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Long Road Back - Part 3

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

 Links To Part 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

 

 

 

 

Between whom there is truth, there is love. And in proportion to our truthfulness and confidence in one another, our lives are divine and miraculous, and answer to our ideal. Friends do not live in harmony merely as some say, but in melody…Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Part 3 - Deception

 

Johnny was in early the next morning. Even Chet’s presence couldn’t put a damper on his good mood. There was a definite bounce to his step as he entered the large common room. “Good mornin,” he greeted Chet and Mike, the only two members of A- shift present.

 

They returned his greeting. “Morning Johnny, welcome back,” Mike said.

 

“Hey Gage…,” from Chet.

 

The guys from C-shift welcomed him back but they seemed to be stalling…Hanging around the Rec-room when they should have been getting ready to go home. Johnny was baffled by their hovering attitude. “Uh guys…? What’re ya doin?”

 

“They ain’t hanging around for you Gage,” Chet assured him.

 

Johnny heard a distinctly feminine voice from the apparatus bay. “Good morning Roy how are you?” she practically cooed.

 

“Ahh, the light begins to dawn,” Johnny said to Mike with a smile.

 

Mike grinned back as Roy came into the rec room listening politely as Gayle told him about her days off. “I’m still moving in and I really could have used the help of some strong…friend,” she said smiling up into his eyes as she rested her hand on his bicep.

 

Roy extricated his arm with a tight smile. “Why don’t ya ask Marco or Chet? I’m sure they’d love to help ya.” Roy looked up and spotted Johnny leaning against the counter watching the exchange with a raised eyebrow and a grin. “Mornin Partner…Boy is it good to have you back,” Roy said as he stepped around Gayle to go and greet his friend. He took the cup of coffee from John’s hand as the younger man turned back to pour another.

 

“Thanks…You and Gayle seem to be getting along all right,” he teased.

 

Roy glanced toward the girl and then back at his friend uncomfortably. “She’s a nice girl and she knows her stuff,” he said, trying not to say anything negative with the others around. “Someone will be lucky to get her as a partner.” He didn’t add ‘just as long as it’s not me.’

 

“She seems to think you’d be a pretty good one too.”

 

“I would be,” Roy reminded him with a smirk. Johnny shot him a grin. “You look tired,” Roy said quietly.

 

“Had Uncle George on my mind…I kinda wish we hadn’t dug HIM up.”

 

“Martha says you got to pull up the weeds out before the good stuff can grow.”

 

 

Gayle stood across the room with her arms crossed tightly over her chest. She’d never been so thoroughly ignored by a man she’d set her sights on. She watched the two men in wonder…This was definitely going to be the challenge she’d hoped for…She’d never seen two partner’s as close as these two were. She decided to divert her attention to Johnny for a while…Play them against each other, besides she wouldn’t mind taking Johnny to bed at all, he was extremely attractive but then so was Roy in a completely different way.

 

“Well Roy,” she said moving to the coffee pot and interrupting the two men. “Should I start the radio check?” She asked, turning deliberately so that her chest brushed against Johnny’s arm.

 

Johnny’s eyes widened and his face flushed in embarrassment as he took a hasty step backwards. “Uh…sorry,” he mumbled. “Let me just get outta the way here.”

 

She gazed up at him and grinned deliciously. “No harm done,” she purred as her violet eyes locked with his brown.

 

John grinned at the open invitation and Roy saw the flicker of interest darken his eyes. “Oh oh…,” he murmured.

 

“Why… what’s wrong Roy?” Gayle asked guilessly, turning her gaze toward the older man and hoping it was a spark of jealousy.

 

“My friend’s nose is twitching.”

 

“I’m sorry…?” She inquired, genuinely perplexed at the comment.

 

“Nothing,” Roy said innocently. Behind her Johnny shot his friend a wicked grin.

 

“Roll Call…,” Hanks bellow interrupted the conversation.

 

John set his cup down and turned to head for the apparatus bay but Gayle stepped forward into his path simultaneously. Johnny tried to avoid the collision but he couldn’t. He bumped her hard knocking her into Roy’s arms. The older paramedic instinctively wrapped his arms about her as he stumbled backwards to keep them both from falling.

 

“Oh…I’m so sorry,” she said clutching Roy’s shoulders and pressing her breasts against him. The blonde paramedic looked decidedly uncomfortable.

 

“Sorry Gayle,” Johnny said contritely. He frowned at her as Roy disentangled himself from the woman’s arms…standing her on her feet.  What was this girl playing at? All smiles at him and then pressing against Roy so provocatively…

 

“You okay?” Roy asked her.

 

“Yes…Just over anxious I guess. Sorry Johnny,” she cooed sweetly running her hand over his arm.

 

He grinned and shrugged. “That’s okay,” he assured her as he headed for the door. Maybe it had been an accident after all.

 

 

 

Cap was tapping his foot impatiently when the three arrived. “Glad you could make it,” he said sarcastically.

 

“Sorry Cap…Had a little collision in the kitchen,” Johnny explained sheepishly.

 

“Everyone okay…?”

 

“Yes sir…”

 

“Good…good. Let’s get started then, shall we? First of all… Welcome home John, you were sorely missed.”

 

“Thanks Cap,” the younger man replied with a grin.

 

Hank nodded and continued. “Second…The hose racks are empty.”

 

Groans accompanied that statement. Captain Stanley assigned them their chores. “John, you’re lucky I’m not giving you a week’s worth of latrine duty given that you LIED to me about just how sick you were.” John’s face paled with each word

 

“I’m sorry Cap,” he apologized. “I did tell you I was sick though.” He bit his lip worriedly before throwing his amused partner a grimace.

 

Hank’s eyebrow rose incredulously. “You told me you had the flu and only after I caught you throwing up.” John started to explain but Cap held up his hand to stop it before it started. “Regardless, I think you were punished enough being sick for eight days but if this ever happens again the latrine duty for a month will be a good reminder to be COMPLETELY honest with your Captain and your partner next time.”

 

“Yes sir,” he replied quietly in relief.

 

“Good…You’ve got the Rec room.” Cap gave him a nod and dismissed the crew. “Roy…? Can I see you a moment?” Hank asked.

 

“Sure Cap,” Roy answered as he gave John a pat on the back and headed for Hanks office.

 

 

Assigned the apparatus bay, Gayle could hear the murmur of voices coming from Captain Stanley’s office. She casually mopped her way over by the door. She stood quietly trying to hear as much of the conversation as possible but she could only make out pieces.

 

“Is John okay Roy…? He ***** tired.” Captain Stanley’s deep voice questioned.

 

“Didn’t sleep ****,” came Roy’s half heard reply.

 

The rise and fall of their voices left her frustrated at trying to fill in the blanks.

 

“If **’* not a hundred ***cent I want ** know,” Cap instructed.

 

Gayle strained desperately to hear what they were saying since the conversation was definitely about Johnny.

 

“Trying some***** new. A **** of therapy *** his disorder.”

 

Gayle perked up and took a step closer.

 

“Yeah…? **** it help…?”

 

“We **** started it but it seems ** be helping. It’s ** teach *** to be less insecure, **** and ** trust me.”

 

“That’s *** whole key ** his condition isn’t it?” Cap asked.

 

“Yeah it is,” Roy chuckled. “I had ** about threaten ** transfer to *** him to try it.”

 

“Damn it,” Gayle whispered to herself. What were they talking about and just what kind of disorder did John Gage have? She’d figure that out later she leaned toward the door.

 

“It’s called Traum**** touch ther***,” Roy was explaining. She almost growled in frustration at not being able to hear the whole conversation.

 

Chet came from the locker room having been the unlucky crewman to arrive last and draw latrine duty. He spotted Gayle by Cap’s office and paused for a moment. She sure was nice to look at. “Hey Gayle…?” The woman jumped, spinning around to throw Chet a nervous smile. “When you’re done with that you just let ole Chet know and I’ll dump that heavy bucket for ya.”

 

Having no option but to answer him, she called back. “Thanks Chet,” she said sweetly.

 

Realizing that someone was close enough to hear the conversation, Roy reached out and swung the door closed but it was too late. The words she needed had been heard loud and clear. ‘Transfer… Insecure and trust…’ She smiled and went back to mopping.

 

Gayle finished up and thanked Chet coyly as he carried the heavy bucket from the bay to dump and rinse it for her. She headed for the rec room to find Johnny. He had his head and half his upper body inside the oven when she came in. A gleam of amusement entered her eyes as she walked past him to get a glass and returned to the refrigerator taking care to be sure her hand brushed across John’s backside as she passed.

 

She was rewarded with a thump and a muffled “OW,” as John jumped, banging his head on the top of the oven. He backed out quickly, rubbing the injured spot.

 

She regarded him innocently. “My goodness, are you okay?”

 

“Umm…Yeah,” he mumbled, growing a bit red faced.

 

“I mean if you’re not, I’m right here to take a look at it.” She reached out to touch his hair.

 

He regarded her warily for a moment and then smiled his trademark crooked grin. “Sure, go ahead.”

 

She set the glass on the oven door. “You’re so tall,” she said admiringly. “Could you bend down for me?”

 

Johnny leaned forward as she began running her delicate fingers through his sable hair. She located the slight bump. “Ouch,” Johnny protested as she probed the injury.

 

She leaned in close…her cheek only inches from his mouth. “Oh…don’t be such a big baby,” she teased, turning her face. Their eyes met briefly and she leaned forward to just brush his lips with hers before Johnny cleared his throat and remembered he was on duty. He threw her a nervous smile and turned back to the oven.

 

Gayle threw him an incredulous look. She couldn’t believe he’d just passed up the opportunity she’d just presented him with.

 

She picked up her glass and leaned against the refrigerator. “You know I was kind of surprised to find out that you were Roy’s regular partner,” she said conversationally.

 

He looked over at her curiously. “Really…? Well…How come…?”

 

She shrugged. “Well he seemed so comfortable with Alan and I never heard him mention you.”

 

“Guess I just never came up while you were around.”

 

“Oh I thought maybe you two weren’t getting along or something…I mean you’d think he might have mentioned you in passing.”

 

“We’re getting along fine,” Johnny said absently as he scrubbed the oven door.

 

“Really… hmmm…”

 

Johnny looked at her with a frown. “What?” He asked.

 

“I thought maybe you were planning on leaving or something…I mean I just heard him talking to your Captain about a transfer for someone and the other day he told me I really knew my stuff and how much he’d like to keep me around.”

 

Her words had the desired effect. John tensed, Roy had just told him almost the same thing this morning and right after the first shift with her. She must be pretty good. “Keep you around huh? Well I have to admit you’re better lookin…At least from his point of view,” he said stiffly, throwing her a tight grin.

 

“Well I should hope so,” she said with a pretty smile.  “I guess he must have just been teasing me then.”

 

“Yeah, must have been cuz I have no plans to leave.”

 

“Maybe he was thinking of how often you get hurt,” she said teasingly. “Maybe he plans to keep me in reserve.”

 

“Yeah…Well Jo might have somethin to say about that,” Johnny said, sounding a bit worried.

 

“Well it’s just that he hates working with so many different partners because you get hurt so often,” she informed him, grateful for Alan’s wagging tongue about Johnny’s many escapades that he’d heard from the crew.

 

John shifted uncomfortably. “Wow, I guess you two really did some talking,” Johnny said uncomfortably. “Did he tell you that?”

 

She leaned in close to him. “Just the other day,” she acknowledged. “Said he was ready for a big change too…”

 

John chewed his lower lip nervously.  “Oh…,” he muttered softly. “How big…?” He asked suspiciously.

 

She grinned and shrugged…“Well I guess it’s time to get back to work.” Johnny nodded absently. “I wonder whose transfer he was talking to Captain Stanley about though…? I was positive I heard your name but I guess I was mistaken…It’s probably nothing to worry about. Oh and your head is fine.”

 

“What…?” Johnny questioned in confusion.

 

“Your head…? It’s fine.”

 

“Oh yeah…Thanks...”

 

“So’s the rest of you…,” she flung at him as she sauntered out the door.She'd planted the first seeds...Now she just needed to water them.

 

John barely heard her. “Transfer…?” Johnny mumbled to himself.

 

“Johnny…?”

 

The young paramedic jumped and glanced up to find Roy looking at him in concern. John blushed at having been caught talking to himself. “Yeah…?”

 

“We’re heading out to the hose racks. You comin…?”


“Yeah…,” he said dumping the pan of water in the sink.

 

“You okay?” Roy asked, noting the frown lines between Johnny’s eyes.

 

“Fine…” The older man nodded and started to turn away. “Roy?”

 

“Yeah Junior…?” Roy questioned turning back.

 

Man…The last thing he wanted was to sound insecure. “Nothin…,” Johnny said trying not to sound worried. “Let’s get to work.”

 

They headed out to the hose racks where the rest of the crew was already gathered. Johnny and Gayle climbed topside as they began to feed the hose to them. About half way through the process Gayle leaned over to grasp another section of hose…her pert behind presented a tempting view that left the younger paramedic distracted for a moment. Gayle stepped back bumping into Johnny, he lost his balance, teetering precariously for a moment before regaining his footing as Gayle grabbed hold of him.

 

Down below, Roy sucked in his breath. “Damn it Johnny…Would you be careful. The last thing I need is another temporary partner for the next three weeks,” he snapped in concern.

 

Gayle almost laughed outright. She couldn’t believe it… The look of disbelief that passed over John’s face was priceless and she knew he was remembering what she’d said. It couldn’t have worked out better if she’d set it up herself. This was becoming way too easy.

 

John shot the blonde woman a look of concern and she shrugged in an ‘I told you so gesture.’

 

The Station Control Unit began to sound. “County 51…Heart Attack… 623 Olivia. 6-2-3 Olivia…Cross St Carter…Time out 10:06.”

 

Gayle and Johnny made a rapid descent and ran for the squad. Roy was already inside and Hank was acknowledging the call. “County 51…KMG-365” He handed the slip of paper to Gayle who passed it to Johnny as the squad rolled out.

 

They arrived at the scene a few minutes later and knocked at the door which was quickly opened by a sixtyish looking woman. “Hurry please…It’s my husband.”

 

They moved quickly past her to the man lying on the couch. He was groaning softly. Sir…?” Roy called loudly. “Sir…Can you hear me?” 

