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CHAPTER 5 ...
They arrived at Rampart twenty minutes later without further complications…Roy accompanying the victim while Johnny followed in the squad. Dixie directed them into treatment room 4. Gage strolled down the hall a few minutes after and not seeing his partner or Dixie anywhere in sight, headed for the base station for coffee and to wait for Roy.
He heard a small commotion in the hall and glanced around in time to see another gurney being wheeled in…They headed for treatment room 2. He didn’t recognize the Paramedic escorting the stretcher and went back to his coffee, leaning on the base station while he waited.
A moment later a sharp rap between the shoulder blades propelled the slender, young fire fighter into the counter, spilling coffee onto the desk. John regained his balance, spinning around to find himself face to face with Brad Kimmerlin.
John’s stomach tightened… he wasn’t much for fighting but he wasn’t about to back down either regardless of the fact that the older man stood two inches taller and easily thirty pounds heavier… “Mornin Kimmerlin,” He said quietly.
“Gage…You know you’ve caused me a hell of a lot of trouble.”
The door to treatment room 4 opened behind them but Kimmerlin didn’t seem to notice. His concentration centered solely on Gage. John’s dark eyes flicked over Kimmerlin’s shoulder to meet the reassuring blue ones of his Partner…John knew he wasn’t alone but he also knew Roy understood his need to handle this himself. He wouldn’t step in unless he was in trouble.
Dixie saw the two facing off…she started forward knowing the younger, slighter built man wouldn’t stand a chance against Kimmerlin’s size and obvious experience in throwing his weight around but Roy reached out and stopped her.
“Let him handle it Dix,” He said softly, knowing Johnny would be mortified if Dixie ran to protect him. “He knows I’m here if he needs me.”
“I didn’t cause anything Kimmerlin…that was your choice,” Johnny pointed out. “You’re the one who chose to leave a fellow fire fighter behind.” John dropped his voice… “Your mistake was making it my Partner you put at risk,” Johnny said quietly for Kimmerlin’s ears alone.
“You know they’re threatening to wash me outta the Paramedic program,” He growled leaning forward into John’s face.
John almost flinched away but recovered quickly and stood his ground. “Yeah, I heard that,” John replied refusing to give in to the urge to step backward.
Kimmerlin moved forward almost touching the dark haired younger man in front of him. His finger jammed hard into John’s shoulder…John batted his hand away… “You may have cost me my job Tonto…I won’t take kindly to it if that happens…maybe you need to rethink what you told them,” He snarled giving the younger man a shove.
John was forced to step back to keep his balance and he found himself pressed against the base station. But even though he was pinned against it with nowhere to go, he still refused to yield. His eyes met Kimmerlin’s pugnacious stare… his jaw set in a stubborn line.
Now that it had become physical, Roy moved forward, stepping into Kimmerlin’s line of vision and moving to the coffee pot while Dixie came around and began to clean up the spilled coffee.
John cast a glance at his partner but directed his comment to the man in front of him. “No way Kimmerlin, I think I’ll stick with what I told them…after all it was the truth,” John said unflinchingly.
“Coffee Kimmerlin…?” Roy said casually.
“Stay outta this DeSoto,” Kimmerlin growled.
Roy shrugged… “I don’t think I need to get into it…John’s doin just fine on his own…,” Roy said with a grin. “But just remember this Kimmerlin…you left me in that building too and it wasn’t just Gage who filed a complaint about you with the department, so when he’s finished with you… it’s my turn.”
Kimmerlin’s eyes returned to John’s face. He could see the younger man wasn’t about to back down especially not in front if his partner and the head nurse…he also knew that despite DeSoto’s assurances, if he took a swing at Gage the older man would jump to his young friend’s defense and It would most certainly cost him his job with the fire department as well as the paramedics.
“There’ll be another time Gage…when your Pal and other people…,” he said glancing around at Dixie and several other nurses and orderlies who’d gathered to watch the altercation…, “ain’t around to protect you.” He gave John one last shove and turned to storm up the hall, grabbing his stunned partner by the arm and shoving him ahead of him toward the exit.
Dixie glanced at the gathered crowd who took the subtle warning and began to disperse back to their jobs. John drew a shaky breath and turned to face his two friends.
“Thanks,” He said quietly, breathing a sigh of relief.
“For what Johnny…?” Roy asked. “You handled him just fine without our help,” He said handing his partner a new cup of coffee.
Dixie smiled at him… “Roy knew you had it under control,” She assured him.
John grinned back. “Yeah and I appreciate that but I knew you were there…if I needed ya,” he clarified quickly taking a sip of his coffee.
“Right where I should be Junior…”
“What a jerk…,” Dixie said in disgust. “You think he’d figure out it’s his own actions that are going to get him kicked out of the Paramedics, but he’d rather blame John.”
“It’s always easier to cast the blame than to shoulder it,” Johnny said quietly as if quoting someone. He shrugged at their curious look… “That’s what my Dad used to tell me.”
Roy nodded. “Let’s get back to the barn Junior,” He said giving his partner a gentle nudge toward the door.
“See ya Dix…,” Johnny said setting his cup down and heading for the exit.
Dix watched them go…She picked up the phone a moment later… “Kel, I need to see you when you have a minute,” She said when he answered… “It’s about Brad Kimmerlin…”
Roy backed the squad into the bay casting a quick glance at his partner. If John was worried about Kimmerlin’s threats he wasn’t letting it show. “You ok Junior?”
“Well…the way Kimmerlin shoved you around...Threatened you…”
“Roy, I’ve been putting up with that kinda thing since Jimmy Wheeler and I got into a fight on the first day of school.”
“I don’t know how you stay so calm about it,” Roy said obviously irritated.
“Getting angry over it won’t change people like him, so what’s the point…they’re just words.”
“That was more than words partner…”
“I know but…I’ve dealt with it all my life.”
“I know… You’ve told me that but you shouldn’t have too…it’s disgusting and I’ll tell you what…”
John looked at him curiously…
“I know you can take care of yourself but it was all I could do back there not to belt that jerk…and I won’t promise it won’t ever happen if he keeps this up…”
John grinned… “Thanks…but you don’t have to. You’re not exactly Muhammad Ali either.”
Roy smiled at the younger man…“Johnny…I just wanted to tell ya…I mean for what it’s worth…I was proud of you back there.”
John looked at Roy in surprise… “Really…? Would it disappoint you if I said I was a little bit scared… at least until you came out of the treatment room. I mean fighting isn’t exactly my strong suit either ya know?”
“No…I’m not real fond of solving my problems that way myself but I KNEW Kimmerlin was lookin for a reason to start one. You handled him pretty well.”
“You want some coffee?”
“Yeah…,”Johnny answered climbing from the cab.
“I’ll be right in Partner…,” Roy answered, heading for Captain Hammer’s office.
Roy knocked on Hammer’s door. “Cap…you got a sec…?”
The blonde Paramedic filled his Captain in what had taken place at Rampart finishing with his concerns for John. “Cap…Kimmerlin’s laying this all on Johnny. The fact that Barron and I both filed a complaint doesn’t seem to bother him…just John…I’m a little concerned for his safety.”
Cap nodded. “We’ll try and keep an eye on him when we’re on a run…at least until this gets resolved.”
“Uh Cap…we can’t let Johnny know that…he’d be pretty embarrassed…”
“I’ll handle it tactfully Roy…I promise I won’t tell him his over protective partner wants to put a guard on him…,”Cap teased with a grin.
“Thanks Cap…,” He said with a chuckle as he headed off to join his partner for coffee.
The next two shifts remained routine…Station 51 and 23 didn’t have occasion to cross each other’s path and Johnny was completely unaware that Captain Hammer and Roy were watching out for him.
Thursday morning John arrived early…Getting changed quickly and heading for Captain Hammer’s office.
“Cap…? Can I ask a favor?”
“Depends on what it is.”
“It’s Roy’s birthday and I was hoping you’d give him the Dorm so I’d kinda have time to set up the rec room.”
Cap grinned… A few months ago he’d of bet money that he’d never be having this conversation with his withdrawn, introverted Junior Paramedic. “Sure Johnny, I can do that.”
“Thanks Cap…,” John said with a grin.
After roll call they dispersed to their chores. John made short work of the Rec room and set to work on the decorations while Mike mopped the apparatus bay, keeping a watch out for Roy. When Johnny finally finished he headed out the back door to his camper and brought Roy’s gift inside.
Chet, Mike and Marco joined him a few minutes later. Chet glanced around at the slightly odd colored and imperfectly placed streamers. He opened his mouth to tease the young Paramedic but Mike saw the look and drove his elbow into the Irishman’s ribs. Kelly grunted as the air left his lungs with a whoosh.
“Leave him alone Chet…,” he warned softly, “He worked really hard on this.”
“Yeah…don’t spoil it for him,” Marco whispered...as John headed for Cap’s office to retrieve the cake Mike had hidden their earlier.
“Ahh…guy’s,” he whined.
“I mean it…you tease him about this he’ll never try again…,” Mike told him sternly.
Chet glanced from one to the other realizing his crew mates were dead serious… “Oh…okay.” He gave in grudgingly as John returned with the cake and set it on the table.
Casting one final warning glance at Chet, the others moved to John’s side, “This looks great Johnny…you did a good job.” Mike told him.
“Thanks…,” He said with a grin.
Cap poked his head inside… “We almost ready…?” He asked.
“I’ll go get Roy.”
“Thanks Cap,” Johnny replied as Captain Hammer turned and headed out the door. He poked his head into the Dorm.
“Roy…?” Cap called.
“Could I see you in the Rec room a minute…?”
“Sure thing Cap…,” Roy answered smoothing the blanket on the bed he was making one last time. He headed for the Rec Room.
Roy strolled in moment later. A look of shock crossed his face at the cries of “surprise” from his friend’s. Roy blushed in embarrassment then grinned as he approached the group.
“This is great…Thanks guys,” He said.
“Johnny did it…,” Mike confessed.
Roy looked at his friend in shock… “Thank you Junior.”
John grinned as the others handed him several small gifts.
Roy peeled back the paper on the presents grinning at the varied array of items. A wallet from Mike…A small tool kit for his Car from Cap, a toy Doctor’s kit from Marco and a set of ear plugs from Chet…
“For when Gage get’s too talkative…,” Chet said throwing a taunting smirk at the young Paramedic.
“Ah shut up Chet…,”John snapped as he handed a gift to his Partner, blushing at the poor wrapping job. “Sorry…,” He murmured to his Partner.
“It’s great Johnny and I’m just gonna tear it off anyway,” he assured him.
John threw him a grateful smile as Roy tore the paper free. Not long ago, Roy had showed him his pottery wheel that he kept in the shed in the back yard. Roy’s work was good but he’d mentioned his desire for the tools to truly design his castings…to make them special… He’d shaken his head in resignation…there were too many more important things that needed to be taken care of.
John bit his lip nervously and watched intently as Roy opened the box inside and gasped in surprise at the contents… “Johnny…this is expensive…I can’t believe you did this,” Roy said as he picked up one of the pieces from the container.
“What are they Roy?” Marco asked.
“They’re rolling stamps for Pottery casting,” Roy told him. “It’s something I like to do in my spare time but I never had the tools to really do it well ya know…cuz they cost so much…” He looked at his Partner… “Thank you Junior,” He said appreciatively… “But you shouldn’t have done this.”
Johnny shrugged shyly, “it’s okay, I’m just glad you like it Pally…after everything you’ve done for me…I owed you one.”
“I do like it, but you don’t owe me anything Johnny… we’re friends, that’s what friends do for each other.”
John looked at his friend in confusion…not grasping the concept that his friend wasn’t keeping score as his family had always done…always reminding him of what he owed them. Roy saw the bemused expression and sighed in frustration at his friend’s inability to understand what friendship was supposed to be about… He’d just have to keep trying. “Never mind junior…I love it,” He said giving John a gentle pat on the shoulder.
“Well let’s have some cake,” Chet said interrupting the quiet moment.
“Yeah, let’s light the candles…,” Marco suggested.
“Just don’t set the place on fire…,” Johnny teased his friend with a grin.
“Thanks a bunch Junior,” Roy shot back smiling at his Crew Mates.
After a badly but heartily sung rendition of Happy Birthday…Roy blew out the candles and they cut the cake. Sitting at the table to eat as Mike brought the coffee pot over.
“I got the schedule for the Holidays this Morning guys…,” Captain Hammer informed them.
“Yeah…? What’ve we got?” Mike asked.
“Well we lucked out for Christmas and New Years…That’s C shift and B shift’s problem but we’re working Thanksgiving Day.”
Roy glanced at Johnny and noticed the almost relieved look on his Partners face. He started to ask him about it just as the phone began to ring…the men grew quiet as Cap answered it. “Station 51, Captain Hammer speaking…Yes Ma’am he is…May I tell him who’s calling…? Oh…yes Ma’am…John?” Cap said turning to look at the group, “It’s your Aunt…” Cap had a curious look, it was his only clue to Johnny’s private life.
John looked uncomfortable…, “Uh Cap… could you tell her…” he began as the Station Control Unit began to sound…
“Squad 51…Man unconscious…,” John grinned in relief.
“Tell her I’ll call her back…,” John yelled as he ran out the door.
Forty minutes later Roy backed the squad into the Apparatus Bay… “C’mon Junior…let’s get some coffee and something to eat...I’m starved,” He said. Johnny nodded as they headed for the Rec room where the rest of the Crew was gathered for lunch…
“Gage…,” Cap said as they came through the door… “Your Aunt called again…twice…She wanted you to call her as soon as you got back.”
“Uh…sure Cap…as soon as we have lunch,” John promised evasively, having no intention of calling her back. They sat down to eat…
“So Gage what’re you doing for thanksgiving?” Chet asked.
“You do know what Thanksgiving is right? I mean you do celebrate it? You of all people should know about that…” The rest of the guys looked at each other, wondering where this was going.
“Why’s that Kelly?” Johnny asked innocently.
“You know the Pilgrims…Squanto and the Indians…”
John rolled his eyes in annoyance… “Oh for Pete’s sake…Just…just shut up Chet…” The phone rang, Cap got up to answer it as Johnny continued… “And yes I know what it is…”
“So you do celebrate it…”
John shrugged in annoyance… “Gage,” Cap said interrupting… “Phone…”
John bit his lip nervously… “Is it my Aunt?” He asked nervously.
“Cap…uh could you tell her I’m…uh… out on a run...or something.”
“John…,” Cap began.”
“Please Cap…,” He pleaded.
Hammer sighed… “Alright just this once,” He said shaking a warning finger at Gage who nodded earnestly.
The entire crew looked curious at the obvious hesitancy in his attitude. “So what’s up Gage…?” Chet asked.
“Up…?” He questioned…
“Yeah…that you don’t want to talk to your Aunt…”
“I never said…I mean I do want to talk to…just not…Oh mind your own business Chet…,” he growled uncomfortably.
“So what…? You just don’t wanna go home to spend it with your Family…”
John looked away with a sad expression… “No.”
“Maybe you should show a little more thankful attitude…,” Chet taunted despite the angry look Roy was throwing him.
Marco punched him in the arm… “Dios Kelly, let it go…”
Mike was looking at Chet in disbelief… Couldn’t he see Johnny was getting upset?
Roy stood up to follow his Partner… “Damn it Kelly…when are you gonna learn when enough’s enough,” he growled as he headed for the door.
