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PG-13 WARNING - WARNING: This chapter of the story contains sexual references, innuendos and descriptions.
Hold a true friend with both your hands…Nigerian Proverb.
The only thing that still caused him to shake with terror was the shower. Roy ran out the hardware store and bought two sturdy grab bars. John sat on the closed toilet seat wrapped in a towel as Roy finished installing them…One in the shower and the other on the wall just outside it. “I think you’ll feel a lot more secure with something to hold onto.”
“I bought a non slip bath mat too.”
“How about a therapy session later…? It’s been a few weeks and you’ve been really stressed.”
“She already knows…She saw the one I did with you in Montana the night her father hit you.”
“Yeah…Besides she’ll have to see it sometime anyway. She really should be part of it.”
“I guess,” he agreed feeling a little embarrassed.
“Okay partner, its ready…In ya go.”John stood up and unwrapped the towel, blushing a bit that Roy still had to be there. “C’mon partner…It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
“That makes it so much better…Thanks,” he said drily.
Roy grinned but held John’s arm tightly until his hand gripped the bar. “Ready?”
Roy turned the water on. “You know where everything is?”
John’s hand felt for the soap. “Got it…” The older man let him go. “Roy…!” John called sounding panicked.
“I’m here Johnny. I won’t let you fall.”
“Johnny? I also want you to meet someone else.”
“Who…?” He asked from behind the curtain.
“The teacher who’s been helping me…I think you need to learn from him. I mean he can teach you so much more than I can.”
John was quiet for a long time. “You think I’m not gonna get my sight back, don’t you?” He asked quietly.
Roy almost didn’t hear him over the rush of water. “I don’t know Junior but we can always hope for the best.”
“But be prepared for the worst,” John finished.
“Yeah…” The water cut off.
“Do you think I should still marry Danella? I mean I don’t want her to feel obligated to marry a blind man.”
Roy handed John a towel. “Believe me Junior…Obligation is not what she feels. She loves…No…She adores you and that’s hard to come by.”
“How can I take care of her? A family…?”
“Johnny, you were hurt on the job…The Fire Department will pay you disability not to mention your pension and there’s the injured fireman’s fund and you could always go back to school. Blind people hold good jobs and lead perfectly normal lives…You just have to learn how. Look at Oliver Kendall…He’s a teacher.”
“I guess so.”
Roy took John’s hand and placed it on the bar and then took his arm in a firm grip. “Step over…”
John stepped carefully from the tub… Roy handed him his clothes, watching as Johnny carefully felt for tags and other clues to help him dress correctly. When everything was on he turned toward Roy. “How’d I do?”
“Well everything’s on straight,” Roy teased as he finger combed the wet tangle of sable hair. “You need to do something with this though.”
The younger man searched the counter for a brush, running it through his hair. “Okay?”
John brushed his teeth and then picked up the razor. “Well let’s find out if I can do this without cutting my own throat.”
“I’ll stick around and help you stop the bleeding,” Roy teased with a chuckle.
Joanne had already explained to Danella what was going to happen. “Yes…I saw Roy do it once in Montana but I really couldn’t hear all of it.
Joanne nodded and began setting up the deck. She reclined the chaise all the way back. Do you want to just watch this time?”
“If it’s a way to get Johnny to let me touch him…I’ll participate,” she said eagerly.
Joanne giggled but quickly quashed the girl’s hopes. “Roy's trained for this so let him lead…John’s most comfortable with him. He’ll tell him things that may be difficult to discuss with you or me.” Dani opened her mouth to remind Joanne that she’d be right there but Jo raised a hand to stop her. “I know you’ll be there but when Johnny is relaxed he’ll be focused on Roy so don’t distract him unless Roy asks you too alright?” Dani nodded. “Sweetheart…Sometimes what we discuss can be pretty painful…Are you sure you’re ready for it?”
Danella nodded a little hesitantly. “I want to know everything about Johnny…Good and bad.”
The sliders opened and the object of their discussion carefully stepped out on the deck…Roy was right behind him. “Hi sweetheart,” Jo greeted lightly.
John’s head swiveled in her direction…His eyes fixed squarely on her face. “Hi Jo...”
“That was very impressive sweetheart,” Joanne complimented.
John grinned and cocked his head. “Danella’s here too,” he added positively.
“Yes she is…How did you know?”
John breathed in deeply. “Jasmine…It’s in her shampoo.”
Danella grinned at Roy and Joanne in amazement. The older man chuckled, giving Johnny’s hair a light scruff. “You little show off,” he teased his friend.
John flashed that infamous crooked Gage grin…A sight they’d all sorely missed over the last three weeks. His dark eyes, even though still…Were alive again…Alight with laughter. God…How he’d missed that too…
“Let’s get started Junior,” Roy suggested as he turned his friend around and sat him carefully on the lounge chair. Johnny lay back, shifting around for a moment to get comfortable. “Ready?” Roy asked.
“I guess,” he replied as Roy knelt behind him, his fingers lightly began to stroke his forehead and down his face to his throat… barely touching until he reached his shoulders. His grip became stronger. John slowly relaxed under his hands.
“Can you roll over for me Junior?” John rolled over without protest, letting the tension flow out of him as Roy’s hands moved over his back… Barely touching him at all on occasion or resting motionless for a moment before moving again or kneading firmly on others. “You still awake Johnny?” Roy asked his friend.
“Johnny…Let’s talk about your accident okay?”
“Don’t want to.”
“I know but we really need to.”
Roy leaned close to John’s ear…“Johnny? Are you mad at me?”
“No…Why would I be?”
“I didn’t see that weak spot in the rope…”
“I didn’t either…”
“I didn’t warn you in time…”
“They know what happened…A new recruit missed it on the safety check.” John was silent for a long time. “They suspended him Junior…They’ll probably fire him.”
“I don’t want them to do that…It was an accident.”
Roy shook his head and grinned completely unsurprised at John’s willingness to forgive. “Johnny…You said something the other day…We need to talk about it.”
“You still have what I want…”
“I was angry.”
“I know and it’s okay but Junior…? You can still have that…Danella…Family…A job…All of it.”
“I want to see her.”
Dani raised his hand to her mouth to kiss his palm gently.
“I know you do but Johnny…? Do you love her?”
“Do YOU still want to marry HER?”
Danella sucked in her breath as she waited for his answer. “I want her to be happy.”
“She would be Junior but that’s not what I asked you… Do you still want to marry her?”
John was silent for a long moment… He loved her so much but she was young and vivacious…Could he saddle her with a blind man? She said it didn’t matter to her but it did to him. Roy was waiting for an answer. None of those things were what he’d asked…Did he still want to marry her? “Yes,” he finally replied softly. Danella grinned happily.
“Do you believe she loves you?” Dani opened her mouth to answer but Roy shook his head. “This is about Johnny and how he feels,” he whispered softly. “He has to explore that himself.” She bit her lip and nodded worriedly. “Johnny? Do you believe she loves you?” John was silent…Thoughtful. “Still with me Junior…?”
“Does Dani love you?”
John remembered the touch of her hands…Her mouth. The feel of her tears on his fingers. “Yes.”
“Do you think it matters to her that you can’t see?”
“It matters to me…”
“But to her…? Does it matter to her…? Does it change how she feels about you?”
“Then it shouldn’t matter to you…You CAN still have what I have…Love… Devotion…
Honesty…Children…A strong marriage.”
“Yes…But I want my job… I wanna be a paramedic.” Dani bit her lip, remembering her selfish words in the waiting room. How could she have wanted to take that from him…It’s what made John so special…His unselfish desire to save lives. Roy’s blue eyes met hers as his fingers continued to gently stroke John’s face, his neck…His shoulders. Joanne’s hand lightly held his other hand, her finger’s lightly brushed his arm…Her reassuring presence helping to keep him relaxed. “I wanna be your partner…Your friend.”
“Johnny…You’ll always be my best friend whether we’re partners or not. You’re more than just a partner to me…You know what you mean to me.”
“Yes…I think so.”
“What is that?”
John grinned. “I’m your kid brother.”
“You love me like a son,” he mumbled.
“Good boy…Johnny I want you back in that squad more than anything but I want you to understand that being a paramedic isn’t the only thing you can do.”
“It’s all I want to do.”
“I know Junior…Let’s hope it all comes back and you can do that.”
“You had enough for today?”
“Yeah…Have a headache,” he murmured.
“Why don’t you sleep for awhile okay?”
“I love you Johnny.”
“Love you too,” he trailed off.
John’s even breathing was the only sign that he’d nodded off.
“I was so incredibly selfish to wish him blind to protect him,” Dani whispered with a sob in her voice. “To want to take from him what makes him who he is.”
“Dani…You didn’t cause him to be blind honey,” Roy assured her.
“I know but…”
“Roy don’t…Johnny doesn’t blame you,” Joanne said gently.
“I know but I do. I had this awful feeling the night before…I didn’t want him to go up but I let him talk me into it.”
“It’s not your fault Roy…It just happened.”
He nodded… “I guess I needed to be sure he felt that way too. God I couldn’t bear to think he’d hate me forever for this.”
“John would forgive you for anything…You know that.”
Roy nodded as his fingers swept the shaggy dark hair back from his friend’s forehead. “Thanks Junior,” He whispered close to his friend’s ear before he stood up. John stirred restlessly and rolled onto his back.
“I think I’ll leave you two alone for a while,” Jo said. She dropped a light kiss on his cheek as she climbed to her feet and followed her husband inside.
“Thank you,” the younger woman said softly. Danella continued to stroke John’s hand, taking advantage of the fact that he was asleep and unable to stop her. Her fingers moved to caress his cheek tenderly. His eyes fluttered open briefly before closing once more. “I love you Mé’oo’o,” She whispered placing a soft kiss on his lips.
Johnny responded even though he was only half awake. His mouth moved slowly over hers…His hands rose to cup her face as he woke fully and realized it wasn’t a dream. His lips parted hers as he pulled her against him. Dani was like sweet candy and John was a starving man. Their mouths met over and over as her hands trailed over his chest and his hands rose to tangle in the raven hair.
She finally pulled back, slightly breathless. “Will you still marry me Ná’méhόt?” She whispered softly.
John was silent for a long moment. Could he keep her…Put her through this? His fingers played over her face, feeling the softness of her skin. Could he let her go? He sighed. “Yes,” he murmured softly.
“Oh Ná’méhόt,” She whispered excitedly against his lips. His mouth found hers once more.
Roy and Joanne stood watching from the kitchen window. “That girl sure knows how to get what she wants,” Roy chuckled.
“At least from Johnny,” Joanne giggled happily. She grinned at Roy. “Well I guess I better break that up before it gets too far. The kids are due home any minute.”
There was a knock at the door. "I’ll get that,” Roy volunteered. “You go throw some ice water on those two,” he said with a laugh as Joanne stepped out on the deck.
“AHEM…,” She cleared her throat loudly.
Danella pulled back and threw her a bright smile and a wink. She sat up and took John’s hand, pulling him upright as she curled into his lap and laid her head on his shoulder.
Roy was still grinning as he pulled the door open. The smile faded slightly as he recognized the two men standing on his doorstep. Two men he’d never expected to see again. “Uh Jeff…Detective Campbell…?” Roy greeted warily. “What are you doing here?”
“Can we come in?” Jeff Waters asked.
“Oh sorry…Sure um…Come on in,” he invited, stepping back out of the way.
They came inside. “Roy? Is Johnny here? We’ve been trying to reach him.”
“Yeah…Yeah he’s here…He’s out on the deck with Jo. What’s wrong?”
“We’d rather tell you all together.”
“Sure…I’ll go get them. Why don’t you have a seat?” He offered. Roy went to the door and poked his head outside. Johnny…Joanne? We’ve got company. Can you come inside?”
“Sure,” Johnny agreed as he swung his legs around.
Danella sighed in annoyance. “I was just getting comfortable,” she complained. John grinned and kissed her…His hand lightly caressed the pert behind perched in his lap.
“C’mon,” he urged standing up and letting the girls feet drop to the floor. His left hand reached out to find the door. He felt someone grasp his hand.
“C’mon Sweetheart,” Jo’s voice said close to his ear. “Step up,” she instructed as she guided him through the door but she stopped abruptly at the sight of the visitors.
Johnny bumped into her from behind. “Jo,” he complained.
“Sorry baby…C’mon,” she said quietly as she led him through the dining room.
“Joanne…Johnny? You remember Jeffrey Waters and Detective Campbell don’t you?”
“Gentlemen,” Joanne greeted.
“Mrs. DeSoto…Johnny,” they replied.
John’s head had been down but at the sound of their voices his head snapped up and his face turned toward them…His eyes finding them even without his sight. “Hey guys,” he greeted casually, extending his hand. They both shook it. They looked at Johnny suspiciously, noting the abnormal stillness of the dark eyes and the slight tilt of the head, indicating that John was listening intently.
Their eyes met Roy’s questioningly. “Johnny had an accident…He’s blind,” Roy said softly.
Their startled gasps were heard loud and clear by the younger man.
“God Johnny…I’m so sorry,” Jeff said.
“Same here,” Campbell said sympathetically.
“It’s okay…We’re hoping it’s only temporary,” he added hopefully.
“What happened?” Campbell asked.
“I fell during a rescue...Hit my head pretty hard and fractured my skull. It um…Caused some nerve damage.”
Their eyes met Roy’s with genuine sorrow…They both knew what the younger man had been through and this was just so unfair. They both suddenly noticed the stunningly beautiful young woman that stood slightly behind John at the same time. “And who’s this pretty lady Johnny?” Jeff asked.
“Oh I’m sorry,” Johnny gasped in annoyance with himself, pulling the girl close beside him. “Dani this is Jeffrey Waters and Detective Douglas Campbell from Fresno. Gentlemen…This is my fiancée Danella Four Feathers.”
"Fiancée…! Johnny that’s wonderful…Congratulations,” Jeff said shaking his hand.
Campbell looked toward the girl as he also congratulated John. “You got yourself a great guy Miss,” he said sincerely.
“I know,” she said gently.
“Um…John…Roy, Joanne…The reason why we’re here…?”
“Uh yeah…I was kinda wondering about that. Why don’t we all sit down?” Roy suggested as he maneuvered John to the couch. Roy and Danella sat on either side of the dark haired younger man. Joanne came around to perch on the back of the sofa, her hands resting on Roy and Johnny’s shoulders...The gesture wasn’t lost on Waters or Campbell. They smiled at the protective, flanking positions around Johnny… It was automatic and without conscious thought.
“Look, there’s no point to beating around the bush so I’ll get right to it.”
“Okay,” Roy agreed worriedly.
Campbell took a deep breath. “Gayle Markson’s escaped custody.”
“WHAT?” Roy shouted.
“Oh my God,” Joanne breathed in fear.
Their eyes turned to John who sat silently…Staring at nothing as the color drained from his cheeks. His pale face turned toward Roy. “You have to get Joanne and Dani out of here,” he said as his hand reached to grasp Danella’s.
“What?” Joanne gasped.
“No Ná’méhόt, No…Who is Gayle Markson? Why would I leave?” She asked in confusion as she gripped his hand.
“You remember when you asked me where the scar on my chest came from? It came from her. She shot me…” Danella sucked in her breath sharply. “She’s crazy and she’ll come after me…She’ll kill you,” he whispered with terror in his eyes for Dani and for Joanne. “We have to send them away Roy.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Danella protested.
“Neither am I,” Joanne echoed.
“Alright, alright…Settle down,” Campbell said soothingly.
“What happened?” Roy demanded. “Last I heard she was catatonic after she thought she’d killed John.”Danella sucked in her breath sharply in shock at his words.
“Yes…Well apparently she overheard a discussion…A new nurse mentioned that she knew Johnny was alive. It appears to have worked a complete transformation…She went from catatonic to psychotic in nothing flat. She uh killed an orderly.”
“What?” Joanne gasped in horror.
“I guess she took him by surprise and got a hold of his nightstick. She caved in his skull, stole his keys and walked out.”
“Good God…,” Roy muttered.
“We’ve already spoken to the police here. They’ve agreed to put a car outside the house until we catch her or determine that she’s moved on. It’ll be there at all times. We’d like to put Joanne and Johnny in protective custody… especially now that he’s um…,” Doug Campbell hesitated.
