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Three days before Christmas and Los Angeles was in a whirlwind of activity. Frenzied shoppers and harried parents crowded the sidewalks. The main roads were clogged with heavier traffic than was usual causing traffic jams and accidents. Accidents like the ones today…four separate collisions in five hours had kept the paramedics and engine crew of Station 51 hopping. They hadn’t even had time for coffee much less to sit down and eat lunch.
Twenty three year old paramedic John Gage was starving…his hyper metabolism burned through calories making the tall, lean, young man a bottomless pit when it came to food. His stomach growled annoyingly.
His partner, twenty seven year old Roy DeSoto glanced over at him. He was packing the equipment from their last run. “Was that you junior…?” he asked, using the nickname he’d dubbed his friend with the first week of their friendship.
“That was my stomach…,” he replied. “Man Roy…I haven’t eaten all morning.”
“Why don’t we pick up something on the way back to the station…?” The older man suggested, taking pity on his younger friend.”That’ll fill the hole.”
“The one in his head…? Nothing will fill that chasm…” Chet Kelly said snidely as he came up behind the pair.
“It matches the one in your face…,”John grumbled.
“Why don’t you go help Marco roll hoses…?” Roy suggested trying to stop the fight before it got started.
“Because it’s so much more fun to annoy Gage…,” he replied teasingly.
“Fun for who…?” Roy answered.
Chet grinned, his large mustache bristling as his lips curled. He turned to leave but stopped briefly. “We still on for tomorrow Roy?”
“Yeah and I really appreciate it too…the decorations are all up but the yards a mess and with a house full of company coming I can really use the help.”
Chet nodded…“I’ll be there…”
“Me too…,” John agreed.
“I knew you would be junior…you always are,” Roy replied with a grin.
John frowned for a moment, unsure how to take that comment…he shook off the insecure feeling, he was sure Roy hadn’t meant anything by that…after all he’d been invited to spend the night to celebrate Christmas morning with Roy and his family…He’d spent every holiday with the DeSoto’s since he and Roy had become partners as well as best friends. It was the only place that he felt he belonged since he’d been a child. He was especially excited that his Aunt Rosemary would be joining them this year. She usually traveled but this time she promised to spend it with him. He smiled to himself…this would be a special Christmas…This year he wasn’t a guest…this year he had a family.
The next morning after the shift ended the crew headed over to Roy’s to help around the yard…tree trimming, hedges and lawns as well as setting up the Christmas display. His next door neighbor Bob wandered over a short time later to join them.
“Hey Roy…what’s goin on…?”
Roy smiled tightly…Bob’s wife had left him a couple of months ago and he was lonely. He was a nice guy but he’d been spending a lot of time at the DeSoto’s lately, just to have someone to talk to. He appreciated Roy’s willingness to listen… “Clean up detail Bob…my friends are helping me get set up for tomorrow. I’ve got a lot of people coming over.”
The man’s eyes lit up… “Yeah…mind if I pop in…? It’s kinda lonely without Karen.”
“Uh…I don’t know Bob…,” Roy hesitated…
“Roy…,” Joanne called from the deck…
“Well you can let me know…I’ll just go see what I can do to help out okay…?” He asked eagerly.
“You don’t need to do that…,” Roy insisted.
“Not a problem…,” he said as he turned and joined the others in the back yard.
Several hours later, Joanne DeSoto set her mop aside… she’d finished the kitchen and dining room and was about to cook lunch for the guys… The sliders to the deck opened and Bob came inside… “Hello Jo…hope you don’t mind…thought I’d get a beer for me and Roy…we’re really working hard but the yard’s gonna look great for tomorrow,” he explained as he opened the door to the refrigerator and helped himself.
Joanne’s mouth tightened in annoyance at his overly familiar gesture of helping himself to her refrigerator but she only nodded. Her eyes followed him to the door and she sighed as he left. She glanced down and noticed the mud tracking across her clean floor. “Oh for heaven’s sake…,” she mumbled angrily as she grabbed the mop and began to re clean the floor. She’d just set it aside when Johnny stepped through the sliders.
“Hey Jo…,” he greeted coming into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator door to grab a soda.
“Hi Johnny,” she muttered back. He glanced at his friend worriedly as she dried the dishes sitting in the drain board and began to put them away...she’d sounded annoyed. He popped the can and took a drink but he jumped suddenly as Joanne’s dishtowel whistled through the air and flicked his backside.
“What…?” He asked, looking at the now irate woman.
“Look at my clean floor…,” she snapped in frustration.
“I’m sorry…,” he muttered, as he noticed the trail of dirt his feet had left. He spotted the mop and setting his can of soda on the counter, grabbed it and began to swish it over the floor but the handle swept around, tipping the soda can and spilling it onto the counter.
“For goodness sake John…just go outside, I’ll do it.”
“I’m really sorry Jo…,” he said contritely, looking sheepish.
“It’s okay…,” she said, taking a deep breath…determined not to take her aggravation with Bob out on Johnny…he was much too sensitive and Joanne was well aware of it…besides she loved John like a younger brother…even though he occasionally reminded her more of one of her children.
John chewed his lip nervously and hastily retreated from the obviously irritated woman. Joanne shook her head as she watched him go… Johnny could be so insecure sometimes.
Joanne had had two more run-ins with Bob, including his farewell that had included an attempted kiss on the lips which Joanne had avoided by turning her face at the last moment. Roy would kill him if he knew…Joanne wouldn’t mention it unless she had too but she was still angry and she didn’t want the man around her.
Chet and Johnny were finishing up the yard but most of the others had gone home. They all had plans of their own for Christmas Eve but they would all be returning to the DeSoto’s the next afternoon. Roy had gone inside to get a drink of water for himself and Johnny before putting the tools away and Joanne was waiting. He could see the irritation on her face before she ever spoke.
“Roy…you need to do something about Bob…”
Johnny and Chet finished the hedges… Kelly wiped his sweating forehead while John hung the clippers back in their proper spot in the shed. He dusted his hands against his jeans before they both headed toward the house. They stepped up on the deck but both of them hesitated as they heard Joanne’s raised voice.
