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Missing Family

Part 2

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

LINKS TO PART 1. 2.

 

Roy stirred inside the plane…He was unsure for a moment where he was or what had happened. His eyes blinked open as consciousness flooded his brain. Pain burst behind his eyes. His head was throbbing mercilessly. They’d crashed…

 

Joanne…Chris…Jen. Where were they? Were they alright? The moans and cries of the other passengers began to worm their way into his foggy awareness.

 

With a great deal of effort, Roy lifted his head. He looked to his right and saw his son. The young blonde was unconscious and Roy quickly reached over to feel for a pulse. It was there, beating strongly beneath his fingers. He heaved a sigh of relief and quickly ran his hands over the boy’s arms and legs…down his spine and around his neck. Nothing seemed to be broken. The only obvious sign of injury was the gash over his right eye. The skin around it was already bruising.

 

He sat his son up in his seat and quickly leaned it back into a comfortable position before moving over to his wife. “Jo,” he gasped at the sight of the huddled body of his wife. He squatted next to her. His fingers rested at the crook of her neck and chin and he almost wept in relief.

 

“Jo…Baby,” he whispered as his lips rested against the auburn hair. “C’mon Jo,” he called softly. “Wake up babe.”

 

She moaned softly at the sound of her husband’s voice. “R…Roy,” she murmured. The pain in her voice was obvious.

 

“Just let me check you over honey…Hold on.” He ran his hands over her body the same way he had Chris. He quickly found the broken arm and the bump on the top of her head that had impacted the backrest of the chair in front of her. He eased her back into her seat and looked down into the blue eyes of his two year old daughter.

 

Tears of fear tracked down her tiny cheeks but otherwise she seemed unhurt…She’d been cushioned by her mother’s body. “Daddy,” she murmured as her tiny arms lifted to him. Roy yanked the seatbelt loose and pulled her into his arms.

 

“Oh Jen…Baby,” he murmured against the blonde curls. He raised grateful eyes heavenward for a brief moment of thanks that his family was alive and safe.

 

“Jen…Chris?” Jo murmured as she forced her eyes open. She saw her husband holding her daughter. “She okay?” She whispered. Roy nodded. “Chris?”

 

“He’s unconscious but I think he’s okay too.”

 

“What about you?”

 

“My head hurts a bit but I think I’m alright,” he replied setting the toddler down on her mother’s lap. “I’ll splint that arm in a minute but I need to see if anyone else needs help.”

 

“Alright,” she agreed, hearing the moans and cries around her. She looked over at her son and was relieved to see him begin to waken. She lifted Jen and moved to Roy’s seat to be closer when he finally woke up completely. “Shhh baby,” she soothed as his blue blinked open.

 

“Mommy,” he moaned softly.

 

“You’re okay sweetheart…We’re all okay and someone will come and find us very soon.”

 

 

Roy moved slowly up the aisle. Reaching out a soothing hand here and there… Checking for serious injuries…Shaking his head at those who hadn’t made it.

 

The tail section was ripped away and he doubted that anyone in it would have survived. He made his way forward, casting a reassuring glance at his family as he passed them. He stepped into the first class section and stopped. The entire front of the aircraft had been ripped away…Bodies littered the front compartment but there were a few moans from a scattering of survivors.

 

He made his way down the aisle making assessments. Several other men and a couple of women finally made their way toward him. “Can we help?”

 

Roy nodded gratefully. “Most of the passengers here are dead,” he said softly as he pointed to the seven who had survived. “We need to start evacuating the bodies from the plane.”

 

“The bodies?” They questioned in confusion... “Shouldn’t we…?” He hesitated looking back at the living people who were finally all coming around and realizing they were still alive.

 

“The plane is our only shelter from that storm and the cold,” he said pointing at the gray, stormy skies above them. “There’s no danger of fire but there is a danger of hypothermia if we stay out there. We don’t know how long we’ll be stuck here before they find us.”

 

The others nodded their understanding. The bodies couldn’t be left aboard with the survivors…It could be days before anyone found them and it would quickly become unbearable if they were left on board.

 

The four men began the gruesome task of removing the dead while Roy and the women went in search of items to use for splints and bandages.

 

He stopped next to his wife on the way by and was pleased to note that Chris was awake. “How ya doin sport?” he asked, gently smoothing the hair back from his son’s forehead.

 

“My head hurts but I’m okay dad,” he said bravely.

 

“Good…Let’s get a bandage on that head and wrap up mommy’s arm.” He said as he set to work.

 

“How many Roy?” She asked quietly.

 

“Thirty four dead including the flight crew,” he replied softly.

 

“Sixty seven are alive but there are a couple that are critical…I don’t know if they’ll survive for too long without help.” He said softly.

 

She nodded, looking grieved by the loss of so many lives but there were more that had survived, including her own family and she could at least be grateful for that.

 

“You suppose they’re looking for us?”

 

Roy glanced up at the sky. “Not with that mess up there but they know we’re missing and they’ll be looking as soon as they can.”

 

“My poor sister and my parents.” She whispered, knowing the grief they were experiencing.

 

“My mom,” Roy added as they glanced at each other.

 

“Johnny,” they both said together.

 

“He’ll be so upset,” she said softly.

 

“I know…Let’s just hope the guys can help him through til they find us. He’ll be okay once he knows we’re alright.”

 

She nodded knowing how badly Johnny would handle the loss of the only family he had.

 

Roy finished up and stood up to move to the next person. He cast a glance toward the sky… “Please Johnny…Hang on til they find us okay? We didn’t leave you junior.”

 

 

Johnny had been asleep for some time. The sun had set by the time the dark eyes snapped open. The voice of his best friend echoed in his head. ‘Find us,” it whispered. “We didn’t leave you,” it assured him.

 

Tears pooled in his eyes. Yes they had…Just like everyone else.Why did they leave him…Why did everyone leave him? They’d promised him they’d always be there but now they were gone too. He sat up, grimacing in pain. His whole body ached and there were bruises around his wrists where Cap had held him as he struggled and Johnny knew he’d gone away.

 

“Roy…Jo,” he whispered forlornly as he swung his feet off the bed. Where was he anyway? Captain Stanley’s he suddenly remembered. John closed his eyes as his head pounded out a rhythm and his chest hurt. He coughed a bit harshly, making his throat sting but at least his nose didn’t feel quite so stuffy.

 

He didn’t know what to do. His heart was broken…How could he go on without this family he’d come to love. They were everything to him.

 

He stuffed his feet into his sneakers and left the room and walked through the quiet, darkened house. He knew Cap and his wife…Brackett and Dixie would be there for him but it wasn’t the same. He needed them...His family.  He wanted to be somewhere close to them…Somewhere where he could feel their presence.

 

He fished his keys from his pocket and left the house. A few minutes later he pulled up in front of the DeSoto home. He let himself in with his keys… ‘His second home,’ Roy had told him when he’d presented it to him. ‘You’re family…Welcome here anytime.’

 

John had been touched by the gesture and had gladly taken the key that would unlock the door to his family day or night and now they were gone.

 

He wandered through the darkened home and climbed the stairs wearily. He looked into Chris’ room where he’d spent so much time playing with the six year old. He moved on, letting tears spill over at the sight of Jen’s crib…Empty now and forever after.

 

He sniffed back the threatening tears and moved on to Roy and Joanne’s room. He sank down on the edge if the bed and his eyes fell on the wedding photo of Roy and Joanne. He smiled as he picked it up and looked into the eyes of this couple that he’d come to love.

 

“Why?’ He questioned the fates softly. “Why do they all have to leave me?” He murmured. ‘Never again,’ he vowed silently. “Never again.”

 

Tears rolled freely as he sobbed out his grief…He curled up on the bed and let them flow…He heard the words from his dream as his eyes drifted closed. “Find us…We didn’t leave you.”

 

 

Roy and several others under his direction soon had everyone bandaged and splinted to the best of their ability with the minute amount of items in the first aid kits they’d found on board. Roy knew that some of them required far more help than he could give them there.

 

Once the others had found out that he was a fireman and a paramedic, he’d somehow been elected to lead this group.

 

Roy sighed. “Okay…The first thing we need to do is gather everything edible into one area…Then we can figure out how to ration it.” One of the stewardesses took control of that project...There wasn’t much.

 

“We need to find some clean containers. Once the water in the tanks runs out, we can pack them with snow and let it melt for drinking water.” Roy chose Sandra, one of them in the first group who had volunteered to help to head up that group.  At least drinking water wouldn’t be an issue for now anyway.

 

Jo and a couple of other ladies were handling the children on board and keeping them calm and amused and he’d enlisted several other women to monitor the injured. They would call him immediately if anything changed or someone was in trouble…Not that there was much anyone could do for them out here.

 

“I’m gonna see if I can find a good spot and try and start a fire.” He once again saw the look of confusion on the faces of his ‘assistants.’ He stepped to the edge of the first class cabin and pointed skyward. “We’re being covered by an overhang of rock so unless they come in at a perfect angle…They’ll never see us so we need to make sure they do.”  They nodded in understanding. “Second…I don’t want to start a fire too close and fill the plane with smoke on top of everything else.” They grinned at the blonde fireman.

 

They hunted around, going far afield for enough wood. The mountain was mostly shale and lava rock and there were precious few trees close enough to do them any good...Between the snow and the rain it wasn’t easy...Most of what they could find was soaked clean through. “We went a couple of miles Roy…There just wasn’t anything to find.”

 

“What are we gonna do Roy?” Keith Woods, one of the other passengers who’d been helping Roy since they first crashed asked. He looked forlornly at the meager pile.

 

Roy shrugged. “We’re gonna be real careful about when we burn it. It’s a sure bet no one’s gonna see it with those clouds sitting overhead so we’re gonna take turns. As soon as this storm lifts we’ll try and light it and keep it burning. The greener and wetter the wood the smokier it’ll be and in this case that’s what we want.”

 

“Where’d you learn all this great stuff Mr. DeSoto?” Lonnie Duffy asked.

 

“You dummy,” his friend Nate shot back. “He’s a fireman.”

 

Roy chuckled at the two young men. “Well yeah that helps but a lot of what I know about fires and uh…roughing it, I learned from my partner Johnny.”

 

“Oh…So you’re good friends too huh?” Nate asked.

 

“The best,” Roy’s smile faded a bit at the thought of Johnny was going through right now, thinking he and his family were dead. “He’s probably pretty upset right now,” he muttered, knowing that was the understatement of the year. “I didn’t leave you junior…You have to know that,” he muttered with tears in his blue eyes.

 

 

Hank rolled out bed early. He rubbed at his sleep filled eyes for a moment before remembering the events of the night before. He threw on his robe and made his way downstairs to the guest room where Johnny was sleeping.

