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It was a brisk February morning in Los Angeles. Twenty three year old Paramedic John Gage and his partner Roy DeSoto entered the Rec room of Fire station 51 rubbing chilled hands together. Roy was four years older and at twenty seven was considered the senior member of the team. They’d been Partners for almost two years and best friends for almost the entire time even though they were completely opposite in almost everything.
John was young, impetuous and occasionally a bit reckless. Dark haired and dark eyed, single and bit of a womanizer, attracting women like a magnet to steel… while Roy was blonde, blue eyed and happily married. He was also settled, responsible and the one most likely to step back and look at the situation before charging in.
They were a perfect match. John kept Roy on his toes and usually shaking his head in a confused daze at his young friend’s antics… while Roy kept Johnny grounded…exerting a big brother influence on the younger man and watching over him like a mother hen which alternately annoyed or amused his young friend depending on his mood which Roy knew could change in an instant and without warning.
“Coffee Roy…?” Johnny asked.
“Yeah please…,” he answered as he sank into a chair at the table, joining the Engine crew already seated there. Johnny brought two cups of the steaming brew and set one before him as he sat down next to his Partner. They’d been called out on their first run even before Captain Stanley had finished roll call and the daily distribution of chores.
“I swear…you guys get out of more latrine duty,” Chet Kelly complained.
“Yeah…well I’m sure the guy got hit out there just so you’d have to clean the bathroom Chet,” John said snidely as he wrapped his chilly hands around the steaming mug.
“Yeah…well I think I might take paramedic training so I can get outta workin too.”
“Outta workin…?” John snorted in irritation… "whatta ya think we’re doin out there…havin a picnic?” He turned his attention back to other men at the table “Man, it’s cool out there this morning.”
Marco Lopez and Mike Stoker agreed… "You shoulda been out testing hoses in it,” Mike told them.
“Our hands were frozen…,” Marco added.
“C’mon guys it’s only 68 degrees outside.”
“We were all soaked… Cap finally took pity on us and called us back in,” Chet finished.
Gage was grinning broadly while they rehashed their morning ordeal. “What’s so funny Pal…?” Hank Stanley asked as came in to join his men.
John recognized the warning tone and his smirk wavered… "Uh…nothin Cap…I was just listenin to the guys tellin us about their morning.” Roy rolled his eyes knowing where this was going.
"Good…good…then you can commiserate with them and seeing as how you missed clean up detail this morning…I thought you might like to finish it up for them…”
John groaned… "Ahh c’mon Cap, it’s cold outside.”
“It’s only 68 degrees…,” Kelly quoted from over by the sink…
"Shaddup Chet…,” Johnny growled in annoyance.
The station control unit began to sound… "Saved by the bell…,” Roy murmured.
Johnny slapped the table in triumph… "Gotta run…”
"Station 51…kitchen fire…2155 Gardner… 2-1-5-5 Gardner…cross Street Park…time out 10:06…" Cap was already at the podium before the rest reached their respective vehicles.
“Station 51…KMG365…,” Hank responded. He handed the slip to Roy through the open window and then ran for the Engine.
John was already studying the map as they rolled out under the bay doors. “Turn left at the next light…” he instructed. “It should be about two blocks up on the right.” They turned into 2155…”The Garden of Eden village…,” John muttered. He and Roy exchanged a curious glance as they passed through the gates. A high stone wall encompassed the entire drive and stretched around out of sight. “What is this place…?” John asked.
“I’m not sure Roy answered as the guard waved them toward what appeared to be a small clubhouse. The pool outside it was empty on such a cool morning but smoke was lazily drifting from the open doorway. They parked and began to climb out but Johnny stopped in mid motion and grabbed at Roy’s arm. He missed the first time as he was busy staring out of the passenger side window but managed to catch it on the second try.
“I don’t believe what I’m seein…,” he mumbled at Roy.
“What…?” His partner asked as he leaned around Johnny. His mouth dropped open in speechless surprise as he saw what John was lookin at. “Holy sh…,” he cut himself off in mid sentence.
“I’m not seein what I’m seein…right? It’s a delusion…”
“Oh yes you are…Garden of Eden… I shoulda guessed,” Roy muttered as the totally naked, sixtyish man approached the vehicle. Johnny firmly closed the squad door but rolled his window down. He kept his eyes raised studiously to the man’s face but could still feel the flush of embarrassment heat his cheeks.
“Anyone still in there…?” He asked.
The Engine crew had already climbed from their trucks and were busily unrolling the reel line...they had completely missed the man’s approach. Cap came around the side of the Engine surprised to see his two Paramedics still camped firmly inside. “Hey…you guys sightseeing or…,” he sputtered to a halt. The Captain did a double take but being the consummate professional that he was only stuttered three times. “Are there…can you…is there someone still in that building…?” he finally got out.
“Yeah our cook… She slipped and fell in the kitchen and well…I couldn’t lift her and the place was getting kinda smoky, so I went for help.”
By now the rest of the crew were heading for the building dragging the hose behind them. Chet was the first to notice the gathering crowd…He did a double take, tripped and would have fallen if Marco hadn’t reached out to grab the collar of his turnout coat at the last moment.
“You Okay?” He asked.
Chet’s eyes widened and his mouth was sagging open in shock but he managed to point silently. Marco’s eyes followed the direction he was indicating and almost dropped the hose. A dozen people of varying ages were gathered on the sidewalk watching the firemen. None of them were wearing a stitch.
“Hey you guys on vacation or something…?” Mike Stoker yelled from the engine. Marco and Chet suddenly remembered they had a job to do. They grabbed the hose once more and dashed for the clubhouse. Mike shook his head in annoyance and headed in Cap’s direction. He cast a glance at the crowd on the sidewalk as he came around the front of the cab. He stopped in his tracks. He shook his head and spinning on his heel took refuge behind the Engine. He didn’t need to talk to Cap that bad.
As soon as the elderly man had reported that there was someone inside, Roy jumped from the squad. Johnny shooed the man away from the door and climbed out. They grabbed their equipment and ran for the clubhouse.
Marco and Chet had already extinguished the minor grease fire by the time they arrived and now stood staring at the floor in wonder…casting surreptitious glances at each other. John and Roy suspected another elderly person lay injured and came around the corner quickly…Johnny slipped in a puddle of grease and water…almost joining their victim. Roy dropped the trauma box and caught his skidding partner before he hit the ground and set him carefully back on his feet.
Their patient lay on the floor looking up at them. John looked into pools of blue eyes, slightly watery from all the smoke and the most beautiful face he’d ever seen surrounded by a pile of blonde hair. She was wearing a stunning smile and nothing else. “Hi…” she murmured.
Johnny willed his eyes to remain on her face as Roy took charge. “Hi…,” he replied. “What happened here?” He knelt beside her.
“I was cooking breakfast and I spilled the oil. It caught fire and it just happened so fast and I jumped backwards and slipped and I…feel really stupid…,” she answered as her eyes continued to hold John’s as the color crept up his cheeks.
Cap came into the kitchen… "Alright you guys…fire’s out so everyone outside and let Roy and John work."
“Ahh…but Cap…,” Chet began to protest.
John was still standing frozen and red faced. “JOHNNY…,” Roy said loudly. John snapped out of it at the sound of his partner’s voice.
“I…we…I forgot…,” he mumbled as he turned in a confused circle… "I need to go get…you’ve got this under control…,” He stated as he headed for the door. Roy suddenly remembered the day John had fled from the bathroom where a beautiful young woman had gotten her toe stuck in the faucet and called after his fleeing friend.
“Johnny…,” Roy yelled, “You go out that door and leave me alone here, I’ll murder you.”
John froze…taking a deep breath he turned around. “Yeah…yeah…okay,” he replied shakily.
Roy pushed the Biophone at him and John occupied himself by calling Rampart. His face was scarlet and he wouldn’t look up. Cap took pity on him and headed for the squad to get a blanket. “Rampart base this is squad 51, how do you read me?”
“Loud and clear…go ahead 51…”
“Rampart…we have a twenty three year old female…she’s suffering from minor smoke inhalation and a possible fractured right ankle. Her vitals are…BP 120/80…pulse is 70 and her respirations are 16.”
“Any indication of head trauma…?”
“None apparent Rampart…”
“Splint her ankle and give her 5 mgs of MS. Put her on 2 liters of O2 and transport.”
“10-4 Rampart…5 mgs MS and O2…”
Cap returned with a yellow blanket which Roy wrapped around her securely while John splinted her ankle. It was much easier on Johnny once she was covered but his face flamed again as she wrapped her arms tightly about his neck while he lifted her onto the gurney. She continued to hold his hand and she threw him a wink as they wheeled her to the ambulance… "They call me Candy because I’m very sweet…,”she teased him.
“You certainly are…,” he muttered.
“You can call me if you like…, I live here and I’d love to see ah…more of you…”
John’s face blanched… "Uh…no, that’s alright…I…uh…I kinda like to keep my clothes on till I get to know ya…,” he stuttered.
“Oh…that’s too bad,” she added as her eyes traveled over him…John retreated quickly.
“You ride in with her…,” he said as he brushed past his Partner and climbed into the driver’s seat of the squad, leaving Roy no choice but to join the girl in the ambulance.
A half hour later, Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay. Johnny was still going on. “I didn’t even know we had a nudist colony around here Roy. I can’t believe it…did you see those people?”
Roy sighed… "I saw em Junior…”
“Man…some people really need to keep their clothes on…ya know?” He said earnestly.
Roy chuckled… " I agree…but that girl…”
“Yeah…that girl…sorry I froze up on ya there pally.”
“Johnny…I’ve seen you charge into a blazing inferno without batting an eye but one pretty face…”
“Man…it wasn’t her face I had a problem with Roy…it wasn’t her face…,” he said wryly as he shook his head in wonder. Roy grinned in understanding.
They entered the Rec room where the rest of the crew was gathered. The table was set for lunch. The guys were also still discussing that last run.
“Did you see some of them…Yeesh…?” asked Chet
“We saw ALL of them…,” Mike added.
Marco looked up as the two Paramedics joined them and couldn’t resist a teasing jab at their youngest crew member. “Yeah but did you see Johnny…?” John’s head snapped up.
“I wasn’t lookin at Gage…he had his clothes on…thank God,” Chet pointed out.
“Yeah but his face was as red as the squad…,” laughed Marco.
“Yeah…very funny,” John grumbled.
“Roy had to threaten to murder him to keep him from running out on him,” Mike commented.
“How’d you know that…? You weren’t in the room…” John whirled on Hank. “Cap…you told em…?” He accused, looking betrayed.
“Sorry pal…it just slipped out.”
The SCU tones began to sound and they all groaned. “There goes lunch…,” Chet grouched as they ran from the room.
“Station 51, Squad 36…unknown type rescue…Suicide Canyon Park at the overlook …Suicide Canyon Park at the overlook…time out 11:37.”
“Station 51…KMG365,” Captain Stanley replied. He handed the slip to Roy and ran for the Engine.
They arrived at the park and John looked over to where the police were waving them over.