“Look…I know the guys lonely but I’m really tired of him being here all the time…he invades every get together with our friends and family. He helps himself to the things in our refrigerator and tracks his dirty feet through my clean house…”
John’s heart sank into his stomach…Man…he hadn’t realized she’d be that upset. Johnny frowned…he had been there a lot lately but it had become kinda like a second home…maybe he shouldn’t come here so often…he glanced at Chet as Roy replied.
“He’s a nice guy honey…he’s got nowhere else to go…”
Chet leaned toward John… “Look… I think I’m gonna go… Tell Roy I’ll see him tomorrow…I don’t wanna get in the middle of that,” he teased. “I wonder who their talking about?” Johnny was afraid he already knew.
‘I DON’T CARE how nice you think he is Roy…”
“Well how do I tell someone who thinks I’m his best friend that he’s not wanted in my house…?”
“I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to find a way…I don’t want him here tomorrow.”
“Okay…,” Roy said with a sigh. Joanne knew she sounded cold hearted but she didn’t want the guy around her. She also knew she could have clinched it by telling him about the kiss but she didn’t want Roy to pulverize him…just keep him away.
Johnny turned away sadly. He’d outworn his welcome and done what he’d never wanted to do…become a burden on his partner and his family. He didn’t want to put Roy in a bad situation and he didn’t want them fighting over it…Johnny hated it when they fought, it reminded him too much of his childhood.
His Grandparents and his Aunts had fought constantly with his mother…most often over him, especially after his dad had died. John sometimes wondered if she’d have been better off if she’d never had him…at least she could have had a life after his father had been killed but no man on the reservation would have her if she had to drag her half breed son along…not that Kate had ever really wanted another man. She’d never gotten over Roderick.
John knew Roy wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings especially not at Christmas time…he needed to find an easy way to let his friend off the hook. He chewed his lip as his partner came through the door with a glass of water in his hand. “Here Junior…,” he said offering him the glass. “Where’s Chet?”
“Uh thanks…,” he said taking the water from Roy’s hand. “Ah…he had to go home…Um Roy…?”
“What’s wrong Johnny?” Roy asked, noticing the nervous stammer John picked up whenever he got disturbed.
“I…ah…,” He averted his dark eyes from Roy’s. His partner always seemed to know when he was upset or frustrated or not being completely honest about something… Johnny was terrible at lying…and he was about to tell a whopper. “I meant to tell you earlier but your neighbor always seemed to be hangin around.”
“Yeah…I know,” Roy said wryly.
“Well anyway…um…my Aunt called and she said she couldn’t come after all so I thought I should really…you know…go have Christmas with her this year…”
“What happened Johnny…we had this all planned,” Roy said in disappointment. John was such a part of their life now…it wouldn’t feel right for him to not be there for the holiday.
“Ah…my…um…my Cousin’s sick and ah…she needs to stay with him,” he said lamely with a shrug.
Roy looked at him suspiciously… Johnny seemed more than a bit nervous…his eyes were averted and there was a look in them that worried the older man…what was it? Maybe he was just disappointed as well…Roy knew Johnny had been looking forward to this Christmas.
“Well okay…we’ll miss you though.”
“Sure…,” Johnny replied sadly. “Look…I gotta go.”
“I guess I’ll see ya the day after Christmas, maybe we can have our own get together after shift then?”
John shrugged as he walked down the stairs. “Tell Jo goodbye…I don’t wanna drag my dirty feet through her house again,” he said softly.
The words triggered alarm bells but Roy was too upset that John would miss the Holiday with them to realize what it was, besides he still had to walk over to Bob’s and explain that he couldn’t come over for Christmas.
John climbed into his rover…his heart was breaking and he wasn’t sure what he should do. Would Roy ask for a transfer next or ask him too? Did he feel the same way or was it just Joanne? He’d said he loved him…he was family… a brother…that he needed him. He smiled ruefully…Well Johnny had seen all too well what family meant growing up but he had thought Roy and Jo were different. What was it Roy had said...? “How do you tell someone that thinks I’m his best friend that he’s not wanted in my house…?”
Tears welled in the brown eyes but John swept them away…he wouldn’t ask for a transfer before the end of the year at least but he didn’t want to put his partner in the position of having to ask him to go. It was only another week and he could talk it over with Cap after the first of the year. He’d call his Aunt and tell her he was coming there when he got home.
Johnny pulled up at a stop light…his mind on Roy and what he’d overheard…he didn’t see the car barreling up behind him…he heard the screeching of tires and his rover suddenly lurched forward as if hit by a battering ram…John was flung forward, his chest hit the steering column and his head banged the steering wheel…Sparkles of light danced before his eyes briefly but he shook off the woozy feeling.
People were beginning to gather around the two vehicles as John finally regained his senses enough to push the door open… “Are you okay Mister…?” Someone asked.
“Yeah…yeah…I think so,” he said softly as he braced his arm over his tender ribcage and rubbed at the dull throb in his forehead carefully turning his head from side to side…probably a bit of whiplash…It didn’t hurt nearly as much as his heart.
John walked slowly back to the car that had rear ended his own vehicle. He peered in… The guy looked up at him woozily… “Wow…that was some ride huh…?” He slurred. John could smell the booze from three feet away.
“Yeah…some ride…some stop too,” he said in disgust at the condition of his land rover. He heard the sirens in the distance. A squad pulled up at the scene followed closely by a black and white police cruiser.
Two paramedics climbed from the squad…Johnny recognized them both Jack Parker and Craig Brice. The young paramedic had never met Brice but he’d seen him from a distance and he’d heard the horror stories from others…Some called him the perfect paramedic…others called him a pain the ass.
“Johnny…?” Jack exclaimed in shock as he approached the accident scene…
“Guy’s drunk…he rear ended my car…”
“Let me take a look at you?”
“You don’t look it…You’ve got a nasty bruise on your forehead and your eyes are pretty red.”
