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Betrayal

Part 2

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

LINK TO PART 1. 2.

 

 

Dwyer saw the rope tied off to an exposed beam, trailing into the elevator shaft. Charlie moved closer. He pulled his flashlight from his pocket and directed the beam down into the opening. The light shone briefly on the helmet of a fire fighter, his head tipped back briefly but enough for Charlie to recognize those features… “Johnny…,” He screamed as the younger man let go.

“Oh my God…,” Charlie whispered as he turned to race for the stairs. He yanked his HT from his pocket yelling into it as he ran. “We have a Fireman down…repeat a fireman down…Code I in the elevator shaft at the back of the building. Respond an ambulance…I need Carlson and the Trauma Box…tell him it’s John Gage.” Dwyer shoved the radio into his pocket as he ran down the stairs.

Jackson and the Crew made their way toward the shaft on the bottom floor. They were still getting their story straight before they began to try and ‘rescue’ their fallen crewmate…Jackson was raising the HT to his lips when they heard the sound of running feet. They turned to see Charlie Dwyer sprinting down the hall toward them.

“Get out of my way…,” He snarled shoving past them to the closed doors at the end of the hall. Charlie pried them apart with his knife… he got his fingers between the doors and pulled them open. He knelt next to the limp body of John Gage. A pile of empty packing cartons crushed and scattered about him. Charlie felt for a carotid and breathed a sigh of relief when he felt it beating weakly under his fingertips.

The others crowded around him with anxious looks. “Is he alive?” Jackson asked worriedly.

“Yes…no thanks to you,” Charlie growled.

“We don’t know what you’re talkin about, we were on our way to try and help him.”

“Why didn’t you help him while he was still hanging from the rope instead of leaving him there?”

They looked at each other with dread… “He’d already fallen.”

“That’s a lie…I saw him fall and I heard you in the hallway upstairs.” The blonde Paramedic snapped turning back to Johnny.

They glanced at each other…this wasn’t good. There might need to be another accident. Jackson took a menacing step toward Dwyer whose back was now turned but stopped as he heard running footsteps coming from behind them. The entire B shift from station 51 crowded around.

“What have we got Charlie?”

“He fell from up there Cap,” he said pointing upward…maybe twenty, twenty five feet. It looks like he landed on these cartons…it’s probably what saved him.” Charlie answered as he ran his hands over John’s body. John groaned softly. “C’mon Johnny, open your eyes…don’t you die on me…,” he urged the younger man.

Kirk raised Rampart on the Biophone. “Rampart Base this is rescue 51…”

“Go ahead 51...”

“Rampart, we have a male victim…22 years old, He fell approximately twenty feet and landed on some cardboard boxes. He’s unconscious, his BP is 130/90… his pulse is 120, respiration is 16. His pupils…”

Kirk looked at Charlie as he checked John’s eyes. “Equal and reactive…”

“Equal and reactive Rampart…”

“10-4 51, any sign of head injury…?” Charlie nodded.

“He’s got a pretty good lump on the back of his head and a bruise here on the forehead…” Charlie looked closer…,”his nose was bleeding but it’s stopped now…I don’t know what he hit it on… Man…he’s bruised all over his face.”

“10-4 Rampart, he has a bump on the back of his head and a bruise on the forehead. His nose has been bleeding...we can’t tell if it was from the fall.”

“10-4 51, Start an IV D5W TKO…immobilize his head and neck, transport as soon as possible.”

“Look Dwyer…,” Jackson said…”Why don’t you back off and let me take care of my Partner?”

Charlie looked up at Jackson…his brown eyes filled with anger… “You just stay away from him…you’ve done enough.”

One of the crew returned a moment later with the backboard. Brannon followed. “I’m told one of my men was injured in a fall…,” he questioned.

Dwyer looked up… “Attempted murder is more like it.”

There were gasps from both crews. “Now see here young man, my men are a bit rough but if you’re insinuating…”

“Dwyer…are you sure…?” Captain Hookrader asked interrupting….

“I know what I saw. They left him Cap… I saw Johnny fall and they were already on their way down here. They never tried to help him. I heard them in the hallway, they planned this.”

“Well there’re five of us who’ll tell you we did try to help him and he had already fallen…,” they shot back.

“Who’s the fifth?” Hookrader asked, seeing only the four men.

Jackson pointed smugly at Johnny…they knew he’d say whatever they told him to, he’d be too afraid not to. “He is.”

Dwyer and Hookrader exchanged a worried glance.

They placed a C collar carefully on the young Paramedic and loaded John on a backboard, strapping him down. The men of station 51 carried him out to the waiting ambulance.

The men of Station 88 stood watching. This could get ugly…but as long as they stuck together it was their word against Dwyer’s.

The ambulance arrived at Rampart twenty minutes later. A young Intern was waiting in treatment room one. A nurse waved them inside. They made the transfer to the table and Charlie laid his hand on John’s shoulder. “We’ll be thinkin of you Johnny, We’ll call Captain Hammer…Okay?” Dwyer backed away from the unconscious, younger man.

Nurse Betty Matthews unstrapped John from the backboard and picked up the scissors to cut his shirt away but hesitated as Johnny began to groan softly. “Can you hear me Johnny…?” She asked loudly.

John’s eyes opened. His unfocused gaze slid past her to fix on the wall behind her. She leaned over him to try and get him to look at her but at her touch he became agitated…swatting her hands aside. She tried to take his hand to calm him but John twisted away. The nurse let go, she watched in concern as his arms wrapped protectively over his ribcage. She looked at the Doctor… “We’ve got a problem… Should I call an orderly?”

The Intern looked back nervously, if their patient fought and injured himself, he’d be in a world of trouble but he needed to examine him, he wasn’t sure what to do… “Maybe we should call Doctor Brackett…”

Roy had only been asleep for a short time when the phone rang. Habit woke him on the first ring. “Hello…”

“Roy…?”

“Yes.”

“This is Dr. Brackett... I’m really sorry to disturb you but…I thought you could help.” Roy started to get a really bad feeling.

“What is it Doc?”

“Roy…they’ve brought Johnny in…”

Roy bolted upright in his bed… “What’s the matter with him? Is he okay?”

“Roy...,” Brackett was saying… “I can’t tell you that. I can’t examine him.”

“Why not…?”

“He won’t let me…he won’t let anyone touch him. I don’t dare try to restrain him until I know what injuries he’s sustained and I can’t tell that without touching him. He becomes combative and agitated every time we try. I thought maybe…”

“I’m on my way…”

The urgency of Roy’s tone finally got through to Joanne. She stirred restlessly and finally rolled over. She sat up and looked at Roy who was quickly getting dressed. “What is it Honey, Chris…? Jen…?”

“No Honey it’s not the kids…go back to sleep.”

“Roy…?”

“Look…sweetheart, I’m sorry to spoil our night but I need to go to Rampart.” At her confused expression he finally added. “It’s Johnny.” Joanne swung her feet over the edge of the bed and began grabbing her clothes.

“Honey, you don’t have to go, I can handle this.”

“Roy, Johnny’s like family. I don’t think you’d care for him more if he was truly your younger brother or…” she added wryly, “Your kid.”

Roy sighed. This was gonna be bad but he knew he’d have to tell her what had happened. Finally dressed, Roy grabbed Jo’s keys. Once in the station wagon, Roy looked over at Joanne. “Uh…Honey. I have to tell you something.”

“What…?”

“Well… Johnny and I had a fight…,” Roy said as he pulled out into traffic.

“Is that why he wasn’t here tonight?” Roy nodded. “What was it over…his latest fling?” Roy winced and Joanne laughed. “Got it first try didn’t I? Roy…Johnny just doesn’t understand why you don’t like his girlfriends.”

A little thought niggled at Roy’s brain…Jealousy…fear that they’d come between him and his best friend. He practically gloated every time Johnny got dumped…having a good laugh at his expense along with the rest of the crew.

“Roy…?” Joanne called him for the third time.

“Sorry Honey…I was just lost in a revelation.”

“Huh…?”

“Nothin…anyway, we…we fought because I heard him on the phone with you,” he admitted.

“With me…?”

“I heard you talking to him and I saw you with him at the Hotel…You were planning this party, but I didn’t know that. I only heard you tell him he was the only man for you and…”

She looked blankly at Roy… “That was for the sign…”

“I know that now but…”

“You mean you thought…? Oh Roy how could you?” She stared at him in hurt outrage. “Do you really think that little of me…of Johnny…? I can’t believe this…I… I’m really insulted…I’m so… so mad at you…” She snapped angrily as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked out the window.

“Honey, I’m sorry. I was just so afraid of losing you…” And of losing Johnny, he added silently to himself… “Jo, please forgive me. I was wrong and I had no right…”

“You’re damn right you didn’t…,” She turned to look at him. “What did you do to Johnny?”

“I ahh…hit him.”

“WHAT…?”

“I told him to stay away from me…from my family…to transfer and that I never wanted to see him again.”

Joanne stared at him in shock… “Oh Roy, he was only trying to help me…Poor Johnny. Didn’t he tell you why he’d been with me?”

“He didn’t even understand why I was so angry. He kept asking what he’d done. I just assumed he knew what I was angry about.” Roy ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “He’ll never forgive me…but I have to try.” Roy glanced at Jo. “I’m so sorry Jo. You’ve never given me the slightest reason to distrust you.”

“No I haven’t and neither has Johnny,” she added angrily.

“I know…”

She glared at her worried husband…If she didn’t love him so much, she’d let him stew for awhile but Johnny was hurt…and Roy would need her support. “Then this ends this right here…don’t you ever do that again.” Roy looked at her hopefully. “You’re forgiven…this time. Now all you have to do is apologize to John and make him believe it.” He nodded.

Roy and Joanne were met at the ER entrance by Kelly Brackett. “Roy, Joanne…I’m glad you were willing to come here at 3:00 in the morning. We have a real dilemma here. I don’t know how to treat him without forcing him and if he’s injured, forcing him into a fight could cause a worse problem but I can’t leave him and find out he’s seriously hurt.”

Kel led them to his office. “I only need about ten minutes to talk to you. Dixie’s with him but he still won’t let anyone near him. I don’t think he’s in any immediate danger but I do think he’s injured.”

“Then why are we here Doc? I want…I need to see Johnny?”

“In a minute Roy…I need to ask a couple of questions.”

There was a knock on the door. “Come in…”

Joe Early peeked in… “Am I interrupting?”

“No, come on in Joe.”

“Um…Captain Hammer is outside…he said the station crew is on their way.”

“Can you ask him to wait? We’ll be right out.”

Joe nodded and left. “Roy, I know John keeps his past pretty much to himself and I could accept that if not for what’s happening now. I’m hoping John might have confided in you. Has he ever talked to you about his past…?”

“Yeah some…”

Has Johnny ever admitted to you that he’s been abused?”

Roy hesitated…remembering back to when John had been gripped in the throes of a nightmare. Roy had found him and held him in his arms as he’d recounted the abuse he’d suffered as a child…being molested by his Uncle. Joanne seemed to catch his thoughts…she remembered as well.

“Tell him Roy…,” She pressed.

“I can’t…I promised him I’d never tell anyone…It would be betraying John’s confidence…”

“Roy…he’s John’s Doctor. He needs to know if it will help Johnny.”

“Roy it’ll never leave this room, but I need to know. I know you feel awkward about this but please…can you tell me what he told you Roy?”

He hesitated for a long moment chewing his lip in indecision, he finally sighed in resignation…“Months ago…Johnny had a bad nightmare. When I woke him, he was real shaky ya know… he was terrified and I got him to tell me what he’d been dreaming of…he’d told me he’d been abused…kind of blurted it out by accident, but then he was afraid and he begged me not to tell… said his Uncle would kill him. He…uh…he…told me his Uncle had hurt him. That he’d tried to…,” Roy couldn’t finish the sentence.

“So he admitted that he was abused…? I saw the X-Rays…there were several old injuries.”

Roy nodded. “He said his Uncle got mad at him a lot and beat him…broke his wrists and his ribs. He said…,” Roy hesitated again… “He said he’d touched him…”

“Was Johnny sexually assaulted Roy?”

“He doesn’t know for sure…he says he can’t remember…but he doesn’t think so.”

Kel sat up straighter… “Can’t remember…?”

“He said he went away…”

“Away…?”

“I asked him where but he couldn’t tell me…he just said away.”

Kel nodded, “That explains a lot. Roy did Johnny ever mention something called Aspergers Syndrome or just AS?”

Roy shook his head… “No…he only told me about the abuse…what is Aspergers…whatever you called it?”

Kel pursed his lips… “It’s a neurological condition that usually manifests in childhood. That’s why I asked.”

“Johnny said after his Mother died, he got passed around the reservation…family member to family member. He said he was pretty messed up until his Fathers sister Rosemary took him in. He said she took him to a lot of Doctors but he didn’t know what for other than that he stuttered some but he never called it Aspergers…”

“It’s possible it was never properly diagnosed or that they never told him what he had… but if he does have it, someone did a pretty good job getting him through it.” Kel grinned… “But I think I’d have to give you the most credit for re-socializing Johnny,” he told Roy.

“Re-socializing…?” He questioned in confusion… “Could John have this AS and still be a Paramedic?”

Kel nodded. “Aspergers affects the socialization skills not the intelligence especially if it’s a mild case as I suspect John’s is. Johnny can do anything he wants to. He’s obviously very intelligent and there have been some absolutely brilliant people diagnosed with Aspergers. John would more likely have trouble interacting with other people or handling emotional stress…vocalizing his thoughts when he’s frustrated…reading other people’s moods and emotions. Obsessive tendencies…Combine that with being a battered child…,” Kel shook his head. “He’s emotionally fragile…not mentally or physically.”

Roy thought back to all the times John trailed him like an over eager puppy and his inability to string a coherent sentence when he was frustrated…or withdrawn and silent when he was emotionally stressed. His obsessive behavior with things that annoyed or excited him…his sometimes insensitive actions or words…, not always knowing when to leave well enough alone or pick up on other people’s moods…he looked at Kel... “It does kinda fit.”

“What about now…?” Joanne asked. “Where is Johnny now…?”

Kel looked down and sighed. “I believe John’s in some kind of withdrawal.”

“You mean drugs…?” She asked in confusion.

Kel shook his head… “He’s pulled into himself…into a safe place in his mind. It’s common for People with Aspergers or Autism but usually more so in children. They usually outgrow that as they get older.”

Autism…that was it…the article Roy had read about. It talked about the symptoms…, Rocking, withdrawal, avoiding contact… Finally realizing what Brackett had said. ‘They usually outgrow it.’ “But John hasn’t…?”

“Roy, I don’t mean to point fingers here, but the emotional stress on Johnny has been tremendous these last two weeks. He’s grown pretty close to you…when you rejected him… it snapped his control…add the trauma of being knocked around by those jerks…it likely triggered those old memories.”

“Knocked around…? Roy what’s he talking about…?” Joanne asked in concern...Roy hung his head in misery.

“He’s been put through the wringer at 88’s.”

“88’s…isn’t that where that Brad Kimmerlin was sent?” Joanne asked worriedly.

Roy nodded as Kel continued… “You saw him last Wednesday afternoon Roy.”

“Yeah but… only for a minute… It looked like someone had maybe…punched him.”

