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Complications

Part 1

An Emergency Story by

Tammy B

Link to Parts 1. 2. 3. 4.

 

A continuation of the season 6 episode Hypo-Chondri-Cap

 

Ever wonder what Brackett and Early found during that examination…Well here’s the answer.

 

Thus nature has no love for solitude and always leans as it were, on some support and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship…Cicero

 

It was a warm Southern California afternoon. Twenty six year old paramedic John Gage sat on the deck with thirty year old Roy De Soto, his partner of four years.

 

Both men were covered in a light coating of sweat and grime and they each held a cold beer as they slumped in their lawn chairs.

 

“Man Roy…This yard seems to get bigger every month,” Johnny grumbled tiredly.

 

“Naw…You’re just getting older.”

 

“Watch it pally…I ain’t in a wheelchair just yet ya know…unlike some of you that have hit that big three O,”

 

Roy chuckled. “Yeah well don’t mention that to Joanne. She’s not happy about being thirty in a couple of weeks herself.”

 

“Who me?” Johnny questioned, snickering at the thought of the forlorn look she acquired whenever her upcoming birthday was mentioned. Roy threw him a sideway’s glance and shook his head knowing Johnny would invariably find something to say that would irritate his wife.

 

“Look Johnny…If you want to stay for dinner, I’d be real careful what you say to Joanne,” Roy teased warningly.

 

The younger man shot him his best innocent look as the slider’s opened and the object of their conversation stepped out on the deck with a slightly worried look on her pretty face.

 

“What’s wrong honey?” Roy asked in concern.

 

“Roy, the school just called. They said Chris has a fever and they want us to come and get him.”

 

Roy stood up and set his beer aside. “I’ll go get him…You stay with Jen.” She nodded. “You wanna come along Junior?” He questioned his friend.

 

“Sure…The sooner we get him, the sooner we can get that worried frown off of Joanne’s face. I mean at her age…We wouldn’t want her to wrinkle,” he teased.

 

“Let’s get cleaned up,” Roy said quickly as he grabbed John’s arm and yanked him toward the door but it was too late. A pillow from the lounge chair sailed through the air and clocked off the back of Johnny’s head.

 

“You brat,” she yelled in mock anger.

 

His peal of laughter wafted from the house.”You just couldn’t let it go could ya junior,” Roy muttered as he followed.

 

Jo grinned after him…God she loved that young man like one of her own but still, there were times when she’d like to smack him…Her fingers checked for new lines around her mouth as she peered at her reflection in the glass doors. “Rat,” she mumbled as she followed them inside.

 

 

Roy and Johnny arrived at the school twenty minutes later. There were several other parents arriving at the same time. They cast a worried glance toward each other. “How many sick kids are there?” Johnny whispered with a frown.

 

“Maybe they’re here for something else,” Roy replied. “Let’s not jump to conclusions junior.”

 

They headed inside where John’s concerns were confirmed. There were six sick children seated in the nurse’s office. The principle approached Roy. “Mr. De Soto?” Roy nodded. “I’m told by Chris that you’re a paramedic?”

 

“That’s right…This is my partner John Gage.”

 

“Mr. Gage,” the man acknowledged, shaking hands with both men. “Mr. De Soto…I wonder if I could impose on you to take a look at the kids. The nurse isn’t in today and we’d kind of like to see what you make of this.”

 

“Well…I don’t have any equipment and we’re not doctors but…”

 

“There’s some in the office,” he replied.

 

Roy glanced at Johnny. “I guess we can take a look.”

 

Johnny nodded in agreement. Always willing to help, especially where children were concerned. The principle led them inside.

 

“Good afternoon,” he greeted the other parents. “Um this gentlemen is Roy De Soto…He’s Chris’ father,” he explained, nodding toward the blonde boy in one of the chairs. “He’s also a paramedic and this is his partner John Gage.” They all nodded politely. “I’ve asked them to take a look at the children if that’s okay with all of you?”

 

The parents nodded again. Roy went to Chris while Johnny squatted next to another boy a year or so older. He gave him his best reassuring smile as he lightly touched the child’s forehead, mentally gauging the temperature by feel alone.

 

He glanced at his partner. “101…102,” he said with a grimace as Roy popped the thermometer into Chris’s mouth. He was placing the stethoscope in his ears as John picked up the other boys wrist to get a pulse. “Roy…?” he called a second later.

 

The blonde man stopped and glanced at his young partner. John lifted the arm and showed it to his partner. “Rash…,” he said with a sigh. He’d seen this before. “Measles.”

 

John nodded. Roy and John began to examine the other children, nodding at each other as they found the recurring symptoms on each one. Roy looked at the principle. “Mr. Greene...I’m afraid you’ve got a problem.”

 

“What’s that?” He asked as the other parents closed in around them to hear what they had to say.

 

“They’ve all got Rubeola,” he replied.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Measles…,” Roy clarified, using layman’s terms.

 

“Oh no,” he groaned.

 

The parents heaved a sigh. “I guess I better get busy calling the other parents then,” he said. “Then I’ll have to call the buses in to take the other’s home for a couple of days until we see how many of them turn up sick.”

 

Roy grimaced as well. Jennifer would probably come down with it as well. “Jo’s gonna love this,” Roy murmured.

 

John shook his head. “Well, look at the bright side.”

 

“There’s a bright side?” Roy questioned dubiously.

 

“Yeah…At least she won’t have time to dwell on her birthday coming up,” he said with an impish grin.

 

Roy scowled ominously before giving his young partner an eye roll of annoyance. John’s grin faded. “C’mon Chris…Let’s go home.”

 

“Okay dad.”

 

They left the building. The nine year old shaded his eyes, squinting against the brightness.

 

“Here buddy,” Johnny said, handing the boy his sunglasses.

 

“Thanks Uncle Johnny.”

 

They’d all forgotten that his eyes would be light sensitive. “Thanks partner,” Roy said as they climbed into Joanne’s station wagon.

 

Chris had been complaining that his eyes had been bothering him for a couple of days now and that he’d had a headache. They’d discussed making him an eye appointment. Well at least that wasn’t a worry anymore. “How ya feelin Chris?” Roy questioned his son.

 

“My throats a little sore and my head hurts some and I’m a little itchy.”

 

“Okay…I’m gonna stop and pick up some calamine lotion and ibuprofen,” he told Johnny. “Will you wait in the car with Chris?”

 

“Sure.”

 

They arrived home a short time later and Joanne met them at the door. “How is he?” She questioned as Chris let his mother pull him into an embrace. His forehead pressed against her and she could feel the warmth of his skin through her shirt.

 

“Measles,” Roy replied simply.

 

“Oh no…,” she sighed.

 

“Well…I guess it’s better if he had it now, at least he’ll be immune to it,” Roy replied, trying to find a bright side. He led his son upstairs with the calamine lotion in hand.

 

Joanne threw Johnny a grimace. “Are you staying for dinner?”

“Is that an invitation?” He asked with an eager grin.

 

“Since when do you need an invitation young man but yes…You’re welcome to stay as long as there are no more cracks about my age.”

 

Johnny giggled but raised his right hand as if taking a vow in court. “I swear,” he said somberly. “No more cracks.” She smiled but it faded as she heard the soft murmur that followed. “At least not today.”

 

“You little skunk,” she said in annoyance but she couldn’t resist a grin at Johnny’s smirk of amusement.

 

They were interrupted by the appearance of five year old Jennifer. “Hey Princess,” Johnny said scooping the small blonde into his arms.

 

She looped her arms about is neck, planting a moist kiss on his mouth. “Hi Uncle Johnny,” she replied, giving him her best smile and leaning her forehead against his cheek.

 

John frowned and pulled away. His hand rose to feel the little girl’s forehead before he looked at Jo with a nose curl of resignation. “Uh oh,” he muttered. He set the small blonde on the table and began to check her over.

 

He tugged her shirt away from her neck and stopped. His dark eyes lifted to meet Jo’s. “Oh no,” she sighed.

 

John nodded. “Fraid so…,”

 

Joanne scooped her daughter off the table. “Go take a shower sweetheart,” she said to John. “While I get her settled. I’ll start dinner after I’m done.”

 

“Look Jo…You’ve got two sick kids. Maybe I should just go.”

 

“I’ve still gotta cook dinner for all of us…It’s not a problem sweetheart.”

 

“Well…If you’re sure.”

 

“I’m sure…I’ll only be a few minutes.”

 

John nodded and headed for the room he used with the De Soto’s. He found some clean clothes that he’d left here for just this reason and headed for the shower. Man…It was gonna be long few days for Roy and Jo with two sick kids in the house.

 

Johnny left right after dinner. “See ya tomorrow partner,” he said giving him a sympathetic wince as he left.

 

 

Roy was almost relieved to get to work the next morning but he felt guilty for leaving his wife with two sick children. “We were up half the night,” he complained. “Chris’ throat was sore…Jen’s head hurt…Chris was hot.” He heaved a sigh as he stuffed his uniform shirt into his pants.

 

John gave him a look of understanding and patted his friends back. “Well, look at the bright side…It only lasts three or four days.”

 

“Thanks…That makes it so much better,” Roy said crisply.

 

Johnny chuckled. “I’ll go get us some coffee,” he said as he left the locker room.

 

Roy nodded. He joined his partner a short time later. John handed his bleary eyed partner a cup of coffee. Roy took it gratefully and took a sip of the steaming brew before following his partner to the table to join C shift and wait for the rest of A shift to arrive.

 

At roll call, Captain Hank Stanley took pity on his senior paramedic and gave him the dorm to clean. It was always the easiest task. Roy smiled gratefully.

 

The station control unit toned them out before he could get started. “Station 51…Unknown type rescue. 2971 Carly…2-9-7-1 Carly…Cross street North Wesley. Time out 10:58.”

 

The men scrambled for the rigs as Hank responded. “Station 51…KMG365.”

 

They arrived at the scene a short time later. A woman stood in the front yard with her arms folded over her chest. The look of smug satisfaction playing over her features gave the firemen a sense of unease as she pointed at the backyard.

 

A trampoline sat under a large tree. A man sat on it and half under it. “What happened?” Johnny asked as Roy rushed to the man’s side.

 

“Mr. Brilliant here decided to show my son how to use his trampoline,” she began, looking upward toward the overhanging tree branch. John’s brown eyes followed her gaze and he understood.

 

“And he hit the…,” he trailed off as she nodded in disgust.

 

“He forgot he’s a lot taller than Tommy,” she said with a shake of the head.

 

“Johnny…I need a C-Collar. He’s got a head injury and a possible neck injury,” Roy interrupted.

 

“Got it,” he replied as he ran to pull the trauma box from the squad. He returned quickly and set them down near Roy. “Wife says he hit his head on the tree branch up there…Must have knocked himself out and fallen off the side.”

 

Roy nodded as he wrapped the BP cuff around the man’s arm. John checked his eyes. “BP’s 130/80 Johnny…Pulse is 80…Respirations 20.”

 

“His pupil’s are sluggish Roy…”

 

“Probably a concussion…Get Rampart on the horn,” he said as he glanced over. John was already holding the Biophone and he shot his partner a grin.

 

Roy smiled and shook his head as he picked up the C Collar. “Rampart base this is County 51…”

 

“County 51 this is Rampart…Go ahead.”

 

“Rampart…We have a male…Approximately thirty years old…He’s unconscious and he’s sustained a head and possible neck injury. Vitals are pupils sluggish…BP 130/80…Pulse 80…Respirations 20,” Johnny told them as he flipped the man’s shoes off his feet and drew the end of his penlight up the bottom…First the left and then the right. The toes of both feet curled inward. “Negative Babinski on both sides Rampart.”

 

“10-4 51…Start an IV D5WTKO…Immobilize his head and neck. Take spinal precautions and transport,” Joe Early’s voice replied.

 

“10-4 Rampart,” Johnny replied, reaching for the IV kit. Within minutes the two paramedics had the IV established and their victim on a backboard and ready to transport. John glanced at the obviously still irritated wife as she followed them to the ambulance. “You can come with us if you’d like,” he offered but not very hopeful that she’d take him up on it. He was right.

 

“Then I’d have to take a cab home…I’ll follow you in…” She shook her head in disgust. “Men,” she growled. John frowned but at the same time he had to admit he’d done some equally silly things that he’d regretted…Riding the skateboard down the hill and ending up in the cactus was one of those hi-lites.

 

Roy grinned up at him remembering a few of John’s nuttier stunts as well. “I’ll see you at Rampart Junior,” he teased as he slammed the door giving it two hard slaps. The ambulance pulled away.

 

 

The next few shifts kept John and Roy very busy…Not to mention irritated. The first had a variety of incidents…Including several instances with Craig Brice stealing the show…As if he were the only paramedic out there.

 

The second went even more downhill…They’d had to respond to a production studio where an actor had hyperventilated…The producer had had several arguments with the paramedics as well as the actor in question...Who happened to be a soap opera star who played a doctor.  John had finally had enough. “Will you quit riling him up?” He’s finally barked angrily.

 

They’d managed to get him to the hospital where he and his friends immediately began stirring things up there as well. Roy and John gave them a smile as they dumped their annoying patient and ran.

 

Then to make things even better…Chief McConnikee had shown up under the pretense of playing with the station’s mascot Henry. He’d stayed for lunch, sampling Marco’s Irish stew.

 

His questions to Hank about taking the Chiefs exam had left Cap all stirred up in the process which led to them finding out about Cap burning McConikee’s hat a few years ago. Hank sulked for a long while until Roy reminded him that McConnikee might not have been Hank’s Chief long enough to judge his performance.

 

Cap had perked up at that and a simple phone call had confirmed it. They’d just got Hank settled down when they were called to a possible heart attack in an old apartment building.

 

They found an elderly retired doctor complaining of a tearing sensation in his scapula. He explained that the pain was less in his chest. John took his vital signs.”Roy…Pulse is 90, respirations 22… He’s diaphoretic…He has no history of heart problems…Patch him in.” Roy nodded and began to hook up the leads as Johnny continued with the symptoms. “BP is 110/70…”

 

At that the doctor began to protest… “No…No that’s not right.”

 

John glanced at Roy but decided to humor the man. “Alright…I’ll take it again,” he offered. John came up with the same thing but then decided to try the left as well. “Roy…BP is 110/70 on the right…210/110 on the left. Bounding left carotid…left radial…Diminished right carotid right radial.”

 

“51,” Brackett’s voice came back. “We read sinus tachycardia…Suspect a dissecting aortic aneurysm. Administer D5WTKO…8 mgs MS IV…Transport sitting up.”

 

John took the vitals again several minutes later. “Rampart…BP is down…200/100…Pain is easing but still intense…We read sinus rhythm.”

 

Part way down, the elevator suddenly stopped giving them all a jolt. The two paramedics cast a glance at each other. The older doctor began to panic. “I’m gonna die in this elevator,” he moaned.

