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Dani had fled from the house in tears...she raced past her father and up the stairs to her room. Throwing herself onto the bed. What was she going to do? He was leaving… He didn’t love her. She’d been so sure of it, but he didn’t. How could he and continue to push her away?
She felt a gentle hand touch her shoulder...she looked up with reddened eyes into the concerned faces of her father and mother. She threw herself into her mother’s arms, “He’s leaving mother…he’s leaving me behind and going home.”
Her parents glanced at each other…their eyes reflecting their daughters pain. She had never wept over a lost relationship before…none had mattered to her this much.
“Danella,” her mother whispered… "It’s for the best. You will be going to school soon...it was your dream. He has a life in California…he can’t stay here. Would you give up your dream to go with him?”
“For him…? Yes. I would give up everything…why can’t he understand that?”
“Did you tell him this?” Four Feathers asked worriedly.
She sniffle. “Yes.”
“And he did not accept your offer?” He said softly. She shook her head forlornly. Her fathers eyes met her mothers... “Perhaps I have been wrong about the man.” He could have taken advantage of her innocence, her youth, her willingness to do anything to keep him, but he hadn’t. He had been a man of honor.
“Danella,” Her mother tried to reason with her… “Go to school, learn to be a nurse. Then you will be ready to settle down my sweetheart. You’ll find another... maybe someone here…"
Her daughter pulled free, staring at her mother in shock... “Haven’t you been listening? Either of you… I don’t want another... I love him.” She looked between them. “He was right. He said you wouldn’t accept him…that he wouldn’t let me make the same mistakes his mother had.”
“He is wise,” Her Mother said.
“He is wrong,” Danella said sharply. “His parents were the only wise ones here. They threw all aside… Home… A foolish family, tradition for what we all seek…Love. It was no mistake. Would you punish me for my love as his family did? Was he right about that as well?”
Her father looked at her in shock. “Of course not my daughter.”
“Would you turn me and my children away as a disgrace as they did?”
She smiled through her tears, “then maybe I have hope.”
A gentle tap on the door interrupted their conversation…“come in…,” Danella called.
Her friend Janessa peeked in, she saw the tears… “So you have heard?”
“That he is leaving? Yes…I know.” She threw her arms around her friend, “What will I do without him? I love him so much…my heart is breaking Janessa,” she whispered forlornly.
Her parents glanced at each other... they stood and headed for the door hoping that maybe her friend could console her.
“Are you sure of what you feel for him?”
“Oh yes…Janessa…his touch turns me soft inside. His eyes are like falling into a bottomless pool, his kiss…” She sighed…"now I will lose him.”
Janessa remembered feeling slightly jealous as her friend had told her of the night by the river, she longed to meet a man who would make her feel that way.
“Have you told him of your feelings?”
Danella shook her head. “Only that I wanted him.”
Janessa looked shocked. “He didn’t…?”
Danella shook her head sadly. “He pushed me away…He said I would meet another man one day who would expect me to be…untouched.”
“He is a good man not to have taken advantage. Perhaps he is right and you will find another.”
“But I don’t want another man Janessa, I want him… I love him.”
“Then tell him Danella…before he leaves thinking you only want him.”
“His friend said he needs time."
“Then tell him you understand and will wait for him, but Danella…tell him how you feel today.”
Danella nodded. “Thank You Janessa.”
Danella had to wait several hours until her parents shut down the store. They would never let her go to him. She used the time to think about what she would say. She washed her hair...spending an hour brushing it dry until it shone like black silk. She thought about braiding it but then remembered the feel of Johnny’s hands tangled in the locks. She left it loose tying it back with a ribbon. This was not a reckless impulse, but a well planned seduction.
She heard her parents come upstairs and head for the kitchen to make dinner. She snuck down the stairs and headed across the street. She gently pushed the door open...she heard the three men talking softly. She heard John say ‘she’ll have forgotten all about me by then’ and his friends annoyed reply. 'I wouldn’t count on that.’
She stepped into the room…“Neither would I,” she said.
“Dani…,” John whispered softly.
“Uh…Doc didn’t you have something to show me at the hospital?” Roy said quickly.
“Huh…? Oh…um…Yeah…Yes…Ah…We’ll be back soon,” Kel stammered as he and Roy headed for the door leaving a panic stricken Johnny alone with the woman.
“Remember he’s recovering from being sick,” Roy whispered to Danella with a grin as he passed the girl.
