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The sequel to Long Road Back and Return
Rated PG-13: Parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for children under 13 - Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
Warning… I have placed a warning on this story for content. This is a love story and it contains some sexual situations, mature references and innuendos. (For anyone under 13…This story is not for you)…Tammy
No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy…Saint Alfred of Rievaulx
The sun was beginning its early morning climb into the California sky. The east facing windows of Rampart General Hospital afforded it a spectacular view if any of the patients were well enough to look.
Paramedic Roy DeSoto was too tired to appreciate it this morning. He’d been awake all night, sitting at his partner and best friend’s bedside…A past time he’d spent way too many hours engaged in over the years but he didn’t want Johnny to wake and be alone.
One hand rubbed at his tired eyes while the other maintained its contact with the younger man’s hand. He and John Gage had been closer than brothers for the last four years…He sometimes seemed more like a second son.
Now once again he sat worried and apprehensive as he waited for Johnny to wake up from this latest injury. He shook his head. “How many times partner?” He whispered softly as he brushed a stray lock of hair from his friend’s brow. “How many times have we played this scene out? How many times can you flirt with death before it wins?”
Roy sighed and stood up to stretch his cramped muscles. He yawned broadly and finally released John’s hand and wandered to the window. The orange hues were already fading and the sky was turning a hazy blue as the sun rose higher.
Roy thought back to the previous night’s events. How could fate conspire against his friend like this? He’d been through so much…Suffered so many losses in his almost twenty eight years…How would he deal with this latest heartache? Could he deal with it or would it be the final straw that sent him over the edge.
Roy pictured yesterday’s horrific scene. He and the station crew had arrived at his home to find Johnny lying unconscious on the DeSoto’s living room floor. He wasn’t alone. The other person was Danella Four Feathers…The woman John loved and planned to marry in a year…Just as soon as she finished nursing school. She was the woman he’d waited for his whole life, entering into and retreating from dozens of failed relationships before finding the woman of his dreams in his small hometown of Lame Deer Montana five months ago.
How would John deal with this grief on top of everything else he’d had to endure this last month? A soft whisper of sound brought Roy’s head around. Johnny was shifting restlessly beneath the covers. His head tossed in agitation and a low moan escaped his lips.
Roy moved quickly to his partner’s side…His hand once again twining around John’s long slender fingers…Offering reassurance that his friend was there and always would be. John stirred again as the comforting contact penetrated his foggy and disoriented brain. “Roy…?” he murmured.
Roy sighed, knowing the pain he would soon inflict on his best friend. He leaned over his partner. “Junior…,” he said using the nickname he’d called him by practically from the day they’d met. “Can you hear me? C’mon Johnny, you’ve slept long enough…Time to wake up,” he urged his friend.
Dark brown eyes cracked open and tracked toward his partner despite the fact that they’d been sightless for the last month…Not that John needed to see to know who was at his bedside. Roy would be there for him and had been since their friendship had begun so long ago.
John’s hand tightened around his best friends. “Roy?”
“I’m here Junior,” he assured him as his fingers swept over John’s forehead.
“Danella…?” He whispered.
Roy swallowed hard. “Johnny…”
Five weeks previous…
Roy had been thoroughly amused over the last six months since Johnny had met Danella four feathers and fallen in love. The handsome dark haired paramedic…A well known womanizer in the halls of Rampart General Hospital had taken himself off the market and Roy watched one nurse after another throw themselves at Johnny, more interested than ever now that he was no longer chasing.
He and Dixie McCall, the head nurse at Ramparts emergency room had shared many a laugh over their coffee cups as they watched the succession of nurses chase Johnny…Even those who had spurned his attentions before seemed intent on winning his affections. Unfortunately for them…John Gage was …despite his wild streak…A man of honor. The only woman on his mind now was Danella Four Feathers and he had it bad. No woman could tear his heart or mind from the beautiful Indian girl.
Dani…As John called her, was due to arrive this afternoon on her summer break from college. Johnny had been a basket case all morning…Worried that the young Indian woman from Montana would change her mind.
Roy shook his head as he remembered their conversation in the locker room this morning. “What if she’s met someone else Roy…?”
“I’m sure she’s met a lot of people Junior and she’s still comin here to be with you.”
“What if it’s just too…You know…Tell me we’re through?”
“She coulda done that on the phone or by letter. Relax Junior…She loves you.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah Johnny, I think so,” he reassured his insecure friend with a smile.
Roy felt a presence and glanced over to see Dixie leaning against the wall next to him…Coffee cup in hand. “Don’t tell me another ones decided to she played hard to get too long?”
“Yup,” Roy said sipping his coffee and throwing the pretty blonde nurse a grin. “She’s been smiling and flirting for oh…,” He looked at his watch. “Ten minutes now.”
“Making any progress?”
“None to speak of…,” Roy chuckled as he watched his partner edge away from the beautiful brunette nurse. He finally made his escape and headed for Roy and Dixie.
“Man…That woman is relentless,” he complained as he approached. “And thanks for the help there pally.”
Roy grinned. “You were doin alright Junior…Besides I think you deserve a little payback for all the times you’ve chased these poor women up and down these hallways.”
“That was a long time ago,” Johnny pointed out indignantly.
“Six months isn’t all that long Junior…”
“Seems like forever to me,” he replied quietly.
Roy winked at Dixie and grinned. “What time does her flight come in Johnny?” The pretty blonde nurse inquired with a smile.
“Around eleven…Joanne’s gonna pick her up. She’s gonna stay with them while she’s here.” John turned dark eyes on his partner. “I really appreciate it too.”
“I know you do,” Roy said with a grin as he glanced at his watch. “We need to get going…You’re filthy from that last run. You might barely have time to clean up if we hurry.”
“Let’s go then,” he said anxiously as he grabbed Roy’s sleeve and tugged him toward the door.
“I wanna hear about it on your next run,” Dixie called after them.
“I will,” he promised with a grin.
“What was that all about?” Dr. Kelly Brackett, the head of Emergency asked from behind her as the two paramedics disappeared around the corner.
Dixie turned to face the handsome, dark haired doctor. “Danella’s arriving today.”
“Oh yeah…I bet Johnny’s excited.”
“Just a bit,” she teased, handing him her coffee cup. Kel grinned and took a swallow.
Johnny was nervous all the way back. He stared out of the passenger window…His foot bouncing with a steady rhythm. “Relax Junior,” Roy said softly, reaching out to touch his friend’s arm.
John turned toward him…The old insecurities reflected in his eyes. “What if she’s changed…?”
“She hasn’t…She loves you,” he assured his anxious friend. John heaved a worried sigh and threw his partner a grin. He looked up as they approached the station. Parked in the alley beside the building was a gray station wagon. “Oh man…That’s Jo’s car. She’s here…How do I look?”
Roy smiled. “You look fine…A little dirty…But I doubt she’ll notice.” John grinned back.
Joanne waited patiently at L.A.X. She was picking up John’s fiancée and they’d told her the flight was arriving early. She held a sign with the girls name on it and hoped she’d have no trouble finding the woman. She smiled to herself as she thought of Johnny and how excited he’d been last night. He’d been like a child on Christmas morning…
She watched the plane taxi up to the gate and said a silent prayer that everything would be perfect for this young couple. She couldn’t bear to see Johnny disappointed again. He’d been through too much in his life and she wanted desperately to see his luck change for the better.
She’d offered to pick her up this morning to have a chance to get to know this young woman who was about to become a part of their lives just as Johnny was…A very important part. Both she and Roy had taken the young paramedic into their heart and home a long time ago and her protective instincts were in full swing. She wanted to be very sure Danella would never hurt him.
She watched the tunnel extend to meet the plane and held up her sign as people began to exit the aircraft. She hadn’t needed to worry…Danella was easy to find. Not only was she the only Indian woman on board but she exited the plane surrounded by four young men intent on winning the stunningly beautiful girls attentions.
Danella was smiling and polite but it was obvious she had no interest whatsoever as her eyes scanned the crowd for any sign of Johnny. She finally saw the pretty dark haired woman holding the sign with her name on it and headed in her direction.
As she approached Joanne she finally stopped and turned to her unwanted entourage. “Gentlemen please,” the melodic voice pleaded. “I’m very flattered…truly but I have a fiancée that I’ll be meeting soon…Please go away.”
They heaved sighs of disappointment as Joanne moved forward to meet the girl…Her blue eyes frigid as they locked on them. “Shoo,” she said sharply. They nodded and moved off, casting furtive glances over their shoulders as Danella shook her head and turned back to Jo.
“It’s been a long three hours,” she groaned to the older woman who was watching her closely.
“I can imagine,” Joanne said softly…Her blue eyes looking the beauty before her over. Her hair was raven black and hung like satin. Her amber eyes wide spread above a straight nose. High cheekbones slanted down framing coral lips and a dazzling smile. She wore a light blue blouse over white jeans and she was breathtaking. Jo frowned. Had she encouraged these men? Would she play these games with John?
Danella smiled, correctly guessing not only who this woman was but from her disapproving look…What she was thinking. She didn’t take offense but rather she delighted in it, knowing the older woman was merely concerned for John and she loved her for it.
“But I would endure anything to be with Johnny,” she said reassuringly. “You are Joanne…Roy’s wife?”
The younger woman embraced her and whispered in her ear. “I love him with all my heart as you and Roy do. I will never hurt him.” She stepped away and smiled a dazzling smile.
Joanne finally smiled back. “I’m sorry…I just worry about Johnny.”
“Of course…He’s very special to you,” Danella said. “He’s very special to me as well. When he told me about you and Roy in Montana…I knew how important you were to him then. You’re a sister…A friend…Sometimes his …Mother,” she said with a soft shrug.
Joanne’s eyes welled with tears…“Yes.”
“I have already seen Roy with him and I know what he feels for my John and what John feels for you both. Could I love you any less than he does for taking such good care of him…For loving him so much?” She asked softly with a gentle smile.
Joanne smiled back…Worries forgotten… “Let’s get your things…Johnny’s probably about to expire from anxiety. He wanted to pick you up himself but this time of year there are so many men on vacation that they couldn’t find a replacement,” she explained as they hurried to the baggage claim.
Forty minutes later they pulled up in front of the fire station. “Danella…I need to warn you,” Joanne began.
The girl looked at her curiously. “About what…?”
“Well…The guys…Um Chet, Marco…They’ll all come off sounding like they don’t care about Johnny…They’ll harass him terribly but don’t let them fool you…They’re almost as protective of Johnny as Roy is…They just don’t show it. They care about him a lot…He’s the youngest and they love to tease him. It’s a game…A Macho thing you know?”
Danella had learned a lot from the other young women at the university and she understood the term. She grinned with mischief… “I will keep that in mind.”
Joanne led the girl into the rec room. Captain Stanley was at the stove pouring himself a cup of coffee as they came in. He looked up and smiled a greeting. “Joanne…It’s good to see you,” he said setting down his cup to give the woman a light embrace but his eyes were on Danella.
She could see the probing look in the gentle dark eyes and knew Joanne was right. This man was concerned for John and was looking past the outward appearance…Almost as if trying to see inside her heart...Danella had no idea that the memory of another beautiful woman that had set her sights on John was still reasonably fresh. She had almost killed him and his Captain was understandably leery.
“Hank…This is Johnny’s fiancée Danella Four Feathers. Danella this is John’s Captain…Hank Stanley.”
“Hank please,” he offered. Danella smiled and Hank sucked in his breath…She was captivating. “John’s a lucky man,” he said extending his hand.
She shook it. “I consider myself to be lucky as well. I have won his heart,” she said sincerely. Hank beamed at the words. No arrogant beauty here just a gentle soul that loved John.
They were interrupted by three men who came into the room talking boisterously. “She can’t be that beautiful,” Chet argued with Marco. “He’s got to have faked that photo. I’ll bet that ain’t even her.”
“It’s gotta be,” Marco shot back. “Roy knows what she looks like and he wouldn’t string us along.”
“Yeah well if it is her than Gage is gonna be sleepin on the couch a lot with a chick that hot…” Mike’s hand swung back, slapping Chet in the chest and interrupting his tirade. “OW…Hey Mike,” Chet grouched, rubbing the sore spot. Stoker nodded in open mouthed shock toward the sink. Chet and Marco’s eyes followed the direction and dropped open to match his a second later.
Standing with Captain Stanley was Roy’s wife and the most stunningly beautiful woman they’d ever seen. “Wow…,” Breathed Mike softly.
“She’s even prettier in person,” Chet mumbled.
“Dios…Did Gage luck out,” Marco whispered as they moved en masse toward the three by the counter.
“Close your mouths,” Cap ordered. “You look a school of trout,” he teased. “What will John’s fiancée think?”
“Uh Cap…You gonna introduce us?” Chet asked waggling his bushy eyebrows suggestively.
“Yeah Cap…Where’s your manners?” Marco quipped.
“Danella,” he said to the calmly smiling woman. “May I present my crew? Engineer Mike Stoker,” he said pointing at the handsome dark haired man.
She extended her hand, speaking for the first time. Her soft, gentle voice took their breath away. “I’m very pleased to meet you Mr. Stoker…Johnny’s told me all about you.”
“Mike please,” he said with a sigh as he shook her hand.
“You’ll meet his WIFE tomorrow,” Hank reminded the smitten engineer. Remembering his wife Melissa, Mike let go of the girls hand and stepped back.
Cap shook his head in amusement. “Lineman Marco Lopez,” he said indicating the attractive Hispanic man standing there.
Marco’s eyes lit appreciatively as he extended his hand. “Senorita…Esta es muy bonita,” he said softly in Spanish.
“Gracias Senor Lopez,” she said surprising him as she smiled into his dark eyes. Marco continued to hold her hand as he gazed into the amber eyes looking back at him.
“AHEM…,” Cap cleared his throat. “Would ya let go,” Cap whispered aside to Marco.
“Oh…Sorry,” he blushed and stepped away.
“And lineman Chet Kelly,” Cap finished indicating the curly haired, mustachioed fireman standing anxiously next to Marco.
“Mr. Kelly,” she acknowledged sweetly, extending her hand.
“Chet,” he corrected enthusiastically, nearly shaking her hand from her wrist.
“UH…Kelly…You wanna leave her hand attached there pal,” Cap said grabbing the clasped hands and prying Chet’s loose from the girls.
“Chet,” she corrected with a delicious grin. “And do I look enough like my picture to convince you?” She asked innocently.
Chet blushed. “Uh…Yes Ma’am…Even better,” he breathed.
“Gentlemen…This is John’s fiancée…Danella Four Feathers.”
They sighed with jealous envy.
She grinned and turned back to Hank. “Where is Johnny?” She asked softly, tugging at her lower lip anxiously.
“Oh…He’s out on a run…They had to take a victim to Rampart. We just got back ourselves about a half hour ago. They should be back real soon.”
“He is well?” She asked.
“Took in a little smoke up on those pipes,” Cap said…remembering the young firefighters daredevil tightrope walk across the pipes in the choking black smoke and Roy’s worried voice calling up to him.
“Careful Junior…You’re doin that without a net.”
“Yup…,” he’d called back casually.
He remembered the gasping indrawn breaths as John had slipped and Roy’s yell… “Can we not make Dani a widow before she’s a wife huh?”
John had given him a thumbs up and had continued the dangerous crossing…Reaching the victim a moment later.
Joanne correctly interpreted the concerned look on Hanks features. “He did it again didn’t he?” She asked softly as her mouth tightened with worry.
“Yeah…,” he answered honestly but with the two pretty, anxious faces staring at him he recovered quickly… “But he’s fine…He made it fine,” Hank assured them.