 

 “Okay now,” John soothed. “You need to calm down…You of all people know you can’t upset yourself like that. Calm down…You’re gonna be alright,” he assured him.

 

Cap and the crew realized that the elevator was jammed and quickly called for help when they noticed a light haze of smoke in the shaft.”John…Roy…We’re gonna have to hand crank the elevator down to the ground floor.”

 

“Okay Cap,” John shouted back.

 

The doctor once again began to moan. “I’m gonna die in this elevator, he said simply.

 

 “You’re gonna be okay…Just relax,” John said, sounding a bit irritated himself. He was sweating profusely inside the tiny room. He contacted Rampart again.

 

“Give him 5 mgs MS,” Brackett advised.

 

John complied but a moment later the doctor looked panicked. “I smell smoke,” he stated.

 

John and Roy exchanged one of their silent communications that they’d become so well known for. It spoke volumes. John smelled it too and nodded at Roy even as he turned to the older man. He glanced upward nervously. “I think we’re movin,” John said quietly. “Yeah we are…,” he confirmed a moment later.

 

They put the patient on six liters of O2 as the crew finally succeeded in getting them on the ground. They quickly rushed him to Rampart.

 

They found that doctor Ned had managed to irritate the staff enough that Brackett had literally thrown out an entire production crew.

 

 

Things weren’t much better three days later when they arrived for their next shift, except for the possible exception that Chris and Jen had pretty much returned to normal…Just a couple of itchy patches left. They’d even gone back to school.

 

There was a driving rain coming down and Captain Stanley was in a foul mood though none of them knew why. He’d even snapped at Chet for simply saying good morning…A few minutes later he’d barked at all of them for not working hard enough.

 John and Roy were almost grateful when the Station Control Unit called them out even if it was in the pouring rain.  

They found a man trapped in his garage with his fingers caught in the chain of his garage door opener. They’d finally had to cut the chain to free him but thankfully he hadn’t been badly injured.

Hank hadn’t settled down by the time they arrived back at the station either and the crew were practically hiding from their normally easy going captain.

 Curiosity over what was bothering him was eating away at the youngest member of the crew and as usual when he got caught up in an obsession…He couldn’t leave it alone.

 

Roy sighed as John joined him at the table for coffee…His young partners edict that Captain Stanley was a ‘grouch’ was warning enough that he was just revving up.

 

Roy decided to nip it in the bud before Cap AND John drove him crazy. “I think we should just keep a low profile.”

 

“A low profile? C’mon Roy…Aren’t ya even a little curious?”

 

“No.” At John’s skeptical look he continued. “It’s not smart to ask too many questions…So drop it.”

 

John looked at his best friend in disbelief…How could he not be curious when it was tearing Johnny up to know why their even tempered Captain had suddenly turned into an ogre? “You know Roy…You’re a mystery,” he muttered in wonder that he still didn’t understand his closest friend and brother as well as he thought he did.

 

Cap came into the room and John quickly turned back to his coffee so their grumpy Captain wouldn’t suspect they’d been talking about him.

 

“Gage…I need to talk to De Soto.”

 

“Oh sure …Go ahead. It won’t bother me none Cap.”

 

“Yeah…Well it’ll bother me to have you hangin around while I’m talkin to De Soto…In PRIVATE,” Cap hinted less than subtly.

 

John grinned at the older man. “In private huh…What did he do?” He questioned with a smirk.

 

“Nothin…Just leave us alone.”

 

John looked at the others with a slightly bemused expression. “Well…I’m not done with my coffee yet Cap.”

 

“GAGE,” Cap snapped angrily.

 

Johnny could sometimes be oblivious to other people's moods but even he recognized the tone and finally gave in. “Alright…For crying out loud,” he almost whined as he stood up and started from the room. He stopped by Roy. “Look…If you wanna talk to me a little later…I’ll be right out…”

 

“Take a hike,” Cap snarled in annoyance.

 

“Alright,” John said compliantly, trying to calm the older man down.

 

Cap sat down looking uncomfortable. Roy looked at him nervously and then Cap finally began to talk. “Look…I can’t keep this to myself anymore. I need your advice.”

 

“Yes…”

 

“Your professional…Confidential advice. Any objections?”

 

“No…,” Roy replied, looking uncomfortable now himself. “What’s the problem?”

 

 

He was spared from the revelation by the Station Control Unit as it began to sound…Calling them out to an unconscious woman.

 

They arrived on the scene to find a middle aged woman passed out in her car. Roy located an aerosol can that had accidently leaked into her vehicle. They quickly got her started on O2. She regained consciousness pretty quickly but they decided to transport anyway.

 

They returned to the station twenty minutes later. Chet greeted them as they parked the squad. “Cap wants to see you right now,” he informed the senior paramedic with a quick point in the direction of the office.

 

Roy walked into Hank’s office looking slightly nervous. Hank looked up… “Roy…Would you close the door please.” Roy obediently flipped the door closed and approached his captain. “Roy whatever you do…I don’t want you to tell the other men.”

 

“Sure…If that’s the way you want it cap.”

 

“Cause they’re basically a great bunch of guys and I’m gonna miss em.”

 

“Miss em? Are you being transferred?” Roy asked in shock.

 

“Fire service has been a good life Roy.”

 

“Wait a minute…What’re you talkin about Cap? What’s happened?”

 

Hank came forward. “You see these hands?” He asked, holding them out for Roy to see.

 

“Yeah…I see them.”

 

“Well…How do they look to you…As a paramedic…?”

 

Roy looked at them… “The color’s fine Cap…,” Roy stammered. “Your skin looks healthy,” he assured him. “What about the movement?”

 

“It’s fine…It’s fine so far…If I ignore the pain.”

 

“What kind of pain?”

 

“A sharp pain from the elbows down…Now…Now it hasn’t gotten in the way my work yet but that’s just a matter of time,” he stuttered out. “Arthritis is like that ya know.”

 

“Arthritis…?” Roy asked in shock.

 

“Well that’s the only thing I think it could be.”

 

“What?”

 

Hank hesitated before finishing… “Well…What do you think?”

 

Roy backed up and sat down. “What does your doctor say?”

 

“Well actually…I…I haven’t talked to a doctor yet.”

 

“Well how do you know it’s arthritis?” Roy asked in exasperation.

 

“Well what else could I have?”

 

“Well I don’t know but instead of expecting the worst you might just try to get the facts.” Roy picked up the phone. “Let me call Dr. Brackett and set up an appointment.”

 

“No…No,” Cap protested.

 

“Whatta ya mean no? Why not?”

 

“I can’t leave here…I’m on duty.”

 

“Well I’ll make it for tomorrow,” Roy countered, dialing the phone but Cap continued to protest.

 

“I don’t want to impose on Dr. Brackett.”

 

“You’re not gonna impose on Dr. Brackett…That’s his job,” Roy argued as he hung up the phone in frustration.”That’s why I’m giving him a call.”

 

“No,” Cap protested again. “No…No…Look…Look,” Cap stammered. “What if it isn’t arthritis…Then I’d feel silly bothering him.”

 

“If it is arthritis…Wouldn’t ya like to know about it?”

 

“That’s hard news to take,” Cap argued.

 

“Well you’ve already given yourself the worst possible news.”

 

“Yeah but I could be wrong.”

 

“Look…Wouldn’t you like to know one way or the other?” At least you’ll stop worryin yourself to death over it,” he said picking up the phone once more.

 

“You’d worry to if you had arthritis,” Hank said sulkily.

 

“Maybe you don’t.”

 

“Then why see a doctor?”

 

Roy stared at him in dumbfounded silence…This was almost worse than trying to talk to Johnny but he finally hung up the phone in defeat as Hank stared down at his hands dismally.

 

 

Roy waited until Cap and the guys were occupied before calling Brackett. The dark haired doctor urged Roy to continue working on getting Hank into Rampart. “Stay on him Roy…It could be serious,” he warned.

 

 

John and Roy had the opportunity to escape from the station house and their surly captain later that afternoon. A friend of John’s had asked him to test a new line for rappelling. Roy was none too happy about the prospect but he knew his young partner well enough to know that Johnny was all about helping out a friend.

 

They climbed the ladder to the roof with a bit of their usual banter about how good Johnny and Roy were at their jobs.

 

“We’re pretty handy,” Johnny had said sounding pleased with himself.

 

“We’re no handier than the rest of the crew,” Roy had replied drily, drawing an irritated sigh from his partner.

 

John watched as his friend pulled the ropes and carabineers together. “Looks kinda complicated,” he commented worriedly.

 

“Not really…Check it out,” Wally argued.

 

John looked over at his partner and whispered. “Bet this thing snarls on the way down,” he whispered.

 

“Think positive,” Roy whispered back.

 

John started down but just as he’d predicted the rope snarled, leaving Johnny hanging upside down and spinning helplessly and banging into the wall.

 

“Quit moving the rope,” he yelled up to his partner, feeling a bit queasy.

 

Roy had watched it from above and his breath caught a bit as John was suddenly flipped upside down but he breathed a sigh of relief as his young partner managed to control the decent enough to stop his downward motion.

 

He knew John wouldn’t appreciate his mother hen attitude in front of the others even though he’d learned to accept it privately…Knowing it stemmed from the older man’s heartfelt affection for his young friend. John and Roy were as close as brothers…The only thing missing was the actual blood tie but that was just biological…It was the bond that mattered and anyone who knew them well never questioned that it was there and that it was almost magical.

 

John had become a member of the older man’s family almost from the beginning of their partnership and that had only grown stronger as well.

 

Roy quickly hooked his belt to his line and rappelled down to his friend. “You okay?” He questioned casually.

 

“I’m okay,” he said sounding disgusted. “I’ll be a heck of a lot finer as soon as I can figure out which way is up.”

 

Roy relaxed a bit knowing Johnny was okay. “Well you’re pretty handy,” he teased using the words Johnny had used on the ladder earlier.”You need any help from me or can you do it yourself?”

 

“I’m no more handy than the rest of the guys on the crew,” John shot back with Roy’s words as he finally managed to right himself as his partner steadied the line.

“Well why don’t we transfer you to my line alright?”

 

“Alright.”

 

“If you’ll just stay there… I can just come down an inch or so.”

 

“Okay…I’ll come to you.”

 

“I’m never gonna hear the end of this,” Johnny muttered as Roy hooked on and began to lower both of them. Once on the ground, John ran his hands through his hair. “Man…I’ve got bumps and bruises all over me,” he complained. Roy grinned at him knowing it could have been worse if John had been less of a climber. He could have fallen all the way or been knocked out as he banged into the wall. “I’m gonna be sore for a week.”

 

Roy smiled at him and decided to try and find the bright side. “Well at least we know what it can and can’t do,” he quipped.

 

“Mostly what it can’t,” he shot back as his friend Wally rappelled down without incident, adding to Johnny’s embarrassment.

 

After further discussion it was decided that the rope really wasn’t good for rappelling. Roy and John returned to the station.

 

 

They returned to the station where Roy came under siege from the rest of the crew…They were desperate to know what was bothering captain Stanley? “I think John’s right,” Chet pointed out to Roy.

“I think we oughta  know what’s bothering Cap.” Mike and Marco assailed him from the other side.

 

“Look guys…,” Roy hesitated in frustration before continuing on. “Look…I told ya I can’t tell ya anything.”

 

“You don’t trust me?” Johnny asked in disbelief.

 

Roy leaned toward his partner. “It’s not a question of not trusting you…I promised the captain I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

 

The argument stopped as Hank stepped into the Rec Room. “You guys don’t get paid to sit around here looking depressed,” he said.

 

“That’s what I tried to tell em Cap,” Roy said as he stood up and walked to the refrigerator.

 

“I don’t want any of you guys to worry about this…It’s my problem,” Hank bit out.

 

Not know for his tactfulness John was the first to ask outright. “Cap…What exactly is your problem?”

 

“John…Don’t fake me pal. I can tell by all your faces that Roy told you about my arthritis.”

 

“CAP,” Roy protested vehemently. “I didn’t tell them about anything,” he argued as the others stared at Hank in shocked surprise.

 

“You didn’t tell them?”

 

“NO…”

“You got arthritis Cap?” Chet asked worriedly.

 

“I’m afraid so Chet.”


“Cap…You don’t know that,” Roy shot at the group in frustration.

 

Hank sat in Roy’s vacated seat and held his hands out to John. “Johnny look…Look at those hands.” The young paramedic looked down uncertainly. “What do you think?” He asked. “Does that look like arthritis to you? Honestly…”

 

The dark haired fire fighter looked up at his captain. “Ah well Cap…Roy’s right. I...I can’t tell by just lookin,” John tried to explain. “It could be a lot of other things,” he hedged.

 

“Cap…You’re gonna have to drive down there like I’ve been telling ya and see Dr. Brackett.”

 

“No…Well why don’t we just wait and see how the old mitts feel in a few days,” He mumbled. “Maybe the pain will just go away by itself.”


“I’ve made the appointment,” Roy argued.

 

Cap looked at Johnny. “You heard what Johnny said…It could be anything,” he shot back looking relieved to have the out.

 

John stared at his superior in shock. “Now wait a minute,” John said back peddling now that Hank had turned his own words against him.

 

“Anything,” he repeated smugly as he stood up and made his escape.

 

“When I said that…I…I…,” John began but suddenly found himself talking to Hanks back as he disappeared out the door.

 

“Well…Ya feel better?” Roy asked in exasperation. “Now that you know what it is…Do you feel any better?”

None of them could answer as they glanced around at each other worriedly.

 

 

They were toned out to a fire a short time later. It was late by the time they returned.

 

“Man Roy…That fall today really did me in. I hurt all over…”

 

“You want me to take a look?” Roy offered looking concerned. John so seldom admitted to feeling unwell or being in pain that Roy paid attention when he did. His fingers flicked John’s shirt front with a hinting gesture for him to take it off.

 

“Nah…I’m just really tired I think. Maybe I’ll just shower and turn in.”

 

“Aren’t ya hungry?”

 

“Nah…I’m just really beat and my throats a little sore…Musta breathed in some smoke from that fire,” he explained as he shuffled toward the locker room.


Roy watched him go with a suspicious look. He’d breathed in a lot of smoke from that fire too and his throat was fine. He shook his head and went to eat. He’d check on Johnny a bit later after he’d showered. It might perk him up but when he turned in a couple of hours later, Johnny was in his customary position…On his back with his left arm thrown over his face.

 

 Roy grinned in amusement. He never could figure out how Johnny slept that way.

 

The next morning the crew of Station 51’s A Shift changed into street clothes as B shift puttered about their morning chores. Marco, Mike, Chet, Roy and Johnny hung out between the engine and the squad, taking great care not to be seen by their captain.

 

 

Roy watched his partner pace. He still looked a little tired.

