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Part 2 - Fireman
Hold a true friend with both your hands…Nigerian proverb.
Roy backed into the station with a heavy heart. He wasn’t sure how to handle this. He knew John was confused by these guys…Their praise for his ability’s was warranted but it certainly helped to screw up his thinking as well. Roy knew he embarrassed by the older man’s habit of watching out for him but Roy couldn’t help it. He truly cared for the younger man…He was the brother he’d never had and he didn’t want to see him hurt or worse and now he had a new worry...Would Johnny choose station 48 over him?
Hank was waiting as he cut the engine off and stepped from the cab. “Roy…I saw you with John after I went to talk to Poole…What happened?”
Roy gave him a sad look. “What happened?” Roy snorted, “He basically told me to mind my own business and stop treating him like a child.”
Hank shook his head. “This is exactly what we were worried about.”
“I know…I thought I’d talk to him alone tomorrow at dinner but he uh…He blew us off to go out drinking with his new friends.”
“Drinking?” Cap asked in shocked surprise. He shook his head. “I’m sorry Roy…I know John means a lot to you.”
“I guess he’s a big boy Cap…Maybe I cared about him too much…Fielding said I smothered him…Maybe he was right,” he said with a shrug.
“Hrmmph,” a snort of indignation came from behind them. They both turned to see the other three crew members behind them. Chet stood with his arms folded over his chest. “Maybe Gage needs to remember how he was when he first came here and who changed that.”
“John doesn’t owe me anything Chet…I did it cuz I wanted to…He’s a good kid and an excellent paramedic and he’s smart enough to figure them out…He just needs time,” Roy said hopefully but still looking concerned.
“Too bad Gage is gonna let those morons cost him his best friend,” Chet mumbled.
“John will always be my friend Chet but I guess I need to just back off and let him do this on his own…He’s right…He’s not a child and I need to let him fly on his own.”
“They’ll get him killed,” Mike stated worriedly.
Roy looked down at his booted feet. “I can’t make him listen…If he wants to go then I need to let him go.”
The others heard the words so blithely spoken but they could see the fear of losing his partner and the hurt of losing his best friend and his kid brother in Roy’s blue eyes. Why couldn’t the dumb kid see what he was doing to Roy? What he was gonna just throw away if he didn’t wake up?
Roy turned away looking depressed and headed for the dorm. He still had chores to do and it would take his mind off of Johnny.
Roy tossed for several hours…Worry for his young friend keeping his mind turning in circles of confusion. What if’s whirled through his head. What if Johnny bought into their line of thinking? What if they convinced him they were right? What if he wanted to transfer? What if he got hurt? He needed to let John decide for himself but man…The idea of losing the kid tore at his heart.
He wished desperately that the tones would sound…Even a false alarm would be good right now. He needed to get his mind on something else.
His wish was granted…The lights suddenly came on as the Station Control Unit began to tone… “Station 48… Squad 36… Station 51… Multi vehicle accident on the 105 near the LAX off ramp… The 105 nearest crossroad…LAX off ramp…Time out 02:18.”
Roy swung his feet off the bed knowing that Johnny was doing the same thing eight miles away.
When they arrived at the scene a short time later their breath caught at the total chaos. “Would you look at that mess,” Gibson muttered.
There were easily two dozen cars piled into and onto each other. The crumpled and twisted piles of tangled metal made it impossible to tell for sure how many were involved in the darkness. Flashing lights from a half a dozen police cars and rescue vehicles lit the area but cast their own type of confusion to the eerie scene.
Roy grabbed his turnout and shrugged it on before running around to help Eric pull the equipment out and set to work.
Johnny and Fielding rolled up to the scene from the opposite side. John gasped in shock at the mess stretching out before them. John climbed from the cab and grabbed his turnout…Running around to grab their equipment. John headed for the nearest car.
Forty five minutes later John heard his name called. He looked around to see his Captain and his partner waving him over to where four cars had collided. The nose of one buried under the bumper and rear undercarriage…Another had hit the guardrail sliding up on its two wheels and lying precariously over the first vehicle, crushing both of the passenger compartments into slits…the fourth was jammed tightly against the passenger door barring access the crumpled vehicle underneath it all.
“Gage,” Poole yelled. “You’re the only one thin enough to squeeze into that. Give it a shot.”
John’s dark eyes watched the top car teetering treacherously over the other. “Cap that could go any minute…We need to tie it off…,” John said pointing to the guardrail. “That would hold it.”
“We’re wasting time Gage…Those people don’t have time to wait while we run all over for ropes.”
“But Cap…,” he began to protest.
John frowned but nodded his head, knowing he wouldn’t win this argument. The helmet would get in his way…He pulled it free and handed it to his Captain. He drew in a deep breath and began to slide between the vehicles.
Roy backed out of a crushed cab of a pickup truck…The young man who’d been inside it had already had his leg splinted and the ambulance crew was pulling the gurney away for loading. Roy picked up the drug box and stuck the handy talkie in his turnout coats pocket. He glanced around looking for Gibson but his blue eyes snapped back to the scene only a short distance away.
He knew his young partner’s every mannerism and even in the gloom of headlamps and the flashing lights he could tell who the figure was that he was now watching. Roy sucked in his breath as he watched John hand his helmet over to Poole and slide between the precariously stacked vehicles.
The one perched atop the stack rocked dangerously as John’s shoulder brushed against it. Roy’s eyes widened with worry but he couldn’t stay and watch…He had other victims. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to block the sight from his mind and moved to the next car.
Johnny could only be grateful that he wasn’t claustrophobic as he slid into the narrow opening. He could feel the press of metal against his back and chest…The ominous creaking of the unstable vehicle above him vied with the blood pounding in his ears as his heart raced.
John had been involved in a lot of dangerous rescues but always before he’d had Roy right behind him, covering his back and a crew he trusted with his life…Now he wasn’t so sure. He felt the surge of adrenaline that Fielding was always talking about and he didn’t like it, besides his chest still felt tight and he really didn’t feel very well.
He put his mind on checking the victim’s and getting out as quickly as possible. He slid sideways and lowered himself to the ground. Twisting around to try and see into the car. He pulled his flashlight from his pocket and clicked it on. He shone it inside the interior…Lifeless blue eyes stared back at him from a blood smeared face. John flinched and felt the bile rise in his throat but managed to contain the gag that threatened at the sight of the poor man and turned the light beyond him but the rest of the vehicle was thankfully empty.
He heard a soft moan from the second vehicle and quickly turned the flashlight toward the other car. A young woman was groaning her way back to consciousness. He reached inside to check the pulse on her. “I’ve got one alive, one dead under here,” he called out. “I’m gonna try and see how bad the injuries are.”
“Okay Gage,” Fielding yelled back. “I’ll be standing by with a C Collar and backboard if you need it.”
“We’re gonna have to cut her out…See if you can stabilize the car above me though huh? It’s makin me nervous.”
Fielding laughed and trotted away to get his equipment. Nothing made Gage nervous or he’d have never gone in there like that. The kid had guts…Fielding might well have hesitated to slip in that narrow aperture himself but not Johnny. He’d looked a bit pale at the idea but he’d done it…He heard the tremor of his voice and wondered how he’d liked the rush.
Roy and Gibson finished up with the victim in their last car. He glanced over to where 36’s also appeared to be finishing up. Almost all of the victims had been evacuated to hospitals. The blonde paramedic turned his attention to where he’d last seen his partner.
He squinted into the gloom and shook his head in disbelief. Damn it…They still hadn’t tied down that top vehicle and they’d had all the time and man power they needed to have accomplished it. Johnny was still inside it…He could tell by the dangerous swaying of the vehicle every time his young partner moved.
John finally had the victim cut free…Station 48’s engine finally managed to maneuver through the wreckage and get close enough to pull the car that was jamming the door away. Fred Gray began to cut the crushed door with the K12.
Johnny carefully stood up. “Fielding…I’m gonna need that backboard, a C Collar and a roll of kerlex to strap her head down.”
The older man nodded and grinned at Poole as he knelt next to the drug box. The Captain nodded his head at Gage’s solo performance. The kid had handled the whole rescue without flinching or asking for help. Once free of his Captain and his partner’s restrictions, he’d make a good addition to his team…They just needed to convince Gage of that.
Fielding stood. “Here ya go Gage,” he called, holding the collar and the kerlex
“Just toss em to me,” Johnny instructed but the advisement came too late. Fielding leaned against the crushed vehicle as Gray forced the door. The motions jostled the top car causing it to rock dangerously. It finally gave up the battle and amid the screeching and grinding of metal on metal lost its precarious perch and crashed down on where John was standing.
Roy stood watching his partner and shaking his head…Knowing that once again John had managed to come out proving what a capable, talented paramedic he really was but at what expense? He’d put himself at risk over something that could have been a simple tie down to correct…Not to mention how many times Roy would have to listen to him tell him I told you so and that maybe the guy’s at 48’s were right and that Roy didn’t need to watch out for him and that he could handle things all by himself.
Roy sighed in frustration. Brother…He could just hear Fielding as well… ‘See there Gage…You don’t need all those safety precautions.’ Sixteen months of working with the kid and drumming taking precautions into his head and… “OH MY GOD…!” Roy gasped as the screech of metal filled the air, yanking him out of his musings to watch in horror as the car above Johnny suddenly crashed down where he’d been standing.
