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Partners: Chapter 3

Forging A Friendship

An Emergency Story by
by Tammy B

Links to Chapters 1, 2, 3. 4, 5

Chapter 3

In LA the rain had been falling for hours. Roy and John hated this weather…accidents and injuries kept them hopping all night… People seemed to turn to crazy when the weather was bad. They’d been called out for the 6th time that evening stopping to pick up Nurse Carol Jacobs from Rampart.

The ambulance backed into the emergency bay. Carol and Johnny climbed out with their Patient. The attendants pulled the gurney through the door... Roy joined them a moment later. Dixie was back on duty, but was limited to directing from the base station.

She came to meet them at treatment room three, where Joe Early was waiting... “Heroin O.D?” She asked Betty.

“Diacetylmorphine 2 CC’s…”

“Vital signs…?” Joe asked.

“Stable...,” Carol answered.

“I’ll take her in here...,” Joe directed, pushing the door to three open. The attendants pulled the girl inside.

John and Roy followed Dixie toward the base station. “Fifteen year old girl,” Dixie said in disgust as she led the way… “Using up her future like she had a corner on it.”

“You know the place...,” John said. “The Shamrock on the lower east of fifth…Picked her up lying in the hallway," he said as he sat down. He stretched his arms trying to ease the kinks from his back.

“Post graduate mainliner," Roy added. “Sheriff’s follow up found two balloons of hash in her pocket...”

A crash of thunder caused them both to stop talking…glancing up in concern. “It sure is comin down out there,” John said.

The SCU tones began to sound over the Handy Talkie. Both Roy and John froze as they waited to see if they were one of the companies to be called out.

“Sounds like they’re calling up the Calvary,” Dixie commented after several tones had sounded.

John nodded and cast a look at his Partner. “Engine 10, Truck 10, Engine 210, Engine 53, Engine 101, Squad 10, Squad 125, Battalion 14…respond to a tunnel explosion with cave in at the flood control tunnel. Alameda Diversion Complex...” Sam’s familiar voice gave the instructions…, “Grid 34…Charlie 1. Time out 18:10...”

This must be big. Johnny and Roy looked at each other in disappointment… They hadn’t been called out.

“Yes sir…everybody but us,” John said in disgust.

“Grid 34…that’s down near the center of the July earthquake...”

“Yeah I read something about it the other day,” John replied. “They’re enlarging it. They’ve got men working a twenty four hour shift to beat the rainy season…,” He said ironically.

“You people seemed to have cooled your eager...,” Dixie commented.

“What good would we do out there?” John said irritably, “Our usual half a job.”

The tones began to sound over the Handy Talkie once more. This time they were familiar... “They’re playin our music Pal,” Roy said as both men turned their attention to the Radio.

“Engine 51, Squad 51, With Engine 10 on the Tunnel explosion, cave in…,” They grabbed the Handy Talkie and ran.

Kel was pacing the lobby for the tenth time. The lights began a synchronized flicker. He glanced at his watch. Fifteen minutes had passed. He’d just turned away when he heard a door open up down the hall. Mike Wolski stepped out the door. His hands were shoved deep in his pockets. His head was down as he as he moved up the corridor toward Kel.

Brackett’s heart sank just a little, afraid of what Wolski was going to tell him. Mike stopped in front of him. He looked up at Kel with a serious expression... “Almost unanimous,” He finally said. Kel began to look depressed as Wolski continued. “Six to one for our side… phase one…,” Mike finished. Kel looked up in relief... “Phase two…the floor of the legislature.”

“When do we find that out?”

“I like your ‘we’ Doctor... The Bill goes to both Houses at 8:00 tonight.”

“Anything more I can do?” Kel asked, “I’ve got the 9:00 flight.”

“I’ll phone you as soon as the Governor signs it…, if we get that far…? You’ll need a raincoat... I hear it’s pouring down your way.”

Kel picked up his briefcase... “This is it,” He said. “Makes me feel official... If you were a betting man, what would you give our chances?” Kel asked.

“Sometimes I think I’ve only learned one thing in twenty five years of plodding these hallowed halls.”

“Don’t bet,” Kel stated.

Mike nodded. Kel grinned and left.

Roy and John arrived at the tunnel collapse and began to gather their equipment. Chief Conrad came over and began to give them their instructions. They got to work treating dozens of minor injuries knowing there would be more serious ones as the searchers dug through the rubble.

An hour later Kel finally arrived back at the Hospital. He spoke to Dixie for a moment to get an update on the tunnel collapse then went to change. He found Joe Early in his office making arrangements for the blood he thought they would need when the Victims began to arrive.

The two Paramedics had set up in a small reasonably safe section of the tunnel. The Victim’s were being brought to them. Roy glanced up as the first seriously injured man was brought in… “Put him down here,” He told the rescuers. They set him down and moved off.

John moved to grab a blanket to keep the water from dripping on the man. Roy asked for the resuscitator, taking the blanket from Johnny. One of the rescuers warned them to check to see if he was alive first. He was obviously distraught at the devastation he was seeing. “Resuscitator fast…,” He called to John.

The first of the victim’s began to arrive at Rampart. They Kept Kel, Dixie and Joe busy for hours as they moved room to room… Victim to Victim...

Roy returned to the squad for more equipment as the victims kept arriving. He and John were busy but all they could really do was render first aid. Roy came back with the trauma box. The moaning of the victims was more than he could stand.

He grabbed a bottle of ringers and an IV kit. John looked at him in shock... “You plannin on using that…?” He asked. Roy glanced at him but kept working... “Look I was wrong Roy. I know that now. I was wrong,” He stressed again.

“Where…? At the ravine, with Dixie… Look around you. Don’t tell me they couldn’t use four more hands... Trained hands…,” He argued.

“Take over,” Johnny told him as Roy continued to open the I.V. kit. Taking charge of the situation, the younger Paramedic reached over and took it away from Roy. The older man took over the resuscitator in annoyance.

‘It’s no good Roy…,” Johnny said trying to convince the older man. “It might be another tunnel tomorrow or a bombed building or anything. If we can’t show discipline now…,” He argued, “They’ll wash the whole program out forever. “

Roy looked at him in indecision but he was at least listening... Johnny continued. “I was wrong Roy,” He said again… Roy gave in.

The Hospital was overloaded. Kel and the others were handling everything from skull fractures to burns.

John and Roy continued to render what aid they could as the ambulances returned again and again to carry the victims away by two’s and three’s. The Chief came into the area they were working in. He gave them new instructions to report to an area where they’d found a small handful of survivors.

They grabbed what equipment they could carry and headed out. They had little time. They’d been told the walls wouldn’t hold for very long. They moved down the long dark tunnel. When they arrived they found eight injured men.

One was pinned under a heavy piece of equipment. They went to assess the trapped victim as other rescuers handled the victims that were safe to move. “We’ll need a Portapower and Jacks,” Roy said to John.

“Better move it...,” Johnny said taking in the situation. “This digger gives way and this thing shifts it’ll cut him in half.”

Roy went to tell the others... “Portapower and Jacks…quick as you can,” He directed them.

One of the other victims looked at them... “Maybe it don’t make no difference no more,” He said. “Riley’s got a bad heart.”

“Knock on it,” Roy directed.

“My leg hurts somethin awful… You couldn’t give me somethin to ease the pain?” He asked hopefully.”

Roy stood rooted in indecision… He wanted desperately to help this man. Johnny’s words played through his head once again. He turned away to help his Partner.

 

In Sacramento the Bill had passed the House and was headed for Governor Reagan’s Office.

The crew arrived with the equipment…they began the extrication. John and Roy knelt next to the victim. Bracing it as it lifted, prepared to protect him as best they could. The creaking and groaning was ominous...suddenly the walls began to crumble.

“Watch out!” Roy called as rocks and clods of dirt fell onto the two Paramedics and their victim. They threw themselves over the injured man, as several other Firemen took the brunt of the rock slide. Water began to pour in. As soon as the as the rocks settled the men quickly returned to their task.

“Hit it a coupla more times...Maybe we can free him,” Roy called.

The Fireman from 83’s pumped the jack a couple of more times, “Alright...” Roy said as he realized the victim was free. They moved to pull him from underneath the equipment.

The Doctors and Nurses were performing double duty. Not only were they assessing the Patients, they were following through with emergency surgery as well. The pace continued for hour after hour. There was no let up in the rain or the Victims.

John and Roy got their Victim to a safe location and began to assess his condition. Thankfully, someone had thought to bring the rest of their equipment. Roy hooked up the Biophone as John took the man’s vital signs.

“Pressures low... Let’s get him in right away,” He told Roy.

“He’d never survive the trip,” Roy replied.

In Sacramento Governor Reagan had pen in hand prepared to veto this bill. He was well aware that The California Nurses Association, the California Medical Association as well as the California Fire Chiefs Association were strongly opposed to this bill. The C.N.A. and C.M.A. were against Hose Jockey’s invading their territory. The C.F.C. did not like the idea of their Fire Fighters running around with BP Cuffs in their pockets and Stethoscopes hanging from their necks.

The representative from Los Angeles County, Kenneth Hahn took the opportunity to point out to the Governor how the program would work. As he drew an imaginary circle around the counties of Los Angeles and began listing the Cities. Culver City, Hawthorn, Inglewood…Reagan stopped him.

“Mr. Hahn…Do you mean this program will cross city boundaries?”

“Yes Sir, it will…,” Hahn replied.

Reagan looked at the man, “My Father died of a heart attack because the Ambulance refused to cross jurisdictions…” Mr. Reagan picked up his pen and signed the bill.

Kel Brackett had just left the operating room… He was exhausted. He rubbed tired eyes as he approached the base station.

“Kel…?” Dixie said as he approached.

“Yes.”

“51’s on the link.”

“What do they want?”

“Help...”

He pushed the talk button at the base station. “51…go.”

“We have a male tunnel worker… Approximate age sixty... Was trapped under a digging machine... Patient has a cardiac history... He is now diaphoretic,” Roy told him.

John glanced at the Cardiac Monitor as Roy continued.

