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Greater Love Has No Man...

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

Greater love has no man than this…That he lay down his life for his friends. The Bible John 15:13

 

 

December 18th

The rumbling sound had finally ceased but a fine sifting of concrete dust still drifted its way downward, coating everything in its path with gray powder. Silence finally fell within the darkened room.

 

The faint snap and weak glow of a flashlight cut through the gloom, followed by a raspy cough and low moan of pain as the man holding it breathed in the dust filled air.

 

The beam wavered from side to side as anxious blue eyes scanned the murky room, desperately looking for any sign of his partner and best friend but there was nothing…Nothing but a pile of rubble where they’d been standing just a few seconds before.

 

No sound but his own wheezing breaths drifted to his ears. “JOHNNY…?” He called as loudly as he could from his clogged throat…There was no answer.

 

Twenty nine year old Fire Fighter Paramedic Roy DeSoto pulled himself painfully to his feet. His left arm hung at an odd angle and he was pretty sure even without an X-Ray that it was broken but that was the least of what worried him now.

 

He swept the flashlight from right to left, spotting a large chunk of concrete that was most likely the culprit for his injury. He staggered further into room that he was now trapped in but there was no sign of his twenty five year old partner, John Gage anywhere. Roy had been hoping and praying that he’d managed to jump clear but that hope was rapidly dwindling.

 

 

They’d been called out just after roll call to a suspected gas leak in an older neighborhood of L.A. When they arrived, they found a block of buildings…dilapidated and abandoned. The address appeared to be a structure wedged between two others that by the looks of them if they weren’t also condemned…should be, he’d thought as he climbed from the squad.

 

Johnny had given it a nose curl of disgust as he jumped from the cab. “Man…I can’t believe they haven’t torn this mess down,” he said as he came around to join his partner.

 

“Probably just haven’t had the time junior,” he replied as they headed over to where their accompanying engine had pulled up to the curb in front of them.

 

Captain Hank Stanley stepped down and raised the Handy Talkie to his lips. “LA…Engine 51…There is no fire or smoke showing at this location…Cancel other companies,” he ordered before dropping the HT back in the pocket of his heavy turnout coat.

 

“Chet…Marco…Pull an inch and a half just to be on the safe side,” he told his two linemen Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez.

 

Another man quickly trotted from the store across the street. “I’m the one that called you,” he informed the tall man who appeared to be giving the orders. “I saw a coupla kids go inside that old office building there. I knew it wasn’t safe so I went over to shoo them out…That’s when I smelled the gas.”

 

“Are you sure that’s what you smelled?” Hank questioned doubtfully, frowning at the abandoned building.

 

The man nodded his head. “Pretty sure…The owners were having a terrible time getting the contractor to finish fixing the pipes in that little store a few years ago…Said they kept smelling the gas and they were pretty scared of being inside. They finally seemed to get it under control but then the roof started leaking and that led to the structure damage and then the office building cleared out and…”

 

Hank barely refrained from rolling his eyes in annoyance at the soliloquy and waved the man silent.

 

“Did ya get the kids out…?”

 

“Oh… Uh No… I backed out as soon as I smelled it and ran back over to my place to call you guys.”

 

“I thought you said they were in the offices…The gas leak was in the store?”

 

“Well yeah…But the smell is in the office building now too.”

 

Cap heaved a sigh, “John…Roy…There may be a couple of kids inside that office complex…Go check it out okay but don’t take too long. If there is a leak…I don’t want you in there if it blows,” he teased with a grin.

 

“Thanks Cap…,” Roy said smiling.

 

“Yeah…We appreciate the sentiment,” Johnny added with a smirk as he grabbed his air tank and followed his partner.

 

Hank shook his head at the pair as they disappeared inside.

 

 

The building was dark and musty and the floor boards creaked ominously as they moved through the rooms. The smell of rotting timber was strong and John lifted his air mask from where it dangled from his shoulder clip.

 

The smell of gas was faint but if it was seeping in from the other building than it was probably pretty powerful over there, but nevertheless…John had had too many bouts with pneumonia and other lung problems to want to risk breathing mold spores and gas. He pulled the mask into place, earning him a grin and ‘a thumbs up’ gesture from his partner. He rolled his eyes in annoyance and even muffled by the mask he heard his best friend’s chuckle.

 

John wasn’t always known for taking a lot of safety precautions and Roy always appreciated it greatly when he did. It saved him a lot of anxious moments.

 

“Careful,” Johnny said…His voice sounding faint and distant behind the air mask. “Floors are rotten,” he warned as the wood bowed under his weight.

Roy nodded and followed his young partner into the next room. It was large...Perhaps some executives office by the size of it, though now it looked as run down as the rest of the place. Roy stopped in the doorway but Johnny continued on into the room.

 

The HT in Johnny’s hand suddenly beeped for attention, “HT 51…This is Engine 51…We’ve found the kids …Evacuate the building. Repeat…The kids are outside.”

 

The young, dark haired man lifted it to his lips. “HT 51 to Engine 51...10-4,” he replied. He dropped his hand and turned toward his partner. He stepped forward to return the way they’d just come…The boards beneath his foot cracked and then buckled, dropping the young paramedic’s right leg into the narrow crawlspace below the floor. “Ahhh…Oh man,” John cried and then groaned in pain as his ankle turned painfully.

 

“Are you okay?” Roy asked as he moved cautiously forward.

“Yeah,” he muttered in annoyance. “I think I just turned my ankle that’s all,” he grumbled.

 

“Well hold on and let me take a look,” the older man replied as John struggled to tug his foot free from the hole but he had no leverage as his other leg was now bent at an odd angle.

 

“Just get me out,” he protested testily as Roy leaned down to feel down the length of his leg.

 

“Just hold your shirt on junior,’ he replied as his hand felt the already swelling ankle.

 

“It’s not broken,” Johnny assured him. “I just can’t get up.”

 

Roy grinned at his best friend. Why did these types of things always seemed to happen to his friend? It just seemed to add fuel to the fire for the discussion they’d been having the previous night. The blonde paramedic shook his head as he grabbed his young partner under the arms.

 

He’d just begun to lift him when an explosion from outside, rocked the building.

 

 

Chet and Marco dropped the hose on the ground and used the forcible entry tool to snap the padlock on the storefront door. They pushed the door open. The choking smell of gas wafted into their nostrils almost immediately.

 

“Cap…,” Chet shouted over his shoulder. “The guys right…It’s definitely a gas leak in here.”

 

“Gotcha…I’ll call the gas company and get someone out here. You two need to back on outta there.”

 

Both young men gave a brief wave and started back when they spotted the two missing children.

 

“Cap…We found the kids…They’re in here,” Marco yelled.

 

Kelly and Lopez disappeared inside. A crowd was gathering outside, their necks craning anxiously to see what the engine and the squad were doing there.

 

Marco and Chet emerged a moment later, each one carrying a young boy in their arms. They ran them to the squad where Mike was already pulling the oxygen canister from its compartment.

Cap raised the HT to his lips… LA this is Engine 51…Respond the gas company, an ambulance and police to our location…We need some help with crowd control.”

 

“Engine 51…10-4,” Sam Lanier’s voice replied.

 

Cap raised the HT to his lips once more. “HT 51…This is Engine 51…We’ve found the kids…Evacuate the building. Repeat…The kids are outside.”

 

Johnny’s affirming ’10-4’ came back. Cap walked over to where Marco and Chet were administering oxygen to the two boys who looked to be around eight or nine. “Looks like they climbed through a vent pipe between the buildings Cap,” Chet said, glancing up at Hank. Well…That would explain how the gas was getting into the other building.

 

Cap’s dark eyes lifted to where the crowd was beginning to grow a bit heavier and hoped the police arrived soon. They were getting a bit too close to the building so he decided to head over that way to wave them back himself…He could smell the gas clear out here and he needed these people back a safe distance.

 

He’d only taken a step or two when he saw the man with a cigarette…He raised a lighter to his lips…Hanks’ cry of warning reached the man a second too late.

 

His shout of “NO…Don’t…,” was cut off by the reverberating BOOM that suddenly filled the air.

 

The concussion knocked the crowd off its feet and resulting fireball shot several feet into the air. The small store was now a mass of flames as the buildings on either side began to crumble in on themselves.

 

Cap managed to push himself to his feet. His face was scraped and bleeding. He glanced around at his men and felt a bit reassured that all three were climbing to their feet as well before memory suddenly returned. His dark eyes swiveled toward the collapsed office building where Johnny and Roy were now possibly buried under a ton of debris.

 

“Oh my God,” Hank breathed out fearfully. He snatched the HT. “LA…This is Engine 51…There has been an explosion at our location…I need a second alarm and ambulances and paramedics. Two of my men are trapped,” he yelled into the radio. He didn’t wait for a response. “Marco…Chet…Get on those lines,” he yelled as he hurried toward the crowd that was just beginning to sort itself out and regain their feet.

 

Several bore cuts and bruises from flying debris but no one appeared seriously injured. “Everyone alright?" he questioned. Most nodded. “Good…I need you to back away…Over to the other side of the street. There could be more explosions,” he warned them, shooting a disgusted glare at the repentant cigarette smoker.