 

He cracked the door open but the first rays of the dawning sun fell on the empty bed. “Damn it,” Hank muttered.

 

“What is it Hank?” Emily’s voice came from behind him.

 

“John’s gone,” he replied moving quickly to the front door. He looked out. John’s rover was missing from the driveway.

 

“You think he’s alright?” Hank thought back to what had happened the afternoon before…His mind quickly turned to John’s reaction when he’d thought Scott Jackson had killed Roy and then to when Dixie had been angry with him over the death of her niece.

 

Would John’s thoughts turn toward hurting himself? Hank didn’t think so but the poor kid had lost so damn much…It just wasn’t fair.

 

“I’m gonna go check his apartment…Just to be on the safe side.”

 

“I’m coming with you.”

 

Hank nodded and they both headed upstairs to get dressed. A short time later they were on their way to John’s apartment but the rover wasn’t there.

 

“Would he go to Miss McCall or Dr. Brackett?” Emily questioned.

 

“I don’t know…Let’s try it.” They headed to Rampart.

 

Kel and Dixie were at the base station. They’d both just arrived for their shift. “I’m sorry Captain but no. I haven’t seen him,” Kel replied worriedly. He too remembered how distraught Johnny had been over the loss of Dixie’s friendship…How much worse over the loss of his whole family?

 

Dixie frowned in thought for a moment. Johnny was strong. A lot stronger than people sometimes realized and even though she understood their concern, Dix had no doubt that Johnny would come through this…He’d never be the same but he was a survivor and she’d never believe he’d do himself any harm intentionally. Roy would be disappointed in him if he did and he’d never want that.

 

Roy…? Hmmm? “Did you check Roy’s?” She asked suddenly.

 

Hank and Emily exchanged a glance. “No we didn’t.”

 

Dix gave them a small sad smile… “That’s probably where he’d go. That’s where all his best memories are.”

 

Emily’s eyes filled with tears at the pain she knew the young man was feeling. She’d seen the bond between those two young men time and time again. Johnny was hurting badly and Dixie was probably right. He’d go to where they were a family.

 

They threw the doctor and nurse a wave and headed for the car. They drove in silence, both thinking their own thoughts about the friendship between the two young men. Hank knew Johnny would retreat into the silent and withdrawn young man the others had told him about. The way he’d been before Roy had drawn him out and dragged him back.

 

Emily only knew the fun loving young man she’d met after the fact and the pain and sorrow she’d seen reflected in that young face yesterday and her heart was torn. The innocent boy in him was dead forever and she grieved for the loss.

 

They drove up the street to Roy’s house and they both breathed a sigh of relief at the rover parked in Roy’s driveway. They pulled in next to it and made their way to the front door. Hank pushed it open and went inside.

 

The house was silent…He missed the welcoming smile on Joanne’s face and the happy chuckle of his senior paramedic over some silly thing that John had done. The sound of the children’s giggles as Uncle Johnny chased them through the house or rolled on the floor with them like an over eager puppy.

 

Hank shook the memories away and headed for the back room that John always used when he was here while Emily mounted the stairs. She checked the children’s rooms before moving on. She quietly pushed the door open to the master bedroom and stopped. “Oh sweetie,” she murmured softly. Hank appeared at the top of the stairs and she pointed silently into the room.

 

He came to join her and stopped at the door. Johnny lay sleeping across the bed…His hand tightly held Roy and Joanne’s wedding photo. He was murmuring softly and Hank could barely make out the words. “Didn’t leave you…Find us…Didn’t leave you…Have to know…”

 

 

Johnny tossed restlessly as the dreams played over and over…Dark, ugly black clouds that rolled back leaving a cover of gray…Three rocky fingers that rose up…Rising over them before blackness closed in around him…A voice whispering…Roy’s voice. ‘Find us…We didn’t leave you.’  Only to start over again.

 

“Didn’t leave you…Find us…Didn’t leave you,” he shifted in his sleep. “Find you…I’ll find you.”

 

A hand reached out to gently shake him awake. John bolted upright with a cry of surprise to look into the concerned face of Hank Stanley and his wife. “John…It’s just a dream son. It’s okay,” the older man assured him as he reached out put his arm around John.

 

The younger man jerked away. “No,” he whispered forlornly.

 

“Oh John,” Hank said softly. So it had already begun. John was already pulling away from them…Pulling into himself…Distancing himself from anyone who could get close enough to hurt him again. Hank let his hand drop. “We were worried about you.”  Johnny nodded. “Are you alright?” There was another quick nod. “Talk to me John, please.”

 

“A…b…bout w…what?” He stuttered. “Th….that my b…best friend is d…dead. My f…fam…ly?”

 

Cap and Emily glanced at each other at the stuttering quality of John’s speech. “We want to help you.”

 

“Y…You c…can’t h…help me,” he choked out.

 

Hank reached out to lift the younger man’s chin but John tried to pull away from his hand. He persisted until John looked at him. “Don’t shut us out John…We care about you.”

 

“P…please don’t…d…don’t care…Lose you t…too,” he gasped as he started to cough.

 

“Oh God John,” Hank murmured in understanding as he pulled John close to him. The boy stiffened in his arms but Hank didn’t let go.

 

“N…Need to find them C…Cap,” Johnny whispered.

 

“They’ll find them John and they’ll send them home.”

 

“No…I n…need to find them…R…Roy said s…so,” he stammered.

 

“What?” Hank questioned, letting John sit back.

 

“Hear his v…voice…F…find us…D…didn’t leave y…you. H…have to f…find them Cap.”

 

Hank looked at Johnny worriedly. Was the boy having a breakdown…That he was hearing Roy’s voice? “I don’t think that’s a good idea John…Do you even know where to look? They haven’t even been able to get in there themselves yet.”

 

John shook Hank’s hand off. “H…have to find them,” he repeated stubbornly. “R…Roy told m…me.”

 

Hank and Emily shot a quick glance at each other. Was John alright? Was he losing it? Should they call Brackett and have him checked out? “John…Are you sure you want to do this…Do you really want to find them…Dead…Burned…or worse besides the fact you’re sick…I don’t think…”

 

“P…Please C…Cap. They're my f…family…my j...job,” he insisted.”And I’m not that s...sick,” he pleaded, stifling a cough.

 

“Alright John…I’ll make a few calls and see what I can do to get you up there to help if you promise me you’ll come back to the house with me now and eat something and then get some sleep where I can keep an eye on you.”

 

John chewed his lip…He didn’t want to leave Roy and Jo’s house. He was close to them here…But if it would get him to Oregon to help them find his family then he’d do it…He owed them that. “Okay.”

 

“C’mon,” Hank said helping him up.

 

John set the picture back on the nightstand, giving it one final glance before following Hank out.

 

 

We need something to use as an accelerant to get this fire started quickly,” Roy told them. A quick search of their temporary new home turned up very little in that area. Roy looked at the plane… “What is it Roy?” Keith asked.

 

“There’s several thousand gallons of jet fuel on that plane,” he said with a wry grin. “We just gotta figure out how to get to it.”

 

Roy, Nate, Keith and one of the other passengers found a bucket to hold the liquid…A quick examination of what was left of the engine produced a long section of hose they could use as a siphon.  Roy and the others stood beneath the massive craft and looked at the huge turbine engines. “Now all we have to do is get to those turbines…We should be able to get some out of there.”

 

Using pieces of their wrecked aircraft, the small group of men and women created a pile of debris, albeit on the shaky side but high enough for Roy and Nate to make it up there. “God I wish Johnny was here,” Roy muttered.

 

“Why?”

 

“Not that I wanted him to be hurt in a crash,” Roy assured the group. “But the kid knows engines about as well as he knows how to live off the land.”

 

“Sounds like a cool guy.”

 

“He is…He’s practically my kid brother,” Roy said proudly. “God I miss ya junior,” he finished softly. The others smiled at the wistful words. They got to work and soon the smell of jet fuel permeated the air but they got the bucket full before Roy clamped off the end with another confiscated piece of engine. “In case we need more,” he explained.

 

They climbed down and got to work searching for an appropriate place to start their fire.  They knew there would be people searching for the downed plane as soon as that storm front lifted…They needed to be ready.

 

 

 

John pushed the food around on his plate. His other hand rubbed at his forehead as his headache throbbed relentlessly. He wasn’t hungry…In fact he was feeling pretty lousy but he wouldn’t admit it to Hank or he’d never help him get on the search team. He had to go. He owed it to Roy to find him and his family…He wouldn’t be able to let him go any other way.

 

He heard his best friend’s voice in his dreams… ‘Find us…I didn’t leave you.’ John wanted to weep. He knew they hadn’t left him on purpose but it didn’t take away the hurt or the anger that he was alone once more…The ones he’d let in had been taken away like everyone else.

 

He felt a presence and looked up into the gentle eyes of Emily Stanley. She smiled at him and reached out to lay a gentle hand on his forehead. John ducked his head away. The older woman smiled and sat next to him. “Turn around here sweetie. Let me check.”

 

“I’m f…fine,” he assured the woman as a cough slipped free.

 

“You’re running a fever. I can tell by the flush on your cheeks and the glaze of your eyes.” John shrugged. “Now…You can let me check and we can get some aspirin into you and try and get that fever down or I can call Hank and he can check instead…Your choice.” John bit his lip before he finally turned to face the woman guiltily. She smiled slightly in triumph and felt his forehead. A frown crossed her features.  “Okay sweetie…Back into bed. I’ll bring you some aspirin and soup which you are going to eat and then you are going to sleep until Hank finds out how to get you to Oregon.”

 

John’s mouth had dropped open at her first words and snapped shut abruptly as she finished. The tone pretty much warned the young man not to argue. “Yes ma’am,” he mumbled sheepishly as he slowly stood up and headed for the guest room he’d slept in last night.

He flushed in embarrassment as he realized that Emily had followed him. “Into bed.” John nodded and kicked his sneakers off before sliding under the covers. “I’ll bring your aspirin and soup…You stay put.”

 

“K…kay,” he replied quietly.

 

Emily returned a short time later with the promised soup, water and two pills. She stood and waited while he took them and ate the soup. “Good boy,” she said softly as he slid down under the blankets.

 

Her fingers gently brushed the sable hair from his forehead but John stiffened. “D…don’t,” he whispered softly as tears flooded his eyes at the gesture.

 

“Oh sweetie…I’m sorry,” she said as she bent down and kissed his forehead.

 

John sniffed back the tears and nodded. Emily pulled the shades and left the room. She let her own tears flow as Hank came down the stairs. “Em…What’s wrong?”

 

“Oh Hank…He’s so upset and hurt and there’s nothing I can do to help him.”

 

Hank put his arms around her and pulled her close. “I know,” he said softly against her hair. “Is he asleep?”