“Vital signs... 80 over 50, rate 100 and irregular... Respirations 12 and shallow...”

Kel and Dixie listened intently from the Base Station… “Do you have your EKG hooked up?” Kel asked.

“Affirmative Doctor,” Roy responded.

“Send me something so I can get a reading,” Kel directed. He turned on the monitor.

“This will be lead 2,” Roy replied. The two Paramedics watched the scope, waiting for Brackett.

Kel read the strip for several seconds back at Rampart… “Multiple PVC’s,” He told Dixie. “V-Tach… He’s starting to fibrillate,” He reached for the call button… “Defibrillate…400 watts seconds,” He told Roy

“Kel…,” Dixie protested, “They’re not authorized.”

Kel ignored her as he continued to talk to Roy…“Are you receiving? C’mon 51 you’ve got a dying man on your hands.”

“Doctor…if we administer shock and lose him…,” Roy began.

“You’re losing him right now.”

“You said it yourself… It wasn’t worth risking the program for one case.”

“I just heard from Wolski in Sacramento… The bill passed late last night.”

“Kel, you never heard from Wolski…,” Dixie admonished.

“Yeah, well I should have...,” He snapped back."

The lights flickered in the tunnel. John and Roy looked up in concern still rooted in indecision. The lights went out. Roy grabbed the flashlights. John was administering CPR… He glanced at Roy… They were both worried.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” Dixie asked Kel. “If that bill doesn’t pass …Kel they’ll crucify you.”

“I don’t care about that... We’re not at a party or talking to a committee, that man’s dead right now...” He argued, coming as close to admitting that Johnny and Roy had done the right thing in that ravine as he was willing too. He got back onto the link with Roy... “Zap him damn it…Zap him,” He ordered.

Roy and John exchanged looks… Johnny made his decision… He grabbed the paddles. He applied the conductive gel and flipped the machine on. The high pitched whine of a building charge filled the small area… He put the paddles in place.

“400 watt seconds,” Roy informed him.

John squeezed the triggers. The man jerked beneath his hands. Kel was reading the scope back at base…"No conversion.” He moved back to the radio… “Hit him again.”

John glanced at his Partner… He pushed the button on the reset. The whine started again as the charge began to build… “400 Watt seconds,” Roy announced

John squeezed the triggers again… Kel looked at the strip and approval entered his eyes. Dixie closed hers in relief. “He’s going again,” Kel breathed.

John and Roy grinned at each other, both knowing they’d saved a life. For the first time it seemed real.


“Breathing on his own,” Roy told Kel. The lights came on.

“Get vital signs… Start IV 2 amps Sodium Bicarb, 100 mgs lidocaine.”

“Yes sir we read,” Roy answered.

“And my highest congratulations Doctor’s,” Kel said.

John grinned and once again plucked the phone from his Partners hand as he had that day in the ravine. “Thank You…Doctor…” He handed the phone back to Roy.

“Let’s get crackin and move to higher ground,” Roy suggested. They began to gather their equipment.

Kel turned to Dixie... “You are a fool,” She told him.

“Probably...”

“A most wonderful fool,” She said softly.

“Probably,” He said again.

“What are you gonna do if that man dies and the bill doesn’t pass?”

“Oh I don’t know…become a dentist maybe.” She shook her head at him. He looked into her eyes… “Why, you’re tearing up nurse,” He teased as he leaned closer to her.

“You have something for it?”

“Probably,” He said with a smirk.

 

The sun was rising, the clean up was underway and the Victim’s were finally all out. The two filthy, exhausted Paramedics were bringing their equipment out to the squad. Roy had just stowed the Biophone and Trauma Box. He turned to see a woman and her Daughter weeping in each other’s arms, as they lifted the covered body of her husband and carried him away.

His heart went out to them. Another man approached the two women. He leaned down to help them to their feet, dropping a newspaper as he did so. Roy headed back inside to help his Partner but the paper caught his eye. He leaned down and picked it up.

John came out of the tunnel carrying the splint kit and drug box. He saw Roy studying the paper as he approached. His ire rose slightly... “Isn’t that a little heavy for you to carry?” He asked snidely as he struggled by his friend with the two boxes and continued on to the squad.

Roy followed him still reading. John began to stow the two pieces when he spotted Brackett’s car pull up at the scene. He quickly shoved the drug box in place and hoisted the splint box to follow... “Try to look busy,” He quipped… “Dr. Brackett and Nurse Dixie are bearing down on us.”

“Rumor has it you can read…Try this,” Roy teased handing him the paper.

John took it as Roy moved over to take the splint box and stow it. The face of Kelly Brackett stared up at him. John’s face reflected shock as he began to read out loud. “Emergency Paramedic Bill passes. Governor signs bill after late night session. Brilliant plea by LA Doctor credited for speedy passage,” He said in disbelief.

Roy looked up to see Brackett and Dixie climb from the car. He smacked his Partners arm to get his attention. John looked up and seeing the couple approach… quickly threw the paper out of sight in the cab of the squad as they approached.

“I talked to Chief Sorenson...,” Brackett began, “From all reports you people did just fine.”

“Well we were about to say that to you,” Roy replied.

“How would you know? You weren’t there,” Dixie said.

“No but he was,” Roy replied. Dix looked at Kel in surprise.

“C’mon Dix... He said modestly as he began to turn away. He cast a final glance at the two Paramedics… “These boys are suffering from battle fatigue,” He joked, blowing off their stunned, but grateful looks.

“I really don’t know what to say Doc,” Johnny said contritely.

“Who asked you?” Kel shot back as he turned to walk away.

Roy tapped his still shocked Partner on the shoulder, relieved to see he didn’t pull away. John looked at him. Roy pointed to the squad and headed around to the driver’s side. Johnny climbed in still looking dumbfounded. Roy got behind the wheel. He glanced at his young Partner… “Don’t take it so hard Junior… People have been known to change.” John looked at him… He finally grinned and nodded his head as Roy pulled out.



Roy and John were near collapse. They left the station when they got back and went home. John fell into bed in sheer exhaustion. Roy managed to stay awake long enough to kiss his wife and kids. He patted the dogs head and went up the stairs. He fell into bed. Neither was aware of the celebrating within the fire department. Neither had time to think what their next shift would be like.

John and Roy spent their first shift as active Paramedics responding to several routine calls. Roy had delivered their first baby and they’d handled a number of minor bumps and bruises. Nothing serious had occurred and Johnny was grateful. He was nervous. There was no longer a nurse backing them up. What if he screwed up? John’s insecurities were rising up full force.

They’d handled the tunnel collapse two nights ago with great success. It was gonna take some getting used to. They held a great deal of responsibility with people’s lives and this whole Paramedic thing had brought on nightmares from the beginning.

He hoped his fears would disappear as he became more experienced and the dreams would go away as well. Chet Kelly would ride him mercilessly if he ever found out about the nightmares. He was afraid to sleep.

They were toned out in the middle of their dinner on a particularly difficult run. They arrived at the scene to find a man threatening suicide. He stood on a ledge eight stories above them. John climbed out of the squad and looked up… “Oh man…Roy...,” His older Partner glanced up.

“Let’s get up there…,” Cap ordered, as they grabbed their safety belts and equipment. They headed up in the elevator.

They arrived on the eighth floor and quickly moved to the apartment they thought belonged to their jumper. They ran to the window. John was already cinching on his safety belt and Roy was hooking on the lifeline. Johnny peered out the window… He could see the man about ten feet further along the ledge.

“Cap, I’m gonna go out there… Try to talk to him.”

Cap gave his quiet, Junior Paramedic a dubious look, but finally agreed…“Okay…give it a shot, but be careful.”

Johnny nodded and slid through the window. The man saw him immediately… “Stay away,” He yelled.

John held up his hands in a calming gesture… “Okay…Alright I just wanna talk to ya.”

“I’m not comin in…I… I’m gonna jump."

“Okay…but before you do can I ask why?”

“I’ve got nothin left that’s why.”

“Oh c’mon man, what about your family?”

The man shook his head. ..“They’re all gone now,” He whispered. “They're all dead…and my wife just left me…she took the kids… I got nothin left.”

John was talking quietly. Roy could barely hear him from the window where he stood holding Johnny’s lifeline.

“Man I know how you feel.”

“No…no you don’t know how I feel.”

“Yeah man….I do. My families gone too… I’ve been where you are. When they died…I wanted to die too. I thought about doin what you are… I thought about it a lot.”

Roy’s head snapped up. John had only been a child. He couldn’t believe Johnny would have contemplated suicide. Then an even worse thought intruded…was he still?

“What stopped you?” The man asked curiously...Johnny almost sighed in relief...he had him listening...

“I found a reason not to.”

“Yeah…? What was it?”

“My Parents woulda been disappointed in me. See I’d made a promise to my Dad when I was little. I wanted to be a Fireman and he wanted to see that happen. I promised him that I was gonna save lives. So I felt I didn’t have a right to take one...not even my own.”

“You still think about it?”

“Sometimes…When I’m really down,” He admitted in a whisper...unknowingly confirming Roy's concerns..

Roy’s heart climbed into his throat…his hands tightened on the line. John felt the tug and he glanced back at his Partner... he saw the fear reflected in his eyes and knew he’d been heard…he gave Roy a small smile then turned back to the man.

“But I don’t do it and I never will,” He said more to reassure Roy than this man… “Because I’d be letting them down…”

“I didn’t make a promise to anyone,” He said.

“But wouldn’t they still be disappointed?”

The man looked down, “Yeah…I guess they would.”

“Then c’mon in man… There are people who can help you.”

“Is there someone helping you?”

“Yeah …Someone is,” He said softly. “Now why don’t you just move towards me?”

"No…I...”

“Why?”

“I’m afraid to move.” John glanced down… the snorkel from 127 was just pulling up.

“Okay…How about if l come to you,” Johnny edged toward him.

“Would you look at that?” Chet said in amazement… “Mr. Tight lip talked him down. I couldn’t hear... What did he say to him Roy?”