 

He groaned again but didn’t answer. Roy felt for a pulse as Johnny pulled the man’s shirt away and began attaching the leads. “Ma’am does he have any history of heart problems?” Johnny questioned.

 

“No…no never…”

 

Gayle set up the Biophone but her eyes were on Roy and Johnny as they worked around each other like a well oiled machine. Roy was getting a BP as Johnny began counting respirations.

 

“Rampart base this is County 51…Do you read?” Gayle said, keying the phone.

 

“This is Rampart…Go ahead,” came Joe Early’s voice.

 

“Rampart…we have a sixty year old male…He’s experiencing chest pains.” She waited as the two men gave her their readings before continuing. “His BP is 150/110, pulse is 140… respirations 12…Patient has no history of heart problems. Stand by Rampart we’re sending you a strip.”

 

“10-4 51,” Early replied.

 

“This will be lead two Rampart.” The strip began to come through and Joe read off several seconds of it.

 

Johnny was reading his own scope at the same time. “Roy…he’s throwing PVC’s,” he said at the same time Joe Early came back.

 

“51…He’s throwing PVC’s. Administer 100 mg’s of Lidocaine…start an IV…D5WTKO.”

 

Gayle started to turn to the drug box but Roy had it already in hand. Johnny never even looked up…Just held his hand out to his partner, knowing what he needed would appear there. Gayle watched in amazement as they shifted from task to task. “Johnny…He’s in V-fib,” Roy warned.

 

“51…he’s in V Fib…Defibrillate,” Joe Early came back.

 

Roy was holding the paddles as John grabbed the conductive gel…Once again no words were spoken. They each simply knew what the other needed. The whine of a building charge filled the room. John began counting, using his fingers as a visual aid for his partner. “One, two three…Clear.” The man’s wife gave a small scream of fear as Roy fired the paddles, causing her husband’s body to buck as the charge passed through him.

 

Gayle tossed her a glance as she watched the two work, but she stayed at the phone. Johnny smiled as the scope began to beep out a sinus rhythm and threw his partner a nod. They both breathed a sigh of relief. “Sinus rhythm Rampart,” Gayle said.

 

They heard the sirens of the arriving ambulance and Roy nodded at Gayle. She ran to open the door. The two attendants ran in towing the gurney behind them. They quickly loaded the patient and headed out the door. “I’ll meet you at Rampart Johnny,” Roy said as his younger partner climbed into the ambulance. Roy returned to the squad with Gayle in tow

“You two work wonderfully together,” she commented admiringly.

 

Roy smiled at the girl and gave her a nod. “Thanks…We know each other pretty well.”

 

“Maybe someday I’ll have a partner that knows me that well,” she hinted as she smiled back…but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.

 

“We’ve been a team for a long time,” Roy said.

 

“But not for much longer,” she mumbled softly.

 

“What…?” Roy asked at the murmured response.

 

“I said that’s wonderful,” Roy nodded but that’s not what he thought he’d heard. She climbed into the squad with him.

 

“You seemed upset with him this morning?”

 

Roy shook his head… “Johnny sometimes gets over exuberant,” Roy explained with a grin.

“Is that why he gets hurt so often?”

 

Roy shot a glance at her and shrugged. “That and the fact that he’s watchin my back…”

 

She nodded. “Captain Stanley seemed upset with him this morning too,” she commented, fishing for information. “He said he lied to you both…?” She let the question hang.

 

“Johnny has a bad habit of not telling me when he gets hurt. He um…doesn’t like it when I worry about him too much.”

 

“Oh…” She’d have to think about that one. Most likely went back to being insecure. She wished she could have heard that whole conversation this morning. She’d love to know exactly what John had. She couldn’t ask outright without giving away the fact that she’d been eavesdropping so she took a different tack. She gazed at the blonde haired, blue eyed paramedic wistfully. “You know I envy your wife.

 

Roy shot her a glance. “Really…? Why’s that?”

 

“Well…She’s got two children, a nice home and…,” she hesitated. “A really nice husband…”

 

Roy smiled. “Well thank you but she might argue that sometimes.”

 

“Uh oh…You mean she thinks you’re not nice?” She teased.

 

“Well most of the time but I can drive her crazy occasionally…”

 

“Like carting your friends home and stuff?” She asked steering the conversation.

 

“Why would you think that?”

 

“Well…Johnny said he was staying at your house when he was sick. I mean that must put an awful burden on your wife.”

 

“John’s never a burden,” Roy shot back quickly, wanting to nip that line of thinking in the bud.

 

She blinked at the annoyed tone. “I didn’t mean it that way of course but Johnny said that first night that he was driving her crazy so I just thought that it might annoy her to have your co-workers around.”

 

“Well, no it doesn’t...Most of the time. My friends from the station come around a lot and that was a figure of speech. Johnny’s there frequently and he’s more than a friend…He’s family. She’s really pretty fond of him.”

 

“Well good and if she doesn’t mind you bringing your co workers over, would you mind if I stopped by tomorrow for a few minutes…?”

 

“What for…?” He asked warily.

 

“I’d like to talk to both of you about the area. I’d like to consider Carson as a possible place to live regardless of what station I’m permanently assigned to.”

 

Roy hesitated. Johnny was supposed to be there for a therapy session first thing in the morning and he really didn’t want the woman around him any more than necessary but at the same time maybe if she saw him and Joanne together she’d realize she didn’t have a chance with him and back off.

 

“I don’t think she’d mind but not in the morning. She has to get the kids off to school and Johnny will be coming over for breakfast.”

 

“In the afternoon then and I promise I won’t stay long but I’d also like to discuss the best station to transfer too in case I have a choice?”

 

“Station 51,” Roy joked…But A shift is full up so unless one of the other shifts has an opening…” He shrugged.  “I can show you the map so you can see where some of the others are located though and what’s close by them.”

 

“That would be a big help. Thank you Roy.”

 

“Sure,” he replied as he pulled into Rampart.


 

Johnny climbed from the ambulance holding the IV bag between his teeth as he helped the two attendants lift the stretcher from the back. Betty one of Ramparts senior nurse’s was waiting for them. “Take him to three,” she directed.

 

They headed inside with Johnny trotting along beside them. “Hi Betty,” he greeted the gray haired nurse.

 

“Welcome back Johnny,” she said with a wistful smile. The young paramedic always made her heart throb and wish she was twenty five years younger.

 

“Hey Doc…,” Johnny said with a nod as he helped the attendants make the transfer from gurney to table. “His vitals are stable,” he informed him.

 

“Thanks Johnny…Oh and welcome back,” Joe Early said as John began to reclaim his equipment and Betty hooked the patient up their own monitors.

 

“Thanks,” he said. “You need me?”

 

Joe shook his head and John left. He headed for the base station to get a cup of coffee and wait for his partners to join him. Johnny was leaning on the counter blocking the entrance and sipping his coffee when Dixie came up behind him, giving him a gentle rub across the back. “Well hi handsome,” she said with a grin.

 

He stood up straight for a moment to let her in before leaning over once again…“Hey Dix…Did ya miss me?”

 

“Well sweetie, I did see you a few times while you were out remember?”

 

“Well yeah but I wasn’t HERE…”

 

“Well then yes I missed you.” John grinned. “Where’s Roy?”

 

“Bringin in the squad with Gayle…,” Johnny said with a frown.

 

Dixie noticed and threw him a smirk…“What’s the matter Johnny, Gayle shoot you down?”

 

“No she didn’t shoot me DOWN…She…She actually seems interested but…”

 

“But what…?”

 

Johnny shrugged. “She and Roy seem to be getting along pretty well too,” he said looking a bit uncomfortable.

 

Dixie patted his arm. “Well don’t worry Johnny, you know he missed you at work and she’ll only be around a few weeks longer.”

 

John chewed his lower lip nervously. “I guess.” He glanced up, throwing Dixie a nervous smile. “She’s definitely improved the scenery,” he quipped waggling an eyebrow suggestively.

 

“Oops,” Dixie grinned. “They’re here.”

 

Johnny turned slightly to glance over his shoulder and down the hall. Gayle walked at Roy’s side turning every male head as they came toward them. He noticed she was so close their hands were almost touching. He looked at Dixie.

 

She raised her eyebrow. She’d noticed it too.

 

Roy had also noticed but he refused to let the girl put him on the defensive. If this is what she did at the other stations Cap had mentioned, he could understand why she’d have had problems with the men. Roy shifted his partner out of the way, going around behind him to the coffee pot. “Hey Dix,” he greeted.

 

“Roy…Gayle,” she acknowledged.

 

“Coffee Gayle…?” Roy asked.

 

“Yes please,” she leaned against the counter…her arm brushing against John’s, giving him a sultry smile.

 

“I see what you mean,” Dixie said softly, throwing John a wink and squeezing his hand. “Gotta run Tiger...”

 

“See ya Dix,” Johnny and Roy chorused. Gayle threw her a frown at her familiarity with Johnny. The two were obviously good friends.

 

“What did she mean by that Junior…?” Roy asked.

 

John shot a look at Gayle and shrugged. “Nothin…,” he said quietly.

 

 

Roy backed the squad into the bay. The three climbed out and Johnny went to get the cleaning supplies. The two men began their normal routine of cleaning and polishing the squad, cleaning the dust and road grime from the gleaming red paint.

 

Gayle watched them for a moment, noticing even in something so trivial that the teamwork was evident. She finally picked up a rag and went to join them. “Can I help?” She asked Roy.

 

“Sure,” Roy said with a shrug. She worked alongside them for several minutes. Johnny noticed a scratch and went to get the small can of red touch up paint. Chet wandered through on the way to the dorm and noticed Gayle working alongside Roy.

 

“Hey Roy…She’s a hard worker, you should keep her around.”

 

 “Already have a partner Chet.”

 

“Yeah but he’s lazin away somewhere…I know,” he said snapping his fingers. “Maybe we can trade him in on a better model…,” Chet teased.  “She’s a lot cuter,” he said persuasively.

 

Roy said nothing that would hurt the girl’s feelings but that wasn’t about to happen.

 

“I bet she wouldn’t cause you nearly as much trouble as Gage does,” Chet said as Johnny came up behind the Irishman in time to hear the comments as well as Roy’s silence. Roy saw the frown that crossed his partners face and tossed the rag he was using at Chet. His blue eyes shot a dagger look at the curly haired fireman. 

 

“Johnny never causes any trouble Kelly,” he snapped back. “So unless you wanna help here,” he growled, nodding at the squad. “Go polish the garbage can or something.” Roy shook his head in annoyance…This was just perfect. Here he was trying to rebuild John’s trust and self worth and there was Kelly falling for a pretty face and throwing a wrench into the works with his cracks...Sometimes he wished he could just sit these guys down and explain everything to them but Johnny would never go for that.

 

Chet turned to see Johnny standing there. “I was just kidding man,” he said with a smirk.

 

John threw him a tight smile. “I’ll bet,” Johnny said quietly as he removed the lid from the paint and began to touch up the scratch.

 

Chet grinned at the tone, knowing he’d rattled the younger man’s cage but decided to drop it for now. He headed for the locker room, leaving the three paramedics to finish.

 

Roy turned the conversation back to Johnny. “I thought you were goin off the top of that hose rack this morning,” he teased the younger man.

 

John glanced at Gayle. “Sorry, guess my mind was on other things,” he said flippantly. Roy knew exactly what other things as he’d been looking up at the time and seen the entire episode.

 

“Yeah…Well be more careful would ya? I’m getting tired of breaking in new partners…,” Roy said finishing up his section. “Oh and you missed a spot,” he said pointing to a dirty section close to John. He walked away.

 

“No problem master,” Johnny called after him.

 

Gayle smiled as she cleaned the headlight just betting John was stewing over that last comment. “Don’t worry Johnny…he won’t have to break in a new partner if something happens to you… He has me and you’ve already seen that he and I work pretty well together…So neither of you have anything to worry about,” She said playfully.

 

“Well…For a few weeks anyway,” John corrected quietly.

 

She squatted down in front of the squad close to Johnny. “Doesn’t that bother you?” She asked conspiratorially.

 

 

Chet came from the locker room and heard the low murmur of conversation. He made out Gayle and Johnny’s voices and knowing Gage, figured he’d be hitting on the girl and most likely striking out. He edged around the back of the engine to listen in.

 

“Doesn’t that bother you?” She questioned.

 

“What?” Johnny asked.

 

“The way he orders you around. Talks to you like you were a child. Being a slave driver,” she pointed out the dirty spot.

 

“He didn’t mean it that way,” Johnny defended his partner.

 

“So it doesn’t bother you? You’re just gonna let him talk to you that way? I mean…He yelled at you for almost falling because I bumped into you?” Johnny shrugged, not wanting to admit that he’d been preoccupied with her behind.

 

“He didn’t YELL at me…I just gave him a scare and he’s a bit over protective sometimes.”

 

“I’ll say…He talks to you like you’re his slave...Pointing out a dirty spot instead of just cleaning it himself,” she grumbled.

 

“Well no…He was just kid…,” Johnny began but she cut him off.

 

“Well it’ll sure bother me…” She looked at him guiltily. “I mean it would if we were partner’s,” she clarified, looking as if she’d let something slip. “I guess it’s between you two but he sure isn’t gonna order me around that way.”

 

Johnny looked at her worriedly. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

 

She shook her head. “It’s not my place. I didn’t mean to worry you and he probably didn’t mean anything by it,” she said innocently. John looked confused.

 

“Mean anything by what?”

 

“Oh nothing…Johnny…?” She swayed forward until she was inches away from his face. He looked into violet pools. “Would you kiss me?” She whispered. John was lost for a moment as he leaned toward her and Gayle seized the momentary lapse. Her mouth captured his before he could think about it.

 

Chet couldn’t hear them talking anymore and curiosity took hold he leaned around the back of the engine just as their mouths locked together. Leave it to Gage to get the girl…At least for the moment. Chet turned away jealously and didn’t see Johnny pull back. “We’re on duty,” he reminded her a bit breathlessly as he stood up and recapped the paint.

 

“That would just make it more exciting,” she teased. “We could just step into the locker room?” John looked at her as if she’d lost her mind but then grinned as she tossed him a wink. “Okay,” she said with a sigh of resignation but how about tomorrow night? Would you like that Johnny?” She asked as she stepped closer once again.