Captain Hammer caught the blonde paramedic by the arm as he approached the door. “Roy…?” He questioned quietly… “Can I ask you something…? I mean you may not know the answer yourself and you can tell me to mind my own business if you do…but is John… alone…? I mean…is his family…his mom and dad I mean…are they…dead or something?”
Roy hesitated…his eyes met Caps in unspoken communication…the answer not given in words but by the sadness in the blue eyes. Cap nodded as Roy left in search of his Partner.
“Geez Chet can’t you just let him alone,” Mike was saying…
“C’mon guys, the only way I can get Gage to tell us anything personal is to get him riled.”
“Yeah…well, if he wants to keep his personal life to himself, maybe you should respect that,” Mike said softly.
“C’mon guys…,” Chet said glancing over to where Cap and Roy were talking quietly… “You can’t tell me your not curious about him too.”
“Yeah…maybe we are but Johnny’s not comfortable talkin about it so just leave him alone…,” Marco argued as he watched Roy leave the rec room.
Cap went and joined his crew at the table…his brow furrowed in thought. “Guys, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, why don’t we cut Johnny some slack Okay…?”
“Ah but Cap…,” Chet almost whined.
“I mean it Kelly…how he celebrates or doesn’t is none of our business but it seems to upset him to discuss it…so let it go…got it?”
Marco and Mike had already seen how withdrawn and upset the young Paramedic got when family situations were discussed…They could only speculate as to why, but they nodded their heads in agreement with Cap. Chet however was not happy…
“Cap you’re taking away my favorite pigeon,” Chet complained.
“Your ‘pigeon’ is officially off limits until after the holidays Kelly…,” Cap ordered sternly pointing his finger at Chet.
“Okay Cap…guys…if it bothers you all that much I’ll find something else to pick on him about…God knows I’ve got enough to choose from.”
Mike rolled his eyes as Marco groaned in frustration… “You’ve already harassed him about his age…his sex life, his heritage…what’s left…?”
Chet grinned rubbing his hands together… “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something…” They sighed.
Roy followed Johnny to the dorm. He found his Partner sitting on the edge of the bed staring at the floor. His fists were clenched in his lap but his face looked more hurt than angry. Roy sat next to him...
“Why can’t he just leave me alone Roy?” John whispered, looking up at his Partner.
“Johnny…we’ve been through this before…Chet just wants to get a rise outta you…don’t let him.”
“I’ve tried not to but he keeps on and on about my family…”
“I know…he’s dying to find out about your past…but your best revenge is to keep smiling and not tell him anything…you’ll drive him insane.” John gave him a small smile… “But what are you gonna do for Thanksgiving?”
John shrugged… “Same as the rest of you…work.”
“I know but the rest of us will probably celebrate the day after. Are you gonna go to your Aunts…Is that why she’s callin? She wants you to come home for Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah but…,” he shook his head. “I’m not goin.”
“Why Johnny, she obviously wants you to?”
“Um…my Cousin’s kinda don’t like me much…they were seventeen and nineteen when Aunt Rose took me in…I guess I wasn’t very cooperative…I…I really don’t remember very much from that first year.”
“Why don’t you remember Johnny?” Roy asked worriedly…John had so many blank spots in his childhood. Even knowing what he’d been through, it bothered the older man a lot that his memories seemed so sketchy.
John shrugged… “I don’t know…I've just always had a problem remembering things sometimes..."
Roy looked at him oddly...Johnny was incredibly bright and Roy had never noticed him have any problem retaining what he learned...just the opposite in fact. "Just certain things or everything Johnny?"
"Just certain things I guess...you know...things that upset me," he explained, almost embarassed by the fact that things could upset him.
"Why didn't your cousins like you Johnny?" Roy asked softly.
He shrugged..."Their Dad had just died and I think they somehow blamed me.."
"I don't know...it just seemed that way...they ah...kinda called me a jinx," he said with a half laugh, but the look said he wasn't sure they weren't right..."And besides Aunt Rosemary sorta buried herself in helping me to help herself get over losing Uncle Geoffrey... anyway she spent so much time running me from Doctor to Doctor and she kinda neglected to spend time with them."
"Doctors...? What kind John…What for…?” Roy asked in concern hoping the answer would shed some light on Johnny’s inability to remember pieces of his past.“I don’t know…different things…I stuttered some and…I had trouble remembering things sometimes …” He shook his head with a shrug… “I don’t know…If she found out that there was something wrong she never told me what it was but there sure were a lot of them. I know if she didn’t like what they had to say she took me to someone else.”
Roy looked at him in confusion…how could he not know…?
“Anyway I know I fought her every step of the way for a long time…I wouldn’t talk…I wouldn’t let her touch me… I wouldn’t take part in anything…” He shook his head… “She eventually gave up trying to force me to be a part of the family. I think they just resented my being there… I kinda embarrassed them being a half…,” Johnny stopped, seeing Roy's blue eye's narrow in annoyance, knowing how bad Roy hated hearing him talk about himself that way.
“I bet she didn’t think of you that way Junior.”
“Oh no…never…I mean she was great and I did eventually sorta come around after they went off to school. Anyway …I know they’ll be home and I don’t want to be problem for her ya know? Keep her from her family and all…”
“Damn it Johnny…you’re her family too.”
John looked at the floor and shrugged. “Fine…,”Roy said in resignation… “So you’re free on Friday then right?” John nodded… “Good, then you’re comin to my house for Thanksgiving dinner with me and Jo.”
“No…,”Roy cut in. “No arguments…you’re coming. I’ll expect you at 2:00…We’ll hang out on the deck…watch some football and have dinner…okay?”
John’s dark eyes rose to meet Roy’s… “Are you sure I won’t be in the way?”
John stared at his friend in indecision… “Joanne won’t mind?” He asked hesitantly.
“Joanne likes you, she won’t mind at all.” Roy assured him, angered once again that Johnny had been made to feel as if he were a burden by his family and couldn’t accept that he was welcome and wanted...damn it...didn't the kid have anyone?
He chewed his lower lip for a moment. “Okay…,” He said finally.
“Good… now you owe your Aunt a return phone call to tell her you’ll be with me for Thanksgiving,” The older man said giving John’s back a light pat.
“She won’t believe me. She’ll think I’m just tellin her that so she’ll leave me alone.”
“Then I’ll tell her, okay?”
John went to the desk next to Cap’s bunk. He hesitantly picked up the phone and dialed the number chewing his lip nervously as he waited for her to answer. Roy leaned against the wall throwing a reassuring wink at his Partner… John grinned uneasily back.
“Aunt Rosemary… it’s John,” He said standing up a bit straighter. “Um…I…what…? No Ma’am I wasn’t avoiding your call…I just…I have to work Thanksgiving Day and…,” He stammered nervously. “No Ma’am it’s not overtime, it’s my regular day…no really but… Friday…? No…but…I won’t be alone… I’m having dinner with my friend and his family…”
Though Roy could only hear one side of the conversation, he had no problem understanding exactly what was being said.
“No honest…,”John was saying. “His name…? Roy…Roy DeSoto…he’s my Partner…Yes Ma’am…Aunt Rose…no he’s right here…” Johnny covered the mouthpiece as he looked at Roy. “See… I told you… she doesn’t believe me.”
Roy held out his hand… “Let me talk to her.”
“Aunt Rose….Roy wants to talk to you… Here,” he said shoving the phone at his Partner.
“What's her name...?"
"Hello Mrs. Hughes…Um… my names Roy DeSoto. I’m Johnny’s Partner with the Paramedics. Ah…Ma’am I hope you don’t mind if my Family and I borrow Johnny for Thanksgiving this year? We’re on duty Thursday but we’re gonna celebrate the day after and Johnny’s gonna join us.”
A soft cultured voice responded… “Mr. DeSoto…if you can get my Nephew to sit down with a real family and celebrate Thanksgiving…you’ll have my undying gratitude. He never would for me…or anyone else for that matter. I’m afraid my children and my parents didn’t always make him feel welcome and he hates making them feel uncomfortable in their own home. I’ve tried to tell him that it’s his home as well and that he’s just as much my family as they are but…well… he’s had a lot of…problems in his past and…
“I understand Ma’am,” Roy said softly…reassuringly.
There was a long pause… “Do you really?” She asked skeptically, not believing for a moment that Roy could possibly understand what Johnny had been through.
“Yes ma’am…he told me.”
“He told you…John’s talked to you?” she asked in disbelief. Roy could hear the shock in her voice.
“He told you about his past…? His childhood…?”
“A good part of it yes…”
There was a long pause... “Then I truly am grateful Mr. DeSoto…I still don’t know much about John’s past…he won’t talk about it…so if you’ve managed to get him to tell you…you’re a miracle worker. You must be a very good friend.”
“I’m trying to be Ma’am.”
“And succeeding from the sound of it…so yes, I would be very pleased to loan John to you this year... I’ll feel better knowing he’s with someone who cares about him and that he’s not alone somewhere or working.”
“It’s Rosemary…may I call you Roy?”
“Good… because I get the feeling we’re going to get to know each other quite well.”
“I hope so Rosemary…I’ll let you speak to Johnny…It was nice talking to you.”
“Same here Roy…”The older man handed the phone to Johnny who was listening to the one sided conversation curiously. He took it back.
“Hello…? Yes Ma’am…I’ll try…” There was a brief hesitation… “I know you do…,” He replied softly. “Goodbye Aunt Rose.” He hung up.
“Well what did she say?”
“She said have a good time…she ah…wants me to come for Christmas and that she ah…,” He fumbled with the word… “Loves me…,” He said blushing.
Roy laughed… “It’s not a dirty word Junior…” Roy grew serious as he realized Johnny seemed genuinely perplexed by the sentiment. He shook his head in despair at what John must have experienced in his life to bring him to this emotional void and this numbness of heart. Roy was more determined than ever to change it and he’d been making good progress. He didn’t intend to lose the ground he’d gained. He hooked his arm around John’s shoulders spinning him around and giving him a gentle push… “Let’s get something to eat Partner…I’m starved.”
Saturday afternoon saw John turning into the DeSoto’s driveway promptly at 4:30 PM…he scooped the package from the seat next to him and went to knock on the door but Chris must have been watching for him.
The door was flung open “Uncle Johnny…I’ve been waiting for you all day,” He hollered as the four year old catapulted himself into Johnny’s arms, causing the package to drop from his hand.
John tossed him high into the air… “Hey Buddy,” He replied catching the child and tossing him over his shoulder in a Fireman’s carry amidst Chris’s gleeful laughter…He stooped to pick up the gift… “Where’s your Dad?”
“In the house with Mommy and Grandma…”
Johnny stopped… “Grandma?” he asked uncertainly. Chris nodded…his blonde hair flopping into his eyes and tickling against John’s cheek. Oh man he hadn’t expected anyone else. He thought about leaving but as if he sensed his Partners impending retreat Roy suddenly appeared in the doorway.
“Hey Junior…Come on in,” Roy invited holding the door open.
“Yeah…uh…okay,” He said walking into the house. Roy grinned knowingly as he passed having seen the brief flare of hesitancy in his young Partner’s eyes. John set Chris on the floor.
An older woman sat on the sofa, her blonde hair salted with gray. Her blue eyes a mirror image of her sons.
“Mom…,”Roy said, pulling Johnny forward by the arm, “this is my Partner John Gage… Johnny… this is my Mom Harriet DeSoto.”
“Nice to meet you Ma’am…,” Johnny said politely, extending his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you too dear,” She said taking his hand and patting it gently. “My son’s told me all about you.”
John’s eyes flicked to Roy’s nervously as he swallowed heavily… “All?” He asked.
Roy threw him a grin and a wink… “Well not everything,” He assured him.
Harriet didn’t catch the undertones… “He told me you saved his life several times now,” She told him pulling the young fireman down beside her on the sofa… “I want to thank you for that,” She said squeezing his hand.
John smiled hesitantly… “Glad I was there to help out Ma’am,” He said trying to figure out how to graciously extricate his hand from hers…He threw his Partner a quick ‘help me’ look.
Joanne came to his rescue by walking over with Jennifer to greet her guest forcing Johnny to stand up politely as she approached and giving Harriet no choice but to relinquish her hold on his hand. She reached up to kiss his cheek and then set Jennifer in his arms giving him an excuse to keep his hands occupied. She winked teasingly at him… He grinned back.
John sat back down with Jennifer as she reached up to play with his nose. John kissed her tiny fingers chuckling at the baby’s antics. “Hi Princess…,” he said softly as Jen cooed sweetly at him.
“Well you certainly have won her heart John…,” Harriet told him.
“It’s mutual Mom…,” Roy informed her, well aware of his Partners infatuation with the infant as well as Jen’s for him.
John pulled his eyes away from the tiny blonde, blushing as he looked up at Roy… " Sorry man, Oh and Happy Birthday Partner…,” He added awkwardly, handing Roy the long thin package he still held in his hand.
“Johnny you already gave me a gift…a darned expensive one,” Roy said in surprise.
His Partner shrugged… “It’s not much and it sorta goes with the other so…,” He shrugged again. “I mean after everything you’ve done for me…,” He trailed off.
Roy sighed in exasperation that John still thought he had to pay him back for doing something the older man just wanted to do…to be his friend. He plucked his daughter from Johnny’s hands handing her to his Mother. He took John’s arm and pulled him lightly to his feet tugging him toward the deck. “I wanna talk to you Junior.”
John looked at his friend unsure of why Roy suddenly seemed annoyed at him. They stepped outside and John turned to face his Partner uncertainly…
Harriet watched them leave... “Is Roy upset with his friend?” She asked Jo.
“No Mom…It’s just that Johnny’s a little insecure and Roy doesn’t want him to feel like he owes him something for being his friend.”
“He seems very young but very nice…”
“Yes he’s both of those but don’t let his being young fool you…I made that mistake too… he’s a darn good Fireman and an excellent Paramedic,” Jo assured her.
“A little shy maybe?”
“He Is Mom…until you get to know him.”
“Roy seems very fond of him…”
“He is…more than you know….,” Joanne assured her… “And so am I and the kids love him to death…,” She added casting a glance toward the sliders. Roy’s hand rested lightly on Johnny’s shoulder and the younger man’s head was bowed as he listened to his friend… “Very fond…,” She finished softly with a smile.
“Johnny I want you to listen to me…,” Roy said earnestly as he laid his hand on John’s shoulder.
John’s dark eyes lifted to Roy’s. He chewed his lip nervously, aware that his Partner was irritated but not understanding why. “Okay…,” He said softly.
“That’s the second time now you’ve mentioned owing me for something.” John opened his mouth to explain but Roy stopped him. “John, I don’t expect you to pay me back for anything I’ve done for you, do you understand that?”
John’s eyes dropped as Roy continued… “You’re not my friend so I can get something from you and I’m not keeping score so if that’s what you think then take this back…,” He said pushing the package toward his Partner.
John refused to take it. “I didn’t…I didn’t mean to upset you…I…I just meant…,” He stuttered…
“I know what you meant Johnny and that’s not the case between us is it…?”Roy asked as their eyes met in unspoken communication. “Someone somewhere in your life has made you feel like you owed them something…I can’t imagine what from what you’ve told me… but Junior that’s not the case here. I care about you…we’re friends, do you understand?”
John’s eyes shifted uncomfortably away…Roy sighed in frustration at the insecurities that plagued his troubled young friend. Wishing he could somehow change what had happened to his Partner, he tried again… “What I do for you is out of friendship…because I care about you…I don’t want you to repay me…not for anything…okay?”
John nodded hesitantly… “Is it okay if I give it to you just because you’re my friend then…?”