“Blind,” John finished.
“I will NOT be made a prisoner,” Joanne protested.
“I think you should go and visit your parents,” John suggested before turning to Danella… “You should go home to yours where you’ll be safe. It’s me she’ll be after…I should probably go to my apartment and…” Joanne and Roy both began to protest but Danella beat them to it.
“I will not leave you,” Dani argued as she reached up to stroke his cheek. “I’m staying with you…The police will be watching out for us.”
John turned to face her. “Danella…You don’t know this woman. She’s crazy and she’s obsessed.”
“With What…?” Danella asked…John hesitated.
“With Johnny,” Roy said quietly.
“She wants me,” Johnny clarified.
Dani leaned in close. “I can understand that,” she teased. “So do I,” she said as she leaned over and kissed him gently.
Doug and Jeff laughed outright while John blushed in embarrassment. Jo and Roy both covered their mouth to keep from laughing as well. “Dani,” John sighed, knowing she was going to fight and afraid she might win it. Her mouth touched his… “Dani, he tried again.
“Don’t send me away Mé’oo’o…I want to stay with you.”
“But...,” he began again. Her mouth closed over his. John sighed again and he closed his eyes in defeat. “You’re not gonna let me talk about this are ya?” He asked.
“No my love…” Her lips touched his once more before pulling back. “Well?”
“Roy…? Help me here,” he pleaded.
“Are you kidding? I got enough trouble of my own,” he teased as Joanne’s stubbornly set face turned toward him with a look of determination in her blue eyes.
Waters and Campbell took pity on the two men and stepped in. “Look…We don’t know that she’ll even come here. She may just cut her losses and move on…Disappear somewhere and show up in some other Fire Station in some other state…”
“What are the chances of that realistically?” Roy asked.
“Honestly…? Pretty slim…If the mere mention of Johnny’s name and the knowledge that he’s alive brought her out of catatonia…?”
“She’s still obsessed…,” Roy finished.
“Either way we’ll be keeping an eye on you…All of you but please help us out. Don’t go out alone…Don’t leave without an officer escorting you…Promise us please…” They nodded. “Okay then…We’ll keep you informed. Roy…Joanne…It was good to see you…Just wish it wasn’t under these circumstances. Johnny…Good luck with your eyes man,” Jeff said.
“And congratulations on your engagement,” Doug added.
“Thank you,” he said as they left.
“Now my love…Who is Gayle Markson…?” Danella asked. They explained to her who she was and what had happened. “She shot you? Tried to kill you…Rape you?” She asked in horror.
“Well she didn’t try to kill me…That was an accident. She wanted me alive but the rape part…,” he trailed off looking embarrassed.
Her hand caressed John’s stomach causing it to tighten as he sucked in his breath. “I understand that as well,” she giggled. “I’ve almost resorted to that myself a couple of times.”
“Danella quit,” John said with a breathless laugh as he grabbed her hand.
She cuddled closer to his side. “Well she’s out of luck,” she whispered in his ear as her lips brushed his cheek. “This is mine and I won’t share.” Her hand caressed his face, turning it toward her as her lips met his in a tender kiss.
John groaned softly as her mouth parted beneath his…The invitation clear as her tongue lightly brushed his lips. Her hands slid into his hair while his roamed her body.
“Alright you two,” Joanne said coming into the room with a tray. Roy was right behind her.
“I think it’s cute,” Roy whispered in Jo’s ear.
“Roy you’re impossible,” she laughed.
“We’re making up for lost time,” Danella giggled.
“Yes I know but Chris and Jen will be home any minute and that’s a part of their education they need to wait a few years for,” she reminded them with a laugh as she looked out the front window. The smile faded as a black and white police cruiser pulled up in front of the house. It was both a frightening and a comforting sight. A reminder of the danger Gayle Markson presented.
A car pulled up in front and Chris and Jennifer climbed out, stopping to look at the police car curiously.
Joanne opened the door. “Chris…Jen come in the house right now,” she called. They turned and ran inside. “Why is there a police car outside?” Chris asked excitedly.
“They’re out there to try and catch someone.”
“Are they trying to catch one of us?” Chris asked sounding worried.
“No sweetheart,” Joanne replied with a laugh.
Jen was wide eyed. “Did one of us do something wrong…?”
“No baby,” Jo said sadly. “The person they’re after is a woman who knew your Uncle Johnny and your Daddy a year ago.”
Chris remembered the woman who had kidnapped his mother and his uncle and had almost killed Johnny. “Is it Gayle,” he asked fearfully.
“Yes sweetheart,” she answered honestly.
He ran to his mother and threw his arms around her. “She’s not gonna take you away again…She won’t hurt Uncle Johnny?” Her eyes met Roy’s over her son’s head. There was an even mixture of rage and fear. Fear for her children and John and rage at this woman who was once again invading her peaceful home and putting a young man she considered as one of her own at risk.
Her eyes moved to Johnny, She saw the worry and guilt in his eyes. She glanced at Roy and back to his friend. His blue eyes followed her gaze. “Johnny don’t…,” he said quietly.
Danella looked between the two men in confusion. “I’m putting you all in danger…Again,” he said softly. “I should go home.”
“NO…You shouldn’t,” Roy shot back.
“She wants me…You’d be safe.”
“So we should just offer you to her as a sacrifice so we’ll be safe? Roy snapped angrily. “No way Johnny,” he said sitting next to his friend. Roy’s hand turned John’s face toward him. The brown eyes were still but clearly showed fear. Fear for his family…For Danella. The older man swept the dark hair from Johnny’s forehead. “I want you safe as well… You’d be alone at your apartment.”
“No Johnny…Now I mean it. Get what you’re thinkin out of your head. I’ll send the kids to Jo’s parents for a couple of weeks but you’re stayin here.”
“What about Joanne?”
“I’d send her too but she won’t go.”
“That’s right,” Joanne said from across the room.
“Jo please…” She came to kneel next to Roy. Her hand brushed John’s cheek. “We’re in this together sweetheart. We’re a family,” she said looking into frightened brown eyes but the fear wasn’t for himself It was for her…Dani, Roy…The children. She kissed his cheek. “I’m going to go cook dinner.”
He nodded as she stood up and headed for the kitchen. Roy watched his best friend. His blue eyes narrowed as he watched the wheels turn behind John’s dark eyes.
John left the table right after dinner. Roy could tell he was still very upset. Roy and Joanne tucked the children in a while later. Roy moved the curtains aside…The police cruiser was still parked outside. He lay down with Joanne, pulling her close against his side.
“Is Johnny alright honey?” She asked.
“He will be…I’ve just got to be sure he stays put.”
“You don’t think he’ll try to leave?”
Roy laughed. “I know he will.”
“Well aren’t you going to stop him?” She asked sitting up to look down into his eyes worriedly.
“Of course but I thought I’d give him some time with Dani first.”
Roy grinned. “I heard the stairs creak a few minutes ago.”
“Roy…,” she giggled.
John lay awake in his bed trying to figure out a way to get back to his apartment but how to get past the police cruiser. His door creaked open. “Ná’méhόt…Are you awake?”
She came inside. The light satiny nightgown making a gentle swishing sound as she moved to the bedside. She sat beside him on the bed. Her hand reached out to smooth the hair from his brow and then caressed his cheek. She leaned over him. “Danella,” he whispered as her mouth touched his. “Dani…I can’t…”
“Shhh,” she hushed him as her hands stroked his face and neck. “I love you Johnny…with or without your sight.”
He pulled her close against him. His hands caressed her body through the satin of her nightgown. “Wait,” she murmured pulling away. John heard the rustle of cloth and then felt the warmth of Dani’s bare skin against his.
“Danella,” he moaned softly as she pressed against him.
“Make love to me Johnny?” She whispered.
“Why? I know you want me.”
“More than you know,” he whispered pitifully.
He pulled her against him…His fingers found her face, touching her gently. “I want to see your face…Look into your eyes…See the joy…the wonder.” He smiled.
“What if you never get your sight back?”
“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said softly, praying it would return and they could still have their life together.
“Alright my love,” she sighed in defeat as she brushed the shaggy sable hair from his face. She tugged his head toward her… “But until then I can still hold you…Touch you.” She kissed him softly and cuddled against his side. John grinned and rolled, bringing the girl beneath him. He remembered the rather enjoyable morning spent getting to know one another at his apartment…He didn’t need to see to please her he reminded himself as his lips found the delicate spot at the base of her throat and began a downward trek.
A long while later they both drifted off.
The sun was beginning to set, making it cooler but more difficult to see… forcing the blonde woman to break from the concealing cover of the woods. She trudged along the side of the highway. Cars passed her oblivious to the woman who wandered the highway with her head down…The tangled mass of hair covering her face.
She didn’t seem to notice them either. Her determined steps saying she was on a mission and had no intention of stopping.
After several miles her head rose to read a sign as she passed. It was still almost a hundred and fifty miles to Los Angeles and the object of her obsession. This was taking too long. She stopped walking and moved back into the brush lining the highway…Running her hands through her tangled hair until she’d combed the worst of the knots from it with her fingers. She popped the buttons at the top of her stolen blouse, exposing her cleavage and then pulled the tails up to tie them under her breasts. The hems of her baggy institution pants were frayed from walking through the underbrush. She bent down to tear them upward to mid thigh until she had a ragged pair of shorts.
She stepped back to the side of the road. She turned to face the oncoming traffic. One long limb extended and her hip thrust out. She pasted a seductive smile on her face as she held her hand out…Thumb extended. It was only a matter of minutes before a car pulled over…The young man behind the wheel grinned as she leaned in the window…Her blouse falling away. “I need a ride to LA,” she said huskily. “I’m uh…Willing to make it worth your while,” she offered as she licked her lips. He leaned across to open the door for her. She climbed inside and slid over close to the young driver. He pulled into traffic as the sun dropped below the horizon.
Johnny woke sometime around midnight. He carefully untangled himself from Danella’s arms and kissed her gently before sliding from the bed and quietly getting dressed. For the first time his blindness was a good thing…He needed no lights. John crept quietly from the room counting softly. “Four…five…six…” he felt along the dining room table. If he could just reach the operator he could get her to call him a taxi. His neighbor Laverne had a key to his apartment and he knew she’d loan him the money for the cab as well.
He knew it would be difficult but he figured if he could slip through the backyards of Roy’s neighbors, he could meet the cab at the end of the street and the officer would be none the wiser. He hoped none of Roy’s neighbors were night owls.
Johnny fumbled with the phone but finally found the zero. “Operator…What city please…?”
“Carson,” John whispered. “I need a cab…Anyone will do and can you dial it for me?” He asked quietly.
“Goin somewhere Junior…?” A voice from behind him caused him to jump. He dropped the phone.
“Man you scared me to death,” he complained.
Roy took the phone and returned it to the cradle. “Where were you going?”
“You were going home.” It was a statement not a question.
John hung his head guiltily. “Yes.”
“I told you no. You’re staying here.”
“I’m not a prisoner remember.”
“Do I need to make you one?”
“You wouldn’t dare…”
John’s eyes widened in surprise… His eyes fixed on where he thought Roy’s face would be. “I need to go home…For you. For Jo and Dani…Don’t you understand…I’m putting you all in danger?”
Roy took John’s arm and pulled him none too gently to the couch as he stumbled along beside him. “Sit,” he snapped, pushing Johnny to the sofa. John felt Roy’s hand as he gripped his chin and pulled his head up. He knew his partners blue eyes were boring into him even though he couldn’t see them. “Now you listen to me John…” John…Not Johnny or Junior. He’d known Roy would be angry but not like this. He’d only truly been angry with John twice before and that was when he’d thought John and Joanne were having an affair and once when Chris got hurt and he’d thought John was at fault. Every other time had been minor fights and disagreements but now John could tell Roy was angry…Really angry. The grip on his chin wasn’t gentle in fact it was painful.
John bit his lower lip as his hand came up to try and push Roy’s hand away. “You’re hurting me,” Johnny snapped as he tried to jerk his head away.
“Good…Then stop fighting me,” the older man growled. “Just listen.” John settled down and the grip loosened a bit. “I know you’re afraid…I know you are…So am I but I’m afraid for you even more. Johnny I’m not gonna let you sacrifice yourself for me or anyone else. You’ve put yourself on the line for me and my family so many times…But not his time.” Roy saw the flare of fear in the dark eyes and his hand left Johns chin to cup his face instead, forcing his head up. “I love you…You’re my best friend…Part of my family too and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect you just as much as if you were Chris or Joanne or anyone else I love. If I need to lock you in your room to keep you safe then I will. If you leave…I’ll come after you and I’ll carry you back here over my shoulder if I have too, do you understand?”
John frowned. “She’ll come here…”
“You know she will. She’ll hurt Jo or Dani. Please Roy…Please send them away or let me go.”
“I’ll try and talk them into going with the kids for a week or two okay…Will that keep you here?”
“But you’re still…”
“You’re not going anywhere alone,” Roy interrupted. “Don’t push your luck John. You can’t take care of yourself right now…You’re not ready yet and you know it.”
John sat quietly for a few minutes. “Okay,” he finally whispered. Roy gently patted his cheek. “Would you really have locked me in my room?” He asked warily.
“In a heartbeat Junior…Now let’s get you back to bed.” He pulled the younger man to his feet, leading him around the sofa and back to his room. Johnny suddenly remembered that he hadn’t been alone.
“Uh…Roy…I’m alright now. Y…you can go to bed,” John stuttered as Roy pushed the door open. The moonlight clearly illuminated the room. Danella’s white nightgown lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. The girl lay sleeping in Johnny’s bed, her raven hair a silky black cloak shrouding her obviously naked body.
Roy grinned. “You’ve got more fortitude than I do Junior…If I had Jo like that in my bed I never would have left it.”
John blushed. “Goodnight Roy,” he mumbled.
“Just be sure she’s back in her own bed before the kids and Joanne wake up okay?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“I didn’t…You know…”
Johnny groaned in embarrassment and closed the door. A headache was beginning to build at the back of his head and his eyes hurt. He rubbed his hands over them. There were sudden flashes of light and color. John blinked hard but as quickly as it had come it was gone again. John pulled the door open.
“Roy…” He called excitedly.
“Yeah Johnny,” he answered from the kitchen.
“I…I just saw…”
John heard the water cut off and Roy’s rapid footsteps hurrying toward him. “Saw? Saw what?” The older man’s hands fell on Johnny’s shoulders.
“Can you see anything now?” Roy asked.
John shook his head. “No…It went away again.”
Roy’s hands moved to hold John’s face between them. “That’s okay Junior…Its okay. It’s probably a good sign though. Maybe it means the nerves are finally healing and trying to do their job ya know?”
“You think so?”
“I have a miserable headache Roy.”
Roy brushed the hair from John’s forehead. “Hold on…I’ll get your pills.” He returned a minute later and handed John his medication and a glass. He swallowed it with a drink of water. “Try and get some sleep.”
“Okay.” John went into his room and closed the door. He stripped down to his boxers and headed for the bed. He thought of the beautiful, naked woman sleeping there. He shrugged. Might as well enjoy at least holding her. He stepped out of his boxers and slid beneath the covers. She murmured in her sleep, rolling onto her side and curling against the warmth of John’s body. He smiled sadly. He was gonna miss her but at least she’d be safe. He pulled her close against him, reveling in the feel of her soft, bare skin pressed against his own.
A gentle kiss woke him the next morning. The sensation of Danella’s breasts pressed against his chest brought a groan of distress. “Dani…”
“Yes Ná’méhόt,” she answered innocently.
“What time is it?”
“Dani…As much as I’m enjoying this,” he began as his hands softly caressed her bare behind.
“I know…The children can’t know I spent the night in your room.”
John laughed. “Never mind the kids…Joanne can’t know you were in my room all night.”
“What of Roy?” She teased.
“He already knows…He was here last night…He uh…Saw you.”
“Was he terribly upset?”
John grinned. “Not at all… He just wondered why I left.”
“I…I uh…I was in the kitchen.”
“Um Dani…We need to talk but you um…need to get dressed. I can’t think like this,” he murmured as she trailed soft kisses over his neck and chest.