“He was already exhibiting signs of Aspergers then, but I didn’t realize it. I thought it was just the trauma he'd been put through…he’d been choked… he was badly bruised and beat up pretty bad. I kept him until Thursday morning and when Dixie drove him home she noticed some of the signs…so I did some checking.”

“Johnny would fight back…I mean he’s not the type to take that…,” Joanne began with certainty.

“He may have…but even if he did, he was a little outnumbered and then you add to it that Roy was mad at him, didn’t want him around anymore…in his mind…somewhere in that fragile state…he believed he’d done something wrong... It’s typical of battered children. They’re usually told they’re to blame for what’s happening and they’re threatened into not telling. They can’t get away, they have no one to go to and they can’t fight back…” Kel shrugged, “He could easily have slipped right back into that pattern.”

Roy nodded. He and Jo had discussed this month’s ago when Johnny had first confessed what had happened to him…he’d said the abuse was his own fault…that he’d been bad and had to be punished…that if he told anyone they’d blame him and send him away…Man…he’d done exactly what John was afraid he’d do if he found out about his past…he’d pushed him away and told him he wasn’t wanted. “God…what have I done to my best friend?” Roy whispered.

Kel’s mouth twitched, “let’s go see Johnny…I’ll fill you in on the rest as we go.” They left the office. “Dwyer brought him in Roy…John was unconscious, He fell down an elevator shaft during a rescue. The only thing was…that according to Charlie Dwyer, the only victim was Johnny.”

“What…?” Roy asked confused.

“Dwyer thinks this was deliberate. It seems he overheard a conversation about leaving John to fall. Thank God they were using the shaft as a storage room for some empty boxes. He landed on those but still…it was a two story fall and a hard landing.” Kel looked at Roy… “Dwyer said he got there just as John let go of the rope…”

“You mean he fell…”

Kel shook his head…, “He says he thinks Johnny let go.”

Roy closed his eyes as Joanne gripped his arm tightly… “I wasn’t there for him…I shoulda been there...” He looked up at Brackett... "Dwyer's wrong Doc...Johnny woulda held on until he couldn't anymore...Johnny fell..."

Kel nodded in undersanding.

They stopped in front of treatment room one. The crew of station 51 waited at the base station. Their angry looks left no doubt how they felt. They all knew the depth of feeling Roy had held for his young Partner…how had he let this happen to their friend?

Roy glanced at them, acknowledging their presence with a nod of the head. Kel looked at the blonde Paramedic who shifted anxiously outside the door. “Roy…Johnny’s completely pulled into himself… He’s retreated to a safe place. I want you to try and pull him back, but remember Roy you’ve got to move slowly…move at his speed. Don’t push him…don’t rush him…or he’s apt to slip deeper. It could take a while,” he instructed softly.

“Is this the only way to help him?”

“There are faster ways from what I’ve been able to find out…but not while he’s injured…they’re a little more…physical.”

“I’ll get him back,” he assured him, casting a quick glance at the others a few feet away.

Roy took a breath, almost afraid of what was waiting. He pushed the door open and stopped short. He heard the collective gasp from behind him. He turned to Kel with a look of shock… “Oh my God…,” he muttered. Five distraught faces were watching Johnny, Joanne began to cry softly at the sight of him but she waved her husband toward the treatment room.

John sat on the exam table. His head was bowed…his shoulders were hunched, his arms wrapped tightly around his torso…huddled within himself. His body trembled in shock…he moved rhythmically in a slow, steady, rock. Kel came in to stand with Joe Early and Dixie as Roy let the door close behind him, cutting off the disturbing scene.

Roy stood rooted in indecision…He didn’t know what to say. He heard Kel’s softly voiced question to Dixie… “Has he been doing that since I left...?”

“Yes…”

“Any let up at all?”

“No…,” she growled, shooting an angry look at Roy… followed by a clipped “Good luck…”

“Dixie…,” He called…wanting to call her back and try to explain.

Kel grabbed his arm… Dixie had stopped abruptly and now stood watching Johnny. He’d stopped rocking. “I think he knows you’re here…,” Kel said softly. John tipped his head to the side as if listening for something but then the slow rhythm began again. “He heard you…talk to him Roy.”

“Johnny…?” Roy moved slowly toward his friend, wiping his sweating palms on his pant legs. There was a slight hesitation to John’s motion but then it resumed once again. His gaze never left the floor.

Roy edged closer… “Johnny…? I’d like to talk to you a minute…would that be okay? I have to tell you something… Johnny…can you hear me…?” Roy tried to get a look at John’s face but he refused to lift his head. Roy reached out to slowly touch his friends arm but the reaction was instant. John recoiled violently, raising his hands up to swat Roy’s aside…a cry of fear escaping his lips followed by a gasp of pain as John once again huddled into himself.

Roy backed away… “Okay Johnny, I won’t touch you okay…? Just stay calm.” He’d seen John like this briefly twice before when he’d awakened him from a nightmare at the station and again when he’d awakened him at his home. It had only been momentary before John had come around completely and regained control. Roy looked at Dr. Brackett and rolled his eyes in frustration and blew out a calming breath…Johnny wasn’t gonna make this easy on him but he wasn’t going to give up. Roy was very aware of the audience behind him and the disturbing image Johnny presented.

“Okay Partner…let’s try again.” The rocking had increased in speed and John was breathing hard in short, sharp gasps. His arms were once more wrapped protectively around himself. Shudders racked his body.

“Johnny…I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what I did. You see…I heard you on the phone with Joanne that morning and then I saw you with her later at the Hotel and…I thought…well it’s stupid now but… I thought you were having an affair and I just lost it.”

Kel exchanged a look with Dixie and Joe…The reason for Roy’s anger suddenly became clear even if it had been a mistake.

Roy blushed at the admission…he was uncomfortable enough making the apology for a foolish misunderstanding and knowing the others were listening was embarrassing but he kept on…John was all that mattered right now…even above his own discomfort. “Johnny…I had no right to even think that about you and Joanne. You’ve never given me a reason to doubt you…not ever…and I’m so sorry.”

The rocking slowed to its original rhythmic speed and he seemed to be breathing easier but he still wouldn’t raise his head or acknowledged that Roy was there.

The older man was growing worried…he didn’t appear to be getting through and he was in unfamiliar territory…trying to come up with how he really felt and put it into words. Roy rubbed his hand over his face in frustration. Damn it, he had to find the right thing to say that would reach John. Roy put everyone and everything out of his mind, this was about Johnny and his friend needed him. Let the rest think what they wanted.

He kept his voice soft, lulling, soothing. He opened up his feelings for the first time with someone other than Joanne. “Johnny…I want you to listen to me... I should have known you would never do what I accused you of. I know I screwed up Johnny, not you…NOT YOU,” he stressed again. “I have no right to ask you to forgive me, but Partner I’m asking…begging you to. Please John…please forgive me. I need you Johnny…It’s been miserable without you. Hell…even when I was mad, I missed you.”

John was gradually relaxing…his hands dropped slowly into his lap...his slender fingers rubbing absently together. John’s head tilted slightly and the rocking had almost stopped. Roy glanced at Kel. He nodded encouragingly, mouthing the words silently… “Keep talking…he’s listening.” Roy nodded.

“Johnny…you know you’ve been like a…a kid brother to me, almost from the day we met, ya know? You’re my best friend. What would I be without you…? You’re my other half.” Roy took a cautious step toward John, prepared to withdraw at the first sign of fear.

“We’ve become a family and I was so stupid to almost throw that away out of jealousy…and you know what junior…? I was really upset about losing Joanne to you and the more I thought about it the more I realized that I was upset about losing you to her too.” He tentatively reached out and smoothed a stray lock of hair from his friends forehead...he waited to see if John would react.

The younger man tensed but didn’t push Roy’s hands away. “Johnny…I’ve never been good at saying how I feel, but I’m gonna tell you something I haven’t said to a whole lot of people in my life and never to another man…not even my Dad.” Roy took a step closer… he reached out to take John’s hand in his. He waited for resistance but none came.

“Johnny, you’re my best friend… I don’t think you know how much you mean to me…how important you’ve become in my life…” Man this was gonna be tough… “I probably won’t say this too often so you better listen up okay? I…ah…I love you… you’re my brother in everything but blood,” Roy said quietly…well that hadn’t been as hard as he thought it would be…it felt pretty good actually and he could only hope those listening understood…but it didn’t matter one way the other right now.

“I need you to come back. I don’t know where you’ve gone but I really miss you and I need you to come back. I’m sorry for what I said…for what I did to you…For what they did to you because of me. A huge part of me is missing and I’m not the same anymore without you. Johnny I promise you…I swear to you on my life, I will never distrust you…I will never hurt you like this again. I’ll be there for you every step of the way. I promise you.”

John’s rocking motion had finally stopped and Roy continued to hold his hand. He waited silently, having finally run out of words to speak. He suddenly felt something hot and wet drip on his skin and he realized they were tears. Roy wanted to reach out to comfort him but didn’t dare rush the younger man…he waited patiently.

Johnny saw gray and his world was silent but suddenly sound intruded…a voice…the sound was comforting…well known…light and color flared within his vision…a set of feet swam into focus…and the words began to make sense… “Please forgive me…You’re my brother in everything but blood… I love you… I’ll be there for you…” Where was he...? He felt his body moving in time…a soft rhythmic motion…Roy was here…he knew it…his eyes burned with tears…he missed his friend but he’d hurt Roy somehow…betrayed him…and Roy was angry wasn’t he? Why was he here asking John to forgive him? John’s heart was aching in his chest, he wanted…needed his friend but he was confused…could he trust this man again after everything that had happened? He wasn’t sure…but he needed to try.

There was a long moment while Johnny seemed to be trying to come to a decision. He finally leaned forward until the top of his head was resting against Roy’s shoulder. He was breathing in short, gasping breaths, trying desperately to stifle the tears. Roy’s eyes glistened as well.

He let go of John’s hand and instinctively wrapped his arms about his friend, comforting him as he would his own children. Roy stroked the bowed head. “It’s all right Junior, Just let it go…,” he whispered.

There was a short hitched breath as John’s shoulders began to shake and the tears fell freely. Roy rubbed his back and then smoothed the sable hair. He looked back at the others to find Dixie weeping openly, a sight he’d never seen before. Kel and Joe were surreptitiously wiping the moisture from their own faces, while tears trickled down Roy’s cheeks. He turned his attention back to his friend.

“It’s okay Johnny…can you look at me?” he asked gently as his hand moved around to cup his partners chin, raising his head until he could see his friends face. “Oh my God…,” Roy whispered, turning his face away briefly in distress. John’s face was bruised and swollen…dried blood was still smeared beneath his nose and on his chin. His lower lip was split. His dark eyes exhausted and unfocused…his cheeks, tear streaked. “You my friend are a mess. Let’s get you cleaned up okay?”

Kel moved closer to the exam table but Johnny saw the motion…panic flared in his eyes and he began to breathe heavily. Roy took John’s hand and turned his chin with the other until John was once again looking at him. “It’s okay…don’t go away again, okay? It’s alright…you’re gonna be okay. I’m here and I won’t leave you…I promise…but the Doctor needs to look at you.”

John shook his head frantically. “N…no no… I wanna… go home,” he whispered softly.

“Johnny…?” Roy’s voice was soft but firm, “I’m gonna lay you down here so Dr. Brackett can take a look at you.” That slow rocking motion began again. “No Johnny…I need you to stay with me. Look at me…,” Roy commanded. The troubled, dark eyes lifted to meet worried blue and the rocking stopped as quickly as it started. “Good boy…good boy…just keep lookin at me Partner…” Roy eased him back on the table.

Kel turned to Joe… “Can you get X-Ray down here STAT...? I want a full skull series, chest and lateral C-spine. Roy, could you clean him up a bit. I think you’re the only one he’s going to let near his face right now. Dixie, get those clothes off him.” She nodded…handing Roy a wet towel as she began to unbutton John’s shirt.

Roy gently wiped the blood from his friends face…he turned the lip down carefully to check the damage before his hand moved to sweep the hair from John’s forehead, a grim look on his face at the condition of his young partner. Dixie pulled John’s shirt aside and the blonde Paramedic sucked in his breath in shock at the multiple colors decorating his friend’s torso. Purple, red, yellow and black bruises trailed from waist to shoulder and around to his back.

Kel stepped to the exam table, giving Roy an encouraging half smile. John’s eyes were fixed on his friends face and his fingers clutched Roy’s hand like a lifeline as Brackett’s expert hands probed, poked and prodded carefully. Roy continued to speak softly to him, soothing words to focus John’s attention on him. Brackett knew he had to be hurting…the bruising was incredible, yet other than an occasional tightening of the mouth or a frown as he touched the worst areas of his chest and belly, John never made a sound or took his eyes off Roy.

The X-Ray technician entered the room and without a word handed Roy an extra Radiology vest. Roy glanced at him in surprise and then looked knowingly at Dixie. She smiled back. “Okay Junior we’ve got a reprieve. I don’t have to go…” Roy donned the vest and once again took John’s hand. Kel, Joe and Dixie left the room as Malcolm got to work.

They were greeted by five sets of worried eyes as Dixie moved to stand with Joanne and offer support for the younger woman. The two of them were very fond of the young Paramedic and the worry in both of their faces was evident. “Doc…how is he?” Dick questioned worriedly.

Kel shook his head in grimly… “He’s pretty banged up…Captain. We’re waiting on his X-ray’s but he took quite a fall. Near as Dwyer can figure it was about twenty five feet, thankfully he landed on a pile of storage boxes and that’s more than likely what saved him.”

Cap nodded…Mike, Marco and Chet exchanged worried glances. “But he’s gonna be okay though, right Doc…?” Chet asked…

“Physically…? He’s gonna be hurting for a while but he’ll live…Mentally…emotionally…that’s another story.”

“What about what he was doin a while ago…what was that…?” Cap asked.

“He’s pretty stressed right now and rightfully so…John’s possibly been the victim of an attempted murder…”

The crew sucked in their breath in shock. “Murder…?” Mike gasped.

“Dios Mio…,” Marco muttered.

“Who…?” Chet asked angrily.

“Dwyer says he heard the crew of 88’s talking about his accident before it happened. They planned it…apparently because I’d threatened Jackson’s job if he went after John again.”

“That’s worth killing someone over…?” Joanne whispered in disbelief. Dixie squeezed her hand in understanding.

“One wouldn’t think so…and unless we can get Johnny to tell us his side, we may never know. It’s four of them against Dwyer.”

“You mean they could get away with it…? That’s not right…,” Mike said in shock.

“What about Johnny…he’ll tell us what happened…?” Marco said with certainty.

Kel shook his head negatively… “Maybe…but John’s pretty shook up…he may be reluctant to talk about it…,” Kel hedged, glancing at Joanne.

“I don’t know man…Johnny’s a pretty tough kid…,” Chet started to say.

“Chet…as a Fire Fighter and a paramedic, I wholeheartedly agree with you but try to remember that John’s still only twenty two…that’s pretty young and that can factor into the mental aspect of it,” Kel said trying to give them some warning that John was being affected by what happened without giving all of the details. He didn’t want them shocked by Johnny’s emotional state or trying to pressure the young man into remembering something that could cause more damage.

Cap sensed there was more to this than Kel was saying. He’d seen the look that passed between Joanne and the Doctor. “Okay so…Johnny’s gonna be alright physically…?”

Kel nodded… “I’m pretty sure…yes.”