 

“I…we're not supposed to frat...,” he stuttered as she once again leaned in close…Her hands trailed over his chest to rest on his belt buckle. John sucked in his breath and forced himself to step back as his body reacted to the girl’s brazen behavior. “Tomorrows good…How about six?” he agreed.

 

She grinned and sauntered toward the rec room leaving the handsome, dark haired paramedic to get himself under control. She had a long night planned for him and by the time it was over Roy and John’s partnership would be history and before she was through with these two one would be dead and the other disgraced. This was easier than she'd thought it would be.

 

John watched her go and blew out a breath, willing his body to calm down and wondered idly what it was she’d been trying to tell him.

 

 

They responded to two more calls early in the afternoon. Both of them required minimum aid but Gayle once again watched in admiration as John and Roy worked around each other in perfect unison. She felt completely out of place in this team…Like a third wheel. These two seemed to instantly know what the other needed and she felt a twinge of regret at what she was going to do. She liked both men and she especially liked Johnny and admired his resolve. He was the first one to actually refuse to take her in the locker room…The scene of her first assault but he would…He would. She pushed away both the excitement at that thought and the regret. There was no room for compassion in her obsession…It simply had to be done.

 

 

“County 51…Sick child… 1625 Hill Haven… 1-6-2-5 hill Haven…Cross St. March…Time out 17:36” The station control unit sounded.

 

“Dammit…,” Johnny said in disgust…Banging the table at yet another interrupted meal. They pushed their plates away as they rose to their feet.

 

“We’ll put em in the oven for ya,” Cap called as they ran for the squad.

 

 Roy stopped at the podium long enough to respond. “County 51…KMG-365,” he said keying the mic.

 

Johnny pulled out the map while Roy flipped on the lights and sirens as they raced out into the night.

 

They arrived at the house a few minutes later. The mother was frantically waving them inside. They grabbed the equipment and headed for the house.  “He’s not breathing,” she screamed hysterically. “Oh please help him…”

 

They ran inside to find a baby of about nine months old. He was blue and unresponsive. “What happened?” Johnny asked as he quickly checked the infant’s airway for obstructions. Finding nothing, he began mouth to mouth as Roy set up the Biophone to contact Rampart.

 

“I left the dry cleaning bag on the couch while I went to hang up the clothes. He must have pulled it off somehow. He was all tangled in it. I got it off but he’s not breathing.” She was becoming hysterical once again and Roy nodded toward Gayle. She took the hint and moved toward the woman to console her.

 

“Rampart base, this is County 51… How do you read?” Roy said.

 

“Go ahead 51…,” Came the familiar response.

 

“We have an infant, approximately eight or nine months. He was tangled in a plastic dry cleaning bag. He’d been extricated before our arrival but he’s not breathing and is cyanotic. We have begun CPR.”

 

At that moment the child took a single hitched breath and began to wail. Johnny looked up at his partner with a look of sheer joy reflected in his face. Roy grinned back.

 

“Oh thank God,” the mother whispered in relief as Gayle hugged her. She saw the look on Johnny’s face and once again felt something stir inside her.

 

Roy keyed the phone… “Correction Rampart…The child is breathing on his own and his color is returning to normal. Stand by for vitals.”

 

“Standing by 51…,” Joe Early’s voice came back.

 

Johnny gave the vitals to Roy and he quickly wrote them down and called the hospital back. “Rampart…Vitals are; Pulse 120, respirations are 12 BP is 100 by palpation.”

 

“Administer oxygen 51 and transport in the squad.”

 

“10-4 Rampart…”

 

Gayle gazed at Johnny admiringly…Once again torn. This one was so different…He cared so deeply for his victims…They both did…She could see it in their eyes. She almost wished she had some control but the obsession was stronger than the tender moment and she let it flow away.

 

 

Johnny stood with Gayle at the base station waiting for Roy. “Man Dix…When he started crying…Whew,” John blew out a breath with a shake of his dark head and a huge smile.

 

“It never stops feeling good does it Johnny?” Dixie asked as she gave his hand a squeeze.

 

He shook his head. “No it doesn’t.”

 

Gayle gazed into deep brown eyes alight with the joy of knowing the baby would be okay but then her eyes narrowed at the proprietary way that Dixie held his hand. She had no right…Johnny was hers. Gayle sucked in her breath sharply at the thought. Where had that come from? She’d never felt that way before.

 

Johnny and Dixie threw her a questioning look but she smiled and shrugged. “Guess I just got a bit emotional for a moment there,” she said throwing off the jealous feelings.

 

The moment was broken as Roy and Joe Early stepped out of the treatment room. Roy clapped John on the shoulder. “Great job partner… Doc says he’ll be fine right?”

 

“You did a good job Johnny,” Joe told him. “I’m gonna go talk to his mother right now.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

Joe headed off and Roy moved behind the base station with Dixie. Gayle turned her back to them and leaned over until she was just inches from John. “That was fantastic,” she said softly. John turned to gaze back at her but the mood was shattered by her next calm statement. “I don’t understand why he’d want to get rid of you,” she murmured softly.

 

John’s mouth dropped open in shock. “What?”

 

She turned away without saying anything more as if she hadn’t heard him. John watched her move back behind the counter with Roy. What had she meant by that? Roy didn’t want to get rid of him did he? He wouldn’t be going to all this effort with the therapy if he did…Unless… No… Roy wouldn’t do that. John shook away the thought that maybe Roy thought if he could help John overcome his past he wouldn’t be around so much or worse…feel guilty at dumping him later. John stared at her but she never glanced back. What did the girl know that she wasn’t telling him?

 

Roy poured him a cup of coffee and set it down in front of him as the gray haired doctor returned with the relieved mother. She stopped briefly at the base station, resting her hand on John’s arm. “I wanted to thank you so much for saving Jimmy’s life.”

 

“Oh…uh…Just doin my job ma’am…,” he said blushing. She rose on tip toe to kiss his cheek. “Thank you.”He shot her his trade mark crooked grin.

 

“No thank you.”

 

Gayle felt the bite of jealousy. She glared at Johnny…He was a womanizer just like all the rest. The stray thought firming her convictions but why did she continue to feel that warmth in the pit of her stomach when she looked at him?

 

Roy cast a worried glance at his partner as he backed the squad into the bay. “Johnny had been chewing his lower lip all the way back…A sure sign that he was frustrated and worrying something over in his head. “Johnny, are you alright?” He asked coming around the front of the squad.

 

“I’m fine Roy,” he answered absently as his eyes rested on Gayle.

 

She smiled back at him before disappearing into the rec room. “Johnny…?”

 

“Hmmm,” he mumbled.

 

“Is there something going on between you and Gayle?”

 

“What?”

 

“You and Gayle…? I mean it’s none of my business but I don’t think she’s your type.”

 

John frowned in confusion. “I thought you liked her. I mean you said she really knows her stuff and…”

 

“As a paramedic I think she’ll make a great partner… for someone…” John’s brow furrowed as he looked at his friend.

 

“For someone…?” He questioned, hearing the hesitancy in his partners voice.

 

“Johnny?” Gayle called, interrupting the conversation. “Would you like some coffee?”

 

“Sure,” he replied, throwing a smile at Gayle. He shot Roy an uncertain look and walked away.

 

Marco and Chet watched as the pair came into the rec room and headed for the coffee pot. Both of them frowned jealously at the two of them. Roy followed a moment later, his blue eyes narrowed worriedly. He didn’t trust this girl and he didn’t know exactly why but he did know that Johnny hadn’t come far enough yet with his therapy. He was concerned that Johnny was still too insecure to handle a relationship like the one this girl would put him through and Roy didn’t want to see him hurt again. He sat on the couch and picked up the newspaper but his eyes were on the pair.

 

Marco glanced at the curly haired Irishman as Gayle came up behind Johnny. She stepped in close to him and poured a cup of coffee, handing it to him. She smiled up at him, running her fingers over his forearm. Chet shook his head at John’s luck at winning the beautiful girls attention. Both of them feeling a twinge of annoyance that Gayle had chosen the younger man despite their own efforts to win her.

 

Gayle glanced up into John’s dark brown eyes feeling a bit like she was drowning in them. “I’ll be leaving for home soon but I will see you tomorrow right?”

 

Johnny nodded…chewing his lip nervously as he glanced toward the others.  “Gayle…What did you mean when you said you didn’t understand why he’d want to get rid of me?” He asked quietly.

 

She looked down guiltily for a minute before shooting a glance toward Roy. “It’s just that he suggested that I transfer to Station 51 and I’m going to his house tomorrow to look over places to live near here.”

 

John’s eyes took on a worried look. “Roy wouldn’t do that to me,” he said softly. “He must have been…”

 

“Been what?”

 

“I don’t know…Kidding or maybe a different shift or something. Roy and I are… family.”

 

“All I know is that he said he was ready for a big change?” She said with a shrug. “You can ask Mike and Marco…They heard him say it the other day.”

 

John looked stricken. He swallowed back the hurt and shook his head. “You misunderstood him,” he said adamantly.

 

She gave him a sympathetic look. “I guess I must have. Look I have to go home, my shifts over but I’ll see you tomorrow and I’ll tell you what he says.”

 

“You don’t need to do that. Roy wouldn’t hurt me like that.”  John shook his head.

 

She rested her hand on his arm. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. She reached up and gave him a light kiss. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

 

Roy’s eyes followed the girl out before shooting back to Johnny. He was gazing into space absently and Roy shook his head in despair. His partner was so easily led astray by a pretty face. Roy almost grinned but then remembered the last girl who’d given him this feeling. She’d almost gotten Johnny killed in a robbery. His partner sure had lousy taste in women sometimes.

 

Chet and Marco headed for the TV interrupting both men’s thoughts. A few minutes later Mike joined them and plopped down next to Johnny to watch Charlie’s Angels. Roy set aside his newspaper and watched from the comfort of the sofa.

 

The show ended and another came on but John’s mind wasn’t on it. He guessed Roy’s wasn’t either as the older man got up and left the room. He wanted to talk to him but would Roy tell him the truth if he wanted to get rid of him? John heaved a sigh, drawing Mike’s attention.

 

“Something wrong Johnny?” He asked quietly, trying not to disturb the others.

 

John chewed his lower lip for a few seconds and Mike recognized it as a sign of anxiety in the younger man. “Mike…The other day…,” he hesitated.

 

“The other day what…?” He asked drawing the attention of the other two.

 

“Did you hear Gayle and Roy talking about,” Johnny shrugged. “Changes…Making one I mean?” He questioned quietly.

 

“I did,” Marco said.

 

John’s head snapped around. “What did he say?”

 

“He and Gayle were talking…,” Mike began.

 

“They looked pretty tight,” Marco added with a grin, but not wanting to embarrass Roy, he didn’t say how uncomfortable the older paramedic had looked with the girl.

 

“Anyway...From what I could hear they were talking about how often you get hurt and that Roy hates working with new partners.” Mike explained innocently, having no idea of the spin Gayle had placed on the same story.

 

“Gayle asked him if he’d consider a new partner,” Marco put in.

 

“Roy wouldn’t do that,” Mike said to the Mexican fireman with certainty, knowing how the older man felt about Johnny. “He said…,”

 

“I would if I had a choice between you and Gayle,” Chet said tauntingly, cutting off Mike’s reassurance that Roy had told the girl no way.

 

“Chet…,” Mike growled warningly, seeing John’s eyes fill with apprehension.

 

“Well then Roy said he was ready for a big change,” Marco reminded Mike, giving John a teasing glance.

 

John’s face paled…It was true. Everything she’d said was true. Roy wanted to get rid of him… He stood up quickly and started from the room. “Johnny…?” Mike called after him.

 

John stopped…“What…?”

 

“He didn’t mean it that way.”

 

John gave him a tight nod. “Sure.” John left the room heartsick. Was it all a lie…? Why go to this much trouble…? Trouble…It’s what John had been to everyone his whole life. He’d caused trouble for his Mother, His Aunt Rosemary and her family, His family on the reservation and God knows he’d been nothing but trouble for Roy and his family since the day he’d met them, though Roy had denied it... John knew better.

 

His emotional hang ups had even driven his partner to seeking help from a therapist for Heaven’s sake…Taking lessons to help him overcome it. So he could handle being cut loose? Roy had almost walked out that day though he’d denied that he’d ever really do that but then Gayle hadn’t been in the picture then either. Was that the change Roy was waiting for? The right partner…? God…He was so confused.

 

John headed for the dorm…He set his turnouts and boots before stripping down to his boxers and climbing under the covers. He lay awake for a long time, closing his eyes as the others turned in and letting them think he was asleep.

 

 

Mike turned to the others as John left the room. “What did you tell him all that for?”

 

“He asked,” Marco put in defensively.

 

“But you made it sound like Roy would actually consider a new partner.”

 

“I would if I had to choose between em,” Chet teased with a grin. Jealousy overriding common sense for a moment…It faded a few seconds later as he realized Mike was serious. “C’mon Mikey…Johnny wouldn’t really believe that. He knows Roy loves him.”

 

“I guess but he looked hurt.”

 

“He’s fine,” Chet assured him.

 

“Even Gage isn’t that insecure,” Marco said.

 

“You better hope not,” Mike warned, but the look on John’s face sure said otherwise.

 

 

Roy left the locker room and headed for bed himself. He was a bit surprised to find John was already in his own bunk when he got there. The younger man’s left arm was thrown over his face as usual. Roy sat on his own bed for a moment watching him…He knew Johnny wasn’t asleep yet but he still didn’t want to disturb him. He’d talk to him tomorrow during his therapy session and find out what was upsetting his young partner.

 

They had a quiet evening…The SCU tones woke them once but the run was canceled. Roy glanced at his sleep tousled partner in concern as they returned to the station…Even in the dark he could tell John was upset about something. “Johnny…? You okay?”

 

“Fine why…?”

 

“You look uptight. Something botherin ya…?”

 

John hesitated…He was still confused and he needed time to think this through. Man…this was such a mess. He desperately wanted to trust Roy but after what the guys had told him, how could he? He knew this was exactly the problem they were working on with this whole therapy thing but he was still too unsure of himself and where he stood in his friendship with the older man.