 

Medford …One of B shifts lineman came out of the locker room and spotted them. “Hey civilians…Your shifts over,” he teased. “Let the real firemen clean up after you in peace huh?”

 

“Take it easy Medford…We’re just waitin for the Cap. Why don’t you just go ahead by and forget you ever saw us,” Chet suggested.

 

Roy glanced at Johnny and noticed that he was now leaning tiredly on the squad.

 

“Oh I get it…Must be his birthday…Surprise party huh?” He replied, walking away.

 

Johnny peeled himself off the squad to sneak a glance toward the dorm but ducked back quickly as Hank came out and headed in their direction. Cap stopped abruptly as he spotted all five members of his crew loitering there.

 

Roy stepped forward. “Cap…On behalf of station 51, we would like to personally escort you to your doctor’s appointment,” he said determinedly.

 

“I don’t have a doctor’s appointment,” Hank protested.

 

“Yes you do Cap…We took a vote,” Mike informed him as the others nodded in agreement.

 

Cap looked around at them. “Well that’s a great idea but not today alright. I’ve got a million things to do. Let’s postpone it,” he hedged as Johnny moved forward to take his left arm while the others gathered around him on the right and began to propel him toward the parking lot.

 

“Ah NO Cap,” Johnny said evenly as they walked. “We’re not gonna postpone it…We’re gonna escort you down,” he continued.

 

Cap tried one more time.”Maybe a few weeks…,” he hedged.

 

“No Cap…I don’t think we can last a few weeks,” Chet shot back as they pushed him out the doors.

 

 

 

Forty five minutes later, Roy and Johnny waited for Hank…The others having escaped after they’d gotten him to Rampart.

 

Roy noted that Johnny rubbed his eyes like he did when he was overly tired and returned to the water fountain several times while they hovered in the hallway. He wondered if his throat was still irritated and if he should ask Brackett to check him out.

 

Dixie came out through the doors a minute later interrupting Roy’s contemplation of his partner. “How’s he doin?” Johnny asked the pretty blonde nurse.

 

“Oh…The doctor’s looking at his X Rays right now.”

 

“How about his morale?” Roy asked with a grin.

 

“Well…He was alright once he got here. You know he didn’t make Captain for nothing,” she teased as she walked away.

 

Roy and Johnny grinned and leaned back against the wall once more. “I hope he’s o…” A young pretty nurse walked by catching Johnny’s attention. “Kay,” he finished as he leaned around to watch her go. He followed her to the door to watch her walk away, relieving Roy’s concerns a bit about how he was feeling. He was obviously well enough to engage in his favorite pastime…Girl watching.

 

Roy had to admit that she had a great shape. He moved to the door himself to take a second look…After all he was married not dead.

 

Johnny turned to look at him...Bristling indignantly for Joanne’s sake. “You’re a married man,” he said reproachfully.

 

Hank Stanley, Joe Early and Kel Brackett came out of treatment room four and made their way toward the two paramedics. “I guess I can follow that prescription,” Hank was saying as he buttoned his sleeve. “Thanks a million,” he finished as they approached.

 

“Well I’m just glad everything worked out alright,” Kel said.

 

“Me too,” Hank replied, slipping on his Jacket.

 

“Next time Hank, don’t keep us in suspense so long. If you have a problem just come on in.” Joe pressed.

 

“I will…I promise,” Hank replied.

 

“Well…What’s the verdict?” Johnny asked.”What happened?”

 

“It’s okay…I’m fine,” Hank replied.

 

“You’re alright?” Johnny questioned in relief.

 

“Doc’s found the problem and prescribed a cure,” he assured them.

"What is it…Miracle drug?” Roy teased.

 

“No…No not quite.”

 

“I just told him to stop using his handy dandy home gymnasium.”

 

“Uh Huh…,” Roy said sagely.

 

Johnny looked confused. “Your handy dandy what…?” He asked, looking lost.

 

“Yeah…The captain bought one of those brand new exercising machines. Pinched a nerve,” Joe explained.

 

“Oh…No arthritis?” Roy questioned.

 

“No…Not a sign.”

 

“You mean…Ya…Ya…You’re perfect,” John stammered sounding relieved.

 

“Well not perfect,” Hank replied.

 

John’s worried look returned briefly…So did Roy’s.

 

“Yeah…He has to have a deviated septum fixed,” Joe informed them.

 

Johnny grinned in delight. “Ya mean a nose job,” he crowed.

 

“It’s not a nose job,” Hank protested indignantly. “It’s…What would you call it?” He questioned Kel at a loss for a proper term.

 

“A nose job,” Kel answered straight faced. They all laughed.

 

 

 

“Ya know…When ya think about it. This is pretty funny,” Johnny said with his trademark giggle.

 

“You think so huh?” Cap asked, looking a bit put out.

 

John lost the smile at Hank’s serious stare. “Ah well yeah…When ya stop to think about it,” he repeated, hoping Hank would catch the humor.

 

Cap cut him some slack. “Well it proves one thing…We all ought to have a check up once in a while.”

 

“That’s what we’ve been tellin ya,” Johnny agreed.

 

Roy was about to mention John’s sore throat and fatigue but it seemed the tired eyes hadn’t gone unnoticed by the doctor’s either.

 

Joe Early reached out and smacked John in the chest, taking the smirk off his face. “Hey Johnny…You haven’t had a checkup in quite a long time. Why don’t you make an appointment?”

 

John’s hand splayed across his chest in shock. “Who…ME?” He almost squeaked.

 

 

“Yeah...”

 

“Sure Johnny,” Kel agreed. “We’d be glad to check you over.”

 

John looked from one doctor to the other and a forced grin played across his features. He hoped they were joking. He laughed nervously and took a step forward to make a quick escape but both Kel and Joe reached out a hand to stop him.

 

The smile left his face as he realized they were serious.

 


 

“As a matter of fact,” Kel pointed out. “I have time right now…How about you Joe?”

 

“I’m free.”

 

“I…I…,” Johnny stammered. “I’m fine,” he finally got out.

 

“No he’s not Doc,” Roy cut in. 

 

John looked at his friend as if he’d grown horns. “WHAT?”

 

 

 “You’ve had a sore throat and you’re tired. You told me you breathed in some smoke yesterday too.”

 

“So did you?” John shot back in annoyance but Roy ignored him and kept on.

 

“Not to mention that little tumble on the side of that building.” John’s eyes were widening with every treacherous word his best friend spoke.

 

“Why wasn’t I told about this?” Cap asked.

 

“Cuz I’m fine Cap…I just got flipped on a rappelling line, that’s all.”

 

“He hit the building a few times until I could get down there and then after the fire he said he had a sore throat.”

Brackett looked at Johnny. “Just a little too much smoke Doc…It’s not the first time I’ve breathed in smoke,” he pointed out casually.

 

“Johnny…What’s wrong with your eyes?” Kel asked.

 

“My eyes…?” He questioned, raising his hand to touch them gingerly. “Nothin,” he finished.

 

“You’re squinting,” Joe almost accused.

 

“C’mon Johnny,” Kel said taking his arm and steering him toward the treatment room. “Let’s just step in here and let us take a look.”

 

“Roy…?” Johnny squawked plaintively, throwing a pleading look at his partner.

 

“We’ll wait for you out here,” Roy called back with a grin as they pushed Johnny into the room.

 

Dixie came up the hall a minute later. She smiled at Hank and then glanced around. “Where’s Johnny?”

 

Brackett and Early are checking him out in five,” Roy replied with a smirk.

 

“Is he alright?” Dix questioned.

 

“Probably just some bumps and bruises,” Roy chuckled.

Dixie nodded and headed down the corridor pushing the door open and stepping inside to see if they needed any help.

 

Kel finally won the ongoing argument and finally got John to at least sit on the exam table. “Dix…You want to get his temperature and BP,” Kel directed as he reached for John’s wrist to take his pulse.

 

Joe moved closer, shining his penlight into Johnny’s eyes. The younger man recoiled immediately. “Ow…Sop Tha,” he muttered around the thermometer as he turned his face away. Joe threw a worried glance at Brackett. What had started out as a joke was quickly turning serious.

 

“Kel…?” Dixie said in concern, drawing the dark haired doctor’s attention.

 

“What is it Dix?”

 

“His temperature is 101°.”

 

Kel looked at Johnny. “Get his shirt off Dix. Joe…You wanna get his respirations. Dix…Draw some blood when you’re done. John…Let me take a look at your throat.”

 

There was a flurry of activity around him. Dix tugged his shirt away as Joe’s hand came to rest on his abdomen. Brackett was reaching for a tongue depressor and John’s eyes widened in alarm.

 

“What’s goin on?” He asked anxiously as Brackett flicked on his penlight.

 

“Not sure yet but given your past history with Malaria and the loss of your spleen…We’re not taking any chances. Open your mouth Johnny.” The younger man complied but his eyes flicked nervously from Brackett to Early, hoping they were all just putting him on.

 

“Johnny…Is your throat still sore?” Kel questioned.

 

“Yeah…A lit’l,” he mumbled around the tongue depressor.

 

Kel snapped the light off with a look of concern.

 

“Lay back on the table sweetie,” Dix instructed as she wrapped a tourniquet around his arm to draw blood.  John bit his lip in anticipation of the stick and flinched as the needle pierced his skin.

 

Kel saw the anxiety in the young man’s face and knowing Johnny’s past…Felt he’d be a little less apprehensive if his partner were here. “Joe…Could you go and get Roy?”

 

The gray haired doctor nodded, knowing Johnny’s past history as well as Kel did. Johnny suffered from a mild case of Aspergers Syndrome as well as Traumatic stress disorder from being a battered child. Roy’s presence would help keep him calm.

 

 

 

Joe stepped into the hall where Roy and Cap were talking and laughing over how mad Johnny was going to be when he came out.

 

“He’ll only drive you a little crazy for this,” Hank teased.

 

“Yeah…For a week,” Roy added.

 

The smiles dwindled when they saw the serious look on Joe’s face. “Roy…Hank. Could you step in here for a moment?”

 

Roy looked at cap worriedly, hoping that they were now turning the joke toward them.

 

“Johnny’s alright isn’t he?”

 

“No Roy…He isn’t… He’s running a fever and his throat is inflamed. Kel’s getting a culture. His eyes appear to be light sensitive.”

 

Roy swallowed hard. “Ohhh no,” he groaned.

 

“What is it…?” Early asked as they pushed open the door to the treatment room.

 

Kel’s first question confirmed Roy’s concern and answered Joe’s question. “Roy…Didn’t you mention that your kids were sick a couple of weeks ago?”

 

“Yeah…” John’s dark eyes looked up at him with a hint of fear and Roy quickly moved to his side to rest his hands comfortingly on his young friend’s shoulders. The blonde paramedic noted that the overhead exam lights were turned off to protect John’s eyes.

 

“What did they have?” He questioned. Dixie sucked in her breath already knowing the answer.

 

“Measles,” Roy sighed.

 

“That’s what I was afraid of. Johnny…Do you know if you ever had measles as a child?”

 

John bit his lip. “Um…No…I…I mean I guess I did…Don’t all kids?”

 

“No Johnny…Not all kids.”

 

“I was pretty out of it a lot back then…Sick a lot too…I just assumed…,” he stammered out. “But…I mean…it’s just a little virus right? I mean Chris and Jen got over it real quick so…,” he trailed off.

 

“Children don’t usually have much trouble handling it…The symptoms are pretty mild but in adults…The symptoms can be much worse. “

 

“Great,” he mumbled as he looked up at Roy.

 

“I’m sorry Johnny…I just never thought to ask,” the blonde man apologized.

 

Johnny shrugged. “Neither did I…It’s not your fault pally,” John reassured him. “I’ll be fine. I can go home…Right Doc?”

 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea John.”

 

“Why?” Hank asked.

 

“A lot of reasons…John’s had Malaria…His ability to fight off infection has been compromised without his spleen. He’s already running a fever and it’ll probably get higher. His throat is sore and he’s not going to feel like eating and drinking and if there’s no one there to watch out for him he’ll probably refrain from doing either. I don’t want him becoming dehydrated.”

 

John sighed. “C’mon doc…I’m a big boy…I can take care of myself.”

 

Kel shook his head and John opened his mouth to continue the battle but Brackett cut him off… “Look Johnny…I’m not going to argue with you…”

 

“How about if he stays with me and Jo…?” Roy questioned. “God knows it wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

“I can’t do that Roy,” Johnny protested.

 

“Why not?”

 

“It’s not fair to Jo,” he began.

 

Joanne won’t have a problem with it…It was our kids that made ya sick after all…,” Roy pointed out, feeling a little guilty that he hadn’t checked, especially knowing John’s medical history as well as he did. John was susceptible to every passing bug…Roy also knew that nothing would keep Jo from taking care of the young man. Johnny was like a kid brother to her as well as Roy and she loved John as much as Roy did.

 

Kel nodded his head. “That I’ll agree too… You can go home as long as it’s with Roy and Jo,” he offered.

 

John heaved a sigh. “Okay,” he mumbled in defeat.

 

“Hank…You may want to find out if any of your other men haven’t had this and ask the department to contact any of your victims that have been exposed to John.  They could have this too.” Hank nodded. “Roy…Take him home and put him to bed. You’ve probably already had plenty of practice at this but just to be on the safe side…Keep the room dim and try to keep the fever down…Aspirin and cool clothes should do it but monitor it closely. Give him plenty of fluids and be sure he eats. Keep a bottle of calamine handy…He’s gonna start itching real soon. Johnny…You’re probably gonna feel pretty lousy for the next three or four days so just try and help Roy out and be cooperative.”

 

John nodded, “I’ll try,” he promised, sitting up.

 

A nurse came in with the blood work results. Kel scanned the reports and nodded. They’d confirmed it. “Rubeola,” he said. At Hank’s confused look he clarified. “Measles.”

 

John pulled his shirt on and cast a glance at Roy. “I’m sorry about this…I hate being a burd…”

 

 “You finish that sentence and I’ll bust you in the mouth.” Roy interrupted.

 

John’s mouth dropped open and he looked at Roy in stunned surprise before giving him a contrite grin. “Sorry,” he mumbled, knowing how badly Roy hated hearing him use those degrading terms his Aunt Lacee had called him most of his young life.

 

“C’mon Junior…Let’s get you home and into bed.”

 

“Can I drive my car over Doc?” John asked.

 

“Yeah…That should be okay. You’re not that sick…Yet.”

 

“Gee…Thanks for the reminder,” the younger man muttered.

 

 

They swung by the station to drop Hank off and let Johnny pick up his rover. He slipped his sunglasses on before starting the engine and following Roy home. He walked quickly up the walkway to meet him, hoping to get out of the brilliant sunlight that was hurting his eyes.

 

“Jo’s gonna love this,” Johnny moaned softly. “She just got the two kids back in school and now she’s stuck with me.”