She moved towards John. Her movement was slow, deliberate. Her eyes locked on his. She saw him swallow hard as she came toward him… A seductive smile curled her lips upward…John raised his hand as if to ward her off.
“Danella…,” he began warningly... “Nothing's ch …”
She reached out to take the outstretched hand, raising it to her mouth to kiss his palm. Her fingers lightly pressed against his lips to silence him. Danella felt him shudder as her lips pressed against his skin. She took the last step to bring her within inches of him…. She cupped his face in her hands tilting his head up as she bent slowly.
“Dani…please I…,”He whispered in one final attempt at protest. Her lips met his silencing the words...a defeated groan left Johns throat as she slid her hands into his hair. His own came up to cradle her face as his mouth parted hers and their kiss deepened. She sat in his lap…her hands slid across his chest reveling in the feel of his body beneath her fingers.
She felt him shiver under her touch... His fingers found the ribbon pulling it free. Her hair fell like a curtain around them. His hands tangled in her hair as their tongues met, she wanted this man…No she loved this man. She didn’t want a one night stand, she wanted forever. She wanted him to need her…to want her as much as she needed and wanted him.
“Né-méhotâtse Johnny,” She whispered against his mouth… she repeated it again in English, “I love you Johnny.”
He pulled back slightly gazing into amber eyes staring back at him… The truth of her statement revealed in them. “Né-méhotâtse Danella,” he whispered back…“I love you too,” She smiled as his mouth closed over hers once again. She felt as though she was on fire. She pressed against him…his hands played over her back, up her arms to her throat to hold her face once more as he rained kisses over her face, down her throat. She returned the favor delighting in the groan she pulled from his lips.
Sometime later they both came to their senses almost at the same moment. ‘He’s recovering from being deathly ill.’ The thought flitted through her mind.
‘Damn it Gage she’ a virgin…keep your hands off,’ galloped through his own. He set her away from him, his panting breaths an even mixture of frustration, excitement and the lack of oxygen from the fluid in his lungs.
“I’m sorry,” he gasped… “I thought I had better control…I…”
She pressed her fingers against his lips, following it with a gentle kiss. “I intended you to have NO control,” she whispered in his ear. She followed it with a kiss on his neck, moving up to his ear. She was pleased to hear the sharp intake of breath, but ceased when it was followed by a short rasping cough.
“Lay back sweetheart...,” She whispered, easing Johnny down on the couch and gently brushing the shaggy sable hair from his face.
“Dani…I…,” He was silenced once again as her lips met his.
“Shhh…” Her lips brushed his, “You need to rest my love…we will talk later, but I heard your words of love John Gage... You can’t take them back now.” She said sternly, locking his eyes with her own.
He felt like he was drowning in them. He shook his head. “No…I can’t… won’t take them back…but…”
“Sleep,” She said softly as her hands continued to stroke his face. His eyes finally drifted closed. She smiled to herself at the power she held over this man AND He loved her. She heard it from his own lips. Oh she knew he’d protest. Try and talk her out of it… Give her all the same reasons why they couldn’t be together but she was no longer a child to be set aside. She was a woman in love… she would argue them all until she wore him down. She would fight Heaven and earth and her parents to keep him.
Four Feathers went to peek into his daughters room several hours later. He wanted to be sure she wasn’t still crying in her pillow. He hesitated outside her door... he didn’t know what to do for her. He knew her feelings were real…that she truly was in love with the young paramedic.
He had changed his mind about the man, but he had already warned him off. Humiliated him in front so many others, How would the young man ever forgive that. How could he now go back and tell him he would allow their relationship. Did he want him to?
If he married her he would take her to California, but if he didn’t…he would break her heart. He sighed, He would have to allow Danella to follow her heart or lose her forever…he opened the door. The moonlight fell on the empty bed.
He closed his eyes in despair…she’d gone to him... He knew it. If he’d dishonored his child, he’d marry her or pay the penalty for it. He almost laughed at the thought that crossed his mind as he once again raced down the stairs to defend his daughters honor… She’d most likely planned it this way.
He was halfway to the house when he saw the young man’s friends leaving the lodge… they spotted him at the same time.
“Uh oh…,” said Kel.
“Let’s hope Johnny and Danella had sense enough to remember he’s a sick man or we could be attending his funeral tomorrow,” Roy replied.
“Or Johnny could be getting married a lot sooner than he expected….at the end of a shotgun,” Kel muttered.
