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Return - Part 1

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.

 

This story is dedicated to my Mother Lillian who passed away December 18th 2009. I love you Mom…

A friend is someone who is there no matter what. Someone who gives advice, NOT tells you what to so. A friend is a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold. A friend doesn't have to look or act or dress a certain way. The only thing that matters is what's on the inside...Sarah Hinton.

 

                                                                        

 

January, 1978 was turning into a harsh winter for the residents of Lame Deer Montana. Influenza Type B was sweeping through this small community. Already several elderly and very young had died.  The only two doctors in the town were running themselves ragged.  A plea had gone out to other Physicians in the neighboring towns. They were begging for help.  Their request went unanswered. The small towns and large cities around them were having problems of their own.  Within days the disease began to spread to the Indian Reservation just outside of town.

 

>>>>> 

 

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Los Angeles. Twenty seven year old paramedic John Gage was racing through the apparatus bay on the way to the locker room.

 

“Man,” he muttered to himself…“I can’t believe I’m late again. Caps gonna murder me.” He skidded to a halt in front of his locker. “Not this time Chet, no time.” He stepped to the side whipping his locker open. Surprised that nothing happened, he grinned. The dark haired, brown eyed young man quickly changed into his uniform.

 

He heard Caps bellow “roll call” and his crew mate’s voices as they filed from the rec-room just as he finished tying his shoes. He bolted for the locker room door. Shoving it open, he gasped in shock as a balloon full of ice water dropped on his head from above.

 

His bellowed cry of “Chet” could be heard clear out to the parking lot, where the crew of C-shift were gathered saying their goodbyes.  He heard they’re laughter mix with the crew from his own shift, as they realized the Phantom had struck again.

 

John heaved a sigh. He was tired of being the butt of their laughter.  Once in a while he’d appreciate it if they took him seriously.  After all it wasn’t his goal in life to be nothing more than a good sport for they’re pranks.

 

John rounded the front of the polished, red engine. His hair and uniform were dripping, his shoes squelching.

 

Roy, his partner of six and a half years was shaking his head trying, for his friend’s sake not to add his grin to that of Mike, Marco and Chet’s.

 

Cap stared at the floor. His lips pursed in annoyance at the antics of his crew, even though his mouth twitched with restrained laughter at Johnny’s ‘drowned rat’ appearance.

 

John stepped next to his partner, shooting an irritated look at Chet and a hurt one at his shift mates. “Sorry I’m late Cap,” he mumbled.

 

“Understandable John,” Cap said quietly. The smirk falling away as he realized John looked upset. “Chet… clean up that mess after roll call,” He directed.

 

Roy cast a worried glance at his partner. Johnny didn’t usually get this upset over one of the Phantom’s water bombs.

 

Cap gave them their assignments for the day. “Chet…apparatus bay, Mike… rec-room, Marco…dorm. Roy, you’re cookin.  John, sorry pal, last in rule… You’ve got the latrine.” The younger man nodded as Cap dismissed them.

 

“Hey Gage, needed a second shower already? You haven’t even done your chores yet,” Chet taunted the dark haired paramedic. Roy frowned at Chet as the others laughed at the younger man’s predicament.

 

Johnny cast them another hurt look as he turned away. “I’m glad I amuse you all so much. I guess my purpose in life has been fulfilled… I’ve made you all laugh,” He said softly.

 

The group headed for the rec-room, stopping to turn back when they realized Johnny hadn’t joined them, having gone to the locker room instead to begin his chores.

 

“Chet, maybe you need to lay off the jokes for a while huh?” Mike said

 

“Yeah, I think Johnny’s not finding em so funny lately,” Marco added.

 

“Aw c’mon you were all laughin too, “ Chet complained.

 

“Yeah but Chet, Johnny wasn’t...” Roy pointed out as he headed after his Partner.

 

“Man Roy, you used to be a lot more fun until you adopted Gage,” the curly haired fireman complained.

 

Roy shot him a dirty look, but continued after John.

 

“Chet, let’s retire the Phantom for a while okay pal?” Cap suggested

 

“Aw, but Cap...”

 

“I mean it Chet, something’s bothering John, so let’s give him some space okay?”

 

“Okay, sure Cap...”

 

Johnny was filling a bucket with water when Roy entered the room, “Hey Junior…”

 

John glanced up,  “Hey…” he said quietly in return, looking back to what he was doing. Water still dripped from his hair.


“Anything you want to talk about Johnny?” Roy questioned.


“No, why?”

 

“You’ve been awfully quiet lately, something botherin ya?”

 

John shut the water off, staring down at the bucket. He finally heaved a sigh,  “Roy I…”

 

The Station Control Unit tones sounded, “Station 51, automobile accident with injuries… 2614 Hawthorne. 2-6-1-4 Hawthorne cross street Rose…time out 08:23

 

John and Roy ran for the squad, hearing Cap’s acknowledgement as they exited the locker room.

 

“Station 51, KMG365”

 

The garage doors were already half way up as they climbed into the cab.  John flipped on the lights and sirens as Roy preceded the engine out of the station.

 

They pulled up at the accident site.  A large, white car was smashed into a telephone pole…the driver sat slumped over the wheel. The small, red ford that he’d hit before spinning into the pole was on its side. 

 

Roy ran to the white vehicle, pulling the door open to lean inside, leaving Johnny to check out the occupants of the red car.  Climbing up onto the driver’s door, he peered inside, his heart sank… A child, a little girl…lay against the passenger door of the back seat, her blond braids wet with blood.

 

Her seatbelt had been unable to protect her from being slammed sideways as their car had been broadsided, then rolled. The small, delicate head had connected with the door panel…her face was ashen.

 

John had seen many accidents in his 8 years as a fireman, rescue man and paramedic and these were the worst.  He could tell at a glance, this little one was beyond his help.  “Why?” he whispered to himself. It was so unfair. He brushed the moisture from his eyes then turned to the other victim… The child’s mother.

 

He reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window and felt for a pulse on the woman’s neck. It was there, faint but steady. John tried to open the door but it was jammed.

 

“Cap?” he yelled, “I need the jaws.”

 

“Got it,” Cap called back as he turned to Marco…Help John out pal.”

 

“Okay Cap…” Marco ran for the engine and the requested equipment.

 

Roy ran by John on the way to the Squad.”Whatta ya got Johnny?”

 

“Woman’s still alive, but the little girl…,” He shook his head. “I don’t think so,” He said sadly as Marco arrived with the jaws.  “What about you?” He asked reaching to take the heavy piece of equipment as Marco turned to hook up its hoses.

 

“Hardly a scratch,” Roy said with barely contained anger. “He’s drunk”

 

John looked disgusted. “Drunk…, this early in the morning? What a damn waste…,” he whispered, looking again at the child.John spoke from experience, having almost been killed by a drunk driver a couple of years ago.

 

Marco signaled that he was ready to start the generator. Johnny nodded at the hispanic fireman and got back to work.

 

Roy cast a worried glance at his partner. The tone of voice and the look on John’s face concerned him.

 

Johnny succeeded in prying the door open. He slid his slender frame between the woman and the roof of the overturned car. Standing on the front passenger door, he leaned over the seat, feeling for the child’s pulse…there was nothing. He turned his attention back to the mother.

 

‘Ma’am, can you hear me?” he said trying to get a response from the woman. Her head moved slightly, and then drooped once more. “Just as well…” he murmured remembering once again the little girl in the back seat. “Marco, can you and Chet get the back board and the C-collar and help me get her out?” he yelled. “Also I need a tourniquet…Her radial artery’s been severed. I’m applyin pressure to stop the bleeding.”

 

“Sure thing Johnny, I’ll be right back.”  Marco ran to get the back board. He slapped Chet’s shoulder as he passed, “John needs some help pal”

 

“Sure thing…, “Chet said, turning to follow his friend.

 

They climbed up onto the car and positioned the board over the back window…then they handed the paramedic the tourniquet and cervical collar. He applied the tourniquet then he carefully placed  the collar around the young woman’s neck. Chet and Marco took hold of her under the arms, while Johnny released the seat belt, bearing the woman’s weight.  They lifted her up while John lifted from below.

 

“Careful,” Johnny directed… “Watch her neck.” They eased her onto the board. Chet and Marco jumped down, turning to wait for the younger man to exit the vehicle.  John pulled himself up through the window and then he turned to cast one last sorrowful glance at the child in the back seat. “Sleep tight baby…,” he whispered.  He jumped down, turning to help his crew mates lift the woman down.

 

They carried her a few feet away from the wreckage before setting her down. Roy came to join his partner. He was carrying the biophone and drug box. “Where’s your victim?” John asked. Roy nodded at the police car pulling away. 

 

“He wasn’t injured at all. They arrested him, said they’d run him by Rampart just to be on the safe side,” Roy told him. His Partner nodded.

 

“Can you contact Rampart?’ Johnny asked.

 

“Already have… They’re standing by,” Roy told him, opening the biophone and attaching the antennae. “Rampart base this is County 51.”

 

“Go ahead 51…,” came Joe Earlys voice.

 

“We have extricated the second victim. First victim is on route to Rampart in a police car… "

"10-4 51."

 “Rampart, second victim is a female approximately 24. She’s got a bad contusion just above the right eyebrow. We’ve applied a cervical collar and used spinal precautions…, her left arm appears to be broken. The radial artery is severed. We’ve applied a tourniquet and pressure bandage. Stand by for vitals.”

 

“Standing by…”

 

“Roy, her vitals are; pulse 60, respiration is 16, BP is 90/60, and pupils’ are equal and reactive.  She’s lost about 200 CCs of blood.”  Johnny told him.

 

Roy relayed them to Rampart. “51 start an IV ringers lactate…transport as soon as possible.”

 

“10-4” Roy acknowledged. He waved the ambulance attendants over. “Let’s get her outta here.”

 

 

The ambulance backed into the emergency entrance bay. The doors swung open. The attendants pulled the stretcher out. Roy climbed out behind them holding the IV bag.  Johnny was backing the squad in as they ran the gurney through the emergency room doors. The young paramedic walked slowly up the corridor, just in time to see them disappear into the treatment 3, Dr. Early right behind.

 

A young man rushed towards the door. Dixie grabbed his shoulders, restraining him from following the rest inside. Johnny figured it was more than likely the woman’s husband. John could see him gesturing but Dix shook her head giving him a final, gentle push towards the waiting room and then she turned and disappeared into the treatment room.

 

The man stood looking lost for moment, then glanced up. Seeing Johnny, he realized he was dressed the same as the other man who’d entered the room with his wife. He rushed toward him.

 

John slowed his pace, his heart dropping into his stomach. Man…he hated this part.

 

“Did you come in with her?” He asked John apprehensively as he pointed at the door to the treatment room.

 

“Yes” he answered the man softly.

 

“My daughter…where’s my daughter?” He asked anxiously. “Nobody will talk to me. The police just said they’d bring them here.   Is she in a diff…”He stopped suddenly seeing the bleak look on the dark haired paramedics face. “No...Oh no…,” He whispered, backing away a step.

 

”I…I’m so very sorry,” Johnny said quietly. “She was gone before we could get there.”

 

The man’s face drained of color…tears welled and spilled over. His knees shook…he looked about to faint. John reached out, grabbing him as he began to fold. He collapsed into Johnny’s arms, weeping on the paramedics shoulder.  John tried to console the man as tears welled in his own eyes. He patted the man’s back awkwardly.

 

Betty, one of Ramparts senior nurses came down the hall. Seeing Johnny’s predicament, she rushed to their side. She glanced at Johnny…sympathy in her eyes for the young father. Then seeing the heartsick look reflected in John’s eyes as well, she patted the paramedics arm. She put her arm around the man’s waist…”Come on with me sir, you can wait for the doctor’s in here.” He glanced up at John briefly, seeing the tears in the young fireman’s eyes… he gave him a look of gratitude, then allowed Betty to lead him away.   

 

Roy came out of the treatment room, seeing Betty lead the crying man into another room, he turned toward his partner.

Not waiting for his friend, Johnny turned and headed for the base station. Trying to regain control of himself before he had to face Roy, who was already concerned about him from this morning’s conversation.

 

John swiped away the tears from his eyes, schooling his features into one of professionalism. He turned to face his partner, “Hey how is she?’  

 

Roy looked at him searchingly. “She lost a lot of blood but Doc thinks she’ll be fine…physically.” He shook his head, “It’ll be pretty rough on her when she finds out about her daughter though.”

 

“Yeah…” John agreed somberly. “It was pretty rough on her dad too,” He said… his voice catching.

 

“You okay John?” Roy asked.

 

“Yeah…No…I…don’t know,” He said in frustration.  “I just…just had to break it to that little girl’s father that she didn’t make it.

 

“I’m sorry Johnny, I know how you hate doin that.”

 

“Aw man nobody enjoys it. It’s not just that…I…I…feel like…”

 

The handy talkie crackled to life interrupting the conversation. “County 51, what is your status?”

 

Roy keyed the mic… “County 51 available,” He responded. He hated cutting John off when he needed to vent his frustrations.

 

“County 51…, respond with Engine 36…Unknown type rescue. 1538 Mulholland, 1-5-3-8 Mulholland cross street Hillside. Time out 10:23”.

 

“County 51…, 10-4.”

 

“Let’s go Junior,” He sighed.

 

 

They arrived at the scene 15 minutes later. A hang glider had crashed into a radio tower. It now hung precariously about forty feet up. The occupant was semi conscious and hadn’t yet realized his predicament.  John shook his head. “I’ll get the climbing gear,” he sighed.

 

“Johnny, wait…,” Roy told him, noticing the loose power line sparking a few feet above the man’s head. “Cap…” Roy shouted to station 36’s Captain… “Can you get the power company to shut off those lines?” Roy asked pointing upward.

 

“Right away…” He hollered back. Picking up the mic in the engine he called it in.

 

John and Roy heard a tearing sound from above. The hang glider slid backwards. The man finally woke enough to realize the position he was in...Panic took hold. “Help me!” he yelled.

 

“Stay still…” Johnny yelled up to him. “Don’t move. We’ll be up to get you in a second.” John turned and raced for the squad. He whipped open the compartment, grabbing the safety belts and a coil of rope. He threw the rope over his shoulder, buckling on his belt as he ran back toward Roy. He tossed his partner the other belt and began pulling on his gloves.

 

“Johnny, wait…Cap hasn’t confirmed the powers cut yet,” Roy told him.

 

“We wait much longer we won’t have to go up. He’ll be comin down on his own, the hard way."

 

John moved toward the tower.  “Johnny, hold on… I mean it,” Roy warned. The tone clearly indicating he’d make it an order if he was pushed.  Roy hated pulling rank but he would if he had to.

 

“But Roy…,” He protested as the tearing sound repeated from above them, followed by a grating rasp as the whole rig slid backwards. John once again moved toward the tower.

 

“Wait  John.” 

 

The younger partner sighed in frustration.  

 

“Powers cut,” Captain Miller called over.

 

Roy nodded. “Let’s move Johnny.”

 

John grabbed hold of the rungs and began to climb. Seconds into it, they heard the grating sound again…followed by a panicked scream as the hang glider broke loose and began to fall.

 

“Nooo…” John yelled as he reached desperately to grab the man as he fell by him. His fingers brushed the man’s clothes as he plunged past, just managing to catch a strap on the harness…the sudden extra weight almost pulled Johnny off the ladder.

 

Roy had caught up with his partner in time to wrap his arms around John’s waist keeping him from being pulled over with the falling man. John felt like his shoulder had been ripped from the socket…his fingers went numb and he lost his grip. The hang glider once again plummeted toward the ground.

 

John clenched his eyes shut, blocking the sight from his vision. His hands shook... his arm began to tingle as the feeling started to return.  He felt Roy give him a slight shake, finally registering the fact that his partner was calling his name. “Johnny…? Johnny…? Can you hear me?”

 

“W…What…?”

 

“Johnny, we need to get down there, can you manage?”

 

“Yeah…Yes, let’s go.”

 

They began to climb down rapidly, reaching the bottom…, they ran for the victim. The crew of station 36 was gathered around him.  “I think he’s still alive,” Cap said looking up at John. The young paramedic dropped to his knees beside the hang glider pilot while Roy ran to the squad to get their equipment.  John reached for the victim’s throat, feeling for a pulse.  It was faint but there.  Roy returned dropping the drug box next to John. He opened the biophone, setting the antenna in place.

 

“Rampart base this is County 51, how do you read?”

