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First Meeting

An Emergency Story

Alana
 

 

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Lee Spencer looked around the conference area of her office.  There was coffee, tea, sodas and ice on the counter along with a tray of sandwiches and salads, chips and cookies.  The meeting was  scheduled  so  it  could  be a working lunch as  At each place was a folder with the info she had  gathered and  was using as a starting  place  for the  series of  meetings. 

 

 Although  she had  been  working  as  a special  project manager for the  state  since the  start  of the paramedic  program this was a new  office.  Up till now she had used an office at Bailey and Spencer  Private Investigators  on  Sunset Strip  but Stu had been offered a job  teaching at a university  up in  San  Francisco and had decided to take it. 

 

Jeff had been offered a position which would require his moving to the Washington DC area and was seriously considering it.  Lee knew if not for her he would have said yes in a heartbeat. 

 

She was certain he would say yes when the deadline came up in two weeks. There was no reason she could not have stayed at the office but it was time to start over.  The new  office had some advantages  such as being closer to the apartment and  since she  worked so  close with  Kelly  Brackett,  Joe  Early  and Dixie  McCall  it just made sense to move when the space became available.   

 

Her  bosses in Sacramento  had  thought it  was a good  idea  since there would  be  two more  offices like hers  in the state soon,  it  was a good move.  Lee would be supervising these offices also besides, as Tom Clark said half joking, Lee did not handle not getting her own way well.   

 

Will  Fargo her  other boss agreed  and said since Lee was the  only one who knew exactly  what her  office  did  they had to keep her happy. As usual Lee was at the conference table when the other committee members began to assemble and soon  all were  present  except the  paramedics  from  Station  51  who  were  going  to  be  late  due to a  child  being hit by a car that needed their attention  and  would join them as soon as possible.

 

 “Please help yourselves to lunch….I am sure you can all use a few extra minutes of peace and quiet.”

 

 “Squad 51 was scheduled to stand down at 11:00 and the call came in at 10:45,” Captain Houser said with a smile. 

 

 “Knowing Roy and John they will be here as soon as possible.”  Dixie said with a grin.  “They were ready to transport when I left the base to come up here.”

 

 “I haven’t  met  them  yet  but I  feel like I know  them  from  reading  their  reports  and  the  info that  comes into  the office.   They have the lowest F rating in the county…”

 

 “Is that good or bad?”  The representative from the hospital asked looking embarrassed.  “I am sorry to admit I know very little of how this program works even after 2 years of being here.”

 

 “Don’t  be…that is one of the  details  my  office and the fire department  need to be  concerned  with…Its one  you  and  your  medical  staff  can  be  very proud of…as well as  your  department Chief.   The name comes from   the codes used by the fire department…Code F is a fatality…”   Lee smiled at the gentleman and her friend Dixie.   “You  should  be  very  proud of  the  work  done  by  all the  paramedics  in the  county.   You  are  among the  first in the  country  and  you are setting the  standard  for  the  rest…and it is an  extremely high  one.   I  just  wish  it had  been in place 6 years  ago…not that the  fireman and  police officers  weren’t  doing a  good  job  …they  did  the  best they  could  with the  training  and  equipment  they  were  given….Now  with  better  equipment and the  excellent  training  they  do a  much  better  job.    Very  dear  friends  who  are  doctors  not  associated  directly  with  emergency  medicine are  very impressed  with your  program.   Dr.  O’Donnell I think you know Jim Kildare over at Blair General?”

 

 “Yes and I know Dr.  Gillespie as well…both excellent doctors and both think very highly of the program...  And of you may I add?”  The Irishman’s eyes sparkled with playfulness.  “It seems as if he knows you very well?”

 

 “He is married to my  best  friend  who is  like  my older sister and  they  are family  so he  better  say  nice  things,”  Lee answered  with a laugh.   “They try to keep me out of trouble. “  She  said  something  in Gaelic  and the  hospital  administrator  laughed  till he had  tears in his  eyes.  

 

*****

 

  Earlier that day before role call at Station 51:

 

 “Man, how did we end up on this committee?   Don’t we have enough to do without all this?”  Johnny  Gage  asked  not  really  wanting  answers  since he  already  knew  them.   “Why did Dixie and Dr.  Brackett think we would be the ones to do this?”  He was frowning and chewing on his lip.   “Do  you  even  know  what the  Office of  Data and  Statistical  Information  Analysis  does?”

 

 “From  what  Dixie  said  when she asked  us to  be on this with her…it’s  a  way  for the  state to  track  how  well  the  paramedic  program works and  to  develop  or  find  areas  that  can  help us  be  more efficient and  carries a  lot  of weight  with  some of the  money  men at the  state  level.”

 

 “So how do we fit in?”

 

 “The young lady in charge wants to have input from the paramedics in the field.  Dixie and Dr. Brackett recommended us….You going to tell them no when they ask us for a favor or help?”  Roy asked knowing Johnny would do anything for those two friends.   “So we go to the meetings and some will be like today and some may be on our own time.”

 

 “So do you know anything about Lee Spencer?”   Johnny asked.

 

 “Just that  Dix  said she had  worked  hard to  get the  bill  passed when it  first  came out and has  been  working for the  state  on this  special project  ever since…”

 

 “Roll call in 5 minutes gentlemen,” Cap shouted as he left his office.

 

*****

 

Johnny and Roy came into the conference room as quietly as possible not wanting to disrupt the meeting.   The  young  woman at the head of the  table  looked  up  from the  paper  she  was filling out and  smiled in welcome.  “Hi, I’m Lee and I would guess you are Roy and Johnny.   Glad you are joining us.   Please fix yourselves a  plate and we will  get  started in  just a  few minutes…If it’s  ok  with  you  we will go over the  few things we have already covered after the others  leave…”

 

 “DeSoto, Gage I am glad to have you on this committee…I hope your run was successful.”  Chief  Houser  said  as the men quickly fixed their plates and sat  down.

 

 “Yes sir, the little girl is going to be fine…a few stitches in her hand and leg and her eyebrow that Dr.  Brackett said were not going to leave a very big scar…Her mom was worried about that.”

 

 “Good to hear.”

 

 “We  were  talking about  what  we  can  do to help  cut  down  the  number of  people  who use  the paramedics  as  substitute  for a doctor’s visit or a trip  to the ER  they could make  themselves.”

 

 “Is there any way we could start a list of these people?  If  they  and  someone  else  called in at the  same  time  the other  call  would  take  priority?   Not that they would be ignored…but the closest squad go to the less frequent caller?”   The woman asking worked in an administrative office for the county.

 

 “Roy?”  Lee asked the senior member of the paramedics.

 

 “That is  something  we  talk about a lot…Dixie  knows  a lot of the  ones  they have  that  come  here…but  then  there are others  like the  family with a  young  child  who has  CP  and  has  seizures  that  are life threatening…transporting  him in a  car  would  be a serious  risk to him  and the  driver…as  well as the  fact he often  needs  oxygen  to help him  breathe  during the  seizure.  JT might go 3 or 4 weeks without a seizure then have 2 or more in a week…there is no predicting.”

 

 “That’s  a  very  valid  point  Roy  and  why I  wanted  paramedics  involved in this…no offense to  you  who are administration  or in the support  offices…but it is the  field  officers and firemen and  paramedics  that  have the  experience  to  give  us  the  guidance we need.   We cannot come up with solutions if we don’t know or understand the problem.   Jason,  you and  your other instructors  can  teach the  basics and  advance  book  work  but there is no  substitution  for  actual  field  work and  experience and Lt.  Karmand,  I  want law  enforcement  personnel  to  remember  some of  what  we are  doing  can  greatly  benefit  them…and  their  safety.”