Dani heaved a sigh. “Very well Ná’méhόt.” She rose up on her elbows, sliding her body full length across his…John groaned in agony.
“You’re an evil woman Danella,” he groaned as she giggled in amusement.
“I could fix that problem for you,” she teased.
“I know you can,” he whispered huskily remembering the night gone by. “Uh-huh,” he said quickly as her hand slid across his belly. He pointed across the room. “You stay over there and put your clothes on or we’ll never get out of this room,” he laughed, pulling the sheet over his naked body.
“Where’d you learn that phrase?” John asked laughing.
There was a gentle knock at the door. “Johnny?” Roy’s voice called.
“Dani are you dressed?” John asked the girl.
“C’mon in Roy…”
Roy peeked in and saw Danella standing there looking stunning…Her long, raven hair was disheveled and hanging over her white satin clad body. “Mornin Dani,” he said with a wink.
“Good morning Roy,” She laughed unashamedly, giving the man a conspiratorial hug before heading back to Johnny.
“Um Joanne’s in the shower so I suggest you go while you have the chance.”
“Thank you,” she said with a grin. She leaned over and placed a soft kiss on John’s lips. The dark haired man sucked in his breath as her hand disappeared beneath the covers.
“Danella…,” he growled against her mouth.
She giggled wickedly and fled past a grinning Roy and headed upstairs.
“Jo…I want you and Dani to take the kids to your parents,” Johnny said quietly.
Joanne looked at the young, dark haired man in disbelief, Hearing what he didn’t say. “I’m not leaving my home.”
Danella turned amber eyes on Johnny as he squeezed her hand. He turned his head toward her…His dark eyes unseeing but managing to land squarely on her face. “Jo…Danella…Gayle Markson is completely insane. She’ll kill you both in a heartbeat if she see’s you as a threat and we already know she does toward you Jo…How much more so Danella? If I could get Roy to go as well I would but I want to at least know that you two and the kids are safe.”
“No Johnny?” Dani gasped in dismay. “I won’t leave you…I just got you back.”
“Dani…I’d never be able to live with myself if something happened to you because of me…My past. Jo…It’s the same for you,” he whispered. “I love you both so much, I…I want you both to be safe…Please. Besides I’ll be busy playing student,” he said trying to sound cheerful. “And I’ll be able to concentrate better if you’re not around to distract me,” he teased.
Neither of them laughed. “Please Na’mehoht…” John’s mouth set in a stubborn line.
“Dani,” Roy said softly. “I know that look…You won’t win this one.”
“It’s only for a week or two,” Johnny said encouragingly.
“But that’s such a long time to be away from you.”
“Well…There’re lots of things to do in San Diego and the kids will keep you busy and maybe I’ll be able to see when you get back and at the very least I’ll have learned to take care of myself better,” he reasoned. The silence was deafening and he knew they weren’t convinced. “Jo…Dani… She’ll use you against me…To make me do what she wants…She’s done it before,” he reminded Joanne.
Danella threw her arms around Johnny and he hugged her to him. “Please Ná’méhόt I love you…I want to stay.”
“I love you too…That’s why you have to go. Dani…Jo please,” he begged softly… His brown eyes taking on that sorrowful, puppy like look he used so often to get his own way. Roy grinned and turned his face away.
“I hate it when you do that John Gage,” Jo admonished him with false anger but she knew he was right. Gayle had used Jo the last time to control Johnny and Joanne knew she couldn’t give her the opportunity to do it again. John smiled triumphantly at her words, knowing he’d won. “Get that smug look off your face Johnny,” she growled. “Alright Dani…Let’s visit my parents. We can leave in the morning though. I have bags to pack and laundry to do before I can.”
“But Jo,” Dani protested.
“Sweetie…Johnny’s right. We’re as much a danger to him as he is to us. If she took one of us…Johnny would do ANYTHING to save us…I know him. He’d sacrifice himself to do that…At lease this way she has no leverage.”
“I always knew you were a smart woman Jo,” he teased.
She swatted him on the arm with a laugh. “Don’t push your luck John.”
A knock on the door broke the moment of shared laughter. Roy went to get it. An officer stood there with Oliver Kendall and another man. “It’s okay Officer…I know them.” The policeman nodded and walked back toward his car while Roy ushered the men inside.
“Oliver…I’m glad you could make it.”
“Thank you…This is my driver Lenny Greer…He’s also my eyes while I’m teaching so I know if my student is getting it right.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Roy said shaking Lenny’s hand.
“Um Roy…? What was that all about?” Oliver asked as he nodded toward the door.
“Johnny had a run in with a woman a year or so ago who uh…Got a bit obsessive…As a matter of fact she kidnapped him and my wife…She was convicted and institutionalized but she escaped the day before yesterday and there’s a good chance she’ll come after Johnny.”
“And now he’s blind and a sitting duck for her.”
“Yes,” Roy admitted. “We’re sending the children and my wife and Johnny’s fiancée to San Diego for a couple of weeks. It’s the only way to keep Johnny from putting himself out there as a target.”
Oliver shook his head. “Then I’d love to meet Johnny if that’s okay? We need to get started teaching him. The more he knows…The safer he’ll be.”
“Okay…He’s in the dining room…It’s this way.”
Oliver took Lenny’s arm and unfolded his cane. “Lead on.”
They came into the dining room a moment later. “Johnny?”
“Yeah…?” He questioned, turning his head in Roy’s direction.
“I want you to meet Oliver Kendall.”
Johnny turned in his seat and started to stand. “Stay seated John,” Oliver said quietly.
John sank back into his seat. “How did you know I was…?” He trailed off.
“I heard the chair slide back and the rustle of your clothes. It’s also a common practice to stand when you’re introduced to someone so I assumed that’s what you were doing.”
“Oh,” Johnny said looking a bit taken aback.
“Sorry to disappoint you but it’s no great mystery or fancy tricks.”
“So how do you get along?”
“That’s what I’m here to teach you.”
“Okay…,” Johnny said biting his lip.
“Can you introduce me to your friend?” Oliver asked.
“Oh sorry,” Johnny began. “This is my…,” he stopped. “How did you know?”
“Unless you’re wearing perfume…”
John laughed. “It’s her shampoo and she’s my fiancée…Danella Four Feathers.”
“It’s my pleasure Miss,” Oliver greeted.
“It’s nice to meet you Mr. Kendall,” she replied.
“Well if her face matches her voice, you’re a lucky man John.”
“Yes I am…And this is Roy’s wife Joanne.”
“This is my eyes, ears and driver Lenny Greer,” he introduced the man with him. “Normally I use him to help me in the classroom but since we’re teaching in the home, I’ll use you Roy if that’s alright? I think John would be more comfortable with you.”
“Okay,” Roy agreed.
“Let’s get started then.” He reached out to touch John’s arm, moving down until he could grasp his hand. He tucked the handle of the cane into it.
“What’s this?” John asked curiously as he felt the rubber grip.
“It’s a folding cane. It’ll help you a lot outside the home…Out of your comfort zone.”
“Okay,” Johnny agreed softly.
Oliver took a few moments…His hands over John’s to fold and unfold the cane several times until John became comfortable with it.
“Okay John…Let’s practice,” he said backing away to allow him to stand up. After an hour John could easily maneuver about the house both upstairs and down. He handled the deck and the backyard with only a few minor trips and bumps but Roy was always at his elbow with a steadying grip. “That was very good John,” Oliver complimented after listening to Lenny’s evaluation of what he’d seen. “Now…Let’s work on getting a drink because I’m getting thirsty.”
John laughed. “Okay.” They made their way inside.
“DAMN IT,” Johnny shouted in frustration as the glass over flowed for the fifth time.
“John…Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Oliver said calmly. “You can’t be expected to learn everything in one day.”
“I know…,” he said sounding disgusted. “But…”
“Johnny,” Roy soothed, touching his friends arm gently. “Just try again.”
“I’ve already tried five times,” he snapped in aggravation.
Oliver frowned at the angry tone and Lenny leaned over to whisper in Oliver’s ear. He nodded as Roy calmly answered…Sounding a bit hurt but still trying to be understanding. “Then try six,” he said softly.
John heard the tone…“I’m sorry Roy…That headaches comin back,” The younger man said contritely.
“We’ll take a break and get you your meds as soon as you do this one more time.”
“Roy…Help him,” Oliver suggested.
Roy stepped up behind him, reaching around to place his hands over John’s He set the cup in place and positioned John’s finger just below the rim as he’d seen Oliver do. Roy wrapped John’s remaining fingers around the cup securely. He helped John find the lip of the pitcher. “Ready to try again…?” He asked softly.
“I guess,” he said sounding discouraged. Roy’s hand lightly swept the dark hair away from Johnny’s forehead. Johnny raised his head knowing Roy was watching him carefully. “Thanks pally,” he said softly. No further words needed to be spoken…The gesture had been promise enough. Roy was there for him and always would be.
“Ready?” Roy asked again.
“Yeah,” he said with more confidence. He poured the water carefully…Stopping as it barely brushed his fingers. “How much did I spill?” He asked.
“Not a drop Junior,” Roy said proudly as he scruffed the sable hair gently. “I’ll get your pills,” the blonde moved away as John grinned.
“Very good John,” Oliver said. “Once you realize that you can see with your hands you’ll do well…As a matter of fact let’s try something I think you’ll enjoy.”
“Something else to see with my hands…?” John asked with a tired sigh.
“A little exercise to teach you how too…,” Oliver laughed. “Danella could you please come here…?” She moved over to stand next to the two men. “I think you’ll like this much better.”
“John…I want you to see Danella.”
“What?” John asked in surprise, wishing desperately that he could.
“With your fingers…I want you to see Danella.” Dani giggled. Johnny’s hands had already seen quite a bit of her but she said nothing. “I want you to very lightly touch her face. Start at her forehead and work your way down.”
John lifted his hands and Dani took them and guided them to her face. John’s fingers traced her features much the same way Roy touched him during therapy. His thumbs brushed over her brows to her eyes before lightly brushing against her cheeks...Taking her face between his hands with a look of wonder on his face. His thumbs traced her mouth, feeling them turn up in a smile. John grinned in delight. “You’re smiling,” he said softly.
“I always smile when you touch me Johnny,” she murmured.
His mouth lowered to meet hers with a soft kiss. “Okay you two…You’re supposed to be practicing with your hands not your mouth,” Oliver teased. John broke the kiss as they all laughed.
“Keep that up John and I’ll make you practice on Roy,” Oliver threatened with a grin.
“I won’t have a choice after tomorrow but I promise to keep my lips to myself pally.”
“I’ll hold ya to that Junior.”
They all laughed again. “I think that’s enough for today. I’ll leave you two to practice on your own,” Oliver said with a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said without hesitation. “Lenny, are you ready?” He asked taking his friends arm.
“Good afternoon all of you.”
They said goodbye as they left. Johnny touched Danella’s face. She leaned in close… “Would you care to practice some more on the deck Mr. Gage…?” She whispered. John nodded eagerly. “You go ahead…I’ll be right out.”
Gayle Markson sat just inside the tree line that bordered the DeSoto property. She’d been watching the house for quite some time and had noted that the young officer out front got out to wander about the property once every hour. She glanced at her stolen watch and relaxed. He wasn’t due for another forty minutes.
She’d made good time this morning after spending the night in the woods in the car she’d ‘borrowed.’ The owner wouldn’t be needing it anymore anyway. She’d lured him into the woods with a promise of a ‘good time’ and then caved his head in with a rock. She’d felt badly doing it since she’d had nothing against the young man but she’d had no choice. She had to get to Johnny and she’d really needed his car.
She’d driven to the station but A shift wasn’t on duty. Gayle had moved on to John’s apartment. She’d jimmied the lock and slipped through the door. The apartment had a musty smell…It was dusty and it was very warm inside. She realized that he hadn’t been there for some time.
She guessed he was either on vacation or he’d been injured and was at Rampart or Roy DeSoto’s where he could be with his whore Joanne. That fool DeSoto couldn’t see the affair going on right under his nose but Gayle knew it…She’d seen Joanne with her hands all over Johnny and even though they’d tried to make everyone believe that it was some kind of therapy…Gayle wasn’t fooled.
She knew she had to make him understand that she was the only woman he needed. She would have John Gage. She’d taken a shower at his apartment and ‘borrowed’ one of his shirts to cover her blood stained blouse. She’d helped herself to the food in his pantry…After all they’d be together soon anyway and she knew he wouldn’t mind. She headed for Roy’s.
She’d spotted the police car out front and knew Johnny was here. She’d parked around the corner and made her way through the small wooded section that bordered the DeSoto’s back yard. She found herself a comfortable vantage point and settled down to wait.
Her patience was rewarded a short time later as Johnny stepped out on the deck. The day had grown very warm and her eyes traveled over his body as John stripped off his shirt and hung it over the chair. She licked her lips hungrily. He was still incredibly handsome…God, how’d she’d missed him.
She watched him reach out to touch the back of the chaise lounge…Moving hesitantly. He must have been hurt, she mused… Maybe still suffering from dizziness. The dark haired man sat down, swinging his feet up. He rubbed tiredly at the back of his head for a moment. A small grimace of pain crossed his features momentarily but a moment later a slow smile spread across his lips and Gayle wondered what he was thinking of. Probably that whore Joanne…Well she’d make sure he forgot all about her. She was younger…More beautiful…
The sliders opened, breaking her reverie…A stunning young woman stepped out onto the deck. John’s grin grew wider as she drew closer and set two glasses of lemonade on the table beside him. She couldn’t tell what was being said but the actions were very clear. The woman sat on the edge of the lounge. She smiled slowly as Johnny’s hands rose to lightly caress her face.
Gayle’s violet eyes narrowed menacingly and her teeth clenched in rage as John’s hand curled around the back of the beautiful woman’s neck…Pulling her toward him. The black haired girl slid into John’s lap, her hands playing over John’s chest as their mouths met.
Even from a distance Gayle could tell that this was a lover’s kiss. Feathery soft and caressing and then turning deep and passionate…Intimate. This woman wasn’t a casual girlfriend…She was close to Johnny. Too close. “So he’s dumped Joanne for you,” she mewled. Her fists clenched…Her nails drawing blood from her own palms. Well this was a problem but only a minor one. The girl would simply have to be eliminated but she’d be sure to be there to help Johnny through his grief.
Danella sat on the edge of John’s chair…She saw his grin broaden and noted that he’d removed his shirt. “I brought you something to drink.”
His hand lifted to touch her face…His fingers caressing her skin before circling around to the back of her neck to pull her to him. “All I needed was you,” he murmured as she slid sinuously into his lap…Her hands played over the warm flesh of his chest as she leaned against him…Their lips met softly at first…Teasing…Tasting… Meeting and then pulling back before John crushed her to him…His mouth parting hers as their tongues met. Neither of them aware of the rage filled violet eyes that watched them intently.
After a short time Danella broke the kiss…Her fingers traveled up John’s chest as she laid her head on his shoulder. His lips brushed her forehead while his fingers played with the silky black hair. He breathed in the soft scent of her. He felt her head tilt back and her lips nuzzled gently against his throat. “Will you miss me?” She asked quietly.
“Every minute of every day,” he assured her.
“I’ll make sure you do.” Her mouth touched his once again as his hands roamed over her back and shoulders pulling her closer. Her mouth parted in invitation…John didn’t need a second one. His mouth caught hers as his hand rose to caress her breast.
“WOW…I guess you are feeling better,” a voice came from behind them…, startling the couple.
Dani pulled away and John groaned miserably. “Ya know Kelly…Your timing really stinks.”
“Yeah…Well thank your partner…He sent me out to get you.”
“What are ya doin here anyway?”
“We’re all here. We uh…Wanted to check on you.”
John was touched despite himself but he’d never let Chet know that. “I guess we should go in.”
Danella groaned in disappointment. “Alright Ná’méhόt,” she said standing up…Her amber eyes watching John as he stood up carefully. She helped him put his shirt back on. His lips caressed her forehead as she buttoned it for him and Chet almost groaned with envy. “You’re decent mé’oo’o.”
“Huh…Like that’ll ever happen,” Chet muttered as he turned to lead the way.
