to put the DeSoto family out of his mind and his heart…he’d kept his promise to Joanne…it was done.

While Johnny was putting up decorations, Scott Jackson and Brad Kimmerlin had been busy as well. They had the squad’s tool kit and Johnny’s safety belt. Jackson carefully loosened the rivets attaching the carabiner to the belt. From a casual inspection it looked fine but it wouldn’t hold a man’s weight for very long before it gave completely.

Saturday morning found Gage back at station 88. John was hoping Kel’s warning to Jackson would be heeded but he remained wary. He’d arrived early hoping to be dressed and out of the locker room before the others arrived. He pulled his jacket off and gave it a shake to straighten it out before hanging it up. He didn’t notice Roy’s note flutter to the floor. He was just tying his shoes when he heard the creek of the door opening behind him…

“Welcome back Gage.”

John’s heart sank into his stomach as he slowly turned to look over his shoulder. Jackson stood in the doorway, his three friends gathered behind him. Johnny turned back to his locker, closing his eyes in frustration. He heard them enter the room behind him.

“You too good to talk to us Johnny…? You only talk to your high and mighty friends at Rampart?”

John shook his head… “I’ve kept your secret, just leave me alone…,” Johnny said softly.

Pierro slapped the back of John’s head … “What’d you say…?”

John ducked away… “Stop it…,” He snapped, trying to stand. Kimmerlin pushed him back down hard. John gasped as his shoulder protested this mistreatment. He grasped the arm, looking up the men surrounding him. A hopeless look in his eyes… “Please,” he said in defeat.

“Please what Johnny?” Jackson asked leaning closer to the younger man until he was almost nose to nose…dominating…intimidating… The younger man turned his face away.

“Please, just leave me alone,” he said quietly.

“Or what…you’ll cry to your Doctor friend? You won’t do that, will you Gage…?” He demanded… giving John a hard shove.

Johnny looked away… “No,” he whispered.

Jackson grinned smugly at his friends thinking he had Gage cowed. The fact that the younger man was currently surrounded and outnumbered had never crossed his mind nor did the fact that John had quit and simply didn’t care anymore what happened to him. He glanced down and saw the piece of paper under the bench. He bent and picked it up. John threw a cautious glance toward him and saw what he had.

“That’s mine…, “he said quickly, trying to snatch the note from Scott’s hand. Jackson jerked the paper away. Johnny stood to retrieve his property. Kimmerlin grabbed the back of his collar jerking him sharply backward. John turned, his fist connecting solidly with Kimmerlin’s nose. Pierro grabbed hold of the smaller man pinning his arms behind him. Jackson delivered a hard backhanded slap to the younger man. John’s head reeled and he cried out in pain as Pierro jerked him back.

John tripped over the bench behind him, falling backwards. Pain shot through his back as he twisted free of Pierro’s grip. His head and shoulders hit the floor hard. His vision wavered for a moment as Kimmerlin moved to stand over him. Blood dripped from the bigger mans nose.

John looked up through bleary eyes… he was suddenly transported to a smoke filled warehouse… a man stood over him. Johnny was gasping for air as his lungs burned. He tried desperately to reach his air mask but the man’s foot drew back and kicked him hard in the stomach. John gasped for air, drawing in a lungful of the toxic smoke. The foot drew back again…

Johnny’s hand flew to the faint scar on his cheek as he looked up at Kimmerlin and the older man knew that Gage had just remembered what had happened in the warehouse a couple of months earlier. Kimmerlin had tried to kill him by hitting him over the head and removing his air mask in a building filled with toxic ammonia gas. The severe concussion had hindered John’s memory of the event and kept Brad Kimmerlin out of jail but Kimmerlin could tell by the fear in John’s eyes and the way he touched the scar he’d left behind when he’d kicked the young fire fighter in the face that he’d just remembered what had happened.

“What’s wrong Tonto?” Brad sneered as John curled into a ball and covered his head. Kimmerlin’s foot caught him in the ribs, driving the air from his lungs. John groaned in pain, his foggy brain unable to grasp what was happening.

“God Roy…help me,” he whispered.

“That’s enough…,” Jackson snapped. The others backed away as he leaned over Johnny. He waved the note in the younger man’s face. “He ain’t gonna help you Gage…DeSoto hates you too.” He laughed as he threw the note at John. Scott looked up at Brad… “Midnight…,” was all he said as they left.