 

 “I think we learned that when you called us about the accidents at West Mount and Dexter…It was a simple solution after we knew what was causing the accidents there.”   He looked at Lee and smiled.  “Your misspent youth hanging around cops is paying off.”

 

 “I spent more time at your station than I did at school the last 2 years.”  Tim Karmand laughed at the shock expression on several faces.   “Lee’s  family is in law  enforcement  and she  would  come in and  help  with  filing  and  such.”

 

 “And   typing reports…you guys are worst than doctors when it comes to handwriting.”

 

 “So how did you solve the problem at the intersection?   We had a few bad calls there.”  Johnny asked.

 

 “Lee figured out the problem and the solution,” Tim answered.  “She picked up on a pattern of time and weather conditions…”

 

 “The  glare there was terrible for awhile…Remember Roy  we almost  got  creamed  there  because  the other  guy didn’t see us coming.”  Johnny interrupted then smiled in apology.

 

Lee  noticed  what  a cute  crooked  smile he had and  how it  lit  up  his  dark brown eyes.

 

 “Exactly  it  was a  combination of the  sun’s  position and the positioning of a large piece of  construction  equipment  that  was  blinding  the drivers.  Lee talked to someone in our traffic department we checked it out and agreed and she called someone at the construction site.  She  explained it  was not only  a danger to the  motorist  but to  the  men  working…they  repositioned the  equipment and  problem  solved .   We even  got a  call  back  from the  construction people  saying  the  repositioning  had  solved a problem  they  were  having  for the  same  reason and  hadn’t  realized  that  was the  source.”

 

 “This is  what I hope this  office can  do  as  well as  provide information  for  records  no one  will ever care  about  but provide  information  that is  useful in  saving  lives  and  property.”

 

 They  talked awhile  longer and the  meeting  was  closed  with  some  ideas  to think  about and a date  set up  for the  next  meeting.   Everyone had  left  except  the  paramedics and  Chief  Houser  who  were talking  off in a  corner.

 

 “Why don’t you call the station and make your selves available and if it’s ok with your chief and captain we can go over what you missed?”

 

 “That would be fine…Give my regards to Captain Stanley…Lee it was a pleasure as always.”  Chief Houser left and Roy made the squad available. 

 

 “May I use your phone to call the station Miss Spencer?”   Roy asked.

 

 “Only if you promise to call me Lee and use the phone on my desk…Johnny…there is plenty of food…please help yourself to more if you’d like.”

 

 “Thanks, Lee.”   Another of those crooked grins lit up his eyes.   He got another sandwich and a soda.   “Can I get you something?  A sandwich or cookie...soda?”

 

 “A diet Dr. Pepper  would  be  great…they  are in the little fridge under the  counter…Once I  get  all this  settled  in I want to  keep a  supply of  snacks  up  here  for  the  paramedics.  I  know  sometimes  you all miss  meals  and  don’t always  have the  time to  wait in the  cafeteria  line…Maybe  you can  get  a list together of  what you  would  like to  see up  here…”

 

 “That’s really a great idea and a nice one…”

 

 “Thanks…”   Roy  came  back and  they  went over  what they  missed and  Roy had  some  good  input…   After about 15 minutes they finished.

 

 “The containers for the leftover food are there on the counter…why don’t you take it back to your station?  It’ll just go to waste here.”

 

 “The guys will appreciate that.”  Roy said.

 

 “They sure will Chet is cooking tonight.”   Johnny wrinkled his nose.   “I will appreciate this tonight.”

 

 “Not a good cook?”  Lee said laughing at the face he made.

 

 “Naw not really.”  Johnny was over putting the leftovers in containers.   “Besides  Johnny and Chet have  this  long  standing  love  hate  relationship…They are  friends  they  just  don’t  want others to  know it.”

 

 “I understand completely.”

 

 “Lee is you sure you don’t want any of this?”  Johnny asked watching her as she talked with Roy. 

 

 “No  thanks  for asking…I  am  going to  baby sit  for my  friends,   Jim  and Kathy tonight…They  have two kids…Jimmy is nine and Stacy is five...they are  great  kids.   It’s like I am their aunt rather than just a family friend.”

 

 “Yeah I  know  what you mean…Roy’s  kids are about the same  age and  they  call me Uncle  Johnny…I  baby  sit  for him  and JoAnne every once in  awhile.”

 

 “My daughter has him wrapped around her little finger, has from the day she was born.”

 

They talked awhile longer then went back to the station.   He  guys  were  glad to  see the  food  since  Chet’s  stew  didn’t  look any  better than it smelled.

*****

 After dinner Johnny was sitting out at the station’s back wall.  I t was quiet there and he didn’t feel like talking to anyone.   He was  thinking  about the  girl he had met today with the  beautiful  green  eyes…the  same  shade  of  green he  remembered his  dad having.   He had been out there about as half hour when Roy came out looking for him.

 

 “You ok, junior?  You’ve been kind of quiet all evening.”  Roy  watched  his partner  trying to  figure  out  what  was  causing  him  to look  so  concerned.

 

 “Just  thinking…not  about  anything in particular…wondering  about  why  things  happen the  way  they  do…”

 

 “Yeah  sometimes  there  just  doesn’t  seem  any  reason …Guess  that is  where our  faith and  trust  comes into it.”

 

*****

 

Lee  was having  dinner with  Kathy and the  kids  since  Jim had  gotten  tied  up at the  hospital and  canceled  their  date.   The kids had finished their pizza and were outside playing.

 

 "So how did your meeting go today?  Did you accomplish anything?"

 

"I think so.  We have some good people on the committee and some who are there because they have to be.  The paramedics from Station 51 seem really nice.  Roy has two kids and Johnny is cute and a flirt.  Kel and Dixie think they are one of the best paramedic teams in the county."

 “So is Johnny cute?"

 

"No he is handsome.  He has this great smile that lights up his eyes.  They are the  deepest  brown  eyes   and  even  when he is  laughing there is something  sad  behind  them. I  bet he gets in trouble for not  keeping  his  hair  cut  short  as  they  want.   Its dark black and shaggy and thick.  I  would  guess with those  cheek  bones and  skin  tones  he is  part  Native  American."

 

"Sounds as if someone has a crush starting," Kathy teased.

 

"Don't be  silly...I  am  too old to have a crush on  someone  let alone  someone I just  met  besides , he would never  look  twice at  someone like me."  The  last  said  very  softly  but  Kathy  heard  her and the  sadness in her  voice.

 

“'Your paramedic isn't the only one with sad eyes when they laugh, my friend.”

 

*****

 

The  next  shift  started    the  phantom  Vs  pigeon  game  going  on  as  usual.  Roy noticed Johnny seemed distracted.  Soon as  Cap  dismissed  them  Johnny went out to the squad to  begin the  morning  radio  check Roy  followed  him.

 

"Ok Junior, what's going on in your head?"  Roy asked as Johnny put the radio away.  "You worried about something?"

 

 "No.   You think when we go to Rampart we might have time to go up to Lee's office?  I have that list she wanted."

 

"What list? 

 

 And yeah I had an idea I wanted to ask her about.  There  seems  like a lot of  calls  have been  coming in  over  by  West  Moor  Ave  and  Franklin...maybe she  could  use her program  to find a pattern  like she  did  with the  glare."

 

"Yeah that makes a lot of sense.   Lee is going to set up a snack bar for the paramedics when they miss a meal or can't wait in line to get something from the cafeteria.  Think you were on the phone when she was telling me about it and asked for suggestions." 

 

"Hey Gage, you gonna fix something besides hot dogs or hamburgers tonight?   Since you had so much to say when I cooked?"  

 

Johnny looked flustered for a minute before deciding to ignore Chet.