John blushed…the accident had nothing to do with the condition of his eyes but he’d never tell them that. “I just got a little bang on the forehead and my side hurts some…maybe a bit of a stiff neck…nothing serious.”
“Here sit…let me be the judge of that okay?” John sat down on the curb while Jack checked out the darkening bruise. He flashed a pen light in Johnny’s dark eyes and then felt along the younger mans ribs drawing a wince from the dark haired paramedic. “I think we need to take you into Rampart Johnny…,” he said.
“Oh man…,” he whispered.
“How is he…?” Brice asked walking over with the officer. John glanced up to see Vince Howard standing with the brown haired, bespectacled Brice.
“Johnny…?” Vince said in surprise.
“He okay…?” The older black officer asked Jack in concern for his young friend.
“I think he has some bad bruising across the chest…looks like a mild concussion too,” he answered as he picked up the C-Collar. “Whiplash is probable.”
“What’s that for…?” Johnny asked eyeing the collar uncertainly.
“What do ya think…and don’t argue…,” He said as John opened his mouth to disagree. “Besides the hospital being mad at me, I’d have to face Roy and explain why I didn’t give you the best possible care.”
John didn’t believe that now but he didn’t say so…“How’s the other guy…?” Johnny asked as Parker placed the collar around his neck.
“He’s plowed and he doesn’t have a mark on him…,” Vince said in disgust. “You want me to call Roy…?”
“No…,” Johnny said quickly. Jack and Vince looked at him in surprise… they all knew how close these two were. Johnny saw the look… “He’s getting ready for a Christmas party tomorrow afternoon…I don’t wanna disturb him over something so minor.”
“John…it’s not minor.”
“Just…take me to Rampart okay?”
“Sure Johnny…” Parker waved the ambulance attendants over while Vince went to escort his uninjured suspect to jail.
“Hey Johnny…I’ll see you at Roy’s tomorrow…,” the officer yelled back.
“No…I’m ah…going to my Aunts in Santa Barbara but…you have fun okay?” John said softly.
John arrived at Rampart ten minutes later. Mike Morton greeted him in the treatment room with a shake of his head… “What have you done to yourself now Gage…?” He asked in exasperation.
“Not his fault Doc…,” Parker cut in… “Got rear ended at a stop light by a drunk driver.”
The young, Black Doctor nodded. “Okay then, let’s take a look.”
“It’s not that bad…,” Johnny murmured.
Morton knew Gage’s propensity for downplaying his injuries and threw John a doubtful look. He checked the younger man over carefully and glanced at the older nurse standing next to him… “Let’s get X-Ray down here Betty…I want a shot of his thick head and his chest,” Morton teased. She nodded and moved to the phone.
A short while later Morton looked at the X-Rays… “You’ve got some pretty bad bruising across your chest and you have a mild concussion…but no skull fracture and no broken ribs. Your neck is fine except for a probable case of whiplash. I’ll give you a prescription for pain killers.”
“Can I go home…?”
“I should probably keep you overnight…Kel would kill me if I let you go home.”
“I’m okay and I’m supposed to be in Santa Barbara with my Aunt for Christmas…” Mike was surprised…he expected that Gage would spend Christmas with Roy and his family but it wasn’t any of his business, so he didn’t comment on that.
“No driving Gage…”
“Fine….then I’ll take a bus…”
Morton hesitated…he really should stay but it was Christmas Eve…He heaved a sigh… “Alright…I might regret this but you can go…as long as you won’t be alone. Those injuries are going to hurt…You want me to call Roy.”
“No…,” John replied… “I’ll call a cab and I promise…I won’t drive and I’ll be with my Aunt.”
“Yeah…Merry Christmas,” Johnny murmured sadly.
“What do you mean Johnny’s not coming for Christmas…?” Joanne asked in shock. “He’s part of the family…He’s got to be here…”
“He said something came up with one of his cousin’s and Rosemary had to stay home…He thought he should go there instead.”
“Why…? He’s never felt wanted there…at least not by his cousins.”
“He’s not going for them…he’s going for Rosemary.”
“I guess…,” she said in disappointment. “I didn’t even get to wish him a Merry Christmas.”
“We’ll call him tomorrow…,” Roy suggested.
“Alright…but the kids aren’t going to be happy either.” Roy nodded.
John let himself into his apartment…he walked slowly…he was already starting to stiffen up and he was hurting pretty bad but he could rest later. Right now he needed to call Rosemary and tell her of the change in plans. He flipped the TV on and went to get a glass of water… he opened the pill bottle and dumped out a pain killer.
He downed the tablet with a swig of water and glanced at the television. The movie was ‘A Christmas Carol…’ Johnny had seen it last year with Roy and the kids on Christmas day. He smiled sadly at the memory. He was surprised that he remembered it at all as he’d been pretty heavily medicated that day from a respiratory infection from breathing ammonia gas but it had been his first real Christmas and he remembered every minute of it. John wiped at the moisture that gathered in his eyes and picked up the phone…
A male voice answered and Johnny sighed in disappointment that it was his cousin and not his Aunt that answered. “Hi Joshua…it’s John…,”
“Hello John…how are you?” He answered formally.
“I’m good…um could I talk to Aunt Rose please?”
“She’s not here…she’s getting her hair done with Tiffany.”
Oh…well could you tell her there’s been a change in plans for tomorrow…,”
“She didn’t call you…?”
“She isn’t coming tomorrow anyway…,”
“Oh…? Why…?” John asked suspiciously.
“Well Tiff and I surprised her with tickets for Hawaii this morning…”
John bit his lip as hurt welled up in his heart… “I see…well… you always do take her to the nicest places for Christmas…,” he said softly, knowing it was his Cousins way of keeping their mother to themselves for Christmas. “You all have fun then and tell her Merry Christmas…” John slammed the phone down before Joshua could hear the crack in his voice. He hung his pounding head in defeat…depression settled over the young fireman.
The movie was ending but another soon began. John lay down on the couch to watch hoping it would take his mind from the heartache he was feeling.