Roy grinned… “In that case I’ll take it.”John smiled back …they went inside.
Harriet patted the seat next to her and Johnny rolled his eyes surreptitiously at his Partner. “It’s easier to humor her…relax Partner it’s only for a couple of hours…I think she likes you,” Roy whispered with a chuckle.
John groaned but went to sit next to Harriet. Chris climbed into his lap. Roy sat on the other couch and Joanne joined him a moment later as he pulled the paper off John’s gift. A long, narrow hand tooled wooden box lay inside. Roy opened it…he glanced at his Partner… “John this is great and it’s a really nice set…Thank you,” He said sincerely looking at the set of casting tools. Tiny blades to clay casters…files and brushes for texturing…
Joanne looked over his shoulder oohing appreciatively. “Now you have no excuses not to throw me some really nice vases…and buy the flowers to put in them...,”she teased kissing her Husband’s cheek. She winked at Johnny…he grinned back.
Harriet patted John’s hand… “What a thoughtful gift.”
John blushed… thoughtful was definitely not something his Family had ever accused him of. “Uh…thank you Ma’am.”
“It’s Harriet dear…,” she corrected the embarrassed young man… Roy grinned.
The next few weeks passed quickly…news filtered down that Brad Kimmerlin had been washed out of the Paramedic Program. He’d been transferred to Station 88 which was located in a rather bad section of town. 51’s Station Crew thought it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Rumor had it that Dr Kelly Brackett had been the final nail in the coffin, adding his complaint about Kimmerlin’s behavior toward the younger Paramedic in his ER to those already filed had given the Fire Department no option but to fire him or wash him out. They’d opted for the latter putting him on a thirty day probation to boot and since 88’s was clear across town Roy breathed a little easier, knowing Kimmerlin’s path would rarely cross with Johnny’s.
Thanksgiving Day kept Johnny, Roy and the station crew hopping. After the fifth run in six hours Johnny shook his head in disgust. “Man Roy, why do people do such stupid things during the Holidays?” he asked thinking about the incidents…Falling from the roof while putting up a set of Christmas lights. Trying to deep fry a frozen turkey and setting the kitchen on fire as the grease had overflowed onto the stove. Who’d ever heard of frying a turkey? Punching the television over a bad play during a football game…, breaking his knuckles as well as the TV…and this last one…a lady trying to baste her turkey had sustained severe burns as she tried to catch it when she pulled it too far out of the oven and it tumbled to the floor, scalding juice and all. “Why didn’t she just let it fall?”
“That’s a woman Junior…no way she’s gonna watch all her hard work hit the floor and ruin a good meal,” He chuckled.
John scowled… “It’s just a turkey…”
“Yeah…well you won’t say that tomorrow after you’ve tasted Jo’s…you’d be makin a diving catch too Partner,” he teased.
John grinned, well aware of what a good cook Joanne was… “Yeah maybe I would,” He agreed.
The next morning found the Paramedics and crew in the parking lot saying their goodbyes. Each one heading for their own thanksgiving with their Families or friends…
Chet was spending his with his Mother and sister. Marco and his Family were planning a less traditional Holiday meal, while Mike and his family planned to spend theirs with Captain Hammer and his wife Amanda and their children.
Roy looked at Johnny while the others continued to talk about their plans. “I’ll see you at 2:00, right Junior?”
John nodded. “Are you sure this isn’t an imposition…I mean…” Roy closed his eyes… John saw it. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, chewing his lip nervously.
“It’s okay and no it’s not an imposition…we’ll have fun…so go home, clean up, take a nap and I’ll see you this afternoon…okay?”
Johnny nodded…, “okay…should I bring anything?”
“Just yourself Johnny...”
“Uh… is Harriet gonna be there again?” He asked.
“Yeah…is that a problem?” Roy asked… “She really took to you.”
John blushed as the others turned toward them… “Who really took to him?” Chet asked curiously.
“My Mother…,” Roy answered looking expectantly at Johnny…
“No…it’s not a problem…,” He answered softly… “She’s uh…really nice.”
Roy grinned ...“she said the same thing about you…,” He teased. He turned to the others. “She likes to hold his hand,” He told them as his friend’s face flamed in embarrassment. Roy chuckled at Johnny's obvious discomfort. “Go home Partner…I’ll see you later.”
Johnny arrived at 2:00 PM. He sat in the camper for several minutes still feeling like he was imposing on the DeSoto family. Heaving a sigh he finally climbed from the vehicle and headed toward the door. Biting his lip… he reached out and knocked softly.
Roy answered with a fussy Jen in his arms. “Hey Junior c’mon in…,”He invited stepping back and holding the door open. The scents emanating from the house were heavenly. Johnny stepped inside.
“Hi Roy…Hey Princess…” He said, taking Jen from Roy’s hands. The small face immediately crinkled in a toothless smile as she reached for his face, the small pudgy fingers grabbing at his nose as Johnny made silly faces at her. She giggled happily. A more mature laugh followed and both Paramedics looked up to see Roy’s Mother grinning at Johnny’s antics with her Granddaughter.
Roy chuckled…, “What is it with you Junior?” He teased. “Is there a woman of any age who doesn’t fall for you?”
John launched his trademark smile… “Gage charm,” He whispered back…turning the smile on Roy’s Mother. She sighed in delight as John came to greet her.
“It’s so good to see you again dear…,” She said sweetly not noticing her son closing the door with an exasperated shake of his head.
Joanne came down a moment later with Chris hot on her heels… “Uncle Johnny,” he shouted gleefully as he ran to greet him. John shifted Jennifer to make room for the little boy in his lap as Joanne leaned down to kiss his cheek. “Happy Thanksgiving Sweetheart…,” she said happily… “I’m so glad you came.”
“Me too…It smells wonderful in here…,” He said with a smile. He had few memories of the Holidays with his Aunt…He’d always tried to make himself scarce or when she'd insisted he be there, show up at the last possible moment to eat dinner. He looked around at this family who’d taken him in, glad that he’d been persuaded to come today…his eyes met Roy’s over Joanne’s shoulder… “Thanks for having me.”
A knock at the door startled everyone… “Did you invite someone else?” Roy asked Joanne. She shook her head. Roy opened the door and by the look on his face Johnny could tell he wasn’t happy about whoever was on his doorstep. “Arlene, Ron…, come in…Hello Eileen…,” Roy greeted a little more cheerfully as the three entered the house.
“Oh God…my Parents…," Jo whispered in dismay. She planted a happy smile on her face… “Mother, Dad,” She said with false cheer… “What are you doing here?” She looked at her sister with a questioning look… “I thought they were having dinner at your house?” She said stressing the ‘your.’
“They were… but then they found out that Harriet was going to be here and they decided to pop in and say hello.” She said tightly. “Hi Roy,” she greeted her Brother in law with a look of chagrin as she moved past him.
“Hello dear…,” Her Mom greeted Joanne.
“Sweetheart…,” from her Dad…
They both coolly greeted Harriet. “And who is this young man…,”Arlene asked almost condescendingly as she plucked Jen from John’s lap… “Hello precious…,” She cooed at the infant as Jen began to wail furiously at being taken from Johnny… “Hello Christopher…,” she said leaning down to kiss her Grandson without waiting for an answer.
“This is Uncle Johnny…,”Chris informed his Grandmother.
“Uh…Arlene…Ron…this is my Partner John Gage…,” Roy said introducing his now very uncomfortable young Partner to his In Laws and trying to ignore the panic stricken look in John’s eyes at this intrusion. “Johnny this is Arlene and Ron Hutchins…Joanne’s Parents…and uh…you’ve met Eileen?” John nodded briefly.
“Oh... another fireman,” Arlene said coldly. “But Roy I find it hard to believe that he’s your Partner…he looks like a child.” John bristled at the comment.
“Mother…,” Joanne said politely. “John’s a very capable Paramedic and he’s Roy’s best friend.”
“But really dear…he looks so young…” She glanced at Roy… “Surely you don’t intend to keep him as your partner...I can't imagine you'd be willing to put your life in a child's hands...this is just a …teaching assignment or something, right?”
“Mother…,”Jo gasped in embarrassment. Even her Father had the good graces to look ashamed. Eileen turned her face away in dismay.
Roy saw the flare of insecurity in Johnny’s eyes and his temper soared… “Now look here…,” He began angrily but Harriet cut him off.
“John is not a child…,”She shot at the other woman angrily… “He’s already saved Roy’s life three times and he’s almost been killed doing it…I suggest you rethink your opinion about his abilities. He may be young in years but not in skill,” She said fiercely. “Roy’s my son and I think he’s in very good hands. He’s told me John’s his equal in ability and I trust my son’s opinion. ”
Roy looked at his Mother in shock…John’s dark eyes had also turned toward Harriet in surprise. “Th…thank you,” he stammered… he glanced up at his friend... “look maybe I should go...,”John said uncomfortably as he started to stand up, but Roy’s hand descended gently but firmly on his shoulder to press him back in his seat. He wasn’t about to let anything ruin Johnny’s first real family Thanksgiving.
“Stay put Junior…you were invited…,” He said gently.
“Well really…,” Arlene began at the innuendo…but Jo stopped her.
“Mother, John is a guest in my home the same as you are…I didn’t invite him here to be insulted…so if you’d like to stay that’s fine but please try to be pleasant… to everyone,” She said softly.
Her Mother looked at her in surprise. Joanne rarely spoke back to her and she wondered what was so special about this young man that Roy had even risked Jo’s wrath by being disrespectful to her and there was no mistaking the warning tone in her daughters voice, she backed off.
Jo’s Father looked between the two men. Roy’s hand still rested casually on his Partner’s shoulder as the younger man looked up at him uncertainly…The almost fatherly gesture not going unnoticed by Ron... ‘Junior’ he’d called him…Roy’s defensive anger at Arlene’s comments, the obvious protective stance at his friends side made it clear that this young man was very close to his son in law and from the anger in his daughter’s voice she was quite fond of him as well. He wasn’t pleased with his son in laws dangerous profession any more than his wife was, though as a person he liked Roy alright…still he figured he better rein his wife in before they were asked to leave.
Harriet leaned close to Johnny as Ron moved to his wife’s side to take her arm and steer her away, a squalling Jennifer still in her arms. “Don’t worry Dear…,” she whispered conspiratorially as she patted John’s cheek, “I’ve dealt with that old battleaxe before.” Roy snorted with suppressed laughter while John grinned gleefully.
Jennifer continued to squirm in Arlene’s arms, her angry screams drowning out any attempt at conversation and rejecting her Grandmother’s attempts to soothe her. Chris glanced up at her…“just give her to Uncle Johnny Grandma…she’ll stop,” He said sagely.
“He’s not your Uncle Dear…,” she said snidely, angry that Chris thought this young stranger could handle her granddaughter better than she could.
Chris’s lip stuck out in a pout… “He is so…Daddy said so and Uncle Johnny said I could call him that.”
“He’s not your Father’s Brother…,” she insisted rudely.
“He might as well be Mom…,” Jo answered, confirming her Fathers suspicions as she plucked the unhappy infant from her Mother’s arms. Jo carried her back into the living room… “Would you mind sweetheart?” She asked handing her to Johnny. He shook his head and took Jen in his arms. The crying stilled to watery hiccups as the baby gazed adoringly up at the dark haired man who held her securely.
Arlene’s mouth dropped open in shock…Eileen giggled and even Ron hid a grin behind his hand. “Gage charm…works every time,” Roy said succinctly.
Thankfully they didn’t stay for dinner… Arlene took her bruised pride, her oldest daughter and her amused husband and went out to find a Restaurant while Roy and Johnny found a football game. Several hours later the DeSoto’s and Johnny sat down to a peaceful table.
“Um…Johnny it’s kind of a tradition for us to go around the table and tell something we’re thankful for…,”at John’s wide eyed look he quickly added… “You don’t have to okay…but if you want to we’d be happy to let you take part in it. I’ll start it…” He said beginning with a traditional prayer of thanks. “Dear Lord I’m thankful for my Family, especially my beautiful wife,” He said drawing a grin from Joanne. “My son and a beautiful new Daughter…. I’m thankful for my Mom and thankful for my best friend who joined us today to be a part of our family…”
John felt tears burn his eyes…John couldn’t remember anyone saying they were thankful to have him around.
Chris continued… “I’m thankful for my Mom and Dad and for my new baby Sister…and for grandparents…and Aunty Eileen and for my Uncle Johnny and Lord I’m so glad you made him come today…”
Harriet took it from there… “Dear Lord I’m thankful for my son and this beautiful Family you’ve given him and me through him. I’m thankful for this young man you’ve brought into my son’s life…to be a friend and to watch out for him.”
John swallowed back a lump in his throat…Roy snuck a quick glance at his friend surprised to see him wipe at the gathering moisture in his eyes. He closed his own to avoid embarrassing his friend as Joanne continued…
“Dear Lord I’m thankful for my beautiful children. I’m thankful for my Family and a wonderful Mother in Law. I’m thankful for my husband and that you’ve kept him safe this past year and for Johnny…this special man you’ve brought into our lives to be a part of our Family…”
It grew quiet at the table as they waited…The silence grew until Roy finally opened his mouth to finish when he heard the hesitant clearing of his Partner’s throat…
“Um…I'm ahh...thankful for this Family you’ve brought into my life…,” he whispered softly as his voice cracked. John reached up once again to swipe at his face. Roy reached over without opening his eyes and lightly touched John’s arm as he finished the prayer…
“Lord, keep us safe through the coming year and bless this food that we are about to eat…In Jesus name…Amen…”
They all looked up and began to eat. John’s head remained bowed until he regained his composure but Roy could still see the tell tale glisten of tears in his friends eyes.
After dinner Roy and John headed out onto the deck with their coffee as Harriet and Joanne cleaned up. Chris sat in one of the lawn chairs writing a letter to Santa Claus while Jen dozed on the blanket in the living room.
“What’re you writing Chris…?” Roy asked as his son struggled with the letters.
“A letter to Santa…”
“Oh I see…and what are you asking for?”
“A bike…with no training wheels…and roller skates and Hot Wheels…,” He said. He looked up at Johnny… “What do you want from Santa for Christmas Uncle Johnny?” The question caught the young Fire Fighter off guard. Roy looked at him expectantly.
“Uh…Chris I don’t believe in S…,” He stopped not wanting to spoil Chris’s childish illusions… “Uh I don’t think Santa can give me what I want for Christmas…,” he corrected sadly with a faraway look in his eyes. Roy knew he was thinking of his Parents. An idea began to take root.
“What’s that Uncle Johnny…if you tell me I can write it down in my letter and then when he comes he can leave it for you…,”He said innocently.
“That’s okay Chris…I don’t celebrate Christmas…It’s not something we did where I grew up.”
“You didn’t? No presents or Christmas trees…?”
Johnny shook his head…”Nope, none of that stuff.”
“But don’t you believe that it’s Jesus’ Birthday?” He asked in surprise.
“Sure I do…My Dad used to take me to Church when he was home but… I mean, I don’t celebrate with decorations and presents and stuff…I mean my Aunt did a couple of times but she usually travels for the Holidays…, and my Dad worked most Holidays…It paid good.” He shrugged… once again feeling lost at something so traditional, that seemed so natural for everyone else. He looked at his Partner… “By the way I wanted to thank you for inviting me today despite the little interruption…,” he teased with a grin but he grew serious again… “It was really special and I felt like I... belonged somewhere for the first time in a long time…,” He said softly.