 

“51 this is Rampart, go ahead,” Dr. Early’s voice came back.

 

“Rampart, we have a 27 year old male…he’s been involved in a hang gliding accident. He’s was hung up on a tower, he’s fallen approximately 30 feet. He’s unconscious, stand by for vitals.”

 

“Standing by 51”

 

“Roy his pulse is 32, respirations are shallow, His BP is 110/60, pupils are unequal and non responsive. “

 

Roy repeated the information to Rampart.

 

“Any apparent fractures 51…?”

 

“Still checking Rampart…”

 

“Roy, he’s got a broken arm. I think both legs are broken…Man, I think everything’s broken," He said in agitation.

 

“I’ll get a C-collar and back board.”

 

“I’ll get it Roy,” One of station 36’s firemen said.

 

“Thanks,” Roy returned to the Biophone, giving Rampart the list of injuries.

 

“51, Start an IV D5W TKO, Splint the fractures. Immobilize his neck and take full spinal precautions. Transport as soon as possible. “  

 

“10-4 Rampart”

 

The ambulance backed in. Johnny was starting the IV as Roy stood and waved the attendants over.  The crewman from 36 returned with the backboard and C-collar. Roy knelt next to their victim…, he carefully placed the collar around his neck.  They gathered around him…on three let’s roll him. Keep his neck and spine aligned. 1-2-3…they rolled him onto his side sliding the backboard under him, then rolled him back. The man let out a groan. Only then did Johnny realize the man had regained consciousness. Guilt rose up in him…he couldn’t meet his pain filled eyes. They lifted him onto the gurney and loaded him into the ambulance.

 

“That was a helluva try son,” Cap said admiringly …John didn’t argue, he just shook his head.

 

 

A half hour later, he sat in treatment room 2 waiting for the verdict on his shoulder. “You were pretty lucky Johnny,” Dr. Kelly Brackett told him. “No serious damage, just a couple of pulled muscles. “

 

“Can I go back to work?”

 

“I think so. Your range of motion is pretty good. The feeling back in your hand?”

 

“Yeah,” he affirmed looking at Roy who was leaning against the wall watching.

 

“I think you’ll be ok, but leave anymore climbing to Roy just to be on the safe side okay?” Kel said, patting John’s shoulder.

 

“Thanks Doc,” Johnny said sliding off the table.

 

Joe Early came into the treatment room. “How’s he doing Kel?” he asked

 

“Pretty good Joe, I’ve released him for duty. How’s your patient?”

 

“I think he’ll live. He’s got a long road ahead of him. He may be paralyzed, but he’ll be alive. That was one heck of a catch you made Johnny,” Joe told him.

 

“Not good enough. I dropped him,” He said self deprecatingly. “And now he’s paralyzed.”

 

“C’mon John, quit being so hard on yourself," Kel said. “No one could have prevented that fall.”

 

“I coulda prevented it if Roy hadn't of stopped me from goin up in the first place.”

 

Roy looked at his partner in shock. “Johnny the wires were still live, you coulda been electrocuted,” Roy protested.

 

“They weren’t touching the tower,” John argued stubbornly.

 

“But they could have, any stray breeze coulda blown them into the tower.Did you really want to experience that again?”

 

“No...But that never happened did it?”

 

“It still could have. I couldn’t let you risk it.”

 

“Roy…,” He began.

 

“Drop it John, Captain Miller would never have allowed it either...you know that,” Roy said angrily.

 

John stared defiantly back. Kel and Joe glanced between the two paramedics.

 

“Johnny, Roy’s absolutely right,” Kel said. “You could have been seriously injured even killed had you gone up the tower and there was no guarantee you’d have got up there in time to prevent it either.”

 

“Yeah, go tell that to him,” John said pointing across the hall.” You weren’t the one that had to tell him in the ambulance that his back was broken were you?”  He stormed past his three stunned friends and headed down the corridor and out to the squad to wait for his partner to join him.

 

 

Roy backed the Squad into the bay and shut off the engine. Neither paramedic had spoken to the other since leaving Rampart. Roy looked at his brooding partner, “Johnny… can we talk?”

 

“There’s nothin to say is there? We disagree on how that shoulda been handled,” He said in annoyance “Like you said, let’s just drop it.” He reached for the door handle but Roy’s hand on his arm stopped him from exiting the squad.

 

“You gonna continue to blame me for that man being paralyzed?”

 

Johnny hung his head slightly embarrassed by his earlier attitude toward his best friend. He could never stay mad at his partner for long. Not after everything they’d been through together. ”No… I…look I think we shoulda gone after him sooner but I also understand why you wouldn’t let me okay?” he said softly. “I just…I guess it was just so soon after losing that little girl and  I…feel like, why am I here? Why am I doin this? I…”

 

John was having trouble getting his thoughts out as he always did when he was troubled or frustrated. It was a symptom of a childhood neurological disorder called Aspergers Syndrome Disorder.  John kept it pretty much under control. The crew of station 51 and a few select friends had known for several years that he had it. Headquarters had only learned of it within the last couple of months. Recently Johnny’d been involved in a high profile court case which had disclosed the problem to all who cared to read about it in the paper.

 

John had been concerned that the public would frown on a paramedic with a disability… instead they’d applauded his strength in overcoming it. When he was recognized, it was always with admiration.

 

Roy started to answer his friend, when the station control unit began to tone. “County 51, unknown type rescue... 6820 Burnside… 6-8-2-0 Burnside. Cross street North Hill, Time out 11:37.”

 

Roy slammed his hands on the dashboard in frustration. Johnny really needed to talk this out and they couldn’t get a spare minute. He snatched the Mic from its holder, “County 51, 10-4…” he snapped out in annoyance.

 

Johnny looked at him in surprise… usually he was the one with the short temper. John flashed his trademark crooked grin, “That’s my line ain’t it pally?”  He said in an imitation of Bogart’s voice.

 

Roy glanced over at his partner and saw a smile for the first time that day… he grinned back, “Let’s go Junior.

 

 

When they arrived at the house, an elderly lady greeted them on the sidewalk. “Oh I’m so glad you’re here,” She said in obvious distress.

 

“Are you hurt ma’am?” Johnny asked jumping from the squad.

 

 “Oh no,” She replied. “It’s my Herbert.”

 

“Herbert?” Johnny questioned.

 

“Yes Herbert,” She said waving them towards the back yard…“He’s stuck.”

 

“Well is he injured? Johnny asked.

 

“Oh no, I don’t think so… just Stuck.”

 

John and Roy glanced at each other…they shrugged. “Okay, can you show us where he is ma’am?” Johnny asked.

 

“Certainly right this way…” She said, shuffling off toward the back yard, John and Roy followed. She stopped beneath a huge spreading elm tree. She looked up and pointed…"There,” she said… “My Herbert’s right up there. They looked in the direction she was pointing…a white Persian cat sat on a limb about twenty feet up the tree.

 

“Herbert’s a cat?” Johnny questioned.

 

“Yes and I can’t get him down.”

 

Roy threw a glance at his partner. “Um Ma’am, we're not…”He hesitated knowing the old woman would be upset.

 

John took over.”Ma’am we're not allowed to get cats outta trees. We’re a Rescue squad and…”

 

“Well I know you’re a rescue squad, that’s why I called. Herbert needs to be rescued.”

 

John blew out a breath in frustration. “Yes Ma’am but see we’re only allowed to rescue people and…”

 

“Now see here young man,” she said poking John in the chest. “My Herbert’s just as important to me as a person would be...he’s all I have,” she said, her face beginning to crumple as though she would cry.

 

John sighed. He looked at Roy, “Ma’am, do you have a ladder?” John asked in defeat.”

 

“Why yes of course… It’s in my garage.”

 

“Johnny…,” Roy began. John held up his hand to forestall the protest.

 

“I know, I know, but at least there aren’t any lose wires.”

 

John went to retrieve the ladder. He braced it against the tree and began to climb. Roy stood at the bottom holding it steady as Johnny reached the lowest limb. He swung himself up and climbed the next few feet. He began to edge out towards the cat sitting smugly a few feet away.  He reached down, one hand holding the branch above him securely the other grasping the cat by the scruff. He cradled the cat against him and began to edge back toward the trunk.

 

As he began to start back down, Herbert suddenly began to struggle. Johnny felt sharp claws digging painfully into his chest…he tried to readjust his grip. Herbert’s teeth sank into his wrist. John started to shake the crazed animal from his arm, as the old woman began to cry.

 

“Don’t drop him. Oh please don’t hurt my baby,” She wept.

 

“Your baby,” John muttered regaining control of the cat. He continued to make his way down the ladder. Blood ran from his hand where the animal’s teeth had torn a chunk of flesh from his wrist. “Man, how am I gonna explain this to Cap?” He murmured to Roy as he handed the woman her cat.

 

“Oh thank you so much? Are you hurt baby?’ she said softly to the now purring cat. “Young man, how can I ever thank you enough?" She rose on tiptoe to kiss Johnny’s cheek.

 

John smiled wanly at the woman.  “Your very welcome ma’am,” he said politely… “Even if your cat did try to kill me,”  He muttered aside to Roy.” The woman turned toward her house carrying the cat away. Johnny swore the animals eyes were glittering at him maliciously.

 “Mind you put the ladder away,” She called back to them.

 

John looked at Roy stunned. "Do you believe that? Rotten animal,” he said still shaking the blood from his hand. Roy took him by the arm and led him towards the squad.

 

“Let me take a look at that hand Johnny,”  Roy said as he pulled out the drug box. He pulled out some antibiotic cream and a couple of 4 X 4’s. The older paramedic cleaned and bandaged his young partner’s hand. “Sit...,” He told him, giving his friend a gentle push toward the squad.  Roy went and put the ladder back in the garage. He climbed into the cab and picked up the mic, “L.A. county 51,”

 

“County 51, L.A… go ahead.”

 

“L.A. put us 10-8 to Rampart Emergency."

 

“10-4 51,” they confirmed.

 

“Are you crazy? What’re ya doin? I’m okay.”

 

“Nothin doin Junior... Cat bites are loaded with tetanus, you’re goin to Rampart.”

 

“But Roy…”

 

“Can it Junior."

 

 “Aaargh,” Johnny ground out in annoyance. "Man, am I in for it now.”

 

 

“Ow,” John howled as Dixie jabbed the needle in.

 

“Now don’t be such a big baby,” She admonished. “I didn’t hurt you that bad.” Dixie teased, knowing how badly John hated being on the receiving end of a needle. “You know how dangerous a cat bite can be and you haven’t had a tetanus shot since you fell into those cactus bushes awhile back,” The pretty blonde nurse reminded him.

 

Johnny rubbed his arm shooting her a glare, “Thanks for the reminder. You know… sometimes I think you enjoy doin that a little too much,” He complained. Dixie shot him one of her most engaging grins. Kel handed him a prescription for antibiotics.

 

“Get that filled before you leave… Keep an eye on that wound. Any sign of infection, you get right back in here… understood?” Kel asked the younger man.

 

“Understood,” He sighed.

 

“Sometimes it helps to soak it in epsom salts. Try it if starts to ache too much.”

 

“Okay. Thanks Doc…Dix,” He acknowledged a little less politely. He jumped off the exam table and headed out the door to find his partner.

 

“So you gonna be okay?”Roy asked.

 

“Yeah Brackett says I’ll be playin the violin in no time.” He grumbled.

 

“How’s that…?  You never could before,” Roy grinned.

 

“Ha Ha, come on…time to go and face the… music,” he said in resignation. They headed down the hall.

 

“County 51, what is your status?”

 

“County 51, available,” John responded over the handy talkie.

 

“County 51…child bitten by a dog.  2517 Commerce... 2-5-1-7 Commerce. Cross St Hillside, Time out 13:46.”

 

“County 51...10-4.” Johnny replied. He threw a grin at Roy, “Saved by the bell,” he stuffed the prescription in his pocket.

 

“Yeah… but only temporarily,” Roy pointed out as they ran for the squad.

 

 

They arrived at the scene ten minutes later. A little girl of about nine sat crying on the stairs, her mother sat next to her holding a dishtowel wrapped about the girls arm. Several other small children stood milling about watching curiously. All of them were in the various outfits of a game of cowboys and indians. They’re young victim obviously dressed on the cowboy side.

 

“Ma’am, what happened?”  John asked calmly.

 

“Shadow bit her,” The mother said nodding towards the German shepherd tied to the tree.

 

“Do you know the dog?”

 

“Oh yes he’s ours.They decided to use him as a pony, I guess he didn’t like it much.”

 

Johnny nodded. “Had all his shots?”  He asked, as Roy arrived with the biophone. The mom nodded.

 

Johnny squatted down next to the child. Putting on his best grin he drawled “Well howdy pardner,” drawing a giggle from the girl. “What’s your name?” he asked her softly, as he carefully pulled the towel away from the wound.

 

“Jane,” the little girl answered shyly.

 

“Calamity Jane…? Well that sure fits huh?” he teased. "My names Johnny Gage and this my Partner Roy and we’re gonna take a peek at this arm okay?” He asked soothingly.

 

The little girl’s eyes widened. “Roy? Like Roy Rogers?”

 

“Just the same,” Johnny said. He turned to his friend. “Can you hand me a 4 X 4 and a pressure band…” He stopped in mid sentence as he realized that as usual, Roy was already holding them in his hand. “Thanks,” John said with a grin. He gently cleaned around the wound and then applied the bandage, wrapping gauze around it to hold it in place. Jane watched with solemn eyes.

 

“Roy Rogers is my hero,” she breathed at Roy with wide eyes. The older paramedic grinned at the look of hero worship. “Was he your hero too?” she asked Johnny.  

 

“Well I’ll tell ya... I’m kinda partial to Tonto.”

 

“Oh no,” the child said fearfully. “He’s an indian, they’re the bad guys.”

 

Roy shot a glance at his friend to see his reaction but John just smiled tolerantly at Jane.

 

“Oh I see. Well I’ll tell you a secret, my friend here is sorta my hero too,” He whispered shooting a grin at Roy.

 

Roy rolled his eyes at his partner, drawing a snicker from Johnny. “It’s not too bad of a wound,” Roy told the mother…"but she should see your Pediatrician for a tetanus shot,” The blonde paramedic advised. She nodded.

 

“Will it hurt?” Jane asked Johnny.

 

“Well I’ll tell ya. I had one myself about 20 minutes ago,” he whispered conspiratorially, holding up his hand so she could see the bandage. “I got bit by a cat.”

 

Her eyes widened. “Did you rescue it from a tree?”

 

“I sure did.”

 

“Wow,” she whispered in awe as if he’d done something heroic… John grinned.

 

He started to stand when Jane grabbed his hand, He squatted once more. “Are you an indian?” she asked, taking in the longish, shaggy sable hair, the brown eyes and reddish skin tone.

 

John hesitated, wondering if he should dodge the question. He didn’t want to frighten the child since she obviously had some imagined fear of Indians. He finally decided honesty was the best response. "Yes… Yes I am,”  he answered waiting for the fear to spring to Jane’s eyes but she floored him with her response.

 

“I thought Indians were scary and they were always the bad guy but you’re not... You’re nice.”  She said reaching out to stroke Johnny’s cheek. The child gazed into his dark eyes,  Johnny flushed in pleased surprise.

 

“Jane!” Her Mom admonished. “Stop being so forward… You’re embarrassing the nice man.” John smiled at her.

 

“I think you’re pretty nice too,” He said as he gently tweaked her nose.

 

He stood up, his eyes meeting Roy’s, “you ready to go partner?" He asked softly.

 

“Yeah Junior, let’s go get this over with.”

 

They gathered their equipment and headed for the squad. John turned back as he closed the compartment doors.  Jane had tossed her cowboy hat and boots on the porch. She stood barefoot as her mother twisted her hair into two long braids. Roy gave the smiling younger man a pat on the shoulder.

 

 

Captain Stanley frowned at the young man standing before him. “John you know the department frowns on its personnel putting themselves in danger to rescue animals.

 

“I know Cap, but…”

 

“Look at you,” Cap said cutting off his junior paramedic… “This is exactly the reason why. You could have been put out of commission over a cat that probably coulda got itself down. You need to think these things through John.”

 

“Yes sir,” he said contritely… hurt that Cap had accused him of not thinking...again.

 

“And you Roy, what were you thinkin let him go up that tree?”

 

“Sorry Cap…,” Roy began.

 

“It wasn’t Roy’s fault Cap,” Johnny interrupted his partner. “He told me not to go.”