 

“He’s trying to…What did you find out?”

 

“They’re saying they don’t expect that front to lift until tomorrow at least…I can get Johnny up there before the teams go out but I don’t like the idea.”

 

She nodded. “I don’t either…He’s still feverish but I don’t think you can talk him out of this either.”

 

“I know,” Hank said with a sigh. “I guess he feels he owes this to Roy and Jo and the kids.”

 

“Are you going to tell him?”

 

“When he wakes up is soon enough…He needs the rest.”

 

 

John tossed and turned beneath the sheets…He saw Roy and Jo and the kids every time he closed his eyes. “I’m coming Roy,” he whispered. “I’ll bring you all home.”

 

Hank pushed the door open a while later. John lay quietly in bed but Hank knew from experience that he wasn’t asleep though he was trying hard to pretend he was. He sat on the edge of the bed and reached out to rest his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

 

John stiffened at his touch. “We’ll all miss him John and I know I can’t replace Roy in your life. I wouldn’t want to even try but I want you to know that I’ll be here for you…we’ll all be here for you every step of the way. You’re so important to this family pal. I just want you to remember that you still have a family.”

 

John drew a hitched breath but he said nothing. Hank gave him a gentle pat on the back. “There’s a flight into Redmond, Oregon in the morning. It’s about twenty miles from Sisters where they’re setting up the search teams. Against my better judgment, I got you on one of those teams…The departments given you leave until you find them.”

 

“Th…thanks Cap,” John whispered.

 

“Don’t thank me. You’re sick and I think this is going to do you more harm than good but I also know you won’t be at peace until you’ve found them and put them to rest.”

 

“Yes s…sir,” he mumbled.

 

“Come home safe son,” Hank said softly as he ruffled the dark hair and left the room. Hot tears scalded John’s cheeks as the door closed behind him.

 

 

“I’m cold dad,” Chris said snuggling against his father’s side. “And my head hurts.” Roy tucked his arm around his son and pulled him close to him, throwing part of his own blanket around the boy.

 

“I know Chris…So am I,” he said quietly, not wanting to disturb any of the other passengers who, like them were trying to stay warm and get some sleep.

 

“I hungry daddy,” Jen murmured, cuddling against his other side where she was sandwiched between her father and her mother.

 

“I know baby…We’re all hungry,” he said even as his own stomach growled. He’d given the two kids what little bit they could scavenge. “They just didn’t have much food on board when they took off yesterday.”

 

“What are we going to do Roy?” Joanne asked softly, trying not to sound scared.

 

“I don’t know. Some of these people are really badly hurt. There’s no way to carry them off this mountain and it’s a sure bet the kids wouldn’t make it.

“Maybe we could send a small group.”

 

“We may not have an option but we don’t even know where we are…We have no rope…No climbing gear or food to let them take with them. How far would they get? Man I wish John was here,” he murmured.

 

“Why dad…?” Chris asked curiously.

 

“Because your uncle is a master at living off the land. He’d know what was safe to eat…Where to set up a shelter and how to do it. Start a fire…Get us off this damn mountain. Man I wish I’d paid better attention to what he was doing instead of just leaving him to do it ya know?”

 

“Honey…You couldn’t possibly know that we’d end up stranded in the mountains,” Jo said reasonably.

 

“I miss uncle Johnny,” Jen said with a sniffle.

 

“So do I baby…So do I,” Roy said quietly. He glanced at Joanne and she smiled sadly, knowing what Johnny was probably going through and wishing they could somehow ease the hurt he was feeling. Their families all had each other to lean on…All Johnny had was them.”

 

“He’ll be all right…The guy’s will look out for him,” Jo assured him softly.

 

“I know but I can’t imagine what he’s feeling right now.” Roy let his blue eyes drift closed. “Hang on junior…Just hang on.”

 

 

“Just hang on,” John whispered in his sleep as he tossed beneath the covers. The dark eyes suddenly snapped open and he sat up abruptly. It was no use…He couldn’t sleep. Thoughts and dreams of the DeSoto family haunted him every minute and he knew he’d never be able relax until he’d properly laid them to rest.

 

He swung his feet off the bed and rubbed his aching head. Man he felt like crap but there was no way he wasn’t going to be on that flight to Oregon this morning. He’d been wearing the same clothes for two days now and he needed to go home and pack a knapsack and change.

 

He left a note for Cap that he’d be back soon and slipped out the door, locking it behind him. He returned to his apartment and headed for the shower. He stood in the hot water and let the steam help to clear the congestion.

 

He shivered under the warm spray as he thought of his family lying dead in the wreckage of some cold airplane on a snow swept mountain in the middle of nowhere. He just had to find them. Tears flooded his eyes and mixed with the hot water cascading down his face.

 

After a long while he pulled himself together and shut the water off. His grief would have to wait…Right now it was all about Roy, Jo, Chris and Jen.  He stood shivering as he dried himself off. He really shouldn’t be going out there and exposing his already feverish and congested body to the elements but he didn’t care. He had to find them.

 

He got dressed and quickly packed a knapsack. First aid kit…Blanket, his knife, a flashlight. A long coil of rope…His heavy sweater and the antihistamines Brackett had given him. He grabbed his canteen and attached it to the hook on the backpack.

 

John snatched his heavy jacket from the hangar and headed back for the Stanley’s house. He was tired but he figured he could catch a short nap on the plane.

 

Hank and Emily were already up when he returned. “We were worried about you,” Emily said as she opened the door and let him in.

 

“I n…needed to ch…change and p…pack,” he stuttered, coughing lightly.

 

Hank and his wife exchanged a glance. The stutter was still there and Hank wondered if it would ever go away again. “I’ll drive you to the airport John, right after breakfast but you are going to eat.”

 

“I’ll t…try C…ap.” He agreed…He’d do anything if it would get him on that plane.

 

The guys told me to wish you luck. They’ wanted to go with you but HQ couldn’t pull us all off shift at once,” Hank explained quietly.

 

“Th…that’s okay C…ap…I th…think I n…need ta do th…this a…lone,” he stammered, coughing once again.

 

“I don’t like the sound of that cough John,” Hank said worriedly.

 

“I’ll b…be fine.”

 

Hank sighed in resignation, John wasn’t going to relent. “Come on then pal…Let’s get you something to eat and I’ll drive you to the airfield.”

 

An hour and half later John was in the air to Oregon.

 

 

John landed in Redmond an hour later. A ranger, who introduced himself as Alex Grossman was waiting to take him the twenty miles to Sisters, Oregon where the search teams were finally getting ready to head out.

 

They’d been held up for two days by the weather but they expected it to finally begin to lift later this morning. Three search planes and two helicopters would be circling the Three Sisters Mountain range which is where they lost the plane off the radar.

 

John came inside with the ranger. “Just toss your stuff down there and I’ll introduce you to my boss.” John nodded and followed…His dark eyes taking in the rangers, fire fighters and civilians assembling to help locate the missing plane and its passengers.

 

He led him to a tall man that reminded him a bit of Cap except that he was heavier of build and his hair was a bit thinner on top but he still held that air of authority. “Sir…This John Gage…You spoke to his Captain yesterday. Gage this is Art Tuchman.”

 

John held out his hand. “P…Para…medic John Gage.”

 

The man heard the stutter but didn’t mention it. It obviously wasn’t something that held him back in his career in Los Angeles. “Welcome Gage…I know you can’t act as a paramedic but your Captain speaks very highly of you and your abilities.” He scratched his head. “I’ll be honest with you...We’re not expecting any survivors so those skills aren’t gonna be missed much.”

 

“Yes s…ir,” John whispered, trying not to let the burning behind his eyes or the tremble of his mouth show at the man’s brutal honesty.

 

“He also said you have good instincts and great survival and tracking skills.”

 

John nodded. “Yes sir.”

 

“Can I ask where you learned em?”

 

“From my g…grandfather...” The man raised his eyebrow curiously. “He was a t…tribal elder of the n…northern Cheyenne out of M…Montana.” The man nodded in understanding, knowing from the Indian tribes in his own state and how good they were.

 

“Your captain said you were close to a couple of the passengers. I’m sorry to hear that but are you sure you want to go out there…I mean…It’s most likely not gonna be pretty.”

“He’s my p…partner…My best friend. His wife and k…kids. They’re all I h…had. They’re my family.”

 

“That’s very true,” a feminine voice said from behind them.

 

John and Tuchman spun around to find Eileen standing with her Fiancée Craig. “Ei…leen?” John said in shock.

 

“Oh Johnny…I’m so glad you’re here,” she said throwing her arms around the young fireman’s neck and holding him tightly.

 

John returned her embrace. “I…I’m so s…sorry,” he murmured against the auburn hair so much like Jo’s that it almost hurt.

 

She stepped back. “So am I sweetheart.” John almost flinched at the endearment Jo so often used for him.

 

John turned quickly to her fiancée to hide the hurt. “Craig…I’m g…glad you could c…come with her. She n…needs ya.”

 

Craig shook his hand and smiled. “Sorry to see you again under these circumstances.”

 

John nodded and turned back to Eileen and Art. “So where do I s…start?”

 

Eileen was looking at him suspiciously. She’d felt the heat of John’s body even through his shirt. She reached up to cup his cheek gently, confirming her suspicions. “Could you give us just a minute?” She asked leading Johnny away from the others. She turned to face him. “You’re sick,” she accused.

 

John looked taken aback just a bit. “W…what?”

 

“Don’t you ‘what’ me? You’re running a fever and you’re wheezing…I can hear it.”

 

“I’m f…fine.”

 

“You’re not fine,” she whispered fiercely. “Roy and Joanne would come back and haunt me if I let you go out there feeling as bad as you obviously do.”

 

“I have t…to f…find them…R…Roy…Roy...”

 

“Roy what?”

 

John looked away… “He’s telling me to f…find them.”

 

She bit her lip as tears welled in her eyes. “Oh sweetheart,” she said sadly with a look of understanding. The bond Jo always told her about was obvious…That even from beyond the grave he felt a connection to his best friend. There was a flicker of hope that maybe they were even still alive but it faded quickly.

 

The rangers had assured them that no one could have survived a crash into the sisters and even if they had. Two days in the harsh cold would have finished the job.

 

John threw her a pleading look to keep his health to herself and she nodded. He returned to Tuchman. He led him to a map spread out over the table.

 

 

“We’re concentrating our search in the three sisters area…”

 

“Three sisters?”


“It’s the mountain range right here…,” he said running his finger over the area. “It’s where we lost them off the radar. They’re called Faith, Hope and Charity but with that plane crashing in there…Well I’m afraid there’s little hope or faith that those ladies will be charitable.” John nodded solemnly. “We’re sending the planes and the helicopters in as soon as that front lifts which should be mid morning to early afternoon but we’re gonna start up there now and get in as far as possible with the vehicles.”