 

What if he was trying to replace him with Gayle? Everything the girl had said had been confirmed by them and the fear he’d lived with his whole life reared up once again. The fear of being an unwanted burden…Of being pushed aside with no one who wanted him…He didn’t want to lose his partner and he knew he needed to talk about it with Roy but fear and insecurity kept his mouth closed… The old wounds had been reopened and they were all fresh and raw again. He couldn’t bear to hear Roy say it out loud.

 

“No Roy…I’m just tired,” he said quietly.

 

Roy sighed heavily. He knew better…Something had seriously upset the younger man and John was once again taking refuge behind his walls…Roy had no idea why but he’d been here before and Roy was a master at pulling down John’s defenses. He’d weasel it out of him tomorrow during therapy.

 

They returned to their bunks but neither of them slept until almost dawn.

 

 

Roy rolled out of bed as the SCU wake up tones began to sound and Sam Lanier’s voice called the Stations up. He heard Cap’s voice respond. “Station 51…”

 

John sat up slowly…His dark eyes had circles beneath them, evidence enough for Roy that his partner hadn’t slept well. “Mornin Johnny.”

 

“Mornin...,” he mumbled as he climbed from his bunk and slid his feet into his turnouts. He shot a glance at his partner who stood watching him with a concerned look. “What?” He asked.

 

“Johnny what’s wrong?”

 

The others heard the softly voiced question and stopped to turn around and look at the two paramedics. John threw a glance in their direction and shook his head. “Nothin’s wrong Roy.” He said evasively, brushing past his partner to join the crew but his eyes hadn’t met Roy’s.

 

The older man’s mouth tightened in irritation. Dammit…What had rattled his partner this much in one day? He thought of Gayle and wondered if she had something to do with John’s mood but couldn’t figure out what. What could the girl have done to bring this on? He knew she’d been hovering around Johnny like a bee to pollen but if anything, Johnny should have been happy and excited about that. Roy followed them to the rec room. Johnny made it a point to keep a running conversation with the guys until the crew of B-shift arrived soon after, freeing the A-shift crew to head for home.

 

John didn’t even change just grabbed his keys and headed for the parking lot but Roy was ready for him. He stopped him as he rounded the engine. “Johnny?” He said, reaching out to take hold of his arm.

 

John went rigid and Roy’s eyes widened in surprise. For a fleeting moment the dark eyes were once again filled with distrust and fear before Johnny dropped the mask in place. “What is it?”

 

“Talk to me Junior please,” Roy pleaded.

 

John looked away. He opened his mouth but Chet and Marco came around the corner and he shook his head. Roy almost swore in frustration. “Nothin…”

 

“You’re coming to my house for breakfast right?” Roy questioned. He had to get John to talk to him.

 

Johnny shook his head. “We only have the one day off this time and I’m tired and I have a date with Gayle tonight,” he shrugged. “I think I’ll just go home and sleep.”

 

“Johnny…,” Roy began angrily.

 

“You said it was my choice,” John whispered.

 

Chet and Marco exchanged a glance wondering what the two of them were talking about. Roy took a deep frustrated breath. “It is,” he agreed softly.

 

“I don’t want to then…Not today.”

 

“Alright but after shift on Thursday…”

 

Johnny nodded his agreement hesitantly. He nodded toward the others and left as Mike came around to join them. “What’s up guys?” He asked as the three men watched John cross the parking lot.

 

“Something’s buggin Gage,” Chet answered, glancing at Roy.

 

“Did he say anything to you guys?” Roy asked.

 

Chet shook his head but Mike looked up. “Last night he asked if we heard you talking to Gayle the other day.”

 

“What did you tell him?”

 

“Just what you’d said about not liking to work with so many different partners’…” 

 

Roy frowned… “That shouldn’t have upset him.”

 

“Well…We did tease him a little. We told him that Gayle asked if you might want a new partner,” Marco admitted.

 

Roy groaned in dismay. “Ya did WHAT?”

 

“We were only kidding Roy. Johnny knows you’d never do that,” Marco replied.

 

“No Marco…No he doesn’t,” he said in frustration.

 

Martha had warned him that once those old wounds were re-opened, Johnny would get worse before he got better. Two steps forward and one back. The wounds, the losses, the traumas he’d endured were all fresh once again and so were the insecurities and fears. He should have warned the guys to be careful for a few months but it hadn’t occurred to him that this girl would be around to cause John to worry about his place in Roy’s life. He’d have to do something about that first thing in the morning.  Thankfully this was one of the rare occurrences when they only had a single day between shifts and he’d see Johnny in the morning.

 

The three men exchanged worried glances.

 

Roy wondered what Gayle might have told him as well.

 

 

“They did WHAT…?” Joanne snapped angrily as Roy told her about the last shift. “What were they thinking?”

 

“They weren’t…They were only kidding but right now Johnny is at the worst possible stage of his therapy for this kind of kidding…When he’s the most vulnerable and I can’t tell them that.”

 

“So he’s not coming this morning?” Roy shook his head. “I wish you hadn’t told him there was no ultimatum…”

 

“So do I,” he said quietly. “Oh by the way…Gayle is comin over this afternoon to look at some maps and stuff. She wants to find somewhere here in Carson to live.”

 

Jo nodded stiffly. She was still upset about Johnny and worried about his emotional state of mind and the last thing she wanted was to have to play hostess but hopefully the girl wouldn’t stay long.

 

 

Gayle showed up around two and spent a couple of hours with the DeSoto’s. She made polite small talk with Joanne, smiling sweetly at this pretty woman whose heart she planned to break. Well it was for her own good in the long run really. Men were all the same and she’d prove it to her. Better she find out now that none of them were faithful and they were all interested in only one thing.

 

She deliberately touched Roy’s hand or arm whenever possible. Standing as close as she could and gazing up into his eyes. Joanne seemed not to notice…As if she weren’t the least bit concerned about another woman’s interest in her husband. Gayle gave her a slightly baffled look not understanding Jo’s total confidence in her man.

 

 

 

“Darn it Roy…I wanted to rip her hair out,” Joanne snarled angrily after she’d closed the door behind the beautiful blonde.

 

Roy chuckled. “I know, but you never let on. I thought you hadn’t noticed.”

 

“Oh I noticed. I trust you, that’s all…”

 

Roy kissed her nose. “And with good reason,” he said softly.

 

She smiled up at him. “So what’re we going do about our wayward child?” She asked him.

 

“I don’t know…,” he sighed. “I’ll see him tomorrow morning and I’ll make sure he understands that Marco and Chet were just teasing him.”

 

“How can he still believe that you’d get rid of him?” She asked. Her blue eyes locked with Roy’s. “Never mind…I already know. Martha warned us that he’d be a bit more emotionally fragile for a while until he can heal those old scars.”

 

“She also said it could take awhile. I’m gonna just have to make the guys understand somehow that they can’t be messin with his head right now…Not even kidding about stuff like this and I’m not gonna let this go without a fight. We were making progress.”

 

Jo nodded. “You get him back here Roy…I don’t want to lose him.”

 

 

Johnny spent a miserable morning at home. He’d lain down for a while but the words continued to swim through his head. Roy wanted to move on. He’d found another partner…Someone who ‘knew her stuff’ and would make a ‘great partner for someone.’ Well he guessed he knew who that someone was now and his heart was aching. He didn’t want to lose his partner and his best friend but he didn’t know how to stop it if that’s what Roy wanted.

 

He was exhausted but sleep just wouldn’t come. He finally got up and cleaned the apartment before getting ready for his date. He wasn’t really up for going out with this girl who would soon replace him but in all fairness, none of this was her fault…It was his…He’d become too much for Roy to deal with as he’d been afraid of to begin with but he hadn’t asked him to give up his vacation for him or to learn all this therapy stuff and he’d tried so hard not to be a burden on his partner or his family but he guessed he’d become one anyway just like his other family. He felt a hollowness in the pit of his stomach but he was determined not to be a problem for his partner. When the time came he’d leave without an argument.

 

 

Johnny knocked on the door of Gayle’s apartment right on time. He planned to make it a quick dinner and an early night. They both had to work the next morning and the last thing he needed was to be exhausted on top of everything else, besides he was still worried over how he was going to keep his partner.

 

The beautiful blonde opened the door and John almost changed his mind. Her hair was down and hanging to her shoulders. She was obviously not ready yet as she still wore a crimson bath robe. “Um…You’re not dressed…Um should I come back?”

 

“No…It’s fine. C’mon in,” she invited her eyes traveling over him and taking in the light cream shirt and brown dress coat over tan slacks that accentuated his lean build. She smiled appreciatively as John stepped inside and glanced around.

 

She looked as if she was settled in and Johnny shot her a worried glance. She must have no intentions of going anywhere if she’d unpacked. “You’ve settled in pretty quick,” he commented.

 

“I finished after I talked to Roy this afternoon,” she said innocently.

 

“Oh…? Did you make some kind of decision?” He asked warily.

 

She waved toward the sofa invitingly and Johnny sat down. She settled next to him. “I don’t want to talk about that right now Johnny…”

 

“Well I’d kinda like to know,” he pressed.

 

“I’d much rather spend a quiet night with you,” she whispered huskily in his ear.

 

“I thought we were going out?”

 

She reached out to help him pull his jacket off. “I thought dinner right here might be better. I thought maybe we’d order in,” she suggested as she nuzzled his ear.

 

He was slightly taken aback…This girl was moving way too fast, not that he wouldn’t be a willing participant later maybe but he’d like to at least get to know her a bit…He had that same feeling of being stripped bare in her mind as he’d had that night at the station. Her mouth brushed his as he turned to look at her in surprise. Her arms slid around his neck as she pressed against him.

 

John gave in and kissed her. Her fingers traveled downward to the buttons of his shirt as she deepened the kiss, popping them loose and sliding it off his shoulders. John sat back abruptly. “Wow…uh Gayle…Aren’t we um…getting a little ahead of ourselves here? I mean…I…I’m not sayin I’m not interested or anything but wouldn’t ya kinda like to talk for a while…Have dinner? Talk about where you’re goin?” He suggested a bit put off by her aggressive behavior.

 

She sat back and looked at him in shock. This had never happened before. “You’re joking?” She asked stunned.

 

John shook his head. “No…I…I…,” he hesitated, not wanting to offend the woman. “Look…We have to work together at least for now and we have time so maybe we should just slow…” His words trickled to a stop and his mouth dropped open as Gayle stood up and in one smooth movement pulled the sash of the robe loose and shrugging her shoulders, let it drop to the floor, pooling around her feet like a puddle of blood. John gave an involuntary shudder at the unbidden thought.

 

His dark eyes lifted to hers as she advanced on him once more wearing nothing more than a skimpy bra and panties. “Do you really wanna talk about Roy right now?” She asked mischievously sliding into his lap. “Look…I don’t want to hurt you babe but this is the deal…Roy wants a change. He’s going to dump you for me but I think it would be much more fun if we were partners,” she suggested dropping a kiss on his lips. She backed off a bit and locked her gaze with his. “We could turn the tables on him…We’ll just get rid of Roy first...Work and play together,” she suggested against his mouth as her hands trailed over his bare chest and down his stomach.

 

John pulled back looking dismayed. “What? What are you saying?” He stood up hastily, almost spilling the woman from his lap. He caught her at the last moment, setting her on her feet and snatching up his shirt. “I’d never do that to Roy,” he said angrily, putting his shirt back on.

 

She stared at him dumbfounded. No one had ever said no to her overtures before. She was standing here near naked and had just thrown herself at this man and he was refusing her…She couldn’t believe it. “Well he’s sure not shy about wanting to replace you,” she snapped back.

 

John looked down with a hurt expression. “That’s something he and I need to talk about I guess but he’s my best friend and I’d never betray him like that. Look… I better go. I’m sorry Gayle.” He looked her over almost with disappointment but he couldn’t do what this girl wanted in bed or out…A novelty for him for the first part but tonight…His heart just wasn’t in it. “This was a mistake. I need to go home. I’ll talk to Roy tomorrow and if he does decide he wants you,” he shrugged. “Then I’ll request a transfer.”

 

Her eyes narrowed angrily as John snatched up his jacket and headed for the door. If he spoke to Roy in the morning he’d ruin everything. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to stop him. She had all night…She’d think of something.

 

The door closed behind Johnny and she frowned. Her violet eyes glittered ominously…He’d actually refused her. She couldn’t believe it and it infuriated her. No one refused her. An eerie smile began to play about her lips and a new obsession began to take hold…She would have John Gage…One way or another.

 

 

John was almost dressed when Roy arrived the next morning. “Morning Johnny,” He greeted coming into the locker room.

 

John shot him a glance and a hesitant nod. “Morning Roy,” he responded quietly.

 

“How’d your date go?” Roy asked.

 

“It didn’t…,” he answered flatly. “I left pretty early…I was tired,” he explained.

 

Roy could tell his partner was still upset by the monotone answers. “Johnny would you please talk to me…I’m worried about you.”

 

“It’s not your problem to worry about me anymore.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself.”

 

Roy stared at him, looking hurt by the coldness of John’s tone and worried that he was retreating behind his walls. He knew Chet and Marco’s comments had probably upset him but this was more than a mild annoyance. They’d been doing so well with this therapy and growing so much closer…Roy didn’t understand what had gone so terribly wrong in one day. “I know you can that but that’s not…” he began.

 

“Good. Than whatever changes you plan to make…,” John began angrily.

 

“Changes…Johnny for Heaven’s sake…You’re not making any sense. Chet and Marco were just giving you a hard time…”

 

“Yeah…? What how about Gayle…She just givin me a hard time too…?” John asked with a hurt expression as he slammed his locker shut and stalked out.

 

Roy stood there a moment looking stunned at the outburst. He had no idea what Gayle had told his insecure younger partner but he planned to find out. He closed his locker and went to find the pretty blonde.

 

 

Johnny walked into the rec room to get his coffee. Mike, Marco and Gayle were already at the table while C-shift gathered around the stunning blonde woman. She smiled and leaned against the handsome Hispanic man, much to his delight and all the while glanced around her as if holding court but her violet eyes moved to Johnny the moment he appeared…A gleam of desire clearly written. Marco saw the look she aimed at him and sighed in disappointment. It was obvious where her interest lay but why was she all over him right now? Maybe he still stood a chance if Johnny wasn’t interested in return.