“Oh man…this just isn’t our day…,” Johnny groaned.
Ten to fifteen men were being herded into two separate groups. Most had blood on them somewhere but it was impossible to tell if it was their own or someone else’s.
John and Roy climbed from the squad as one of the officers approached them. “Hi…I’m Officer Hunter…we’ve got a man over the side here…,” he said pointing to a steep drop off. “We can’t reach him.”
Both Paramedics ran to the edge where Captain Stanley joined them a moment later. They peered over…Eight feet down…standing on a narrow ledge stood one of the gang members. His fingers clutched desperately at a small tree growing from the side of the cliff.
“I’ll get the ropes...,” Johnny said as he ran to the squad. Gage came back with two safety belts and a large coil of line.
Marco and Chet took it from him as John cinched the belt around his slender waist. Roy went to get the Biophone and drug box just in case the man was injured. Squad 36 was already working the group of injured bikers.
“You wanna rappel…?” Roy asked.
“Nah…I’ll need both hands free.”
Chet looped the rope through the carabiner and knotted it securely as Mike tied the other end to the bumper of the engine. John adjusted his helmet and then tugged his gloves into place.
“Ready…?” Roy asked.
John gave a quick nod and the others braced their feet and took a solid hold on the rope to support their crew mate’s weight. Gage slipped carefully over the edge. He dropped the short distance to where the man was hanging onto the cliff face.
“Wow you’re really lucky…” Johnny told him…”If you missed this ledge…”He looked down to where the next one jutted out about six feet lower and beyond that…well it wasn’t a fall John would care to take. “Hold on a minute more man…I’m gonna put this on ya…,” he said unclipping the second safety belt. He pushed off the cliff face… swinging out just enough to land with his feet straddling the larger man. He bent his knees until he was close enough to wrap it around the man’s waist.
The bigger man groaned in terror, he could hardly believe this scrawny kid was swinging around him totally at ease. “It’s okay…I’ve got ya…just hang on,” he assured him as he clipped the man to his own line. He reached up and took a firm hold on the rope above his head with his right hand and with his left made several small circles signaling the crew to pull them up. The man moaned in fear as their feet left the ledge.
As they came level with the top, Officer Hunter, Cap and Roy leaned over and grabbed the belts pulling them up over the edge. John unclipped the victim and the officer led the shaky suspect away while Roy followed with the equipment. Johnny removed his gloves and unclipped the rope from his belt.
The two groups of men were still steadily hurling taunts and insults at each other while the Police officers repeatedly told them to shut up. One of the burly men shoved an Officer out of the way and charged at the other group. They saw him coming and surged en masse toward him, shoving the outnumbered policemen out of their way.
One officer stumbled backwards twisting around desperately to try and break his fall while Johnny reached forward to try and catch him. He slammed into the startled Paramedic and John skidded backwards from the force of the accidental push. He lost his balance…falling forward as his feet slipped over the edge into nothingness.
His eyes widened in fearful surprise and he dropped to his stomach, trying to find something to grab hold of to stop his backward slide…his feet scrabbling wildly to locate a toe hold…his fingers brushed the rope but he couldn’t get a grip…"Roy…”he gasped…He felt a hand grip his fingers.
Roy heard the scuffle break out and looked over at the group of fighting men. He saw the Officer go over backward…twisting at the last moment to slam into Johnny, giving him a hard push. Roy watched in horror as John’s feet slipped out from under him, the momentum pulling him over the edge. He saw the fear in his partner’s eyes.
Roy was on his feet and running for the edge. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Engine crew trying to get around the mass of brawling men to reach John. Roy got there first… Everything seemed to be running in slow motion as Roy threw himself forward on his stomach…sliding…trying to make a diving catch of John’s outstretched hand.
“Roy…,” John gasped out reaching desperately to catch his partner’s hand. The older man just caught John’s fingertips…he looked into frightened, brown eyes.
“Hold on John…,” he urged but the younger man’s fingers slipped free. Roy heard a gasp of terror and then nothing…
Hands caught at Roy’s ankles stopping his forward momentum, keeping him from sliding over the edge too. They reached for John’s hand but then watched in shock as John’s fingers slipped from Roy’s and the young man fell.
“JOHNNY…,” Roy screamed. “Oh my God…,” he whispered in a daze as he scooted forward to peer over the edge…afraid of what he’d see but knowing he still had to look. The others crowded around him.
John lay on his back on a ledge about fifteen feet below... he wasn’t moving.
“Dear God…,” Cap muttered only half aloud.
“Get the ropes ready…I’m goin after him. I gonna need a collar, the Stokes, the drug box and a backboard. Get Rampart on the line…tell them to stand by for a code I…”
The police had once again managed to separate the two groups and began to lead them away in handcuffs as reinforcements arrived.
Roy clipped the rope to his safety belt as Chet and Marco once again manned the lines. The blonde Paramedic gave one quick tug on the rope and slipped over the edge. He rappelled rapidly down to his fallen partner. He was unclipping from the line before his feet were even flat on the ground and ran to the younger paramedic. He pushed a small uprooted bush away from John’s limp hand. Roy felt for his partners pulse and breathed a sigh of relief when he felt it…weak but steady beneath his fingers.
“He’s alive…,” He yelled up to the others. “I need the equipment…” They looked at each other with grins and began to attach the gear to the ropes. Chet escorted it personally.
“Thought you might need some help…,” he explained with a shrug at Roy’s questioning look.
Roy grabbed the drug box from Chet. “Contact Rampart…,” he said, wrapping the BP cuff around John’s arm.
“Rampart base…this is squad 51…” Roy heard Chet trying to raise the hospital.
Roy checked John’s eyes, pulse and respiration calling them out to Chet who hastily wrote them down.
“Unit calling in repeat…your breaking up…,” Doctor Brackett’s voice came back.
“Rampart this is squad 51…we’ve reached the victim…we have a code I…Fireman down…,” Chet clarified.
“10-4 51, what are the vitals…?”
“Vital signs are…BP 110/60, pulse is 60, respirations are 20…pupil’s are equal and reactive. Victim fell about fifteen feet Rampart. He landed on his back…”
“Any sign of head injury?”
“Victim is unconscious at this time Rampart…we’re checking for head injuries.”
Roy checked John’s ears and nose for fluids and ran his fingers cautiously through the sable hair feeling for lumps and contusions. His fingertips located a large bump at the back of John’s head. He nodded at Chet as he continued to feel down John’s arms, legs and torso for signs of fractures.
“That’s affirmative on the head injury Rampart… victim has several facial lacerations and abrasions on his hands as well.”
“Any fractures 51…?”
“We’re checking for fractures now…” Roy shook his head at the curly haired fireman…"None apparent Rampart.”
John groaned softly as he began to come around…his eyes cracked open and he stared at Roy in confusion…as if looking at a stranger before they meandered on to focus on something else.
“Hey Junior…can you hear me…?” He asked quietly. The dark eyes glanced back at Roy. The older man smoothed the dark hair back soothingly…"You’re gonna be okay…we’re gonna get you outta here real soon.” John blinked slowly and his gaze flitted away once more. Roy bit his lip nervously. He didn’t like that vagueness in John’s eyes.
Roy placed the cervical collar around John’s neck and adjusted the straps. “Can you stay with me Partner…? Look at me Johnny…,” the older man commanded. John’s eyes obediently traveled back to Roy’s…"Good boy…you just keep lookin at me okay?”
Roy heard the Doctor giving Chet instructions…"Start an IV 51… Ringers…immobilize his head and neck. Use the backboard 51 and transport as soon as possible.”
John groaned again as they log rolled him to his side and slid the back board beneath him. “R…Roy...,” he whispered through dry lips.
“Yeah Junior…I’m here.” Roy said, relieved that Johnny now seemed to know who he was.
“Head hurts…,” he ground out… "back too…”
“I know partner…but until they check out that head injury…I can’t give you anything for the pain Johnny…you know that…”
Again there was a flicker of confusion…as if John knew he should know but couldn’t remember how or why…but then it was gone and the awareness returned. “Yeah I know...,” he mumbled softly, “Still hurts though.”
Chet pulled the stokes over while Roy got the IV started. They carefully lifted him into the aluminum framework and strapped him tightly in place. Roy tucked the IV bag under John’s shoulder. “Okay partner...we’re gonna get you outta here.” John’s eyes were drifting slowly closed. They connected the ropes in place and signaled the men above. “Take him up…,” Roy yelled.
Half a dozen pairs of hands grasped the stokes and lifted it over the edge. John’s eyes opened lazily then widened fearfully as they darted from the police officers to his own crew mates and back to the officers. Blue…everywhere…a sea of blue uniforms all around him…crowding him…pushing him over the edge…falling into nothingness. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment until reason returned.
He felt a comforting hand on his shoulder… "Hey Pal…,” the familiar voice came from beside him.
John cautiously lifted heavy lids and made eye contact with his Captain. He managed a half smile. “Hey Cap…”
“How are you feeling…?”
“With every nerve ending Cap…,” he quipped tiredly.
Captain Stanley smiled…Well John’s humor was still intact, that was a good sign.
“Good…,” came Roy’s voice as they pulled him over the top of the cliff. He came to kneel next to his young partner… "Means you’re still alive…let’s go.” They loaded him into the waiting ambulance. Marco gave the door two slaps and went to help the others gather their equipment, grateful for a change for Johnny’s hard head. Chet followed the ambulance in with the squad.
Dixie was waiting at the emergency room doors. She led them into treatment room two where Kelly Brackett waited. Roy helped them transfer Johnny to the exam table and then hung the IV bag on the stand. He waited off to the side, ready to jump in to help if they needed him.
John’s eyes were open and wandered aimlessly from face to face. Brackett laid his hand in John’s… "Johnny can you squeeze my fingers…?”
A weak but firm grip squeezed back. Brackett smiled… "Good boy…okay let’s have a look.” He leaned over the younger man and flashed the pen light in his eyes…he frowned slightly. “Roy when you checked his eyes earlier you said they were equal and reactive…?”
He frowned again… " They’re not now…did he lose consciousness again at any time?”
“No…he was awake all the way in,” Roy said in concern…afraid he’d maybe made a mistake.
“Dixie…get X-Ray down here. I want a full skull serious, lateral C-Spine and cervical.” She nodded and headed for the phone as Kel continued with the exam, looking for fractures or any sign of internal injuries. “What happened to your hands Johnny? Can you remember?” Brackett asked casually.
John frowned… "Um…,” he should remember…he had when Roy had asked him in the ambulance.
Seeing John’s confused look Roy began to answer, “He grabbed hold…,” but Kel held up his hand to stop him.
“Let him tell me…”
Prompted by Roy’s answer, John suddenly remembered. He grinned triumphantly… "I grabbed a hold of a bush on the way down…It didn’t hold but it did slow me down a little and it tore up my hands.”
“Probably saved your life…”
“Doc my head’s really hurtin…”
“We’ll see what we can do for that as soon as I get a look at those films.” He patted Johnny’s shoulder reassuringly.