Roy broke into a run as a frenzy of activity erupted around the car. Fireman from 51’s and 48’s began to work around the vehicle. “JOHNNY…!” Roy yelled as he shoved Fielding out of the way, his face white with fear.
Johnny heard the creaking sound and then the grinding of the frame as the vehicle slid clear of the pile and dropped toward him. The dark haired paramedic’s eyes widened in horror and he ducked instinctively but not fast enough as the underside of the bumper clipped his forehead. The world faded to gray as dizziness swam through him.
“JOHNNY! Johnny…Can you hear me,” Roy called with a tremor to his voice.
There was a long pause before the shaky voice of his young partner answered him… “I…I th…think I’m o…kay…Just bumped my head.”
Roy breathed a sigh of relief. “Hang on Junior…We’re gonna get you out,” he reassured his young friend before whirling on Fielding. “No thanks to you or your crew,” he growled angrily as the others crowded around the passenger door and dropped a backboard in place to get the woman out first.
Hank shot an angry look toward Poole who was watching with his arms folded over his chest looking relaxed. ‘And why shouldn’t he?’ Hank wondered in annoyance…John Gage didn’t mean anything to Poole or these others…He was just a kid they could sway to their foolishness. They hadn’t even had a chance to get to really know the young man…To see what made John special but that wasn’t the same for the crew of Station 51. John was a valued and well liked member of their team…Their family.
They slid the backboard in place while Roy waited anxiously for them to remove her so that he could check Johnny out as well. They managed to roll the woman enough to get her on the board while John secured the collar and wrapped her head securely from his vantage point.
They slid the woman free…Fielding and Gibson went with her while Roy stayed and waited for Johnny. The young dark haired man finally emerged from the car looking a bit shaky but he climbed to his feet with a minimal amount of assistance from Roy.
He let the older man lead him to the squad and sit him on the bumper. “What were you thinking?” Roy bit out as he tore open a gauze pad to begin cleaning the deep gash over John’s right eye.
“Oh for crying out loud DeSoto…It’s just a bump on the head not a skull fracture,” Fielding ground out as Roy cleared the blood away.
“Shut up Fielding…I told you to look out for him.”
John’s face flushed at the look of disgust on Fielding’s face. He glanced around and saw the other’s from his crew laughing outright at the concern Roy was showing. John’s head hurt a lot and he had no idea how bad the cut was but what he did know was that he was in for a humiliating two weeks with these guys. Why did Roy feel like he had to coddle him all the time anyway?
“Roy…I’m okay…Quit babying me,” he snapped out, refusing to meet the hurt blue eyes of his partner or the snickering smirks of the others.
“Babying you…? Is that what I’m doing? Oh I’m sorry…My best friend and my partner just had a car fall on his head…You’re bleeding like a stuck pig but you’re right…I’m babying you.” Roy snatched John’s hand up and slapped the bloodied cloth into the stunned younger man’s hand. “Sorry I bothered you Johnny…Maybe these guys are right…you do belong with them.”
Roy spun on his heel and stalked toward the two other paramedics that were still working on the woman. “Go help your partner,” he snapped at Rick as he began to help Gibson finish up. Roy grabbed Fielding’s arm as he started to walk away and dropped his voice. “If anything happens to him that you could have prevented…You’ll wish you’d never been born,” he warned softly. Fielding jerked his arm free and walked away.
Hank watched Roy walk away and the look was unmistakable. He turned to Johnny. “Don’t baby you?” He questioned angrily. He leaned down to look John in the eye. “The best friend you’ll ever have just walked away hurt and worried because of you.”
“He doesn’t need to worry about me…I can take care of myself,” Johnny replied softly, feeling guilty and unable to meet his Captain’s eyes.
Hank reached out and touched the still bleeding cut, making note of the fact that not one of his current crew made any effort to come and help him. “You’re doin a hell of a job of it there Gage,” he said showing him his blood stained fingers. “And just so you know…If he BABY’S you, it’s because he cares about you though right now I can’t begin to understand why. You take a look around John…Because it’s a sure bet that none of these guys do.”
Hank spun on his heel as he headed for the engine. Roy and Eric were loading the woman into the ambulance and Gibson climbed in after him. Roy walked slowly to the squad and threw his helmet on the seat. He stared at the ground for a long moment, debating on whether or not to try and talk to John again. He finally shook his head, climbing in and starting the engine.
John almost called after him to stop…To come back but the gloating smirk on Fielding’s face stopped him. What had he done…? John watched with a sinking heart as his friend…The best friend he’d ever had and the only person besides his aunt who’d actually ever told him he loved him and made him feel as if he had a family again drove away without looking back. John’s heart suddenly felt hollow and he knew he’d been wrong. He did want...need Roy in his life …
Cap was right…The older man cared about him a lot and all Johnny could do was complain about the way he showed it instead of appreciating his concern for him. Regret welled up in him.
John remembered the reassuring grip of his best friend’s hand when he’d been injured….The arms that wrapped him securely through his nightmares a year ago and the gentle touch of his fingers over his forehead when he’d been sick. It had been a bit embarrassing but it also been comforting to know his friend was there and watching out for him.
Tears burned behind his dark eyes and he bit his lip as he watched him go. Maybe he did have some growing up to do and maybe it was time to tell Roy how much he needed his friendship.
Fielding slapped Johnny off the back. “Good job in there Gage,” he encouraged. John glanced up…Did Fielding even realize John was bleeding. He hadn’t even asked if he was dizzy. His partner was sitting here bleeding with a possible concussion and he wasn’t the least bit concerned. “And that was a great job with DeSoto too…Time he let ya grow up…Nice clean break.”
Johnny stood up a bit shakily. “No it wasn’t Fielding…I may have just lost my best friend…,” he muttered in disgust as he walked away, uncaring of the headshake of annoyance the older man threw him.
When Captain Stanley had started at Station 51 a couple of months ago, he and John had had a tough couple of days. Roy had told him then that he had nothing to prove…Not to anyone. He was right.
He’d call him tomorrow and try to explain what they were putting him through and tell him he was coming home when these two weeks were over. The one thing he was sure of…He needed to apologize…Tell Roy how sorry he was and ask him to forgive his foolish behavior.
He’d tell him he was right about everything…Roy had often told him he knew John was a well trained paramedic and that didn’t mean proving how much courage he had but how well he used what he knew. John would use his training to prove what a good paramedic he was, even if Fielding taunted him for it. He didn’t need to prove his courage by being a fool and if Poole tried to force him in without it…John shrugged. He’d go to Sorenson and ask to be returned to station 51.
Joanne looked at the distraught face of her husband as he came through the front door later that morning. “What is it honey?” She asked worriedly.
Roy brushed a kiss on his wife’s lips and sank into his chair in the dining room. “It’s Johnny…”
“What about him?” She questioned, looking concerned. “He’s okay isn’t he?”
“Depends on your definition of okay…” Joanne looked confused. “I may have lost him to that crew at 48’s,” he said despondently.
“What? Oh Roy I don’t believe that. Johnny’s just feeling his way...Testing his wings a bit. He’s been with you for a long time and he knows you love him…He won’t leave your friendship behind.”
“He’s feeling free alright…No rules to follow. No one watching out for him…Making sure he’s safe…Or at least as safe as any of us can be out there. Maybe his partner was right…He said I smothered him.” Roy shrugged.
“What? Caring about someone is smothering him?” She snapped.
“Apparently so and I guess Johnny feels that way to. He uh told me to stop babying him and that he could take care of himself.”
Jo’s mouth tightened into a compressed, angry line. Why would Johnny hurt Roy that way? He knew how much her husband cared about him…Loved him though he wouldn’t say the words out loud very often. The words embarrassed both of them…She looked at Roy and smiled reassuringly.
“Johnny’s probably embarrassed by your concern for him in front of other people Roy…He’s always had to be so tough and independent to get through what that monster did to him,” she said remembering that night over a year ago when John had had that nightmare and told Roy he’d been abused. “He’s still not used to the idea that anyone could care about him honey and it makes him nervous. Why don’t you call him…Tell him to come over early and have a long talk.”
“He’s not coming tonight Jo…He’s um…Going out drinking with his friends from 48’s.”
“Oh…I see,” she said disappointedly. “Well,” She smiled, trying not to let it upset her too much and get Roy all worked up again. “Well having other friends besides us is okay…I mean we do too.”
“Yeah…But our friends aren’t trying to steal my partner and my best friend from me.”
Her smile faded. “I know…Call him Roy. Talk to him…”
Roy shook his head. “He’s gotta make his own decision Jo…I’m not gonna force my friendship on him…Or my ‘babying,’ he mumbled looking hurt.
Jo put her arms around his neck and hugged him to her. “He’s bright honey…He’ll figure it all out.”
“Yeah,” Roy mumbled. “Hey…Why don’t you and I take Chris and Jen to the zoo? It’ll take my mind off Johnny and we’ll get to spend some fun time with the kids.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Let me get you your breakfast and I’ll go tell the kids to get ready.”
An hour later the DeSoto family climbed into the car and drove away. A minute later the phone began to ring.