“What did he do?” Danella asked fearfully.
“He walked across some pipes to get to a victim,” Hank explained casually. Dani’s eyes looked relieved. That didn’t sound too dangerous.
“Twenty feet up without a lifeline,” Marco explained. Joanne gasped in shock while Danella’s face paled.
“Gage ain’t known for bein real careful,” Chet piped in. “OW,” he grunted again as Mike’s elbow once again caught him in the ribs. They glanced at girl. The frightened look was quickly being replaced with one of determination.
“Then it’s time I reminded him that he is no longer concerned with only himself,” she murmured.
“Can I get you some coffee Danella?” Marco asked, changing the subject as he led the girl to the table. Chet and Mike followed while Joanne and Hank leaned against the counter.
“Coffee Jo…?” He asked.
“I’d love some Hank,” she replied shaking her head at the three young men hovering around the girl. From the look on Danella’s face…Joanne had nothing to worry about. They didn’t stand a chance…This girls heart belonged to John Gage.
Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay as John practically danced in his seat with anxiety. “Hurry up Roy.” The older man grinned as he threw the truck in park. John was out before he could open his door but he stopped and waited for his friend. “How do I look?” He asked anxiously as Roy joined him.
He reached out to wipe some of the dirt from Johnny’s face. “You’re filthy…But I don’t think she’ll care,” Roy teased.
John grinned back at him and they entered the rec room to find Joanne leaning against the counter…Coffee cup in hand. Hank Stanley stood next to her in much the same posture watching his men in amusement as they crowded around the beautiful Indian girl…Each one offering her something to eat or drink and treating her like a princess.
John stopped short, causing Roy to almost plow into the back of him. Danella was glancing around her in amusement as the crew vied for her attention but she suddenly seemed to sense their presence. She looked up toward the door where Roy and John still stood.
The young, dark haired paramedic stood rooted in place much the way he had the first time he’d seen her. A smile spread across her face and her eyes took on a soft glow…Almost lighting up the room as she rose to her feet. “Johnny,” she breathed softly. Marco and Chet exchanged a look of pure envy.
“Well go on,” Roy whispered in his ear, giving his friend a slight shove. John shot him a quick irritated glance but it quickly turned into a grin as he turned back to Danella and moved toward her.
She lightly stepped out from between the men and headed for John. They met halfway.
“Ná’oha’e’ov’ mo Ho’ohomo’he Ho’esta,” (I have missed you Dances with Fire.)
“Ná’oha’e’ov’ mo vése Anėstaeše Ôh-vó'komaestse ...” (I have missed you also White Mist.) Chet, Marco and Mike’s mouth dropped open and even Captain Stanley’s eyebrow rose in wonder. In all the years they’d known John Gage they’d never heard him speak in Indian. “Mo’onenόohe...” (You look beautiful.)
She reached up to brush the sable hair from his face but their eyes remained locked. She trailed her fingers through the dirt streaking his cheek…“Mό’onenόmaahe…noné’kéne oha oná tamaahé. (You look so handsome…dirty but handsome).
“To’sevá tamâhtsétanό,” (I’m sorry) he murmured, looking slightly embarrassed.
“Vé ve Ná’méhόt…” (Don’t be my love.)
“E’ta’se a’eneto,” (It’s been like forever.) he whispered. “Ne’mé‘hotâtse Mé’oo’o,” (I love you sweetheart.)
“Ne’mé‘hotâtse vése…” (I love you too.) She leaned closer, lifting her face in invitation. “I love you,” she whispered again in English as his mouth lowered to meet hers.
The others watched with mixed emotions as John’s mouth caught Dani’s…Cap, Roy and Joanne with joy that Johnny had finally found his other half…Chet, Mike and Marco with a hint of envy. “Man…How did he get so lucky,” Chet mumbled jealously to his friends as they watched Dani’s hand curl around John’s neck, pulling him closer. The couple was oblivious as the kiss lingered and then deepened as Dani’s mouth parted under John’s and tongues met as he crushed her against him.
“AHEM,” Roy cleared his throat from behind them. John pulled back, breaking the kiss and blushing slightly.
“Um…Sorry,” he whispered to Danella as he tugged on his lower lip…savoring the taste of her.
“I’m not,” she replied as she turned to face the older man. “Hello Roy,” she greeted with a huge smile as she stepped into Roy’s arms and kissed him with much less enthusiasm then she’d had for Johnny.
“Hello Dani…It’s good to see you,” he replied with a smile and a friendly hug. “But we can talk later…Right now you and Johnny need to get reacquainted…ALONE…before we get called out again,” he suggested with a wink at the girl. She grinned deliciously and gave him an eager nod.
John took the hint as well. “Well…Since you’ve already met everyone, why don’t I show you around?” He took her hand and tugged her from the rec room. Roy watched them go with a grin knowing they probably wouldn’t get far.
Cap clapped his hands together, rubbing them briskly. “Well…How about some coffee everyone,” he said with a smile of pleasure at seeing his youngest crew member look so happy.
“I need a cold shower,” Marco muttered.
“I could use a cigarette,” Chet quipped and then remembered Roy’s wife was still present. “Uh…Sorry Joanne,” he mumbled, turning scarlet.
“I understand Chet,” she said softly as her eyes met Roy’s over their head with a promise of their own. Roy grinned back with a wink.
“I can’t believe it,” Chet said.
“What’s that Chet?” Marco asked.
“I’m actually jealous of Gage. Man…She’s beautiful,” he groaned.
“She’s stunning,” Marco added.
“She’s gorgeous,” Mike agreed.
“And she’s even nice,” Joanne pointed out with a wide eyed look.
“Best of all though,” Roy said quietly. “Is that she loves Johnny.”
“What were they saying?” Chet asked Mike.
“How would I know…I don’t speak Indian…?”
Cap chuckled… “Maybe that’s why they were speaking it.”
“Why’s that Cap?” Chet asked looking confused.
“They didn’t want you to know you twit.”
“Roy? Do you know what they were saying?” Marco asked.
“Just a couple of phrases I heard several times in Montana.”
“What was that?”
“Um… Ne’mé‘hotâtse Mé’oo’o…Means uh…I love you sweetheart.” Roy translated, drawing grins from the crew.
“ Ná’méhόt…Means my love and his name?” Roy added.
“His name…?” Mike asked not remembering anything that sounded remotely like John being said.
“Ho’ohomo’he Ho’esta…Dances with fire,” Roy said.
Chet snorted with laughter until Marco punched his arm. “Knock it off Chet.”
“Yeah…It’s a great name,” Mike added.
“Fitting, don’t you think pal?” Cap asked.
“Oh…Uh…Um…sure Cap,” he agreed quickly.
Roy chuckled as he went to pour a cup of coffee. He put his arm around his wife…She leaned against him. “He looked so happy,” she whispered.
Roy grinned. “He is.”
Johnny and Dani rounded the squad and John patted it lovingly. “This is the other love in my life,” he explained. “It’s what Roy and I drive.” He opened the compartment doors to let her see the equipment. “And that’s the engine of course,” he said pointing to the rig. Her eyes glanced at it but quickly returned to gaze at John’s face.
“It’s beautiful…,” she said softly but John sensed she wasn’t talking about the truck.
“Um…I guess I should get cleaned up,” he said flushing and then leading her to the locker room where the sinks were located. He washed the grime from his face and reached for the towel but it was no longer on the counter. He opened his eyes to find Danella standing close to him. She reached up with the towel to blot the water from his face…Her eyes locked with his as she licked her lips to moisten them. She grinned as John’s brown eyes took in the gesture turning dark and hooded.
She giggled as his arms slid around her pulling her close. She pressed against him, the towel dropping from her suddenly numb fingers. They slipped over his shoulders to curl behind his neck…running slowly into his hair. John smiled as he lowered his head to kiss her once more. Her hands slid down his chest and tugged his shirt free, sliding up beneath it to play across bare skin. He pulled back. “God…You’re so beautiful.” She smiled seductively but it faded as John sighed. “But I’m on duty,” he pointed out regretfully…Remembering a similar scene nine months ago with Gayle Markson only that time John had wanted no part of the woman or her seduction but this time…? This time… it was all he could do to keep from carrying Dani to his bunk to finish what she’d started.
She stared at him in disbelief and folded her arms across her chest before turning her back in annoyance. “I have not seen you in six months…,” she said angrily.
“Dani…,” John called to her softly but she remained stubbornly resolute. She felt his hand sweep the long hair aside and the warmth of his lips as they caressed the back of her neck before trailing up to nuzzle her ear. “Don’t be mad Ná’méhόt,” he whispered in her ear.
Danella groaned softly as she turned to face him. A smug smile played on John’s lips as he leaned down to claim her mouth with his own.
She gave him a gentle push and he sat on the bench pulling her toward him. She grinned and straddled his hips sitting in his lap and sliding one arm around his neck. Her fingers toyed with the buttons on his shirt, popping them one by one while her eyes held his. He grinned as his hands slid lightly over her back. “Are you sure you don’t want me?” She asked as her hands traveled beneath the shirt. John sucked in his breath as his body reacted and Dani grinned wickedly.
“No…I mean yes…I…I mean more than you could possibly know but not here…Not like this. I promised your father…I…"
She pushed him backwards on the bench, lying over him to prop her elbows on his chest and grinning down into his eyes to smile in resignation. “I am not disappointed that you are a man of honor Ná’méhόt but remember…? In the eyes of the tribe…We are already married.”
John nodded. “But not in the eyes of your father or my family…They expect a real wedding,” he said nodding towards the door. “Besides I promised him I wouldn’t take advantage of you while you were here.”
Her eyebrow arced flirtatiously…“I made no such promise …What if I take advantage of you John Gage?” She whispered against his mouth as her fingers trailed over his stomach. John gasped at his body’s instant reaction to the girls touch.
Dani grinned winsomely as she felt his body react beneath her. She knew if she pushed him he’d never be able to say no but she also knew he’d feel terrible at breaking his word. She shifted against him, drawing a miserable groan from John’s lips. “God Dani…Don’t.”
“Alright Ná’méhόt,” she sighed, giving in and sitting up. Her fingers re-buttoned the light blue shirt in disappointment. She leaned over him once more her top falling away tantalizingly, affording John with an unimpeded view. “But you can’t hold me off forever…I’m not a child and I love you…I want you.”
“I love you too but I can’t break my word… besides what if you got pregnant…? I could ruin your whole education,” he said reasonably as he admired the girls exposed cleavage…His hands caressed her back.
“What if I did? I wouldn’t be the first woman to finish school with a baby. Besides…Do you think I’ve spent six months in nursing school without learning something? I know how to not get pregnant my love.”
John smiled up at her and her heart melted at the crooked quirk. Her fingers played lightly over his lips. He sighed in disappointment… knowing this wasn’t the time or place. He placed a light kiss on her fingers…“We need to get back,” he said softly. She nodded and leaned down to kiss him one more time. Her hands circled his neck as his came to rest on her hips.
“HOLY COW…,” a shocked gasp came from behind them. Dani turned her head to look over her shoulder as Chet stood there in red faced surprise. John blushed and tried to sit up but Danella refused to budge.
She grinned at the Irishman. “What’s wrong Chet?” She asked wickedly. “We haven’t seen each other in a long time,” she teased.
Chet stumbled back a step. “Uh yeah…Right…Um lunch is ready but you’re probably not…Um…Never mind…,” he stammered as he let the door swing closed and retreated. Danella began to laugh.
“Dani,” Johnny groaned in embarrassment but a moment later his laughter joined hers. “Let me up Mé’oo’o,” he said in resignation.
She stood up and let Johnny climb to his feet and tuck his shirt back into his waistband. Her eyes sparkled with mischief. “You aren’t going to able to hide that Ná’méhόt,” she said looking down.
John’s eyes dropped and his face flamed in embarrassment at the obvious tightening of his trousers below his waist. “I think I need a cold shower,” he mumbled.
“I’ll help,” she offered eagerly.
“NO…,” he said quickly, holding out a hand to keep her from coming closer before he realized she was only teasing.
“AHEM,” came the sound of a voice being cleared behind them. They both looked at the doorway to see Roy standing there with a grin. “Lunch is ready…Dani? Why don’t I escort you…John…Why don’t you take a quick shower?” He suggested without taking his eyes from John’s face.
“Um…Good idea,” he muttered in humiliation.
Roy offered his arm to Dani and she threw a wink at the blonde paramedic as he led her from the room.
The crew had gotten lunch ready while Joanne had helped Roy set the table. Their conversation centered around the young, currently absent couple.
“They looked wonderful together,” Hank commented with a smile.
Chet harrumphed at that statement but didn’t comment as Joanne added… “And it was pretty obvious that she adores Johnny.”
“It’s mutual,” Roy said quietly.
Joanne touched his arm and looked up into his eyes. “He’ll always need you the same as you need him. Danella won’t change that,” she said reassuringly.
Roy smiled at his wife…She always had the ability to read him so easily. “I know…I guess it’s time to let him fly,” he said softly. Jo grinned as she patted his arm. Johnny had come such a long way over the last few months and Danella was the proof of it.
“Man…Do all the girls on the reservation look like that?” Marco asked.
“There were several that were quite beautiful but they couldn’t hold a candle to Danella.”
“Really…Several huh…?” Marco asked musingly.
“Any that might like a nice Irishman Roy?” Chet asked.
Roy grinned and a merry twinkle entered his eyes…“Well there was one…Her name was Little Fox…She was after Johnny too.”
“Roy,” Joanne said with a laugh as she slapped his arm playfully. Roy chuckled.
“Little Fox huh?” Chet questioned…His mind conjuring the lovely image the name suggested.
“Chet he’s teasing you,” Joanne laughed. “Little Fox is ninety three years old.”
“That was low Roy,” Chet growled while the others laughed at Roy’s little joke.
“Chet…Go find Johnny and Danella would ya?” Hank said grinning. “Tell them lunch is ready.”
“Sure Cap,” he said leaving the rec room. Mike was just moving the food from the stove to the table when a red faced Chet returned a minute later. “Where are they Pal?” Cap asked.
“Uh…Uh…Johnny was showing her the locker room Cap…. They were uh….Er…Getting reacquainted,” Chet hedged uncomfortably.
Roy and Joanne exchanged a look at the uncharacteristically embarrassed Irishman. His red faced demeanor finally sank in. “Roy…Go break that up,” Joanne said quickly. “I promised her father on the phone this morning that I’d keep an eye on his daughter.”
The others looked at them in confusion for a moment and then realization set in. They grinned at each other hugely. “Sounds like Johnny was keeping more than an eye on her,” Mike snickered.
“Way to go Johnny,” Marco said grinning.
Joanne whirled on the handsome Mexican man. “You’re not helping Marco,” she snapped, slapping his arm. Roy grinned but headed off to find his partner.
Mike looked teasingly at Chet Kelly. “I guess Johnny won’t need that pre teen sex manual after all huh Chet?”
Roy pushed the locker room door open in time to hear John mumble… “I think I need a cold shower” and Dani’s eager response.
He saw John hold up his hand to ward the girl off and his eyes noted the slightly tight fit of John’s uniform pants and he grinned. Dani had been at it again and he wondered if poor Johnny would ever be the same until he married the girl…Hell he might never see the outside of his bedroom again when he did if Danella had her way.
It was painfully obvious who the aggressor was here from the way Johnny was trying to hold the girl off. Honestly…While Roy had to admire John’s resolve, he didn’t think he’d have been able to hold out against the young woman’s eager onslaught…Probably wouldn’t have even tried if Joanne wasn’t already the love of his life of course.