A young man opened the door rolling in the portable X-ray machine. Banging it into the door frame and then into the exam table as he struggled with the heavy piece of equipment. The impact jolted the table causing John to wince and then groan in pain.
“Take it easy…,” Kel snapped angrily.
“Uh…sorry…,”the nervous young technician mumbled.
“You’re here to take x-rays not break anything else, least of all my patient…”
The man nodded… "Yes sir…”
They left the room, reluctantly leaving the young paramedic in the technician’s hands.
“Same klutz that ran over my toe with that thing a couple of weeks ago” Dixie told them.* “I hate leaving Johnny alone with him or we may have to add tire tracks to his list of injuries,” she quipped, but she was only half joking.
Roy looked between the two… "Is Johnny gonna be safe with that kid…?” He asked, hooking a thumb back at the exam room.
“I assume he must know what he’s doing or they wouldn’t have hired him,” Kel answered.
They were waiting patiently in the hall when Joe Early came out of the treatment room across the hall. “Kel…how’s John?” He asked.
“Waiting on the films…”
“Keep me informed okay…? You have the portable X-ray in there…?” Kel nodded. “Great…I need him in three when you’re done. I got a minor head injury but I want to be sure.” He pushed the door open a crack. “Dennis…?” He called into John’s room. A loud crash sounded from within followed by a mumbled apology. “I need you in three when you’re through here…Skull series…specifically the Occipital lobe…got it?”
“Yes sir…” Joe closed the door shaking his head as Kel and Dixie rolled their eyes in aggravation.
A couple of minutes later, Dennis backed the machine out of the room and headed for treatment room three. Dixie made sure her toes were clear. Brackett looked at him sternly…"Those films are STAT as soon as your done in three.”
“Yes s…sir…,” the young man stuttered.
Kel shook his head and went back into John’s room. Dixie and Roy followed. “Johnny…?” Roy called as he moved back into John’s line of vision so his friend wouldn’t have to move his head. John’s eyes were squeezed shut.
“Where’d you get that kid…?” he mumbled softly.
Dixie took John’s hand and stroked the hair back from his forehead…"Hey…you okay?”
“Head hurts…back hurts…” John shifted uncomfortably.
“Lay still Johnny,” she warned softly.
“Stay with me Junior…don’t go to sleep okay? Talk to me…,” Roy urged his young friend.
“I think…I’m gonna be sick…,” he whispered miserably.
Roy and Kel quickly rolled him back board and all as Dixie held the emesis basin under Johnny’s cheek. The young man’s body jerked as his stomach spasmed painfully. Finally after a few minutes he stopped…panting to regain his breath as they rolled him back into place. Dixie retrieved a damp towel and gently wiped his mouth. John’s breathing finally eased and he was struggling to keep his eyes open as they continued to prod him into staying awake.
A half hour later Kel was getting angry… "Where the hell are those films…?” He snapped. “Dix…send someone up there to get those...,” he said impatiently. Dixie stuck her head out the door and spotted the young student nurse Sharon in the hall.
“Sharon…go get John Gage’s films from Radiology…,” She told the young woman. Sharon nodded and headed for X-ray.
Dennis was a nervous wreck. Every time he had to go to Emergency he shook with terror. The surly Doctor Brackett scared the hell out of him and the sight of Miss McCall brought him near to hysterics when he remembered having run her foot over a couple of weeks ago. It bothered him a lot because he thought he was good at what he did…well… unless they were around.
He was finishing up with the X rays when a young nurse burst through the door. “I need John Gage’s X-rays right now…,” she said urgently.
Dennis jumped knocking the entire stack of X-rays to the floor. He groaned miserably… "Great…just great,” he muttered as he scooped the films off the floor. He held up the empty sheath and leaned over to pick up the one film not in its folder and tucked it inside. “Gage you said…?”
“Yes…Dr. Brackett wants it right now.”
He smiled at the pretty young nurse… "Just so happens, I have it right here.” He sorted through the messy stack and located the others. “Lateral C-spine…cervical…this should be it.”
“Thanks,” she said grinning back…"and don’t worry Brackettitis happens to everyone but you’ll get over it.” She said with a giggle then she turned and left.
Dennis continued to set the stack in order but at the end he had one empty folder left. He glanced at the number on it and matched it to his list JAG101018…Dr. Early’s patient in treatment room three. He breathed a sigh of relief…he’d taken several films of that injury. Still…he searched for the missing X-ray but failed to see it under the storage cabinet. He finally shrugged in defeat thinking he’d slotted two together in one folder. That might earn him a slap on the hand if it was noticed but it was no big deal. The patient, gray haired older Doctor probably wouldn’t even know how many he’d originally had and wouldn’t miss one. Thankfully it wasn’t Brackett’s patient. He didn’t look too good. Dennis headed for the coffee pot.
Kel slotted the films into the wall mounted light panel and flipped it on. He was relieved that the lateral C spine and cervical revealed nothing unusual. He snapped them out and placed the first of the skull series films onto the panel. Kel nodded to himself seeing what he had suspected…no damage to the front of John’s skull. He slipped the last one into the reader and frowned…John’s symptoms seemed to have indicated something worse than he was seeing. A severe concussion at the very least, maybe something far worse but according to this X-ray it was only a mild concussion at the most.
“Kel…?” Mike Morton called from the doorway. “I have a burn victim in one…could you take a look?”
“Sure Mike I’ll be there in just a minute,” Kel assured him.
Morton gave Gage a quick glance…he’d find out how he was doing later.
“Johnny…you’re a really lucky man…,” he told the young Paramedic. “No broken bones…minor concussion…I guess that bush really did save your life. Dix…let’s give him 40 mgs of Meperidine. Make sure they wake him up every three to four hours for neural checks. Johnny…,” Brackett called to him and placed a hand on his shoulder to get his attention which seemed to be wandering momentarily. “We’re going to give you something for the pain and get you in a room so you can rest…okay?”
“Kay…,” he murmured in reply.
Kel nodded at Dixie and Roy… "Not as bad as I thought…let’s see how he is later today and then I’ll decide when to send him home.” Kel cast one last glance at the X-ray still in the light panel…he shook his head and headed for the door.
Roy waited until they had John in a room before he called Cap to tell him when he’d be back at the Station. He went to see his partner before he left. John was groggy from the medication and his brown eyes drooped in exhaustion. “You scared the hell outta me junior,” Roy said.
Johnny’s mouth turned up in that crooked Gage smile… "I thought this was it…too.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t hold on…”
John frowned slightly… "hold on…?” He whispered in confusion.
“Good catch on the bush Partner…,” he said looking at John’s bandaged hands.
“Bring it home…frame…it,” he mumbled as he drifted off.
Roy smiled…"I’ll come back in the morning…,” he whispered.
John’s sleep was troubled despite the medication. Dreams of men in blue uniforms…pushing at him…pushing him over the edge of a precipice. The words spoken by his most trusted friend while he dangled over the edge… "I’ll murder you…,” just before he let go…
John was falling…his head snapped from side to side as the dream replayed itself over and over in his mind…finally yanking the young man from sleep. He bolted upright in the bed with a cry of terror but changed it to a groan of pain. Dizziness swam through his head and nausea welled in his belly…he swallowed hard struggling to keep his stomach in place…squeezing his eyes shut until it passed.
He suddenly felt hands on his shoulders…pressing him firmly back down on the bed. His eyes cracked open to look at the face above him…there was no recognition just the firm voice of the dark haired man telling him to lay back and stay calm. John sank back in the bed panting in pain and residual fear from the dream…sweat beaded his forehead…
Kel was worried…he didn’t like the symptoms Johnny displayed and the pupils had been unequal when he’d checked them in the ER but the X-Rays were fairly normal…why would John be presenting such severe symptoms without any sign of serious injury. Kel was well aware that a Chronic Subdural hematoma could be hidden for several days…even weeks but there was still usually some evidence of major damage and Johnny had none. He wanted to check on the young man one more time before he went home for the night.
Kel was just pushing the door to Johnny’s room open when the younger man sat upright in the bed with a low scream of fear…but it cut off almost immediately to be replaced by a moan of misery. Johnny’s eyes were squeezed shut as he rode out the waves of dizziness. Kel was at his side in four quick strides. He grasped John’s shoulders and laid him back on the bed… "Johnny, you need to lay back now…I want you stay calm…you’re at Rampart…you’re okay…”
John was panting in pain and sweat coated his face. Kel reached for the call button… "I need 40m mgs of Meperidine…,” he snapped at the nurse who appeared in the doorway. She nodded and hurried away. Kel turned back to Johnny.
John was watching the man who stood over him…he should know him…he knew he should but his name was eluding him. He heard the Doctor instruct the nurse on what he needed…and the name finally came. Brackett…that was it… How could he forget that…? He was not only his Doctor…he was a personal friend.
Kel saw the looks that crossed John’s face… pain, fear, confusion, recognition and finally relief followed by a troubled frown. Finally the nurse came in with a syringe. Kel took it and injected it into John’s IV port. Brackett watched as the drug took effect. John’s eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.
Kel was concerned…for a moment there he was sure Johnny didn’t know who he was. It was possible that he was simply disoriented from the nightmare but if it happened again…they might need to run a few more tests.
After three days in the hospital John was looking forward to going home. Roy had offered him the guest room but Johnny had refused…claiming he didn’t want to burden his Partner with his presence while he recovered.
The headaches and the nightmares persisted but he could never remember what it was that terrified him…he just woke sweating, shaking and confused until recognition of his surroundings returned. Outwardly he seemed to be better. The back pain was almost gone and the bruises were fading. The cuts on his hands and face were scabbed over and itching but his head still throbbed incessantly unless he was using Meperidine. Unfortunately they had stopped giving him that yesterday.
He had asked that young nurse Sharon to get him some aspirin but it hadn’t really helped much. The memory lapses were what bothered him the most. He always remembered after a few moments but he often lost a name or face that he should remember and sometimes faces or situations left him fearful or short of breath or even worse…blank.
What confused him was that it appeared to be Roy who usually caused this reaction…though it had happened with others. That bothered him a lot. John had no family…his parents had died when he was a kid. The only family he had here was an Aunt who’d raised him after their deaths but she lived in Santa Barbara and he rarely saw her. The DeSoto family had taken him in as one of their own almost from the beginning so his sudden anxious reactions to his partner’s presence baffled him. He’d at least managed to keep his friend from realizing that his presence brought on these panic attacks. He would have been terribly hurt so when Roy offered to have him stay with them he’d refused…afraid it would become evident in close proximity. He’d told him he’d sleep better in his own bed.
Roy insisted on at least driving him home and getting him settled. Dr. Brackett had cleared him for duty for his next shift two days from now. That was almost six days from the accident and John should be fine by then, he just hoped the headaches would be gone as well.
Roy got him home and settled on his living room couch without incident and once safely at home, the tremors and uneasy feelings seemed to disappear but not the dreams.
