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Danella had met with resistance from her family in her quest to find out more about the man she had seen earlier. Her father had told her to stay away from him. He had strictly forbidden her to talk to him or about him. That had served only to peak her interest even more. She’d gone to her best friend for help. Janessa in turn had promised to get what information she could. She harangued her grandmother for any tidbit about him.
The next day Danella was waiting anxiously…working at the trading post her Father owned. She looked up as her friend came in. “Well what did you find out…?” The pretty nineteen year old asked, almost pouncing on her friend when she came through the door.
Janessa spilled it all, “He is the nephew of Walking Wolf and his wife Mase, The grandson of Daniel Sun Walker. Son of his daughter Red Moon and the white man she married… Roderick Gage. They both died long ago.” Danella didn’t remember Red Moon but she vaguely remembered the old man. She’d only been six when he died…she didn’t remember this grandson and wondered briefly what had happened but her friend continued and it became clear. “His Fathers sister took him away thirteen years ago. He is a fireman para-Medic from Los Angeles.”
Danella didn’t know what a para-Medic was exactly, but she knew he had some kind of medical background. That coupled with his ability to speak to the people had been invaluable. She refocused her attention on her friend as she continued.
“Grandmother was embarrassed to admit it, but she said they had been horrible…abusive to him after his parents died.”
“All of them?”
“Mostly his own family... she told me they were ashamed of him."
“Why? What did he do wrong?”
“He was born Danella?” The older girl looked confused for a moment and then it sank in.
“Because he is half white…?”
“Ahhh… When will these people join the real world Janessa? What difference the color of his skin or eyes or hair? Or even if his blood is indian.It's who he is that matters.”She couldn’t believe this man would come to help the people who had been so cruel. “He must have a gentle and forgiving heart Janessa, to return here to help after that.”
“Grandmother says he must be about twenty six or twenty seven now.”
“His name Janessa…? Did you learn his name?”
Danella hugged the other girl. “Thank You.”
After Janessa left, Danella could think of nothing else the rest of the day. Not even the news of the arrival of another para-Medic had pulled her attention from John Gage. She would find a way to meet him. His face was all she could see. His eyes, his mouth, the hair she longed to run her fingers through. Her stomach flipped at the thought of him.
Well her Father wouldn’t like it, but he’d just have to get over it. Her father had accused her many times before of being spoiled. He teased her frequently that she always managed to get what she wanted. She intended to this time and she wanted John Gage.
Johnny woke a while later to Dr. Brackett’s probing fingers. He winced as the Doctor found a particularly sore spot. Kel realized John was awake from the grimace on his face.
“Sorry... How are you feeling Johnny?” He asked reapplying a fresh bandage.
“I’ve been better Doc.”
“I’ll bet. You better heal fast young man or we’re both in for it,” Kel teased.
“Dixie and Joanne see those stitches and bruises…they’ll kill the both of us. You were supposed to stay out of trouble…I was supposed to be keeping an eye on you.”
“I’m not a child Doc… I’m a grown man. I’m not your responsibility…Hell, I’m supposed to be able to take care of myself,” He said in annoyance.
“Come on Johnny be fair to yourself…In a fair fight I’d back you anytime but as big as your uncle is…anyone would have had a problem. Even Roy said he’d have been in trouble if George hadn’t tripped. Roy also said you left your uncle a few bruises to remember you by.”
“You mean to get even for.”
“Not if we can help it,” Kel said. “We’ll be keeping you close or with someone else okay?”
John sighed in frustration, “I hate feeling like I need a baby sitter.”
“Consider it a body guard then. Johnny...child abuse takes a hard toll on its victim. It’s for a lifetime and you’ll never forget it or completely put it behind you. It changes you forever… traumatizes your mind and body but you can overcome it and you have and you should be proud of that but you’ll still never forget what happened or not feel the fear that the abuser…beat into you.” John looked embarrassed at the entire conversation. "Now combine it with your other complication… Johnny…good Lord…you have nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve conquered both…understand?”
“I guess,” He murmured still not convinced.
Kel sighed and patted the younger man’s shoulder. “We’re gonna get this through to you someday Johnny, but can I tell you one thing?” John looked up at the doctor. “You’ve never made me or Roy or your other friends anything but proud to say we know you or to tell someone that you’re our friend.”
Johnny flushed in pleased embarrassment. He smiled at the older man… “Thanks Doc,” he said softly.
Roy came in a moment later... “Hey Doc, how’s our patient?”
“He’ll survive… but he’ll have one hell of a headache for a while.”
Kel handed Johnny some aspirin as Roy set the tray he was carrying on the bedside table, “okay partner, dinners here.”
Kel and Roy eased Johnny to a sitting position. They waited for the dizziness to ease and then set the tray in his lap.
“Thanks,” he said, eyeing the food uneasily.
“Just take it slow okay Johnny?”Roy advised.
He nodded, “Aren’t you guys eating?”
“Already did,” Roy answered.
“Oh,” John ate slowly… swallowing hard a couple of times but he got it down and kept it there.
“John… I want you to stay in bed tomorrow as well,” Kel told him.
“No way Doc, I’m not helping anyone that way.”
“Johnny…,” Kel began.
The younger man shook his head stubbornly, “I’m goin out…somebody already had to cover for me today.”
“I can go,” Roy said. “We could leave one of the volunteers from the hospital to stay with you.”
“NO...,” He said adamantly, you don’t speak indian and you don’t know your way around…I’m goin.”
Kel and Roy sighed in resignation… "Okay…but you stay with Roy, deal?”
“But Doc…,”He stopped at the look on their faces…he knew he wouldn’t win this one…“deal,” he sighed.
“Roy,” Kel said. “Any sign of problems… bring him in.”
“I will Doc.”
When George returned home that night he was still in a rage. His head was pounding and the drinks he’d had at the bar In Lame Deer hadn’t helped. He had sat for hours plotting his next action… He intended to have John…that was for certain. He’d be watching his every move…they couldn’t keep an eye on him every minute and sooner or later they’d make a mistake and he would grab him. He had no idea of Roy Desoto’s determination and ability to keep his friend safe.
His wife Mase’s concerned questions about what happened to cause his injuries were met with angry sneers. He finally snapped…“leave me woman.”Knowing her husband’s moods, Mase determined it would be good night to visit her sister Lacee. Her husband had a temper… she remembered many other times when he’d seemed this frustrated and angry, they’d all been when John had lived with them. She wondered if it was coincidence that his rage had returned at the same time her Nephew had.
Danella had been working as a volunteer at the Hospital since the epidemic had begun. She’d only been allowed to work four hours a day as she also had to work at the trading post. She longed to leave the Reservation to go to nursing school…it was her dream. Dr. Handly had told her she would be a good nurse and he and Doctor Carlton had encouraged her in this.
Her father had told her to put it from her mind. He didn’t have the money to send her to College and the schools in Montana did not hand out scholarships to Indians. Her father had told her to get used to the idea that her life would be to marry a man from the reservation and have babies. Her father hoped that Ben…the son of George Walking Wolf would ask as he had expressed an interest in her. She hoped he’d turn his eyes elsewhere as she was well aware that he had the same cruel eyes as his father. She had used the Hospital as a refuge from her fathers prodding’s and Ben’s attentions.
Now she had a new reason to spend time at the makeshift Hospital. The three doctors were friends of John’s and she hoped that sooner or later he’d come in while she was there. She’d made it a point to work with the doctor from LA whenever possible. It wasn’t a difficult task, he was very nice. A little too serious and a bit demanding, but she was learning a lot from him and he’d given her reason to hope when he’d teasingly said "Wait’ll Johnny get’s a look at you.” She’d beamed at the thought, but the hopeful smile had been lost on the busy doctor.
Roy woke his partner early the next morning. John’s head was still pounding but he was determined to go on his rounds. He had to admit he felt safer knowing his friend would be there. Roy had considered leaving John asleep and going without him but he knew his stubborn partner would only follow him, going out alone. Roy wasn’t about to let George have another crack at him…at least this way he could keep an eye on him.
They spent the day going from house to house. Roy was getting an education in the Indian language and culture. He felt curious eyes on him several times as he and Johnny fell into the same synchronized routine they used at home. The difference this time was that Johnny had to translate frequently and took the senior position. Many elderly and even a few small children spoke only the tribal Language. They would learn most of their English later in school, the old ones often refusing to speak it even though they understood it quite well.
They stopped at Little Foxes. John swallowed hard before entering the bedroom, giving Roy a nervous smile. He’d covered up any signs of fear as they treated the sweet old woman. She watched John with troubled eyes, reaching out with gnarled old fingers to gently brush the bandage. “What he did to you my child was horrible…how can you even bear to come back here?” She whispered.
He ducked his head away catching her fingers, “I’m alright Little Fox and you still need me,” He answered gently squeezing the old woman’s hand.
“You are a rare gift John Gage,” She grinned at him.
“And you are an old flirt,” John teased back.
The old woman laughed, stopping only when a deep ragged cough racked through her body taking her breath away momentarily.
Johnny reached to ease her to a sitting position until it passed. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“I will cough more often if you will hold me in your arms like that again,” she laughed making light of the painful cough.
John blushed, but laughed with her. “You will be a prize for some lovely girl John,” she said patting his cheek affectionately.
“You’re impossible Little Fox…,” He said, pleased despite himself.
Roy didn’t understand all of the words, but the teasing tone and gestures told him Johnny had won at least one fan. He grinned appreciatively.
Her eyes flicked to Roy… unsure of whom he was to John. She vaguely remembered him coming in to rescue the younger man during George’s attack but she’d been feverish and ill and in shock at what Walking Wolf had done.
Johnny caught the direction of her gaze and the curiosity in it. “Nésema'háahe ”(He’s my friend). Yes now she clearly remembered… John’s protector. He’d fought George off…comforted the younger man as he held him in his arms and then had carried him from the room.
The old woman smiled at Roy…the blonde man smiled back. “Roy, you didn’t get to meet Little Fox yesterday,” John said waving his friend over. “Little Fox, this is my friend Roy…Roy this beautiful lady is my friend Little Fox."
“Pleased to meet you Ma’am,” Roy said.
“And I you Roy,” She said in English. “You are a good friend to John…,” She stated rather than asked.
The old woman turned back to John. “ É-méhotâtse, É- hόtooma’όvatse .” (He loves you, He protected/shielded you).
“Héehe'e,” (Yes) Johnny said coloring slightly in embarrassment.
"He is the special one that I told you would come?"
John looked shocked for a moment. “Héehe'e,”he replied in wonder.He'd never remembered her vision for him before now.
"And has he saved you as I foretold?"
“Héehe'e,”he answered in a stunned whisper.
“ É -sénoéstomo'he, É- héestáhá ...” (He’s kind and brave) Johnny nodded in agreement .
"É-nêxoóhtahe." (He’s cute)
The dark haired paramedic hooted with laughter, grinning as he glanced at his friend.
Roy looked suspiciously at his partner. “What did she say?”
“She said your kind and brave.”
“What’s so funny about that?”
“Nothin, but she also thinks you’re cute,” He whispered conspiratorially.
Roy blushed, “Thank You…,” He said to Little Fox. They left with John finding a new bounce to his step.
They returned home exhausted. Both turned in their reports to the doctors, telling them about those they thought might need a follow up. Several little ones were struggling with the high fever and chills. John sent Dr. Handly to an elderly man he was afraid wouldn’t last the night. He’d been their last stop for today. They ate a quick dinner, took a shower and climbed into bed. Both were still tired when they woke the next day to begin all over again.
Six days… George railed to himself, six wasted days and the blonde man had stuck like glue to his friend. He’d found out that he was John’s partner in the fire department and he’d come all the way here to help just as John and the dark haired doctor had. George didn’t care about either of them except that one or the other of them always stood between him and his nephew.
Six days... Danella was frustrated, she’d spent extra time at the hospital hoping he’d come in. But every time he and his friend had come dragging in late…obviously exhausted and had disappeared inside the house for the night. She’d watched from the window and longed to smooth the tired look from his handsome face.
Six days… John and Roy had been running themselves straight out. Dr. Handly and Dr. Brackett decided to take the rounds today. They needed to go over some of the more serious cases that the two Paramedics had specifically identified. Both Handly and Carlton were very impressed by both Roy and John’s abilities and knowledge. Brackett beamed like a proud father. John still had multiple bruises and a minor concussion and Kel agreed they could use a break.
Carlton kept them busy in the hospital all morning, but they finished up with the in hospital patients fairly early. The doctor sent them home to relax for the rest of the day. Johnny and Roy found themselves with a free afternoon.
Johnny stood on the street a few minutes later talking to Roy. “You wanna go rest for awhile?” Roy asked, lightly touching the bandage on John’s forehead. They’d checked it this morning…it was healing well.
“Nah… I’m fine Roy, but there’s not a whole lot to do here."
“So what do we do with a whole afternoon to ourselves…? Take in a movie?” Roy asked.
“Only if you want to drive to Lame Deer, ” Johnny told him.
“Seriously Johnny what did you all do for fun around here?”
“Well if you’re a child…you play games. When we got older, the elders taught us to ride, rope cattle, work the ranch. Our families taught us old traditions and customs. The older kids paired off like any other teens or hung out with friends.”
“What did you do?”
Johnny looked at the ground for a moment. “I didn’t have friends…I…I worked the ranch when I could and avoided everyone as much as possible.”
Roy reached out to rest his hand on John’s shoulder. "I’m sorry Johnny, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“We could go out and let you flirt with Little Fox,”Roy suggested waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Johnny looked up at his friend…a crooked smile crossed his features as he began to laugh. Motion up the street caught his eye...he glanced over. A girl stood a short distance away… John looked toward his partner then his eyes snapped back. The smile faded, his mouth hung open.
Danella was off this afternoon. Her mother was watching the post and Dr. Carlton had a couple of others coming in today. She was afraid this would be the day Johnny would show up and one of the other girls would be there but she couldn’t explain coming in when she wasn’t needed. She resolved herself to spending the afternoon with Janessa. At least she could talk about him with her friend…she stepped out onto the street.
She sucked in her breath…there he was, standing fifteen feet away…his friend was with him. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but she saw him look at the ground… saw his friend touch his bandaged forehead. She wondered what had happened to cause the injury. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw that gorgeous smile cross his features as he looked at his friend and laughed at whatever he was saying. His eyes shifted to her momentarily then looked away. She almost laughed when they snapped back a second later. The smile faded…his mouth dropped open.
“Earth to Johnny…,” Roy said waving his hand in front of his friends face.
“Huh…?” He grunted absently.
“What…?" A smile slowly spread across John’s face.
“Hey Junior, wake up...,” Roy called, turning to see what had so enthralled his Partner.
Standing across the street in front of the trading post was the most beautiful girl Roy had ever seen. Obviously Johnny thought so too…he couldn’t tear his eyes away. She was apparently just as stunned, she stood frozen…staring back at John.
“Uh Oh…,” Roy laughed.
She had hair as black as coal. Her eyes were a beautiful shade of amber. Her skin was perfect, the color of coffee and cream. She had a straight nose above coral colored lips that were turned up in a stunning smile to reveal sparkling white teeth as she gazed at John.
“Well don’t just stand there…go talk to her,” Roy urged.
John finally dragged his eyes away…he looked at his friend stunned… "I can’t go talk to her.”
“Well…look at her.”
“She…she’s…,” he stammered.
“Beautiful,” Johnny sighed.
Roy looked at him as if he were nuts. “I can see that.” Knowing Johnny wasn’t normally shy around women, Roy was baffled, “So why can’t you talk to her? Is it taboo or somethin?”
“No of course not, she’s just…” John hung his head… “She’s a full blood Indian... she wouldn’t be interested in me.”