He’d never seen this one…He struggled to keep his eyes open against the effects of the pain killers as Jimmy Stewarts character George Bailey went through a terrible ordeal…a crisis that left him alone and defeated. He stood alone on a bridge contemplating suicide…Johnny could commiserate…his life felt pretty bad right now as well, but he was too tired to go find a bridge…his eyes began to close as he heard the character wish he’d never been born…
Johnny’s eyes blinked open slowly… What would life have been like for the people in his life if he’d never been born…? Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his temples into his dark hair…he brushed them angrily away…Man…he hadn’t shed a tear since he was eleven but it seemed as if that's all he did now that he'd opened his heart to this family and given them the power to hurt him. The drugs finally won and his eyes closed. “I sometimes wish I’d never been born too…,” he mumbled softly. His last thought was that unlike George Bailey…no one would miss him.
Johnny’s eyes felt heavy as they blinked slowly open…how long had he been asleep? The Television was showing only static. He tried to sit up but everything hurt…he groaned in misery and decided to stay where he was. He suddenly had the feeling he was no longer alone and the brown eyes searched the dark room nervously… “Hello…?” He called out. “Is someone there?”
No one replied but there was a sound…like the fluttering of wings…he turned his head towards it. There before him stood a beautiful Indian woman…She smiled at him softly…He smiled back hesitantly…she was stunning…her dress shimmered in the dim light from the moon shining through his sliding doors…He sat up wonderingly that there was suddenly no pain… His eyes traveled over her…admiring her smile, her hair…her wings…wait…he shook his head…wow he must be more out of it than he thought…he looked again…no…she definitely had wings…he glanced around…was this a joke…? He saw no one else.
“Who are you…?” He asked hesitantly.
She answered him softly…her voice was ethereal… “I am he'amo'omee-hotse'o... (A heavenly worker or Angel) I am your past John…”
“My what…?” He asked in disbelief. He knew his ancestor’s believed in spirits, right up to his Grandfather’s time and even now and his dad had teased him that his son’s guardian angel had to work overtime but he had been raised in both worlds and he wasn’t sure he knew exactly what he believed…
“Your past John…You questioned your past…you feel as if no one would miss you had you never been born…I am here to show you what life would have been for your loved ones without you in it.”
“Great…I’m not depressed enough…?” he mumbled.
She smiled softly… “What you see may surprise you…,” she held out her hand… “Come…”
John hesitated but he finally reached out to take her hand…. Time seemed to distort… days and nights flashed by his eyes until he squeezed them shut, dizzy from the distortion to his vision…
He found himself with he'amo'omee-hotse'o on the sidewalk in front of a small white house…It looked familiar. It suddenly clicked…It was the house he and his mother had lived in when they’d lived in Duarte the year his father had died. He remembered and shuddered in agony at the memory. Then he saw it…the black car parked in the driveway…
“Come John…,” she said, taking his hand.
“No…,” he whispered. “I can’t…”
“Yes John…you must see…”
He drew a deep shuddering breath and took a step toward the pain he knew would be waiting in that room...they were here to tell her her husband was dead.They stepped inside…His Mother stood before him…her black hair falling like a satin blanket over her shoulders, tears streamed from her cheeks as she slowly sank to her knees… “Nooo,” she wailed pitiably. John looked around curiously…He should be here…he’d been here when this had happened.
He looked at he'amo'omee-hotse'o... “I should be here…I came in just before this happened,” he whispered in distress that she was alone…
“Not this time John… you were never born…remember?”
He watched the men pat her shoulder comfortingly and leave her still kneeling on the floor…lost and grieving with no one to hold or to hold her. Tears welled in his eyes at the sight… “Mom…,” he whispered with a hitched breath.
“She can’t hear you John…”
“But she needs…,” he stopped. “Someone,” he finished softly.
He’amo’omee-hotse’o smiled serenly… “She needed you…Come…”
John cast one final longing look at his weeping Mother before the Angel took his hand and again he felt time warp as he moved through space. “I hate it when you do that…,” he said, sounding sick.
He found himself in the Indian village where he’d grown up… The lodge stood in the middle of a large square, an old trading post style building stood to one side and the tribal Leaders home on the other. John shuddered…he hated this place…he never wanted to return here. There were few good memories and none after his Mother had died…all there had been was coldness and abuse…
He’amo’omee-hotse’o took his hand and led him down the street…his eyes took everything in. She led him past his first home and then his Aunt Lacee’s where his mother had died and he had lived for several months after. People came and went oblivious of their presence.
She noted his confused look… “They can neither see you or hear you… you have never existed in their memory.”
“I didn’t exist in it when I was alive either…,” he whispered.
“You did to her…,” she said nodding at the haggard looking woman who had been his mother.
“Mom…My God…what’s wrong with her…?” Johnny never remembered his mother looking so bad, even on her deathbed she’d been beautiful…thin and in pain but still beautiful.
“She returned home to nothing John… No one who cared.” John looked stricken.
Time seemed to warp again but this time it was only a brief moment…He stood before a grave marker… the name on it read ‘Taa’e-ese’he Ma’e’ (Red Moon) Daughter of Sun Walker… 1929 – 1959… “Mom…,” he whispered running his fingers over the marker. “Wait…this isn’t right… The dates wrong…she died in nineteen sixty…,” he said in confusion.
“Not in this life John Gage…”
“I don’t understand, how did my not being here change her death…Cancer is Cancer…I couldn’t change it.”
“Your Mother did not die of cancer John…”
“What…? What happened?”
“She committed suicide…,”
“No…she wouldn’t do that.”
“She had no one who needed her…nothing to live for…you John…she lived for you…you were her greatest gift.”
John began to weep… “I wanna go back…I don’t wanna see anymore.”
“Very well John…,” she took his hand and time distorted once again.
John opened his eyes…he was back in his apartment. “Oh thank God…”
He’amo’omee-hotse’o smiled… “I am through here John…but you are not.”
“You will be visited by two more angels…one will show you your friends in the present without your existance and another their future.”
“No wait…,” he began but she faded away.
John stirred and found himself lying on the couch in his living room. Oh thank God…it was just a drug induced hallucination. He looked at the clock…it was four in the morning. His eyelids grew heavy once again and he drifted off to sleep.