His first day back wasn’t starting well. He was exhausted. Nightmares had haunted him every time he tried to sleep. The image of men in blue uniforms pushing at him…his feet skidding from beneath him and sliding into emptiness… The voice of his best friend and Partner… "I’ll murder you...,” as he released John’s hand and let him fall. It replayed over and over until Johnny was afraid to sleep…the problem was when he woke…he couldn’t remember what had frightened him.
John rubbed a hand over his tired eyes and pulled the equipment from the squad…he began to set up the Cardiac Monitor for its morning calibration and then set the Biophone on the floor to run the radio check with Rampart.
Johnny was squatting by the radio, his fingers deftly snapping the antenna into place. He was so busy concentrating on the Biophone that he failed to hear his partner approach from behind him. Roy gave him a friendly slap on the back…John flinched away violently…losing his balance and falling on his behind. He looked up at Roy…The fear in his brown eyes was momentary, almost fleeting …but unmistakable.
Roy hastily squatted next to him… "Johnny…what’s wrong…? Are you okay…?” He asked in concern.
“You…you s…startled me that’s all. Man…you shouldn’t sneak up on someone like that.”
Roy looked at him suspiciously…his over protective streak kicked in… "You’re sure you’re okay…?”
“I’m fine…you just surprised me…,” he said, glancing away from the probing blue eyes.
“Are you sure that’s all…?”
“I said I’m fine…,” John snapped.
Roy blinked in shock at the angry outburst… "Okay…fine…sorry I bothered ya…,” the older man said, obviously hurt. Something was really NOT all right with his young partner.
John hung his head in regret and took a deep breath…"I’m sorry Roy…I didn’t sleep well and I’m really tired…,” he explained quietly.
“It’s okay Junior…but at the risk of having my head handed to me, I’m gonna ask you again…are you okay…? To be workin I mean?”
“I’ll be okay…,” he said rubbing the back of his head. The headache that had plagued him since the fall was hovering at the back of his head.
Roy had noted that Johnny had been uncharacteristically short tempered several times when he’d visited him at home too. “Hey…let’s get some coffee…maybe it’ll help you wake up a bit.”
“Okay…,” Roy extended his hand to help Johnny up but he avoided taking it…pretending he hadn’t seen it and stood up on his own.
“Mornin Roy…hey Gage…welcome back…,” Chet said as they came into the Rec room.
Mike and Marco greeted them as well. Hank Stanley gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder as he passed… "Good to have you back Pal…you were missed.”
John shot them his trademark crooked grin… "Thanks guys…Cap.”
He went to the cupboard and flipped the door open. A familiar ‘sproing’ sounded, followed by a cupful of cold water straight into the young paramedics face. The phantom had struck. There were several snorts of laughter but they were short lived.
The transformation in Johnny’s face was instant and shocked even Chet…Fury colored his face scarlet and his eyes narrowed in rage… "You know…I’ve really had enough of that…,” he ground out in low tones. “Don’t you ever do that to me again…got it Kelly?”
His friends were speechless…they rarely ever saw Johnny this angry and never over a simple practical joke. The cabinet door slammed shut with such force that it rebounded back open.
“Ah…sorry Johnny…maybe it was a little too soon for the Phantom to make an appearance…but lighten up huh?” Chet said.
John shot a glare at the others and quickly stalked from the room.
Roy and Captain Stanley exchanged worried glances. The others looked at each other in shock and then also turned to Roy for guidance.
“What the hell was that all about…?” Mike asked.
Roy shrugged… "He’s been moody like that for a couple of days, even with me. I…I don’t know…”
“That was…,” Marco hesitated as he tried to find a proper analogy…"Like a total stranger standing here in Gage’s body.” The others nodded in agreement.
“Roy…you want me to talk to him…?” Cap asked.
“No…no I think he’d just get defensive Cap…I’ll try.” Roy left the others still discussing their friend’s odd behavior.
Roy found John in the dorm. He was sitting slumped on his bunk, rubbing his face with both hands. Remembering the earlier incident, Roy knocked softly on the door so Johnny would know he was there.
“Can I talk to you for a minute junior…?”
“Whaddya askin for…You’re gonna anyway…,” John shot back.
“You wanna tell me what that was all about…?” Roy gestured toward the Rec room.
“What…? That maybe I’m getting tired of being soaked all the time and being the butt of their jokes…? Let’s see what happens if he turns those water bombs on you, partner…”
John rubbed the back of his head…the headache was getting worse. He looked up at Roy and started to speak but flashes of his nightmares suddenly played before his eyes. Someone in a blue shirt rushing toward him…shoving him hard. Roy holding him suspended over nothingness…he let go… "I’ll murder you…”
Roy saw the total blankness fall like a blanket over John’s face. DeSoto reached out and put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder but Johnny flinched back… "Don’t touch me…,” he snapped at the stranger sitting across from him. He stood quickly but swayed as a rush of dizziness washed over him. Roy stood up to stop him… "Johnny…?” He questioned. Something was seriously wrong. His best friend didn’t seem to recognize him. "Johnny…do you know who I am…?” Roy asked softly.
John stared at him for a moment and then memory returned in full force. “Yeah… Roy…I…I’m sorry man…I…I don’t know…,” he stopped in confusion and wiped the sweat that was forming from his brow. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me…must be this damn headache…”
“What headache Johnny…where and for how…”
The SCU tones began to sound cutting off the older man’s concerned questions. Roy groaned in frustration as John shot past him on the way to the squad.
"Station 51…structure fire…4915 Anchor Ave…4-9-1-5 Anchor Ave…Cross Street East 223rd…time out 09:53." Roy hesitated as his partner disappeared through the doorway. Maybe he should take the squad out of service and get Johnny to see Brackett.
Johnny poked his head back into the room… "Come on…,” he called before disappearing once more. Roy started after him. He seemed all right now but as soon as they were done, John was going to Rampart even if he had to drag him in. Roy slid into the driver’s seat as the doors rolled up.
They arrived at the scene… thick smoke roiled from the windows and Cap immediately began to shout orders as the Engine crew began to pull lines. A woman came running over, pointing frantically towards the second story window. “My husband’s in there…please…I need help.”
Cap whirled toward his two Paramedics, who were already pulling on turnout coats and SCBA’s… "Roy…John, we’ve got a man still inside…” Cap pointed toward the window the woman indicated.
Roy gave John one final unsure look. He seemed okay so the older man put it out of his mind. They ran inside and headed up the stairs. The fire had spread rapidly…feeding on carpet and the wood paneled walls. The ceiling on the second floor was already blazing. Roy gave it a quick glance…then tapped Johnny on the shoulder to get his attention and pointed up.
Johnny looked at the ceiling and nodded. They worked their way down the black, smoke filled hallway until they reached the door to the bedroom the woman had pointed at. John pushed the door open…spotting the man sprawled on the floor. The young Paramedic knelt beside him and pulled his air mask off…placing it over the victims face.
After a moment the man began to stir…a ragged cough erupted from his lungs and he gasped for air. Roy and John got the man upright and the two managed to sling him over Roy’s shoulder. DeSoto looked back toward his Partner… "Let’s go Junior and put that mask back on…,” Roy directed. John grinned at Roy’s overprotective attitude but obediently placed the mask over his head and tugged the straps in place. He secured his helmet and followed Roy out.
Once outside…Roy carried the man quickly toward the squad and laid him down. Gage ran around to the other side of the vehicle and retrieved the oxygen, drug box and Biophone. Roy was already using his own SBA on the man when the younger Paramedic arrived.
Roy helped him set up and took the man’s BP while Johnny took the man’s pulse and respirations calling them out to his partner. Roy wrote them down and contacted Rampart. Johnny was already pretty sure what the Doctor would tell them, so he began setting the necessary items and drugs aside…just waiting for word from Roy to go ahead.
One of the officers at the scene came over to see the man’s wife who had run over to join them by the squad. He pulled out his notebook… "Ma’am can I get some information from you…?” he asked. She nodded and turned toward him…
Roy glanced up from the phone… "IV normal saline and six leaders of O2. Irrigate the eyes with saline. Johnny nodded…tearing open the wrappings and IV tubing…he set the needle and glanced up toward Roy…he saw the officer standing behind his partner and froze as his nightmares replayed in his mind.
Blue…a sea of blue. Pale blue fireman’s uniform…dark blue police uniforms…running toward him…pushing at him…his feet slid over the edge of the precipice, falling…fingers catching at his hand…the pale blue of his partners eyes and his voice…
“I’ll murder you…murder you… murder you… murder you…,” reverberated through his brain over and over. John’s breathing became rapid…his head began to pound as if someone were running a jackhammer in it and sweat beaded his brow.
“Johnny…,” the commanding tone of his partner’s voice penetrated his terrifying vision…he flinched and looked at Roy. The dark eyes reflected fear…
Roy was taken aback by the look but the victim was his first priority right now. “It’s okay Johnny…just hand me the needle…,” Roy said soothingly.
John looked away from his Partner and the terror faded…"I…I can do it…,” he snapped. He finished what he was doing with only a slight shake of his hand.
The ambulance was backing in and Roy began packing the equipment…he cast surreptitious glances at his young partner. Johnny didn’t look up but remained kneeling at the patient’s side. The attendants pulled the gurney out and brought it over. John hardly moved as they lifted the smoke inhalation victim onto the stretcher…he did manage to tuck the IV bag under the man’s shoulder. They pulled the blanket over him and hauled him toward the ambulance. Roy followed with the Biophone and the drug box…tucking them inside. He headed back to check on John just as the officer returned to talk to the senior paramedic…their low voiced conversation finally drawing the younger man’s attention.
John glanced up…the blue uniforms surrounding him brought back the fear and anxiety. His head once again began to pound and the vision to replay itself yet again. John clamped his hands over his head as if to hold it in place. “Stop it…,” he whispered to himself. “Stop it…Stop it… Stop it…,” he kept repeating it over and over.
Roy finally heard the faint whisper…he glanced at his partner in concern. His friend was definitely not okay. “Johnny…?” He called loudly… "Look at me…,” he demanded but John didn’t raise his head.
The Officer and the blonde paramedic glanced at each other worriedly and headed toward Johnny. Roy got there first…he reached out and gripped John’s shoulders, planning to lay him down on the ground but John’s head snapped up at Roy’s touch…the officer stood behind him.
John’s nightmare vision resurfaced to pound through his head…his breathing grew rapid…his feet skidded backward…sliding into nothingness…a hand grasped his fingers…the voice raged once again in his head…"I’ll murder you…I’ll murder you…I’ll…” Roy let go of his hand…he fell and fell…
Roy could see the look in his partner’s eyes and knew his friend was somewhere else…he stared into nothingness…the brown eyes filled with fear and desperation…the same as they’d been the day he’d fallen. Roy gave him a light shake… "Johnny, look at me…look at me.”
John suddenly cried out in fear and lurched backwards…pulling free of Roy’s hands. His behind hit the ground hard and the back of his head connected solidly with the driver’s door of the squad. The young paramedic’s eyes rolled up as he slid to the right to lay unmoving on the pavement.