Roy shot his friend an incredulous look, “are you kidding? Her eyes are crawling all over you…if she were any more interested, you’d be standing in front of a preacher sayin ‘I do".
“Roy…,” Johnny scoffed, “She’s indian, and I’m a half…”
“Don’t say it,” Roy said angrily. He glanced at the girl again… she hadn’t moved, but stood watching curiously.
Danella was afraid to move for fear of breaking the spell…she had his attention and she intended to keep it. He was obviously interested enough for his friend to notice. She’d seen him wave to get the younger man’s attention and then look at her. Something he’d said had upset John and he’d glanced away… looking down at the ground forlornly.
Maybe his friend didn’t like her. Maybe Johnny didn’t like indian girls. He must be used to dating white women in California. What would she do if that was the case? She couldn’t lose this opportunity, but she didn’t have enough experience with men to be forward enough to talk to him first. She was just deciding to approach him when his blonde friend turned and headed in her direction. She held her breath as he came toward her... John didn’t look happy.
“Well partner,” Roy said… “If you won’t talk to her I will.” He turned and headed toward the pretty young woman.
“Roy…,” Johnny ground out in a whisper. “Get back here,” he groaned through clenched teeth. The older man continued on.
Roy had a moment of déjà vu, remembering Johnny telling him that his father had been afraid to talk to his mother at first… his friend had to introduce her to him. Roy glanced back at his partner as he approached the girl… Johnny was turning in frustrated circles, running his hand through his hair...desperation clearly written on his face as he frantically waved Roy back.
“Excuse me,” the tall blonde man said introducing himself… "I’m Roy DeSoto and my friend over there…,” he said indicating his red faced partner who was now practically dancing in anxiety, “Is John Gage. He’s a little shy, but he’d really love to meet you and I couldn’t help but notice that you were also kind of lookin at him…so if you’d like…I’d love to introduce you two…ahh…?” He let the hint hang.
“Danella… I am the daughter of Joseph Four Feathers.”
“Danella…,” He finished with a smile.
“I would like to meet your friend…,” She said eagerly, unable to believe she would finally get to talk to him. The spirit was indeed smiling on her…she hoped she wouldn’t make a fool of herself.
“Great,” Roy said, extending his hand in an after you gesture. They walked across the street together.
John’s face paled, then flushed scarlet in embarrassment as he saw her step into the street with Roy. “Oh man…,” he whispered to himself. His eyes widened in surprise as they approached. She was even more beautiful up close. He ran his hand nervously through his hair…looking around… desperately hoping the road would open up and swallow him. He shot a dagger look at his traitorous partner.
“Danella, daughter of Four Feathers…,” Roy announced formally. “I’d like you to meet my best friend…John Gage.”
“John…Johnny,” He stammered out.
“I’m pleased to meet you John…Johnny,” she teased.
His face flamed… “Just Johnny,” he mumbled, thoroughly embarrassed.
“Johnny then,” she said enjoying the sound of his name coming from her mouth. She gazed sweetly into his eyes…he swallowed hard.
“Uh…would you like to go for a walk with me Danella?” he asked nervously.
She wanted to tell him she’d go anywhere with him, but she simply answered… “Yes.”
“I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee partner…,” Roy said, “I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.”
Roy didn’t think either one of them noticed when he left. He laughed all the way back to the house, casting a final glance back in time to see John launch his crooked grin…the girl smiled dreamily back. The Gage charm was working in full force. Roy stopped and stood in the doorway watching as they walked down the street. He smiled broadly when he saw Danella reach out and take Johnny’s hand…his partner smiled down at the girl.
Johnny walked up the street with Danella, his eyes barely leaving her face. She gazed up at him, her eyes shining in invitation. Johnny was smart enough not to rush it. She finally broke the silence… I have heard of you and your friend Johnny. You work for the doctor who came with you?”
“Yes and no,” He answered. "I’m a paramedic... I work for the fire department. That means when there’s a medical emergency, Roy and I or other paramedics are sent out first to either rescue or sometimes just to stabilize a victim before they’re taken to the hospital. Once we’re on the scene, we can administer medical treatment at a doctors direction… That’s when we work for Dr. Brackett. We communicate by radio and we tell him what we see and the vital signs we’re reading and he tells us what to give them and what to do for them.”
“You save lives… Is it dangerous?”
“Sometimes it can be…,” He hedged. "We can get into some scary situations. Sometimes we need to pull someone from a burning building, something like that.”
“Have you ever been hurt?” She asked alarmed.
“Well…yes, a few times but I survived,” He teased stating the obvious. At her concerned look, he smiled and turned the conversation. “What about you? What do you do?”
“I work at the trading post. My father owns it, we live above it but what I really want is to be a nurse. Dr. Handly says I have a…knack for it,” She said proudly. “I have been working at the Hospital since this sickness began… I saw you there the first day, after you got here.”
“You did? I don’t know how I missed you,” He grinned. “Good thing I did I guess.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on anything else,” he teased with a grin.
She smiled in return, “I wanted to meet you...,” She told him. “But I couldn’t figure out how.” She blushed at the admission.
“You did…? Really…? Why…?”
“I thought you were so handsome…I just wanted to talk to you,” she said squeezing his hand as they continued to stroll up the street.
She felt herself tugged backward slightly as Johnny abruptly stopped walking. She turned to face him. His eyes were hooded, seductive as they gazed into hers. She returned the look boldly, stepping in close to him and lifting her face in invitation. John took it…his mouth lowered to hers. The kiss was gentle but intense…Danella had been kissed before by one or two of the local boys, but never like this. This was the way a man kissed a woman and she was hopelessly lost in it. John had never enjoyed a simple kiss more. He stepped back, looking into her eyes.
She sighed, “Why did you stop?” She said dreamily.
He grinned. “We’re standing in the middle of the road Danella…this isn’t the place for this.”
She loved the sound of her name on his lips. He took her hand as they continued walking.
They walked for about an hour, finally finding a quiet spot…they sat for a long while as they talked about his life in California and hers here… About Roy and Joanne…the ‘family’ who had taken him in and had loved and cared for him. They exchanged an occasional soft kiss or caress and then finally hand in hand they returned to her door.
“Will I see you again Johnny?” She asked anxiously.
“Do you want to Dani?” He asked softly.
“Oh yes,” she said grinning at the shortened version of her name he’d just called her by.
“Then I’ll see you again,” He leaned down to kiss her goodnight.
Neither of them heard the door open behind them.
Johnny felt himself pulled backwards. He turned in surprise…the man behind him landed a solid blow to the younger man’s mouth. John stumbled backwards in shock, his lip split and bleeding. Several people on the street turned in stunned amazement at the altercation. John heard Danella’s horrified cry. “Father…No.”
“Oh man…,” Johnny mumbled, just what he needed… an irate father. This was a first for him, the girls he dated in California didn’t still live at home. John wiped the blood from his lip, wincing as he touched it. He opened his mouth to try and apologize… to explain that he meant no harm and had no bad intentions toward the girl, when his worst fears were realized.
“Ó'xevé'ho'e,” the man snarled… “Keep your hands from my daughter.”
John’s face paled at his words. His mouth tightened in hurt resignation as he looked away from the angry man before him. The look that crossed his features broke Danella’s heart.
“Father…!” Danella cried in shock. “No… Please.”
“Be silent..., he roared at his stricken daughter. “Go in the house.”
“But Father, he did nothing…,” she tried to explain.
He cut her off. “He is not a true Indian Danella. I will not have my daughter in the arms of a half breed. A crazy one at that… He’s not good enough for you. Go in the house now.”
John looked at the ground in embarrassment, “Go Danella…,” he said softly trying not to let the pain show, “He’s right… You can do better.” He turned away in humiliation.
“Stay away from my daughter,” he growled…
Johnny nodded his agreement. “Yes sir…” He turned away.
Danella stared at her Father in shock as John walked quickly away from her. “How could you…? He’s gentle and sensitive…he’s the most wonderful…” She trailed off. “You’re as horrible as the rest of them,” she yelled in anger at her father for the first time in her life.
“You will have nothing more to do with him,” he said stubbornly.
“Well father…unless you plan to lock me up forever, you will not keep me from him,” she said softly to her father. “I love him!” She stated. He stared in shock at his daughter.
“Danella you don’t mean that…you don’t even know him.”
“I know all I need to…If he leaves I will follow.” She started to leave but turned back briefly. “Perhaps you should heed your own words father before you pass judgment…get to know him.” She went into the house running to her room to watch John from the window as he walked out of her life. She wouldn’t let that happen, she wouldn’t.
Those who had stopped to watch had varying reactions…some laughed as the young half breed got what he deserved for daring to touch one of their daughters. Some laughed at the brazen declaration of the young woman to her father. Others, some who had been helped by the young man, shook their heads in sorrow at his pain and the hurt reflected in his face. One of them was Blue Eagle…he moved toward the house that John was staying in.
It was a cold night, not at all what Roy was used to. He wondered with a grin if Johnny had even noticed the cold or if he’d found his own warmth in a certain lovely young ladies arms. Dr. Brackett had gone to Lame Deer with Steve and Sean for dinner and a tour of their small Hospital. Roy picked up his coffee cup and headed outside to enjoy it.
He saw a group of people standing by the trading post but they were just beginning to disperse. Roy saw Johnny heading toward him…his head was down and he was moving quickly, almost at a run. Roy knew something was very wrong by the slightly hunched posture. He set his cup aside and headed down the stairs to meet him.
John didn’t look up…just tried to step around his friend, but Roy grabbed hold of his shoulders stopping him.
“Let me go Roy,” Johnny whispered.
“Not a chance…what’s wrong Johnny?”
“Nothing…,” He groaned. “Just leave me alone…please…” Johnny struggled to get loose.
“No Johnny…Stop…Look at me,” Roy said reaching to tilt John’s chin up. The older man sucked in his breath at the sight of John’s face… Blood welled from a split lip, trickling down his chin.
“Aw Johnny what happened? Everything seemed to be going great.”
“Yeah it was,” he said softly. “She’s absolutely wonderful. We talked, we laughed, shared our lives…our dreams…until I brought her home and her father saw her with me,” he looked humiliated.
“What happened Johnny…?” Roy asked gently, already knowing the answer.
His partner averted his eyes, “Don’t Johnny...don’t shut me out…just talk to me please..." Roy was so angry at these people, their narrow mindedness…their bitterness…their prejudice. All the things they claimed to hate about the white attitude toward them…It was tearing his friends’ heart apart.
“Her father told her I was crazy… a half breed...not a true indian. He said I…wasn’t good enough for her,” John choked out. “He told me to stay away from her…that I wasn’t to go near his daughter again. What could I say, he was right.”
“He’s wrong…Damn him,” Roy spat out. “Did he hit you?”Roy asked resting his hand on his partners shoulder.
“I kissed her goodnight…he…he saw me…he hit me.” Embarrassed, John shrugged it off as unimportant.
“They’re fools John, don’t let them get to you…do you hear me? They’re wrong.”
Johnny raised his eyes to Roy’s, all of the old insecurities reflected in them. “Damn them,” Roy said again. He pulled his partner toward him. John resisted, trying not to let the pain and the hurt show, then finally gave in, allowing Roy to wrap his arms around him in a quick, comforting embrace.
After years of friendship and months of touch therapy they both had long since gotten past their discomfort with displays of affection…he let his partner hold him for a moment. “I’m so…so sorry Johnny…they’re wrong.” He said fiercely feeling the rigid tension in John’s body."C’mon partner...," he said, throwing his arm around his friends shoulders and leading him into the house. His hand had already begun to rub John’s back soothingly, using the therapy techniques he’d been taught even before he had John inside.
Danella’s curiosity was peaked. Her heart was aching for John and the hurt she’d seen in his eyes at her fathers words. She watched Roy lead his friend inside. Saw his hand move over his back. She grabbed her coat and snuck out the back door, quickly crossing the street to come peek in the door.
She felt someone come up behind her. She glanced fearfully over her shoulder, afraid it was her father. She was surprised to see Blue Eagle, he smiled reassuringly and they both turned back to watch.
John lay on the sofa...His arms crossed loosely over his stomach. Roy lightly stroked his forehead and face before moving to John’s shoulders… barely touching him…speaking softly to his friend. “Her fathers a fool Johnny, You’re the best man in this place and the best thing that’ll ever happen to that girl. It’s a shame he’s to bigoted to see it.”
“But you’re prejudice…,” John said in a quiet tone.
“You’re damn right I am…,” Roy agreed, “But who knows you better than I do?”
John gave him a small smile, “Why do you care Roy?” Johnny asked sadly, “I mean I know you’ll say you love me, that we’re family...but why?" He whispered.
“Are you kidding me?”
“After all this time and everything we’ve been through together, do you still not know? You’ll let these people raise those old doubts again?”
“I don’t doubt it…I just don’t understand why. Chet said once it was sympathy and pity… I don’t want that.”
“That’s not it. I told you that when Chet said it.”
“I know… but my own family doesn’t love me, why do you?” He asked plaintively.
“Okay Junior I’ll tell you why then…and I assure you, sympathy and pity aren’t on this list. I care about…no…,” He corrected himself… " I love you for your ability to see the good in people when no one else can…Your ability to forgive and to give of yourself to people who not only deserve it but the ones who don’t. Your sensitivity, your courage to go on when others quit. Your love for my family and for me…your willingness to sacrifice yourself for someone else, especially me and OUR family. Your sense of humor… your sense of honor, your gentle heart. I could keep going Junior and I could give you a hundred reasons…but the one that matters is because you’re John Gage…the whole package." John was quiet, his hands clenched together on his stomach, but listening intently. He looked up as Roy finished.
“Do you really see that…? In me?”
“But when you first asked me to be your Partner, you didn’t know me at all. Why did you pick me?”
“I don’t know. Call it…intuition…I saw something special in you. Someone I wanted to know better…maybe someone who needed me,” Roy said sweeping John’s dark hair back.
“Why don’t they? Why doesn’t anyone else?”
“They do Johnny. The right people do.”
“Why don’t I?” He asked forlornly.
“God John, What did these people do to you?” Roy asked angrily, furious at the emotional damage done to his friend. “Why would you even consider coming back here?”
“I…I wanted to help them.”
“That’s exactly what I mean, even after they’ve hurt you so badly, you still wanted to come and help them and that my friend is what makes you John Gage and why you’re special to so many people.”
John sighed…“Thanks Roy,” the older man continued to lightly stroke his partners’ forehead.
“Close your eyes and rest Junior, I’m gonna get some ice for your lip…” John’s eyes drifted closed.
Roy turned…he was surprised to see Danella and Blue Eagle standing in the doorway, tears ran down the young woman’s cheeks.
Therapy sessions usually left John emotionally drained and tired, a quick glance back at his Partner told him the younger man had drifted off. He nodded at the two, directing them toward the kitchen where they wouldn’t disturb Johnny.
Danella glanced at the sleeping paramedic and then looked at Blue Eagle. “What did our people do to him? What did he do that was so awful that they would hurt him this way?”
Blue Eagle shook his head in disappointment at his people and himself. He knew he was as guilty as the others had been. He knew it was time to correct it and he wanted to talk to this friend. Find out more about John Gage and why his friend thought so highly of him…to let the past go and give this young man a chance.
Roy stopped at the table. “Please have a seat…can I get you anything?” He asked. They shook their heads as they sat.
“What can I do for you?”
“What were you doing to Johnny?” Danella asked curiously.
Roy smiled, “it’s called touch therapy or traumatic touch therapy. It’s used to treat people with Johnny’s condition as well as a few more serious disorders."
“His condition?” Blue Eagle questioned in confusion.
“Johnny has something called Aspergers Syndrome Disorder…do you know what that is?” They both shook their heads. “ASD is a neurological disorder...It usually manifests in childhood as it did in Johnny,” He said pointedly to Blue Eagle. “When he’s emotionally stressed or extremely frustrated…or sometimes when he’s very afraid, he…withdraws.”