“You’re welcome Junior…and you do belong here…you’re my Friend,” he said giving Johnny a gentle slap on the arm. So what are you doing for Christmas?”
“My Aunt wants me to come to Santa Barbara but…I don’t know.”
“I know…I’ll probably go but…,”He shrugged obviously not happy about it. “I won’t stay long…I’m sure Tiffany and Joshua will want some time alone with their Mom,” He finished.
Roy felt the flush of anger climb into his face at the callous disregard these two obviously selfish people had toward John…Couldn’t they have a little compassion and understanding for someone who’d been through as much as John had.
He supposed in all fairness John hadn’t told them what had been done to him and Roy could understand why…They were probably some of those people Jo had mentioned…who would blame the child for what had happened...from what Johnny said they were obviously embarrassed by their cousin being half Indian, as if it was something to be ashamed of.
Roy patted John’s arm… “Who knows Junior…maybe they’ll grow up some day and change.”
John shrugged. He finally glanced up at his friend… “I guess I should go,” He said standing up… “I’ll see you Sunday…”
Roy nodded as he walked his friend inside… “Jo…thanks for a great dinner,” He said kissing her cheek. “Harriet…,” he said turning to the older woman… “It was nice to see you again.” He started to turn away but the older woman laid her hand on his arm. He looked back as she rose up on tip toe to kiss his cheek.
“It was good to see you again too John,” She said with a smile.
Roy walked him to the door… “I’ll see you Sunday morning Johnny…thanks for coming.”
John nodded... “Thanks for havin me…See ya.”
Christmas was two weeks away but the signs of it were everywhere…Brilliant bulbs hung from trees and roof eaves. Christmas music played softly in the background of every department store. Excited children dragged their Parents from window to window along the sidewalks.
Johnny realized on his way in this morning that he’d seen it all happen around him for years but hadn’t really noticed it…ignoring the sights and sounds of the season and keeping to himself. John grinned … what a difference one good friend had made…not allowing him to stay locked within himself and tearing down the walls. John had even agreed to go to Santa Barbara to spend Christmas with his Aunt…albeit reluctantly.
Roy came in as he finished tying his shoes… “Hey Partner…,” He said patting John on the shoulder, noting with satisfaction that Johnny never pulled away anymore.
“Roy…,” He greeted his friend with a smile…
“You’re in awfully early…something wrong?”
“Not a thing…I’m gonna get some coffee…I’ll see ya in a few.”
“Hey, save some for me…”
“Kay…,” He yelled back.
Roy was just finishing up when Chet ran in…
“Man I can’t believe I let Gage beat me in…I’ll be stuck with Latrine duty for sure…,” he grouched as he dropped his duffle bag and began to unbutton his shirt.
Roy chuckled as he heard Caps bellow… “Roll call…”
“Better hurry it up there Kelly…,” He teased heading for the door as Chet sat down to pull his shoes off…
“Man I’m not even gonna have time to get cleaned up,” he complained to the exiting Paramedic.
“Do it after,” Roy advised as the door swung shut behind him.
Roy joined his Partner in the apparatus bay as Mike and Marco joined them. They were standing in line waiting for the missing Irishman…Cap was tapping his foot impatiently…They all jumped at the scream that came from the locker room…all but Johnny…
“Aaargh…,” Chet shrieked.
Roy glanced at the others as they looked around in confusion…Chet’s arrival solved the mystery…The smell of cheap perfume wafted into the apparatus bay several seconds before he did.
“Real funny…,” He snarled holding one of his own water catapults… “Who’s the comedian?”
The others looked at each other questioningly but no one confessed.
“Well…,” Cap said moving well away from Kelly, “You’ll want to take a shower after roll call Kelly so I guess the Latrine is a good job for you…,” Cap said with a grin as the others edged away, keeping several feet between them and the sweet, flowery scented Fire Fighter.
Cap continued giving assignments while Roy cast a glance at Johnny…A slow, smug smile spread across his Partner’s features. Roy had to stifle his laughter. “Good job…,” He whispered aside to his friend. John barely nodded.
After Roll Call they headed to the Rec Room for coffee…while Chet headed for the locker room to change and clean up.
They sipped their coffee helping themselves to the donuts that had been left on the table. John set a lemon filled Donut on a napkin and went to pour more coffee…but stopped to smother a giggle as a loud bellow reverberated through the station…
“Alright that’s it...,” Kelly yelled as he stomped into the rec room...the flowery scent had diminished considerably but a new scent had now replaced it.
Roy leaned closer and sniffed… “Uh Chet…you…um smell like a pickle.”
“No kiddin,” he growled holding up the bottle of aftershave he usually kept in his locker…He glared around the room at the smirks of his Crew mates…
“That sweet or dill…?” Marco asked.
“What’s the matter Chet…can’t take what you dish out?” Mike teased. John’s giggle could be heard from the sink where he stood making another pot of coffee.
“You have anything to do with this Gage?” Chet growled.
John turned giving him his best innocent look…He opened his mouth to deny everything just as the phone began to ring…it went silent as Dick answered it from his office.
“Gage phone…,” Cap yelled…
“I’ll…ah…just take that in the dorm…,”Johnny said with a grin as he made his escape.
Chet watched him leave… “Roy, did Gage do this…?” He asked the blonde Paramedic. Roy shrugged with a grin. “I’m almost proud of him…,” Kelly said with a chuckle as he reached out to snag John’s donut… “But I can’t let him get away with it so…this will be his punishment…,” He laughed biting into the sugary pastry…” He grinned but the smirk slowly faded as he noticed the look of shock on the faces of his crew mates and then the guys doubled over with laughter.
“What’s so funny…?” he asked suspiciously at their hoots of hilarity…he glanced down at the lemon donut and did a double take...the filling was green. The Irishman closed his eyes in frustration. “Are my teeth green…?” He ground out in annoyance.
“Uh…yeah,” Marco answered.
“S…so are your lips…,” Mike sputtered out trying to contain himself…
“Gage…,” He bellowed.
The SCU tones began to sound… “Squad 51…vehicle accident with injuries…”
Roy ran for the squad as Cap began writing down the information…a moment later Johnny slid into the passenger seat. Roy glanced at his Partner as he reached around to grab his helmet from behind him. There was an odd look on his face. Roy wondered what was wrong but it would have to wait until the run was over. He took the slip from Cap and the Squad began to roll.
They arrived at the scene a few minutes later. A Motorcycle lay on its side, its rider sat in the street a few feet away…head hanging and his arms wrapped around his ribs. The other vehicle… a small white sedan was half on the curb. The driver stood next to it holding her arm.
Roy and John climbed from the cab and started pulling their equipment…“Car or Bike Junior?” Roy asked.
“Uh…car,” He said grabbing the splint box while handing Roy the trauma box. John grabbed the Biophone. Roy pulled the drug box and headed for the Motorcycle operator.
Roy squatted next to the young man as John approached the middle aged woman leaning against her car. “Sir…?” Roy questioned touching the man’s shoulder lightly… “Can you lay back for me?” Roy asked carefully laying the man back on the ground.
“Ma’am…?” Johnny said approaching the woman… “I’m John Gage…I’m a Paramedic with the LA County Fire Department. Is it alright if I take a look at you…?” He asked as he gently took her uninjured arm and led her to the curb and sat her down. He began to take her pulse.
“Rampart base this is Squad 51…”
“Go ahead 51…,” came Dr. Early’s voice.
“Rampart we have two victims of a vehicle accident…the first is a thirty five year old woman…She appears to have a broken left Ulna…Her pulse is 80…Respiration is 16…BP is 110 systolic by palpation.”
“Is the Victim in a lot of pain 51…?”
“Splint the arm 51… Give her 30 mgs of Meperidine IM.”
“10-4 Rampart…Rampart we have a second Victim…He’s male…approximate age…,” he looked over at Roy expectantly…”
“Twenty Five Rampart…,” Johnny repeated…”
Roy read off the vitals as Johnny relayed them to Rampart.
“Pulse is 70…BP is 120/80…Respiration 18…He has a large contusion on the head and some severe road rash…”
“10-4 51…apply a pressure bandage and Cervical Collar as a precaution and transport as soon as possible.
“10-4 Rampart…You got that…?” Johnny asked Roy…
A short time later they had both loaded in the ambulance…Roy rode with them while John followed in the squad.
A short time later they both left treatment room 2. They walked to the Base Station where Dixie was working on some papers in front of her. She glanced up and smiled as she recognized her two favorite Paramedics. “Hey guys…,” She greeted.
“Hi Dix…,” Johnny responded for both of them… “You’re lookin pretty festive…,” He commented nodding at the Garland strand strung along the counter area.
“Oh we’re just getting started…The nurses are putting up a tree in the waiting room and one in the lobby.” They nodded.
“Very nice,” Roy said with a smile. “Are you workin Christmas?” He asked the pretty blonde nurse.
She shook her head. “Nope, I’m spending it with Kel…How about you guys…? What are you guys gonna be doin…?” She asked.
Roy grinned… “This’ll be Jen’s first Christmas. Joanne and I will be setting up the tree this weekend…Hey Junior why don’t you come help us…Chris would love it.”
John shifted uncomfortably, “Uh…thanks but no…I don’t get into all that…”
“C’mon Johnny it’ll give you some practice before you go to your Aunts.”
Dixie looked at the fidgety young Paramedic…“your Aunts…?” She questioned. This was the first she’d heard of any of John’s family…
John hesitated… “My Aunt …uh…wanted me to come…but…”
Roy glanced suspiciously at his Partner. “You are going to Santa Barbara right? You said she’s expecting you…”
John glanced away as that same look of hurt resignation entered his eyes for a fleeting moment before John slammed the wall of indifference back in place…he shrugged, “I thought maybe I’d work some overtime and let someone with a family take it off…”
Roy’s mouth set in irritation… “What happened?”
John shrugged… “Um…my Cousins are taking her to Mexico for Christmas…”
Roy could tell by the look on John’s face that he suspected it was his Cousin’s way of keeping him away from Rosemary for the Holidays…Anger climbed in the older man at the total insensitivity these two people had for their younger relative. “So you’ll be coming to my house then …?”
“No Roy, it’s okay really… I can use the money besides, you already let me spend Halloween and Thanksgiving with you…Christmas should be just you and your Family ya know?”
Dixie glanced over at Roy expectantly…she already knew what was coming.
“Good…so you’ll be there?”
“But Roy…I just told you…,” He trailed off in confusion.
Roy arched a brow at him, waiting for his sometimes dense Partner to catch on. Johnny continued to look blankly at his older friend…The blonde Paramedic sighed…
“Junior, you are Family…”
A small smile crept across John’s face… “Oh,” He said softly.
Dixie grinned at Roy… “He’s a little slow isn’t he…?”
“Give him time Dix it’s early…he picks up speed as the day goes on…,” Roy said with a smirk.
“Alright…,” John growled, flushing in embarrassment.
“So you’ll spend Christmas with us right?”
John chewed his lip…He’d become so close to the DeSoto family over these last few months and he loved being a part of their lives…but he was afraid of becoming a burden. “I don’t want to be a…”
“Don’t finish that sentence Junior…”
John hesitated at his friends warning tone… “I'm sorry...Alright... If you’re sure…?”
“I am…so show up this weekend and help us decorate the tree.”
“Okay…and um…thanks,” he said softly as he kicked at the tiles sheepishly.
“Johnny…? You mind if I talk to your Aunt when we get back to the Station…?”
“About what…?” John asked curiously.
“I’d just like to wish her a Merry Christmas.”
“Okay…I guess.” John turned to the older woman standing there… “Guess we better take off…see ya Dix.”
Dixie smiled at Roy as he threw her a wink… “See ya Dix…,” He said following his Partner down the hall.
When they got back to the Station Roy got Rosemary’s number from Johnny and tucked it into his Pocket. “Aren’t ya gonna call her?” John asked.
“Yeah…a little later,” Roy said cryptically… “Let’s get some coffee Junior.”
They headed into the Rec room…Kelly was waiting with the others… “So Gage…that was quite a little trick with the donut this morning…”
John grinned… “What donut would that be Chet…?” He asked guilelessly…
“The lemon one…with the green food coloring…,” He reminded him.
“Really…it did?” John asked in wide eyed innocence… “You mean the one you stole from me…,” John taunted… “Maybe it was the Phantom..? After all, if you hadn’t have taken it…I would have eaten it,” John pointed out.
Chet looked around at the others suspiciously…then realized John was just trying to throw him off… “Yeah I’ll bet…”
“Besides you seem to have gotten rid of the uh… evidence,” he said.
“Yeah…I did…I ahh… really appreciated the salt in the toothpaste tube…”
Roy snorted with laughter from the counter where he was pouring coffee for himself and his Partner. He headed back to the table a moment later with the smirk still on his face.
“Salt…?” John said with a giggle… “Why who’d do a thing like that…maybe the phantom..?” He asked glancing up at Roy as the older man set the coffee cup in front of him.
Roy grinned at the mischievous sparkle in Johnny’s eyes. “I'm proud of ya Junior…,” He whispered.
“This means war Gage…”
“Bring it on Kelly…,” John challenged.
“We gonna get some work done around here this morning…?” Cap asked poking his head into the Rec Room…
“Comin Cap…,” John said as he got to his feet. The others followed the younger man out.
Roy waited until his Partner was on the hose rack before he called John’s Aunt Rosemary… “Um Rosemary this is Roy DeSoto…”
“Oh Roy, how are you…? How’s John…? Is he alright? He wasn’t upset this morning was he?”
“Yes Ma’am…he was,” Roy said coolly…
“I feel so awful about this…I mean this is the first time I didn’t have to badger him to come home and then I went and hurt him by telling him I wouldn’t be there after all.”
“Don’t worry Rosemary, He’s gonna spend Christmas with me and my Family…We’d love to have him.”
“Oh I see…,” she whispered correctly reading the cold tone in Roy’s voice. “I’m so glad to know he’s got someone who really cares for him there. Please understand...I want to love him like he’s my own but he won’t let me…he’s always pushed me away… I thought…well…I guess I thought he really didn’t want to come…I mean he usually prefers to be alone and… I should cancel this trip…I didn’t want to hurt him.”
Roy relented… “look I know John’s had trouble accepting your love and I know he gave you a lot of resistance…it was within reason for you to think he would again…but I didn’t call you to make you feel bad…really. I uh…I was hoping you could help me give him a special Christmas and you’re the only one who can. John told me you moved into your Parents home after they died…,” Roy explained what he wanted and what he was hoping she could get him.
“Oh Roy…what a wonderful idea…I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of this before …I haven't been in that attic since I moved in but I’ll get on this right away…I promise. Where do I send it if I find it…?”
Roy gave her his address. “Rosemary thank you…have a Merry Christmas.”
“Oh I will if I can find these for you…I wish I could be there to see John’s face,” she said with regret.
Johnny looked at him curiously as he returned to the rear parking lot and climbed the tower to take his place at his Partners side. Roy threw him a grin.
“Sorry guys I had a phone call…,” He explained as he got to work.
A week later Roy found the package from Rosemary in his mailbox… His smile broadened as he opened it and examined the contents. He had some work to do.
Three days before Christmas and LA was chaos…Johnny stood at the sink washing the lunch dishes after having lost yet another round of cards, which they played to determine who got stuck with the job…* Roy stood next to him drying. “Why do all the crazy people come out at Christmas time?” Johnny complained…
“That’s what you said at Thanksgiving…,” Roy reminded him.