He cleared his throat. “AHEM…Lunch is ready,” Roy announced from behind them. They both looked at him in surprise. “Dani…? Why don’t I escort you,” he said to the grinning young woman. “John…Why don’t you take a quick shower,” he suggested.
“Good idea,” John responded as his partner led Danella from the room.”
Roy led the beautiful young woman into the rec room. Her slightly swollen, kiss bruised lips and softly glowing eyes were evidence of what they’d been doing.
“Uh…Where’s Gage?” Cap asked grinning.
“He’s uh…Cleaning up a bit…He’s um…In the shower,” Roy explained delicately.
Joanne looked at Danella who threw a wink in her direction as she settled in the seat across from the older woman. “I offered to help,” she informed them innocently.
Iced tea spewed from Chet Kelly’s mouth while Marco and Mike stood in dumbfounded silence. Cap’s eyes nearly bugged from their sockets while Joanne’s giggle broke the sudden silence as she met the wide grin of her husband.
“And HE REFUSED?” Marco finally asked in shock.
“MARCO,” Mike gasped, shoving the Latino in the back. Marco blushed as Danella grinned in amusement at the varying reactions.
“He did promise my father,” she said regretfully. “Johnny is sometimes unfortunately a man of his word,” she finished with a shrug. She turned to the Irishman who was wiping the tea from his shirt and staring at her in shock. “But you may rest assured Chet…Johnny will NEVER be sleeping on the couch…Well at least not alone,” she corrected with a sultry grin.
John entered the room a moment later…His hair still damp from his shower. Danella stood up as he came toward her but Johnny pointed to the chair. “Just…Just stay there,” he said with a blush staining his cheeks.
Danella pouted prettily but sat back down. Joanne reached over to squeeze her hand in shared amusement at Johnny’s discomfiture. “Ne’mé‘hotâtse Ná’méhόt,” she said gently.
John’s brown eyes softened instantly. “I love you too,” he replied as he slid into the seat next to her.
The crew hid their smiles behind their hands…They all knew what it took for John to say those words aloud. Until Danella had come into his world, he’d only uttered them to seven other people in his life. His late parents, Roy and his family and his Aunt and even that had been difficult and years in coming. If not for Roy, Johnny might well still be living in an emotionless vacuum or worse.
During lunch Danella brought Johnny up to speed on the happenings in Montana. Sean Carlton and Steve Handly, the two doctors that had been on the reservation with John, Roy and Kelly Brackett were doing well. They were lobbying for paramedics in small towns such as Lame Deer. Blue Eagle was well as was Little Fox.
John looked curiously at his crewmates at Chet’s harrumph of indignation at the woman’s name while the others chuckled.
“Roy was trying to fix Chet up with Little Fox sweetheart,” Joanne explained to John and Dani.
Danella giggled in delight but John looked at Roy indignantly. “I can’t believe you did that,” he said sounding irritated.
“Yeah Roy,” Chet piped in, wondering why Gage was upset on his behalf.
Roy was wondering too. He looked at John questioningly. “What’s the matter?” He asked.
“Little Fox has much better taste than to date Chet.”
The Irishman bristled indignantly while the rest laughed merrily at his expense. Dani turned to John… “Your Aunt Mase said to say she loves you.”
John looked at her in shock before shifting uncomfortably. Roy saw Danella’s hand move across the table to take John’s understandingly. “Oh…Well…That’s really nice I guess,” he said quietly squeezing Dani’s fingers before letting go. Her hands dropped into her lap as she watched his face, knowing how badly he’d been hurt by his family in the past.
“My parents also send their best,” she added, changing the subject.
Roy grinned as he saw John suddenly jump as Dani’s fingers lightly brushed his thigh. John’s face turned scarlet as his hand slid beneath the table to catch the girls before it could climb any higher. “Quit,” he mumbled aside to the black haired woman grinning alluringly back at him. John grinned, taking the sting from the rebuke.
She leaned toward him and giggled. “I will win…,” she whispered in his ear. “I won your heart…I will win this battle as well.” John turned to look at her as she reached up to gently kiss his lips. He grinned and pulled back, breaking the contact but lifted her hand to kiss her fingers as the station control unit began to sound.
“County 51…Man down… Possible heart attack…701 Hawthorne… 701 Hawthorne…Cross Street Rose… Time out 13:03…”
John pulled his hand free and quickly pushed his chair back as he and Roy rose to their feet. “That’s us…We gotta go,” he said as Roy dropped a quick kiss on his wife’s lips before running past John toward the apparatus bay. Cap was stepping through the small door to the podium. John planted a hasty kiss on Danella’s lips. “I love you,” he said as he turned to run.
“Be careful Mé’oo’o,” she called after him. Jo took her hand and led her out to watch them leave.
“Don’t worry Gage…We’ll keep her company,” Chet assured him as John donned his helmet.
“Keep away from her Chet,” John snapped pointing out the window at the Irishman as the squad began to roll.
“We’ll see you at breakfast,” Joanne yelled after them as Roy drove the squad from the station, sirens blaring and lights flashing. Dani beamed with pride as she watched them drive away.
Joanne led Danella back to the rec room to rejoin the crew as they once again turned their attention to lunch…And hopefully to winning Danella’s notice and a smile. Jo looked at her closely. “You love him a great deal don’t you?” She asked softly, seeing the soft look in the girls amber eyes.
“With all my heart,” she assured her…Oblivious of the men sitting around her. “I want to hold him…Hear every word he speaks, soothe the hurts…Make love to him and bear his children,” she finished softly without a hint of embarrassment. The guys glanced at each other slightly envious but still happy for Johnny that he’d found someone that loved him as he deserved to be loved. Joanne smiled in total understanding as she hugged the girl to her but her next words pleased her even more. “But don’t worry Joanne…I will never come between him and Roy or your family…I only wish to become a part of it.”
Joanne squeezed her tightly. “Welcome to my family Dani,” she whispered in the younger woman’s ear. “Make him happy…Whatever it takes. He deserves it.”
Dani pulled back to look into Joanne’s blue eyes… “You may count on it.”
Roy and John blasted out of the bay and sped toward their destination. “So she did it to ya again huh Junior?” Roy chuckled as he slowed down to make a right turn.
John blushed but kept his eyes on the map. “Hang a left up at the next crossroad,” he directed his partner. “Man Roy…How am I supposed to get through six weeks of this,” he groaned.
Roy grinned as he made the left turn. “Seriously Junior…I have to admire your resolve. I don’t know how you’ve kept your hands off the girl,” Roy teased.
“Me either…Go right at the next light. I don’t know how I’m gonna either the way she keeps…Uh…Doin…,” he trailed off.
“Doin what…?” Roy asked with a knowing smirk.
“What’s she’s doin,” John moaned pitifully.
Roy chuckled at Johnny’s somewhat less than detailed explanation. “Then don’t try Junior.”
John looked at Roy in shock… “I gave my word to her father Roy…I can’t break it,” he said in exasperation.
Roy sighed… “Okay Junior…Then just keep her in public places and around other people if you’re really that serious about keeping your hands off til your married but Johnny she’s a grown woman, not a little girl so don’t beat yourself up too bad If you crack okay?”
“But I promised…,” he reasserted.
Roy blasted through another intersection…Horn blaring. “Junior it’s easy to make that promise a thousand miles away when the young lady in question isn’t all over you…Four Feathers is a man too and he’s well aware of his daughters determination to have you make love to her…He’d probably understand if you couldn’t hold out forever…I think he was just kinda hoping you would.”
John’s face turned crimson as he looked at his level headed partner in shock but pointed up the street. “It should be that green house on the right," he directed before continuing. “But Joanne promised him too,” Johnny pointed out.
“Joanne promised to try and keep you two on your best behavior and she will but she’s not blind to the fact that a beautiful woman is throwing herself at you…She’s not exactly subtle,” Roy pointed out as he pulled up in front of the house. He climbed out and ran around to join his partner as they pulled their gear from the compartments. “Besides Jo loves you…She’d forgive you for anything,” he whispered as they headed up the walk.
The door swung open and a man stepped out. “It’s my wife…She’s having chest pains.”
Roy and John put everything personal from their minds as they turned to the task at hand. “Patch her in Johnny,” Roy directed as he pulled the BP cuff and stethoscope from the box.
John pulled out the leads and attached them to the data scope. “Pardon me Ma’am but I need to open your blouse here okay?” He asked gently as he began to delicately unbutton her shirt.
“Do you have to do that?” She asked blushing in embarrassment at the handsome young fireman and trying to stop his hands from touching her.
“Yes Ma’am…I need to hook you up to my monitor here so we and the doctors at the hospital can see what your heart is doin okay? I promise I’ll do my best to keep you covered.” He assured the elderly woman.
“Okay,” she conceded, dropping her hands away. John peeled the blouse back as little as possible and stuck the pads in place…Clipping the leads on. “Are you still in pain?” He asked while Roy took the lady’s pulse and respirations.
“Yes…My chest and my neck.”
“You neck hurts too?”
“Okay,” Johnny said smiling at her reassuringly. “You just relax alright? Let me put this on you,” he said fitting the oxygen mask in place. He set up the Biophone. “Rampart Base this is County 51…How do you read me?”
“Go ahead 51,” Joe Early’s voice came back.
“Rampart…We have a woman…Approximately sixty five years old…She complaining of chest pains that radiate into her neck. Her BP is…?”
“90/60,” Roy told him. “Pulse is sixty her respirations are sixteen.”
John repeated the vital signs to Rampart. “Is she patched in 51?”
“10-4 Rampart…I’m sending you a strip…This will be lead two…”
“10-4 51…” The monitor beeped out a rhythm as John watched the scope and waited for Early to confirm the Sinus Bradycardia Johnny was reading at his end.
“I’m reading sinus bradycardia 51…Start an IV with D5WTKO…Give her 1 amp epinephrine.”
“10-4 Rampart…D5W and 1 Amp Epinephrine,” Johnny confirmed as he handed Roy the IV kit and grabbed the epinephrine.
“51? Is the ambulance there?”
John heard the wail of sirens arriving. “10-4 Rampart…”
“Transport as soon as she’s stable.”
“10-4 Rampart…” John dropped the phone and watched the scope as it began to return to normal. “Ready to transport Roy,” he said as his partner led the two attendants into the room.
They loaded her onto the gurney. “Where are you taking her?” The anxious husband asked.
“Rampart General,” Johnny responded as he gathered the equipment while Roy followed the stretcher out.
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Johnny nodded as he headed out the door behind his partner.
Joanne led Danella into the room Johnny usually used when he stayed at the DeSoto’s. “I hope this is alright?” She said as she set one of the girl’s suitcases on the floor as Dani laid the other on the dresser.
Joanne began to pull the sheets off the bed…Handing the girl the pillow.
“I’m sorry…I was running a little behind this morning and I didn’t get to change the bed from the last time Johnny was here, she apologized as she handed the girl a fresh pillow case. Danella smiled and buried her nose in the pillow, inhaling deeply. The scent on the linen was pure Johnny…Clean and natural…Jo looked at her curiously.
“I’d rather keep this one,” she explained as she set the other pillowcase aside.
Jo smiled in understanding. “Danella…? I know how much you love Johnny but I made a promise to your father this morning…,” she began.
Danella cut her off. “I know you promised my father that you’d try and keep us on our best behavior Joanne,” she said raising a dark, delicately arched brow. “But I’m a woman…I’m twenty not twelve and he would have to understand that as well. Johnny is also trying hard to keep his word and I respect that but please understand…If I can break that resolve…I will,” she said determinedly. “I have waited six months to be with Johnny and I won’t wait another year and a half until I finish school to make love to him. Could you if it was Roy?” She challenged.
“No,” she admitted softly.
“Please don’t be angry with me or him but I intend to seduce him one way or another,” she said honestly. “But I promise you…I will be careful and I will not let him take the blame for it with my father.”
Joanne nodded in resignation. What could she say…The young woman standing before her wasn’t a child by any stretch of the imagination and Jo had to remind herself…She hadn’t held Roy at bay either before they were married…She flushed slightly at the memory of Roy’s first leave from Vietnam and his old 65 Chevy.
Roy and Johnny came out to the base station after delivering the woman into Dr. Early’s care. Dixie stood with Kel going over a chart. “Hey guys!” She greeted them as they approached. “Did Danella arrive okay?” She asked.
Johnny nodded with a grin… “She sure did…Man Dix…She’s even more beautiful than I remembered,” he said enthusiastically.
Kel grinned, knowing Dani’s somewhat eager determination to have Johnny. “Knowing Dani the way I do…I’m kind of surprised she let you out of her sight when you got called out,” he teased the younger man.
John blushed as Roy chuckled in amusement. “She almost didn’t,” he added with a laugh, earning an irritated look from his partner. “C’mon Junior…Let’s get back to the barn.” John nodded. “Oh you both are coming to the barbecue tomorrow right? It’s just a chance for Johnny’s friends to really get to know Danella.”
“We’ll be there…Joe too. Mike said he’d cover for us along with Dr. Donaldson.” Kel looked at Johnny. “But why don’t you bring her by tomorrow morning and show her around…She will be working here after all.”
“Besides I’d like to meet her without a lot of other people around…After all she is marrying one of my favorite paramedics and will be living with me for a few months before the wedding.”
“Okay,” Johnny agreed as Roy slung his arm around his partner’s shoulders and turned him toward the exit.
Roy resumed their conversation. “Aren’t you technically already married to Danella?”
“Well there is a ceremony even on the reservation but yeah…Once we’re officially engaged it's considered a committed relationship.”
“There ya are then…,” Roy pointed out.
“But her father expects the proper marriage to come first,” John sighed.
They came into the rec room fifteen minutes later. The guys sat around the table playing cards while Cap sat on the sofa with Henry sprawled across his lap reading a newspaper.
“Well welcome back Dances with Fire,” Chet taunted.
Johnny’s eyes snapped to Roy who shrugged with a grin. “They asked if I knew what she said this morning…I…Uh…Well it just slipped out,” he admitted.
“What a cool name,” Mike added.
“No…A HOT one,” Marco corrected with a teasing grin at their youngest crew member.
“I’ll say…,” Chet piped in. “After the way they were practically makin love in the locker room.
John’s face flamed crimson. “We were not Chet,” he growled in annoyance. “We were both dressed and she was just…WE were just…,” he hesitated trying to find the right words.
“Practically makin love in the locker room,” Roy supplied helpfully as he slapped his partner off the back and headed for the coffee pot.
John’s mouth dropped open in surprise before he shot his best friend a betrayed look. “She was just sitting in my lap…That’s all…,” John argued.
“That’s ALL?” Chet crowed in disbelief. “She had you pinned on the bench…She was laying…”
“Shut up Chet,” Johnny snapped angrily at the curly haired Irishman.
“Don’t you know it’s impolite to tell a lady’s secrets,” Roy pointed out as he returned to hand a cup of coffee to his partner.
“Yeah Chet,” Marco agreed, even though he dying of curiosity himself. Chet had in all fairness refused to share with the others what he’d actually seen and was simply rattling John’s cage. Chet would protect Gage to the bitter end if it really came down to it and they all knew it.
Kelly grinned at Johnny in delight at his angry response. “Relax Gage I’d of never embarrassed Danella like that,” he assured the younger man.
John nodded, visibly relaxing. “Thanks Chet,” he said quietly.
Chet smacked his friends shoulder. “Besides…I’ve got so much more ammunition with you,” he grinned, breaking the quiet moment. John smiled back.