“Don’t you mean a bow and arrow?” Roy chuckled.
“This isn’t funny Roy.”
“Sure it is Doc…haven’t you realized yet that Johnny’s in love with Danella. It would be a perfect excuse... I wouldn’t put it past her to have planned it.”
“You don’t believe that?” Kel said as they picked up speed to intercept the irate Father.
“Hey Doc…She’s a smart girl. She knows how to get what she wants.”
“And she wants Johnny.”
“You got it...,” Roy said catching up with Four Feathers.
“Good evening Four Feathers,” Roy greeted.
“Good evening…," he replied somberly, “Have either of you seen my daughter tonight?” He asked already knowing the answer.
“Yes I have…she’s with Johnny,” Roy replied honestly. Kel shot him a worried glance at the angry look on the man’s face. Roy glanced back, his look assuring the doctor that he wouldn’t let this man hurt John. The three men moved together toward the door.
Roy got there first…he pushed the door open. A relieved smile crossed his features. John was asleep…the blanket tucked tightly around him to ward off the chill of the room. Danella was laying on his chest…the top of her head tucked securely under John’s chin. Her long hair spread out like a blanket over them. Her hand rested lightly on his cheek, while his were wrapped around her holding her close. She was fully clothed and safely on top of the blanket. Roy felt Four Feathers relax beside him.
He looked at Roy, “I think she will be disappointed that I will not have to force a wedding…,” he quipped. The three men chuckled.
“I think you may be right,” Roy agreed.
Four Feathers gently patted his daughters shoulder. She raised her head and looked up at her father with sleepy eyes. Her kiss bruised mouth the only sign that anything had happened between them. She turned to look at the man she’d been using as a pillow, “Goodnight my love...,” she whispered against his lips before she kissed him softly.
John stirred restlessly at her kiss. His softly voiced half awake response dropped the mouths of the three men in stunned amazement. “I love you Dani,” he sighed as sleep claimed him once more.
Her father shook himself, “Come Danella it’s late. Your young man needs to rest undisturbed. He is still not completely well and he has an important day ahead of him tomorrow.”
She stroked John’s face one last time and allowed her father to lead her out the door. She turned back briefly and looked at Roy, “Thank you.” She grinned throwing a kiss to both men. She turned and followed her Father out.
“Well…, let me check John out real quick and I’d say it’s time to turn in. How about you Roy…?” Kel asked as if nothing had happened.
Roy was staring at his friend with mixed emotions. Joy that his friend had finally found his soul mate. Jealousy that this beautiful girl would somehow change his relationship with his best friend and fear that she’d break John’s heart and destroy him, “Yeah Doc… We’ve got a busy day tomorrow too.”
Roy needn’t have worried. John would always seek out his friend. His first real friend, His closest friend, his brother, the one he trusted above all else. The one who had taught him how to love someone again after his parents had died and who’d given him a family. No matter who else came into his life, Roy would always be there.
John’s eyes blinked open as the rising sun lightened the room. He lay there trying to remember if last night had been a dream. Had Danella been there or had his fever returned and he had only imagined it. He started to push the blanket aside but something yellow caught his eye... a ribbon. He picked it up as he vaguely remembered pulling it from her hair. So she had been here and…Man how close he’d come to ruining her whole life. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, the ribbon still clutched in the other.
He heard Roy stir…he turned to his friend with somber eyes. “Why didn’t you stop me?” he asked as Roy’s blue eyes blinked open…“Why did you leave me alone with her?”
“Because you’re in love with her,” Roy said sitting up…”And you needed to work it out together.”
“She and I …we can’t be together Roy... especially now that she’s gonna be goin to school here…we’ve been over this.”
“No Johnny...you’ve given me a bunch of reasons why you think you can’t. Roy came over and sat next to his friend. Johnny do you remember what I put you through a few years ago…? How bad I hurt you?”
The younger man nodded. “I told Dr. Brackett then that you’d never forgive me. He told me… only if I thought you weren’t worth the fight.” John smiled. “I think you need to decide if she’s worth fighting for...just like your father made that decision. How much do you really love her? And Johnny, I think you’d be surprised at her fathers reaction as well. Give them a chance...you could be wrong Junior.”
Roy stood up and headed for the shower, giving his friend some time to think.