“Withdraws?” Blue Eagle asked in confusion.
“Goes away, pulls inside himself. He withdraws to a safe place in his mind where he can’t be hurt. Part of withdrawal is the rocking motion…the vacant look to the eyes after he retreats…His refusal to be touched… Your people misinterpreted this disorder as a sign of insanity." Blue Eagle nodded… He remembered it well…he’d seen John do that often as a young boy. John’s is complicated by also having childhood traumatic stress disorder...Do you understand?”
Blue Eagle and Danella shook their head again. "CTSD is caused by traumatic events in a child’s life…In John’s case it was child abuse… physical…emotional…mental. Johnny was subjected to all three.” Danella wiped tears from her cheeks at the thought of John being hurt. Blue Eagle closed his eyes in anger at his people...why hadn’t he seen it…how had they all turned a blind eye to the signs of abuse? Ignored the bruises and the broken bones…Roy was afraid he’d scare Danella off and break Johnny’s heart, but his friend thought he’d lost her already anyway. Roy hoped he’d judged the girl correctly…he had… she nodded in understanding.
“Then my people drove him to this withdrawal with their bitterness and abuse.”
Roy nodded, “Frequently yes... though some was brought on by the stress of the fighting within his Family and the loss of his parents. The attacks by…,”Roy trailed off, not wanting to embarrass Johnny by mentioning his Uncles attempted assaults. "The disorder itself is simply something he was born with, they just made it worse.”
“Anyway… traumatic touch therapy is designed to teach a patient to trust someone. It brings a patient and his therapist to a closer bond. A more… trusting relationship. It relaxes him…It allows him to open up. That’s what you were watching. He and I are close...like brothers, so I was the likely choice, because he wouldn’t open up with a stranger or let a therapist touch him. Tonight he was upset, hurt, stressed…feeling insecure about himself. He needed to be reassured that he’s loved and worth being loved, If not by his real family, than by me and mine.”
“His hurt was my fault,” Danella said wiping tears from her eyes. “My father was horrible to him tonight and the people just stood there...Not one would speak for him but I tell you this Roy DeSoto...My father…this whole tribe will not keep me from him.”
“I think he’s pretty hooked on you as well, but after everything I’ve told you Danella…can you wait for him to catch up …emotionally I mean? He can be a little slow there sometimes.”
“I will wait as long as it takes to win him,” she stood up. “Now I think Blue Eagle has things he wishes to speak to you about…so I wish you a goodnight,” She said as she left the room.
Roy stood as well… he moved to get a damp cloth and some ice, “I need to take care of Johnny.” He said to Blue Eagle. He nodded towards the living room, indicating that the older man should follow him. He headed back to where John was sleeping.
Danella stood beside the cot watching him…she leaned over and kissed his forehead tenderly, “I will not give you up John Gage,” she whispered. The girl smiled at Roy and Blue Eagle as she left.
Roy sat next to his partner and gently cleaned the blood from his friends face. John stirred restlessly. A soft groan escaped his lips. He resettled as he recognized his Partners soothing voice, “It’s just me Johnny…go back to sleep Junior,” Roy said as he brushed his friends’ hair back. He laid the ice pack on John’s lip and glanced over at the older man, “What did you want to ask me Blue Eagle?”
“I have many questions but I will try to limit them…his job? What does a para-medic do exactly?”
“We’re firemen basically but we have training in some medical procedures, so we’re called to the scene first to stabilize a victim or sometimes to rescue them first. Once we’ve done that we get them to a hospital where the real doctors are waiting to finish the job. We work under the direct supervision of a doctor over the radio. We follow his instructions.
“Dr Brackett?” Blue Eagle guessed correctly. Roy nodded. “He achieved his dream to be a Fireman… I remember him as a child saying he would be one.” Blue Eagle looked slightly ashamed, “We laughed at that dream.” He looked up at Roy, “So he…You…both rescue people?”
“This is dangerous?”
“Sometimes…sometimes it’s very dangerous…” Roy looked at his partner in admiration, “Johnny’s absolutely fearless... he’ll try anything to rescue someone. He’s…We’ve,” Roy corrected with a smile. Walked, crawled, slid and run into more situations that would terrify a lot of people and I can tell you one thing,,” Roy said proudly.
“What is that?”
“When that man,” Roy nodded at Johnny, “is pulling someone out of a wrecked car or carryin someone from a burning building, they don’t care what color skin he has…or what nationality he is. You should be proud of him...he shows the courage of his people, white and red..." Blue Eagle nodded thoughtfully.
“I’ll tell you something else,” Roy said angrily.
“I’ve never known him to be ashamed of his heritage, either side of it, until today.He was ashamed of being unable to please either...Ashamed of himself for what he was but never for being Indian. Our last shift before we came here, we responded to a little girl who’d been bitten by a dog… it was nothing serious, but when we arrived she’d been playin cowboys and indians… A child’s game. Johnny said he liked the Lone Rangers friend Tonto as a hero but she was afraid because he was an indian and indians are the bad guys.”
Blue Eagle frowned. “She asked John if he was indian…he said he was. When we left Blue Eagle, that child was braiding her hair and switching sides. That’s what’s so incredible about him. He didn’t get angry or offended, just showed her himself… Understand?”
Blue Eagle nodded again, “I heard you tonight…what you said to him but you couldn’t tell him exactly what drew you to him?"
“His vulnerability,” Roy said quietly. “I guess I just sensed somehow that he needed me…that I somehow…needed him.”
“What is it you…love…about your friend?”
Roy flushed a little at the blatant question…It was one thing to be completely open and honest with Johnny when they were alone but it was a little tougher in front of others…especially strangers. “A lot of people have asked me that... Dr. Brackett, my wife… even Johnny and I’ll tell you what I told them…besides what you heard earlier… his incredible bravery… his forgiving nature, his gentle spirit, his childlike naiveté, his courage to keep fighting…he never quits…never… He’s saved my life…I don’t know how many times…his stubborn, willful attitude.”
Blue Eagle smiled at that, Roy chuckled. “It keeps him alive…I admire his sense of humor, He makes me laugh. He drives me crazy.” Roy shrugged…"His intelligence, his eagerness to learn. That through everything he still has a sense of wonder and a loving heart. That’s the John Gage I’ve been privileged to know. I could go on...I mean… I keep learning new things about him all the time and I’ve learned that the more I find out about Johnny, the more I realize what I still don’t know and the more I’m driven to find out. He’s got hidden depths I haven’t found yet.”
“I told him some of these same things tonight because he doesn’t… he can’t see it in himself. Blue Eagle he’s my brother, “Roy reached over to take John’s hand, “my third child, my best friend, an uncle to my children, my confidant...my teacher. I don’t want to lose that…ever. He’s a gift…unique and special and I don’t care what color the gift comes in, you know? It’s just a shame your people can’t see what I do in him. That they think of him as…an unwanted stray that showed up on their doorstep. That all they could see were halves. Half white, half red instead of seeing JOHN... All of him...The MAN he's become.They never gave him a chance…they somehow missed it,” Roy said through misty eyes. “He felt a gentle squeeze on his fingers, he glanced at his friend…Johnny’s eyes were cracked open and watching him.
“Thanks Roy,” He said softly.
“For what junior?” He asked stroking John’s brow.
“For always bein there…, for bein my friend,” he said softly. His eyes drifted shut once more.
“Always will be Johnny.”
Blue Eagle smiled gently. “Your words have said a lot but it’s your obvious love for your friend, your admiration of his skills, your close friendship… that you stand by him through everything, your loyalty in following him so far away from home that says even more. Thank you for opening my eyes…for helping me to truly see one of my people…one of our children.” He stood, patting Roy’s shoulder. “I think John is also wise in his choice of friends,” Roy nodded his thanks. “I will tell my people what you’ve said… and I’ll tell them what they’ve missed.”
Johnny woke early the next morning. Kel and Roy were already up and sipping coffee in the kitchen. Obviously they hadn’t been up very long, as Roy had yet to tell the doctor about Johnny’s altercation with Four Feathers. Kel stopped with the cup halfway to his mouth. “What the hell happened to you Johnny? Not…”
“No… I met a girl yesterday Doc. She’s beautiful, smart. She works at the hospital and she wants to be a nurse.”
Johnny’s mouth dropped open, “How’d you know that?”
“Johnny I work at the hospital every day. I’ve met the girl and you’re right, she’s lovely.”
“Yeah, well …we went for a walk. We talked for a long time. I...when I brought her home…her father objected to my being with her. He made sure I understood I wasn’t good enough for his daughter,” He said lightly touching his lip. His eyes still reflected the pain and hurt from the previous night.
“Johnny…,”Roy began but John waved him off.
“Don’t worry about me… I’m okay Roy, really.”
“Johnny, I’m so sorry,” Kel commiserated.
“It’s okay Doc, I’m alright. Do Roy and I go out today?” He asked, changing the subject.
Kel glanced at Roy and received a confirming nod that Johnny was okay. “Yes, I think you’re going out. Little Fox missed you John,” Kel teased…“She asked for you.”
Recognizing the attempt to lighten his mood, he rewarded Kel with a small smile. “At least I don’t have to worry about her father,” he quipped.
“Coffee Junior…?” Roy asked.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said taking the cup.
They left the house. Roy saw John’s eyes flick towards the trading post, before he studiously looked away. They entered the Hospital to meet with Dr. Handly and Dr. Carlton and go over their route. Several had made a recovery and were dropped from the list. Two or three others were newly added to their rounds. They had lost one in the hospital overnight. Roy and John took the opportunity to resupply their backpacks.
The door opened behind them. They continued plotting out their stops, the doctors pointing out who their main concerns were. “I think Little Fox can come off the list after today. She’ll be disappointed not to see you anymore John,.” Dr. Handly teased. “You were all she talked about yesterday,” John’s face flushed in embarrassment.
“She is not alone,” came a soft voice from behind them…“You are all I could think of as well.”
John spun around in surprise. “Danella? What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you…to tell you how sorry I am for what my father said to you," she said taking his hand and leading him away from the others. “I want to see you again. My father cannot keep me from you.”
John looked at the floor, “Dani…he can, you still live in his home.”
“Then I will leave it,” she stated…reaching to caress his face.
John caught her hand, shaking his head. “No Dani…I…can’t promise you…,” He hesitated.
“I don’t need promises.”
“But you deserve them.” He pressed a quick kiss into the palm of her hand…“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He turned to the others, grabbing his pack. “Come on Roy," he said softly as he headed for the door…“We got work to do.” He didn’t see the tears in the young woman’s eyes or the look of determination that matched his own.
John tried to put Danella from his mind as they worked, but Roy saw a sad, faraway look enter his eyes several times over the course of the day. He knew he was thinking of the girl. Johnny worked himself to exhaustion. Roy tried several times to get him to talk…he got the same answer, "I’m fine Roy…I don’t wanna talk about it.”
They arrived home early in the evening. The woman who had been cooking for them had left dinner warming in the oven. Roy and Kel ate, while Johnny picked at his food, pushing it aimlessly around on his plate. Finally, he picked up his plate and headed for the Kitchen. “I’m goin for a walk,” He said shrugging into his jacket and heading out the door.
Roy and Kel exchanged a glance. “Should he be alone?” Kel asked. “I mean with George…” He let the sentence hang.
“I’ll go after him in a minute,” Roy said. “He just needs some time to himself.” Roy went to the window to be sure he saw where Johnny was headed. He tensed when he noticed a shadowy figure following behind and then recognized it as Danella… He grinned.“On second thought, I think I’ll let him be.”Kel looked at him curiously, moving to the window. He looked out and his chuckle brought another grin to Roy’s face.
“I’ll give her one thing, she knows what she wants and she’s determined to have it,” Kel said.
“Yeah, but is Johnny ready to give it?” Roy asked softly. “He’s so confused right now and she’s not a casual affair Doc, Ya know?”
Johnny trudged to the river, finding a spot just under a tree that was clear of snow, he sat. He drew his knees up. Wrapping his arms about them and resting his chin on top. He silently watched the water try to shift the ice in the river. Most of it was frozen, but the deepest part in the middle still flowed. Johnny felt like the ice...cold and alone, trying to hold back the river of his life as it flowed past, trying to sweep him away.
He felt someone come up behind him. Somewhere…the senses his grandfather had long ago taught him to use kicked in. The person with him wasn’t George or Roy, the walk was too soft. A woman then and the only woman who would follow him was Dani. “You should go home… it’s cold out,” He said without turning around.
She knelt behind him…her hands came to rest on his shoulders. He tensed beneath her fingers. “Dani I…,” He began.
“Shhh… Ve'sáa'óxô-héhe ,” (Don’t say anything) She whispered as her lips brushed his neck. John shivered but not from the cold. Danella felt it, her hands trailed down his shoulders and arms as she’d seen Roy do to relax him during therapy. Even through his clothes, his nerve endings began to tingle. He turned his head toward her, looking up into her eyes. She leaned down, her lips meeting his.
John turned…he reached out and wrapped an arm about her waist, pulling her around and into his lap. She giggled knowing she’d won and at the power she had over him. Their lips met again and again, unable to get enough of each other. His hands tangled in her hair, her mouth parted beneath his. Tongues met, finally deepening into a long, passionate blending. She’d never felt anything like this before, she knew she was playing with fire but she wanted more.
John’s hands cupped her face, sliding down her shoulders, under her jacket, caressing her back…pulling her closer. She trembled under his hands as she pressed her body against his. Her head tilted back to allow his mouth access to her throat. His mouth trailed fire down her neck, a faint moan escaped her lips…her hands stroked his neck up to his face...sliding around into his hair. Their eyes locked, he backed off slightly. She was so young, she seemed to know what she was doing, but he had to be sure.
“Dani, have you ever um…done this before?” He panted.
“No, you will be my first.”
“Oh man…,” John groaned in misery. He set her away from him. He drew in a ragged breath, teeth clenched. John once again drew his knees up to his chin, trying to bring his shaking body under control. God he’d never wanted a woman more.
“Johnny?” She asked curiously, “what’s wrong?”
“Have you never done this before?”
John’s face turned scarlet, “Of course I have…," he said indignantly. "I…just…Oh damn!”
“You don’t want me?”
Johnny groaned, “More than you could possibly know…but I can’t…stay here and that wouldn’t be fair to you.”
“I could go with you,” she said hopefully.
“You’d hate Los Angeles. You’re a person who belongs here, where I never will and someday you’ll care for someone here. He’ll have a right to expect…certain things.” He ground out, jealous at the thought of someone else holding her… kissing her. He scooted away, wrapping his arms about his drawn up knees. The clean earthy scent of her was intoxicating. It was all he could do not to reach for her again.
“I’m not a child John…I know what happens between a man and a woman…I want you. I would go where you go and I would love it if you were there.”
“Your family would never allow it.”
“I’d go anyway.”
“No…No…I won’t do that. I won’t make the same mistake my parents did. I won’t bring that kind of bitterness on another generation.”
“You wouldn’t be. You would be with me.”
“Dani, I’m a fireman. My life…my job is dangerous. I could easily put you in the same position my mother found herself in… I won’t do that.”
“Your family would not reject your child,” John looked at her in surprise…not understanding who she meant. “Your family…Roy and his wife…they love you and they would not see me or your child left to struggle,” She said remembering how fondly Johnny had spoken of his friends the night before.
“That’s not the same thing.”
She started to speak but he held up his hand to stop her. “It’s no good,” he said sadly as he slowly stood up. “I…I have to go…my Partners expecting me. He’ll worry if I’m gone too long.” Johnny walked away…tears glittered in his eyes. He heard her quiet weeping behind him but he refused to go back…he knew he’d never walk away if he did. ‘It’s for the best,’ He reasoned to himself. ‘I’d break her heart someday.’ He began to run.