 

“She won’t feel that way Junior. I guarantee it.”

 

“Well I will,” he grumbled softly.

 

Roy grinned as he pushed the front door open and gestured Johnny inside. Johnny plucked the glasses from his face as they stepped through the doorway.

 

Joanne came out of the kitchen at the sound of their voices. “Good morning you two,” she greeted, coming forward to kiss her husband. She turned to Johnny, intending to kiss him as well but the eagle eye caught the slightly flushed cheeks and the glaze of fever in the tired brown eyes. “Johnny what’s wrong?” She asked as her hand rose to feel his forehead. John gave her a sheepish grin that quickly faded at her un-amused stare. “You have a fever,” she stated matter of fact. Her eyes moved to Roy. “What’s the matter with him?” She questioned, arms akimbo.

 

“Mothers,” John mumbled half under his breath. Nothing ever escaped a woman once she became a mom.

 

“He uh…He has measles Honey,” Roy explained as John gave her a forlorn half smile.

 

“Ah no sweetheart,” she said in distress. “Honey…He should be resting…Why are you letting him stand out here in the living room?” She questioned briskly as she quickly took control of the situation. “You,” she said pointing to John. “To bed…Now,” she ordered.

 

He shot a helpless look at his partner as the small woman took his arm and dragged him toward his room. Roy shrugged and tagged along behind.

 

“Have you broken out yet?” She asked as she propelled him into the room.

 

“No,” he replied with a shake of the sable head. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched as Joanne quickly found a pair of his sweat pants and tossed them to him.

 

“You get changed and into bed…I’ll make breakfast for both of you before you don’t feel like eating. Is your throat sore sweetheart?”

 

John nodded hesitantly. “Yeah…A little maybe.”

 

“Scrambled eggs should be soft enough to go down easy. I’ll be back in a few.”

 

John nodded in dumbfounded silence at the whirlwind of instructions. “Man,” he said looking at Roy through narrowed eyes. “That woman is amazing.”

 

Roy grinned. “Yes I know…Thank you,” he teased back. “Now…You gonna follow her orders or do I get her back in here?”

 

John quickly began to unbutton his shirt knowing full well Jo would do it for him if he lingered too long. Roy chuckled and moved to the window to draw the shades and dim the room to accommodate John’s sensitive eyes.

 

“Thanks,” he said as he stepped out of his sneakers and unzipped his jeans. Roy left but returned a minute later with a bottle of calamine lotion and cotton balls. He set them on the table next to the bed as Johnny tugged on his sweat pants. He was sliding beneath the covers when Joanne returned.

 

She smiled in approval that her instructions had been carried out as she set a pitcher of water and a plastic cup on the nightstand next to the pink bottle.

 

“You need anything else sweetheart?” She asked. John shook his head. She swept the dark hair away from his forehead and laid her hand on his brow once more with a cluck of her tongue. “I’ll be back with your breakfast in a minute,” she promised. “Roy…Yours will be on the table when you get there.”

 

He nodded. “Thanks Honey…I’ll be right out,” he assured her as she left. Roy pulled the thermometer from his shirt pocket and removed it from its case. He shook it down for a moment before tucking it under John’s tongue.

 

Johnny rolled his eyes in exasperation but gave in gracefully…Well used to the mother hen hovering’s of his over protective best friend…He’d given up trying to convince him that he could take care of himself and tolerated his ministrations…Knowing the sooner Roy finished, the sooner he could eat and go to sleep.

 

Johnny hated to admit it but he really didn’t feel well and he was really tired. Roy pulled the thermometer to check it. “Still 101°,” he announced.

 

Jo returned with a tray a few minutes later. She laid it across Johnny’s lap, earning a nose curl of distaste from John at the weak tea and apple juice that accompanied his eggs. He bit his lip, not wanting to sound ungrateful. “Uh…Um…Jo…Isn’t there any coffee?” He asked hesitantly.

 

“Sure.” John grinned hopefully but it faded as she continued. “But not for you. Coffee will irritate your throat and the tea will soothe it. The apple juice has vitamin C and it won’t bother you the way orange juice would,” she explained as if talking to her nine year old.

 

Johnny sighed in defeat as Jo ruffled his dark hair and headed back into the kitchen. Roy threw him a grin. John almost stuck his tongue out at him but managed to restrain himself at the last second. Roy chuckled anyway as if he knew what he'd been thinking...Come to think of it...He probably did.

 

“I’m gonna go have my own breakfast…I’ll be back Junior.”

 

Johnny nodded and began to eat. He didn’t get far before his eyes began to droop tiredly. Roy came back a short time later to find John sound asleep…His breakfast tray nearly untouched.

 

Joanne came in behind him. “How’s he…Oh,” she whispered, dropping her voice quickly as Roy lifted the tray away and set it aside. He turned back to his partner and gently eased the younger man forward…pulling the stack of pillows from behind him, laying him back and pulling the covers up under Johnny’s chin.

 

He threw a wink at Joanne as he picked up the tray and left. Joanne smoothed the sable hair away from the young man’s face before laying her hand on his forehead. Johnny was warm but not warm enough to alarm her. She followed her husband out, quietly closing the door behind her.

 

 

When John awoke, the first thing he noticed was that he felt hot. The second thing was the two sets of blue eyes that watched him from the grayness of the dimly lit room. Johnny squinted at them blearily before giving them a tired lopsided smile.

 

“Hi you two,” he whispered with a slight rasp from his sore throat.

 

“Hi Uncle Johnny,” they both replied somberly.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

“Daddy told us to watch you so he’d know when you were awake.”

 

Johnny shifted uncomfortably on the bed…The bumps he’d taken from the rappelling incident yesterday set up a protest as he hiked himself into a sitting position. “Ahhh,” he groaned softly.

 

“You okay Uncle Johnny?” Five year old Jennifer asked in concern.

 

“Yeah princess...”

 

“We’re sorry we gave you measles Uncle Johnny,” Chris said apologetically.

 

“Not your fault…Who knows…I mighta got it from one of your classmates Buddy,” he said giving Chris’s nose a gentle tweak.

 

The nine year old giggled before he turned around and ran for the door. “DA…AAD,” he yelled. Uncle Johnny is awake.” He turned and came back as Jennifer clamored up on the bed beside Johnny, snuggling next to her second favorite man in the whole world.

 

Roy walked in a minute later. “Chris…How many times have I told you not to yell things through the house?”

 

“Uncle Johnny does,” Chris replied with a pout.

 

John’s brown eyes widened in amusement as he struggled not to laugh outright… Roy shot him a glare. “I can’t GROUND Uncle Johnny...”

 

“Wanna bet,” Johnny mumbled half under his breath, feeling like a child who’d been banished to his room for bad behavior.  Jen giggled.

 

“What was that Junior…?” Roy asked with an arced brow.

 

“I er…I asked if lunch was ready yet?” John replied innocently.

 

“That’s what I thought you said,” Roy began as Jen looked to Johnny.

 

“That’s not what you said,” she whispered reproachfully.

 

“Shhh,” John shot back. Jen giggled again.

 

Roy grinned. “Yes lunch is ready,” he said, sitting on the edge of John’s bed. His hand swept the dark bangs away, laying his hand on John’s forehead. It rested there for a long moment before he grimaced. “Your temps up.”

 

John nodded. “I thought it might be…I was feeling pretty warm.”

 

Roy poured him a glass of water and helped him sit up. He dumped a couple of aspirin in his hand. “Here…Take these.”

 

Johnny obediently swallowed the pills with some difficulty.

 

“Throat hurt?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“How about some soup for lunch…? Think you can stay awake long enough to eat it this time?”

 

John grinned. “I’ll try.”

 

“Good…I’ll go get it. Jen…Chris…Your lunch is ready too.”

 

“Roy…You don’t need to wait on me…Besides…I need to get up anyway,” he muttered.

 

Roy grinned and handed him his robe. "C’mon…?"

 

Johnny sank gratefully into a chair at the table a few minutes later. His face was flushed and he squinted at the brightness of the room.

 

“Johnny…Wouldn’t you rather eat in bed sweetie?” Jo asked.

 

John pushed the bowl away. “I’m not real hungry anyway,” he replied in gravelly tones. “Hurts to swallow…I just wanted the company.”

 

“Johnny…You need to eat,” Roy told him. “Remember what Brackett said.

 

John rolled his eyes. “Plenty of fluids and be sure he eats,” he said in his best imitation of Kel Brackett’s brusque tone.

 

The kids giggled while Roy and Jo looked at him in amusement. “That’s right…So eat.”

 

“Alright,” he said with a small pout. Johnny managed to get down a few bites…Swallowing painfully after every spoonful. He finally pushed it away, still half full. “I’m gonna go back to bed now…I’m really tired.”

 

“You didn’t eat much.” Johnny shrugged and Roy sighed in defeat. “Okay…Maybe we can try some more a little later.”

 

Johnny nodded and headed back to his room. “He must feel really bad,” Jo muttered, knowing how much Johnny liked to eat. “John Gage not eating just isn’t natural,” she said with a smirk as she carried the bowl away.

 

 

Roy checked on Johnny awhile later and found him sleeping soundly…He also noted the first spots appearing on his friends neck as John lifted his hand to scratch absently in his sleep.

 

Roy caught the slender fingers. “Johnny…Wake up.”

 

The dark eyes opened slowly. “R…Roy? What’s wrong?” He asked blearily.

 

“You’re breaking out junior…Can you sit up for me so I can check you over?”

 

Johnny nodded, pulling himself tiredly to a sitting position. “Man…I’m itchy,” he complained as he pulled his tee shirt over his head.

 

Roy checked his back, finding several more but not as bad as it could have been. He picked up the calamine lotion and cotton balls…Blotting the pink liquid on the raised blisters.

 

John sighed in relief as the itch subsided a bit. “Better?” Roy questioned.

 

“Yeah… thanks.”

 

“Try not to scratch them okay?” Johnny nodded, pulling his shirt back on. Roy sat beside him. “Here,” he said, handing him a glass of water. Johnny sipped it gratefully, letting the cool liquid soothe his throat. “How ya feeling?”

 

“Lousy,” he mumbled.

 

“I’m really sorry junior?”

 

“Knock it off Roy…It’s not your fault.”

 

“I know but…”

 

“I didn’t know…Why should you?”

 

“I guess,” he sighed.

 

“Besides…It’s punishment enough to have to take care of me for four days,” John teased.

 

“That’s true…It’ll be tough,” Roy agreed, giving his young friend a sideways glance.

 

As expected, Johnny drew himself up indignantly. “Hey…”

 

Roy laughed. “Go back to sleep Junior.”

 

 

By dinner time John’s fever had climbed once again. Roy woke him with a gentle shake. “Johnny?”

 

“A groggy “Ummm,” was his only answer.

 

Roy gently brushed the dark hair back. “C’mon junior…I need you to wake up?”

 

“Wha…?” He moaned.

 

“Sit up for me Johnny. I want you to take some aspirin and then we’re gonna see if we can get some soup into you okay?”

 

“Not hungry,” he murmured, trying to roll over.

 

“Uh uh Junior…Sit up.”

 

“Leave me lone Roy…M sleepin.”

 

Roy chuckled but persisted until Johnny rolled onto his back with a groan. He helped him sit up, propping the pillows behind him. He handed him two aspirin and a glass of water. John downed the pills but only sipped the liquid before trying to set it aside.

 

“All of it Johnny…”

 

“Throat hurts,’ he mumbled.

 

“I know but you need the fluids…Try and drink it okay?”

 

John frowned but knew Roy wouldn’t let him sleep until he gave in. He drank the water. The older man handed him a cup of soup. “Try some of this.”

 

“I’m not hungry Roy,” he moaned plaintively.

 

“JOHN…”

 

The dark eyes rolled in irritation but when Roy called him John and not Johnny or junior there was no winning…Professionally or personally. Roy took his roll of senior partner and big brother very seriously.

 

His hand shook a bit as he took the heavy mug but he managed to lift it to his lips without spilling it. John sipped the warm soup, grimacing as it slid down his sore throat but he handed it back empty.


Good boy,” Roy said quietly, knowing Johnny felt really bad.

 

“Thanks,” he whispered.

 

“Can you lean forward for me?” Roy asked as he picked up the lotion and the cotton. Johnny complied. He lifted his friend’s shirt noticing a number of new spots. “Must be spring,” Roy mumbled.

 

“Huh?” Johnny questioned in confusion.

 

“Flowers are blooming all over Junior.”

 

“Wonderful,” he grouched.

 

Roy finished his back and resettled his partner on the pillows. “Let’s check your chest and then I’ll let you sleep okay?”

 

John nodded but his eyes were already drooping. Roy finished up quickly, noticing that Johnny had already dropped off. He smoothed the sweat dampened bangs away from his friend’s forehead. John rolled his head restlessly.

 

Roy headed for the bathroom to get a wet rag. Joanne looked at him questioningly… “Fever’s up,” he explained as he headed back to John’s room to place the cool clothe on John’s brow. Johnny sighed in his sleep at the sudden relief.

 

Joanne stood watching them from the doorway as Roy eased John back into a more comfortable sleeping position.  “The kids weren’t this bad,” she pointed out as he pulled the covers snuggly around Johnny.

 

“Brackett said its worse in adults so I guess this is normal. We just need to keep the fever from getting ahead of him.”

 

“Hopefully the worst will be over in a day or two. Not like those other times when he got malaria or that monkey virus. “

 

“Thank God,” Roy said in agreement. Those had been some rough days. Roy had been afraid he’d lose him for sure both times and he didn’t want a repeat of that. “This should be a piece of cake,” he said as they left the room.

 

 

Johnny woke just before sunrise. He lay in the dark…Disoriented and confused. Uncertain of where he was even though he’d slept in this room many times. The ticking of the clock next to his bed was the only sound so he knew he wasn’t in his apartment. His complex was always noisy.

 

He was hot and he needed to cool down. Was he in a fire? He kicked the covers off and felt a slight wash of cool air over his sweat soaked body. He was burning up…On fire. He needed to find some water. Perspiration trickled down his back as he stumbled through the darkened house, finding his way by instinct rather than memory at this point.

 

He finally staggered into the bathroom…He flipped the water on in the shower and stepped inside.

Rain…Refreshing and cool, his feverish mind told him. The cold spray cascaded down his overheated body bringing blessed relief to his scalding flesh.

 

John slid down the tiles, letting the water wash the sweat and the heat away.

 

 

Roy woke as the sun rose…Golden light filtered through the drawn curtains. He was well used to early morning wake up times and lay in the bed for a few long moments, rubbing his eyes before rolling out of bed and padding barefoot to the bathroom.

 

A few minutes later he headed downstairs to make a pot of coffee. He knew Joanne would be right behind him to get breakfast for the kids before Chris headed off to school.