“Nothin important Chet,” Roy answered. His whole attention was on his Partner. The others were keeping an eye on him as well but not for the same reasons. Their grip on the rope tightened as John moved further out.

John stretched out, “Okay…I want you to just reach over and grab hold of my hand…can you do that?”

“Yeah,” He said reaching out. John grabbed his wrist in a rescue hold. “Can you move toward me real slow?”

“Yeah…yeah okay…,” he said edging toward the young Paramedic. The snorkels basket was half way up the building.

The man drew closer to Johnny… “Thanks man,” he said.

John nodded... “Okay we’re just gonna wait for that basket to get up here, and we’ll give you a nice ride down.” The man nodded... “What’s your name?”

“Bob.”

“Mine’s John.”

The snorkel finally reached them. Johnny helped the man inside where a police officer waited. The snorkel began its descent. John watched for a long moment. He felt a gentle tug… “C’mon back inside Partner,” Roy said softly.

John turned his head to look at his Friend. He glanced down one last time and edged his way toward the window. Roy breathed a sigh of relief when his Partners feet touched the floor. Roy reached out to rest his hand on John’s shoulder, “You did great.”

“Thanks.”

“Johnny…?”

“I won’t do it Pally… I meant what I said to him,” Johnny said softly, raising dark eyes to meet worried blue. “I’d have done it by now if I was gonna…,” He said sadly. “Besides maybe I’ve found another reason to live?” At Roy’s curious look he added… “Someone who’d miss me,” He said grinning crookedly at Roy.

The older man smiled back, giving his friends shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Yeah…someone would.”

John turned in about 9:00. He was exhausted and that last rescue had left him drained. It was the first time he’d used his own loss to help another. It was always difficult to talk about his past and to deal with the emotional upheaval that brought on the nightmares. He hoped he could get through the night without their return. Johnny dropped off quickly, his left arm thrown over his face.

The others followed about an hour later. Shortly after midnight the engine was toned out on a trash fire...Roy and Johnny returned to bed.

His Grandfather had taken him from his Aunt Lacee’s house. He’d unwittingly delivered his Grandson from one abusive situation to an even worse one. George Walking Wolf terrified his young Nephew.

Johnny tossed under the covers. A fearful groan left his lips. His Uncles hand caressed his face. The thirteen year old shook in fright. He tried to pull away but the large man held him firmly in place. The other hand slipped into his hair, twisting the shaggy dark locks in his fingers. His mouth lowered toward John’s. Terrified brown eyes rose to leering black ones.

The boy whimpered in fear turning his face…struggling frantically to get away. The huge man cuffed the shaking boy across the side of his head. Only his hold on the child’s arm kept him from falling. His world started to turn gray as he began to slip into his own mind and his eyes began to turn blank.

It enraged the older man. He shook the boy until his head rocked on his shoulders. Screaming at him to stop it… His fist connected with John’s face...the fragile cheek bone cracked...the pain snapping the boy back to awareness. The boy struggled desperately, screaming in agony as his wrist snapped in the huge man’s vicious grip.

“Hová’âháne…,” He cried out, “No...,” He gasped again in English. His foot lashed out catching his Uncle in the knee. The older man grunted in surprise, letting his arm go. The boy stumbled free, his feet churning in terror as he scrambled away. He ran…stumbling blindly, cradling his injured arm… he regained his balance and ran again. Knowing the heavier man couldn’t catch him as long as he kept moving.

Tears welled in his eyes…he choked them back. He wouldn’t cry…his people didn’t cry. Even though his Dad told him it was ok. His Grandfather had told him it was weak and pointless… He had to be tough. He had to be strong. He couldn’t show fear and he could never tell anyone how his Uncle touched him…, they’d be disgusted…they’d blame him and send him away, Uncle George told him so and John had nowhere left to go. besides George would kill him if he did... He had promised him. John slowed to a walk…his cheek throbbed and his broken wrist sent shooting pains up his arm.

He thought back to the times this had happened before, times when he'd fogged out and wakened unable to remember what had happened...assuming that he'd fainted from pain or fear. He was almost certain that his Uncle had never gone beyond just touching… but he couldn’t be sure. He could never remember, he just knew he would awaken to a battered, bruised body and broken bones.

He’d frequently found himself bound or locked in a closet in pain, alone and afraid and wondering exactly what his Uncle might have done to him while he was gone. He didn’t know how much longer the man would wait before he took it further. The boy choked back the urge to vomit at the thought of what would happen if he couldn’t get away when he did.

John knew his Uncle was a little afraid of him and whatever caused those lost moments when he couldn’t remember things that had happened... believing His Sister in Laws claims that the boy was indeed insane…and while Johnny didn’t understand why he slipped away either he could only thank God for the superstitious fears that kept George at bay.

A hand descended on his shoulder. He looked up to see that George had caught up with him. “Hová’âháne…NO…”

He whimpered as George’s face loomed closer and his hands moved over his body… “Nooo…,” He screamed.

A low sound intruded into Roy’s sleep. His eyes fluttered open. At first he thought it was the Engine crew returning. He turned his head to glance at his Partner. He frowned into the darkness. His Partner was tossing wildly in his bunk…sweat beaded his face, trickling into his hair… He moaned a low guttural sound of fear.

Roy slipped from his bed, moving to his Partners side. He heard his partner utter a word he didn’t understand but the next one was clear, “NO...” John’s hands and feet lashed out as he twisted in the throes of whatever nightmare claimed him. His hands rose defensively… “Nooo,” He screamed.

Roy reached out and grasped his Partners shoulders, “Johnny… Wake up.” Roy said giving the younger man a sharp shake.

John’s eyes flew open. He saw a shadowy figure standing over him. A whimper of fear escaped his lips as he batted Roy’s hands away. He scrambled backwards away from the man, he pressed desperately against the brick wall behind him…shaking in fear... “No...,” He gasped. “No...tό’háomό’seh’ve (don’t hurt me)” John’s eyes were growing vague and blank and he began to rock slowly.

Roy grasped the wildly swinging hands gently but that only seemed to frighten his partner even more. He struggled to break the hold... “Johnny, stop it… It’s me… It’s Roy… Johnny…”

His voice finally seemed to penetrate the younger man’s fog. His brown eyes regained awareness as they lifted to look into Roy’s…the rocking stopped. “R…Roy...,” He stuttered out, seeming to wilt. Roy resisted the urge to pull the younger man into his arms, knowing John would resist any kind of close contact, especially while he was this upset.

“You okay?” Roy asked reaching to gently touch his partner. John flinched violently, cringing away, His hands rose instinctively to protect his face but then he seemed to recover. He averted his eyes, nodding weakly as he lowered his hands.

“I…I’m…s…sorry,” He stuttered. Roy could feel his partner’s shaking even from a distance. “I d…didn’t mean to wake y…you.”

“It’s alright as long as you’re okay.”

“I…I’ll be fine,” He reassured the older man as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“What were you dreaming about?”

John looked down, his face flaming in embarrassment… “I don’t remember,” He mumbled.

Roy didn’t believe him but he took the hint, knowing John wasn’t ready to trust him that far yet. He sighed heavily and returned to his bed.

John slid down under the covers. His shaking body slowly began to relax. He could feel Roy’s eyes on him and wished he could tell him but he was afraid he wouldn’t understand...how could he...Johnny didn't understand it himself... He'd tried to be good but it was never enough to to stop the punishment or the pain. He squeezed his eyes shut trying to shake the memories...He relaxed slightly and glanced toward Roy... He finally heard his Partners even breathing and realized he’d nodded off.

He stayed awake for a long time. He heard the Engine Company return. He finally drifted off just as the sun was coming up.

The wake up tones sounded. The crew rolled out of their beds amidst the usual yawns and stretches. They plunged feet into boots and snapped suspenders into place. Roy was halfway to the door before he realized Johnny wasn’t following and turned back.

John’s worst fears had come true…one of his crewmates had witnessed one of his nightmares, and not just anyone…but Roy. How would he ever face his Partner? He’d been terrified… Johnny could feel the burn of humiliation creep up his face. A pair of boots suddenly entered his line of vision.

John glanced up quickly then returned to contemplating the floor in front of him, refusing to meet Roy’s eyes.

“Johnny…? Are you okay?”

“Yeah…”

“You don’t look okay.”

“Roy…about last night…I feel really stupid…I …”

“Johnny…you had a dream, we all do. I won’t tell anyone if that’s what you’re worried about?”

“No…I mean…yes, I … don’t want you to tell anyone but it’s…,” John stopped, uncertain how to phrase it so his Partner would understand.

Roy’s hand reached out to gently rest on his young friends shoulder… “Johnny, if you’re embarrassed… don’t be. I’ve had nightmares that left me pretty shaky too.”

“Yeah…?”

“Yeah…but Partner…?”

John once again cast a quick glance at his friend… “Yeah…?”

“I know it’s none of my business but if or when you’re ready to talk about it…I’ll listen.”

“There’s nothing to talk about…,” He said a little too quickly. To Roy’s ears, it was almost defensive.

“Johnny…”

“Leave it alone Roy…please,” He pleaded sounding a bit desperate.

“Okay Junior…I’ll let it go…”Johnny nodded in relief… "For now…,” Roy finished, squeezing his Partners shoulder.

John’s head snapped up to look almost fearfully at his Partner but Roy had already turned away.


‘For now’ he’d said. What did that mean? John couldn’t tell anyone about his nightmares or what had been done to him. They’d never understand…not even Roy. He didn’t even know for sure himself.

John rubbed his face tiredly. He’d broken his own rule and let Roy in. Trusted him more than anyone in his whole life, but how would the older man see him if he told him the whole story. He couldn’t bear the thought of his Partner turning away in disgust if he found out.

John sighed and dropped his feet into his boots. He pulled up his turnout pants and followed the others out.

By the next shift John seemed once again calm and in control, the fright of the previous shift forgotten and his slightly embarrassed smile setting Roy at ease. They got dressed in the locker room amidst a lot of small talk and then headed for the coffee pot.