 

“What if w…we don’t f…find them today?”

 

“Then we’ll set up camp and head out again first thing in the morning.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“I’m sending you out with Monty and Leon,” he said waving two men over. “This is John Gage…He’s a paramedic outta LA…Came to help with the search.”

 

John shook their hands with a nod of greeting. “I’ll show you where you can put your gear,” the one called Monty said with a sigh of resignation that not only was he going to be searching for a plane but he’d have to be babysitting some greenhorn kid to boot.”

 

Tuchman turned to the group. “Okay gentlemen…Do we all know who we’re supposed to be teamed with?” Everyone nodded. “You all have radios and rations for at least a couple of days so let’s get going…And please be careful…We don’t want to be rescuing you.”

 

John looked at Eileen and Craig. “I’ll f…find them,” he promised. “I’ll b…bring them h…home.”

 

 

 

Roy gently untangled himself from his children, tucking the blanket around them a little tighter. All around them plane, people were huddled beneath blankets, jackets and anything else they could scavenge.

 

They’d tried to reach the luggage in the hold but the fuselage was too badly crushed to get much. Roy made his way to the sheared off front of the plane and looked out. A cold wind was still sweeping along the craggy peaks of the mountainside. The sky was a dark and ugly shade of gray.

 

Off to the southeast were the triple peaks of the mountains they’d barely missed when they’d crashed…Roy heaved a sigh of relief. There was little doubt in his mind that if they’d hit those deadly, jagged peaks, there would have been no hope of survival.

 

He sighed in disappointment. They were in for another long day. There was no way they’d be sending planes out in this weather. The food was pretty much gone but at least they had water but it was the weather that worried him now.

 

If the temperature kept dropping they might have to use their precious stash of firewood to try and stay warm. The kids were cold and the injured were miserable enough without catching pneumonia on top of everything else.

 

For the first time Roy was very grateful that his young partner wasn’t here…John would have gotten sick for sure with this cold weather but man he missed his expertise out here as well as his presence at his side...The young man was like an extension of him now and vice versa.

 

He knew he was probably grieving for Roy and his family now as well and it broke Roy’s heart to think about what Johnny was going through right now and hoped the guys were helping him through.

 

“I hope you’re okay junior…We’re okay and we’ll come home…Just hang on.”

 

 

“Roy…,” Johnny murmured suddenly from the back seat of the Jeep Leon was driving. He shivered slightly and stifled a cough.

 

“You say something Gage?” Monty asked over his shoulder.

 

John shook his head. “No…J…just had a ch…chill I guess.” Monty turned back to the front. “I’m coming guys…I’ll g…get you h…home,” John promised in a whisper.

 

Monty pointed toward the mountains. John sat forward to look but from the angle they were approaching from he couldn’t really see much but the southern mountain dubbed charity. John wasn’t holding out much for that from the look of the mountain peak they were approaching.

 

The three men pulled into the local park area where they would be staging from. They climbed out and retrieved their gear. Monty handed John some Pitons and a belayer along with a belt and carabiners just in case they needed to climb.

 

“You ever done any mountain climbing Gage?” Leon asked, sounding doubtful.

 

“A bit,” he replied as he tugged his belt in place and shouldered his pack. The two other men exchanged a dubious glance. “Let’s go,” he said as he set out.

 

“So do you know this area Gage?” Monty questioned curiously as they hurried to catch up.

 

Johnny shook his head. “N…No.”

 

“Then why are you here…You think you can find that plane better then we can?” He asked, looking a bit put out.

 

John stopped walking and turned to face them. The distress was evident on his face. “Four of th…the p…passengers on that p…plane are my…f…family. You’re out here just l…looking for a p…plane but they’re m…my whole w…world,” he said, the words were hitched and barely audible.

 

“Your family?” He questioned a bit softer.

 

“My partner…His w…wife Jo and their kids. Some p…people say we were b…bonded…Closer than b…brothers…I have t…to bring th…them home.”

 

“I’m so sorry John,” Monty said softly.

 

Johnny nodded and set out once again. “God…The kids whole family,” Leon muttered.

 

“Pretty tough to handle for someone that young.” They had no idea that he’d already lived it once before.

 


They’d been walking for several hours…Radio traffic had been constant and disappointing. No sign of the plane had been spotted. At least there had been one bright spot. The storm front had lifted and the search planes and the helicopters were in the air.

 

Johnny was tired but he refused to slow down. The other two were hard pressed to keep up. A deep racking cough erupted from John’s lips and the two older men exchanged a glance. “The kid sounds pretty bad,” Monty said softly.

 

Leon nodded. “This family must be pretty special for him to put himself through this just to bring back the bodies.”

 

“He said they were his whole world.”

 

“I guess he meant it.” Leon finished.

 

 

Roy and Nate were scrounging for more wood in the event that the temperature dropped any lower but the mountain was mostly shale rock and pretty sparse where they were. Lonnie and Sandra had helped him to siphon off some more of the fuel and the smell of it lingered in the air.

 

Nate suddenly pointed… “Look Roy…” he said excitedly.

 

The blonde paramedic squinted. He could make out what appeared to be the glint of an airplane over the distant mountain.

 

“They’re finally searching,” he said quietly.

 

“Yeah but over there,” Nate said in horror.

 

Roy remembered the sight of those mountains coming at them only to have that updraft lift them clear of the peaks before falling away once again to crash here. That must be where they lost them off the radar and where they’d concentrate their search…At least for now but would it be too late by the time they realized their mistake and turned it outward toward them? Or worse would they simply give them up as lost?

 

“Can’t we light the fire Roy?”

 

The older man glanced at the meager pile of wood they’d managed to find. “They’ll never see it from there. The wind will dissipate it before it gets high enough. We need to wait until they start looking beyond those mountains.”

“What if they don’t? What if they wait days before they give up?”

 

“Then we’ll try it or we’ll think of something else. Something else will fly over…Even another passenger jet…We’ve just got to stay alert and be ready for it when it does.”

 

Nate kicked at the ground and he watched the small speck circle and move on.

 

 

The day had been exhausting for Johnny but he’d never complained or slowed his step. The other two men had practically had to drag him back to base.

 

Tuchman had patted his shoulder gently at their return. “We’ll try again in the morning Gage…Why don’t you get something to eat and get some rest. We’re gonna circle around to the other side in the morning.”

 

John nodded, barely containing the racking cough that he’d been trying to hold back all day. He shivered as the temperature began to drop as the sun disappeared and night settled in.

 

He managed to down a little of the stew that had been provided and drank some of the cool water before he wrapped himself in his sleeping bag. He hadn’t really been hungry but he knew he needed to keep his strength up if he was gonna be able to keep searching. His eyes drifted closed.

 

Monty moved over to Tuchman as the older man watched the young paramedic. “He’s really sick boss,” Monty warned him.

 

Tuchman nodded. “I could see that this morning.”

 

“Why’d you let him go out?”

 

“I figured he’d go on his own if I refused to take him. At least this way he’s got you two to watch out for him if he runs into trouble. How’d he do anyway?”

 

Monty scrubbed his toe on the ground. “We could hardly keep up with him, even sick.”

 

Tuchman chuckled but it didn’t last long. “His Captain said he and his partner and his family were real close.”

 

Monty nodded sadly. “He said they were his whole world.”

 

“That’s what’s keeping him going.”

 

 

Johnny was once again soaring in a gray sky…Blue eyes looked at him through the clouds and the mountains were looming before him…Triple peaks that suddenly dropped away as he rose above them in a sudden updraft before they passed beneath him. He suddenly plummeted and a dark shape loomed before him…Another mountain but a different type. Not the jagged, craggy peak of the other three but gentler, smoother slopes. “Hang on junior,” a well known voice seemed to whisper.  He slammed into the ground and blackness closed around him.

 

John sat up, coughing harshly but barely managing to keep the cry of terror from slipping out and waking the whole crew. His body shook with chills.

 

He rubbed at his aching chest briefly and pinched the bridge of his nose to try and dispel the nagging headache. What did the dream mean and why did he keep hearing Roy’s voice? John laid back down but sleep wouldn’t come.

 

John was still awake as dawn was breaking in the eastern sky. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and waited for the others to wake.

 

 

 

Leon, Monty and John drove through the early morning mist. They’d checked the south sister yesterday and now the search was moving to the middle sister. The weather was once again turning gray and they were all praying it would hold off long enough to get the search planes in the air…At least for a short time in the hopes that they’d get lucky.

 

John was coughing more and able to stifle the dry sounding rasp less and less. Monty and Leon exchanged a concerned glance. They rounded the southern sister and a gasp from the back seat caused them to turn and look behind them worriedly.

 

“What is it?”

 

John’s dark eyes were looking at the panoramic view of the three mountain peaks in shock. “Oh my God…S…s…stop the car…”

 

“What?”

 

“S…stop the car.”

 

Leon pulled over and the two men looked at each other curiously as John scrambled from the back and stood staring at the huge monoliths spreading out before him. “What is it John?”

 

“I’ve s…seen this b…before,” he whispered, sounding a bit hoarse.

 

“What? What do you mean?”

 

“The th…three sisters…The p…peaks…I’ve s…seen them b…before…In a d…dream.”

 

They looked at the kid and then tossed a glance at each other. Was the young man delirious? “In a dream?” Leon questioned hesitantly.

 

John was trying to remember. His brown eyes clenched tightly for a long moment. “Talk to me Roy,” he mumbled softly. His eyes flew open and he spun around…The dark orbs searching for something.

 

“What is it Gage?” Monty asked.

 

“W…What is th…that?” he asked as he pointed toward a mountain off in the distance.

 

“That’s Belknap Crater…It’s a shield volcano for the sisters.”

 

“B…Belknap Crater,” John whispered. “They’re n…not here…They missed the sisters,” he murmured remembering the dream.

 

“What? What are you saying?” Monty asked.

 

“W…we have to g…go there,” Johnny said pointing to Belknap.

 

“No way man…They dropped off the radar here.”

 

John shook his head stubbornly. “I s…saw it.”

 

“What?”

 

“In a vision…A D…Dream.”

 

Monty and Leon looked at each other worriedly. “John…I think you’re ill…,” he began gently.

 

“NO…Please…P…Please.”

 

Monty shook his head and pulled his radio from his pocket. “Tuchman…This is Monty.”

 

“Go ahead Monty,” the man answered.

 

“Uh…Our visitor from LA seems to think that the plane may have gone down on Belknap and not the sisters.”

 

“And why does he think so?”

 

“He uh…Says he dreamed it,” he whispered into the receiver, trying not to let John hear him.