 

He started the coffee brewing and made his way to Johnny’s room to check on his partner. John would need his aspirin by now anyway and more than likely some more calamine on his back.

 

Roy cracked the door open and peeked inside, swinging it wide once he realized the bed was empty. He backed out and turned toward the living room thinking John had maybe got up to watch TV and fallen asleep on the couch but it too was empty.

 

He started back to check the sliders as Jo came down the stairs. They were locked.

“Honey…What’s wrong?” Joanne asked in concern.

 

“Johnny’s not in his room.”

 

“He’s probably in the bathroom,” she assured him as she headed into the kitchen.

 

“Yeah…Probably,” he mumbled, feeling a little silly for being so worried over his absence. “Kids up yet?”

 

“Yes…Chris is getting ready for school,” she replied setting glasses of orange juice on the table.

 

Roy grabbed a glass as he headed for the bathroom to let John know breakfast would be ready soon. He frowned a bit when he realized the door was open and the lights were off but he could hear the water running in the shower.

 

Roy knocked lightly on the door frame as he flipped the light on. “Johnny? Johnny…Are you okay?” There was no answer. Roy pushed the shower curtain aside in concern that Johnny might have fallen…He sucked in his breath sharply.

 

His partner lay curled on the floor of the tub in the fetal position…Shaking with chills from the cold water pouring over him.

 

“JOANNE…,” Roy bellowed as he quickly set the glass aside and turned the water off. He reached inside to pull his partner into a sitting position as Jo appeared in the doorway.

 

“ROY?” She questioned worriedly at the tone.

 

“Get me a couple of towels and his robe,” he barked out.


“Oh God,” she gasped as she spotted John over Roy’s shoulder. “Did he fall?”

 

“I don’t think so…Just hurry Jo.”

 

She turned and ran for the linen closet, returning quickly to hand Roy several towels. “I’ll be right back.” He nodded as he hefted his sopping partner over the side of the tub.

 

John’s eyes barely cracked open. “R…R…oy?”

 

“Shhh…I’m here junior,” he whispered against the damp hair as he held is shaking, wet partner against him.

 

“Ccc…Col…cold,” he stammered from blue tinged lips.

 

“I bet you are,” Roy replied, pulling the wet shirt over John’s head and wrapping the towel around his shoulders…Rubbing briskly. “What were you doin in the shower Johnny?” He asked quietly, holding the shivering form tightly.

 

“Hhh…Hot…Was hot…On fire,” he gasped in confusion. “Raining…Cool off…Raining.”

 

“Okay…Okay Junior. Just relax and we’ll get you back into a warm bed in just a minute okay?”

 

“Kay,” he whispered.

 

Jo reappeared with John’s robe. “Here honey. What else do you need me to do?”

 

“Get his bed ready babe and an extra blanket.”

 

She nodded and hurried away. Roy stripped the wet sweat pants from his partner and slipped John’s arms into the sleeves of the warm, dry bathrobe, pulling it tightly around his young friend. John’s eyes tracked around the room aimlessly.

 

“Still with me junior?”

 

“Um Hmmm,” he mumbled incoherently.

 

“Good boy…Put your arm around my neck Johnny.”  The young man obeyed, looping his arm around Roy’s neck as his friend scooped him up in his arms and carried him from the room. “Geez Johnny…You’re heavier than you look,” he muttered.

 

Roy struggled a bit under the strain but still managed to get John to his room. Joanne was just finishing changing the bed as he came in.

 

“Roy…Those sheets were soaked,” she informed him as he set John down.

 

Roy nodded. “He said he was on fire. Musta been really feverish. I guess I shoulda checked on him.”

 

“Honey…You couldn’t know he’d get that bad. It’s not your fault.”

 

He nodded as he pulled the covers over his friend. John curled into a tight ball, still shaking. Roy sat beside him, laying his hand on John’s forehead. He reached for the thermometer, tucking it under the younger man’s tongue and tipping his chin up to hold it in place.

 

The dark eyes watched him tiredly. “You getting warmer now?” A slow nod answered him. “Good…Jo…Could you bring me some hot tea… Let’s see if we can warm him from the inside.”

 

She nodded and left the room. Roy checked the thermometer…101°. Well…If Johnny had been delirious then the cold shower had brought his temperature back down.

 

Joe returned with the tea. “Here honey.”

 

Roy took the cup from her, setting it on the table. She left to get breakfast for the kids as Roy turned back to his young friend. “Johnny…Can you sit up for me?” He asked as he reached around his partners shoulders, raising him to a sitting position.

 

“I’m cold Roy?” He mumbled.

 

“I know you are junior…This’ll help okay?”  He soothed as he slid behind his friend and braced Johnny against him. He picked up the mug and brought it carefully to John’s mouth. “Careful…It’s hot,” he warned, letting him sip the steaming liquid.

 

John managed to down more than half before he turned his face away. “No…More,” he whispered.

 

“Okay junior…You feeling a bit warmer?”  He asked his partner as John’s head lolled against his shoulder.

 

“Yeah…A lit’l…”

 

“Good…Let’s get you settled,” he said moving from behind Johnny and laying him back on the pillows. The older man smoothed the sable hair away from John’s face as the drowsy dark eyes drifted closed. Roy pulled the covers up to John’s chin.

 

He headed for the dining room. “How is he honey?” Joanne asked anxiously.

 

“He’s asleep. I’ll call Brackett in a while and tell him what happened and find out what he thinks we should do.”

 

“He must have been really bad.”

 

Roy nodded. “We’ll have to keep an eye on that.”

 

“Is Uncle Johnny gonna be okay dad?” Chris asked.

 

“Yeah Chris…He’s gonna be fine. His temperature got a little too high and he got a bit confused that’s all…”

 

“He was sleeping in the bathtub daddy?”  Jennifer said reproachfully. “Why would he take a nap in the shower?”

 

“He thought he was outside in the rain but he didn’t just fall asleep baby…I think he passed out.”

 

It was clear from the look on Jennifer’s face that she really didn’t understand the difference but she nodded her head wisely, forgiving her Uncle Johnny for anything…Including being silly enough to sleep in a shower AND think it was raining.

 

 

Roy called Brackett while Jo drove Chris to school. “Hi Doc…This is Roy De Soto.”

 

“What’s wrong Roy?” Brackett asked without preamble, hearing the tension in Roy’s voice.

 

“I think John’s fever musta spiked really high last night. I found him asleep in the shower this morning.”

 

“Was it on?”

 

“Yeah…He was wet and freezing.”

 

“How is he now?”

 

“We got him warmed up and he’s sleeping now but he told me he was on fire and he thought he was outside in the rain.”

 

“He was probably delirious and confused. What’s his temp now?”

 

“101°…His pulse was 100 his respirations were 16 and his BP was 120 systolic.”

 

“Okay…So other than the low grade fever he’s pretty much back to normal?”

 

“Yeah…Do you want me to bring him in?”

 

“No…No the worst is probably over and he’ll start his recovery process. Monitor his vitals and keep getting those fluids and aspirin into him. If his fever goes over 102° then bring him in here.”

 

“I will…Thanks Doc.”


“Anytime.” Roy hung up.

 

 

Joanne came in a few minutes later. “Did you call Kel?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“And…?”

 

“He said keep him here unless his fever gets above 102°.”

 

She nodded. “Have you checked on him?”

 

“I was just about to.” They made their way to John’s room where the young fire fighter was sleeping fitfully. Roy sat on the edge of the bed…”Johnny…? Can you hear me?”


“Mmmm,’ he groaned softly as he felt Roy’s cool hand rest against his very warm forehead.

 

“Jo…Can you get me a towel and a pan of water?” She nodded and left while Roy checked his temperature. 101.5°…

 

Jo returned and Roy wet the cloth and laid it over John’s brow. The young man sighed in relief and relaxed back against the pillows. “What was his temperature?”  She asked.

 

“Up half a degree…”

 

She nodded and settled in the chair, prepared to take over when Roy got tired. She figured it could take a while to bring that fever back down. She was right…Three hours later his temperature was hovering just under a 100°. John sank into a peaceful slumber.

 

The couple finally rose and stretched their tired backs before leaving him to sleep.

 

 

 

John woke a long while later. His dark eyes searched the dim room in confusion for a minute. Roy’s…He was at Roy’s and he was feeling a little better. He vaguely remembered waking earlier but couldn’t remember much of what had happened. He knew he’d been warm…Too warm and he remembered being wet but he couldn’t remember how he got that way. Had he gone out in the rain?

 

“Feeling better?” A deep voice asked from beside him, breaking his reverie.

 

“Roy,” he greeted tiredly.

 

“Yeah junior…”

 

“I feel awful,” he whispered in a ragged voice.

 

Roy sat on the edge of the bed… “You gave me quite a scare this morning junior,” he informed him as his hand came to rest on his young friend’s forehead. It was warm but not too bad.

 

“I did?” He replied worriedly. “Why?”

 

“You don’t remember?”

 

John shook his head. “Huh uh,” he mumbled.

 

“I found you in the bathtub with the shower on.”

 

John stared at him in shock. “I was?”

 

“Yeah…But you seem a little more with it now so I think you’ll be okay.” Johnny nodded tiredly.

“Are you hungry?” Roy asked, changing the subject.

 

“A lit’l…”

 

“Good…I’ll get ya something. You just rest for now and I’ll be right back.”

 

“Kay,” he murmured, letting his head drop back on the pillows.

 

Roy returned soon after with a pitcher of water and a mug full of soup. John wrinkled his nose.

 

“I know you’re probably tired of soup but it’s easier for your throat and stomach to handle.”

 

“I know,” he agreed unhappily.

 

Roy grinned at the almost whiney tone and propped his partner upright on the pillows. “Okay Johnny…Let’s try this.”

 

 

 

After lunch Roy checked John over. He leaned him over to inspect his back. “Well the good news is there aren’t any new spots.”

 

“And the bad news?”

The ones you do have are breaking which means...”

 

“I’m gonna itch even more,” he grumbled unhappily.

 

“Fraid so…”

 

“Great,” he mumbled.

 

“I’m really sorry about this.” John shrugged and shot his friend a rueful smile, knowing how bad Roy felt about this until he continued. “You know…I was wondering?”

 

“About what…?”

 

“What other childhood diseases haven’t you had?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You know mumps…Chicken Pox…”

 

“What a wonderful thought Roy…Thank you SOOO much for bringing that up.”

 

“Just a thought.”

 

“Well thanks…That made me feel so much better.”

 

“It did?” Roy questioned with a knowing grin at the game they frequently played.

 

“NO.”

 

 

Roy chuckled as Johnny shot him a glare. Dotted in pink lotion, Johnny pulled his tee shirt over his head and slid back under the covers. “I think the worst is over,” Roy predicted laying his hand on his partners forehead one more time. “You still have a fever but it’s nothing like last nights.”

 

“That musta been some dream I was having huh?”

 

“Musta been…”

 

“I don’t remember.”

 

“I’m not surprised…I figure your temperature musta climbed pretty high so you found a way to cool off.”

 

“I think I remember thinking I was out in the rain.”

 

“Well whatever…It worked.”


Pure genius,” Johnny teased.

 

Roy pushed the dark head back on the pillow… “Go to sleep,” he said in disgust.

 

 

By dinner Johnny’s temperature was beginning to climb once again but not dangerously so, hovering around 101.6°. “How ya feelin?” Roy questioned the younger man as he sat him up to help him with a glass of water.

 

Lous…y,” he muttered as he turned his face away from glass…

 

“You need to drink this,” Roy prodded.

 

“Doan wan it,” he slurred.

 

“Johnny please…”

 

The young man heaved a sigh. “Throat burns.”

 

“I know but…”

 

“Head stiff…neck…,” he trailed off.

 

“What? What are you saying junior…You’re not making any sense.” Roy asked worriedly. Johnny’s words were disjointed and confused which he’d understand if his fever was raging but it wasn’t. Maybe he was simply tired but after last night’s shower episode, he was a bit worried.

 

He finally coaxed Johnny into sipping the water before he got him resettled. “Get some rest and I’ll bring your dinner in a little later.”

 

“Not hungry,” he murmured.

 

“I know but…” Johnny rolled over on his side and pulled the covers over his head, murmuring incoherently. Roy didn’t understand the words but he grinned at the childish gesture. “Okay junior…You win but you have to eat breakfast for Jo in the morning,” he warned as he left the room.

 

John lay under the covers and the murmuring finally became words. “Explosion…Gotta find cover…Victim…Here Roy…Cover, cover…Fire…Out…Can’t out…Get out.” He moaned, his respirations increasing as fear rose in him for Roy and the victim until he slipped into sleep.

 

He kicked the covers from over him and finally felt a bit cooler. The fire was out and Roy and the victim were safe.

 

 

Roy checked on him before he went to bed. John lay sprawled across the bed…The covers were a tangled heap on the floor.

 

He moved to his friend’s side. “Johnny?”…?” He called softly as he sat beside him and rested his hand on his forehead. He sighed in exasperation…The fever was still with him. He opened the nightstand drawer and pulled out the bottle of aspirin.

 

He gave John a light shake. “C’mon Junior, sit up.”

 

Brown eyes cracked open to look blearily up at Roy. “Wha’s wrong?” he murmured.

 

“You just need to sit up a minute so you can take these okay?”

 

With Roy’s help, John struggled to sit up long enough to swallow the pill before he slid down and quickly dropped back into sleep.

 

Roy grinned as he straightened the covers, pulling them back over John’s sleeping form. “Goodnight Junior.”

 

The alarm clock beside John’s bed was the only sound during the quiet night. It’s soft ticking slowly began to work itself into John's mind.

 

A dark room filled with debris…A man pinned beneath the wreckage. ‘Another bomb,’ the man had told him. Had to get out…

 

No wait…A little girl was trapped too…Can’t leave without her…Tearing at the pieces of wood…Get her out…Run…Run.

 

John thrashed beneath the covers. TICK…TICK…TICK…It was gonna explode…Get out…Get out now…TICK…TICK…

 

John sat upright with a gasp of fear…Sweat trickled through his hair and down his face. His body was coated with it. The bomb…? Where was it? He had to get the bomb out.

 

The clock tick tocked softly drawing John’s feverish eyes toward it. He threw back the covers and snatched the offending item from the bedside table. He moved clumsily through the darkened room. “Have to go fast…No wait…Hurt my leg…Can’t run”

 

John was panting heavily as staggered from the room in confusion. He saw the moonlight through the sliding glass doors and turned toward them. Locked…He flipped the door lock and yanked them open, stepping out into the warm evening.

 

A breeze swept over him, cooling his overly hot skin…He shivered slightly. Tick…Tick. John glanced down…The bomb…He had to get rid of it. He hurled the clock into the yard and waited for the explosion but none came.