 

“Are you tellin me you defied a direct order not to go up that tree?”

 

“Well it wasn’t a direct…,” Roy began to explain.

 

“Yes sir,” Johnny said quietly cutting off his partner…refusing to let Roy take the blame for his actions.

 

Cap stared at the floor, lips pursed in annoyance. “Fine, I think a week of latrine duty and the clean up detail after dinner tonight should be punishment enough Pal,  Dismissed."

 

 

John turned to leave casting an apologetic look and a grimace at Roy.  “Roy… stick around pal,” Cap said as Johnny left the room. The younger man cast a worried glance back at the door knowing this conversation was gonna be about him. “Talk to me,” Cap said to his senior paramedic…“What’s goin on with Gage?”

 

“I don’t know Cap. I’ve been tryin to talk to him all day but we keep gettin called out. I know he’s questioning himself.”

 

“About what…?”

 

“His job, his reason for being here.”

 

“Go talk to him Roy… See if you can get through that stubborn, thick head he gets,” Cap said worriedly.

 

“Sure Cap,” Roy agreed. He left in search of his partner.  He found him lying on his bunk, staring at the ceiling.

 

“Johnny…?’’

 

“Yeah….”

 

“Can we finish the conversation we were havin earlier. I think you were tryin to tell me somethin important and I’d really like to hear it,” Roy said softly.

 

Johnny shrugged, “It wasn’t that bigga deal.”

 

“Anything that’s botherin ya’s a big deal to me partner, you know that…" Roy assured his friend as sat on the edge of John’s bed.

 

“Okay,” Johnny gave in sitting up and pulling his feet into a cross legged position. “I…I’m frustrated Roy. Sometimes I…I don’t know why I’m here anymore. I…wonder where I truly belong. You…You guys all seem to know what you want. Where you’re going… What you want outta life. And sometimes I…I do too. But then we get a day like today and I don’t know anymore.  I mean is this it? Is this all there is? Is this what my life’s become about…? Is my life about pulling dead children from cars because some drunk didn’t have sense enough not to get behind the wheel…breaking people’s hearts…tellin them they may never walk again cause I didn’t get to them fast enough.”

 

“That wasn’t your fault.”

 

“Still…I… I couldn’t catch him.”

 

“I thought we’d already established a few months ago that you weren’t Superman.”

 

“Aw you know what I mean.”

 

Tears glistened in his eyes… he swiped them angrily away as he continued. “Pulling cats from trees and bandaging dog bites. It’s not what I became a paramedic for ya know? I wanted to save lives... Help people... Really help not…this. Heck even those guys…,” he said gesturing toward the door, “don’t take me seriously anymore. I’m just around to give them a good laugh at my expense,” He finished in a whisper, staring despondently at his folded hands, he sighed in frustration.

 

Roy was surprised by Johnny’s negative attitude. His optimistic, young partner was rarely the one to see the cup half empty. Johnny was usually so upbeat and positive. "Johnny that’s not true and you know it. You do help people… You do save lives. Every time you respond to a call you change a life and the potential outcome of that life. You make a difference,”  Roy told the younger man. He rested his hand on his friends shoulder. "Look at me partner.” John glanced up. Despairing brown eyes met sympathetic blue. “You’re lookin at this all wrong,” Roy said gently

 

“John you have a purpose. It’s to pull the mother that lived from the wreckage of that car and give her back to her mom and her husband. To be a supportive shoulder to the father who needed your comfort. To catch that man as he fell, so that even if he’s permanently paralyzed, he’s at least alive. You’re here to bring a smile to an old woman’s face or a better understanding to a little girl.” John looked down, but he was still listening.

 

"Partner you bring a smile to the people you work with…you also bring one to my children, my wife and to me... not at your expense, but because you’re a part of our family. You’re so full of life and other things we wish we all had.  Hope… optimism, energy and a zeal for living." Roy bumped his friends chin until he looked up at him…he had his full attention.

 

“Where do you belong? Where’s your place? Johnny, do you really need to hear that again? Do you still not know?  Your place is here with your family. This is your home, with me, with Jo, the kids, your friends, your Job. Your place is at my side and me at yours, the way it should be. I need you…do you understand?”

 

John half smiled. “Wow I didn’t know you knew so many words,” He said teasingly. The smile faded… “Thanks Roy,” He whispered, only half believing what his friend had said, not able to understand why anyone thought that way about him. His lonely, abusive past combined with ASD made that difficult.

 

Roy gave him a playful scruff of the hair as he stood up. John ducked his head. “Aw cut it out,” He said smoothing his hair down. Roy started to walk away, he glanced back.

 

“Your hair looks fine…even if it does stick up in the back.”

 

“Where…?” John asked, feeling for the wayward lock and then realized his friend was teasing.

 

Roy chuckled as he left… Johnny fell for it every time.

 

 

Cap stopped Roy in the apparatus bay… "Any luck?”

 

“Yeah Cap I think so. He’s a little confused about his future, his job, his place in our lives.”

 

“He’s a little young for a mid life crisis,” Cap joked.

 

“Maybe he’s just hitting puberty,” Chet said snidely as he sauntered past them. He’d overheard enough to know they had to be talkin about his favorite pigeon.

 

“Chet…!” Roy said warningly. “Lay off Johnny for a while. He’s goin through some stuff and he needs to get his head on straight. What he doesn’t need is you harassing him right now."

 

“Aw c’mon Roy, Gage’s heads never been screwed on straight.”

 

“I mean it Kelly,” Roy said “Back off…he’s not up for your jokes and your pranks okay?”

 

 Mike and Marco had come out of the rec-room. “Everything okay out here?” Mike asked.

 

“Is Johnny okay?” Marco asked.

 

“Yeah, he’s fine. He just doesn’t think you guys take him seriously and it bothers him…It bothers him a lot".

 

“You know that’s not true Roy, we take him very seriously,” Mike said adamantly.

 

“We think John’s an excellent paramedic and he’s a terrific fire fighter to boot,” Marco protested.

 

Chet, finally realizing Roy was serious… looked at him incredulously, “you weren’t serious? Gage doesn’t really feel that way?”

 

“Yeah Chet…He does, so can we give him some time to square it all in his own head?”

 

“Sure Roy,” Mike said.

 

“You got it,” Marco added.

 

“Consider the Phantom retired until further notice,” Chet promised.

 

“Great,” Cap said, “Now that that’s settled…who’s cookin tonight and what’s for dinner?”

 

 

Johnny let the door to the Dorm swing closed quietly… not wanting to let the others know he’d heard their conversation. He hadn’t intended to eaves drop, but he’d heard the conversation as he left the dorm and didn’t want to interrupt. He smiled to himself… leave it to his best friend to be the first one to protect him. John didn’t know what he’d do without his friend. 

 

On a professional level Roy never treated him as less than the skilled paramedic and fire fighter that he was but as the senior partner he frequently felt responsible to keep his headstrong young friend out of trouble which John had to admit he got into fairly often. 

 

On a personal level though, he sometimes felt that Roy treated him like a child and that Roy needed to let him handle things on his own but Johnny knew Roy had appointed himself Big Brother and sometime Father figure to his younger friend, a fact that brought a smile to John’s face. There was a time when Johnny had resented that, but over time he’d learned to accept that it was Roy’s way of showing that he cared about him. He just hated feeling like he and his personal hang-ups were a burden on his partner and his family.

 

 Roy would have a fit if he heard John say that. They’d been through hours of therapy together to get John past feeling that way. He knew if Roy had known what his friend was thinking, he’d be in for a long winded therapy session. But it was hard to get past those early years of being made to feel unwanted, unloved and a burden to those left behind to raise him when his mother had died. They’d made sure he knew every day just how much he owed them.

 

It was Roy who’d taught an emotionally challenged young man how to feel again...How to trust and let others into his life. He wished his mother’s people would have given him the same chance, but they could never see past the Vo’kome (white) in him.

 

John thought again about what he’d just overheard…eavesdropping wasn’t something he normally practiced, but this time it had been a good thing. It was nice to know his friends did care…that they did respect him, even Chet. He left the dorm and headed for the rec- room for dinner. Even the thought of being stuck with clean up didn’t take away the sudden bounce to his step.

 

 

The station control unit stayed blessedly silent through dinner, allowing the crew to eat in peace for a change. After dinner Cap looked pointedly at John, “Marco, John’s volunteered to do clean up detail for you tonight, haven’t you pal?” Cap asked the dark haired paramedic. John nodded silently, looking chagrined.

 

“Whatsa matter Gage, cat got your tongue?” Chet teased.

 

“No I think it was his hand,”  Marco added.

 

John shot Marco a wounded look, but aimed his expected… “Aw shut up!” at Chet, as he rose to begin clearing the table. Roy stood to help him but Cap gave him a slight negative shake of the head.

 

“His foul up…his punishment,” he said quietly.

 

“I know but I let…,” Roy began.

 

Cap cut him off. “I know you’re friends and you pretty much work as a team without throwing rank around but the fact is he defied your directive and as the senior member of the team you have to expect him to respond to you in these situations just the same way he would to me. He forgot that…”

 

Roy nodded watching his friend fill the sink. “I know that and he usually does, but after almost losing that hang glider Pilot…”Roy shook his head. “He was so upset with me for not letting him go up, I backed off this time and let him go. He wasn’t in any real danger and I didn’t order him not to…”

 

“Roy, I know he’s not just your partner, he’s also your best friend, but you made the right call this morning.  I woulda done the same. This is to remind him not to the break rules that are there for his protection."

 

“I know,” Roy said softly. He turned and headed for the Locker room. John already felt bad, he didn’t need an audience.

 

The rest turned toward the television…flipping on the tail end of some game show, they sat down to watch.  John finished the dishes quickly. He wiped down the counters, table top and stove, casting occasional glances at the TV. The show had changed…the evening news was on.  John picked up a small basin of water and headed for the oven. The casserole had spilled over and made a gooey mess.  The current news item suddenly caught his attention.

 

“The situation in Montana is now intensifying. Influenza B is hitting the State hard,” The Anchorman reported. “With no Vaccine yet developed against the type B strain doctors are finding it difficult to stop the spread. All they can do is treat the symptoms with what little medication they can get their hands on and if finding the quantities of medicine isn’t tough enough, even more difficult is finding more doctors to handle distributing it. Hospitals are jammed, the doctors and nurses are running themselves ragged. ” John began to turn back to his chores as the Anchorman continued. ”Particularly hard hit are the small towns such as this one... Lame deer…”

 

The crew heard a sharp intake of breathe and the crash and splash of the basin hitting the floor. They turned to see John rooted in place staring at the TV. His face was frozen in shock as he listened intently. “Geez Gage, now you have another mess to clean up…. Good goin,” taunted Chet.

 

“Shhh…,” Johnny hissed at him waving him to silence.

 

“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Chet groused…“Let’s put it on something interesting…,”  the curly haired fireman said reaching for the knob.

 

“Don’t touch it,” John snapped tensely as he took a step closer. The story was continuing….

 

John? You okay Pal?” Cap asked.

 

“…Indian Reservation just outside of town has suffered several casualties from the outbreak… mostly of the old and very young.  The only two doctors in the small town, Dr Steven Handly and Dr Sean Carlton are struggling to handle the flow and are begging for help...but with the rest of the State in the same condition and hospitals overflowing, there is little relief in sight. In other news…”

 

John’s face was pale and he looked slightly shaky. He finally looked at his Captain, “Yeah…um…yeah Cap…I…I’m fine…I’ll clean up the mess… Sorry,” he mumbled turning away. The others exchanged quizzical glances and then shrugged and turned back to the TV to figure out what to watch.

 

John cleaned the floor up quickly and then refilled the basin to finish the oven. As soon as he was done, he left the Rec-room rather than joining the others.  “What’s eatin Gage Cap?” Chet asked.

 

“I’m not sure Pal but something on the TV sure upset him.”

 

“Well they did mention an Indian Reservation somewhere, maybe that’s what got his attention.”

 

“Could be...maybe he’s gone to talk to Roy, if not I’ll get Roy to talk to him.” They nodded.

 

 

John headed out the back door.  He leaned against the wall, chewing his lip nervously. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to help, but didn’t know how. He wasn’t a doctor and he wasn’t a paramedic outside the state of California either. He wanted to talk to Roy but knew he wouldn’t understand this time.  Man…he didn’t understand himself. The people of that reservation…his Mothers people had rejected him long ago. His half white heritage left them coldly indifferent… his family bitter and angry at being left to raise him when his Mother had died. So why did he feel the need to return and help these people? Maybe this was exactly what he needed to do to get past this uncertain time in his life.

 

The SCU tones sounded. “Station 51 Vehicle accident… 2979 Jeffrey 2-9-7-9 Jeffrey, Cross Street Maple…Time out… 8:32.”

 

The crew ran for the rigs. John slid into the passenger seat as Roy came around to the driver’s side. Cap was already responding.”KMG-365…” The red lights illuminated the early evening darkness as the vehicles pulled out of the Station, fading away to gray once more as they sped off into the night.

 

The accident thankfully turned out to be minor, their victim suffering only from a broken wrist. Roy accompanied the woman in the ambulance, John followed in the squad.  The senior paramedic trotted behind the gurney into treatment room 2. Dr Early followed. A few minutes later Johnny wandered down the corridor towards the base station.  He leaned on the desk to wait for his partner. He glanced up a moment later as Dr. Brackett came out of treatment 4…

 

“Hi Johnny…”

 

“Hey Doc…,” Johnny responded.

 

 “Waiting on Roy?”

 

“Yeah….” John chewed his lip for a moment, deep in thought. Kel eyed the dark haired Paramedic in concern. He knew the younger man’s mannerism’s well enough to know when something was bothering him.

 

“Everything okay John?”  The dark haired doctor asked.

 

“Yeah…hey Doc, you got a minute?”

 

Kel realized this was gonna be more than a casual conversation. “Sure Johnny, let’s go to my office.” They entered the office. Kel indicated the chair near his desk… “Have a seat,” he said sitting in his own chair. “What’s up John?" Kel asked.

 

John explained the news story to Kel. “I want to help them, but I don’t know how.  I can’t even act as a paramedic in Montana.”

 

Kel knew some of Johnny’s past. He knew the abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his family. He had to admit he didn’t understand John’s desire to help the people who’d hurt and rejected him.  He grinned ruefully… It was part of what made Johnny so special…, his ability to forgive as well as his inability to hold a grudge.

 

“Let me make a few phone calls,” Kel said. “What did you say the doctors names were?”

 

“Steven Handly and Sean Carlton…”

 

“Give me until tomorrow… I’ll call you with whatever I find out ok?”

 

“Okay, Thanks Doc.”

 

“Johnny? Does Roy know about this?

 

A guilty look crossed John’s features. “No,” he said softly. "And I rather he didn’t. He wouldn’t want me to go there…alone. You both know about what my uncle did…tried to do to me. He’d want to come and I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I don’t want to keep him from Jo and the kids that long, ya know? Besides, he shouldn’t have to spend his life protecting me and he’d think he has to.” John grinned ruefully.

 

“Yes, well that goes two ways," Kel pointed out…remembering the many times John had been hurt protecting Roy or one of his family."Besides I don’t think Roy feels that way at all…he cares about you John and I’m not too keen on the idea of you going there alone myself.”

 

“Yeah I know he does…but what happened there...," he said with a shrug..."happened a long time ago. I’m a grown man now…I can take care of myself…besides his preference was obviously for…little boys.”

 

“You could be right but he also could have simply wanted you…” John’s face flamed in embarrassment…“And under normal circumstances Roy and I both know you can take care of yourself but that’s not the case here. This man hurt you badly and may try to again so you be careful around George Walking Wolf. I’ll call you at home tomorrow morning.” They left the office.

 

 Roy was standing at the base station talking to Dixie…he looked curiously at the pair. His eyes flicked between them. "I was wonderin where you disappeared to. Everything OK Johnny?” he asked quietly.

 

“Yeah… I just needed to ask a couple of questions that’s all.”  

 

“Oh, well…if everything’s ok…?" He hedged… slightly hurt that John didn’t want to confide in his best friend.” I’ll make us available.” Roy wasn’t convinced that something wasn’t up but Johnny obviously didn’t want to discuss this with him or at least not in front of Dixie. Maybe he’d open up in the squad. 

 

 

Roy waited patiently all the way back to the Station for Johnny to tell him about the conversation. He didn’t. As a matter of fact he didn’t speak at all. He was equally surprised when they got back…. Johnny merely climbed from the squad and headed for the dorm… “Good night,” He called back to his Partner.