 

Johnny barely glanced at the woman as he walked by. His thoughts were in turmoil…He was so confused. First there was Roy…Telling the girl he was ready to change partners and right in front of Mike and Marco. He wasn’t even trying to hide it and yet he acted as if Johnny was nuts for being upset over it. Like he didn’t know what was going on.

 

Then there was Gayle.  Roy had made her the offer to stay at 51’s which she apparently planned to accept but then what had last night been about? Did she really believe he’d betray his best friend like that? Well he supposed she might since Roy was about to do it to him. Johnny heaved a sigh. He didn’t know what to do. One thing he was sure of…He didn’t want to lose his partner and if that was the case then he needed to talk this out with Roy...Maybe change his mind if he promised to stay out of his personal life.

 

Cap walked in as Marco moved to Johnny’s side. “Johnny…Um…How’d your date with Gayle go last night?” He asked quietly.

 

Johnny looked at him sharply. “Why?” He questioned snidely.

 

“Well…You kinda seem not interested so I thought maybe…You wouldn’t mind…,” he let the sentence hang.

 

“NO Marco I don’t mind…Seems as if everyone would rather have Gayle, so take your best shot…,” he snapped as he slammed his coffee cup down and stalked out of the room leaving five sets of mouths hanging open while the pretty blonde giggled in delight at what she thought was a display of jealousy. Well…She was half right but not the way she assumed.

 

 

 

Cap stepped out of rec room as Roy crossed the apparatus bay. “Roy…What’s goin on with Gage? He practically bit Marco’s head off in the kitchen a minute ago.”

 

“I don’t know Cap but I think it has something to do with Chet and Marco telling him that I wanted a change but he misunderstood Cap…I didn’t mean him and I think that’s what he thinks. I have to talk to him as soon as he calms down and I can get him alone.”

 

“How could he think that?”

 

“This new therapy’s gonna open up a lot of insecurities for a while Cap. This is just real bad timing for Gayle to be here and causing him to second guess our partnership.”

 

“Gayle?”

 

“She apparently told him something last night…I don’t know what but it upset him.”

 

“Well go talk to that twit would ya? I don’t plan on replacing any of my crew in the near future,” Cap said with a grin, confidant that Roy would reach his friend as he always did.

 

Roy nodded and headed for the front of the engine as Cap stuck his head in the rec room. “Roll Call…,” he hollered. C shift reluctantly took their leave as the others stood up to go to the bay. Marco pulled the chair out for Gayle drawing a stunning smile from the woman. Johnny was nuts to ignore this girl…Marco just didn’t get it.

 

Cap handed out chores for the day…He noted that Johnny stood well away from his partner and the beautiful blonde that stood with him. Gayle smirked to herself at the obvious hurt in John’s face and the wedge she’d successfully driven between them. She didn’t know what had gone wrong last night but John had obviously been jealous over Marco attentions. She needed to play on that. She needed to get Roy alone that’s all…He’d succumb just like the others…They always did.

 

And Johnny…What would he do when his partner hit on her…Roy said that whatever his ‘disorder’ was it made him insecure and untrusting…Would that be the final push to send him over the edge? And the others…? Well they all seemed wrapped up around Johnny somehow as well but she was working on that…Marco was already pitted against his friend Chet for her attentions and both of them had been annoyed at Johnny for winning the first date.

 

This was the best station she’d ever played her game in…These men were the closest she’d ever come across and yet there was some hesitation. She’d begun to feel something for Johnny she’d never felt for the others. He’d turned her down cold and while she was angry about that there was something else as well. She wanted him in the worst way, not to play the game…Sex was just a part of it to sway men to her…From John Gage…She wanted more.

 

She couldn’t let him get away but if she played the game as usual he’d be locked up or worse…dead. She needed to get him away from the others, especially Roy… before they could talk, but how? Her eyes roamed over the young man at the end of the line but he seemed oblivious.

 

She glanced at Roy. Her eyes narrowed in annoyance that he was also ignoring her…His blue eyes watching his partner in concern. These two were more than just friends…She’d stirred up trouble certainly but she hadn’t yet destroyed the relationship. She had to bust this up but it might be more difficult than she first thought...Just as it had been with her father and Matt. It might be time to play that trump card.

 

She slipped back to the present as the formation broke up and the men dispersed to their chores. She vaguely recalled Captain Stanley telling her to check the air bottles. She climbed up into the back of the squad as Chet began to mop the apparatus bay. Johnny headed for the dorm while Roy went to the rec room. She went to work safely assured that the two men were well away from each other. She needed time to think about the next step.

 

 

Chet mopped his way over to the squad and leaned the mop against it. He looked up at the blonde girl working with the air bottles. “Uh…Gayle…?”

 

She turned to look down at the dark haired, Irish fireman. “What is it Chet?” She asked sweetly.

 

“Um…I was thinkin…Maybe you and I could ah…You know…Get together…Go to a movie?” He questioned tentatively.

 

She leaned down to talk to him softly…Her breath tickling his ear. “Oh I don’t think Johnny would like that much after what happened between us last night.” She whispered suggestively.

 

Chet scowled. So the younger man had scored after all. No wonder he was looking like a thunder cloud this morning with Marco hanging all over the girl. Not to mention her being with Roy at roll call. But then why hadn’t she been standing with Gage? He looked at Gayle in confusion. “What exactly did happen?” He asked suspiciously.

 

She grinned deliciously as she caressed his cheek. “A lady never kisses and tells.”

 

Chet got the distinct impression this girl was anything but a lady…After all most ‘nice girls’ didn’t end up in the sack after one date and they most certainly didn’t flirt with the friends of their current interest but he said nothing, still hoping he could steal the beautiful girl out from under Gages nose…After all Chet certainly wasn’t looking for a lady at this stage of the game.

 

Chet reached up to take her hand as Marco came out of the Latrine and spotted the pair. He frowned in annoyance. “Hey Kelly…Back off,” he growled at his best friend.

 

“Too bad Marco,” Chet snapped back. “I was here first.”

 

Gayle’s eyes gleamed in delight as the two men fought for her attention. The station control unit began to tone. Gayle waited expectantly and Chet reached up to lift her down as the sound of running feet and Sam Lanier’s voice filled the bay. “Station 51, Engine 36…Structure fire… 1215 East Hill…1-2-1-5 East Hill…Cross Street Marcum. Time out 08:37.”

 

Hank came from his office to respond to the call in time to see Chet reach up to lift Gayle down but Marco almost shoved him out of the way to help her instead. Captain Stanley frowned at both of them from the podium as he responded. “Station 51 KMG-365,” he barked into the mic before turning on the two linemen. Roy passed behind him on his way from the rec room. “Knock it off and get up there,” he snapped at his men. What was wrong with these guys anyway? They’d had women at the station before. He shook his head in annoyance as he trotted around the front of the vehicles on his way to the engine.

 

Chet rolled the bucket out of the way and Marco gave him an irritated shove as they both ran for the rig.

 

Gayle was just about to slide into the passenger seat as Johnny rounded the back of the engine. His feet skidded on the wet floor and he slammed into the rear of the squad. He managed to grab the silver rail that ran the length of the truck to keep himself from falling but Gayle saw the look of pain that passed over his handsome face before he righted himself and continued on. She scooted hastily to the center as Roy climbed behind the wheel and Johnny slid in beside her, rubbing his shoulder.

 

“Oh man,” he mumbled as he turned to grab his helmet from behind him. Gayle almost giggled in glee. She couldn’t have set this up better herself. Johnny had hurt himself and Gayle would just bet he wasn’t about to tell Roy after everything she’d told him and how would Roy feel if John failed to tell him yet again that he was hurt. Another lie to him and his Captain…Distrustful and insecure…She reached over to lightly rest her hand on Johnny’s leg. He glanced at her with a frown and she threw him a wink but she said nothing as they began to pull out.

 

On the Engine Chet and Marco continued to bicker over the beautiful blonde. “Just keep your hands off,” Marco said angrily.

 

“I don’t know why you’re worried about me Lopez…It’s Gage who’s had his hands on her…All over her,” Chet yelled above the wail of the siren as the engine accelerated and blew the words away.

 

 

Gayle turned her eyes toward Roy. He was definitely proving to be a challenge. He obviously truly loved his wife and was extremely close to his friend but she was at least making inroads with Johnny’s confidence in his partner. He was already filled with doubt and sinking fast.

 

They arrived at the scene a few minutes later. The bottom half of the house was fully engulfed and two people were trapped in the second floor. Cap signaled Marco and Chet… “Pull an inch and a half,” he yelled over the roar and crackle of the flames. Mike was already working the gauges getting ready to fire the pumps and charge the lines. “Roy…John we’ve got people trapped. Get the ladder,” he bellowed pointing up toward the window.

 

Roy nodded, giving Johnny a slap on the shoulder. John grimaced and clenched his teeth against the pain but Roy was already past. The two men pulled the ladder free and headed for the home as Captain Stanley directed Station 36 to the rear of the house.

 

John’s shoulder protested each new movement but the dark haired paramedic ignored the pain and continued on. Roy glanced at the pretty blonde. “Set up the equipment,” he told her as he pulled on his gloves and started up the ladder. Johnny was right on his heels.

 

The two men climbed through the window and began a methodical search, finally locating the elderly couple still in their bed. The room was thick with smoke. Roy lifted the woman in his arms and gave his partner a tilt of the head toward the man.

 

Johnny nodded moving around the bed to lift the man over his shoulder. It twinged in protest at this abuse but it wasn’t bad enough to keep him from doing his job. He followed his partner. Chet was on the ladder and he set the man down to help Roy lift the woman to the Irishman’s shoulder. He started down. The two men lifted the man. Roy waited until Johnny had him securely before stepping out onto the ladder himself.

 

John wrestled the elderly man out the window and onto his partner’s shoulder. He watched the older paramedic descend being sure he was safely on the ground before starting down himself. His injured shoulder set up a throb at this new strain and his hand suddenly went numb. His fingers slipped.

 

Roy stepped from the ladder and glanced back up on time to see his partner lose his grip on the rungs. He sucked in his breath but then let it out in relief as Johnny seemed to regain his balance and continued down.

 

Roy turned away and joined Gayle, setting his burden carefully down beside her as the young woman began to raise Rampart on the line while Roy placed the oxygen mask over the older woman’s face.

 

Johnny joined him a moment later. Roy stood up to help him get the man on the ground and Johnny rolled his shoulder uncomfortably while Roy set the elderly victim down and began to get the vitals on the woman. John knelt next to him and started on the man.

 

The three worked together to get the pair stabilized. Gayle glanced up and saw their attention diverted for the moment and she slid the drug box behind John with her foot. The dark haired paramedic stood a moment later stepping back to allow the ambulance attendants in. He caught his foot on the drug box and stumbled backwards in surprise but managed to regain his balance.

 

“Damn it Johnny, would you watch out?” Roy snapped in exasperation. That was twice his young partner had almost fallen in the last couple of minutes alone, not to mention the time just two days before and the last thing Roy wanted was to be partnered alone with Gayle for the next couple of weeks.

 

The younger man’s mouth dropped open at the command and his dark eyes narrowed a bit before flicking toward Gayle. She shrugged at the older man’s angry tone and Johnny looked away as her words came back to him. Roy did sometimes talk to him like he was a child and normally he shrugged it off as just Roy’s over protective streak toward him but today he’d sounded more annoyed than worried.

 

He didn’t want to give Roy any further reason to want to change partners but he didn’t appreciate the snappish behavior either…Regardless he wasn’t going to get into this in front of Gayle. “Sorry,” he mumbled ducking his head, a bit embarrassed by his own clumsiness and Roy’s obvious irritated attitude. He couldn’t figure out how the drug box got behind him in the first place. He was sure it had been next to him. He shook the thought away and bent to help his partner lift the victims to the stretcher. His shoulder spasmed again and left a tingling feeling in his fingers. Johnny ignored it.

 

They soon had the couple loaded in the ambulance and Roy climbed in with them. “I’ll see you at Rampart,” he said as John nodded and closed the doors. He gave them a double slap to signal the driver that he could go.

 

 

Gayle climbed into the squad beside Johnny throwing a glance at the dark haired paramedic. “Are you okay?” She asked.

 

“I’m fine why?” Johnny asked as his brown eyes swiveled toward her briefly.

 

“C’mon Johnny…I know you hurt your shoulder.”

 

“What makes you think that?”

 

“I saw you slip.”

 

“Oh well, don’t worry…It’s not that bad,” he assured her…obviously uncomfortable that she knew that little tidbit.

 

“It’s okay baby, I’ll keep your secret. I mean…there’s no sense giving him another excuse to yell at you for lying to him,” she reassured him.

 

Johnny tensed at the familiarity that Joanne so often used for him but it made him decidedly uncomfortable coming from Gayle. “I’m not lying to him,” Johnny said adamantly. She smirked at the obvious dance around the truth. He looked at her ruefully. “I’m just not volunteering any information,” he mumbled.

"I'm sure he'd appreciate that really. I mean you wouldn't want to burden his wife again would you?"

"Um...Did Roy say that?"

She shrugged without answering. “Besides you don’t want him having to work alone with me either do you?” She challenged.

 

“No…No I don’t,” he admitted sounding hurt.

 

“Jealous?” She asked tauntingly.

 

“No, of course not,” he replied. At least not the way she meant

 

“I don’t believe you. I saw how upset you were with Marco this morning.”

 

John shrugged but didn’t add that his jealousy wasn’t over Marco’s attentions toward the girl but at their obvious eagerness to replace him with her. “I wasn’t upset,” he denied.

 

She grinned, not believing him…After all, the others before him had readily fought over her. Chet and Marco were at each other’s throats…Why should he be different? “I’m sorry Johnny…I didn’t ask for this to happen you know but I really would like to stay at Station 51 so when he speaks to your Captain…,” she said quietly, letting the statement hang. “But you know I can tell him that we’re going to be partners instead. There’s still time.”

 

John shot her a look. “I don’t believe Roy would do that.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“It’s not just me…I mean Joanne might not appreciate him working with you and besides Station 51 can’t handle both sexes. It’s not set up for it,” he pointed out sounding relieved at that thought.

 

“That’s easy to fix,” she reminded him, bursting that theory. “And don’t worry…His wife won’t be a problem either.”

 

Johnny shot her a frown. “Oh…? Why’s that?”