“I know but it’s worse now…Candles setting houses on fire, falls from the roof, drunk drivers…people electrocuting themselves…I’m tellin ya …they’re nuts.”
Roy grinned… “Everyone’s in a hurry Junior…no time to watch out for the little things…”
John snorted… “You mean like not setting lit candles on window sills and makin sure they don’t overload their circuits…?”
The SCU tones began to sound….Station 51…Engine 36…battalion 14…Station 88…Structure Fire…2135 Worshington…cross street Western….2-1-3-5 Worshington…cross street Western…time out 13:57
“Here we go again…,” John said in frustration as he wiped his hands on his pants and ran for the Squad. Roy was right on his heels…They slid past Captain Hammer as he acknowledged the call…
“Station 51…KMG-365…,” he responded. The doors were already rolling up as Cap handed the slip of paper to Roy, who passed it on to Johnny as the truck began to roll.
They arrived at the scene several minutes later…both Paramedics climbing from the squad and grabbing their turnout coats. Red smoke billowed from the blown out windows… “Johnny…?” Roy said pointing at the smoke… “Chemicals…”
“Well at least it’s not Christmas related…,”John said with a grin.
“They think there may be a guard inside…Use your air masks…,” Cap directed as he went by… “In and out you two…”
“Got it Cap…,” Roy replied as they donned their air tanks and headed inside…They stepped through the door. The smoke was thick and heavy. Roy pointed to the right… “You go that way Johnny...I’ll go left. Be careful I can hardly see.”
John nodded and headed off in the opposite direction from his Partner. The hose crews were beginning to follow in behind them. He didn’t notice one of them break away and follow him.
They’d been inside for nearly five minutes when Roy’s Handy Talkie crackled to life. “DeSoto, Gage… clear out…the guards outside.”
“10-4 Cap…I’ll find Gage…we’re comin out.”
Johnny had started his search moving room to room…He entered the third room…the air was like a smothering blanket and John could barely see…he was grateful for the air mask…he didn’t like the color of the smoke at all. John turned to leave the empty room when he suddenly felt himself pushed forward from behind…he reached out to catch himself but before he could recover he felt his helmet pushed forward over his face…something struck the back of his head and the room seemed to tilt and then he sank to the floor semi conscious.
John’s eyes blinked against the pain swimming through his head…he squinted into the grayness surrounding him and saw another Fireman leaning over him… “Roy…?” He whispered…The man leaned over him and flipped the mask off John’s face. John gasped as the fumes hit his nostrils…he reached frantically for his air mask…He saw the man’s foot draw back…a moment later he gagged as the foot connected solidly with his stomach doubling him over and forcing him to take in a lungful of smoke filled air.
John drew his knees to his chest…trying desperately to breathe. The foot drew back again...pain filled eyes raised to look at his assailant…It was difficult to see through the thick haze but he thought briefly that he should know this man…then the foot made contact with John’s face and the world went black.
Brad Kimmerlin stood staring down at the younger man. “I told ya there’d be another time… Shoulda kept your mouth shut Gage…,” He muttered as he turned to walk away…He’d made it only a few steps as the ceiling cracked above him…He had only a second before it gave way and crashed down on top of him.
“Johnny…,” Roy shouted…making his way back along the corridor he’d last seen his Partner in. He came upon two other Firemen. He recognized them as Marco and Chet… “You guys seen Johnny…?” He yelled.
They shook their heads… “Maybe he went out…,” Marco shouted back.
“He wouldn’t leave without signaling me…,” Roy answered. “I’ll check up there…,” He said pointing at the next door.
John’s eyes cracked open. Pain swam through him as he tried to move. His lungs felt heavy and he coughed harshly…doubling up in pain at the pressure in his chest…After a moment it eased enough for the young Paramedic to push himself to his hands and knees. He pulled his air mask over his face and began to crawl…dizziness washed through him. He’d only made it a few feet when he saw the feet of another Fireman showing beneath a pile of rubble.
John made his way to the man’s side and began pulling the debris away…A deep rasping cough erupted from John’s lungs but he continued pushing and pulling at pieces of the ceiling until he cleared enough away to feel for the man’s carotid. It was there, beating strongly. The man began to cough and John realized that the other Fireman’s mask was broken…Johnny pulled his own clear and turned the man’s face toward him. He gasped in surprise when he recognized the face of Brad Kimmerlin.
John had a fleeting moment of fear but couldn’t seem to remember why he should be afraid…he coughed again as he placed his air mask over Kimmerlin’s face allowing the man to breathe in the fresh air. John’s head swam as he breathed in the toxic smoke…combined with his head injury, it was too much…John’s vision shrank to a pinpoint. He slumped over Kimmerlin unconscious.
Roy pushed the door to the third room open, gasping when he saw his Partner draped over the body of another Firefighter. He stepped back into the hall waving at Chet and Marco… “I need some help here….,” He yelled. “I’ve got two men down.”
The two linemen dropped the hose and ran to help their crew mate. Roy ran back inside and carefully rolled Johnny off the other man. Roy’s stomach sank as he realized his Partner was barely breathing.
“Get Johnny out of here now…,” Roy shouted as he lifted his friend and laid him over Chet’s shoulder. “Get him on O2 the minute your outside.” He replaced his mask and turned back to the other victim. He pushed the mask away and gasped in surprise to find it was Brad Kimmerlin…Roy shook his head in wonder…leave it to his Partner to try and save the man who’d once left him to die. He and Marco managed to lift the heavier man between them and carry him out the door.
Chet was at the Squad with Johnny by the time they emerged into the sunlight. He was placing the oxygen mask over John’s nose and mouth. A harsh, ragged cough erupted from the unconscious Paramedic. Jim Patterson from Station 14 was already running to help. “Take care of Kimmerlin…,” Roy directed Jim. He moved to Johnny’s side and reached for his Partners wrist to get a pulse.
“Roy his face is bleeding… ,”Chet observed as he set the drug box next to Roy. The older man turned John’s face to inspect the cut on his cheek. “Need anything else Roy?” Chet asked anxiously.
“Open the link to Rampart,” Roy said placing the BP cuff on Johnny’s arm. “How’s Kimmerlin?” Roy asked as he began to take a reading.
“Minor bump to the back of the head…lots of bruises...he’s not having anywhere near as much trouble breathing as Gage is. What happened anyway?”
“Rampart base this is Squad 51…”
“Go ahead 51…,” came Kel Brackett’s voice.
“Rampart, we have two victim’s…both Code I’s…The first is a twenty two year old male…He’s suffering from Ammonia gas inhalation. His pulse is 100, respirations are shallow…BP is 120/80. Pupils are equal and sluggish. Roy was running his hands over his Partners limbs searching for other injuries.
Roy glanced up as Johnny’s eyes began to flutter open. He moaned as his awareness of his various injuries began to penetrate his foggy brain. “Can you hear me Johnny?” Roy asked in concern.
John groaned…then coughed and tried to push the mask from his face but Roy caught his hand. “Leave it on Junior…,” He instructed as he ran his hand through John’s hair searching for the reason the younger man’s pupils were sluggish. He found it…a large lump on the back of John’s head. Johnny winced as his fingers probed the injury. Roy pulled his hand away. It was sticky and wet with blood. “Chet tell them he has a bump on the head and a scalp laceration.” Chet relayed the information.
“He get caught in the collapse?” Patterson asked as he took the Biophone from Chet.
Roy shook his head. “No, when we found him he was over Kimmerlin but on top of the debris…, “Roy said in confusion.
“Gage musta gotten to him quick…he’s comin around and he’s barely coughing,” Jim observed as Brad’s eyes opened.
“What’s goin on?” Kimmerlin rasped.
“Just stay quiet Kimmerlin…You’re gonna be okay…Gage saved your life,” Patterson said as he began to give Rampart Kimmerlin’s vitals. Brad’s eyes flicked towards Johnny but he said nothing.
Roy’s hand pressed lightly across Johnny’s ribs and down to his stomach. He stopped as John gasped in pain. “Does it hurt here Johnny?” He asked quietly, lightly palpating the area.
John tensed and nodded slightly, coughing harshly yet again.
“Chet tell Rampart he’s got tenderness in his abdomen. I’ve got bilateral rales and bronchial constriction.” Roy said in some confusion. John’s injuries were inconsistent with where he was found.
Chet nodded and relayed the information.
“Johnny, do you remember what happened?” Roy asked.
Brad Kimmerlin abruptly tried to sit up but Patterson pushed him back. The injured Fireman relaxed once again as the young Paramedic shook his head. John eyes flew open suddenly and he gagged. Roy didn’t even have time to roll him before John began to vomit. Roy whipped off the mask as he and Jim both turned him on his side but it was too late, Johnny had already aspirated.
“Geez…,” gasped Chet as Johnny began to wheeze harshly trying to breath.
Roy quickly cleared John’s airway as much as possible as Patterson snatched up the Biophone. “Rampart our Victim has aspirated…he’s in respiratory distress.”
“51… start an I.V. D5W… give 1 mg...Epinephrine. Insert a nasogastric tube and aspirate the stomach… insert an esophageal airway. Monitor his vitals and transport immediately.”
“10-4,” Patterson acknowledged as he waved the ambulance attendants over. Roy was tipping John’s head back to insert the nasogastric tube into his partner as Bob started the IV…Bob grabbed the airway tube as Roy flushed John’s stomach. They inserted the airway and attached the ambu bag...then lifted Johnny onto the gurney and strapped him in. John shifted… fighting against the restraints, still gasping as Roy gently pressed him back.
“Easy Junior…I’m right here,” he assured his young Partner.
The sound of his friend’s voice soothed the younger man and he stopped straining against the bonds. They lifted him into the ambulance.
They lifted Kimmerlin in beside him. The man’s narrowed gaze watched John intently but the young Fire Fighters eyes remained closed as he struggled to draw air. Roy’s hand rested comfortingly on Johnny’s head as he spoke quiet reassurances to his friend.
“It’s okay Junior we’re gonna get you to Rampart…just lay quiet.”
Dixie was at the entrance when they arrived… “Kel’s waiting in three,” she informed them as they pulled Johnny from the ambulance. She glanced at the other stretcher with Brad Kimmerlin… “Morton’s waiting in one,” she directed as she followed John’s gurney down the hall.
They wheeled Johnny into treatment room three a minute later. Roy helped the attendants make the transfer from stretcher to table. Brackett moved in quickly. “Roy, help me move him down,” he directed, pulling John towards the head of the table. Johnny’s head dropped back slightly. His eyes fluttered open.
“Dix…bronchoscope,” He ordered. “Carol…” He said to the other nurse who had followed them in... “Get that tube out and his clothes off and then get X- ray up here…I want a full skull serious and his abdomen and chest.” She nodded and got to work.
“Dix, I want an ABG, CBC and electrolytes...” He cast a sympathetic look toward the younger man... "Catheterize him when your done..." She nodded as she went to gather the items she would need.
John wheezed heavily as Carol pulled the tube free. The young man only had a moment's respite as Brackett began to insert the bronchoscope but Johnny turned his head trying to fight the sudden intrusion. Roy moved to his side and took John’s hand. “I’m right here Partner,” he said softly. “You’re gonna be okay…just relax.”
Johnny’s eyes widened fearfully but he stilled and Kel turned his head back into position…after several moments he completed the insertion, “Suction...” he rapped out to Carol…She handed him the suction tube and he began to remove the debris John had aspirated.
Brackett finished and removed the scope. John’s breathing was a wheezy rasp and his eyes were clenched shut. Kel moved to the cabinet…he came back a moment later and injected a syringe into John’s I.V. port. He glanced up at the anxious blue eyes watching him intently.“Bronchodilator,” he explained…the Ammonia gas is causing bronchospasms and I barely got the scope in…I can’t get the vent tube back in until it’s relaxed.
Roy nodded worriedly. If Brackett was going to use a ventilator, Johnny had to be bad. Kel saw the fearful look on the Senior Paramedics face. “Don’t worry Roy, it’s just a precaution. I don’t want Johnny to have to work too hard to breathe right now. The Vent will do it for him and let him rest. I’ll take it out in the morning if he’s breathing better.”
Kel noticed that John’s breathing had already eased a bit. He began to insert the tube but John’s reaction was instant and panicked. His eyes flew open as he tried to slap Brackett’s hands away…Roy moved quickly to press his frightened Partner back on the table. “Easy Johnny…he’s not gonna hurt you…I’m right here. It’s gonna be okay,” He soothed.
Dark eyes met and locked with his as Brackett smoothly inserted the airway and hooked Johnny to the machine. His hand tightened around Roy’s. Carol moved in to tape it securely in place. Dixie inserted the needle into the artery in John’s wrist drawing a grimace of pain from the young Paramedic. Roy winced in sympathy and squeezed John’s hand reassuringly as Carol inserted the catheter.
Once Kel was sure Johnny was breathing alright he'd continued with the rest of the exam. He felt the lump on the back of John’s head and carefully turned the young man’s head and cleaned the laceration. Then He put three small butterfly stitches on John’s cheek. His hands drew a slight gasp past the vent tube as he probed the bruised area on John’s stomach.
“How’d this happen Roy?” Kel asked in concern.
“I don’t know Doc. I mean nothing fell on him that I could tell and Johnny doesn’t seem to remember what happened,” he explained giving John’s hand another squeeze.
“Is that true John? You can’t remember…” John gave a small nod… “The X -rays should give us an idea how bad the head injury is but at a guess I’d say it’s a moderate concussion,” He told Roy. “He may have some short term memory loss. Don’t worry he’s pretty tough…my main concern is his lungs. I’m gonna start him a broad spectrum antibiotic to try and prevent pneumonia from setting in. I don’t think he’s bleeding internally, he just very sore in the abdomen…” Kel shook his head in confusion at the injuries.
The door opened to admit the X-ray technician. Kel nodded towards the door. Roy gave John’s arm a reassuring pat. “I’ll be right outside Partner,” he said quietly as he followed Brackett out.
“Any idea’s Roy…?” Kel asked glancing toward the door.
“We found Brad Kimmerlin in the room with him…he was buried under the debris and Johnny was slumped over him. John gave him his air mask.”
Kel grinned and shook his head… “Only Johnny would do something like that. Anyone else woulda dug him out and dropped him outside and hoped for the best…,”Kel said laughing but he quickly sobered… “You think Kimmerlin might have caused those injuries…?”
“It kinda crossed my mind Doc. He did threaten to get even with him if he caught him alone. It mighta just been bad luck for him that the ceiling collapsed.”
“If so then it was his good luck that Johnny was right there to save him when it did and that he wasn’t too badly injured to help him.”
“And that he was willing to…,” Roy pointed out.
Kel nodded… “Let’s get some coffee Roy and then we can check out those X- rays and your partner’s hard head,” he said with a grin.
An hour later Johnny was moved to a room for the night… “You’re partner’s waiting at the base station Roy…,” Kel told him. Roy hesitated, casting one more worried glance at his friend… “Johnny’s only going to sleep tonight anyway and he won’t know whether you’re here or not,” Kel assured him.
“But I will…,” he said softly. He cast one final look at his sleeping partner and headed for the door.
Roy returned the next morning after his shift ended. He poked his head into his Partners room to check on him. John was moving restlessly beneath the covers. The hiss and thump of the Ventilator was the only sound. The older man moved to his friend’s side. “Johnny can you hear me?” He said softly.
John’s head turned in his direction...his eyes opened slowly, he looked at Roy blearily for a moment before he slowly reached up to touch the vent tube. His eyes looked questioningly at Roy. “He said he’d take it out today if you looked good Junior,” Roy said catching his friend’s hand.