John felt a sharp rap on his shoulder… “Hey Gage…Gage wake up ya lazy bum…”
John’s eyes cracked open to find Chet Kelly leaning over him. He was in full turnout gear. “Kelly…? What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’ve come for you…,” he said.
“Well forget it…I’m not goin anywhere with you.” Johnny rolled over and noted once again that the pain seemed to be gone.
“C’mon Gage…I haven’t got all night.”
“All night for what…?”
“To show you our present…without you in it I mean…,”
“You’ve got to be kidding?”
“No Gage…I’m not and I haven’t got the time to argue so get your ass off the couch.”
“Why you…there’s no demon’s in heaven…”
“That’s real cute Gage…now let’s hustle.”
“Man…someone up there hates me…”
“Nah…he loves you…he’s just got a really good sense of humor,” he said as he held out his hand.
John stared balefully at the curly haired Irish…ghost?...of Christmas Present. John sighed in resignation. “Okay…” he reached out to take Chet’s hand and time warped once more…
“Man, that makes me sick…,” he moaned.
“Well if you’re gonna puke, don’t do it on me,” his ghost Chet warned.
“Nice…so where are ya takin me…?”
“Where else…? Station 51.”
They landed in front of the familiar Station house and strolled through the open bay doors. John looked around at the crew…everyone was there but him and none of them looked very different…well maybe they didn’t look quite the same. There was something different…there was no family feeling as there usually was around them. Mike stood at the kitchen sink…Cap was alone in his office. Marco and Chet sat at the table and they were both reading…neither of them were speaking.
Johnny suddenly smiled. Roy sat on the leather couch reading…he was alone and was decidely peaceful. His face didn’t reflect the usual affectionate care it held for his slightly zany partner or the comical dazed look that Johnny frequently left behind or even the one of amusement that he wore when John was on one of his kicks…he looked…tired…old almost but he was still only twenty five.
Another paramedic walked in and John sucked in his breath in shock…Brad Kimmerlin…now he knew it was a nightmare. Why had he chosen Brad Kimmerlin to replace him.
“He had no idea what a jerk Kimmerlin was and when Headquarters asked him who he wanted he really didn’t have a preference so they stuck him with Kimmerlin.”
“Oh… Well…what’s wrong with everybody…? They look misrable…even you,” John said with a smirk.
“Thanks…you little…,” Chet began with a growl.
“Uh uh uh…you’re an angel…,” Johnny reminded him.
Chet’s eyes narrowed with a promise of retribution but he continued on. “We’re not all that happy…”
“But if I was never born how can you miss me…?”
“We don’t know what we’re missing but Johnny don’t you get it…?”
“I guess not…get what?”
Chet sighed in exasperation…the little twit was gonna make him say it… “You are what’s missing…the piece that holds us together as a family…the kid brother we all looked out for…especially Roy…That center focal point is gone. We’re just a bunch of guy’s who work together.”
John’s eyes filled with tears… “For real…? Thanks Chet…”
“Oh don’t go getting all mushy on me…yeesh…How’d I get stuck with this part anyway?”
Johnny grinned… “Thanks Chet…I appreciate it…but wait a minute…”
“What…?” Chet asked.
“Why aren’t Roy and Kimmerlin wearing a paramedic pin…it still says Fire Fighter/Rescue…”
“They aren’t paramedics…”
“The paramedic bill never passed.”
“How did my being there change that…?” Johnny whispered in shock.
“You remember that day in the ravine when Dixie got hurt?”
“Yeah of course…”
“Brackett gave the order to wait for a back up nurse…Roy wanted to go ahead but Kimmerlin refused. Things didn’t turn out the same…Brackett never realized that he was wrong and that the paramedics would save lives. He never appeared before the Senate committee…the bill didn’t pass.”
“Oh my God…I didn’t realize that that would change the whole show…”
“Yeah, yeah you were really important to the whole thing…come on…,” Chet said sourly.
“Yeah…I told you things changed.”
They moved swiftly for a moment before landing in front of Rampart. Chet led him inside…things were very different. It was still a busy hospital but it didn’t seem to run with the same efficiency as it once had.
He saw an unfamiliar Doctor step out of a treatment room…The gray haired nurse he recognized as Betty was on his heels…he sensed that he was somehow important… “Who is that?”
“That’s the head of Emergency…,”
“What…? Where’s Brackett…wait…where’s Dixie?” He asked in concern…seeing Betty giving orders in her stead.
“Brackett quit…He’s got a small private practice in Malibu now…”
“You’re kidding…? I never thought he’d leave Rampart…Is Dix with him…?”
“No Johnny…,” Chet said almost gently.
John had a feeling of dread… “What Chet…? Where’s Dixie…?”
“She’s dead John…,”
“WHAT…? NO… How…? When?” He yelled in grief.
“That day in the ravine…?”
“You weren’t there Johnny…no one urged Roy to ignore Brackett’s orders and no one treated Dixie…she died that night with a cerebral hemorrage.”
“No…no that can’t be…Roy wouldn’t have just left her…”
“John…don’t you know you’re Roy’s other half…not the cool headed, follow the rules half but the half that throws caution to the wind…and says I’ll do what’s right and damn the consequences.”
Johnny shook his head negatively… “I can’t be…not anymore…Joanne’s tired of me being around and Roy just doesn’t know how to tell me to leave…that’s why I have to do it for him…”
Chet shook his head… “John, John…when is it gonna sink in…Roy loves you man…he told me so.”
John snorted a short laugh of disbelief. “Roy would never tell you that…”
“You’re wrong Johnny…Just a few months ago when you were eavesdropping on our conversation…he told me you were his brother…and he was your friend out of love not guilt.”
John’s mouth dropped open in embarrassed surprise…He looked at Chet uncertainly before he finally realized the glib tongued Irishman was telling the truth.