 

She grinned wickedly… “What do you think Roy will do when I offer him what I offered to you last night? Which you turned down you bad boy,” she pointed out pouting prettily.

 

John almost stood on the brakes but caught himself in time. “Roy would NEVER do that,” he growled angrily.

 

“Oh John,” she said with a giggle. “Do you really believe that? You’re so naïve. Why do you think he wants me to stay?”

 

John stared at her in disbelief. “No…,” he breathed out softly and shaking his head in denial. “No you’re lying and I’ll prove it to you just as soon as we get back to the station. Roy might be tired of me but he’d never cheat on Jo.”


Her eyes narrowed angrily at being called a liar…Even if she was for the moment at least...It’s what her father had called her and John would pay for that…He’d pay dearly when she had him somewhere to herself and she had no doubt that she would have him. The more he resisted the more desirable he became and the more she resolved to have him.

 


Roy stood with Dixie as they waited for word on the two patients they’d brought in. She glanced up at the blonde paramedic with a smile. “So Roy, how are things going with the therapy now that Johnny’s back to work?”

 

 Roy frowned. “Not so good. Johnny canceled on me the first day.”

 

“Oh no…But I thought he’d agreed…,” she let the sentence hang.

 

“He did but then things got crazy at work. I made a few comments to Gayle that got back to him and he’s taken them all the wrong way and I just need to sit down with him and explain.”

 

“Why haven’t you?”

 

“I haven’t had time,” he said in frustration. “And to top it all off he had a date with Gayle…,” he almost spat the name out.

 

“And…?”

 

“And…Dix…The girl’s trouble… I mean I don’t know what she said to him but he came in all upset this morning. I need to talk to her and find out what she said to him and then we’re gonna fix this.”

 

She smiled up at Roy. He never disappointed her when it came to Johnny. He loved that young man like his own flesh and blood and he’d never let this young woman come between them if he had to hog tie the stubborn younger man to make him listen. Roy grinned back knowing full well the pretty blonde nurse knew how he felt about his partner.

 

 

The trip back to the station was silent leaving Roy wondering what had happened between the blonde woman and Johnny. He had to get to the bottom of it and put Johnny’s mind at ease that there was no chance in hell that he’d be giving up his partner anytime soon

 

Roy backed the squad into the bay and cut the lights. He turned to his partner but Johnny already had the door open. He stepped out of the squad, shooting a wounded look at his partner.

 

Gayle grinned as she slid from the cab and headed for the rec room.

 

Roy thumped the steering wheel angrily. “Damn it…,” he muttered. He’d had enough and he planned to end this right now. He needed to talk to Gayle and find out exactly what had happened last night and then he and Johnny were gonna have this out. He’d ask Cap to take the squad out of service and lock his stubborn and insecure partner in the office if he had to but he wasn’t gonna have Johnny worrying about this any longer. Roy slammed the squad door and headed for the kitchen.

 

 

Johnny bee lined for the dorm throwing himself on his bunk. He needed to think about everything that had gone on for the last three days. What had gone so drastically wrong and how could Roy turn on him that quickly.

 

Man…He knew he could be difficult sometimes and he had a lot of hang-ups in his personal life but Roy had always been his strongest supporter…Working with him through all of it. He’d done everything Roy had asked him to do so why would he go from deeply personal therapy to changing partners? Maybe it was too much for him…Roy was always so in control and insulated from emotional displays...Maybe it was as difficult for Roy as it was for him.

 

Johnny heaved a sigh of frustration….And what about Gayle? She’d practically advertised that she and Roy had some kind of relationship but would Roy ever betray Joanne? John would never believe that unless he saw it for himself and why was this woman throwing herself at him? John rubbed his eyes tiredly as his thoughts circled round and round in his usual obsessive thought processes. He finally sat up and punched his pillow in aggravation, wincing as his shoulder protested painfully.

 

Damn it…He needed to talk this out with Roy once and for all even if it turned out to be the truth, at least it would be out in the open. After all…Johnny mused. It wouldn’t be the first time John had let a misunderstanding drive him nuts with anxiety. He crossed the apparatus bay and entered the rec room stopping in stunned shock at the scene before him.

 

 

Roy walked into the rec room looking for the pretty blonde. She stood at the coffee pot with her back to him but Roy sensed that she knew he was there. “Gayle we need to talk,” he said without preamble.

 

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you too Roy.”

 

“Really… about what?”


“About us...”

 

“Us…?” He questioned. “There is no us…There’s me and my partner.”

 

She grinned. “That’s exactly what I meant,” she purred as she moved closer to the blonde paramedic.

 

Roy looked at her in frustration but he wouldn’t be put off. “Look…I wanna know what went on between you and Johnny last night.”

 

“Why Roy…That’s a bit personal don’t you think?”

 

“Yeah…Yeah it is but John’s personal to me. I know he’s uptight over something Marco and Chet told him but he said you told him something too. I wanna know what that was because I don’t like Johnny being upset, especially over some innocent comment that meant nothing between you and me.”

 

She scowled in annoyance that he wasn’t falling for her game at all. That hadn’t happened before. She had to get control of the man and soon. She wouldn’t lose Johnny one way or the other but she wouldn’t let Roy spoil everything. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she snarled as she started to walk away but Roy wasn’t through. He didn’t want her undoing all his efforts to rebuild John’s trust and sense of self worth.

 

He reached out to grab her arm, spinning her back toward him and suddenly found the girl in his arms. He back peddled quickly. She followed…Forcing him to retreat until he found himself pressed against the counter. She poked her finger into his chest, pressing closer. “You know what Roy…? I don’t think you’re all that worried about Johnny. I think you’re jealous.”

 

“Jealous?” Roy scoffed. “You’re crazy.”

 

Her eyes glittered maliciously sending a chill down Roy’s spine. “I’m crazy?” She purred huskily. “Well you want to know what we talked about…? We talked about becoming partners…In more ways than one.”

 

“You’re lying,” Roy shot back.

 

“That’s what we talked about. He just doesn’t know how to tell you. He doesn’t want to hurt you.”

 

Roy shook his head in disbelief. “Johnny wouldn’t do that.”

 

“Well we did…Ask him…I’m sure he remembers it…I was after all sitting half naked in his lap at the time.” She leaned into the older man. “But I’d much rather team up with someone more mature…Someone like you,” she breathed as she pressed against him.

 

Roy was trapped and he reached out to grab her shoulders to push her away but her mouth caught his. They both heard the shocked gasp. Roy recovered quickly and shoved the girl away but it was too late. Roy’s blue eyes locked with the horrified brown of his best friends.

 

Gayle almost giggled in delight. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

Johnny’s mouth dropped open and his dark eyes widened in disbelief at the very provocative and incriminating scene before him.

 

“Am I interrupting something?” He asked snidely, not only upset for himself but at how hurt Joanne would be.

 

“Of course not,” Roy snapped back. “Gayle and I were merely discussing your date last night. She apparently misunderstood my concerns,” he stressed, giving her a hard stare as he passed her to join his young partner. His blue eyes were frosty as he looked into wary brown.

 

Johnny couldn’t believe Roy would betray Joanne…Not really but what had he just witnessed?” He glanced toward the smirking blonde woman as she came toward him. “He doesn’t like it that we’re dating. He’s jealous. That’s what you just saw.”

 

John’s eyes flicked toward Roy in confusion. “Of course I’m not,” the blonde man snapped in exasperation at seeing the distrustful look that had entered Johnny’s eyes. “I’m a happily married man.”

 

“Did that look like a happily married man to you?” She questioned with a smirk.

 

John’s dark eyes flicked toward his partner. “No,” he whispered. "No it didn't."

 

“John it’s not what it looked like. You know better than that…”

 

“I thought I did.”

 

“She told me you talked about becoming partners last night…Is that true?” Roy challenged.

 

“She told you that?”

 

“Yes…Is that true?”

 

“No…Well I mean yes, but not…I didn’t…I mean I left and…,” he stuttered nervously.

 

“So she told me the truth?” He growled.

 

Gayle was grinning as she watched these two men self destruct. “It’s not what you think,” Johnny tried to explain.

 

“Neither was this,” he growled as he stormed from the room.

 

John looked completely confused. He wasn’t sure what to think anymore. He shot a look at the beautiful blonde standing there watching him. She came toward him with a seductive smile. “I’m sorry about that baby.” He almost flinched at the endearment. “He just doesn’t know how to tell you he wants out of your partnership.”

 

John shook his head. “That’s not true.”

 

“Of course it is. Johnny please, after last night, don’t you think you could trust me a little?”

 

John almost laughed. Obviously this woman didn’t understand that trust was not John’s strong suit…“It was only one date Gayle…One kiss.”

 

The smirk fell away…“So far…,” she pointed out.

 

John shook his head. “I don’t think so Gayle,” he said softly. This girl was too weird even for him. “I don’t think we’re right for each other ya know?”John started to turn away…He needed time to think but the woman’s next words froze him in his tracks. He didn’t see the look of absolute fury that darkened her eyes. No one walked out on her and both of them had done it in less than two minutes but she wasn’t done yet.

 

“Wow…I guess Roy was right,” she said snidely.

 

“About what…?” John asked softly.

 

“You really are insecure…”

 

“What did you say?” He asked spinning around to face her.

 

“Insecure…Because of your…Disorder?” she explained maliciously.

 

John’s face paled in shock. “He told you about that?”

 

“Well some of it. I mean we haven’t had time to go into all the details…Just that it makes you insecure a lot…That must be pretty wearing on him to have to deal with.”

 

He couldn’t believe this. How could Roy have betrayed him like this? Had Gayle been telling the truth all along? “Oh man,” he murmured in stunned disbelief. John quickly left the room and headed for the parking lot. God…What was he supposed to do now? He had to think. He didn’t hear the crazed giggle that followed him out the door.

 

 

Roy stalked into Hanks office. “Cap…I need to talk to you.”

 

The dark haired Captain of Station 51 looked up into angry blue eyes. “What is it Roy?” He asked his irate senior paramedic.

 

“It’s Gayle Cap…You gotta do something.”

 

Hanks eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What’s she done?”

 

“Cap…She’s…She’s…,” Roy stuttered, sounding suspiciously like his younger partner. “She’s got Johnny all upset…She’s telling me they discussed becoming partners and…and…She kissed me Cap.”

 

Hank’s eyebrow's practically climbed into his hairline in surprise. “She kissed you?” He asked. “I thought it was John she was interested in.”

 

“Apparently she interested in both or all…,” he said waving in the general direction of the apparatus bay. “She’s got Marco and Chet at each other’s throats too.”

 

Hank nodded. “Yeah…I saw that myself this morning but look Roy, you and Johnny are more than just partners, can’t ya just hang on a few more weeks?”

 

“A few more weeks…?” Roy almost shouted. “Cap I won’t have a partner in a few more weeks…At the rate she’s goin I might not have a wife or a job either.”

 

“Okay…Okay simmer down. Headquarters said she had some problems with the men in the stations she worked at before… maybe this is what they meant. I’ll call McConnikee and see if they can move her to some other station for the rest of her training.”

 

Roy breathed a sigh of relief as Hank reached for the phone. “This is Captain Stanley…Station 51. Is Chief McConnikee available?” There was a pause. “I see…Um how about Chief Houts?” There was another long moment. “Chief Houts…Hank Stanley, Station 51…I’m fine sir and you…Good. Ah the reason I’m calling sir is the new paramedic that’s been assigned to us for training. She’s um …Causing a bit of a problem between my men sir and…” Another hesitation… “Yes they are the best sir and they’re very professional,” he agreed with a sigh and a look at Roy that boded ill for him and John.

 

“Yes sir… Day after tomorrow… Thank You sir…” Hank hung up and looked at Roy. “He said you two are the best and that you need to try to stay professional about it and stick it out til McConnikee gets back the day after tomorrow. He’ll have him call me to see if we’re still having a problem.”

 

“Damn it,” Roy swore softly.

 

“Look Roy…Just give Johnny some space until Gayle leaves tonight and then drag him in here and straighten this out.”

 

“Thanks Cap,” he said sounding discouraged. He left the office and headed back to the rec room but Johnny wasn’t there. Gayle sat on the couch reading the newspaper and shot him a smirk of triumph that made Roy furious and uncomfortable. The woman must have made Henry uncomfortable as well…He stayed uncharacteristically far away from the woman. Roy spun on his heel and left the room in search of his partner.

 

The station control unit began to sound. “Station 51…Structure fire…”

 

Roy heaved a sigh. Trying to talk to his confused, insecure partner would have to wait awhile which might be a good thing judging from the hurt and angry look John threw at him as he slid into the squad.

 

 

The station stayed busy for the rest of the afternoon leaving Roy no time to even attempt to try and talk to Johnny alone. He stayed to himself and avoided Roy and the rest of the crew.

 

The self satisfied smirk on Gayle’s face left little doubt that she’d pounced on the scene in the rec room and upset him even worse than he already was. The only good thing was that he was avoiding Gayle as well and she seemed to realize it.. She shot several angry glances’ at the young paramedic over dinner while Chet and Marco attempted to keep her entertained. Johnny remained conspicuously silent and left as soon as he was through eating.

 

Gayle shot one last amused glance toward Roy before she left for the night. She’d noted John’s absence from the rest of the crew and knew after what she’d told him and the looks that had passed between them that she’d driven a wedge between the two men that was beyond repair.

She wanted Johnny in her bed and she intended to have him…Once she’d fulfilled that obsession she was sure she’d be able to let him go…It was the novelty of having a man refuse her, she was sure of it. Now, she just needed Johnny to accept her proposal to become her partner and her lover and that was just a matter of time now.

 

 Once Roy found out he’d been dumped he’d be furious and who knew what would happen during the angry confrontation? One thing was certain, one of them had to die but which one? She drove away smugly, knowing she was very close to fulfilling her desire.

 

 

John lay on his bunk where he’d retreated to after dinner. His mind replaying the last conversation and the rather incriminating embrace he’d caught the two in. Roy might have been able to explain those away but what about having told Gayle that Johnny had Aspergers Syndrome. John was shocked and deeply hurt…How could Roy have betrayed him this way? All the woman had to do was tell headquarters about it and Johnny’s career would be over. He sighed and shifted uncomfortably as his shoulder gave a warning twinge. He tossed his other arm over his face as the conversation began one more trip through his confused mind. He didn’t know what to do now.