John lay on the floor trying desperately to get his aching body under control. He sat up slowly and immediately regretted it. His head swam and his stomach knotted painfully. He leaned over and vomited. His stomach spasmed several times but he finally sank back to rest against the bench behind him.

Rocking slowly in pain, he began to try and catalog his new list of injuries. Shoulder…ribs, back, head…a split lip. John wiped the blood from his nose and mouth, his cheek was numb, He was exhausted and he felt slightly disconnected from his body.

How had he reached this point? For the hundredth time he asked himself why? What had he done wrong? He’d tried so hard not to become close to Roy. He hadn’t asked the man to be his friend… he’d pushed his way into John’s life until the young man had learned to trust him and now this…why? John covered his face and rubbed his tired eyes trying to clear his head.

“Roll call…5 minutes…, Brannon yelled, snapping Johnny back to awareness. The young Paramedic climbed painfully to his feet, heading to the latrine to clean up.

John eased into line a few minutes later, standing well away from the others. Captain Brannon looked up from his clipboard and turned to face his men. His eyes fell on Johnny… “Jackson, what the hell’s the matter with you. I’ve warned you time and time again about this…and the rest of you, Gage is one of the best Paramedics out there and well respected by HQ…besides his former Captain’s already called me about him… If he keeps getting beat up or requests a transfer this soon it’ll bring the brass down on this station like a ton of bricks…now lay off, you got me?”

“Um…sure… Sorry Cap,” Jackson said with a grin. “It was just a disagreement that got a little out of hand, right Gage?” Jackson said with a threatening sneer.

John nodded without looking up. He half laughed to himself, Brannon didn’t have to worry about him transferring…he had nowhere to go. Exhaustion, despair and pain warred within his body. He had nothing left. The people he’d learned to care for…the only ‘family’ he had were gone and he was alone again.

The memory lapses were becoming more frequent, the gaps in his memory longer… John didn’t understand what was happening to him just as he hadn’t years ago when he’d suffered through them. The worst ones had happened right after his Dad had been killed and again when his Mom had died…He thought back to that awful time in his life… and how he’d wished he could have gone with his mother…he stared at the floor in defeat… once more wishing he could have died with her.

Johnny and Jackson handled half a dozen runs over the course of the day. All of them transported to Harbor General. Johnny was relieved…he knew if Brackett saw these new bruises he’d have him back in a hospital bed under sedation and Jackson as well as the rest of this crew in front of a firing squad and as much as that thought appealed to him the first did not.

John hurt all over. Red splotches were quickly changing hue, turning a purplish, black color. His split lip and cheek were swollen and throbbed relentlessly, his head was pounding and he’d already suffered several dizzy spells, a sure sign of a concussion. His shoulder was strained once again and he was exhausted. He didn’t know how much longer he could go on like this. John rubbed tired eyes…God, he just needed to sleep. He needed his life back to normal…he shook his head sadly…it never would be again…not without Roy…but he’d survived without him before…he could do it again…the only difference was that now he knew the difference. He shook his head…he was better off before, when nothing hurt. He slammed the walls of distrust and indifference back in place permanently…

Roy puttered about the house most of Saturday, running a few errands. Today was his anniversary, He and Joanne should be celebrating it together but instead he was alone and dreading her homecoming tomorrow morning. What would he say to her? How could he live without her? The loss of his best friend had ripped his heart in two…when he lost her she’d take it completely. He lay on the couch with his eyes closed, trying desperately to figure out how to save his marriage and his family. He finally dozed off in sheer exhaustion.

A knock on his front door roused him from his much needed nap. Roy opened the door and was surprised to find his Mother on his doorstep. “Mom…? Uh…c’mon in…”

“Hello dear…,” She greeted kissing his cheek. “I thought with Joanne away until tomorrow, you’d be available for your poor old Mom to take to dinner.”

Roy sighed, he really wasn’t up to going out but his Mom had driven all the way here. How could he refuse? “Okay Mom, I’ll go change…give me a few minutes okay?” Roy Showered and put on a casual suit. He headed downstairs and collected his mother. “Okay Mom, I’m ready.” He grabbed his keys.

“You don’t need those Honey, I invited you so I’m driving.”

“Mom…,” he began to protest.

“No arguments…now let’s go.”