Cap and the others arrived at a hurried pace. “What the hell happened here?” Cap asked in concern. Chet bent down to help Roy straighten his partner out and lay him back flat on the ground while Marco ran for the drug box and Biophone that Roy had stowed in the ambulance.
Roy placed the Oxygen mask carefully over John’s face…speaking quietly to his friend… "Johnny…can you hear me? Talk to me Junior…Johnny…open your eyes.”
Chet had Rampart on the phone while Cap got a pulse. Roy wrapped the BP cuff around John’s arm… "Chet tell them to stand by…,” he told the curly haired fireman as he laid his hand on his partner’s stomach to get a respiration. Roy finally took the phone… "Rampart…Johnny’s had some kind of episode…he’s hit the back of his head and he is unconscious. His BP is 120/80…Respirations are rapid…around 26. His pulse is racing Rampart…about 130…his pupils are unequal but do react to light.”
“10-4 51…start an IV…D5W TKO…and transport.”
“10-4,” Roy replied.
They loaded Johnny into the ambulance with their first victim...Roy climbed in with them.
“Chet…bring in the squad Pal…,” Cap instructed.
“This can’t be good Cap…I’m startin to drive this thing more than Johnny and Roy…”
Cap patted the Irishman’s shoulder. “You’re right there…,” He replied softly as he watched the ambulance drive away.
The ambulance backed into the receiving bay and was met by two teams…Joe Early and Carol Dawson took the smoke inhalation victim to treatment one while Kelly Brackett and Dixie led Johnny’s group to treatment room three.
“Any sign of consciousness on the way in Roy…?” Kel asked the senior paramedic.
“None and no response to pain stimuli either…” Get X-ray down here stat Dix…I need a full skull series and Dix…,” he said looking at the pretty blonde nurse worriedly…"get me the X-ray’s from the earlier accident.”
“You on to something…?”
“Just afraid that I missed something important…bring them to my office…” She nodded and left as the portable X–ray was wheeled in by Malcolm. “Come on Roy…we’ll wait in my office…Dix should have John’s previous films soon.”
They met Dixie at the door to Brackett’s office. She handed Kel the file and he slipped the X -ray into the panel and flipped on the light. Kel frowned…the X-rays looked good…there was simply nothing there…He’d been so sure he’d find something he’d missed the first time. He sorted through the others in frustration.
“Anything Kel…?” Dixie asked.
He shook his head… "I don’t understand this…the symptoms Roy described…personality changes, mood swings…loss of memory… headaches … and his inability to recognize people he should know….I saw that myself that first night…”
“What…? When…?” She asked. Roy looked at him curiously.
“That first night in his room…I went to check on him before I went home…he’d been having some kind of nightmare…he woke up just as I came in. He looked at me like I was a total stranger.”
“Yeah…,” Roy agreed… "He’s done it to me a couple of times now…worse he acted like he was afraid of me…like I was gonna hurt him or something but then he was fine a minute later. I was gonna bring him in but then we got this run…”
“I expected to find a fracture or a subdural hematoma…it would have explained a lot.”
“But there’s nothing…?” Dix asked.
“No…,” Kel said with a sigh. He was studying the film when something finally clicked. “Dix…do you remember when John got that hairline skull fracture a couple of months ago…”
“Where is it…? There should still be signs of past fractures…” She shook her head in confusion. Kel looked at the folder and then the X-ray again…"Son of a…,” he stopped in mid sentence.
“What Doc…?” Roy and Dix asked simultaneously.
“These aren’t Johnny’s X-rays…the number’s don’t match…look…,” he pointed out showing them to the other two.
They moved closer to examine the numbers on the two items…Kel pulled the rest but they appeared to be fine. “Dix …tell Malcolm about that film and that I want the new one stat. Also tell him they need to check and be sure this isn’t the only error…”
She nodded and headed for Johnny’s room. She pushed the door open just as Malcolm was finishing up…" Malcolm…we have a problem.”
“We found someone else’s X-rays in a file jacket…”
“I’ll look into it Miss McCall…I’ll be sure to tell my supervisor…,” he promised.
“Great…now we need to have those stat…Dr. Brackett’s waiting for them there.”
Malcolm shook his head as he pushed his machine down the hall. This was serious…his supervisor wasn’t going to happy that such a dangerous mistake had been made.
Dixie entered Johnny’s room to check on her young friend…his eyes were closed but as she approached the exam table his eyes blinked slowly open. Sensing her presence…he turned his head toward her but the expression was blank. The dark eyes held no recognition.
John’s head was pounding as his eyes blinked open…He was still lost in his own hallucination. Johnny heard a soft noise and turned his head. A strange woman stood watching him…she seemed harmless but he was too caught up in the nightmare vision.
Falling…fear… His best friend holding his hand tightly…but then he let him go… "I’ll murder you…” John was hyperventilating rapidly…gasping for air…The woman reached for him…
“No…,” Johnny shouted as he rolled off the table and staggered away from the blonde woman. she approached him slowly…dizziness rolled through his head in waves…
“Johnny…you shouldn’t be up...C’mon sweetheart…just come back over here and lie down…,”she coaxed soothingly. She edged a bit closer and slowly reached out to take John’s hand. She looked into wary brown eyes.
John shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs from his foggy memory…almost, almost he could remember her but then it was gone again… Dixie saw the flash of recognition and stepped closer… " That’s right sweetie…you know me…I’m your friend…It’s Dixie…remember?” She spoke softly as she took his hand.
She tried to gently pull Johnny toward her but he dug his heels in…."No…,” he gasped as he tried to pull free but Dixie held on. The young Paramedic panicked…he shoved Dixie aside and bolted from the room. He didn’t see Dix hit the exam table and slide to the floor. She didn’t get up.
John stood on the hall...not sure where to go. Several nurses and orderlies looked at him in concern as he turned in confused circles. The befuddled fireman finally turned and headed down the hall. Instinct alone took him to the emergency room entrance. Johnny ran from the building and away from the help he desperately needed.
Roy and Kel entered treatment room three a couple of minutes later. They saw Dixie struggling to regain consciousness… "What the…?” Kel began as he ran to help Dixie… "Dix…can you hear me? What happened…?”
She sat up woozily cradling her right arm… "Johnny…?” She whispered.
“He pushed me…I guess I must of whacked my head…,” she said raising her left hand to rub the rapidly darkening bruise over her temple.
“Where is Johnny…?” Roy asked in concern.
Kel looked at Dixie… "Sorry I can’t help you…I was apparently napping,” she smiled ruefully.
“This is not funny Dixie…he could have killed you…,” Kel snapped angrily, helping her onto the exam table.
Roy was looking at Brackett in concern…he was worried about Dixie certainly but he was even more worried about his missing partner and Brackett’s obvious anger at him.
“Doc…Johnny would never hurt Dix on purpose…,” he began but Dixie stopped him.
“Kel don’t you dare be angry at John…” Brackett looked at the blonde nurse in surprise. She was glaring daggers at him as she finished…"Whoever did this to me was not Johnny.”
“Kel…he didn’t know me…he was…”she stopped to find the words…”someone different…somewhere else. He was blank…looking at a stranger. He was scared and trying to get away and I wouldn’t let him…It’s was as much my fault as his…”
Malcolm pushed the door open ending the conversation… "X-rays Doc…”
“Thanks…I need you back down here for more X-rays. I need a skull series on Miss McCall along with her right arm…”
“Yes sir…,” he said leaving the room to go and get the portable.
“Now let’s see what we’ve got on our young friend.” Kel pulled the films from the folder and snapped them into the light panel. “Oh my God…,” he whispered.
“What is it Doc…?”
“Depressed skull fracture…there’s evidence of a subdural hematoma…” Kel shook his head. “This explains a lot and it’s very serious. We’ve got to find him Roy and I mean right now.” Roy’s face paled at his words.
“Exactly how bad Kel…?” Dix asked.
“He’s a walking time bomb Dix…” They all exchanged worried glances.
Kel picked up the phone…"Get Security to treatment three stat…and call the police…tell them I need someone here right away," said Kel. He turned to Roy as he hung up…“Roy…call your Captain in case John goes there…it may be someplace he feels safe. We need to find him right away.”
The security team arrived…the police were only seconds behind them…Thankfully it was Vince Howard who’d responded. The older, black Officer had been a friend of both Roy and John’s for a over a year now. He’d only been a couple of blocks away when the call had come in.
“Vince it sure is good to see you…,”Roy said as he led him to where Kel was gathering the security team.
“Here’s the deal gentlemen…I have a missing patient…”
“It’s Johnny, Vince…,” Roy whispered.
“I need you to search this building top to bottom in case he’s still here somewhere…,” Kel instructed.
“What’s wrong with him Doctor…?” Vince asked.
“He has a severe head injury…” The officer shook his head in concern. “I need your people to find him...”
Vince nodded…” Of course…we’ll do our best…how bad is it Doc…?”
“I see…,” Vince said somberly as he glanced at Roy…well aware of the relationship between the two men. Worried blue eyes looked back.
“But remember…he needs to be handled carefully…no roughness…”
“Can they take him down without hurting him…? He might…well…he’ll most likely resist,” Kel corrected himself.
“I’ll make sure they understand Doc, don’t worry about it…most of them know Johnny anyway…they’d never hurt him if they can avoid it.”
“Maybe it would be better if they find him to just call it in. Let me get there…he might listen to me,” Roy suggested.
“Okay…sounds good…you got a picture of John…?”
“Yeah…” Roy slid a picture of John taken on a camping trip with the DeSoto family out of his wallet and handed it to Vince.”
“We’ll find him Roy…,” Vince said patting the younger man on the shoulder.
The blonde Paramedic nodded as Vince and his Partner left. The security team dispersed right behind them to search the hospital. “I’m heading back to the station Doc…I can’t do anything here and maybe Cap can get headquarters to help out somehow…Call me if they find anything….?”
“Of course Roy...," Kel promised.
Roy returned to the station and explained what was happening to his crew mates. Hank Stanley was on the phone with Headquarters minutes later. He finally came back into the Rec Room… "Headquarters’ is calling the TV station…they’re gonna ask for the public’s help.”
“Anything we can do Cap…?” Mike asked.
Cap shook his head… "Pray they find him quickly,” Cap muttered.
Johnny wandered the streets aimlessly…his head was pounding relentlessly now and even in a neighborhood that he’d worked in for over two years he was lost and disoriented. Everything seemed hazy and confused. The words repeating through his head…"I'll murder you…murder you…” became a litany he couldn’t shake. “Get away…got to get away…kill me…he’ll kill me,” he whispered half under his breath.