 

"Maybe  after  chores  we  can  go over  to  Rampart for  supplies and we  can  go  talk to  Lee....then  go to the  store." Roy said as he started into the dorm. 

 

After they  finished the  chores  Johnny  and  Roy  went in to see Cap and explained  the  errands  they  needed to  run.

 

   " Fine  just  stay  available and  be  back  here in time  to do  lunch,"  Cap  answered.

 

  As they were driving over Johnny was on a rant about Chet's cooking.  "There should be a way of dating stuff in that fridge and a law against some of it..."

 

"Like the stuff Chet puts into his stew?"  Roy said frowning.  "I think some of that stuff was from another shift..."

 

"Lee sure saved us the last time...the lunch meat and salads she gave us were good..."He smiled.  "She is really smart figuring out the problem with the glare."

 

  "Yeah that was smart...So what are you fixing?"  Roy wanted to know.   "Or was Chet right?"

 

"Hey Dixie," Johnny said as he came up to the nurses' desk in the ER.  "Pretty quiet in here…"

 

"John Gage don't you dare jinx us."  Her smile let him know she was just teasing.   "Where's Roy?"

 

 “Talking to the guys from 36’s out in the parking lot.   We needed some things."

 

 By the time Roy came in the supplies were gathered and waiting.

 

 "Ready to go upstairs…?" 

 

Dixie gave them a questioning look.

 

"Lee asked me to make a list for her and Roy has a question," Johnny explained.  "She seemed really nice and smart"

 

"She is and she works hard making that office is more than just a numbers depository."

 

The sign on her door said come in but they knocked as they opened the door.  She looked up and smiled.

 

"Let me finish this sentence...There done.  Now how can I help you?  All you paramedics were busy yesterday...Thankfully nothing overly dangerous."

 

Roy explained about the fires and she agreed there could be a pattern.

 

Johnny gave his list to her.  "Thank  you  there are some  really  good  suggestions...add  some  yogurt and  individually  wrapped  cheese  sticks...Juices and  some  milk  in the  fridge...I  wanted  something  nutritional  not  just a sugar  rush...not that  that is a  bad  thing."

 

"That is really nice of you to do."

 

"Glad I can do it...my door has a keypad lock...I'll make sure the paramedics know the code numbers.  So, you on your way back to the station?"

 

"After we go to the store...its Johnny’s turn to cook."

 

 "Man, you sure saved us the last shift," Johnny said giving her a crooked grin.

 

"Was it as bad as you were afraid of?"

 

 “Worse...  even Chet couldn't eat it."  He frowned.  "So now I have to come up with something good."

 

“Here  try  this...it’s easy,  not very expensive and  good...I  always  add a package of  frozen  peas and  carrots  to it...add a  salad and some  good  garlic  bread..."  she  handed  him a recipe she had  written out  while  talking.   "The roasted chicken in the deli department at Kelson’s   is perfect with this."

 

The HT came on and with a quick good bye they were gone.

 

Lee watched them leave and sighed.  She  hadn't  realized  how  much  she had been  looking  forward to seeing  Johnny  Gage again.

 

"This recipe sounds really good and easy...Did you notice her eyes?  The  a really  pretty  green...And she  really  liked that  you  listened and  did a  follow  up on what she said." 

 

 The call was for a lady who had hurt her wrist and arm.  She had been hanging curtains and had used the couch as a step ladder.  She had  broke  her  wrist and her  arm  when the  cushion  shifted and  she  fell.  Roy rode into Rampart with her and soon as they were finished they went to the store.

 

*****

 

"Hey John, this is really good."  Cap said as he finished his second helping of the casserole.  "The salad was good too...never thought about using fruit in a salad like that."

 

"Thanks Cap, a friend gave me the idea."   He looked over at Roy frowning and gave a slight shake of his shaggy hair.  "I'll start the clean up." 

 

 Clean up  didn't  take  long as he had  done all the  prep  dishes  while the  casserole  was  baking.  Roy  waited  till  all the others had  left  the  kitchen and  began  drying  the  dishes.

 

"Ok Junior, what are you doing?"

 

"Just washing dishes," Johnny answered with a shrug and then a grin.  He knew better than try to evade Roy's questions.  "I mean ...Chet ...and the others."  Johnny looked disgusted with himself and took a deep breath.  Whatever was on his friend's mind was important to him for him to get so flustered.  "I can't really  explain it...I  just  don't  want them to  know  Lee  gave me the  recipe...and I  don't  want to listen to Chet  teasing me  about her...I don't  know  why  but  she is  different..."

 

"So as far as anyone here needs to know she is just someone in an office at Rampart...They might tease you but you know they would never really do or say anything to hurt you on purpose right?"

 

"Yeah, I know."  He smiled as he finished the dishes.

 

 That night at dinner, Lee and her Uncle Jeff talked about his moving to the Washington DC area for a new job.  Lee knew it was the right thing for him to do but it was still hard to imagine him not being in her everyday life.

 

"Mr. Waverly wants you to come to New York with me next week so you can see some of what they do.  You  know  you  could  move with me and  get a job at  the  DC office...or  even the  New York  one..."

 

"No, it’s time you had your life back without me hanging around...You have had to put your life on hold  for  me  for too  long."

 

"Sweet pea," he said using her childhood nick name.  "I have never thought of it that way.   There were some sad times but I never regretted one day I have spent with you.   My biggest regrets are your  parents  didn't  get to  see  you  grow  up and that you  got  hurt...but  nothing  else.   Maybe I should stay here in LA awhile longer."

 

"I  can't  move  with  you  because I have a job here that I  love...Besides it’s  not like I will be totally  alone...Maria and  Hector  will  still be living downstairs and  Kathy and Jim are close by...This apartment is  perfect  for me."   She looked a little sad."I will miss you terribly but I will be fine.  And it’s not like we won't be talking on the phone and visiting you..."

 

"Leona Elizabeth, I am so proud of you and all the hard work you do for others...Never sell yourself short or forget how much you mean to so many.  So…You coming to New York with me?   It’s been awhile since you saw your uncle Matt...Can you get the time off?"

 

  "I'm the boss remember?  Besides I have lots of vacation days saved up.  I will call in the morning and set it up with Tom and Will and re schedule the meetings for the paramedic advisory group.  The paramedics  from  Station  51  were in today  with a  question and  a list I had  asked  for...they are  going to  be really  good to  work  with...They  thanked me again  for the  leftovers  from the  meeting I  sent  with them after the  last  meeting.  I gave Johnny the recipe  for the  chicken  casserole  you like since it  was his  turn to cook...I  got the  feeling he had  made some  comments  about what the  last  guy  fixed so he  had to  do  something  really  good...He has this quirky smile that just lights up his dark brown  eyes.  He and his partner are the best paramedic team in the county...probably in the state...His partner Roy has kids about the same age as Jim and Kathy..."

 

Jeff  listened to  her  smiling  at  the  look on her  face as she  talked  about  the  paramedic  and  felt  better about  leaving  her in LA.

 

*****

The  next  shift  was a busy  one  and  Johnny  was  antsy   about  seeing  Lee.  When they were alone  Johnny  had  talked to  Roy  about her and  was  debating  about  asking her  out.   Johnny finally had a few minutes to spare since Roy was in the treatment room with the victim.

 

"Carol,  if  Roy  comes out  before I  get  back  tell him I  went  up to Lee's  office,  please."

 

“I will...She had left a message she wanted to see you two,” Carol answered.

       

There  was a  smiley  face  on the  door that  said  Please  come in,  It  looked  like  something  Jenny  would have  made.  Knocking softly, Johnny opened the door.  "Hi, you wanted to see us?"  He asked as he came in and sat on the edge of her desk.