George Walking Wolf watched from the cover of the trees…so that’s the way the wind blew, his son Ben would be furious to learn the woman he wanted for himself…the one who’d held him at bay for months, was about to give herself to his half breed cousin, just as his mother had given herself to that white man…Gage. He began to plan how to use this to his advantage.
He would not lose John. Not to this woman…not to John’s friend. Their close bond was obvious…he never stopped watching over him. He didn’t know the relationship between the two, but it was too close for him and he wouldn’t share. This was the first time he’d seen John without him in five days. He watched with hungry eyes as the couple locked in a passionate embrace, but the hunger in his eyes wasn’t for Danella.
He watched John’s mouth close over the girls, his breath caught as he waited for the union, but Johnny suddenly pulled back…he spoke to the girl. He saw her shake her head… watched as his nephew pushed her away. He almost laughed. His nephew was ever the perfect gentleman. George could only guess that Johnny had just found out her virginal status. George would have taken her in a heartbeat.
After a few moments of conversation, the young man stood and walked quickly away…head down, obviously frustrated. He was alone. George saw his opportunity and began to follow.
He was just coming parallel with his prey, when John began to run. At first George thought that he’d seen him, but John never looked back. George realized he was running from Danella, not him…John was still unaware of his presence but he knew from past experience, when the boy ran, he’d never catch him.
He continued to follow as his nephew entered the village square, hoping John would hold up. He finally slowed to a walk…George picked up speed to catch up…he smiled as he closed the distance…It turned into a sneer of rage when he saw the friend come out to meet him almost as if he’d been waiting. Damn him, he probably was. George watched from the cover of the trees beside the trading post as the blonde man stopped John and spoke to him softly for several minutes. His hand reaching out to rest on the younger man’s shoulder.
John slowed as he entered the square…he walked with his head down for a distance before glancing up. He saw Roy waiting for him up ahead.
“Johnny, what’s wrong?” Roy asked as he got close enough for the older man to see his face.
Roy rested his hand on John’s shoulder. “Don’t nothin me Junior, I know you too well.”
“I’m okay Roy. It’s just… Dani… she wants to go with me to LA.”
“So…? That’s wonderful.”
“I…she wouldn’t be happy there Roy.”
“She’d be happy where you were.”
Johnny shook his head. “That’s what she said but…”
“But what? You think she doesn’t know what she feels or wants?”
“She’s young…innocent…she belongs here…” He gestured to the surroundings, “It would never work.”
“I think your selling her short Junior.”
“Besides… I don’t want her to go through what my mom and I did if somethin…ya know…happened to me,” he added with a shrug.
“She’d be in LA, not here.”
But what If something happened to me…?” He whispered looking down.
“Then Jo and I would be there to help her, same as you would be if something happened to me.”
Johnny raised forlorn eyes. “Thanks partner but I think she’ll change her mind once the novelties worn off and she realizes what she’d have to give up,” he said, all of his insecurities climbing to the surface.
Roy shook his head. “Johnny it’s your decision and I’ll respect it, but Junior don’t sell yourself short either. You’re pretty special too. She cares about you…I can see it in the way she looks at you. The way she leans toward you, touches you. It’s body language,” He said reminding him of another conversation about a young woman who’d had her eye on him.
John smiled sadly. “Her family doesn’t like me.”
“You’re not dating her family. She’d defy her father…This is the 20th Century, besides…you’d grow on em ”
“Not here Roy…nothing changes here. It’s the same as it was thirteen years ago. Heck fifty years. She can’t defy her father, he’d cast her out. She’d have no family. It’d be exactly the same Roy…a repeat of history…I can’t…I just…can’t.” John turned away in despair kicking at the powdery snow with his feet.
Roy understood...he’d never wish what Johnny had gone through on another child…still his heart ached. His friend had found the woman of his dreams. She knew his past, his present and she desperately wanted his future and he couldn’t have her.
A motion by the stand of trees caught his eye. He saw George Walking Wolf step from the shadows. Roy turned to where John stood staring at the ground forlornly. Roy reached out turning his friend and giving him a shove toward the building, “John... go inside.”
Johnny turned back…"Roy what’s wrong?” He asked as he turned his head to follow the direction of Roy’s stare. The color drained from his face and he stepped backwards as he spotted his uncle standing there watching. Johnny and Roy both realized how dangerously close the younger man had come to being caught alone outside with him. Roy resolved not to let it happen again.
Roy once again pushed John toward the stairs, “Inside…now Johnny..,.” Roy barked uncertain of what George might be up to.
“But Roy…,” the younger man protested as he backed toward the stairs, obviously afraid but unwilling to leave his friend. The older blonde man turned toward George. The message obvious…he’d have to go through him to get to John. George laughed coldly, then turned and disappeared back into the trees. Roy followed after his partner…he gripped his arm and led him back into the safety of the house.
As George watched he moved forward… brazenly stepping from the shadows. His actions made it clear he was stalking his nephew and he didn’t intend to give up. He saw the blonde man’s eyes flick in his direction. Roy suddenly shoved John towards the house. He saw his nephew turn to argue…saw his head turn toward where George was standing. John took an involuntary step backward as he saw his uncle. Once again the friend turned pushing the younger man toward the house, snapping something at him. He turned toward George as John backed toward the steps…still arguing. The belligerent stance of John’s friend was clear…He wasn’t about to let George anywhere near his friend...not without a fight. Only one of them could win this battle…George intended to be the one…He laughed at his next thought…this man would have to be eliminated.
John woke the next morning. His mouth felt like cotton and his throat a little sore. He swung his feet over the edge of the bed feeling tired and achy. He must have been really tense yesterday…he hadn’t slept well at all. He’d tossed most of the night, his mind on Danella. He shook his head in disgust at the way his body had betrayed him. He couldn’t keep his hands off the girl by the river last night and now every time he thought of her, his stomach tightened and his pulse raced.
Then there was Uncle George. Roy had been furious last night that the man had so brazenly advertised his intentions. He remembered his words… "You stay close to me…understand? You go nowhere alone…not even with Danella.” Kel had reinforced that directive. John had nodded in resignation…afraid the two men would drag him back to LA if he protested.
He headed for the bathroom to get ready for the day. Kel and Roy were already in the Kitchen. He could hear the soft murmur of their voices. He showered quickly, the hot water easing the aching muscles. He finished up quickly and went to join them. It was gonna be a long day.
Conversation stopped as he entered the room. Blue Eagle stood with Roy and Kel holding a cup of steaming coffee. John halted in surprise, “Uh…Good morning Blue Eagle, Roy…Doc…,” he acknowledged warily as he continued towards the coffee pot.
“Good morning John,” Blue Eagle greeted. “Doctor…Roy, thank you for the coffee…I will see you tonight." The two men nodded. Blue Eagle looked at Johnny. A slight smile crossed his features. “I came to thank your friends for what they are doing here. I want to thank you as well. You didn’t have to come back here but you did. That took great strength.”
“They’re still my family whether they claim me or not,” he said softly.
“They would be fools not to,” Blue Eagle said gently.
John’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Th...Thank you,” He stuttered. His eyes flicked to Roy in shock. The older man winked at him and smiled.
“I will leave you now…you have much work ahead of you before tonight.”
They all nodded in agreement. He turned and left.
“What was he doin here?” Johnny asked…“And what’s tonight?”
“He told you Junior,” Roy said patting his friends shoulder…“He came to say thank you.”
“And he’s having a…council tonight in his home since the lodge is in use. He asked Roy and me to come and discuss some things along with Steve and Sean and some of the tribes elders,” Kel added.
John turned away to wash his cup…also to hide the hurt in his eyes. He wasn’t invited. He shouldn’t be surprised, but it still left a pain in his heart. A headache began to build behind his eyes. ‘Man he didn’t need this pressure on top of his problem with Danella and an Influenza Epidemic...’ he got a grip on his thoughts.
The mask of indifference he’d worn most of his life before Roy had come along, dropped into place once more...“I guess we’d better go then,” He said turning around to face them… “We’ve got a lot to do before tonight.” The hurt was well hidden, except from Roy.
“Johnny…?” Roy began, “about tonight…”
“Don’t worry about it Roy, It doesn’t matter... I’m used to not being invited to these things,” Johnny said with a shrug of the shoulders. “They just don’t usually allow any…outsiders in.” The tight set of his jaw said this was a double insult…not only was he not invited but his friends were.
Roy wanted to explain, but didn’t dare in case things didn’t go well tonight. Still he hated seeing the hurt in his friends’ eyes. “Johnny will you just trust me that there’s a reason the Doc and I were invited and you weren’t. That Blue Eagle didn’t leave you out to hurt you.”
Dark eyes turned toward him. “They never left me out to hurt me Roy... to them I simply don’t exist. I’m invisible…I’m crazy and therefore tolerated, but not wanted. I’m an embarrassment to the family….the tribe.” John tightened his mouth to stop the tremble, he looked away.
“Johnny… please…just trust me on this. You know I’d never go there without a reason…”
John raised his hand in a ‘stop there’ gesture. “Roy, don’t you know you’re the one person I do trust,” he said with a small, sad smile… “Can we get to work now?” He asked rubbing at the ache in his forehead.
They headed out on their rounds. The people they encountered were beginning to come around to the two men. The wariness they’d displayed toward Roy had disappeared. The coldness they’d displayed toward Johnny was beginning to melt under his softly spoken words of comfort or encouragement. Even the children… as sick as they were lit up with smiles when he came in…begging for more stories of the rescues he and Roy had been on. John’s bleak mood began to lift as the afternoon wore on.
Roy was still worried... the younger man remained quiet. He caught him on more than one occasion rubbing his forehead as if in pain. “Johnny, are you okay?” He finally asked.
“Yeah, I just have a headache...I didn’t sleep well,” he answered with a shrug… “I had a lot on my mind.”
“Yeah… Roy I know she’s not on the list anymore, but I’d like to check on Little Fox.”
Roy grinned. “I’m sure she’d love that.”
John smiled back. They made her the last stop of the day.
John’s knock was answered by the old woman. She grinned broadly when she saw him. Her eyes lit on the bandage still covering the stitches in his forehead. Her gnarled fingers lightly brushed the fading bruises left by Walking Wolf’s attack. Johnny reached up to catch her hand.
“Né-pêhévomóhtâhehe Little fox?” (How are you feeling). John asked.
“Ná-pêhévomóhtahe .” (I’m feeling good). She answered with a smile. Her eyes scanned his face. She saw the tired eyes, through the smile. “Né-kâhaneotsehe? Né-pêhévomóhtâhehe? ” (Are you tired? How are you feeling?)
“Ná-pêhévomóhtahe.” She narrowed her eyes, he didn’t look alright, but she let it drop as she turned to Roy. “It is good to see you again Roy. How are you?”
“I’m good Little Fox and you?”
“I am good also,” She answered giving Roy her best toothless grin. “Johnny just wanted to check on you…he was worried about you.”
She smiled her gratitude at the young, dark haired paramedic. “You worry after an old woman like me…you are truly a special man John Gage,.”she said as she reached for John’s cheek. He pulled back and ducked away in embarrassment. A flush stained his face. Roy grinned at his flustered friend until she turned her attention toward him. “And you are also special…your love for this young man is a good thing.”
Roy blushed as John hooted with laughter at the turn about. His laugh turned into a harsh cough but he continued to grin his merriment at his partner. Roy shot him an annoyed look but turned back to Little Fox.
“Thank you. He’s very important to me and my family and…,” He hesitated briefly…"we do love him…a great deal.”
John’s face turned scarlet, drawing another laugh from both Little Fox and Roy.
“Johnny it’s getting late, we need to get back. I want to clean up before…,” He trailed off seeing the fleeting, familiar look of pain in John’s eyes.
“Yeah, c’mon,” he said quietly, turning back to the old woman. “Little Fox, we have to go now. I’m glad you’re well and I’ll see you again before I leave.”
She nodded. Her old heart ached at the hurt in his eyes. She didn’t understand what had caused it, but it was definitely there, along with a suspicious glint. She reached once more to touch his face but John ducked his head away. Taking her hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Good night.”
“Good night John… Roy.” She walked them to the door, closing it behind them. She didn’t like the look in John’s eyes. She would ask his partner about him tonight. She went to get ready herself...she had a meeting to go to.
They arrived back at the house. John’s eyes went to the trading post where Danella stood watching for him from the stairs. She smiled tentatively…his mouth clenched shut. He wanted desperately to go to her, beg her forgiveness for last night… hold her but he knew they couldn’t be together. It would only hurt more when he left. Better to let her hate him... to think she meant nothing to him. To walk away now before they did something she’d regret her whole life. He turned away and followed Roy inside without returning her smile. He didn’t see the tears tracking down her cheeks.
Kel returned from the Hospital a few minutes later. Roy had just stepped from the shower and John lay on the sofa staring at the ceiling, his hand absently rubbed at his forehead. He couldn’t seem to shake this headache, and his throat was still sore from this morning. Nothing bad just an awareness of irritation, probably from being in the cold air last night.
“You guys eat yet?” Kel asked as he headed for the shower.
“No we were waiting for you,” Roy replied.
“Why don’t you start, I just want to clean up a bit, I’ll be right out.”
“Sure Doc… Johnny, you ready?” His partner asked.
“I’m not really hungry, you two go ahead.”
“Johnny you didn’t eat last night or this afternoon either... are you okay?”
“I’m fine…just got other things on my mind.”
“John…you can work this out with her…”
“Just leave it alone Roy, you don’t understand…” He stopped seeing the hurt look on his friends face. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to snap…I just…you just don’t know what it’s like here, what could happen…I’ve already lived it. I don’t want that for her.” He stood up from the sofa, a slight dizziness washed over him. His touched the bandage on his head… wondering when the dizziness from his head injury would finally pass. He went to his cot and lay down. He was stressed and he needed to rest.
Kel came out and sat down to eat. “John through already…?” He asked Roy.
“No, he said he wasn’t hungry…again. I’m worried about him…he’s probably upset about this meeting tonight but…"
"I feel awful about tonight as well… He looked so hurt this morning.”
“I know, but he’d be a wreck if he knew this meeting was about him. I just don’t want him to get his hopes up and then not have it go well. Another disappointment would kill him.”
“I know,” Kel sighed. “What a crummy way to grow up huh?”
They stood and cleared the table. Roy washed the dishes. He dried his hands… “I’ll go tell him we’re goin,” he told the dark haired Doctor.
Roy stuck his head in the living room… “Johnny we’re goin now,” he said quietly.
“Okay… Have a good time,” came the soft response.
“It’s okay Roy, just go.”
“We won’t be long, keep the door locked.” He heard the aggravated sigh. “Johnny we don’t know where George is and I don’t like leavin you alone with him around. I mean it…keep the door locked.”
The two older men left, locking the door behind them.
John lay on the bed…his head was still throbbing. His mind traveled to Dani…she was all he could see when he closed his eyes. His body warmed at the thought of her. A shiver swept through him. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Another wave of dizziness washed over him...he waited for it to pass.
Finally he stood up and went out to the Kitchen. He let out a deep painful cough. He should have had more sense than to stay out in the cold air so long last night, but he’d been plenty warm then. A sad smile played on his lips as he thought of the girl again. He thought a cool glass of water would ease his throat and a couple of aspirin to get rid of the head and muscle aches.
He got his drink and unlocking the door, stepped out on the porch. Roy would be angry, but he refused to sit quivering like a frightened rabbit behind locked doors. His mind traveled back to the many times he and his mother had sat on a pair of stairs just like this, talking about his father or her graceful movements as she taught her son to dance with her as her beloved husband had. Tears filled his eyes but he brushed them away.