Danella also woke early…she stretched like a sated cat. A smile lit her face. “He loves me…,” she whispered to herself. She’d won his heart. She leaped from the bed to go and dress. She wanted to see John.
Under normal circumstances Johnny would have spent the day in the sweat lodge fasting and purifying himself for the afternoon. Special allowances were being made for his sickness and the time factor. Blue Eagles daughter had been up half the night beading the moccasins and head band Johnny would wear. Blue Eagle knew that Johnny would be limited. The Ceremony was what mattered, not how much of it he could actively perform.
George Walking Wolf had made a quick visit to the reservations ranch. He slipped into the tack room where the medications for the animals were kept. No one would notice the missing bottle of ether for a long time.
Danella ran down the stairs. She kissed her mothers cheek exuberantly, receiving a sadly tolerant smile. “Be happy for me mother, he loves me.” She all but danced to where her father stood, throwing her arms about his neck... “Good morning father.”
“Good morning Danella,” He said as she headed for the door, “Where are you going?”
She stopped. “To see Johnny.”
Her father shook his head. “Danella you know he is supposed to be spending this time alone."
“But father this isn’t his Rite of Passage…it’s a Naming Ceremony, besides his friend is with him.”
“It’s a little of both and his friend is there for medical reasons.”
“Father, are you still trying to keep me from him?”
He looked at the floor. “If I thought I could…”
She looked crushed. “But why?”
“Not for the reasons you think...but because your love for this man will take you far away from us.”
“I can come home to visit… I’ll bring your grandchildren,” she giggled.
“Danella…!” Her Mother exclaimed in shock.
“Oh mother, I’m teasing you.”
Her father took her hands, his face serious… “I heard the young man tell you he loved you last night.”
“Twice…,” she said dreamily. “He said it twice…Three times if you count when he said it in the people’s language.”
“Danella…?” She looked up at him. “Has he asked you to be his wife?”
She scuffed her toe on the floor. “Well…not yet.”
“Because he knows the reasons why you can’t be…”
“No,” she shook her head adamantly.
“Danella you have school here… not in Los Angeles.”
“I won’t go.”
“He would want you too.”
“Then I’ll visit him…write to him until this year is over.”
“He knows you will meet many men at college.”
“And none will be him,” she said with stubborn certainty.
“After what I said to him Danella, I doubt he will ask me for you.”
“Will you refuse him if he does?”
He sighed as he looked into the eyes of his daughter. They were no longer the eyes of a child, but of a woman in love. He glanced at her mother and received her smile and a slight nod. “I will not.”
She squealed with joy, kissing her fathers cheek. He set her away from him. “You can’t tell him that Danella, He is a man of great courage. I would see the man have the courage to fight for you.” She nodded but bit her lip. After her father had totally humiliated him in front a dozen witnesses, would he be willing to risk talking to the man again? She could only pray that he loved her enough and that all those insecurities about himself would not hold him back. That they could work this out…she headed for the door.
“Danella do not stay long.”
She ran across the square to John’s door. She would stay only a minute and then head to Janessa’s until time for the ceremony. She wanted to be there for Johnny. She didn’t see the large man slumped behind the wheel of the car, his black eyes watching her as she ran lightly up the stairs.
Danella knocked on the door… John’s friend Roy answered it, “Dani?” He said in surprise, "Johnny said...”
“I will not stay long Roy but I have to see him.”
Roy glanced back to where John lay half dozing on the couch... “Come in,” Roy invited.
She smiled moving past him, she headed straight for John.
“I’ll give you a minute alone,” Roy said moving toward the Kitchen where Kel was making coffee.
Dani sat beside Johnny. She reached out to smooth the wildly tousled, sable hair…he jerked awake startled by her touch. His eyes opened. “Dani...,” he said softly. Then with more alertness. “We have to talk, I…”
She interrupted what she knew would be all the same reasons her father had given her already... “Good morning my love,” She greeted as her lips found his.
All his arguments to Roy this morning flew right out the window as he returned her kiss, His arms sliding around her to pull her close.
Roy leaned on the door frame with Kel watching from behind him. Both were grinning… “Well, I’d say that girl certainly knows how to win an argument,” Kel quipped.
“Do you suppose she’ll ever let him talk again?” Roy joked.
“Only long enough to say I do.”
Dani pulled back a bit looking into his slightly dazed eyes. She reached up to hold his face between her hands. “I cannot stay long. I came only to tell you that I will be there tonight and to tell you I love you.”