The SCU toned them out before they made it to the Day room… “Squad 51…, injured child… 2979 Hastings street 2-9-7-9 Hastings Street, cross street Kirk… Time out 7:09…”

“Squad 51…KMG-365.” Cap replied, moving to the driver’s window to hand Roy the slip of paper. Johnny was placing his helmet on his head as Roy began to roll.

They arrived at the scene a few minutes later. A boy of about nine sat on the couch. His weeping Mother trying to clean the blood from his face… John and Roy could hear a man’s voice shouting from the back yard…from his ranting they could tell he was drunk.

The two Paramedics exchanged a glance. John’s eyes took in the boys’ battered appearance as Roy headed back to the squad to call for Police assistance… Johnny’s mouth tightened in rage.

“What happened?” Johnny asked.

“My husband Nick and I were fighting…,” She wept, “Tim tried to get between us,” She said touching her own black eye. “It’s the same thing that always happens… He hit him over and over.” Roy returned in time to hear the end of the conversation.

Johnny almost flinched as she gave the details. Roy glanced at his Partner, John was rigid.

Roy started toward the boy but his young partner stopped him, “I’ll do it…,” He said stepping over to the boy. “Hi Tim...,” he began, speaking softly. “My name’s Johnny Gage and I’m a Fireman…,” He tapped his badge.

The boy barely looked up. “I’m here to help you…” Johnny knelt next to the child putting himself at the same level. Tim tensed fearfully… Wary eyes flicked in John’s direction. “Can I take a quick look at ya?” John asked softly.

He moved his hand slowly towards the boys face… The child tried to duck away but his Mom grabbed him.

“Just let the man look at you Timmy,” She said gently.

Johnny again reached for the child’s face… The little boy raised his hand to push John’s away with a cry of fear as he tried to scramble out of reach.

Roy’s eyes widened and then flicked to his Partner, “Oh my God…,” He whispered.

John glanced at him curiously but turned his attention back to the boy. “Tim I promise you…I won’t hurt you…,” He said softly, “But I need to take a look okay?” He said as he gently gripped the child’s hands and pulled him back into place.

Johnny carefully raised Tim’s face to get a better look… “This happen a lot…?” He questioned. The little blonde shook his head furiously in denial.

 

The Mother hesitated, and then nodded… “Yes,” she whispered.

John moved slowly and carefully to check and clean the boys face. Roy already had Rampart on standby, but his eyes never left his partner. John continued to check Tim for injuries, relaying the information to Roy.

The shouting began to grow louder. Tim attempted once again to pull away from the dark haired paramedic, cringing in terror, but it wasn’t Johnny he was afraid of. The man appeared in the doorway.

Roy dropped the Biophone, moving quickly to get between the man and three people on the couch. Johnny scooped the child up, handing him to his Mother and hovering protectively in front of the pair.

The Father swaggered into the room. His belligerent attitude apparently hadn’t let up. A hate filled look on his face at finding two strange men standing between him and his wife and son left no doubt of his rage.

“What’re ya doin in my house?” He shouted at the older fireman.

“Sir, we’re just here to be sure your son is alright,” Roy said soothingly.

“You got no right to be here,” he yelled, “The kids fine…now get out.”

“Sir…we need to look at him, he’s bleeding.”

“You call them?” He screamed at his terrified wife.

She nodded hesitantly.

“You stupid cow…,” He bellowed moving toward her. Roy moved into his path, placing his hands firmly on the man’s shoulders to hold him off. John pushed the woman and the little boy further behind him, taking a step closer to his Partner.

The man looked like he wanted to fight but this wasn’t a woman or a helpless child. He raised his hands… “Okay man,” He said angrily, backing away.

Thinking he’d diffused the situation, Roy turned to pick up the Biophone. The Father reached into his pocket coming up with a knife but Johnny’s wary, dark eyes had never left the man. He leaped at him as the knife began a downward plunge at Roy’s unprotected back.

“Roy, look out!” Johnny shouted as his lunge carried him hard into his Partner’s attacker. The man’s roar of rage was cut short and he grunted in surprise as he was slammed to the floor by John’s tackle.

John felt a burning sensation across his mid section and wondered what he pulled in the collision.

Roy dropped the Biophone, turning to help his friend wrestle the man into submission. A moment later an Officer entered the house. He took one look at the three men tangled on the floor and ran to handcuff the still enraged man.

Roy and John were both gasping for breath and sweating, “Thanks Scotty...,” Roy panted out.

“Hey no problem… Let me get him outta here,” he said hauling the man out the door.

Roy and John exchanged a wry glance and then climbed to their feet. The Biophone was squawking for attention. Dr. Early’s voice came through, trying desperately to raise his missing team. “51, can you read me…? 51?”

Roy picked up the Biophone… “Rampart…we’ve had a little problem here. Relaying the Patients vitals in a moment… Stand By.”

“10-4 51, standing by…”

Johnny had turned back to the terrified child and his Mother. “I’m so sorry Tim. Now we’re gonna get you to a Doctor real soon and he’s gonna make you feel a lot better, okay?” John said quietly.

Tim seemed to be calm but his eyes refused to lift to meet John’s. Normal behavior in an abused child but he seemed to be fixated on the young Paramedics stomach.

John glanced down, his gasp of surprise drowned out by Roy’s explanation to Rampart. Blood was beginning to seep through the slice in his blue uniform shirt leaving a growing wet stain.

Now that the surge of adrenaline had passed, Johnny was starting to feel the pain. Sweat was beginning to trickle down his face. Not wanting to lose the calm rapport he’d established, he reached down and zipped his jacket then continued to work with the boy.

“BP is 100/65, pulse 80, respiration 20. His wrist is swollen but I don’t think it’s fractured. Some facial bruising is present and definite tenderness in the left rib cage.

Roy’s eyes were watching his Partner and the child. Johnny seemed to be making some headway with the boy even though the little blonde refused to make eye contact.

The ambulance attendants came through the front door pulling the gurney. Tim looked up fearfully. Roy could just barely hear Johnny’s soft spoken reassurances.

“51 immobilize the wrist as a precaution. Does the child appear to be in a lot of pain?”

“Stand by Rampart. Johnny is he in a lot of pain?”

John shook his head. “Moderate…but he’s a tough guy huh?” Tim almost smiled but caught himself and nodded.

“That’s negative Rampart.”

“Transport immediately 51.”

“10-4 Rampart…”

Roy was handing the splint to Johnny… he noticed the slight tremor to his partner’s hand. Adrenaline rush…was Roy’s first thought.

Johnny waved the attendant’s over. He pushed himself to his feet, staggering slightly as a wave of dizziness washed through him. He pressed his hand to his stomach, feeling the warm wetness.

“Okay Tim,” he said barely above a whisper… “They’re gonna take you to Rampart. You’re Mom’s gonna go with ya.” The boy nodded hesitantly as Johnny continued, “M…my P…partner’s gonna go in the ambulance with you,” he gasped.

Timmy moaned in fear, “No…you,” He whispered reaching for John’s hand. The older man took it gently.

“I…I’ll be…,” John stopped in mid sentence as nausea spread through him.

Roy had been packing the equipment. He heard the hitch in the voice before it trailed off completely. He looked up quickly, taking a hard look at his Partner. He saw the pallor of his skin and the sweat trickling down his face.

“Johnny!” Roy shouted dropping the equipment. He took two quick steps to reach his friend as the younger man’s knees buckled. Roy caught him, lowering him carefully to the floor. “Johnny can you hear me?”

“Yeah…,” the murmured reply came back as Johnny’s eyes cracked open. Roy saw the wetness seeping through his friend’s jacket and unzipped the navy blue coat.

“Geez Junior, why didn’t you tell me?”

“D…didn’t w…wanna sc…scare Tim…”

“Yeah…? Well you just scared the hell outta me Junior,” Roy said as he cut John’s shirt away.

Johnny jerked as his partner probed the wound. Roy turned to the two attendants… “Hold that ambulance,” he directed grabbing for his equipment. He yanked out two 4 X 4’s, ripping them open and pressing them as gently as possible on the wound. He picked up the Handy Talkie. “L.A…Rescue 51…”

“Rescue 51…L.A.”

“L.A., I have a code I at this location…requesting a second squad.”

“10-4, 51… Squad 110…respond to squad 51’s incident…”

Roy set up the Biophone... “Rampart base, this is rescue 51,” He said as he wrapped the BP Cuff around John’s arm.

“Go ahead 51.”

“I have a second victim. A twenty two year old male… 165 pounds… He’s sustained a knife wound to the lower left abdomen.”

“How deep is the wound 51?” Dr. Early’s voice responded.

“It’s a fairly deep slice Rampart but no stabbing penetration… Stand by for Vitals,” He told them, setting the phone down. Roy got John’s BP, pulse and respiration. “Rampart…?” Roy said, once again picking up the phone… “BP is 110/80, pulse is rapid, and respiration is 12. Be advised Rampart, the victim is a code I.”

“51, is your victim Johnny?” Dr. Early questioned hearing the anxious tone of Roy’s voice.

“Affirmative Rampart…”

“Apply a pressure bandage… Start an IV…Ringers Lactate. Administer 5 mgs MS IV and transport.”

“10-4 Rampart…”

Roy had been working on his Partner from the moment Joe Early had begun giving instructions. He had the bandage in place before the Doctor had finished speaking. “Okay Partner, I know you hate this but it’s Doctor’s orders,” Roy said inserting the I.V. as gently as possible... John winced anyway. Roy gave him the MS, inserting it into the IV Port. “Okay Junior... let’s get you outta here…,” Roy said as he finished adjusting the drip. “Squad 110’s pulling in now and they’re gonna bring our squad in so I can go with you two okay?”

Johnny gave him a weak nod. Roy patted his partner’s arm reassuringly as the ambulance attendants lifted him carefully onto a stretcher, bringing a groan of pain from the young Paramedic. They carried him out as Tom Wheeler and his Partner Kurt Anderson were coming up the walk.

“Whatcha got DeSoto?”

“First victim is a child. The second one’s my Partner…He took a knife blade across the stomach,” He said nodding at Johnny as they loaded him into the ambulance… “I need you to drive our squad in.”