 

Cap raised the HT to his lips… “John…Roy…Can you hear me?” He called out but only silence came back. That silence was shattered as the wail of the arriving engines, squads and ambulances along with the police.

 

 

Roy staggered under the buffeting of the blast from the building next door. He held his breath, fearful that the explosion would set off the gas trapped inside the building they were in but it didn’t. 

 

Dust was flying, making it difficult to see. “What the hell just happened?” Johnny muttered as he renewed his effort to pull his foot free. Roy began to help him. They both wanted out…Right now.

 

Roy yanked at the rotted floorboards but John’s foot was hooked on something. He’d just bent down to try and free it when they both heard the creaking and grating sound of the roof as the first cracks began to appear in the ceiling.

 

John’s dark eyes lifted and he knew it was coming down. He couldn’t get free in time but Roy could. He never hesitated. “RUN ROY,” he yelled giving his partner and best friend a hard push as the first chunks of concrete began to fall.

 

Roy staggered clear under the force of the shove as a rain of cement, ceiling tiles and beams began to fall where they’d just been. He glanced toward the door…It was still clear and he had an easy way out but his young partner was now buried. He looked one last time at the door and safety before he turned back to Johnny, knowing full well that he could find himself trapped or crushed as well. He couldn’t leave his partner…His kid brother behind and that’s what Johnny had become to him over the last three years.

 

He’d barely taken a step when the wall began to crumble. Roy leaped back… Something hit his arm and he cried out, dropping the flashlight and falling to his knees in pain.

 

 A rumbling sound filled the air and more dirt and debris flew, clogging Roy’s airway. He began to cough harshly. He fumbled with his air mask, managing to lift it into place. He huddled against the wall until the crashing stopped.

 

He turned back to where he thought John should be but it was hard to tell. The pain in his arm was terrific and he struggled with a wave of blackness…He couldn’t pass out now…Johnny needed him.

 

 

Johnny heard the rumbling and his head shot up…His eyes widened in horror as he realized the roof was gonna go. He glanced toward the door and then back to his partner, knowing Roy would never leave him behind on his own…He took the matter into his own hands and made the decision for him. “RUN ROY,” he shouted, shoving his best friend away from him as the ceiling began to give way.

 

Roy staggered away from him and John barely had time to throw his hands over his head and dive sideways…He felt the rotten floorboards give beneath his weight as he crashed through them to the narrow crawl space beneath. His ankle gave a flare of pain as it was ripped free of what had been pinning it originally. John screamed in agony as the bone snapped but it was cut off by a grunt of expelled air as his lungs emptied with a whoosh as the supporting beam of the ceiling crashed down on top of him.

 

He felt something impale his side but the choking dust cut off his ability to even cry out. He coughed but immediately sucked in his breath at the pain that washed in waves over him…More debris suddenly tumbled down on top of him sealing him inside his narrow cocoon. Darkness overtook him and for a moment he wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive.

 

The beam seemed to be bearing the worst of the weight and his head was saved from being crushed by a floor joist lying mere centimeters above him. Something had definitely pierced his side and had him firmly pinned to the ground. Tears of pain welled in his eyes as every nerve ending suddenly began to send signals all at once.

 

His ankle, his side, his back and his right shoulder were screaming in agony. He could taste the dirt that his face was pressed into and he managed to turn his head enough to suck in a small amount of air. He could hear the sound of his air mask hissing away his precious oxygen but he couldn’t move his arm enough to bring it to his face.

 

His thoughts turned to Roy…Had he made it out? God he hoped so. He couldn’t bear the thought of Jo and the kids having to go on without him. He hoped he’d given him enough time to get through the door to freedom. Maybe he’d even be able to get some help back in here before John…He couldn’t complete the thought.

 

He knew he was badly hurt but all that mattered was that his best friend made it out. Roy had to be okay. He heard a scraping sound. ‘God…Please no more…Please don’t let anything else fall on me,’ he pleaded silently.

 

Pain was coming in waves and shock was beginning to set in…Darkness and damp earth was all around him…He felt like he was in a grave. That thought sent shudders through him. He tried to push the analogy aside but it wasn’t easy. “Please let someone come soon,” he whispered.

 

 

 

Roy tucked the flashlight in the pocket of his turnout before feeling down the length of his arm…Wincing as his fingers found the break. He gritted his teeth, knowing this was gonna hurt but he needed to get the bone back in place.

 

He gently turned his hand and despite his best efforts, a wave of blackness washed over him and a cry of pain slipped from between his stiff lips. Drops of sweat beaded on his forehead and trickled down his cheeks. He kept on until he felt the bone slide into place. He wasn’t certain that it was set properly but it was much better than it had been.

 

All he could do at that point was tuck it between the clips of his turnout to hold it in place. He retrieved the flashlight and moved to the pile of stone that might well be his best friend’s bier. He set the light down and angled it toward the rubble.

 

Tears of loss burned behind his blue eyes…Not again. He couldn’t bear the idea of losing John again. The first time a year ago had been tough enough when they thought he’d been killed in a car accident. Roy hadn’t believed it but this time…The evidence was right in front of his face.

 

He squatted by the pile of debris and began to move the pieces that he could manage one handed. He knew the crew would be searching for them but that would take too long. If there was any possibility that Johnny was alive he had to get to him now. He wouldn’t last long without air, not to mention that he would most likely be badly hurt.

 

“C’mon junior…Give me a sign,” Roy whispered quietly as he continued to work. “Why’d you do that partner?” He muttered, though he already knew.

 

John had seen the ceiling cracking above them and he’d given his partner and best friend a chance to live. ‘RUN ROY…’ The words echoed in the blonde paramedics head. He hadn’t even had a chance to react before he’d felt John’s hands shove him away.

 

He’d only had a brief moment when he thought he should run…Even just to go for help but how could he flee and just leave his kid brother behind. He’d have hated himself forever.

 

Piece by piece, Roy continued to push and shove at the debris from over the spot where he thought John’s head might be. He prayed he was right…If not…John could suffocate.

 

Finally a small area was uncovered. He snatched up the flashlight and shone it into hole. His partners pale features were reflected back at him and his breath caught. John’s eyes were barely open and for one heart stopping moment Roy mistook the glassy sheen of pain and shock for the clouded glaze of death.

 

“Johnny,” he whispered agonizingly.

 

A small moan slipped from between his partner’s lips and his eyes shifted subtly toward the light.

 

“Rooooy,” the word whispered out from between teeth that were tightly clenched in pain.

 

The scraping sound continued. Johnny tried to lift his head but the beam above him prevented him. He tried to scoot backward an inch but all that accomplished was to send a wave of agony through his side. He fought the urge to vomit.

 

“Please God…Not now…Please don’t let me be sick,” he moaned softly. After a moment the nausea subsided. He finally managed to raise his left hand and slid it back to his side…A wave of blackness washed over him as his hand encountered the steel rod that punctured the flesh, impaling him to the ground.

 

His shirt was wet and warm and he knew it was his own blood that soaked it. Once again he felt the bile rise up and had to fight to regain control of his stomach. “Please…Please let someone come soon. He prayed Roy had managed to get out and wasn’t trapped somewhere in the same condition. John didn’t want to die here but if it had to happen it was better to go alone than to bring his best friend with him.

 

He heard a scrap above his head and a light scattering of dust fell against his face and a beam of light pierced his sight. John closed his eyes briefly against the sudden glare. His foggy mind wondered for a moment if this was ‘THE LIGHT’ but no…something told him it wasn’t bright enough.

 

He heard a voice whisper his name…It was familiar and one he was both relieved and dismayed to hear. “Johnny?”

 

No…No he shouldn’t be here…He’d given him time to get away. “Rooooy,” he managed to grit out between clenched teeth.

 

 

“I’m here Junior,” he assured him quietly. John moaned again. Why? Why had he stayed behind? “Can you tell me what hurts?” The voice questioned again.

 

Roy wiped the sweat from his face and ignored his own pain…Pushing the smaller pieces of concrete and timber and ceiling tile from off John’s body as he waited for an answer.

 

“S…side. My shoul…der. My…back…My an…kle,” he breathed out between hitched breaths.

 

“Okay…Don’t you move… I’m gonna try and get you out.”

 

“Ccc…can’t mooove…Some…,” John panted painfully for a moment before continuing on. “So…omething stu…stuck in my sss…ide,” he stammered.

 

“Oh God,” Roy whispered worriedly. How bad was Johnny hurt? He glanced toward the door that no longer existed and prayed that help was close by. “Are you bleeding bad?”

 

“Can’t t…ell,” he mumbled uncertainly. “You…You ‘kay?”

 

“Just a busted arm junior…Hang on alright?” He replied, renewing his efforts at moving the worst of the debris away.

 

“Can…can ya get…get out?” John questioned.

 

“Doorway’s gone…We’re stuck here till Cap and the guys find us,” he answered, finally reaching a point where the only thing still covering Johnny were slabs of concrete and ceiling joists that would require a porta power to move. He prayed that they weren’t resting directly on his young partner or he could suffocate before the others could reach them.