Twenty minutes later his Mother pulled into the parking lot of the Marriot. Roy’s stomach flipped. “Mom…what are we doin here?” Roy asked uncomfortably.

“Oh, I just figured I’d be too tired to drive home after dinner so I rented a room.”

“Mom we have plenty of room at our house, you coulda stayed there.”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be any trouble honey.”

“Look, why don’t you check out, we’ll go to dinner and I’ll bring you back to my house for the night.”

“Okay sweetheart, I mean if you’re sure…I’ll just go and get my suitcase.” She smiled secretively as Roy accompanied her to the elevator.

Roy took the keys from his Mom as they approached her room. He unlocked the door and flipped on the lights. He was shocked to hear a chorus of “Surprise…,” and “Happy Anniversary’s…, coming from a couple of dozen family members and friends.

Roy broke into a hesitant grin as Joanne came toward him. “Uh wow…this is great.”

“Happy anniversary Honey…,” She said as she hugged him close and kissed his cheek.

“Yeah…um… happy anniversary…”

“Did we surprise you?”

“Yeah…yeah you sure did…”

Roy looked around the room. Red and White balloons hung from the ceiling, streamers ran from corner to corner and hanging across the wall a banner stretched from one side of the wall to the other. Roy’s eyes fixed on it …a feeling of dread spread through him. His eyes scanned the words… ‘I KNEW YOU WERE THE ONE FOR ME FROM THE MOMENT WE MET…’

Noticing his eyes on the banner, Joanne hugged him tightly. “I asked Johnny to make that for us…in fact, he did all the decorating. Didn’t he do a great job?”

His blue eyes widened in horror…“What…?” He asked stunned…his heart dropped into his stomach.

Kel, Joe, Dixie and his crew mates gathered around at the mention of Johnny’s name.

Roy’s mother Harriet touched his arm. “Where is that sweet Partner of yours anyway? Isn’t he coming Jo?”

Roy looked stricken as Joanne answered… “He was supposed to be here tonight…I mean he’s Roy’s best friend, he wouldn’t want to miss this…especially after he did all this work. Maybe he’s just late but he’s sure gonna be disappointed that he missed the look on your face.”

Roy’s haunted eyes turned toward them. They met Dixie’s…then Kel’s… “Oh my God…,” he whispered.

“Roy…? Honey…? What’s wrong?”

He gathered his wits about him… “Nothing Honey…I… This is great…,” He said… "but I wasn’t expecting this and I don’t have a gift for you,” he said lamely.

“Don’t worry about that Honey, but we do have some other things to talk about.”

“What’s that…?” Sensing a personal moment, the others moved off to give them some privacy.

“The reason I was so upset the last few weeks.” Roy looked at her in confusion, wondering where this was going…she certainly wouldn’t go to the trouble of planning this party just to tell him she was leaving. “I saw the Doctor a month ago and he found something …,” Roy’s eyes flared with fear. “Don’t worry Honey…it turned out to be nothing but a benign tumor but I was really scared and…”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Oh Roy, I couldn’t. I knew you’d be so upset and I just wanted to be sure of what was going to happen before I told you and put you through all of that and then when I found out it was a simple procedure to remove it…well there was no point in making you take time off and worry over it so I had them take care of it in San Diego so I could stay with my mom and dad…and I’m fine now.”

“God Jo…you shouldn’t have had to go through all of that alone…”

“I didn’t…well at least not all of it…I asked Johnny to come with me when I went to find out the results …you know to have a shoulder to lean on. He wanted me to tell you, he was really upset about keeping this from you but I begged him not to, so don’t be upset with him…okay?”

“Okay…,” He said quietly.

“Anyway, I was so awful to you those last few weeks that I decided to have this party to make it up to you. Johnny helped me put it all together before I went to my Mom’s. He came yesterday to put up all the decorations. He did a great job…I just can’t imagine where he is.”

“Me either…,” he said softly, putting all the pieces together, and then … “Dear God…what have I done…?” Roy looked sick.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“Nothing…I…,” he pulled Jo into his arms holding her tightly. Roy looked at his friends from the Station and the Medical Team from Rampart. They looked back curiously at the glisten of tears in Roy’s blue eyes. “Oh God Johnny…,” He whispered. He hadn’t lost his Wife but he’d betrayed and lost his best friend.