Johnny hung up the phone in disappointment. He’d really needed to talk to Roy and tell him how sorry he was…That’s if Roy ever wanted to talk to him again after today. The young man slumped down on his sofa and rubbed his chest. It was still a bit tight and his head was throbbing as well.
John curled up on the sofa …He’d nap for a little while and then try and call Roy back.
John woke a long while later to the pounding on his front door. “Gage…?” He heard Fielding’s voice coming through the portal. Johnny squinted at the clock...It was 4:30. Wow…He musta been more tired than he’d realized but what was Fielding doing at his door?
John stumbled from the sofa and made his way to the door. He pulled it open to stare blearily at his partner. “What are you doing here?” He asked none too politely.
Fielding didn’t seem to notice the unhappy tone. “I thought I’d come by and give you a lift to Rosie’s.”
John grimaced. He’d forgotten about his agreeing to go with these guy’s for dinner. He really wasn’t up for it but it was too late to back out now.
John stood back and let Rick step inside. “Yeah sure,” he mumbled. “Sorry… I musta fallen asleep. Give me a minute.”
“Sure Gage,” Fielding agreed as he came inside. John’s apartment was as usual…Spotless and Spartan in belongings. He really didn’t spend much time here. John disappeared into his room to change while Rick moved to the photo’s that decorated John’s walls.
There were a few additions to the gallery that hadn’t been there when Roy had first come to John’s apartment. The photo of John’s parents was centered on the wall and to the right side of it, was a picture of the station Crew of 51’s posed in front of the Engine and the squad. To the left of it was a photo of Roy, Joanne and the kids that Johnny had taken their first Christmas together.
There were several landscapes that John had taken that had impressed Roy the first time he’d seen them as well as one of his Aunt Rose. Fielding didn’t show much interest however. He was drawn instead to the sound of the girls laughter and giggles coming from the pool area below the balcony and moved away to go stand outside and enjoy the view.
Johnny finally rejoined him. Fielding didn’t note the tiredness to the dark eyes or the paleness of his features that would have had Roy hustling his young partner back into bed.
“Let’s go,” Johnny said as he scooped his wallet and keys off the table and led the way to the door.
"You coming with me?" Fielding asked.
The younger man shook his head, hoping he could eat and go home. John climbed into his old white camper and followed Fielding out of the parking lot.
Roy carried a tired little Jennifer into the house. The small plush toy they’d bought for her at the zoo tucked tightly under her chin. Chris dragged in behind him and plopped onto the sofa, tired and hot. “I wish Uncle Johnny woulda come with us today,” he mumbled to his father as his blonde head tilted back against the cushions.
“Yeah…So do I son but ya know Uncle Johnny has other friends and he needs to spend time with them too sometimes.”
“You mean the guys from the station?”
“Well sometimes them too but other people as well.”
“Uncle Johnny hardly ever talks about other friend’s dad.” Chris suddenly giggled. “Oh you mean girls,” he said turning red.
“Well not this time sport,” Roy chuckled and carried Jen upstairs.
“Are you going to call him?” Joanne questioned as she followed her husband up the stairs, continuing the argument they’d been having all day.
Roy shook his head. “Nope…I know it’s tough for him to admit that he needs anyone but our friendship has to be a two way street. I know I hurt him a few months ago and I hope someday he’ll be able to trust me again but he’s got to grow a little to Jo. I need him to want me to care…I won’t force him.”
“Alright,” she sighed in defeat. Her husband could sometimes be just as stubborn as John. She saw the blue eyes that were still full of hurt turn toward the phone in the hallway as they passed. “Darn it Johnny…Pick up that phone and call your best friend. He needs you.”
“What a dump,” John murmured as he followed Fielding into the restaurant.
Rick grinned. “Yeah but the foods not too bad and Rosie treats us good don’t ya beautiful?” He hollered to the large woman behind the counter.
She smiled and nodded, setting her triple chins wagging as she waddled out from behind the counter to inspect the young paramedic. She patted his slender stomach. “This one’s a doll Rick but he’s way too skinny,” she teased as Johnny back pedaled away from her…His dark eyes wary and nervous. The woman laughed and moved away. “We’ll fatten him up.” Johnny highly doubted that from the smells in the place. It wasn’t somewhere he’d go more than once. “So what’re ya havin boys?” She called.
“The usual Rosie…”
“And for your new boy…He old enough to drink yet…?” She called pouring out six shots of whiskey and six beers.
John’s face flushed as the crew and his partner laughed at the comment. He was becoming more and more uncomfortable all the time…“Just barely,” Bauer called back.
She carried the drinks over and set them out in front of them. “Round one boys…I’ll go put your pizza’s in the oven.”
John’s nose crinkled at the smell of the whiskey the woman had set before him. He pushed it away and reached for the beer. The others noticed immediately. “Whatsa matter Gage…Never had a REAL drink before?” Poole asked him with a grin.
“I don’t see much use for the stuff Cap. Just makes our job that much more difficult out there when it gets abused,” he replied quietly.
The others laughed and swigged down the small glasses of alcohol before reaching for their beers. “I think his mommy won’t let him,” Bauer teased.
John bristled but he refused to be baited and sipped his beer. “Maybe his daddy used to drink and beat him,” Gray taunted.
John slammed the beer down and rose to his feet angrily. “Sit down son…Don’t be so sensitive,” Poole barked.
John slowly sank into his seat but he was rigid with anger and embarrassment. None of them realized how close they’d come to the truth. “With all due respect sir…I’m not your son,” John bit out.
Poole looked at the younger man in shock and then grinned in pleased surprise. So the boy had a backbone after all…They’d just needed to find the right trigger. “Sorry Gage…,” he replied lifting his glass in toast. “To our new crewman.”
The others raised their glasses but Johnny didn’t join them. He looked away. “Temporary crewman,” he corrected.
“For now my boy,” Poole added but Johnny shook his head.
“No sir…I wanna go back to 51’s as soon as the two weeks are up.”
The others looked shocked and then laughed. “Great joke but you’re a natural smoke eater Gage,” Fielding said as he slapped the younger man off the back and rose to his feet. “C’mon guys, let’s play some pool.” He tugged John to his feet and pulled the younger man after him.
John shrugged and followed. They’d believe him soon enough when the two weeks was up. Poole looked at his Engineer. “You think he was serious Howell?”
“Seemed to be…What’re ya gonna do about that Cap…He’s got the right stuff to replace McCracken.”
“We’ve got several more shifts with the boy to change his mind. He’s been trained by the academy and his Captain to do things the departments way…But he’s still young enough to teach…We’ll just keep sending him in till he gets used to the way we do things…Until it comes as natural to him as the other does.”
Howell nodded as they stood up to go join the others.
John leaned on the bar a couple of hours later. He shook his head at the fifth girl who had approached him tonight and wondered just what kind of place this was. He nursed the same beer he’d started with as he watched his crew in disgust.
John was all for having some fun but these guys competed in everything…Pool…Darts…Women, even drinking. Poole was no better and what was worse was that they all had to work tomorrow. John was not happy at the idea of working with a bunch of hung over firemen at his back.
The door opened and a group of men walked inside. They looked fairly rough and John assumed they were from the refinery a couple of blocks away. They all moved to the bar and Rosie poured them a drink. They picked them up and made their way toward where the crew was playing pool.
The girls that had been eyeing Johnny all night followed the men toward the table. It took only a few minutes for a rivalry to heat up and soon both groups had merged into a FRIENDLY competition. The friendliness didn’t last long. Alcohol, competitiveness and women soon had the men hurling taunting challenges toward each other.
Rosie watched it all with an amused grin as the men began to push each other. Johnny shook his head in annoyance. “You gonna go help your crew?” She asked the younger man as John sipped his beer.
“Nope,” he replied setting the now empty glass on the bar.
“Want another beer sweet cheeks…?” She asked teasingly as she patted his hand.
John shook his head as Bauer took a swing at one of the other men. The others backed away as the refinery worker shook off the punch and charged back into the fray. “Nope…I think I’m done. I’ve gotta work tomorrow.”
Rosie grinned and pulled the phone from under the counter. “Ah well…I guess I better call the blue boys in before they bust my place up,” she sighed as Gray pushed one of the other mans friends only to find himself on the floor a moment later. He smiled joyfully as he climbed to his feet and swung at his opponent.
“So where did they come up with you anyway cutie…You’re much too straight laced for this bunch,” she asked as she finished her conversation with the police dispatcher.
John shrugged. “I’m only on loan for a couple of weeks. I belong to station 51 outta Carson.”
“Oh.” The two watched as the two groups slugged it out.
The wail of sirens was heard a moment later. John shook his head once more… “Well…I guess I’m outta here.”
The door burst open and four police officers charged in. Two more came in behind them and glanced around. Johnny recognized Vince Howard. “John?” The older black officer said in surprise.
“Tell me you’re not part of this crazy crew.”
John grinned. “Well yeah…For two weeks anyway but I’m not a part of that,” he said nodding toward the melee.
“When did you take up hanging out in dumps like this one?” He asked ignoring Rosie’s look of indignation.
“Today’s my first and last time…I need to go home Vince…,” he said meaning it more than one way.
“Get outta here John…I’ll just pretend I didn’t see you.”