 

“Oh man,” John whispered despairingly. Pain racked his body and he wished he could just pass out. “Hurs Roy…Bad…Hard…ta breathe.” 

 

“Hang on Johnny. Don’t you leave me,” Roy ordered, sliding down as close to the opening as possible

 

John’s dark eyes rolled toward him. “Why…Why’d ya stay? I…I wan…ted ya ta get…out.”

 

Roy slid his good arm through the small opening he’d tunneled out…His hand just barely able to touch his best friend. He let his fingers rest against the dark head. “Remember what we talked about last night and this morning…I couldn’t leave ya junior.”

 

Pain and blackness washed through the young paramedic and Johnny frowned as his dark eyes slowly closed. Roy glanced toward the collapsed entrance but he couldn’t leave John…He let his mind drift back.

 

 

December 17th

 

Roy DeSoto’s eight year old son Chris and three and a half your old daughter Jennifer sat at the breakfast table with their parents and the man they’d been calling Uncle Johnny for three years now. They’d been saving their allowance for months and their dad and Johnny had promised to take them Christmas shopping, giving Joanne a chance to do some of her own without the kids around.

 

Jen didn’t really understand the whole concept of shopping for gifts but Chris was very excited to be able to actually pick out presents for his family and pay for them himself for the very first time.

Johnny sipped his coffee and grinned wistfully at his partner. This would be fun…Johnny’d only been celebrating the Christmas Holiday’s himself for the last couple of years. He’d been raised for the most part on the Reservation where his Mom had been born and his family there hadn’t celebrated the traditional Christmas holidays.

 

John understood what Christmas was supposed to be about as his father was white and had taken his son to church whenever he was home but John hadn’t been raised with the gifts and the trees and the decorations. Even after his Aunt Rosemary had taken him to raise when he was fourteen, she’d rarely been home on the holiday and when she was, John wasn’t comfortable with her ‘family’ and always found an excuse to be absent, so it was all still pretty new to him.

 

John had been abused by his own relatives after his parents died when he was a child and by the time he’d met Roy, he was severely, emotionally handicapped. He hadn’t understood what ‘family’ was supposed to be about and ‘love’ was a foreign concept, at least when it was directed at him. He’d been told most of his young life that he was useless and unwanted and not worth loving. He’d finally believed them.

 

Roy and Joanne and their kids had changed everything in his life. They’d made him a part of their family and he’d learned a lot from them all over the last few years but love was still an iffy subject for him. The word didn’t come easily for him nor did the understanding of it. He didn’t think of himself as being someone anyone could love even though Roy and Jo and the kids had been telling him that they did for some time now.

 

John usually just gave them an embarrassed grin for the sentiment but the words had only slipped from his mouth once and that was when he’d been very sick. He just wasn’t one to believe in that tiny little word.

 

Roy smiled over at his partner as the kids talked excitedly and saw the rueful look on his young friends face. He sighed as the smile fled, knowing exactly what was running through the kids head. Somehow…Someday he’d make John understand how much he was loved by his new family. How special he’d become to all of them but until he did…He’d just have to keep telling him.

 

“You kids need to hurry it up,” Roy warned looking at the clock.

 

“It’s early dad.” Chris argued.

 

“Not as crazy as the stores and the shopping’s been getting. People are doing really stupid things to get the best deals and this is the grand opening for this place so I want to get it done early and get out so you need to finish up breakfast...Besides, you have a play to do tonight,” he reminded his son.

 

The kids nodded, Chris was supposed to play Tiny Tim in his schools production of a Christmas Carol later this evening. soon the family was on their way to the store.

 

 

Johnny couldn’t believe his eyes at the chaos when he arrived. The crowd was wall to wall and they weren’t exactly full of holiday cheer. He finally had to pick Jen up and carry her as she was being buffeted by so many people that John was afraid she’d be trampled.

 

“Man Roy…,” he muttered aside to his partner. “What’s the big rush?”

 

“I don’t know. I know there was supposed to be a big sale but this is ridiculous,” he murmured, holding Chris close against his side. The young blonde was wide eyed at the wall of people around him, pushing and shoving each other in an attempt to get their hands on whatever was on the tables before anyone else could.

 

Children were crying in the throes of obvious temper tantrums as they watched the toys they wanted being snapped up by others and Jen’s blue eyes were frightened and wary at the noise. John looked on in shock himself as one woman sprayed another in the face with perfume to keep her from taking the last Mrs. Beasley doll. “I promised my granddaughter,” she shrieked angrily as a store security guard escorted her off the premises. They watched in stunned wonder as the woman who’d been sprayed shook off the manager’s hand and snatched up the doll in triumph even as tears poured from her eyes.

 

 “Maybe we should go somewhere else,” Johnny suggested worriedly.

 

“NO UNCLE JOHNNY,” Chris protested adamantly. “This is the only place that has the Odyssey game…You promised Dad,” he said with a pout and a stomp of the foot as he glared at his father.

 

Roy’s eyes narrowed angrily at the display of temper and John grimaced knowing the child was just mimicking what he was seeing around him but also knowing Roy would never tolerate that behavior from his own children.

 

“What did you just say?” Roy questioned ominously.

 

Chris swallowed heavily before his face fell repentantly.”I’m sorry dad,” he mumbled.

 

“I thought we were here to shop for everyone else Christopher…,” he added crisply. The boy nodded and wisely held his tongue. Chris had no idea that his father had already bought the electronic game system and had no idea how close he’d just come to having it returned. Roy looked at John with a shake of his head. “I think we forgot what Christmas is all about here,” he murmured.

 

John nodded his agreement. “So much for peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” he muttered forlornly.”Is this really what it’s about?” He asked.

 

Roy shook his head but his answer was cut off as one man reached out and punched another as he took the last game system from the pile. John handed Jennifer to her father and started forward as the first man grabbed his nose…Blood poured from between his fingers. “Hi…My name’s John Gage…I’m a Paramedic…,” he tried to explain.

 

“Back off…You ain’t getting it either,” he snapped as he pushed John away and took off after the other man.

 

Johnny looked at his best friend in disbelief as he took the frightened three year old back.  “We’re done here,” Roy muttered as he turned for the exit. “I think there are some other stores that aren’t quite this crazy,” he suggested as he led the way toward the exit. “Let’s go there instead.” They quietly made their escape.

 

Johnny looked back with a despairing shake of his dark head. “I thought it was supposed to be about love,” he whispered against the blonde curls tucked close against him.

 

 

The group retreated to a different store a few blocks away and while it was still a mob of people, at least they weren’t trying to kill each other. They allowed the children to shop and Chris and John sent Roy away while the eight year old found what he wanted to buy for his dad.

 

Roy shot his partner a wink as he took Jennifer in the other direction, grateful as always that his young friend was always willing to help him and his family out.

 

John smiled back but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. The holiday mood had fled…His mind replaying what he’d seen.

 

For a young man who’d been raised a good part of his life in poverty, he didn’t understand the attitude of these people. They had so much so why fight and hurt each other over such foolish things?

 

They’d never celebrated Christmas on the reservation where he’d grown up and his father was never home for the holiday though he’d been told the Christmas story by his dad as well as the pastor of the small church that his dad took him to whenever he’d been home. This had certainly never been a part of that story.

 

His Aunt Rosemary had celebrated it but not in the traditional way. She was more often than not on the go and was rarely home for the holiday herself. His cousins Joshua and Tiffany made it a point to take her somewhere for the week and the few times they had celebrated it at home hadn’t exactly been filled with fun and family good cheer.

 

His grandparents had been there both times. They’d disowned their son years earlier for having fallen in love and marrying a penniless Indian woman and they’d made it clear that they weren’t all that thrilled with their half breed grandson either.

 

Rose tried to make him feel like family but John had always been uncomfortable…He hadn’t seen the love of the Christmas season from any of them either…At least not the way he thought it should be.

 

He chewed his lip as he thought about all of his past memories as well as this morning’s events but kept silent…Not wanting to put a damper on the DeSoto’s Christmas mood with his own bad humor.

 

Roy glanced at his partner several times while they shopped and he knew by the way John was worrying his lower lip with his teeth that he was mauling something around in his head. He smiled ruefully…Johnny would talk to him about whatever it was when he was ready…He always did.

 

 

They returned home a short time later and the children made a production of sneaking their gifts up the stairs so their mother wouldn’t see what they’d bought for her, though Jo pretended to be very disappointed that she couldn’t peek, drawing giggles from both kids.

 

John followed, promising to supervise the wrapping. Jo blew him a kiss and his infamous Gage giggle floated back to her from the top of the stairs. “I’ll make you some lunch sweetheart,” she yelled after him.

 

“I won’t be long,” he called back, looking forward to eating…It had been a long morning and they still had more to come with the play and dinner later this evening but for now…He put the mornings events from his mind and concentrated on the children.

 

 

Later that evening the family made their way to the school for Chris’ class production.

 

Joanne had been very busy sewing costumes as both children were involved with plays this year…Chris at school and then Jen and Chris both in their churches Christmas Eve Service but it had been worth it. Chris looked great as Tiny Tim.