“He's just jealous,” John whispered as he slid his arm around the girl and lightly caressed her behind.
Her giggled “Behave,” brought Chet’s head around but Johnny’s hand was back on her waist and a playful grin danced on his lips as they followed Chet inside.
Roy and Joanne watched the couple from the window. Joanne smiled as Danella slid into John’s lap. “She sure knows how to keep Johnny’s attention,” she said with a laugh.
“Yes she does,” Roy agreed.
“Poor Johnny’s met his match in that young lady. I think she wears him out,” Joanne teased.
“I don’t know about that…Once they're married and the ‘hands off’ rule goes away…”
“Hands off…?” Jo gasped with an incredulous laugh. “I’d say that’s the one thing he hasn’t kept to himself.”
Roy waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Besides I have it on the best of authority that he’s a fireman and he has loads of stamina,” Roy teased as they left the kitchen and headed for the living room but Jo stopped and turned to face him. Her arms slid up around Roy’s neck to tug his head toward her…
“Must run in the family,” she whispered against his lips. Roy grinned…His blue eyes sparked with desire as he took the obvious invitation. He kissed her long and passionately…His mouth moved to nuzzle her ear before raining kisses over her neck and down to her shoulder. Jo giggled in delight as his mouth moved to the spot above the top button of her blouse…His fingers popping the button free…The doorbell rang breaking the two apart and Roy groaned in frustration.
“I’ll get it,” he muttered as he headed for the door.
Joanne giggled but she looked disappointed as well as she re-buttoned her blouse and sat on the sofa. He opened the door. Their usual young officer stood there with the crew of Station 51. “Cap…? Roy said in surprise. “Guys…” Roy nodded at the policeman and he turned with a bored expression and walked away.
“You want to tell me what that was all about?” Hank asked hooking a thumb back over his shoulder as they filed in.
“Joanne and Johnny are in protective custody.”
“What…?” He gasped in shock. “But why…?” The others were looking at him curiously as well.
Gayle Markson is why.”
Four horrified gasps and widened eyes greeted him as he turned to face them. “I thought she was locked up permanently…What happened?” Mike asked.
“She found out Johnny’s still alive. She uh…Killed an orderly and stole his keys.”
“Dear God,” Cap muttered, worry for Johnny and Joanne plainly written on his face.
“They’re afraid she’s comin for Johnny,” he finished.
“Dios,” Marco murmured.
“And he’s blind and…,” Chet trailed off.
“Exactly…He’s helpless and he can’t defend himself…He’ll be an easy target for her.”
“Over our dead bodies,” Mike assured him quietly. The others nodded their agreement.
Roy grinned at their obvious concern for their youngest crewmate.
“How’s he doin Pal?” Hank asked.
He’s doin much better Cap. We’re still hopeful that he’ll get his sight back but he is at least letting us teach him how to get along without it just in case. As a matter of fact his teacher just left. He did really well today and he had some flashes of light and color last night.”
“WHAT?” Joanne said excitedly. “That’s wonderful…Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It went away again and we didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes in case it didn’t happen again but I’ll tell Brackett tomorrow afternoon when I take Johnny in to Rampart for his checkup. He’s still a little moody and he’s having some ugly headaches and that’s a bit worrisome.”
“Where is he anyway?” Chet asked.
“He’s out on the deck with Dani,” Roy replied with a grin. “Why don’t you go get them?” The curly haired fireman nodded and headed for the sliders.
Is he still sending her away?” Mike asked in concern.
“Yes but for a different reason…” Their voices trailed off as Chet left the room.
Chet slid the door open to find Johnny and Dani wrapped in each other’s arms…Their mouths locked together in a passionate kiss. John’s hand roamed freely over her breast while hers were tangled in his shaggy sable hair. “WOW…I guess you are feelin better,” Chet said drily.
Danella pulled her mouth free from John’s and she grinned deliciously at the Irishman who sighed in jealousy at the beautiful woman curled in Gage’s lap. John groaned miserably. “Ya know Kelly…Your timing really stinks.”
“Yeah…Well thank your partner…He sent me out to get you.”
“What are ya doin here anyway?”
“We’re all here. We uh…Wanted to check on you.”
“I guess we should go in.”
Danella groaned in disappointment. “Alright Ná’méhόt,” she said standing up…
John stood up carefully and regained his balance. She helped him put his shirt back on. His lips caressed her forehead as she buttoned it for him and Chet watched with a touch of envy. “You’re decent mé’oo’o.”
“Huh…Like that’ll ever happen,” Chet muttered sourly as he turned to lead the way.
He heard Chet’s footsteps move away…“He's just jealous,” he whispered as his hand slid downward to caress the shapely behind drawing a giggle from the girl along with a…
“Behave…” His hand slid back to her waist but a playful grin danced on his lips as they followed Chet inside.
Dani stopped at the doorway and turned back to Johnny. “Step up mé’oo’o,” she instructed.
John took the step almost as if he could see it and the trio disappeared inside.The sun was riding high in the sky and Gayle glanced at her watch. She had a few minutes before the cop made his rounds about the house. She made her way cautiously through the backyard to the bushes beneath the guest room window. It was open and she peeked inside. It was evident that Johnny was staying there. She pushed the window open and hiked herself up over the sill and inside without much time to spare…She heard the soft whistle of the officer as he made his way around the side of the house…
Gayle pressed up against the wall of John’s room as the officer moved past the open window. He glanced at it with a frown, making a mental note to remind them to keep the windows closed. He continued on disappearing around the other side of the house. He was looking forward to lunch and it was only another few minutes until his relief showed up and he could go eat. He forgot about the window within seconds.
She moved to the doorway and cracked the door open. She could hear voices coming from the other room. She leaned against the wall to listen…She heard her name and then something about sending Joanne and someone named Danny away to San Diego to see Joanne’s parents. She heard John’s voice and licked her lips in anticipation of being with the man who would someday become her lover…Willingly or unwillingly. She imagined his body pressed against her own as it had been with the dark haired beauty on the deck…His hands tangled in her blonde hair as he kissed her and made love to her. She felt a warmth begin to grow in her stomach and her cheeks felt on fire…She shook her head to push the thought away…Soon…Soon.
She’d kidnap him again if she had to and the girl…? Well she could be used in the same way Joanne had if necessary…John was so predictable…He’d do anything to protect someone else…Especially someone he cared for. She hoped she wouldn’t need to resort to that but she would if she had too.
Johnny and Danella followed Chet inside to the living room where the rest of the crew was gathered. He heard his friends discussing Gayle Markson’s escape. He consciously made note of where each voice was coming from.
Good to see you Johnny,” each one greeted.
John turned his head to the left. “Hey Marco…” The Latino’s mouth dropped in shock.
John’s moved on…His eyes landing squarely on Hanks face. “Afternoon Cap…” He followed by turning to the right. “Hi Mike.”
They gasped in amazement as they stared dumbfounded at their blind friend. Each was wondering if Johnny had got his sight back and was just teasing them before sharing the news.
Roy laughed. “Why you little show off,” he teased.
“How’d you do that?” Cap asked.
“John grinned. “I just listened real careful when I came in.”
“So Gage I guess it’s true that your other senses get better when you lose your sight?” Chet asked.
“No it’s not true,” Johnny replied. “They’re not better…I’m just more aware of them.”
“Oh…,” he murmured, not really sure he understood.
Danella found them a place to sit and snuggled against John’s side. He slid his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.
“So how are you John?” Hank asked.
“I’m doin a lot better Cap. I guess I just needed to accept that I could stay this way and that if I do all I’ve really lost is my sight and my job…The things that really matter won’t go away. Danella, my family,” he said turning his head to where Roy was sitting beside him. “My friends,” he added turning back to face the crew. “And I can always learn to do something else,” he said stoically but his brown eyes reflected a deep sorrow at the loss of his ability to be a paramedic.
Danella’s hand rested on John’s cheek, caressing it gently. “Don’t give up hope my love. It’ll come back…We have to believe it will come back.”
John nodded as she reached up to place a gentle kiss on his lips. The others grinned at the couple. Chet and Marco heaved a sigh of envy at Gage’s luck.
“Roy said you’re still having headaches John?” Cap questioned.
“Yeah…Some of them are pretty bad…I’ll ask Brackett about them tomorrow.”
“Roy told us about Gayle…I’m sorry John.”
“Yeah…We’re sending Joanne and Dani to Joanne’s parents in San Diego. They’ll be safe there.”
“Man this just isn’t right,” Mike said angrily. “After everything Johnny’s been through and now to have to send Dani away too…It’s just not fair.”
The others nodded in agreement. “Do they have any further word on her whereabouts? Hank asked.
“No Cap…They don’t even know for sure that she’ll come here. She may just move on,” Johnny said hopefully.
From her vantage point Gayle giggled. “I’ll move on Johnny…Once I have you. I’ll take you far, far away where they’ll never find you. I’ll never let you go and you’ll forget that little tart you were with and Joanne DeSoto. She’d make him forget both women.
She continued to listen to the good humored exchange between the close knit crew. How she hated these men who’d stood shoulder to shoulder with Johnny against her…It was their fault…They’d kept him from her. If they’d have done what they should have, John would have been alone and disgraced. Roy would have been dead and nothing would have come between her and John but they’d broken the rules. Maybe once she had John she’d come back here and make them pay.
She shook herself back to awareness once more as John’s voice was heard, making her long to touch him…Too hold him. She’d have to make her plans carefully to get him out of here. The Officer outside was a problem…She’d have to figure out a way around him or through him if necessary. She once again became lost in her thoughts.
Suddenly the object of her affection suddenly came into view. She gasped as his head turned in her direction. She waited fearfully for him to react to her but he didn’t and then Chet Kelly’s back view blocked her vision. She quietly closed the door. How had Johnny not seen her? Maybe he had and had simply chosen not to reveal her presence. She grinned in delight at that thought. Maybe he was glad she was here after all. She was now very confused…She didn’t know what to do. She decided her best course was to wait and watch for the opportunity. If he was happy she was back then he’d willingly go with her and if not…Well he’d learn to be happy.
Johnny and the others continued their conversation. “I’m gonna get something to drink,” John said standing up. “Anyone else want anything?”
The others looked at each other in surprise for a moment. “Uh John,” Cap began uncertainly.
“I’ll get it for you Ná’méhόt,” Dani volunteered.
“I can do it,” he said defensively.
Roy beamed at the words. He knew he’d find this side of his little brother if he could just break through his depression. Danella stood but Roy shook his head and waved her back into her seat. “Let him do it Dani…He needs the practice.”
Chet looked at Roy in surprise. “I’ll help you John,” he said as he followed his young friend into the kitchen as Roy shook his head in amusement. John walked unerringly to the cabinet…His fingers found a glass which he set on the counter. Chet stepped to the pass through of the dining room to watch him…Neither noticed the blonde woman in the doorway to Johnny’s bedroom.
John went to the refrigerator and found the milk bottle. He lined his finger along the edge of the glass and raised the lip of the cup until it met the mouth of the bottle and began to pour. Chet caught his breath as it neared the top but John stopped just as the liquid brushed his skin. The Irishman had to admit…He was impressed. “You sure you don’t want anything?” Johnny asked with a grin.
“No Johnny but thanks,” Chet said as John made his way back to the living room. Roy smiled as he sat beside him. The pride in his face was unmistakable…Just as proud as he would have been if this had been Chris or Jen.
John smiled as he felt the light brush of Roy’s hand on the back of his head. He didn’t have to see to know…The touch was enough but the words when they came almost brought tears to his eyes. “I’m so proud of you,” Roy whispered.
Danella curled against him as John slid his arm around her and sipped his milk.
The crew left a short time later. Roy assured them that he’d be back on duty the day after tomorrow but they could tell that he was reluctant to leave Johnny. Before Joanne and Danella would have been there but now however…John would be alone in the house. Roy knew the officer was right outside and Oliver Kendall and his driver would be there for several hours during the day but he was still nervous.
There was just way to many possibilities for accidents and added to that worry was Gayle Markson on the loose. Roy could only hope that she was far, far away but he didn’t believe she’d leave without making an attempt to get to John and that scared Roy to death.
After dinner Joanne headed upstairs to get the children their baths and get them ready for bed while Roy saw his shift mates out. Johnny kissed Danella goodnight and she threw a wink at Roy as she headed up the stairs.
Well Junior, you put on quite a show. They were really impressed with what they saw. Not bad for only a week of being out of the hospital.” From total despair to hope… It was a journey Roy had known Johnny would make once he overcame his fears. His best friend didn’t know the meaning of the word quit.
Johnny grinned at his partner. “I guess it was the easiest way to be sure they didn’t worry about me and that I was gonna be fine.” Roy reached out and took John’s hand. He placed his partner’s fingers against his mouth as he smiled broadly. John grinned at him. “You’re smiling,” he said.
“I am so incredibly proud of you Junior.”
“Thanks pally…That means a lot to me.”
Roy affectionately scruffed his partners sable hair… “Go to bed…”
“Make sure Dani’s back in her own…”
“I know…Before the kids or Jo wake up.” John headed for his room as Roy shut down the lights. Johnny didn’t need them anyway.
Gayle heard the crew leave. She made her way quickly to the window and slid outside. She sat waiting in the bushes for one more glimpse of John. She was rewarded as he came into the room but she thought it was a bit odd that he didn’t turn the lights on. Fortunately the moonlight was bright enough to get a clear view as John began to strip off his clothes.
Gayle could hardly contain herself as he tossed his shirt aside and began to pull his jeans off. She chewed her lip…Should she make her presence known or remain silent and wait until she had a plan in place…After all, they could only watch Johnny for so long before they’d have to give it up…But what if Johnny HAD seen her earlier and knew she was there…Was this little strip show for her benefit? Should she let him know she was outside watching him?
She’d almost convinced herself that John knew she was there watching him hungrily, after all he’d looked right at her. He’d have had to have been blind not to have seen her. The door opened quietly and the beautiful girl from the deck slipped inside.
“Dani,” Johnny breathed softly.
“Yes Ná’méhόt…,” she whispered moving into John’s arms. His mouth closed over hers and he groaned softly as her lips parted beneath his. His arms slid around her, pulling her silk clad body against him.
Gayle’s teeth gritted in rage... How could he do this to her? She loved him and he’d turned to someone else without even thinking of her while she’d been locked away in that vile institution.
John pulled his mouth free. “God…What am I gonna do without you until this is over?”
"It’s only for two weeks mé’oo’o and then soon we’ll have our whole lives together.”
Gayle gasped sharply at that pronouncement…Did the girl mean what it sounded like? The nurse at the institution had mentioned something about him getting married but she’d still been a bit vague at that point.
John’s head swiveled in her direction. “Did you hear something?” He asked Danella.
“Only the pounding of my heart,” she teased.
“I just wish the Hutchin’s lived closer.”
“The Hutchin’s?” She questioned.
“San Diego’s so far away.”
“I know and I’d much rather stay with you but Joanne said I could be used as a weapon against you?”
Gayle smiled evilly. She was already planning how to use this girl as an assurance for John’s good behavior. It would please her no end to make this girl watch as she exacted her punishment on Johnny for straying… She’d carve her name on him as she’d carved his name on her own thigh. He wouldn’t forget again and this girl would know in no uncertain terms that John belonged to her.
Gayle continued to watch…Her violet eyes slitted in rage as Johnny claimed the girl’s mouth, halting further conversation. His fingers hooked in the straps of the black silk nightgown and slid them from her shoulders. The gown slipped down, catching briefly on the girls hips before continuing on to pool at her feet.
“I’m gonna miss you…,” he whispered between kisses that trailed down the girls neck to her shoulders. His hands brought a gasp from Dani’s mouth as they trailed up her body to stop at her breasts…His mouth traveled downward to join them.
“I will miss you too my love,” she whispered breathlessly. “But as soon as school ends we’ll be married and this won’t ever have to end.”
“Oh no Johnny…You’ll never marry this girl, I’ll see to that,” Gayle muttered.
She looked back in time to see John’s boxers join the girl’s nightgown. John grinned and led the girl to the bed… “There will never be another woman Dani…I’ll always love you,” he said softly as he pushed her gently onto the mattress…She reached up to take his hand and pull him down to her. He slid into her beckoning arms.