 

There was a long pause as Tuchman rolled that around. Captain Stanley had told him that the young man had good instincts. Did he trust the man or write it off as a sick kid with fever induced hallucinations. He chewed his lip for a moment longer.

 

“Well…You know he IS Native American…I’m told they believe very strongly in dreams and visions,” he said with a chuckle.

 

“Yeah Art…When they’re smoking their loco weed,” he muttered in disbelief.

 

Art laughed again.“You just have no faith…Take him over there. Let me know if you find anything?”

 

Monty and Leon exchanged a surprised look and finally put the radio to his lips. “AH sir…What about the search?”

 

“We’ve got over a hundred men on these mountains…We won’t miss three and you never know…I’ve seen stranger things than what you’re talking about.”

 

“Got it sir…We’re on our way to Belknap.”

 


Roy was sitting on the loose shale around the plane… His back against the battered fuselage as he watched the planes circling the mountains in the distance. They were mere specks in the sky and while he was afraid it would be futile, he considered Nate’s request to light the fire.

 

He could always go further afield for more wood or even start gutting the aircraft for anything that was flammable. Roy remembered that they crashed through a few trees so they couldn’t be that far away.

 

A shadow fell across him and he glanced up to see Joanne standing there. “Mind if I join you?” She asked softly.

 

Roy patted the ground next to him and she slid down to rest her good side against him. “Where are the kids?”


“Sandra’s watching them…They’re both so hungry,” she replied softly.

 

“I know…We all are.”

 

Jo felt awful at the forlorn look to Roy’s face. She knew how bad he felt being unable to help his children and the other passengers. She ran her hand over Roy’s unshaven face. “You could use a shave soldier,” she teased kissing his cheek.

 

Roy grinned back. “If I could find my razor, I’d be happy to oblige…This itches,” he replied pulling her against him.

 

They watched the planes together. “Nate told us they were searching,” she said.

 

“Yeah…The wrong mountain,” he said wryly.

 

“What do we do if they don’t come this way?”

 

‘Talk to me,’ flitted through his brain. Roy froze at the sound. He’d have sworn he’d heard John’s voice but that was ridiculous. “Talk to me” he muttered. Jo looked at him curiously as he stood up…“We’re going to make sure they do.”

 

“How…?”

 

“We’re gonna call em.”

 

“What?” She questioned looking confused.

 

“Smoke signals…,” he chuckled, thinking of his young partner.

 

“You said it wasn’t enough to build a fire they could see from there.”

 

“We’re gonna strip this plane of everything that will burn that isn’t essential and hope it’s big enough for them to see,” he said standing up and dusting himself off. ‘Talk to me.’

 

“I’ll help.”

 

They headed inside to find the others.

 

 

Johnny was flagging. They’d been hiking for over three hours …having to stop and make a difficult climb a couple of times and he was tired and his strength was finally beginning to wane and they were scratched and bleeding in several places.

 

He kept moving but the cough was worse and the congestion in his chest was making it difficult to breath and his fever was definitely on the upswing. He already knew his simple little cold was turning into something far more serious but he wouldn’t turn back. This was the last thing he could do for his family and he’d damn well finish it.

 

Monty and Leon had stopped even trying to talk him into resting and trudged along behind him. John finally stopped…He stood for a long time listening. “What…?” Monty asked finally.

 

John coughed but held up a hand…His eyes dropped to the ground and then moved on to a different spot. His eyes lifted to scan the sparse scattering of trees. He squatted and pointed to a soft impression on the rock. “Shoe p…print,” he stuttered raspingly.

 

“Lots of hikers come up here.”

 

“Most of th…them probably d…don’t wear d…dress shoes.”

 

Leon lifted an amused eye to Monty. “Kid’s right about that.”

 

John pointed again and dusted his fingers over the rock and shifted position. “A d…different one on this r…rock. Sneaker im…pression and shale rock…different from this g…ground.”

 

Monty nodded… “Lots of that higher up,” he murmured thoughtfully.

 

“Something sp…spooked the anim…” John coughed harshly, wheezing a bit and rubbing his aching forehead. “Animal’s…They l…left in a hurry.” He pointed upward at the trees. “Some…Thing broke…the tops of th…those trees,” he rasped.

 

Monty looked to Leon who was looking suitably impressed at this point. “Which way do we go John?” Monty asked, trusting the younger man implicitly at this point.

 

John glanced around. The tracks were a confused looking pattern. “They w…were searching for s…some…thing,” he sputtered behind another cough. He moved around, following the tracks… “That w…way,” he pointed upward. For the first time there was hope in the dark eyes.

 

Monty caught his arm. “Hey Gage…There may be survivors but we don’t know who and how many.”

 

John licked his dry lips and the hope faded a bit. “I know,” he mumbled as he walked on.

 

“What did ya do that for?” Leon growled softly.

 

“Because if he thinks they’re alive and it’s not them or worse it is them but his friends didn’t make it…It’ll be a mighty big crash Leo,” he explained.

 

“Yeah,” he agreed looking depressed.

 

They continued on. They’d walked a couple of miles and Johnny was having a serious problem staying on his feet but his dark eyes never left the ground and tracks that were leading the way. Monty was about to call a halt and take a break when Johnny stopped again. He sniffed the air and grinned. “What?” Leon asked.

 

“Can’t ya smell it?”

 

“What?”

 

“Fuel…Jet fuel.” The other two sniffed smelling nothing and wondered how the kid did that with his nose so stuffy. John pointed suddenly. “There.” A thin column of smoke was rising through the trees.” John had a burst of adrenaline and he began to run.

 

“Should I call it in…?” Monty asked.

 

“Could be hunters or campers…Just ask if they can send a plane this way?”  Leon yelled back as he began to follow John.

 

 

Roy and the others had gathered every scrap of paper and flammable material they could find. They’d even ripped out a few of the seats that had been loosened in the crash. Roy was leery of using those as the smoke could contain cyanide gases from the filling but he’d use them if he had to.

 

He’d doused the small stack of debris with the fuel they’d siphoned from the plane before lighting it up. The others had returned to the meager warmth of the plane as he stirred their small bonfire. He watched in disappointment at the small column of white smoke that appeared.

 

He’d really needed something to generate heavier, darker smoke but this was the best they could come up with for now. He could only pray that it wouldn’t dissipate before the search planes could spot it.

 

 

Johnny kept his eyes on the smoke as he ran…He was stumbling now, barely able to keep his feet but he couldn’t stop. He had to know…He had to see.”

 

He rounded an outcropping of rock and stopped short, breathing heavily. Leon almost slammed into the back of him but the older man’s eyes almost bugged from his head. “Well I’ll be damned,” he muttered in disbelief.

 

Their missing plane was a short distance away. The aircraft had slid across the clearing and half disappeared beneath the outcropping of the crater itself. The nose cone and first class cabin was ripped clear and the tail section was missing completely. Leon glanced at Monty as he finally caught up with them. “Holy cow…The kid was right.”

 

“Are they coming?” Leon asked, still in awe that John had led them to the downed plane. He glanced at John but the young man stood rooted in place. They thought for a moment that it was fear that held his feet still but John wasn’t looking at the wreckage.

 

They followed the dark haired man’s gaze and saw the source of the fire. A man stood with a piece of metal pole stirring the pile of flaming debris. His back was turned to them but they could see that he was tall and the strawberry blonde hair glinted in the sunlight.

 

“Roy,” John choked out, barely above a whisper.

 

The two men with him looked at the young man as tears welled and slid down his cheeks. They knew the other man couldn’t possibly have heard him but oddly, he suddenly stopped and began to turn in their direction.

 

 

Roy was pushing the fire around with a piece of the planes frame. The long pole was perfect for keeping the flames from dying down. He was hoping for a bigger blaze…Something that would truly attract their attention against the sky but today the sky was a beautiful blue with huge puffy white clouds that would blend with the smoke rising upward.

 

He needed something that would give him heavy black smoke and a lot of it. His blue eyes fell on the seats. They should be alright as long as he kept it downwind from the plane but if the wind shifted…He blew out a breath.

 

Roy suddenly felt a presence close by. He shook his head knowing it was impossible but then…He stood up a bit straighter and turned around. Three men stood a distance away. Roy didn’t care much who they were at this point…They were help…A way off this damn mountain.

 

His eyes shifted to one man and he gasped in shock. He’d know that head full of sable hair and that tall, lean frame anywhere. “Johnny…?” He whispered in disbelief. How? It didn’t matter…

 

Roy took a step in their direction and that was enough to mobilize John to action. The younger man forgot that he was sick, tired…Weak. None of it mattered. John began to run. “RO…OY,” he yelled.

 

“Oh God Johnny,” Roy said joyfully as they met halfway. Roy threw his arms around his young friend and hugged him exuberantly, pounding his back excitedly. “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

“Looking for you,” he whispered, barely audible as tears coursed down his cheeks.

 

Roy set him away from him and smiled at the obvious emotion on his best friends face. He reached out with his sleeve and wiped the tears from John’s face before he embraced him once again. “It’s gonna be okay junior,” he whispered close to his ear. “I’m okay and I’m here.”

 

John nodded, trying to regain control but his breaths were hitched. “Jo…The kids,” he rasped breathlessly.

 

“They’re okay junior,” Roy assured him.

 

John visibly wilted in relief. “We thought you were dead,” he said with a sniffle. “I…I thought you’d left me too.”

 

Blue eyes locked with brown. “You know I’d never do that…I made a promise remember,” Roy assured him with a smile.

 

“JOHNNY…?” A feminine voice shrieked happily from the aircraft.

 

The dark eyes turned toward her. “Jo,” he called as the auburn haired woman ran across the loose rock and snow covered ground. John noted the splinted arm she cradled awkwardly and wrapped her carefully in his warm embrace. “Oh God Jo…I was so scared. I thought I’d lost you all.”

 

“Oh baby…We were worried about you too.”

 

“ME?”

 

“Of course sweetheart…We knew you’d take it hard if you thought we were gone. We were afraid that you’d go away.”

 

He nodded. “I did.”

 

“Who uh…?” Roy questioned worriedly.

 

“Cap…”

 

Roy grinned and finally turned to the other two men. “I’m Roy DeSoto…John’s partner,” he said extending his hand to one of them.

 

“So I gathered,” he said drily as his friend was yelling into his walkie talkie a short distance away. “I’m Leon Berger.”

 

“ART…DAMN IT…HE FOUND THEM…THE KID FOUND EM… GET THE TEAMS OVER TO BELKNAP,” Monty shouted in a mixture of excitement and disbelief.

 

“WHAT?” Came the squawk of disbelief.

 

“Where’s your faith Art?” He shot back smugly.

 

“We’re on our way.”