“I love you too…,” He said quietly...“but Dani we have to talk. Your father won’t…You have school…and…and…I have…,” John stuttered with his usual inability to string a coherent sentence when he was stressed. Danella found it adorable.
“A ceremony to get through,” She finished for him. “I have to go now, we will talk later,” she said placing another deep kiss on John’s lips. He groaned in frustration. “I love you,” She whispered against his lips.
“I love you,” he softly answered back as she pulled away and headed for the door, throwing a wink at Kel and Roy on her way out.
“Man… how does she do that to me?” John growled in exasperation.
The two older men began to laugh as Johnny’s face turned crimson.
Danella walked up the street towards Janessa’s. She strolled by the old green car, oblivious to its occupant slouched inside as she passed it. Her mind on Johnny. She only vaguely registered the sound of the car door opening. She never heard the footsteps behind her. The first she knew of George Walking Wolf’s presence, was the rag pressed over her nose and mouth. She struggled briefly, trying to scream…then she knew nothing.
George carried the unconscious woman to his car and laid her in the back seat. She was the bait…the others would be his revenge.
He had promised his son that he could have the girl if he helped him get John. He’d beg his forgiveness and find him another later. She would have to die with the others…he would leave his nephew no one but him.
Blue Eagle stopped by in the early afternoon. He carried a bundle under his arm as he moved to sit next to the younger paramedic. “John, I’m afraid we didn’t have the time to make you the proper clothes of your own. My son would be honored if you would accept these from him.”
Johnny nodded in surprise. “Tell your son I give him my thanks,” he said formally.
Blue Eagle unrolled the bundle. Inside was a pair of new moccasins. On the toes in the most exquisite bead work, licked tongues of fire. The reds, oranges and yellows blended with a master’s touch. John’s mouth dropped open. “They’re Beautiful...,” John said running his fingers over the beads. Kel and Roy joined them to admire the handiwork.
“My daughter will be happy to know you were pleased.”
John nodded. "Yes I am."
“I will see you soon John.”
The younger man nodded, still awestruck by the gift and the hours it had taken to create.
Kel walked him to the door… “You will be careful not to overdo right? He’s still weak and his lungs are still congested and I’m a little concerned about the smoke.”
“We will be careful Doctor and you will be there if he becomes distressed.” Kel nodded. “We will see you later as well.” Blue Eagle nodded a goodbye as he left, touched by the loyalty and protectiveness of John’s friends.
Roy glanced at his watch. Fifteen minutes before the ceremony and Johnny still hadn’t come out of the bathroom. Roy banged on the door, “C’mon Junior you’re gonna be late.”
“I feel silly,” came the muffled reply.
“That’s just cuz you’ve gotten used to dressing like you live in California… C’mon.”
“Steve and Sean just arrived,” Kel said from the window…“I’m gonna head over. Maybe it’ll be easier on Johnny if it’s just you, at least until he’s surrounded by a couple of hundred others dressed just like him,” he said nodding at the lodge and the stream of people entering it. Kel handed Roy his camera. “Get a picture of him for me will you? Johnny said they don’t allow the ceremony to be photographed, but at least he’ll have something to remember it by.”
Roy nodded as the doctor stepped out the door. Roy glanced at his watch, “C’mon on out John…It’s just me now.”
The door opened slowly... John stepped out in full ceremonial Indian dress, “Man… if Chet ever saw this…” The camera flashed. John looked stunned and then a look of betrayal crossed his features. “I…I can’t believe…,” He stuttered.
“Relax Junior… It’s for Dr. Brackett and you. Show it to who you want but you look great. The outfit was white, offset by turquoise blue. The beading on it was again crafted by an expert hand. No machine could have matched the results. Fringing trailed down both arms and both legs. The hand crafted band around his forehead matched the pattern on the moccasins.
John was sweating lightly… his hands had a slight tremble. Roy couldn’t tell if it was nerves or the fact that he was still recovering from influenza. Kel had been concerned by John’s description of the ceremony. There was a lot of smoke involved and Johnny’s lungs were still congested. He’d been coughing hard all day. Kel had asked Steven to bring a tank of oxygen… just in case.
Roy was afraid he might need it before the event started from the paleness of John’s skin, “C’mon partner… They’re all waitin for ya.” John swallowed hard, followed by the same raspy cough he’d had for four days. “You okay?”
John nodded a little shakily. “Yeah let’s go.” They headed out the door.