 

Johnny sat in the audience feeling very much a part of this family who’d taken him in but as the play progressed, the morning’s ugliness replayed in his mind. He shook his head as he watched Scrooge and his miserly, selfish ways and thought again of those people who had fought over such trivial ‘THINGS’ as games and dolls. Why?

 

He felt a shoulder bump his and the dark eyes swiveled sideways to meet his partners. “What are ya thinkin of?” Roy asked in a whisper, having noted the troubled scowl that creased his best friend’s features.

 

Johnny shrugged. “This morning,” he replied back softly. “This is just what we were seeing this morning….Selfishness and greed and…And…And…I don’t know…It’s just depressing.” The forlorn tone brought a small smile from Roy as the younger man continued. John could obsess over something for hours and Roy knew he was in for a couple of long days unless he could give him an explanation that would satisfy his friend. “This isn’t what I thought Christmas was supposed to be about…That’s all,” he finished with a half hearted lift to his shoulders.

 

“It isn’t junior,” Roy replied patting John’s arm.

 

Roy knew this wasn’t the place for this conversation…They’d wait until the play was over but…, Roy grinned…At least he knew what was eating at his young friend for most of the morning. This he could fix…He hoped.

 

 

Johnny applauded along with the rest of the audience as the curtain dropped. He’d never let Chris down no matter how disheartened he might be feeling at the moment.  

 

He scooped Jennifer up as the he followed behind Roy and Joanne. They made their way through the crowd to pick up Chris at the stage door. “Great job,” Johnny told him ruffling the boy’s hair as he came out the door.

 

“Thanks Uncle Johnny,” he replied turning to his parents and receiving a proud hug from his dad and a kiss from his mother.

 

“We were so proud of you. You did great,” she praised the boy.

 

“Shoulda sent some of those ghosts to that store this morning…Those people could certainly use a reminder,” Johnny grumbled.

 

“Don’t let em spoil your holiday spirit junior…Remember what it’s really about.”

“I thought I knew but now…I’m not so sure,” he replied. “It seems to be about getting your hands on the hottest item or the most expensive gift…,” he muttered as they left the school grounds.

 

“That’s not it at all sweetheart,” Jo said as she slipped her arm around his waist while they walked.

 

“You didn’t see that mess this morning,” he shot back.

 

“I saw some of my own while I was out,” she assured him. “But that’s not it at all…It’s about the gift God gave us.”

 

John scuffed his toe on the ground…He hadn’t had a great childhood. His parents had gone against their families and married despite the opposition from both sides. John had been born premature and had to fight for his life and with a mild case of a disorder called Aspergers Syndrome. His father had been killed when John was eight and his mother died three years later of cancer. He'd lost his friend Jim and then Drew and then young Tommy as well.

 

Her family, both sides had despised him for being the half breed embarrassment they’d been stuck with after she died and had let him know their displeasure by the beatings they’d given him regularly or by refusing to acknowledge his very existence. He’d been sick often and always seemed to be going through some kind of pain or injury so what gift had he received? Pain…Hurt…Loss?

 

 “What gift did he give me?” He voiced the question as he threw a half hearted smile toward his friends but Roy knew his past and correctly read the look.

 

“A very special one along with the rest of the world, not to mention a few pretty unique ones all your own…,” he answered with a slightly embarrassed grin as he continued. “Look Johnny…You know I’m not a very religious guy myself but I know this much…Christmas is about a greater love and God's special gift to us…To the world,” he said with a small shrug.

 

“I guess,” John murmured.

 

Roy curled his hand around the back of John’s neck pulling him close so speak softly. “Junior…you’ve had some rough times but the great fireman in the sky never promised we’d never have the tough times partner. He just promised to get us through the fires,” the blonde paramedic said with a smile.

 

John gave a brief nod but he still didn’t look convinced.

 

“He gave you us Uncle Johnny?” Chris reminded him cheerfully not understanding the confusion for his Uncle in the conflicting attitudes he’d witnessed and everything that John had been through in his life.

 

A warm smile curled John’s lips. “He sure did buddy…That’s a pretty special gift,” he said sincerely. He meant it...The De Soto's had become the family he'd lost and he'd always be grateful but he still felt confused about it all.

 

Roy and Jo grinned at him. “He gave you a lot more than that Junior…He gave us the greatest gift…Don’t let those people or that mess at the store this morning steal that away.”

 

John hated to drag down their Christmas Spirit with his own puzzled thoughts so he gave him a half hearted nod and a shrug but Roy knew he wasn’t convinced. Roy sighed knowing his young partner would worry this to death. “Sure Pally,” John replied softly. “I guess I better go…I’ll see you tomorrow Roy,” he added, handing over Jennifer to her father as he turned and headed for his rover.

 

Roy and Jo watched him walk away. “He sure looks confused about this honey,” Jo said softly.

 

“Knowing how he was raised Jo…This is all pretty new to him and well… those people didn’t help him understand the spirit of Christmas today that’s for sure …If I hadn’t already known I would’ve been pretty mystified as well but we have time…We’ll help him understand what it really is.”

 

 

John lay awake for hours rolling it around in his head. The story he’d been told as a child hadn’t been witnessed in his life. He lived instead with bigotry and bitterness and hate and death for most of his youth…Jealousy and Greed and selfishness from his cousins as a teenager…A pervasive loneliness most of his life…At least until Roy and his family had come along and made John a part of it.

 

That was John’s first real taste of love and family. He’d been afraid of it at first but now it was addictive and John craved that feeling more and more. Chris was right…Roy and his family had been a special gift of love but he was pretty sure Roy was talking about something bigger…Stronger.

 

He finally drifted off to sleep.

 

 

Both Paramedics arrived at roughly the same time… A rare occurrence for Johnny who was usually sliding in just under the wire but not this morning. He’d been awake off and on all night and hoped he wasn’t about to go through another bought of insomnia. That had happened a few times before and it wasn’t fun but it was a symptom of his A S.

 

His mom had told him she had trouble getting him to sleep as a child as well. That’s when his parents had first learned that a soothing stroke of their fingers over his forehead would calm him enough to usually send him right off. John flushed with color as he glanced at his partner. Roy had also figured it out and employed the same tactic occasionally when John was ill or frustrated.

 

Roy caught the embarrassed blush as his partner glanced toward him. “What Junior?” He asked.

 

John shook his head. “Nothin,” he replied evasively.

 

Marco and Mike were already in the locker room when they came in and they could hear the voices of the C-Shift crew coming from the dorm as they changed into their uniforms.

 

“So did you figure it all out Junior?” Roy questioned softly as John slipped his shirt on. He’d seen the tiredness in the dark eyes and figured John had been awake half the night obsessing.

 

He shook his head. “Some I guess but not all.”

 

Roy looked at him in confusion. “Some?”

 

“What are you talkin about?” Mike questioned curiously as Chet shoved the door open and trotted to his locker.

 

“Morning guys,” he said cheerfully, not realizing that he was interrupting. “You should see what I got myself for Christmas,” he said with a grin. “It was the last one too. I snagged it right out from under this guy…Wanted it for his kid. I Thought he’d take a poke at me for it but…I was too fast for him,” he giggled with a grin.

 

John’s face took on a despairing grimace and he shook his head as he turned away from the curly haired Irishman. The others looked at Chet with a shake of their own heads.

 

“What?” Chet asked, totally unaware of why that should’ve upset anyone…“It’s a great system.”

 

Roy shot a disgusted look at the lineman before turning toward the others. “Johnny and I went shopping yesterday too,” he began to explain in answer to Mike’s question.

 

“What happened Gage…Someone snag the last toy fire truck?” Chet taunted snidely.

 

“Just shut up Chet,” John growled as he slammed his locker closed and walked out of the room, still stuffing his shirt into his pants.

 

Roy glared at Kelly. “Why can’t you ever figure out when to just leave something alone,” he barked.

 

“What did I do?”

 

“What happened while you were shopping?” Mike asked, ignoring Chet’s question.

 

“That new store opened on Market so we went over there. It was a Zoo. I mean people were hitting each other to get the last item,” he emphasized to Chet. “Trampling each other, one woman even sprayed another lady in the face with perfume to get a doll away from her.” He shrugged. “It really confused Johnny. This is all kinda new to him and he’s just really learning what Christmas is all about ya know? We tried to explain it to him last night but…I don’t know how much of what I said got through.”

 

“And then Chet comes in and says…,” Mike began.

 

“Exactly.”

 

Chet bristled indignantly. “Well how was I supposed to know Hiawatha was having one of his moments.”

“Don’t call him that,” Roy growled angrily.

 

Chet at least had the good graces to look contrite but not enough to not defend his stance. “Besides …It was a really great deal…I couldn’t let it get away.”

 

The others looked at him in disbelief. “That’s what Christmas really means to you?” Roy asked. “I guess Johnny was right…At least about some people,” he muttered as he turned and stalked out.


Mike and Marco shot him a dirty look as well as they turned to follow the blonde paramedic from the room. John was in the day room. He’d poured two cups of coffee and was setting them on the table when the other three men arrived.