 

"Hi...give me just a minute to finish this," she answered with a smile and a nod.  "Ran the information through the computer and found out a few things.  There is a definite time pattern...just as the junior high and high school in that area are letting out.   Also,  the night  time  fires were all  on the  same  day as an evening  event at the schools...So  there  will be some  extra eyes  watching  around  those  times.   That was a really good catch on you and Roy's part."

 

"Roy gets the credit for that."

 

 "What am I getting credit for?  Roy said as he came into the office.

 

 Lee shared the information with him. 

 

"I'm going out of town later this week so we have to reschedule our next meeting.   I'll let everyone know the new time.   How did your dinner go?  Did they like the casserole?"

 

"They loved it...Cap even asked for the recipe to give his wife."

 

"Great, I have a bunch more I can share with you...Jeff's hours were so uncertain I never made anything that was time sensitive unless he was there..."

The HT toned out and they were off on another run.  As they made their way through traffic Johnny was quiet.

 

 "She turns you down?"  Roy asked.

 

 “Naw, I didn't ask since she is going out of town… Maybe when she gets back…"

 

*****          

 Later that day Dixie went up to Lee's office to give her some papers and to check on her.  Knowing it was official and Jeff would be moving in a few months, she figured Lee needed a friend to talk with.

 

"How's it going?"  Dixie asked as she set the papers on the desk.

 

"Slow...but it'll be ok...You  know  I  really  wanted you and  Jeff to be  more than  friends  even  if I  knew it  wasn't  going to happen.  Johnny and Roy were up earlier..."

 

"Yeah Roy said Johnny was a hit with your casserole."

 

"They  seem  really  nice...Johnny  can  come off  like  such a kid  but  them  when I  read the  reports... And I hear the nurses talk about his flirting..."

 

"They are excellent paramedics and fire fighters and even more important really nice people.   Johnny and Roy are gentlemen in the truest sense of the word."

"For some reason that doesn't surprise me...but it’s nice to hear."

 

*****

 

Everyone  had  been  asleep  for  about an  hour  when  Roy  heard the  familiar  sounds of Johnny having a nightmare.  Quickly   he went over to his partner's bunk and shook him as he talked to him softly. “Come on junior, wake up."  He brushed his fingers across Johnny's forehead, talking softly as he did so.  "It’s a dream Junior; no one is going to hurt you."

 

 Johnny slowly opened his eyes taking a minute or two for the images to leave his mind.  Johnny got up and went into the latrine and washed his face with cold water.  Trying to be quiet, he put his pants on and went out to the kitchen.   Roy was waiting for him and handed him a glass of milk.  Quietly they went out to the back wall.

 

"Don't you get tired of babysitting me?"  He asked after a brief silence.

 

"Do I get tired of seeing you hurt or in pain yes...do I get tired of helping my best friend?  No, never."  Knowing that for some reason Johnny needed reassurance he wasn't a burden to his friend he encouraged him to talk.  "Want to tell me about your dream?"

 

Shaking his head no, Johnny looked at the stars.  "Do you ever wonder why things happen like they do?  When it seems like the bad stuff happens to good people more often than not? "

 

"Like you?"  He had heard Johnny begging his uncle not to hurt him as he came out of the nightmare.  "I've wondered about that a lot."

 

  “No, not me...I wasn't thinking about me..." Johnny said as he, in his mind he saw sad beautiful green eyes.   "Sorry I woke you up."

 

"No problem, I can catch up later today."

 

 "Roy, if I ever do get married and have kids... Would you and Jo take them if something happened to both of us?"

 

 "In a heartbeat partner...in a heartbeat."  Roy brushed the hair back from Johnny’s forehead.  "You worried about something in particular?"  He put his hand on Johnny's shoulder.

 

"No, just wondering what it would have been like to have had someone like you and Jo raise me instead..."  There was a soft hitch in his voice and Roy could feel him shudder.  "But it doesn't do any good thinking about it."

"No it doesn't but remember, now you have a family that loves you and cares for you and respects what a good, kind and caring person you are."

 

"Thanks Pally."  They sat there quietly for awhile before going back in.   Roy went back to the dorm, while Johnny washed and put away the glasses.

 

Neither noticed Cap watching the two paramedics return and settle for the remainder of the night.  Like all good fathers, Cap worried about his sons.

 

*****

 

The next week was a long one for Johnny as he waited for her to come back from New York. It seemed even longer because he couldn't explain to anyone how he felt. Actually he wasn't sure how he felt  Others had  noticed his  moods and had  given  him  some  extra  space.  Roy was talking to Dixie waiting for Johnny to come out of the treatment room.

 

  “Is Johnny ok? He seems kind of down." Dixie asked as she fixed herself as cup of coffee.

 

"He had another bad nightmare last night...couldn't or wouldn't remember what it was about except his uncle hurt him and left him to die alone. Think that has been a reoccurring one lately," Roy told her.

 

  "I got a call from Lee last night.   She is going to reschedule the meeting for next Wednesday.  They  get  home Sunday  night  but she has a doctor's appointment  on Monday so  she  isn't  coming into the  office until  Tuesday."

 

"They?"  Johnny hadn't mentioned she was going with anyone. Maybe that explained his moodiness.

 

"Her uncle  Jeff is  moving to the  East coast...Lee has  lived  with  him  since her  parents were  killed in  a car accident  when she was 7...Her other  uncle is a  police  captain in  New York.  They're her only family..."

 

Before Roy could say anything Johnny and Kel came out of the treatment room smiling so Roy and Dixie knew the victim would be fine.

 

*****

 

Tuesday morning Johnny came into the locker room looking happier than he had for awhile.   Chet  gave him a  long  look  but  didn't  say  anything since  Roy and  Cap had both told him to lay off the  jokes and  teasing.  Something  was  going on in  Gage's  head and  Chester  B  Kelly  was  going to get to the bottom of this  mysterious  change in  mood.

 

Johnny was nervous as he waited for the elevator.  He didn't want to seem pushy but he really wanted to ask her out.  There was just something about her that made him want to know her better.  Maybe it was her green eyes or the combination of her eyes and smile.  There was a sign on her door.  A large smiley face that said ‘come in’ under it.  It looked like something Jenny would make.  He  opened the  door  slowly  so if she  was  busy  he wouldn't  startle  her. 

 

“Hi…hope I'm not interrupting anything."  He came into the room and sat on the edge of her desk. 

 

"Not at all, I was wishing for a reason to take a break."  She looked up at him smiling. What she had really been wishing for was a visit from him.  "Hope you had a good week."

 

"It was ok...Uhnm...I was sort of wondering ...uh...would you like to go out to a movie and dinner on Saturday?   We could go where ever you'd like and see whatever you want."  He couldn't read her face.  "I wanted to ask you out before...but you told me   you were gonna go out of town."   He was on pins and needles waiting for her answer.

 

"I'd like that."  Suddenly feeling very shy, she could feel her face turning red.  "I'd like that very much.  Thank you." 

 

Before they could make any definite plans, Lee's phone rang.  She answered quickly when she saw it saw an in house call.

 

"Lee Spencer."  She listened and nodded.  "He's on his way."  Johnny was moving towards the door.  "You both take care…"

 

"I'll call you to set up the details."  And he was gone.

 

*****

 

 Roy came out of the treatment room and didn't see Johnny anywhere.  As Dixie hung up her phone he went over to her.

 

"Your partner is upstairs...He gave me a quick hello and was gone.  He seemed preoccupied."

 

"He was...He was going to ask Lee out the other day but she was going out of town so he didn't.   So he has been worrying about it all week..."

 

"I'm not sure that is such a good idea.  Is he sure that is what he wants to do?"

 

  “Yeah...," Puzzled about her concern.  "Why?"