“Then we’ll deal with the other aspects as we come to them…as his friends. We’ll be there to help him…whatever it takes.”

Kel smiled as the others nodded their agreement. Johnny would have the support he needed and that’s what concerned Kel the most. Captain Hammer would eventually have to be told about John’s condition but not here in front of the crew. That would be up to John alone to tell them or not.

Malcolm backed out of the treatment room…Kel, Joe and Dixie both gave them a nod and headed back to the room. “I want that stat…,” Kel told the young man as he went by. Malcolm nodded.

Joanne followed them to the door to talk quietly with Dixie…“I’ve seen him like this before and I know what he’s going through…I won’t be shocked so… can I see Johnny?” Joanne asked.

“In a minute…, let’s see how he’s doing first,” she said with a small grin.

 

Roy patted John’s shoulder… “I’m gonna be right behind you Junior Okay…? Will you be alright?”

John’s hand tightened on Roy’s briefly…but then he let go of the older man’s hand so he could back away. He laid there trying desperately to remember what had happened and how had he gotten here. He was dizzy, sick to his stomach, and he hurt all over. He was also confused and frustrated…it had happened again. He remembered being in the elevator shaft. He remembered the belt breaking and the fear when he realized he’d been deliberately left there…He vaguely remembered thinking of his parents and…Roy. He remembered thinking it wouldn’t matter to anyone if he died…but then the memories faded.

The first thing he remembered after that was being here and hearing Roy’s voice…just bits and pieces really…disjointed phrases… “I promise you, I’ll be there for you every step of the way…,” he’d said. “I love you…You’re like my kid brother…,” Did John really remember those words being spoken by his normally cool partner or had he imagined them…? Would Roy really say that to him…?

He flinched…startled back to the present as Malcolm reached to turn his head. The young, black X-Ray tech apologized softly and Roy moved to his side. “You okay Partner…?”

John nodded hesitantly, wishing he could remember everything but he was so tired…and Roy was here. That’s all that mattered to him right now…His best friend was here and he wasn’t angry anymore. “Hurts R…Roy…,” he whispered.

The older man nodded. “I know…we’re gonna take care of that real soon…”

“C…can’t r…remember what happened…R…Roy,” he stuttered softly.”

“It’s okay Johnny, just relax and we’ll get you into a room and we’ll talk about it when you feel better.”

“Why can’t I r…remember?”

“I don’t know, but you’ve got a nasty bump on your head…maybe that’s it.”

“N…not m…mad at me anymore…?”

Roy smoothed the dark hair from the bruised forehead. “I’m not mad anymore Junior…just rest now okay? Let Malcolm finish so we can find out how much damage you did when you fell…”

“Fell…?”

“Yeah…fell. Now just stay still for a few more minutes okay?”

“Kay…”

Roy stepped away to let the young technician finish. Malcolm gave a nod to Roy a few minutes later and left. The older Paramedic took John’s hand once again as the door opened and Kel and Joe came back into the room. “Roy…how’s he doing?” Kel asked.

“He says he’s hurting and he’s a little confused Doc…can’t remember what happened,” Roy told Brackett worriedly.

Kel nodded… “That’s normal…for John’s…ah… condition…,” he said guardedly…not wanting to frighten Johnny by revealing his problem before they could find out for sure what was wrong with him. “Once we take a look at those X-ray’s we’ll see what we can give you for the pain, okay Johnny?” Kel assured him.

John’s eyes swiveled towards his friend as if seeking his approval. Roy nodded… “It’s okay Junior, I’ll stay with you.” John gave him a small nod but Roy could see the apprehensive look in the dark eyes. He patted his hand gently.

Dixie peeked in. “Kel…I told Captain Hammer and the others that they could see Johnny after we got him settled in a room but Joanne wants to know if she can see him now?”

“Johnny seems to be settling down some and he really needs to get back to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible, so I think it’ll be okay.”

Dixie moved to the door and waved Joanne inside, she moved to John’s bedside…the younger man tensed…he tugged at his lip with his teeth and the dark eyes tracked her nervously. Roy squeezed his hand reassuringly, understanding the apprehensive look that had entered his friend’s eyes… “It’s alright Junior… I know I told you to stay away from my family but I didn’t mean it okay?” He said softly.

As John’s eyes moved to meet his friends…Kel and Dixie glanced at each other in surprise…how had Roy known what was worrying his young partner? They smiled at each other in understanding…these two knew each other so well…they couldn’t imagine one without the other.

Joanne took Johnny’s other hand in hers…“Hi sweetheart,” she greeted softly as she gently stroked his cheek. “I’m so sorry…” John tried a small smile that came out more like a grimace but it was a start.

A nurse entered the room with John’s X-rays in her hand. Brackett took them over to the light panel and inserted the first one. He studied it carefully before moving on to the next. After a couple of minutes he came to John’s side…Joanne kissed Johnny’s forehead and moved out of the way to stand by the door.

“Well I’m not sure how after a fall like that, that you aren’t hurt worse but it looks like three cracked ribs, one broken rib… a strained shoulder as well as a mild concussion. You’re going to be a guest at least overnight. We’re going to get you 50mgs of Meperidine and take you up to a room,” he explained as he glanced at Dixie. She nodded and moved to the supply cabinet.

She handed the syringe to Kel a minute later. John’s dark eyes watched him intently and he tensed as the needle pierced his skin but he didn’t fight. Within a matter of minutes his exhausted body began to relax and the brown eyes closed as he drifted off.

“Doc, how long do you think he’ll be like this?”

“That’s hard to say Roy. His condition won’t go away but he obviously had it under control for a long time…at least until the goon squad from 88’s touched it off again. This could be on going or…,” he said with a shrug…, “he could regain control of it tomorrow and it never resurfaces or it could come and go. I just don’t know enough about this to answer that. Is this gonna be a problem for you Roy?”

“No Doc…however long…whatever it takes. I meant what I said…I’ll be there for him but… can he continue being a Paramedic?”

“Obviously not like this but he’s kept it together for a long time, even under extremely stressful conditions and again…from what I’m told… it’s rare for these symptoms to happen in an adult… if he can regain control of it, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be or why we need to mention this little problem to anyone else, do you?” Kel said quietly.

Roy breathed a sigh of relief...Brackett was on John’s side and would keep this to himself. “No Doc…I can’t think of a reason either.”

“Good, now we’ll get those ribs taped up, immobilize that shoulder and get him in a room and then let your crew see him for a few minutes. Then I’ll see what other information I can dig up on this.” Roy nodded.

 

The orderlies made a smooth transfer from Gurney to bed a short time later... the motion barely drawing a moan of discomfort from the sleeping Paramedic. The Station crew slipped quietly into the room. “He’s finally resting, so let’s keep this visit short gentlemen…,” Kel said quietly. They nodded in agreement. They each just needed a moment to reassure themselves that their young friend would be alright.

Joanne stood at John’s side gently stroking his still hand while Roy was leaning closely over his young Partners head adjusting the pillows. He finally moved away from him giving the men their first look at the battered features of their friend. Anger climbed into each face at Johnny’s condition.

“What the hell happened to his face? That wasn’t from any fall…,” Chet railed angrily.

“Did they do that to him…?” Marco asked in shock.

Mike moved closer to Johnny. “Why…? Why would anyone hurt him like this…? John’s so… likable. I don’t understand.”

“I wish I could answer that for you but I don’t know why and if I could… I’d have them up on charges, but I don’t know how much our only witness can tell us. Roy said he can’t remember.”

Chet was glaring at Roy now. “This wouldna happened if you hadn’t of sent him away…”

Roy stared at the ground feeling guilty and he knew Chet was right…he had no argument. It was Joanne who jumped to her husband’s defense. “Don’t you think he knows that Chet…? Johnny forgave him…can’t you?”

Johnny’s eyes fluttered open. There were angry voices all around him. He was confused and disoriented for a moment and beginning to become agitated until he realized these weren’t the voices of his enemies but of his friends and the anger wasn’t being directed at him but at someone else…Roy. Why were they angry at Roy?

“S…stop it,” Johnny stammered trying desperately to sit up. He groaned as pain coursed through him. His ribs and shoulder protested his struggling movements.

The conversation stopped abruptly as Roy moved to Johnny’s side. “Easy Junior…It’s okay,” he soothed as he pressed him back on the bed. John relaxed slightly under Roy’s hands…“Okay now?” A slow nod was his response. Roy turned back to the others. “Okay look, I know you’re all mad at me and rightfully so but if you want to beat me up we need to take this outside, it’s upsetting Johnny.”

“No…,”John gasped, again becoming visibly agitated as he struggled to bring his thoughts and words under control. “M n…not angry… R…Roy.”

Chet looked at the others… “Is he tellin us not to be angry at Roy or that he’s not?” They all shrugged, uncertain themselves.

“Both…,” Joanne answered from the side of Johnny’s bed… “He’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met and he’s expecting you to be too,” she said as she brushed her fingers through the dark hair… “Don’t you sweetheart?” John gave her a drowsy, lopsided smile as Jo kissed his forehead. The dark eyes closed and he drifted off once more.

Kel nodded at the door. The crew understood the unspoken order and turned to go, leaving Roy and Joanne with their friend. Out in the hall, Kel got a chorus of thanks from the crew. “Thanks for letting us in there Dr. Brackett,” Captain Hammer said shaking Kel’s hand. “We really needed to see him.”

“No problem, I think it’ll do Johnny a world of good to know he still has a lot of friends around him.”

 

Roy and Joanne finished the night at John’s bedside. Jo refused to leave even at Roy’s insistence that she’d be more comfortable back home or at the Hotel. “I’ll just sit up all night worrying about him so I might as well stay,” she pointed out. Roy nodded in defeat.

John slept peacefully in his drug induced slumber but he woke the next morning groggy and dazed, still unable to clearly remember everything that had happened…He looked at Roy worriedly… “What’s wrong with me Roy…why can’t I remember?”

“I don’t know Johnny…,” Roy said evasively...unsure of how much to tell him. Johnny frowned at him suspiciously…the look plainly saying he didn’t believe him but Roy smiled at him reassuringly… “You did get a bad thump on the head when you fell.”

“That’s what you told me the last time this happened a few months ago…,” he said with a sigh.

“And I was right…,” Roy reminded him. “Can you remember anything at all?”

“Just pieces…images…like the last time when Ki…when I got hurt in the warehouse…,” He replied evasively.

“It’ll be okay Junior…everything’s gonna be back to normal soon,” he promised him, not commenting on the abrupt change of direction. John nodded tiredly and Roy reached out to sweep the dark hair from John’s eyes. The younger man flinched and Roy hesitated briefly before his hand moved to rest on top of the dark head instead.

“Sorry…,” Johnny murmured as he chewed his lower lip nervously.

“It’s okay…I understand…Why don’t you try and get some rest Junior…who knows…maybe it’ll come back to you when you wake up.”

Johnny nodded and his eyes closed. Roy was looking slightly depressed when Kel came in a while later. “What’s wrong Roy?”

Roy nodded toward his sleeping friend… “Back to square one…,” he said with a sigh. Brackett looked at him in confusion but the younger man shook his head… “Never mind Doc…he’s just understandably leery about trusting me completely…he won’t talk to me…I guess I can’t blame him…,” he said with a half smile. “It’ll get better…We’ll get back to normal…I messed this up…I’ll fix it,” he assured Kel. “But Doc he’s askin about his memory loss…Should I tell him…?”

“I’d advise against it Roy…I think he either remembers and he’s afraid to talk about it or he’s blocking it and It’ll either come back to him on its own or it won’t…either way…don’t push him into remembering a traumatic event…he’s got to come to grips with it at his own speed.”

“I get the feeling he remembers more than he’s saying but I think he’s still a little unsure of how much he can trust me just yet,” he explained sadly.

“Why do you think so?”

“I think he remembered what happened in the warehouse a few months ago…he almost admitted it was Brad Kimmerlin but then he backed off…I couldn’t tell if he was afraid of Kimmerlin or if he didn’t trust me.”

Brackett patted his shoulder… “Just be patient and give him time Roy…,” Kel advised. The younger man nodded dejectedly.

 

John remained quiet and withdrawn…his wary dark eyes watched everything…distrustful and cautious…making Roy realize that the physical trauma to his body was less than the trauma to his emotional and mental state. Roy stayed at his side throughout the day though Joanne had to leave to pick up the kids. She placed a sisterly kiss on the young man’s forehead before she left, promising to see him later.

First thing in the morning Captain Hammer and Captain Hookrader called Charlie Dwyer into his office and picked up the phone at the station… “Chief Houts…this is Captain Hammer at Station 51…”

“What can I do for you Dick…?”

“I’m calling to ask you to rescind Gage’s transfer.”

“Is that what he wants…? Is everything okay between him and DeSoto?”

“I believe so…their differences have been resolved…I’d really like my Junior Paramedic back.”

Houts was pleased to hear it and readily complied. “It’ll be through by your next shift.”

There’s no rush Chief…”

“Why’s that?”

“John was injured this morning…”

“Oh…I hadn’t heard…How long will he be out?”

“At least a few weeks…He’s got at least one broken rib.”

“That’s too bad…I’d of liked to see them work together soon…just to be sure…”

“Don’t worry…Roy’s with him at the Hospital and unless I miss my guess, John’ll be staying with him while he recuperates.”

“That’s good to hear…how’d this happen anyway…?”

“Well chief, it went like this…” Dick and Hookrader…along with Charlie Dwyer reported everything that the blonde Paramedic had seen and heard. “The problem is, Johnny sustained a head injury and can’t remember everything that happened…,” Dick finished.

Hout’s sighed in frustration… “That’s a disappointment…If what Dwyer say’s is true, well…we can’t have this in our department. There’s been a lot of other rumors and complaints about that station but I can’t do anything without evidence or a witness and no one’s willing to testify…I’ll see what I can do…maybe just the hint of an investigation will straighten them up.”

“Thanks chief.” Cap hung up the phone and shrugged at Charlie. “That’s all we can do without Johnny’s side of it but it didn’t sound promising.” Charlie looked disappointed but said nothing.

Kel released Johnny into Roy’s care later in the afternoon. “He’s gonna need a lot of rest and I want him supervised at all times Roy. He still seems a bit disoriented and I don’t like how quiet he is.”

“Me either Doc…he’s like…like he used to be…worse maybe. I may have to start over…I can only hope it doesn’t take as long as it did the last time to break through.”

“I’m sorry Roy but there’s no nice way to say this but…this was really hard on Johnny. You were the one person he trusted…,” Kel trailed off.

Roy hung his head… “I know…I really screwed up.” He lifted his head… “It won’t happen again…I’ll find the way to reach him and I’ll find the way to help him through this Aspergers Disorder if that’s what he’s got.”

“I’m trying to find someone who can help you with that but most of the people I’ve talked to all agree that he has the symptoms…even as mild as they are but they all seem to want to put him on some kind of drug therapy. Johnny will never go for that and the Fire Department would have to be made aware of it. Some of them have said there’s not much help available for it at least not at this time.”

“I don’t understand…isn’t there anything they can do?” Roy questioned.

Kel sighed. “Most of them are blowing it off as battered child syndrome, which I don’t doubt but I don’t think that’s all. There’s just not a lot of research about this right now. I’ll keep trying…I haven’t given up. I’ll find someone willing to listen and who has some advice Johnny can handle if it comes to that but these Doctor’s just aren’t very promising…”

“I still haven’t told him that you suspect that’s what he has.”