“Thanks Vince,” Johnny said as he slipped out the door and headed for his camper.
He was sure he’d hear about this tomorrow but John simply didn’t believe in violence unless there was absolutely no other way and the last thing he needed was to end up in jail. He shuddered at the thought of being caged like an animal. Not to mention what Roy and Cap would say to him…If they’d ever talk to him again that is.
He hoped he’d see Roy tomorrow at least long enough to tell him he was sorry for throwing the older man’s care and concern for him back in his face and to ask Cap if he could come home. ‘The Prodigal son…,’ he chuckled to himself, remembering the story from when his dad had taken him to Sunday School when he’d been little on one of his rare visits home.
John walked into the rec room the next morning surprised to see the rest of the guys there instead of in jail. “Morning,” he said as he walked past them to the coffee pot.
“Where did you sneak off too last night Gage?” Poole growled at the younger man’s abandoning his crew mates when they needed him.
“Yeah…You should have been watching our back,” Fielding said angrily.
John smacked the coffee cup down on the counter in annoyance. “I could say the same thing about you guys,” Johnny snapped back. “I haven’t seen any sign of watching each other’s back since I got here. I’ve seen a lot of posturing and stupid, careless stunts but not much in the way of watching out for each other. I was just practicing what I learned from you all.”
They all looked stunned for a moment before they began to laugh. John flushed at their amusement at his outburst, knowing full well they hadn’t understood a word he’d said.
The Station Control Unit began to tone. “Station 48…Engine 45…Station 51…Structure fire. 2117 Barnhart…2-1-1-7 Barnhart…Cross Street Philmore…Time out 08:02,” Sam Lanier’s voice intoned.
They all ran for their vehicles.
They pulled up in front of a two story home. John jumped from the driver’s seat and whipped open the compartment door as a woman ran toward them. “My baby and my husband…They’re still in there…”
“Can you tell me where?” John asked. “She’s upstairs…I think he was in his office…Please help me,” She pleaded.
“Settle down ma’am…We’ll get them out,” he assured her as he shrugged into his turnout. He glanced up and saw Fielding waiting. Hs dark eyes traveled beyond his partner to the squad just pulling in. He saw Roy step out and glance in his direction. Fielding started running for the building, expecting Johnny to follow him.
Roy’s blue eyes met John’s. The younger man reached inside the compartment and grabbed his air tank. “No time for that Gage,” Poole yelled.
“Sure there is Cap…,” John shot back as he began to shrug into his tank…He saw Roy smile from across the parking lot as he grabbed his own gear. John turned and followed an obviously irritated Fielding, pulling the straps into place as he went. By the time they entered the house, he was pulling the mask over his face.
“I’ll take the upstairs,” he told Fielding as he started up the steps.
John quickly moved through the smoke filled hallways…Going room to room. He finally located the infant and quickly checked the little one’s pulse. It was beating strongly but she was obviously in respiratory distress. He pulled his mask free and placed it over the baby’s face, letting her breath the pure oxygen.
The tiny face screwed up a moment later and a muffled wail came from beneath the mask. Johnny smiled and headed for the stairs. He reached the bottom in time to see Roy helping the father from another room located at the back of the house. Gibson was holding Fielding’s arm as the other fire fighter coughed harshly.
John noticed the odd colored smoke coming from the office and realized that Fielding had been breathing chemical smoke. John moved quickly…His partner would need oxygen and fast once they got outside.
They all burst outside to the fresh air, moving their victims away from the smoke and ash as John, Gibson and Roy all began to work. Roy placed the oxygen mask over the man’s face while Gibson worked on Fielding. The sandy brown haired paramedic gratefully breathed in the pure oxygen.
Johnny leaned over the baby, carefully introducing the oxygen and checking her vital signs before grabbing for the Biophone and calling Rampart. “Rampart base this is rescue 48…How do you read me?”
“Rescue 48…This is Rampart. Go ahead,” Joe Early’s voice came back.
“Rampart we have three victim’s of smoke inhalation. The first victim is a female infant…Approximately nine months old. Her respirations are shallow and labored. Her pulse is 60…Her color is bluish…I have her on O2 at this time and her color is improving.”
“10-4 48…Keep her on O2 and continue to monitor vitals and transport as soon as possible. What are the vitals on the other two?”
“Rampart…The second victim is a male approximately twenty seven…He’s breathed in some kind of chemical smoke.”
“Varnish,” Roy supplied helpfully.
“Varnish Rampart… His respirations are 12…His pulse is…,” John hesitated and looked to Roy.
“60,” he replied. “And his BP is 140/90. His breathing is shallow.”
John repeated it all to Early. “We also have him on six liters of O2 Rampart…Our final victim is a code I…He breathed in that same smoke Rampart. His breathing is okay but he’s looking a bit pale. His respirations are 16…Pulse is 80 and his BP is 120/80…We have him on O2 as well but he wasn’t exposed to it as long as victim 2.”
“10-4 48…Monitor their vitals…Keep them on O2 and transport. Let me know if anything changes.”
“10-4 Rampart…” John closed the connection as the ambulance backed in. He closed up the drug box and picked the baby up to carry her to the waiting vehicle. He waited while they loaded the father and Fielding climbed inside complaining bitterly about being forced to go in but once Early had given the instruction there was nothing anyone could do. He’d just tell him he was fine and insist on going back on duty.
Roy moved past his young friend and climbed inside the ambulance. John handed him the baby. Blue eyes locked with brown for a long moment but Roy said nothing. It was up to Johnny to make the first move toward restoring their friendship this time.
John opened his mouth to apologize but Gibson suddenly pushed past him and closed the doors. He gave them a customary two slaps. John watched in frustration as the ambulance pulled away.
Fielding shoved through the door of treatment room two. “Let’s go Gage,” he barked at the younger man as he leaned on the base station with Dixie.
“What’s the rush,” Johnny asked, wanting to wait for Roy to come out so he could talk to his friend for a moment.
“I’m clear and I want to go back to the station. Let’s move,” he barked.
John heaved a sigh of frustration. He’d have to talk to Roy later. He threw a wink at Dixie and followed slowly after his partner.
They got outside and Fielding turned and took the keys from John. “I’ll drive,” he snapped.
John grinned at the older man’s back and shook his head but he climbed into the passenger side. “What’s eating you?” He asked in amusement.
“I can’t believe you let them drag me in here,” he growled in annoyance.
“You breathed in toxic smoke Fielding. You had to be helped from the building…Which wouldn’t have happened if you’d been wearing you air tank by the way,” Johnny couldn’t resist quoting Roy’s words that he was always reminding his younger partner with. “Its standard procedure to take you to the hospital…I’m your partner and it’s my responsibility to see that you do.”
“Screw standard procedure Gage…You gotta let that go.”
John shook his head stubbornly. “Can’t do it Fielding…I’ve been trained by some of the best firemen in the business…I don’t think you can teach me anything I need to learn.”
Fielding’s mouth compressed into a tight line but he said nothing more…He’d been absolutely sure that John Gage would be one of them and he had no intention of letting Gage prove him wrong.
The angry senior paramedic backed the squad into the bay. He saw his Captain step out of his office and threw Gage a smug grin. They’d all recognized John’s lack of self confidence about his abilities and they’d played on it the whole first shift, knowing the young man would respond with the need to prove himself and he had over and over again.
Poole would know how to set the rather insecure twenty two year old back on track. Gage wasn’t competitive like they were but he was driven to be the best at everything he did. Gage would be a perfect addition…Eventually.
John stepped from the cab. “Gage...,” Poole snapped at the young man.
“Yes sir,” John replied respectfully.
“You have a hearing problem that I’m unaware of?”
“No sir,” John answered calmly.
“I told you that you didn’t have time for that tank. You ignored a direct order.”
John looked down at the floor knowing he could be in a world of trouble but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to let them run over him anymore.
“It’s my right to wear the safety gear issued by the department for my protection sir,” Johnny said quietly. “And it’s a good thing I did or I might very well have lost that baby today and had Fielding been wearing his, then Gibson could have concentrated on helping the victim instead of carting him out…Sir.” Johnny added almost as an afterthought…If Poole didn’t know better he’d have thought he was listening to his academy instructor.
The Captain glared angrily at the young man knowing full well that he was right and the boy could make it very difficult for him if he tried to force him but he’d also seen how badly John had handled the taunting remarks of his crew and changed his tactics figuring on the same results.
“I see…Well Gage I thought you had more guts than that. We thought you were man enough to be a part of the best crew in LA. We’d hoped you’d be a great paramedic,” he said with a sigh as he looked down at the floor in disappointment.
Fielding smirked at the younger man as John’s face reddened at the disparagement of his abilities but he forced a smile. “Actually Captain…I think I’ve more than proved that I’m a good paramedic. I’m half of the best team and a member of the best crew in Los Angeles,” he stated proudly as his eyes flicked between his current Captain and Fielding. He saw the smiles that spread across their features, thinking they’d won another round but they quickly faded as he continued…“Which is why I’m returning to them and my own Station as soon as my two weeks here are over.