Joanne and Danella spent the afternoon getting to know one another. Joanne found herself taken with the girl’s total lack of duplicity. She was open, forthright and completely uninhibited when it came to her love for John Gage. Joanne found it refreshing much the same as she did with Johnny.
Danella admired Joanne. She…Like Roy had taken Johnny into her heart and home, treating him like a younger brother and sometime son. She was as protective of the young firefighter as a lioness defending her cub.
She loved her husband…Kept a spotless home and was raising her children in a loving, caring household in which Johnny was a huge part and she hoped to be as well.
The front door suddenly flew open and two attractive, blonde children ran inside. The neighbor who had dropped them off honked and drove away.
“Hi mom,” they yelled in unison as they dropped their backpacks and ran into the dining room, stopping short at the sight of Danella.
“Chris…Jennifer…I’d like you to meet someone very special,” she said laying her hand softly on their shoulders. “This is Danella Four Feathers. She’s Uncle Johnny’s fiancée.” She looked at Dani. “Danella…These are my children…Chris and Jennifer.”
Dani smiled at both of them. “Johnny’s told me so much about both of you. He thinks the sun rises and sets on you two.”
Both children beamed with joy that Uncle Johnny thought so much of them. “He told us all about you too,” Chris explained.
Jennifer tugged at her lower lip for a moment. “He said you wouldn’t push us out of his heart,” Jen said quietly, her soft, blue eyes watching the beautiful girl with a small hint of jealousy.
Danella slipped from her chair to kneel in front of the six year old looking at her so worriedly. “I could never push you from his heart…You are his Princess and have a forever place there. I only want to share it with you…And you,” she said looking at Chris as well. “You are Johnny’s family…All of you and because he loves you so much…I have too as well…If you will let me… because he’d never be happy without you,” She added softly.”
Reassured by the pretty woman’s words, Jen nodded eagerly and threw her arms around her neck in a hug. Chris wanted to as well but he was ten and besides the woman was just too pretty and it sort of intimidated him…He held his hand out in a gesture of agreement.
“Only a handshake Me’oo’o…?” She questioned with a sad pout. Chris wasn’t sure what the word meant but the invitation was clear. He grinned and hugged the woman quickly. She smiled prettily as he stepped back. “That’s better…I think we will all be great friends.”
“C’mon Roy,” Johnny urged his partner. “We’re off duty…I wanna go.”
Roy grinned as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Take it easy Junior…She’ll still be there when we get home,” he reassured his young friend.
“What’s the big hurry anyway?” Charlie Dwyer asked with a grin.
“His fiancée arrived yesterday and he’s a little excited,” Roy said teasingly.
“Fiancée…?” Charlie scoffed with a smile thinking it was still a big joke Gage was playing on all of them. Roy nodded. “You are kidding right?” Charlie asked.
“NO…HE ISN’T,” Johnny said sincerely taking the cup from Roy’s hand and pulling at his sleeve like an over eager child. “C’mon Roy…I wanna see Dani.”
Roy grinned as he allowed Johnny to pull him out the back door.
Danella woke bright and early the next morning. The sound of children’s laughter combined with the smell of bacon frying brought her to full awareness. She buried her face in the pillow breathing in the scent still lingering on it. “Johnny,” she whispered softly knowing she’d be seeing him soon and that he wouldn’t be on duty this time. She climbed from the bed and got dressed. She unbraided her black hair and ran the brush through it until it hung like silk. She left the room. The children were at the table as she came in.
“Good morning Dani,” Jo greeted as she spotted the girl.
“Good morning Joanne,” she replied before turning back to the children. “Páhávev’όonä’o,” she said.
They looked at her in astonishment. “You sound just like Uncle Johnny does sometimes,” Jen said.
“That’s because we come from the same village,” she whispered.
“What did you say Dani?” Chris demanded.
“Oh…Páhávev’όonä’o Dani,” Chris said with a grin.
Not to be outdone by her brother Jen gave it a try too. “P…Pa… Páhávev’όonä’o,” she stammered.
Danella hugged the little blonde. “That was wonderful.” She glanced anxiously at the clock. “What time do they get off?” She asked.
Jo looked at her watch. “They should be off now unless they got an early morning run. That will make them late sometimes,” she soothed the younger woman. "They’ll be here soon, trust me,” she assured her, knowing that Johnny would be just as anxious to see Dani as she was to see him. “Why don’t you get cleaned up and eat and then you’ll be ready when he gets here.”
“Well I’m sure he plans to show you around.”Dani grinned in anticipation of being alone with Johnny to continue her plan of seduction. “We’re having a barbecue this afternoon so that Johnny’s friends can get to know you. That’s not a problem is it?”
“Oh no…They are a part of his life and will soon be a part of mine.”
“Good and that should still give you several hours to sightsee.”
Sightseeing wasn’t what the younger woman had in mind…Well at least not the kind Joanne meant. Danella headed off, returning a short time later to eat her breakfast with the kids and Joanne. She heard the sound of a car pulling into the garage. She looked eagerly toward the front window and saw a green and white jeep type vehicle pulling into the driveway. A moment later Johnny and Roy walked in the front door.
Danella’s face lit up in a smile and she stood up as John came toward her…A crooked grin crossing his features as he took her in his arms and leaned down to kiss her.
“Mornin Honey?” Roy said pressing a gentle kiss on his wife’s lips.
“Morning,” she greeted with a grin as the children broke into peals of laughter as they watched Johnny and Danella kiss.
“YUCK,” Chris groaned in disgust.
John broke the kiss, pulling back slightly breathless as he shot a grin at the ten year old. “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it kid,” he teased as he tousled the blonde hair. “Good morning Jo,” he greeted.
“Good morning sweetheart,” Jo said with a wink. “Are you hungry?”
“Starved,” he answered but his eyes were on Danella. He felt a gentle tug on his fingers and glanced down. Huge blue eyes gazed up at him adoringly. “Ahhh, there’s my beautiful princess,” he said snapping the child up to toss her lightly to eye level.
She giggled happily. “Páhávev’όonä’o Uncle Johnny,” she said as she threw arms around her second favorite man in the world and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek.
“WOW…What a greeting,” he said, gently brushing the little girl’s nose with his own before hugging her tightly.
Danella watched in wonder at a side of Johnny she’d never seen. He set Jen down and gave her a light pop on the behind to send her on her way. She ran from the room to get dressed…Chris was right behind her.
“She loves you so much…They both do,” she said softly as she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“I’m pretty fond of them too,” he admitted. “They’ve been like my own for a long time. I was there when Jen was born…Er…Um…I mean at the hospital not…Ya know…There.”
Roy grinned at Johnny’s flustered attempt to explain as he sat down at the end of the table.
Dani looked up at John. “You will be a wonderful father someday,” she said softly as he looked down into her amber eyes. He smiled and leaned down to kiss her warmly.
Roy watched his friend with a gentle smile of his own. This is what his friend had longed for his whole life and had struggled for years to find. His ability to hold on to a relationship had been severely handicapped by a mild case of Aspergers syndrome disorder compounded by being a battered child.
Johnny had suffered through one failed relationship after another to the amusement of his sometimes less than sympathetic friends. They’d had no idea of the underlying cause of the problem only knowing that Johnny had AS…A secret they’d carefully guarded for years but only Roy, Joanne, Kelly Brackett and Joe Early had known about John’s physically abusive past until a little over a year ago when Johnny had accidently let it slip that he’d been a victim of child abuse.
Because of the abuse and ASD, Johnny had never learned to show his emotions and had in fact cut himself off from feeling anything for anyone. As a result he’d been unable to hold onto the women he dated. Once they got to close he’d backed away until he’d met Danella six months ago when he’d returned to his hometown to help with an influenza epidemic on the reservation he’d grown up on.
The girl had pursued him relentlessly until she caught him and Roy had to admit that John had led her quite a chase.
Even after months of touch therapy with Roy…John still had trust issues with others and they were still working on those but he’d come such a long way. He was thrilled to see his best friend and the man he thought of as his little brother so happy.
Joanne plopped a plate in front of him breaking his reverie. He glanced up into his wife’s face and caught her wink. She moved around the table to set another plate before Johnny. “Eat,” she said gently as she turned his head away from Dani and toward his plate. John threw her a grin and picked up his fork.
After breakfast, Johnny pulled Danella from her chair. “I wanna take you out…Show you around town a bit.”
“Alright Ná’méhόt,” she agreed eagerly.
“Great.” He turned to Roy and Joanne and saw them exchange glances. “We’ll behave…,” he promised raising his hand as if taking an oath.
“Maybe he will,” Dani said as she took his raised hand and squeezed it in her own. “I will make no such promise.”
“Be back by 2:00…That’s when everyone else is coming for the barbeque,” Joanne warned.
“Okay,” John called back as he and Dani escaped the house.
Joanne shot a look at Roy. “Don’t worry Jo…He’ll try and keep his promise but if it happens it happens,” he said with a philosophical shrug. “She’s a grown woman…They’re getting married…”
“She’s as much as admitted that she plans to seduce him at the first opportunity,” Jo said worriedly.
Roy grinned wickedly. “Did she really?” He laughed.
“Oh you’re no help at all,” she laughed as she slapped his arm.
Roy reached up and wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her into his lap, nuzzling her ear. “Jo…I want him to be happy…If Dani can make that happen than I’ll cheer her on from the rooftops,” he said sincerely.
“I told her I understood how she felt but I did make a promise as well you know?”
He kissed her gently… She returned it wholeheartedly as her hand trailed over his chest. She felt his body react and sighed in disappointment. “C’mon Mr. DeSoto…The kids are upstairs and we have a party to get ready.
John took Dani down to the ocean. They strolled on the crowded beach for a short time before heading back to Johnny’s land rover. “C’mon, there’re some people I want you to meet and Dr. Brackett wanted me to show you around Rampart.”
“Alright but Ná’méhόt…I want to spend some time alone with you as well.”
“Dani,” Johnny groaned.
“I won’t pressure you to make love …” Johnny gave her a skeptical look. “At least not today,” she giggled.
“Okay.” Johnny agreed not quite sure he believed her and a bit disappointed as well. “I’ll show you where I live after then.”
She grinned and nodded. John took her to Rampart. He led her through the emergency room doors and over to the base station where Dixie was working on a report. She glanced up… "Hey Johnny,” she greeted her young friend with a smile but her eyes were on Danella.
“Hi Dix…I wanted you to meet someone very special…This is Danella. Dani…This is my friend Dixie McCall.”
“Miss McCall,” she said extending her hand.
“Danella,” Dixie replied warmly as she shook the girl’s hand. “Johnny’s told me all about you,” the pretty blonde nurse confided.
“He’s told me much about you as well,” she said her mouth curling up in a stunning smile. John slid his arms around the girl’s waist pulling her back against him…His chin resting on the top of her head…Both of them oblivious to the annoyed stares of several of the nurses that he’d rejected over the last six months. How could they hope to compete with the beautiful Indian girl he held in his arms.
“Danella…?” A deep voice came from behind them.
The couple turned to face the handsome dark haired Doctor who’d stepped out of treatment room one. “Dr. Brackett…,” she said softly as she stepped away from Johnny and into Kelly Brackett’s arms to hug him warmly, shocking those same nurses who frequently quaked in dread around the surly doctor
“You look wonderful Dani,” he said holding the girl away from him to look her over from head to toe.
“Thank you…Johnny’s been showing me around. He wanted me to see where I would be working one day,” she explained as she reached back to catch John’s hand in her own.
Two more doctors approached the base station…One was in his late thirties…Black and attractive. The other was older and gray haired with a kind face. “Joe…Mike…Come here a minute,” Kel called waving them over. “Let me introduce you to John’s fiancée…This is Danella. Dani…This is Joe Early,” he said indicating the older man. “And Mike Morton…”
“This is your fiancée Gage?” Mike asked in disbelief. John grinned and nodded proudly.
Pleased to meet you Danella,” Joe said.
She offered him her hand. “Dr. Early,” she said with a gentle smile before turning to Mike. “Dr. Morton…Johnny’s told me so much about all of you, I feel I know you.”
“You mean you let him up long enough to talk?” Kel teased.
She sighed. “Reluctantly yes,” Dani grinned in delight as Johnny blushed in embarrassment. “Will you show me around my love?” She asked.
“Yeah…See ya later today?” Johnny said in parting as he led Danella toward the elevators.
“What a cute couple,” Dixie said with a smile.
“She is beautiful,” Mike agreed.
“He’s a lucky man,” Joe observed.
“Hey…She’s a lucky girl,” Dixie said defending her favorite paramedic.
Kel grinned… “They’re both lucky to have found each other,” He said…Diplomatically settling the argument. “But rest assured…She’s not just a pretty face. She’s smart and sweet and just what Johnny needs,” he said making eye contact with Dixie and Joe.
“She knows?” Joe asked cryptically.
“She does,” Kel admitted.
“All of it?” Dixie asked.
Brackett nodded as Mike looked between the three of them in confusion. “What are you all talking about?”
“Nothing Mike…At least nothing that matters anymore,” Kel said gently as he watched the two young people step into the elevator…The doors closed behind them.
Johnny led Danella into his apartment a short time later. “I’ll try to find something bigger when we’re married,” he assured her as she glanced around curiously.
“Good…We will need space for children,” she teased.
John grinned. “Not right away…I’ll have a few months to worry about that,” he replied.
The apartment was spotless…No knick knacks or clutter except for the walls. There were many photographs decorating those. She moved to look them over more closely as John stepped into his kitchen to start some coffee brewing.
“Johnny…These are lovely,” she said admiring the landscapes that adorned his walls.
“Thank you,” he said from the kitchen.
“Did you do these?” She asked in surprise.
“Yes…Well the landscapes and the ones of Roy and his family. Dr. Brackett took the one of you,” he called. Dani continued to look at the photographs of the station crew as well as one she was sure were John’s parents. It was black and white in an antique frame. The woman was stunning and would easily rival Danella’s beauty…The man was the very image of John… Perhaps a touch more rugged.
Danella grinned as she dropped her purse and kicked out of her shoes. She had every intention of keeping her promise not to seduce Johnny…This time but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t leave him begging for more next time. She grinned and reached for the buttons on her blouse.
Johnny came from the kitchen… “Coffee will be ready shortly,” he said coming up behind her. He slid his arms around her. She turned slowly in his arms and his eyes dropped to take in the bare skin playing peek-a-boo through the open front. “Dani,” he groaned pitifully. “You promised.”
“I’ll keep that promise my love…But I never promised not to touch you…Hold you…Look at you,” she whispered with a shrug as her fingers began to loosen the buttons on his shirt. John lifted his hands to stop her but she leaned forward to catch his lips with her own. John’s hands slid around her, pulling her against him as she once again began to pop the buttons open.
She pulled back slightly pushing the shirt off his shoulders. Johnny let it fall. His eyes locked with hers…and he knew he was lost as she shrugged her own shoulders, allowing her blouse to slip off and float to her feet. She leaned forward to place a tender kiss on his chest as her fingers tracked down his stomach. She moved around him, running her hand over his ribs and up to his biceps before circling behind him. “What are these from…?” She asked softly as her fingers softly traced the faint scars that marred the smooth flesh.
“Bear got me on a camping trip,” he replied huskily.
He felt the warmth of her lips against his skin. “And these…?” She whispered as she touched the tiny marks left from Scott Jackson’s vicious assault. John’s eyes clenched shut as her warm hands caressed his skin.