“Don’t…at least not yet. I want to be able to give him something…preferably hope that we can help him. Is there any member of his family you can contact? Someone who can give you his medical background…?”

“Just his Aunt Rosemary…I told you Johnny said that when he first came to live with her that she took him to a lot of Doctors but he didn’t know why.”

“Can’t hurt to try asking,” Brackett said.

Roy nodded as Kel stood up “I’ll call her later and ask.”

Kel nodded…“Let’s go get your Partner.” They went to John’s room. The younger man was dressed and sitting on the edge of his bed waiting patiently. He smiled hesitantly at Roy as they came in.

“You ready to go home Junior…?” Roy asked trying to sound upbeat.

John nodded and eased himself off the bed and into the wheel chair that Roy had brought in. Roy rested his hand gently on John’s shoulder. The younger man glanced up at his friend curiously but Roy just gave him a light squeeze and pushed the chair toward the door.

 

Johnny struggled through the next few days…the first night he was there the nightmares that had plagued him early in their friendship returned. Roy woke him several times a night, shaking and confused. “Easy Johnny…, you okay…?”He nodded slowly. “Can you tell me what you were dreaming of…?”

“No…,” he mumbled softly.

“Johnny…was it your Uncle again…?”

“No…”

“What then…you can tell me.”

He chewed his lip for a moment but finally answered…“He hurt me…”

“Who…? Who hurt you?”

“I don’t know…”

Roy didn’t believe him…“are you sure you don’t know…? Please Johnny, talk to me…”

“I don’t know…I can’t see his face,” he whispered desperately.

“Okay…its okay… Is that all…?”

“No I…I was falling…I called for you… but you didn’t come,” he whispered.

“I’m here Partner…I’m here and I will be from now on…I promise…,” the older man soothed sweeping the dark hair from his friend’s forehead until John’s eyes closed. “You tell me when you’re ready Junior…,” he whispered.

As the week dragged on he remained unsure and insecure and Roy was frustrated. The nightmares were a nightly occurrence and Roy found himself wakened frequently by John’s cry of fear but the older man never complained… just sat next to him until his eyes closed in sleep once more. Roy tried each time to get Johnny to tell him who hurt him. The answer was the same. “I don’t remember.”

His broken rib and immobilized shoulder left him almost helpless and requiring assistance from the older couple but he was hesitant to request it. He spoke little and when he did it was apprehensive and quiet…as if he were afraid of being noticed or getting in the way.

He flinched at any rapid movement…retreating from any sudden contact…the fearful reaction tore at Roy’s heart and he’d speak softly until John would calm down. He grew anxious when he lost sight of Roy for too long. The shifts Roy worked were difficult for both of them…Roy worried the entire time he was away, while Johnny sat up half the night afraid to sleep and maybe wake Joanne with his nightmares. If Joanne and Roy argued, John would pull into himself, growing silent and withdrawn. "The whispered words "No...Please stop...Don't fight...Please don't fight," that accompanied the slight rocking hinted at his troubled past.

They tried hard to reassure him that he was safe and at home with them. Roy knew that his cocky partner would resurface eventually… Johnny was too tough to let this beat him. He prayed that it would be soon, this John broke his heart.

By the second week…John’s bruises faded, the muscles eased, the bones began to mend and he regained the use of his arm and they were relieved to see that the emotional healing was finally underway and Johnny began to regain control. He settled into the family’s routine and began to feel at ease in their home once again. The nightmares began to fade though they still woke him occasionally. Roy and Jo almost cheered with relief knowing he’d be okay when he finally started talking…and talking and talking.

“Roy…I want to go home,” he told the older man at the beginning of the third week.

“Tired of us already Junior…”

John smiled that crooked grin that Roy had missed so much… “No, just ready to try and do this on my own. I have to pull myself together sometime.”

“Okay…but Johnny there’s some things we need to discuss…”

“Like what?”

“Like what’s wrong with you…”

John’s smile faded. “I got beat up and I fell…That’s all.”

“No Johnny, there was more…a lot more.”

“More…?” he questioned in confusion… “I know I don’t remember much but it’s no big deal…”

“Johnny…do you remember what happened before you fell…or even how you fell…?”

A confused frown crossed John’s features…he seemed to shrink into himself a little... “You were mad at me…,” he whispered.

Roy gently touched John’s shoulder reassuringly…“Yes, but I’m not now…okay…? But after that junior…Look…I know you’re reluctant to talk about it and maybe you don’t trust me and that’s okay…I understand…But I want you to try okay? Johnny…do you remember what they did? Who hurt you…?”

John hesitated…he stared at his hands, unwilling to meet Roy’s eyes…“Yes…some of it...,” he finally admitted softy.

“Can you tell me…?”

“I don’t want to…”

“Okay…what about that night Johnny...Do you remember what happened that night?”

“No…no…I don’t…,” he replied anxiously.

“Okay Junior…calm down…just take it easy okay...?” Roy said softly moving his hand to lightly touch Johnny’s face. John flinched away at first but then finally allowed his friend to touch his chin and raise his head. He nodded, calming slightly under Roy’s soothing voice and familiar touch. “Johnny…is it alright if I talk to your Aunt?”

“About what…?”

“You told me she took you to a lot of Doctors…”Johnny nodded hesitantly. “Do you have any idea what they were looking for?”

“No…just…I…told you I stuttered sometimes and I had trouble remembering some things…like now…but…it was nothing serious…she woulda told me if I was sick or something.”

“Yeah…I guess. Well why don’t I call her and see what she says…is that okay?”

John shrugged… “Okay…I guess.”

“As for going home, we’ll take you back for a check up and see what Brackett says okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good…you just rest for today and I’ll call Brackett and make an appointment for you tomorrow.”

“Alright…”

“Rosemary, this is Roy DeSoto…”

“Is John okay…?” she asked apprehensively. She couldn’t think of any other reason for Roy to call her, except that something had happened to her Nephew.

“He’s fine…a little banged up but he’s gonna be fine.”

“What happened to him Roy…?”

“He took a fall…he’s gonna be fine…really but that’s not why I called…Rosemary, Johnny told me when he first came to live with you that you took him to a lot of Doctors...”

“He told you about that?” She asked in shock.

“Yes…that’s true isn’t it?”

“Well yes but…I’m just surprised he told you.”

“Rosemary…Johnny tells me a lot…but what I need to know is what you found out from those Doctors.”

“Why…?”

“Because after Johnny got hurt he seemed to pull into himself…”

“John only does that when he’s extremely stressed…emotionally stressed. What happened Roy…?” She demanded intently, knowing whatever had sent him into that state had to have been bad.

Roy hesitated…guilt kept him silent for a long moment before he pulled it together enough to answer… “There was a misunderstanding…We fought Rosemary…I told him I didn’t want him around anymore. He was really upset.”

“Oh my God…how could you…?”

“It was a mistake…we’ve gotten past that and he’s forgiven me and It will never happen again I promise you but what happened with John…the withdrawal from everyone and everything was pretty scary and Johnny doesn’t seem to be able to remember what happened. His Doctor suspected he has something called Aspergers Syndrome…?”

Roy let the question hang...Rose sighed. “His Doctor is probably right. I took Johnny to several psychologists…They were pretty much useless…they told me he had everything from Schizophrenia to psychosis…One said he was manic depressive and another that he had Traumatic Stress Disorder. One told me he should be institutionalized… God…I had so many diagnosis’ that my head was spinning. I didn’t buy any of them but then I finally found one that said he had Aspergers…he seemed to have John’s symptoms down pat and told me that there wasn’t much more they could do for him and that he’d probably outgrow most of those symptoms…They weren’t very helpful. They just told me to keep doing what I was doing to reach him. It was pretty discouraging because I couldn’t seem to get him to open up at all. The nightmares were the worst but he’d just clam up if I tried to get him to tell me about his past and if I pushed…he’d just get upset and pull into himself.”

“What did you do when that happened…?”

“I just held on and let him fight it.” Roy didn’t understand her answer but Rosemary continued on… “I wanted so much to help him…I never could reach him completely… He just didn’t trust anyone…I wish I knew what happened to him but he wouldn’t ever tell me. I guess what he really needed was a friend …someone like you to talk to…”

“You never told him what he had…?”

“No…I didn’t have the heart too…he had so many other issues at the time that I couldn’t dump that on him too…I was afraid he’d just give up…quit trying…so I never told him besides, the Doctor seemed to be right and he seemed to get better as time went on so I just left it alone.”

“I see…Rose…I think it’s time he knows what he has. I want to tell him…I think he has a right to know…”

“Roy…no one’s managed to get Johnny to open up except you…not even his friend Drew got as close to him as you have. You know him better than anyone so I’ll leave it to your judgment as to what you tell him.”

“Thank You Rosemary…I’ll take good care of him, I promise you.”

“Good Luck Roy and give him my love. Tell him to call me…I’d love to hear from him.”

“I will Rose. Goodbye.”

“Bye…”

 

Roy called Kel and told him what Rosemary had said. “I think you’re right…we need to tell him. I’ve called a number of people and his Aunt is correct…they’re really not promising. I just wish we had more information to give him…something that would encourage him.”

Roy sighed… “Maybe there’s not much we can do except leave him alone…I mean he was doing fine until I messed him up…”

“Roy stop it…he was living in an emotionless vacuum until you dragged him out of it…experiencing nightmares and keeping everyone at arms’ length…that’s no life.”

“Neither is being on some drug therapy program or told your schizophrenic or depressed or…”

“Roy…I did hear of one program that sounded different. I left a message for a Dr. Martha Hightower…she’s been experimenting with a new drug free therapy for Aspergers Syndrome and Autism. It’s called touch therapy. She hasn’t called me back but when she does I think you should talk to her.

“Why…?”

“Because Roy…you’re probably the one most qualified to answer her questions.”

Roy thought about it for a minute… “I don’t feel right telling some stranger John’s secrets.”

“The good thing is…she is a stranger…she doesn’t know you or Johnny and if she does decide to help you, she’ll be his Doctor and sworn to keep anything she’s told confidential.”

Roy sighed once more… “Okay…but I still don’t like it.”

“I understand and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The next morning Roy and Johnny were in the emergency room for John’s check up. Kel probed John’s ribs cautiously, pleased that the pain seemed to be gone. “Sally get X-Ray up here…I want a look at his ribs.”

“Yes Doctor…,” She said as she left the room.

“Any dizziness Johnny…?”

“No…”

“How about your shoulder…let’s see you move that arm.”

John swung his arm, relieved to find it was pain free for the first time since Roy had knocked him down over a month ago. “Feels good Doc…,” John said quietly.

“Okay, let’s get a look at those ribs and then we’ll see about a time frame for you to go back to work…sound fair?”

John smiled slightly…, “Fair…”

“Good…” Brackett’s eyes met Roy’s as the X-ray machine was trundled into the room. “We’ll be right back,” Kel assured him as they headed for the door.

Outside in the hall Kel turned to Roy… “Do you want to tell him or do you want me to?”

“I think a bit of both…I’ll tell him what I found out from Rosemary but you may need to explain exactly what Aspergers is so he doesn’t freak out…ya know?”

Kel nodded his agreement, trusting Roy’s judgment, after all he knew his young partner better than anyone.

The technician backed his machine from the room a few minutes later. “Bring those to my office,” Kel directed as he pushed the treatment room door open and went inside…Roy followed. Johnny was sitting on the edge of the exam table when they came in. “Johnny, why don’t you go ahead and get dressed and we’ll go to my office for coffee while we wait.”

John gave the two men a curious look but at Roy’s encouraging nod, he grinned and reached for his clothes.

A few minutes later they were seated in Brackett’s office. Roy and Kel exchanged a glance and Roy cleared his throat hesitantly… “Johnny we have something we want to talk to you about…”

“Okay…,” he said cautiously.

“Johnny do you remember what we were talking about yesterday…?”

“Which thing…?”

“About the Doctors your Aunt took you to…?” John’s eyes shot to Kel… “It’s okay Junior, just trust me alright?”

Johnny’s dark eyes narrowed as he looked uneasily at Roy…he chewed his lip nervously for a moment before answering … “Yeah…what about it…?”

Roy sighed knowing John still had reservations about trusting him…“I spoke to your Aunt…”

John nodded… “Okay…?”

“Johnny she confirmed what Doctor Brackett suspected you have…”

“Have…? Like I’m sick or something?” He asked apprehensively.

“No…no not sick,” Roy reassured him… “But you may have something called Aspergers Syndrome.”

John’s dark eyes narrowed warily… “What’s that…?”

Roy looked to Kel… “It’s a neurological condition Johnny…,” The Doctor explained. “It usually manifests in childhood which from what your Aunt said, it apparently did and they still don’t have all the answers to what causes it and in your case… appears to be mild but yours is coupled with a different problem as well.”

“What’s that?”

Kel hesitated…, “battered child syndrome.”

Johnny’s eyes flew to Roy. “You told him…?” He whispered in disbelief.

Roy opened his mouth to try and explain but Kel cut him off. “Johnny I already knew…I pushed Roy into confirming it, that’s all.”

Johnny looked at him… “How…?” He asked softly.

“Johnny, I wouldn’t be much of a Doctor if I couldn’t see those old breaks and signs of abuse on your X-Rays.”

“Oh…,” he murmured. “Who else knows?” He asked quietly.

“Joe Early…he saw them too.”

“Dixie…?” He whispered, feeling totally humiliated.

“She suspects but she didn’t see the X-ray’s and doesn’t know for sure…”

John nodded in embarrassment…staring at the floor. “Did you tell him everything…?” He asked Roy painfully.

“No Johnny, not everything. Only that your Uncle beat you up pretty bad…which he already knew…well that someone had anyway…”

“John…it’s nothing to be ashamed of…,” Kel assured him. “You’re a victim…you’re not to blame…you were only a child.”

Johnny nodded but still refused to look up. Roy looked at Kel…feeling as if he’d betrayed his friend yet again. He reached over to lay his hand gently on his young friend’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Junior but you were in real trouble and I had to confirm his suspicions so that we could figure out how help you.” Roy squeezed his shoulder…”Look at me Johnny…!” The dark eyes lifted to meet his. “I’m so sorry that I did that but I’d do it again if it would help you…whatever it takes…”The older man’s hand swept the sable hair from John’s brow. The distressed look finally left Johnny’s eyes and he nodded in understanding.

Roy returned his attention to Brackett as he continued… “Johnny, I want you to understand that AS is something you’re born with. They suspect it’s something that happens even before you’re born… something that disrupts the ‘wiring’ in the neural circuits of your brain. It alters the normal thought and behavior patterns. Some Doctors think it has to do with an abusive or neglected lifestyle but others disagree. I don’t have all the answers…this isn’t my area of expertise but I doubt It was caused by abuse but abuse certainly helped to trigger the episodes of withdrawal.”

“Withdrawal…?” He asked in confusion.

“Those moments when you can’t remember what’s happened…the times when you’ve lost minutes or hours…maybe even days.”

John nodded… “Yes…”

“They can be brought on by emotionally stressful moments…Fear, rejection…loss of a loved one.” The younger man nodded again. “Sometimes during those moments you pull into yourself…like you did the night you fell.”