 

“This young friend of yours is nothing if not determined,” Leon said in amazement.

 

“That’s an understatement,” Roy laughed as he turned to the other man and held his hand out as he joined them.

 

“Bill Ashmont…,' he said shaking it. "You can call me Monty. How many survived this?” He asked with a nod toward the plane.

 

“Sixty seven…Thirty four dead.”

 

The three rescuers shook their heads sadly. “UNCLE JOHNNY…,” an excited yell erupted.

 

They turned to see a blonde boy moving quickly across the snow…A small girl toddled behind.

John didn’t waste a second. He raced to meet them but the adrenaline rush was over and weakness set back in. Half way there he sat down hard and simply let the two children catapult into his arms.

 

He wrapped his arms around them both, rocking them as tears rolled down all three faces although Jen wasn’t sure exactly why she was crying but the other two were so it seemed natural. Joanne moved to join them and stood watching with a smile.

 

“I was so afraid I’d lost you two,” he whispered as Chris began to tell all about it.

 

Monty turned to Roy. “You’re friend’s a pretty sick young man,” he informed the blonde man.

 

“What?” Roy snapped back as his eyes shot to Johnny.

 

“He’s sick Mr. DeSoto…Why don’t you look after him while we go check on the other passengers.”

 

“Yeah…Um…Mrs. Jenkins has three broken ribs. You’ll need to handle Mr. Pelligrini carefully… he has a broken pelvis and Mr. Hopkins as a compound  fracture of his right radius. My son has a concussion which you couldn’t tell by looking at him just now,” he said wryly and Miss Solomon has a skull fracture. The rest are mostly simple bone fractures, bruises and contusions.

 

Monty grinned. “Thanks for saving us a lot of time. We can’t get anything but the choppers up here so we’ll have to airlift them down to the base of the mountain to ambulances and take them to St Charles Medical in Bend.”

 

“It’s gonna be a long night,” Leon said. “But we’ll get you all off this mountain and into a warm bed.”

 

“Food would be really good,” Roy added with a smile as they walked toward his partner.

 

“I think we can arrange that too,” Monty added.

 

Johnny glanced up as they approached. The joy on his face was overshadowed by the obvious signs of illness as the initial rush of excitement faded. He smiled at his partner wanly. Roy reached down and untangled his children from around Johnny’s neck.

 

“C’mon junior…Let’s get you inside and take a look at you.” Jo’s eyes flared worriedly at the words.

 

“W…What?” Johnny stuttered. “I’m fine Roy.”

 

Roy cocked a dubious eyebrow at his young friend. “You were sick before I left and you look worse now.”

 

“But…But…I’m not the one who was in a plane crash Roy.”

 

“No…You were the one bordering on pneumonia…Now quit arguing and move it,” he said gripping John’s arm and helping him to his feet. Jo scooped up Jen in her good arm and they followed behind.

 

Monty and Leon climbed aboard the aircraft and John and the DeSoto’s heard the cheering as they announced that help was on the way.

 

 

Roy sat John on one of the aircraft’s seats and laid his hand on the younger man’s forehead. He shook his head at the guilty look John threw him. “I thought you were all dead,” he rasped. “I had to find you…bring you home…It was the last thing I could do for you.”

 

Roy smoothed the damp hair back from John’s forehead. “Thanks junior,” he said softly. “But now it’s your turn.” Roy scooped up a blanket and wrapped John snuggly in it. “I want you to lay back and rest for a bit okay. Jo’s gonna stay with you. Your friends and I can handle it from here,” he urged sweeping the hair back.

 

“I doan need ta sleep,” the younger man argued even as his eyes closed despite his best efforts and Roy chuckled at the valiant fight he was waging to stay awake as those fingers worked their magic..

 

Monty gave Leon’s arm a smack. “You noticed the kid hasn’t stuttered once since we found them,” he whispered.

 

“His whole world,” Leon muttered with a poignant grin as he watched the gentle gesture.

 

 

 Cap and the rest of the crew had been keeping tabs on the search on the TV. The news hadn’t been good…No sign of the plane or survivors had been found yet and they were afraid that the aircraft may have disintegrated on impact.

 

They might never find it or the bodies if that was the case. Their thoughts and their biggest concerns now were for Johnny. The kid was devastated…It was hard enough to always be aware that he could lose Roy at anytime during a rescue but to lose Jo and the kids at the same time was too much to bear.

 

They’d all agreed to be sure to spend extra time with him when he returned. All them vowing not to allow him to retreat into the silent, withdrawn young man he’d been when they first met him.

 

They could never replace Roy and his family in John’s heart but they could at least add a new portion to it.

 

Marco was washing the counter after an early dinner when the TV announcer came on. “Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen…We have a breaking news report on that passenger jet that went missing over the three sister’s mountain range three days ago.”

 

“GUYS…,” Marco yelled. “GET IN HERE QUICK.”

 

The others ran in. What is it?” Cap asked.

“Update on the plane,” he said as he turned the sound up. The others gathered to watch as the scene shifted to a bustling group of vehicles and ambulances and two rescue helicopters were landing while one was taking off.

 

 The crew exchanged glances at that image. Ambulances could mean survivors or just that there were so many bodies they couldn’t transport them all in anything else…Either way it meant the plane had been found.

 

“We’re being told that a small group of searchers broke off from the main group a few hours ago and began to search nearby Belknap Crater. It’s uncertain at this point why they left the area of the Three Sisters as we’re told that was where the aircraft was last seen on radar. The likelihood of them missing the tall mountain peaks is slim,” he said knowingly.

 

There were several excited shouts as he radios were lifted toward the faces of the rescue crews. Smiling nods were exchanged.  ““The rest of the search teams left the sisters a couple of hours ago and have been making their way here. We hope to get a chance to talk to the lead Ranger in charge of this search very soon and find out what’s happening but it does appear that they have heard something just now,” he said unnecessarily from the excited outbursts.

 

Art Tuchman was waving his hand toward the helicopters and the ambulances began to move closer as the rotors powered down. Stretchers were being unloaded. Marco reached out and grasped Chet’s arm at the sight, while Cap and Mike exchanged a teary eyed look of hope.  Their two replacement paramedics watched with a grin.

 

“Survivors…,” Jerry Roper whispered to his partner Kevin Reese. “They have survivors…Maybe DeSoto…?” He hesitated to speculate any further as the crew threw a glance in their direction.

 

The news crew finally managed to get Tuchman’s attention and he made his way toward them. “Can you tell us what’s happening?” One shouted, pointing toward the ambulances.

 

Tuchman held up his hand to quiet the group. “We have found the missing plane and there are survivors,” a cheer broke out from the reporters. The crew smiled at each other but it was short lived as Tuchman continued. “We do unfortunately have thirty four casualties.”

 

It grew quiet at that revelation. There would be a lot of grieving families still to deal with. The crew glanced at each other solemnly. Were Roy and his family among the dead or the living?

 

“Can you tell us why you abandoned the search around the Sisters?” One reporter asked.

 

Tuchman grinned. “A young Los Angeles County Paramedic named John Gage came up to help us search…He told us they were on Belknap.”

 

The crew looked at each other in shock. “How would he know that?” Mike asked in awe. The other’s shook their heads in confusion.

 

“How did he know that?” Another yelled Mike’s question.

 

Tuchman’s grin broadened. “Say’s he dreamed it.”

 

Silence fell for a few minutes as the group exchanged disbelieving looks. Tuchman smiled smugly that he’d silenced the entire group of reporters.

 

“Um…Dreamed it?” One asked hesitantly. “And you believed him?”

 

“He was right wasn’t he?” He replied.

 

Chet and Marco were grinning from ear to ear as Cap thumped Mike off the back. “That’s our boy,” he said proudly.

“Way to go Gage,” Chet finally giggled.

 

Tuchman continued. “Gage’s partner and his family were on that plane. The young man was determined to find them and bring them home. I guess he said his partner told him where to look,” he shrugged. “He was right, so who am I to argue.”

 

“So are his partner and his family alive?”

 

The crew sucked in their breath as they waited for the answer. Tuchman smiled once again. “All four of them,” he said softly.

 

The crew didn’t hear much else as they were too busy cheering and pounding each other on the back…They even included Jerry and Kevin in the celebration. Cap wiped tears from his eyes and grinned at the crew. “Our family’s still together.”

 

 

At Rampart the reaction was much the same way. One of the nurses had waved Brackett and Dixie into the doctor’s lounge. “There’s an update on that missing plane,” she said somberly.

 

Brackett turned up the sound. Joe Early and Mike Morton hustled in to join them a moment later and they listened to the news report together in disbelief.

 

Their cheers and looks of wonder were a carbon copy of the station crew’s at 51’s as they listened. Dixie began to weep with the news that Roy and his family were still alive and that meant Johnny would be alright as well. Her boys were both okay. She hugged Kel

 

“I didn’t know he’d gone up there,” Kel murmured in concern. John had been sick…Was the young man okay?

 

Dixie shrugged but didn’t answer as the interview continued. “So when can we talk to this amazing psychic paramedic?” One asked snidely, still not believing Tuchman.

 

Back at the station Chet threw the newspaper in his hand at the TV. “Jerk,” he muttered in disgust.

 

At Rampart Dixie had a similar reaction. “Dumb ass,” she muttered, drawing a chuckle from Kel.

 

“They just don’t understand the bond between Gage and DeSoto the way we do Dix,” he teased the blonde nurse. She nodded in agreement. She had to admit you had to see it to believe it.

 

“You’ll have to wait for that I’m afraid,” Tuchman continued pulling everyone’s attention back to the television. “John was pretty ill before he went out searching and I’m told he’s gotten worse. We’ll be bringing him and his ‘family’ down soon but John will be on his way to St Charles Medical…He’s not in any condition to talk.”

 

The others looked worriedly to Hank. “I’ll head up there in the morning,” he said quietly. He’d become quite close to the younger paramedic over the last two days. He wanted to be sure both of his paramedics were alright.

 

Kel and Dixie exchanged a glance as well before turning to the other two doctor’s in the room. “Can you spare me for a day?” Kel questioned.

 

“You have to ask?” Joe replied with a smile.

 

“Can I come?” Dixie asked.

 

“You have to ask?” Kel teased as he hugged her to him.

 

 

Eileen and Craig watched the news from their hotel room. The announcers were also reporting the findings on the local channels. She shrieked in joy as the report came in that John had found them and they were alive.

 

“Let’s go…,”she said grabbing her purse.

 

“Where?”

 

“St Charles Medical…Where else.”

 

Harriet burst into tears at her home in Bakersfield while Arlene and Ron Hutchins sagged in relief that their daughter and their two grandchildren were safe. While Jo’s parents didn’t understand the bond that had led John to Roy and his family…Harriet had seen it herself several times. She didn’t doubt it for a minute.