 

Before she  could  answer  Johnny  came into  view and the  HT  toned  in  sending the  paramedics  to the  squad.

 

"She said yes...that she would like to go out with me."  Johnny told him as he put on his helmet.  "I think we should go somewhere really nice for dinner and a movie.   She has the prettiest green eyes.   Did I tell you that?"

 

"Yeah, several times Junior."

 

"Roy, do me a favor?"

 

"Sure, if I can," hearing the seriousness in his friend's voice.

 

 “Don't  tell anyone  about  Lee and  me  having a date...I don't  want  to  hear the  jokes and  slurs...and  you  know  how the  guys  gossip from  one  station to another...I  don't  want her  hurt  by their  teasing  me."  Feeling very protective of her and their friendship.  "Thanks."

 

"And you don't want to be teased about this...it’s too important to you, Junior."   Roy added to himself.

 

*****

 

The rest of the shift was busy but nothing life threatening for victims or paramedics.   Chet was trying his best to get Johnny to spill what was on his mind.  Cap noticed the change in his mood as well and relaxed.  He had been worried the moodiness and nightmares were the prelude to another bout of illness.

       

Friday  morning  Johnny  went  up to  see  Lee  while  Roy  was  getting  supplies.   Roy had never seen Johnny so serious about a date before.  There  was  a look he  got on his  face when he  talked about  the  plans  he  was  making.   Dinner at a  nice  restaurant  and  a list of  movies and  times  for her  to  choose  from.  He  didn't  mention  he had  came  up  with an  alternate  idea  while  listening to the  radio  on the  way  to work.

 

Knocking softly as he opened the door and went in sitting down on the edge of her desk.  She looked up smiling as she finished typing. 

 

 The guys earned their pay last night...I think every squad in the county had multiple runs."

 

"Maybe that means a slow day for us.  Do you like seafood?"  He asked.

 

"It’s my favorite...except maybe for Chinese but then I always get a seafood dish there too."   She giggled.  "Mexican is good too especially the seafood."

 

"I was thinking maybe after dinner we could go to a new club a friend told me about.  Bet you are a really good dancer."

 

"I suggest you leave now and I don't want you back in this office unless it’s on paramedic   business...."

 

 He  had  noticed her  change in  posture  when he  mentioned  dancing  and  now  was  totally  mystified  by  her  sudden  change in attitude.  "Get out now before I call security."  The hurt in her eyes and voice stunned him as much as the anger.  "I suppose you think you're cute but...Just leave."

 

Johnny quickly left without a word.  He was speechless at how fast she had turned against him and how sad her eyes had been.  What had he said that was so terrible?

 

 Lee sat there stunned and hurt.  How could she have been so wrong about him?  She really liked him...how could he be so mean and hurtful?  The tears came as much from anger as hurt.   How could she have been so stupid as to think someone like him would really want to date her?  She was usually a better judge of character than this.

 

Roy was talking to the paramedics from Station 36.  "I'll be in the squad."  He said as he quickly went by not waiting for an answer.  Roy could see something was seriously wrong and how upset Johnny was.  When he  got to the  squad  Johnny  was  slumped in the  seat  his  eyes  closed.

 

"Want to talk about it?"  Roy asked gently.

 

"No,” was the quiet answer.

 

The ride back to the station was too short as far as Johnny was concerned.  He didn't want to talk to anyone or be around anyone especially Chet.   It was a relief that the station was empty.

 

 "Get a couple of aspirins and go lay down...a cold cloth over your eyes might help,” Roy said as they got out of the squad.

 

"Thanks Pally...How did you know my head was splitting?"   Frowning as they walked towards the kitchen.  

 

"I can see it in your eyes....besides it'll keep Chet out of your face."  Roy smiled at the look Johnny gave him.  When  was  Johnny  going to  learn  that  Roy  knew  him  better than he  knew  himself.

 

"I'm  sure  glad  Chet  didn't  know  about  her...don't  think  I could put up with his teasing...Roy,  I really liked her...and I  thought she liked  me...I  gotta find out what I did..."

 

*****

 

Dixie watched Johnny walk by and thought it was strange he didn't say hi or at least wave.   She was even more worried when she saw Lee, it was clear she had been crying.  Dixie hoped that Johnny hadn't said or done something to cause the tears.  It wasn't that he was thoughtless or uncaring it was just sometimes he blurted out the wrong thing.  Sometimes he just didn't understand the social ins and outs of relationships. 

 

*****

 

Johnny was about half asleep when the crew came back in.   Roy was in the kitchen reading the morning paper.  Cap looked around. "Where is your partner?" 

 

 "In on his bunk…he has a bad headache...I told him to try a cold cloth over his eyes and some aspirin.  He just needs some time by himself, ok Chet?"

 

"Did you hear that Chet?  That means the rest of the shift no goading him. "

 

"Cap, don’t tell me you've adopted him too?   He's my perfect pigeon."

 

"Right now, pigeons are out of season, understood."

 

"Yeah, I do..."   He walked away grumbling under his breath.

 

"So is this headache something serious?"  Cap  answered  thinking to the  other times Johnny had  complained of  bed  headaches  and  of the times he hadn't  till it  was almost too  late.

 

"Think he hasn't been sleeping too well."

 

"The nightmares have been more frequent...any idea why?"

 

"No."  He did but he wasn't going to betray Johnny's confidence. 

 

 A half hour later they were on their way to a house fire in one of the older neighborhoods.

 

The small house  was neat  but  slightly  run  down  they neighbors said an  older  widow  lived there and as  far as  they knew  she  was  home.  Cap quickly and efficiently had his men in position. 

 

"John, Roy, there may be a lady in there in and out quick."  Cap ordered.  

 

"Sure thing Cap," Roy said as they suited up.  Roy wasn't sure how safe the house had been before the fire so they were in and out of the rooms as fast as possible.  They had checked all rooms and were on the way out when the ceiling in the hallway began groaning and cracking.   As it started to come down Johnny shoved Roy out of the way of the majority of the falling plaster and wood.  Johnny staggered and fell as a large chunk of plaster and a piece of the broken stud hit him on the shoulder.   He lost his balance and fell but was quickly able to get up and moving with a hand from his partner.

 

  "I'm ok let’s getting out of here." 

 

Once outside they checked with Cap to see if there was any word on the owner.

 

"Her son just drove up...he was on his way home...his mom spent the night at his house babysitting..."

 

"Good, glad she is ok..."  He was checking the cut on the side of Johnny's face.

 

“How did you get a cut there?  Where was your mask?"

 

  "The falling crap must have knocked it off center."  He gave Cap a crooked grin, "My helmet stayed on."  Johnny winced as Roy was carefully checking the range of motion for his left shoulder.  It had been injured a in another building collapse about 6 weeks ago.

 

 "It’s a little tender...why don't I run you over to Rampart and get it checked out,” Roy said looking at Cap.

 

 "I don't need to go..."  Johnny   started.  Roy started helping him out of his coat and as a precaution put the arm in a sling.

 

"Good  idea,"  He  spoke into the  HT  letting  dispatch  know  his  squad  was  out of  service. 

 

“Thanks junior," Roy said as they pulled away from the house heading to Rampart.

 

"For what?" Johnny asked confused.  "You're the one doing all the work."

 

"Because you were the one the ceiling hit...Because again, you pushed me out of the way."

 

"Hey, Jo and the Princess would never forgive me if I sent you home hurt."  He  closed his  eyes  wondering if Lee  would  forgive him  for whatever he had  done or  said  to make her so  angry.

 

 "You still with me…?"  Roy asked noticing how quiet he was and how he was leaning back against the seat with his eyes closed.