“I did?” He whispered… “I don’t remember…”

“No… you wouldn’t. It’s not something you consciously do…Your mind retreats to a safe place. Somewhere where you can’t be hurt…do you understand?”

“So…am I… like…crazy or something? My Aunt Lacee said I was,” He admitted softly in embarrassment, his teeth pulled nervously at his lower lip.

Roy’s mouth tightened in anger. “You are NOT crazy…,” Roy said adamantly.

John looked into his friends angry eyes… “I’m sorry…,” he said quietly, not sure why his friend was mad at him.

Roy reached over to rest his hand on John’s back...“I’m not mad at you…,” Roy assured him, correctly interpreting the look and tone of his partner’s apology…“I’m angry at the people who hurt you…do you understand?”

“Yes…,” he answered with a small smile… “But you told me I was crazy too,” Johnny reminded him, remembering their first real fight as partners.

“I said you were a nut…that’s not the same thing,” Roy teased.*

John threw him a grin… “But a friendly one…,” he added.

Kel shook his head at both of them as he cleared his throat and continued their conversation…“Ahem…Roy’s right John…you are most definitely not suffering from a mental illness.”

“Can I still be Fireman…a Paramedic…?” He asked, growing serious.

Kel nodded… “You’ve had AS your whole life. How old were you when the abuse began…?”

“The physical abuse…? I guess I was about nine…my Mother’s family always hated me, they fought over it all the time…it really upset my mom…I remember she cried a lot… My Grandparents were okay…they at least tried to like me but the rest…well…I was an embarrassment…ya know?”

“No Johnny…I don’t know,” Roy replied in irritation… John shot him a grateful look.

“Okay so the mental and emotional abuse started as a toddler at the very least…”

John nodded… “Well at least when my dad wasn’t around…they stayed away when he was home.”

“Was he away a lot?”

Johnny nodded… “Yeah…sometimes weeks at a time…I hardly ever saw him…he wanted to be able to buy us a house so he worked a lot… but then…” John shrugged… “He died before he could… My Mom couldn’t get a good job and the money didn’t last long after he died and we had to go back to the reservation.

“And the physical abuse started then?”

Johnny looked away…but nodded in affirmation. “Right after we got back to the reservation…yeah… My Aunt Lacee had to watch out for me when my Mom worked. She hit me…,” he shrugged as he touched his cheek, remembering the many slaps. "It got worse after my Mom died..." Kel and Roy were both shaking their heads in disgust, this was the first time Roy had heard about this as well. After that I went to live with my other Aunt…that’s when Uncle George…hurt me,” Johnny finished, looking shaken.

“And despite all of that, you’ve managed to get this far. You’ve established yourself as one of the best…you’re one of an elite group of Paramedics out there…don’t take that lightly Johnny…be proud of it. I believe you’ve kept this condition under control all this time and it’s never been an issue on the job. I think you’ll recover it again…you’re already well on your way…I see no reason to make an issue out of this or to tell anyone else about it if you don’t want to.”

John looked at Brackett in shock… “You’d really risk keeping this to yourself?”

“I don’t think it’s a risk at all and I’m not willing to lose a good paramedic over it.”

“And I’m not willing to lose my Partner…,” Roy added.

“I’m not your partner anymore,” Johnny reminded him sadly.

Roy grinned… “Of course you are. Cap took care of that the day after you got hurt. Your transfer was only temporary anyway since Chief Houts didn’t want to break up the best team out there,” Roy teased.

Johnny’s face lit up… “For real…?”

“For real Junior…”

“What about Cap…? I should probably tell him…just in case something…should happen. If he wants to tell headquarters…,” John shrugged.

“That’s up to you John…we’ll tell who you want and keep it private from everyone else okay?”

He looked between the two men… “Thank you,” he said sincerely.

They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Sharon Walters poked her head inside. “I have John’s X-Rays Doctor Brackett…,” She said timidly.

Kel stood up and held out his hand. The girl half threw them to him and hastily retreated in awe of the dark haired Doctor. Johnny and Roy grinned at Kel knowing how intimidating the surly Doctor could be if one didn’t know him well. Kel sighed and turned on the light panel and inserted the X-rays. After reviewing them for a moment, Kel turned back to John. “Okay…You can go home on your own Johnny. I want to see you in another week and we’ll discuss releasing you for duty…alright?”

“Okay…”

Roy and John left. John stayed quiet all the way back to his apartment. He turned to his friend as they pulled into his parking lot. “Thanks Roy…”

“For what…?”

“Being my friend...,” he said with a shrug.

“Thanks for letting me be… I really didn’t deserve a second chance at it.”

“Did you really think I’d cheat on you with Jo…?” he asked softly.

“You remember me telling you that?”

He shook his head… “No… Joanne told me a few days ago. I don’t remember exactly what you said,” he admitted hesitantly. “I only remember bits and pieces.”

“Oh…well to answer your question…no I didn’t at first…but then…,” He shrugged. “I saw you at the Doctor’s office and I didn’t know she had a problem and the only other offices up there were divorce Lawyers…then I saw you at the Hotel together and I heard her tell you she loved you on the phone…I’m so sorry Johnny.”

John nodded… “I guess it did look really bad but you do know I’d never do anything to hurt you Pally.”

“I know that Johnny…now. I should have known it before…I’m really sorry…forgive me…?”

“Anything…,” he said with a nod of certainty as he climbed from the car.

Roy grinned in relief…“I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll get Chet to bring your camper over…he and Marco got it from 88’s the day after you fell. It’s been at 51’s so…it won’t be too difficult.”

“Thanks.” Roy nodded and backed out. John watched him drive away before heading toward his apartment whistling happily. Maybe he’d call his Aunt…find out what else she knew about this AS stuff.

The next morning Roy was in the back yard with Chris. The small blonde boy listened carefully as his Dad explained the push mower and it’s dangers. “Never put your hands under the mower unless you disconnect the spark plug…that’s very important if you want to keep those fingers…got it?”

“Okay dad…,”

“Honey…,” Joanne called from the deck.

He turned toward her… “What is it babe…?”

“Phone…it’s a Doctor…she said Kelly Brackett told her to call you.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Roy put the mower away and closed the shed door before heading inside. He threw a nod towards Chris as he picked up the phone. Joanne looked at him curiously but stepped outside with Jennifer in her arms to watch her son as he played in the back yard.

“Roy DeSoto…,” he said.

“Mr. DeSoto…my name is Martha Hightower.

“Yes Ma’am…Doctor Brackett said he was gonna talk to you.”

“He did and he asked me to call you. Do you think your friend would be willing to come in and talk to me?”

“No…I don’t think so. John’s a pretty private person...I don’t think he’d ever consider talking to a…,” He hesitated.

“Shrink…?” She asked with a chuckle.

“Well yeah…but just…you’re a stranger and Johnny get’s uncomfortable around people he doesn’t know well.”

“I see…well that I can’t change right away but as for the other…Mr. DeSoto…”

“Roy, please.”

“Okay Roy…I’m not a psychiatrist…I’m a Therapist… I specialize in Aspergers Syndrome and Autism. I’m working on a new drug free program. It’s called traumatic touch therapy.”

“Touch therapy…?”

“It’s reasonably new but I’ve already seen some success with it. It’s a way of taking something as violent as rage reduction and turning it around…making personal contact something they look forward to rather than shrink away from or fight…”

“Rage Reduction…?”

“It’s a method of bringing an autistic child out of their safe zone.”

“How…?”

“By simply holding them…Children with Autism and AS withdraw into themselves for a number of reasons…frustration, anger, fear, pain…anything that can cause a great deal of emotional stress. They don’t want to be a part of what’s happening around them, so they shut you out…withdraw into themselves…into their own world…where they’re safe. They don’t want to feel or be touched. The old method of rage reduction forces their focus back on the world…to focus on you…by holding them against their will. It usually makes them quite angry and they fight to stay in that safe place, while you’re fighting to bring them back to you. If you can outlast them it usually works but it’s exhausting and emotionally draining for both parties...some therapists even think it's cruel...so I’m trying to find a way to use that but to make it a more pleasant experience.”

“I see…”

“Now Dr. Brackett says he suspects he has Aspergers Syndrome…a mild case at the very least but he also says that John seems to have control of his condition most of the time and that he didn’t even know he had it.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“I’d have to agree since he tells me you’re also both Paramedics with Los Angeles County. That in itself is pretty stressful. If no one’s noticed until now that he has a problem other than that he’s socially awkward, withdrawn and secretive or that he has a few anger issues that Dr Brackett mentioned then he’s either done a good job of keeping it under control or he’s outgrown the worst of it until the emotional conditions became so severe that it just overwhelmed him.”

“Do they usually outgrow it?”

“The worst symptoms of it…sometimes…yes…he’ll always have it but unlike mid to lower spectrum Autism…ASD is usually something they can function with quite well and while some of my colleagues like to lump them all together... I believe ASD is a separate disorder completely. There are some absolutely brilliant people in our history that we believe had Aspergers.”

“Really…Like who…?”

“Oh…Lewis Carroll, Mozart, Marie Currie, Einstein even Thomas Jefferson…”

“Seriously…?”

“Seriously…now I need to know that this is what your friend has…so tell me about John…”

“Well his Aunt said she took him to a lot of Doctors…Medical as well as therapists and psychologists. She said they diagnosed him with everything from schizophrenia to being a manic depressive. One said he had post traumatic stress disorder…One said Autistic. One even said he should be institutionalized,” Roy said in disgust. “She said one finally diagnosed him with Aspergers.”

“They were merely guessing…,” she said in annoyance. “I’m afraid that was typical in a lot of cases back then and even today...maybe someday there will be more information available but Roy I don’t want to know what they said about him, I want to hear about John from you.”

“Why…?”

“According to Kel Brackett, you’re the only person he appears to trust and confide in. You’re also the one person who at this time seems to know him better than anyone else.”

“Well…I don’t know how much I should tell you. I promised him that what he told me was between us. Some of what he’s told me I haven’t even shared with my wife.”

“I understand Roy… but you need to understand that I can’t help you or your friend unless I get to know this young man. Now you’ve already said John would never talk to me…but you can…for him. Unfortunately my therapy program is still in therapeutic trials and it’s only being used for children and teens as they’re easier to bond with but I can still offer you some help until it is. That’s why I need to find out everything I can about your partner...so I can advise you…I need to be sure it is what he has and that you’re the one best able to help him.”

Roy hesitated… “I feel really awkward with this…”

“If it helps, just remember that I don’t know you or John as anything but a name…a least for now and anything you tell me is confidential. I won’t…can’t even tell Kelly Brackett what you tell me without John’s permission…understand?”

“Alright…,” he finally said with a sigh. “If there’s a way to help Johnny…then okay.” Roy started at the beginning. He told her everything he could remember about John. How he’d first been when they met and how he’d finally come around. He told her about what John had told him from the tragic deaths of his parents to the abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his Uncle. His bouts of withdrawal and the memory lapses he’d experienced as a child. He told her about his adverse and sometimes fearful reaction to being touched, at least at first. His nightmares and the terror Roy had seen in him afterwards…about John’s difficulty getting close to anyone… “Well except my kids,” he said… “And girls…Johnny hasn’t got a problem getting close to girls,” He finished with a chuckle over an hour after he’d started.

“Johnny has a steady girlfriend then?” she asked in surprise.

“Uh…no, he sees a lot of different women.”

“But he can’t hang onto them?”

“Well no…he kinda has a problem with that.”

“I’m not surprised, but we’ll come back to that. He does trust you, is that correct?”

“He used too and I had to really work to get through…it took me months to get him to that point and then I went and screwed it up.”

“What happened Roy…?” She asked gently.

He explained the misunderstanding and its repercussions. “I hurt him badly,” he said at the conclusion. “I don’t know how he could ever forgive me but he did…but I’m still gonna have to earn his trust back again…at least on a personal level but he’s so special Doctor Hightower…I wish you could meet him…so you could see what I mean.”

“I hope I get to meet him as well, he sounds like he’s quite unique…Now I have some questions so just do your best to answer them honestly okay?”

“Alright…”

“Roy, is Johnny sometimes…insensitive?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh…like…he has trouble sensing peoples moods…or he says things that could be taken wrong or out of context…”

“Well yeah…sometimes he doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone…but then neither does Chet…,” Roy said jokingly.

“Chet…?”

“One of our co workers…,” he explained.

“Oh…is he obsessive?”

“Chet or Johnny…?” He asked with a laugh.

She laughed as well… “Let’s take them one at a time…Johnny?”

“Johnny can be very obsessive? When he gets on a subject, he’ll beat it to death… he can make you a bit crazy…”

“Be patient Roy…it’s not his fault.”

“You said he resists being touched?”

“Um…he used to shy away from being touched at all but he’s pretty much over that now…”

“With you…?”

“Yes, though he’ll still push my hand away on occasion… but he’s come around with others too…”

“Such as…?”

“My wife...the station crew where we work…he’s real close to my kids…ah…Dr. Brackett…Dixie…my Mom… a few other people”

“That’s good…that’s very good. You have brought him a long way. Does he have friends other than you?”

“He’s mentioned one named Drew but he said he hasn’t seen him for a while and he’s become friendly with the crew.”

“Okay…that’s good. Can you tell when he’s tense or frustrated?”

“Yeah…”

“How…?”

“Um…when he gets flustered…he has trouble getting his thoughts to come out the way he wants them to…ya know?”

“I know…Does he sometimes avoid making eye contact?”

“Yeah…at first but now he only does it when he’s really upset or frustrated…then he won’t look at me.”

“Is he, um… organized, methodical, compulsive…easily angered…anything like that…?”

“How about all of the above…,” he said with a laugh.

“Roy…I’m gonna get a little personal here so bear with me.”

“Okay…”

“How do you feel about John?”

There was silence at the other end for a long moment. “I’m not sure what you mean exactly,” Roy hedged… “But he’s my best friend, my partner and he’s very important to me. I think we complement each other as a team. He’s smart and tough and as a fire fighter, he’s totally fearless…I mean he’ll try anything… Thing’s I even hesitate to try. I care about him a lot…”

“It’s obvious that you think very highly of your friend.”

“Yes I do.”

“And I’ll tell you I’m very impressed with his abilities…especially if he has what we suspect he does…but I wasn’t asking you what you thought about him, I want to know how you feel about him?”

“Why…?”

“Just trust me Roy, I want to know.”

Once again there was a long pause as Roy wrestled with his own inability to vocalize those softer feelings for John. Jo and the kids were easy but how to say it about another man…even his best friend. This woman was a therapist…what would she think if he said the words he’d used with John in the emergency room. He sighed…he had to be honest and hope she didn’t think he was nuts… “Johnny’s like a younger brother to me… ya know. I…uh…I…love John.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably and waited for her reaction but he was slightly shocked by it when it came.

“Good, I’m glad to hear it…He needs that...but wow…you really had to work hard to get that L word out.”

“Pardon…? I…uh…I don’t think I understand.”

“Roy…from what you and Kel have told me and from what you’ve described and of course without actually having sat down with him…I’d say Kel’s right and John most likely has Aspergers Syndrome...at least a mild case of it…He’s displayed more than a few symptoms of it… add to that being a battered child and being subjected to the type of abusive upbringing you’ve described… I’d be willing to couple all that with traumatic stress disorder.”

“You mean like soldiers get?”

“Similar. John’s been severely traumatized…he’s been beaten, almost certainly been molested if not sexually assaulted…you said he couldn’t remember…that he’d gone away…as he called it?”