He shouldn’t have come here. This wasn’t home…it never really had been and it never would be. There were too many painful memories and not enough good ones. When he left here this time he would bury them. Find his future in LA and leave the past behind once and for all.
His eyes moved to the trading post. The lights were on upstairs, he knew she was there. The therapy Roy had been putting him through had helped him a lot in handling relationships. He felt he was ready now. He needed to find a girl like Dani…No… he needed to find a girl who wouldn’t remind him of her…build a life and settle down. ‘Why not her?’ A voice whispered inside his head. He shook it away. It could be disastrous for her if something happened to him. A chill swept through him… Man, how could he be shivering when he felt so warm?
It suddenly dawned on him. The headache and dizziness wasn’t from his concussion. The sore throat wasn’t due to the cold night air, or the aches and pains from overwork and stress. He had chills and the flush of fever, he was sick...very sick and he needed help. He needed Roy right now. Blue Eagles house was only yards away, but it suddenly felt like miles as weakness washed through him.
The Elders of the tribe had gathered at Blue Eagles as well as several members of John’s Family. Steven Handly, Sean Carlton, Roy and Kel were also present. Roy noted that George Walking Wolf was absent. He hoped Johnny was safe behind locked doors.
Blue Eagle started off by addressing the medical team, “I wish to thank you on behalf of my people for your help during this sickness. We can now only hope to see it end soon so that you can return to your lives.” The others present nodded their agreement. He turned to the four white men standing there, “I would ask you to extend our thanks to a member of our family who is not here tonight.”
Roy saw John’s family stiffen in anger. “I would prefer Blue Eagle that the people tell him themselves,” Roy answered.
“I would prefer it as well, which is why I have asked you all here tonight. I believe that we as a family and as a people of honor have failed one of our children.”
John’s Aunt Lacee stood up in an outrage… “The boy is no part of this family. His presence here did nothing but tear our family apart.” Roy tensed in anger. How could this woman blame a child for any of what happened? “He was crazy. We all saw that…all of the rocking, the screaming and kicking, his empty eyed gaze…crazy,” She spat, trying to justify her bitterness toward a helpless child.
Her sister stood. “His father came here and stole our sister away...then he dies and leaves us with his mongrel. A burden for us to bear. Now I hear that the son would do the same. He has set his eyes on your daughter Four Feathers. Would you allow such a disgrace?”
“I have told him to stay away from my daughter, but…,”he began.
He was cut off. “You see...he would now bring dishonor on another family…tear yet another family apart.”
Four Feathers stood…he had something more to say. A sound from behind them brought everyone’s head around. John stood in the doorway, his face pale and shocked. The look of hurt and humiliation tore at Roy’s heart.
His Aunt Lacee saw him, “Why are you here? You were not invited to this family gathering."
John’s eyes dropped to the floor, “I’m s…sorry…I…I didn’t mean to intrude. I just needed R...Roy. I…I’ll go...,” He stammered.
“Wait…” Roy moved toward him, but John had already started to turn away. He ran into someone coming through the door behind him. “Excuse m…,” he trailed off. Terror filled his eyes as he looked up into the leering eyes of George Walking Wolf. He backed away, straight into Roy. George knew this wasn’t the place for a confrontation…he moved past him taking his place with his family.
John tried to move away from Roy. "I’m intruding…I…need to go…I’m s…sorry. I...”
“Johnny wait, you’re not intruding…you should hear this.”
"No…I…I’ve already heard enough…it’s okay…really,” He whispered. He seemed to have difficulty breathing. Roy thought he was trying not to cry, he was partially right.
“It’s not okay…Johnny. I’m tired of them hurting you, humiliating you…” He shot a glare at George, “abusing you and have you tell me it’s okay…damn it, it’s not okay,” Roy snapped
“Don’t b…be angry with me…”
‘I’m not…,”He began in frustration, then hesitated. Getting his anger under control… softening his tone. “I’m not angry with you… I’m angry at them for you.”
“Don’t be… I didn’t come here to be a problem…I came to help…I…”
“That’s right,” Roy interrupted. “You came to help the most ungrateful group of people I’ve ever met. They speak of family and honor...” Roy glared at the assemblage, “They don’t know the meaning of the words.” Roy took John by the shoulders… “Johnny the thing here is,” Roy said giving him a gentle shake to get his attention... “You’re the only one here who does know what it means. Love…forgiveness, self sacrifice…you live it every day.” John stared at the floor silently.
Some heads began to nod in agreement, Blue Eagle noticed. Roy was getting through to them if not his friend.
Kel stood staring in surprise. He’d never heard the soft spoken paramedic utter so many words.
“He was a crazy child, a disappointment to his family…you do not know what his poor mother had to go through,” his Aunt Lacee said snidely, still desperate to explain away her own hate and jeaousy for her sister, aiming it toward Red Moon's only child.
“He wasn’t crazy,” Roy snapped out, turning back to face the woman. "It’s a neurological condition called Aspergers Syndrome Disorder. You…You people drove him into withdrawal with your abuse. You stand here and speak of tribal pride and family, while you held a child responsible for his parents actions, because they had the nerve to be in love. He forgave that…came back here of his own free will to help you.”
“He owes us.”
“He owes you nothing,” Roy snarled at the woman. “You owed him. You owed him a family.” He continued more softly. “He was a child…you owed him comfort after the loss of his parents, love… understanding. Instead you heaped your bitterness and hate and abuse all over him. He needed you and you failed him…the disgrace is yours. You claim to hate the unfairness and bigotry of the white man, well then take a good look at yourselves because you could teach it to us."
Tears tracked down Johnny’s cheeks…his head hung in embarrassment, knowing these people would consider it weakness. He struggled to breath, holding back the coughs threatening to escape. His body shook with a mixture of humiliation and chills.
Roy turned back to his friend, seeing the hunched posture, the shamed, downcast eyes. He again gripped his friends’ shoulders, “Don’t you dare hang your head in shame Johnny, You did nothing wrong…nothing…they did?”
John raised his head to look into his partners eyes, he struggled to hold back the tears. Roy suddenly realized as he saw those glistening dark eyes, that it wasn’t just tears, but the glaze of fever.
Roy reached up taking Johnny’s face between his hands. He could feel the heat from his Partners skin burning his fingers. Sweat had begun to bead his brow. “Oh my God Johnny,” Roy said in alarm…”You’re burning up.” His hand flew to his friends’ forehead. “Doc?” Roy called.
“What is it Roy?” Kel asked as he came toward him. The tone alarmed him as well as Steven and Sean. They exchanged a glance, and then followed the younger doctor over.
“He’s real, hot…” Feverish eyes regarded Roy vaguely, “Geez Johnny, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
John was shaking with chills. “J…just started to f…feel really bad. C…came to f… find you. D...didn't mean to...to eavesdrop.”A harsh cough rattled from the young man’s chest. Sickness and stress combined to cause John’s legs to buckle.
Roy caught him…he threw his Partners arm over his shoulder, bending to lift his friend into his arms. John’s head dropped to Roy’s shoulder as he carried him into the small living area. He laid him on the couch, grabbing a throw from the back of the sofa and wrapping his friend snugly.
Blue Eagle came to stand and watch. Roy ran for the bathroom, snatching a small towel, soaking it. He ran back. The younger man tossed his head restlessly. His hair was plastered to his face in strings. Roy laid the towel over John’s hot forehead.
Kel and Steve were already working on getting a set of vitals. Sean had run to the hospital for one of their bags. He returned quickly.
Kel grabbed the BP cuff. Steve was placing a thermometer under John’s tongue. Roy gently bathed the sweat from his face. Kel plucked the thermometer from his mouth a minute later. “103° , Roy, let’s get him into bed. I want to put him on ringers to avoid dehydration. The loss of his spleen a few months ago puts him in the high risk category.
“Do you need help?” Blue Eagle asked as Roy prepared to lift his friend in his arms.
“No Blue Eagle, these people have done enough,” he replied in frosty tones as he lifted his delirious friend into his arms. John’s head once again dropped to rest on Roy’s shoulder.
Most of the people who gathered to watch at least had the decency to hang their heads in shame…Georges eyes glittered with malicious jealousy as Roy carried him out.
Danella sat on the stairs of the trading post, her eyes on the house across the square. She knew most everyone of importance had been invited to Blue Eagles…everyone except Johnny. She knew he’d be home alone and she desperately wanted to see him, to hold him in her arms, to feel his mouth on hers again. She didn’t know how to reach him, but she had to try.
She saw the door to Blue Eagles open. Someone stepped outside. He was carrying something heavy…three others followed. As they stepped from the shadows into the moonlight, she realized it was John’s friend Roy and the three white doctors who followed. Roy was carrying someone. Danella knew the only person he’d be carrying like that would be Johnny. She launched off the stairs running to catch up as they approached their house. She followed them inside.
Kel turned to close the door…he was shocked to see Danella race through the doorway behind him. “Roy? What’s wrong with him?” She asked tentatively. Fear in her eyes as the blonde man laid his friend on the bed. Johnny tossed… a racking cough erupted once again from deep in his lungs.
“Danella he’s got influenza.” Her hands flew to her mouth in alarm. “Do you wanna help?” Roy asked.
“Good…can you get me a pan of cool water and a small towel?”
She nodded, running for the kitchen.
Kel was establishing an IV of Ringers solution. Steven was already administering Amantadine. Sean was setting the oxygen canister next to the bed…both had heard Kel place Johnny in the high risk category.
Johnny moaned softly as Kel inserted the IV, “Roy…,” He whispered, tossing his head and coughing again.
“Shhh…Junior...I’m here,” he said softly. Roy lightly brushed his damp hair back. He took his hand, soothing his friend. Danella returned with the water. She handed the pan and the towel to Roy… “Thank you,” He said as she stepped back. Her hands clasped tightly together in concern.
“Will he be alright?” She asked fearfully. He looked so terrible.
“Johnny is at a greater risk than some others Danella,” Roy explained as he bathed his partners face. “A few months ago he was hit by a drunk driver. They had to take his spleen out. Do you know what that does?”
“Yes, it helps fight off infection.”
“That’s right, so even a little cold can bring him down fast. He can’t fight it off as well as he used to.” She nodded her understanding.
“What was he thinking coming here?” Steven asked.
“He was thinking of a family he believed he owed something too,” Roy said angrily. “The same family who just turned their backs on him tonight…AGAIN.” They heard the disgusted tone of his voice. “Can someone cover for me tomorrow?” Roy asked… “I’ll need to stay with him.”
“Let me Roy?” Danella asked. “Let me stay with him? Please?”
“I don’t know Danella, he’s pretty difficult when he’s sick," Roy hedged…not sure if Johnny would want her there.
“I can handle it and the Doctors will be right across the street if I need them. They can call you in on the radio if they need too.” Her eyes were pleading. Roy looked at John… It might be good to have them together even if he was sick, besides it might well be all the time they’d have together if his stubborn friend wouldn’t come around.
“What about your father?”
“My father will not keep me from him. I will leave his house if I must but I will be here for Johnny.”
“Okay Danella that would be great, but if he becomes agitated or difficult you have the doc’s call me okay? I’ll make those rounds quick and get back here.”
“I will…I promise. I will be back in the morning, before you leave.” Roy nodded. Danella moved to John’s side. She leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. “Né-méhotâtse John," (I love you) she whispered.
The others may not have understood the words, but the look on her face and the tone of her voice said it all. They glanced at each other in concern. The girl was in love with John…but did he feel the same way and if so how would they get around her father…the tribe…his own insecurities.
Roy watched her leave. A hint of a smile played around his lips. He hoped they could work this out. He knew even if John hadn’t yet realized it himself that his partner was in love with this girl.
He turned back to his friend. John stirred restlessly, a deep hacking cough left him breathless and struggling to draw air. Roy sat on the edge of the bed, taking his partners hand in his own and pulling him into an upright position to lean against his shoulder... “Come on Johnny, breathe for me…,” he said softly, as the others watched in concern. John managed to finally draw a lungful of air, his breathing became more regular. Roy laid him back down a moment later.
Roy moved his cot to a place close to the younger man, where he could hear and reach him if necessary. “Doc, you can get some sleep if you want… I’ll stay with him."
“I never doubted that for a minute,” Kel said with a smile.
Steven and Sean said goodnight and headed back for Blue Eagles. They wanted to hear the outcome.
George watched in a jealous rage as Roy carried John from the Blue Eagles home.
The Elder stood staring at the floor, angry at the young man’s family and their bitterness. He turned and moved back to the gathering. They were murmuring amongst each other. Some were surprised to learn of the abuse the boy had endured for the first time. Some looked at John’s family in disgust, some with approval. He looked to Little Fox who sat in stony silence. Arms folded across her chest in indignation for the young man she’d grown so fond of. He stared at them until silence reigned.
“His friend speaks the truth. John Gage has proven himself to be a man of honor, courage, forgiveness, and integrity... more so than some of us,” He said in anger at himself as well. “We as his people…as his family have failed him. John has brought honor and a better understanding of our people and our way of life to the people of Los Angeles. He has been an example with his gentle spirit, his kind heart and his courage to fight when others would quit. His bravery in fighting fires and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others show his warriors heart.”
“I have spent some time speaking with his partner, the doctor who came with him and Dr. Handly and Dr. Carlton. It is the respect and loyalty and honor afforded him by these people that speaks the most about him. I believe we need to look into ourselves, see our own faults and prejudices and see the abuse and hurt we inflicted on an innocent. It is time to bring a lost child back to his family.
Several others spoke up. “He came every day while my children were sick. He treated them with a gentle hand and kind words. He made them laugh despite their sickness.”
"My father enjoyed his stories while he tended to him. He always had a kind word."
“My mother looked forward to his arrival every day. He brought a smile to her face even when there was sadness in his own eyes...Even when his head was hurting so badly after his injury.”
Only one realized the man who caused the head injury sat among them. The others continued to talk, telling the others of John’s visits and his compassion and skills.
Blue Eagle spoke. “He was kind to my Aunt during her illness as well. He brought a smile to her heart every day that he came. He never looked for or asked for anything back. His friend has eplained his disorder and I am ashamed that I saw the abuse and dismissed it. I took no action even though I saw the injuries,” he said, looking disturbed at his own lack of compassion for a helpless child, cast as the scapegoat in his family because his parents had chosen to put all else aside and simply 'love.'
George saw the uneasy glances being exchanged by John’s aunts Lacee and Mase, His uncle Joseph and several others who had stood with them. They were coming to realize they had been unfair and had horribly treated their sisters’ only child. That they had taken their jealousy, rage and spite at the unfairness of their world out on a defensless boy, who's only sin was that he'd been half white.
True they had been ignorant of this Aspergers Disorder that had caused the withdrawals and the rocking. The signs they had thought to be insanity but it changed nothing. It was their behavior… their anger and bitterness to a defenseless child that had driven him into himself… had left him emotionally scarred and numb. They were guilty of abusing the boy.
George was concerned. If John were welcomed back to the family, his voice would be heard and his word respected. That could cost the older man a great deal. He had to stop this line of thinking. He stood, “The boy is my nephew and I disagree with you Blue Eagle. I find no need to change his standing among the people. He is still half white. He left behind his heritage, our way of life, His people."
“You mean was cast out from? Like an unwanted stray…?” Blue Eagle asked using Roy’s description. Steven and Sean slipped quietly back inside to listen.
“Cast off or left…it makes no difference, he is no longer of the people. He’s made his life among the whites. They respect him, let them keep him." Mase and Lacee were shaking their heads in disagreement. George saw it. He desperately tried a different tactic. “You all would blame us? His family for his problems, but they were his own…something he was born with…made worse by his parents and their deaths. The child did not suffer abuse at our hands.”