He was unaware of the stares of people as he passed by…his mumbled words causing them to move aside worriedly at his odd behavior. He finally stumbled into a small restaurant…he was sweating and dirty. He huddled on the seat in the booth…staring at the table while the words continued to tumble from his lips…
The waitress came to his table… "What can I get for ya…?” she asked. Johnny didn’t look up…just continued to whisper quietly to himself. “Sir… do you want something or not?” She asked testily…tapping her foot in annoyance, but he still didn’t answer. She was about to turn away but then finally noticed the uniform…the badge and the name plate…J. Gage…F/F Paramedic. “Fire fighter Paramedic…,” she mumbled to herself. Something was seriously wrong with this young man...either that or he was some junkie and he’d stolen the items…
She went and poured him a cup of coffee. She brought it back and set it before him and then headed for the phone…
Cap picked up the phone at the station…he spoke to the person on the other end for several minutes before hanging up…"Guy’s…,” he called out. They gathered around him quickly…"The police have a report of someone fitting John’s description at a restaurant on Carver…let’s go…” They pulled out seconds later.
Johnny stared at the table…mumbling incoherently…"murder you…murder you…,” It was almost a sing song now…” A police car pulled up out front…John’s eyes flicked in the direction of the plate glass window. The officer climbed out of the passenger side…blue…blue uniforms…John staggered to his feet… "No…no…get away…,” he shook his head and backed away. People cleared a path nervously before the dazed young man.
The waitress tried to grab his arm…"Sir…let them help you...,” but he shook her off and stumbled towards the back.
The police came through the front door as John disappeared into the small kitchen…the waitress pointed… "He went that way…is he alright…?”
“No ma’am…,” the officer replied… "He’s a pretty sick young man…we appreciate you calling.” They headed for the back. They ran into the kitchen in time to see the door swinging shut.
They ran into the alley…John whirled to face them…"Stay away…no…”
“We don’t wanna hurt ya Johnny…you know me…it’s Scotty... Johnny…”
“No…no…leave me alone…” Sweat poured from the young man’s face and there was terror in his eyes as they darted frantically from place to place. John suddenly bolted toward the fence. Scotty moved to block him but John suddenly stopped just short of him. He slipped through a narrow gap in the chain link that the Officer hadn’t even seen…his slender frame barely sliding through. Scotty tried to follow but the hole was too narrow…
"that way..,.” he yelled to his partner pointing frantically. They both raced down the fence line, finally finding the end but by the time they rounded it…John had disappeared. “Damn it…,” he shouted kicking at the ground in frustration.
The Engine and the squad pulled up in front of the Restaurant…Roy was out and racing for the door before the others had cleared the rigs. He pushed the door open in time to see two officers come from the back of the building…they looked up at the paramedic in contrition…"Sorry Roy…we thought we had him cornered but he slipped through a break in the fence…neither of us could get through it and by the time we went around...,” they shrugged. “He was gone.”
Roy’s face fell in disappointment…he looked up at the two embarrassed officers…"It’s okay Scotty…Murph…I know you tried…” His troubled blue eyes turned toward the window… "Where are you Junior…?” He whispered.
The dejected crew returned to the station. Johnny had been missing for seven hours…Roy paced the apparatus bay worriedly…fear for his partner eating away at him…They pushed the food around their plates at dinner…none of them able to eat. They finally gave up and dispersed to find something to keep their mind occupied.
“Guy’s…,” Chet hollered from the Rec room…"Johnny’s on TV.” They ran to join him in front of the television. A young, dark haired news anchor had a Department file photo of Johnny on the screen taken at his Academy Graduation…
“Police are asking for your help in locating this man…Fire Fighter John Gage… Gage disappeared from Rampart General Hospital at 11:00 this morning. He is suffering from a severe head injury and is in need of immediate medical treatment. Gage is confused and may not remember who he is. If you see this man please do not approach him. Please contact the police at 555-6158 or the Los Angeles County Fire Department at 555-7000. Once again...do not approach him. In other news…” Chet shut the TV off.
“How bad is he Roy…I mean for real…?” Marco asked.
“It’s bad…really bad…especially after he hit his head on the squad this morning. If Johnny were to fall…hit his head again…even too much stress…,” Roy trailed off shaking his head.
The others looked at each other in concern. “That bad…?” Cap muttered worriedly.
“By now he’s probably suffering from severe headaches’, dizziness, nausea and confusion…we already know he has memory loss and hallucinations…., we have to find him…or he could die.” Roy whispered.
Johnny had been wandering the streets of Carson for seven hours…he was exhausted…dirt smeared, sweating and his head was pounding incessantly now. Waves of dizziness passed over him and he staggered down the streets unaware of the stares of passersby…or how many tips began flooding the hot line, telling them where he could be found.
Johnny stumbled…leaning heavily against a wall. A woman stopped to watch him curiously…she finally approached him. “Are you John Gage…?” John looked up…squinting at the lady standing in front of him… “Can I help you…? She tried to take his arm but the dark eyes fell on the blue dress she was wearing…he backed away…
“You are…You’re that Fireman the police are looking for…they said you’re sick…,” she said moving toward him. But Johnny moved hastily away.
“No…leave me alone…please…” John was shaking in fear.
“Let me help you…,” she said. But Johnny turned and bolted down the street.”
Several minutes later he finally slowed, stumbling to a halt. He leaned heavily on a building…gasping for air… "got to hide…get away…get away…,” he muttered.
A woman sweeping her porch spotted him…"Jack, get out here…,” she called to her husband. He stepped out to join her.
“What is it…?”
“That Fireman that was on the news…that’s him…”
“Yeah…go call the cops Jack…” He disappeared into the house while she continued to watch the young man up the street.
John was too tired to go on…he leaned against the building with his eyes closed. He rubbed his temples as he gasped for breath, trying to ease the throbbing and the dizziness that washed through him. After several minutes, he raised exhausted eyes and saw the police cruiser turn the corner. “No…,” he whispered fearfully. He stumbled backwards the way he’d come and ducked down an alley. The woman watched him go.
Vince and his Partner Rick responded to the call for a sighting of the missing Paramedic. They’d been chasing their tails all day…Either Johnny had managed to stay one step ahead of them or it had turned out to be the wrong person altogether. Vince sighed at what he was afraid would be another wild goose chase. “Turn right up here…,” his partner directed pointing. Vince turned the corner just catching a flash of blue up the street. “This is the address coming up.” Vince pulled over. Rick rolled his window down…"Did you call us ma’am…?”
The woman stepped off the porch and approached the police car… "I saw that man that was on the news…”
“You sure it was him ma’am…?”
“Yes…he was wearing a blue uniform and he had a badge…he was pretty dirty but I’m sure it was him… He ran that way,” she said pointing toward an alley up the street. “Is he dangerous Officer…,” she asked worriedly.
“No ma’am…just very sick…”
“Poor boy…,” she murmured.
Vince sped toward the alley… "Man, I hope it’s him…,” Rick muttered.
Vince brought the car to a skidding halt at the end of the block. He peered down the alley, dimly lit by the setting sun…he saw the flash of pale blue at the end…, "Oh thank God…It’s him…,” Vince said as he picked up the radio.
John staggered down the alley…The throbbing in his head had increased and he was light headed and nauseas. The pain was becoming unbearable now…he fell to his knees barely feeling his trousers rip or the pavement scrape his skin. He held his head trying desperately to hold it in place. He groaned in pain and began to retch…he curled over as his body spasmed over and over again until it finally ended. He panted trying to catch his breath. He heard a car door slam behind him and raised his head tiredly in time to see the two men approaching him. Blue…blue…he pulled his exhausted body to his feet…trying to run. The best he could manage was a wobbly stagger.
Johnny heard the pounding of running feet behind him as he reached the end of the alley…only to realize that there was no way out…he was trapped. John turned to face his pursuers.
Vince had already had them contact Roy and given them the location of the alley. He knew the crew of Station 51 would be there soon. Johnny whirled to face them as Vince and his partner burst into the small courtyard behind the building...Panic and fear flared in his eyes…"Stay away…,” he gasped.
“Johnny…,” Vince said softly as he moved toward the young paramedic… "No one’s gonna hurt you man…” Vince edged closer…
“No…,” John yelled…"Stay away…stay away…,” his eyes clenched shut against the dizziness washing threw him.
“Okay…okay just relax…I’m backing off…see,” Vince said as he back pedaled toward his partner.
"Maybe I can tackle him…, bring him down gently…,” Rick suggested.
“We can’t risk his head hittin the pavement.”
“I don’t want him to get hurt…he’s a friend…ya know…? Let’s just wait for Roy…”
The squad pulled up in front of the alley. Roy and his temporary partner Bill Harding climbed from the cab. The engine pulled up behind them. The crew started down the alley…"Wait...,” said Cap…"let Roy and Bill assess the situation before we go in there.” They reluctantly nodded.
Bill grabbed the equipment… "Go on Roy…I’ll catch up…”
Roy ran down the alley…he could see Vince at the end. He and his partner leaned against the wall…just waiting. Roy gave them a quick glance… "How’s it goin…?”
“Not good…he won’t let us near him…”
Roy looked into the courtyard. Johnny paced at the far end like a caged animal…his eyes never left the group of men gathered at the exit. Bill finally caught up… "Call Rampart for me…advise them of the situation and ask them to stand by…”
Roy took a deep breath and moved into the small area. He spoke quietly…trying to sound soothing and reassuring. “Johnny…it’s me…it’s Roy Johnny…”
“Stay away from me…,” he said almost pleadingly as he continued to pace.
“Hey Junior can we talk about this…what are you afraid of partner…talk to me Johnny…,” he urged as he took a step closer. His young partner froze momentarily at the motion.
“No…,” John cried…he backed against the wall.
Roy sucked in his breath as the dark head came perilously close to slamming the brick wall behind him. Roy heard Bill on the phone with Brackett… "We have him cornered…but he won’t let us near him Rampart…”
He vaguely heard Brackett respond… "He’s been untreated for five days and running around all over this city for over seven hours…we can’t wait any longer…it’s already been too long…take him down…but do it carefully…sit on him if you have to but get him in here stat. Give him 5 mgs of diazepam IM…it’ll calm him down.”
“10-4 Rampart…5mgs diazepam IM. Roy…,” he called… "Brackett says take him down now …he wants him in there stat…whatever it takes.”
Roy nodded, knowing Johnny wasn't going to let them do this the easy way … "call the guys in…”
Bill picked up the handy talkie and within moments the crew arrived in the courtyard. “We need to get him to the hospital…he won’t let us near him…Brackett says end this right now and bring him in…Brackett said do what we have to…”
Cap nodded… "Let’s do it guy’s…,” he said.
They spread out across the alley and slowly began to form a half circle around John…closing off his only escape route… John’s eyes widened in fear…sweat trickled down his face. “Nooo…,” he groaned as the sea of blue surrounded him.
“Johnny…,” Roy called to him softly… "I want to help you…please can you let me help you…?”
“No…” Johnny shook his head to try and clear it. “Stay away…leave me alone…please…”
“I can’t do that junior…look at me…”
Johnny raised his head…he was sweat drenched and dirty…breathing in short, shaky breaths…
“Johnny…I’m your best friend…I’m not gonna hurt you…you know I’d never hurt you…”
“You’re gonna murder me…you let go…you let me fall…”
Roy looked stricken…but he continued…”Johnny please listen…” The rest of the crew continued to circle him…herding the younger man into the center of the loose circle as he desperately sought a way out. “I didn’t mean to let you fall…I tried to hold on but I couldn’t…you know I’d have never let you fall if I coulda stopped it…you know that.”