 

 

Roy wasted no time in taking Hank’s earlier offer and headed for the office. “Cap…You think you could get Johnny in here? He won’t talk to me.”

 

Hank nodded…Eager to get this situation resolved. He didn’t plan on losing either one of his men. He went to the dorm where Johnny was laying on his bunk. The young man was obviously upset by whatever Gayle had said to him. “John…?” The dark haired paramedic’s arm lifted and he raised troubled dark eyes to meet his Captains. “Can I see you in my office pal?”

 

Johnny nodded and wondered if this was it. Would Captain Stanley tell him Roy wanted to keep Gayle? “Um…Sure Cap,” he said softly as he climbed to his feet…Prepared to face the inevitable.

 

He followed Hank to his office and Captain Stanley waved him inside. Johnny stopped short at the sight of his partner sitting there. “Keep goin pal,” Hank directed.

 

“Cap…? I really don’t want…,” he began, not wanting to have this conversation in front of Roy but Hank cut him off.

 

“It’s not open for discussion Gage. I want you and your PARTNER,” he stressed. “To talk this over and straighten things out.”

 

“But Cap…He doesn’t want…He told Gayle…”

 

“SIT…!” Captain Stanley barked.

 

“Yes sir.” Johnny obediently sank into the chair next to Roy. Cap gave the senior paramedic a nod and left the room.

 

“Johnny…We have to talk this out,” Roy began.

 

The younger man gave a brief nod. “So you wanna tell me when I’m leaving?”


“Leaving…? Johnny you’re not going anywhere unless you want to.” Roy said flatly.

 

“Why would you think I want to?” Johnny asked.

 

“For the same reason you do.”

 

Johnny raised his head to look at his partner. “Roy…I know what I saw today,” he mumbled.


“Do you?” Johnny looked at him in confusion. “Johnny, you saw the tail end of that woman throwing herself at me and that’s all. I have absolutely no interest in her and I told her so. She was trying to change my mind.” Johnny was well aware that the girl moved quicker than the rattlesnake that had bitten him a couple of years ago.  “But what about you…?”

 

“What? I don’t understand.”

 

“Well apparently you two had a quite a little conversation the night before as well.”

 

“It’s not what you think.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“She brought it up…She said you wanted to get rid of me but you didn’t want to hurt me…She said she and I should turn the tables on you and ask to be partners first…”

 

“And you were okay with that?” He snapped incredulously.

 

“No…No of course not…I told her no and I went home but she’d said…Well she insinuated that you and she were…You know and that Jo wouldn’t be a problem and that she’d rather we were…Partners and well…,” he hesitated.

 

“Lovers…?” Johnny nodded nervously. “She insinuated that you already were and that you wanted me gone. Then she offered to get rid of you and become my partner. When I refused she threw herself into my arms and kissed me. That’s when you walked in.”

 

John frowned. That explained a lot but it didn’t explain why Roy would have confided his secret to her and there wasn’t any other way she could have known.

 

Roy watched the play of emotions cross his young friends face and knew at the same moment Johnny did that there was more. The look of hurt confusion settled over his face. He stood up abruptly and he shook his head. “Then why did you tell her?” He threw back over his shoulder as he headed for the door. “How can you expect me to believe you after you told her?”

 

It was Roy’s turn to look confused. He stood up and followed his partner. “Tell her what?” He asked as he reached out to grab his friends elbow and pull him back toward him. John cried out as pain swept through his wrenched shoulder and he spun away from Roy. “Johnny what is it?” Roy asked worriedly.

 

“Nothing…It’s nothing,” he hedged, cradling his arm. “I…I just pulled a muscle or something this morning but it’s okay.”

 

“That didn’t sound okay to me,” Roy snapped turning once again into Johnny’s over protective older brother. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“I…I didn’t want to be any trouble besides you said you hated working with new partners and…and I…,” he trailed off.

 

“You were afraid if you were out again I’d just have more reason to want you gone,” Roy guessed.

 

“The guys told me that too.”

 

“I did say I didn’t like working with so many partners but Johnny that didn’t mean I would ever consider changing the partner I have for anyone else, just that you and I work so well together and I hate it when you get hurt.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“Johnny…This girl has been playing with all of us from day one and I can’t begin to guess why but I promise you…” He reached out lift John’s chin, forcing the dark eyes to meet his. “I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of learning that therapy…Of dragging you down there and about tying you down to get you to try it if I didn’t want to keep you around.”

 

John nodded hesitantly but once again her knowledge of his disorder raised doubts. “She said you told her I have ASD.”

 

“WHAT?” Roy shouted.

 

John flinched at the angry tone. “Why would you do that?” He whispered forlornly, wanting there to be some logical reason.

 

“I didn’t.”


“She knows…She said it was the reason you didn’t wanna tell me…Because I was so… insecure.”

 

“Look at me Junior,” Roy said softly.

 

The brown eyes locked with blue. “I swear to you, I would never tell her that. I would never betray your trust like that.”

 

“You told Dr. Hightower.”

 

“To help YOU…Not to hurt you…” John chewed his lip in indecision, wanting desperately to believe his friend. Roy reached out to lightly touch the side of John’s face. “TRUST ME!” 

 

The dark eyes closed briefly. He didn’t know how Gayle could know about his secret…Maybe one of the others had told her but he had to believe Roy…He had to believe this man would never willfully hurt him just as John would never do that to him. Gayle had been lying about everything else… that was obvious, so why believe anything else she’d told him? The dark eyes reopened to lock with Roy’s and the older man sighed in relief as he read the look in them. “Okay Roy.”

 

The older man pulled his friend into a brief embrace before releasing him and steering him back to the chair. “Sit!” He commanded. “Let me take a look at that shoulder.” Johnny obediently unbuttoned his shirt and let Roy look at the injury. “Is this why you almost fell on the ladder today?”

 

John looked a bit sheepish but nodded honestly. “Yes…My fingers went numb for a couple of seconds.”

 

“How about now…?” He asked as he felt the warmth of the strained muscles and ligaments.

 

“It comes and goes…”

 

“Okay…I think I need to immobilize this arm and then you need to see a doctor.”


“Roy…,” he began to protest.

 

“Don’t argue…You can’t function safely this way and I won’t risk your life.” Roy went to the door to find Captain Stanley leaning against the squad. He looked up as the door opened and breathed a sigh of relief at the smile and wink that Roy threw him. “Cap, Johnny got hurt this afternoon and I need to take him by Rampart.”

 

“How bad…?” Hank asked worriedly.

 

“Bad enough… You think you could get a replacement. If they release him, I’m gonna take him to my house for the night.”

 

Cap grinned. “Captive audience for the morning Roy…?” He teased.

 

“Anyway I have to Cap.”

 

The older man grinned and nodded to the squad. “Go ahead, I’ll call headquarters.”

 

Roy turned back to his partner. “C’mon Junior…” Johnny heaved a sigh a followed his partner out, stopping briefly to smile ruefully at his Captain.

 

“Welcome back John,” Hank said softly.

 

“Thanks Cap.”

 

 

Roy ran Johnny by the hospital and as he suspected Joe Early stood Johnny down for the remainder of his shift. “I think you should be okay by the next shift day after tomorrow,” he assured him as he tied the sling around Johnny’s neck. “No driving and rest that shoulder for the next two days alright?” John nodded his agreement and followed his partner out.

 

“C’mon Junior, let’s get you home.”

 

“You can drop me at my apartment.”

 

“Not a chance Junior. I’m taking you home to my house.”

 

“Roy…”

 

“Save it Johnny. I already called Joanne and she’s got your room ready and she’s waiting for you besides I want to get back on track with your therapy sessions.”

 

Johnny looked at Roy nervously. “I think we both need them after the last few days,” Roy pressed.

 

The younger man nodded hesitantly. “Okay.”

 

Roy took a brief look around to be sure no one was watching before he lightly patted John’s cheek.  “Let’s go home."

 

 

Joanne kissed Johnny’s cheek in greeting. “Are you okay sweetheart?” She asked looking into his dark eyes.

 

“Yeah,” he replied softly, feeling like he was home.

 

“What happened to your shoulder?” She asked as she let him past her to sit on the couch.

 

“Slipped on the wet floor and pulled a muscle trying not to fall,” he mumbled.

 

“Sit,” she commanded. “I’ll get some ice.”

 

“You don’t have to do that Jo,” he protested. “I don’t wanna be a prob…”

 

“You finish that sentence John Roderick Gage and I’ll swat you,” she warned as she shook her finger under his nose. 

 

Johnny looked stunned for a moment before the three of them began to snicker. “Yes Ma’am,” he replied. Roy was grinning at them both.

 

They heard two giggles from the top of the stairs and looked up to see Chris and Jen standing at the top, hands clapped over their mouths as their mommy scolded Uncle Johnny.

 

“Hey guys,” Johnny called with a grin as they came racing down the stairs into his waiting hug.

 

“Okay Junior, now that you’re settled I gotta get back to work. I’ll see you all in the morning.” He hugged the two kids and kissed Joanne before giving his partner a scruff of his dark head. “Get some sleep and we’ll figure out what to do about Gayle tomorrow.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Joanne returned with the Ice and hot water bottles. Roy tossed them both a grin as he headed out the door. He knew Jo would have the situation under control and Johnny would get a goodnights’ sleep.

 

 

Joanne kept up the hot and cold compresses for over an hour, using the age old tactic her mom had used. She kept the conversation light and avoided bringing up Gayle or the situation at the station. “How’s your shoulder feeling sweetheart?” She asked finally.

 

“A little better… I think the swelling’s gone down some.”

 

“Good…Tomorrow we’ll rub some more liniment into it and you’ll be good as new in no time.”

 

John looked into loving blue eyes and grinned. “Thanks Jo.”

 

She took his face between her hands and planted a sisterly kiss on his lips. “I’m gonna go tuck the kids in. I’ll probably go to bed myself soon so the house is yours. Your rooms all ready when you get tired sweetheart.” He nodded. “Goodnight sweetie…I love you,” she said throwing him a wink as she headed up the stairs.”

 

“Goodnight Jo. I…I love you too,” he called after her. She didn’t turn back but a broad grin pulled up the corners of her mouth. They were getting there.

 

 

Roy returned to the station and headed for Hanks office. “Cap, I’m back,” he said sticking his head inside the open door.

 

“Come in Roy.”  The blonde paramedic went in and sat down in the chair Hank was waving him into. “So tell me what happened?”

 

Roy repeated the tale to his Captain, finishing with… “Cap, someone told her about Johnny having ASD. She told him it was me but you know I’d never do that.” Stanley nodded.

 

“Then maybe we just better find out who then.” They both got up and headed for the rec room. Hank couldn’t tell them too much at this point, at least not until he’d had a chance to talk to both Johnny and Gayle but one thing he did want to know was which of his men would have betrayed John. Surely they knew if this got back to headquarters, it would likely destroy the young paramedic’s career. He shook his head unable to believe any of them would hurt Gage this way.

 

“Guys…I need to talk to ya for a minute,” Hank called. They switched off the TV and gathered at the table. “Jake,” Cap said looking at John’s replacement. “Could ya give us a minute…Family business.” The young, red headed fireman grinned at them and left the room. He’d been warned this team was close…They’d been right.

 

“How’s Johnny Roy?” Mike asked worriedly.

 

“He’s okay and we’ve had a long talk and straightened this all out but…”

 

“But…?” Chet questioned.

 

Roy looked to Hank. The Captain took it up from there. “During the conversation Johnny said Gayle knew he had Aspergers disorder.”

 

There were three shocked faces that matched the gasps of surprise. “Who’d tell her that?” Marco asked looking stunned.

 

“That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

 

“It wasn’t me Cap,” Mike assured them quietly.

 

“ME either,” Marco volunteered.

 

Four sets of eyes swiveled to Chet who was known to be unable to keep a secret. “What are ya all lookin at me for?” He asked indignantly.

 

“Well you are trying to get Gayle to go out with you,” Mike pointed out with a shrug.

 

“So is Marco…,”

 

“Hey…I’d never resort to hurting Johnny to get her.”

 

“Neither would I,” Chet barked back.

 

“Okay…Okay simmer down all of you,” Cap soothed.

 

“Did she say who Cap?” Mike asked.

 

“She told John that it was Roy.”

 

They all looked at the blonde paramedic knowing that had to be a lie. Roy would never willingly betray John. “I promise you…It wasn’t me,” he corroborated.

 

“Then how…?” Marco asked.

 

They grew thoughtful for a moment. “Did anyone talk about it to each other maybe…Without realizing she could hear you?” Mike asked suddenly.

 

They all looked at each other for a moment and shook their heads but then Roy’s head snapped up. “Cap you and I did his first day back…I told you about the therapy.”

 

The others glanced at each other in confusion…They had no idea what kind of therapy Roy was talking about and assumed it was to get him back on his feet after he’d been so sick.“That’s right pal…The door was open.”

 

“And we did hear someone outside it.”

 

“It was Gayle,” Chet mumbled.

 

“What pal?” Cap asked.

 

“That first day…She was mopping the apparatus bay when I came out of the latrine. She was right by the door Cap. I offered to dump the bucket of water for her.”

 

“That must be it but I don’t remember you saying Aspergers at all.  You just mentioned his disorder…”

 

“I’ll check with Johnny Cap…See if she called it by name but that could be it.” He hoped it was and that no one here had willingly hurt Johnny.

 

“What’s goin on Cap?” Mike asked.

 

“I’m afraid I can’t say anything just yet guys. I need to do a little more investigating first. After that…,” he let the sentence hang.

 

There were four sets of worried eyes watching him as he left the room.

 

 

Roy arrived home early the next morning, bringing John’s clothes from his locker so he could at least be comfortable. Not that Johnny didn’t already have several items of apparel in the closet of the spare room for those unexpected overnight stays he sometimes had.

 

John was at the table with the kids when he got there. He glanced up as Roy came in and grinned. “Morning partner,” he greeted.

 

Mornin Junior,” he replied as he dropped John’s clothes over his head on the way by, noting that the younger man was already dressed in cut off shorts and his uniform shirt was draped over his injured arm.  The younger man swept them away and threw his friend an annoyed scowl drawing a giggle from the children but Roy missed it as he hugged his wife and kissed her warmly.  “Was he okay last night?” He asked quietly.