“Is there more…?” Johnny asked hesitantly…
“Yeah Gage but…it’s not for me to show you…just remember Gage you were a present to our future.” He took John’s hand and that rapid acceleration began again…John found himself on the couch in his apartment…The sun was just beginning to rise. John tried to sit up but laid quickly back down, gasping in pain as the aches and throbs began to catch up with him…he finally forced himself to sit up… “Wow…what a dream,” he mumbled blearily to himself.
Johnny forced himself to his feet and slowly and painfully walked to the kitchen. He poured himself a glass of water and took another pain killer. He sat at his table with his pounding head held in his hands until it finally began to subside and the pain in his ribcage finally receded to a managable dull ache. He made his way back to the couch and lay down…
Roy woke early…he heard the sounds of giggling coming from Chris’s room and knew his son had found his stocking and was more than likely tearing into it. There was one for Jen as well but she was only sixteen months old and still didn’t quite grasp the whole Christmas thing just yet.
He looked over at the stocking that lay across the chair in the corner of the room…the name on it glittered in gold…JOHNNY. Joanne had bought for him as a joke and Roy had wanted to see his face when he found it this morning but now that wasn’t going to happen. The older man was disappointed…John had become such a huge part of their lives and he’d be sorely missed today.
He climbed from the bed…it was going to be a long day. First Christmas with the children and then all the guys and their family’s showing up for the party this afternoon…it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without his young partner present…That was a funny thought…Johnny was a present…a gift to all of them, he sometimes wondered if he was the only one who felt that way…if he was the only one who noticed that life at the station always seemed to perk up when Johnny walked into the room, even if it was only good natured teasing at the younger man’s expense. There was never a dull moment with John Gage.
He grinned…even at home, his partner had become a fixture…Joanne and the kids would miss him today the same as he would but he’d be sure to call Rosemary and wish her a Merry Christmas and let the kids at least speak to Uncle Johnny on the phone. He put on his robe and headed downstairs to put on some coffee.
Joanne had just joined him when the doorbell rang. “Who could that be at this hour…?” Roy asked in confusion. Joanne shrugged as Roy headed for the door. He opened it and stood in stunned surprise. “Rosemary…what are you doing here?”
She looked at him in confusion… “I thought I was invited…?” She said hesitantly.
“You were…I’m sorry…come in…I um…I’m sorry it’s just that…”
“Just that what Roy…?”
“It’s just that Johnny told me you weren’t coming and…”
“Not coming…? Now where on earth did he get that idea?” she asked as she came into the living room. Joanne stepped out of the kitchen to greet her.
“Rose…I’m so glad that you could make it after all…How’s your son…? Is Johnny coming…?”
Rosemay looked at them in confusion… “I’m sorry but I seem to be missing something here? What exactly did John tell you?”
Roy and Joanne exchanged a glance… “He said your son was sick so you couldn’t come and that he was going to Santa Barbara to spend Christmas with you.”
Rosemary’s dark eyebrow rose with each word they spoke… “I don’t know why he said that. My son is fine and he and his wife and sister are on their way to Hawaii as we speak. I know John called and that Joshua told him I was going to Hawaii with them but I told them no…I made a promise to John and I planned to keep it.”
“Maybe he’s at home then and too embarrassed to show up after he canceled on us…but why would he think Joshua was sick?”
Rose shook her head… “I have no idea…unless that’s what that spoiled brat of mine told him for some reason,” she said irritably.
“I’ll call him and tell him you’re here and that we’re waiting for him…That should convince him that we’re not upset with him for canceling.” They nodded and waited as Roy dialed John’s number but there was no answer… “Where could he be?”
“You don’t suppose he’s on his way to Santa Barbara…?” Joanne asked.
Roy looked disappointed. “Is there anyone who can tell him where you are….?”
“Certainly…,” my housekeeper is a single lady and even though she has the day off she’ll be at the house.”
“Good…then we can expect him this afternoon…it should only take him a couple of hours to get back…maybe I’ll drive over later and leave him a note to come here,” Roy suggested.
“That sounds like a good idea but let’s have breakfast and let the kids open their presents first,” Joanne suggested… “Come on Rosemary…would you like some coffee…?”
Johnny sank into sleep as the pain medication kicked in. He heard a sound and turned his head to see his Captain …Hank Stanley standing before him… “Wait don’t tell me…,” Johnny said in disbelief.
“Yes John… I’ve come to show you our future…”
“Wow…this just keeps on getting better and better…I need to get some more of these pain pills…This hallucination is wonderful,” he murmured. He closed his eyes thinking the delusion would just go away if he ignored it but he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.His dark eyes popped open.
“Come John…,” Cap reached out a hand.
“You’re not gonna go away until I do this are ya?” He asked.
Cap shook his head… “You need to see the future John…as it would be if you’d never been.”
“Okay…,” he agreed as he began to sit up carefully, but once again the pain seemed to have gone. He hesitantly reached out and took Cap’s hand…the room tilted…
He stood before a large home that he knew from his past…It was his Aunt’s home in San Gabriel where Johnny had lived as a teenager. Cap led him inside…His Aunt sat there looking lost and confused…her arms and her once beautiful face bore traces of bruising and her usually glossy hair was pulled back in tight bun with streaks of gray running through it… “Aunt Rose…? What happened to her Cap…?”
“After her husband Geoffrey died…well she had no focus…she sank into a deep depression and began drinking…she has cirrhosis of the liver John…she hasn’t got much longer to live.”
“No…no that can’t be…she was strong…”
“She had you to direct her attention too. You came along just before he died and when she lost him she turned all her love and concern on you…it’s what got her through that dark time and brought her back to her normal self…”
John’s eyes clouded with tears… “I’m so sorry Aunt Rose…,” he whispered softly.
Cap took his hand… “Come on John…” The world flew by at a hectic pace…
They stood before a two story home… John recognized it instantly as Roy’s. He knew the place almost as well as his own apartment…after all he was there so often…it was his second home…well it used to be anyway.
Cap led him inside…the home was in bad repair and there were boxes packed and stacked in the center of the room. Chris and Jen sat on the couch in silence. Joanne sat at the table…she’d lost weight and she looked tired. She held her head in her hands as tears flowed down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong Cap…?” Johnny asked in concern.