 

Musta screwed up the timing like he had the other one…That was okay though…At least everyone was safe. John sat down on the lounge chair abruptly…He was suddenly exhausted and he needed to rest. He felt so warm and it was so cool out here. Where was he anyway? DIdn’t matter right now.

 

Johnny curled into the chair and went to sleep.

 

 

Roy and Joanne walked into the kitchen the next morning. Roy was back on duty today and having no idea who his temporary partner would be wanted to get there early to check out the squad.

 

“The kids up yet honey?” He questioned as his wife began to dig out the pans to cook breakfast.

 

“Yeah…They’re up and fighting over the bathroom.”

 

Roy chuckled…Rather than one of them coming downstairs to use this one, they preferred to argue over the one upstairs…Sibling rivalry in all its glory.  They kinda reminded him of Johnny and Chet.

 

Thinking of Johnny, he decided to see if he was awake yet and hopefully feeling well enough to eat after an uninterrupted sleep.  “I’m gonna check on Johnny babe,” he said as he headed toward his room. “Be back in a minute.”

 

Roy cracked the door open to John’s room and peeked inside…Pushing it wide as he realized the bed was once again empty. The covers were in a heap on the floor…The sheets wrinkled and damp with sweat.

 

Roy left the room and tossed a glance at Joanne as he headed down the hall. “What’s wrong honey?” She questioned worriedly, afraid she already knew the answer.

 

“He’s not in his room.”

 

“Oh no, not again.”

 

She watched as he flicked the lights on in the bathroom, frowning as he turned them off again a second later. “Not there either.”

 

“He’s not upstairs in the kids rooms…I’d of seen him,” she told him as he glanced toward the front door.

 

A light breeze swept over his skin and Roy turned toward its source. The sliding doors were cracked…Maybe he’d just stepped out for a second to cool off. He pulled the sliders open and shook his head at the sight of his partner curled in the lounge chair.

 

“He’s out here babe,” he called back over his shoulder as he stepped outside and squatted next to his friend. He smoothed the shaggy, tangled mop of sable hair back from John’s forehead, feeling the warmth of his skin against his fingers.

 

“Hey junior,” Roy called softly. “Wake up.”

 

Johnny groaned and stirred slightly but the dark eyes remained closed. Joanne stepped out on the deck.  “Those sheets were wet with sweat again…Is he okay?”

 

“Fever’s up again,” he replied with a sigh. “I don’t understand why it’s just hanging on to him…The kids weren’t this bad,” he added as he pulled John into an upright position.

 

John moaned softly. “Bom…,” he murmured, his voice trailing away.

 

“What?” Roy asked as he looped John’s arm around his neck and pulled his groggy partner to his feet.

 

“Out…Get out,” he whispered.

 

“Well you managed to do that alright,” Roy assured him as he led him back into the house. Joanne followed, watching worriedly as he sat him on the edge of the bed. “Johnny…I need you to take your aspirin…Can you do that?” The older man prodded.

 

“Mmmm,” he mumbled as his eyes finally cracked open. Roy didn’t like the look of the glazed and unfocused gaze John directed at him. Like he wasn’t sure who Roy was…

 

“Maybe I should stay home,” he suggested hesitantly.

 

“Don’t be silly Roy…I’ve taken care of Johnny a lot of times.”

 

“Yeah but…He’s acting oddly…”

 

“We’ll be fine. If I have any problems, I’ll call you or Kel.”

 

“You sure…”

 

“We’ll be fine Roy…”

 

The blonde paramedic coaxed the pills into John before laying him back against the pillows. He pulled the covers over him as the dark eyes drifted closed.

 

Jo swept the damp linen into her arms as Roy turned to follow her out. “Jo…?”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Where’s the clock?”

 

She glanced around the room curiously before she shrugged. “Maybe the kids took it out,” she replied not spotting it anywhere.

 

Roy nodded as he closed the door behind him.

 

“Run Roy,” the words whispered from John’s lips. “Get out,” he murmured as he drifted off to sleep.

 

 

Roy sipped a cup of coffee an hour later as he waited for the rest of A shift to join him in the Rec Room. His temporary partner came in…A young blonde of about twenty four. “Hi…I um…I’m Dave Roper. Is Captain Stanley in yet?”

 

“Roy De Soto,” the older paramedic greeted, shaking his hand. “And no...but he should be in any minute.”

 

The young man noticed the yellow paramedic patch on Roy’s sleeve. “Um…Am I working with you?”  He asked nervously, glancing at the group of men around the table. Man…He’d heard of De Soto…How could he measure up to his usual partner?

 

Roy nodded. “They're B Shift. The rest of A shift is probably in the locker room.

 

Hank Stanley walked in about then. “Roy,” he greeted as his brown eyes fixed on the young man next to him.

 

“Mornin Cap…This is Dave Roper…John’s replacement.”

 

The young man snapped to attention. “Good morning sir.”

 

Cap grinned. “Good to meet you…Hank Stanley. Cap to my crew.” The younger man nodded. “How is John?” Cap asked Roy just as Marco and Chet filed into the room.

 

“I dunno Cap…He’s acting really strange.”

 

“Must be talkin about Gage,” Chet quipped to Marco.

 

The crew of B shift snickered at Chet’s joke. “He’s sick Kelly so pipe down,” Roy shot back.

 

“It’s just measles for crying out loud…Every kid gets em,” Chet retaliated, pointing out Johnny’s youth which was a favorite taunt for the Irishman.

 

The others laughed at the young paramedic’s predicament…Imagining the itching and spotted appearance of their friend.

 

“Brackett says its worse in adults,” Hank pointed out with an ominous frown at the group.

 

“Then there’s no problem Cap,” Chet teased. “Gage is still a kid anyway.”

 

“This is no joke Kelly,” Roy snapped, stilling the laughter at John’s expense. “He’s been burning up with fever for the last two days." The others grew serious. “He’s been so out of it that he’s been sleepwalking. I found him asleep on the deck this morning and yesterday,” Roy hesitated, giving the curly haired Irishman a glance and not wanting to give Kelly any ammunition to use against Johnny.

 

“Yesterday what?” Marco questioned as nine sets of concerned eyes waited for his answer.

 

“Yesterday morning I found him passed out in the shower.”

 

“Was it on?” Mike questioned worriedly.

 

“Yeah…And he was still dressed. He was freezing and he couldn’t remember how he got there…He just remembered being hot. I almost stayed home with him but Jo thought she could handle it.”

 

The others shook their heads in concern but Chet gave them a grin. “Asleep in the shower…Wait’ll he gets back.”

 

Roy sighed but Cap fixed his annoyed scowl on the curly haired fireman. “I don’t see any need to harass John about something he doesn’t even remember doing because he was sick do you Chet?”

 

“Aw but Cap…This is too good to pass up,” he whined. Roy’s blue eyes joined Cap’s in boring a hole in the stocky fireman. Several others turned their glares on him as well. “Guy’s,” Kelly whined.

 

“I mean it Chet,” Cap said sternly.

 

“Maybe the phantom would like to find himself in a cold shower too?” Marco threatened.

 

“With all his clothes on…” Mike added.

 

Chet heaved a defeated sigh. “Okay fine…I won’t rib him about it.” Roy shot him one final warning look and turned away. “You guys never let me have any fun anymore,” he groused.

 

“This isn’t fun Kelly…He’s really sick and I’m worried about him.”

 

“What else is new,” Chet muttered as he picked up his coffee and joined B shift.

 

 

Joanne knocked on John’s door and after a moment without an answer she peeked in. Johnny lay sleeping…Twisted in the covers. Sweat beaded his forehead, trickling into the dark hair. He moaned softly as his head tossed from side to side.

 

Jo hurried to the bed. She reached into the pan of water that sat beside the bed and picked up the cloth, wringing it out before blotting John’s face carefully.

 

 Johnny was caught in his current hallucination. Gas exploded up in his face as he tried to twist the relief valve closed. He tried to back away but his feet refused to move.

 

He turned his head, frantically trying to keep it from hitting him in the face but it sprayed on and on. He felt the cool wetness on his face and somehow knew that the explosion that would follow would be the end but he couldn’t run…couldn’t move.

 

He threw his hands up in terror, crying out and trying to cover his face to block the cold spray from reaching him.

 

“Johnny…Johnny? Sweetheart it’s me…Joanne. Johnny…Can you hear me?” Jo called trying to gently pull his hands away from his face. “Stop baby…Let me help you.”

 

The words finally seemed to pierce the fog in John’s brain. He felt the soft hands wrap around his wrists and gently tug them away from his face.

 

The dark eyes fluttered open, staring up at Joanne but he still seemed unaware of his surroundings. “Johnny…? Look at me baby.”

 

Chocolate brown eyes swerved toward her briefly before closing in exhaustion. Now that he was calm, Joanne slipped the thermometer under his tongue as she continued to bathe his face. She pulled it free. 101.8°

 

“Oh sweetheart,” she sighed softly, leaning close to his ear. “You better keep that temperature down young man or its back to Rampart,” she whispered before kissing his forehead. She went to call Roy.

 

“Hey Jo,” Hank answered, recognizing her voice. “Let me get Roy for you…Oh how’s John?”

 

“Not good Hank…His fever’s up again. Higher than before.”

 

“I’ll get Roy…Hang on.” He turned to the table where the crew was gathered. “Roy…Joanne’s on the phone.”

 

“Gage sleeping in the tub again?” Chet questioned with a snicker from the sink where he was washing the lunch dishes.

 

Roy shot him a glare as he picked up the phone but the conversation wiped the smirk from Kelly’s face and brought a look of worry to Roy’s. “Hi Jo…”

 

“Roy…It’s Johnny,” she said without beating around the bush.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“His fever’s back up…”

 

“How high?”

 

“101.8°…Should I take him to Rampart?”

 

The rest of the members of the crew were glancing at each other in concern as the conversation continued.

 

Roy sighed and pursed his lips in thought. “Not yet…If it goes above that call me or get him into Rampart…Maybe the cool compresses will bring it back down. It worked before.”

 

“Okay…I’ll try…I love you.”

 

“I love you too.” Roy hung up.

 

“How’s Johnny?” Chet asked, moving closer as a worried frown creased his forehead. The other’s crowded closer to listen.

 

“His fever’s up to 101.8°…Jo’s using cool clothes to bring it down but if that doesn’t work then we’ll have to take him back to the hospital.”

  

“Oh wow…,” Chet groaned. “I’m sorry Roy. I guess…Well…You know…Nobody thinks of measles as being serious anymore. Man…I can’t believe that he’s that sick.”

 

Roy nodded. He had a nervous half smile. “He’ll be okay,” he said reassuring himself as much as the others.

 

 

Jenny returned home from a friends and Joanne took her upstairs to let her play in her room. “Okay sweetie…I’ll be with Uncle Johnny if you need me. He’s still not feeling well.”

 

“Can I come with you?”

 

“Not right now sweetheart…Maybe later if he’s feeling better… He might enjoy the company.

 

Joanne returned to Johnny’s room and once again began to bath his face and neck. John barely roused but his mind was wrapped around another hallucination.

 

 

 

Johnny’s head was pounding ferociously and he tossed fitfully in the bed. A feeling of wetness fell across his face and chest and he moaned slightly at the sensation. Suddenly he was diving into the Dominguez Channel.

 

The small Volkswagen Beetle was completely submerged and he had the Jaws of Life. He worked feverishly to pop the car door open. The stubborn metal bent under the powerful pressure and finally cracked open.

 

Johnny dropped the heavy piece of equipment and jerked the door ajar…Staying long enough to verify that the man was okay before he kicked toward the surface but it didn’t come. He kicked again but he felt weighed down. His arms swung as he struck toward the surface. He felt someone grab his hands and he finally…Finally broke through the surface gasping for air.

 

Joanne watched the young man as he slept. Worry etched on her features as she continued to bath his face and neck.

 

Johnny thrashed beneath the covers. His feet lashed out violently and his hands swung wildly as if swimming.  Jo tossed the cloth aside and grabbed his hands. “Sweetheart…C’mon Johnny, It’s Jo… It’s okay baby I’m here,” she soothed quietly.

 

John suddenly gasped as if he’d been holding his breath. He panted for air for a moment before he finally drifted back into slumber. She rested her hand against his hot forehead. He seemed a bit cooler than he had been.

 

She slipped the thermometer under his tongue…101.2°. She wet the towel and laid it on his brow one last time, leaving it there as she went to the kitchen to make some tea and get a fresh pitcher of water.

 

Jo glanced at the clock, surprised to realize she’d been over an hour with Johnny. She got busy with her housework…Peeking into his room from time to time. She’d wake him for soup and aspirin soon.

 

 

Johnny seemed a bit better when she woke him at lunch. John squinted painfully from the headache pounding in his brain. His eyes looked tired to Joanne but the glaze of fever was considerably less than it had been.

 

She brushed the sweat dampened hair from his forehead, drawing a small half smile as he struggled to push himself upright . His motions seemed a bit awkward and uncoordinated but he finally laid back against the pillows.

“Feeling better sweetheart?”

 

“A lit’l,” he murmured.

 

“Good…You had me a little worried.”

 

John frowned and rubbed his aching head for a moment. “Why?”

 

“Your fever was very high and you were having nightmares.”

 

“I was?”

 

“You don’t remember?”

 

John shook his head and blushed to his roots as Jo began to unbutton his shirt. “I…I can do it,” he mumbled in embarrassment. His fingers fumbled with the buttons and Jo almost giggled at his sudden ineptitude.

 

She smiled gently at him and brushed his hands aside, finishing for him and pulling the shirt open. Jo unscrewed the cap from the bottle of calamine lotion and picked up a cotton ball.

 

John shifted uncomfortably as she dabbed the pink lotion on his chest and neck. “Lean forward for me sweetie.”

 

John complied, half leaning against her as she reached around him to lift the shirt and dab the lotion on his back. She tugged his shirt back into place when she finished and let him lie back against the pillows.

 

“Sorry Jo,” he murmured tiredly.

 

“For what sweetheart?”

 

“Be…in a pro…lem,” he slurred.

 

“You never are Johnny…You know that,” she assured him as she leaned down to kiss his cheek. “Let’s get you fed now so you can rest okay?”

 

“Kay.”

 

She stood up and picked up the tray from the dresser, depositing it into his lap. “Need any help sweetie?”

 

John shook his head. “Think okay…John stopped suddenly as if trying to gather his thoughts. “Think… I’ll …be… okay,” he finally said slowly, as if he needed to think through each word.

 

“Alright…I’m going to get Jennifer her lunch but you call me if you need anything and don’t forget to take your aspirin okay?”

 

Johnny nodded and Joanne frowned as she watched him fumble with the spoon…He dropped it once but managed to get a better grip on the second try. His hand trembled and Jo thought he was simply over tired. She turned and left.

 

 

When Jo returned a while later Johnny was asleep but he had eaten some of the soup and taken the aspirin.