John was growing more and more agitated as they closed the circle about him. His dark eyes darted frantically as he tried to watch all of them at the same time.
“Mike…,” Roy said softly to the dark haired engineer who now stood directly behind Johnny.
The blonde paramedic sidled closer. “Watch his head.”
“Gotcha…,” he said stepping closer to the younger man.
John turned his head to see what Mike was doing and Roy seized the opportunity…he leaped forward and grasped John’s wrists…Roy hooked his foot behind John’s ankles and swept his partners feet out from under him.
The others moved in quickly to help catch him as he went down. Mike caught him as he fell, cradling the dark head in his hands to keep it from impacting the pavement while the others just tried to hang on. John’s body arched beneath them as he thrashed wildly and kicked out with his feet, trying to throw them off.
“Man he’s strong…,” Cap grunted.
Bill approached the group with the syringe in hand…Roy had his knee braced against his partners sternum…pinning him to the ground as he continued to fight. His body bucked and twisted beneath him. Chet held his left arm…Cap his right while Marco and Vince each held a leg…Mike continued to hold his head steady.
The young paramedic was gasping for air now and choking back frightened cries at whatever hallucinations only he could see. Bill handed Roy the syringe…the older man injected it quickly into his partner…John arced his back once more, almost throwing Roy off. He continued to struggle for a few more seconds before the drug kicked in and his body began to relax…John’s eyes drooped in exhaustion and the crew of station 51 breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Roy gently brushed the sweat matted hair from John’s forehead. “It’s okay Junior…,”Roy whispered close to his partner’s ear… "Let’s get you to the hospital.”
Bill was on the Biophone… "Patient was combative Rampart…we have administered the diazepam and he’s calm now. He’s also diaphoretic…” Roy called out his pulse and respirations.”Rampart pulse is 120 and respirations are 24 but decreasing …BP is 120 systolic by palpation…”
“Start an IV 51…D5W TKO… and transport.”
“10-4 Rampart…” They got the IV started and bundled Johnny for transport as Vince led the ambulance attendants down the alley. They loaded Johnny quickly and Roy climbed in with him while Bill followed with the squad.
Cap sighed and picked up the handy talkie as the ambulance pulled away. “Station 51 available…,”
“10-4 51…51 Chief Houts requests you call him on the land line when you return to quarters for an update…”
“10-4 LA…c’mon Fellas, let’s go home…Roy’ll call when he knows something.”
The worried Engine crew climbed aboard the rig and headed for the station and what would certainly be a long, long night.
Roy sat next to his partner in the ambulance. His hand held tightly to the younger man’s while John’s head lolled on the pillow… "No…don’t let go…please…I’m falling…pushed me…he pushed me…,” the disjointed phrases tumbled from his lips… "I’ll murder you…murder you…,” Johnny’s hands tried to reach out but the restraints they put on him prevented it and that seemed to agitate him even more. “Don’t let me go…help me Roy…don’t let me fall…” John’s eyes flew open in panic…dark frightened eyes locked with Roy’s…
Roy squeezed his hand… "Johnny you’re okay…I’ve got you and I won’t let you fall…not this time Junior…I’ve got you, I promise and I won’t let go.” Reassured, the younger man’s eyes drifted closed.
The ambulance backed into the receiving bay followed by Bill with the squad. Brackett was waiting… "Let’s go gentlemen…,” He told the attendants as they pulled the gurney from the back. Two orderlies pulled the restraints loose and made the quick transfer to a stretcher…. "Straight to OR…,” Kel told them. He turned back to the two Paramedics. “You can wait in the Doctor’s lounge. Dixie’s resting there. She insisted on staying until you found Johnny. She’ll appreciate the company.”
“Is he gonna be alright Doc…?”
“Roy…I’ve got the two best Neurosurgeons in California waiting for Johnny right now…If Alex Bridgeman and Joe Early can’t get him through this…no one can…I’m going up to join them…he’s in good hands…I promise you.”
Roy sat in the Doctors lounge with a sleeping Dixie. He’d made the squad available and prayed that they wouldn’t get a run but a short time later C Shifts senior Paramedic, Charlie Dwyer had showed up to take over with Bill. “Captain Stanley knew you wouldn’t want to leave Gage, so they called me in a few hours early.”
“Hey I can use the overtime…,” he joked but Roy didn’t smile.
Dwyer grew serious… "Roy…I…I really hope Johnny’s okay…”
Dwyer signaled Bill and they both left the older man to wait for word on his best friend. Roy glanced at his watch…it had been almost three hours now…what was taking so long? He looked over to where Dixie lay on the sofa…her eyes were open and she watched him quietly.
“Hey Dix…,” he murmured softly…
She sat up… "Ow…,” she yelped putting her hand to her head and then to her right wrist which was now in a cast.
“You okay…?” Roy asked as he moved to her side to help her find a comfortable position.
“I’m fine…just a lingering headache…I take it you found Johnny?”
Roy nodded… "He’s in OR…for three hours now…,” Roy said worriedly.
"Roy it’s brain surgery…you know that always takes a long time…Kel called in Bridgeman…He’s absolutely the best in his field…,” She assured him patting his hand. “He’ll bring Johnny back for us.”
Roy nodded but the worry was still in the blue eyes. “He’s gonna hate himself when he sees what he did to you…”
“Maybe we won’t tell him…if he doesn’t remember, we’ll just let him think I fell on the stairs on something, okay?”
“Roy…he’s going to be fine.”
Roy looked at her… "Johnny thinks I tried to kill him…”
“What…? No Roy…”
He nodded… "The day he fell off that cliff…?” Dixie nodded… "It was a police officer falling into him that pushed him over the edge.” Roy rubbed his forehead tiredly. “I saw him going and I tried to get to him Dix…I managed to just catch hold of his fingers but I couldn’t hold on…” Roy looked stricken… "He slipped out of my grasp. He thinks I let him go…,” he whispered in distress.
“Roy…that’s the head injury talking…Johnny knows you’d never hurt him.”
“I know but…earlier that day we had a run to that nudist camp…,” they both smiled at the memory of a red faced John Gage but grew serious again as Roy continued. “He was flustered ya know…like he was that time the lady got her toe caught in the faucet.”
“Yeah…I remember. Johnny was so mad at you for telling me…,” she trailed off. “Oh no…don’t tell me…”
“Yeah…he was about to do it again and I…Dix, I was joking but I told him if he left I’d murder him.”
“Roy…he knows you didn’t mean it.”
“Yeah…at the time…before he got hurt but…in the ambulance he kept saying it…I’ll murder you…murder you…over and over…and he said… you let me fall and he looked at me like I was jack the ripper…” Roy stopped, hurt by his partners look of fear and the frightened accusation.
“Roy…Johnny’s obviously incorporated those words and the fear from that fall into whatever hallucination he’s having. John knows how you feel about him.”
Roy’s head snapped up and his face grew red in embarrassment… "Oh for Heaven’s sake DeSoto it’s not a secret that you hover around him like a mother hen and it’s nothing to be all flustered about…,” she teased. “But what’s important is Johnny knows how you feel too even if you two macho firemen can’t say it. He knows you’d never hurt him. He knows how many times you’ve almost gotten yourself killed for him and vice versa…,” she pointed out.
“I know…but the look in his eyes…”
“Will hopefully be gone when he wakes up…,” Kel Brackett said from the doorway, where he’d obviously been listening. He and Joe Early stood there both still in their scrubs.
“How’s Johnny…?” Two voices chorused almost simultaneously.
Kel shook his head…" You know you two should start a fan club…,” he teased. Dixie smiled, knowing if Kel was joking around than Johnny was going to be fine. Roy wasn’t as easily appeased.
“Doc…? Is he gonna be okay…?”
Joe smiled… "The EEG looks very good. Dr. Bridgeman repaired the fracture and relieved the pressure from the bleed. We also removed a few tiny bone shards from the tissue. We think he may have some short term memory loss but Dr. Bridgeman and I don’t think there’ll be any permanent damage or loss of motor skills. We’ll have to wait and see how he is when he wakes up of course.”
“That’s great…can I see him…?” Kel and Dixie finished the sentence with him. Roy shook his head and grinned, a little embarrassed that they knew him so well.
“He’s in recovery…We’ll be moving him to a room soon and you can see him then.”
Roy nodded… "I need to call the Station…they’ll want to know.” He moved to the phone.
“I’m bushed…,” Joe said…"I’m heading home…Good night…”
“Good night…,” they all replied as the older man left.
Kel sat next to Dixie… "Want me to drive you home…?” He asked looking at the cast.
“Later…I want to see Johnny for a minute myself.”
Kel smiled… "That young man certainly has a lot of friends.”
“You included…?” Dixie asked with a grin.
“Yeah…,” he said ruefully… "me included…I’ll wait for you in my office, I need to get cleaned up but I’m gonna check on Johnny first.” Kel left.
Roy entered the dimly lit room and moved to his partner’s bedside. John’s head was swathed in bandages…his face was pale and a pained grimace tightened his mouth from time to time.
Roy took his hand, noticing for the first time the wrist restraints. “junior… you’re not gonna like this,” he whispered. “First they shave a spot on the back of your head and now they’ve got you tied down.”
“It’s for his own good…,” Kel said from the doorway. “We can’t take the risk until we know for sure he’s okay." Roy nodded but he was clearly unhappy with this situation. Kel came over to join him at John’s bedside.
A low moan escaped John’s lips and dark eyes cracked open...they wandered about the darkened room for a moment before settling on his partner…he squinted, trying to focus. “R…Roy,” he whispered weakly.
“Hey partner…” Roy replied softly in relief … "You know who I am…that’s great.”
Johnny’s confused gaze moved to Dr. Brackett… "Doc…Doctor Brackett…,” he mumbled.
“Hi Johnny…how are you feeling…?”
“Head hurs…” John licked dry lips… "thirsy…,” he slurred. He tried to raise his hand to his head but couldn’t. Realizing even through the drug induced stupor that he was restrained he became alarmed. “Why…my hands tied…?” his eyes flew to Roy’s… "Wha’s w…wrong…?” He gasped out.
“Nothing’s wrong Johnny, just relax…,” Roy assured him as he held his shoulders, while John struggled against the restraints.
Brackett went to the door and signaled a nurse. “I want 4 mgs of Diazepam…Stat. He went back to find Roy tugging the wrist straps free from his friends wrists. “Roy don’t…”
“Doc…you may know medicine but I know my Partner." Once his wrists were free, Roy took John’s hand once more. The younger man’s free hand clutched Roy’s sleeve. “Calm down Johnny…you’re okay.” He pried the slender fingers loose from his shirt sleeve and held them securely. “It’s okay…Shhh…,” he repeated it over and over until John’s breathing evened out and his eyes began to close. “I won’t let them do that again Junior…I promise.”
“Don’t let go…me…,” he whispered.
“I won’t…,” Roy promised as John drifted off. “Doc, can you clear me to stay?”