Four Feathers paced by the door. They had closed the post early in order to attend John’s Naming Ceremony. He’d assumed his daughter would have been home an hour ago. He expected her to want to look her best for her man tonight. He glanced at the clock…perhaps she planned to get dressed at Janessa’s but he’d seen her leave with nothing extra to wear. His wife had already gone to bring food for the ceremony.
He’d go out to wait by the lodge. He wouldn’t be able to miss her there. As he left the house he saw John and his friend step through the door of the home across the street. The older man stopped briefly and turned to be sure his sick friend descended the stairs safely. He saw them exchange several words, followed by a harsh cough and a smug look from the blonde man…a contrite look passed over John’s face as they continued on.
The younger man’s eyes fell on Four Feathers and then he looked away in embarrassment. Danella’s father groaned quietly. Had he destroyed his daughters dream? Would the man have the nerve to approach him after what he’d said? Did John know he’d saved his life that afternoon? He would have apologized for his words that day had the man not been so sick that he wouldn’t have understood them. Maybe when this was over he would do that. Give him the opportunity to ask to see his daughter then. He nodded to himself…he’d make the first move.
He saw John hesitate at the door and then enter the building. His eyes moved up the street. Janessa walked towards the lodge in the company of her parents and her sister and three brothers. His eyes scanned the group, Danella was not with them. He hurried towards the family.
He greeted Janessa’s father, Many Horses and her mother, Morning Star and then turned to the girl. “Janessa…! What time did Danella leave your home?”
The girl looked confused. She wasn’t sure what to answer. If Danella was with Johnny as she had been the last time, Janessa didn’t want to betray her friend again. Four Feathers saw the hesitation… He smiled reassuringly as he remembered the last time. “I know she is seeing the man Janessa and that she is in love with him.” He saw the relief in her eyes. It was short lived for them both as he finished… “She is not with him. He just entered the Lodge with his friend.”
The girl looked alarmed. “But I thought…”
“I thought that was why she didn’t come today. I thought she was with John.” They all looked alarmed. “Maybe she went to the river and fell asleep in her favorite spot.”
“Where would that be?”She hesitated yet again. “Janessa, please…”
“Under the big crooked pine, it’s where she fell in love with John…Where he…,” she trailed off. “She goes… We go there often to speak.” She saw the angry look on Four Feathers face. “I swear to you…He kissed her only.”
They saw relief, then fear once again as he remembered his daughter was still missing.
“Thank you Janessa, I will go check. She will be very angry if she misses this ceremony. “He turned and headed up the street at a fast walk. A moment later he began to run.
Janessa and her family cast worried looks at each other and headed into the Lodge.
John and Roy exited the house. Roy stepped down first and then turned to wait for Johnny. “You don’t have to baby sit me Roy… I’m fine," John protested as he started down the stairs.
“You’re not fine Johnny and you’re under Brackett’s orders not to overdo.”
“But I’m feeling much better,” He said just as he began to cough with a harsh rasp.
“Much better huh…?” Roy said smugly.
Johnny looked contrite as he followed his friend across the street. He glanced up and spotted Danella’s father standing there watching them. He remembered standing in that exact spot only a week ago as the man had told him in no uncertain terms that he was not good enough for his daughter. Embarrassment swept through him at the memory and he looked away, how could he give her up? How could he have her when her father hated him?
He put it from his thoughts for the moment as Roy pulled the door open, John hesitated… “Roy I think I’m scared," he whispered.
“You’ll do fine. For what it’s worth junior…, I’m proud to be with you, to be counted as your friend…your family.”
"You are my family...That’s worth more than all of this Roy,” Johnny said seriously… “Thanks.”
They stepped inside. Johnny felt like a goldfish in a bowl. Every eye was on him...he swallowed hard…resisting the cough that threatened to erupt from the heavy scent of incense and smoke. His eyes found Dr Brackett…his proud smile a contrast to the worried look in his eyes.
He saw Sean Carlton and Steven Handly standing near Kel. His eyes continued on to a hesitant smile from his Aunt Mase and the disagreeable scowl of his Aunt Lacee. They were surrounded by the rest of his family, including his Uncle Joseph and the innumerable group of cousins.
Blue Eagle stood and made his way to John. He took the younger man by the arm leading him toward the center of the room. He felt the tension in the younger man’s body along with a slight shakiness, “Relax John…,” he whispered. “You’ll do fine.” John nodded. “It’s alright to cough John. They all know you’ve been ill as have several others here tonight. You will not be alone,” he assured him with a smile.