“Something that happened a long, long time ago,” he said evasively. Someday he’d tell her about it but not today.
She reappeared in front of him. Her wandering fingers found the fading scar on his chest. “And this one…?” John shuddered, remembering the crazed look in the violet eyes as the woman who’d caused that scar had pulled the trigger. He shook away the memory and smiled down at Danella without answering. She reached up to kiss him. John’s eyes opened and he sighed in defeat as he crushed her to him…His mouth claimed hers…Parting her lips with his own, his hands moving over her smooth skin. Danella knew she’d won as her skirt joined her blouse on the floor…Her heart skipped a beat as she felt herself lifted off her feet.
John carried Danella into his room and laid her on the bed. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered. She grinned up at him as he quickly stripped off the rest of his clothing and joined her. Her eyes widened slightly at her first and a bit imposing sight of a naked man, her amber eyes lifted to meet his in wonder. He smiled into her eyes, hoping she wouldn’t be too disappointed…He had absolutely no intention of breaking his word but this certainly wasn’t John’s first time with a woman and there were always alternatives…He'd teach her a lesson about playing with fire…One could get burned...He grinned wickedly.
A long while later John slid from the bed, disappearing into the other room. He returned a moment later and pulled her to her feet. “We have to go,” he said softly as he handed Dani her clothes. He bent to pick up his own but straightened abruptly as her hand trailed playfully over his bare backside. He sucked in his breath, slightly shocked at how quickly his body reacted to her touch…again. Man… the woman learned quickly. She shot him an inviting grin and John sighed in disappointment as he pulled his boxers over his hips. He gave her his infamous crooked grin as she reached up to kiss him one more time.
They got dressed amid many touches, giggles and offers of assistance which were playfully and regrettably turned down but they were finally respectably clad and left his apartment to return to Roy and Joanne’s both pleasantly satisfied with themselves but their word kept.
Several guests were already present when they got back. Joanne looked at the couple closely. There was a new intimacy in their eyes as they looked at each other…Their touch…Even their clasped hands were intertwined differently.
“Uh oh,” Roy whispered in her ear as he also observed the couple. “Something’s different,” Roy chuckled.
“You’re impossible,” Joanne said in irritation as they watched the intimate eye contact that was both seductive and promising.
Joanne sighed in defeat. “I guess they couldn’t keep that promise.”
“Can you blame them?” Roy asked with a grin.
Dani kissed John’s cheek and pulled away from him to head off to her room to change for the party. John’s dark eyes followed her until she disappeared from sight. He glanced around until he found Roy. John grinned like a cat that swallowed the canary.
Roy shook his head and laughed in amusement as John moved in his direction.
“I’ll be back,” Joanne said as she headed toward Danella’s room.
“Jo…,” Roy called after her worriedly.
“Oh relax…I just want to be sure she’s…Alright.”
John made it to Roy’s side. “Hey pally,” he greeted innocently.
“Hi junior…Where ya been?”
John’s eyes took on a secretive look. “Around,” he answered evasively.
“Show her around Rampart?”
“And… I took her to the beach.”
“And…?” Roy teased.
“We uh…We went to my…apartment.”
“We didn’t uh…You know…We didn’t,” he stuttered lamely.
Roy looked at him closely as John’s face colored in embarrassment. Roy burst out laughing…“Oh…I get it…Put that mouth of yours to good use huh?” Roy quipped getting his amusement under control.
John’s draw dropped in shock as his face flamed scarlet. Kelly Brackett and Dixie made their way over. “John you’re flushed…Are you running a fever.” He asked in concern.
“Not the kind you mean Doc,” Roy said with a snort of laughter as he walked away to answer the door to more arriving guests. John’s narrowed gaze watched him move away as Kel looked at him inquisitively.
Dixie could tell by the flush of color on John’s cheeks that something was up. “C’mon Kel,” Dixie said seeing John’s embarrassment. “Let’s give Johnny some time to regroup here,” she said with a giggle as she led the baffled doctor away.
Joanne knocked softly on Danella’s door and then peeked inside. The girl stood in her underwear looking at herself in the mirror. There was a definite glow to her skin…A warm blush stained her cheeks and her body bore the evidence of John’s passion with tiny marks on her breasts and shoulders.
She glanced up as Joanne stuck her head inside. “Come in Joanne,” she invited the woman softly. “I was just changing for the party,” she said, reaching for her dress.
“Danella…Are you alright?” Joanne asked in concern at the girl’s slightly dazed look.
Danella slid the dress into place, tying the ribbon at the top and then glanced up at Jo. “Oh Joanne…It was wonderful,” she whispered in awe.
“Oh Dani,” Jo said in disappointment. “What’ll I tell your father?”
Danella grinned. “I’m still a virgin Joanne,” she stated matter of fact. “But I had no idea he could do…Well… What he did,” she said with a shy grin. “That you could almost make love…But not,” she said dreamily. “Or that he could be so beautiful to look at.”
Joanne turned scarlet. She’d tended to Johnny when he was sick and injured for over four years now… Sometimes dressed and sometimes not. She’d bathed his naked body when Malaria had caused his fever to spike dangerously high and rubbed his stomach to ease the cramping of repetitive vomiting. She’d touched a good portion of him during touch therapy sessions over the last year and had even teased him about his attributes and short comings but she’d never actually seen him the way Danella did…Perhaps because she thought of him as a younger brother and sometimes like another one of her children. She only saw Roy that way but she understood. John had introduced the girl to the art of love making but had still kept his word…At least for now. “I see,” she said gently. “Well if you need to talk about it,” she reassured Dani…A bit uncomfortably…After all her first loyalty was to Johnny.
“Mmmm,” Dani murmured. “I think it would spoil it but Jo…Does what comes later even better?” She asked.
Jo hesitated and then answered softly. “Yes sweetie…Much, much better…” Dani sighed.
Roy made his way across the living room to rejoin his partner. Smiling to himself at the wary, dark eyes that watched his approach. He handed him a beer. Roy carefully avoided any further mention of John’s morning with Danella and spoke to several people who stopped to inquire about the girl’s whereabouts. “She went to change…She’ll be right out,” John assured them.
Joanne stepped from the guest room and made her way towards the two special men in her life. The look of relief in her eyes told Roy that Dani had told Joanne that she remained untouched…Well sort of. Roy chuckled, drawing a questioning look from his partner as he sipped his beer.
It was Joanne who answered the question as she passed by him. She ran her eyes over the young, dark haired man… “Attributes…,” she said aloud… “Definitely attributes.”
Beer spewed from Johnny’s mouth and he began to choke. Roy slapped him heartily on the back until John drew a ragged breath. The entire room full of people was staring at him curiously. Roy took pity on him. “He’s fine…Go back to the party…He just swallowed wrong,” he reassured them.
Joanne reappeared with a towel to wipe the floor. She glanced up at him mischievously. “She thinks you’re beautiful,” she teased. John blushed to his roots but his retort froze on his lips as Dani stepped out of the guest room. “Johnny?” Joanne questioned at the open mouthed stare on her young friends face.
“The feelings mutual,” he whispered in awe. Danella’s eyes met his and a slow smile spread across her lips. She was a vision in a soft amber colored sundress…Her black hair swept up and held in place by gold and green combs. She was breathtaking. John handed his beer to Roy and headed toward his fiancée.
“You look beautiful,” he whispered proudly as he held his hand out to the stunning woman gazing adoringly up at him. She smiled with a look of promise in her eyes.
“You are so handsome,” she replied.
“I thought I was beautiful,” he teased.
She leaned against him, drawing a small groan of desire from John as he remembered her pressed against his bare chest not too long ago. “You are beautiful,” she whispered as she reached up to caress his cheek. Her fingers lingered and then trailed softly down his neck. “Why can I never get enough of touching you,” she whispered as his mouth closed over hers.
They regained their senses a moment later to the sound of laughter and applause. Johnny turned to face the rest of the guests…His face had a deep flush of embarrassment but he grinned and tugged the lovely, yellow clad girl out from behind him. Those who hadn’t met her yet gasped at the stunning beauty of the young woman as John pulled her against him.
“Everyone…This is my fiancée…Danella Four Feathers,” he said formally. He began to introduce her to the people who gathered close around the girl to welcome her. Mike’s wife Melissa…Captain Stanley’s wife Emily…Along with Roy’s mother Harriet…Were among the first to be introduced.
“What a beautiful couple,” Harriet DeSoto whispered to her son. Roy grinned knowing his mom had long ago adopted Johnny as a second son and she watched him just as proudly as she would have as if it were Roy.
“Yeah Mom…They are,” Roy said softly, feeling much the same way.
Danella’s head was spinning from the many names being poured into her brain. She was sure she’d never remember them all. “Don’t worry Sweetheart,” Roy said coming up beside the girl. “You remember the ones closest to Johnny and the rest you’ll pick up as you go along,” he assured the dazed looking young woman.
She nodded as she slipped her arm around her fiancée’s best friend. “So how are you Roy?”
“I’m good Dani…Even better now that you’re here.” She looked up at him curiously. “You make Johnny happy and that’s all I want for him,” he explained quietly. “He’s had way too many losses…Too many hurts and disappointments.” He said as they watched Johnny sitting on the couch surrounded by his friends.
She tightened her grip, drawing Roy into a hug. “I will be here Roy…Always…as will you and Jo,” she said softly in his ear. “We will never another sorrow for him to bear.”
“God…I hope not,” he whispered with a sudden feeling of dread as he squeezed Dani tightly.
“What is it Roy?” She asked, feeling his body shudder.
“Nothing,” he said smiling and forcing himself to shake off the feeling. “I…It’s nothing,” he said reassuringly. Now you go see Johnny huh?” He said giving her a quick embrace. Being raised on a reservation Danella was a firm believer in feelings and dreams…She never took them lightly. She looked at him anxiously for a moment…Roy seemed to be fine now. She smiled and headed for her man.
Johnny was listening to Chet regale his listeners with the tale of meeting Danella for the first time. He blushed at the laughter of the others as Chet told them about Dani’s kiss of greeting. “I thought we were gonna have to get the rigs to pull them apart,” he teased. John rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Ya know Gage…I was kinda surprised by her though.”
“Why’s that Chet?” John asked suspiciously.
“Well…I mean the way she was dressed. She looked so…Normal.”
“Well geez Chet…What did you expect? Deerskin and feathers…?” He snapped as he glared at the Irishman.
Chet grinned, knowing he’d gotten under John’s skin. “Well yeah…Kinda,” he taunted as his eyes watched the two DeSoto children who were wearing the traditional Indian outfits that Danella had brought for them.
Danella was just coming up behind John and heard the exchange. It was time to put the curly haired tormentor in his place.
John started to answer but two soft gentle hands came to rest on his shoulders and began to knead the tension away as she had seen Roy do during a therapy session with John in Montana six months ago. Johnny glanced up at her and smiled that heartbreaking crooked grin.
Several nurses who were dates of other paramedics shot the girl an ugly look but she was oblivious as her hands caressed John’s neck. She looked at Chet.
“Well Chet I do own a deerskin dress and feathers for ceremonial purposes just as John has his own buckskins.”
“Does he now?” Chet asked tauntingly. John flushed slightly at the grins of his friends but Danella continued.
“Dances with Fire is a part of an ancient tribe of warriors Chet. He is the grandson of a second chief… Daniel Sun Walker. He is considered among our people to be a medicine warrior,” she said, throwing a wink at Kelly Brackett. “And that comes with great honor.”
Chet looked at Gage with a new found respect as the others watched a proud grin spread across his features at the girl’s words. He reached up to take her hand and give it a gentle squeeze. She leaned down to claim his mouth in a slow, sensual kiss that left John’s friends watching with envy. She pulled back to gaze into his deep brown eyes. “I love you John Gage and I am proud to be the future wife of such a warrior,” she said softly.
Roy watched from the dining room, his arms encircling his wife. Tears formed in his eyes as he heard the girls softly spoken words. Joanne turned to gaze up at him with moist eyes of her own. “That was beautiful,” she whispered.
“I guess she really put Chet in his place,” Roy said with a grin as his eyes watched the young couple with pride.
“Hey Gage…? Where’s the ring?” Tom Wheeler from station 110 called out.
“Oh wow…I forgot,” he said standing abruptly. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small box. He stepped around the couch to stand before Danella nervously.
Joanne’s hand gripped Roy’s arm tightly in excitement. “What’s he doing Roy?” She asked.
“I don’t know for sure…But I think he’s gonna propose…Again,” Roy whispered.
Johnny took Dani’s left hand as he gazed into her eyes. “I was gonna ask you earlier but we got a little distracted,” he said teasingly. She giggled but grew serious as the smile left his face. “I know I asked you before Dani…Back in Montana but…I kinda wanted to do this right ya know? My way…I mean,” He shrugged…“The way we do it here…So uh…Here goes.” He blew out a nervous breath as silence fell over the room. His chocolate brown eyes locked with Danella’s. “Dani…Um…White Mist…,” he corrected. “Daughter of Joseph Four Feathers…,” he intoned formally. He cast a nervous glance around the room before dropping to one knee. “I love you with all my heart…Will you marry me?”
The room was hushed…Waiting for the girls answer. Dixie and Joanne both brushed moisture from their eyes.
“Well say yes Dani…,”a little girl’s whispered voice broke the silence.
There were several muffled giggles around the room at Jennifer’s urging but Danella remained silent as she struggled to hold her tears in check. She knew how hard it was for Johnny to be that open with his feelings…Especially in front of an entire room full of people and she loved him so much.
She saw him tug nervously on his lower lip…His gaze remained locked with hers as he waited for her answer. She smiled down at him as she took his face between her hands…Her eyes filled with tears as she answered him. “Dances with fire…My Johnny…,” she whispered drawing a small smile. “Son of Roderick Gage,” she replied with the same formality that was used by their people. “I love you so much Ná’méhόt. I would be honored to be your wife,” she said gently.
John grinned and opened the box. A small diamond lay nestled on a cushion of red velvet. Johnny rose to his feet and slipped it on the girls left ring finger. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him long and lingering to the applause and whistles of his friends and family. “I love you,” he whispered against her mouth.
“I love you too,” she said as she kissed him once more.
Roy moved to the stereo with a grin. He’d planned this for later but now seemed like the right time. He turned the player on and the opening strains of ‘Secret Love ‘ began to play. It had been John’s mother and father’s song.
John’s head snapped up and his eyes searched for Roy…Locking in silent understanding with his friends. He smiled slowly with a slight nod and took the girl in his arms and began to dance…His head lowered to rest on top of hers as she cuddled against him. They felt the eyes of everyone on them but neither of them cared. They were lost for the moment in each other.
John’s Aunt Rosemary finally arrived. Johnny greeted her warmly, grateful that she hadn’t brought his cousins Tiffany and Joshua with her. “Aunt Rose…It’s good to see you,” he said softly as he kissed her cheek.
“You look wonderful Na’háahketa,” she said, brushing the hair from his forehead. “Roy…Jo?” She greeted, turning to the couple who had broken down the walls in Johnny’s life and taken him into their family so completely, knowing that without Roy’s love and friendship this moment would probably not be happening.
“Hi Rose,” Roy greeted kissing her cheek. "I'm glad you could make it.
“Same here,” Joanne said giving the sable haired, green eyed woman a warm hug. “It’s good to see you.”
John waited for the greetings to be finished before he took his Aunts hand. “C’mon Aunt Rose,” he said eagerly. “I want you to meet Danella,” he said tugging her over to where the girl stood with Dixie and Kel.