Tom Wheeler put his hand on Roy’s arm, “You’re a little close to this one… You want me to take this run?”

“No…I got it.”

“Sure?”

“It’s not a bad wound... He’ll be ok,” Roy assured him as he slid the Biophone into the ambulance and joined his partner.

Tim’s mother climbed into the front of the ambulance.

“How ya doin Tim…?” Roy asked. The boys’ eyes were on Johnny. “He’s gonna be okay,” He reassured the boy as he turned to his Partner. “You doin okay…?”

John’s eyes were closed but he gave his friend a slight nod. Roy rested his hand on Johnny’s arm…The younger man’s eyes cracked open…“Roy?”

“Yeah Junior…”

“How’s Tim doin?”

“He’s doin good Junior.”

“Kay.”

Roy moved his hand to rest lightly on his partner’s head… John’s eyes drifted closed. Roy watched him thoughtfully, his eye flicking back to their other Patient. He nodded slightly… “This just might explain a lot Junior,” He whispered quietly to himself.

Dixie was waiting with two orderlies as the ambulance doors swung open. Tim’s gurney was pulled out first. He cast one last frightened glance toward John.

“It’ll be okay,” Johnny reassured him with a weak smile… “For both of us…”

Tim’s small mouth twitched then curled up in return smile…the orderlies pulled him out of sight.

A new young Intern named Mike Morton was waiting for John in treatment 2. They’d met once before and neither had been that fond of the other. John thought Morton had a lousy bed side manner and an arrogant attitude. Mike shared Brackett’s opinion that the young Paramedic was too erratic.

“Gage, how did this happen?” Morton asked.

“Our victims Father tried to knife me... Johnny tackled him and the knife cut him,” Roy explained for his Partner as Morton pulled the sheet back.

John shivered from the sudden chill, but Morton was oblivious to the young man’s discomfort. He began to uncover the wound. John grimaced as he peeled the bandage back. Roy shot a glare at Morton’s total lack of concern for the pain he was causing Johnny.

The young Paramedic twisted away with a gasp as Morton’s fingers probed the wound. Roy reached out to rest his hands on his partner’s shoulders stilling his motion. John’s eyes tracked up to meet his friends for a moment. He relaxed slightly and let his eyes drift closed once more.

The exam door swung open and Kel Brackett came in followed by Dixie... “Mike, what’ve you got?” He asked the young black intern.

“Knife wound… More of a slice across the abdomen,” He answered. John’s lids lifted heavily again as he fought the effects of the drug he’d been given. Brackett very gently checked the wound himself. He glanced at Johnny, saw the pain in his eyes and felt the trembling of chills that Mike had ignored.

“Dixie get me a new set of vitals... Roy how much blood did he lose?”

“About 300 CC’s… He didn’t tell me was wounded until we got the victim taken care of.”

“What?”

“It was a child… He’d been abused… Battered by his Father…” Roy’s eyes flicked to John, his Partners eyes were still closed but Roy was sure he saw a shudder run through him. The blonde Paramedic continued. “Johnny’d just got him calmed down when the Father came back in. He was pretty mad that we were there…anyway we were trying to calm the man down when he went after the wife and kid again. I got in his way… He pulled a knife and tried to stab me in the back. Johnny jumped him and got cut by the knife...,” Kel nodded.

“Kel, his BP is 110/60. Pulse is 90, Respiration is 16,” Dixie informed him.

“Let’s get this closed up. Set up a suture tray… 4 0 silk…and uh…Dix, get him a blanket.” Dixie nodded as Kel moved to the supply cabinet for a local. The dark eyes closed once more. "The MS should be taking care of the worst of the pain.”

Roy’s eyes shot daggers at Morton. “Yeah…it should have...,” he said remembering Morton’s less than gentle examination. “How long will he be out of action?”

“Ten days…maybe two weeks, until this heals properly and he can get back to work without tearing anything open.” Roy nodded.

“Roy…,” Dixie said, “Why don’t you wait outside?”

John’s eyes flew open… He looked up at his Partner. His mouth tightened for a moment before he closed his eyes once again but not before Roy saw the almost pleading look. He knew his Partner hated hospitals passionately and he also knew he’d never ask him to stay. He needed to keep that macho, independent, tough guy image in place.

“Dixie, I’d like to stay if you don’t mind. Maybe I could learn something…” His blue eyes held a determined glint.

Dixie hesitated a moment... She glanced toward John, seeing the tenseness of his body, she gave in. “Okay.”

The younger man visibly relaxed. Roy resisted the urge to brush the hair from his partner’s forehead knowing John would be mortified.

An hour and twenty one stitches later, they moved the young Paramedic to a room. Johnny was half dozing in the bed when Roy poked his head in. “Hey Junior?” He questioned softly, prepared to leave if he was asleep.

John turned his head. Heavy lidded, drugged eyes met Roy’s. “I’m not gonna stay long junior, I just wanted to be sure you were okay before I headed back to the station,” He said as he moved to his friend’s side.

“I’ll be Okay,” He said softly with a small nod.

“Good…Johnny?”

“Yeah…?”

“I wanted to thank you for saving my life back there… I’m just sorry you got hurt doin it.”

“S’okay,” He slurred sleepily.

“Well I’ve gotta get the squad back but I’ll be by to see you later today when we get a run okay?”

“Kay.”

“I’ll be here in the morning for sure.”

“Umm…hmmm...,” He agreed as his eyes closed. Roy rested his hand on Johns’ shoulder... “Thanks Roy,” He murmured drowsily.

“For what…?”

“Be…ing here...,” He sighed as he dropped off. Roy nodded absently. He watched the younger man thoughtfully for a moment… He looked like such a kid.

Roy finally gave in to the whim knowing Johnny would probably never allow it if he were awake. He very gently brushed the hair from his friend’s forehead… “I’ll be here Partner, count on it.”

Roy stopped in later in the afternoon but Johnny was drowsy, the pain medication keeping him sluggish and barely coherent. Roy let him sleep. When he came by the next morning John was finally awake and Brackett had backed off the dosage of the pain meds.

“Hey partner…you’re lookin much better.”

“Feelin better too,” He agreed.

“Glad to hear it Junior.”

“Brackett says he’ll let me outta here in a couple of days, but it’ll be at least ten days before I can work. “

Roy nodded, “He told me that yesterday. “

“Oh.”

“The guys said to say hi.”

“They did?” John asked in surprise, with a small grin.

“Yeah…”

“So whatta ya got for today?”

“Besides visiting a sick friend?”

Johnny smiled… “Yeah…”

“I’ve got some yard work and then I thought I’d ask Joanne to cook up a few extra meals."

“Yeah, for what…?” John asked looking bewildered.

“To take to your place and stock up your refrigerator so you’ll be able to just relax.”

“You don’t have to do that,” John said quietly.

“I know that, but when you get home you’re gonna need to rest and not do too much.”

John seemed at a loss. As if the idea of someone watching out for him was a foreign concept. “I…um…I’d…uh…that’d be great…um…thanks,” He stammered.

“No problem… Can I get your keys?”

“I think Dixie has em.”

“I’ll get them from her then.”

“Okay and…uh…thanks again Roy.”

“I’ll be back later to see you.”

“You don’t have to keep comin. I…I’ll be okay alone.” The ‘I don’t need anyone’ attitude was back in place. “I know you’ve got your family and…”

“And I’ve also got a friend and partner, so let’s leave it at that ok?”

John smiled looking a bit uncomfortable… “Okay,” He mumbled.

“I’m gonna go now and let you rest.”

“Thanks again.”

“Don’t mention it,” Roy assured him. John smiled.

Roy arrived home fifteen minutes later and Joanne had his breakfast ready. She placed it on the table and sat across from him. He pushed the eggs around with his fork, his thoughts drifting back to the night John had awakened terrified. John’s nightmare… the way he’d resisted being touched…as if fending off an assailant, his refusal to make eye contact afterward, his silent withdrawn moods…the terror in his eyes… He thought of the child, Tim.

“Did I burn the eggs?” Jo asked, breaking his reverie.

Roy jumped. “What…? Oh…no honey, I’m sorry I was just thinking,” He said realizing he’d been shoving his food about absently.

“About what…?”

“Johnny.”

Joanne sighed in annoyance.

“Look Jo, I know you’re a little jealous of the time I spend with him but…”

“No Roy…I’m sorry… I am jealous but you have a right to have a friend. Someone to talk to about all that stuff I’m just not into. It’s just...well... I’ve never seen you get so involved with someone before...especially a kid like John Gage.” Joanne was obviously confused by her usually reserved husband’s interest in this young man.

“He’s not just a friend Jo…It’s more than that.”

“More how…?”

“I…I’m not sure myself sometimes...I can’t put a finger on it exactly. It’s like…he’s a grown man and a kid at the same time. One minute he’s a tough, absolutely fearless, cocky, over confidant Firefighter"

“Normal attitude for a Fireman...,” Joanne quipped. Roy grinned.

“He acts so independent with the guys but that’s exactly what it is…an act because there’s this vulnerable, scared look in his eyes sometimes…”

At Joanne’s curious look he clarified. “Oh I don’t mean the job…He’s got absolute ice water in his veins when it comes to that, he'll try anything, nothing scares him… but personally, privately…it’s…it’s like he’s just screaming for someone to care about him…to look out for him. To maybe get through that damn wall he’s got up between him and the rest of the world and he’s so naïve, like he doesn’t quite understand other people or feelings or just…,” he shrugged… “Life in general…,”Roy sighed, “Maybe I can’t explain it right. He’s so tough one minute but then there’s just something special …childlike about him. Maybe this sounds arrogant but it’s like… he’s lost and he needs me.”

“Maybe you need him too,” She said quietly.

Roy gave her a bewildered look …“What do you mean?”

“Roy you’ve changed since you met Johnny.”

“No I haven’t”

“Yes…yes you have…Roy you’ve always held yourself back from everyone…well …except me and the kids. You hold everything way down here,” She said patting her chest. “Inside...Like you had a suit of armor around you… I understand that you can’t let your job get to you, but you’ve always been so serious... reserved. You separate yourself and keep people from seeing the real Roy DeSoto… , the you that I love… The softer side of you….”