“I’ll be fine,” He rasped, finding it difficult not to wheeze. His eyes traveled about the room. Little Fox was not here. “Blue Eagle, is your aunt well? I…I expected her to be here.”
“I did as well. Perhaps she is merely late.”
Johnny nodded hopefully. His eyes continued to travel the room. Danella wasn’t here either... He looked down in disappointment. Maybe her Father had kept her away after all.
Johnny’s eyes found Roy’s…he smiled reassuringly back with a wink. Blue Eagle called the assembly to attention. The ceremony began.
As it progressed Blue Eagle guided Johnny through each phase. The incense was added to the flame. John made the four scooping motions toward his face to pull the smoke closer. He struggled not to breathe too deeply and embarrass himself with the harsh cough already trying to escape. He noted that Kel was watching the proceedings with a scowl that almost matched his aunts.
Blue Eagle accepted a pipe from one of the elders. It closely resembled the one Chet Kelly had used to taunt the young man with years earlier. He glanced at Roy and saw his friend smile as he also remembered the incident. Blue Eagle was speaking to the crowd. John turned his attention back to him. “I give you a new name by which you will be known.” He turned to Johnny. “No’ȯhόmo’he Ho’ēsta. Will you accept the Name?” John smiled.
Blue Eagle had been speaking in English for the sake of Johnny’s friends up until now. The four men looked at each other. Each shrugging at the others as they waited for the interpretation.
“Héehe'e Nâ-htsê.” (Yes, I will) Blue Eagle lit the pipe. Johnny glanced around the room hoping that Little Fox or Danella had made it. Neither was there. He tried not to let the disappointment show. He glanced at Roy, who was also scanning the faces around him disbelieving that Danella would have missed this.
He looked back at John… “I’m sorry,” he mouthed.
John shrugged in resignation. Roy looked irritated but Johnny couldn’t tell if it was at him for giving up or Danella for not being there. John glanced at his friend again…he saw his cousin Benjamin approach him. He barely touched Roy’s arm, Roy leaned toward the man as he spoke to him. John frowned at the sudden tense look on Roy’s face as whatever Ben said caught his full attention.
Blue Eagle called John back to the moment… “John Gage, You will be hereafter known among the people as No’ȯhόmo’he Ho’ēsta” He lifted the pipe to the North repeating the name and then followed it by turning south, then East and finally to the West. Each time repeating the name No’ȯhόmo’he Ho’ēsta. The group repeated the name in unison. Finally Blue Eagle turned to John’s friends. For their benefit he added… “I give you Dances with Fire.” Kel and the others smiled at the very appropriate name.
Kel glanced at the others, “How soon can I politely get Johnny out of here and back in bed?”
“As soon as they smoke the pipe,” Steve said quietly.
“What!” Kel said loudly in alarm…drawing a dozen pairs of eyes toward him.
“Shhh,” the other two shushed him.
“He smokes that pipe and I’ll bust this up in a heartbeat along with that hard head,” he whispered heatedly.
Blue Eagle handed the Pipe to John. He placed it carefully in his mouth, almost grinning at the doctors outburst. Blue Eagle leaned toward him... “Do not inhale John, just pull it into your mouth and blow it out or this will be a very short ceremony.”
John wasn’t sure whether the older man was afraid the irate doctor would physically haul him out of there or that Johnny would choke to death on the smoke. Either way John was taking no chances. He drew a mouthful of smoke and expelled it without a single puff entering his lungs. He passed it on glancing to his friend in amusement but Roy was gone.
The smile left his face... Johnny’s eyes traveled the room. He glanced at Kel to see if Roy had just moved to stand with the doctor. No sign of him. John frowned…Roy wouldn’t leave unless it was something serious. His first thought was of Danella. He stood up abruptly…all eyes turned toward him.
“What is it John?” Blue Eagle asked.
Blue Eagle looked at him in confusion, unsure why that would disturb John so much. The younger man glanced down at him. “Something’s wrong...he’d never just walk out on something this important to me.” The certainty of the statement made Blue Eagle nervous that John could be right. Three of the four people closest to John Gage were now missing.
The door suddenly burst open as Four Feathers staggered in. Blood trickled from the man’s forehead. John never hesitated, he ran toward him… “What happened Four Feathers…?” Johnny asked.