 

Several members of C Shift threw Roy a questioning glance at John’s silent form. John Gage was usually in a boisterous good humor unless he was sick or frustrated. They were curious as to which one the young paramedic was experiencing.

 

Roy smiled and patted his partners back gently as he passed behind him. Roy wasn’t ‘Mother Henning’ him so that fairly well answered their question. Gage wasn’t ill so he must be frustrated about something.

 

Marco and Mike poured themselves some coffee and joined them at the table where John sat staring into his coffee cup, stirring it absently.

 

“You’re gonna dig a hole in that cup Amigo,” Marco said softly, drawing John’s attention.

 

The younger man grinned ruefully and set the spoon down. “Sorry.”

 

“Roy told us about what happened Johnny…,” Mike said. “And then Chet saying what he did, but you can’t let them get you down about Christmas,” he added as Kelly came into the room.

 

“Getting the best deal isn’t what it’s all about,” Marco added shooting a glare at his best friend.

 

C Shift’s Engineer Evan O’Rourke glanced at his own shift mate, Lineman Denny Blake. John Gage was an enigma for most of Station 51’s other shifts. The others freely talked about their families and personal backgrounds but John didn’t. They didn’t know much about him or his personal life but they knew he was a great paramedic and a good fireman.

 

They also knew he was a bit naïve sometimes…Gullible and a bit childlike. They knew Roy was very fond of the kid and was protective of him and thought of him as a member of his own family. That alone was impressive as most of the department knew DeSoto as a cool as a cucumber professional who never got involved or let his emotions show...At least not until the young Gage had become his partner. Then he’d changed…A lot.

 

But word had filtered down that the half Native American Gage had been raised in a pretty sheltered lifestyle on a reservation somewhere and they figured that was what was causing the confusion about this particular holiday now. They settled back to listen as the young man’s crew rallied around him, throwing a grin at each other at the care and concern they all exhibited toward the youngest crew member of station 51.

 

“Yeah Gage…We know you were raised with different beliefs and customs by your mom’s family…Spirits and stuff…” Kelly began.

 

John shot Chet a withering glare. “You don’t know anything Kelly,” Johnny shot back. “My people believe in One Great Spirit…God. Just like you and a good many of them are Christian as well. They just hold on to our culture too. We’re not all heathen savages ya know,” he growled. “I went to church with my dad…We just don’t want our own culture and beliefs to be lost and…,” John was working himself into a rant. Roy reached out to lay his hand on his partner’s and the flow of words stilled at the gentle touch. Dark eyes met blue for one quiet moment. “Sorry,” he mumbled. Roy smiled at him.

 

O’Rourke and Blake looked at each other in amazement at the bond between the two men.

 

Captain Stanley came into the room about to tell his men it was time for roll call but he hesitated as he took in the frozen tableau. “What’s going on?” He asked, noting Roy’s hand still resting on John’s. Cap’s dark eyes took in the slight downcast expression on the younger paramedics face. “John…You okay?”

 

“Yeah cap…Just a little confused by Christmas…It’s nothing,” he replied as he began to climb to his feet.

 

Cap came around and patted his junior paramedics shoulder pressing the young man back into his seat.”What’s confusing you pal?” He questioned curiously as he sat next to him.

 

“Just the craziness we saw at the store yesterday…It kinda steals the whole Christmas Spirit away…I mean I thought this was supposed to be a special holiday…Filled with love and peace and good thoughts toward each other but that sure wasn’t what I saw yesterday.”

 

“What happened?”

 

They explained the scene at the store. “Oh yeah…I saw that on the news too but John you can’t let that supersede the real meaning of Christmas.”

 

“What is that…Roy said a greater love but…?”

 

Marco sat down on the other side of John and even O’Rourke and Blake moved closer, waving Carlson and Dwyer who were just coming in over to listen. The two C shift Paramedics gave them a curious glance but kept silent.

 

“A greater love Johnny,” Marco began. “Christmas is about a baby…Sent to lay in a manger as an infant to teach him humility and in a tomb as a man to conquer death. “

 

Cap grinned and continued. “The Magi brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh but He gave us the gift of eternal life…He gave us his life.”

 

John nodded. “A greater love…”

 

“Some people don’t believe that or they’ve forgotten it along the way Junior,” Roy said as he lifted his hand to lightly cup the back of John’s neck. “But we hold on to the greater gift.” The dark eyes met his for a moment and John smiled softly at the unspoken words that passed between them.

 

The others glanced at each other, touched by the relationship as they always were. The four men from C Shift experienced it for the first time. Carlson and Dwyer threw each other an almost envious look, knowing they’d never achieve that kind of bond between them.

 

“They’ve lost sight of the CHRIST in Christmas Johnny and made it about Santa and gifts and how much you spend but the best gifts we give are ourselves…Our time, our care…Our love for our families. Those are the best,” Mike added.

 

“Sacrificing what we want for ourselves for someone else who needs it,” Marco added tossing a meaningful glance at Chet.

 

He flushed in understanding. “Sorry guys,” he mumbled, realizing that he could’ve waited till after Christmas to buy the game system he’d snatched out from under that man. It might have cost him a couple of dollars more but a child’s Christmas would have been brighter.

 

“Does that help son?” Cap asked quietly.

 

John nodded. “Yeah Cap…It does…Some.”

 

“Good…Let’s finish up our coffee and get to roll call.”

 

The Station Control Unit had toned them out shortly after and then all hell had broken loose.

 

 

John’s dark eyes rolled toward him. “Why…Why’d ya stay? I…I wan…ted ya ta get…out.”

 

Roy slid his good arm through the small opening he’d tunneled out…His hand just barely able to touch his best friend. He let his fingers rest against the dark head. “Remember what we talked about last night and this morning…I couldn’t leave ya junior.”

 

Pain and blackness washed through the young paramedic and Johnny frowned as his dark eyes slowly closed. Roy glanced toward the collapsed entrance but he couldn’t leave John…Roy let his fingers trail over his friend’s forehead. He wished he could do more, knowing his best friend and kid brother was in pain but he couldn’t reach him to do more than to reassure him that he was near.

 

 

 

Outside Captain Hank Stanley was bellowing orders to his crew. He tossed a glance at the other arriving companies as Chet and Marco worked their way inside the building to snuff the flames. Hanks’ brown eyes drifted repeatedly to the collapsed structure that John and Roy were trapped inside of.

 

He prayed desperately that they were both alive and just waiting for rescuer’s to arrive but they hadn’t responded to his attempts to reach them on the handy talkie…That meant that the instrument was damaged or lost or his two young paramedics were. He prayed for the former.

 

Other Firefighter’s began to swarm the scene as the gas company finally rolled up. They had to be sure there would be no more explosions before they could start up the K12 and porta power to begin trying to extricate his two missing men.

 

It took only a few minutes for the man to signal them that the gas was off. Hank pulled the handy talkie free. “Station 36…Station 45…Stay on the lines for the fire. Station 10…We could use a hand to dig out my men.”

 

“10-4 Hank…,” Captain Hayes voice came back. He knew John Gage very well…He’d been assigned to his rescue squad at the tender age of twenty and he’d been a fine young man. Hayes had been the one to encourage him to become a paramedic. He hoped and prayed that the boy was alright.

 

He’d been following John’s career for quite a while and had been glad to see the quiet, shy kid he’d captained become one of the top two paramedics out there in the field and that the boy had finally come out of his shell…though he gave the credit for that to DeSoto.

 

He smiled at the way Hank Stanley boasted about his men and the pride he took in them at every Captain’s meeting. He sometimes wished he hadn’t let the boy get away.

 

He waved his men toward the collapsed building as he watched a worried looking Stanley raise the HT to his lips. “John…Roy…I don’t know if you can hear me boys…But we’re coming in for you right now…Hold on okay…,” he said quietly. He stared at the ground in silent prayer for a long moment as he slipped the HT back into his pocket.

 

Hank finally grabbed a shovel and a pry bar. “Let’s go get em,” he said to Mike, Marco and Chet as they headed toward the building.

 

 

Roy heard the muted sound of the HT but it was in John’s pocket and out of reach as much as the rest of his body was. But he’d heard enough to know that Cap had called in reinforcements and they were coming in. They just needed to hold on a bit longer.

 

“They’re coming for us junior,” he murmured softly. “Just hold on.”

 

John was drifting in and out. He heard the static of the HT and his partner’s voice telling him help was coming but he was afraid it wouldn’t get there in time. He was bleeding and pain and nausea warred within him…He didn’t want to die here.

 

Fear climbed into his throat. He’d been trapped in this coffin like prison for over an hour and he was starting to feel a little panicky. “Ggg…get me out Rrr…oy,” he whispered desperately.

 

“They’re coming…Just hold on a little longer Johnny okay,” he replied, sounding almost as desperate as his young friend. His arm ached and he cursed the fates that had dropped the chunk of concrete that had left his arm useless. He needed both arms to move the larger stones and beams that held John a prisoner.

 

The air was thick and heavy around them and Roy could only imagine how bad it must be for John to be trapped under all of this for so long.