Both men bristled at the obvious insinuation that his old crew was the best in the county. “You better watch that tone Gage,” Poole growled at the insubordinate younger man. “I have a fine crew here…They're the best and we’d like you to become a part of it but you’re gonna have to learn to do things our way…”
John shook his head… “No thank you sir…I appreciate the offer but I want to go,” he hesitated. “Home sir,” he finally finished.
The SCU began to tone halting further conversation. “Station 48…Station 51…Foam 120…,” Traffic accident with injuries…813 Guava…8-1-3 Guava Cross Street Frontier. Time out 10:03…”
Poole shot a glance at Gage that warned him that the conversation wasn’t over. He didn’t plan to see Hank Stanley’s smirk of satisfaction when all of this was done. His crew didn’t lose to a group of play by the rules, faint hearted firemen.
Roy was just backing the squad into the bay when the SCU began to tone. He heard the call out and began to smile, hoping to get a chance to talk to Johnny for a minute. He’d missed him at Rampart but wanted to tell his young partner…For what it was worth anyway, how proud he was of him for standing his ground this morning.
He’d seen Poole wave him in and the scowl Fielding had given him when he’d grabbed the SCBA but Johnny had turned on his usual stubbornness. Maybe his young friend wouldn’t appreciate the pat on the back but Roy needed to tell him anyway.
He flipped on the lights and sirens and pulled out into traffic…He heard the blare of the Engine as Mike pulled out behind him.
He hoped it would be a simple accident and an easy rescue but a few moments later his hopes were dashed. Station 48 was already at the scene and the smell of gasoline was heavy in the air, Roy guessed one of the gas tanks had been ruptured. Their lineman were hosing down one smoldering vehicle that had rammed a power pole…The lines above sparking and cracking madly in protest from the stress of holding the broken spar upright.
Fire was licking out from under the second car across the street…Station 120 was set up and began spewing its chemical foam beneath the burning vehicle.
Roy climbed from the cab and grabbed his turnout before running around to help Gibson with the equipment. He heard Hank Stanley on the radio. “Engine 48…This is Engine 51…Have you notified the power company and asked the power to be cut here?” He asked worriedly.
“No need Engine 51…That pole will hold long enough for my boys to get them out…No time to wait.”
Roy looked shocked at the response…So did Hank. “LA…This is Engine 51…Please notify the power company to cut the power at Guava and Frontier…Repeat…That’s Guava and OH MY GOD…” Captain Stanley’s horrified gasp could be heard over the open connection.
Roy spun around to see what had upset Hank so badly. His heart climbed into his throat as he watched Poole wave his men toward the scene.
Johnny hesitated but Fielding shoved him hard, causing John to stumble forward several steps. His young friends eyes lifted to the wires above him in indecision and then toward his captain before he began to back away, but he'd waited too long. The lines ripped free and hit the wet ground only inches from his best friend. John became airborne as 12,000 volts blew his body backward.
Johnny climbed from the squad and pulled open the compartment doors…The heavy smell of gasoline causing his nose to wrinkle.
Fielding ran around to join him. The older man glanced toward the engine. He saw his Captain speaking into his handy talkie before waving them toward the accident scene as station 120’s truck began to spew out foam.
“Gage…Fielding…Get in there,” Poole yelled as he waved at the crashed vehicles. John looked at Poole for a moment in shock and he hesitated. The power lines were still sparking…Was the man truly crazy?
“We need to get them out now Gage,” Fielding shouted giving John a shove toward the car as he wheeled and headed for the smoldering vehicle. John stumbled forward from the hard push and his dark eyes lifted toward the lines briefly…He heard Poole's voice from a distance away. “Move it Gage…”
If he could get in the vehicle he should be safe enough even if the lines came down. Johnny hesitated in indecision...He looked toward Poole who was waving him toward the vehicle angrily and shouting at him to hurry, but it wasn't safe...He needed to wait. He began to back away. He’d only taken a step when the stressed pole finally gave up the fight and snapped completely, crashing down over the roof of the vehicle. The live power lines snapped free, thrashing like the tentacles of some crazed octopus.
They hit the ground only inches from the young paramedic. Johnny never had time to react…His body arched, becoming airborne as his muscles violently contracted.
The power lines suddenly went dead…Five seconds too late.
Roy snatched the defibrillator and the drug box and ran toward his downed friend. “Take the car,” he yelled at Gibson as he dropped to his knees beside Johnny…His fingers feeling for his carotid. A shadow fell over him and he glanced up to see Hank standing there looking worried. “Set up the link Cap…He’s got no pulse and he’s not breathing.” Roy’s hands parted the blue shirt in one quick rip…Buttons flew in every direction. His fist connected with John’s chest in a pre-cordial thump as he began CPR.
Hank quickly set up the bio phone and began calling the hospital. “Rampart base this is rescue 51…” He pulled the handy talkie from his pocket while he waited for a response. “LA this is Engine 51….I have a code I at this location…Dispatch another ambulance.” He dropped the HT without waiting for a response as Rampart responded.
“Rescue 51 this is Rampart…Go ahead.”
Roy gave John two quick breaths and let up for a few brief seconds to snap the defibrillator’s case open and grab the paddles. He heard cap respond to Rampart and then two more hands joined his. He looked up at Gibson as he knelt next to him…The other man shook his head, letting Roy know the victim in the car was beyond their help. Johnny lying here like this…And it had been for nothing. “Continue CPR Roy…I’ll patch him in.”
“Rampart base…We have a twenty two year old male…The victim of an electrical shock…He has no pulse…No respirations. We’ve begun CPR…Be advised…Victim is John Gage.”
Kel’s heart dropped into his stomach. Joe Early and Dixie were coming out of treatment room 3 and Kel waved them over. “It’s Johnny…He’s suffered a severe electrical shock.”
Dixie’s face paled as they all turned their attention to the base station.
“Tell them he’s cyanotic Cap,” Roy snapped out between breaths and chest compressions.
“He’s cyanotic Rampart,” Cap said as he grabbed the oxygen that Marco had just arrived with and placed the mask over John’s nose and mouth.
“Defibrillators ready,” Cap said handing him the paddles. The distinctive sound of a building charge was filling the air.
“400 Watt seconds…,” Gibson announced. “Clear.”
Everyone backed off as Roy pressed the buttons. John’s body arced beneath him and every eye turned to the scope.
Marco quickly went back to the resuscitator as Gibson pumped up the BP cuff. Roy snatched the phone from Hank. “Rampart…He’s A systolic…We’ve defibrillated once with no conversion…We’re sending you a strip…Lead 2.”
There were several seconds of tense waiting…”Flat line 51…Hit him again,” Brackett’s voice came back.
Gibson had already hit the reset and the whine was humming in the background not that Roy noticed…Everything seemed in slow motion…There was silence except for Brackett’s voice and his own terrified heartbeat pounding in his ears.
“Clear…” he yelled. Once again everyone backed away. Roy hit the button’s and sent another jolt racing through John’s body. His partner bucked beneath him.
“He’s throwing PVC’s…100 mgs Lidocaine 51. Start an IV… D5W …,” Brackett instructed. Gibson handed him the IV while Mike took over CPR . Roy administered the Lidocaine and checked the scope… “V- Fib 51…Hit him again,” Brackett demanded.
Roy applied the paddles again…The scope shot up briefly and then flat lined. “Don’t you do this to me Johnny…Come on partner.” There were tears and sweat running into and out of the blonde paramedic’s eyes in equal proportion…He wiped them quickly on his shoulder. “Don’t you leave me…”
Captain Poole stood next to Hank…His gray eyes full of horror. He’d never had one of his men get hurt like this before…As Hank had said…He’d been lucky. His luck had just run out.
Start an airway 51…1 Amp Sodium Bicarb.”
Roy was racing from task to task as the others moved quickly to do whatever they could to help. Gibson quickly inserted the tube and hooked John up. “Damn it…Breath John…Don’t you quit on me,” Roy choked out. The older man knew he was running out of time. He had four minutes to get John’s heart started before he suffered irreparable brain damage…Three had already passed.
Mike continued CPR and Brackett’s voice came over the Biophone. “1 to 10,000 Epinephrine IV 51...”
Chet had tears welling in his eyes. “Come on Johnny…Come on,” he whispered.
Marco was looking at Hank…His brown eyes frightened and pleading but there was nothing he could do but watch. He began to mumble in Spanish in what Captain Stanley could only assume was a prayer. Hank’s eyes returned to the scope, watching the life of the youngest member of his new family fade away before his eyes… Guilt welled up…Why hadn’t he stopped Poole from sending John in? Why hadn’t he fought harder to keep the kid at 51’s in the first place…He’d known something like this could happen but he’d had no idea that Jack would be so determined to prove his point…That he’d risk John’s life to this extent. Hank’s dark eyes met Poole’s and the promise in them was clear. Poole swallowed hard.
“Isopateranol 51…Intra cardiac…3 mgs. Defibrillate.” Roy’s fingers flipped the cap from the clear liquid and the syringe. His deft finger’s quickly screwing the two pieces together and shooting the air bubble clear. His finger’s found the space between John’s ribs as he sank the long cardiac needle into John’s heart.
At Rampart, Dixie, Joe Early and Kel were gathered at the base station, waging a battle with death over the Biophone. Dixie was white with fear for John…The thought of losing him too much to contemplate. Dixie always knew in the back of her mind that it could happen but Johnny and Roy were both so special to her and she’d always pushed their dangerous jobs from her mind but now it was pushing back.