“There moving out…the bank foreclosed on the house when she couldn’t pay the mortgage…”
“Why couldn’t she pay the…?” John stopped… “What do you mean SHE couldn’t pay…?” Hank remained silent… “No Cap…it can’t be… Cap where’s Roy…?”
Hank looked at him with sad, brown eyes… “John…I’m sorry.”
“No…No…Roy’s not…,” John shook his head desperately as he backed away from Hank in despair. “Oh God…please…”
Cap stepped forward… “Come on John…”
Johnny desperately tried to pull away but once again the room seemed to shift around him and he found himself in a graveyard…Captain Stanley stepped away leaving John with a clear view of a Gravestone. Roy M DeSoto… November 7, 1946 - December 12, 1972 Beloved Husband and Father… A bouquet of fresh red roses lay on top of the grave.
Tears spilled from John’s eyes… “No… Cap…what happened…?”
“That coward Kimmerlin…,” Cap replied.
John stared at him shock. “How…what happened?” He murmured through the tears…
“We were in a burning building…the roof collapsed…Roy pushed Kimmerlin out of the way but he got pinned by a falling beam. He would have survived if that fool had just stopped to get the beam off but he panicked and ran…he left Roy and by the time we could get back to him it was too late…the fire had spread and Roy…well…it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
Johnny thought he was gonna be sick… “Oh God Cap…” He whispered as he knelt next to the grave of his best friend. He plucked a single red bloom from the gathered flowers on the grave…holding it tightly.
“Johnny…you asked what our lives would have been like if you had never been born…now you know…this is our reality now…”
“I have to go back…I have to be there for Roy…for Jo and my Aunt…Dixie…My Mom…”
“I’m sorry John…that’s not possible…you wished you’d never been born and that wish was granted…”
“No…no I didn’t mean it…I’m sorry…please…I take it back…,” he screamed as his eyes fell on the gravestone. Tears fell freely… “I’m so sorry… I want to go back…”
Cap was suddenly gone and the beautiful Indian maiden stood before him once more… “John…this is only what would have happened in the likelihood that you’d never been…but John you were born…and their lives were the better for it. His was…is and always will be,” She corrected, nodding at Roy’s tombstone. “You will be sorely missed. You are Roy’s present and a part of his future if you choose to be or we can make this a reality and we’ll forget you ever were…it’s your choice.”
“I wanna go home…I want…”
The room spun dizzingly and Johnny’s world turned gray for a moment… He heard a familiar voice as a gentle hand rested on his forehead…
The phone rang for the sixth time with no answer. “He’s got to have realized his mistake by now and come home,” Roy said, looking at his watch. “Why isn’t he answering the phone?”
“Maybe you should go over there and check on him…,” Joanne said worriedly.
The doorbell rang and Roy breathed a sigh of relief… “What do you bet that’s him…,” He said with a grin. His face fell as he opened the door to find Chet on his doorstep.
“Geez Roy…don’t look so happy to see me…,” Chet grouched as he came through the door. “Bah Humbug or Merry Christmas or something…,” he mumbled.
“Sorry Chet…I’m just a little worried about Johnny…
“What about him…?”
“He was acting strange yesterday…”
“That’s not unusual for Gage…uh sorry Ma’am…,” he said to Rosemary, seeing the unamused scowl that crossed her features at the insult aimed at her nephew. “So what was he doin anyway…?”
“He told us he wasn’t coming today…”
“Why…he’s been looking forward to it for weeks…”
“We know…he told us that Rosemary wasn’t coming because her son was sick and that he had to go there instead.”
Chet frowned… Rosemary was obviously here… “So why would he say that?” He asked looking at Rose…
“We don’t know…My son is healthy as a horse and I had every intention of coming here.”
“So just call him and tell him to get his butt over here.”
“We’ve been trying…he’s not answering.”
The doorbell rang again… Roy tried not to look to hopeful as he opened the door. He wasn’t disappointed. Vince Howard stood there… “Hey Roy…,” he greeted, taken aback a bit by the worried look on Roy’s face… “Something wrong?”
“Vince… ,come on in…look I’m sorry but I’m a little concerned about Johnny…”
“Was he hurt worse than we thought…?”
“What…? Hurt…? What are you talking about?” Roy and Rosemary said almost in unison.
“Oh uh…Vince this is John’s Aunt Rosemary…”
“His Aunt…well that’s odd.”
“Johnny told me he was going to his Aunt’s in Santa Barbara…does he have another one?”
“No…,” She replied. “At least not here in California…” Chet perked up at this tiny tidbit of Gage’s very secret personal life…so he had family somewhere else…why did he keep it so hush hush…?
“But you said he was hurt…?” Roy asked anxiously.
“It didn’t seem bad but I suppose it could have been worse than Parker and Brice thought…”
“What …? Parker…you mean Jack Parker out of 60…?”
“You mean Johnny was hurt bad enough to need a paramedic…?”
“They said it was severe bruising and a minor concussion…maybe whiplash…”
“He got rear ended at a stoplight yesterday afternoon. The report said they didn’t keep him so I figured he was okay…”
“He was acting a bit strange yesterday too…I mean he looked upset,” Chet piped in.
“Oh…when you two were fighting…,” he said looking at Roy and Joanne.
“We weren’t fighting…”
“Well…arguing over whoever it was that tracked the mud over your floors and raided your refrigerator,” Chet corrected with a grin.
“We were arguing over our neighbor Bob…he’s become a regular houseguest lately and he’s very annoying,” Joanne explained. “He barged right in and tracked mud across my clean floors…helped himself to the stuff in my refrigerator…the man thinks he lives here.”
“Sort of like Johnny does…,” Chet teased.
“That’s different…,” Joanne said primly. “He’s family…besides he does live here…half the time,” she said with a giggle. “As a matter of fact he got yelled at for tracking mud across my floor too but…” she shrugged. “I wouldn’t have minded except that Bob had just done it and I was still ticked,” she admitted. Chet and Roy both grinned, they knew she’d forgive the young paramedic anything and that Johnny had Joanne wrapped right around his little finger.