“But you’ve changed since Johnny’s come along. I see it in your eyes… A caring look when you talk to him or even about him… You hug Chris more often. You’re more open and receptive even with me. I’ve watched you while you two have been building the deck. You’ve become more expressive and talkative when he’s around. You laugh more, kid around more, heck...you even argue more. John Gage makes you FEEL just as much as you force him too. You’re like two halves of a whole, different but the same.”

Roy was looking at her in confusion… Was she right? Had Johnny made a difference…changed him as well?

She scuffed her toe a bit self consciously as she continued… “I am jealous because he’s found a part of you I never saw and didn’t even know was there. He draws out a part of you no one’s ever seen, but it’s a good thing as well because the kids and I are benefiting from the overflow,” She said smiling.

Roy loved talking to his wife. She understood him sometimes better than he did himself and she’d stand by him always. She may be jealous of his relationship with John Gage but she’d support it if it made him happy. He could tell her anything. “Jo…something happened yesterday.”

“What was that?”

“Johnny got hurt.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Was it bad?”

“I didn’t want to upset you…He got cut by some nut with a knife. He’s in the hospital. He’ll be alright in a couple of weeks but Jo…The call was for a child who’d been injured. Turns out his Father beat him up and it wasn’t the first time."

Joanne shook her head in irritation. Nothing made her angrier than child abuse. But she didn’t understand where her Husband was going with it until he continued.

“He’s a battered child. He denied that his Father hit him but we knew from the Mom that he had. The thing is Jo…He wouldn’t look at anyone, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him. Johnny finally got through and the kid let him treat him but…,”Roy hesitated.

“But…?” Joanne prompted.

“On our last shift, Johnny was having a nightmare. He woke me up screaming Jo… I mean he was terrified."

“By what…?”

“I don’t know… He either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me but…”

Jo frowned at her husband, “Go on…,” She prompted.

“When I woke him up, he wouldn’t let me touch him. Slapped my hands away and backed up against the wall. He was rocking and he wouldn’t look at me. He flinched away like he thought I was gonna hit him…like this…,” Roy said, holding up his hands in front of his face. “I managed to calm him down a bit but…boy Jo…when we got to that rescue…? It was like watchin a replay with that little boy. Jo…I think Johnny was a battered child.”

“Oh Roy…no… You know he could just have had a very bad memory of some other traumatic event. You said his Parents were dead. Maybe that’s what he was dreaming of.”

“That wouldn’t explain his reaction to being touched or being afraid of my hands and there’s something else…The day before we had someone threatening suicide... Johnny talked him down.”

“Johnny did?” She asked surprised.

“Yeah…but Jo he told the guy he’d thought of suicide himself when he was a kid.”

“Oh Roy, that’s awful.” He nodded. “But maybe he was just trying to get the guy to trust him by saying that.”

Roy shook his head. “No, he told me after that he had thought of it but that he wouldn’t do it because he’d be a disappointment to his parents, but Jo the fact is that a eleven or twelve year old thought about it… Why?”

She shook her head, “Could be a lot of reasons…none of them good….but he’d lost his Parents and he had no one else…,”She let the sentence hang.

“He was afraid Jo… and there’s something else I can’t quite get a handle on, but I’ve read about it somewhere before…The rocking…”

“Rocking…?”

Roy nodded, demonstrating the gentle motion as he continued… “There was an almost empty look to his eyes. I just can’t remember where or what the whole article was about but what I saw last night…and at other times when we’re together. Jo I’m almost positive there’s been abuse... I wish I could remember…anyway the problem is I don’t think Johnny would ever admit it.”

“Maybe…?”

“Maybe what…?”

“Maybe when he learns to trust someone enough…” She said looking gently at Roy. “He’s almost there now. He lets you at least touch him now... his arm or shoulder… I’ve seen you and he doesn’t pull away anymore.”

Roy sighed, “I don’t know Jo…He’s got this wall up between him and the rest of the world. The only time I ever see him let down his guard and let someone in are the victim’s we treat… children and…” Roy grinned “women… and even they don’t last too long... Anyone who tries to get too close to him get’s shut out…pushed away.”

“Everyone except you…?” Jo pointed out with a grin... “Besides victims are strangers, they can’t hurt him emotionally. Children accept him as he is. They don’t want anything from him and women…,” she grinned, “Are the easiest to explain. They’re a purely physical attraction for Johnny until they want too much from him…then he backs away.”

Roy looked at her in shock, she’d handed him the key to Johnny’s contradictory behavior… “How’d you get so darn smart?”

“Hey buster I went to college for two years while you were in the Army… Remember? I majored in psychology before I married you and got pregnant,” She laughed as she kissed his cheek.

Roy pulled her into his lap. Chris is playing next door and Jennifer is still asleep,” He grinned… “You wanna go upstairs and practice some of that psychology stuff on me Mrs. DeSoto?”

“You’re on Mr. DeSoto,” She said kissing him softly.

Roy and Joanne went to the hospital later that afternoon. Johnny was awake and restless… “Man, how long are they gonna make me stay here?” He complained.

“Until they’re sure you can take care of yourself Partner.”

“I can take care of myself...,” He said indignantly, “I’ve been doin it for years.”

“I mean they don’t want you tearin those stitches open by doin too much.”

“Oh.”

“How exactly did this happen anyway John? Roy only said it was some nut with a knife.”

“Oh we had an injured child. His dad took exception to R…,” John stopped as he caught Roy’s frown… Changing in mid sentence, “Our interference and pulled a knife. I jumped on him and got clipped, that’s all.”

“Oh,” She said a bit concerned about his impulsive action... “Couldn’t you have tried to talk him into putting it down?”

John’s eyes flicked to Roy… His Partner stepped in… “He really didn’t have time to talk to this guy. There were too many people around and someone could have gotten killed.”

“I see...,” Joanne had caught the byplay between the two men but thought Roy was covering for his young partners reckless act.

Johnny hated lying. But this wasn’t really lying, just not telling the whole truth. He knew Roy didn’t like telling Joanne about the near misses. He didn’t want her to worry. John knew a lot of Firemen felt the same way.

“Anyway, I just want outta here.”

“Maybe tomorrow or the day after …,” Brackett’s voice came from the doorway.

John rolled his eyes in annoyance. Mike Morton followed Kel in. Joanne and Roy stepped back as Mike raised the sheet. He peeled the bandage away ignoring John’s wince.

“Easy Mike, that’s your patient not a slab of beef…," Kel reminded the young Doctor.

Mike’s eyes flicked up toward the younger man, noticing for the first time the look of pain on John’s face… “Sorry man,” The Intern said.

John nodded. Joanne sucked in her breathe at the swollen, angry looking red and purple colored wound. Roy turned her away leading her out the door... “We’ll be back when they’re done Junior.”

“Oh my God Roy,” Jo said wide eyed as Roy led her to the waiting room… “How’s he going to take care of himself?”

“They won’t let him leave until he can Jo, not if there’s no one to look out for him, don’t worry.”

“Maybe you should bring him to our house.”

Roy grinned at her, “Okay I’ll ask but Jo…he probably won’t accept.”

“Why not…?”

“He’s so damn stubborn and he doesn’t want anyone to think he needs help with anything.”

Mike and Kel came out a moment later.

“How’s he doin Doc?”

“I’ll release him in a couple of days... It’s looking pretty good.”

“That was good?” Jo asked with a sick look of disbelief.

“You should have seen it yesterday…,” Kel said as he turned away with Mike.

Roy and Jo went back inside.

“Man…Morton’s got the bedside manner of a refrigerator,” Johnny complained.

“I noticed...,” Roy said sympathetically. “Look Johnny, will you be alright alone at your place when you get out? I mean we have a spare room.”

John shifted uneasily. He’d spent a lot of time there lately helping Roy build the deck. Their home had become a familiar haven, a place to relax. Roy and Joanne seemed to accept him as he was and didn’t expect anything from him but still, he always preferred to return to the solitude of his apartment where he didn’t have to guard every word he said.

Dinner was one thing, spending a couple of days and having to depend on someone else was another. He chewed his lip nervously. “I…I think I’ll be okay…I…uh…I should go home…I don’t want to be a burden…uh…problem…for anyone.”

Roy glanced at Joanne with an ‘I told you so’ look. “You wouldn’t be a problem Johnny...,” He said.

“I appreciate it…really but…no,” He said looking away uncomfortably.

Joanne looked upset by the refusal but let it go.

“Then at least let me stop by and look in on you?” Roy asked.

“Sure Roy, if it’ll make you feel better.”

“It will.”

“But I really don’t need you too.”

“I know.”

John grinned… Roy just never gave up.

Roy stopped in many times over the next two weeks, bringing Johnny home for dinner on several occasions and returning him to his apartment in the evening. Still John was getting stir crazy by the time Brackett released him for duty.

“Man it feels good to be back to work,” He said grinning at Roy.

“Glad to have you back junior,” Roy told him. “I’ve missed you. Dwyer’s just not the same.”

John smiled, pleased despite himself that Roy had missed him, but there was also fear. Fear that he was too dependent on Roy being there and that something would happen. What if he lost yet another friend? There had already been two near misses. Roy had become the closest friend Johnny had ever had. The only one who’d actually managed push past John’s defenses and it scared the hell out of him.

John strengthened his resolve to put the walls back in place. He wasn’t sure he could handle another loss and to lose Roy would be devastating. He was already too close and he knew if anything happened to this friend, he might not bounce back from it. He pushed the thought from his mind. He just had to be sure not to let anything happen to his friend.

“How’s the wound healing?”

“Brackett took the stitches out three days ago. It still looks pretty ugly but He did a good job,” The younger man admitted grudgingly… “Probably won’t be able to see it at all when it heals.”

“I bet that hurt to say?”

“You’ll never know...,” He said with a snort of laughter.