 

 

John woke a couple of hours later. He was wearing an oxygen mask and his hand rose to touch the mask in confusion. Where had it come from?

 

He felt a hand take his and turned bleary dark eyes toward the distorted figure beside him. It wavered for a moment before he blinked the sweat and feverish fog away and recognized Joanne DeSoto. “Shhh baby…You leave that on okay?” She said as she swept the damp hair from his forehead.

 

“Wha’s happening?” He questioned tiredly. He heard the wop…wop…wop of the helicopters rotor blades and tried to sit up.

 

Jo pushed him back down. “You just lay back and rest…They’ll take you down as soon as the more critical injuries are evacuated.”

 

“How is he?” A deep voice asked.

 

“He’s awake,” Jo replied as she let Roy take her place. John felt his hand gripped in his partners much stronger hold.

 

“Hey junior,” he said gently. “You ready to get off this damn mountain?”

 

John’s hand tightened around Roy’s. “Are you coming?” He asked.

 

“I’ll be down soon. Jo and the kids are going with you though. But they can still use me here so I’m gonna stay and help.”

 

“No…,” John groaned...He coughed harshly. “Stay here with you,” he whispered raspingly as he tried to sit up.

 

“No you don’t,” Roy replied, pressing him back.

 

“Neither of you do,” Monty said from behind them. “You’re both going down and to the hospital.” Roy glanced at him ready to argue. “Look…Right now you’re not a paramedic… you’re a victim of a plane crash and the doctor’s are going to want to check you out. Your family needs you and you should stay together besides…The press are waiting like vultures to talk to our young friend here and he’s gonna need more than your wife and kids to protect him from them,” he added warningly.

 

John’s dark eyes flared fearfully and Roy knew how much John hated TV cameras and reporters besides the man was right…His family needed him right now, especially Johnny. “Okay junior…I’ll go with you.”

 

John relaxed back as Monty waved a medic in with a stretcher. “I can walk Roy,” John mumbled in embarrassment as Roy scooped him up and laid him on the gurney.

 

“Enjoy the free ride junior,” he teased, scruffing the dark hair.

 

John smiled tiredly at the gesture. God how he’d missed that and the idea that he’d never feel it again. For once there was no protest as the older man’s thumb swept over his forehead gently. John let his eyes close and just enjoyed it.

 

 

They hustled the ill paramedic past the news crews at the hospital entrance. “Later,” the older doctor snapped as they tried to waylay them. “Can’t you see their injured and he’s sick?”

 

They moved him from the gurney to the exam table. The man’s gray eyes shot to the foursome that had followed them in. He’d guessed already that this was the young fireman who’d led the searchers to the plane and he’d bet these were the family he’d been searching for. He chose to let them stay.

 

He turned to his nurse. “Get me Kelsey from Orthopedics’, he barked looking at Joanne. And I want X-ray down here for the boy and his mom…Roll in a couple of gurney’s and make them comfortable,” he finished as he turned to John. Roy and Jo smiled gratefully that they weren’t being asked to leave.

 

Things began to happen very quickly. John’s chest was X-Rayed along with Jo’s arm and Chris’s head. Very soon one young doctor stitched the wound over the little boy’s eye, while Kelsey set and cast Jo’s arm.

 

The doctor looked back at them from the light panel. “Mycoplasma pneumonia or Bronchial pneumonia,” he pronounced at Jo’s slightly confused look. “He should have been in a bed somewhere and traipsing around the mountains certainly didn’t help him any but I understand why he felt he had to,” he said glancing at the family gathered in the room.

 

“We’ll start him on antibiotics and Incentive spirometry  right away. It’ll help him loosen that mucus in his lungs and we’ll be giving him analgesics to bring that fever down…,” He smiled at the worried looking family. “A few days in the hospital and he’ll be as good as new,” he assured them as they gathered around the young man.

 

Johnny turned his head to look at the DeSoto family. “I didn’t need a hospital…I just needed you guys,” he said softly,

 

Jo kissed him gently on the lips. “Well now you can have both,” she said quietly. “So close those eyes and get some sleep,” she ordered. John grinned as Chris stood on tip toe to kiss his cheek followed by Jennifer. She placed a less than dry kiss on his other cheek.

 

“Are you staying?” He asked, trying to sound unconcerned and failing.

 

Roy leaned over him. “I’ll be here when you wake up okay?” He assured him. John gave him a tired grin, knowing Roy understood. He let his eyes drift closed.

 

The door opened and an auburn haired woman peeked in. “JO,” she gasped in relief as she rushed to her sisters side. She hugged her tightly before turning to the two kids and Roy to embrace them as well. Craig greeted them all a little less exuberantly.

 

“She’s been a basket case since we heard about the crash,” he assured them as his wife talked to the children.

 

She finally stood up and moved to the examination table to gaze down at the sleeping face of her brother in laws young partner. “Thank you sweetheart,” she murmured as she leaned down to gently kiss his cheek. “Thank you for keeping your word.” The others looked at her questioningly. “He promised to bring you home.”

 

 

Jo and the kids were asleep on the cots the hospital had provided. Their stomachs were pleasantly filled and sleep had quickly followed.

 

The hospital had been overrun with crash victims and some of the least injured had been taken to hotels instead…They’d offered it to Jo and the kids but they had chosen to stay with Johnny.

 

The reporters were having a field day and Roy was a bit embarrassed as he watched the news. Nate and Lonnie along with Sandra and a few others were touting him as a hero. “He took control of the whole situation man,” Nate said with a grin at being in the limelight.

 

“That’s right Lonnie agreed. “He figured out how to help the injured…How to start the fire and get the fuel outta the tanks.”

 

“And to be sure we had water,” Sandra added. “And get the signal fire ready.”

 

“He was great…We might not have survived as well as we did if not for Roy,” Lonnie assured them.

 

“And his partner…Man I can’t believe that guy found us,” Nate said in amazement.

 

Sandra grinned. “I can…You could see it in Roy’s face when he talked about him. They’re like brothers instead of friends.”

 

Roy looked over at his ‘brother’. John was sleeping quietly. IV’s dripped into his arm and an oxygen canula was placed under his nose but the fever was down some and the breathing treatments along with the expectorant were already helping bring up the garbage in his lungs.

 

John had wakened several times through the night…The dark eyes searching fearfully for his partner and the rest of the family as if afraid he’d only been dreaming. “Shhh…Shhh,” Roy had assured him each time. “I’m here…We’re all here. Go to sleep.”  The tired brown eyes had closed once more.

 

Roy had finally climbed into his own bed but his blue eyes remained on Johnny. How had the younger man found them? He’d said he’d dreamed about the mountains…The plane missing the three peaks and crashing farther afield. Was it possible? Were they truly that bonded? Roy grinned…How could he even ask that…? He already knew they were. He couldn’t explain it but it was true and he was grateful for it. He let his eyes drift closed.

 

It was a long while later when he felt a hand on his shoulder. His blue eyes opened to see the smiling face of his Captain along with Dr. Brackett and Dixie. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “What are you doing here?” He asked in surprise.

 

“We came to bring you all home,” Cap told him with a smile as he hugged the younger man to him I relief. Roy smiled at the fatherly gesture and returned the embrace.

 

“We wanted to be sure you were all safe to transport…Especially that one,” Kel teased hooking a thumb over at Johnny as he shook Roy’s hand.

 

Dixie rose on her toes to kiss the blonde man’s cheek before she moved to Johnny’s side.

 

“How is he? Hank asked.

 

“He’s got Bronchial pneumonia but the doctor here is pretty sure he’ll be okay.”


“He will be…Now that he’s found you guys,” Cap said watching as Dix brushed the damp hair away from the young face and leaned down to kiss John gently on the forehead. John’s eyes fluttered briefly before opening and he blinked up into Dixie’s gaze.

 

“Hey tiger,” she said softly, winning a sleepy grin from the sick paramedic. John suddenly glanced around fearfully...Struggling to sit up. Where was he? Was he at Rampart? Had the rescue been a dream after all? He was sick with a fever? What if…?

“Hey…Hey shhhh…Shhhh…Shhhh,” Roy soothed, gently moving Dixie aside so he could reach Johnny. “I’m here…It’s okay.” John gripped the older man’s hand but settled back under his reassurance. “He’s still got a bit of anxiety,” Roy said softly.

 

“So I see,” Brackett replied with a grin as Hank came over to John and ruffled the sable hair, smiling down at his youngest crew member in relief.

 

The commotion woke Joanne and Chris but Jen managed to sleep through about anything.

 

“Dixie…Kel,” Jo said in surprise as she climbed from the bed and moved toward them…Receiving a hug from both.

 

“Captain Stanley,” Chris greeted, receiving a hair tousle from the older man.

 

“What are you all doing here?” Jo asked after the greetings were done.

 

“We came to take you all home where you belong.”

 

“I’m all for that,” Roy agreed willingly.

 

“I’ve already made the arrangements, so as soon as Dr. Cole releases Johnny, we’ll airlift you all back to LA. The airline is covering it.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

Kel moved to Johnny’s side with Dixie to check him over. “I’ll talk to Cole...,” he said as he finished the brief exam. “Let’s see if he agrees that John would be better off at home with his family.”

 

Roy looked to Hank. “Um Cap…?” The older man looked at Roy questioningly. “John told us…I mean thanks…For looking out for him while I was gone…You and Emily I mean.”

 

“He’s part of our family too Roy,” he said gently in understanding. Roy smiled in relief knowing now that if something ever did happen to him…Cap and his wife would be there for John.

 

The door opened again and Eileen and Craig came in. Kel threw them a smile as he left and Joanne moved to her sister’s side. They hadn’t really had much chance to talk the night before. “I’m so sorry about your wedding,” she said sadly.

 

“We postponed it. We’ll still be married just a little later.”

 

“Yeah…Well next time we’re driving up for it,” Roy growled.

 

They all laughed.

 

They’d managed to sneak Johnny past the reporters and out the back to a waiting ambulance. The small plane chartered by the airlines was waiting on the runway and they’d quickly boarded the plane. John was in no condition to be giving interviews and being blasted with questions.

 

They weren’t so lucky when they landed in LA. News of the young fire fighter and his family having successfully eluded the press in Oregon spread and their counterparts were waiting at the airfield.

 

The ambulance and another large dark car sitting on the runway was a give away to the reporters who were hovering nearby. Thankfully their newscasts that the paramedic and the DeSoto’s were on their way home were also being watched by their anxious crew members.

 

Chet, Marco, Mike, Emily and Melissa Stoker were waiting beside the ambulance when the plane touched down. There was a surge from the reporters as the plane taxied toward them.