 

She moved the tray and pulled the covers around her young friend and then swept her fingers through the dark hair.

 

She knew she wasn’t that much older than him but he sometimes still looked like such a child, especially when he was sleeping…She smiled, remembering her reaction when she’d first met him. She’d been shocked at how young he was and had once teased her husband about adopting him instead of becoming his partner.

 

She leaned down to kiss his forehead. He was still warm but not overly so. She checked her watch. Chris needed to be picked up. She hated leaving Johnny alone but he seemed to be a bit better and she wouldn’t be gone long.

 

She scooped up her purse and Jennifer and then headed for the garage.

 

 

Joanne had only been gone a few minutes when Johnny’s eyes suddenly flew open. His stomach was rolling miserably. He threw the covers back and climbed from the bed. Stumbling slowly as his limbs seemed heavy and uncoordinated.

 

He barely made it to the bathroom before losing the battle. He fell to his knees as the contents of his stomach erupted violently. He crawled the rest of the way to the toilet before the rest could make a re-appearance.

 

He hung his head miserably after the retching finally stopped. Man…He didn’t remember this being one of the symptoms of measles but then again…His mind was a bit foggy right now…He just hoped he hadn’t picked up some kind of stomach virus as well.

 

Johnny finally pulled himself upright and groaned at the mess he’d made on Jo’s floor. He pulled a large wad of tissue down and began to try and clean it up but his motions seemed awkward and it took him longer than he’d thought.

 

 He heard the door as Jo returned with the children. He tried to stand but he felt tired and his legs wouldn’t support his weight. “JO…,” he called weakly.

 

She appeared in the doorway a minute later. “Oh my God sweetheart…Are you okay?” She questioned seeing the mess and the pitiful look in the dark eyes.  She dropped her purse and knelt beside him.

 

“Sick…Mess…Sor…ry…Made,” he muttered, the words coming out in a jumbled mish mash.

 

“That’s okay baby…I’ll clean it up but we need to get you back to bed first,” she reassured him as she yanked a wash cloth from the rack and wet it, wiping his mouth gently before rinsing it and bathing his face. “Okay sweetheart…Let’s get you up,” she prompted as she helped him to his feet.

 

He swayed unsteadily but she got her shoulder under him as Roy had taught her and let him lean against her. She supported him past the two wide eyed children. “Is Uncle Johnny alright mom?” Chris asked worriedly.

 

“He’s fine…He just got a little sick to his stomach,” she assured them. “Chris…Run in and get me a clean pajama shirt for him okay?” She instructed as she led John slowly into his room. She frowned in concern that he seemed so weak.

 

She sat him on the edge of the bed and let him lean against her as she unbuttoned the vomit stained shirt. She peeled it off of him as Chris pulled a clean one from the drawer. “Thank you sweetheart,” she said as she helped John into the clean top. “Okay…Why don’t you go and get three cookies each for you and Jen and pour some milk. I’ll be right out as soon as I get Johnny settled okay?”

 

Chris nodded his head and left the room to do as he was asked. Jo turned back to her other young charge. “Okay baby…Lay down now,” she told him, easing him gently back against the pillows. She pulled the covers around him before she leaned down to kiss his forehead.

 

John half smiled…Knowing what she was up too. “Temp…era…ture up?” He questioned.

 

She grinned down at him. “A little, smarty pants,” she teased, knowing he’d caught on to her surreptitious trick of taking his temperature without being obvious. She swatted his arm playfully. “I’ll put a bucket next to the bed in case you feel sick again okay?”

 

He nodded. “Sor...Jo,” he slurred as his eyes closed.

 

“It’s alright…I’m just glad you’re okay baby,” she replied sweeping her fingers through his dark hair until his even breathing told her he’d drifted off.

 

She frowned worriedly…Neither Chris nor Jenny had been nauseas when they’d had the measles…What was causing it in Johnny?

 

She shrugged and figured she’d call Roy if it happened again. She went to clean the bathroom.

 

 

“Can we play in Uncle Johnny’s room?” The children asked quietly as they followed their mother back to his room a while later. They eyed him worriedly as she slipped the thermometer under his tongue.

 

“No honey…You’ll wake him up and he needs to sleep.”

 

“How bout when he wakes up mommy?” Jen questioned.

 

“We’ll see…Maybe he’d like some company if he feels better,” she replied as Johnny stirred restlessly. She plucked the small glass tube from his mouth and checked it, shaking her head…It was still up. She shooed the children from the room. “By the way…Have either of you seen the clock that was by the bed?” She questioned as she pulled the door closed behind her.

 

 

Johnny woke a while later. He felt hot and perspiration beaded his brow and upper lip but at least his stomach felt okay for the moment. A soft noise from the doorway caught his attention and he turned his head to see two sets of blue eyes peering at him intently.

 

“Hi,” he murmured tiredly as his brow furrowed…Who were these kids?

 

“Hi Uncle Johnny…they replied as they made their way to side of the bed.  The memory of them suddenly popped into his mind and he frowned even more. How could he have forgotten Chris and Jen…They were almost like his own children.

 

Jennifer rested her small hand on his forehead as she’d seen her parents do. “You’re very warm,” she informed him seriously.

 

He nodded. “I know.”

 

She picked up the cloth from the table and wet it before wringing it out as best she could and blotting his sweat coated face with it.

 

Johnny grinned and let the five year old play nurse for a few minutes. “Uncle Johnny…Mommy said we could play in here if you wanted some company when you woke up.”

 

“But not if you’re tired,” Chris amended hastily, not wanting John to feel like he had to let them spend time with him. The young man felt flattered that they wanted too.

 

“Kay…Company…Good might be…,” he hesitated knowing that hadn’t come out right. What was wrong with him? “Might…be…good. Not play…though…Watch just…” He stopped again as he frowned in confusion but the kids didn’t seem to notice. They just grinned their appreciation that he was planning on letting them stay with him.

 

They scampered off to grab some games before returning to camp on the floor next to him. “What do we play first?” Chris asked as his hand reached to pick up his own favorite…”LIFE,” he suggested.

 

“I wanna play Candy Land,” Jen said adamantly.

 

“That’s for babies,” he argued.

 

“Is not,” she said with a pout.

 

“Is so,” he shot back.

 

John sighed. “Why…Not play…Land…Candy Land first. Not long takes…Doesn’t take long,” he fought to get the words out properly.”Then Life,” he suggested, mediating the fight between his niece and nephew.

 

He figured he’d be playing referee for the next couple of hours but he didn’t really mind…It was better than laying here feeling miserable all by himself.

 

Joanne poked her head in a few minutes later. “Feeling better sweetheart?” She asked as she came to sit beside him. He nodded tiredly as her fingers played through his hair, sweeping the unruly mop from his face. “They’re not bothering you are they?”

 

John shook his head. “Kina like em here,’ he slurred tiredly.

 

“Good…Okay guys, when Uncle Johnny’s had enough…” She let the warning hang.

 

“Okay mom,” they agreed without looking up from their game.

 

John threw her a drowsy smile as she left the room. The dark, chocolate brown eyes watched the children play for a while before sliding closed.

 

The afternoon wore on and John’s fever began to rise once more. The aspirin he’d taken earlier to bring it down having been lost along with his lunch.

 

 

Chris glanced up as Johnny stirred restlessly beneath the covers. “Shhh Jen…Uncle Johnny’s asleep,” he warned as she put the candy land game back into its box.

 

She nodded and watched as Chris quietly set up his favorite game… Life…They began to play, taking care to be quiet so they wouldn’t disturb the sleeping man.

 

Chris spun the wheel. The ch…ch…ch…ch rattling sound of the spinner filtered into John’s dreams as he slept fitfully.

 

He was on a brush covered hillside…The smell of newly turned earth was heavy in his nostrils, mixing with the smoke that still hung in the air around the smoldering car.

 

An older man named Hector hung from his tractor seat watching the young dark haired paramedic make his way down the hill.

 

“Hector…You seen a handy talkie.”

 

“No,” came the gruff reply.

 

John approached the car, glancing quickly into the front seat before his eyes caught sight of it in the back. He stepped around the open rear door to retrieve it but failed to see the large rattle snake that slithered out from beneath the vehicle.

 

Only the rapid ch…ch…ch…ch… sound from the frightened reptile gave him any warning at all.

 

Johnny tried to back away but found himself pressed against the car with nowhere to run. The snake struck.

 

“AHHH,” Johnny cried as he shook the creature from his leg. Johnny hitched himself higher against the smashed vehicle behind him, trying to get away.

 

The children heard John’s sharp gasp of fear. They looked up quickly as their Uncle tossed restlessly on the bed and then kicked out. He began to scramble backward. “AHHH…” The cry ripped from his lips.

 

“Uncle Johnny…Are you okay?” Chris asked his now wide eyed uncle.

 

John didn’t answer…His brown eyes were wide and frightened and clearly seeing something they couldn’t.

 

“Jen…Go get mom…Hurry.”

 

"But Chris…,” she began to argue.

 

“Right NOW Jenny…Something’s really wrong.”

 

She glanced at the second favorite man in her life and saw the sweat running in rivulets down his face and his pajama shirt was wet with it as well. His body shook as he pressed against the wall. Jen ran…

 

“MOMMY,” she cried as she raced into the kitchen.

 

Joanne grabbed her frightened daughter. “What is it honey?”

 

“Uncle Johnny…Something’s wrong.”

 

Joanne turned and ran for Johnny’s room. Her eyes widened in shock at the sight of the young man who was now straining frantically away from something only he could see. She grabbed his shoulders.

 

“Sweetheart…” What’s wrong?” John didn’t respond though his mouth moved soundlessly. “Baby…Baby look at me,” she directed, letting go of his shoulders to take his face between her hands.

 

John was backed against the wall…His dark eyes were filled with fear and it was plain that he wasn’t seeing Joanne. “Away…Ge a…way,” he whispered as his eyes looked at his feet. “Bi...me…help…nee hel,” he slurred.

 

“Chris,” Jo said calmly. “I need you to call the station. I want you to tell your father that Uncle Johnny’s fever has become very high and that he’s hallucinating and that I’m taking him to Rampart okay?”

 

Her frightened son nodded and ran to the phone to do as he was told.

 

“Jen…Go get mommy’s purse and put it in the front seat of the car and open the back door for me okay. Jen nodded and backed away. Fearful blue eyes were locked on her uncle. She’d never seen him like that before. “GO,” Jo commanded.

 

Jen snapped out of it and ran to do what her mother had told her to.

 

Jo turned back to John. “Okay sweetheart…It’s gone now. I promise you. It won’t hurt you,” she assured him, uncertain of what ‘IT’ was but certain that whatever he was seeing was scaring the hell out of him.

 

“Gone,” he whispered…The brown eyes flicking around him.

 

“All gone,” she promised. “Now I’m gonna help you to the car okay and we’re gonna go for a ride.”

 

“Ri…de?” he echoed uncertainly as his eyes returned to her face.

 

“Yes baby.” She helped him scoot forward until she could put her arm around him and help him stand on shaky legs. He moaned softly as his stomach rolled and he leaned on her heavily.

 

She struggled to keep him upright as Chris returned quickly to help. “Dad’s on a run but Captain Stanley said he’d send him as soon as he got back unless they were at Rampart already.”

 

She nodded as they made their way slowly through the laundry room and into the garage where Jen was waiting by the car, crying in fear.

 

She and Chris together managed to get the tall man into the back seat. Whatever had frightened him seemed to have been forgotten for the moment but sweat continued to roll down John’s face. He curled in a ball and moaned softly…His hands were pressed tightly against his head.

 

“Johnny…Sweetheart…Does your head hurt?” She questioned. His only response was a groan of pain. Jo closed the door. “Get in the front seat,” she told the kids. She backed out of the garage and headed for Rampart.

 

 

Johnny was burning up. His head felt as if there were a steel band wrapped around it. It pounded relentlessly. His neck hurt and he could barley move his head. His stomach turned a slow somersault but he swallowed it back.

 

What was happening to him? He’d only had the measles hadn’t he? No wait…Snake…There was a snake…Had it bitten him? Someone told him it was gone now…

 

Suddenly there were hands. Chet? No…No it wasn’t Chet. Hands pulled him forward and a gentle voice urged him to stand. His stomach flipped again as he stood up and the soft voice told him they were going for a ride.

 

“Dredi?”He mumbled.

 

“What sweetie?" Jo asked not understanding the word.

 

“R…ide?” He questioned uncertainly as his eyes rose to the pretty face helping him to walk. It wavered suddenly as his head spun sickeningly. “Kisci,” He moaned as he staggered against her, leaning heavily on the woman who walked beside him.

 

His feet seemed to be moving of their own volition but they felt so heavy. John was confused. Where were they going?

 

Jo frowned at the words…They made no sense. What was he trying to say? She didn’t have time to try and sort it out now. She helped him lay down on something hard. His head pounded and spun again. He moaned and pressed his hands against his forehead to try and stop the pain.

‘Sweetheart …does…hurt…?’ a disjointed voice questioned but it was going in and out and he only heard pieces.

 

He couldn’t get his mouth to form the words. He groaned again and the woman went away.

 

John felt himself moving and closed his eyes as the pain and the heat built intolerably. He twisted…Fighting against it.

 

 

 

Joanne drove as carefully as possible but she was terrified. “Hurry mom,” Chris urged as he watched Johnny over his shoulder.

 

“What’s wrong?” She questioned as she glanced up into the rearview.

 

“He’s really starting to thrash around,” Chris whispered, looking scared.

 

“We’re almost there sweetheart,” she called over her shoulder to the young paramedic. “Just relax,” she said more to herself than anyone else. “We’re almost there,” she said again with a reassuring smile at her son.

 

 

Jo parked in the emergency bay and climbed out. One look at Johnny was all it took to know he was in serious trouble. Her heart pounded fearfully. “Chris…I need you to go inside and find a nurse or doctor…Tell them to hurry.”  Chris ran.

 

Jo opened the door and climbed inside with her young friend. Her eyes widened in horror as John’s body suddenly began to shake.

 

 

Captain Stanley hung up the phone in the dayroom. He rubbed his hand over his face in concern.

 

“What is it Cap?” Mike asked from the table where he and Marco were playing chess.

 

“That was Chris De Soto…He was trying to reach Roy.”

 

“What for?” Chet asked, knowing from Hank’s reaction that it probably wasn’t good.

 

“He said his Uncle Johnny was really sick and that his mom was taking him to Rampart.”

 

“Oh man,” Marco muttered.

 

“I’m gonna call HQ and see if they can reach Roy…Tell him to stay put or turn him back to Rampart,” he explained as he picked up the phone.

 

 

“Roy and his temporary partner Dave Roper were standing at the base station talking to Dixie. “So how is Johnny feeling?” The pretty blonde nurse questioned.