“Damn you,” Gayle mumbled as she watched him give to this child what he’d denied her. “I am sorry my darling,” she sing songed. “But you’ve sealed her fate…She has to die…I can’t let her live…Not even to control you.” She rose on tip toe once again to peek through the window. The couple lay entwined on the bed…The moonlight played over bare flesh as they gently caressed each other…Kissing softly…The girls soft cries and moans caused her teeth to clench in rage once more…“Enjoy him while you can,” she mumbled. “Soon Johnny…Soon.” She moved away from the house…She had plans to make.
Dani’s not in Jen’s room,” Joanne said to Roy as he stepped out of the bathroom.
Roy glanced down with a slightly guiltily expression. “Ahh…She’s with Johnny,” he murmured.
Her foot tapped in annoyance and her arms folded across her chest. “How long has this been going on?”
“Just the last two nights…But Jo he’s been adamant about keeping hands off ya know? Well…Not completely probably…,” he stammered out.
“It’s not his HANDS I’m worried about.”
“They’re both consenting adults Jo,” Roy tried again.
“I promised her father Roy…”
“And so did Johnny and he meant it. You know he’s a man of his word even if it kills him. They’re just sleeping together…But not,” Roy corrected, sighing in frustration at her raised eyebrow. “Besides you’ll be taking her away for two weeks,” he shrugged. “They needed the time together.”
Joanne spun on her heel and headed downstairs. Roy drew a deep breath and followed.
Danella woke curled in John’s arms. Her legs twined about his and her head resting on his bare chest. His arms were wrapped securely about her…Her hair falling in a dark cloud that covered them both. She remembered the night before and kissed John’s stomach softly…She felt the muscles tighten almost instantly…His body reacting automatically to her touch. His eyes flew open and a slow smile curled his lips as Dani’s mouth trailed kisses up his chest to close over his mouth…Sliding over until her body lay full length on top of his.
John groaned as his hands played over her back, pressing her body against his. Their mouths met and parted and then met again. “Make love to me Johnny,” She pleaded against his lips.
He pulled his mouth away and closed his dark eyes in frustration but he shook his head. “When I can see you…”
“But what if that never happens?” She asked in disappointment.
“It will…It has too. I want to see you…Dani please…Besides I did promise…But,” he kissed her again. “Would you be willing to move the wedding date up to say…February, when you come here to stay and do your clinicals?”
She squealed with joy and kissed him excitedly over and over all across his face until he crushed her against him to still her wiggles that were driving him insane. He locked his mouth with hers to contain the excited laughter but finally rolled her under him. The squirming stopped to be quickly replaced by desire. John kissed her softly before suddenly realizing he could feel the heat from the sun on his bare back. He raised himself up on his elbows. “What time is it?” He asked worriedly.
“Oh Ná’méhόt,” she gasped as if they were children caught with their hands in a cookie jar. “It’s after seven.”
“Oh man,” he groaned. “Jo and the kids will be down any minute. You need to get outta here.”
She kissed him again as he rolled off of her and climbed out of bed, scooping her gown from the floor and sliding it over her head. “I’ll see you soon na’mehoht.” She opened the door and stopped short, coming face to face with Joanne.
Danella’s startled gasp alerted Johnny who flipped the covers over his bare hips. Danella’s eyes met Jo’s unashamedly and she grinned. “He’s kept his word…Again,” she whispered as she slipped past Jo. The auburn haired woman watched her go and then turned back to John.
“Breakfast’s in fifteen minutes sweetheart. You still have time for a cold shower,” she told him tartly.
John flushed scarlet but he grinned in Joanne’s direction knowing she was letting it go. “I’ll be right out.” He waited for her to close the door before climbing from the bed and gathering his clothes. He tossed a robe on and made his way to the bathroom to shower before joining the family at the table.
Roy was already seated. “Mornin Junior,” he said drily.
“Uh…Mornin Roy,” he mumbled, his head turned toward his friend…An embarrassed quirk played on his lips. Roy’s deep chuckle broke the tension and Johnny began to giggle.
“Alright you two,” Joanne said sternly as she placed a plate in front of both of them. She gripped John’s chin and turned his face toward her. “You are impossible and you’re giving me a nervous breakdown trying to keep you two apart,” she said as she brushed a kiss on his lips in greeting.
“I promise you Joanne…Just like I promised her father. I won’t do anything until we’re married but…,” he added cutting off her relieved sigh. “We have moved the wedding up to February.”
“What? Oh Johnny that’s wonderful,” she said as she wrapped her arms around the grinning young man.
“Congratulations junior,” Roy said with a smirk. “Maybe you’ll make it through after all.”
“You told them?” Danella asked as she came into the room.
John nodded. “It’ll give you and Joanne something to do while you’re in San Diego for two weeks.”
“Don’t remind me Ná’méhόt,” she groaned softly. “The idea of being away from you even for a day…”
John turned his face toward her, knowing from her hesitation that she was watching him. She leaned down to kiss him.
“Yeeww…” Two giggly small voices came from behind them as Dani took her seat. John’s arms snaked out with surprisingly good aim to snag both children and pull them close as his fingers tickled them into fits of giggles.
Breathless, Jen wrapped small arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. “Uncle Johnny,” she admonished, “You make me not be able to breathe.”
“You do that to me too,” Dani whispered.
John grinned as the little girl continued without understanding the reference. “I’m glad you’re back to normal Uncle Johnny.”
John pulled the little girl tight against him. “Me too baby.” Chris gave his Uncle a quick embarrassed hug around the neck before moving to greet his parents. John turned toward Roy, somehow knowing those blue eyes were on him.
“Me too,” Roy said softly as his fingers lightly touched John’s arm. John grinned and began to eat.
After breakfast Roy and the two women carried the luggage downstairs. It had been a battle as an embarrassed Johnny had wanted to help but they knew he wasn’t ready to manage the stairs without the use of his hands. The vision of Johnny tumbling down the steps was too much for Roy. He’d sat him forcefully in a chair. “Sit,” he ordered. “You can help us get them in the car later.”
John had heaved a frustrated sigh. “FINE…”
A short time later they brought it all out to Joanne’s station wagon. Another police cruiser pulled up behind the first. “What do they want?” Jo asked Roy as the officer climbed out and headed up the walk.
“Who…?” John asked as his head turned, trying to hear what Joanne saw.
“Another policeman just got here sweetheart…He’s coming over here,” she informed him.
“Mr. DeSoto, Mr. Gage…Ladies. Um could we talk without the kids around?”
“Jen…Chris. Go get the toys you’re taking to grandmas,” Roy told them. They glanced at the policeman but ran to do what they were told. Roy turned back to the officer.
“I’m Officer Yates. I’ll be escorting your family to San Diego just to be on the safe side. Once they’re there they should be safe enough. I’m just going to be sure no one’s following you,” he assured them at the concerned looks that passed between them.
They nodded. “Okay,” Roy agreed.
“It um…Might be good if you went with them Mr. Gage.” The officer hinted.
“What’s wrong?” Roy asked hearing the subtle hesitation in the man’s voice.
“They found a man’s body in the woods north of here.”
“Yeah…I heard that on the news,” Roy said.
“Several people have come forward to say they thought that they saw this man pick up a female hitchhiker…Well at least the car matched…They couldn’t really see the driver…The car wasn’t found.”
Roy’s heart sank as he looked at his partner but he continued on. “And the girl…?”
“She fit the description of Gayle Markson.”
Jo and Dani gasped fearfully, their eyes turning to Johnny. He looked sad, knowing this young man was killed because of this woman’s obsession with him. “It wasn’t your fault baby,” Jo said softly as she swept the dark hair from his forehead.
“They think she’s coming here?” Roy asked.
“From her general direction so far…Yes.”
“From her general direction…?” Roy asked in confusion.
“They also found a woman attacked in her home not far north of where they found the man…She’s in a coma…”
“Oh man,” Johnny whispered despondently.
Roy reached out to steady him. “She’s responsible Junior not you.” John nodded hesitantly. “What connection does she have with this?”
“We found a Fresno County institution’s blouse in the home…The only thing missing was a shirt and some money.”
“She tried to kill her for a blouse?” Dani breathed in shocked horror that anyone could be so cold.
Their eyes turned to Johnny who was standing there silently. “Officer Yates? You are aware that my partner is blind. How safe is he gonna be?” Roy asked worriedly.
“Well we have an officer outside at all times…That’s all we can really do. We would much rather have him in custody somewhere.”
John knew from Roy’s silence that he was seriously considering the officers suggestion. “NO,” he protested adamantly.
“Look Johnny,” Roy began.
“No you look…I didn’t do anything wrong…That’s what you all keep tellin me…I’m not gonna be locked up like a prisoner.”
“But mé‘oo’o…” Dani began.
“No Dani…” The girl was beginning to learn that stubborn set to John’s jaw…He wouldn’t give in no matter what.
“Okay my love…We’ll do it your way.”
A pair of violet eyes watched the group from across the street…She smiled softly. “Oh no my darling…You can send her away but it won’t save her…You’re going to watch her die and I’ll be there to soothe your grief,” she whispered insanely. San Diego…That’s where he was sending her…She’d heard him last night…To Joanne’s parents. “I’ll find you Dani and I’ll bring you back here so you can say goodbye,” she giggled but her eyes narrowed spitefully as she watch Johnny take the girl in his arms.
John turned to Danella. “I guess it’s time.”
“I’d rather stay…To make sure you are safe.”
“I’m safer with you and Joanne and the children well away from here. I don’t know what I’d do if she took you…Any of you.”
Dani’s finger’s gently brushed the hair from Johnny’s face. “Néméhotâtse,” she whispered.
“I love you too,” he said softly as he kissed her tenderly. Her arms circled his neck.
Roy grinned as he turned to Joanne. “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks…Hopefully by then she’ll have either made a move or gotten caught.” She nodded.
“You look after him,” she admonished gently. “And yourself… She wouldn’t hesitate to kill you if you got between her and Johnny.”
“I know that.”
“I mean it Roy…I couldn’t bear to lose you…Besides you started something the other day that I’m looking forward to you finishing mister,” Joanne reminded him, hugging her husband fiercely. She kissed him hard before pulling away with tears in her eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you too…you better get going.” Jo nodded as they all climbed into the car. John leaned in to give Dani one final kiss before he closed the door. Joanne backed out and drove away…Officer Yates pulled out behind her and followed them down the street.
“Let’s go back inside Junior…You need to get ready for your lesson and then I need to take you to Rampart.”
“Yeah…,” he replied sadly.
“C’mon Junior…At least they’re safe…” John nodded as Roy took his arm and led him toward the house. “I wish you’d let them tuck you away somewhere.”
“Then we’ll never know if she’s gone or just waiting somewhere.”
Roy looked at him sharply…Turning John to face him as his hand came up to hold John’s face… “Don’t even think about making yourself accessible or the offer to lock you in your room still stands.” Roy warned.
John grinned. “I won’t…Directly but she is insane, She might still try for me right here and then the cops can get her.”
Roy looked at him suspiciously. “I don’t like the way you’re thinkin Junior.”
“Relax pally…I promise, I’m not gonna sneak out but I won’t hide either.”
Roy and Johnny greeted Oliver and Lenny. “I take it from the quiet that the children and your ladies have gone” Oliver asked.
“Yeah,” they answered in unison.
He laughed. “Is that what makes you such a good team?” He asked.
“Yeah it is,” Johnny answered with a grin in his partner’s direction.
“And did you get in much practice with seeing with your hands,” he teased.
“Yeah I did…I was getting pretty good at it too before she left.”
They shared another laugh before Oliver clapped his hands together. “Okay then…Let’s get to work.”
Johnny had several lessons in day to day living…Making his bed…folding and hanging his clothes while Oliver explained how they needed to be tagged to tell the color of everything so John could dress himself properly. How to fold his money a certain way to know what was in his wallet. After several hours John’s head was spinning trying to remember it all. He drew his hand over his eyes and then rubbed the back of his head. Roy could tell that the headache that had plagued him since the accident was back. He looked toward Oliver’s companion. He nodded and spoke softly to Oliver.
“Okay John…I think that’s enough for today. “We’ll try some new things tomorrow.”
“Look Oliver,” Roy said quietly. “I’m not going to be here tomorrow…I’m on duty, so the longer you two are here the better I’ll feel. I hate leaving Johnny alone, especially with that crazy woman runnin around out there waiting to get a hold of him.”
Oliver nodded. “We’ll stay a while longer than usual Roy.”
“Oh and don’t forget to tell John who it is cuz he won’t open the door unless you do, will you John?”
Johnny heaved a martyred sigh. “No dad…I won’t open the door.” The other’s chuckled but Roy stayed serious. John could sense his eyes on him. “I mean it okay Roy?” He snapped. Oliver frowned once again at the surly tone but Roy said nothing. John sighed. “I’ll make sure,” John promised sincerely. “I’ll be careful.”
“Okay,” the older man finally gave in and looked away. “Johnny has a doctor’s appointment in half an hour…So I guess we should go.”
Oliver and Lenny shook hands with them and headed for the door. Roy and John followed. They stood talking in the driveway for a few minutes. “By the way John…You really should were sunglasses when you’re outside.”
“You may be blind but the sun can still damage your eyes, also you can’t see to close them if something comes at you. You should wear them whenever you’re out for that reason.”
“Oh…Okay…I’ll think about it.”
They climbed into their respective vehicles and drove away. The police car pulled out behind Roy’s Porsche and followed them up the street.
Gayle watched the house taking note of two men who arrived a short time later…One of them obviously blind as he carried a red tipped white cane. His driver had led him to the door and he was unchallenged by the officer so it was someone Roy and John knew well. “I wonder what they’re doing here?” She muttered to herself as they disappeared inside.
They were there for several hours before they emerged. Roy and John waved goodbye before they climbed into their car and drove away. Roy assisted his young friend into his Porsche before climbing into the driver’s seat. He backed out of the driveway…The police car followed him up the street.
Joanne had been driving for a while when she finally glanced toward Danella. “So you moved up the wedding date?” She asked.
“Yes…As soon as I get out of school in Montana,” she said excitedly.
“That’s wonderful Dani…Um I know it’s none of my business really but…”
“We don’t HAVE to Jo.”
The older woman blushed. “That’s wasn’t what I was going to ask but it’s good to know that Johnny kept his word…I know that must have been tough for him.”
“And me,” she added with a grin. “But what were you going to ask?”
“Well I…I just didn’t know what kind of wedding you were planning to have…Our traditional type…Indian…A justice of the peace?”
“Why wouldn’t that be any of your business?” Dani asked looking genuinely perplexed.
“Well it’s something you usually plan with your mother and sometimes with the groom’s mom or even your close friends or at least that’s how we do it.”
“We do as well but the groom’s mother usually has plenty of input and then John would move in with my family after the wedding…To be sure he was a good provider and that he wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Johnny’ll love that,” Jo laughed.
“Oh he knows the custom but my Father is well aware that it’s not possible,” she replied. She continued to look at Joanne curiously.
“What?” Jo finally asked.
“I assumed you had something to suggest.”
“Well it’s not my place.”
Danella laughed in surprise. “Joanne…John suggested that you help me plan my wedding while we’re away for a reason.”
“Joanne…Johnny knows the customs of our people as well.” She waited for Joanne to understand but she still cast a blank look toward the girl. What was Danella waiting for? John’s mother was dead and it was up to her and her family to plan this wedding.
Dani smiled gently. “Jo…Don’t you know that you and Roy are the closest thing Johnny has to parents. That’s how he feels about you.”
Joanne’s eyes filled with tears. “Really…? I know he thinks of me as his sister most of the time.”
“Oh Joanne…He thinks of you both ways…He loves you two so much…Looks up to you and your relationship with Roy as a model for what he wants. Why do you think he worries so much about pleasing you or making you proud of him? Do you think my father is the only thing holding him back?”
Jo brushed a tear from her eye. “I’m always proud of him and I guess I have teased him about being my third child and he’s jokingly called Roy and I mom and dad a couple of times…”
“He wasn’t joking Joanne…Oh he covers it up with a joke but when he talks about you…All of you…He lights up. That day in the emergency room when you first came in…I saw it clearly. You held him…Called him baby and your boy.” Tears slipped from Jo’s blue eyes and her mouth trembled. “You mean so much to him.”