 

"Still with you  ..."Johnny answered with a sigh.  "Getting a helluva headache…"

 

 Dixie and Kel were at the nurse’s station.  "Well what did you do now John?"  Kel asked with a slight grin.

 

“My partner is just being over protective," he grumpily answered.

 

 “His shoulder took a good hit from a collapsing ceiling ...his fingers went numb and his grip was weak…"  Johnny wondered how Roy knew that he had never said anything.  "The cut is deep."

 

        "Dix, send x ray down to 3 and we’ll get him checked out.  Come on."

 

They  started towards the treatment  room  while  Roy  waited  for  ?Dixie  to finish  her  phone  call.

 

"Did he do it again?"   Dixie asked seeing the expression on Roy's face.

 

"Yeah he did... Dix how do I make him understand he is just as important as anyone else?  WE were lucky this time."

 

"He looked really upset when you left here earlier...Was he ok?"

 

“No... He said Lee got really angry at him earlier and threatened to have security throw him out of her office.  That she never wanted to see him again unless it was official business."

"That doesn't make sense.  She was really excited about going out to dinner and to a movie with him."

 

"Johnny has  been  talking  about her since that  first  meeting...especially her  beautiful  green  eyes...but only  to me...He doesn't  want anyone  else to  know or teasing  him about her.   Said  everything  was  fine  until  he  asked  her to  go  dancing  instead of a movie.  That he thought she would be a good dancer.

 

"He did what?   Why on earth would he..."  She stopped and shook her head looking amazed.  "He doesn't know?"

 

"Know what?"  Roy looked totally lost and confused.

 

*****

 

"Get  up  there and  tell her  he  doesn't  know...She  thinks  he  pulled  some  kind of  cruel  twisted  joke  on her..That he is making fun of her. Get up there now.”

 

"Why would she think that?  It doesn’t make sense."  Roy said still confused.

 

"She's been in a wheel chair for 6 years....since a car wreck when she was 16."

 

*****

 

The sign on the door was a frown and underneath that, it said STAY OUT in big red letters.  Roy knocked on the door and went in.   Lee looked up at him glaring...

 

"Lee, we need to talk its important."

 

  "I can’t think of anything we need to talk about unless its paramedic business."

 

  “It’s about a pretty special paramedic...can we talk?"

 

 "I don’t think we have anything to talk about  ...especially about someone like John Gage."   She wouldn’t look at him. Her voice was as icy as the look she gave him. "But if we have to work together go ahead.   Have a seat if you like." 

 

Roy sat down across from her.  "Johnny  didn't  know...neither of us  did...Johnny  has  the  kindest  most  caring  heart....He would  never  hurt anyone  on purpose and  especially not someone he likes...that he  considers a friend.   Every time we have been up here you have been sitting at the desk or at the table."

 He took a deep breath.   “I can't give you any real details...but he lost both of his parents by the time he was 12 and it wasn't very good after that...Because of that and some other issues ...sometimes he doesn’t notice things others would.  His social awareness skills can be a little rough.  When he asked you to go dancing he had no idea...honestly.”

 

"Why isn't he up here telling me this?" Still unsure and unwilling to be hurt again.

 

"He still doesn’t know...Dixie just told me.  He 's  in  getting an  x-ray  done on his shoulder and  probably a stitch  or  two on his cheek...He  got hurt  pushing  me  out of the  way of a falling ceiling...And it’s  not the  first time he has  got  hurt  protecting me.  He never thinks about the danger to him just to his friends...

 

Dixie told me because she saw how upset he was this morning...Please at least talk to him."   She sat quietly thinking about what she would say.

 

“Here is my home number...if he wants to talk to me later tonight."   She  remembered the  look in his eyes  when she had  told  him about her  parents...It  was of  understanding  not pity  like so many.  "Is he going to be ok?"  The warmth was back in her voice and her eyes were not as harsh.

 

  "Yeah the x-rays are just a recheck he didn’t re injure his shoulder.  Giving him this “He held up her number.  "Is probably the best medicine for him right now?"

 

“Thank you for coming up here...Johnny is lucky to have a friend like you."

 

"That works both ways...I’m lucky he’s my best friend..."

 

"I  think  you and him are  what I  call family of the  heart...blood  doesn't  make  a family but  love  does."  Lee said softly looking at him shyly.

 

"That's about the best way to describe what Johnny means to me and my family..."

 

*****

 

   When Roy went downstairs, Johnny was waiting for him slumped in a chair?

 

"You good to go Junior?"

 

"Not too sure about good but ready,” he said with a grin. "Doc said it’ll be sore but it’s just a bruise."

 

"Here take these,” Dixie said as she came around the corner.  She handed him 2 aspirin and some water.  “Go easy and if something comes up in a rescue you can’t do  ...don’t try it."   Looking at Roy,

 

“Everything ok?"

 

"Getting better.  Come on Junior let’s get back."

 

Johnny got in the squad and leaned back his eyes closed.  Roy keyed the mic and let dispatch know they were available.   Not  certain  how  to  bring  up  his  and  Lee's  conversation.  "I talked to Lee.   Didn’t give her any details just that you lost your parents when you were young and your social skills were a little ragged sometimes.  She thought you were making fun of her when you asked her to go dancing.  That it was a practical joke you asking her out."

 

"Why would she   think that?"

 

 "Because she can’t walk."

 

"What?" 

 

"She was in a car accident when she was 16... I explained we didn’t know...she gave me her home number if you want to call her later."

 

Johnny was quiet for a minute then shook his head.  "Think we can grab a milkshake before we go back to the station?”

 

"Sounds good to me."

 

*****

Dixie was at the desk when Lee came down to go home.  She wheeled over to her.  "You look worried about something... Or someone.”

 

"Dixie, should I talk to Johnny?  I’m not sure..."

 

 “I think you owe it to him and yourself...He’s worth it and so are you."

 

*****

 Jeff was already home when she got home.

 

"How was your day?"  He asked as she went into the kitchen.

 

"Frustrating...me ....Johnny the paramedic I told you about."

"The one who asked you out to dinner and a movie?"  

 

"Yeah...him...He  came in today and said he  thought I  would  be a good  dancer and  did  I  want to  go  dancing after dinner."

 

The anger on Jeff’s face made her glad Johnny wasn’t t here.  "That dirty  ..."  

 

"He didn’t know...he’d only seen me in the office..."  She looked at Jeff with tears in her eyes.  "He didn’t know why I was so angry and mean to him...Dixie said I should give him another chance...but it scares me...What if..."

 

"Sweet pea, you can’t let the ‘what ifs’ control your life.  If Dixie said give him another chance I figure its good advice."  Jeff and Dixie had dated and were friends now.  "Trust yourself...you have good instincts."  And if he hurts you again me and Cisco may have a talk with him...”

 

*****

 

Johnny waited until everyone was watching TV and slipped out to the other room to call Lee.  Chet watched as Johnny left the room.

 

"What is he doing?"

 

"Chet if he needed you to know he would have told you.  Roy said.  "Drop it."

 

 "Kelly, give John some privacy, understand."   Cap said in a no nonsense tone.

 

 Lee answered the phone knowing who it was.  "Hello."

 

 "Hi its Johnny...Thanks for talking to me.”

 

"How is your shoulder?  Roy said that you had hurt it again."  She was struggling to keep her voice normal and non committal.

 

"It’s just a bruise nothing too serious  ...ah...could we talk tomorrow?   Face to face...not on the phone?"

 

“I think that would be a good idea.   Would you like to come here for dinner?   About 6 or 6:30?"

 

 "Yeah that would be great...See you about 6."   He hung up and just sat there thinking.  He hated the idea he had hurt her feelings.  The sad look in her eyes before she ordered him out of her office haunted him.  He heard Roy come in.