 

The crew made a valiant effort to hold them back.

 

The doors opened and the two attendants quickly climbed aboard. Several minutes later the stretcher bearing John Gage was carried down. One reporter managed to slip by and get close enough to stick a microphone in John’s face.

 

“How did you know where to find them Mr. Gage?” He questioned quickly. “Mental telepathy?” He asked half deprecatingly.

 

John rolled his head to look at his family around him. He squeezed Roy and Jo’s hands that were holding his own and shook his head. “Just love…,” he murmured as his eyes drifted closed.

 

The speechless reporter stood looking a bit embarrassed at the flip remark he’d made. “What about you Mr. DeSoto?” He asked as the others began to push him back. “How do you think he found you?”

 

Roy grinned as he climbed inside the ambulance. “I think he already answered you,” he called back. Jo and Dixie grinned at each other as the doors closed behind the pair. The rest of the group climbed into the car and the two vehicles drove away.

 

The crew quickly ran to their cars to follow. They got Johnny into a bed at Rampart before allowing them into the room. Roy was half buried under the onslaught of relieved crew mates. “Man we were really afraid we’d lost you and Jo and the kids,” Chet said quietly, having a hard time admitting that he had feelings for his friends.

 

“Thanks Chet,” Roy said softly.

 

“Thought we’d lost both of you,” Mike said glancing at Johnny.

 

Roy smiled in understanding.  Johnny would never have been the same.

 

 

John was improving steadily over the next few days…Though he refused to be interviewed.  Chris on the other hand was basking in the glory of being a neighborhood celebrity while Roy was busily dodging reporters though he’d finally consented to giving a brief interview. “No…I don’t think I was a hero…I was doing what I always do…Trying to save lives…It’s what every fireman tries to do.”

 

“What about your partner?”

 

“What about him?”

 

“How did he find you?”

 

“Johnny says I told him…” At their dubious looks he continued. “Look neither one of us can explain that to you any better. It’s just a…Bond between friends…brothers,” he corrected quietly. “Can’t ya just leave it at that?”


They finally nodded though most of them didn’t truly grasp it but that was okay…Neither did Roy. He just knew it existed and had from the beginning…He loved John Gage and he never be ashamed of that.

 

 

It was a week after the crash and John’s fever had finally broken. He was still tired and weak but the oxygen canula had finally been removed along with the IV’s. He was sitting up in his bed when Roy and Jo came in.

 

“Afternoon Junior, Roy greeted with a smile as he moved to the armoire that held John’s clothes.

 

“Hi guys,” he greeted in response but he frowned as Roy pulled his clothes from the closet and Jo stripped the covers back.

 

She kissed him briefly and headed for the door. “I’ll be back,” she promised as Roy moved to the bed.

 

“Let’s get you dressed,” he said as he pulled Johnny upright and began untying the gown.

 

“Wh…Where are we goin?” John stuttered at the flurry of activity.

 

Roy smiled and stripped the gown away before holding John’s shirt out for him to put on.

 

The younger man frowned but let Roy pull his shirt on him. The blonde man tossed him his boxers. “Better get those on before Jo get’s back,” he warned.

 

Johnny quickly complied, successfully distracting the dark haired paramedic for the moment. Roy tossed him his jeans.  “What’s goin on?” John tried again as he struggled into the tight denim without standing up. He was still too weak to walk without assistance. Roy began to button the shirt for him.

 

Roy didn’t answer as the door opened and Jo peeked in. “All set?” She inquired.

 

“Yup…Just let me get his shoes on,” he replied as he pulled John’s sneakers on and tied them.

 

“Is Brackett letting me go home?” He questioned in surprise. Kel had told him earlier that that was out of the question. John had sighed in disappointment. He wanted out of here.

 

The door opened and the crew entered along with Brackett and Dixie dressed in street clothes. Jo followed with Chris and Jen. She was pushing a wheelchair.

 

John looked around curiously but he didn’t have time to ask as Roy scooped him up in his arms and deposited him in the wheelchair. “C’mon junior…We’ll be late.”

 

“Late for what…?” He asked in bafflement.

 

Roy didn’t answer and John knew better than to ask again. The cat that swallowed the canary grin was on every face and he knew that whatever it was... they were all in on it except him.

 

They loaded him into the backseat of Joanne’s station wagon and drove away. The other’s followed. John looked out at the passing scenery with a frown and finally glanced up to see his partner’s blue eyes watching him in the rearview.

 

He remembered the dream and those eyes looking at him from the dark clouds around the three sisters and he shivered slightly. Roy threw him a reassuring wink in the mirror and John smiled…His grandfather had told him about the visions of some of his people…John had only half believed but now he’d finally experienced one…He’d never forget it.

 

He looked out the window and realized that they were arriving at the fairgrounds. The circus tents were set up completely now and the smells were of cotton candy and popcorn. John breathed deeply and grinned as Roy parked the car and went around to retrieve the wheelchair from the back.

 

The younger man was so excited he forgot to protest as his partner leaned inside to lift him from the backseat and set him in the wheelchair. The others joined them as they wheeled him inside. Apparently it was what the ringmaster had been waiting for.

 

The spotlight snapped on and he raised his hands to quiet the crowd. “Ladies and Gentleman…Welcome to the greatest show on earth.” Applause broke out but he quickly tamped it down. “Tonight you will experience death defying feats of aerial acrobatics.” Roy looked to John and smiled at the enraptured look on his young partner’s face as the man continued. “Laugh at the antics of our clowns and be awed by the beauty of our equestrian acrobats. Witness the heroic act of lion taming.” The man grew quiet and the spotlight suddenly flipped to John and Roy who sat beside him.

 

He froze as all eyes turned toward him. “And we’d like to welcome a different hero…For the first time anywhere I’d like to present Fire Fighter Paramedic John Gage…The young man who wondrously led searchers to a downed aircraft in the mountains of Oregon. Baffling most with how he did it...How isn’t the important question…That he did, is the important answer… We’d like to also acknowledge his partner Roy DeSoto who helped keep those people alive until help could arrive.

 

Roy smiled politely and John’s face turned crimson as applause exploded around the tent. Art Tuchman came forward with Chief Sorenson and another man. “John this is Mr. Riley from the airline.” Tuchman explained. John bit his lip nervously and shook the man’s hand.

 

“Nice to meet you sir,” he said as he struggled to stand. Sorenson beat Roy and Brackett both to it.

 

“Stay in that seat Gage,” he ordered sternly.

 

John blushed and sat back. “Yes sir,” he replied sheepishly.

 

“Mr. Gage…Mr. DeSoto. We’ve spoken to the passengers and the remaining crew of flight 291 as well as the rescue teams that went out searching for it after it disappeared. We are assured that you both were instrumental to the saving of many lives. Mr. DeSoto. You took control of a desperate situation and brought the passengers together in a coordinated effort to survive. They assured us that they might not have if you hadn’t been there to instruct, calm and treat them and the injured.” He handed Roy a plaque. “With our grateful thanks,” he added.

 

Roy looked at the plaque. “For demonstrating outstanding bravery, compassion and selflessness on behalf of innocent lives,” he read. The audience erupted with applause and John led the way with a proud grin.

 

He stopped as they turned to him. “We’ve spoken to Mr. Tuchman and the two men who were with you three days ago Mr. Gage. They said they were completely off base in their search and if not for your insistence that they search Belknap Crater instead, many more lives may have been forfeited during the time lost while we searched the wrong mountain. There were several critically injured who might not have survived had you not spoken up.” He handed the plaque to John. He blushed and smiled as he shook their hands.

 

Sorenson shook John’s hand and while he originally intended it to be a private conversation the microphone in Tuchman’s hand clearly broadcast it. “I don’t know how you did it son,” he said softly. “And I don’t really care but I do know that I’ve seen the friendship between you and Roy at work time and time again and it never ceases to amaze me.”

 

John glanced over and caught Roy’s eyes on him…The crooked grin made an appearance as he shrugged. “We’re brother’s sir…Family.”

 

 

Sorenson nodded and turned to shake Roy's hand as well while the crowd applauded once again. The spotlight returned to the ringmaster. “And now that that circus is finished,” he said drawing a laugh from the crowd. “Let’s continue with ours.”

 

He swept his hand toward the center ring. John pulled his gaze away to watch but Roy continued to watch Johnny. He smiled as the dark eyes lit with excitement as the trapeze artists flew overhead. He laughed at the clowns as much as Chris, Jen and Mike Jr. especially when Chet Kelly ended up with a bucket of water tossed in his face.

 

John cringed as another headed in his direction and Brackett and Roy both looked alarmed. The last thing John needed was a bucketful of ice water on him but it was too late. They breathed a sigh of relief as Confetti scattered like rain drops over the young fireman.

 

He sat enthralled as the girls in skimpy outfits performed with the horses and elephants and he giggled like a child over the antics of the dog act. Men in glittering outfits tamed the big cats and girls walked the tightrope.

 

Roy couldn’t take his eyes off John and found more enjoyment watching him than he did the circus. John’s eyes began to droop tiredly as the show wound down to the finale. The people began to file out and Roy scooped a sleepy Jennifer from her mother’s arms and sat her in Johnny’s lap before wheeling them both toward the exit.

 

The rest followed. They’d enjoyed the show but like Roy…Their eyes had been drawn repeatedly to Johnny’s face and the childlike enjoyment reflected on it.

 

They often wondered what John’s life had been like before Roy had come along…The kid seemed so naïve and innocent sometimes for all the horrors he’d seen in his young life but John never spoke about it or complained but tonight…They’d like to see more of that for this young man they’d all grown so fond of.

 

Brackett watched as Roy helped John into the car. The dark head tilted back and the eyes closed within seconds. The older man smiled. “Take him home Roy…Put him to bed and see that he stays in it for a few more days.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

“I’ll stop by and see him later this week.”

 

Roy nodded and they drove away.  A short time later Roy sat Johnny on his bed. “Let’s get you under those covers partner,” he suggested flipping the shoes off John’s feet and stripping the shirt away.

 

“That was the second best time I’ve ever had,” John mumbled softly.

 

Second best junior?” Roy questioned. “What was the first?”

 

“Finding you guys,” he murmured as his eyes drifted closed.

 

“We were pretty happy to see you too,” Roy agreed.

 

John shook his head. “Just finding you guys,” he murmured sleepily as he drifted off.

 

Tears burned behind his eyes but Roy smiled and he stroked the dark hair back gently. He understood what John meant.  Jo and the kids were his life but John held a piece of him that no one else ever would…His brother, confidant, partner and best friend.

 

“Finding you was the best time I’ve ever had too junior,” he said softly.

 

 

The End

 

 

Published to Site 06/11/11                                                                  LINKS TO PART 1. 2.

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

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