Brackett waited until Roy was alone before he signaled the others, they approached him as a united front. “Roy congratulations…,” Kel said. The others nodded their agreement.

“Thank you, all of you.”

“Roy we’d like to talk to you…It’s about Johnny.”

Roy held up his hand…he looked around at the four worried faces… “I was wrong about Johnny…he didn’t deserve what I did to him and I’ll make sure he knows how sorry I am, but it’s probably too late to save our friendship.”

“Only if it’s not worth the fight, but that’s not what we wanted to talk to you about…Roy, were you aware that Johnny’s been hurt?”

“I know I hurt him, that’s what we’re talkin about isn’t it?” Roy asked.

“I meant physically Roy…abused, beaten.”

“He told you about that…?”

Kel looked at him in confusion and then understanding. “No Roy…I mean recently.”

“What…? I saw him that day at the hospital…It looked like someone had hit him…besides me I mean…,” he said sardonically. “But it didn’t look that bad…”

“Roy… that was the least of what they did.”

“They…?”

“Roy…Johnny was attacked by that group of Psychopath’s at 88’s…Jackson … Kimmerlin…Jackson’s the worst.”

“Did he tell you that?”

“Well yes and no, he wouldn’t talk to me…he won’t talk to anybody…he’s pulling away like he used to before…only worse.”

“Well what did you mean by yes and no…?”

“He didn’t have to tell us…the bruises were enough…that and the fear in his eyes…” Roy’s heart wrenched. He knew John’s past and what being in that kind of environment again could do to him. Johnny had told him about his Uncle and what he’d done to him and he’d promised himself then that he wouldn’t be another hurt in Johnny’s life, but at the first test of friendship, he’d failed him.

“Besides…,” Cap said,” we already knew Kimmerlin had it in for him and the others are well known for their…uh…aggressive tendencies. There’s been a lot of speculation about that group and the number of men who’ve transferred out of there without an explanation. I don’t doubt for a minute that John’s not the first…I’d be willing to bet if one had at him, they all did.”

Roy’s face paled at the thought of his young Partner facing that alone…How could he have done this to him…knowing what Kimmerlin could…would do, maybe had already done and simply walked away from this young man he’d grown so fond of. “I’ve got to get him out of there.”

Roy desperately wanted to find his friend, beg him to forgive him if he had to. His friendship with Johnny was worth anything he had to do to regain it. Roy knew he couldn’t leave the party tonight but first thing in the morning he’d go to John’s apartment and apologize…explain to him what he’d thought he’d seen… He knew how much Johnny had become a part of him…he wanted…no…he needed him back. He had to find him…tell him.

Roy was not a demonstrative man. His Father had never shown much affection to either him or his Mother…he’d had a tendency to stay out late and leave early and Roy’s Mom had worked long hours, coming in late herself most nights…she’d rarely had time for displays of affection. He’d never had much opportunity to express his softer feelings and usually kept a tight rein over his emotions… He wasn’t exactly sure how or what to say to his friend and he was struggling with how to tell Johnny just how he felt. He wasn’t sure how, but he would find the right words. They were in his heart…he just needed to free them.

“Please Johnny…just give me one more chance.” He whispered under his breath.

Around midnight the guests began to leave. Roy assured Kel and the others that he’d find John first thing in the morning. Try and make this right…somehow…

Roy closed the door after the last one had left. He turned to take his wife in his arms, holding her tightly against him. Thankful that she would be alright and they’d still have a future together. Grateful that Johnny had been there to help her through it even though he wished she would have told him so he could be there. John had been a loyal friend and he’d betrayed him.

As if knowing were his thoughts were wandering, Jo glanced up at him… “I just don’t understand why Johnny didn’t come tonight,” Jo said in concern. “I know he wanted to be here. I hope he’s alright. Maybe you should call him…?”

“It’s late Honey, I’ll find him tomorrow. Let’s go to bed.”

Jo glanced up with a giggle…she smiled with promise in her eyes. “I have a private party planned in the other room Mr. DeSoto,” she said with a nod in that direction. Roy grinned back, trying to put Johnny from his mind for the moment… “Lead on Mrs. DeSoto…”

Just about the time Roy’s party was breaking up, the SCU tones roused several stations to duty. “Station 88, Engine 36, Station 51…Structure fire… 1963 Market St…1-9-6-3 Market St. cross street…North commercial, time out 12:08.” Men jumped into turnout gear and raced for their respective vehicles. Johnny was moving more slowly than usual but reached the squad mere seconds behind the others and climbed inside.