 

John didn’t want to die but if he had to…He didn’t want Roy to go with him if he could prevent it but he knew his friend wouldn’t leave him on his own…But Roy had a family that needed him more than John did even as scared as he was right now and his death would serve no purpose.

 

The dark eyes swerved toward his friend. “Roy…?” There was a plaintive sound to John’s voice.

 

“Yeah junior…?”

 

“If…If you can…find a www…way out…Should ttt…take it,” Johnny whispered with painful breaths.

 

Roy’s eyes burned for a moment but he blinked back the tears. “I’d never leave you my friend so you can get that thought right outta your head,” he answered as his fingers stroked the sweat soaked, dirt encrusted forehead. “You’d never leave me either. I love you Johnny…I need you so don’t you leave me now okay?”

 

“Kay,” he whispered against the pain but he wasn’t sure he could keep that promise…He could feel the blood pooling beneath him. “Roy…? Jjj…Jo and the kkk…kids need ya ttt…oo,” he pushed.

 

“Jo knows I’d give my life for a total stranger junior…Do you think she’d expect me to give less for my brother…My partner…My best friend? C’mon Johnny…You know better than that.” Roy glanced down at his friend but the pain filled brown eyes were closed once more. “Hold on Johnny…Just hold on.”

 

 

The crew were making their way through the building slowly. The paramedic team from 36’s as well as station 10 were following close behind with their equipment just waiting for them to find Johnny and Roy. 

 

They came to a collapsed doorway. “You think they’re in here?” Marco questioned worriedly as his eyes swept the building. There were other rooms but none of them appeared to have two injured men but what if they were wrong and they wasted all this time only to find the room empty as well…?

 

Cap leaned in close… “ROY…JOHN,” he yelled loudly. There was only silence. He banged on the wall with the pry bar…A dark sifting of dust trickled downward. He looked at the others for a moment in despair. He tried again. “ROY…JOHNNY?”

 

There was a soft stirring on the other side of the wall… “CAP…Cap it’s Roy…We’re here. Hurry Cap…Johnny’s trapped and hurt really bad.”

 

Hank breathed out a brief sigh of relief. They were both still alive…John was hurt but they were alive and that’s all that mattered. “We’re comin pal…You two hang on.”

 

Marco…Chet. Get that door clear.”

 

“Right away Cap,” Chet agreed with a grin.

 

John and Roy were gonna be okay…They had to be. As much as Chet badgered the young paramedic, he was truly quite fond of the kid. He’d never want to lose the friendship he’d found with Johnny even though he’d never be able to tell him how he really felt. It just wasn’t in the Irishman’s character to admit to that softer emotion…But still his heart was pounding with joy that both of his friends were still alive.

 

Both linemen began to cut and pry the debris away from the door as the crew from station 10 joined in.

 

 

 

Roy heard the scrape of stone on stone. He turned his head toward the doorway. “I think they’re here junior…,” he said softly. “I’m gonna leave you for a minute okay. I won’t be long,” he promised as he tiredly pushed himself to his feet and made his way to the door, cradling his injured arm protectively against him.

 

He heard a muffled sound and then a sharp rap as something metal hit the concrete wall next to the door. “JOHNNY…ROY,” a familiar voice yelled, though it was muffled from the layers of debris between them.

 

Relief flooded through the blonde paramedic. “CAP…Cap it’s Roy…We’re here. Hurry Cap…Johnny’s trapped and hurt really bad.”

 

He heard the muted reply come back through the wall. “We’re comin pal…You two hang on.”

 

Roy made his way back to his young partner. “They’re comin junior,” he told his injured partner.

 

John’s eyes were barely cracked open and involuntary tears of pain trickled slowly from them to dribble across the bridge of his nose and drop to the dirt below him. He could just make out the words his partner spoke but couldn’t muster the strength to answer him. He felt the gentle fingers return to brush the damp sable hair away from his face.

 

Despite the sweat that beaded his forehead, John was cold and shivering and he knew he was dying…Shock was setting in from blood loss and pain and his body was beginning to shut down. He was afraid but he was also glad…At least Roy would make it out and back to his family…That’s all that mattered…

 

 

Bob Belliveau and Doug Stone set up the Biophone and quickly got ready to take care of John Gage and DeSoto once they got them out.

 

“Rampart base this is Squad 36…Do you read me?”

 

“Squad 36 this Rampart …Go ahead.”

 

Stone tossed a glance at his partner. “Dixie,” he muttered unhappily, knowing her fondness for John Gage as well as Roy…This wasn’t going to make the woman real happy. “Uh Rampart…We have two possible code I’s at this location. One is definite the other we’re not sure about…”

 

“How bad is the first one?” The soft voice came back.

 

“We’re unsure Rampart…Both victims are trapped in the rubble of an explosion and we’re unable to get a visual on them but we’re told by his partner that he’s hurt badly.”

 

Dixie glanced up as Dr. Kelly Brackett stepped from a treatment room down the hall. She waved him toward her as she pressed the button on the base station radio. “We’ll stand by 36…Do you have an ID on the victim’s?” She questioned as Kel joined her.

 

The two paramedics exchanged a glance. “10-4 Rampart…It’s Roy DeSoto and John Gage.”

 

Dixie’s blue eyes filled with fear as they met Brackett’s. He pushed the button. “How long till you can get them out?”

 

“We’re not sure Rampart…We’re going as fast as we can.”

 

“Which one are you talking to?”

 

“DeSoto…Gage is the one trapped.”

 

“We’ll stand by.” Kel turned to Dixie. “Should we call Joanne?”

 

“We don’t know what to tell her?”

 

“She’s as close to Johnny as Roy is…She’d want to be here for him even if Roy’s okay,” he added.


She nodded… “I’ll call her.”

 

 

Chris and Jenny were with their Aunt Eileen and Uncle Craig…They were taking them to see Santa Claus at one of the stores and though Chris was becoming suspicious that Santa wasn’t real, he wasn’t absolutely positive and was taking no chances.

 

 Jo was vacuuming the living room and a small, sad smile played around her lips as she thought of John and last night’s conversation. She loved that kid so much…He’d become like a baby brother to her as much he was to Roy and she hated to see him troubled and confused.

 

She knew what he’d been through as a child though she was aware that there was much more than she’d ever been told…She hoped someday Johnny would feel comfortable enough to tell them everything but until then they just needed to be patient and love him as one of their own…That would be the greatest answer to his question about Christmas.

 

Their love and support…That was a greater love. To have that comfort and a place to call home. A family that was his and cared about him…That’s what Johnny needed and what she’d be sure he got this Christmas, she vowed silently to herself.

 

She barely heard the phone ring above the roar of the vacuum. She stepped on the button to silence the machine and picked up the phone.

 

“Jo…This is Dixie.”

 

Jo’s face paled at the somber sound of the older woman’s voice. “Roy?” She whispered fearfully.

 

“We think Roy’s okay Jo…He’s talking to the crew through the wall.”

 

“Johnny?” She questioned softly.

 

“He’s trapped beneath some rubble and Roy said he’s badly hurt.”

 

“I’ll be right there.”

 

“It could be awhile Jo,” she advised.

 

“I don’t care. I’ll be there.” She hung up and quickly called her sister. “Eileen…Roy and Johnny have been caught in an explosion. Roy’s okay but Johnny’s hurt bad. Can you keep the kids for the night? I want to stay with him.”

 

“Of course Jo…I know how much Johnny means to you two. Tell him I’m praying for him.”

 

“I will…Thanks.”

 

Jo slammed the phone down and grabbed her purse. She ran for the door and was on her way to Rampart in minutes.

 

 

 

 

Roy heard the sound of creaking wood and glanced back at the door. Dirt and dust were leaking from between the slabs of concrete and fallen timber. “They’re almost here junior…” There was no answer and Roy shone the waning beam of the flashlight down inside. John’s eyes were closed…His face slack and Roy’s blood froze in his veins. His hand flew to Johns’ neck to feel for the carotid.

 

He couldn’t find it at first and pressed harder…There…It was there. It was weak but still pulsing beneath his fingers. “JOHNNY,’ he barked. “JOHNNY OPEN YOUR EYES,” he demanded.

 

The eyelids fluttered briefly before resettling but Roy breathed a sigh of relief. He was still responsive. A beam crashed to the floor behind him and he saw gloved hands ripping at the remaining blockage.

 

“HURRY…I’m losing him,” Roy shouted at the crew.

 

They picked up the pace but they had to be careful to avoid another collapse. Finally there was a hole big enough for them to slip through. Hank was first in followed by Stone and Belliveau. Chet followed with the Stokes while Mike and Marco continued to widen the opening and shore up the door frame to be sure it would remain that way.

 

Hank gently moved Roy away from the pile of debris. “Are you okay?” He questioned the blonde paramedic, noting the pale and drawn features.

 

“Broke my arm Cap…Couldn’t get him out,” he whispered as his frightened blue eyes remained locked on the tomb his partner was encased in. He shoved the thought away. Johnny wouldn’t die…He wouldn’t let him. Tears spilled over the blonde lashes. “Please hurry,” he mumbled as his knees suddenly grew weak at the idea of losing John.