The laughter was cut short as John flipped his locker open to reveal an impressive array of Dr. Suess books and matchbox cars… “Chet...” he snapped. “You know I’m gettin real tired of his cracks about my age…,”John growled. Roy glanced into his friends locker and began to chuckle.

John shot his snickering Partner a betrayed look, and then finally grinned in return. He scooped the books and cars up… “Here give these to Chris.”

Things ran pretty smoothly for the next few weeks… Well… except for the dog Johnny’d gotten stuck babysitting for. That had been a fiasco for a couple of days but things had returned to normal shortly after Bonnie was returned to her owner. Johnny simply couldn’t say no to a pretty girl.

They’d all had a pretty good laugh at his expense over that whole mess, especially after he’d had to sleep in the parking lot in his camper for three straight days.

Roy almost took pity on him but didn’t think his dog Caspar would take to Bonnie, besides Joanne wouldn’t have appreciated two dogs underfoot and after all John had volunteered. He needed to learn to stay uninvolved with their victims…even the pretty ones.*

They were at lunch when the Station Control Unit tones sounded… “Squad 51…unknown type rescue… 2171 E. Bay View, number 214…2-1-7-1 E. Bay View, number 214…cross Street Holbrook… Time out 13:12…”

Captain Hammer ran to acknowledge the call as John and Roy slid into the squad. “Squad 51, KMG-365…,” Dick responded. He handed the paper to Roy who passed it to his Partner…the squad began to roll.

They arrived at the scene… It was a three story office building. “Wonder what’s up?” Johnny asked curiously.

“Guess we’ll find out,” Roy answered climbing out and coming around to help John gather their equipment…they headed inside. John pushed the elevator button, ignoring the curious glances of the people inside the lobby. The doors opened and they stepped inside.

The doors slid open on the second floor and they moved up the hall looking for 214…finally locating the correct office, Roy knocked. Johnny noticed a slight odor… “Roy? You smell that?” He asked just as Roy opened the door. The smell of gas became overpowering as it began to fill the hall.

“Johnny, call it in, I’ll check and see if anyone’s in here… Start evacuating the building,” Roy threw at him as he ran inside.

Johnny never had a chance to respond. A man stepped out of an office further up the hall… John glanced up in time to see him raise his lighter toward his cigarette… “Nooo,” He shouted just as the man flicked the lighter. The resulting explosion blew Johnny and the man in opposite directions.

Johnny’s head was pounding but he forced his eyes open anyway. Roy…he had to get to Roy. He keyed the Handy Talkie… “L.A…Squad 51… There’s been a gas explosion and fire at our location. Need additional squads and engines… we have injured as well as a possible code I…,” he gasped.

“Squad 51, 10-4…”

He pushed himself to his feet, stumbling back toward the door to 214. He saw the man with the cigarette… John ran to him checking for a pulse… It was there…steady and strong. Smoke was billowing from the office doorway and people were stumbling out of other offices all down the hallways.

“Get out,” He shouted at them… “The buildings on fire…Use the stairs,” he directed them. He stopped two men as they hurried down the hall… “Take him out with you. I’ve got people inside…helps on the way,” he said nodding toward the door. They carried the fallen man toward the stairs.

Another explosion rocked the building. John staggered from the blast and then continued into the room… “Roy…!” He called out. John coughed from the smoke in the room. He heard another softer cough from further away... He finally spotted his Partner struggling to his feet and breathed a sigh of relief and ran to his side… “Are you okay?”

Roy turned his head to look at his Partner… blood trickled from his forehead... “Yeah…yeah…Get the victim.” John nodded and started to turn away…they both heard the cracking sound at the same time. They looked up…the ceiling…damaged in the blast, was beginning to buckle.

“Roy!” Johnny shouted diving back toward his Partner. He hit Roy from behind driving him forward and throwing himself over his friend’s body...his helmet tumbled away and he felt a crushing weight as the ceiling came down on top of him and pain shot through his body…a searing agony pierced his right leg…he turned his head slightly trying to breathe just as another piece of ceiling fell striking the dark haired paramedics forehead…his vision began to gray.

Johnny’s eyes fluttered open…the thick, heavy smoke making it difficult to breathe. He felt the body of his Partner beneath him and he tried to raise himself... “Oh God,” He gasped as waves of pain flooded through him… “Roy? Can you hear me?” He whispered.

There was a low moan from beneath him but no motion. John knew he had to get his Partner out. Choking on the murky, toxic smoke… John raised himself up as much as possible. Tears of pain trickled down his cheeks mixing with the sweat and leaving clean trails down his soot stained face.

Johnny rolled onto his side as much as he could, clenching his teeth against the pain. He began to push the pieces of debris away. His ribs were throbbing, keeping time with the pounding in his head. John lifted the last heavy beam. He cried out as the half inch wide reinforcing rod was pulled free from his right calf along with the beam. John clenched his teeth against the pain almost blacking out once again. Nausea rose up but he battled it back down...finally the pain eased to a dull ache.

Stubborn determination was the only thing that got the young, dark haired paramedic on his feet. He wanted to give up…, just lie down and wait for help. If not for Roy and the other helpless victim, he may well have.

John raised himself to his knees. A groan of pain escaped his lips and he desperately hoped other rescuers would be here soon, until then it was just him. He leaned over his unconscious Partner... Roy had sustained a nasty bump on the back of his head to match the one on his forehead and the swelling was evident.

John quickly checked his eyes, the pupils were reactive. He checked for broken bones. He was unable to detect anything but some swelling in Roy’s ankle...the head injury was his main concern.

He grabbed his Partner under his arms and dragged him out the door and away from the flames, laying him in the hall, close to the stairwell... his own injuries making the task agonizing. He laid him gently down out of harm’s way. John leaned heavily against the wall…he could feel blood trickling into his boot. He finally pushed himself upright returning to their original victim.

As much as he wanted to take Roy out first he knew his priority was to the civilian. He’d at least moved Roy to a safer position until he could get back to him. He ignored the burning in his side and the shooting pain in his leg as he hoisted the man up over his shoulder and limped for the stairs. His leg was barely able to support his weight without buckling.

It was slow going. His injuries kept him from moving quickly. He used the wall for support leaning his free shoulder against it to keep himself from falling, finally making it to the bottom. John hobbled across the lobby, relieved to see that help was finally arriving. He carried the man to the squad, laying him carefully down. His ribs screamed in protest.

Squad 23’s Paramedic team was just pulling in. They climbed out and ran toward him. John’s stomach tightened as he recognized Brad Kimmerlin as one of them, the other was Keith Barron. “Gage, what have you got?” Barron asked.

“This guy was caught in the blast... Gas explosion…My Partner’s still in there... Take him,” John nodded at his victim and turned to head back inside, stopping at the squad long enough to grab his turnout and air tank. Brad followed him… “I need some help,” He choked out to the older, heavy set man as he headed for the building, assuming Kimmerlin would grab his gear and follow.

Kimmerlin noticed the limp and the obvious favoring of his left side. He turned his back on the injured young man and headed back to help his Partner. “You gonna help Gage…?” Keith asked.

“Nah…he said he’d get him…”

“He might need help, maybe you should…”

“Look Keith…the kid said he didn’t need help alright…”

Keith looked hard at his Partner knowing the bad blood between these two… “You’re sure…?”

“I am…”

Barron looked at the building… “Well I’m not, gear up and go after him…”

Heavy, black smoke was pouring from the building. Visibility was nonexistent and breathing was difficult. John shrugged into his turnout coat. He groaned in pain as he slung the SCBA over his shoulder but he managed to shrug it into place, buckling it on as he staggered back across the lobby like a drunk. He was at the stairwell before he realized he was alone. Johnny clenched his jaw in frustration.

Dizziness was now coming in waves. He set the mask in place pulling the straps over his head. The oxygen helped but he’d already taken in way to much smoke. He considered going back for help, to force Kimmerlin to help him but he realized it would take too long, besides they already had several victims and the other engines hadn’t arrived yet. Johnny pulled himself back up the stairs... His only thought was to get to Roy.

He made it to the first landing before his leg buckled beneath him, slamming John hard into the wall… A grunt of pain slipped free as he slid down the concrete. John’s sight wavered as dizziness washed through him and everything turned gray around the edges. He lay helplessly…unsure for how long… until his vision began to clear.

He raised his drooping head and saw another Fire fighter coming up the stairs. John waved at him to get his attention... He almost swore in disappointment as he recognized Kimmerlin.

Brad stood over him for a moment gazing down with a gloating smirk... John raised pain filled eyes to his.

“Help me up…I need help… My Partner’s still upstairs,” Johnny gasped from behind the air mask. He began to struggle to his feet. He glared at Kimmerlin who stood rooted in place…. “Man, your problems with me… not my Partner…please,” John pleaded.

Kimmerlin grinned smugly and headed off up the stairs leaving Johnny to get back up on his own. The young Paramedic moaned softly as he got to his feet. He began to climb once more and could only hope the older man had gone to find Roy.

Johnny pushed open the stairwell door and limped toward his Partner... Kimmerlin was nowhere in sight. John nearly wept in frustration as he wrestled Roy to a sitting position and knelt by his side...trying once more to rouse his Partner. He removed his air mask and placed it over his friends face, pulling the straps into place. The older man groaned as his eyes fluttered for a moment but never opened... “Hang on Roy, I’m gonna get you out,” Johnny gasped. But the older man remained silent.

John wrestled him onto his shoulder and headed for the stairs. It was slow going… He was still light headed and his ribs were still throbbing... His leg felt as if a hot poker were being thrust inside. He half walked half fell down the first flight, pausing to rest at the landing. He didn’t see Roy’s eyes open or hear the low groan of pain from behind the mask. Roy closed his eyes again.

He leaned weakly against the wall, sweat and tears of pain rolled down John’s face... The smoke he’d taken in was making his lungs burn. Suddenly he felt hands pulling Roy from his grip… “Gage… get out of here,” He heard the muffled command from another Fireman standing over him. Peering through the smoke he recognized Keith Barron.

“Roy,” He choked out.

“I’ll get Roy… you get out… now...” Johnny knew he was right but he still hesitated… “I’ll get him out...I promise,” He reassured the young Paramedic as he pulled the air mask free separating the two men.