 

“Good night Johnny,” Roy returned with a concerned frown. "Johnny?” Roy called after him.

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“Are you okay? I mean is there anything you want to talk about?”

 

Man, Roy knew him too well. He felt awful hiding this from him, but he knew his best friend would fight him every step of the way if he knew what he was trying to do. John didn’t want to deal with George Walking Wolf or the rest of his family for that matter but he knew somehow he had to deal with his past…either to face it or bury it. Maybe then he could he really look to a future. He had to figure out who he really was…who he wanted to be, where he was going with his life. He couldn’t be around his partner right now…Roy would have him spilling his guts in no time if he hung around. The younger man looked away as he answered… “No Roy, I’m fine, why?”

 

“Well you were with Brackett and…,” He trailed off… and I just thought maybe something was wrong,” He said with a shrug.

 

“Nope, everything’s fine Roy…" John threw him a quick half smile that came out more like a grimace, “Good night.”

 

“Good night.”

 

Roy didn’t like it. He knew John Gage almost as well as he knew himself and something was going on. Johnny was being way too evasive. Avoiding him as he used to when he was hiding something. He decided to drop it for now. Roy would wait him out. Johnny told him almost everything eventually. He’d weasel it out of him tomorrow or during their next therapy session.

 

The next morning Johnny was up early. He made coffee and was practically dancing with anxiety waiting for C-shift to arrive.

 

"What’s with him?” Mike asked Roy as he sat at the table sipping his coffee.

 

“Beats me,” Roy said almost sounding annoyed… “He’s not talkin.”

 

“Quick mark the date on the calendar,” Chet quipped. “We’ll make it a National Holiday… Gage isn’t talking day…” He said sweeping his hand through the air as if pointing out a banner. “It’ll be a big hit.”

 

“Aw go play on the freeway Chet,” John growled at him from the sink.

 

“Well that was short lived,” said Marco… “There goes the holiday.”

 

Charlie Dwyer and Kirk Carlson, the two paramedics from C-shift entered the rec-room together. John immediately rinsed out his coffee mug and headed for the door. “See ya guys,” he said as he made a hasty exit.

 

“What’s the rush?” Roy called after him as his partner bolted from the room.

 

“Expecting a phone call,” he answered honestly as he disappeared out the door and into the parking lot.

 

“Must be some hot chick,” Marco said with a wink.

 

“Not so hot he mentioned her to me,” Roy answered worriedly.

 

 

Johnny paced by the phone trying to will it to ring. When it finally did, he jumped, almost dropping it in his haste.

 

 “Hello?” He answered.

 

“Johnny! It’s Doctor Brackett.”

 

John swallowed nervously, “Hi ya Doc… what’d you find out?”

 

“Well it took some finagling but…do you remember that time you and Roy were up in Santa Rosa county?”

 

“Yeah…but what’s that got to do…?” John began.

 

Kel cut him off. “The Sheriff there got you an emergency certification so you could treat that injured man.”

 

“Well yeah but…Oh..” John finally realized what he meant, “You mean…?”

 

“Yes. You’ve bo…” Kel stopped in mid word changing what he’d been about to say…“been certified by the State of Montana on my say so. They’re thrilled to get you…they’re even payin your way. There’ll be a ticket waiting for you at LAX.”

 

“Thanks Doc… Now all I need is to get the fire department to give me a leave of absence.”

 

“That’s done too.”

 

“What? …How?”

 

“I…uh…made a few phone calls. They think it’s good P.R…. You know spread the paramedic program to other states and especially to these little towns. Anyway, they said you’re to stay as long as it takes to get through this epidemic.”

 

“Thanks Doc. You’re…fantastic…I don’t know what to say. I really appreciate this.”

 

“Yeah, well save your thanks until you get back. You may not be so appreciative once you’ve had to face that family of yours…including Uncle George.”

 

John swallowed hard. Kel heard the tremor in his voice."Yeah…well I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s something I have to do. I can’t explain it…I…just have to try and help. Maybe they’ll be able to accept me now too… I mean it’s been thirteen years. Maybe they’ve changed as well but I have to know…where I belong …or don’t,” he said softly.

 

“Maybe,” Kel said. John heard the doubtful tone in Kel’s voice... "but Johnny don’t get your hopes up or let your guard down. I’d hate to see you hurt or disappointed.”

 

“I’ll be careful Doc.”

 

“Uh huh…?”

 

“Sounds like you don’t believe me.”

 

“It’s not in your nature to be careful John…,” Kel said seriously, “and I’m worried about you going there alone…” Kel let the sentence hang.

 

“I know but…I’ll be alright,” John said trying to sound confident.

 

The older man cleared his throat. “Ahem…in fact John it concerned me so much that…I’ve ah…decided to go with you.”

 

“What?” John gasped in shock... “You can’t be serious?”

 

“Yes I am John…Dr. Handly said he’d be glad to have me. They’re in desperate need of doctors and the medicine I’ll be bringing along.”

 

“I know but Doc…Do you know what you’re walkin into? This isn’t LA. Lame Deer is like…population eighteen hundred. It’s a tiny little town…”

 

“With a great big problem...”

 

“Good point. Okay Doc if you’re sure…I mean… I appreciate it. Your help with the epidemic I mean, but you don’t have to go for me, I’ll be okay.”

 

“I don’t trust your family Johnny, not after everything you told us. I’ll be much happier knowing you’re alright and maybe Roy won’t kill me for keeping this from him if I go along to kinda keep an eye on …things.”

 

“You mean me?” Johnny said with a sigh. “I can take care of myself Doc… I’m not a child.”

 

“I’m well aware you can take care of yourself under normal circumstances…these aren’t. You’re walking into hostile territory with a man who hurt you badly and may still want to. With an abusive family who wouldn’t offer you any help if he did… a group of people who drove you into withdrawal time and time again with their abuse. Besides, I’m not only thinking about you here John,” Kel said. “I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you that I could have prevented, not to mention having to leave LA to escape Roy, Joanne and Dixie,” He said seriously.

 

“Okay…” He said in resignation. “Do I need to call Captain Stanley or is Headquarters takin care of that?”

 

“Chief McConnikee is going call him today at home. He’s letting him know it’s indefinite.”

 

“He won’t tell Roy will he?” Johnny asked worriedly.

 

“No… He isn’t gonna be told where you are. But Johnny…Roy’s going to find out eventually and he’s going to be mad that you kept this from him, especially after…everything you two have been through together.”

 

“I know…,” John said softly, “but I feel so bad that he always has to look out for me or at least he thinks he does. I have to admit I’d feel better if he was there too, but this isn’t his problem. It’s not his hang up… it’s mine. I hate being a burden on him all the time.”

 

“Johnny, you know how he feels about you. He doesn’t ever think of you as a burden.”

 

“I know but I do. Johnny changed the subject, knowing he’d have some serious explaining to do too his best friend when he got back. “So what time does our plane leave?”

 

“Tonight... 9:30 P.M. Flight 294 United Airlines.”

 

“See you tonight then Doc, and…um…thanks again for everything.”

 

 

“Still busy honey?” Joanne asked her husband as he hung up the phone in frustration.

 

“Yeah, I wonder who he’s talkin to this long.”

 

“Maybe he’s got a girlfriend?” she whispered, as if she were a thirteen year old… telling secrets.

 

“Very funny and maybe he does, but he’s sure bein closed mouthed about her if that’s it.”

 

“Maybe he’s afraid you won’t like her or something.”

 

“That’s never worried him before…well at least not often,” He said remembering the fight over Julie Sumner. Johnny had been angry that Roy didn’t like the girl. He’d dragged Roy to the grocery store where she worked to try and change his opinion. That in turn had led to Johnny being shot in a robbery that she helped orchestrate. John had almost died that day. They’d been held hostage and the bullet had nicked an artery. Roy had to remove it himself. He’d been terrified that he’d kill his best friend, but Roy managed to seal the artery and John had been okay until the Police rescued them.

 

They’d also disagreed over Valerie and oh heck…Joanne was right, Roy seldom liked any of Johnny’s girlfriends. Maybe Joanne was right and he was keeping this one quiet until he figured out whether or not she was willing to put up with him.  John had a lot of trouble hanging onto relationships. Even so he was worried about his friend and the mood he’d been in last night and again this morning.

 

Roy picked up the phone and dialed Johnny’s number again.  Joanne sighed and shook her head. The phone finally rang at the other end but no one answered. “Damn,” Roy muttered. “He musta gone out.”

 

John let the phone ring. He knew it would be Roy. He hated lying to his friend, John hated lying period. Well it wasn’t really lying, just not tellin him everything. Besides he wasn’t good at it. He knew if he answered he wouldn’t be able to keep up the charade. Roy knew him too well. He wasn’t gonna drag Roy away from his wife and kids for weeks because he was insecure with his life and this part of his own family. He wanted Roy there and needed his support, but he’d get through on his own. He felt a little better knowing Doctor Brackett would be there…it wasn’t the same as Roy, but he’d have to do.

 

Roy continued to try to reach his friend all day without success.

 

United Airlines Flight 294 to Billings, Montana lifted off right on schedule, just as the phone in Johnny’s apartment started to ring once more…there was no one to answer it.

 

Kel glanced at the young man seated next to him. John’s foot shook with a nervous twitch. He chewed his lip as he peered out the window into the darkness. The doctor closed his eyes to try and relax during the two hour flight.  He grinned to himself remembering his phone call to Dixie to tell her where he was going and why.

 

 “Kel you watch over him okay? Don’t you let those people hurt him…," she said. “And take care of yourself too. Call me… Darn it I wish he’d let Roy go with him.”

 

Kel had agreed. The grin grew broader. In the rush to get ready he’d ‘forgotten’ to tell Dixie not to tell Roy where they were going…as a matter of fact. He’d left their entire itinerary on her desk, including Roy’s Paramedic Certification Letter telexed from Montana along with Johnny’s and his written leave of absence from the Fire Department… All he had to do was sign it and turn it in…there was also a Plane ticket to the airport in Billings.  Kel thoroughly expected to see Roy Desoto in Montana quite soon. He drifted to off to sleep still smiling.

 

 

The plane landed in Billings, Montana at 11:35. As Johnny and Kel exited the plane, they were discussing where to spend the night and the best way to get to Lame Deer. John stopped suddenly.

 

“Hey Doc?” he said pointing at a man standing with a sign that read ‘Gage – Brackett.’ “Were you expecting anyone?”

 

Kel shook his head. “No, let’s go talk to him.” They approached the man. He was nearing Fifty, slightly built, gray haired and a pair of wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He smiled as they approached.

 

“Doctor Kelly Brackett?” he asked as they got close.

 

“That would be me,” Brackett said holding out his hand in greeting…“and it’s Kel.” The other man nodded.

 

“Nice to meet you Kel, I’m Steven Handly…Steve or Doc Handy,” He grinned. The older man turned to Johnny… “And you must be John Gage,” He said with a smile.

 

“Yes sir,” John answered shaking his hand. Steve looked at him closely, "Indian?”

 

Johnny nodded… " Half…”

 

“From this Reservation…?”

 

“Yes sir…they’re my Mothers people,” He answered unsure if this man had issues with Indians like so many others in Lame Deer had. He didn’t have any memory of this man from his childhood, but then they hadn’t had the money for Doctors back then either. John grimaced to himself. His memory of events was shaky at best after his Father died and they’d moved back here.  The fights and the yelling had left him frightened and confused… frequently withdrawing into himself to escape the torment. It had only gotten worse after his mom died three and a half years later.

 

“Speak indian?” The Doctor questioned.

 

“Yes sir. It’s a bit rusty and it might be slow going at first, but I’ll pick it up again,” John assured him.

 

“Well then that’s wonderful. Most all of your people speak perfect English, but there are a few hold outs. The very old cling to their ways,” He explained. Johnny nodded… Well aware of the rigid customs some of them held to. He’d been a victim of a lot of them. "Let’s get going then,” The man turned “Wasn’t someone el…,” The man began.

 

Kel cut him off. “Darn it! John I left my jacket on the plane. I need to go back,” Kel said knowing John would volunteer.

 

“I’ll get it for ya Doc,” Johnny said heading back for the gate. "It’ll give me one more chance to talk to that flight attendant," he explained with a grin.

 

“Seems like a nice kid,” Steve said, watching Johnny walk away.

 

Brackett turned to Handly. “He is, but while he’s gone, let me explain. The other man I’m expecting is Johnny’s partner with the paramedics. His name’s Roy Desoto. Johnny didn’t want to drag him away from his family and he knew his partner wouldn’t want him coming here without him so he didn’t tell him where he was going.”

 

“Why wouldn’t he want him to come here to help his family? I don’t understand.”

 

“They’re very close and Roy’s pretty protective of him. Because Johnny’s only half indian his family wasn’t very good to him. In fact they were abusive. One in particular was extremely abusive. The others…well let’s say he was a burden they had to bear when his parents died and they let him know it. Roy would have insisted he be here to keep an eye on him.”

 

“Poor kid… That’s a pretty rough way to grow up.”

 

“It’s left some scars, as well as a few…emotional issues,” Kel said .

 

“I’m surprised he’d want to come back here.”

 

“Well…that’s Johnny. It’s how he is but I made sure I left everything Roy needs to follow. Once he finds out where John is…he’ll be here, count on it.”

 

“I will…oops here he comes,” Handly whispered. They turned to look at John.

 

“I couldn’t find it Doc.”

 

“Maybe I packed it in my suitcase. You ready?” Kel asked.

 

John looked at him suspiciously. Kel Brackett wasn’t normally that forgetful…but John decided to drop it…“Let’s go,” Johnny answered.

                                                                                                    

“Good let’s get your luggage and I’ll take you to a hotel right here for tonight.  Hope you got warm Jackets… It’s pretty cold outside. Not like what you’re used to in LA. Tomorrow morning we’ll drive out to the reservation. Blue Eagle knows your coming,” He said leading the way out of the Airport.

 

Johnny stiffened at the name, “Charles Blue Eagle is Chief now?” He asked softly.

 

“Yes,” The Doctor answered.

 

Kel turned to look at Johnny… “Do you know him John?”

 

He nodded. "Yes… He was in love with my mother. They were supposed to be married…before my dad came along.”

 

Doc Handly looked surprised, “Your mother was Red Moon?”

 

Now it was Johnny’s turn to look surprised. “How’d you know that?”

 

“Blue Eagle’s wife died from cancer a couple of years ago. While I was there…during her last hours he spoke of another woman. A beautiful young woman named Red Moon that he’d planned to marry. He said that she’d also died from cancer. He was sad. He said he’d been bitter and angry that she’d married a white and that he hadn’t realized until too late that…well ... he said he never had a chance to tell her that he forgave her. That he would never have found his true match…his current wife if he’d married her.”

 

“He said that?” Johnny asked doubtfully.

 

“He did… Well this is it…,” Doc Handly said approaching a dusty jeep, “Throw your stuff in the back.”

                                       

They got themselves settled. Doc Handly drove off into the frigid, snowy Montana night.

 

 

Roy had tried to reach Johnny several times the next day without success.  Normally he wouldn’t have been bothered by his absence as Johnny frequently disappeared into the mountains or met some girl and went out, but this time he’d been acting strangely and Roy was worried. He finally got in the car and drove over there.  Roy knocked several times before finally letting himself in with his key. Johnny was definitely not home but his camping gear was in the closet.

 

At least he wasn’t sick as he had been the last time He’d acted this odd and it turned out he had Malaria. He’d spent thirty six hours unconscious on the floor of his bedroom before Cap and the others had found him. He’d have to wait until tomorrow at work to find out if his best friend had gotten over whatever was bugging him.

 

 

Doc Handly met John and Kel in the lobby the next morning. “Hope you slept well gentlemen? It’ll take us almost two and a half hours to get there. Are you ready to head out?”

 

“Whenever you are Doc,” Johnny replied.

 

“Let’s do it,” Kel said.

 

They’d been driving for about an hour when Steve finally looked over at Kel… “We’re on Reservation land," he told them. “Lame Deer’s still almost an hour away. Anything look familiar to you son?” The Doctor asked.

 

“No, not really but it’s been thirteen years," he answered softly watching the passing scenery.

 

They made small talk for a while. Finally Steve began to tell them what they were up against. "Influenza B’s already killed about a dozen people here. Eight of them were from the reservation. Half the Res have got it and a good part of Lame Deer as well. We’re expecting it to continue to spread even though we’ve been sending out the message to use precautions and wash their hands frequently. The indians…,” he said looking in the rearview at John as he continued, “are difficult because they live close together and are so family oriented. We can’t make them understand that they need to keep away from each other until this passes.”