The door opened and Brackett walked in. He smiled when he saw Roy already at his Partners bed side after he’d practically had to throw him out the night before. “Morning Roy…”
“Mornin Doc,” Roy greeted.
“Johnny…,” Kel said with a smile. “Let’s take a look at you okay? The Nurses said you were restless last night…?” John shrugged lightly. “Can you remember what happened…?” The younger man shook his head. “Okay well…let’s take a listen,” He said putting his stethoscope in his ears. He listened to John’s lungs. “Sounds good, are you ready for me to take that tube out?” Johnny nodded eagerly but closed his eyes tightly as dizziness washed over him from the sudden movement. He tried desperately to hold his stomach in place.
“Doc…?” Roy questioned worriedly.
“Are you gonna be sick Johnny?” Kel asked as he quickly began to remove the tape from around the vent tube.
John remained motionless but the tightly clenched eyes were enough for an answer. “Okay John…I need to get this tube out. If you can… without being sick I need you to cough…it’ll make it easier okay?”
A faint nod was his only response. Kel began to remove the tube…John gave a hesitant cough, wincing as the tube scraped his irritated throat. He coughed again and breathed a sigh of relief as the tube was finally removed. “Thanks…,” He croaked softly trying not to move his head.
Kel once again listened to his lungs… “Breathe in for me Johnny,” he instructed. John drew in a deep breath and coughed harshly. “Let’s sit him up.” They eased Johnny to a sitting position… “Breathe in one more time John.”
Johnny took a breath, coughing again and then he suddenly turned pale… “Doc…,” he gasped. Brackett moved but Roy was faster, he grabbed the emesis basin and thrust it under his Young Partners chin. John heaved miserably but thankfully his stomach was empty and all he brought up was a bit of saliva.
“Okay now?” Roy asked easing his friend back onto the bed.
John gave a weak nod as Roy gently wiped his face. The older Paramedic looked at Brackett. “He okay…?”
“I’m afraid that concussion’s causing most of this, though his lungs are still congested. Johnny, does your chest hurt…?” Kel asked the younger man.
“Yeah…a little,” He rasped. Kel felt around John’s neck.
“Does your throat still feel tight?”
“Yeah…uh… Doc when can I go home…?” He asked with a stifled cough.
“Not today Johnny, I want you to rest today ok? I’m gonna give you Compazine to settle your stomach,” he replied as he settled a nasal cannula under Johnny's nose.
“What about tomorrow?”
“We’ll see… If you’re still having the same issues tomorrow…,” Brackett let the warning trail off.
“But Doc…,” He began to argue in a raspy whisper... his eyes drooping in exhaustion.
“Johnny…,”Roy said interrupting his Partner… “You need to rest now…You can argue about it later okay?” he said resting his hand on his friends shoulder. “Just close your eyes Junior… you’re worn out.”
“I wanna go home Roy…,” he croaked.
“I know you do…We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” He promised moving his hand to gently swipe the hair off the younger man’s face and then resting his hand on the sable hair as he continued to lightly brush John’s forehead with the back of his fingers…
“Quit Roy…That’s cheating…,” He whispered drowsily as his eyes began to close, his hand lifted slightly as if to push Roy’s away but quickly fell back to the mattress as he drifted off.
Kel grinned as the young paramedic began to breathe deeply in sleep. “That’s quite a trick…”
“I use what works…,” Roy said with a chuckle. “But seriously Doc, tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. I’d really like to be able to bring him home with me…I’ve got something kinda special planned for him.”
“We’ll do our best to make that happen Roy…I think he could use that.”
“Me too Doc…Me too,” He said lightly patting his young Partners arm.
December twenty fourth dawned with a crisp chill in the air. Roy sat at the breakfast table with his family. Joanne was busy feeding Jennifer while Chris piled the strawberries on his waffles. Jo glanced at her husband as he toyed with the gift he’d arranged for Johnny…flipping it in his hands.
“You ok Honey?” Joanne asked
“Yeah, just thinkin…”
“Yeah…Man I hope Brackett lets him go home today Jo. I really wanted him to have a nice Christmas with people who care about him and don’t make him feel like he’s in the way.” She nodded in understanding. Roy held up the gift… “Do you think he’ll like this Jo?”
“I think so Honey.”
“What if it upsets him?”
“It may at first but I think he’ll be happy afterwards and he deserves that Roy…I want to see him happy Roy…really happy...I don’t think we’ve seen that yet.”
Roy nodded. “Me either but I want to…,” He agreed smiling as he stood up and gave Jo a quick kiss. “Think I’m gonna go wrap this,” he said heading for the living room.
“The guys from the station still coming by tonight…?” She called after him.
“Yeah…and they’re expecting Johnny to be here so let’s hope Brackett lets him go home today.”
Johnny woke at Rampart. The first thing he noticed was the definite tightness still in his Chest and the pounding headache at the back of his head as he began to cough harshly. Man there was no way Brackett was gonna let him go home feeling like this.
The door opened and Dixie poked her head in. “Morning handsome,” she greeted the young man.
“Morning Dix,” he choked out trying and failing to stifle yet another round of coughing, grimacing as his head began to throb in a matching rhythm.
“Oh Johnny… you sound terrible,” she observed moving to the younger mans side. She picked up the water glass and angled the straw for Johnny to take a sip.
“Johnny I don’t think so, not the way you sound.”
“But Dix…,” He began as the door opened to admit Kelly Brackett.
“Good morning Johnny, Dix…I thought I’d find you here,” He quipped to the blonde nurse with a smile.
“Doc…,” Johnny greeted, speaking as little as possible to avoid coughing.
“How are you feeling this morning Johnny?”
“Fine…,” he mumbled avoiding looking at Dixie. He caught the tell tale shake of her head out of the corner of his eye.
It didn’t matter… Kel was already on to him anyway. “Well why don’t I judge for myself after I listen to your lungs...” he said, placing his stethoscope in his ears. “Can you sit up for me Johnny?” he asked helping the younger man to an upright position. John’s head swam dizzily and he stifled a groan of misery but Kel’s alert gaze caught the grimace on the younger man’s face. “Still dizzy…?”
John clenched his teeth in frustration but he knew he’d been caught. “Yeah a little,” he admitted reluctantly.
Kel listened to his chest moving around to his back… “Breathe in…” John complied. “Again…,” The Doctor listened then finally stepped back wrapping his stethoscope and tucking it in his lab coat pocket. The tell tale twitch of his lips told Johnny what he already suspected… “I think one more day at least Johnny, maybe two.”
Dixie’s heart broke at the disappointed look on the younger man’s face. The door opened to admit a nurse with John’s medication. Kel stepped back to let her in. She injected an antibiotic into his IV port. The Nurse gave the silent trio a final glance and then left the room.
“Doc…,” John began with a wheeze.
“Johnny I’m not going to argue this with you. You still have rales in both lungs and you’re still experiencing dizziness from the concussion. You’re running a low grade fever which could be the beginning of a lung infection. I can’t in good conscious release you, I’m sorry…maybe tomorrow if there are no further complications.”
John looked away in frustration, “Yeah…that’s what you said yesterday,” he rasped in disgust.
Kel nodded briefly and sighed. He realized Johnny probably didn’t want him around right now. “I’m sorry…,” he said again. He glanced at Dixie one more time and left.
Dix turned back to the younger man. “Johnny…,” She began.
“Please Dix just…just leave me alone,” He whispered.
“He’s just doing what he thinks is best for you right now…”
“What’s best for me is to spend Christmas with Roy and his family…I finally have someone who wants…,” he stopped abruptly realizing what he’d almost blurted out. “Never mind…,” He whispered in defeat. He turned his face away so she wouldn’t see the disappointment reflected in his dark eyes.
She chewed her lip as the door opened once more to reveal the smiling face of Roy DeSoto.
“Hey Dix…,” He greeted cheerfully. Her blue eyes turned to his. Roy’s smile wavered as he saw the distressed look on her face and Johnny’s averted gaze. “What’s wrong?”
“Kel said he has to stay one more day at least.” Roy’s disappointed look matched Johnny’s.
“Johnny… I’m sorry,” Roy said softly.
John nodded but continued to stare out the window in silence.
Roy looked at Dixie and nodded at the door. “We’ll be back in a minute junior…,” Roy assured him.
Dixie followed the blonde Paramedic into the hall. “Can I talk to Brackett?”
“I don’t think it’ll help but we can give it a try…come on.” They both headed toward the elevators.
They found Brackett in his office. He was leaning over his desk studying a chart when they knocked. “Kel can we talk to you a minute…?” Dixie asked.
He glanced up to see two sets of blue eyes peering at him with determination. “I’m not gonna argue with you two…I’ve made my decision about Gage. It’s for his own good and it’s final….”
Dixie glanced at Roy then moved into the office to swing around and glance up into Kel’s face… “Wanna bet?” She asked with a stubborn look that matched his own.
Brackett sighed…she did this every time she wanted to fight and she usually always won but damn it not this time. John Gage was still sick and concussed and he was better off in the hospital with round the clock care. Kel turned to face the two… “Dix, you saw him yourself this morning…he needs to be in a hospital where someone’s watching him twenty four hours a day. It’s better for him…”
“It’s better for him physically maybe but as far as his emotional well being goes, it’s better for him to be in a happy home for Christmas where he’s loved and wanted. Now I don’t know all the particulars of his past but I could see it in his face…He was really looking forward to this and he needs this. Now if you want to help his recovery, then send him home with Roy…”
“I’ll be there to watch him Doc…round the clock. I’ll be sure he rests and I’ll bring him back at the first sign of trouble… I promise,” Roy said earnestly.
Kel looked between the two of them. “It’s Christmas Kel…,” Dix said pleadingly.
“Please Doc…He hasn’t exactly had a great track record for successful Holiday gatherings…I want this one to be good,” Roy argued.
Kel shook his head stubbornly, staring at the floor with pursed lips. Dix and Roy exchanged a glance and grinned. Dixie took in a deep breath…
Johnny lay in his bed staring silently out the window. Depression settled over him like a blanket. For the first time he’d been really looking forward to celebrating a real Christmas...It was just his luck to finally feel really welcome someplace…to really feel he belonged somewhere only to have it taken away. He slapped the blankets in frustration. Tears of disappointment burned behind his eyes but he angrily swiped them away and clamped down on the hurt. God knew it wasn’t the first time he’d been disappointed in his life, he’d get through it.
The door swung open and Roy came in… “Hey Partner…,” he said cheerfully.
Johnny put his best effort into a wan smile. “Hi Roy,” he wheezed out. “Hey I’m really sorry I can’t make it tonight.”
“Oh you’ll make it…,” He said as the door opened behind him. Dixie pushed a wheel chair into the room.
“What…? I…don’t…,” he stammered in confusion.
“Doc had a change of heart…He’s gonna let you go home with me…if that’s ok?” he said retrieving John’s clothes from the small armoire.
Dixie’s heart lifted as a broad smile broke across John’s face… “Yeah…? For real…?”
“For real Partner…let’s get you dressed,” Roy said gently, handing his Partner his clothes. They got John into Roy’s car a short time later…Dixie handed the older man a small bag with Johnny’s medications. “See that he rests Roy, I can’t stand to hear Kel say I told you so if you have to bring him back.”
“I will Dix…promise and hey if you wanna stop by tonight we’re having a little get together at my house, he leaned down to whisper softly, “You can even bring Brackett if he wants to come.”
Dixie nodded as she leaned into the passenger seat planting a light kiss on the young Paramedics cheek. “Merry Christmas Johnny,” She said gently.
“Merry Christmas Dix,” He wheezed with a crooked grin lighting his face and despite the tightness in his chest and the occasional dizzy spell there was a definite lightness to his heart.
Roy climbed in tossing the paper bag into Johnny’s lap. “Ready junior…?”
“Ready… Uh…Roy could we stop at my apartment on the way…”
“What for junior…?”
“Um I…, ”John coughed. “I bought some stuff and…I want to pick it up…,” he finished coughing once more. “I need a change of clothes too.”
“Alright Partner but you give me the keys and I’ll get them okay?”
Johnny nodded, knowing he’d have never made it up the stairs to his apartment anyway. Roy pulled into the complex a short time later. He brought the bags of gifts down in two trips and then headed for home.
“Geez junior, what did you buy?” Roy teased.
John smiled drowsily and Roy knew he was reaching the end of his endurance and that if the younger man was tiring this easily then his friend felt much worse than he was willing to admit. Roy wanted to get him into bed as soon as possible. John grimaced as another cough erupted from his lips and his arms tightened over his chest riding out the spasm that always followed.
“Hang on junior…we’ll get you comfortable and let you get some sleep real soon.”
“It’s Christmas Eve…and the guys are comin…don’ wanna sleep through it,” he gasped out between coughs.
“We promised Doc you’d rest junior and you’ve got plenty of time before the guys arrive.”
“Okay,” he wheezed in resignation…It was still Christmas with this special family and it was a lot better than being stuck at Rampart.
Roy pulled into the driveway a short time later. He came around to help his young friend from the car. “I’ll bring your stuff in later… let’s just get you settled first.”
“Kay…,”he conceded as Roy led him inside. He got his partner settled on the sofa as Joanne came out of the kitchen.
“Welcome home sweetheart,” She said planting a kiss on Johnny’s cheek. “Hi honey,” she greeted Roy a bit more warmly with a gentle kiss on her husband’s lips.
Roy smiled at her as he flipped the shoes off John’s feet and lifted his legs onto the sofa. He pulled the afghan off the back of the couch and spread it over his partner…remembering the last time this had played out. Johnny had accused him of tucking him in. John shot him a cocky grin, apparently remembering as well but he didn’t object as he lay back on the couch pillows. His eyes closed almost instantly.
“He looks wiped out Honey,” Joanne said brushing her fingertips over John’s forehead to swipe the bangs aside, “and he’s a little warm.”
“He is, but at least he’s here. Brackett wasn’t gonna let him go until Dixie and I fought it out with him. He really should be in a Hospital but...man I just couldn’t leave him there…I mean he looked so disappointed Jo.”
“Well I’m glad you did…we’ll take good care of him.”
“Upstairs…he’s so excited… first Uncle Johnny being here and being Christmas Eve and the guys coming over…I don’t know how we’ll ever get him to sleep tonight.”
Roy chuckled… “I think I’d have the same problem with this one if he wasn’t so sick,” he said nodding at Johnny. “You should see the presents he bought. Speaking of, I better go get them and put em under the tree.”
She nodded heading back to the kitchen to finish up with the party preparations for the evening.
Johnny slept off and on for the next few hours, the raspy cough waking him briefly several times before he’d drift off once more. Roy woke him once to give him his medication and help him with his lunch before he’d dropped back to sleep.
Chris was excited that his favorite playmate was there for Christmas but a bit disappointed that Uncle Johnny was too sick to play but he made the best of it. Roy found him camped on the floor next to Johnny, coloring. The young Paramedic was watching him drowsily while Chris regaled him with the adventures of Batman. The older man shook his head in amusement. He wasn’t sure who cared about his partner more… him or his wife and kids but he guessed it really didn’t matter as long as Johnny knew just how important he was to this family.
Joanne came to the doorway of the kitchen. She leaned on the frame watching as Roy watched his four year old entertain his best friend. Roy had changed so much since John had come along. She wondered if her husband was even aware of how much.