 

"Everything ok?"  He asked as he poured Johnny a glass of milk and ice tea for him.  He sat down at the table.  "You talked to her?"

 

 "It’s not ok but its better...at least she talked to me that was progress.  I'm going to see her tomorrow night."  A hint of a smile as he added, “She is cooking dinner for me."

 

"Good maybe you can get thru the night without nightmares."

"Would be nice."  Johnny drank his milk frowning.  "How come we never noticed?”  A deep sigh escaped him, “Pally, what if she doesn’t give me a second chance?   I can't  explain it but  ever since the  first  time she  smiled at me I can't  get her out of my head.   I saw those green eyes and that smile and I just wanted to take care of her and protect her and make her smile even more..."  Shaking his head, “Does that make sense to you?"

 

"As much as anything else does."  Roy watched as Johnny washed and dried the glasses.  “Junior  you just  described  how I  feel about  Jo...sounds  like for the  first  time in  your life you're  falling in  love..”

 

*****

The night passed quietly with no nightmares or runs.   Johnny had  left  as soon as possible  even  turning  down  Roy's  offer  for a therapy  session  after  breakfast.  He had seen a new flower shop near his apartment complex and wanted to stop there.  It was in an old Victorian style home with a wide porch full of hanging baskets and wind chimes.  He thought it looked cool and inviting and maybe he could find something special there.  As he  went in  he  noticed  how  the  smells and  colors  seemed to  blend in  and not  be overpowering.  As a silver bell announced a customer a lovely West Indian lady came thru the doorway.

 

"Good morning...how may I help you?"  Her voice was as welcoming as her smile.

 

"I  accidentally  hurt someone's feeling really  bad...I  want to get her something special to tell her how  sorry I am...She is more special ....more special than just roses..."

 

"Tell me about your young lady...what are her favorite colors?"

 

"I  think she likes purples and pinks and blues...seems  she wears  those  colors a lot...I  haven't  known  her  very  long...She has  the most  beautiful  green  eyes and a smile that  makes the  world  light  up...She  looks  delicate and fragile  but  you know  underneath  there is a strength  about her..."  Johnny  was surprised at  how  she  could  tell this stranger  so  much  more than he  could  explain to Roy. 

 

"I think I know just the thing for your young lady."  She  went to the  cupboard and  got a antique tea  cup  that hat a soft  floral  pattern in pink and lavender and soft  green.  She went into the back workspace and came out a few minutes later.  The cup now held flowers in various shades of lavender and pink.

 

 "You like?"

 

 "They are perfect...just like Lee..."  He smiled the famous Gage crooked smile.  "What are they?  They’re so small and delicate..."

 

“Faerie roses...a wild free spirit..."

 

*****

Lee was on an emotional roller coaster. All day.   Afraid Johnny  would  tell her he was sorry  he  didn't  know  about the  chair...but  it  would  cause too many  problems...that he  would  pity  her...that he  would be indifferent to her...That he wouldn't  like  what she  cooked...She had  decided on  salmon and au gratin  potatoes and a  salad  and  sour  dough  bread.  She had  made a triple  layer  pineapple  cake  for  dessert.   Jeff  came into the  kitchen.

  "I'd ask you how you are doing but all this tells me…"  He kissed her lightly on the forehead.  "Relax he is going to love everything you fixed...The cake smells really good."

 

"I'll save you some....Am I doing the right thing?  Can I trust him?"

 

"I have never met him how can I tell you if you can do that?"  He  smiled  trying to make her  feel  better

 

"Will you get 2 place settings of Grandma Spencer’s china down for me or do you think that's too fussy?" 

 

"I’ll get it down and let you decide,” he suggested.  "I’ve got some errands to run before my dinner date...Take it easy, ok?"

 

"If you see Hector or Cisco doesn’t tell them about the mix up...I don’t want them to dislike Johnny before they know him."

 

"I won’t."

 

*****

Johnny went home and slept without any nightmares. He did some chores around the apartment until time to get ready for his date. He had a hard time deciding what to wear...He didn't want it too casual like he didn't care...but he didn't want it too dressy and formal feeling. He finally settled on his new black jeans and the sweater Jo and Roy had given him for Christmas. He didn't remember ever being this nervous before a date before.

 

*****

Lee looked around the apartment and smiled, everything was ready.  The table looked nice but not fussy. The cake had turned out perfect and everything was ready...she just had to broil the salmon and she had a rib eye in case he didn't like fish.

 

After finally deciding on what to wear (a deep purple skirt and a lighter lavender long sleeved blouse) she did her makeup. She used just a little mascara and some eye liner and a pale lipstick. She tried several different things with her hair deciding to put it up in a lose bun. Finally she was satisfied with the way it looked.

 

“Ok you are 22 years old and ready for your first real date...one that wasn't made on a dare ...

 

*****

Johnny pulled into the parking space and looked at his watch. 5:57. taking a deep breath he picked up the box that had the flowers in it. A quick check of his hair and he got out of the car and started towards the door.

 

He noticed the flowers and landscaping and smiled. It just seemed so right for her to live somewhere with lots of flowers. He had noticed the plants in her office...what a jerk...he noticed the plants but not a wheel chair. As he started up the front walk the man who had been working with the plants turned to look at him.

 

"Can I help you?" The older Hispanic man asked looking at Johnny with a frown.

"I'm having dinner with the young lady who lives upstairs." Johnny saw a slight nod in response. "I'm John Gage...a paramedic with LA County...I know Lee from work..."

 

"She told us she was having a guest for dinner and not to worry if there was a strange car in the lot." He looked over at the rover. "My family lives downstairs...We're kinda protective of her...she is like our daughter...you understand how it is."

 

"It's good she has someone looking out for her...she is a special lady."

 

"She has been cooking all day...She made a cake that made the whole building smell good...enjoy your dinner."

 

"Thank you sir…" He went in and Hector smiled. The young man had been polite and had called Lee a lady...that was good.

 

There were 8 parking spots in the lot and they had been having a problem with strangers parking there. Neither Jeff nor the Alvarez family wanted strangers hanging around when Lee came home after dark.

 

Hector had put it mildly when he had said they were protective of Lee...especially his second oldest son who had appointed himself her protector when he was 12 and she was 7. The bully across the street had made Lee cry.

 

Lee hadn't cried as loud or as long as the bully had after Cisco tackled him.

Lee saw the car in the lot and knew he was getting the once over from Hector. She smiled, wondering what Johnny thought of her protector. The door bell rang and she opened the door after taking several deep breaths.

 

"Hi ...Welcome," she said as he came in. "Was Hector downstairs?"

 

"Your downstairs neighbor? Yeah he must have thought I passed inspection. It's nice you have someone to look after you." They moved into the comfortable uncluttered living room.

 

"Yeah it is......Would you like a soda or some tea?"

 

"A soda would be fine." He looked uncomfortable and Lee's heart sank.

 

"Have a seat and I'll get the sodas...I forgot to get any regular soda so its diet Dr. Pepper....Is that ok?"

 

"It's fine...I honestly...when I asked you to go dancing...I didn't know ...These are to tell you how sorry I ...Here..." Frustrated at himself for getting tongue tied he handed her the package.

 

When she opened it, it was her turn to be speechless."Oh Johnny they're beautiful...I have never seen anything like these before..."

 

"They're faire roses and old fashion wild rose...they reminded me of you."

 

"Old fashioned and wild…?" She teased as he turned red.

"NO...delicate and beautiful...but strong and proud....Lee I never saw a wheelchair in that office...All I saw was your smile and pretty green eyes...Please believe me." He gave her that wonderful crooked smile that totally melted her heart.