 

“Not so good. This fever is just hanging on and keeps coming back. I know Brackett said it’s worse in adults but brother,” he muttered. “I may have to bring him in if…”

 

The Handy talkie suddenly crackled to life, interrupting their conversation. “County 51 what is your status?”

 

Roy shrugged in ‘see ya later’ gesture to Dixie as he lifted the radio to his lips. “County 51 at Rampart and available,” he said as they turned toward the door but Sam Lanier’s voice stopped them. “County 51 remain 10-8 at Rampart Emergency and call your station on the land line.”

 

Roy threw a confused look toward Dixie and Dave and then frowned as he responded to the directive. “10-4 LA…Put us 10-8 at Rampart.” He picked up the phone. “I wonder what’s going on?” He murmured as he dialed the station’s number.

 

“Station 51…Captain Stanley speaking...”

 

“Cap…Its Roy. Dispatch just called and told me to call you. Is everything okay?”

 

“Roy…Chris just called. He said…”

 

Dixie’s surprised gasp brought his head up. She pointed. Chris De Soto was running toward his father.

 

 

Joanne leaned over the young man as his body suddenly arced over backward, shaking uncontrollably…The dark eyes wide and frightened for a few seconds before they rolled upward. Saliva pooled on his lips and trickled down his chin as his body convulsed beneath her.

 

Jo knew she had to keep him from biting his tongue and grabbed for the only thing available…The heavy leather strap on her purse. She wedged it between her young friend’s teeth while Jenny sobbed in the front seat. Jo had no time to soothe her terrified five year old…It was all she could do to hang on to Johnny. “Shhh baby,” she soothed uselessly…He couldn’t hear her.

 

And then suddenly Dixie was there. “Move out of the way Jo,” she said as she pulled the opposite door open and took over.

 

Jo climbed out and let Kelly Brackett take her place.

 

 

“Cap…My son is here…I’ll have to call you back,” Roy said quickly as he hung up the phone and turned to Chris. He grabbed his shoulders. “Chris…What’s wrong?”

 

“Hurry dad…Miss McCall. It’s Uncle Johnny…He’s really sick.”

 

Dixie didn’t wait to hear the details…She left the desk and pushed the door open to treatment room three. “Kel…When you’re done…I’ll need you in five. They’re bringing Johnny in.

 

Kel looked to Mike Morton. “Can you finish this?”

 

The young black intern nodded his head as Kel turned and ran for the door. He stepped into the corridor in time to see Dixie snag an orderly and a gurney as they headed for the emergency room doors. Roy and his partner…Roper… Kel thought that was the name of the young replacement De Soto had been partnered with…Both were right behind them along with Roy’s son. Kel followed after them.

 

Dixie was moving quickly but she heard the sound of running feet and knew she had help coming.

 

 

Joanne pulled a sobbing Jennifer from the front seat and backed away from the car. Strong arms suddenly wrapped around her and she looked up into her husband’s face.  Chris was pressed tightly against their legs as his frightened blue eyes watched his Uncle’s body shaking in the back seat while Dr. Brackett and Miss McCall struggled to hold him.

 

“What happened?” Roy asked…His eyes held an equal amount of worry and fear for his young partner.

 

Jo’s cheeks were streaked with tears. “He was hallucinating…Burning up with fever. I just got him here when he started to do that,” she said as Brackett barked an order at another arriving nurse.

 

“Dilantin…STAT.” She whirled and ran for the doors as John’s body suddenly went limp. “Get him on the gurney,” Kel snapped.

 

Roy released Joanne and went to help. They eased John from the car and lifted him onto the gurney. They’d barely got him on it when John suddenly stiffened… His body suddenly began to jerk once more. “Oh God baby,” Jo whimpered in fear as she watched.

 

“What are you doing Johnny…What’s happening to you?” Kel muttered to himself as they ran for the doors, shoving John’s stretcher along beside them. They pushed him into treatment room five as the older nurse…Betty Miller held the door…Joanne and the children stopped at the threshold…Though she desperately wanted to stay with John.

 

Kel threw a glance over his shoulder. “Betty…Get an aid to take the children to the lounge…Joanne…I need you to stay.”

 

“Dad…Is Uncle Johnny gonna die?” Chris asked in terror, afraid that that was why Brackett wanted his mom to stay.

 

“No Chris,” Roy assured him though he wasn’t all that sure himself at this point.

 

“Your Uncle Johnny is very strong,” Jo added. “He’s going to be fine…You go with Nurse Miller now and behave…I’ll be right there.”

 

Jen looked up at the nurse as she led them away. “Why was he jumping like that?” She asked fearfully.

 

“It’s called a seizure sweetheart. Sometimes a very high fever can make that happen. Your daddy can explain it to you later,” she said signaling an aide to come over. “But Dr. Brackett is going to make him better okay?” They nodded, still clearly not reassured. “Stay with them in the lounge…Their parents will be here in a while.” Betty whirled and headed back to treatment five.

 

 

Brackett snatched the syringe from the pretty blonde nurse…Michelle and quickly plunged it into John’s arm. He tossed it aside before shoving the exam table out of his way. He stuck the stethoscope in his ears as John’s body began to relax.

 

Dixie grabbed the BP cuff while Roy grasped John’s wrist to get a pulse. Roper was checking his pupillary response while Michelle was setting up an IV. Jo stood in the corner of the room with her hands pressed over her mouth in terror as she watched them all circle around the young paramedic. She felt helpless and useless.

 

Brackett yanked the earpieces clear as the information came from every direction.

 

“Pulse is 130 but starting to slow…Respiration 20,” Roy said.

 

“BP 140/90,” from Dixie.

 

“Pupil’s are equal and sluggish,” Roper added.

 

“Get that IV started…D5W,” Kel ordered. “Dix…Get me a temperature and set up for a lumbar puncture. Michelle when you’re done with that get Joe Early in here…I want an EEG.” He glanced toward the door as Betty returned. “Betty…Get me a ABG,CBC and Electrolytes Stat.”

Everyone was hustling…Roy was cutting the Pajama shirt from his partner as Michelle took off to page Dr. Early. Dixie pulled the Lumbar Tray on its portable cart next to Kel. He threw her a glance.

 

“Catheterize him Dix…”

 

She nodded as she cast a glance at Roy. “Good thing he’s unconscious,” she muttered. Roy nodded with a sympathetic grimace as he began to remove John’s sweat pants. Dixie tucked the thermometer under John’s armpit. “Spare him some dignity,” she said softly as she took a moment to smooth the sweat soaked sable hair from John’s too warm forehead.

 

She removed the thermometer and checked it briefly. “105.4° Kel,” she reported as she began to set up a tray to anchor a catheter. Brackett frowned in concern as Joe came in.

 

“What have we got Kel,” He questioned as his eyes took in the group. They quickly moved to the table as he recognized his young friend. “What’s wrong with Johnny?”

 

“Not sure yet…I want an EEG. He’s got a real high fever and he’s having convulsions.”

 

Joe nodded his head and threw a worried look at Johnny before he moved to the telephone.

 

Joanne shifted in her corner drawing Kel’s attention. “Joanne…Can you tell me what happened?”

 

She nodded. “He ate a little bit this afternoon and he took his aspirin. He was having nightmares…At least that’s what I thought they were…But his fever wasn’t that high. I went to get the kids and when I got back…He was on the floor in the bathroom…He’d thrown up and he was very weak. He could hardly walk.” She chewed her lip as she tried to remember.

 

“Probably vomited the aspirin as well,” Kel murmured thoughtfully.

 

Jo looked stricken. “I didn’t think of that,” she whispered.

 

“I didn’t mean to imply that this is your fault Joanne,” Kel assured her. “What happened then?”

 

“I got him cleaned up and back in bed. He slept for awhile…The kids wanted to stay with him and he said he didn’t mind if they played in his room. Then awhile later Jennifer came running out and said something was wrong with him. I went right in and he was acting scared. Like there was something attacking him. He was pressed against the wall and yelling for us to make it go away.”

 

“Hallucinating,” He murmured softly. “It…Did he say what it was?”

 

“No…He wasn’t making any sense but I told him it was gone and he seemed to calm down.”

 

“What do you mean he wasn’t making sense?”

 

“He was having trouble talking…The words were coming out in the wrong order.” Kel shot a worried look toward Joe. “Then when I was taking him to the car, he was saying words but I couldn’t understand them.”

 

“Was he speaking Cheyenne?” Roy questioned. Kel shot him a look. He’d never heard John speak in anything but English.

 

“I don’t think so…It didn’t sound right.”

 

“Aphasia,” Joe suggested.

 

“Could be,” Kel muttered. “Let’s get a spinal tap. Thank you Jo…You can go if you want to,” he said, knowing that Jo might not want to watch this but she was made of stronger stuff.

 

“I’d like to stay with Johnny if it’s okay?”

 

Kel would normally never allow it but this was a special set of circumstances and he knew these two too well to worry about them going to pieces on him.

 

“Let’s roll him on his side,” he said, tucking the sheet down around John’s waist to protect his modesty as much as possible, not that Joanne hadn’t already seen it all at this point.

 

The blonde paramedic eased John onto his side as Dixie tugged his knees to his stomach to curl his body into a fetal position. Roy pulled the stool up close and sat on it, staying at eye level within John’s line of vision in case he woke. Jo moved to stand near his head. Her fingers trailed through the sable hair reassuringly.

 

John moaned softly as Kel inserted the needle but remained silent and still otherwise.

 

Brackett frowned as he measured the pressure and drew the fluid but he left them no clue as to what he suspected was wrong. He handed the vial to Michelle. “I want the lab results on that stat,” he ordered. “And get those blood samples to them right away.”

 

She nodded as she picked the tubes and left.

Kel and Joe left the room to speak privately over John’s symptoms as Dixie finally pulled the catheter tray over.

 

 

They rolled John on his back, eliciting another weak groan from the young paramedic. The dark eyes blinked open and his gaze wandered blearily around the room.

 

Where was he anyway? He felt hands touching him and his focus cleared enough to see the three people working on him. The man’s hand held his own and John had to think hard….Roy? Was that his name? He wasn’t quite sure. But who was the blonde woman standing further away…She raised the sheet up to his hips.  Joanne glanced away with a grimace and Roy winced in sympathy as Dixie inserted the catheter.

 

John moaned softly at the uncomfortable feeling of pressure in his loins, drawing their attention. The blonde man’s gaze shifted back to his face. “Johnny? Hey Junior…I didn’t know you were awake,” he said softly.

 

 

Roy looked into brown eyes that were filled with fear and confusion. They shifted from him to Dixie and back again but there was no recognition. “Um…Dix…,” Roy began hesitantly. “I think something’s wrong,” he murmured, not wanting to scare Johnny or Joanne.

 

John looked at the woman as she moved closer… “Hey tiger,” she said softly, reaching out to sweep the bangs from his face.

 

Jo moved around into his line of vision and the dark eyes swept toward her. She was familiar but he couldn’t hold the thought. His eyes turned back to Roy and there was a flare of recognition but it was fleeting…Disappearing as fast as it came.

 

“Wre M I…?” he slurred.

 

Roy’s eyes widened fearfully at the words. He didn’t understand them but he knew his young friend well enough. “You’re at Rampart junior,” he reassured him.

 

“M’par?” He questioned as if he didn’t understand.

 

Roy’s eyes glanced toward his wife for a moment before swinging to Dixie. “What’s wrong with him?” He asked, the pleading sound of his voice almost broke Dixie’s heart.

 

“Aphasia…It could be caused by a number of things Roy, including seizures but the main thing is that most of them are treatable so both of you stay calm…I’ll go get Kel.” She left the room. Roy and Joanne exchanged frightened glances… Both of them fearful of losing their young friend.

 

“Hey junior…Hang on okay? Dix just went to get the doctor.

 

“D…tro?”

 

Jo covered her mouth and a small sob slipped from behind it. “What’s wrong with him Roy?” She gasped with a hitched breath.

 

“I don’t know honey…I don’t know.”

 

The dark eyes settled on his face. “R…R…oy,” he struggled to get out the words.

 

“That’s right junior…It’s Roy,” he replied in relief that John at least seemed to know him now.

 

“Wa…hapned?” He slurred in confusion as he tried to raise his hand to his sweat coated face…It dropped back on the table as if he had no control. Roy took it in his own and bit his lip worriedly. What the hell was wrong with his best friend?

 

The dark eyed gaze seemed unfocused…Lost and afraid as they flitted about the room uncertainly.

 

Roy reached out to tilt his young partner’s face toward him. “You’ve had a seizure Junior and you’ve got a really high fever.”

 

“F…ver?” He repeated, though he really didn’t seem to understand.

 

Roy’s heart was pounding in fear and he could see it reflected in Jo’s face as well. What the heck was happening here? What was taking them so damn long to figure it out?

 

The door opened and Kel, Joe and Dixie returned to the room. Joe was pulling a small cart with what Roy recognized as an EEG.

 

“What’s happening Roy?” Kel asked as he leaned over his patient.

 

“He’s confused. His speech is slurred and aphasic. He doesn’t seem to recognize me one minute and then does the next. His movements are uncoordinated.”

 

“How so?” Kel asked in concern.

 

“He tried to lift his hand to his head but he couldn’t seem to control it.”

 

Kel frowned. “I see.”

 

“He doesn’t seem to know where he is either.”

 

Kel pursed his lips as John’s chocolate brown eyes flitted aimlessly about the room. “Joe’s going to do an EEG,” Brackett told them as the older, gray haired doctor began to stick small electrodes to John’s head. “I’m going to order a CT Scan as well.”

 

“What is it Doc?”

 

“His fever is quite high and we need to get that down,” he continued as if Roy hadn’t asked. Kel’s brown eyes traveled between the two people closest to John Gage. He had his suspicions and he hated being the bearer of bad news, especially to people he cared about. If it’s what I think it is then we’ll start him on acyclovir.”

 

“What do you think it is?” Jo asked fearfully.

 

“Not Malaria…?” Roy questioned.

 

“No…No not malaria. I think it’s a complication from having the measles. The loss of Johnny’s spleen would make him far more susceptible as well,” he murmured thoughtfully.

 

“TO WHAT?” Roy almost yelled.

 

“If it’s what I think it is…Well…Leave it to Johnny to be the one out of a thousand that it happens to,” Kel said, sounding almost as frustrated as Roy.

 

“WHAT DOC…Please,” Roy pleaded as he pulled his frightened wife against his side.

 

“Encephalitis…” Roy and Joanne suddenly looked very pale.

 

“Oh God,” Dixie muttered.

 

 

 

 

Continued in part 2…..

Items in bold and italics are excerpts from the original Emergency episodes. Limelight, Insanity Epidemic, Hypochondricap, Women, Snake Bite and Seance and are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited.

 

 

Link to Parts 1. 2. 3. 4.

Published to Site 11/20/11

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

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