“Danella…I want you to meet my Aunt. This is Rosemary Hughes. Aunt Rose…This is my fiancée, Danella Four Feathers,” he said proudly.
“Mrs. Hughes…,” she said softly as she took her hand. “Johnny has talked much about you in his letters. He said you probably saved his life.”
Rosemary’s eyes flicked lovingly to John. “Early on maybe but I’m afraid that honor goes to Roy…He’s the one who brought our John back…If not for him…,” she trailed off.
“I’d probably be dead,” John whispered as his eyes sought out his partner and best friend.
Roy felt his eyes on him and looked up sending a curious glance in his direction. John smiled slowly and Roy threw him a smile and a wink. John laughed and slid his arms around Danella. All was right in his world for the first time in his life. John felt a sudden chill run down his spine and he shuddered slightly.
Dani glanced up at him. “What’s wrong Johnny?”
“Nothing,” he reassured the girl. “Nothing at all…” But he couldn’t shake the sudden sense of foreboding.
The guests began to leave several hours later. Rosemary kissed Johnny and Danella goodbye. “You make him happy Danella,” she demanded as she held the girls face between her hands. “He’s worth it, whatever it takes.”
Dani nodded. “I will Mrs. Hughes.”
“I’d be pleased if you’d call me Aunt Rosemary…It’s what Johnny calls me.”
“Aunt Rosemary then…”
She patted the girl’s cheek and went to say goodbye to Roy and Joanne. Pressing something into Joanne’s hand and speaking softly before turning to hug Roy. She took her leave.
Roy, Johnny and Joanne gathered up the debris while Dani took the children upstairs to get them ready for bed, promising them an Indian bedtime story. They went eagerly and without complaint.
“Johnny…That was so beautiful today,” Joanne said. John looked at her questioningly. “Your proposal…?” She reminded him.
John grinned. “For a minute there I thought she was gonna turn me down,” he said ruefully.
“That’ll never happen Junior…Not even if you were blind, deaf or crippled,” Roy teased.
Johnny laughed. “Thanks for everything guys,” Johnny said quietly. “I…I don’t know what I’d do without you…Both of you,” he finished softly.
“Well you’ll never have to find out will you?” Joanne said softly as she kissed his cheek. Her fingers played through the sable hair gently.
Roy’s hand dropped to John’s shoulder. The younger man glanced at it and then raised his dark eyes to meet Roy’s blue in unspoken communication. “I know,” was all John said before Roy gave him a gentle scruff on the head and turned away.
Danella came down a few minutes later and joined the clean up, feeling like family as they teased and joked in good comradery. “Well it’s getting late and we’re all going to Disneyland tomorrow so I suggest you head home Junior,” Roy teased. “And the rest of us can get a good night’s sleep.”
John’s eyes met Dani’s and he knew she’d rather be going home with him to spend the night making love but he knew Joanne would be horrified if he suggested taking the girl with him so he gave a brief nod. He kissed Joanne’s cheek and gave Roy a quick slap on the back. “Night pally, Night Jo.” Danella followed him out to say a private goodbye.
Johnny turned Danella in his arms and his mouth claimed hers in a passionate kiss. His fingers tugged the ribbon holding the girl’s bodice closed. Danella giggled as John pressed her back into the shadows but a few minutes later the giggle disappeared. “Oh Johnny,” came the whispered voice from the darkness.
A long while later her eyes watched dreamily as John climbed into his rover. “Dream of me,” he called softly.
“How could I not,” she replied as he drove away.
She stepped back inside, her face held a soft glow and her eyes were still dazed.
“Oh dear,” Joanne said with a giggle.
Roy laughed outright. “That’s my boy,” he chuckled…it turned to a grunt of amusement as Joanne’s elbow connected with his ribs but she was laughing too.
“Goodnight Danella,” she called as the girl practically floated past them.
“Goodnight,” she whispered absently.
John was there bright and early the next morning. Danella and the entire DeSoto family were already dressed and were getting ready for breakfast. John’s eyes traveled over Danella appreciatively in her shorts and light blue halter top.
“Where’d you learn to dress like that?” He asked huskily at the sight of so much of the girl’s bare skin.
“What did you expect…Deerskin and feathers,” she teased. John grinned in embarrassment as he hooked his arm around her shoulders and walked with her to the dining room where the rest of the family was still seated, his hand caressed her bare skin absently. “I learned from the other girls at school. They took me shopping for this trip. They think you are very handsome.”
“Oh yeah…?” He asked, turning his head to look into her eyes. She nodded and reached up to kiss him softly.
“Yech…,” Chris and Jen piped in together.
John pulled his mouth free and turned to look at the kids. “Yech…!” He said indignantly as he bent to meet Jen’s eye level. “How come it’s not ‘yech’ when I kiss you?” He asked seriously as the little blonde kissed him sweetly.
“Because I’m a princess and the handsome prince always has to kiss his princess.”
“Oh well…I see,” he said as if that explained everything. He sat down and snagged a piece of bacon off of Roy’s plate, ignoring his partners faked look of irritation. Both men were well used to sharing most everything. John picked up Roy’s cup and took a sip of the steaming brew to wash the bacon down. “Uch…Sugar,” he complained as his nose crinkled in disgust.
“Well if ya don’t like it, get your own,” Roy growled.
Johnny grinned as Danella brought him his coffee and Joanne set his plate in front of him. “Thanks ladies,” he said with a smirk at Roy. “Hey…,” he whined as Roy reached over to grab a piece of bacon.
“I want mine back…”
Danella and Joanne exchanged a look and a shake of the head. “Little boys…,” Jo whispered. They both giggled.
They headed off to Disneyland. The sun was shining and it was a gorgeous June day. Dani and John wandered hand in hand through the park…Joanne and Roy strolled behind them with the kids. They grinned at the many envious looks the handsome couple received though those two appeared to be oblivious.
They split up several times as Dani and Johnny took Jennifer on the childrens rides while Roy and Joanne took Chris to some of the wilder ones. While the crazier ones were usually more John’s cup of tea…Today he preferred to just spend it quietly with Danella.
They met up again in front of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…An attraction that took place mostly in the dark. Johnny grinned at Dani…”Jen…We can all do this ride…Why don’t you go with your parents this time?” He suggested.
“Okay,” she agreed happily as she moved forward to take her father’s hand.
They spent the time in line chatting about different things. “Captain Stanley told me you had a difficult rescue the day I arrived,” she said as she looked up at Johnny. “They said you were twenty feet up without a lifeline.”
Joanne was also looking at the young firefighter as they waited for an answer. Roy glanced at his partner as John tugged at his lip. “It was no big deal,” he said quietly. “There was really nowhere to tie off and no other way to reach the victim cuz the stairs had collapsed,” he explained. “I wasn’t in any real danger.”
Roy looked sharply at his partner at the blatant lie. “You almost fell,” he said quietly.
John’s eyes shot a dagger look at his partner that spoke volumes. “Traitor,” he whispered.
“Johnny? Please…Please promise me you’ll be more careful. I don’t want to lose you Ná’méhόt ,” Dani pleaded.
“Me’oo’o…Careful isn’t always something I can do…I told you that. I’m a fireman…It’s my job…”
“Not to throw your life away,” she stroked his cheek tenderly. “Please just promise me you won’t be reckless,” she begged softly.
“I’ll try baby,” he whispered as he rested his forehead against hers and dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose.
“Well Dani…I’m glad you got that much. I’ve been trying to get him to be more careful for years now,” Roy quipped.
“Yeah…?” John growled.
“Yeah…,” Roy shot back.
“Well you…You just don’t ask the same way she does,” John sputtered.
“You’re damn right I don’t,” Roy shot back remembering the tender moment they’d just witnessed.
Johnny grinned hugely. “I don’t know…That mighta been interesting.” He shrugged. “Woulda given Chet something to talk about,” he quipped.
Roy gave his best friends head a quick shove. “Him and two hundred other firemen Junior,” he said drily as the others burst out laughing.
They entered the cars on the ride. ROY, Joanne and the children on the first car…Johnny and Danella on the next and as he’d hoped there were no other twosomes handy and they had the car to themselves. He slung his arm around the girl and pulled her close as the ride began. They passed through two doors into almost total darkness.
Johnny’s mouth closed almost immediately over Danella’s. She giggled in delight as his lips parted hers and his hands traveled over her warm skin. His mouth traveled down her neck as he pulled Dani against him bringing a groan of bliss from the girl’s lips. Her head was spinning from the passionate assault as well as the crazy spinning and jerking of the ride.
John pulled back…Throwing the girl a wicked grin before dropping one last kiss on her slightly swollen mouth as they emerged into the brightly lit unloading area…A smug smile still playing on his lips as Danella’s dazed eyes met Roy and Joanne’s.
Johnny stepped off the ride, pulling Danella with him to meet Joanne’s annoyed stare. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest. “John Roderick Gage,” she snapped as she slapped his arm.
John shot her his most virtuous look… “What?” He questioned in wide eyed innocence.
Roy chuckled but tried to hide it as Jo whirled on him as well. “You’re no help at all,” she snapped at her husband. “And you’re both impossible,” she shot at the two men as she pulled the now giggling younger woman away from Johnny and led her away.
Chris and Jen looked at each other in confusion and shrugged at the oddness of the adults and followed their mother.
“What’d I do?” John asked Roy but neither of them could keep a straight face.
“You’re too much Junior,” Roy said, throwing his arm around his friends shoulders as they followed the others out…Their laughter floated behind them.
Joanne insisted one of the kids ride with them the rest of the day, much to the disappointment of both John and Danella.
By evening they were all hot and tired…Johnny carried Jennifer in his arms as they headed for the exit… Her head tucked snugly against his neck. Danella smiled at the picture he presented.
“Can’t wait until that’s one of your own can you?” Roy asked quietly.
She looked up at him and grinned at his understanding. “Desperately…Oh Roy,” she whispered. “I love him so much and two years is such a long time.”
“I know sweetheart,” he commiserated. “But if I know my partner…”
“And you do,” she teased.
“Johnny will find a way,” he assured her. “After all it was his stipulation to wait until you graduated to get married not your father’s,” Roy pointed out.
She nodded… “I know but convince him of that.”
“He’s really gonna keep his word huh?”
Danella nodded in disappointment. “At least as far as THAT goes,” she said delicately but she grinned as Roy’s blonde eyebrow arced in amusement. “But let’s just say that Johnny has many other…Talents,” she said with a grin.
Roy hooted with laughter. Johnny turned to look curiously at his partner as they caught up with the younger man. “Many talents huh…?” He chuckled at his partner’s confused look. “If only Blue Eagle had known…He could have given you a different name.”
John’s mouth dropped open in shock as understanding set in and Dani smiled teasingly at him as she passed him to rejoin the others. John snapped his mouth shut in annoyance and hurried to catch up.
Station 51’s C shifts Captain Barber hit the switch to close the large overhead doors. It had been a tough run and his men were tired. A large truck had gone over an embankment…They’d used several lines to tie the vehicle…Two had snapped during the rescue putting a severe strain on the remaining lines but they’d held until the driver had been removed. He looked at his Senior Paramedic Eddie Barkley and the new recruit who’d just started this morning Tom LaCera. “Don’t forget to check out those ropes EB,” he called over as they climbed from the cab. “They took a lot of strain and I noticed at least one of em had a weak spot.”
“Sure thing Cap,” Eddie called back. “Come on Tom,” he said giving the boot a slap on the back. They pulled the ropes from the squad, going over them as they re-coiled the sturdy hemp lines.
“I got one,” Barkley said holding up the weakened line.
“Great,” LaCera said, coiling the rope he was holding as Barkley headed for the trash can with his. He didn’t bother checking his own line any further as he stowed it in the squad. “Let’s get to bed man,” he called to his partner… “I’m bushed.”
John, Danella and the DeSoto family arrived home fairly late. Roy and Johnny were both on duty the next morning so John handed Jennifer to Roy and turned to say goodnight to Joanne. She placed a light kiss on his lips but didn’t make a move to leave the young couple alone.
“Ah c’mon Jo,” he complained drawing a chuckle from his partner.
“Sorry sweetheart…But that poor girl could use a break for one night,” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Danella giggled as John rolled his eyes in frustration. She took John’s arm. “I’ll walk you to your car Me’oo’o,” she said softly.
“You have two minutes John Gage,” Jo called after them.
Once out of sight behind the vehicle John turned to pull her into his arms. “I’ll miss you tomorrow,” he said softly.
“I wish I could go home with you.”
“So do I but…”
“I know…You gave your word.” John grinned as his mouth claimed hers. Her arms slid around his neck as her fingers climbed into his sable hair.
“I love you,” he whispered against her lips.
“I love you too…Goodnight Ná’méhόt,” she whispered as she stepped away from him.
“I’ll see you Tuesday,” he promised as he climbed into his rover, giving her one long last look.
Roy was just tying his shoes when Johnny arrived for work. “Better hurry Junior, Cap’s already been in here…The good news is you’re still ahead of Chet.”
John grinned as he tugged his shirt free from his waistband and began to strip. He was just tucking his uniform shirt into his pants when Chet raced through the door followed almost immediately by Caps bellow. “ROLL CALL…”
John shoved his feet into his boots trying to tie it while hopping on one foot as he headed for the door. He gave up on the other as he bolted through the apparatus bay to join the rest of them in line. Cap was talking to Mike, so John took a moment to finish tying his shoes. He was just standing up when Chet pelted through the locker room door and skidded into line, still stuffing his shirt tails into his pants.
“John…Chet…Finish dressing before you get in line,” Hank said teasingly.
“Be fair Cap,” Roy said with a grin. “Johnny’s had a lot of practice taking them off the last couple of days but not much putting them on.”
John’s friends burst out laughing while John’s eyes widened in shock. He stared at Roy as if he had two heads. He blushed scarlet while his partner shot him a look of wide eyed innocence. “I…I…I don’t believe you said that,” John muttered half under his breath but his mouth finally twitched and a giggle escaped his lips as he laughed with them.
“You takin advantage of that poor girl Gage…?” Chet asked snidely.
“More like the other way around,” Marco teased.
“Alright you clowns… Let’s leave Johnny alone,” Cap said straight faced. “After all…He must be tired after all that activity.”
They laughed again while John’s face turned scarlet.
Johnny endured their good natured teasing for most of the morning…The Station Control Unit toned them out just before lunch. “Station 51…Man trapped Valley College Stadium…Valley College Stadium…Time out 11:42.”
“Oh man…Not that place again,” John complained, remembering the painful fall he’d taken that had bruised his ribs and knocked the wind from him.
“Yeah…Well this time be careful,” Roy warned.
“I will,” he agreed.
They arrived at the scene several minutes later. A man hung upside down, his foot caught up in the rope. The butane torch he’d been using to weld the crossbeam lay in pieces on the concrete below. “Grab the belts,” Roy directed. “I’ll grab the rope.”
They ran to the bottom of the tower. “Can you hear us up there?” John yelled.
“Yeah…,” the man called back sounding slightly breathless.
“Are ya hurt anywhere?” Johnny asked.
“No…I don’t think so… Just caught…”
“Hang on…We’ll be right up.”
Cap stood at the base of the tower. “You think you can reach him from the tower?” He asked.
“I don’t know Cap…We may have to go up top and have Roy lower me down,” Johnny said, trying to judge the distance from where he stood.
Roy had that same chill of fear he’d had the other day. He knew it was probably because John had almost fallen here once before but he couldn’t shake it. “Cap…Um Johnny…Why don’t you sit this one out okay…? I can tie off and rappel down.”