 

"I do...I knew it was a misunderstanding after talking to Roy and Dixie...they were both defending you and even my uncle said I was usually a good judge of character. So can we just pretend that conversation never happened and you forgive me for being so rude to you?" Suddenly she felt very shy and a little afraid of what she was feeling.

 

"No I want to remember it so I never do anything that stupid again...I never want to see you looking so sad and hurt because of something I did or said."

 

"Thank you..." She smiled at him. "Would you please put this in the center of the table while I get the sodas?"

 

"Sure."

 

He was seated on the sofa when she came back into the room with a tray on her lap with soda cans and glasses. He wanted to get up and help but knew she had things under control. She came over and sat the tray on the table.

 

"There's beer or liquor if you wanted something else. Usually I just drink soda or maybe a wine cooler or a glass of wine once in awhile."

 

"This is fine...I don't drink except for a beer once in awhile..."

 

As they talked they found out they had a lot of things in common. They both liked to read mysteries and westerns and they both liked action movies and musicals and hated the so called chick flicks...

 

"You must be starving...Everything is ready except the meat...there is salmon and steak…which one or both?"

 

"Both would be great." He followed her out to the kitchen. "What can I do to help?"

 

"Just sit there and talk to me...How do you like your steak?"

 

Medium rare...Your friend Hector said the cake you made today smelled great."

 

Maria, Hector's wife is the one who taught me to cook. Jeff hired her to watch me and take care of the apartment when I first moved here...They are family...they adopted me and Jeff into their lives and after the wreck I don't know what we would have done without them. Jeff was hurt and I was pretty much helpless for the first year...once they quit trying to fix me and I got serious about therapy things got better. Johnny I honestly wasn't trying to hide the fact that I'm in this chair...In the office I use a regular chair because they are more comfortable and give my back more support...I just took it for granted everyone knew." As she was talking she got the steak and fish in the broiler and went to the fridge to get the salad out. "There is a pan of potatoes in the top oven ...would you be so kind as to hand them down? I usually don't use that oven unless I know someone will be here to help me."

 

He got them out of the oven and carried them into the dining area. He took the refilled soda glasses and the salad as she finished with the salmon and steak.

 

During dinner Johnny told Lee about some of the antics at the station with Chet and a little about his friendship with Roy and his family. Lee listened as Johnny talked about his love of the outdoors and the camping and fishing trips with Roy and the kids. Johnny watched her face and wondered why she suddenly looked sad as they were getting ready to go into the living room area.

 

"Are you OK? Did I say something wrong?"

 

“No...If I tell you something promise not to laugh?" She looked down at her plate. He got up and moved to her and pulled her chair away from the table and turned it towards him.

 

Squatting down in front of her he waited until she looked him in the eyes."I will always laugh with you never at you...That are a promise."

 

"This is the first real date I have been on...you are the first guy who ever asked me out...except for one who did it on a dare for $50...and to prove he wasn't afraid of Cisco. The idiots couldn't keep from bragging and Cisco found out so the date never happened."

 

"Who is Cisco?" Johnny realized he was angry at the jerk who’d hurt her. No wonder she had reacted to his asking her to go dancing like she did.

 

"Maria and Hector's son who is on the Carson police force...I was 18 then...pretty pathetic isn't it."

 

"That guy was a jerk and missed out on knowing a pretty special girl." Johnny wiped a tear from her cheek and stood up.

 

They went into the front room to watch a movie (having decide to have cake later)

 

"It's easier for me to get comfortable if I sit next to the sofa arm...gives me something to push up on...," she explained as he watched her transfer from her chair to the sofa.

 

It was an old classic movie with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. After the movie Johnny insisted she stay put and went out and fixed a tray with cake and 2 glasses of milk. They were eating their dessert and watching another THIN MAN movie when the doorbell rang. Johnny recognized it as Morse code for him.

 

"It’s Jeff...we stated that when was about 12 and he left me alone here sometimes in the evenings. That way I wouldn't be frightened when the door opened. Of course Hector and Maria were always home on those nights and the stairs and elevator were locked and had alarms on them." Johnny smiled glad she had been so loved and protected when she was younger...

 

Lee introduced Johnny. "There is cake and I can make you some coffee."

 

"Cake sounds good but think I'll get some milk like you ...I'm going to my room to write up some case notes then get some sleep. It’s been a long day. Nice meeting you, John. Night sweet pea…"

 

 

"Thanks nice meeting you." They shook hands and then Jeff went off to the kitchen. After the movie was over Johnny took the cake plates and glasses to the kitchen and rinsed them before saying his goodbyes. Lee told him to take some of the cake home with him.

 

"Thanks for a great evening...and for giving me a second chance."

 

Lee slipped back into her chair. "I had a nice time...." They were moving towards the door.

 

"Would you like to go out to dinner Tuesday? I know a good Chinese place...or where ever you want...maybe see a movie?"

 

"I'd like that.”

 

"May I kiss you goodnight?"

 

"I'd like that too." He bent down and gently kissed her on the lips.

 

He left and both were very happy and confused at what they were feeling.

 

Next shift Johnny was in and changed before Chet got there. Chet eyed him trying to figure out what had gotten into his pigeon. Roy had been gone all day Sunday so he was anxious to hear how

Saturday had gone. He didn't have to ask when he saw the grin on Johnny's face.

 

"Hey Pally, I called you yesterday but didn't get an answer.”

 

"We were over at Jo's sisters...so how was your week end?"

 

"Saturday was very good and yesterday I went hiking for a few hours."

 

"So what was so good about Saturday? A hot new chick?"

 

"Nope just got a lot done...changing the oil in the rover, getting my laundry done, getting my hiking gear all cleaned up..."

 

"Sounds like a productive day...Ready for some coffee?" Roy said before Chet could start up.

 

After chores were assigned and announcements read, Roy and Johnny quickly did theirs so they could go over to Rampart for some supplies. Soon as they were in the squad Johnny began telling Roy all about the date. Roy was amazed when Johnny said she had never been out on a date before.

 

"That is why so got so mad...and hurt...Man she is a great cook...maybe we can have a cook out over there...she has a nice pool and swims about 150 laps a week as part of her therapy...You gotta taste this triple layer cake she made..."

 

Roy listened to the comments and nodded and smiled. It was nice hearing his partner and best friend so happy. But there was still a nagging worry in the back of his mind. What did she decided after a few dates she wasn't interested?

 

“Junior I hope you aren't setting yourself up for a whole lot of grief”

 

*****

Dixie was getting coffee when Lee found her Monday morning.

 

"Good morning...nice week end?" Dixie asked with a casual tone.

 

"Yep...and I owe you a dinner at any place in town you pick...thank you for not letting me give up on Johnny....He is..."

 

"Johnny...there is no better way to describe him...So I take it you had a nice time."

 

Lee told her about the flowers and conversation and plans for Tuesday. Lee was too embarrassed to tell her it was the first real date or kiss she had ever had. "He makes me feel pretty..." she added with a shy smile.

 

"He has a way of seeing the best in everybody…Except himself...maybe you can help him learn to do that.”

 

About an hour later the guys came in for supplies. Roy looked at him raising an eyebrow then nodded. Dixie grinned watching him go to the elevators.

 

"So Johnny is as happy as she is."

 

"Yeah I have never seen him so totally happy."

 

"Then why the worried look?"

 

"Because he is in love for the first time in his life..." He frowned, "He doesn't know it...not sure if he will...until something happens and it’s over."

 

"Hope it doesn't…She is so in love with him she can hardly breathe...she just doesn't know it yet...Now we just have to stand by and let them figure it out on their own."

 

"He doesn't want anyone to know he likes her doesn't want them teasing her or him."

 

"All we can do is be there for them and hope they get the Happily Ever After they both deserve."

 

THE END (of the beginning)

 

 

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

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