Johnny had a brief flare of pain as the wires hit the ground before darkness settled in. Light flared around him but he seemed to have lost all sense of time…He was floating…Nothing hurt. He felt almost as if he were watching a movie.
His friends were gathered around a victim, working frantically to save whoever that was they were working on. John thought he should go over and help but his feet didn’t seem to want to move. He heard the soft sound of singing. John cocked his head…It sounded like his Mom.
Roy continued to administer CPR, Taking over from Mike as the other man tired. The seconds continued to tick by. Hank sniffed and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He drew a deep breath as he laid his hand on Roy’s shoulder. “He’s gone Roy…It’s over,” he said softly.
“NO…,” Roy shrugged off Cap’s hand.
The others were looking stunned at what had just happened. Poole looked as anguished as the rest of his crew as they began to gather around the fallen, young paramedic. Roy finally sat back and looked up at Hank in shock. “No…,” he whispered as the tears spilled over his lashes.
A few seconds passed but it seemed like hours. Roy’s watering blue eyes returned to the still form of his partner. “No…No,” he whispered and finally. “JOHNNY,” he yelled. He grabbed the paddles. He had to try one last time. 400 watt seconds…He counted in his own head. He placed the paddles and pressed the triggers.
John’s body arced beneath him…Roy laid his hand on his friends chest. “Don’t leave me junior,” he whispered. “I NEED YOU…PLEASE,” he pleaded. The scope bounced back in sinus rhythm.
John again felt that light and peaceful feeling. He turned away from the scene… following the sound of the soft singing…It was his mom…He knew it. He took a step toward it but then he heard an anguished cry. “JOHNNY…” He turned back. Roy looked so distressed…Johnny couldn’t leave his best friend like that. Roy was calling him. He began to feel heavier and he wondered why.
“Pressure’s coming up Roy. 100/60…Pulse is thready…Respirations 12.”
“I don’t believe it,” Cap said. Only four and a quarter minutes had passed but it had felt like hours since the life and death struggle had begun. The pavement was strewn with the plastic and paper wrappings and empty syringes. The only evidence of the battle just waged.
“Monitor vitals and transport as soon as possible,” Kel’s voice broke the tension.
Roy picked up the Biophone. “10-4 Rampart…”
Dixie regained some semblance of control as the monitor beeped out in sinus rhythm. Brackett and Early leaned on the base station counter. “Phew,” Kel breathed out softly… All of them trying to get their own heart rates to settle down and regain their composure.
“Get treatment room three set up. I want a CBC…BUN Electrolytes, ABG and Creatnine. I want Bouchard down here. He’s the best cardiac man we’ve got. Johnny gets the best.” Dixie grinned. “Dix…You want to help or do you want to sit this one out?”
“Count me in,” Dixie told him as she turned and headed for treatment 3 to set up. Joe called upstairs for Bouchard. They’d be ready when John arrived.
Fielding looked over to where they were working on his partner. He had no idea how bad John was and he couldn’t get a clear view of the scene as he climbed into the ambulance with the two victims from his car. He frowned in concern as another ambulance rolled up. “God …He’d never meant for the kid to get hurt and he hoped Gage would be alright. DeSoto would kill him if he wasn’t…Maybe he deserved it.”
They quickly loaded Johnny on a gurney and lifted him into the ambulance. John’s muscles contracted painfully and only the straps of the stretcher kept him from pulling the IV Loose. Roy climbed in next to him desperately wanting to see his friend’s dark eyes open and twinkling with their usual mischief. He reached out and took his hand.
“I’m here Johnny…You’re gonna be okay…C’mon partner, open your eyes,” he pleaded.
John’s heart rate bounded briefly at the sound of Roy’s voice before resettling to a steady rhythm. He pumped up the BP cuff once more.
Johnny heard the sound of Roy’s voice. He wanted to talk to his friend. To tell him how sorry he was but something was down his throat…His head was tied down and he couldn’t move. A soft moan of fear slipped from his lips.
Roy glanced worriedly at his friend as he read the BP…90/60. He glanced at the scope…The occasional blip increased his own heart rate. John was throwing PVC’s once more. He picked up the bio phone. “Rampart base this is Rescue 51…”
“Go ahead 51.”
“Rampart…His BP is dropping... 90/60…His pulse is 50, respirations 12. He’s throwing PVC’s Rampart and is experiencing muscle contractions.”
“Start another IV 51…Isoproterenol…Give him 4 mgs MS IV. Keep him calm.”
“Take it easy junior…You’re gonna be okay. C’mon Johnny…I need you to be okay?” Roy soothed as he was administering the medication but Johnny was fighting the effects. He didn’t want to sleep. He needed to talk to Roy. He wanted to tell him he still wanted to be his partner but he couldn’t open his eyes…He couldn’t talk. He groaned in frustration, trying to raise his hand to push the obstruction from his throat but he couldn’t move.
Tears of frustration and pain welled in his eyes and slipped from between the closed lids. He could hear Roy’s voice pleading with him. His heart rate became erratic.
Roy’s eyes shot to the scope. He heaved a sigh of relief as he felt the ambulance make the turn into Rampart. “We’re almost there…You relax okay?” The PVC’s were getting more frequent. “C’mon Junior…Don’t do this.”
The doors were whipped open and they hauled the gurney out. Roy ran alongside as they pulled him toward a treatment room. “He’s throwing PVC’s Doc.” Roy called as they made the transfer from stretcher to exam table.
“We’ve got it from here Roy,” Kel said stripping Roy’s hand from John’s as Bouchard and Joe Early moved in...He pushed Roy out the door.
“But Doc…” Roy heard the whine of the monitor as Johnny’s erratic heartbeat suddenly dropped to nothing.
“Flat line,” Dixie yelled. Kel swung the door closed in the stunned paramedics face and returned to John’s side.
Bouchard was already grabbing the paddles.
Roy stood in front of the closed door in shock. “God Johnny,” he whispered, wanting to be at his friend’s side but knowing Brackett wouldn’t allow it.
He felt a hand touch his shoulder… “DeSoto…?” Roy spun around in disbelief. How could he be standing there as if nothing had happened? “How’s Gage?”
Roy’s hands were suddenly holding Fielding by his shirt collar as he shoved the man backwards across the hallway and slammed him against the wall. “You son of a bitch…Why did you send him in there? I told you to watch out for him.”
Fielding was on his toes and was trying to get the other man’s hands loose. “I understand how you feel but…,” he wheezed.
“No you don’t understand,” Roy barked angrily, interrupting his words. “My best friend…My kid brother is in there coding…Right now…Because of you…You and your crew.”
Roy felt hands grasp his arms and strong hands circled his wrists. The calming voice of Hank Stanley reached through the cloud of rage. “Let him go Roy,” he said quietly.
“But Cap,” he began to protest as Marco and Mike helped Cap pull the distraught young man away.
“Roy…Johnny’s gonna need you…You gotta be tough here okay? You can’t be with him if you get arrested for assault.”
“John’s coding,” Roy whispered. His breath’s hitched as fear once again took hold. Tears slipped from the blue eyes.
Oh God,” Hank mumbled as he looked toward the closed door. The rest of his crew glanced at each other in fear.
“He’s twenty two…,” he said sorrowfully as he glanced at Rick who was looking guilty and contrite. “Did you know that Fielding? He’s only twenty two… Why did you do that?"
"We thought...If he felt the rush..."
"Johnny doesn't do this for a rush...Haven't you figured that out yet? He does it to help people...Because he cares. What’ll I do Cap if…?” Roy’s face crumpled briefly before he regained control.
“I don’t know Roy…But beating Fielding senseless isn’t gonna help. Let’s go to the doctor’s lounge and we’re gonna call Joanne and get some coffee okay?” Hank looked at Fielding with a jerk of his head. “Find somewhere else to wait. I’ll let you know how Gage is as soon as I know. Tell your Captain I’ll be calling him too.”
“Yes sir,” Fielding mumbled not meeting the eyes of the crew of Station 51. He glanced at the broken hearted blonde paramedic one more time. DeSoto was right…He should have been watching John’s back. He was his partner and he hadn’t understood what that meant before now…Watching Roy’s grief and fear was making it clear...It was a different kind of rush...It was also something he decided he might like to experience…If he still had a job when this was all over. He walked away, dragging his feet.
The crew watched him go in disgust before leading Roy to the lounge.
Johnny felt pain jolt through him as his body involuntarily bucked up off the table. His arms flopped over the edges…He couldn’t hear Roy’s voice anymore. Someone was taping something over his mouth and he hurt all over. His chest rose and fell as a machine forced his lungs to inflate.
He heard the whine of a defibrillator somewhere near him and the sound of excited voices calling instructions. His body arced upward once more… They were hurting him and he wanted to scream at them to stop... He wanted Roy. Why couldn’t he talk? His body was shaking with pain and fatigue.
The steady beeping of the monitor filled the room. The voices calmed and so did Johnny. Where was Roy? He felt something cold flood his veins. His chest hurt horribly and tears of pain welled once more. He wanted Roy…He tried to call for him but he couldn’t open his mouth. Suddenly the pain eased and John felt himself slipping away.