 

Johnny nodded in understanding. Knowing that they would insist on taking care of their own and how stubborn these people could be.  He grinned ruefully... he came by it honestly.

 

They finally drove into Lame Deer… Johnny sat up straighter in the back seat. His memory was being ignited. There was the small General Store where his mom and dad used to buy him candy. The Church they’d attended when his Dad was home. The school …It was bigger than he remembered. They must have enlarged it as the town grew. The arrowhead café, where his mom had worked as a waitress after they’d returned here.The graveyard where his mother was buried...The volunteer fire department…the gleaming engines polished and shining in the sun. They fascinated him as much today as they had twenty one years ago when he’d first decided he wanted to be a fireman.

 

Doctor Handly pointed to his office as they drove into the driveway. “I’m going to stop for a moment to introduce you to the towns other Doctor since you’ll be running into him on the reservation.”

 

“That’s a good idea,” Kel agreed. "Give us a chance to stretch our legs.”

 

They pulled up in front of a small clinic. Each one stretching cramped muscles from the long drive as they stood up out of the car. “C’mon, I’ll buy you both a cup of coffee,” He offered as they went inside. “Sean…,” he yelled as he opened the door to the office.

 

“Handy, that you?” Someone called back.

 

“Yeah... got some folks I want you to meet.”

 

A man came out of the back room. He seemed vaguely familiar. Johnny had seen this man before, but couldn’t place exactly where. He appeared to be in his early fifties. Dark hair just beginning to show some gray at the temples. Hazel eyes took in the newcomers as he entered the room. They lingered for a moment on Johnny, as if he knew him… then moved to Kel. Steve made the introduction.  “Sean this is Doctor Kelly Brackett, Rampart hospital, LA.”

 

The older Physician extended his hand to Kel, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Doctor.”

 

“Kel please…,” Brackett told him.

 

“Kel it is then,” he said with a smile

 

“This other gentleman is one of Doctor Brackett’s paramedics… John Gage.” Sean looked at him sharply as he held his hand out to the younger man.

 

“Gage…,” He said. You aren’t by chance Roderick Gage’s son…?”

 

John looked stunned, “Uh…Y…yes,  did you know my father?” He stammered.

 

The older man nodded. "I knew Rod and your mom Katie...I even treated you several times when you had pneumonia. I was friends with your dads buddy Rick too. I don’t know if you’d remember him.”

 

“Yeah, I remember him. He taught me how to throw a football. He kinda kept an eye on us when my dad was away. At least until we moved to California. He was gone when we came back.”

 

“Yeah, got married and moved to Ashland. Wow…Little Johnny,” He teased. “You were always such a quiet kid...But having ASD. ” Johns’ face flamed in embarrassment as he glanced at Handly...

"You knew about that?"

"Sure...I diagnosed it. They never told you?"

John shook his head but he smiled tolerantly. "Guess they never had time to."

Sean suddenly remembered the rumors. “You had it pretty rough after your mom passed didn’t you son? I’m surprised you’d come back here after…the way they treated you,” he finished softly.

 

John shrugged, “They’re still family whether they admit it or not but I didn’t come here just for them…I…came for me too.”

 

Sean nodded in understanding. “I guess we all need to remember where we came from,” He agreed. “Let’s get some coffee and we’ll head out to the main reservation." He looked at Kel... “We’d both love to hear more about the paramedic program and what exactly it is that they do.”

 

 

 

Roy showed up at work bright and early next morning… John hadn’t arrived yet. That wasn’t unusual, he frequently showed up at the last minute. He came out of the locker room to go get a cup of coffee.  Cap came out of his office. “Roy can I see you a minute?” He asked solemnly.

 

“Sure Cap,” Roy answered. The tone making him uncomfortable about the upcoming conversation.

 

He went into Cap’s office. “Have a seat,” Cap directed… Roy sat.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“I got a call from Headquarters this morning,” he began… Roy started  to get a sinking feeling. “Johnny’s requested a leave of absence.”

 

“Why…? For how long…?” Roy asked, obviously upset.

 

“This says it’s indeterminate. It could be days or weeks.”

 

“Well, did they give you a reason? Did Johnny give a reason?"

 

“If he did they didn’t tell me pal,” Cap answered.

 

“Cap, I’m really worried. He was acting so strange the other day and now this. He hasn’t come by for a therapy session in days. I don’t know what’s goin on inside his head."

 

“Me either… and he seemed to get worse the other night.”

 

“The other night…?  You mean when he started avoiding me?”

 

“Yeah, I mean he seemed to be okay right after you talked to him and then something on TV caught his attention. He seemed to get really upset, but then after a minute or two he was alright… we just shrugged it off, but then he started avoiding you and acting all strange again the next morning…”

 

“I don’t suppose you remember what the News Story was about?”

 

“Uh…sorry pal, I was only half listening. One of the other guys might though. Why don’t you ask them?” He said nodding toward the Rec-Room and the sound of the A-shift coming on duty.

 

They got halfway to the Rec room when the SCU Tones sounded, “County 51 unknown type rescue 1655 Shelton 1-6-5-5 Shelton, Cross Street Market…time out 08:04.”

 

 KMG-365,” Cap acknowledged as a young, blonde man ran from the Rec room.

 

“Paramedic Christopher Rimes…,” Cap said introducing him to Roy...“You can get acquainted later…,” Cap ordered, handing the slip with the address to Roy. He slapped the door button to open the doors as the squad began to roll.

 

 

Doc Handly pulled the dusty, maroon jeep up in front of a large building. “Do you remember this John?”The man asked him.

 

 “Hoxéheome…"(Sun Dance Lodge), Johnny whispered.

 

“That’s right. We’re using it as a temporary Hospital. Blue Eagle wasn’t happy about it, but it’s the only place large enough to use for one.” He pointed across the street to another house. “They’re letting us use that to house you two. We’ll also sleep there if we’re too tired to make it back to Lame Deer.  The woman who lived there died last winter and it’s empty and close to the lodge, so it worked out well. We’ve moved some cots in. Let me introduce you to Blue Eagle and then we’ll get you settled and start our rounds.”

 

They moved to a house sitting back away from the street…the men stepping carefully on the icy walk. Doctor Handly knocked on the door. A moment later a man about Dr. Carlton’s age opened it. He looked at the four men then stepped back, silently inviting them in.

 

 “Good morning Blue Eagle,” Dr. Handly greeted. "I’d like to introduce two men from Los Angeles who came to help your people." He turned to Kel. “This is Dr. Kelly Brackett… He brought along several cases of medicines for us.”

 

“Doctor…,” Blue Eagle greeted, his deep voice having a serious tone, but a small smile crossed the craggy features... “I wish to thank you for coming." His dark eyes shifted to the nervous young man behind him. Johnny was fidgeting, his eyes slightly downcast. The older man’s eyes narrowed slightly, and then shifted to Dr. Handly.

 

“This other young man is John Gage,” Blue Eagles head snapped back around to look at John. The younger man raised his head to look at the Chief. “He works with Dr Brackett,”  Steve continued.

 

Vóaxaa' otá'tavó (Blue Eagle),” Johnny greeted.

 

“Gage…?” Blue Eagle repeated questioningly. “You speak indian?”

 

"Héehe’e (Yes).”

 

“You were raised here.” It was statement rather than a question.

"Héehe'e, náhko'éehe -ma'ó  taa'éeše'he, namêšéme, Daniel éše'he Ôhtamëhnêstse  Ného'éehe Roderick Gage. (Yes, my mother is Red Moon, my Grandfather was Daniel Sun Walker… my Father was Roderick Gage), Johnny said proudly.

 

Kel stared in shock. He’d never heard Johnny speak indian. Somewhere in the back of his mind he must have known he could, it just never came up. His eyes flicked back and forth between the two. He didn’t understand the words, but he sensed the tension. He saw the proud tilt of Johnny’s chin as he spoke his father’s name.

 

Blue Eagles lips flattened to a thin line. He had forgiven Red Moon, but to know he’d lost her to a white man had hurt his pride. Now to have the son of that man stand before him offering to help the people who’d cast him aside was humbling, but he also recognized that while John was proud of who he was, he hadn’t returned arrogantly to rub their faces in the fact that they now needed his help.

 

T'nêstôhav'no’eve"(what’s your job)? The older man asked.

 

“Ná’éno’továhenéhe” (I’m a fireman). John returned to english, "A paramedic. I’m trained to handle a lot of medical emergencies. I’ll be getting directions from Dr. Brackett over a walkie talkie when anything I can’t handle comes up.”

 

“I understand. Thank You for coming as well. After everything your family did to you, you have still returned to help. You are a man of character…you are… É’sénoéstomo'he.”(Kind/good).

 

“Néá’eše.”(Thank You).

 

Blue Eagle nodded curtly. Johnny knew that must have taken a lot to say that to the son of the man who’d won the woman he loved. His respect for the Chief elevated a notch. Steven and Sean had listened quietly, catching only pieces of the conversation. They breathed a little easier knowing there would be no friction between the two... at least not serious enough to have to keep them apart.

 

“Blue Eagle if you’ll excuse us, we’d like to get these two settled and then show them around.” The older man nodded in dismissal. “John you’ll be making rounds as you can speak the language and can explain to them what you’re doing and can ask for directions if you get lost. Kel we’d like you to work primarily at the hospital if that’s alright? We may need to send you out some after you get to know your way around a bit.” Kel nodded. They headed for the door.  Blue Eagle watched them leave. He did not envy John Gage his home coming. He doubted his families feelings had changed.

 

The four men stepped outside and headed for the jeep. “We’ll be using several cars while you’re here. The rental agency sent them at our request, so you won’t be stranded.” Johnny nodded. They walked across to the lodge. John didn’t notice the large man standing a short distance up the street, his black eyes fixed on the young paramedic.

 

 

That was him… He knew it in his soul. This was his nephew, he’d finally come home and he had grown more handsome over the years. George Walking Wolf smiled a cold smile of anticipation… he’d finally have what the boy had denied him thirteen years ago. Johnny turned, smiling that beautiful crooked grin at something one of the others said. His eyes fell on George. He staggered…his face paling. The dark haired man with him grabbed his arm, said something to him then looked in George’s direction as John answered. The look was not friendly. The man knew their secret.  George was surprised that John would have told anyone what had been done to him.

 

The four men walked up the street. “Johnny I’m impressed,” Kel said.  “I suppose I shoulda known you’d handle that with class, but you had that man thanking you. I think he was impressed.” Johnny turned, smiling crookedly at Kel. His eyes fell on the man standing up the street. John’s steps faltered, he staggered slightly in shock…his face drained of color and he looked as if would faint. Kel grabbed his arm... “Johnny, are you alright?” he asked the younger man worriedly. John was staring at something up the road… His whispered reply explained it all.

 

“Uncle George.”

 

Kel turned to look where Johnny was staring. His eyes narrowed angrily at the man who was watching John so intensely. The man was easily six foot five and probably two hundred twenty pounds, the thought of this man beating on a child made Kel’s stomach turn. He could almost hear the crack of John’s bones breaking under the onslaught.

 

 Johnny couldn’t have withstood that without serious injury. Only going into withdrawal had saved him from the even worse fate of a sexual assault. Not only was John nearly impossible to hold onto when he withdrew, it apparently frightened the older man into thinking his Nephew was truly insane.  Even so it had earned him several severe beatings and broken bones in the eight months he’s been in George and Mase Walking Wolfs home. Mase was Johnny’s aunt, His mothers’ sister.

 

Steven and Sean looked to see what the other two were talking about. They saw George.  “Stay away from that one,” Steve muttered… “He’s trouble. I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about him. He’s the Second Chief of the reservation…,”  Sean informed them.

 

“He’s my Uncle,” Johnny said softly, shocking both men. Kel led the shaky paramedic into the lodge and sat him on a chair, squatting beside him. His hand gently rested on the younger man’s shoulder.

 

“You okay Johnny?” Kel asked.

 

Johnny nodded. Sean went to get him a glass of water.  Kel stood up as he felt Steve’s hand on his arm. “Abuse and emotional Issues?” He asked quietly. Kel nodded. The older man shook his head in sympathy.  Sean returned handing the glass to Johnny.

 

“Thanks,” the young man said with a shaky smile. He took a sip and looked up at the others. “Well we’re not getting much done this way are we? So where do I start?”

 

They glanced at each other impressed by the young man’s resolve. They showed them around their makeshift Hospital. Several Indian women were working around the room tending to the sick, they glanced at the newcomers curiously but kept their distance. When they finished they led the two men to the house they’d be staying in to drop off their luggage, then they returned to the lodge.

 

Kel and John loaded a backpack with everything they thought Johnny would need. Sean would take him around the first day. Tomorrow he’d be on his own. Kel returned to the hospital with Steve… “Will they be alright out there?” Kel asked… concerned for Johnny’s safety with George around.

 

“Sean’s a former Marine… he’s also a black belt, John will be safe with him,” Handly assured him.

 

“Yeah… but what about tomorrow?” Kel asked.

 

“We’ll keep an eye on him when he’s in town. When he’s making his rounds he should be safe enough. He’ll be around other people even if they are sick ones. I don’t think he’d dare touch him with other witnesses.”

 

“I hope your right.”

 

 

Johnny and Sean left in the older man’s beat up, blue Ford Pickup truck. They bounced around the reservation’s ranch land for several hours, stopping at each house on the doctors list, sometimes on roads… sometimes not. John thought his head would never stop rocking. Regardless of it, he’d put Uncle George from his mind, memorizing every stop. A lot was the same, but some new roads had been added. He thought he’d be able to find his way around all right the next day.

 

The young paramedic worked tirelessly side by side with the doctor. Sean was impressed with John’s medical knowledge and skills...Especially since he knew John's background with Asperger's. He would have no hesitation about turning the man loose on his own the next day.  He decided to find out more about the training and use of paramedics in Montana.

 

John encountered many people who remembered the shy, troubled child from thirteen years ago. Some frowned in disapproval at his return, yet allowed him to treat them or their ill family members. He found himself disappointed.  These people…his people hadn’t changed at all. They were completely indifferent. He was just another volunteer as far as they were concerned. The only difference was he spoke their language.

 

 The exception was Little Fox.  The woman had been old when John left… now she was positively ancient. She patted his hand as he introduced himself. “Your mother was a beautiful girl,” She recalled in a raspy voice... "always smiling and joyful.” Her face sank into a frown, “at least she was until your family…”She stopped, “Well that’s behind you now.” She grinned at Johnny toothlessly. He smiled back. “You look just like your father. He was such a handsome man. You’ll be fighting off all our daughters, they will be completely smitten,” she said giving him a wink.

 

Johnny laughed outright. “Néá’eše.”(Thank You).

"So you have returned as I said you would...In victory."

Johnny frowned in confusion for a moment before the old woman's words were understood. She'd once told him about a vision she'd had of him when he was just a child. She'd told him he would leave and return some day in victory. Well she was partly right. "Well...I have returned anyway," he said wryly.

"Trust me my child," she replied with a smile.He grinned back.

Though they had been speaking mostly Indian, Sean understood enough to know that she’d remembered and accepted John. The paramedic took the old woman’s temperature, noted her vitals, checked her for dehydration and administered her medication, all the while keeping a running commentary meant to keep the old woman at ease. Johnny smiled down at the woman, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”He said gently smiling down at her.

 

She grinned back at him… "I will look forward to it.” They finished up and left.

 

“Well John,” Dr. Carlton laughed. “You certainly have a way with old ladies and children.” John grinned back at him. They finished up and headed back to the lodge. “I think you’ll be ok tomorrow on your own. If not you can call on the walkie talkie"

 

“Okay, but I think I’ll be okay on my own too."

 

“Great," Sean said. They pulled up in front of the house they were staying in. Two women stood talking in front of the lodge. John tensed in the passenger seat. “What’s wrong John?” Dr. Carlton asked.

 

Johnny nodded to the ladies across the street. “They’re my aunts… I think their waiting for me," He grimaced. “This could get uncomfortable real fast, feel free to escape if you want...,” John said wryly lifting one eyebrow.  They stepped from the truck. The young paramedic took a deep breath and walked slowly across the street. The door to the lodge opened, Kel and Steve stepped out. They had obviously been waiting for John and Sean to return. Kel had been worried about Johnny.