 

Cap caught him as he fell. “Get another stokes in here and get Roy out.”

 

“NO…,” Roy shouted. “I’m not leaving Johnny. He needs me to be here.”

 

“We’ll get John…I promise you.”

 

“NO,” he insisted. “I’m here John…I won’t leave you,” he yelled as station 10 moved into the room. John’s former partner Tony Freeman came in with a stretcher. Between him and Cap they managed to bully Roy into at least sitting on it so he could check out his arm.

 

“Get me a splint,” Tony told his partner Adam Burris. The other nodded and grabbed for the trauma box.

 

Between the two crews along with the porta power, they managed to get the heavy slab off of Johnny. Doug leaned down into the now open hole in the floorboards and felt for a carotid. “He’s barely got a pulse,” he said quietly with a worried look in his eyes.

 

Chet and Marco exchanged a frightened glance. Roy’s face paled at the quietly spoken words as Tony splinted his arm.

 

“Don’t let him die,” he whispered to Hank. “Get him outta there…Don’t let him die.”

 

“We’re working on it Roy…I promise you,” Bob assured him.

 

“He’s got that piece of rebar right through the fleshy part of his side…Man he’s losing a lot of blood,” Doug said softly, hoping Roy wouldn’t hear him.

 

“Get on the line with Rampart…Tell them he’s in shock. His BP is 85/40 his pulse is weak and thready…Respirations are labored. I’ll get the oxygen on him…Burris…We need to stabilize this rod and cut it. They’ll need to remove it surgically at rampart.

 

The other nodded as he ran to get the smaller saw.

 

 

Dixie and Kel had been joined at the base station by Joe Early while they waited impatiently for an update. Kel was just reaching for the button to demand one when Stone’s voice came over the speaker.

 

“Rampart base this is squad 36…We have reached the victim’s…DeSoto has sustained a broken left radius but the rest is just cuts and bruises. Gage is trapped beneath the floorboards. He has a rod of rebar impaled through the fleshy part of his left side and his left Tarsal is fractured and his back and hip are badly bruised where the beam hit him.”

 

“Good Lord…,” Kel muttered as Stone continued.

 

“His BP is 85/40 his pulse is weak and thready…Respirations are labored. We have him on six liters of O2 but he’s lost a lot of blood Rampart. He’s shocky and weak. We’ve stabilized the rod Rampart and their cutting him free…We’ll transport as soon as we can move him.”

 

“Start him on two IV’s of Ringers 36…Full open.  Splint his ankle… 36…Is there any sign of a head injury?” Kel closed his eyes and prayed for a negative response.

 

“Negative Rampart… No head trauma is evident.”

 

“Give him 6 mgs of MS IV and get him in here fast. We’ll be standing by with an O R and blood.”

 

“10-4 Rampart.”

 

Roy had been quietly watching as they moved around his partner but as they cut the rod John’s cry of pain brought him struggling to his feet.

 

“Roy…” Cap barked. “You need to stay down.

 

“No way Cap,” he panted. “Johnny needs me,” he cried pushing their hands off him and kneeling at his friend’s side.

 

“We’re almost done Roy,” Bob said gently as Roy reached down to touch John’s face.

 

The dark eyes were glazed but the young face was twisted with pain. “Hurs Roy,” he whimpered softly.

 

“I know it does…We’re almost home junior…Hold on,” he pleaded as his fingers stroked the dark hair. The MS finally began to kick in and John’s eyes closed under the touch of Roy’s hands. Roy leaned down close. “I love you John…Stay with me here,” he whispered.

 

Bob and Doug exchanged a glance, touched by the moment between their two friends. Neither would have put money on ever hearing the tough DeSoto say those words aloud to another person…Well maybe his wife and kids but certainly not to another man. They suddenly understood the feeling between the two…Partners certainly but more than that. Best friends…Brothers…Two halves that needed to be together to be whole.

 

“We’ve got him Roy…Let us get him out of here,” Doug said gently moving Roy away. Chet, Mike and Marco stepped in to help lift their fallen friend from his cramped haven beneath the floorboards. Sweat and tears of pain streaked the dirt stained face but John remained mercifully unconscious as they laid him on his side in the stokes, packing blankets alongside to hold him in place.

 

Cap took Roy’s arm and led him along behind as they carried him out. Within minutes they were both on their way to Rampart.

 

Hank took a deep shuddering breath as he watched the ambulance and the accompanying squad pull away. ‘God please’…He prayed silently. ’Don’t let us lose the kid.’

 

“Will he be okay Cap?” Chet asked anxiously.

 

“I don’t know Kelly. He looked really bad,” he muttered.

 

“Roy won’t let him go without a fight Cap,” Mike said reassuringly.

"It's not up to Roy anymore...Now it's up to Him," he said lifting his eyes Heavenward.

"John won't quit," Mike argued.

 

“Yeah Cap…A greater love…John knows Roy needs him,” Marco said scuffing the toe of his boot on the ground.

 

“Let’s hope he knows we need him,” Hank said wiping the sweat from his brow. “Let’s go home guys...Chet, bring in the squad pal.”

 

“Sure Cap,” he replied as they turned and watched to other two vehicles turn the corner…The wailing of the sirens fading in the distance.

 

 

 

 

Kel and Dixie were waiting as they pulled in. Kel stopped them from going any further than the entrance as they pulled Johnny from the back of the ambulance. He gave a quick cursory glance at the rod poking out of John’s flesh.

 

“What are his vitals?” He asked as he pulled his stethoscope from his pocket.

 

“Respirations 8, BP is 90/60 pulse is still weak and thready.”

 

Kel checked the young paramedic out quickly, listening to his heart for a long moment. “Take him to the OR stat… “He threw a glance at a worried Roy DeSoto as they hustled John inside. Roy began to follow but Brackett grabbed his good arm. “Roy…Morton’s waiting for you in three…He’ll get that in a cast. Your wife is in the waiting room. Joe and I’ll take good care of Johnny for you. Try not to worry huh,” he said as he turned and ran leaving the blonde paramedic no option to argue but only to follow. He had only a moment to watch the elevator doors close after them as they whisked John away to surgery.

 

Dixie patted his back gently. “Come on Roy,” she said softly.

 

“ROY?” He heard the frightened gasp and turned in time to pull his wife against him with his good arm as she ran to him. “Are you okay honey?” She asked, pulling back to look him over appraisingly. He was bruised and cut in several places…especially his hand from trying to dig Johnny out but the only obvious serious injury was to his arm.

 

“I’m okay babe…It’s just a broken arm. Johnny’s the one who’s hurt but it woulda been a lot worse if he hadn’t pushed me clear at the last minute,” Roy told her.

 

Joanne would cheerfully kiss her young friend and then strangle him for doing that but she understood. He wouldn’t risk Roy’s life if he could prevent it which she loved him for but she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him either.

 

“Will he be okay? Is he really bad?”

 

“Yeah Jo…He’s bad. He’s lost a lot of blood and he’s very weak.”

 

“He’s tough Roy,” Dixie rebuked him. “You know how strong he is and how stubborn.”

 

“He’ll be alright…He has to be alright,” Jo mumbled as she tugged Roy toward the treatment room. “Dr. Morton’s waiting for you.”

 

Roy nodded and followed her but his blue eyes returned to the closed door.

 

 

Roy paced the doctor’s lounge for probably what was the hundredth time. His arm was cast and held against his chest in a sling. Jo watched him with anxious eyes as he crossed the room once more. “What’s taking so long?” He whispered as his eyes glanced toward the clock. Two and a half hours now.

 

“They’re just being careful to be sure that wound is clean and that it didn’t do any further damage to any of his vital organs,” Dixie assured him gently as she reached out to stop his nervous pacing. She’d already been upstairs to check on the progress of the surgery herself.

 

The door opened and a sweat stained Kelly Brackett and Joe Early stepped inside. Jo rose to her feet and came to Roy’s side. She took his hand as they faced the two tired surgeons.

 

“How is he?” Roy asked worriedly.

 

“He’s stable Roy. The rod didn’t puncture his kidney or his intestines but we are concerned about the blood loss and of course we’ll need to watch for any sign of infection…He’s still very weak.”

 

“Where is he?”

 

“He’s in the recovery room.” He looked at the two anxious faces. “I’ll let you see him for a few minutes but then orthopedics needs to cast his ankle. Then we’ll get him in a room. Hopefully he’ll sleep through the night and you two can go home and rest too.”

 

Roy shook his head. “I can’t leave him.”

 

“Roy…You’ve been through a pretty rough morning too. Your arm is broken and you’re exhausted. You need to sleep.” Joe added.

 

The blonde head was shaking in the negative even before he finished speaking. Joanne’s joined him a moment later. “Not a chance,” she said softly.  Roy threw a glance at her. “The kids are with Eileen and Craig. I’m staying until he wakes up.”

 

Roy smiled. “It’s unanimous Doc and you’re out voted.”

 

Kel sighed in defeat as he tossed a look toward Joe Early. “Let’s go check on our boy then,” he said with a smile.