John’s eyes closed as sleep claimed him once more. Roy glanced at him while Chris continued his monologue, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Johnny was now asleep. He brushed his fingers through his Sons soft, blonde hair. Chris looked up and smiled. “Hey Daddy, Ya think Uncle Johnny will like this one?” He asked seriously as he held up the picture.
“I’ll think he’ll love it but he might be disappointed that he didn’t get to help you with it.” Chris looked a bit worried and Roy chuckled as he ruffled his sons’ hair again.
John began to cough with a harsh, grating sound, his arms tightened reflexively over his chest as it constricted painfully. Roy moved his hand to rest on John’s head as his friend shifted restlessly beneath his fingers. His eyes blinked open… “Roy?” he murmured sleepily.
He felt Johnny’s forehead briefly, checking for any sign of a fever that would herald the onset of pneumonia. He sighed in relief that it was still only slightly elevated. “It’s okay Junior, go back to sleep,” he said soothingly as he lightly brushed the hair from John’s forehead. Johnny’s eyes closed as he settled back into sleep. Roy smiled at the thought of how far they’d come in the last seven months.
Johnny was still asleep on the couch as the Station crew began to arrive later in the evening. Roy dimmed the lamps in the living room so the Lights on the Christmas tree would stand out. Marco, Mike along with his wife Melissa and their three year old son Michael Jr. arriving within minutes of each other. Chris happily led the other boy off to his room to play while the adults oohed and awed quietly over Jennifer and the Christmas decorations, being careful to keep it down and to not wake John.
Dixie showed up a few minutes later and had taken Roy at his word…Kelly Brackett was with her, though Roy suspected it was more to check up on Johnny than to be at this party. “Has he been resting Roy?” Brackett asked squatting next to the sleeping Paramedic and resting his hand on John’s forehead.
Roy hid his smirk behind his hand as Dixie grinned openly. Brackett wasn’t nearly as hardnosed as he liked others to believe. “All day Doc… I let him sleep so he could be awake tonight.”
Kel nodded, “as long as he stays right where he is…”
A knock at the door signaled Captain Hammer’s arrival with his wife Amanda. Their teenage son had elected to stay home. They were now just waiting for Chet. The stocky Irish Fire Fighter banged on the front door only moments later. The loud thumping caused Johnny to shift uneasily.
Johnny was in a smoke filled room. The air was heavy and thick like a smothering blanket. He moved room to room searching for anyone who might still be inside. Suddenly a sharp rap on the back propelled him forward. He stumbled in the dark trying to regain his balance but then he felt his helmet pushed forward over his face. He felt a sharp blow to the back of his head and his vision wavered as he crashed to the floor.
Someone pushed his air mask away from his face. He tried frantically to reach for it. The Ammonia gas made his eyes water and his lungs burn. Through the tears he saw a booted foot swing back, he squinted through the murk at the person looming above him…his face obscured and fuzzy behind the face plate on the SCBA …still Johnny thought he should recognize him. The foot connected solidly with John’s stomach knocking the breath from him and forcing him to drag in a lungful of toxic fumes.
The foot swung back again growing larger and larger. John threw his hands up protectively but it was too late the boot connected solidly with his face.
Chet stepped inside as Roy opened the door. “Ho Ho Ho Roy…,” He said boisterously but cringed and began to whisper as Roy waved him silent pointing toward John who was stirring restlessly.
“Shhh,” the blonde Paramedic hushed him.
“Sorry man,” he said contritely.
Roy glanced at Johnny and headed for the kitchen as Chet set his bag of gifts down and began to follow but stopped next to the sofa as he noticed John’s eyes were beginning to flutter. “Hey Roy…looks like your boy here’s waking up…,” he said jokingly.
John’s eyes suddenly flew open… still caught up in his nightmare… he saw a vague figure standing in the dimly lit room. His hands flew up to cover his face protectively as he cried out in alarm and then began to cough with a harsh, rasping wheeze. Chet backed quickly away as Roy ran to his young friend’s side and knelt beside him.
“Johnny…it’s okay…you’re okay…,” he assured him as John’s hand pressed against the cut on his cheek. Roy took his hand and pulled it gently away from his face. His Partners eyes were wide and vague.
“Roy…,” he gasped trying to catch his breath.
“Yeah Junior it’s Roy…you alright now?”
John nodded but he was still breathing heavily…he glanced around at the group of people gathered around watching him anxiously and blushed in embarrassment. “Sorry…,” he whispered.
“Don’t be sorry Johnny,” Roy said softly resisting the urge to brush the sweat dampened, tangled hair from his Partners face, knowing Johnny would be mortified. “You just had a nightmare. What were you dreaming about?”
John’s fingers tightened around Roy’s… “The fire…,” he rasped.
“Do you remember what happened?”
“Someone hit me from behind…”
There was a collective gasp as the group gathered closer to hear the softly spoken words. “Then what Johnny…?” Roy asked.
“Um…he pushed my mask off…I tried to reach for it but…he kicked me in the stomach…I couldn’t breathe and…then…,” his hand flew to touch the injured cheek once more. “He kicked me in the face…,” he finished with a wheeze.
“Johnny do you know who hit you…could you see him?”
He chewed his lip deep in thought but finally shook his head in frustration… “I can’t remember,” He said looking up at his Partner with a frown.
“It’s okay Johnny, It’ll come back to you eventually and what you told us explains a lot…” Roy knew in his gut that it was more than likely Brad Kimmerlin but without John being able to positively identify his attacker there was nothing they could do except watch the young Fire Fighter more closely when Kimmerlin was around.
“Well Junior, now that you’re awake what do you say we get this party started huh?”
“Kay…,” John agreed reaching for Roy’s shoulder. The older man helped him to sit up and propped a couple of pillows behind him.
Joanne began to set platefuls of food out on the table and encouraged her guests to help themselves buffet style. Roy set up a plate for his Partner depositing it on a tray and setting it in his lap. “It’s a little of everything Junior. Just let me know if you want something else,” He told the younger man, giving him a light squeeze on the shoulder.
“Thanks…,” He wheezed out… too sick to be embarrassed by Roy’s attentiveness.
Roy went back to where the others were still gathered around the food and began to make a plate for himself. He glanced at John and then toward Brackett… “Doc why can he remember some of what happened and not all of it…?” Roy asked quietly.
Kel looked thoughtful… “Well it could be that he didn’t get a good look at his assailant and he can’t remember that either or it’s a form of selective amnesia…”
“Selective amnesia…?” Chet asked from beside Roy’s shoulder…
“He doesn’t want to remember…so he simply blocks the memory.”
“Why would he do that Doc…?” Roy asked suddenly very interested.
“People who are subjected to trauma sometimes find it easier to block out the things that upset or frighten them. It’s very common among soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…”
“But Gage was never in the service…,” Chet pointed out. “So where would he get something like that?”
Kel’s eyes met Roy’s briefly… “It doesn’t only come from being in the military. There are many kinds of PTSD Chet…Childhood trauma...accidents…near death experiences,” Kel listed. Roy gave him a nod of understanding. Johnny could well be blocking the experience because of the traumas he’d suffered through in his childhood…blocking out the things that frightened him the most could be a common defense mechanism for John.
But Roy thought there was more to it than that in his Partner’s case…Because Johnny could remember a lot of what happened to him just not everything… “He thought I was crazy and I went away…,” Roy remembered Johnny saying. Man he wished he could talk to someone who could help him with this.
Brackett might be able to help but he was too close to Johnny and to go to him would be betraying John’s trust and Roy would never do that...besides this really wasn’t his field of expertise. He couldn’t ask the Department for help without risking them putting two and two together and that could cost John his career if it was something serious. It was a dilemma.
He turned his attention back to the others as Mike asked Brackett a new question. “Couldn’t we just ask him if it was Kimmerlin? You know jog his memory?”
Kel shook his head… “No, it’s better if we don’t. I want him to remember on his own… I don't want to inadvertently plant a false memory.”
“A what…?” Marco asked in confusion.
“If Johnny can’t remember and it wasn’t Kimmerlin we could plant that in his subconscious. It could force his mind to create a memory based on what he’s been told rather than what he actually remembers.”
“You can do that…?” Cap asked
Kel nodded…, “People… especially children do it all the time.”
Joanne and Roy looked at each other in confusion… “How…?”
“Well take for instance a child who has say lost a Parent at a young age…eighteen months or two or three even…before their long term memory development really kicks in…”
At their confused looks he clarified… “What is the first clear childhood memory you have…?” He waited while they all thought about it and then added… “How old were you?” There were several answers…
“Three maybe…,” Cap said.
“Around that…,” Roy replied.
“Maybe four…,” Chet answered.
“Exactly…anything before that is sketchy…now take a child of say two whose Parent or grandparent has died…show them pictures of that person and tell them stories about them and they’ll incorporate those into existing memories. Even though they truly don’t remember the events themselves, they think they do and they’ll swear to it,” He explained. “There have been a lot of problems with Psychologists who have planted suggested memories in a patient’s subconscious. The patient believes it’s what happened because they’re told it is and so they create a memory…understand?”
They nodded in understanding. “So by asking Johnny if it was Kimmerlin, we could be implanting a suggestion and help him create a false memory,” Mike said with a sigh.
“But what if he never remembers and it was Kimmerlin…?” Marco pointed out.
“And what if he tries again?” Joanne asked in concern.
“We’ll just all have be real sure we know where Johnny is every minute if Station 88’s called into a response with us,” Cap said adamantly.
They all nodded. Roy hid a grin behind his hand as he glanced around at the crew. He wasn’t the only overprotective person in this house tonight…there was a room full of people watching out for their youngest crew member. “Guys…uh just don’t let Johnny know you’re watchin out for him huh? He’d be horrified.” They nodded in agreement…All but one… “I mean it Chet…,” Roy said threateningly as the Irishman’s eyes lit up.
“Oh Kelly will never mention it…will you Kelly?” Cap said menacingly, giving the Irishman a hard stare.
“Uh…who…me… Cap…? I’d never mention it…,” Chet reassured his Crew Mates as they grinned back at him.
“Good…now let’s go join Gage. I’m sure he’s a bit lonely in the other room.”
They came into the living room and arranged themselves around the young Paramedic. John’s dinner was practically untouched. His eyes drooped tiredly but he forced himself into a more upright position as they joined him.
“You okay Johnny? You didn’t eat hardly anything,” Roy pointed out.
“I’m fine, just tired…,” he said with a slight wheeze. He followed it with a hard cough and crossed his arms over his chest. Roy squatted beside him, reaching out to rest his hand on John’s shoulder until the pain eased. He felt John’s forehead making sure there was no sign of fever. He gave him a wink, relieved that he’d found no trace of further complications but Johnny still wasn’t eating and that worried Roy.
“You need to eat Junior…,” Roy whispered to his Partner…”Or Brackett’ll cart ya back to Rampart.” John cast a look at the dark haired doctor sitting next to Dixie. Kel cast a worried glance at him several times…“Besides Joanne will think you don’t like her cooking and she won’t invite ya for dinner anymore…,” Roy teased.
John gave him a disbelieving look until Jo sat down next to him. She looked at Johnny’s still full plate indignantly… “Something wrong with the food Mr. Gage…?” She asked huffily. Roy chuckled softly as John quickly picked up his fork and began to eat.
After they finished dinner, the four ladies pitched in to clean up the kitchen while the men sat in the living room sipping their drinks. Johnny still looked tired but he was hanging in there, determined to stay awake. The girls joined them a while later and the two little boys sat in front of the tree gazing at the mound of presents gathered there.
Roy reached around to flip on the stereo. The voice of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas began softly. “What do you say we let these little guys open a couple of gifts and then we can get them off to bed so Santa can come?” Roy suggested.
The others agreed and gifts were handed out. The two boys were excited to find out they were going to be allowed to open some presents but Chris frowned in disappointment when he found out he could only open the gifts from the Station Crew, the rest would have to remain until morning including the one from his Uncle Johnny.
John watched in surprise as the pile of gifts in front of him grew steadily. He really hadn’t expected anything… Growing up on the reservation…Christmas was something the town children spoke of but wasn’t celebrated by his people and though John’s Father remembered to bring something home with him it was days or weeks after the Holiday but the lights and trees and decorations were never a part of it and after he’d died, even the gifts had stopped. His Aunt had always been sure there was a gift for him...his camera had been a present his first year he was there but she was rarely home for the Holidays and Johnny had usually spent it alone.
John flushed in embarrassment but rasped back… “I know what Christmas is Chet. I just don’t…I’m not used to…,” he stuttered. He was spared further explanation by the hacking cough that erupted from his lips. Roy’s eyes shot daggers at Kelly as he leaned Johnny forward slightly to ease his breathing.
The younger man finally caught his breathe and Roy laid him back again. He turned on Chet but the Irishman was quick to apologize. “I’m sorry man…Johnny I was just kidding pal…” John nodded through watery eyes. His hand pressed tightly against his chest.
Kel watched in concern and finally caught Roy’s eye… “Maybe I should take him back to Rampart,” he suggested.
“No…,” John gasped out… “I wanna stay here…please.”
Roy and Kel exchanged a glance and Kel sighed in frustration as Dixie jostled his elbow. “Okay Fellas… here it is,” he agreed reluctantly.
After the boys opened their gifts they hustled them off upstairs. Roy was well aware of the guy’s sense of humor and had no doubt that some of their gifts might be a little mature for the kids.
“Why don’t we let Johnny go first so we can get him to bed soon…,” Kel suggested.
But John was having none of it. He was finally feeling like he belonged somewhere and he wasn’t about to miss it. He shook his head stubbornly, “Want to watch…,” he murmured adamantly. Roy grinned at his Partner.
“Okay Junior…you can stay…” Kel shot a look at Roy but the blonde Paramedic shook his head… “He’ll be asleep in no time…,” he mouthed silently.
But John surprised him, determinedly staying awake. They opened their gifts and Roy had been right. There was a lot of laughter over several of the more risqué presents but the biggest surprise had been Johnny’s gifts to them. The young man had managed to come up with some well thought out gifts that showed that despite his sometimes insensitive nature, he’d been paying attention to his new friends after all.
Cap was pleased with the floor mats for his truck. Mike loved the Game Board set that boasted six different types of games in one box. Marco received a new pocket knife with a belt clip. Even Kel and Dixie were delighted with the Desk Set and broach John gave them. Roy looked at his young Partner with admiration but then all eyes turned to Kelly.
Chet opened his gift from John with some trepidation waiting for something to spring out at him. He looked up in confusion as the paper came free. “What is it…?” he asked holding the square wooden box. It had a glass front and inside the background was an enlarged photo of a foggy mountain canyon.
“It’s a shadow box…,”Johnny wheezed tiredly.
“Yeah…Where’d ya get it?”
“Made it…,” Johnny said coughing.
Chet looked astonished… “You made this?” He said in disbelief.
John nodded but his eyes were beginning to droop tiredly.
“What’s it for?”
“Your barbed wire collection…so you can show it off…,” John whispered as his eyes finally closed. He’d seen what he wanted to see and he could sleep now.
“Thanks Johnny…,” Chet said quietly as he glanced sheepishly at the others. “But hey, Johnny didn’t open his yet…”
“Tomorrow…,” Roy said as he stood up and nodded at Joanne. She left without a word and headed for the guest room to turn the bed down while Roy went to squat next to his Partner. He gently leaned him forward and slipped an arm around his waist. “C’mon Junior…,” He said softly as he pulled John to his feet.
“Wanna stay Roy…,” He murmured drowsily even as he leaned heavily against his friend.