He saw the smirk on his Partners face. Johnny knew the look well… he’d seen it several times just before he’d become his target. Johnny edged closer toward the door of the squad, trying to stay out of reach of Jackson’s hand. He crossed his arms over his chest protectively and huddled into himself.

Roy lay awake in the dark. Joanne slept peacefully beside him. He ran the last two weeks over and over in his mind. He should have trusted his wife. He should have put more faith in a man he’d come to think of as a younger brother. The look of total bewilderment had been real. He’d hurt him so badly. The physical beating he’d given him was bad enough but the emotional pounding had gone straight to John’s soul. Would Johnny ever be able to forgive him?

Roy smiled at the thought of his young friend. Johnny was such a contrast…an enigma…unique and special. One minute he was a responsible Fire Fighter…An excellent Paramedic, taking his job to heart every minute that he was on a rescue but the next moment could find him in Chris’s room…playing on the floor with the five year old, having a great time.

That macho bravado he displayed merely a front for a gentle spirit that was a soft touch for Roy’s children or someone in trouble. A tough exterior that hid deeply rooted insecurities and fears of rejection stemming from his childhood. Johnny’s carefree spirit and devil may care attitude hiding a heart desperate to love and be loved. He was excessively loyal, honest and caring.

Roy cataloged his friend’s qualities and he knew he’d do whatever it took to get him back. God, he’d missed him… Roy finally began to doze.

The Trucks began to arrive at a half finished office building. Smoke was billowing from the empty windows. John dragged himself out of the squad and shrugged into his turnout coat. He began to open compartments as the Captains began calling out instructions to their crews.

He didn’t know Pierro had come up behind him until he felt a sharp rap between the shoulder blades and he was shoved roughly against the squad. John closed his eyes in defeat… “Please, no more,” he whispered.

Pierro leaned hard against the younger man, pressing Johnny’s face and chest into the unyielding metal. John’s bruised ribs screamed in protest. Pierro laughed in Gage’s ear. “Here’s your belt, grab a rope and get inside, we have a man trapped in the elevator shaft. A hard slap to the back of Johnny’s head slammed his face into the squad. Pinpoints of light danced before his eyes briefly as pain flared in John’s forehead and his nose began to bleed. He grimaced… wiping the blood from his face… he picked up the belt and slipped just a little further away. Pierro gave Jackson a nod and turned toward the building with a grin.

They entered the dark, smoky building and headed for the stairway. Several other crews were also moving through the building, including the B shift from Station 51. The group from 88’s got as far as the fourth floor before finding the stairway blocked. Kimmerlin was pointing down the hall. “He’s down that way…they figure it’s the night watchman, looks like he got disoriented in the dark and fell down the shaft. You’re the only one that’s gonna fit down there with all that construction scaffolding in the way.”

“I guess that means you’re up Gage,” Jackson said for the benefit of the other station crews that were hurrying past. Kimmerlin and Pierro were manning the hose, waiting patiently for Jackson.

Charlie Dwyer spotted Johnny through the murk. He’d seen him outside earlier and hadn’t liked the way the young paramedic had been moving…stiff, almost robotic. He started toward him to see if he needed any help but Foster saw him coming, “Hey, I think they needed some help further down the hall. I thought I heard em say there was an injured Fire Fighter.” Charlie cast one last glance at Johnny. His crew seemed to have this under control and John knew what he was doing. Charlie moved up the hall.

“Okay Gage, you ready?”

“Yeah…,” Johnny said as he pulled on his gloves. “Got a flashlight?” He asked as he clipped a second safety belt to his own…he’d need it to secure their victim. “Hello…,” He called down the shaft… "Can anyone hear me…?” There was no answer… “Are you sure there’s someone down there?”

“Yeah, he was screaming for help awhile ago…musta passed out.”

John nodded as he sat at the edge of the shaft. Jackson tossed the rope down the opening. John wrapped the rope around the carabiner several times before tying it off…he took a firm grip and slid over the edge. They lowered him ten feet before Pierro looked at Jackson. “Why can’t we just cut the rope?” He asked.

“They’ll check that. It has to look like an accident. Let the belt break, the manufacturer gets the blame for their faulty equipment and no Gage…no questions pointed at us.”