 

The younger of the two women stepped forward. “Náhaá’e Lacee, Náhaá’e Mase.” (Aunt Lacee, Aunt Mase.) Johnny greeted politely.

 

“So it is you, I thought Ókôhkêho'ësta (Fire Crow) was mistaken. I didn’t believe you would have the courage to return here after you turned your back on your family.” John stared at the woman incredulously.

 

“A…after I turned…,” He stammered.

 

“Have you finally come to repay the debt you owe?” Aunt Lacee asked, always the first to remind him that she had to take him in before and after his mother had passed away.

 

John stared at the ground embarrassed by his aunt’s comments. “I came because I heard that the reservation was being hit hard with influenza. I thought my family needed help and I was in a position to give it.”

 

“Your family,” she scoffed. “Have you forgotten...you have no family except your Hehaeho (Paternal Aunt). “Your mother chose to turn her back on her people by marrying a Vé’ho’e (White man). You are not Xamaevo'êstane,” (Indian).

 

John thought of Roy and his family in LA who had taught him that love owed no debts. He hung his head, hurt and frustrated...feeling the sting of their rejection yet again. “No I haven’t forgotten, You made sure I never forgot it…or what I owed you Náhaá’e(Aunt), but since I’m not family I guess I owe you nothing,” he said softly.

 

Her hand lashed out, slapping John stingingly across the cheek. "You are rude and disrespectful.” His Aunt Lacee snapped at him, “an ungrateful child…after all that was done for you.”Johnny stared silently at the ground, his face flaming in humiliation.

 

“You were always ungrateful… Mo’ma'se'hánee’e, (You are crazy) as well…rocking and screaming…," Mase spat at him spitefully.

 

Sean stared at this attack in shock. The aunts could have kept it private. Spoke in indian, instead they had chosen to say it all in English to be sure John’s friends heard it loud and clear for maximum effect.

 

Johnny heard rapid footsteps coming up behind him. Kelly Brackett stepped to his side. The younger man’s mouth trembled in shame as he realized the Doctor had heard it all. "Of all the…,”Kel began and then stopped as he tried to get his temper under control. He finally continued… “John came here to help you... How dare you attack him this way?”

 

Johnny raised his hand in a stop gesture to the older man. “It’s ok Doc,” He whispered… “I’m used to it and I was disrespectful.  I guess I do owe them for taking me in.”

 

“Johnny, you don’t owe…”

 

“It’s okay,” He said again softly. “Let’s just go, we’re drawing a crowd.”

 

Kel was still angry, but glancing around he realized Johnny was right…there were eight or nine people gathered to watch the confrontation, several obviously agreeing with the aunt’s. There were a few heads shaking in disgust, including Blue Eagles, Kel noted as he looked at the older man standing on his front porch across the street.

 

Kel glanced again at the wounded look on John’s face. He thought he detected a glint of tears, but John blinked them away. Kel took the younger man by the arm, “C’mon Johnny,” The doctor said as he led him across the street to the house where they would be sleeping. Sean and Steve followed casting one last look of disbelief back at the two ungrateful women.

 

 

“Johnny I’m so sorry that happened,” Steve said. “I can’t believe that. How could they be so…so…”

 

“Bitter and hateful,” Sean finished.

 

“To their own Nephew…,” Handly pointed out… "especially after you came all this way to help.”

 

John shrugged it off. “It’s alright,” he said quietly. “I should have known they wouldn’t change but I still had to come and try.”  He winced as Kel laid a towel full of ice on his reddened cheek. “I did tell you I was only half indian. My mom committed the unpardonable sin of falling in love with a white man. They never forgave her for having a half breed child or carting me home to live with them after my dad was killed or having to take me in like a stray dog when she died,” he finished quietly. “I suppose I am ungrateful, they coulda just tossed me into the street,"  he whispered.

 

“Johnny that’s not true,” Kel said angrily… “You were only a child, what did they expect from you?”

 

John gave Kel a feeble wave, “I guess it doesn’t matter, I gave up expecting anything from them too,” He said sadly. “Regardless I came to help and I’ll stay till it’s done.” Johnny stood, handing the ice pack back to the doctor. “I’m tired… I’ve had a long day… I’m goin to bed.”

 

“What about dinner John?” Steve said. “We’ve been invited to dinner by a very nice family up the way. They’d love to meet you as well as Dr. Brackett.”

 

“You go ahead Doc,” John said to Kel and the others quietly, “I’m really not hungry. I think I’ll shower and go to bed…” He turned and left the room.

 

“Brother,” Doctor Handly said. “I can’t believe that. What a job these people did on that poor kid’s head. They’ve got him believing he did something wrong… That he’s ungrateful for their abuse. That’s just so…”

 

“Wrong…unfair,” Kel finished for him."Lord I hope Roy shows up soon, he’s much better at getting through to Johnny than I am."

 

“Roy?” Sean asked.

 

“Johnny’s best friend and his partner with the paramedics,” Steve explained.

 

“John didn’t want to drag him away from his family to come here and I suspect he didn’t want Roy to witness what just happened,” Kel said. “But I also know that Johnny needs Roy to be here with him whether he’ll admit it or not, so I left a pretty obvious invitation to follow. I hope he got the message,” He said with a grimace as he looked at the closed door.

 

“I’d heard rumors of them abusing him…I didn’t believe it…they’re usually so family oriented.  I wish I had listened, maybe I could have done something…,"  Sean said sadly.

 

The younger man waited for them to leave before coming out of the bathroom and climbing onto his cot. Now John lay in the darkness, his cheek throbbing, his heart aching even worse. One single tear trickled down his cheek to dampen his hair.  He’d so desperately wanted things to be different. To change the way his mother’s people… his people saw him. They could deny his half Indian heritage, but it didn’t change that fact, whether they accepted it or not.

 

He’d come here to help. If that’s all he could take back to LA with him, then at least he’d done his best.  He’d done what he was supposed to. What his mother would have expected of him.  Maybe he could at least earn their respect if not their love. Man he wished Roy was here. He needed to talk to his friend and Roy always seemed to know what Johnny needed to hear.

 

 

Dixie had arrived early this morning. She knew she’d be missing Kel for the next couple of weeks and she wasn’t looking forward to his absence and the chaos that would ensue without him, but she was glad he’d gone with Johnny. Dixie was one of the ‘privileged’ few that Johnny trusted. Who knew the abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his family and she loved the young firefighter like a son. She hated the idea of his going back there and being around the people who’d hurt him so badly.

 

They had done so much damage to his emotional and mental state, that Johnny, who had Aspergers Syndrome Disorder had slid into withdrawal more and more, becoming almost non-functional until his Paternal Aunt had taken him in and got him the help he’d desperately needed and gave him the love he deserved.

 

She moved to the base station and poured herself a cup of coffee, she sat at the desk to drink it and check the schedule for the day. Her eyes fell on the envelope marked ‘Dixie McCall: Personal’. It was in Kelly Brackett’s handwriting. She ripped it open and as she began to scan the contents she started to laugh.

 

A short time later an ambulance backed in, she ran to hold the treatment room door open…“Carol?” She called to the pretty black nurse coming down the hall.

 

“Yes Dix?”

 

“If Roy Desoto comes in before I’m done in here, tell him not to leave without seeing me first. It’s about Johnny.”

 

“Yes Ma’am,” Carol said as Dixie disappeared into the treatment room.

 

Roy and Chris had responded to their early morning run. It had turned out to be a child who’d taken a fall from a swing. He’d suffered a broken arm and a minor bump to the head and Roy had come in with the Victim in the ambulance, leaving his temporary partner to follow in the squad.  Roy intended to take the opportunity to talk to Dr. Brackett. He was hoping whatever Johnny had been talking to Kel about would somehow help him to figure out where Johnny had gone and what was bothering him.

 

He came out of the treatment room after transferring his young patient from gurney to exam table, leaving the boy in Morton’s capable hands. He glanced around hoping to spot Dr. Brackett or Dixie. They were nowhere to be seen. Roy spotted Carol Williams sitting at the base station, he headed in that direction.

 

“Hi Carol.”

 

“Hi Roy…”

 

“Uh…Carol…have you seen Dr. Brackett around? I really need to talk to him.”


“Oh Roy…I’m sorry but I was told this morning that the Doctor took an extended leave of absence.”

 

Roy looked stunned. It couldn’t be a coincidence… first their talking together privately and now both of them disappearing at the same time. They had to be together somewhere but where…? And why…?  He started to walk away.

 

“Oh Roy…,” Carol called stopping him. “Dixie asked me to tell you not to leave until you talk to her. She said it was about J…”

 

Roy’s handy talkie crackled to life interrupting the woman, “County 51 what is your status?”

 

Roy saw Chris walking toward him down the hall… he keyed the mic, “County 51…available.”

 

“County 51 stand by for response.” The SCU Tones sounded; "Station 51… Engine 36, Battalion 14 Structure fire…, 2000 Wilcox. 2000 Wilcox…, Cross Street East Richards…time out 09:57.”

 

“County 51… 10-4,” Roy replied. “C’mon kid,” He said as he raced past Chris. The young blonde turned and followed.

 

“Roy…,” Carol called after him, “What do I tell Dix?”

 

“Tell her I’ll catch her on the next run,” He yelled back as he raced for the exit.

 

“But she said it was about…,” She stopped as he disappeared around the corner… "Johnny,” She finished quietly to herself.

 

 

Roy was exhausted, soot covered and sweating. He was packing up the gear to follow after his Partner who’d accompanied their victim to Rampart. Cap trotted over to the Squad. “Hey Roy…I asked the Guys what the news story was about that upset Johnny so bad.”

 

“And…?” Roy prompted.

 

“They said that it was about an influenza B outbreak somewhere in the midwest," Cap told him.

 

“Well that mighta caught his attention but I doubt it woulda caused that much concern, that can’t be it.”

 

“Chet said it mentioned some Indian Reservation that was being hit pretty hard. He thinks that that’s what triggered Johnny’s mood."

"Did he say where...?" Roy asked with a sinking feeling.

“He said some little town like Lame Ear or Game Deer or something.”

 

“Lame Deer, Montana?” Roy questioned, his heart climbing into his throat.

 

“Maybe, does that explain it any better?”

 

“It just might Cap, thanks.”

"Roy...Is that where John is from?" Hank questioned worriedly.

"Yeah," he muttered and turned away without further explanation.

 

Roy climbed into the Squad and headed to Rampart. “Good Lord Johnny what were you thinkin goin there after everything they put you through. Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Dixie was sitting at the Base Station as Roy walked up. “Hey Dix.”

 

“Hi Roy,” The older blonde nurse replied… “Your partners in two.”

 

“Oh, okay…Uh…Dix… do you know anything about where Dr. Brackett’s gone?” Roy asked. “Johnny’s missing as well and Cap said maybe it had something to do with an influenza B outbreak in Montana.”

 

“Well Roy, your Captain would be right,.” She said reaching behind her for a manila envelope.  Kel left this for you, she informed him handing it over. Roy cast an anxious look at her as he opened the envelope and began to examine the contents. He looked up after a moment.

 

“Thanks Dix. Looks like I won’t be seein ya for a while,” He stated. “Gotta go help my confused friend…or kill him for goin without me,” Roy quipped as he turned and headed for treatment room two. He stuck his head inside. Chris was watching Doctor Early work on their smoke inhalation victim. “Hey Kid,” Roy said… “Let’s move out. I got an airplane to catch,” He said grinning at the confused look that came over the young man’s face. He turned without waiting and headed for the Squad. He threw a wave at Dix as he left.

 

“Take good care of Johnny, Roy.” She called after him.

 

“Always Dix, after I kick his butt...” He grinned. The smile slowly faded as he thought of who and what his young friend might be facing. “Hang on Junior… I’m comin,” He muttered.

 

Roy returned to the station. He explained to Captain Stanley where Johnny had gone and why. He showed him the approved leave of absence and the airline ticket. “Cap, I have to go. I can’t leave Johnny to face that alone. I mean I know he can take care of himself usually and I know Brackett’s with him, but…these people…they’re his mother’s family. He’s been taught his whole life to be respectful of the elders. He wouldn’t even try to defend himself and…”

 

Captain Stanley didn’t know all of what had happened to Johnny but he knew it probably was bad if his senior paramedic was this worried…“Roy,” Hank interrupted. “You’re arguing your case with the wrong guy. I don’t want John hurt any more than you do. So I’ll call Headquarters and tell them this is signed,” He said waving the papers. "I’ll get a replacement in here as quickly as possible… You need to call the airport for flight information and then you need to call Joanne and make sure she’s okay with you being gone for a while.”

 

“Are you kidding Cap? When I tell her where John’s gone she’ll be packing not only my suitcase, but her own as well. She’d love to get her hands on some of John’s family.” Roy laughed, but the thought of the man and Johnny being alone with him and at his mercy wiped the smile from his face as quickly as it had come. Cap picked up the phone in his office. Roy ran to the one in the rec-room.

 

As expected, Joanne assured him he’d be packed by the time he got home. “I wish I could come along,” She said. “But I know this isn’t a vacation… it’s work and the kids are in school…,”She trailed off. “Oh Roy, what the heck was he thinking?” She said angrily. “I understand his wanting…needing to help, but to go there, where that…that animal is. Even with Kel along…Roy I’m scared for him.”

 

“I know Honey… I am too. That’s why I have to go. I can’t just ignore this. Johnny may have wanted to handle this on his own, but…he’s gonna have to get over it. I can’t just leave him to their…tender loving care,.” Roy said sarcastically. “I’ll be home soon honey. I gotta call the airport and get some flight information.”

 

“Bye sweetheart, see you soon.”

 

Roy called the airport. He was disappointed that the only flight to Billings, Montana wasn’t due to leave until 8:10 that night. He took it, switching his open ticket to that flight. “Well at least I can spend some time with my kids before I go,”He told Cap and the guys as he was preparing to leave.

 

“Give John our best pal,” Cap told him.

 

“Yeah,” Mike said… “Tell him to be careful.”

 

“Tell him to stay safe,” Marco said

 

“Bring him home Roy,” Chet said red faced at his concern for his pigeon. He hoped Johnny wouldn’t want to stay in Montana if things worked out.

 

Roy smiled grimly. None of the guys knew exactly what Johnny had been through as a child. They had heard hints that there had been some abuse but none knew the full magnitude of what he’d endured except Roy. "Thanks guys... I’ll let him know he’s missed. I think he needs to hear that.” Roy turned and left.

 

Roy’s plane took off at the same moment Johnny was laying on his bed wishing his friend were there.

 

 

John was up early the next morning. He’d reloaded his backpack. “Doc, Little Fox’s blood pressure was slightly elevated yesterday. I thought you might wanna come check her out when I get out there. She’s ninety three and I hate to ignore it.” He was marking a map as he spoke. If Johnny was still smarting from yesterdays humiliating scene, he wasn’t letting it show.

 

“Sure Johnny,” Kel said moving over to look at the map. “Why don’t you call me when you leave the stop before and I’ll head out there…”

 

“Kay,” He agreed sipping a cup of coffee. “This is the most direct route,” Johnny pointed out the roads. "You’ll love her Doc. She even likes me,"  He said self deprecatingly.

 

“Johnny…?” Kel began. The young man waved away the sympathetic words he knew were coming.

 

“It doesn’t matter Doc, really.” The upbeat tone couldn’t hide the hurt in John’s eyes. Kel knew Johnny was getting down on himself. He hoped Roy got here soon, before these people completely destroyed Johnny’s self confidence.

 

The young Paramedic went out. He climbed into the rental car that had been delivered from town the day before and drove off down the street.

 

Johnny might not have been in such a hurry had he noticed a set of the most stunning amber eyes that had watched him leave. The look of a star struck teen on her face as she’d watched the man drive away. "É-mo'onátamaahe  ,”(He’s handsome), She whispered softly to her friend

Vé'késôxheóvaestse.(Yellow Bird). “Néevá'evehe,”(Who is he)?

 

“Na-véškeme (Grandmother says) É’éno’továhenéhe Los Angeles, Anestaeše Ôh-vó'komaestse." (He is a fireman from Los Angeles, White Mist), Hee'hahamóono Hó'nehe ôhtamëhnêstse,” (He is the nephew of walking wolf).

 

Hee'hahamóono, (His Nephew)? Xamaevo'êstane ? (He is Indian)?” Danella questioned with a smile.

 

The other woman’s eyes turned to her friend, “Ó'xevé'ho'e …a half breed,” She repeated in English.