“That’s right…but he seemed pretty sure his Uncle was too afraid of his…ah… odd behavior…that his people are superstitious and thought he was crazy…I guess among the Indians…you left someone who was crazy alone…ya know? John said he thinks he was also afraid of his Grandfather…”

“Well thank heavens for superstitions but even the attempt would be terrifying enough…being molested would have certainly messed up his head…His body has been broken and battered…he’s lost everything that he loved and trusted in…His Mom and Dad. The people who should have loved and protected him failed miserably… in fact they hurt him themselves. He’s been put down and told he was worthless… rejected by his whole family…both sides from what you’ve told me.”

“Except for his Aunt…”

“Yes…but by then the damage had been done. He’d already learned not to trust anyone…he’d shut himself off from everyone...even his own feelings. He’d found a place to go…a place…within himself…a safe haven where no one can hurt him.”

“Are you saying they caused this Aspergers?”

“No…no that’s something he was born with. Most likely someone in his family had it somewhere in his background…possibly even his Father or Grandfather…but his home life certainly didn’t help it. I’d say his Aunt did very well to bring him as far as she did…especially without knowing exactly what was wrong with him and he seems to have it pretty well under control but from what I can tell from my conversation with you and Kel Brackett, you’re the reason he is where he is now. He looks up to you…trusts you…cares about you…loves you…even if he can’t grasp it yet.”

“Can’t…?”

“It’s a foreign concept Roy…he doesn’t know what it is.”

“Sure he does…his Parents loved him…he loved them.”

“Oh I don’t doubt that, but he told you his Father wasn’t around much…that his Mother was a victim of verbal and emotional abuse as well and that he was being abused even while they were alive…so tell me Roy…where is his model of love and family? His Dad’s occasional visits home…? I’m sure he only saw fleeting glimpses of their love for one another, so what did he learn from his childhood…? To be afraid…that you’ll lose what you love like his Mother lost his Father…just as he lost them both…? That family means screaming fights and pain and hurtful words like his family did to her as well as him. Who do you think is teaching him what it really means…who’s he looking to?”

Roy swallowed hard… “You mean me…?”

“You…your family… You’ve given him a small taste of what love and family should be and he’s watching you carefully and make no mistake…he’s probably scared to death of it but he wants what you have.”

“I’m not sure I understand…you mean Jo and the kids?”

“Not them specifically of course but yes. He wants what was denied him…what was taken from him. He wants it desperately but he doesn’t know how to get it. He wants the unconditional love and acceptance that you give your family…without expecting some kind of payback. He’s looking for that and that’s what he needs the most.”

“I think my family and I give him that.”

“Do you?”

“Well…yeah…I think so.”

“Did you hear yourself earlier…? You were tongue tied and you practically tripped over the word.” She accused. “You could barely get it out…at least not about another man. You’re afraid people will take it the wrong way and it embarrasses you. How can you teach him what you can’t do yourself?”

Roy thought about it for a few seconds…“You’re right…,” he finally agreed. “It does embarrass me but you’re wrong…I can say it…I um…love John.”

“That was a little choppy but better…now when you can say it without cringing you’ll be all set,” she teased. Roy had to laugh…she’d hit it dead center…his face had flushed scarlet as he’d spoken the words. “But now the next problem is that John doesn’t trust anyone, at least not completely…”

“He did and I ruined that…,”he said softly.

“He’s forgiven you, you said.”

“Yeah but I think he’s holding back a bit ya know…? He’s still unsure of our friendship now…He’s not sure how much he can trust me anymore.”

“I see…but the good thing is that you love him like a brother…I can tell that… so I’ll give you some tips that I use with my therapy patients.”

“Alright…”

“Well hang on… before you agree to anything…hear me out.”

“Okay…”

“When you first met John you said he avoided any close contact…”

“That’s right…well except victims…my kids…women.”

“She laughed… “The women are the easy part Roy…at least until they get too close…until they want more than he can give…understand?”

“So he dumps them.”

“Right…or he causes them to dump him… one way or another…he’s not doing it consciously of course but he still does it and the problem is that if he doesn’t understand it himself… he can’t fix it. The victims are strangers, they aren’t a threat to his emotions and children…well children are accepting…they don’t expect anything more from him than who he is.”

“I understand.”

“But you said he’s past that now with you and some of his closer friends?”

“Yes…”

“Good…anything else?”

“Um…yeah… I can hold his hand if he’s sick or something.” Roy hesitated… Martha could almost feel the heat from his embarrassed blush all the way down the phone line. “And uh…sometimes if he’s really tense… I… uh…like…”

“You’ll what?”

“Uh…well…once when he woke from the nightmare…the one when he told me about his Uncle…I uh…I held him in my arms,” Roy said softly.

“He let you…?”

“He struggled a little at first but I just let him rock…you know just…rocked with him and kind of stroked his head…he went right off to sleep. I did it again in the emergency room and he seemed to calm right down.”

“That’s good…most people like John don’t like contact…especially near the face…especially since he’s been abused as well and it also says he felt safe somewhere other than inside himself…so here’s what I want you to do…touch him…"

"I don't understand..."

"I want you to touch him...casually of course but make contact...his arm, his hand…his back and especially his face…”

“He doesn’t like it…he pushes my hands away.”

“I know…do it anyway and for heaven’s sake…don’t do it in front of anyone…just when you’re alone, so you won’t embarrass either him or yourself. Do it as often as possible until he does allow it without pulling back or fending you off. “

“Uh…how did you know…?”

“It’s normal for someone with ASD to push you away when you reach for them…to resist contact… emotional, physical or even eye contact…even more so for someone who’s been abused…they try not to draw attention to themselves by avoiding eye contact, you’re less likely to feel challenged and hurt him… He most likely pulls back to protect his face from being hit…”

“God…what the hell did they do to him…?” He whispered.

“I’m sure it wasn’t good but if you do what I suggest maybe someday he’ll be able to tell you everything they did to him…”

“Okay…what else?”

“Be there for him…just be his friend…now bear in mind that most adults don’t go into withdrawal and it may never happen again with John but if it ever does…become his focus … make him look at you…sometimes it can keep someone from going away. John needs to learn to trust you again and he needs to learn that his safe place isn’t in his head …that it’s here with you…his brother”

“What if it doesn’t work?”

“Well…the method you used in the Emergency room works if you have the time or he’s not too deep but if he is…take hold and hang on.”

“Pardon…?”

“Hold him Roy and just let him fight…”

Roy remembered Rosemary’s words ‘I just held him and let him fight…,’ “That’s what his Aunt said she did but why…?” Roy asked in confusion.

“Roy…John is angry and afraid.”

“Angry at what…?”

“Life… He’s angry that he’s alone. He’s angry with the people that hurt and rejected him and the people who hurt his parents. He’s angry at his parents for leaving him and at himself for being angry at them. He’s afraid to try to hold on to anyone…afraid he’ll lose them too. He’s afraid of another hurt…another rejection…so he’s wrapped a great big wall around himself so no one can hurt him… but you broke that wall down and he let you in where no one else was allowed to go.”

“Then I messed up…?”

“Yes…and he’s angry at that too.”

“You think he’s still mad at me?”

“He’s not mad at you…he’s mad at himself for letting his guard down…letting you in where you could hurt him…understand…?”

“So he was hurt by me and angry at himself?”

“Right…so he just shut down…hopefully that will never happen again but if it does…recognize that he’s hurt, afraid or angry…now what the purpose of holding him is… is to allow him to release that anger and hurt and fear. That’s why it’s called hold therapy or by the older, less delicate name of rage reduction…But Roy…a word of caution…be very careful not to hurt him again. You abuse his trust another time… you could lose him. I realize that you have to keep up that tough facade at work so the job won’t get to you but John isn’t the job…he’s a part of your family so you need to decide exactly what this young man means to you and if he’s worth swallowing a little embarrassment.”

“I want to help him after what I did.”

“Roy, if you’re doing this out of guilt…don’t bother,” she said sharply.

“What...?”

“John isn’t stupid Roy…as a matter of fact he sounds incredibly intelligent. He’ll know the difference and you need to understand that what happened is not completely your fault…You didn’t cause John to have ASD…remember that’s something he was born with all you did was help those people trigger a withdrawal.”

“It’s not guilt…I love Johnny, he’s my friend and I want to help him.”

“See there…it’s getting easier to say already…,” she said with a laugh. “So then the best thing is to just treat him like you always have. Now, you need to decide if John’s worth the hassle he’s gonna put you through…If not…you need to break this friendship off now, before it goes any further…gently of course…but if he is… well then start with these steps I’ve given you. Wait for him…be there for him, love him just the way he is…treat him just like you always have…at least in public. It could take days, months maybe even years but there will come a time when he’s ready to let down his guard and trust you a hundred percent…maybe by then my therapy program will be ready for him.”

“Alright…”

“Just be patient Roy…there’ll be times along the way when he shocks you, confuses you or plain drives you crazy… Just hang in there because being obsessive, insensitive…, moody...even angry…comes with the territory.”

Roy’s laugh stopped her…, “I’ve already experienced all of those…plus a few others.”

She laughed with him… “I see…well just try not to get too irritated with him… he really can’t help it. Roy…?”

“Yeah…?”

“Call me when you’re both ready and please keep me informed or call me if you need help. I’d like to keep tabs on him.”

“Alright I will and thanks Doctor.”

“Anytime…he sounds very special…so do you.”

“He is and ahh…thanks.” Roy hung up the phone deep in thought. He weighed what the Doctor had told him with what he already knew in his heart. He may have to work at this himself but his friend was worth whatever he’d put him through in the future. He’d committed to that not long ago in the emergency room at Rampart. John wouldn’t face another rejection…another hurt…another loss…not if he could help it…this time he’d keep that promise.

Joanne came in a few minutes later with Chris and Jen. She looked at him curiously, “What’s wrong?”

“Just thinking…”

“About…?”

“About Johnny and what the Doctor just said…”

“Can you tell me?”

Roy went through it briefly… “She said to be really sure how I felt about him before I take this any further.”

“What did you decide…?”

Roy smiled at her…, “You already know that.”

“Good, because Johnny’s really special to me too and I would have been pretty disappointed.” She kissed his cheek and headed upstairs with Jen to check on Chris. Roy once again thought about his friend… it could be a long road for both of them but Roy was determined to be with him at the end of it.

A week later Roy and John met at Rampart for Johnny’s final check up. Kel greeted them at the base station. “Hey Fellas…you ready Johnny…?”

“Yeah…”

“Let’s get to it…treatment three.” Kel stuck his head inside treatment one… “Dix, I need you in three when you’re done.”

The blonde nurse nodded and continued with what she was doing. She finished up and headed out to Join Kel. She pushed the door open and grinned in pleased surprise… “Johnny…Roy,” she gave both a smile and moved to John’s side…“Let’s get that shirt off handsome…,” she teased him with a grin as John shrugged out of his shirt with Dixie’s assistance.

John looked good. The swelling and discoloration had faded completely. Kel ran his hand over John’s rib cage pressing lightly. “How’s it feel Johnny?”

“It feels pretty good,” he said hopefully.

“It looks pretty good too.” He looked at the two men waiting in front of him… “Okay Johnny…I’m releasing you for duty…but for the next two weeks you let Roy do the rappelling whenever possible. I don’t want you to do anything to strain those ribs or your shoulder more than you have to. Do we have a deal?”

John grinned…, “Deal.”

 

He returned to work the next shift. Captain Hammer brought donuts and the guys pounded his back in welcome. At roll call Cap smiled in pleasure at the crew standing before him…everything was as it should be.

“Johnny…welcome home…we missed you,” Cap said gently.

“Thanks Cap…,” he replied quietly.

Dick handed out assignments before they headed into the rec room for coffee. A while later Roy and John cleaned and mopped the Rec Room together before heading out to tackle the apparatus bay. Cap called them into his office before they could finish.

“Johnny…Roy have a seat,” Cap invited. The two Paramedics looked at each other worriedly but sat in the chairs as requested. “Johnny…I know you’ve told Roy that you don’t remember much about what happened but I need you to tell me everything you can remember.”

John’s eyes dropped to the floor… “I…I can’t… I…I don’t remember how I fell…I…,” Roy laid his hand on Johnny’s back…

“Just take it easy Johnny…just relax. Cap…I don’t think this is a good time for this.” Roy interceded.

“Roy…I’m sorry but HQ wants to know everything he can tell me. Johnny…please try…?”

John chewed his lower lip nervously… “Johnny…look at me,” Roy said softly. John raised his eyes slowly to meet Roy’s… “Try Junior…just tell us what you can remember. Start at the beginning…you reported for duty and then what happened…?”

“I…I reported to the Captain and he introduced me to the crew…umm…Kimmerlin, Pierro, Foster and my new partner Scott Jackson. The station was a disgrace…I remember thinkin you’d have had our head… the floors were muddy, the squad was dusty and the drug box was a shambles.”

“Then what…?” Cap asked, slightly amused.

“Umm…Jackson got mad at me for wanting to straighten up the drug box…told me to alphabetize the damn thing if I wanted too…we got called out to a fire shortly after. The house was fully engulfed but the residents were out and we were on the lines. I…I…saw…,” John stumbled over his words… his eyes shifted away from Roy’s, “I can’t remember…,” he said evasively…

“What did you see Johnny…?” Roy asked softly.

He shook his head…, “I don’t know…I don’t know.”

Roy looked at Cap with a negative shake of his own head…he wasn’t sure if John was blocking the memory or was simply afraid to talk about it. “Please Cap, don’t push him…,” he said quietly.

Dick gave Roy a suspicious look…“Okay John…what happened after that…?”

“Someone grabbed me from behind…he had his arm around my throat…”

“Who…?”

“I don’t know…Pierro I think…but Kimmerlin was there and Jackson… I got hit in the stomach…it knocked the wind out of me and I couldn’t breathe.” He looked down at the floor.

Roy looked away in distress knowing his young friend would never have been hurt if not for him.

“What happened then…?” Cap pressed.

“Cap…I…can’t…,” John gasped. He pressed a shaking hand against his temple.

Roy reached out to touch John but he flinched away. “Cap can’t this wait…please…,”Roy said as he laid his arm over his partners shoulders. “Look at me Johnny, c’mon,” he urged…John’s dark eyes met the worried light blue of Roy’s.

“You two want to tell me what’s goin on…? Roy…what’s wrong with John?”

“I think we have to tell him Johnny…?” The younger man nodded reluctantly and looked away.

“Cap…do you remember the night at Rampart? The way John was…the way he’d pulled into himself…?”

“Yes…,” Cap answered suspiciously.

“We found out what caused that…”

“And that is…?”

“Johnny has something called Aspergers Syndrome…”

“What is it exactly?”

“It’s a neurological condition that he was born with…he sometimes has trouble handling really stressful emotional issues…he…ahh…pulls into himself…when it happens he can’t always remember the events during that time.”

“Okay…,” Cap’s eyes watched John carefully as Roy’s palm lightly rubbed the younger mans back…the dark haired paramedic relaxed under the soothing motion of his friend’s hand. He looked up at Roy…

“I think I’m okay now…”

Roy’s hand lightly swept the hair from John’s brow before resting briefly against the side of his head. “You sure…?”

“Yeah…thanks,” he said blushing slightly at the familiar gesture.