Kel nodded as the nurse entered with a syringe of diazepam. “Leave it...” She nodded, looking a bit confused. “Roy’s gonna stay with Gage here…”
“But Doctor…that’s against the…” The look Kel gave her stopped her protest. “That’ll be fine Doctor…,” she finished.
“I’ll clear it with your supervisor.” She nodded and left.
“Roy…I’m gonna leave the Diazepam. If you need it, use it.”
Dixie pushed the door open and came in. She moved to Johnny’s bedside and took note of the dangling restraints. “Roy won huh…?” She said smugly.
“Shut up Dix…,” Kel said with fond good humor. “I’ll wait for you downstairs.”
Dixie smiled and came around to the other side of John’s bed. She rested her hand on the young man’s arm. She watched his face but spoke to Roy. “He uh…apparently remembered who you were I guess,” She said noting John’s hand clutched tightly to the older man’s.
“Yeah…yeah he did…and he’s not afraid of me anymore.” Roy smiled broadly…"Doc cleared it so I can stay with him but can you hang out a minute…I need to call Joanne and let her know he’s okay…she was really worried…besides she’s gonna need to clean out the guest room…he’ll be using it for a while.”
Dixie smiled at the way the entire DeSoto family had completely taken the young paramedic in as a member of their family…they were the only ones he had. “I hope Johnny knows how lucky he is to have such…,” She started to say friends but changed it at the last moment…"a wonderful family.”
“Course he does…,” Roy said with a grin as he passed John’s hand to Dixie. “Don’t leave him till I get back now…”
Dixie nodded as Roy left. She took the opportunity to stroke John’s cheek gently. “You better stop scaring the years off me kiddo…,” she said softly. “I’ll be gray before my time.” She kissed his forehead gently.
John’s eye’s fluttered open…he squinted up at the pretty, blonde nurse leaning over him. She waited for a response… " Dixie…,” he murmured.
“Yeah Johnny, it’s me.”
He smiled drowsily but then his eyes suddenly darted about the room… "Where’s Roy…?”
“Just relax…he just went to make a phone call.”
Roy came back in and seeing his partner awake came quickly to his side. “Hey Junior…” He took back the hand Dixie had been holding and gave it a gentle squeeze, throwing the older woman a wink. “I’m still here…”
John nodded slightly as his eyes started to close once more… "Kay…” The crooked half smile they both knew so well crept across his face… "Thanks for stayin pally…”
Dix threw Roy a grin at the familiar nickname. Johnny was definitely back.
The morning sounds of a large hospital surging into full swing woke Roy. He sat up and took a quick look at Johnny. He was sleeping uneasily, shifting restlessly from time to time. Two nurses entered John’s room…stopping short when they saw Roy… "You’re not supposed to be here,” They told him.
“It’s okay…it was cleared by Dr. Brackett with your supervisor,” he told them.
“We’ll have to check on that.”
The nurse from the previous evening poked her head into the room and spotted Roy… "good, you’re still here.”
“Not goin anywhere…,” he assured her with a grin.
“Miss McCall is on the phone…she wants to talk to you…she’s asking about Mr. Gage…”
“Thanks…” Roy left the room.
The three women began their morning routine…They checked Johnny’s chart…took his vitals, changed sheets and hung a new IV. All the while discussing their patient and wondering what had happened to him. “Isn’t he one of the Paramedics…you know the cute one that’s always chasing the nurses down in Emergency…”
The nurse from the previous night shook her head… "I don’t think so…I mean he’s definitely cute but I think he must be someone really important…I mean the Chief of Thoracic surgery and Emergency comes up here in the middle of the night to personally clear his friend to stay with him. Heck Miss McCall checked on him half the night even though he broke her arm and about killed her yesterday morning.”
A gasp from the bed stopped the conversation…They glanced over at John who was looking at them with a stunned expression. "Ah…Mr. Gage, sorry we woke you.” They quickly left the room to finish their conversation elsewhere.
The sunlight streaming through the window hurt John’s eyes and made his head ache but not nearly as much as the idea that he had hurt Dixie. He thought he remembered her being here last night…or had it been morning…is that when he’d hurt her? He clenched his eyes shut to block out the bright lights, trying to remember. He heard the door open and tried to relax as Roy came to his side. The older man noted the closed eyes and thought Johnny was still asleep. He laid his hand on his friends shoulder. “I’m gonna get some coffee Junior…but I’ll be right back.”
As soon as the door closed, John’s eyes snapped open. He still couldn’t remember anything about yesterday. The last thing he clearly remembered was Roy teasing him about the girl at the nudist colony…No wait …he’d fallen…he remembered that…but it was a hazy recollection… everything after that seemed to come in foggy pieces. Headaches… anger…fear…a restaurant he’d never been in before… people’s faces…strangers….John’s hand flew to his bandaged head…what had happened to him. How could he have hurt Dixie and not remember that.
“Man…she must be mad at me…,” he whispered to himself. No wonder she’d checked up on him all night. Probably wanted to know when she could come in and give him a piece of her mind. He’d probably lost a really good friend. How could he ever face her…she’d never forgive him…What the hell had he done yesterday and why couldn’t he remember it… "Man, my head hurts…,” he mumbled.
Roy was just coming back with his coffee when Dr. Brackett and Dr. Bridgeman stepped out of the elevator on their way to check on their patient. “Morning Roy…did you sleep well…?” Kel teased… Knowing Roy had slept in Johnny’s room last night.
Roy smiled back… "I slept better in that chair than I would have at home worryin about him.”
Kel turned to the other man with him… "Dr. Bridgeman, this is Johnny’s Partner, Roy DeSoto.”
“Roy…it’s nice to meet you…,” he said extending his hand.
“Pleasure Sir…,”Roy returned. “I wanted to thank you for what you did…,” he said nodding toward John’s room. “I’ve a…kinda gotten used to havin him around…I really didn’t want to lose him…ya know?”
“I know…,” he said with a smile. “Kel’s told me you’re pretty close.” They went inside. John turned his head towards them…distraught brown eyes met Roy’s.
“Johnny…what’s wrong?” Roy was at his side in three steps. Brackett and Bridgeman exchanged a glance. John’s glance slid past Roy to Brackett.
“Man…what happened yesterday? I can’t remember anything.”
“Johnny…this Dr. Bridgeman…”
John rolled his eyes toward the stranger. “Hi…,” he murmured.
“Johnny…he performed the surgery on you last night.”
“What happened to me?”
“Mr. Gage…you had a depressed skull fracture and a subdural hematoma do you know what that is?”
“Doctor…I’m a paramedic…I know what that is."
Roy grinned at Doctor Brackett… "He remembered that…,” he mouthed at Kel.
Bridgeman explained the surgery and seemed pleased that even in John’s groggy condition he understood and asked the right questions. He patted John’s shoulder… "Bottom line Mr. Gage, you seem to be doing well this morning and we have every reason to believe you’ll make a full recovery.” John grinned at Roy. “However…”
“Uh oh…I hate the howevers…,” John murmured.
“You’re going to require rest and someone to look out for you. You’ll most likely experience extreme dizziness and headaches. You can’t be alone…do you understand?”
John looked depressed. “I live alone…I guess I’ll have…”
“He’ll be staying with me…,” Roy said, interrupting the younger man. “My wife is home everyday so she can keep an eye on him.”
“Roy…you don’t have to do that…”
“I know I don’t junior, but you’re family.” The crooked Gage smile made an appearance.
Bridgeman nodded… "We’ll get you out of here in a couple of days. You’ve got good friends Mr. Gage.”
“Believe me…I know.” Brackett and Bridgeman left…Roy followed them into the hall missing the look that had returned to Johnny’s eyes…, “Maybe one less…”
The three men stopped outside the door. “He’s really gonna be alright?”
“We think so Roy…”
“That’s great…” The blonde man grinned. He pushed the door open and returned to John’s side.
John looked up at his friend… "Roy you haven’t told me what happened yesterday. I…I can’t remember anything.”
"The head injury was causing you to drift in and out. You were fine one minute and the next you couldn’t remember us or what you were supposed to be doing. You kept replaying the fall from a week ago… only you seemed to think I’d dropped you on purpose.”
“Oh man, do I feel stupid.”
“C’mon Junior…you couldn’t help it.”
“What did I do to Dixie?”
The softly worded question threw Roy for a moment. He looked at John. The younger man was frowning, chewing his bottom lip. “Johnny…,” Roy placed his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “You didn’t know what you were doing.”
“What did I do?” He asked again.
“You were afraid…She tried to stop you from leaving and you pushed her out of the way.”
“Is she gonna be okay…?” He asked quietly.
“Yeah Johnny, she’s gonna be fine.”
Johnny studied his partners face. “You’re not telling me something…” Roy could see the strain in his Partners face and the pain behind his eyes.
“Ok Johnny enough…you need to rest.”
“Sleep…,” He ordered.
John’s eyes closed in exhaustion… "Tell me when I wake…” He drifted off.
When John woke up a couple of hours later, Roy was gone. He had a moment of panic before he remembered where he was and relaxed once more. The door opened and Johnny looked up expecting to see Roy. His eyes widened in surprise as Dixie came in. The ugly bruise on her forehead and the cast on her right wrist told him exactly what damage he’d done to his friend. He turned his face away…Man…she’d never have anything to do with him again…well at least not after she’d told him off.
“Johnny…,” Dixie said softly.
“Hmm…?” He murmured as he continued to stare out the window trying to think of something to say...how to make it right.
He felt a soft hand rest against his cheek…he flinched and a sorrowful look of regret entered his eyes. His head was gently turned until he faced Dixie. He couldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m so sorry Dixie…,” he whispered. “I…I swear…I…I’d never…I mean not on purpose…,” he choked out.
Dixie’s fingers touched his mouth. "Shhh…,” John frowned in confusion as she continued… "Don’t talk, don’t apologize…”
John tugged her hand away from his mouth… "But Dix…I…”
“John Gage…do you remember pushing me?”
“Well no…I don’t remember yesterday at all but…”
“Alright then…and Dr. Bridgeman was up here this morning and explained to you what happened?”
“That wasn’t my friend Johnny that knocked me down yesterday…that was a scared kid who thought someone was tryin to kill him…do you understand?”
“Yes…I guess so...,” he answered softly.
“Good…now that that’s settled I have to run. I’m off today and I offered to help Joanne get the sewing room set up as a guest room for you. Kel thinks you may be there at least a month.”
John winced… "Someone better warn Joanne about that…she may change her mind.”
“Sorry to disappoint you but she already knows and she still wants you to stay.”
John’s mouth turned up in a crooked smile as the older woman kissed his cheek in farewell. “You get some rest,” she said as she left.
John closed his eyes…He was gonna be okay, Dixie had forgiven him, His best friend would be back anytime now…Everything was as it should be in John’s world…
The characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Mark VII and Universal Studio’s and no copyright infringement was intended. Thanks for allowing me to take the boys out to play and as always return them in good working order. The * denotes a scene from the episode saddled, written by Preston Wood. Posted to site 08/25/09
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. 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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