“Netsé'é'héó'o!” (Liar) A raspy voice spoke up. All eyes turned to the old woman in the back of the room. “Ná-vóóhtâtse.”(I saw you) She switched to English for the two doctors sake. “You thought I slept and didn’t see, but these old eyes still see well. I saw your attack on the child right there in my house.”
“He'kotähtsêstse mâhtamâhááhe ,”(Shut up old woman) “You talk nonsense.” He turned to Blue Eagle. “She is senile... you can’t listen to her.”
Blue Eagle held up his hand to stop further protest. “Little Fox may be old Walking Wolf, but she is my aunt and is far from senile.” He turned back to the old woman… “Tell us what you saw. What did he do to John?”
She shot a disgusted look at George. “What he did…what he tried to do is one of the greatest atrocities one person can force upon another. The boy was there to care for me while I was ill. He was so polite…he was kind, gentle…respectful even of an old one like me, unlike some I could mention,” She hissed at Walking Wolf. “John…was just finishing up when he came in,” she said nodding at George.
“He put his hand on him and the boy looked up…The fear in his eyes was a terrible thing. He tried to pull away and he told you not to touch him but you hit him.”
“This is an old woman’s delusion,” George cut her off. “She was feverish…delirious.”
“It was no delusion Walking Wolf…you tried to touch his face but he turned away and you slapped him. He struggled desperately to get away…. he was begging you to leave him alone but you pinned him to the wall by his throat. He hit you in self defense so you threw him into the wall and he hit his head.”
Angry eyes were being turned on George. They remembered the many bruises and the bandage on the young man’s forehead. Those Johnny had helped in the last few days were remembering the gentle care and concern from the paramedic. They were also envisioning John’s slight one hundred and sixty five pound frame being slammed around by someone 4 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier… John wouldn’t have stood a chance.
The old woman continued. “You threw him back into the wall so hard his head dented my plaster. He was frightened… begging you to stop but you ripped his shirt.”
George was glaring in hatred at this woman who stood here tearing his life apart…she continued relentlessly on.
“You choked him…tried to kiss him and you unbuckled his belt.”
The intake of shocked breaths was audible. A look of horror appeared on many faces including his wife’s. She began to back away from him, staring at this monster in shock. “Is this what you did to him as a child as well George? Is this what drove him to lose himself so often? To…withdraw? The broken bones...the bruises and bloody wrists.” A look of dawning spread across her features... “That is why he only pulled into himself when you were home. That’s why he rocked and screamed in fear... you…,”She gasped in disgust unable to finish.
George lashed out, slapping his wife across the face. She reeled away holding her cheek. A gasp of shock swept through the assembly as her sister Lacee moved to her side.
“Cow…!” He spat. “Do not speak to me as though you are offended. You knew and allowed the abuse.” She shook her head in denial. “He reminded you of your sister and you knew I would have taken Red Moon rather than you, but she preferred to whore for a white man…you hated the boy, you and your sister.”
He looked at the others…“And the rest of you…what do you care what I did to the half breed, any of you? You were no more fond of him than I was. You all abused him in one form or another. Why am I the only one being held accountable for the old ones tales?”
They all looked at each other...the guilt and embarrassment was evident. The worst showed on the faces of John’s family. His friend had been right…this child, their sisters’ only son…that they should have protected and nurtured had been abused, terrorized and cast off as worthless. They hung their heads in shame. How had they all been so blind to the abuse of this child? Not only Georges…but their own as well. How could they not see what they were doing to the boy?.
“But it was you who did the worst damage…,” Little Fox accused.
“She lies! She can prove none of what she says,” George protested arrogantly.
“Of course I can… they have only to ask his friend,” the old woman said as she returned to her story. “The boy was injured and could barely stand. His tears mingled with his blood as you forced his head around to try and kiss him yet again. His fear… broke my heart…but then his friend Roy appeared from nowhere…he fought you off. John was understandably terrified...he was weeping, his head was hurt badly... his friend had to carry him from my home. I…” She looked slightly ashamed now… “I was afraid of you and so I pretended to be asleep and said nothing but I will not be silent any longer. His friend is right and this gentle child doesn’t deserve to be treated this way by his own people.”
Blue Eagle turned angry eyes on George. “If her words are true…and I believe they are… then this is a vile crime you have attempted to commit. I will speak to John’s friend to find out the truth, but as of this moment…you are no longer fit to speak for this people, you will no longer hold the title of Second Chief.”
George was enraged, he looked angrily at the group of people...his eyes swept his wife and sister in law, then moved on lingering longest on Little Fox…“You will pay for this insult.” George spun on his heel and stalked out. His nephew also had much to pay for…he’d have him yet.
Steven and Sean grinned broadly, John had won this battle…but what an awful price he’d had to endure.
Roy dozed, snapping awake at every hitched breath or cough. John’s head rolled from side to side. The older man soothed his friend… “Easy Junior,” he whispered softly, stroking back the sweat soaked hair. John’s weak squeeze on the older man’s fingers reassured Roy that Johnny was at least still aware of what was happening. His eyes were cracked open...a low moan escaped his lips, “You’re gonna be okay Partner
“Roy?,” He panted.
“I’m here…I’m right here. You just sleep now alright?" John’s eyes closed, his breath was coming in short wheezing gasps.
Roy felt a presence behind him along with a cold blast of air… he looked up to see Blue Eagle standing in the doorway. “Come in Blue Eagle,” Roy said quietly.
“How is he?” The older man asked.
“He’s pretty sick right now,” Roy answered. “We’re concerned about it turning to pneumonia. Johnny’s immune system isn’t what it used to be and he’s susceptible to any passing bug," the older paramedic explained as he continued to bathe John’s fevered brow with cool water, John’s hand clasped in the other as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
“You are an old hand at this I think.”
Surprised by the observation, Roy grimaced. "I don’t know how many times I’ve been in this position…holding his hand, scared to death that I was gonna lose my best friend. A couple of times when I thought I had, only to watch him battle back. I can’t imagine my life without him now and I don’t want to lose that…ever. I’ll do what it takes to keep him alive.”
“I came to ask something of you…I need to hear the truth.”
Roy nodded. “Certainly.”
“The injury to John’s head and the bruises…?” He saw Roy stiffen. “How did they happen?”
Roy looked at his partner who was sleeping peacefully at the moment, only a slight wheeze to each breath…“Blue Eagle, he asked me not to tell…I…”
“I understand, but if this was done by George Walking Wolf…?” Roy’s head snapped around to look at the Elder.
“How did you…?” He stopped in mid sentence.
“So it was the truth Little Fox told? Walking Wolf assaulted the boy?”
Roy nodded. “He tried… Johnny managed to hold him off long enough for me to get there.”
“Tell me!” It was a command not a request.
“I didn’t see the whole thing…I…I came in and found Johnny pinned to the wall by his throat. He was only half conscious, bleeding from his forehead…bruised…his shirt torn… I heard him plead for help,” Roy’s breath caught in anguish as he remembered the terrified sound. He closed his eyes as he repeated the words. “He cried out… “God…please someone help me,” and then he yelled out my name… I’ll never forget the fear in his voice,” Roy said visibly shaken.
“The bastard tried to kiss him, he was trying to undo John’s jeans…I…I was so angry…I grabbed him, punched him. He came back at me and I ducked away and hit him again. He tripped and fell... hit his head. I got Johnny outta there. I wanted to report it, but John said no. He said he wouldn’t be believed… That George was too important and he’d be the one to bear the shame.”
“Sadly, at the time… he was probably correct. Now however, I only needed to hear it from you. I will not put John through that torment, I promise you. He’s been through enough.”
“Can you tell me…Do you know if this has happened to the boy before?”
“I know his uncle tried. He touched him on several occassions and then finally assaulted him one night. He beat him near to death when John got sick on him. John can’t remember if he ever uh...finished... He said he went into withdrawal. Dr. Brackett’s examined him in every physical aspect and he doesn’t believe he succeeded.”
Blue Eagle nodded, he remembered the boy being beaten badly but his father and Sun Walker had never told anyone what had happened. “Roy…George Walking Wolf has been stripped of his status for what he did to John. When he is ready…” He said nodding at Johnny, “We would like to honor him with a ceremony he should have received on his fourteenth birthday…a naming ceremony…it was denied him then. I will be back to ask him when he’s better but the entire village has agreed to it.”
Roy smiled. “Even his immediate family?”
Blue Eagle nodded. A smile crossed his craggy features, “They…we… have admitted our failure and we will ask his forgiveness. Will he give it?”
Roy looked at his friend who was beginning to stir again. “Knowing Johnny... Yes Blue Eagle, he’ll give it.”
Roy spent the night awake either at John’s side or pacing in concern. He drew a cool clothe over his Partners hot face…speaking soothingly. Several times, a harsh wet cough left the younger man gasping for air and wheezing as he struggled to draw a breath… bringing an alarmed Roy to John’s side. He sat him up to ease his rasping breaths...sliding behind him and leaning his friend back against him.
“Breathe with me Johnny…,”he urged softly, “Feel it? Slow down…breathe in slow…now out…in deep…” Roy directed… waiting for John to try and stay in rhythm with him…relaxing as he caught the beat and began to even out his breaths. Roy wished for an adjustable hospital bed that would keep John at just the right angle but he’d have to make do.
John’s fever spiked sometime around three in the morning. Roy woke Dr Brackett... Kel ran across to the lodge for medication as Roy desperately tried to cool John’s body with wet towels. Finally just before dawn, the fever dropped once again. “Want me to stay with him for a while? Kel offered
“Nah…I won’t sleep anyway…one of us might as well,” he said.
Now as the sun began to rise… Roy sat dozing in the chair, Johnny’s hand in his. The younger man was sleeping fitfully, but his breath sounds were slightly less fluid. Roy was still picking up rales, but less pronounced then they had been during the night.
True to her word Danella was there early, knocking gently on the door…Roy opened it. Danella could tell the older man was exhausted. There were dark circles under his eyes…“Come in,” He said waving her inside. She entered the warm room, moving immediately to John’s side.
She knelt next to his bed, kissing his flushed cheek. “ Påhávevόonā’o. Ná’méhόt.” (Good morning my love) she whispered as she turned back to Roy…“You have been up all night?” She asked.
Roy nodded. “He had a bad night... I’m uncomfortable leaving him Danella.”
“I promise you, I will watch him closely."
“That I don’t doubt,” Roy replied… “but he’s difficult when he’s sick. He spiked a fever last night and he’s been struggling to breath…When that happens you need to pull him to an upright position and keep him elevated until it eases. Can you lift him?” She nodded firmly. “If he gets bad you’ll need to get Doctor Brackett quickly.”
“Roy I will watch over the man I love… I promise you, and when you return…you will sleep and I will stay.”
Roy chewed his lip nervously as he sat on the edge of his friends’ bed, “Johnny…Can you wake up for me Junior?” Roy urged…gently brushing the hair from John’s face. “Open your eyes John.” The dark eyes fluttered open... “Good boy," the older man said softly. “I have to go on rounds now, but Danella’s gonna stay with you." John’s hand tightened on Roy’s. “I won’t be gone long…I promise, okay?”
Vague, fever glazed eyes regarded him for a moment and then traveled past to rest on Danella. A small frown crossed his features. The thought drifted through his confused mind that she shouldn’t be here...that she could become ill and her father would be angry but then it was gone. His eyes moved back to Roy and then they drifted slowly closed.
Danella’s hand closed over Roy and John’s. “I will let no harm come to him... I love him as you do,” She said gently...Roy nodded.
Kel came out in the Kitchen… “Morning you two,” He greeted coming to sit beside John. He felt the younger man’s forehead, as Roy and Danella returned his greeting.
“Good morning Dr. Brackett,” Danella said.
Kel lifted John’s wrist to check his pulse…“Roy can you bring me my stethoscope, I want to listen to his lungs.” Roy handed him the requested item. “Thanks.” Brackett listened for a moment… "Roy, can you sit him up?” Roy raised him to a sitting position as Kel listened to the ragged breaths. He shook his head as the younger man laid his friend back gently. “He’s still pretty congested in there.” His hand rested on John’s stomach as he counted respirations. He turned to the young woman, “Danella any trouble…any change at all…you come and get me,” He directed worriedly. She nodded. “I’ll either come by and check on him myself or send Steve or Sean periodically anyway.”
“Yes Doctor,” Danella agreed.
Roy I want you to get through your rounds as quickly as possible. Take advantage of Danella being here to watch Johnny and get some sleep. He’ll most likely keep you up all night again.”
Kel stood. He rested his hand on Roy’s shoulder, “He’s strong and a fighter... He’s been through worse and we’ll get him through this,” he reassured the worried paramedic. Kel went to the kitchen for coffee. A short time later both men headed out, leaving Danella alone with Johnny.
She spent the morning bathing his face, coaxing him to take small sips of water. She carefully monitored the oxygen canister, requesting another from Steven Handly when he came by to check on John. She eased him to a sitting position when his breathing became ragged. She spoke to him softly, caressing his face. Stroking the dark, sweat dampened hair back, as she’d seen Roy do to calm his friend, until Johnny’s breathing would ease once more.
In the early afternoon John became restless. He tossed on the narrow bed… a cough began…a ragged, deep, racking sound; His breathing becoming labored and sweat beaded his face trickling into his hair, leaving it plastered to his brow in wet strings. Danella laid her hand to his forehead. She sucked in her breath at the heat radiating from his skin.
John was murmuring incomprehensible words, caught in the throes of some fever induced hallucination. He slapped the oxygen mask off. Danella reached to replace it but John was having none of it.
“NO,” he gasped as he batted her hands away. She tried to sit him up, but he pushed her from him. He was struggling to draw air but was unable to understand that she was trying to help him. Fighting whatever demons he was seeing in his mind.
“Johnny please stop fighting me…you have to sit up so you can breathe. Mé’oo’o, (Sweetheart) please let me help you.” She tried again and again her hands were slapped away. His head rolled from side to side.
“Roy…,” he gasped out, “Help me…can’t breathe.”
“I’m trying to help you Ná’méhόt (my love) please…” She began to weep in desperation as his breathing became more distressed. “Hold on…I’ll get Dr. Brackett."
She did not realize her words were being heard by the man standing in the doorway.
Four Feathers worked the trading post for several hours. Danella had left first thing this morning to work at the hospital. By early afternoon he expected to see his daughter hurry home to have a quick meal and head off to visit with Janessa. They would talk about the one thing on her mind these days. The young half bre…ahh...fireman from California. He corrected himself. She had told him she was in love with the man. He was hoping she was wrong.
He had to admit, he’d been wrong about him. He had proved to be a person of honor and integrity despite his half white heritage. Perhaps the man’s friend had been right when he said they were just as prejudice against the white men as they claimed the whites were about them. He might need to rethink his opinion.
The door opened and Janessa came in. “Påhávevόonā’o Vé'késôxheóvaestse.” (Good morning Yellow Bird)
“Påhávevόonā’o. Is Danella here?”
“No she is working at the hospital this morning.”
“I was just there she is not work...,” She trailed off realizing she’d just betrayed her friend. She saw Four Feathers mouth tighten. “I’m sorry Danella,” She whispered as Danella’s father stalked past her.
Four Feathers headed across the street. Was last night an act so that they could be alone today? He had certainly seemed deathly ill. If he had dishonored his daughter he would kill the man himself. He climbed the stairs…he hesitated, afraid of what he’d see. He swung the door open…his daughter was in a desperate struggle but not for her honor.
“I’m trying to help you Ná’méhόt , please...” She began to weep as his breathing became more ragged. John began to rasp. His lips took on a bluish tinge.
Danella felt herself gently propelled out of the way. For a moment she thought John’s friend had returned, but she was stunned when her Father sat down beside the young paramedic. He gently caught the flailing hands and pushed them aside… sliding his arm behind the younger man and raising him to a sitting position.