The light when on in Roy’s mind…he suddenly remembered what John had said… ‘Tell her goodbye for me…I don’t want to drag my dirty feet through her house again.’
“Oh no…,” Roy muttered.
They all looked at him in concern. “What honey…?” Joanne asked.
“Chet did Johnny hear us…? I mean the same thing you just told us…?”
“Yeah…we were wondering who you were talking about…?”
“Yeah… well I’ll bet Johnny wasn’t wondering at all…”
Chet looked at him in confusion before the light went on for him as well… “You don’t suppose…?”
“He’s so sensitive…insecure…”
“You mean he thinks we were talking about him…?” Joanne said worriedly remembering her words. “That I didn’t want him here today…?” Roy nodded. “Oh no…”
“I’ll go find him…you all just hang tight…start the party without us and don’t tell anyone else…he’ll be embarrassed enough as it is without everyone knowing,” Roy said with a grin. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door.
Roy knocked on the door to John’s apartment but there was no answer…He knew John was here somewhere…both the rover and his motorcycle were parked in the lot. He fished out the key and unlocked the door…stepping inside. He made his way down the short hallway, glancing into Johnny’s small kitchen…a small prescription bottle stood open on the counter. He walked over and picked it up… “Pentazocine…,” Roy whispered in concern…Johnny must be hurting pretty bad if he took those pills.
He walked out of the kitchen and into his friends living room. A small sound caught his attention and he looked at the couch. John lay on it, sleeping restlessly…his head tossed from side to side…. “I wanna go home…,” he whispered as tears slipped from his closed eyes to trickle down his temples’ into his sable hair.
Roy knelt next to his young friend…he noticed the ugly bruise on John’s forehead and the collar still around his neck. John’s head moved fitfully…Roy rested his hand gently on the dark head… his fingers swept the sleep tangled hair from John’s forehead.
“Hey junior, wake up…” Roy urged softly.
“No…I wanna stay…he can’t be dead…,” he moaned softly.
“JOHNNY…,” Roy urged a little louder.
John suddenly sat up… “Aagh…,” he cried clutching first at his side and then raising a shaking hand to his pounding head. He felt hands grip his shoulders and opened his dark eyes to look into the deep blue of his partner’s… “Roy…!” He gasped. His free hand flew to Roy’s face but stopped short of touching him…as if afraid he wasn’t really there.
“Johnny…are you alright?” Roy asked gently as he lifted his hand to take the long, slender fingers in his own while the other slipped behind the younger man’s head as he eased him back on the couch. “Just lay back…”
“You’re alive…,” he whispered.
“I was the last time I checked…,” Roy teased, as he brushed the dark hair back.
“I dreamed…It wasn’t a dream…she took me…no she couldn’t have…”
“Shhh Johnny just rest for a minute…you’re not making any sense…”
“Look Roy…I’m sorry I’ve been around so much…and…and I promise I won’t do that anymore but please don’t ask me to leave 51…I wanna stay and…”
Roy’s hand landed gently over John’s mouth… “Shhh…Johnny I don’t know why you think I want you to leave but I do know that you overheard Jo and I yesterday afternoon.” John nodded… “Junior…we weren’t talking about you…we were talking about Bob…”
John’s dark eye’s widened in surprise and he reached up to brush Roy’s hand away… “You were…but I tracked the mud over her floor and…,”
“So did Bob…just before you did…that’s why she was so upset but not at you Johnny…you know she loves you…she might want to wrap the mop handle around Bob’s head but she’d forgive you for anything…,” Roy said wryly.
John smiled hesitantly… “Really?”
“Yeah…now you want to tell me what upset you so badly…?”
“It was just a dream I guess…”
“Tell me about it…?”
Johnny told him about the movie and the pain killers and his visit from the angel as well as Chet and Cap… “I guess I was so upset and between that and the pain pills… I just… pulled it all into my dream…”
Roy grinned, “well she was right…as a matter of fact I thought about the same thing this morning…”
“That you were a gift…to your mom…and from her to us in a way…”
“Ah c’mon Roy…,” John said as color stained his high cheekbones.
“I’m serious Johnny… you are a gift…a present to the future…mine…my family’s…the guys…your Aunt.”
John snorted in disbelief… “My Aunt…? She went to Hawaii Roy…,” he said sounding hurt.
Roy grinned… “No she didn’t. She was invited to Hawaii but she turned them down…said she had a promise to keep to you…”
“She’s at my house right now…waiting for you. Come on Johnny, let me help you get changed and I’ll take you home. Jo and your Aunt and my Mom will have a field day making a fuss over you…”
Roy helped him sit up… “Oh man…,” Johnny gasped painfully.
“How bad were you hurt?” Roy asked worriedly.
“I’ll be okay…just really stiff and sore. It’s just some bruising and a concussion… Let’s go huh?”
Roy grinned and gently eased John to his feet. The younger man stepped toward his bedroom but Roy’s voice stopped him… “That’s pretty…where’d ya get that…?”
John turned back… “Get what…?”
Roy pointed at the table and John’s face paled, and his blood went cold…his body shook and is mouth dropped open as his eyes widened in shock.
“Johnny…!” Roy said quickly grabbing the shaken younger man by the arm… “Are you alright…?”
“I’m fine…,” he whispered, but the dark eye’s remained fixed on a single red rose that lay on the coffee table. “But let’s get outta here.” Roy nodded as they left the room casting a final questioning glance at the bloom…
John picked it up as they were getting ready to leave for Roy’s…he stepped onto the balcony and tossed it over the side into the pool...Roy looked at him curiously…his brow furrowed but John just smiled…Roy didn’t want to know… loving this family might occasionally break his heart but the flip side was worth it and this was the only reality John chose to remember.
The characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. Thanks for letting me borrow them. Any medical mistakes are mine.Thanks Marie for reminding me of Johnny’s Aunts promise to return for Christmas…This was a spur of the moment story so please forgive any mistakes…Thanks to my sister Dawn who helped me with the idea…
Posted to Site 11/24/09
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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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