A short time later, Roy heard the sound of running feet. He glanced up as Joanne came into the room. She stopped at the distraught look in Roy’s eyes. “Johnny?” Her whisper was almost a plea for her husband to tell her their young friend was okay.
Roy stood up and gathered her into his arms. “He’s bad Jo…He was in cardiac arrest for over four minutes. We got him back but he arrested again about twenty minutes ago.”
“God no…,” she whispered against his chest. She hugged him to her. “He’s going to be okay Roy. He has to be. We can’t lose him. He’s so strong and you know how stubborn he can be…,” she trailed off on a sob.
Roy squeezed her to him. He glanced up to see Dr. Brackett standing in the doorway. He pulled Joanne with him as he moved quickly toward the doctor. “Johnny…How is he?”
Kel tried to smile reassuringly but it fell flat. “He’s stable but critical. We’re moving him to CCU. You can stay with him but…Roy…Keep him as quiet as possible. Don’t try to wake him…Don’t talk to him. Don’t touch him. I don’t want you to stimulate his heart at all if possible okay?”
Roy didn’t like that at all. He wanted to reassure his young friend that he was there…That he’d be okay but he had to follow the doctor’s orders. “Okay,” he promised. “For how long…?”
“Let’s give him a few hours and we’ll see how stable his heart is okay? If he doesn’t have any more complications or irregular heartbeats…”
“He needs to know I’m there.”
“And he will…As soon as he’s stable okay but I know that the sound of your voice is going to excite his heart rate…And that’s the last thing we want right now.”
“Okay,” Roy whispered.
“I’ll wait for you here,” Jo said softly.
Roy pushed the door open and his own heart dropped into his stomach. The monitor beeped out a steady rhythm. The gown was pulled away leaving John’s chest bare…The bruising from the CPR and redness from the paddle burns was obvious against the paleness of John’s skin. There was a vent tube taped in place and the tubing from the Foley catheter snaked from under the blankets. His arms were bruised from the IV’s and needles used to introduce the drugs that had brought him back twice now. His feet were bandaged from where his socks had melted to his skin.
Roy wanted to take his hand…Tell him he was there for him but Brackett’s warning had been clear and the last thing he wanted was to bring on another arrest.
He sat next to him his hand just inches from John’s he’d sit here silently all night if he had to but he needed to be with his friend. He hoped Captain Stanley could find a replacement. His blue eyes returned to the monitor repeatedly as it kept the steady, reassuring rhythm.
“C’mon Junior,” he whispered softly to himself as tears pooled in his eyes. “Don’t leave me.”
Hank was pacing the hallways anxiously. He glanced at his watch for the fifth or was it the sixth time? He was hoping Johnny would wake up before they got called out again. Joanne sat with the crew in the CCU waiting room.
Hank spun on his heel to make the return trip but almost bumped into someone. “Uh excuse me,” he mumbled as he glanced up into the face of Chief Sorenson. “Oh Chief Sorenson…I’m sorry sir,” he said standing up a bit straighter.
“It’s okay Hank…How’s Gage?”
Hank shook his head. “He’s coded twice sir…”
Sorenson stared at the floor morosely... “What’s the prognosis?”
“They’re optimistically guarded.”
“So they’re basically saying they don’t know which way it’ll go yet?” Hank nodded. “How’s DeSoto holding up?”
“Roy’s in there with him now but they told him he can’t talk to him or touch him yet.”
“They don’t want anything that might stimulate John’s heart rhythm until they’re sure he won’t arrest again.”
“God, I’m sorry about all this Hank. I never thought Poole would go so far or do something so stupid to try and hang onto him. I thought it would be a good experience for the kid after what happened at 88’s. I came down here to give you a chance to say I told you so.”
Hank smiled wanly. “Not necessary sir…I just want John to be okay and to come back to 51’s.”
“Well if nothing else I was right about one thing…”
“What’s that sir?”
I spoke to the crew at 48’s…They all told me John stood up to Poole just before they were called out. Told him he was going back to the best crew and the best team when the two weeks were up.” Hank smiled as Sorenson continued. “While it was bordering on insubordinate…,” Sorenson said with a grin. “He reminded them that it was his right to wear the protective gear and that had Fielding been wearing it this morning that Gibson would never had had to help him out of the building.” Hank beamed like a proud father. “Considering John’s somewhat reckless streak he’s displayed in his past, you and DeSoto have obviously managed to get something drummed into that stubborn young man’s head over that last few months…He’s been taught very well.”
“Thank you sir…That makes me feel a bit better.”
Sorenson patted Hank on the shoulder as he glanced toward the CCU door. He looked to where the crew was sitting and saw Joanne. “Who’s the lady with them?” He asked curiously.
“Roy’s wife Joanne Sir…John’s pretty special to her too.”
“Good…I’m glad he’s got people to look out for him then when he gets out of here. Give my best to all of them and I’ll be keeping John in my thoughts okay?”
“Yes sir I will.”
“I’ll get a replacement for DeSoto to meet Gibson at the Station and I’ve told dispatch to call you only if there was no one else within a reasonable distance.”
“Thank you sir… Um Chief… What’s gonna happen to Poole and Fielding and the others?”
“Poole’s been suspended pending an investigation. I’ll be talking to Chief Hayes. I’d like to transfer the A Shift of Station 48 to several other stations with Captains more in tune with departmental policies. Fielding’s asked to be transferred to you. He wants to work with DeSoto until Gage is back on his feet. Say’s he needs to relearn from the best.” Hank looked shocked and then a bit worried. “I’ll wait to find out how Gage is before I grant that request of course.”
“Good idea,” he said softly, remembering Roy’s anger in the hallway outside John’s room. Fielding might be better off with a wild bear if John wasn’t okay.
Brackett and Dr. Bouchard pushed the door open to John’s room. Roy sat in the chair…His fingers just inches from John’s. The blue eyes swiveled hopefully in their direction as they came inside.
“The nurses say he’s been looking good for almost two hours now. I’m gonna let you talk to him Roy but if he shows any sign of becoming agitated, I’m going to ask you to stop okay?”
“Yes…,” he agreed eagerly as he turned back to his friend. His hand curled around John’s gently and Kel’s eyes shot to the scope as John’s heart rate gave a single irregular leap before resettling to a normal pace at the sound of Roy’s voice. “Shhh Junior…I’m here. I’m with you and I won’t leave you okay? You’ve gotta be okay Johnny. I need you…”
The monitor held to a steady rhythm and Bouchard and Kel both gave a sigh of relief as John’s head turned in Roy’s direction. A small moan whispered from around the vent tube. Kel smiled as the blonde paramedics hand came to rest on the dark head…His fingers sweeping the dark hair from John’s forehead. The younger man settled back to sleep under the gentle ministrations.
“We’ll be back in a little while Roy. We’ll take the vent tube out and let him breathe on his own in the morning if he’s still stable. Call us if he wakes up…I’ll let Joanne in for a moment but please try not to excite him too much.”
“Okay Doc and thanks…I needed to uh…,” Roy shrugged helplessly.
“I know,” Kel said with a smile as they left. “I’m sure Dixie will be up as soon as she gets a break.”
Joanne pushed the door open a moment later and came into the room. “How is he?” She whispered as she came to the other side of the bed. She leaned over to gently kiss John’s cheek. “Hi baby,” she said softly as she brushed his cheek. She took his hand and stroked the long, still fingers.
John’s dark lashes fluttered against his pale cheeks briefly before settling once again.
Roy smiled. “He’s still pretty heavily sedated but I think he knows we’re here and that’s all that matters.”
She nodded. “The guys finally had to go. Kel told them John was looking pretty stable at the moment and they were really relieved. He said they could see him tomorrow.” Roy nodded. “Your Chief was here too. He told Hank that he was sorry for sending him over to 48’s and that he’d be thinking of Johnny.”
“That’s good. Did he say anything else?”
“That he was splitting up the A shift crew over there and that they’d suspended their Captain.” Roy nodded, still angry but feeling a bit better that Poole wasn’t going to get away with what had happened to Johnny, unintentional or not.
Roy nodded again. “Good…Maybe some of them will live long enough to retire,” he said snidely.
“Kel said I couldn’t stay too long today so I have to go. I’ll be back in the morning…I expect you’ll still be here,” she said with a smile.
“I will. Give my love to Chris and Jen okay?”
Jo nodded as she dropped a parting kiss on the young man’s cheek. “I love you sweetheart,” she said softly. She kissed Roy on the mouth. “Take care of yourself honey…And him.”
John tried several times to claw his way back to consciousness. He felt Roy’s presence even before he’d felt his touch and heard his softly spoken words. He couldn’t seem to force his eyes open against the effects of the drugs. There was no sense of time for him but he knew instantly when Joanne had kissed his cheek and taken his hand and he wanted to tell her he’d be okay but he couldn’t. He sank back into sleep…
He didn’t know how long he’d been out but pain suddenly assailed his senses. His chest felt like a lead weight had been dropped on him. A soft whimper slipped from his lips as his eyes filled with tears of pain. He felt the painful scrape of the tube in his throat as it was carefully pulled free and he drew a deep breath on his own and coughed…Gasping as agony shot through him once more. “Mmmmf,” he moaned softly.