She wiped at her eyes. “He means a lot to us too,” she admitted with a sniffle.
“I know that.”
“Are we gonna get to come to your wedding too?” Jen asked from the back.
“Of course you are. I planned to have you as my flower girl. Your Uncle Johnny could never get married without his princess.”
“Then you’ll be my Aunt Dani?”
“Of course you can.”
“Me too…?” Chris asked shyly. Danella nodded with a grin.
The children beamed and began to talk about the wedding and Jen began to dream about being a flower girl.
Dani looked back to Joanne. “But you still haven’t told me what you wanted Jo?”
“Oh it was nothing big…I just wanted to offer you my pearls that I wore to my wedding…I mean if you were planning a traditional wedding. You know ‘something borrowed.”
“I don’t know the custom but I’d be honored to accept that offer. Maybe you can explain these customs and we’ll figure out what’s best from there.”
“But what about your mom…?”
“She’s already talked to me. She knows that a traditional Indian wedding isn’t likely since it will be held here,” she said sadly, knowing that many of her friends and family would be unable to attend. Jo looked at her sympathetically.
“We’ll come up with something beautiful and your mother will be very pleased.” Jo drove on.
John’s cane created a soft tapping sound as he entered Ramparts emergency entrance. Roy held firmly to John’s arm, steering him carefully around obstacles. Several nurses, doctors and other paramedics stopped him briefly to talk and wish him well…Some were obviously uncomfortable at first with the brown eyes that were so abnormally still.
John smiled and laughed with them setting them at ease and letting them know he’d come to grips with this. After four and a half weeks of blindness he was coping and making plans for a future. The brown eyes may have been still but they twinkled with life. The others left smiling. They approached the base station where Dixie stood handling several small crisis’s.
“Hi Dixie…” At the sound of that well loved and dearly missed voice, the pretty blonde nurse’s head snapped up.
“Johnny,” she said happily as she came around the corner of the base station to wrap him in a hug. “Look at you,” she said a she took his face between her hands and lifted his head to look into smiling brown eyes. “You look great.”
John shrugged with a grin. “I’ll have to take your word for that one.”
“Trust me,” she said.
“I do. Sounds busy in here today…”
“It is.” The older nurse turned to John’s ever present companion. “Hi Roy…”
“So how’s he really doing?” She asked teasingly.
“He’s doin great…We’re both learning how to do everything…Though he picks it up much faster than I do.”
“I have to,” he replied testily. “You still rely on your eyes,” John pointed out with an irritable shrug. Roy looked a bit hurt but gave Dixie a small smile.
“Is that how you knew I was here or did Roy tell you?” She asked trying to change the subject.
Johnny grinned. “It’s your perfume…It’s a very soft scent but I’ve smelled it for years …I just never really thought about it but I associate it with you.”
“See what I mean?” Roy asked.
“Is that what they taught you?” Dix asked.
“No…It’s just something I’ve figured out. Sometimes it’s a scent or the way someone walks. I always know when it’s Roy or Joanne or Dani now.”
She reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from John’s face. “I’ve missed you handsome.”
“I’ve missed you all too.”
Dixie finally noticed the officer standing close by. “Can I help you?” She asked.
“No Ma’am,” he replied with a nod toward Johnny.
“He’s with us Dix…Uh…Johnny’s in protective custody.”
“What? But why…?”
“Why what…?” Kel asked coming up behind them. “Hey guys…How are you?” He greeted. He was talking to both of them but he raised a questioning eyebrow at Roy as he laid his hand on John’s shoulder.
“We’re good doc…Both of us, right Johnny?”
“Never better,” he said.
Kel grinned. “That’s good to hear,” he said patting John’s shoulder. “But now to answer my question…Why what…?”
Dixie wants to know why Johnny has an officer trailing him. Come on and I’ll tell you while you examine Johnny. They moved toward treatment room one. The officer followed and took up a position outside the door.
Gayle Markson made a slow circuit around the house. It certainly appeared empty and there didn’t seem to be anyone around watching it either. She slipped through the backyard to John’s window…It was still cracked open. She raised it enough to hoist her slender body inside. She peeked out the door into the silent house and then began to move stealthily through. She entered the kitchen. Her search there produced a carving knife. She slid her finger along the edge producing a drop of blood. She smiled and took it with her.
She moved through the house searching through drawers as she went. A small table by the door produced a few photographs and some other items of interest. Gayle smiled at a small framed photograph of Johnny on one of the shelves. He was leaning against the squad with his arms folded across his chest and smiling broadly at Roy as he’d taken the picture. She tucked it in her pocket and moved on.
She made her way upstairs. She looked into Chris’s room, realizing there was nothing there to help her she continued on. She looked into Jen’s room. Several items there caught her eye. A bottle of perfume…She picked it up and sniffed the contents. Not her kind of scent…This was soft…not the strong scent she prefered but obviously Johnny liked it, she reminded herself spitefully as she remembered the couple on the bed from last night. She poured some on her hand and dabbed it on before wiping her hands over the ragged shorts. She set the bottle down and looked into the closet. Several items hung there that didn’t belong to the little girl or Joanne. They obviously belonged to the beautiful dark haired girl.
She fingered the material, resisting the urge to rip them from the hangers in a jealous rage. She held them against her…They were too small for her to wear and she returned them to the closet and closed the door. She made her way to the master bedroom…She poked through Joanne’s closet finding a pretty lavender blouse and a pair of jeans that should fit. She grabbed a windbreaker off the hanger and took it as well. She changed quickly stuffing the blood stained blouse and ragged shorts into the very back corner of the closet. By the time anyone found them she and John would be long gone.
She shuffled through the dresser drawers and then moved to the nightstand. She found a few dollars and stuffed them in her pocket. She picked up the address book and began to shuffle through it. She flipped to the H’s and her mouth twisted in glee. Hutchins, Ron and Arlene. “Well, well…Hi mom and dad,” she giggled as she ripped the page from the book. “480 Baker St, San Diego, Ca” she mumbled. She stuffed it into her pocket.
She had what she’d come for and she picked up the knife and headed back downstairs. She was almost to John’s room when she heard the key in the lock. She froze briefly and then quickly ducked through the door as Johnny and Roy came in.
You mean to tell me that she just walked out?” Kel asked in outrage.
“Yeah Doc and they’re pretty sure she’s heading this way. She’s leaving a trail of bodies,” Roy said drily.
Kel flashed his penlight into John’s eyes, noting a minor reaction to the light. He shook his head at Roy.
John heard the silence. “Not good huh…?”
“Not as good as I’d like to see by now but there was definitely some reaction and that’s good.”
“Oh,” he mumbled sounding disappointed.
“Johnny don’t…I said it’s good and everyone heals at their own speed so relax and give it some more time.”
“Ah Doc…The other night he had some flashes of light and color,” Roy told him.
“How long did it last Johnny?”
“A few seconds…”
“Did it reoccur?”
“Okay…Well it very well could be that the nerves are trying to heal themselves and your vision is trying to return. Let me know if it happens again though.”
“He’s still having headaches,” Roy told the doctor. John rolled his eyes at Roy’s almost parental discourse with the doctor.
“Which I would have told you about myself except my father here beat me to it,” Johnny growled.
Roy blushed a bit but Dixie and Kel both laughed as Brackett patted John’s shoulder. “It’s always been that way John…He’s pretty fond of you.”
It was John’s turn to look a little embarrassed for being such a grouch…“No he isn’t Doc…” Surprised silence fell over the other three. John grinned knowing he’d floored them …He could feel their shocked gaze resting on him…“He loves me,” he corrected. They all laughed again.
“They may recur until you’re completely healed but I’ll mention it to Dr. Fisher. He may want to do another skull series now that the swelling has gone down…In the meantime I’ll get you another prescription for pain pills.”
“Why don’t I buy you a cup of coffee before you go?”
“Sure Doc.” John jumped from the table and reached for Roy. His partner grinned and took his arm.
“Let’s go junior.” They walked to the Doctor’s lounge, Johnny relying on Roy to steer him through the corridors while John kept a running count in his head. He listened to sounds he’d never noticed before, noted scents he’d never paid attention to and cataloged them in his mind for future reference.
“Coffee Johnny…?” Dixie asked.
“Yeah please…But I can get it myself.”
Kel and the blonde nurse glanced at Roy who smiled proudly back at them and nodded.
“Okay hotshot…Give it a try,” she told him.
“John located a mug and felt along the counter to the large silver container of coffee. He found the spigot, placing the far side of the cup against it and holding the handle of the mug, dropped his thumb slightly over the rim. He pushed the handle.
Dixie grinned as John stopped the flow just under his thumb. He turned toward where he remembered the table being. Roy mentally judged the distance. “Four steps Junior.” John walked to the table…His hand reached out only at the last step. He found the back of the chair and sat down.
“I’m very impressed Johnny,” Kel said. The younger man grinned.
“You keep that up and you’ll be on your own again in no time,” Dixie promised him.
“Yeah…He’s been pretty tough to have around,” Roy teased.
“Thanks a lot pally.”
Roy chuckled. “Seriously though…I go back on duty tomorrow and I really hate the idea of him being alone.”
“Maybe I could take the day off,” Dixie suggested.
John frowned, hating the idea that he needed a baby sitter. “No way,” He protested. “Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the time with ya Dix but I’m not an invalid and I can take care of myself.” They’d all heard that song before. At their silence he amended… “Well usually.” They all laughed. “Anyway Oliver and Lenny will be there part of the day and my shadow…,” he said hooking his thumb toward the door where the officer stood outside. “I’ll be okay.”
Joe Early and Mike Morton walked in. They spotted Johnny and Roy and came over to say hello. “Hey what’s with the cop out there?” Mike asked.
They spent a few minutes rehashing the tale before Roy finally turned to John. “Are you about ready Junior? I still have some work to do around the house.”
“Yeah I’m ready,” he replied as he climbed to his feet. “It was nice to…See you,” he said after a moment’s hesitation. They looked at each other, not sure if he was upset or teasing until he grinned. “It’s okay. Oliver’s teaching me to see with my ears, nose and fingers…”
“He was getting pretty good with it too until Dani left,” Roy teased.
They chuckled but it stopped as they watched him worriedly...Praying his sight would return and he’d be able to come back. “Dixie…?” John questioned.
John turned toward her…His fingers found her face she stood quietly and as his thumbs traced over her brows and his fingers touched her mouth. “You’re frowning…Please don’t…You’ll get wrinkles,” he whispered conspiratorially as he leaned close to the pretty nurse. She playfully swatted his behind. “And now you’re smiling,” he told her as she grinned at him.
“And now I’m kissing you and going back to work,” she said kissing his cheek. She turned to leave but Roy could see tears in her blue eyes.
“We’ve got to go to.” Kel looked at Roy and mouthed the words. “Take care of him,” at the blonde man… Roy nodded.
Johnny grinned. “I can take care of myself Doc.” They all looked at Johnny in shock, even Roy.
“How’d you know what I said?” Kel asked suspiciously.
“It’s no fancy trick,” he said using Oliver’s words. “It’s customary for you to tell Roy to take care of me and when it got real quiet I assumed that’s what you were doing. I just know you all too well,” John teased.
“Get him outta here Roy,” Kel growled in mock annoyance.
Roy took John’s arm and steered him toward the door but John tossed back a parting shot. “You’re all smiling.” They grinned at each other as the door swung closed behind the two paramedics.
Roy pulled out of Ramparts parking lot. Johnny sat quietly in the passenger seat. “Where are you Junior?” he asked.
“They don’t think I’m gonna get better do they?” He asked Roy softly.
“That’s not true Johnny. They told you right up front that it could take days or weeks…”
“Or months or years,” he added quietly.
“Yeah…But they were hoping for weeks.”
“Roy? I don’t want to NOT be a paramedic,” he said plaintively.
“Believe me partner…I don’t want that either.”
“What am I gonna do if it doesn’t come back soon?”
“Well…Then it’ll be time to sit down and talk about what you can do. I know you’ll have to go back to school to do whatever you decide on.” That was a frightening thought and John frowned. “Don’t look so worried Junior…I know you’ll pick it up in no time…Just like everything you do.”
“How come you always have more faith in my abilities than I do?”
“Johnny…I know you better than anyone and over the years I’ve watched you overcome one situation after another…Personal, physical and emotional. You’ve never quit or backed away…Just pushed, clawed and dragged yourself through. I’ve learned a lot from you about perseverance over that time.”
John turned his head toward his partner. There were tears in the dark eyes. “Thanks pally.”
“That wasn’t meant to be flattering Junior…That was the truth. I know here…,” Roy said reaching over to tap John’s chest. “You’ll beat this…One way or another.” Johnny nodded and Roy raised his hand to pat his shoulder and then in an attempt to lighten the conversation he added. “So you’ve upped the wedding date huh?”
“Yeah…I didn’t think I could hold out another year with her right under my nose,” he replied with a grin. “Man…It’s been tough.”
Roy laughed. “You’ve been stronger than I would’ve been,” he teased as he pulled into his driveway. The police car pulled up in front of the house. Johnny climbed out and unfolded his cane as Roy came around to join him. They made their way toward the house. Roy unlocked the door and they stepped inside.
Johnny had a strange feeling as he entered…As if someone was there and then it was gone as quickly as it had come. They moved further into the living room before Johnny suddenly froze. “What’s wrong Junior?”
“Is Joanne’s car in the driveway?” He asked suddenly, hoping this was some kind of surprise or that they had forgotten something and had returned.
“No of course not…What’s wrong?”
“Someone’s been in the house,” he said with certainty as his head turned. He was sniffing suspiciously.
“What? What do you smell?”
“Danella’s perfume…It’s really strong.”
Roy looked at him in indecision…He could smell the faint hint of Danella’s soft perfume as well but she was probably wearing it when she left this morning and that’s what Johnny was smelling but what if it wasn’t?” He decided to trust John’s instincts.
“Okay Johnny outside…Right now,” Roy said as he quickly turned his partner and led him out the door.
“Where are we going?” The younger man protested.
Nowhere yet. We’re gonna let the police do what their here to do…Protect you,” Roy answered as he waved the officer over.
He got out of the cruiser and half ran toward them. “What’s the problem?”
“John thinks there’s someone in the house.” The officer’s eyebrow lifted skeptically at the blind man standing before him.
“Why does he think so?”
“Because I can smell my fiancée’s perfume… The smell wasn’t there when we left but it is now and it’s strong.”
The cop looked at Roy. He nodded, sure of his partner’s word. “Okay then…Let’s get you safely out of harms way then until we check it out,” he said hustling John toward his car.
“Take it easy,” Johnny protested breathlessly. “I can’t see remember?” Roy took his arm securely until they reached the vehicle.
The officer called it in… “This is One David Four…I’m at 285 Washington St. in Carson on a protective custody assignment for John Gage. We have a possible 921…Requesting backup code 3.”
“10-4 One David Four…” They heard the call go out as Roy opened the back door and sat Johnny down on the seat.
“Stay put.” John nodded as Roy hovered protectively in front of him. His blue eyes watching his house, afraid that woman had once again invaded his home and was once again threatening Johnny.
A few minutes later two more police cars arrived at the scene. The officer’s climbed out and spoke to the young patrolman assigned to John. They glanced toward where Roy and John sat and then headed for the house.
Gayle stood in Johnny’s room afraid to move. She fingered the sharp blade of the carving knife. She’d use it on Roy and take John out through the back if she had too but she really wasn’t ready…Besides if she killed Roy, John would put up a fight and trying to control him with nothing but a knife could prove difficult. He’d already shown just how resourceful he was.
She needed to find a place to hold the man until she could make him love her as much as she loved him and lastly she needed the girl. She couldn’t be left behind for John to pine for or dream about. She had to die and John needed to watch. He had to understand that he belonged to her and no other woman would have him without paying the price. John would never dare to look at another woman without remembering what had happened to this one.
She heard muffled conversation in the living room and then the door opened and closed once more. She realized they’d gone back out and breathed a sigh of relief. She slid back out the window and lowered it to its original position before running for the woods.