 

She nodded and hugged her husband. “Back to normal I think, maybe better.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“I wished him goodnight and told him I loved him.” 

 

Roy grinned. “Did he say it?” She threw him a smile and a nod. “That’s great,” he said in relief.

 

“I’ll get your breakfast. We’ve just been waiting for you to get home so we could eat as a family.”

 

“Good.”

 

 “Then maybe you could take the kids to the Coopers. They’re going to the park and offered to take Chris and Jen with their kids.”

 

“Perfect. Then we can run through a therapy session with Johnny.”

 

 

Gayle went by Johnny’s first thing in the morning but the Rover wasn’t in the parking lot and she assumed that he’d either gone out or hadn’t arrived home. Maybe they’d had an early morning run. She decided to swing by the DeSoto home. If Roy wasn’t there she’d tell Joanne about the little kiss in the rec room which John himself would swear to.

If Roy was home she’d casually mention the little detail that Johnny was once again injured and had lied to his partner about it. She’d dearly love to know more about whatever disorder John Gage had but she could work on that later. She was sure she’d completely destroyed their trust in each other.

 

She turned up Washington Street and drove toward the house with a smug smile playing around her lips. The smile faded as she approached the DeSoto home. Roy DeSoto stood next to a gray station wagon as his nine year old son bounced around the figure of none other than John Gage…

 

He was wearing a pair of cut off denim shorts and a sling supported his right arm. A small blonde girl came bounding out of the house to join them a moment later. “Damn it…Damn it,” she railed angrily as she thumped the steering wheel. What was he doing here?

 

The sling meant the injury was out in the open and John had been taken off duty. The way he was dressed and the fact that the Land Rover wasn’t here was a fair indication that he’d most likely spent the night as Roy was still in uniform. They’d somehow managed to patch up their fight and she was back to square one. What was she gonna do now? This had never happened before except for her father and his partner. She wouldn’t let them win…She wouldn’t. She put a shaking hand to her head in confusion. Her thoughts whirling…They were breaking the rules and she wasn’t sure how to get them back under control. She’d find a way…She had to have Johnny so she could finally let him go.

 

She parked up the street and turned to watch the group. Johnny bent down to hug the little girl who wrapped her arms around his neck and delivered a sweet but sloppy kiss to the young man’s lips bringing a grin and an eye roll to his handsome face. He scruffed the boy’s hair affectionately as the two children climbed into the car. Roy reached up to pat his friend on his good shoulder, their heads close together. The dark haired man nodded a bit uneasily but headed back into the house as Roy climbed in and drove away with the children. “What a sweet little family,” she muttered angrily with a malicious gleam in the frighteningly crazed eyes.

 

 

Johnny and Roy stood by Joanne’s car as Chris danced around the younger man. “Please Uncle Johnny…Please say you’ll come with us to Indian Guides next week. You know all that great stuff you could tell them about.”

 

John tossed a glance at his partner to see if he’d mind and got a nod. “Sure Buddy…Why not,” he answered as Jennifer came bounding down the stairs to join them.

 

“Uncle Johnny will you still be here for dinner when we come home?” She asked hopefully, torn between going to the park and spending time with her favorite man in the whole world next to her daddy.

 

“Sure he will,” Roy answered throwing him a wink.

 

“Your mom’s fixin steak. I’ll be here princess,” he promised with a grin as he bent down to hug the little girl. She planted a kiss on John’s lips bringing a chuckle from her father as John tried desperately not to grimace at the moist smack he’d just received.

 

The children climbed into the car as Roy stepped closer to his young partner. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. The coopers only live a couple of miles from here.” Johnny nodded. “Are you ready for a therapy session?” He asked.

 

John shifted uneasily, biting his lip nervously. It had been an emotionally challenging week for the younger man and he was unsure about this but he knew Roy wanted him to try. They needed to get their friendship back on track…Even more so now so that John would never have these doubts or fears again. “Okay Roy,” he agreed. Roy reached up to pat his shoulder reassuringly.

 

“I’ll be right back.” Roy got in the car and drove away.

 

Johnny went back in the house.

 

 

“Sweetheart could you drag that hose up here for my plants?” Joanne asked as John stepped out on the deck to join her.

 

“Sure, no problem,” he replied jogging down the steps.

 

“Don’t hurt that shoulder,” she admonished sternly as he headed back up dragging the hose.

 

“Okay mom,” he teased her as he reappeared topside. His smile faded a bit as he watched her rearrange the deck furniture and drop two pillows beside the chaise lounge. He swallowed uneasily and turned to water the plants.

 

“Sweetheart put that down for now,” she said patting the chair. She held up the liniment bottle and winked. “You might as well kill two birds with one stone and you’ll already be nice and comfortable when Roy comes back.

 

“Jo…I…I don’t,”

 

“Johnny please…You were doing so well with this til that woman showed up.”

 

The younger man heaved a sigh. “Okay Jo,” He sat down and let Jo untie the sling. She poured the liniment on her hands and began to gently massage it onto his right shoulder.

 

 

Gayle crept along the side of the house, moving quietly. She came up short as she rounded the corner to the back yard. “Well, well, well …Jackpot,” she giggled to herself. Johnny sat on the lounge chair on the deck dressed only in the denim cut offs while Roy’s loving wife massaged his back…Her hands moved softly over his shoulder and then up to his neck. She gently pressed him back on the chair before wiping her hands on a towel. Her hands returned to sweep the sable hair from his forehead before moving to rub his shoulders once more...Barely touching…a lover’s caress she guessed.  Gayle couldn’t possibly understand the familiar and loving relationship that existed between these two who’d become like brother and sister and sometimes mother and son. She automatically assumed the worst. “While the cats away,” she whispered in delight.

 

Gayle found herself getting angry as she watched the tender display. She was mostly irritated with herself as she realized she was jealous. What right did she have to touch Johnny that way? Did she have to have them both? She had Roy…John was hers. The blonde woman’s fury rose as she watched Joanne’s hands trail over John’s bare shoulders and up his neck.

 

Her fists clenched in rage, her nails drawing blood as they dug into her palms to keep from screaming at the auburn haired woman to stop…She finally forced herself to turn away. Just wait til she told Roy his precious, perfect wife was having an affair with his best friend and partner. Talk about two birds with one stone? Let’s see DeSoto forgive that.

 

She didn’t hear Roy’s car pull back into the garage. She never realized he’d re-entered the house and stood watching his wife and partner from the doorway. Gayle was creeping around the front as he got a quick drink and washed his hands before stepping out to join them. “You all ready Partner…?”

 

Joanne threw her husband a smile as John tipped his head back to look up at his partner from his upside down vantage point. “As ready as I’m gonna get,” he answered softly.

 

“Good.” Roy sat near him and his hands replaced Jo’s. “Let’s talk about Rosemary,” Roy suggested…Figuring on a fairly safe subject to start with.

 

John closed his eyes and began to tell them about his Aunt. “She came to the reservation when I was fourteen. She said my grandfather had written to her parents and told them he was dying and that he wanted them to come and get me.” John fell silent for a long while.

 

“What happened Junior?” Roy asked.

 

“They refused. They didn’t want me,” he said, obviously hurt. “They were still bitter about my father marrying my mom.”

 

“I’m sorry Johnny,” Roy said as his hands continued to move over John’s shoulders, arms, neck and face. He took a moment to get his partner to roll onto his stomach before they continued, being extra careful with his shoulder.

 

“I guess Aunt Rosemary found the letter and she came for me. She said she and my father had been close and she didn’t care who he’d married…I was his son and that’s all that mattered to her. She was pretty angry with her parents and my Uncle Geoffrey...He wasn’t too happy about me being there either.”

 

“She’s a good woman,” Roy told him.

 

“Yes…I’m afraid I gave her a really bad time and she really didn’t deserve that,” he admitted softly.

 

“She understood.”

 

“Yes…Her husband was sick. He died soon after I got there and she was really sad but she just never let that stop her ya know. I wouldn’t speak to her at all at first. I was so scared at being with this total stranger…I mean I’d never met her and her kids were just mean to me…They really didn’t like me."

 

“Why Johnny…?” Roy asked. He’d already heard this on the ledge but John needed to explore his thoughts and his feelings...to get this out.

“I think they were jealous of the time Rose spent with me. They resented the fact that I was uncooperative instead of grateful. I wasn’t tryin to be ya know…I was scared of letting down my guard…Letting this woman into my life…I mean what if she dumped me too?” he whispered forlornly as a tear rolled down his cheek. “I just wanted to be invisible so I wouldn’t be a burden on her…So she wouldn’t get rid of me too. I had nowhere left to go.”

 

“She loves you so much,” Roy assured him.

 

“I know. She told me all the time but I didn’t believe her. I mean…I don’t think I truly understood what the word meant.”

 

“Why not…?” Roy asked gently.

"Huh?"

"Tell me why you didn't understand it."

 

John thought about it for a long moment. “Everyone at school and the reservation told me about family’s Roy. Family’s love you right? They take care of you…Support you…They're there for you…but that’s not what I saw. They hurt you…They go away and leave you and they hit and they fight and they scream,” Johnny whispered, with a hitched breath. “My own grandparents... They didn’t even want to see me. If that was love…I didn’t want any part of it.”

 

“I’m so sorry but you know what it really is now? What it should be I mean.”

 

He nodded. “I think so…I mean I still get confused and scared by it sometimes.”

 

“It’s all still pretty new,” Roy explained. “And being a part of something special can be a bit scary.”

 

“I’m so afraid of losing it again,” he admitted softly.

 

Roy fought off the burning sensation behind his eyes and smoothed the hair back from his friends face as Jo wiped the tears from her own. “You will never lose that Johnny. No one will take that from you again, do you understand? We love you and you’re a part of this family and that will never change even when I’m an idiot and say something stupid that hurts you. Johnny…I will always be your brother...Your best friend and I will always love you…I’ll always be there…I promise you,” he said reaffirming a promise made long ago.

 

John rolled over and looked up into the two sets of blue eyes that were watching him. He breathed out a sigh of relief at the truth and the promise reflected in them. “I don’t know what I’d do without you guys,” he said quietly through his own tight throat and watering eyes.

 

“You’ll never have to find out.”

 

He sat up slowly and felt Jo’s soft arms wrap around him. “I love you baby,” she said quietly.

 

“I love you too.” The dark eyes turned toward Roy. “Thanks partner.” He reached out to pat Roy’s shoulder but found himself pulled into Roy’s arms. He stiffened slightly for a moment and then returned the gesture. He heard the words spoken softly beside his ear and grinned. “I love you too Roy,” he replied. Had Gayle stayed to watch she might have realized...She’d never stood a chance.

 

Roy gave his friends hair a gentle scruff as they both sat back to regain control. John looked up at his partner. “Roy?”

 

“Yeah Junior…?”

 

“Why do you think Gayle’s doing this?”

 

“I couldn’t begin to tell you Johnny.”

“I don’t understand…Which one of us is she after and which one is she really trying to get rid of?”

 

“I don’t know either but Cap’s gonna call McConnikee when he gets back and see what he can find out about her. They told him when she got here that she’d had problems with the men at other stations but he thought it was the guys, not her.”

 

Johnny nodded. “She gives me the chills,” he said softly.

 

“Me too Junior."

"How did she find out about my problem?”

 

“What? Joanne asked worriedly. “She knows?”

 

Johnny nodded. “She told me Roy told her.”

 

“He wouldn’t,” Jo said indignantly. John grinned.

 

“When she told you that Junior, did she specify Aspergers Disorder?”

 

Johnny thought about it a moment. “No…Just my disorder…”

 

Roy nodded. “I was explaining to Cap that we were going to be involved in a new therapy for your disorder.” John’s eyes widened as he began to understand even before Roy finished. “Chet said he saw her by the office door that morning and it’s possible she overheard just enough to use against you but she probably doesn’t really know what you have.”

 

“Let’s hope she doesn’t spill it to headquarters or they may be asking about it too.”

 

“I’m sure they’d want more than that before they’d start anything and she can’t tell them. It could have been nothing more than…I don’t know…Migraines or something.” Johnny grinned. “Hey…Anyone want something to drink?” Roy asked, standing up.

 

“Yes please,” Johnny and Joanne answered together.

“Ya know if I believed in that sorta thing I’d swear you two were brother and sister in some past life,” Roy said with a shake of his blonde head. The two giggled as Roy retied the sling and settled his partners arm in it before going inside.

 

“Hey Jo…?” Johnny called out as he climbed to his feet.

 

“Yes sweetheart…”

 

“I just want you to know that if Roy dumps ya for Gayle I’ll take ya in,” he said seriously.

 

“You would? That’s so sweet.”

 

Johnny grinned impishly. “I can always use a good cook,” he teased as he leaned over to kiss her nose.

 

“Why you little brat,” she yelled as she pinched his ribs. John writhed away laughing but Joanne snatched up the hose and turned on the sprayer. The blast of icy water snatched John’s breath away but didn’t stop him from charging in to wrestle the hose away from Jo.

 

“Watch that shoulder!” Roy shouted from the safety of the dining room.

 

“Kay…,” they shouted back. Before the match ended both of them were soaked to the skin and giggling like children.

 

“I think you’re both nuts,” Roy said laughing. “Anyone for coffee…?” He asked holding up the mugs.

 

 

Roy drove Johnny home after dinner later that night. “You rest that shoulder tomorrow too okay? And call me if you need anything.”

 

“I will…”

 

“Don’t drive.”

 

Johnny rolled his eyes in exasperation. “I won’t.”

 

Roy grinned at him. “Maybe Gayle’s right and I do treat ya like my kid sometimes,” he teased

 

“A few of years ago that really bothered me. I thought you thought I couldn’t take care of myself but I’ve learned now that it’s just another way for you to show you care about me. That’s sorta…a good feeling ya know?”

 

“Yeah partner…I know.”

 

 

Gayle sat in her apartment almost gloating. She knew with what she had on Johnny and Roy’s wife there would be no saving their friendship. She would leave Johnny in total disgrace and when she was through Roy would be dead and John would be hers…After all it would be self defense.

 

                                            TO BE CONTINUED... Part 4 Obsession

 

Published to Site 05/10/10                                           Links To Part 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.6. 7.

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