Cap shot a concerned glance at his senior paramedic while John looked at him askance… “Why?”
“I don’t know…I just,” Roy hesitated.
“C’mon Roy…,” Johnny said gently. “You know it’s just cuz of what happened before. I’ll be careful this time…I promise,” Johnny vowed as he cinched on his safety belt.
Roy glanced at his Captain who was waiting for the senior paramedic to give him a better reason to keep John’s feet on the ground. Roy sighed as he looked into eager dark eyes. “Okay Junior.”
John grinned and gave his friend a slap on the back. “Let’s go.” He began to climb. Roy followed.
On the ground it was mildly breezy but further up on the tower the wind seemed to pick up. The man’s line swayed causing him to swing and spin. “Could you fella’s kinda hurry it up…I think I’m gonna puke.”
Johnny increased his speed until he heard Roy’s voice from below. “Slow down Junior…You promised.”
“Right,” he agreed going back to his original pace. They came level with the man but his line was twisted from up above and just out of reach of John’s outstretched arm. “Okay Roy…Looks like that platform’s our best option,” Johnny said in frustration. “You can lower me down from there and I can swing out and grab him. Once he’s untangled we should be able just lower him on his own line.”
Once again Roy had a strange feeling. “Okay…But how about I go?”
“Because I’m lighter that’s why and I’m better at high rescues than you and you know it. What’s with you today?” He asked resting his hand on Roy’s shoulder.
“I don’t know…Just a funny feeling.”
“Funny feelings are my forte Roy…So put a lid on it okay?” He turned and began to climb once more. “What’s your name pal?” Johnny called down.
“Okay Frank…I’m comin down for ya okay? Just hang on a minute more,” Johnny yelled as he looped his rope around the carabiner and tied it off while Roy fed his end over the heavy brace at the top the platform and tied it off just to be safe. “Man…that winds really startin to blow,” John commented as he tugged his gloves in place.”
Roy licked his suddenly very dry lips… “Okay Junior let’s do this and get off this tower okay?” He looped the rope around his back and hooked his own safety belt to a cross beam. He took a firm straddle legged stance to support John’s weight.
The younger man crawled between two cross sections. “Ready?” John asked.
Roy nodded hesitantly. “Ready.”
John let go of the tower. The wind caught him immediately causing the rope to swing dangerously. Roy’s eyes were on Johnny and the younger mans were on the victim. Neither paramedic noticed the frayed section of rope as it slid through their gloved hands. The weight and the wind combined to strain the line even more and the hemp began to separate.
Johnny made it to the victim. “You okay man?” Johnny asked as he swung beside him.
“Yeah…Just get me down…Please.”
“Okay…Okay just calm down. Can you lower yourself if I untangle ya?”
“Yeah…Yeah I think so.”
John reached out and grabbed Frank, pulling the man toward him. “I need ya to try to use my line to lift yourself a bit and take the weight off yours.”
“Yeah…Okay.” He reached out and grabbed the young fireman’s rope.
John felt a slight drop and thought Roy might be losing his hold. “You okay up there pally? He called.
Up top, Roy had felt the slight dip but thought it was the extra weight. “I got ya Junior,” he yelled back.
“Let’s get you free,” he said untangling the rope from around Frank’s foot. The man suddenly swung upright and grabbed onto John frantically causing the rope to swing wildly. John’s back hit the tower jarring his helmet loose. It tumbled fifteen feet and skidded across the pavement. Up above the rope began to slowly unravel at the added stress being placed upon it. “Okay man…Okay…Just hold on,” Johnny reassured him. “Now…If I release the lock can you lower yourself or do you need me to do it?”
“I think I got it,” Frank said. He began to lower himself. Chet and Marco ran to help him limp away as his feet hit the ground, while Johnny watched from above.
“Okay Roy,” John called up to his partner. “You can let me down.” John dropped abruptly as the frayed rope began to separate. “Hey…Not so fast,” he yelled, looking up.
Roy felt it give. “Oh God,” he whispered.
“Johnny…Grab hold of the tower,” Roy shouted. “The ropes break…” Roy felt himself falling as the rope finally gave up the fight and snapped in two. All he could do was hope Johnny had heard him in time. He leaped to his feet and unhooked the belt…Then ran to the edge. His heart climbed into his throat as he looked over the side. Cap and the others were racing frantically toward the young paramedic who was lying on his back on the pavement below. He wasn’t moving. “JOHNNY,” Roy yelled. He whirled and pelted for the ladder.
John heard Roy’s shouted warning. His hand shot out as the rope snapped. He gasped in terror as he began to fall…His hands frantically trying to grab anything. His fingers closed briefly over a rusted crosspiece. John felt his shoulder wrench and he couldn’t maintain his grip. He slipped free. “Oh God,” he gasped as he fell the rest of the way…Then he felt nothing.
The crew watched helplessly as Johnny’s line snapped and their friend began to fall. Their breaths caught and held as he managed to grasp hold of a cross piece. They breathed a sigh of relief but it was short lived as his fingers tried to hold his entire weight. Gravity and inertia coupled with rusted metal conspired to rip his fingers free from their hold…His cry of fear cut off abruptly as the sickening sound of his body impacting the concrete stilled his scream.
“Oh dear God in Heaven,” Cap gasped as he and the others raced toward John…From up above them on the tower they heard the awful, gut wrenching cry of agony. “JOHNNY.”
Hank plucked the handy talkie from his coat pocket. “L.A. HT 51…I have a code I at this location. I need an ambulance dispatched immediately.” Cap shoved the HT back in his pocket without even hearing the response as he knelt next to his youngest crewman. He fearfully reached out to check for a pulse.
Roy came down the ladder three rungs at a time…He hit the bottom and raced to his friend’s side, ripping off his gloves and falling to his knees next to him.
“He’s alive pal,” Hank reassured him as Roy’s fingers felt for a pulse.
“I need the trauma box,” he barked out. Marco ran to get it. Roy grabbed the BP cuff from the drug box and wrapped it around John’s arm. “Oh God Johnny,” he whispered softly. “Open your eyes John,” he pleaded desperately as he pumped the cuff up. “Cap, can you get Rampart on the line?” He asked as he laid his hand on John’s belly to count respirations.
“Rampart base…This is County 51.”
“County 51…This is Rampart… Go ahead,” Kelly Brackett responded.
Roy was feeling down John’s arms and ribs as Cap continued.
“Rampart…We have a code I…Its John Gage Rampart,” Cap told him.
“Do you have his vitals?” He asked, hoping it was minor.
“Coming up Rampart…”
Kel rapped on the glass to get Dixie’s attention. She stepped inside. “Johnny’s been hurt,” he said gently.
“Oh no,” She said softly.
“I don’t know how bad yet…It could be minor.” They waited impatiently for further information.
Roy hands gently felt along John’s neck, looking for fractures. His fingers lifted his head a fraction to check for injuries. His fingers came away sticky and wet with blood.
John moaned softly…Pain assailed him as he struggled to regain consciousness. His head pounded relentlessly and his back hurt. Pain began to register from other areas as well. His shoulder, hand and his ankle all throbbed to painful awakening. He heard a voice he recognized close by. “Johnny…C’mon Johnny…Open your eyes Junior…I know you’re awake…I heard ya.”
“R…Roy,” he gasped in a bare whisper.
“Yeah partner I’m here.” John’s eyes fluttered and finally blinked open.
John squinted…Closing and opening his eyes…Well at least he thought he had but everything remained dark. He tried again as he heard other voices.
He heard Captain Stanley’s voice. “Rampart…Vital signs are…B/P 100/60. Pulse is 80…Respiration 16.”
“What happened 51?”
“He fell Rampart…About fifteen feet.”
Kel’s heart dropped into his stomach. He closed his eyes briefly before getting himself under control. “What kind of surface did he land on?”
“Concrete Rampart…” Dixie sucked in her breath. “He’s regaining consciousness Rampart. He’s bleeding from the back of his head…There is fluid in his ears…,” Hank duly reported Roy’s findings. “Hold on Rampart, he’s becoming combative.” The line went dead.
John blinked hard…Nothing. He felt Roy turn his head slightly to check his ears. “I got fluid in his ears Cap.”John heard Hank’s voice repeating it. “R…Roy…I can’t open my eyes,” he whispered.
“You’re eyes are open John,” Roy said, sounding concerned.
“R…ROY…,” John yelled fearfully. His hand swung wildly…Searchingly.
“Johnny…Johnny I’m here.” John felt a gentle hand turn his face but the world remained dark.
“Johnny, your eyes are open,” Roy said soothingly. John’s hand flailed wildly…Searchingly. His brown eyes were wide and frightened. They continued to track around him…Lost and without focus.
“R…Roy,” he gasped again.
“Johnny…Look at me…I’m here,” he reassured his friend as he gently smoothed the hair from John’s brow, thinking the head injury had most likely left him confused.
John’s eyes continued to flick left and right. “R…ROY,” he choked out as the older man caught his hand. “I…I c…can’t see…I can’t s…see,” John cried out as he struggled briefly under his partner’s hands.
Fear climbed in Roy’s throat, almost choking him but he knew he had to try and stay calm for Johnny’s sake. “Okay partner…It’s probably just a concussion…Okay…You know they can affect your vision…Just calm down.” John felt the gentle brush of Roy’s hand over his forehead. “Relax…I’m here…I’ll take care of you.”
John began to settle down. He relaxed back knowing Roy would watch out for him. He felt his partner lift his lids but there was no flash of a penlight…Everything remained dark.
“Rampart...,” Cap said urgently as Roy flashed his penlight into John’s eyes, frowning. “Johnny can’t see,” Hank said quietly.
“Dear God,” Dixie whispered.
“It’s probably just a concussion Dix,” Kel soothed.
Roy took the Biophone…Shooting a frightened glance at his Captain. “Rampart…His pupils and sluggish and almost non reactive,” Roy reported fearfully…His voice shook.
“Roy,” Kel said…Breaking radio protocol. “You need to stay calm for Johnny okay? It’s probably a very severe concussion or hematoma…Either way the condition may not be permanent but if YOU panic…John will. He can read your tone like a book so you need to be calm.”
Roy took a couple of deep breaths as he continued to gently brush the hair from John’s face. He finally answered… “10-4 Rampart…Okay Junior…It’s gonna be okay,” he whispered.
“Roy,” Kel’s voice came back. “I want you to calmly tell me what other injuries he has.”
“10-4…He’s got a facial laceration…His shoulder is dislocated. His ankle is swollen but not fractured. I can’t find any broken bones…He caught hold of the tower on the way down…It might have slowed him down some before he hit the ground.”
“Okay… I want you to start an IV…D5WTKO…Immobilize his shoulder. Splint his ankle as a precaution. Use full spinal precautions. I want you to cover his eyes to protect them and get him in here on the double.”
“10-4 Doc,” Roy almost whispered. “Okay Johnny…You’re gonna feel a little stick here okay?” Roy advised him. With John unable to see, Roy didn’t want to startle him with any sudden moves. John grimaced as the needle pierced his skin. “Okay, good boy,” he assured him as he taped the canula in place.
He handed the IV bag to Chet who hovered over the younger paramedic nervously.
Roy’s hand returned to gently smooth the sable hair back. “Your doin great partner…Just hold on okay?”
“Roy…?” The voice quavered, sounding more like a frightened child than his usually cocky partner as he reached for his friend.
Roy took the searching hand in his own…“I’m here…I’m here and I won’t leave your side…I promise,” he whispered close to John’s ear. “Now…, he said sitting back on his heels. “We’re gonna put a coupla pads over your eyes…,” he explained as he placed two gauze squares over the dark eyes.
Johnny immediately became agitated. “W…Wha…s wrong w…ith m…my eyes…?” He whispered with a choked sob. His hand batted Roy’s away.
The blonde paramedic caught his fingers in his own. “Johnny…I want you to listen to me…You’ve had a severe head trauma and you need to be still until we get you to the hospital okay…You can’t move,” Roy gently cupped John’s face as he explained. “Do you understand?”
Tears spilled from the brown eyes as Roy spoke. “Y…Yes.”
“They want me to cover your eyes as a precaution to protect them and to keep you from straining them okay?”
“Kay,” he whispered, hanging onto Roy for dear life. Roy hooked John’s hand in the crook of his elbow.
“Hold onto me right there partner…Don’t let go.”Roy once again laid the pads over his friend’s eyes, taping them in place. “I need the backboard Cap…,” Roy said quietly as he picked up the cervical collar. “Johnny?”
“Ummph,” he responded painfully.
“I’m gonna put a C-collar on you as a precaution okay?”
“Mmmm...Kay,” came the frightened response.
“Don’t be scared Junior alright?” Roy whispered as he leaned down close to his partner…His heart breaking for the terror he knew his friend was feeling along with the physical pain. “We’ll get ya through this. You’re gonna be okay…You’re gonna be okay,” he repeated as much to convince himself as to calm Johnny.
He put the C-Collar on, securing it in place as Johnny continued to hold tightly to his arm. Marco and Mike squatted next to him with the backboard. “What do you need us to do?” Mike asked as his hand rested lightly on his young crewmates arm. John tried to turn his head toward the familiar voice.
“Johnny …Don’t move,” Roy warned. “Mike…Keep his head straight. Marco…Ready on three…One, two…three.” They rolled John to his side trying to ignore their friend’s groan of pain. They slid the board in place and eased John back on it. “I need you to keep it lifted while I immobilize his head… Johnny? ”
“I’m gonna immobilize your head here. Don’t be afraid okay? They just don’t want you to move your head.” He reassured the younger man.
“K…Kay,” he groaned miserably.
“Johnny? You’re not sick are ya?”
“Okay…” Roy was at least grateful that without his vision…the usual dizziness that accompanied a head injury was absent. He wound the kerlex several times around both John’s head and the board, securing it in place. His hand brushed John’s cheek. “Okay…We’re all ready.”
“Where’s that damn ambulance Cap?” He ground out.
“Their ETA is one minute pal,” Hank reassured him. “How’s he holding up?” He whispered.
“He scared to death Cap…So am I.” The rest of his crew was obviously just as shaken as his senior paramedic. Their faces pale with fear for their young friend.
“Understandable but you’re doin great. You stay with John…I’m taking the squad out of service until they can get me a couple of replacements.”
“Thanks Cap,” he muttered as the wail of approaching sirens brought a sigh of relief from the entire crew.
Marco was waiting to yank the doors open as they backed in. The attendants ran around to pull the stretcher out. Paul and Mitch both knew Johnny and Roy well…Their faces reflected their own fear when they realized who the victim was. “He gonna be okay Roy?” Paul asked.
Roy’s frightened blue eyes met Paul’s hazel. “He hit his head…He uh…can’t see.” At the man’s horror stricken look he added. “But he’s gonna be fine,” he said reassuringly. Paul could see the worry clouding Roy’s own eyes.
“Yeah…Okay,” he agreed.
They lifted John onto the Gurney. “Okay Junior, we’re gonna strap ya in here okay, so don’t be scared.”
“Kay.” Johnny felt the straps tighten around him. He heard the fear in Roy’s voice as he tried to reassure him. He could hear the voices of his friends around him but couldn’t tell where they were coming from. He was scared and tired and he hurt so damn bad. “You’re…C...Comin with m…me?” He asked in a small, frightened voice.
“Couldn’t keep me away Junior,” Roy answered honestly as he stroked his cheek. “I won’t leave you Johnny, I promise…Okay?”