The four officers made their way through the house, searching it thoroughly before waving the two paramedics inside.
“Well?” Roy asked.
“There’s no one inside but your partner was right. There was an open container of perfume upstairs.” He held up the small bottle for John to sniff.
“That’s her perfume but…”
“But what Junior?”
“I can barely smell it now and its right here…Why was it so strong before?”
“Maybe it was in the air conditioning?” The officer dismissed the concern with a shrug.
“It’s not on,” Roy said.
The officer seemed annoyed. “Look there’s no one here and this bottle is open…I don’t know why it was stronger but this is obviously the cause of the scent.”
John and Roy nodded in resignation. “Okay,” John said in defeat, knowing he’d get no further with this man.
“C’mon guys,” the patrolman said to the other three.
“Thanks for your…Help,” Roy said flippantly as they left.
“Roy, settle down…Maybe they’re right and I’m just jumping at shadows. Maybe that was what I smelled,” he said with a shrug.
“Maybe but I think they could take this a bit more seriously. What do they think that other cop’s sittin out there for…Cuz he likes the view? I trust your instincts and they know some crazy nut is out there and she’d love nothing better than to get her hands on you. They'd look pretty stupid if she did because they were sloppy.”
“We don’t know that…Maybe…Maybe she’ll just give up…go away,” he said hopefully.
“Yeah…Well maybe the moon will come down and kiss you on the forehead Johnny but it isn’t likely is it?”
John grinned ruefully. “No…”
“No,” Roy agreed.“Well, we’ll just have to be real careful then Junior…And I mean it,” he said at John’s look of frustration. “I know you feel like a prisoner here but I want you safe. I want you to take extra precautions okay?”
“Keeping the house locked…Staying inside. Not answering the door without knowing who’s there.”
John sighed in defeat. “Okay Roy.”
“I mean it.”
“Good…Then how about some dinner…?”
“Sounds good,” John said as he followed his partner to the kitchen.
Roy woke early the next morning. He lay in bed for some time worrying over his partner. He hated the idea of leaving Johnny alone here. Too much could go wrong. Roy suddenly grinned, He climbed from the bed and went to shower.
Johnny woke to a pile of clothing tossed in his face. He swatted them away and rolled over quickly. “Hey…What the heck…?”
“Get dressed Junior…You’re taking a field trip.”
“Just trust me.”
John climbed from the bed. “Trust me,” he grumbled. “You’ve gone nuts you know that?”
“Too many years around you,” Roy shot back as John straightened his covers. He felt around gathering the clothing Roy had tossed at him and headed for the shower.
Roy had breakfast on the table when he came out. Cold cereal…Not as elaborate as Joanne’s breakfasts but it was filling.
“So where are we going?”
“Why the mystery…?” He complained.
“It’s a surprise.”
“What about work…Oliver…?”
“I’ll call Oliver…He can come there.”
“COME WHERE?” John yelled.
Roy chuckled. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re very impatient Junior?”
“YES…” he said adamantly.
“Are you through?” Roy asked good naturedly despite Johnny’s early morning grumpiness.
“Good …Then help me clean up and we can go. I don’t wanna be late for work.”
John heaved a frustrated sigh but got up to help his friend.
Roy pulled the Porsche to a stop twenty minutes later. The police cruiser pulled in beside him. “C’mon Junior…”
John climbed out slowly. His head tilted…Listening for familiar sounds that might tell him where he was but this early in the morning there was nothing but the sound of traffic going by. “Where are we?” He asked nervously as he unfolded his cane. He hesitantly moved forward.
The familiar sound of the refinery across the street firing up intruded as Roy took John’s arm securely in his grip. “C’mon…”
“Where at the station…”
“Yup…That was very good.”
“What are we doin here?”
“Can you think of somewhere safer other than the police station?”
“What if you get a run?”
“Then the nice officer can come in and stay with you. Oliver can come here to teach you and you’ll be with all of your friends…I’m sure Cap won’t mind.”
“I don’t know Roy, I might get in the way,” he said uncomfortably as they entered the apparatus bay.
“In the way of what…?” Hank asked as he came out of his office. “John!” He said in surprise.
“Cap…You suppose it would be a problem for Johnny to stay with us for the shift?” Roy asked.
“No of course not…That’s a great idea. The guys would love to have you.”
Cap took John’s arm and began to lead him to the rec room. “I can do it Cap,” Johnny said softly.
Hank let go throwing a glance at Roy. The blonde paramedic nodded. “Okay pal.” John’s cane tapped…He passed the rec room door. “Uh John,” he began but Roy shook his head in understanding.
John reached out his hand as the cane found the bumper of the squad. His hand caressed the gleaming red paint with all the tenderness he’d used with Dani. “I miss you,” he whispered longingly. He turned and headed unerringly for the rec room. Cap and Roy both brushed the moisture from their eyes.
His appearance in the doorway was greeted with gasps and shouts of happy surprise. “JOHNNY…”
They crowded around him, slapping him on the back and ruffling his hair until Roy rescued him from the mauling.
“Okay, Okay back off and let him breath huh?”
The eleven men from the departing B-Shift and the arriving A-Shift retreated. “It’s good to see you guys too,” Johnny said teasingly as he ran his fingers through the shaggy sable hair to smooth it.
“Sorry,” Mike said. “Why don’t you come sit down?”
“Want some coffee?” Marco asked.
“What about a donut?” Charlie Dwyer, B-Shifts senior paramedic asked.
“How are you feeling?” His partner Kurt Carlson asked.
The questions were fired at him from every direction. “C’mon guys…Give him a chance,” Roy laughed.
There were several embarrassed faces. “Sorry,” Chet said. “But what are you doin here?”
“Ask him,” Johnny said nodding at where he’d last heard Roy. “I’m just along for the ride.”
The eyes turned to Roy. “Look…He’s a target for Gayle…I have to work, I don’t want to leave him alone and I don’t trust the cops to take this seriously. So I brought him here where we could keep him safe.”
“Good idea Roy,” Mike said.
“I told him I’d be fine.”
“Shut up Gage…,” Chet said. “You’re stayin here…I’ll make his bunk up for him Cap,” Chet volunteered. Several mouths dropped open including John’s…He finally grinned. Chet blushed but stood his ground. “Well c’mon guys I miss my pigeon,” he admitted ruefully.
“Thanks Chet,” Johnny said quietly.
“But uh Kelly…Let’s leave the phantom at home this shift?” Cap suggested sternly.
“Of course Cap…That would be unfair. The phantom will wait until his pigeon can appreciate the nuances of his attack.”
John smiled. “The pigeon appreciates that…Thanks.”
They all laughed as they led John to the table. Marco got him a cup of coffee. “John…Make yourself comfortable while we do roll call and then we’ll be back,” Cap suggested.
John nodded and smiled sadly. “Sure Cap.”
“We’ll keep him company Cap,” Charlie said as the A-Shift crew headed for the apparatus bay.
“He looked so sad,” Hank said after roll call.
“I know it’s got to hurt,” Roy admitted. “This is all he wants to do ya know? And while he wants to be here…He doesn’t want it to be like this but I couldn’t think of a safer place to keep him.”
Cap nodded. “We’ll take good care of him Roy.”
“Why don’t you put him to work Cap?” Chet suggested. “It’ll make him feel like he’s still part of the team because he is ya know?” Chet said.
Cap looked thoughtful. “What can he do Roy?”
“He can make beds,” Roy suggested. “Oliver…That’s his teacher… He’s taught him how.”
“Alright then…The dorm is John’s.”
“I need to call Oliver Kendall and tell him to come here for John’s lesson.”
Roy returned a few minutes later. “It’s all set. I just need to tell our shadow what’s goin on and to come inside when we’re on a run.” Cap nodded.
He and the others went back to the rec room. They all got some coffee and joined Johnny at the table. B-shift said their goodbyes, patting John on the shoulder as they left.
“Ahem…” Cap cleared his throat. “Um John…I was thinkin since you were here pal that maybe you’d like to help the guys out.”
“Yeah…Earn your keep Gage,” Chet said snidely.
John perked up. “Sure Cap.” A grimace of pain crossed the young man’s face and John ran his hand over his eyes and then the back of his head. Roy recognized the signs.
“I’ll get your pills.”
“John?” Cap said regaining the young man’s attention. “If you wouldn’t mind…Um how about handling the dorm…? Changing the beds should be fair enough.” John nodded eagerly. “Good...Enjoy your coffee pal until we’re ready,” Cap suggested.
“Oh by the way John, this is Roy’s temporary partner while you’re out…Chuck Watson.”
“Gage,” he greeted and without thinking held out his hand.
John rose to his feet and extended his hand in the right direction. “Watson,” he replied as the other man took it. The look of stunned shock on the man’s face brought a snicker from Hank who’d long since stopped being amazed at his youngest crew member.
Chuck had been watching the crew turn themselves inside out with worry since Gage was injured and now he saw why. John was pretty impressive. The care and friendship they held for this young man was obvious especially from Roy. He knew he’d never be able to replace him.
Roy came back inside. “Well he’s not happy about it but…,” he shrugged. “He goes where Johnny goes.” He stopped behind his friend and handed him his pills and then rested his hands on John’s shoulders. “Oliver’s coming here for your lesson.”
“I’m gonna call Jo and tell them where you are in a bit. You wanna talk to Dani?”
“Good. I’ll come get ya then.”
“Okay…Oh…Cap said I could help out.”
“Putting him to work Cap?” Roy asked playing dumb.
“Only fair pal...” Roy patted John’s shoulder affectionately and went to get some coffee.
A short while later the crew watched Johnny make his way across the apparatus bay…Completely at ease with his surroundings…He was home. He whistled happily.
“That was a good idea Roy,” Cap said watching Johnny.
“For all of us,” Roy agreed.
Cap patted the younger man’s shoulder. “Lord…I really miss him,” Hank said.
“We all do Cap,” Mike added as they headed out to do their chores.
The squad was toned out shortly after they’d finished. The station crew watched John’s face as they pulled out. The longing in the still brown eyes was hard to witness.
John heard the tones sound…He tensed immediately. His first instinct was to rise and race for the squad. He forced himself to relax back in his seat and wondered if he ever lose the feeling of adrenaline rush at the sound. He could feel the eyes of the station crew on him and put a smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Habit,” he whispered softly.
Cap reached out to pat his arm. “No matter how long it takes pal…When it comes back, this is home.”
Forty minutes later the engine was toned out as well. Cap looked to be sure the officer was heading inside before the truck began to roll.
Johnny heard the footsteps of the arriving patrolman. “Want some coffee?” He offered.
John went to the stove, unerringly maneuvering around the familiar kitchen. He found a couple of mugs and poured the coffee. He brought the cups to the table and returned to bring the sugar from the counter and the milk from the refrigerator and set them on the table before he sat down. The young patrolman watched him with an amazed look but didn’t comment. “So what’s your name?” John asked sociably.
“Grayson…Officer Sean Grayson Mr. Gage…”
“Johnny,” he corrected. Grayson said nothing. John grimaced. This wasn’t going too well. “I guess it must be kinda boring sitting in a car watching a house huh?”
“Look Mr. Gage…I go where I’m told. I don’t have to like my assignment or even agree with them. I see little point in what I’m doing…Why am I watching you by the way?”
John shrugged. “I didn’t ask for a guard.”
“But it has to be done because there is a very crazy woman out there who wants to kidnap and possibly kill him.” A voice said from the entrance to the rec room. Grayson spun around at the first words but relaxed when he saw who was there.
Johnny broke into a broad grin. “Hey Vince…”
“Hi Johnny,” the older black officer greeted. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too…Well hear ya anyway,” he amended.
Vince frowned at the comment as he came into the room. “And you Officer Grayson might take this a little more seriously. Gayle Markson would like nothing better than to catch you bored with this job. We believe she’s very serious about taking Johnny and I’d take exception to that. As a matter of fact…Most officers on this beat would. John Gage is one of the finest paramedics out there and he’s a good friend as well.” John smiled.
“Was..,” Grayson corrected coolly.
“IS…,” Vince said adamantly. “Let me tell you something…If you were injured…It would be John Gage and Roy DeSoto you’d want to have show up and any officer that works this beat would tell you so.” Johnny blushed…Pleased by the comment.
“What are you doing here Vince?”
“I heard you had a change of venue that put you in my territory. I volunteered to take this watch. Thought maybe you could use a friend…”
John shot him that infamous crooked grin. “Thanks Vince.”
“You’re free to go Grayson. I’ll stay with Johnny.”
Grayson shot him a look that said he thought the older officer was nuts to want to sit around watching a blind man but he shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He got up and left.
“Can I get you some coffee Vince?”
“Sure Johnny but I’ll get it.”
“No…No. I need the practice,” John said as he stood up and as before he poured and delivered the coffee.
Vince was amazed. “Wow Johnny…I’m impressed,” he said as John returned to the coffee pot.
He found the container and sniffed the contents. He lifted it for Vince to see. “Coffee right…?”
Vince laughed. “Yeah…”
“Good. I’d hate make a pot of flour water,” he teased. “I’d never hear the end of that.” John rejoined the officer. “Any word on Gayle…?” He asked quietly.
“No…Sorry Johnny…She’s still out there somewhere but at least she hasn’t killed anyone else.”
“That you know of.”
“Yeah…And we’ve got an APB out on the car she stole. It’s only a matter of time til one of us spots it and pulls her over.”
The sound of the squad backing in halted their conversation. Roy and Chuck came in a few seconds later. “Vince!” The older blonde paramedic greeted.
“What are you doing here?”
“Volunteered for guard duty…”
“That’s great. It’ll be nice to see a friendly face.”
“So I saw.” Roy poured a cup of coffee and joined them.
Chuck followed with his own… “Good coffee,” he commented. “You make it?” He asked Vince.
“The officer chuckled. “No…You’ll have to thank Johnny for that. I just verified the contents.”
The three laughed at Chuck’s confused look. “I’ll be sure to label things in the future for you junior…For future reference.”
Chuck can you keep Vince company for a bit? I’ve got to call my wife and John’s fiancée. Let them know where he is.” They headed for Cap’s office. Vince grinned as John tapped along after Roy. How long had he watched that familiar scene? four years, he reminded himself. He said a silent prayer that John’s sight would return. It just wouldn’t be natural to see Roy with anyone else on his heels.
“How’s everything going? How are the kids?”
“Everything’s good and the kids are fine. They’re having a good time with Grandma and Grandpa.”
“What have you and Danella been up to?”
“Planning her wedding.”
“You’re helping her with that?” He asked in surprise.
Jo laughed. “Didn’t John tell you?”
“I’ll explain it to you later then but John kinda asked me too,” she said softly.
“You mean any sign of Gayle? No…But she’s the reason I called. I just wanted to let you know that Johnny’s not at home. He’s at the station with me.”
“How’s he handling that?”
Roy glanced at Johnny who was waiting impatiently to talk to Dani. “Pretty well…Maybe a bit depressed,” he said quietly. “Is Dani there?”
“Yes she’s right here.”
“Good…So is Johnny,” he said letting Joanne know he really couldn’t talk.
“I’ll give her the phone. I love you Honey.”
“I love you too. Give my love to the kids.”
“Yeah…?” Roy stepped over to take John’s arm but he shook him off. “I can do it…”
Roy sighed...He was glad to hear John say I can but he was hurt that Johnny seemed to be pushing him away. “Fine…come sit…Dani’s coming to the phone.” he said as John came around the desk. He turned him toward the chair but John shrugged him off once more.
“I’ll do it Roy,” he snapped as he felt for the chair. Roy backed away with a sigh and let John do it alone.
John’s sour mood evaporated quickly at the sound of Dani’s voice. “Hello…”
“Ná’méhόt…Oh I miss you.”
“I miss you too. So what are you and Jo doing?”
“Planning our wedding”
John smiled. “Good…She didn’t mind? I mean she understands what you were asking?”
“Yes…She was touched.” John breathed a sigh of relief. “Good…I didn’t want to impose.”
“Oh mé’oo’o…She would never feel that way. It made her cry.”
“Oh…I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
“It was a good kind. How are you feeling?”