 

 

John was still sleeping as Roy pushed the door open and came inside. A nurse glanced toward them but the protest died on her lips as she saw Brackett follow and hold the door for Joanne and Dixie to precede him inside before he and Joe came in as well.

 

John was pale and IV’s of blood and saline solution and antibiotics dripped into his arms.

 

“What are his vitals?” Kel asked the nurse.

 

“His BP is coming up doctor. 100/70. His respirations are 12 and his pulse is 65…His temperature is 99.2°…” A little high but not enough to worry Kel.

 

Roy wrapped his hand around the slender fingers and squeezed gently. “I’m here junior and so is Jo…I need you to wake up Johnny.”

 

The black lashes fluttered briefly but the dark orbs remained stubbornly closed. There was a slight pressure on Roy’s hand but is was minimal and short.


Jo moved to his other side. Her finger’s swept through the dark hair. “I’m here baby…You’re gonna be fine sweetheart,” she said reassuringly as she tenderly kissed John’s cheek. We’re gonna stay with you okay?”

 

Kel smiled at the motherly tone and terms of endearment Joanne used when she talked to Johnny. He threw and amused glance at Joe and Dixie. They grinned back…These two were the best medicine they could give John Gage right now.

 

“Ortho will be down to take care of that ankle,” Kel promised them. We should know what room he’ll be in before they’re done and you can wait for him there.” The younger couple nodded. “They can stay with him until then,” he told the nurse.

 

“Yes sir,” she agreed reluctantly, wondering why they were being allowed to stay. She didn’t have long to wait for an answer.

 

Jo lifted the still hand and stroked the long fingers while Roy squeezed the other. “Hey Johnny…Can you open your eyes for us partner?” He questioned.

 

A soft moan slipped from the sleeping younger man. “That’s my boy,” Joanne said softly. “C’mon baby…Wake up,” she prodded.

 

The eyes cracked open for a moment but quickly closed again as his lids felt like lead weights. Pain flooded through him and his breath caught.

 

“Johnny? Are you okay? Are you in pain?” A familiar voice questioned.

 

He nodded and gasped. “Yeah,” whispered between stiff lips.

 

“Okay…They’ll get you something for that,” Roy’s voice promised.

 

“Kay,” he wheezed out with a hitched breath.

 

“You’re gonna be okay junior,” Roy promised, squeezing his friend’s fingers.

 

The eyes finally opened and gazed up into the faces of his family as they smiled down at him. “Are you okay?” He asked tiredly.

 

“I will be now that I know you are,” Roy assured him. “They’re on their way down to cast your ankle and then they’ll take you to your room…We’ll wait for you there.”

 

“You d…doan have ta,” John slurred wearily.

 

“No we don’t have to…We want to,” he answered as the door opened and two orderlies came inside. “They’re gonna  take ya upstairs now junior…We’ll see you in your room in a little while.”

 

John let his eyes droop closed as he gave his friend’s hand a final squeeze before he felt the gurney begin to move.

 

Jo stepped into her husband's embrace as they headed for the door to go upstairs and wait for John.

 

“I thought he was done this time,” Roy said quietly as they walked.

 

“We’ve thought that before and he always surprises us.”

 

“You weren’t there Jo…I was watching the life drain out of him and I couldn’t… stop…it,” Roy’s breath hitched as he remembered how still and pale John had been and thinking he was dead and pleading with him to wake up that last time. "I couldn't...Help him."

 

Jo drew him into her arms and let him weep. “It’s okay honey. He’s gonna be okay and you did everything you could for him. You stayed with him. You were at his side and that’s what kept him going.”

 

Roy nodded and wiped the embarrassing moisture from his eyes. “God Jo…I love that kid…I don’t know what I’d do without him now.”

 

“I know that that honey…and deep down…So does Johnny even when you can’t always say it to him.”

 

Roy nodded and they headed upstairs.

 

 

John woke early the next morning. His dark eyes scanned the dimly lit room and he was unsurprised to see the sleeping forms of his best friend and Joanne sleeping in the chairs next to his bed. A soft smile curled his lips.

 

His mouth felt dry and cottony and he turned his head to try and find the water glass. It was there but he’d have to reach for it.

 

He lifted his arm and sucked in his breath as pain shot through his side. Roy’s blue eyes flew open at the quiet sound. “Johnny…Are you okay?”

 

Jo woke as Roy’s voice interrupted her dreams. She came to her feet. “Is Johnny alright?” She asked worriedly as she came to the bed.

 

“I’m okay,” he mumbled with a small smile. “Jus wanted some water…Reached to far.”

 

“I’ll get it for you,” Roy said as he reached out and snagged the cup. He held the straw for his friend to drink. “Better?”

 

“Yeah,” he murmured. “You gonna be okay?” He asked quietly.

 

“I’ll be fine junior and so will you.”

 

John glanced at Joanne and smiled ruefully before turning back to his partner. The dark eyes caught and held the light blue. Jo saw the look and realized the two had some unfinished talking to do. “I’m going to go and see if I can find some coffee for us,” she said tactfully as she kissed John’s mouth lightly. She kissed her husband as she came around the bed and threw him a wink. Roy grinned. That woman knew the relationship between him and his young partner better than they did sometimes.

 

The door was barely closed behind her when John’s voice broke the quiet. “Why’d you do that?”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Stay…Why’d you stay? You were in the clear,” he questioned, his voice sounding tired and weak.

 

“But you weren’t”

 

“I wanted you to get out. That’s why I pushed you…So you’d have a chance.”

 

“That’s why I stayed. I’d have pushed you clear and taken your place if I could have.”

 

John looked at him in confusion. “Why?”

 

Roy sat on the bed next to John. “Because you’re my kid brother and my best friend.” John still looked confused. “I love you junior…That’s what Christmas is all about remember. A greater love and that’s what we celebrate no matter what else is going on out there.”

 

John shook his head and Roy continued…Finally able to voice the words he’d had trouble with yesterday. “It’s what Christ taught them and us. Greater love has no man than this…That he lay down his life for his friends.” A look of dawning spread over John’s face. “He gave his life for all of us…You were willing to give your life for mine…For a greater love than your own self…Your own life…Could I do less than that for you? I had to stay…Understand.”

 

Tears burned behind the dark eyes and his mouth trembled. “I understand,” he said softly. “I uh…I…you know…I love you too,” he said hesitantly, looking anywhere but at his friend.

 

Roy smiled and ruffled the dark hair. “I know you do.” John grinned, looking a bit embarrassed.

 

The door opened and Jo peeked inside. “Is the coast clear?” She asked teasingly.

 

“You can come in Jo,” John said with a smile, though his eyes were beginning to droop tiredly.

 

She came to the bed, setting down two cups of coffee.  “Now that I’m sure you’ll be okay baby, I have to go pick up the kids alright?”

 

“Alright,” he agreed softly.

 

She kissed him gently and smoothed the sable hair away from his face. “I love you sweetheart.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Jo’s eyes teared up at the quietly spoken words. She looked at her husband and smiled. “I’ll see you at home,” she hurried out before John could see the tears spill down her cheeks.

 

John watched her go before letting his eyes close and a peaceful sleep washed over him as Roy’s fingers gently swept over his forehead.

 

                                  

 

Christmas Eve found Johnny and the DeSoto family at the church Jo and the children attended regularly. John sat at the end of the row in his wheelchair watching. He’d been released to Roy and Jo yesterday and while still weak he was mending nicely and was infection free.

 

The Christmas play was winding to a close as the children performed the role of Mary and Joseph. Jen stood to one side, perfect for her role as an angel as far as Johnny was concerned anyway. On the other side of the stage another man enacted the role of an adult Jesus as he taught his disciples…The play flipping from baby in a manger to adult teacher and savior.

 

There was no confusion in John’s mind anymore no matter what craziness he witnessed. He’d found a greater love and that’s what he held close to him. Sure he'd lost a lot in his life but he'd been given him a friend...a brother who loved him enough to give his own life for him. A new family that was always there for him.

He'd been truly blessed and he needed to remember that no matter what else happened in his life. Even Chet had come around and donated the game he’d wanted so badly to an orphanage…Love was the greater power after all; even for him.

 

The actor’s words broke through his reverie. “For greater love has no man than this…”

 

John glanced toward his partner and found the light blue eyes watching him closely. “That he lay down his life for his friends,” John whispered with a smile.

 

“Merry Christmas Junior.”

 

“Merry Christmas Roy.”

 

 

 

 

THE END and Merry Christmas to all of you.

 

I was watching the news this year and I was so disheartened over the attitudes of the people…One woman sprayed another with pepper spray along with a child to get her hands on some stupid toy or game system. They were trampling each other and even stepping over a man who was dying on the floor. No one would help him because they were so intent on their own selfishness. It upset me greatly to see what the world has come to and how much the CHRIST in Christmas has been forgotten. It inspired this story because I wanted to remind people of a greater love than ourselves and our own desires. To remind people to put Christ back in Christmas. I won’t apologize for preaching and I hope you enjoy it. Tammy.

Published to Site 12/24/11

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

Copyright 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012
Send feedback or post your story by sending an email to Tammy at tbillings51@gmail.com.