“What if he climbs out…he’s pretty good at that stuff?” Kimmerlin asked.

“He won’t…we made sure of that…his shoulder will never handle the strain,” Pierro chuckled as they walked away.

“C’mon we need to be in position once he falls. We have to make it look good…fallen brother and all…,” Jackson said with a grin.

John hung suspended three stories above the floor. It was smoky and dark as pitch. He unclipped the flashlight and turned it on…The beam shone weakly. Oh man…didn’t these guys take care of anything? “Hello…,” He called down the shaft. He listened carefully but there was nothing...he glanced around...there was no construction scaffolding anywhere.Why had they insisted on him going down?

Johnny was beginning to get an uneasy feeling. He suddenly felt the belt around his waist pop. He dropped the flashlight to clutch the rope frantically. “Jackson…? Pierro…I’m in trouble down here?” The belt popped again. John got a better grip on the rope, trying to take the weight off the belt. “Help me…the belts breaking,” he yelled but there was only silence. Realization set in… “Oh God…they left me.”

John started to pull himself up but his arms were beginning to ache. His shoulder was protesting from the strain and his ribcage was burning. He started to slip but managed to regain his grip on the rope, unfortunately the sudden drop was too much for the belt. It let go with a final pop as the rivets separated from the leather. Johnny was left supporting his entire weight.

“Okay…,” he whispered to himself, “I can’t get back up, so I guess I’ll go down.” He eased down another few feet. “Okay…this is easier…I can do this…,” He said softly. He suddenly ran out of rope. “Oh God…” Johnny knew it was only a matter of time. He couldn’t go down and he didn’t have the strength to pull himself up. This was no accident, no prank gone awry…they’d planned this carefully…they’d intentionally left him to die.

He looked up the shaft, squinting into the dimness above him. Just two weeks ago his Partner…his best friend would have been up there, shouting at him to hold on. That he’d be down to get him but now there was only silence. “Roy…,” He whispered sadly.

‘Just let go…’ The thought flitted through his mind… ‘What difference does it make now?’ He felt his hands slip again. He’d heard that voice whisper those words ten years ago when his Mom had died. He’d wanted to go with her but instead he’d slipped away…his world had turned gray and he’d awakened missing days…It had happened many times in his childhood…and he’d never understood why or how and now it was happening again. But this time…this time…was his own fault… he’d sworn to never let anyone get close enough to hurt him again, but he’d screwed up and he’d let Roy in. He didn’t think he could ever care about anyone this much or that losing someone could hurt this badly again.

He’d once told Roy he’d considered suicide but he would never do it because he’d be a disappointment to his parents but would this be the same thing? Would this be giving up? He let the gray edge in.

Dwyer was in one of the offices checking out the room. This fire had been deliberately set…that was obvious. There were hot spots all over the building. He shook his head at the unknown and thankfully incompetent arsonist as he headed for the door. He couldn’t know the intent hadn’t been to burn the building but to lure one young, unsuspecting Paramedic to his death.

Dwyer reached the door. He heard voices in the hall. “He’ll never pull himself out. When that belt goes…he’s done.”

“Brackett won’t be able to do a thing…it was just a tragic accident don’t you think?” One of them chuckled.

“You suppose he’s already fallen?”

“We better get down there and make this look good…got the HT…? We’re gonna have to call it in as soon as he falls.”

“Isn’t there some other way Scott? I’m not into murd…,” their voices trailed off as they moved down the stairs and Dwyer couldn’t hear anymore.

He stepped into the hall and watched the three men retreat. Who? Who were they talking about? What accident? The sudden realization came that Johnny had been with these men earlier. Where was Johnny now? “Dwyer, you’re getting fanciful,” He mumbled to himself. Even these psychos’ wouldn’t hurt one of their own…would they? No John probably had a victim and he was working on him outside…but then what had they been talking about? He started after the men but then stopped. “It can’t hurt to take a peek.”

John’s grip was growing weaker. Every muscle in his body ached. His hands were cramping. He slipped a little further. He knew he couldn’t hold on and he wasn’t really sure he wanted to anymore.

“Mom…Dad…I’m sorry… Roy…,” he whispered softly, “I don’t know what I did but I’m sorry…” He let the grayness take him and he let go.

Posted to Site 10/09/09

LINK TO PART 1. 2.

 

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

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