“Okay…”

“John…,” Cap asked gently…”will this affect your ability as a fireman or as a paramedic?”

“I’ve had it for years Cap…it never has I swear…I…I didn’t even know I had it until now and…,”John rushed out the explanation.

“Okay…okay calm down…I believe you. Who else knows about this?”

“Roy’s wife Joanne, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early and Dixie McCall…,” he answered quietly.

“The entire medical team at Rampart…?”

“Yes Sir…,” John said.

Cap pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Are they gonna tell HQ?”

“No Sir…,” John said with a shake of the head.

“They said they didn’t see any need…Johnny’s record has been perfect Cap…,”Roy added.

“I know…,” he said in indecision. He finally looked up into the worried eyes of his paramedic team. “Well who am I to second guess two renowned Doctors,” Dick said with a grin… “But Johnny…”

The relieved younger man looked up. “Yeah Cap…?”

“If I ever see it happen on the job…”

“I know…you’ll have to tell them…”

“Yes…and Johnny, I think it’s only fair that the crew know as well. They have to put their lives in your hands…It’s their decision to work with you or not.”

John bit his lip… “Okay Cap…”

“Now…let’s get back to this report…”

“Cap I…don’t know…”

“As much as you can…that’s all I’m askin…okay?”

John glanced at Roy…He nodded reassuringly… “Okay…Um…it got really bad…”

“Why Johnny…? Why did they want to hurt you…?”

He looked away…drawing in a deep breath… “I caught them stealing from our victims,” he finally admitted. “They wanted to be sure I d…didn’t tell anyone…,” he gasped out in relief. “I couldn’t prove anything…I… I couldn’t leave…and I was so messed up...so I didn’t say anything…I’m s…sorry Cap…I shoulda told someone…I,” Roy once again rubbed John’s back lightly.

“It’s okay John we understand…you were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place…Is that why they continued to hurt you…?"

He nodded… “They wanted to be sure I didn’t tell anyone…but then Roy got hurt and you made me go in to Rampart with him and Dr. Brackett saw me…he…he admitted me to the hospital and Jackson got worried that I’d tell him.”

“What then…?”

“I went back to work and they caught me in the locker room.” John closed his eyes remembering the beating he’d taken… “They knocked me down…they h…hurt me really bad…I…,” he stopped with a slight hitch to his voice. Roy reached out to rest his hand on John’s shoulder reassuringly…he carefully turned his face toward him with the other…forcing John to look at him…

“You okay…?”

John gave him a small nod and then continued…

“Kimmerlin kicked me in the stomach…and I couldn’t breathe...,” he gasped as he touched the small scar on his cheek. “I finally remembered that it was him who’d kicked me in the warehouse a few months ago…I…I was really scared and…,” He stopped, unable to continue and seemed almost embarrassed by the admission. Cap and Roy looked at each other in dismay at what this young man had been through.

Roy knew that while Johnny might tolerate the familiar gesture in private he was likely to recoil from it in front of anyone else but he didn’t care, he was taking Dr Hightower’s advice to heart. Roy reached out to lightly brush back the hair off the shaky, younger man‘s face… “It’s okay junior…anyone would’ve been scared after all that.”

John allowed the touch for a moment before he pulled back… “I’m okay…I’ll be okay,” he reassured the older man as he blushed in embarrassment at being treated like a kid in front of their Captain but Hammer just smiled and covered his grin behind both hands as he leaned forward on his elbows… touched at the obvious display of protective affection from Roy towards John. He’d always suspected that Roy had a brotherly…almost parental fondness for Johnny, he’d just confirmed it.

“You’re sure it was Kimmerlin…?”

“Yes…”

“Okay John…we may not be able to prove anything on the others yet but we can get Kimmerlin for assault and maybe attempted murder that night in the warehouse.”

John chewed his lip nervously at the prospect of testifying to that. What if they found out about his problem? Made him talk about it on the stand…

“Johnny…what happened in the warehouse the night you fell?”

“We were called out and I was having some problems even then…my shoulder and my head were injured and my back was sore from falling earlier in the locker room…Pierro shoved me face first into the squad and I hit my head and my nose was bleeding…I split my lip…I could taste the blood. I was stiff and I think I was blacking out a little. They told me there was someone trapped in the elevator shaft and they sent me in…I was only ten feet down when the belt began to let go…I called up to them to help me… b…but they were gone…they’d left me there.”

“Dear God…,” Cap said softly.

“I couldn’t pull my weight up on my sore shoulder so I tried to go down but I ran out of rope. The belt had finally let go and I…I don’t remember after that…I think…I must have…passed out…I…remember waking up with Roy talking to me in the ER…you said I was your kid brother…,” John said with a small smile.

“Is that all you remember…?” Roy asked.

“No…,” John said, with a flush staining his cheeks. Roy grinned but didn’t push.

“Okay Johnny I think that’s good enough for now. I know that was really hard for you and I appreciate your honesty. I don’t know if they can do anything about the stealing without proof but I’ll tell them everything you told me.” John looked up sharply and Cap smiled… “Except for the part about AS, They know you hit your head so they won’t be too surprised at your memory lapse that close to the fall.”

“Thanks Cap…,” John said softly.

“Now let’s go talk to the crew…Roy why don’t I tell them and you can explain what it is to them…spare John from having to go through that…”

“Okay with you Johnny…?” Roy asked. He nodded hesitantly.

Cap called the guy’s into the rec room. “Gentlemen…have a seat. I have something I need to tell you and then Roy’s gonna explain it so listen carefully alright?”

They nodded worriedly… “I’ve just gone over the two weeks that John was away and he’s been very helpful in telling us about what the crew of 88’s has been up to…he also remembered the night of the warehouse fire a couple of months ago when Brad Kimmerlin tried to kill him.”

The crew gasped in shock… “It was him…,” Marco said angrily.

“We suspected it but they told us not to prompt your memory Johnny…,” Mike told him sadly… “I wish we had now.”

“It’s okay Mike…,” Johnny reassured him.

The thing is that the night John fell a few weeks ago was also a deliberate attempt on his life from the men at 88’s. That fall resulted in John being diagnosed with what Roy says is a neurological problem called…,” he looked at Roy for help.

“Aspergers Syndrome…”

“Roy would you explain that…?” Cap asked.

Roy nodded as four pairs of worried eyes turned toward Johnny. “It’s something Johnny was born with…probably hereditary…” Johnny looked at him sharply…he hadn’t heard this part himself. “But it’s something that affects his ability to socially interact with other people. It sometimes affects his behavior and emotional control. Now Johnny’s pretty well outgrown most of those issues but there is still a bit of a problem. What you saw that night at Rampart…”

“You mean the way he was all huddled in on himself…?” Marco asked.

And the rocking…?” Mike pointed out. Roy nodded.

“He did that the night you got hurt last year too…I saw him,” Chet said.

John looked at Chet in surprise… “I did…?”

Kelly nodded… “Not as bad but yeah…you did.” Cap nodded, remembering it himself… although Johnny had seemed to regain control of it very quickly.

John bit his lip… “Anyway…,” Roy continued…in this instance Johnny got overly stressed emotionally and he just withdrew to a place where he felt safe. A place inside himself…,” Roy said tapping his head. “But it only happens under severe conditions… like he was under at 88’s and it most likely will never happen again.”

They glanced at the young, dark haired paramedic who was staring at the floor looking utterly humiliated.

“So what exactly are you telling us or asking us or…?” Mike trailed off.

“Cap thought it was only fair that you know about it. It’s never happened while Johnny was working on a rescue or at a fire…except that one night… but it could someday. Cap says it’s up to you whether or not you want to continue working with Johnny.” They all looked shocked.

“I’ll understand if you don’t…,” Johnny added quietly.

“Well I don’t know about the others Cap but I’m in…,” Mike said.

“Me too…I’d trust John with my life…,” Marco added.

John raised his head to look at them with gratitude… “Thanks guys...,” he said softly

They all looked at Chet…he was looking at Johnny with a neutral expression. “I’ve seen Gage in action too many times not to put my faith in his abilities…,”Chet said sincerely… “I’m not gonna start worryin about it now…besides I’d hate to break in a new pigeon...,” he teased. Johnny grinned at him in relief. “And don’t worry Gage…the phantom hasn’t retired over this.”

“Okay then…,” Cap said. “We stay a team and we keep John’s little ah… problem to ourselves…clear?”

They nodded, standing up and moving to surround Johnny…patting him lightly on the shoulder or back welcoming him home once again before moving to the coffee pot or heading back to finish their chores.

Cap smiled at him… “Get to work Gage…DeSoto,” he said as he turned to head back to his office. Roy gave John a wink and headed out to finish the apparatus bay…John followed behind him a moment later.

By his third shift back things had pretty much returned to normal. The familiar sproing and Johnny’s bellow of “CHET…” was greeted with laughter and head shakes as the dripping young Paramedic made his appearance in the Rec Room. “You’re supposed to undress before you shower Gage…,” Chet teased.

John’s eyes narrowed in annoyance. “The phantom better be lookin over his shoulder Kelly…,” John growled as he turned and headed off to change his shirt.

Cap kept them informed of HQ’s investigation, however the bureaucratic red tape had to be gotten through before they moved to arrest and prosecute Kimmerlin. Johnny would need to repeat his story to a Detective as well as Headquarters. John was pretty balky at that idea but finally agreed since they would have had to drop the entire investigation if he refused. He had to see them in the morning.

“Man…I hate this. Maybe I shoulda just kept my mouth shut…,” he said in frustration after Cap had warned him of the upcoming interview.

Roy shook his head… “You’re honest to a fault Johnny, it woulda bothered you a lot to know they were still out there rippin people off when you coulda stopped it, maybe hurting other people the way they hurt you.”

“I know but…man, what if they find out about…you know?”

“We’ll deal with that if it happens but I doubt the crew of 88’s is smart enough to guess that what they saw was anything more than a normal fearful reaction from one of their victims.”

“Yeah…I guess. I just wish it was over and that they’ll find something they can use…”

“They will Junior, now that they know what to be lookin for.”

John nodded his head hopefully. “You want some coffee?”

“Sure,” Roy replied.

“Hey what’s on TV tonight…?” They’re voices trailed off as they disappeared into the rec room and Roy marveled at John’s ability to rebound so quickly.

 

The SCU tones woke them in the early morning just before sunrise… “Station 51…structure fire…2715 Rosemont. 2-7-1-5 Rosemont…cross street Parker…time out 4:06.” The squad rolled out followed by the engine.

They arrived at the scene to find a three story apartment building ablaze. Cap picked up the mic… “Engine 51…LA…we need a second alarm…”

“10-4 Engine 51…”

John and Roy were already in full gear and halfway to the building as the tones began to sound…Cap began shouting orders to his crew and none of them heard the second alarm call out… “Station 88 structure fire…”

The structure was fully engulfed over more than half of its area. Toxic smoke and small explosions kept the firemen scrambling. The smoke was so thick…the men could barely see each other.

Most all of the occupants had made it out safely and Roy was treating their only victim who had a minor case of smoke inhalation. They weren’t even doing the follow up on transport. Forty minutes later the fire was out and Johnny was making a final sweep through one of the apartments. He tripped over a broken table leg feeling his foot turn and a definite ‘POP’ in his ankle. He gasped in pain and sat down to feel along the leg under his boot, trying to determine if it was something serious or a minor irritation. Something on the floor caught his eye.

Tipping his helmet back, he raised the face mask to get a better look. Pieces of jewelry lay strewn about the room. The box was smashed and charred along with other scattered debris… “Oh man…,” he whispered to himself…as much as he hated to admit it, he was scared and he knew he needed help. He needed to find his crew mates and fast. He couldn’t be caught alone here. John rolled to his knees and began to push himself to his feet on his good leg.

A pair of boots suddenly moved into view. Johnny froze. “Please be Roy,” he mumbled, raising his head. He looked up into the gloating face of Scott Jackson and his heart sank into his stomach. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes in resignation.

Jackson reached down and grabbed John by the back of his turnout, yanking him to his feet. Johnny cried out in pain as his ankle took his weight. Jackson shoved him hard and he stumbled into the doorframe, his forehead and shoulder taking the brunt. His vision wavered and then snapped back as he rebounded off the door and fell straight into Dave Pierro.

Johnny struggled to pull away and Pierro cuffed the side of his head. “You caused us a lot of trouble Gage…”

Jackson pulled John’s head back by the hair…John’s eyes widened in fear. “You were told to keep your mouth shut Gage…”

John’s fist lashed out and clipped Scott’s chin…he shoved with all his strength knocking Pierro backwards. He felt the man’s arm slip free as he tried to regain his balance and he bolted for the door. He felt a shooting pain in his ankle but continued on until he ran straight into Foster. Johnny shoved him hard but felt someone else grab him from behind. John spun around, his fist driving into Kimmerlin’s jaw.

He’d caught all four men off guard. He’d never seriously fought back before, the last time he’d been too deeply submerged into his own past and imagined guilt to defend himself but not this time.

They began to surround him…John turned within the circle…he couldn’t watch all of them at once… Pierro finally moved forward and managed to wrap his arm in a chokehold around the younger man’s neck. Kimmerlin and Foster each caught an arm. Jackson moved closer…

“Got a little fight since the last time huh Gage?” He taunted as he drove his fist into Johnny’s stomach. John gagged and sank to his knees and then wheezed, trying desperately to draw air into his lungs. Jackson’s fist cracked into John’s cheek. His head reeled to the side as pinpoints of light flickered in front of his eyes before his vision cleared. They yanked him to his feet and his world began to turn gray.

“Fire’s out Scott…,” Foster said, “maybe we should take him outside before someone comes lookin for him…”

“Will someone come lookin for ya Gage…? Anyone who’d care if you didn’t come out…? Who’s stuck with you now…What station have you been hiding in…?” Jackson taunted shoving the hobbling younger man forward. John didn’t answer, he couldn’t…he was shaky and he still couldn’t draw a deep breath. He glanced around…desperately hoping to see someone from his crew.

They exited the building through the back shoving Johnny around to the front of the engine where he wouldn’t be easily seen. Jackson’s new Partner Phil Barkman stopped to watch in confusion as they turned John to face them. “Let’s give him a reminder to keep his big mouth shut…,” Kimmerlin suggested.

John’s eyes were downcast…his breathing was rapid and wheezy…his gaze fixed on the bumper of the engine…his shoulders hunched slightly. Foster tried to grip John’s chin but he threw his hands up, knocking the other man’s hands away. John stumbled backwards crying out in pain as his ankle protested the weight, his quick retreat taking him out from the shelter of the engine and into the open.

 

Roy was packing up the equipment. He glanced at the building frequently wondering where Johnny was. Roy had been like a nervous mother since John had come back to work. He grinned to himself, Maybe it was time to cut the apron strings.

Marco and Chet came out of the building a minute later. Cap was standing with Mike Stoker near the Engine but there was still no sign of Johnny. Roy was starting to get worried…maybe something was wrong.

Roy glanced up as Chet came over. “You see Johnny in there?” Roy asked.

“No man, that smoke was still so thick you couldn’t see anything…,” he replied.

“Didn’t he come out?” Marco asked, joining them.

“No and I’m starting to get a little worried…”

“So what else is new…?” Chet asked aside to Marco.

Roy glanced around…his gaze settling on the Engine across the parking lot. He noticed the crew milling about the shadows in front of it. He read the number on the side…88. “Oh my God…,” he muttered uneasily.