“Not this time Johnny…say goodnight.”
“G’night…,” He slurred as Roy led him from the room amidst the quiet Merry Christmas’s, being directed at him from his friends.
Roy sat him on the bed a few minutes later. “This is getting to be a habit pal…,” Roy muttered as he pulled Johnny’s shirt off. He laid him back carefully and then lifted his legs onto the bed as Jo held the covers back. Roy pulled the sheet over his Partner. “See you in the morning Junior…,” he said quietly as he flipped out the lights. He smiled at Jo. “Let’s get back to the party.”
“Santa’a been here…,” Chris’s excited shout woke Johnny the next morning. He grinned softly to himself. This was the first time in his life he’d awakened to a childs joyous laughter on Christmas morning and for the first time felt like he was a part of a real family. John knew he wanted more of this.
Roy appeared in the doorway a moment later. His hair still in disarray as he belted his robe around him. “Hey Partner, good morning…Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas…,” John rasped in return as he smiled brightly.
“How ya feelin this morning?”
“A little better…my chest doesn’t hurt as much.”
“Good…c’mon Junior, let’s get you up and dressed before Chris expires from anxiety. Johnny smiled as Roy leaned down to help him sit up… “Besides Jo’s cooking breakfast and I’m starving.”
“Me too…,” he wheezed.
“Well that’s a good sign…,” Roy said teasingly as he handed John his clothes. He waited patiently as his young partner got his clothes on, resisting the urge to help him. He knew John would be embarrassed if he coddled him too much. He helped his partner to his feet so John could finish dressing. Then led him to the table.
“Merry Christmas Sweetheart…,” Joanne greeted, leaning down to kiss Johnny’s cheek as he sat down.
“Mornin Jo…uh…Merry Christmas…,” John returned blushing as he always did at Jo’s affectionate nickname and kiss on the cheek.
“Merry Christmas Uncle Johnny…,”Chris piped in, wiping the syrup from his face.
“Merry Christmas buddy,” Johnny replied with a smile as he glanced at Jennifer sitting in her baby seat while Joanne fed her her breakfast. He looked around at this family he’d become so fond of and He wished with all his heart he’d grown up this way, instead of...well… just instead of the way he’d grown up. He envied Chris and Jennifer.
After breakfast they moved to the living room. Joanne sat on the floor handing out the gifts while Chris played Elf, distributing them to whichever person she named. She left a blanket draped, oddly shaped gift behind the tree that read to Chris from Santa. Johnny knew it was the bike he’d asked for.
Roy watched Johnny’s face as the four year old ripped into the paper. The young Paramedic seemed almost as excited as the little boy was. He smiled at the glow in his Partners eyes. Chris held up the Hot Wheels track and car set from Johnny excitedly… “Thanks Uncle Johnny…this is so cool,” He yelled as he leapt to his feet to run to the dark haired man and wrap his arms around his neck in a tight squeeze.
“You’re welcome Chris…,” He said with a huge grin despite the cough that tried to escape.
After Chris finished with the wrapped packages he sat looking around at the gifts scattered about him. “This is the best Christmas…,” he said with a huge smile…
Roy had thought his son would be disappointed that the bike he’d wanted wasn’t there and looked at him curiously… “Why’s that Chris…? You didn’t get everything you asked for?”
“Oh that doesn’t matter…I got most of what I asked for and you guys are here and my favorite gift is Uncle Johnny being okay and here with us.”
Johnny looked stunned and he could feel a burning sensation behind his eyes as he looked at the little boy.
“I see, well… outta the mouths of babes,” Roy said with a grin as he looked at the touched expression on his partners face. “I’m pretty glad he’s okay and here with us too,” He said throwing a wink at his blushing Partner. “You ready to open your present Johnny..?” he asked.
She smiled as she picked up her gift from Johnny. She pulled the bright wrapping away and opened the small box. She gasped at the silver and turquoise bracelett that lay inside. “Oh Johnny it’s beautiful…” She said softly. “Roy look…,” She held it out for her husband to see.
He glanced at his friend… “That’s really nice Johnny…”
He shrugged… “It was my Mom’s,” He said quietly.
“Your Mom’s…? Oh sweetheart I can‘t take this…,” she told him trying to hand it back but Johnny shook his head.
“Jo, you guys have been great to me…you’ve let me be part of your family…,” John coughed harshly…gasping slightly as he tried to catch his breath. Roy moved over beside him, sitting him upright until John began to breathe easier once again. “Anyway…,” he wheezed, “ I just wanted to give you something that…kinda made you part of mine,” He explained blushing slightly. Joanne glanced at Roy questioningly…he nodded back.
“Thank You sweetheart…,” she said slipping the bracelet on.” She continued opening her gifts, finishing with Roy’s. A small emerald and diamond pendant on a silver chain. “Thank you Honey…she said softly kissing her Husband warmly before turning to let him slip it around her neck. She opened Johnny’s gift to Jennifer and handed the soft, cuddly, plush toy to the infant who was watching the proceedings from the security of her baby seat.
“Your turn Roy…,” Johnny said quietly. Roy began to protest but saw the stubborn look on his Partners face.
“Okay…,” He agreed. He opened Joanne’s gift, smiling as he revealed the watch inside… “Thanks Honey,” He said leaning over to kiss his wife. He picked up the large gift on the floor in front of him looking curiously at his Partner. John grinned back. Roy pulled the paper away to find a new sleeping bag wrapped tightly around a new tackle box. “Johnny, this is great…thank you.”
John nodded… “You said you wanted to go camping with me but you didn’t have the equipment, so I thought you could use this when we go.”
“Absolutely…thanks again Junior but…do you remember everything people say to you?” He asked remembering the gifts from last night as well. Johnny shrugged as Roy laughed, “Okay Junior… now it’s your turn.”
Johnny nodded toward the bike… “Let Chris finish,” he whispered.
“Johnny…,” Roy began, but the younger man waved him down.
“Roy…this is the first time I’ve really felt like this since my parents died…like I have somewhere I’m supposed to be. I…I just want to let it last in case…”
Roy finally understood…John’s insecurities were flaring once again. He tried to reassure his young partner… “Okay Johnny but this isn’t the last time this is gonna happen right? We’re friends and you’re welcome here anytime…understand?”
Johnny nodded hesitantly not quite believing it. He’d been unwanted by his family his whole life…Both sides. His Parents were the exception of course and his Aunt but they’d been too early or too late in his life and too much damage had been done by the others in between to easily reverse the fears of rejection. Roy sighed wishing there was a quick way to undo the emotional trauma that had been inflicted on his friend.
Roy turned back to his son. “Chris, Uncle Johnny thinks Santa might have left you another gift. He thinks that blanket behind the tree might have something under it.” Roy teased his wide eyed son.
“Really…? You think so Uncle Johnny?” He asked eyeing the blanket.
“I think it might be…,” Johnny whispered with a nod.
Chris ran to the blanket and quickly pulled it away, gasping in joy as the small red bike appeared… “Look Daddy…Uncle Johnny…there’s no training wheels.”
The two men exchanged a grin. “Now Johnny…It’s your turn.”
John nodded as he picked up the small box from Chris. He unwrapped it carefully as the boy abandoned the bike to come and watch John open his gifts. He peeled the paper back to find a leather wallet. “Chris this is great, thank you…”
“He picked it out himself…,” Joanne added with a grin.”
"See...it even has a place for your badge and everything," Chris pointed out.
"Wow...This is great...," Johnny said enthusiastically. Roy handed him another package. The younger man took it and ripped the paper away carefully. John looked at the item in his hand in shock and his hands began to shake as it tipped precariously from his suddenly numb fingers. Roy grabbed it before it could hit the ground.
“Johnny are you okay…?” Roy worriedly asked his shaky friend.
“Where’d you get that…?” John whispered softly as tears welled in his eyes to spill down his cheeks. He began to cough and Roy once again leaned his friend to more upright position to help him breathe easier. Johnny nodded his thanks as he pressed his hand to his chest.
John turned his tear streaked face toward his partner who was watching his shaking friend in concern… “I do…I just… I…where did you get it?” He asked again in a trembling voice as he swiped the tears from his cheeks.
“I called your Aunt.”
“My Aunt…?” He gasped in surprise, coughing lightly and then asked…“But if she had this why didn’t she tell me before…?”
“She didn’t know she had it until I asked her to check around her attic. I thought your Grandparents must have photos of your Dad around somewhere I mean what Parent wouldn’t…” John looked away but said nothing as Roy continued… “So I just took a chance that they might have had a photo of your Parents so I asked her to look…,” He explained handing the picture back to Johnny.
The younger man took it gently as he studied the black and white photo inside the delicate antique brass frame. “Thank you…,”He said softly as his fingers traced the delicate features of his Mothers face and then the stronger features of his Fathers as they stood arm and arm for the camera.
“May I see it…?” Joanne asked quietly. “Roy wouldn’t let anyone see it until you did.” Johnny handed her the photo. “Oh Johnny…She’s breathtaking…,” Joanne said softly as she gazed at the couple. “You look just like your Father…” She pointed out.
“They always told me I did…well except for my eyes. Mine are brown like my Mom’s and his were green,” He explained.
“Uh…Johnny I didn’t wrap this because I just finished this up last night but these are the rest of the pictures she found, Roy explained handing Johnny a photo album.
John looked at his friend in amazement as he opened it to the first page. “Oh…wow Roy…,” he murmured softly as he turned the pages. His Fathers whole life playing out before him in photos "Hey Roy, look at this one..." he said, indicating a photo of his father standing next to a beautiful old fashioned convertible... "I remember this car...," he said smiling. "Hey look...It's a DeSoto...," he pointed out with a grin. He continued to flip the pages ending with one of his Mother and Father holding a small infant. A sad smile played on John’s lips as he gazed at it. “How can I ever thank you…”
“You already have Junior…,” Roy said softly. At his friends confused look he added… “The look on your face is thanks enough.”
John smiled and shyly leaned over to bump his friends shoulder with his own. He continued to look through the album until his eyes began to droop tiredly, finally drifting closed. Roy tugged the book away from his friend, setting it aside. He gently laid Johnny back against the pillows and lightly flicked the dark bangs off his forehead as Joanne came over with a blanket. She handed it to Roy and then leaned against her husband as he watched the younger man sleep. “Man…I thought I’d really screwed up there for a minute Jo…,” he said softly as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
“But you didn’t…Johnny’s okay and he loved the gift.”
Roy nodded “I think his best gift was just being here… You know I’ve learned something from my partner Jo…?”
She looked up at him curiously. “To never take my life for granted. To appreciate you and the kids, my Mom…” He looked around at his home… “all of it…” He nodded at Johnny. “I realized through him how lucky I am and just how quickly it can all be taken away, and I’m just so immensly grateful for what I have,” Roy finished thoughtfully.
Jo smiled up at him. “Then I’m grateful to Johnny for helping you to see that…I know how hard it’s always been for you to express your feelings but that’s changed now…You tell me how you feel all the time now, ”She pointed out giving her Husband a hard squeeze. “and I know Johnny’s played a big part in changing that somehow…” At her Husband’s look of disbelief, she continued… “Oh I know you don’t see it but I told you before…I do and I don’t pretend to understand it myself but John somehow brings out the best in you and I know how you feel about him even if you can’t tell him so…yet,” She chuckled as Roy glanced away in embarrassment.
“Aw c’mon Jo…,” He began, but she interrupted.
“Honey, I know you can’t tell Johnny how you feel about him…you’d both be mortified…,” she teased as Roy’s face turned scarlet. “But I think he knows anyway, that’s why today was so important to him…because he feels the same way and he doesn’t know how to say it either. ” She kissed him again as she headed for the kitchen. Her fingers gently brushing through Johnny’s hair as she passed.
Roy’s eyes turned toward his young friend…“I hope you do Junior. I hope somewhere in that confused head of yours, you know how special you are to all of us,” He whispered softly. John’s lips turned up in a small smile as he murmured in his sleep at the sound of Roy’s voice. “Merry Christmas Junior.”
Two weeks later Johnny returned to work. He’d stayed at the DeSoto’s through New Years before returning to his own apartment. Though neither had spoken the words aloud, both had made their own New Years resolutions. Roy’s was to learn to express his feelings more openly to those he cared for so they would know how he felt. He knew it would be tough but it would be worth it. John’s was to open up and let people into his life. He knew it would take time and he knew it would be difficult to learn to trust people but Roy would be there to help him along the way.
There had been many ups and downs over the last seven months but the two young Paramedics had forged a deep friendship that would stand the test of time. One that Roy secretly suspected would alternately bring frustration, laughter and a few tears and fears, but he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Neither realized it would span not only the ten years of their partnership but the rest of their lives.
Now Roy watched a different John Gage as he sat sipping his coffee with Captain Hammer. The walls were gone but he realized there was still much more to John Gage than he knew and he was sure when Johnny was ready, he’d share those secrets as well.
Roy smiled over his coffee cup as John ranted by the kitchen sink. The quiet, shy, withdrawn kid he’d first met was gone. The slightly zany, energetic, enthusiastic, cocky, live life on the edge man who’d replaced him was as fascinating as he was complex. He might drive Roy crazy trying to figure him out but the older man was looking forward to the challenge. They watched with amusement as Chet came skidding around the doorway of the rec room.
“Gage…,” he bellowed in outrage… “You know anything about how my locker got glued shut…?” He growled.
“Maybe it was the same clown who put the jelly in my boots last shift or the baby powder in the supply closet…,” Johnny yelled pointing at his white coated uniform shirt in irritation.
“You gonna break that up…?” Cap asked with laughter in his voice as the two at the sink continued to bellow at each other.
“Nah..it’s good for him. He’s been quiet way too long. It’ll do him good to interact with other people, even if it is an argument.”
John’s brown eyes glanced in his direction, Roy threw him a wink. He was glad to see the haunted, lonely look had been replaced with a gleam of amusement…a look of belonging. Station 51 was becoming a close knit team and Johnny was at the heart of it.
Alas the characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Mark VII Limited and Universal Studios and I thank them for allowing me to take them out and toy with them on occasion. The scenes in italics are from the Wedsworth Townsend Act. Other Excerpts are included from Mascot, Botulism and Dealer's Wild. Written by Preston Wood. I often noted that there were times when Roy seemed to want to reach out to his partner but couldn't or wouldn't...I thought maybe there were reasons...(Other than writers who wouldn't let them develop the relationship we all saw anyway) so I gave him a couple dear to my heart. Sadly I have worked with many abused children over the years and have had the priviledge of being their teacher as well as their friend …This story is dedicated to every abused child and two in particular with a condition called ASD. I hope this series of stories sheds light on the lasting and far reaching repercussions of emotional, physical and mental abuse.. . Strangely enough I've noted that many of the characteristics John Gage displayed are shared by abused children perhaps that’s why so many other writers of E Stories have touched on it…Obsessive, Compulsive, Angry outbursts, his occasional inability to articulate his thoughts. Arrogance sometimes contradicted by insecurities in his relationship both with Roy and with women...his frequent inabilty to sense the moods of others and his sometimes insensitive behavior. His inability to show his own feelings with personal gestures...sometimes early on, pushing Roy's hands away when he did touch... never complaining of injuries...It also reflects s few characteristics of another condition I've come across which I touched on briefly and will elaborate on in BETRAYAL. I hope this story touched the heart...I included the actual events in Governor Reagan's office as a tribute to Mr. Hahn and his dedication to get the paramedic bill passed...Any medical mistakes are mine. Published to site 09/14/09
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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