They rushed him into treatment room three. Kel, Joe and Dixie were all waiting anxiously. They lifted Johnny…Still firmly strapped to the backboard onto the exam table. The two attendants pushed their gurney toward the door. Paul stopped briefly and patted Roy’s shoulder. “Keep us informed okay?” He asked worriedly.
Roy nodded…They left as another nurse ran into the room. She immediately turned on Roy as the others moved in around Johnny. “You need to wait outside,” she ordered as she pushed him toward the door. She turned back to the table as Roy retreated into the corner of the room. There was no way in hell he was leaving John right now…The younger man’s hand began to search frantically as the medical team began to check him out.
Kel began to snap out orders as his hands moved over John’s shoulder… “Helen, get X-Ray down here. I want a full skull series, cervical and Lateral C Spine,” he ordered. He moved down to probe John’s swollen ankle. “Dix, get that boot off… I need a shot of that ankle and his right shoulder as well.”
Helen threw a glare at the blonde paramedic’s flagrant disregard for her order to leave as she called for the portable X-Ray. She hung up and headed for the worried fireman. Her determined stride and the quick pace around the young dark haired paramedic ceased abruptly as John’s wail of terror penetrated the hubbub. “R...R...OY…,” he cried…His voice cracking. The older man had only heard him sound that terrified once before and that was six months ago when his Uncle had attacked him. Roy had barely arrived in time to save his friend from an unthinkable assault.
“Roy…,” Brackett barked. “Get over here and calm him down…Johnny just relax okay…Roy’s right here,” he assured the frightened paramedic as his partner pushed past the nurse and moved to his side.
“I’m here Junior…I’m here. You’re okay…Its okay.” His soothing voice calmed John as his hand gently rested on the dark head.
Kel resumed giving orders now that Johnny was calm. “Joe…See if you can get Jack Fisher down here. He handled Johnny’s case the last time. If he has a skull fracture I want the best neurologist we’ve got and he knows John,” Kel said quietly before he turned to his patient. “Johnny?” He said softly as he rested his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.
“Mmmm,” he groaned.
“Johnny…I want you to try and stay calm, do you understand? I know you’re afraid…Believe me, I would be too but Roy’s gonna stay with you right up to surgery if necessary alright?”
“Alrigh…,” he slurred. “Hurs…Head hurs…”
Roy raised frightened eyes to meet Kel’s. “It’s okay Roy,” he reassured the younger man. “This is a very severe head injury and there’s probably some major bleeding and swelling. It could temporarily impair his speech, his vision…motor skills. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Doc…He was in coma for seven weeks…He didn’t lose his vision or….”
“Roy,” Kel interrupted. “He very well could have and it was healed by the time he regained consciousness…We don’t know but Roy I don’t think there’s any danger of him slipping back into a coma okay?”
Kel turned back to his patient. He rested his hand on John’s head gently. “Johnny…I know you’re hurting okay but until we know the extent of this head injury I can’t give you anything for the pain. We’ll know soon.”
“Ey…Eyes…Mmmm,” he moaned.
“We have to wait and see Johnny…When we get the tests back. Dr. Fisher is on his way down…Do you remember him?”
“Y…yes… S…Sc…cared,” he stuttered. His hand tightened convulsively around Roy’s. “Sc…scared,” his voice hitched.
“I know you are Johnny,” Roy whispered as he leaned close to John’s ear. “But I’m here with you…I love you…I won’t leave you okay?” A low whimper escaped John’s lips. “It’s okay Johnny.” Roy’s fingers brushed the younger man’s cheek gently.
“Doc thinks it’s temporary but if you are then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. No matter what happens, we’ll handle it together…I’ll be with you.”
X-Ray technician pushed his machine into the room followed by Joe and Dr. Fisher. “What have we got?” Fisher asked as he moved to John’s side.
“Major head trauma Jack…Fall from about fifteen, maybe twenty feet. He landed on the concrete.”
Fisher nodded. “Let’s get the X-Rays and an EEG and then I’ll have a better idea what we’re in for. Mr. DeSoto it’s nice to see you …I’m just sorry it’s under these circumstances…Again.”
Roy nodded. “Me too Doc…”
“Let’s step into the hall. Roy c’mon…”
“Johnny…I have to step out for a minute but I’ll be right outside the door.”
“N…ooo,” he moaned.
“Johnny…It’s just X-Ray okay? I can’t stay in the room but I’ll be right outside.”
The young man reluctantly released his partner’s hand. “Kay…”
Roy ran his hand through his hair…His blue eyes filled with tears. “I have to call Jo…” His eyes met Kel’s. “Oh God…Dani…”
“Go use my office Roy. I’ll come and get you if John needs you.”
Joanne picked up the phone on the second ring. She and Danella had been talking about Johnny and laughing over some of the more amusing moments in John’s career. “Hello,” she answered cheerfully.
“Hi Honey…What’s up?”
“J…Jo,” Roy’s voice quavered.
Joanne heard the fearful tremor in his voice and she knew. “Roy what’s wrong?” She asked worriedly.
“You need to bring Dani to Rampart…Its Johnny.”
Fear clawed its way up into Joanne’s throat and her eyes flicked to Danella as she sat watching the older woman curiously. “Roy…How bad…?” She asked quietly.
Danella stood abruptly, realizing something was very wrong. Her hand flew to her mouth in terror.
“It’s bad Jo…He fell. The rope broke during a rescue…He hit the pavement. Jo…He’s blind.”
WHAT?” She wept… “No Roy.”
“Calm down honey. Brackett thinks it might only be temporary but he’s probably got a skull fracture and that can change things a lot. He’s really scared Jo…So am I,” Roy whispered.
“We’ll be right there.” She hung up the phone and turned to face Danella.
“What’s wrong with Johnny?” She gasped out desperately.
“There’s been an accident Danella…He fell during a rescue…The um…The rope broke.”
“Oh Ma’heόneva (God/Sacred Spirit)…Jo he’s not…?” She couldn’t finish the thought.
“No sweetie, he’s not dead. He’s alive but he’s badly hurt. They think he has a skull fracture…Dani…! It’s affected his sight.”
“No,” she whispered in horror.
“They think it’s probably only temporary but…”
“It doesn’t matter…Temporary or permanent…I love him…I want to be with him.”
“We’re gonna go but sweetie…He’s pretty scared right now.”
“I understand. Roy is with him?”
The X-Ray machine was trundled out and the doctor’s hustled back into the room. Roy followed. “I want those stat,” Kel ordered. Malcolm nodded.
“R…oy,” John whispered in a small voice.
The older paramedics hand closed over John’s. “I’m here Junior,” he said softly.
Kel returned to John’s side. “Johnny?” He said gently as he pulled the sheet to John’s waist.
“I’m going to check you over a bit okay? I just didn’t want to startle you.”
Kel’s hands traveled over John’s ribs drawing a wince as he found one that was particularly bruised. He continued to probe, moving around to the other side. He pressed John’s abdomen gently…Getting no response or sign of pain and threw a quick nod at the blonde paramedic that all was well there. He carefully peeled the bandages away from John's eyes. He flashed the light into them one at a time, frowning at the lack of response.
He drew the reverse end of his reflex hammer up the bottom of John’s feet…Pleased to see the toes curl inward on both sides. “Negative Babinski,” he informed Joe and Dr. Fisher who were hooking the leads up to perform an EEG.
“I really want to get this EEG Kel,” Fisher said quietly.
Kel pulled the sheet back into position and gave John’s arm a gentle pat before letting Fisher and Dr. Early begin the test.
Dixie came back into the room thirty minutes later with John’s X-Ray’s in hand. “Kel,” she said softly as she held them out to the dark haired doctor. She moved to the dark haired paramedic’s side as Fisher and Early were finishing up.
Joe and the neurologist were looking over the results. “You can see the difference between the two waves Joe…It’s pronounced….”
Joe nodded… “The pattern is different here and here as well,” he said pointing.
It was Jacks turn to nod. “I want to see the X-Rays but we need to get him to surgery…Soon. I’d suspect a bleed or at the very least a TBI”* he said quietly, casting a glance at Roy who was bouncing on his toes a few feet away waiting anxiously to return to John’s side. John was struggling to hold it together but was showing signs of panic.
Joe nodded toward Roy and threw a glance at Johnny. Roy quickly moved to John’s side and took his hand as Jack and Joe joined Kel at the light panel to go over the X-Rays. “Hey partner,” he whispered brushing John’s cheek.
John tried to turn his head but it was still strapped to the backboard and he couldn’t move it…He whimpered in fear... “R…Roy,” he whispered in confusion.
Dixie joined him a minute later. “How you doin sweetheart…?” She asked dropping a gentle kiss on John’s cheek.
“Di…Sie,” he slurred.
“Yes sweetheart…It’s Dixie.”
The gray haired nurse… Betty Williams peeked inside. “Dr. Brackett…Roy’s wife and Johnny’s fiancée are here.”
Kel tugged at his lower lip, watching Johnny worriedly. “Bring them in…It might do him some good. Joanne’s…A mother figure to Johnny. He’d find her comforting and Dani might be the boost he needs.” The older woman nodded and left.
The door opened and Joanne and Dani came in. “Honey,” Jo said as she came quickly to Roy’s side. “How is he?” She whispered.
“He’s holding on.”
Dani hung back for a moment but finally moved to the exam table. “Oh Ná’méhόt,” she whispered, bending to gently kiss his lips.
“Da…ni,” he choked.
“Oh my love,” she whispered, at the broken sound of his voice. Tears welled over her dark lashes.
“Dani…!” Roy said sharply. “He needs you to be strong right now.” She nodded as she brushed the tears away.
Jo stepped closer and rested her hands on John’s shoulders. “Oh baby…Just look at you,” she said gently as she kissed his cheek.
“J…J…Jo….Mmmm,” he stammered as his hand lifted weakly.
She took it. “I’m here baby. Roy and Dani are here.”She brushed his face tenderly.
“Yes baby, we’re all here.”
Dani glanced at Joanne in surprise. She’d transformed instantly from big sister and friend to Mother. It was no small wonder Johnny loved these people so much. They filled almost every need…All but one and that was her job. She didn’t want to fail him.
Kel was looking at the X-Rays. Joe Early and Jack Fisher were with him while Roy, Jo and Dani stayed at John’s side keeping him calm and quiet.
Fisher pointed at the back of John’s skull. “There’s a definite depressed fracture here…I suspect a subdural hemorrhage within the Occipital lobe as well.”
“Surgery…,” Kel stated more than asked.
Fisher nodded. “We’re gonna need to relieve that pressure and soon. That fall really rattled his brain…There’s a lot of swelling and bruising…Probably contrecoup to the Temporal lobe is causing the speech issues.”
“What about his sight?”
“I suspect the Optic nerve is being affected by the swelling since there’s no external reason but until I get in there I can’t tell for sure. We have to wait. It could come back when the swelling diminishes but it could be permanent if the nerve itself is damaged or severed.”
Kel nodded in disappointment. “He’d suspected that Fisher wouldn’t give him any guarantees but he’d wanted something more promising for Johnny and his family.
Kel came back to the table…The slight twitch to his lips was warning enough for Roy that something was very wrong. He tried to smile reassuringly. “Roy…Joanne,” he looked at the frightened face of the beautiful young woman holding tightly to John’s hand before directing his attention to the dark haired paramedic. “Johnny?” Kel questioned softly. John moaned softly in response. “You have a depressed skull fracture…We suspect a bleed as well…” Tears welled in Danella’s eyes once again. She understood the seriousness of this injury. “Dani Honey…Dr. Fisher there,” he said nodding toward the middle aged man standing with Joe Early. “He’s the best and he’s gonna take good care of Johnny,” Kel assured them. He laid his hand on John’s shoulder. “Johnny? Do you understand what I’ve told you?”
“Mmmm,” came the vague response.
“John? We need to relieve that pressure.”
“R…R…oy,” John gasped.
“I’m here Johnny,” he said softly as he gripped his partner’s hand.
“M…my he…head hurs…C…Can’t s…ee.”
“I know…I know,” he whispered as his hand cupped John’s cheek gently. “They’re gonna make it better,” he promised, brushing the back of his fingers over John’s face.
Roy understood the simple one word question. “They don’t know yet but they’re hoping it’s only temporary,” he reassured him, looking up at Kel with worry still plainly in his blue eyes.
Kel nodded his acceptance of the half truth.
John wet his lips, opening and closing his mouth several times…Trying desperately to get the word out. “O…Op…per….Op...,” Roy understood.
“Yeah Junior…They’re gonna operate.”
“T…Take care of D…Dani…”
“You’ll have to do that yourself Junior,” Roy warned him as he glanced at the girl. He nodded toward John.
She squeezed his hand gently. “I am here Ná’méhόt. I will be here when you come out. I love you.”
“Mmmm,” he groaned.
“Okay,” Kel cut in gently. “The good news is his back and neck are fine…Just badly bruised. He has some tenderness around his ribs but it looks like a muscle pull from trying to catch himself. His ankle is badly sprained but that should heal pretty quick. He dislocated his shoulder but we’ve reset that and immobilized it for a few days…Again probably from where he caught hold of the tower before he fell…That may well have slowed him enough to save his life.”
Dr. Fisher and Joe Early came to join them. “Kel…We really shouldn’t wait much longer…The sooner the better.”
Kel nodded. “Dix…Get a couple of orderlies. John, we’re taking you up to surgery now okay?”
“Ummm Hmmm,” he murmured. “R…oy?”
“I’m here Johnny. I’m gonna stay with you right up to surgery okay?”
“Kay,” he whispered.
“Jo…Dani,” Kel said nodding toward the door. They both cast a final glance at the young man on the table. Joanne took Danella’s hand and pulled her toward the door. Dixie smiled reassuringly as she passed them, holding the door open for the two orderlies. They wheeled the gurney in.
“Johnny? We’re going to take the collar away and unstrap your head. I don’t want you to move around okay…Just stay still and let us do the work.”
“O…kay. Roy… 'M s…scar…ed.”
“I know you are…I’m scared too,” the older man said softly as he rested his forehead against John’s for a moment. Dixie laid her hand on Roy’s shoulder and he stepped away, brushing the gathering moisture away from his eyes.
Dixie unhooked the straps attaching Johnny to the backboard and slipped the collar free while Roy snipped the kerlex that held John’s head secure. The orderlies lifted him carefully as Roy supported his head, sliding him onto the gurney and covering him with a sheet.
John’s hand lifted searchingly and Roy caught it with his own. The younger man’s hand tightened around Roy’s. “I’ll stay with you Junior…Right to the O.R. okay?”
They left the exam room, wheeling John past Joanne and Danella. Roy shot a glance at them but stayed at John’s side all the way to the operating room doors. He leaned down close to his best friend’s ear. “I have to let you go here Junior but I’ll be waiting when they’re done,” he said softly as he squeezed his partner’s hand. “I love you John…You remember that. I need you back,” he assured him as he laid his hand down.
They wheeled him away. Roy watched the door swing closed behind him and then turned and headed back to the waiting room. He needed to call Cap and give him and update but he still couldn’t get his mind to wrap around everything that had happened. He was angry with himself… The ‘what if’s ‘playing havoc with his mind. Why hadn’t he listened to the fears that had wrapped around his heart and filled him with dread earlier…How could he have missed that weakened section of rope? Why didn’t he realize what was happening when the line had first begun to separate? What if his best friend…His kid brother was blind…Would John blame him? It didn’t matter…He’d blame himself. What if he’d called the warning a little sooner? Would John have been able to hold on?” He went to join Joanne and Danella who were both anxiously waiting.
To be continued… Part 2 Darkness
Published to Site 08/30/10
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