“Breathe John...,” he commanded, leaning the young man against him. Johnny drew one shuddering, rasping breath as his airway was opened, then another.
Danella finally remembered what she should be doing. She grabbed the oxygen mask placing it back over John’s nose and mouth. He drew several short painful gasps before the spasms passed and his breathing eased. Four Feathers eyes found the terrified ones of his daughter. He recognized the emotion reflected there. One of a woman who has almost lost the man she loves. Four Feathers held him a moment more before laying him back on the bed. “Naóotséotse John.” (Go to sleep now) Danella’s mouth dropped open at her Fathers gentle words.
John’s hand lifted weakly…searching…another hand suddenly slipped into his. Four Feathers looked up into the grateful blue eyes of John’s friend.
“Thank You,” Roy said quietly.
Danella began to cry softly. She threw her arms about her fathers neck. “Thank you father,” She whispered. “He wouldn’t let me help him…he kept pushing my hands away,” She said in despair.
“Don’t take it personally Danella,” Roy told her…“Between the fever and his difficulty breathing, he doesn’t know what’s happening. He’d fight me too...understand?”
“Yes!” She answered brightening a bit, now that she knew John wasn’t deliberately pushing her away.
Roy turned to her Father, “I want to thank you again… You probably saved his life.”
The man nodded, “He has helped to save many lives these last few days… Could I do less?”
“Roy…,”John wheezed out.
“I’m here Junior.”
“Dani…Dani…,” He panted.
“She’s here Johnny,” Roy assured him as he nodded at the girl to speak to him.
She took his other hand, “I am here my love.”
John’s hand tightened around hers. “Sh…Shouldn’t...be…here…sick…get…sick too…No…,”His head tossed.
Roy stroked Johnny’s hair “It’s okay… Just rest now.”
“Sh...Should…leave…both…you,” he rasped as his eyes closed.
“Not happenin Junior,” Roy said softly.
“Why do you call him that?” She asked gazing at Johnny’s face.
“It’s a nickname.”
“An affectionate name between friends. Like when he calls you Dani.”
She smiled. “So what does he call you?”
Roy grinned back, “He calls me pally.”
“I had thought Junior was for a son?”
“Sometimes he is like a son to me…sometimes other things but he’s always my best friend. Besides his initials spell out the abbreviation for Junior…JR... John Roderick and he’s the junior member and youngest crew member of our station… It fits him.”
“You will have a long night with him... you need to rest. I will watch John and talk with my Father.”
“Thank you Dani,” Roy said moving to his bed on the other side of Johnny. He gave his friends hand a brief reassuring squeeze, before he closed his eyes. He was asleep within minutes.
Danella smiled to herself…She had won Roy to her side, now if only she could convince John and her father.
Roy drifted off listening to the quiet conversation between Danella and her father. Though he didn’t understand a word, he knew the conversation was about her relationship with John. He could only hope for his friend’s sake that Dani came out on top.
Kel arrived back in the early evening. By then Four Feathers had gone home and Danella had returned to the chair next to John, where she sat listening to his raspy breathing. She drew a cool clothe over his face and neck, speaking soft soothing words, punctuated by an occasional gentle kiss on the brow. Kel stood watching for a long moment. He glanced at Roy who was still sleeping peacefully on the other cot… “Danella I need to talk to someone for a minute, can you stay a little longer?”
Any excuse to stay close to Johnny for another moment was good enough for Dani… She nodded. Kel left and headed for the trading post. She stroked the still hand, leaning close to his ear. “I love you John Gage and I will win your heart,” She whispered.
Kel returned an hour later. A grin split his face from ear to ear. “Danella your father wants to speak to you. I’ll take over with Johnny now.”
The girl nodded, “I will be back tomorrow.” She gave John a final kiss on the cheek as she headed home, wondering what the city doctor and her father could possibly have talked about.
Kel checked Johnny out quickly. He shook his head… the congestion was still heavy and the fever hadn’t let up. Kel pulled the covers closer about the young paramedic, making sure he was warm enough. He pushed the logs about in the fire place until the flames climbed again. He slipped the annoying oxygen mask from John replacing it with the less uncomfortable nose cannula. Fifteen minutes later he sat on the porch sipping his coffee and enjoying the last rays of the setting sun. He smiled as he heard the girls shriek of pure joy.
Roy stepped out on the porch a moment later carrying a cup of his own. He left the door cracked open enough to be able to hear if John woke. He looked at Kel, “You’re looking pretty happy...what’s up?” He asked rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“I had a long talk with Four Feathers today,” Kel said smugly.
Roy looked at him suspiciously..."About what?”
“I’ll tell you but not Johnny…at least not yet. There are some things he has to figure out on his own first.”
Roy looked confused but nodded his agreement. Ten minutes later his grin matched Kel’s.
John stirred a while later and Roy went back inside to sit with him. A painful cough erupted from his lungs followed by the usual harsh wheezing. Roy sat him up, sliding behind him and resting the younger man back against his chest. Johns’ breathing eased. His head dropped back to rest on his friends shoulder as Roy drew a damp cloth across his Partners face.
An abrupt knock startled the younger man…he jerked against Roy, his eyes opening briefly. The older man spoke softly to him until he relaxed once again. Kel went to answer the door.
They were both shocked to see Johnny’s Aunts standing hesitantly in the doorway. “Uh what can I do for you…Ladies?” Kel asked shortly… his tone bordering on rudeness.
“We are here to see John,” The elder of the two stated boldly.
Roy recognized her as the one Johnny called Aunt Lacee. The one who had abused him and reminded him over and over that he was a burden and carried a debt to his family. His mouth tightened in annoyance, “Johnny isn’t well enough for a social visit.”Roy said, drawing their attention to where he sat with their seriously ill nephew.
“We wish to see him,” The younger of the two asked softly, sounding slightly more contrite than her older sibling.
Kel looked back at Roy…after a moments’ hesitation, he nodded. The dark haired Doctor stepped aside letting them enter. They came toward the bed. Mase’s hands were clasped hesitantly before her, while Lacee stood watching the two paramedics with a slight, haughty manner.
“I came to apologize to John…We…we both did," Mase corrected.
“I’m sorry…,” Roy said coolly. “But he’s still very sick.”
Johnny punctuated the comment with a deep hacking cough...his eyes cracked open as he struggled to regain his breath. They traveled vaguely about the room. He blinked, trying to focus as his eyes settled on his Aunts. His Aunt Lacee with her usual disdainful manner, reached for John’s face to feel his forehead. He drew back with a startled cry, “No!” Roy’s arms wrapped securely around him as the younger man strained away.
“Take it easy Junior...no one’s gonna hurt you,” He said softly in his partners ear... “I’m here.”
John eased back against Roy, his eyes tracking back to his Aunts. Mase at least had the good graces to look embarrassed… Lacee was oblivious. “What’s wrong with him?” She asked brazenly.
“You mean does he have influenza or are you referring to the fact that he’s afraid of you?” Roy asked sarcastically. Mase flushed in shame…Lacee stared coldly at Roy.
Mase knelt next to Johnny and took his hand. Dark eyes followed her movements. “John…I’m so very sorry for all the times I closed my eyes to what was happening to you. That I dismissed your fear and your injuries and your problem out of bitterness and resentment. You see, I knew Geo…” She hesitated, not wanting to bring up her husband in front of Johnny. “I knew I was not HIS first choice…your Mother was. I was angry and jealous and I directed my anger at you instead of the one who deserved it. I am as guilty as he is for your pain. I should have loved and protected my sisters’ only child. I have no right to ask, but John…please forgive me.”
A fleeting quirk of the mouth was all John could muster for a smile, but it was enough for Mase as she gazed up at the feverish eyes watching her intently. She stroked the warm hand clasped in her own.
Lacee moved closer. John’s eyes warily tracked toward her, “I’m sorry as well,” She said abruptly, unwilling to admit to the abuse she'd inflicted on a child. “And now that that’s settled,” The older woman looked at Roy… “I’d like to take him to my home where I can care for him myself.”
John may have been sick, but he heard her loud and clear. He pressed back against his friend, “N…no Roy, S…stay here.”
“Easy Junior, you’re not goin anywhere.”
The woman drew herself up indignantly but Kel stepped in before she could say anything.
“Johnny’s my patient. He needs to be where I can take care of him. He’s already been through two life threatening bouts with this illness and I won’t risk him being that far from help. Besides he’s obviously more comfortable here and that will contribute greatly towards his recovery. I’m sorry but the answer is no.”
Mase stood up as Lacee opened her mouth to argue, “Lacee for once in your life…shut up.”The younger of the two women snapped. Her older sister looked at her stunned.
A snort of suppressed laughter brought their attention back to Roy and John. Their nephews eyes were closed and he appeared to be asleep, but Mase was sure she saw his lips twitch as he tried not to smile. Roy could feel the subtle shake of John’s body as he leaned against him. He glanced up at the two women and threw a wink at Mase.
“Very well Doctor, but I’ll be back to check on his condition...,”She said stiffly.
“I’m sure Johnny will appreciate that,” Kel said seriously.
The two women left. John’s eyes cracked open slowly…he rolled his head around to look up at Roy, “Thanks.”
“Anytime Junior… I wouldn’t want the old vulture lookin after me either,” Roy said. John grinned weakly.
Kel came to stand with them, “You need to rest Johnny.”
The younger man nodded as Roy eased him back on the bed. John’s eyes drifted closed, but the smile still hovered.
Roy woke just after midnight…the first thing he noticed was that Johnny was sleeping quietly. The slight wheezy sound of his breathing a marked contrast to the harsh rasp a few hours earlier. The older Paramedic rested his hand on his partners forehead…it was cool. Roy breathed out a sigh of relief…the fever had broken.
When Kel awakened in the morning, both his paramedics were sleeping soundly. His fingers lightly brushed John’s forehead…the skin was cool and dry. A deep cough escaped John’s lips... waking both him and his Partner.
Roy moved to John’s side, “How ya feelin this morning?” He asked the younger man.
“T’red,” he murmured.
“I’ll bet.” Roy reached for the water glass. “Can you drink some for me?” Roy asked, lifting John's head.
“Try...,” he answered weakly…The dark eyes already trying to close again. He took several small sips before he laid his head back and drifted off.
Kel completed his brief exam. "Temperature normal…respiration 20, pulse 80, BP 120/80, He’s lookin pretty good Roy.” The doctor said…"He’s still got some pretty severe congestion in his lungs…that’ll last a few days I’m afraid. I want him to stay in bed another day or two."
Roy nodded, "You may have to fight him on that.”
“Depends on who his nurse is,” Kel said with a grin.
“I don’t know Doc…he’s pretty adamant about stayin hands off with this girl. He’s really fond of her, but I don’t know if he’s figured out how he really feels yet.”
“He’s always been a little slow in that department,” Kel said with a grin.
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation…fearing another invasion of the aunts, Kel carefully opened the door. The smiling face of Danella greeted him.
“Good morning Danella, Come on in.”
She came through the door. The young woman threw her arms about the doctors neck excitedly… “I don’t know how to thank you,” She said as she kissed the older man exuberantly. Kel flushed in embarrassment, setting the girl away from him.
“Alright enough of that,” he said gently. “You save those for that young man over there,” he said nodding at the dark haired Paramedic.
She nodded with a smile. “I have saved many of those for him.”
“Danella, I have a favor to ask?”
“I owe you many favors Doctor…what is it you want?”
“That you let me tell Johnny about our arrangement. Don’t tell him about any of it just yet.”
“It is your right as the gift giver… I will not tell him,” she agreed looking slightly disappointed.
Kel wanted to be sure how John felt before dropping the news on him. If Kel had been wrong, it gave him time to change things.
Johnny woke at the sound of someone knocking at the door. His eyes drifted open…he saw his partner in the kitchen sipping coffee. His gaze traveled to the door... Danella stood there with her arms around Dr. Brackett’s neck as she kissed him. John blinked in surprise. He saw the older man set her away from him…he heard the soft murmur of voices.
Not wanting to be caught watching what appeared to be a private moment he closed his eyes, but his thoughts were a jumbled tumult. He heard Kel’s request to be the one to tell him of their arrangement. He tried to think clearly, but his tired, disoriented brain couldn’t get past the scene in the doorway. Well he’d rejected the girl. If she’d turned to the older doctor it was his own fault but she certainly hadn’t pined away for him for very long though. John shrugged away the sting of hurt feelings and the bite of jealousy.
The mattress sagged a moment later and he felt a gentle kiss on his cheek…the soft words confused him even more… “ Påhávevόonā’o Mé’oo’o.”
Was she playing with both of them? Was this another Gayle Markson? John’s eyes opened and he looked at Danella warily.
“Mornin,” he said quietly. His eyes traveled to Roy and then to Kel who watched them with a smile. If he was jealous or angry at the woman’s display of affection, Johnny certainly couldn’t tell. His confused mind was trying to get a handle on what he’d seen and heard.
Danella had seen the wary look and sat back. She gave him a slight frown as she tried to figure out why he’d looked at her so distrustfully.
Roy and Kel interrupted her reverie. “We’re gonna go now,” Roy said. "We shouldn’t be long. Sean and Steve took a lot of names off the list and only added yours partner. The lodge is emptyin out as well and the Hospital in Lame Deer has beds if they’re needed. Let’s hope this epidemic is winding down."
“Another couple of days should be enough…Steve and Sean could handle it alone from there,” Kel added.
Johnny nodded, “That would be good…then we can head home,” He rasped tiredly.
Danella’s heart sank. She was glad that the epidemic was over but her heart ached that he would be leaving soon and that he seemed anxious for it. What would she do if he really didn’t want her and walked out of her life forever? Had she misread his eyes? His kiss? She would still take the doctors offer. It was what she’d wanted her whole life but now it was second to wanting John Gage.
Kel turned at the door, “Danella I want him to rest.” She nodded. “I mean sleep, and don’t let him up unless he absolutely has to.” She blushed slightly, understanding his meaning. So did Johnny… he closed his eyes in embarrassment as she nodded again.
Roy warned her as well, “His aunts were here last night so please… if they show up, don’t let them in. He doesn’t need the stress right now.” From the mulish look of determination, his aunts would need an army to get past her. Roy grinned as they left.
‘Great they’ve got the woman I love standing guard over me.’ His eyes flew open as the implication came and went. John knew the unbidden thought was the agonizing truth…he was in love with this woman. A woman who may have already turned her sights on another man…a woman who’s Father would never even consider him as a son in law. A woman whose life was here, a thousand miles from John. He’d already realized he couldn’t turn back time. There was no going back and things would never change here. These people would never accept him.
He’d come here to try and find the purpose for his life…he hadn’t found it, but at least he now knew for sure his life was in LA with the people who loved him…sacrificed for him..., he grinned ruefully…protected him. They’d be leaving in a couple of days. He’d try and put her behind him, go on with his life… but before he left he’d make sure he gave her an opportunity to realize her own dream.
She came to sit beside him…his tired eyes lifted to hers. She saw the sadness reflected there but had no idea she was the cause of it. She stroked his cheek gently…his body tensed at her touch. He clenched his jaw shut…afraid he’d tell her how he really felt as she gazed lovingly into his eyes. He closed his own so he couldn’t see the soft amber gaze that melted his heart.
She’d felt his body react to her touch, so she was confused when he closed his eyes shutting her out of his vision. She tried again, she leaned down…her lips brushed his. John turned his face in a definite dismissal of her kiss. She sat back, hurt by his rejection. “Johnny?” He remained silent. “Did I do something wrong?” She asked plaintively. His heart was breaking at her tone. He remained stubbornly silent, even as she began to cry softly, “Why are you angry with me?”