“I’m still having headaches… Brackett gave me more pills.”
She sighed sympathetically. “How are your lessons coming?”
“Frustrating…They get more difficult all the time.”
“He has much to teach you.”
“I know and I want to learn it all but it takes so long and sometimes I can’t get it right away and I hate having to rely on everyone to take care of me…Watch out for me.”
“Johnny, please be patient…Sometimes we need other people.”
“I don’t want someone having to look out for me. I hate being a burden on everyone,” he snorted. “Even the cops.”
Across the room, Roy bit his lip knowing his friend hated being dependent and that he’d forgotten how much they loved him and that he thought of himself as a burden once again. The reason behind his moodiness became clear, not that it hurt any less. He didn’t want to hurt him by getting angry. He needed to encourage him and let him know how proud he was of what he’d already accomplished.
John finally wound down the conversation after a few more minutes. “I love you Dani,” he said softly.
“I love you too mé’oo’o and I’ll see you soon.”
“I hope so…Man I just want this to be over so I can be with you,” he said in frustration.
“So do I…Soon Johnny. Bye…”
“Bye.” John fumbled with the phone until Roy finally took and replaced it on the hook. He stood up and felt his way along the deck. Roy took his arm but John pulled back. “I don’t need help Roy.”
“I know you don’t need me to help you Junior but maybe I’d like to help you,” he said quietly. Understanding John’s frustration at feeling helpless and at being so close to what he loved and having to let all of it pass him by…Waiting helplessly for something to happen and being away from Danella on top of it all. “I thought maybe you’d like to know I was here if you did need me,” he finished.
“You’re the one who forced me to realize that I didn’t need any help… remember?” John said sharply.
“I remember Junior…I’m sorry.” He backed away. “I’ll be in the rec room.” He turned and left.
John sighed, feeling like a heel for snapping at Roy but this was so frustrating and no one could understand what he was feeling. One moment…One stupid accident and his whole life had been turned upside down. God…What was we gonna do if he didn’t get his sight back? How could he give this up? It was his world…His life. What else could he do? He rubbed absently at his aching head and followed his friend.
Mike, Marco, Chuck and Chet were playing cards when John returned. Roy had gone to sit on the couch and had picked up a newspaper, leaving Johnny on his own for now. John found a chair and sat down.
Cap glanced between John and Roy, sensing the tension between the two men and wondered what had happened.
Roy looked up. His blue eyes reflecting his hurt feelings as they met his Captains curious frown. Roy smiled ruefully and went back to his newspaper. Hank glanced at Johnny who sat at the table talking quietly to Vince. He was oblivious to the hurt on his friends face but he sat with his head cocked to the side as he listened to every sound around him.
The station control unit began to sound and every head lifted…All but John’s. He remained staring straight ahead…His teeth tugging at his lower lip. Roy watched him silently even as they rose to their feet. “Engine 51…Trash fire behind the restaurant. 680 Commerce Street. 6-8-0 Commerce Street…Cross Street Conquistador…Time out 10:27.”
Cap responded from the podium. “Engine 51…KMG 365.”
The engine rolled out…Chuck tossed his cards on the table and headed for the locker room. Roy sat back down and shook out his newspaper while John cleared his throat and resumed his conversation with Vince.
The front doorbell rang ten minutes later. “I’ll get it,” Johnny said starting to stand.
“You will not,” Roy said firmly as he headed for the door.
John sighed in aggravation and sat back down. “He’s just worried about you,” Vince said kindly.
“He’s treating me like a child,” John grumbled.
Vince chuckled. “Johnny…Roy’s treating you the way he always has…It never seemed to bother you before.” The older man pointed out.
“I guess…Maybe it’s just that I feel like a helpless child now and I hate being reminded of it.”
Vince frowned. “From what I’ve seen so far Johnny…I wouldn’t call you helpless and my guess is that Roy might be a good part of that.”
John’s head snapped toward Vince knowing the man was right but still feeling frustrated at being dependent.
The conversation ended as Roy returned with Oliver Kendall and Lenny Greer. He introduced them to Vince. “Good morning Johnny…Are you ready to start your lesson?” He questioned a moment later.
Oliver picked up on the tone. “Is something wrong?”
“No…Let’s get started,” John said curtly.
Oliver hesitated for a moment over John’s frame of mind but decided to continue. If he needed to address the situation he would. “Okay then John…We’ve covered the use of your cane around the house so now we’re going to cover its use outside.”
“You’ll need to be able to use public transportation if you don’t have someone available to drive you. The parking lot outside is a good place to work. They moved outside where John was a little less familiar with the terrain. Roy moved to his friend’s side as he usually did. “Okay John…Let’s begin.”
John moved forward…His cane tapping the pavement. Roy stayed along side of him. Close but not touching. John missed a small pothole in the pavement. His cane touching either side, he stepped forward, stumbling as his foot turned over sideways. Only Roy’s quick move to grab his arm kept him from falling.
Embarrassed by the near fall, John jerked his arm away. “I’m alright,” he snapped.
“Sorry,” Roy mumbled, letting him go.
Lenny whispered something to Oliver and he nodded.
John turned and headed back toward them…Feeling carefully for the hole in the pavement. “That was a good start John. We’ll keep practicing that but I think I want you to learn to walk with a guide.”
“Why…? I mean if I can do it alone…”
“That’s not always possible. Long trips or unfamiliar territory or a lot of obstacles sometimes requires another person to help and that guide needs to know how to help you. They sometimes forget that some small thing like a pothole could be your undoing so it’s as much a lesson for your guide today as it is for you but that should be easy. You and Roy have been a team for a long time…He’s watched out for you for years right?” Roy’s eyes shot to Oliver suspiciously and Lenny smiled at him.
John clenched his teeth in frustration. “Yes…,” he ground out.
“And you’ve watched out for him?”
“Yes…I used to,” he said a little softer.
“Good, then you’ll pick this up really quick. John…Take Roy’s arm.”
“Okay.” John reached for his friend never questioning whether or not Roy would be there no matter how big a jerk John had been.
Oliver had Roy lead Johnny through a series of maneuvers through a variety of possible missteps and obstacles.
They heard the engine returning as they moved back inside awhile later but Johnny used his cane rather than allowing Roy to help him. He folded the cane and dropped it back into his pocket once they entered the familiar confines of the station house. He forgot that the squad had been moved since the last time and almost walked into the back of it. Only Roy’s restraining hand kept that from happening.
John jerked away, not understanding how close he’d come to banging his shins. “I can do it alone Roy,” he snapped.
“You almost ran into the squad,” Roy explained with a hurt tone as he took John’s hand and placed it on the vehicle. Oliver heard the tone of his voice and frowned…His mouth set in annoyance at John’s attitude with his friend.
“Let’s continue,” he urged as they moved to the rec room. Oliver went to the table with Lenny.
He understood very well what John was going through. He’d seen it in the newly blind many times and he’d been there himself. Frustration, anger, embarrassment…A feeling of helplessness that had left him lashing out at the one person who loved him the most…His Mother. He’d hurt her time and time again, feeling justified because he thought no one else could understand his pain and they weren’t going through this horror.
Ignoring her pain at his loss and not understanding that love is empathy…The ‘when you hurt I hurt pain.’ She’d forgiven him and allowed it to continue out of guilt that she could still see while he couldn’t and her greater love for him. He couldn’t see the hurt and sorrow that his attitude caused and had no concept that his rude behavior was breaking her heart until he’d heard her weep and felt the tears.
His guilt had been overwhelming. He’d wept in her arms and begged her forgiveness. John…Like most others in his position had lost the visual imagery to know that his attitude was hurting those he loved, especially Roy who loved him the most and Roy allowed it because he did love him and desperately wanted to be understanding of what he was going through. Regardless of that it had to stop.
The engine crew began to filter into the rec room, stopping short in their quest for liquid refreshment as they spotted the two strangers. Oliver could smell the smoke on them…Even the sweat from their overheated bodies.
Roy took a moment to make the introductions. They shook hands all around while Oliver made a mental note of each man’s voice.
“Gentlemen…It’s just a simple chicken casserole we’re having for lunch but if you’d like to stay?” Cap let the question hang.
“We’d love to,” Oliver agreed.
“Great…Marco’s cookin and…”
“Captain…?” Oliver interrupted. “This would be a good learning experience for John. Would you mind if he did the cooking?”
“Uh…,” Hank hesitated. John was blind…How was he supposed to cook?
“He has to learn Captain,” Oliver said, correctly interpreting the silence. “Don’t worry…Lenny and I will be there to help him.”
The others exchanged worried glances. Great…Now there would be two blind men doing the cooking. Well at least Lenny could see so there wouldn’t be any rat poison in their food by accident.
John and Roy both seemed a little surprised that Lenny would be helping rather than Roy but neither said a word. Oliver hoped that by removing Roy from the teacher role John would stop feeling dependant on him and be able resume their friendship and learn to appreciate his presence when he was there.
“Well Cap,” Chet piped in. “Gage wasn’t exactly known to be a great cook when he could see…Maybe he’ll better now.”
John scowled in annoyance as Cap chuckled. “Okay…Go ahead.”
“John…If you’d like to come over here we’ll begin.” John moved to the stove and Oliver walked him through filling pots with water to cook the chicken, opening cans and gathering items from the refrigerator.
Roy watched anxiously as Oliver placed a knife in John’s hand. He positioned his fingers and taught him to chop vegetables instead of fingers. “Feel the edge of the blade,” he instructed. “Now cut.”
John managed to chop celery and carrots with only one minor nick to his finger. Roy had stood up to come check on him at his friends “OUCH,” but Oliver had heard him and waved him back. He had Lenny wrap in piece of paper towel around the small cut.
By the time he finished that the chicken was cooked. Oliver handed John the pot holders. “Be careful John…It’s hot.” He cautioned.
Johnny lifted the pot and carried it to the sink but as he poured the boiling water off, the steam rose, scalding John’s hand. He jerked his hand away dropping the pot. His cry of pain brought Roy to his feet and to John’s side in three quick strides. “Johnny, let me see.” Roy grabbed his wrist and turned the water on.
John jerked his hand away at the sting of the cool liquid on his skin. “OW…That hurts,” John growled pulling free of Roy’s grip.
“Johnny…Put it back under the faucet,” Roy instructed. “Chet get me the drug box.” Chet rose to his feet.
“Man Roy…Will you stop treating me like a child. It’s just a minor burn,” John snapped in embarrassment that his friend was fussing over him in front of everyone.
Roy’s hurt look brought silence to the entire room. No one knew what to say. Chet was unsure whether to get the drug box or sit back down. “I’m sorry John,” Roy said quietly.
John opened his mouth to retort but it was Oliver who spoke first. “JOHN,” the stern tone of the quiet teacher’s voice took both paramedics aback just a bit. John felt his wrist grasped and his fingers were placed gently on Roy’s face. “See what you’ve done,” Oliver snapped angrily.
John’s fingers felt the frown lines on his friends face and he knew he’d hurt Roy’s feelings but he really didn’t understand the depth of the pain. “I’m sorry Roy,” he mumbled contritely.
“It’s okay Junior,” Roy said though it was obvious to everyone that he was still hurt by the rejection.
“NO Roy,” Oliver rebuked the older man. “It’s NOT okay. John…Being blind does not entitle you to be rude or hurtful to others. Just because you can’t see the pain you cause does NOT mean you can disregard their feelings.”
“I…I didn’t mean to…I…,” he stammered.
“Oliver really…It’s okay…I understand,” Roy tried again.
“Roy…He will never learn if you tell him it’s okay…Your voice says otherwise and I imagine your face does as well. Did you see it John?”
“Yes,” he whispered in shame. The crew looked at each other silently as Oliver continued.
“I’ve been where you are and it’s normal to feel what you’re feeling…I went through it too but I also know that this man LOVES you and he'd forgive you for anything but that doesn’t mean you can hurt him without a thought to his feelings. You’re as special to him as if you were one of his own children cuz I’ll tell you…Not to many people would put themselves through what Roy has with you for someone who was just a friend.”
“I know that too,” John whispered.
“Then you also know that YOU can hurt him as easily as they could by their rejection…Do you understand?”
“Yes…But…I want to be able to do this alone…I…”
“I know you want to be independent and for the most part you will be but it’s okay to need help once in a while…It’s why I have Lenny and even sighted people need help occasionally.” John hung his head as he listened to Oliver. “Let me ask you something and I want you to be honest.”
“If you could see…Would you have let Roy treat that burn?”
Johnny chewed his lip. “Yes,” he finally mumbled.
“Okay then …It doesn’t make you childish or helpless to let someone help you. It makes you childish to think you don’t need help and to refuse it when it’s offered. There’s a time for you to learn and I’ll tell them when to leave you alone and let you do it but if after trying you can’t do it then you need to be able to say I NEED HELP, otherwise you’re going to be perpetually frustrated and you could get hurt…Understand?”
“You’ll also find you’ll keep your friends longer.”
John turned slowly toward Roy with a look of embarrassment on his face. He chewed his lip nervously. “I’m really sorry Roy…I’d never hurt you on purpose…I…,” he hesitated, unsure of whether Roy was still angry or not.
He reached up to find his friends face. He felt the corners of his friend’s mouth turn up in a smile. The older man laid his hand along John’s cheek. “It’s okay Junior.”
“Thanks for putting up with me.”
“Anytime Johnny…I love you…You know that.”
“Yes…Um…You suppose you could you help me?”
“Sure thing,” he said giving his friends cheek a pat. “Chet…Could you get me the drug box?” He asked again as he turned to check John’s hand. An ugly blister was already forming. Lenny picked up the empty pot. Chet returned a minute later with the box.
Roy led Johnny to the table where he carefully dried the burn and applied an antibiotic cream before wrapping it securely. When they were done, Oliver once again resumed his role as teacher and John finished with his preparations and managed to get the casserole into the oven without further mishap and for a change, they managed to make it through their meal without interruption.
Oliver and Lenny instructed Johnny through the clean up over the protests of the crew that if John did the cooking he shouldn’t have to clean but Oliver was adamant…”He needs to learn…”
John agreed but it was Roy who actually washed in order to keep John’s bandaged hand dry. Johnny dried them and put them away. He was putting away a glass when he once again had bright flashes of light flicker before his eyes. Brilliant colors danced in his vision.
John dropped the glass and pressed his hands over his eyes as everything faded to black once more.
“What’s wrong?” Roy asked, trying to pull John’s hands away from his face.
“It…It happened again,” he said softly as the others gathered around.
“What did pal?” Hank asked.
“Light…Bright light and colors.”
“Is it gone again?” Roy asked.
“Yeah,” John said, sounding disappointed.
“It’s coming back,” Roy said encouragingly.”It’s trying to come back.”
“But it’s gone again.”
“It’ll come back…Even Brackett said it was a good sign.”
“Yeah,” John agreed, allowing Roy to pull him into his arms for a quick, excited hug. He set him away from him.
“You keep believing it Junior…It’s coming back.”
John grinned, caught up in his friend’s joyful excitement. “Yeah,” he said again.
The others patted his back enthusiastically. Even Vince gave him a quick slap on the shoulder.
The SCU Tones sounded. “Station 51…Structure fire…1873 West Cisco…1-8-7-3 West Cisco…Cross Street Rita…Time out…13:08.”
Roy gave John’s hair a gentle scruff before running for the squad as Cap responded. “Station 51…KMG 365. John heard the doors rolling up. He heard the trucks firing up and begin to roll out as the sirens began to wail. God…How he missed this.
Oliver patted his back, unable to see but recognizing the longing in the other man just by his stillness as the sirens faded into the distance. John finally went to the table with Vince.
Oliver and Lenny both decided that Johnny had had enough for one day. It was time to leave him to think through all he’d learned today…The physical challenges as well as the emotional.
“Well …we need to get going John. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah…I’ll be at Roy’s tomorrow,” he said softly, sounding down.
“Good…We’ll do some more cooking and I’ll teach you to do your own laundry.”
John turned the still brown eyes toward Vince as they left the room. “Want to watch television,” he quipped...Drumming his hands on the table. Vince chuckled and a minute later John’s laughter joined his.
TO BE CONTINUED…Part 4 – Twilight
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