He felt a hand grasp his and heard the quiet voice of his best friend. “It’s okay Johnny…I’m here. Time to wake up now,” he said softly. He felt his fingers stroke over his forehead. John’s mouth was dry and his tongue felt thick. His lips were sore from the tape and he licked them weakly as his dark eyes fluttered open. His nose felt runny from the oxygen canula placed beneath it. He looked up into the relieved blue eyes of his partner.
“Welcome back Junior,” he said softly.
The dark eyes shifted about the room…Flitting over the faces around him. Joanne and Dixie stood on one side while Brackett stood next to Roy on the other. He placed the stethoscope on John’s chest and listened. “Sounds pretty good in there young man,” Kel said with a gentle smile.
“Roy,” he croaked out in a raspy whisper. His breath hitched in a painful whimper.
“What is it Johnny? Are you hurting?”
He nodded, drawing another painful breath. The monitor bleeped warningly… “Hurs…Thirs…y too...”
“Okay…You just relax,” Roy said quickly. “Take a deep breath and relax okay,” Roy said worriedly as his blue eyes tracked the monitor…His finger’s brushed through John’s sable hair and the rhythm began to settle once more. “We’ll get you something for the pain okay,” he assured him as Brackett hit the call button. Roy grabbed the glass from the tray and angled the straw for John to drink. He sipped it gratefully…Gasping between draws. “Okay…Take it easy there…Don’t overdo okay?”
Johnny’s brown eyes locked with Roy’s. “Okay?” He whispered through sore lips.
“Yeah Junior…You’re gonna be okay,” the blonde man reassured him.
Dixie was busy taking his pulse as the nurse bustled in. “4 mgs of MS,” Kel directed turning back to his patient.
Joanne waited for the blonde nurse to finish before she took his hand. “Hi sweetheart,” she greeted kissing his forehead.
John tried to smile but it fell short as the pain forced another gasp and hitched breath. “Hi Jo,” he managed to whisper.
“Oh baby…It’s gonna be okay.”
The nurse returned and injected the contents of the syringe into John’s IV port. “Doan… Leave…me,” he pleaded with Roy as his eyes began to drift closed.
“That’s a promise,” he whispered into his friend’s ear.
John’s eyes opened a long while later. He felt a gentle hand sweep the dark bangs from his brow and turned his head. Joanne smiled down at him. “Jo…,” he murmured softly.
“Shhh,” she whispered nodding toward Roy.
He turned his head and saw his friend sleeping in the chair. “Been here…All night?” He gasped softly.
The door opened and Dixie peeked in. “Is he awake?” She asked. Jo nodded and the blonde nurse came in to take his other hand in hers. “You scared ten years off us John Gage,” she said giving his hand a gentle slap. “Don’t you ever do that again…”
“Try not…To,” he croaked out, mustering a crooked half smile.
Roy woke with a start. He saw Dixie and his wife and stood up quickly. “Johnny,” he said with a worried look.
“He’s fine,” Dixie reassured him.
John rolled his head toward Roy. “Hey P...Pally,” he murmured.
“Morning Junior,” he replied as his hand came to rest against the dark head. “How are you this morning?”
“Bet…ter…Does…n’t hurt so much,” he gasped.
“Almost bought it huh?”
“Thanks…Save my life.”
“I couldn’t let you leave me Junior.”
“What?” Three voices chorused together.
They all looked at each other in shock. “You couldn’t have heard me John...You were..., ” Roy hesitated, unable to say the word.
“Yes…You call…ed me.”
Roy looked at the two women in surprise. “Did you?” Jo asked.
Roy’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes…He was gone…We’d almost given up out there but I just couldn’t…So I tried that one last time and…”
“Heard you,” Johnny murmured again. “Couldn’t leave you.”
Jo and Dixie’s eyes flooded with tears as they understood. Roy’s finger’s tilted John’s face toward him. “I couldn’t let you go either.” John smiled.
Jo wiped her eyes and kissed John gently. “I have to go…The kids are with a neighbor but I’ll be back later.” She kissed Roy and left.
“Kay,” he replied.
Dixie followed her out. “I’ll be back with Kel in a while.” She stopped as the crew of Station 51 came into the room. Dixie gave them all a warning look. “Don’t stay too long, he’s still very weak.” She shot a glare at Chet. “DO NOT upset him.” Chet nodded guiltily.
“Hey pal,” Captain Stanley greeted as they came to the side of the bed.
“Hi Cap,” he murmured tiredly. “Guys…”
“You gave us an awful scare Gage,” Hank admonished as he rested his hand over John’s.
“We can’t stay long John but we needed to check on you before we headed for home.”
“O…Kay now,” he reassured them.
They smiled. The young man was definitely not okay and he had a long recovery ahead of him but they were glad to see he was out of the woods. “We thought you might like to know that the crew from 48’s has been reassigned.” John nodded as Roy’s mouth grew tight with anger. They’d almost killed his best friend. “Poole was suspended and Fielding has asked to work with you Roy.”
“WHAT?” He barked as he spun away from Johnny.
“It seems our youngest crewman left quite an impression on him. He’d like a chance to learn from the best,” he said.
“Roy…,” Johnny called softly. The older man spun around to look at his partner. “I’ll be o…Kay and he’s right. You can…teach him to be a better…part…ner for someone,” Johnny gasped out.
Roy was touched despite the request to work with the man who’d almost killed John.
Hank patted Johnny’s hand as he saw the tiredness of the dark eyes. They’d over taxed him and the kid needed to get some rest. “Let’s go guys…John needs some sleep.” They all patted John’s shoulder or hand and filed out feeling reassured that their young friend would be fine.
“Cap…?” John called softly. Hank turned around and looked at him questioningly. “When I…I’m bet…ter…Can I come…home.”
The older man smiled. “Of course you can son.” John smiled at appellation. It didn't sound so bad coming from Hank.. "Our prodigal son returns," Hank teased with a smile.
John gave him a tired smile before his dark eyes turned to to his friend. "I'm sorry Roy."
"For what Johnny?"
"hur your feel...ings. Just thought I...Had ta p...prove that I was a good para...medic...Could take care of my...self."
Roy smiled. "You didn't need to do anything special to do that John...You do it every time we go out in that squad.You are a good paramedic...The best but sometimes you get a little...over exuberant and you scare me but I trust every move you make, don't you know that?"
"But you always watch out...for me," he gasped. "Can't do it alone."
"Sure ya can Junior...But I'm your partner. It's my job to watch out for you...That's why they call it partners."
Johnny smiled at that logic but he knew Roy was right. "Sure?"
“Absolutely...So Junior…Did you learn anything from that crew?” Roy asked teasingly.
“Yeah…That I…Need to think…Things through a bit more…,” he replied haltingly.
“Just a bit…?” Roy teased.
“Don’t push…It,” he replied, drawing a laugh from his friend.“I won’t prom…ise I’ll never be reck…less again…But I’ll try hard…er not to.”
Roy’s hand ruffled the dark hair and he noticed the tired droop to the dark eyes. “Good…Then I’ll be a little less thin on the top,” he said with a relieved chuckle. “And I promise to try and not baby you so much. You don’t need it…You’re not a kid,” Roy said a bit ruefully. “Now Junior, You need to get some sleep,” he instructed as he headed for the door.
“Roy?” A tired voice called after him.
The older man returned to the bed. “Yeah Junior…?”
John’s hand reached out to curl around Roy’s. “Don’t stop…Complete…ly okay?” he said softly. Roy’s brow rose questioningly. “A little baby…ing’s nah so bad,” he said tiredly. “Just means…You c…care.”
Roy squeezed the hand he held in his own as his other settled on the dark head. He stroked the hair back gently. “You got it partner,” he said softly. John’s eyes closed. Roy leaned down close to his young friend’s ear. “It also means I love you little brother,” he whispered as he gave John’s hand a squeeze.
John spent three days in the CCU before Brackett sent him to a regular room. Four days later he released him to stay with Roy. He spent another week with the DeSoto family before they released him to limited duty.
Bouchard finally gave him the all clear…There was no permanent damage and John returned to work five weeks after he’d been injured.
Poole was reinstated after admitting that he'd been wrong in the way he led his men…Promising to use the protective gear as instructed by the department…He’d learned a lot from a certain young paramedic and he intended to use what he’d been taught.
Fielding left 51’s and returned to 48’s but with a whole new attitude. He met his new ‘Partner’ and had every intention of watching this one’s back and maybe building a friendship that was half of what DeSoto and Gage shared…He’d learned it from two of the best.
John walked into the rec room his first day back. Roy was already there and had poured two cups of coffee. He grinned at the sight of his partner standing there and handed him the cup. Marco, Cap and Mike were already at the table.
Chet trotted in and dropped a box of donuts on the table. “Welcome home Johnny,” he said sincerely.
John eyed the box warily but the Irishman smiled. “There’s nothin wrong with em…,” he assured the younger man.
John smiled as he flipped the lid open. Half a dozen jelly filled donuts filled the box. “Thanks guys,” he said softly. “It’s good to be home.”
Okay back to Christmas in Lame Deer Part 2...Hope you enjoyed this one.
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