Johnny nodded as he struggled to his feet. He turned back long enough to see Roy being hoisted to Barron’s shoulder. Once reassured that they’d be right behind him he started down the stairs. He stumbled several times as he made his way down the steps, partly sliding and barely able to keep his bad leg from crumbling under him. He made it the rest of the way down and limped through the exit.

He saw Station 51 just pulling in. Station 36 and 23 were already there. Dozens of employee’s milled about. The others with minor injuries were being tended by the Paramedics from 36. John ignored his own injuries as he began to pull the equipment out to help take care of Roy. He glanced up to see Barron arriving with his burden.

Captain Hammer was directing the crew to lay duals. He glanced over and spotted Johnny and Barron, realizing that one of the injured was one of his men, he took a moment to trot over and check on Roy.

“Gage, what happened?”

“Gas explosion Cap…,” He gasped out as sweat and tears trickled from his burning eyes.

“You okay Johnny?” Cap asked as he heard Barron contacting Rampart and giving them Roy’s list of Injury’s… His attention split between his two men.

“Took in some smoke…I had to bring the victim out and I…” He stopped… God…he’d left his best friend and he’d taken too long to get back to him. It didn’t matter that he was injured…he’d taken too long. Roy had a head injury… He’d needed immediate care… “I left Him…,” Johnny whispered.

“You did what you had to John... The victim comes first. Roy knows that too… He’ll understand… How is he?”

“It's a head injury... I think he’s hurt bad Cap... My fault...left him too long,” He rasped out.

“John you don’t know that for sure… Don’t beat yourself up.”

John shook his head, “I took too long getting back," he insisted. "I stopped for my tank and I…,” He hesitated not wanting to tell Captain Hammer he was injured. It would just seem like an excuse for what he saw as his failure. He’d failed his Partner and Roy could die because of it. “I couldn’t get him out... Barron had to get him,” He panted softly.

Keith opened his mouth to remind John that he had collapsed on the stairs but Dr. Early’ voice over the Biophone called his attention away as he gave Rampart Roy’s vitals.

“Start an IV 23, D5W TKO…”

Cap gave his youngest crew member a pat on the shoulder, “It’ll be okay Johnny… Roy’ll be okay.” He didn’t like the way Gage looked but he didn’t want to distract him from Roy right now. He’d bring it up with him later... Captain Hammer had no idea how adept Johnny was at hiding injuries…He’d had a lot of practice. Cap returned to the rest of his crew.

The ambulance attendants ran over pulling the Gurney. Keith positioned Roy’s arms across his stomach in preparation for lifting him to the stretcher. Johnny reached to help him lift his friend but cried out in pain as his leg buckled and his ribs sent a stabbing pain through his side. He felt a hand shoving him roughly out of the way...he staggered a couple of steps and looked over to see Brad Kimmerlin lean down to help Keith.

“Get outta the way Gage, you already almost killed your partner…you tryin to finish it?”

Barron shot an angry glare at Kimmerlin… “Ease up Brad...he’s injured.”

John stood stunned... “I…I asked you to help me …twice.” Keith looked up sharply.

Kimmerlin laughed… “Sorry, I must not have heard you.”

“Johnny?” Keith asked gently…“You need me to look at you?”

“No…no I’m okay.”

“You’re not okay Johnny.”

“I’ll have them look at it at Rampart.”

Keith hesitated and then finally asked…“You wanna go with Roy?”

“Y…yeah…,” He stuttered, still upset by Kimmerlin’s accusation.

Kimmerlin couldn’t possibly know how guilty Johnny felt but he’d scored a major hit on the younger man’s vulnerable self confidence.

“Johnny we’ll meet you at the hospital when we’re through here,” Cap called… John only nodded.

They arrived at Rampart a short time later. The ER was a madhouse. A freeway pileup had created a backlog of patients and Joe Early and Mike Morton were swamped. They had called for help from several other area hospitals. Kel and Dixie were both off and unreachable. Morton had given Roy a quick glance in the corridor before directing the attendants to treatment 3, Barron and John followed them in.

“How long has he been out?” Mike asked.

“About thirty minutes but he did regain consciousness once,” Johnny rasped out.

“Thirty minutes?” Morton snapped out… “What took you so long?”

“Gage took the victim first,” a voice said from behind him. John spun around, almost crying out as his bad leg protested the movement. Brad Kimmerlin stood there smirking. John bit his lip to keep the pain from showing. He said nothing about his injuries …they were short handed in the ER and Roy needed their attention more than he did…he could wait.

“That’s procedure,” Mike answered shortly.

“Yeah but Gage took his sweet time getting back to his Pal there... Doesn’t like being Tonto…had to play the lone ranger,” He said smugly. “Keith had to go get him out, Gage came out first...alone,” He said, twisting the events to suit his version of the story… John’s mouth dropped open in shock.

“Brad, that’s not…,” Barron began.

But Morton cut him off with a shake of his head, not bothering to ask why..his dark eyes shooting an accusing glare at John... “That delay could be costly... Head injuries are always dangerous when treatment is delayed.”

John’s heart sank into his stomach. There was nothing he could say…in John’s mind there was no excuse.

Keith Barron climbed into the squad and turned on the Engine. Brad climbed in the other side, whistling merrily until he caught his Partners annoyed look.

“What?” He asked innocently.

“Gage asked you for help out there didn’t he?”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin about,” Brad denied.

“Yeah you do… You argued with me about going in cause you knew you’d have to help him. You deliberately left DeSoto there...injured…did you know Gage was hurt too?”

Brad sat smirking silently.

“You bastard,” Keith snarled. “You left a fellow fire fighter inside to die…two of them…when you could have helped.”

“He'll never be able to prove it… It’s my word against Gage’s.”

“You make me sick but you’re right we can’t prove it. What I can do is put in a complaint and tell them what I do know…then I’m gonna request a transfer... I can’t work with you anymore.”

“That’s just great…They’ll be all over me. You’re tellin me you’re gonna take Tonto’s side?” Kimmerlin snarled.

“We’re all a team Kimmerlin…there shouldn’t be sides. Maybe you should learn that before you get one of us killed.”

John sat with the crew in the waiting room. His head was pounding now and his ribs and leg were both throbbing in time with it. He’d been fighting back the nausea for over an hour.

The crew had arrived about twenty minutes earlier and gathered around him while he briefly explained the situation.

“The place went up so fast Cap…I took the victim…I left Roy behind…I…”

“You did your job John…,” Cap reassured him, giving his shoulder a gentle pat. He moved off with Mike and Marco to find a place to sit while they waited for news.

“Gage…man… you did what you had too. We all know the civilian comes first,” Chet reassured him. He could see the guilt in Johnny’s face…guilt he shouldn’t be bearing.

John shook his head, “I took too long… I shoulda gotten help…I…”

“From who Johnny...? The others were already workin on victims…you didn’t have a choice.”

“Yes I did, I made the wrong one…,” Chet shook his head and opened his mouth to argue but Johnny cut him off. “Just…please...just leave me alone…,” He whispered. Chet sighed but moved to sit near Marco. The crew members were each coping with the stress of the situation in their own way.

Marco mumbled a prayer in Spanish. Chet’s foot bounced up and down making the whole row of chairs shake. Mike sat staring straight ahead, lost in his own thoughts.

Captain Hammer sat watching them all. His concerned eyes traveled back to his youngest crew member repeatedly. John was a fine Fire Fighter and an exceptional Paramedic but Cap never forgot that he was still very young and he’d already lost one crew mate early in his career and he knew how close Roy had grown to the younger man …his ability to cope with this bore watching.

He could see that Johnny had folded in on himself. His arms were crossed tightly over his chest. His normally expressive brown eyes were disturbingly empty as he held whatever he was feeling deep inside. A slight rocking motion was his only movement.

Cap wanted desperately to speak to his Junior Paramedic but he knew Johnny wouldn’t talk to him. That he wouldn’t truly open up with anyone but Roy. He knew John was blaming himself but the victim was his priority despite the fact that his partner was injured… he’d done the right thing.

Cap knew John had some trouble getting back to Roy and that he hadn’t had a chance to tell him the whole story, but Dick knew Johnny would move heaven and earth for Roy if he could. There had to have been a good reason.

Johnny sat silently, oblivious to the others around him. He’d pulled into himself. His leg was aching fiercely and his head was pounding… his ribs throbbed with every rock, Johnny didn’t care. As far as was concerned he deserved them. The aches and throbs couldn’t match the pain in his heart…he’d failed Roy.

He’d left his best friend behind. He’d been sure he could get the victim to safety and get some help…get back quickly. He hadn’t counted on Brad Kimmerlin being his only help or the waves of dizziness or his leg collapsing under him. Maybe he should have stayed with them both and just called for help but he hadn’t realized how bad his own injuries were. He’d been alone and thought he could manage. Maybe Kimmerlin was right…he’d tried to play the lone ranger.

He’d been wrong…made a bad decision and Roy could pay for it. Cap assured him he’d done the right thing and so had the crew but his heart told him otherwise. He felt an ache in his chest and a burning sensation behind his eyes. Man he just wanted to cry, something he hadn’t done since he was eleven when his Mother had died. He didn’t think he could ever hurt that much again. He clamped down on his emotions trying to regain the numbness he’d lived with for years.

He’d lost his best friend…even if Roy was okay, he’d want a new partner. His heart felt like it was being ripped from his chest. Roy had slipped completely past his defenses and become such a huge part of him. More than just his Partner or even just friends…he’d become more like…a…brother. John’s eyes widened in fear... How could he have let this happen? This was exactly what he’d been afraid of…He’d always been so careful but despite everything Roy had gotten in.

Across the room Cap watched the young man’s eyes widen, watched the frightened look that entered into them. He had no idea of the battle being waged in John’s head… he wanted to talk to the kid but how to get him to talk back? He decided to call B shift in early… maybe Johnny just needed some time to work through this.

End Chapter 3     Posted to Site 09/14/09

Links to Chapters 1, 2, 3. 4, 5

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

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