Someone suddenly backed out from in front of it. Roy started to turn his head to look for Johnny but the motion across the way brought his eyes snapping back. He could only see the back of the man who’d come into view but the blonde paramedic knew his partners every twitch and gesture…there was no mistaking who it was...Roy was on his feet and racing across the parking lot.

Chet and Marco looked at each other… “Where’s He goin…?” They looked in the direction Roy was heading and then Marco gripped Chet’s arm tightly…

“Dios…it’s them.”

Chet saw the number on the Engine… “Cap, Mike…?”

They looked up from their conversation and Chet pointed…and started to run in that direction, Marco hot on his heels. They stared blankly for a moment before it sank in. Cap grabbed the handy talkie and called for police assistance just in case, then he and Mike started after them as well.

Roy was still a few feet away when one of them landed a vicious backhand to Johnny’s cheek. The young man’s head reeled to the left…his hands flew upward to protect his face from further abuse but by then Roy had finally reached them.

Johnny was dizzy, his head hurt…his shoulder and ankle were throbbing painfully. His stomach was aching and cramped and just drawing a breath was painful. He covered his face protectively…his mind quickly returning to his childhood and his Aunt standing before him, screaming at him…

”You’re crazy… you’ve brought nothing but trouble to this family… you’re worthless…why couldn’t you have died with your Mother,” Her hand lashed out to slap him stingingly across the face…he cried out in terror, knowing what was coming…blow after painful blow accompanied the hurtful words that tore at his soul until he cringed on the floor whimpering like a beaten puppy. His vision began to turn gray and for the first time he understood what was happening. He forced his thoughts back to the present as he shook his head, trying to clear the fog from his mind…

He suddenly felt the back of someone’s arm press against his belly as he was pushed back behind another fireman. Somewhere in his confused brain recognition came…Roy. Roy was here…but now his friend was between him and the crew of 88’s…he was alone and standing against four other men and Roy was in danger.

Jackson laughed and stepped belligerently forward. He knew they outnumbered the blonde Paramedic and John was already injured and unable to fight. He had no worry that he could take this man, so Scott was stunned when the other man flattened him. Jackson struggled to his feet…his four friends moved to join him.

Pain and dizziness fogged John’s thinking as he wrestled for control. Fear told him to run… to escape… to hide but his heart told him to stay and help Roy. His heart won…he shook away the last of the grayness and stepped to his partner’s side ready for a fight if it came to it. He flinched slightly at the sound of running feet but stood his ground. The crew of station 51 arrived and Cap pushed Roy out of the way… “Take care of John…,” he ordered. The four men spread out in front of the two Paramedics… “Do we have a problem here…?” Cap growled menacingly. The four men from station 88 shifted uncomfortably.

Roy turned to his Partner…blood ran from his split lip, his cheek was once again discolored and a large bruise decorated his forehead. Sweat and tears of pain streaked through the soot on the young man’s face. The slight vague look in John’s eyes worried him the most.

“Don’t go away...stay with me junior okay?”

John’s injuries finally caught up with him and his knees buckled. Roy barely caught him as he sank to the ground. He set him down carefully and sat next to him… “C’mon Johnny….,”he spoke soothingly… “Look at me…”

John finally raised his head and though he looked slightly dazed he half grinned at Roy… “I’m still here…”

Roy laughed and ruffled his hair… “Okay…let’s get this gear off you and lay you back here for a minute…,” he said tugging John’s tank off as well as his turnout. He pressed his partner backwards and tucked his rolled up turnout under his head.

The police arrived a minute later as Jackson and his friends argued with the crew of station 51, trying unsuccessfully to diffuse the situation. The police looked at John’s bruised face and raised a skeptical eyebrow as Jackson…feeling assured that Gage wouldn’t dare open his mouth …denied the allegation that he’d struck the younger man… Captain Brannon finally joined his crew, looking confused at the whole situation…but he assured the police that his men though rough and rowdy…were not criminals.

Johnny was lying on the ground as Roy checked him out…the older man was speaking softly but Johnny’s mind was replaying the scene inside the building. “Roy…?” He said quietly.

“What it is Junior…?” Roy asked leaning down close so he could hear him. “Tell…tell the police to check their pockets.”

“Okay partner…” Roy turned toward the group of men… “Hey Matt…?” One of the officers turned to face Roy… “My partner says you should check their pockets.”

Jacksons face paled and the others looked at each other in shock that Johnny had actually dared to turn them in. The officer reached into Jackson’s pocket and Scott immediately began to try and pull away but it was too late. Matt came up with two gold necklaces a diamond ring and cash. He cocked an eyebrow at Jackson questioningly and then to John who grinned back smugly. “The others too…,” he said.

A slight scuffle ensued as the police began to check pockets. Mike, Marco, Chet and even Captain Hammer seemed to take great pleasure in helping the police subdue their suspects. Roy on the other hand decided to remove the patient from the fray.

He eased John into a sitting position and tucked his hand through his suspenders to keep the injured shoulder steady. He pulled the other arm around his neck and pulled Johnny to his feet. John started to hobble forward but was surprised to feel Roy’s arm slide around his waist and pull his slight frame against him as he half carried his partner toward the squad. John was mortified… “I can walk…”

“Yeah, you can…as soon as Brackett tells me that ankle isn’t broken.”

“I was standin on it…,” he protested.

“You weren’t exactly given an option and I saw the way you were limping.”

“But…”

“Drop it John…,” The dark haired paramedic bit his lip in annoyance but he recognized the tone…Roy was gonna have his own way even if he had to play the Seniority card.

Roy sat him down next to the squad. He pulled out the Biophone and the drug box, casting a quick glance across the parking lot. He watched them handcuff the four men from station 88 and lead them away. Brannon stood there denying any knowledge of their illegal activities while Jackson’s partner stood scratching his head and wondered what the heck was going on. Cap and his men headed back towards Roy and John.

“Rampart base this is squad 51…”

“Go ahead 51…,” Mike Morton’s voice came back.

“Rampart…I have a twenty two year old male. He’s sustained a head injury. His shoulder is bruised and he has a possible ankle fracture as well as some bruising in the midsection and the cheek. He’s experiencing some pain Rampart… I’d like to give him something…”

Squad 51 immobilize his shoulder and splint his ankle…You said he had a head injury 51?”

“10-4…,” Roy answered already knowing what Morton was about to say.

“Negative on the pain meds 51…I want a look at that head injury first.”

“10-4…,” Roy answered in disappointment. “Sorry Junior…Rampart said no go on the meds…”

“Kay…,” he answered… “Ow…,” he gasped as Roy slid the splint in place.

“Sorry…,” Roy murmured, as he wrapped the cardboard and taped it in place.

“Ouch…,” Johnny yelled as his Partner immobilized his arm securely.

“C’mon Junior...,” Roy said in exasperation.

“Well…that hurts…Oh man…,” Johnny groaned as Roy pressed a bandage against his bruised forehead.


The ambulance backed into the parking area…John glanced over… “I don’t need an ambulance…,” he said quietly… “I just want to go back to the station.”

“Johnny…you’re hurt. You need a hospital…”

“Roy…I don’t want to,” he argued again as his partner wrapped him securely in a blanket. He waved the attendants over and they lifted Johnny onto the gurney despite his protests.

“John that’s enough…your goin to Rampart.” The younger man frowned but stopped arguing…Roy watched him closely as he cleaned the blood from John’s face. “It’ll be okay…Johnny…I promise.”

They wheeled him into treatment room three. Mike Morton was waiting for him. Mike had not been told about Johnny’s disorder nor had he been made aware of his previous problems with his former crew. Mike thought John’s bruised face looked like he’d been in a fist fight rather than fighting any fire.

“Gage… what happened to you? Run into a wall…?”

“Um…no…as a matter of fact it was a door frame,” he murmured.

“Where was your helmet…?”

“It got knocked off…,” Johnny said quietly.

Morton sighed at what he felt was the young paramedics usual reckless behavior. “Gage…you really need to learn…”

“Doc…,” Roy cut in, “he doesn’t need a lecture…this wasn’t his fault.”

Morton turned on Roy ready to deliver a scathing set down but the mulish look of determination stopped him… “Alright, let’s have a look.”

After the X-ray tech had left…Morton waved the pretty blonde nurse named Sally over… “Find a room and admit John Gage for observation…,” he ordered. She nodded and left the room.

John’s dark eyes met Roy’s… “I don’t want to stay Roy...,” he said quietly, giving his friend a pleading look.

Morton rolled his eyes in annoyance… “Gage…God knows this is not the first time you’ve spent the night in a hospital…What’s with you…need a teddy bear…?” Mike asked. John looked embarrassed and turned away.

For the first time in Morton’s association with Roy, he saw anger darken the usually light blue eyes. “Doctor…can I speak to you in the hall?” He ground out through clenched teeth.

“Look DeSoto…I don’t have time to get into this with you or to coddle your Partner…”

“Make it…,” Roy snapped.

They stepped into the hall… “Look Roy, you don’t need to babysit Gage…he’s a big boy.”

“Doc…he’s been through hell this past month, try and cut him some slack okay? Now I’m gonna try and get him to stay…if I need to…I’ll stay with him but you need to back off. Right now he needs a little patience not lectures and sarcasm.” He turned away leaving Morton staring after him in shock.

Roy pushed open the treatment room door angrily…Morton was surprised by Gage’s reaction…a fearful flinch. Roy was immediately contrite. “I’m sorry junior…I didn’t mean to startle you,” he soothed as he moved to his friend’s side and rested his hand on John’s shoulder. “I’m gonna call Cap…will you be okay for a minute?”

“Yeah…I’m fine. I just wanna go home.”

“You can’t right now Johnny…they want to keep you for twenty four hours…”

“No…I…”

“I’ll stay with you…shifts almost over anyway.”

“You don’t need to…”

“I want to…”

“I feel like such an idiot Roy…what if this keeps happening…what if I can’t get this under control like it was before?”

“You will Johnny…You’re the strongest person I know…but I’ll be there to help you…I promise…besides you did alright this morning.”

Morton was frowning in confusion…something was very wrong.

Dixie and Kel arrived at Rampart that morning only minutes apart. They headed to the lounge for coffee and spotted Mike Morton… “Good morning Mike…,” Kel greeted.

“Morning Kel…”

“Busy night…?”

“No pretty quiet actually…well except DeSoto brought Gage in early this morning. Man… he was acting really strange…they both were.”

“Where is he…?” Dixie asked setting her cup down quickly.

“Room 215…he looked terrible…” he stopped as he realized he was suddenly alone. He glanced at the door in time to see it swing closed behind Dixie and Kel. He set his coffee down and followed more slowly.

Dixie and Kel quietly entered the room. Johnny was asleep in the bed while Roy sat in the chair next to him. The older man was sleeping with his head resting on his folded arms. John’s hand rested lightly on his partners shoulder.

“Not again…,” Dixie said in disgust.

“What…?” Kel questioned, as he moved closer to the bed.

“His face…,” Dixie pointed out. Morton came into the room and stood in the doorway watching as Dixie brushed the sleep tangled dark hair away from the bruise on Johnny’s forehead… “Johnny…,” Dixie called softly.

“Roy…,” Kel said giving the younger man a gentle shake.

The blonde man groaned and sat up rubbing his stiff back. “How is he Roy…?” Kel asked, reaching out to check John’s pulse.

“He had a brief set back this morning, but he battled it off. He didn’t want to stay here…he was ah…a little uncomfortable…so I stayed with him,” Roy said with a shrug.

“What brought it on…?” Kel asked.

“Jackson and his gang were there…they ah…caught him alone…knocked him around a bit before we could get there.”

Johnny’s eye’s were fluttering open and Roy reached over to rest his hand on the younger man’s arm.

“Did he uh…lose control?”

Roy smiled broadly… “Nope…I thought I was gonna lose him there for a minute but he came through…shook it off and watched my back until the others got there.”

Kel grinned… “I think he’s gonna be alright Roy…”

The younger man nodded as Johnny’s eyes finally blinked open and focused on the people around him. He gave them a tired smile… “Hi Doc…Dix…”

“Good morning Johnny…How do you feel?”

“Like a punching bag…,” he quipped.

Mike moved further into the room… “Would someone like to tell me what’s goin on?” He asked.

Johnny watched Morton warily and Kel nodded the young black intern toward the door. “Dix, I’m gonna check Johnny out when I get back…If everything’s okay, I’ll send him home.” Johnny perked up as Kel threw a glance at Roy and got a confirming nod. “With Roy…,” he finished. John glanced at his partner and received the same nod along with a smile.

“Kay…,” Johnny agreed, without an argument.

Two months later Johnny appeared in court to testify against the crew of station 88. He’d kept his eye’s focused on Roy and Doctor Brackett who’d accompanied him as he recounted the two weeks of abuse he’d been subjected to and the pilfering he’d witnessed as well as their leaving him to die in the elevator shaft. Bolstered by Johnny’s willingness to testify, several other former crew member’s who’d also been subjected to their violent tactics also appeared in court.

Scott Jackson turned the young paramedic as the guilty verdict was read... "You'll pay for this Gage...you and your friend...," he sneered as he was led away.

A month later John and Roy arrived at Rampart with a woman in labor… Joe Early took the patient into treatment room three as the two paramedics turned and headed for the base station. An attractive dark haired woman, perhaps in her late forties stood there with Kel and Dixie. Brackett glanced up as they approached. “Roy…Johnny… I’m glad you came in… I’d like you to meet a friend of mine… This is Martha Hightower.” Roy’s head snapped up and he stared in surprise. “Martha…I’d like you to meet two of my paramedics…This is Roy DeSoto and his partner John Gage.”

“I’m pleased to meet both of you…,” she said as her eyes met Roy’s. She turned to John and extended her hand. He took it, throwing her a trademark John Gage grin.

“Ma’am…”

“I’ve heard so much about the paramedic program…we were about to have lunch…maybe you could join us…I’d love to hear more about it.”

“How about it Johnny…?” Roy asked.

He shrugged… “Sure…”

Dixie and Kel headed toward the cafeteria with Johnny while Martha hung back with Roy… She looked into the worried blue eyes as he walked beside her. “Don’t worry Roy…I’m here as an observer…I have no intention of telling him what I do or that you and I have spoken but I’m afraid after talking to you I couldn’t get him off my mind and I really wanted to meet him so I called Kel and asked him if I could come down. He agreed…I um…I’d like to keep tabs on his progress.”

Roy nodded and gave the woman a smile. “I think you’ll find him as special as I do.”

“I’ve no doubt…,” She said as she turned her attention back to the group walking ahead of her…they slowed a bit to wait for them to catch up. She watched as Roy slung his arm around Johnny’s shoulders and steered him down the hall drawing a curious look and a smile from his young Partner. She grinned at just how far Roy had brought him so far and planned on keeping a close eye on them both…John Gage sounded very unique and she could already tell that this friendship was very special…

THE END

 

 

The characters of Emergency do not belong to me…they are the property of Mark VII limited and Universal Studios. This story…like Partner’s is dedicated to abused children as well as those suffering from AS and Autism…Particularly two young men with this condition that were my inspiration and have proved that despite it they can accomplish anything…My thanks for their insight. The * references the episode Crash…written by Preston Wood. Any medical mistakes are mine.

Published 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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