 

The girl flinched at the term. “Do not call him that,” She told her friend. “Do you know his name?”

 

“He has no name, Danella"

 

“Not his indian name Janessa, his english name?”

 

The girl shook her head again. “I do not know it…,” She said, but he is here with that new doctor. Perhaps you could ask him.” She joked to her young friend.

 

“Perhaps I will,” the young woman stated, her eyes taking on a dreamy look.

 

 

Roy’s plane had arrived late. A fresh fall of snow had blanketed the runway. They had circled in a holding pattern for forty five minutes while the snow plows cleared and deiced the runway. By the time he’d retrieved his luggage it was nearing midnight. Roy decided to hold off driving to Lame Deer until morning. He asked a cab driver to take him to a reasonable hotel for the night.

 

The following morning Roy rented a car and asked for directions to the reservation. A pretty young woman sold him a map, tracing out the route for him… “It’s about an hour and a half from here.”

 

“Thanks,” he told her. He headed out stopping a couple of times to look at the map. Boy did he miss Johnny at times like these. He was used to his partner being his navigator. Roy finally saw a sign announcing that he was on reservation land, He began to take in the scenery… It was beautiful and he began trying to envision his best friend growing up here.

 

Roy finally pulled into the main part of the reservation. He climbed out…stretching after the long drive. The blonde fireman glanced around wondering where to begin his search for his friend. He saw an older white man step out of a large building in the center of town,  he decided to try him first.

 

“Uh…Excuse me?” Roy began… The man turned to look at him, “I was wondering if you could help me.”

 

“Well I can try, what is it you need son?”

 

“I’m a paramedic from LA and I’m lookin for coupla friends of mine,” Roy said.

 

“Let me guess,” The man teased…“Kelly Brackett and John Gage.”

 

“Yes, that’s right.”

“So that would make you John’s partner… Roy Desoto?”He asked with a grin, "Kel said you’d be here.”

 

“Yes sir...,” Roy admitted, “Is Johnny here?”

 

“No… not at the moment. He’s out on rounds. Hold on a minute, let me get Kel.”

 

The man went back inside the building. A moment later a smiling Kel stepped out the door. "Roy... glad you could make it,”  Kel said, extending his hand to the younger man.

 

“Thanks for all the tips to help me find ya. Uh…Doc is Johnny ok?” Roy asked.  "I mean has any of his family…?”

 

“Yes he’s okay and yes both of his Aunts have already made him feel as if he’d done something wrong by coming here to help. One jumped on him for finally showing to repay his debt,” Kel said annoyed. "She flat out slapped him. The other just informed us that he was crazy.” Roy’s mouth compressed into an angry line.

 

Kel’s eyes fell on something up the street. “Speaking of…,” he said grimly, nodding in that direction. Roy followed his look. “That my friend is George Walking Wolf…Johnny’s uncle.”

 

Roy stared hard at the man. He was huge… Roy couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for his friend…to be a child and to be brutally beaten by someone that big. It’s a wonder George hadn’t killed him, but then he’d wanted him alive. Well big or not, the look Roy gave him should have been warning enough to stay away from Johnny. It might even have worked had George bothered to look in his direction. He climbed into an older model green car.

 

“C’mon in a minute Roy I’ll show you a map of where I know Johnny will be shortly, you can meet him there.”

 

“Great,” Roy shot another glance across the street in time to see Uncle George drive away.

 

“John’s been gone for a couple of hours so he should be close to where he wanted me to meet him. We’ll get some coffee and I’ll introduce you to Sean. You’ve already met Steven Handly. They’re the only two Doctors in Lame Deer, so they’ve been stretched pretty thin. They’ll be happy to have two more hands.”

 

A few minutes later, Roy stood sipping coffee and getting acquainted with the two Doctors.  “We’re glad you’re here Roy, we could use the help.”

 

Roy nodded. “I’ll do what I can.”

 

“Well I suspect Steve…,” Sean piped up, " that Roy’s mostly here to keep an eye on John.”

 

“You’re right, I am... But if my misguided friend had bothered to ask, I woulda come anyway,” Roy said smiling. “I’m happy to help.”

 

“Great,” Sean said.

 

“The walkie talkie crackled to life and Johnny’s voice came over. “Doc… This is John. Can you read me?”

 

“10-4 Johnny…,” Kel responded.

 

“I’m on my way to Little Foxes. I should be there in ten minutes.”

 

“10-4. I’ll be there soon.  Enjoy her company.”

 

“10-4,” John’s voice came back with a snort of laughter.

 

“The woman’s a flirt so I’m told,” Kel said with a grin. “She was quite interested in our young friend, right Sean?” Brackett asked.

 

“Right…!”

 

“Johnny musta been eaten that up,” Roy said with a smile.

 

“Well he would have if Little Fox wasn’t ninety three."

 

They all laughed.

 

“Go find your partner Roy,” Kel said with a nod toward the door. “He’s missed you… and tell him I’ll be there shortly.”

 

Roy nodded as he picked up the map they’d drawn for him.

 

 

Johnny arrived at the Sixth house on his rounds that morning, having already been to four others… two with sick children. The Parents had started off a little cool, but Johnny’s bedside manner with their kids soon made them smile. Even as sick as they were, the children giggled in delight as Johnny told them in Indian about some of his funnier rescues.  One child with his head stuck under the porch. The lady with her toe stuck in the faucet. The whole time taking vitals, distributing medication and documenting everything for the Doctors.

 

He needed a whole different charm for the patient in this home. He grinned as he approached the door remembering Brackett’s words. Well he would enjoy Little Fox. She accepted him as he was. Told him the things he longed to hear from his own family, but knew now that he never would.

 

He didn’t see the car pull up across the street or the leering smile on the man’s face as Johnny knocked lightly on the door, then opened it. Knowing his patient was too ill to answer it herself. He called out..."Hello… Little Fox…?”  He heard her soft reply from the bedroom, and knew he wouldn’t startle the elderly lady with his presence. He headed back toward the bedroom.

 

The old woman smiled at him as he entered. Her toothless grin brought a chuckle to John’s lips. “Good Morning... Were you waitin for me?”

She took his hand in hers, her gnarled fingers patting his gently. " I have told my nephew about you… of your gentle spirit, John Gage. I have told him our people are wrong.” John blushed in embarrassment, making the woman laugh. “I told him how special you are...That he should spend some time with you.”

 

“That’s really nice of you Little Fox,” Johnny said sadly. “But I don’t think it’ll do any good. I’m nothin special and they’ve already made up their mind, I’m not gonna be able to change it.” He shrugged... “I appreciate the thought though, Néá’eše.” (Thank You). The old fingers squeezed his hand gently.

 

“You are wrong John… you are very special...I told you this many years ago. Did you doubt my vision?"

John nodded his head. "Yes...I...I never...," he began but she cut him off.

"You have a special spirit and a brave one.” He threw her a crooked smile that melted her old heart. “You are a fighter, a man of courage like your father, with a gentle and forgiving heart as your mother had.”

 

“Thanks,” he said softly… Still disbelieving, he shrugged.  “But I need to get you taken care of,” he said changing the subject and digging through his pack. He took her vitals, writing everything down for the doctors to review. He knew that Dr. Brackett was on the way, so her slightly elevated blood pressure didn’t alarm him too much. Her temperature had come down to almost normal. He gave her the medication and a glass of water and began to pack his equipment.

 

 “The doctor will be here any minute… I think he’s gonna like what he sees today,” He said reassuringly, as knelt by her bed.  She smiled at him as her eyes closed. John heard the bedroom door open… he felt a hand touch his shoulder. “She’s ready for ya Doc…,” He said lightly... looking up with a smile.

 

The smile faded. John’s face paled and his body began to shake. His mouth trembled in fear as he looked into the leering grin of the man he feared most in his life. Like a deer in the headlights, he knelt frozen in place.

 

Uncle George ran his hand over Johnny’s shocked, terror stricken face. The touch stirred the younger man to action. He tried to jerk back. George slid his hand around grasping a handful of sable hair… he yanked his nephew to his feet. Johnny swung at his arm, trying to pull away… almost ripping his hair out by the roots in the process. “Don’t touch me...,” He whispered fearfully, finally managing to free himself… he back pedaled out of reach.

 

The larger man moved toward him once again staying between the younger man and the door. A moan of fear escaped from John as he backed away. His eyes tracked around the room looking for a way out as the larger man advanced toward him.  He felt the wall at his back and realized he’d run out of room.

 

John bolted to the right in a frantic attempt to go around him. Georges hand shot out to block the younger man. Johnny ducked to go under… he felt his uncles’ hand grab a hold of his shirt. He was hauled backwards...the shirt ripping under the strain. John’s fist landed a stinging blow to the older man that sent George's head reeling to the side. He staggered back a step in surprise...He'd forgotten that John was no longer a helpless child. John struggled desperately to shake his hold.

 

Uncle George may have been 25 years John’s senior, but he was also four inches taller and sixty pounds heavier. The older man swung, cuffing the side of his nephews head. He sent John’s slight frame reeling. His forehead impacted the wall, cracking the plaster. Dizziness swept over him as the room momentarily turned gray.

 

John sank to his knees, hands pressed against his bleeding forehead as his vision swam in and out of focus. He was suddenly hauled to his feet. Uncle George slammed him back into the flowered wall paper. John’s head snapped back with a sickening thud. He groaned, trying once again to clear his vision as his stomach rolled.

 

The big man held him against the wall. He braced his heavy arm against John’s throat. John felt his shirt tear down the front…buttons flying. The younger man’s fists swung. He landed two solid blows before the lack of oxygen and dizziness began to take its toll. George backhanded his Nephew. John’s head reeled to the side. The pressure increased…He gagged, pushing frantically at Georges arm, trying desperately to draw air into his starving lungs. Pinpoints of light danced before his eyes. John’s hands weakly clutched at the older man’s arms for a moment longer… then dropped away as his resistance faded along with his air supply.

 

George released the pressure, allowing his nephew to breathe. Johnny gasped precious oxygen. He felt his uncle press against him. His leering face loomed closer. Johnny strained away, turning his face to the side. He saw Little Foxes horrified gaze watching the whole terrifying scene. He felt Georges hand slide down his chest and stomach and then drop to his belt.

 

“No…,” he gasped, once again trying to fight his way to freedom. John’s fist caught his Uncle in the face. The older man was again surprised by both the blow and the unexpected strength. He stumbled back a step but quickly recovered, Slamming John back against the wall once more. The pressure on Johnny’s throat increased again, George’s hand returned to his nephews belt. Johnny was wheezing harshly, but he continued to struggle as he felt the belt come loose..The calloused hands on his flesh...Tears tracked down his cheeks. “Oh God...Help Me,” He gasped, turning his face away.

 

George fingered his nephews soft, dark hair. It was long, the way he liked it when John was a child. He ran his hand through it, grabbing a handful… trying to turn his head toward him. John was desperately trying to push the man’s hands away. The head injury was taking its toll, he was dizzy and sick. He had no strength left…his knees were buckling. "Help me…God…Someone …Help me…,” he pleaded hopelessly, twisting his face to the side once more.

 

He'kotomâtse!”(Be quiet), his uncle snarled close to his cheek. Enraged at being thwarted, he once again used the handful of hair to wrench the young man’s head around. His mouth lowered to his nephews. John began to sob in terror and for the first time prayed for withdrawal to come and as gray closed in around him... and even though he knew his friend was a thousand miles away, he cried out in desperation the only name he could think of…

 

"R…OY…”

 

 

Roy pulled up at the curb several houses away from where John was fighting for his life. He glanced at the address in his hand, Sweet Grass Rd…, Right Street. He looked at the house he was parked in front of, “Should be the next block or so,.” he mumbled to himself. He put the car in gear and glanced up the street. He squinted into the distance. Wasn’t that the same car he’d seen George Walking Wolf drive off in? It was parked across the street from a house that from its location… was more than likely the house Johnny was at.

 

Roy hit the gas. He covered the distance quickly, pulling the car up in front of the house and slamming it into park. He was out and racing up the snow covered walk before the engine died. “Oh God Junior…Hold on,” He gasped as he ran. Roy pushed the door open. He could hear the struggle from the back of the house. Roy plunged ahead. He paused in the doorway in shock at the sight of his Partner pressed against the wall by his throat.

 

George had one arm across his Nephews neck, the other holding John’s head in place by the hair. The only proof that his young friend was even conscious were the pitiful sobs that escaped his lips as the larger man leaned down to kiss the terrified, young paramedic. As Roy stood there in momentary shock, he saw the older man’s hand drop to the button on John’s jeans…the belt was already loose and John’s shirt was ripped down the front.  Roy heard the tearful plea for help, heard the growled reply in Indian and then his name screamed in anguish.

 

George gave a sigh of pleasure…finally after all this time… he’d have the boy… There was no one to save him this time. His mouth touched John’s. George suddenly felt himself pulled backward and spun around. Roy’s fist landed a hard blow, breaking the man’s nose and splitting his lip… blood flowed freely.  He couldn’t believe it… this wasn’t happening …someone was trying to snatch the boy from him yet again. George had no intention of giving up his prize so easily…he’d waited thirteen years for him to return. He charged back at Roy, swinging at the smaller man.

 

Roy knew if the big man connected he’d be out of the fight and John would be at his dubious mercy. He ducked away landing another enraged roundhouse to Georges Jaw. The older man stumbled back, tripping over Johnny’s backpack... he fell. His furious bellow echoing through the room and cutting off abruptly as his head hit the bed side table. The man landed on the floor stunned, but still semi conscious.

 

Roy turned to his partner. The old woman had watched it all, horror in her eyes at George Walking Wolf and what he had tried to do to that poor child.

 

 

“R…OY!” John cried out as his uncles mouth met his. John’s stomach rolled. He knew he was going to be sick but suddenly the weight was gone and John sank to the floor. He curled into a ball as he pressed against the wall... his body shaking in shock and reaction. He vaguely registered the sounds of fists meeting flesh, but couldn’t seem to open his eyes.

 

It finally grew quiet. Hands touched him…he scrambled wildly away with a terrified whimper. He again felt a gentle touch and began to weep as the hands and voice he recognized as his partners began to smooth the hair from his face, the voice speaking softly to calm his fear.

 

“Johnny…? Johnny, can you hear me…? Look at me Junior”… John’s hand was pressed tightly over his eyes as if to block out the sight of Georges smirking face and what he’d wanted to do to him, his hitched breaths alternating with fearful sobs as he tried to regain control. Roy gathered his huddled body into his arms holding him gently as if he were a child.

 

Blood trickled down John’s forehead…dripping onto his cheek…then following the path of his tears. "Oh God…! Oh God…!” He whispered. He clung to Roy as the blonde man held him tightly, smoothing the dark hair.

 

“I’m here Junior...You’re gonna be okay...You’re safe now Johnny. Are you hurt bad...? He didn’t touch you…?" Roy asked softly, glaring at the older man still lying on the floor, half conscious. He was staring at Roy jealously as he held John in his arms.

 

 Roy felt the head shake… heard the barely audible…“No,” His friend choked out. Breathing a sigh of relief, Roy drew Johnny’s arm around his neck and helped him to his feet. He grabbed the pack and began to lead his partner from the room.  John only made it a few feet before injury and shock took its toll and his legs gave out. He staggered slightly and began to fall. Roy scooped his shaken partner into his arms, hitching him up more securely and left the house. He knew he should see to Uncle George as well but right now his priority was Johnny.

 

Doctor Brackett was just coming up the walk as he left.

 

“What the Hell happened Roy?" He asked grabbing the pack from Roy as he carried his partner to the car. John was too terrified to even notice his arms were locked in a death grip around his friends’ neck. Too frightened to notice he was being carried or to care that he clutched his partner like a lifeline. He’d be thoroughly humiliated later but right now he needed that security.

 

“Uncle George,” Roy said softly.

 

“Dear God …is Johnny …alright?” He said after a momentary hesitation.

 

“He’ll be okay. He didn’t… finish what he started but he beat him pretty bad and scared him half to death. He’s got a gash on his head that may need stitches. His throats probably pretty badly bruised along with his face. But what he really needs right now is rest and a safe place to do it.” Brackett pulled the car door open and Roy set Johnny in the backseat, climbing in beside him to try and lay his friends shaking body down in a more comfortable position on the seat. Johnny held tightly to his Partner.

 

“Roy, he’s in shock…just stay back there with him. I’ll drive you home. We can come back for the other cars later. I still need to check out Little Fox anyway."