His heart ached…his resolve cracked, “I’m not angry Danella but we’ve already talked about this…,” he said softly. “We can’t be together...I’ll be leaving soon and someone else will come into your life, someone your family will accept. It can’t be me…I…I’m sorry," he whispered knowing she’d always hold his heart no matter where he went.
“Johnny I will leave all of it for you…I will go where you go…live where you live.”
“Dani I wouldn’t do that to you. I will never put you through what my mother suffered…force you to make the same mistake she did. I came to find my purpose…my ‘rite of passage,’ ” he said using the ceremonial name to explain the confusion in his own life. “I still don’t know it, but I know it doesn’t lie here. Your family will never accept me and neither will mine…not really.”
Danella was both angry and sad. Angry that her people…John’s people had left such deep scars that he couldn’t heal them. Angry that John wouldn’t let her help him to heal them and sad that he thought so little of himself that he could only see himself and the love his parents felt for each other as a mistake.
She turned his face toward her, “You were not a mistake John Gage. Your parents loved you… wanted you. Made a choice to throw everything else aside to be together and bring you into this world. Had your parents lived you would have only known love and not this hurt. I want to help you. Perhaps that is my purpose. I don’t know yet…But yours…yours is easy,” she continued... “Your purpose is to save lives, as you do at home…as you did here. To bring light and love and laughter and joy to those whose lives you touch. To heal others not just in your job but by letting them know and love you. I think your friend would not be who he is today if you had not come into his life. You make him a better person, and you give him purpose.”
Johnny was listening, but the insecurities that had plagued him his whole life were smothering her words. “So what’s his purpose?” He asked softly.
“Like you to help and heal the sick and injured. To raise his family…To teach you how to love and perhaps the most important one we all have…to care for and to love someone special…someone who has a great need. For Roy that is you.”
“I’ll agree with that,” a voice said from behind them. They both turned to see Roy standing in the doorway.
Danella rose to her feet in surprise, “I was not expecting you so soon.”
“Dr. Handly went on rounds this morning. This epidemic is thankfully winding down so he thought I could take the day off, beside Blue Eagle said he wants to speak to John."
She turned back to the dark haired man on the bed. She saw the resigned look and knew she hadn’t convinced him to let her come with him. He still would not allow her to throw away her life here to become a part of his. She knew he’d be leaving soon and without her. Tears filled her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. She turned and ran past Roy and out the door…she’d lost him.
Roy came and sat by the bed, “What was that all about?”
“She still wants to come to LA with me.”
“But that’s great.” He looked at the dark eyes of his best friend and saw the pain behind them. “You love her, Johnny.” It was a statement, not a question.
The younger man looked at his friend in surprise, “How’d you know that? I just figured it out myself a little while ago.”
“C’mon partner who knows you better than anyone?”
“You,” he said with a sad smile.
“That’s right, and I don’t understand why you’re holding this girl off. She’s willing to follow you, give up everything.”
“That’s right Roy…Give up everything. Just like my mom. Be an outcast to her family…scorned by this entire tribe. No future for her. Maybe someday bring another child back here to grow up unwanted…unlov…”John’s voice caught and he turned his face away.
Roy turned his friends face toward him, “The difference is Johnny; your child would never be unloved. Your family…and friends would see to that.” Roy also knew she’d have a different outcome…A future that Johnny didn’t know about yet. It was time to tell him…maybe it could change things. He’d have to talk to Brackett tonight when he came in.
“I know that…still...,” He whispered unable to formulate what he wanted to say.
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. Roy opened it. Blue Eagle stood in the doorway. The blonde man stepped aside, “Come in Blue Eagle... I just let John know you were coming.”
“Roy?” Johnny said, struggling to sit up.
“Hey! Easy there Junior,” Roy admonished as he hurried back to his friend.
“Can I sit in the chair to talk to Blue Eagle?” He asked slightly breathless, “I feel really awkward layin down.”
Roy considered it… "Alright…for a few minutes,” he warned.
Johnny nodded eagerly. Roy helped him stand, sliding his arm around John’s waist and gripping his elbow, he led his friend to the chair by the window. John glanced out... He saw several children sitting quietly at the feet of an old woman…he narrowed his eyes…it was Little Fox. He grinned in pleased surprise that she was obviously feeling so much better and remembered the many times that he himself had sat beside her as she told the ancient tales of the old ones. Blue Eagle noted the look. This man was special. Not many young men would take such pleasure in seeing the ninety three year old woman sitting in the square.
Roy moved away. “I’ll…um…go wait on the porch.”
“No,” Blue Eagle halted him…“as John’s honor brother you should hear this.”
“Okay,” Roy nodded…sliding another chair around to sit next to his partner. They waited for Blue Eagle to begin.
“First of all…I wish to apologize to you for what you endured here as a child. We are a family and we should have seen the suffering of one of our own. It was unfair that you, the innocent one in all of this, that you should have paid such a price for the shame within our family.”
John looked away in embarrassment…“Sins of the parents,” He said with a shrug.
“I don’t understand.”
“My father used to quote that verse from the Bible to me and my mother. She tried to explain why they were so cold to me. He’d say the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons,” He quoted sadly.
“John…,” His friend began, but Johnny waved his hand.
“It was a long time ago Roy,” he said, “It’s okay…really.”
“John…,”Blue Eagle said gently, “You have misunderstood my words.” John looked bemused...“This shame is not yours or your parents, It is ours.”
John stared at the older man in surprise, “But she married a…” He stopped.
Blue Eagle finished for him… “A Vé’ho’e.” John nodded. “What was her sin John…? What was his?”
John looked up at the man…“Her parents had forbidden it, they broke tradition and…,” He hesitated. “And…and…they had a half breed child.”
“And again I ask you, what was their sin?”
Roy was listening intently. He looked at his best friend waiting for it to sink in, but the scars ran too deep.
“I…I just told you…I…”
“You told me nothing that would explain our actions. Your parents were in love. Two people came together and found their united purpose. They brought a child into this world, born of love, not shame. Your mother was never ashamed of what she did. She was never ashamed of who she married. She was most of all never ashamed of you. She grieved that her family was to narrow minded to see how special you were. That we all were too thick headed and arrogant to see what truly mattered…that all we could see was the color of your fathers skin and not you."
Johnny was blinking in shock. He chewed his lip as he listened to Blue Eagle.
“I will tell you a secret John Gage.”
Johnny frowned, “What’s that?”
“That your grandfather beamed with pride at what you accomplished.”
John flushed scarlet but he shook his head… “He told me I was soft headed and weak,” John said ruefully.
“Ahh…to you he would not let it show, but to the rest of us… The rest of us heard of your accomplishments regularly. The pride was unmistakable. That despite everything they put you through, whether here or in town…you bounced back. Grew stronger, tougher and still kept a gentle, forgiving spirit. A healer’s spirit. Now you have come to fulfill your purpose.”
John sat up straighter, “My purpose?”
“Your reason for being.”
“What’s that?” He whispered hesitantly.
“To unite our people in a new, common goal... to purge the prejudices that we carry. To teach us to love all people regardless of their race...as you have shown the people of California. To show us an evil that walked among us and to heal your family.”
John glanced at Roy briefly…then out the window as Blue Eagle finished, “Perhaps to find your own love and to begin a new generation of Gages…” The younger man’s eye snapped back to Blue Eagle as his face grew warm. “You have many purposes John…those are but a few.”
Roy’s eyes never left his friend. He prayed Blue Eagle would get through to him.
“Thank you Blue Eagle…,” John said softly… thoughtfully, “I have a lot to think about.”
“Then I will give you one more and then I will let you rest… I can see you are very tired still,” the older man observed, his eyes flicking towards John’s friend.
Roy looked at John’s tired eyes. He knew he was running out of steam and needed to rest, but he knew he’d needed to hear what the older man had to say. He nodded at Blue Eagle to continue.
“There are two Ceremonies that you were denied as a young man. Your Rite of Passage. To discover who you are and why you are here. I think you have known that all along.”John nodded. “The other is a Naming Ceremony. To give you a new name to be known by…your rebirth as a man.”
John bit his lip nervously, “I never expected it. I never was taught to be…like the others…,” he shrugged regretfully, looking down in embarrassment.
Blue Eagles hand reached out to lift John’s chin… "Your family and I feel you have more than proven your skill, your bravery and courage… your honor and integrity both in your life and in your job. They may not be the skills of a warrior as some think of one, but you John are a warrior of a different kind… You fight to save lives, not to take them. To restore children to their families and wise old women to their thick headed nephews...You have a heale'rs spirit,” He said gesturing out the window to where Little Fox and a dozen children sat in the square listening intently as the old woman told them a story.
John’s eyes followed his hand. He recognized many of the children as ones he’d treated while he was here. He turned dark eyes back to Blue Eagle as he continued, “We would be honored to have that Ceremony for you before you leave.”
John swallowed the lump in his throat, determined not to disgrace himself... “I’d be honored as well Blue Eagle,” he said softly.
The older man stood. He saw Roy’s worried eyes. “We will be careful not to overdo the Ceremony Roy. I understand that he’s been ill and can’t do everything that we would normally expect. We will keep it short. Naturally you and your doctor friends will attend as John is part of your family as well. We will see you tomorrow John at the lodge at 4:00,” he said quietly to the now exhausted younger man. He turned and headed for the door.
He glanced back in time to see Roy pull his tired friend from the chair and half carry him back to the bed. He smiled to himself as he heard the indignant protest… “I can walk.”
“You can also sleep… give it a try,” came the reply.
George Walking Wolf had been practically living in the bar in Lame Deer... he was furious. He’d had to endure the taunting of those he had bullied as second chief…the scorn of those who had heard of his assault on his own nephew. The insult of being told to leave by his own wife, who had gone and begged John’s forgiveness. He downed yet another whiskey, banging the bar for a refill.
He felt the familiar longing in the pit of his stomach to touch the boy. To feel his hair in his fingers…to touch his mouth, his skin… A friend had told him today that the young man would be reclaimed as a member of the people. Given a naming ceremony…and that he was leaving soon. George swallowed the whiskey. He stood unsteadily to his feet, “Not until I’ve had you…,” he whispered, “Your friend will not stand in my way this time.”
A plan began to take shape…to kill those who had stood in his way, to avenge himself on those who had cost him everything and to finally have the boy at his mercy. Those around him inched away cautiously at the wicked glint that appeared in his eyes.
Kel came in early…he greeted Roy and glanced at a sleeping Johnny, “How is he?”
“He’s been sleeping most of the day.”
“Roy there’s a big buzz going on all over town. Something about a ceremony for John tomorrow afternoon…do you know what it’s about?”
Roy nodded, “It’s something he should have had when he was about fourteen. Something about giving him a new name…an indian name.”
“Roy he’s still recovering from influenza…he tires easily… I’m not sure about this at all.”
“Blue Eagle promised to keep this short and he understands that Johnny has limitations right now…besides we’ll be with him.”
“Apparently his family and friends are allowed to be there and I’d really love to see this.”
“To tell you the truth so would I…and I think Johnny deserves it.”
“I think he needs it. To feel like he belongs…somewhere…”
“He belongs in LA.”
“He knows that…I hope, but he’s been rejected his whole life for things he didn’t do, things he couldn’t control. He needs to be accepted by these people…to prove himself to them, before he can put his life together and move on. Blue Eagle had some great things to say today Doc and Johnny listened…I mean really listened.”
“What did he say?”
Roy repeated the gist of the conversation, finishing with.. “He took the guilt away from John and his parents and slapped it right where it belonged…on themselves. He told him that he had proven himself beyond anyone’s expectations... including his own.”
“And I’ll tell you what Doc…that little girl of Johnny’s is one smart young woman. She laid some words on him today that made more sense than any PHD in psychology. Doc I think it may be time to tell him your plans for Danella.”
“I’d like to hear that myself Doc,” Johnny said softly from his cot across the room.
Both of the others looked over to see troubled brown eyes watching them.
“How are you feeling John?” Kel asked getting up and walking to his young friend’s side. He helped John to sit up.
He shrugged, “A little tired."
“Are you going to be up to this ceremony tomorrow?”
“I won’t be up to doin any Sun Dances that’s for sure, but the actual ceremony takes place sitting down. As long as the smoke doesn’t do my lungs in.”
“Smoke!” Kel snapped looking alarmed, “You don’t need to be breathing in any smoke right now.”
“Don’t worry Doc, I won’t inhale it... I promise…” Dark pleading eyes looked into his.
Kel knew how much this meant to the younger man... “Well…Okay.”
“Now what plans did you have for Danella, because I have some of my own.”
“And those are…?” Kel asked curiously.
“I wanna get a loan when I get back to LA. I wanna send her to school Doc.”
Kel laughed, “Save your money Johnny.”
The younger man looked confused. “But Doc…she’d make such a great nurse…She’s compassionate and….”
“I know that,” the older man said with a smile, “but I’ve already made arrangements for her to go to school.”
John’s jaw dropped, “What…? When? “His eyes went to Roy, “Did you know about this?”
“Um…Yeah,” Roy hedged.
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Sorry I was sworn to secrecy.”
“Is that what that little scene was by the door this morning?”
“You saw that?” Kel asked.
“Well…Yeah…I thought…Aw heck Doc I thought you and she were…,” He trailed off in embarrassment.
It was Kel's turn to look shocked, “What kind a cradle robber do you take me for John Gage?” Kel growled indignantly.
“I’m s…sorry…,” John stuttered. “I…she…you…she was kissing you. She had her arms around you…I…”
Roy began to laugh, Kel looked at him in annoyance for a moment and then he realized the absurdity of the situation. He realized how it could have been misconstrued. Johns all too recent run in with another woman had taught him to be cautious. She’d almost killed him. Kel began to laugh as well.
John realized he’d been let off the hook, he grinned broadly at the other two… “Sorry Doc, so tell me, what about Dani?”
“She’ll be starting at the University in Billings next semester.”
Johnny nodded slightly disappointed that she’d be here and he wouldn’t but it was best for her. No matter what happened in her life, she’d have a career and a future no matter where she chose to live her life.
“She’ll do her book learning here Johnny so she can really concentrate on her school work. She couldn’t do that in LA not with you right there…her mind would be on you.” John looked at him in understanding…she’d be better off without him. He looked at the floor in dejection…Kel saw the defeated look and hurried on, “She’ll do her clinicals at Rampart in eighteen months…” John’s head snapped up.
Hope flared in the dark eyes, but just as quickly vanished. Johnny was still to ingrained in his belief that he wasn’t right for the beautiful Indian girl. That her father would never accept a half breed dating his daughter. Four Feathers might accept him as a member of the tribe after the naming ceremony but not as a potential son in law.
Maybe once she was in LA and away from her family where Johnny could see her as an independent, free spirited young woman, Kel hoped he’d change his mind…be willing to fight for what he wanted. Kel saw Roy shake his head in frustration at his friends’ insecurity.
“That’s wonderful Doc. I don’t know how to thank you...”Leave it to Johnny to only see what was best for someone else.
“Just as long as it isn’t the same way she did, I’ll be happy.”
John grinned, “Think I’ll pass on that one myself.”
“Seriously Johnny, the smile on your face was thanks enough...besides I didn’t do it just for you or her.” John looked at him curiously. “I’ll be gaining a terrific nurse... She’ll be trained by the best. I’m gonna ask Dixie to let her stay with her, that way she can keep you two on your best behavior and see that she gets her school work done.”
“You don’t have to worry about that Doc… she’ll have forgotten all about me by then,” John said blithely…though the look in his eyes made the light hearted indifference a lie.
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Roy said annoyed that after everything Blue Eagle had said, Johnny had still given up so easily.
“Neither would I,” came the soft voice from the doorway.
Johnny had turned his eyes toward his friend as he spoke...now they snapped back to the door, “Dani…” he whispered.
Posted to Site 1/16/10
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