 

“Okay Doc…Thanks,” Roy agreed, pulling Johnny against him once more. “Lets’ get him outta here.”

 

 

As they pulled away, Johnny’s grip on his friend slowly began to relax.  He raised his head slightly. The bruised, reddened eyes met Roy’s for a moment, as if to reassure himself it was really him. He finally laid his head back on the head rest behind him. His face flushed with embarrassment.  “M…m s…s…sorry,” he finally stammered out in a whisper.

 

“For what junior…?” Roy asked confused. Johnny was still shaking in shock.

 

“I f…feel so s …stupid and h…help…less. Y...you… al…always have to r…rescue me, e…even h…here…couldn’t handle it alone…‘M always a pr…problem."

 

“Stop right there my friend…," Roy said as he reached over and turned Johnny’s reddened face around to look at him. “You’re not helpless and you’ve got more guts than anyone else I know…besides what have I told you a hundred times?”

 

“’M…n…not a pro…problem.”

 

“Ever...,” Roy added. “And you’ve rescued me more times than I care to count, you’ve been just as much my lifeline as I’ve been yours...just a different set of circumstances…Geez Johnny don’t be so hard on yourself,” Roy said in frustration…Dear God if this is what his friend had gone through as a child Roy had to wonder how he’d survived it and come through it sane…He suddenly understood why Johnny had once told him he’d contemplated suicide as a teenager. What Roy didn’t understand was why Johnny was embarrassed to be afraid of this man. Anyone who’d been through this would be. Roy had to admit to himself that he probably would be if it had happened to him.

 

John nodded at his friend’s reassurance. “Roy, don’t take this wrong but what’re y…you doing here?” He questioned softly.

 

“I thought you might need me partner,” Roy swept his hand across his friend’s brow, brushing an errant lock of hair from the cut on his forehead.  “Try and rest Junior, Doctor Brackett’s gonna look at you as soon as we get you to bed okay?”

 

“Kay….,”Came the whispered response. Johnny’s body began to relax. The shaking diminished and then finally stopped. His soft breathing told Roy he’d finally drifted off.

 

“How is he?” Kel asked.

 

“Asleep.”

 

“Poor Kid,” Kel muttered. “God…what he’s been through…I tell you Roy, from what I’ve seen here I don’t know how he came through his childhood with his sanity.”He said unknowingly voicing Roy’s own thoughts. “He still sees himself as a child, helpless and weak; I see the strength of the man that over came all of it…to become a good person and a terrific paramedic despite it."

 

“So do I…, so do his friends, now convince him of it.”

 

“We just have to keep trying until it sinks in. Should we call anyone about this…The police or someone?”

 

“I don’t know... I’ll see what John wants to do when he wakes up. George was stunned, but I left him conscious and breathing. He’ll probably be fine except for a headache and maybe a broken nose and a few bruises.”

 

“Okay, I’ll send Steve back to check on Little Fox and George…if he’s still there but I want to stay close to Johnny in case he needs us.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

 

Little Fox closed her eyes as she heard Walking Wolf stir. She knew the big man wouldn’t hesitate to kill her if thought for a moment that she could be a threat to him with what she’d seen. Tears came to her eyes as she thought of what she’d witnessed and what that poor, dear child had suffered at his hands both now and most likely thirteen years ago.

 

 George finally heard the car start up and drive away. He staggered to his feet, wiping the blood from his nose with the back of his hand. He felt the lump on the back of his head which was throbbing and he was thoroughly enraged. He’d stayed on the floor…knowing that with his head injury he’d be unable to fight the stocky blonde who’d appeared out of nowhere to snatch John out of his hands.

 

He glanced at the old woman…her eyes were closed in sleep. He breathed a sigh relief. The senile old crone had slept through the entire attack. There were no witnesses…well none whose word would be put above his own anyway.

 

George staggered to his car. He was furious that once again the boy had slipped through his fingers. He climbed in and leaned back to wait for the dizziness to pass. The big man rubbed his fingers together, he could almost feel John’s sable hair in his hand…he remembered with excitement the fear in his dark eyes. He’d come so close this time…

 

He thought of the boy’s mother, Katie…she’d been a beauty. He’d wanted her in the worst way, but she had been terrified of George. She had at first been promised to Blue Eagle but had spurned both of them…preferring to marry a white man rather than someone who could have elevated her to the status she deserved. He’d had to settle for her older sister instead.

 

The only good thing to come from that union was her son John and George intended to have from him what she had denied him. After she’d married Roderick Gage he’d lost interest in her…she was tainted as far as he was concerned but when she’d first returned as a new widow and he’d seen the child…he’d tried to get close to her again to get to John but she’d rejected him once more. She was still fearful of him and continued mourning her beloved husband. Then one day Katie had seen the lustful gaze he turned on her precious son and she had guarded the child fiercely after that.

 

When she died, he’d tried to take the boy in then, but John’s grandfather had given him to his daughter Lacee instead but when her constant abuse had gotten to be too much, her Father had taken him away. George had almost laughed in glee when he’d brought John to him and his wife. He’d unknowingly delivered the lamb to the wolf and left him there for almost eight months but George hadn’t expected the stubborn resistance and the terrifying, crazed withdrawals.

 

 John had seemed to sense George’s lustful intentions and steered clear…he’d disappear for hours or hang close to anyone else so he was rarely alone… If John saw him coming he’d run knowing the older man couldn’t catch him…then he’d stay hidden until George gave up but even on those rare moments when he’d catch him by himself…someone or something seemed to always interrupt...as if the boy was watched over by the spirit himself.

 

Then there was the strange fits…When George could get a hold of him the boy would become frantic at his touch. He’d even tried tying him up but the damage he inflicted on himself trying to break free was too hard to explain or hide. The bloodied wrists, the bruises and dislocated shoulders raised eyebrows and it still didn’t stop those hysterical explosions…it escalated them.

 

These…attacks had terrified the older man…the rocking…the vacant eyes, the screams, the boys’ body arcing backwards, the feet kicking out…the wild swinging of the hands was more that George could handle and though he could have easily overpowered the child, these fits gave him chills to watch…he was sure the boy was insane and fearful superstition won out…the insane were strictly taboo...never touch a crazy one.

 

 George was also terrified of Sun Walker. He had no doubt that the old man would kill him if he ever found out what he was doing to the boy but even still Walking Wolf had nearly killed the child several times in those months…beating him in frustrated rage… throwing him into the closet on occasion so he wouldn’t have to look at him until he calmed down.

 

George had told tribe, school officials and family that John’s many injuries and broken bones were caused by his own clumsiness and those times when George had to restrain him during his strange seizures and crazed behavior…John had been too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the truth…George had made sure of that. 

 

Then one night he’d finally caught the boy home alone…his wife having taken their own children to her sisters for the evening…she’d left John asleep in his room. He had come so close to taking the boy that time…ripping the clothes from the half asleep child…touching him…anticipation tightening his stomach before John had awakened fully and begun to shut down. He’d screamed in terror…his eyes lost focus as his back arced and his feet kicked wildly. George was determined not to be deterred this time…He shook the child viciously…trying to force him back to awareness. The boys head had rocked violently and George had felt the bone in the thin wrist snap under his hand.

 

John had screamed in pain and then the brat had begun to vomit, something he’d never done before. George had dropped him in disgust. The older man couldn’t believe he’d been thwarted yet again and he’d snapped…completely losing control… he lashed out again and again. Bones broke under the onslaught as he had brutally beaten the child near to death, leaving him with a broken wrist, arm and several broken ribs. He’d dropped the battered and bloody teen and stormed out in frustration.

 

George had been further enraged when he’d come home and found his wife had returned and called the old man. Sun Walker had come and taken him away. He’d almost turned his temper on that cow of a wife he’d married for calling him and Sun Walker now knew for certain that this was no injury caused by the restraining of a hysterical child… though that fool of a wife had still believed him, turning a blind eye yet again to the boys injuries.

 

George swallowed hard remembering the feel of Sun Walkers knife at his throat…he’d promised him in no uncertain terms that if he touched the boy again, he’d kill him. He’d continued to watch the teen, but kept his distance. When the old man got sick, George had been sure he could convince the tribe to give the boy back to them…there would have been no one to interfere this time but once again he’d been plucked from his hands. He’d been angry and disappointed when John’s fathers’ sister had shown up and taken him away to California.

He'd even tried to get the boy back after Sun Walker's death but had been thwarted there as well. John's paternal aunt turned out to be quite wealthy and she was a powerful woman. She'd also had a letter from Red Moon asking her to be the boy's guardian. George hadn't known that she'd tried to send the boy away before her death, but it didn't matter; it had been all the lawyer's had needed to see to tell him he had no chance of winning custody of the boy back from Rosemary Hughes.

 

George sat in the car remembering these things. He pounded the dashboard in frustration. John had been a beautiful child and an attractive teenager. He’d gotten the best of both parents. He’d grown into a handsome man and George vowed to himself. ‘He would have him.’He usually preferred teenage boys, but he'd make the exception for this one. He just had to get past this new obstacle…this other man.

 

Who was the blonde man? John had obviously known him well. His teeth clenched tightly as he thought jealously of the proprietary way he’d held the younger man...as if he’d had some right.  Holding him in his arms… stroking his head and the way John had clung to him for comfort...weeping on his shoulder in terror.

“Whoever he is he can’t watch you every minute. You’re mine and I will have you,” He muttered to himself… “No one will take you from me again." He grinned wickedly, It would be his ultimate revenge against Red Moon, Sun Walker and the white man Roderick Gage. They'd all roll in their graves after he'd defiled their precious Half Breed.

 

>>>>> 

 

Kel went back to the hospital. He explained to Steven and Sean that Johnny had been attacked and beaten by his Uncle, but had left out the more sordid details. “He’s pretty banged up. I put some stitches in his forehead and I think he has a minor concussion, but it’s hard to tell without X-rays.”

 

“You know, we appreciate that you came to help, but maybe it would be better for John to send him home,” Steven suggested.

 

“You’re probably right, but I can tell you up front, he won’t go. John’s not a quitter. He committed to this, he’ll stick it out. He’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met…besides me of course," They all laughed.

 

“Well, maybe things will be better now that his partner’s here to watch out for him. We’ll make sure they work as a team and that John’s never alone,” Sean said.

 

“I think that’s probably a good idea, they work best that way anyhow,” Kel agreed.

 

“I’ll run out to Little Foxes and check her out. I know you’ll probably want to stick close in case John needs you.”

 

“Thanks…yes I do.”

 

 

Roy came from the small kitchen area to check on his partner… watching in concern while John slept fitfully…he tossed wildly, murmuring in his sleep in the obvious throes of the old nightmares Roy remembered well from their early partnership…sweat beaded his brow. Roy quickly moved towards him as Johnny snapped awake, sitting bolt upright… a cry of terror leaving his lips, before his pounding head reminded him that he most likely had a concussion from his double impact with the wall. Dizziness washed over him and he swayed slightly, clenching his eyes shut and putting his hands to his head as if to hold it in place. He felt the bandage on his forehead.

 

The mattress suddenly dipped as someone sat beside him...strong hands gripped his shoulders. John tensed, a whimper of fear escaped as he lashed out trying to fight, despite the pain tearing through his head.  He heard the soothing voice of his friend as his eyes snapped open to focus on Roy’s face.  

 

“You’re okay…Johnny…I’m here…I’m here and you’re safe…,” Roy said softly, pulling his partners dark head against him. John relaxed against Roy’s shoulder.

 

He was silent for a long moment before pulling away. “I was so…scared,” John whispered in painful embarrassment. “I’ve never been that afraid of anything…not even Scott Jackson. I thought…this time…” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

 

“I know and I would have been afraid too,” Roy soothed.

 

John shook his head, “No…you’re never afraid of anything…,” he said disgusted at himself. “You're the one that got him off me.”


“I hadn’t just had my head slammed into a wall…twice and had some two hundred and twenty pound gorilla choking me,” Roy reminded him. “And if you think I’m never afraid think again. I break a sweat over those high rescues you perform without a second thought and those cramped little spaces you slide into so effortlessly.”

 

John was rocking softly, staring at his hands, feeling thoroughly humiliated by his fear but he nodded hestitantly at his partners reassuring words. He finally allowed Roy to lay him back on the bed averting his eyes.

 

“Johnny, please don’t do that…you have nothing to be ashamed of. He hurt you, not the other way around. You didn’t do anything wrong. He attacked you…remember?”

 

“I feel like such a …”

 

“Don’t say it Junior,” Roy said angrily."You’re a victim of child abuse and that stays with you a lifetime partner…you’ve been conditioned from your childhood to be afraid of that man and you’ll never get over that but you’ve got more strength, more courage in you…in your heart than that monster or any of these people could ever hope to have or to begin to take from you.  Do you understand?”

 

John turned questioning eyes on his friend. He shook his head.

 

“You overcame it all…you survived. You went on…you beat ASD…you came back here successful, not beaten. You’re a good person, one of the best paramedics in LA...a good Fireman…my best friend."

 

“Thanks Roy.”

 

“For what…? Telling you the truth?”

 

“For bein my friend and that you always seem to know what to say to help me through. Just for being THERE… Ya know?”

 

“I’ll always be there Johnny…we’re family… That’s my job.”

 

John’s eyes met his partners once more. “Ya know Roy, I wonder sometimes where I’d be if you hadn’t come along,” He whispered. “I sometimes think I might not be here at all.”

 

Roy smiled at his friend. He blinked a trace of moisture from his eyes. “Then I’m very glad we ended up as friends. The world would’ve missed you Johnny...so would I. ”

 

“I’m glad we’re friends too…Uh…Roy?”

 

“Yeah Junior…?”

 

“Um…how’d ya find me?”

 

Roy chuckled, “Dixie… Doctor Bracket left a trail a blind man could follow and he failed to tell Dix not to say where you both were.”

 

“Good,” he said with a relieved smile… “Roy?”

 

“Hmmm…”

 

“I’m glad you’re here Pally.”

 

“Me too, but Johnny…?”

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“Dr Brackett and I think we should report this.”

 

John froze…“Report what?”

 

“Report What…? Report what happened to you… George…”

 

“NO!” He gasped sitting up quickly. He grabbed his head with a groan and a surge of nausea, his face paled and he gagged.

 

Roy quickly grabbed him, leaning him over the side of the bed. He lifted the pail he’d set there earlier, knowing his Partner and head injuries were dynamite and matches. John retched miserably… his head throbbed horribly with every heave. Roy supported him until the spasms stopped.

 

Johnny groaned as Roy laid him back. The younger man closed his eyes, feeling awful. He felt the bed shift as Roy got up, but didn’t dare open his eyes until everything stopped spinning. He felt the bed dip again as Roy returned.  A cool towel dropped over his forehead, another was being drawn over his face and mouth. His eyes finally cracked open.

 

“Better?” Roy asked.

 

“Ahhh man I hate that,” He moaned miserably. “Roy…?”

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“Please don’t report this,” he pleaded softly.

 

“But John…”

 

“Roy…you don’t understand. These people are family. They’ll stand by Uncle George... all you’ll get out of it is contempt for me, for you, they might even ask us to leave…”

 

“Well if that’s how they feel…then good we’ll go…”

 

John raised himself on his elbow…“Roy, they need us. There are a lot of sick people here…”

 

“I don’t care John. They can’t hurt you and …”

 

“But you’re here now…I’ll be okay. I won’t be…alone out there,” He said feeling stupid that he needed a baby sitter, but wanting Roy to understand. "The majority of the sick are children Roy…children and old people. We can’t just leave them.”

 

“You said they’re family, well so are you…can’t they see the bruises…?”

 

“It won’t matter Roy, they’ll believe Uncle George,” Johnny said sadly. “I’m Indian by blood but they don’t think of me as…family. I’m as white as you are to them.”

 

“What about the Police in Lame Deer.”

 

“Unless it’s murder, they won’t do a thing. It’s a tribal problem...tribal police…Reservation land.”

 

“Roy saw the hurt in his eyes, but gave in with a sigh. “Alright Johnny…I can’t begin to understand why you want to help these people, but I’ll stick it out with you…and I won’t report it…this time.”

 

John breathed a sigh of relief and lay back.

 

“John?”

 

“Yeah...?”

 

“Don’t go anywhere alone…”

 

“I won’t pally, I promise.”

 

“Go to sleep…I’ll wake you in a while.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Posted to Site 1/16/2010                                                 LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.

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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.

Copyright 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012
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