“Walking Wolf has taken your friend, I tried to stop him but he hit me. Danella is also missing."
John’s heart dropped into his stomach. This wasn’t happening…his uncle was causing this pain to these people because of him. He had to stop him. As if the older man had read his mind, he turned to glare at John. “What suffering have you brought upon your people…and your friend?” He said to the grief stricken young man.
Kel and Blue Eagle stepped forward at the same time. So did several others but it was Mase who spoke first. “Do not place this shame upon my nephew Four Feathers… he brought no harm to anyone. Place the blame where it belongs…upon my husband." Four Feathers had the good graces to look ashamed but it was too late… the damage had been done.
John looked up…tears shone in his eyes, “I’m so sorry…,” he said softly to Danella’s father. He turned to Blue Eagle. “Little Fox is in danger too, we need to go to her…maybe he hasn’t…,” he stopped as he realized the truth...He already had her…that’s why she hadn’t been here, “He’s gonna kill them all,.” John whispered as he pulled off the headband and ran for the door.
He was already up the stairs to the house as the others began to pour out of the lodge. He ran out a moment later, he paused at the top of the stairs to catch his breath. He was wheezing painfully from the exertion and the smoke he’d breathed.
Kel was racing toward him. Johnny wouldn’t let the doctor stop him. He half ran…half fell down the stairs. He slid behind the wheel. He started the engine, throwing the vehicle into gear.
“Johnny STOP!” Kel called after him as the car sped away. He turned in frustration.
Steve pulled up beside him…Sean was in the passenger seat, “Get in.” Kel didn’t hesitate, He jumped in the back. He was still closing the door as the jeep began to accelerate. A quick glance told them the many others were following.
John was still a fair distance away from Little Foxes home when he saw the first plumes of smoke rising above the trees.
“Oh God…No…,” he gasped out breathlessly. His foot pressed down harder.
Steve pointed at the rising column of smoke over the trees. “Sean get on the radio, we need the fire department, the sheriff and some ambulances.” Sean grabbed for the mic.
Blue Eagle was speaking to the assembly. He’d spoken Johnny’s new name several times but not in English. Roy was waiting anxiously with all the pride Johnny’s father would have had mirrored in his face. “C’mon Blue Eagle, what is it,” Roy whispered. Roy felt a hand on his arm, he glanced over at a man who appeared to be about his own age, “Can I help you?” he asked.
“You are the para-medic? The friend of John’s,” He asked. Roy nodded. “There has been an accident.”
Roy was suddenly listening very intently, “I’ll get the doctor...,” He said.
“No,” The boy said adamantly. “They are too far into the crowd…it will take too long… Danella needs help now.”
“Alright…show me.” Roy turned and followed the man out.
“This way,” he called as he headed toward the trading post.
Roy had just stepped away from the safety of the lodge, when he saw Danella’s father, still some distance away, running toward them. He stepped in his direction but he suddenly felt a strong arm reach around him from behind. He began to struggle as a cloth was suddenly pressed over his face. A sweet, pungent odor invaded his senses and his vision began to fade. His last conscious thought was he hadn’t heard John’s new name.
Four Feathers saw the attack. “Walking Wolf…,” He yelled as he plunged in to defend the helpless paramedic. George dropped the unconscious fireman as Four Feathers… no small man himself, bowled him off his feet. He had George breathless and pinned to the ground when he saw the feet of another man before him. He glanced up thinking help had arrived only to have his vision go gray as George’s son hit him with a piece of firewood.
George and Benjamin lifted Roy and carried him to the car. “Now my son, give me ten minutes. Then go back and tell him that I have Danella and his friend. By the time help arrives they will all be dead.” Seeing the protest on his sons’ lips, he added… “Except for Danella of course," he lied. George hadn’t counted on the close bond between the two men. Ben would never have a chance to deliver his message.
Walking Wolf drove back to Little Foxes house. He dragged the blonde man from the car. Slinging him over his shoulder and carrying him inside. He laid him next to the two women who were already unconscious on the floor. He was smiling to himself in anticipation of his nephews arrival.
He took the gasoline can that he’d brought in earlier and began to pour it out around the front of the house. He carefully avoided the door. Giving John a clear way in where he would be waiting. Once the boy was unconscious he would simply carry him out the back door and disappear, leaving the others to die.
Mentally calculating how long it would take for his son to deliver his news and get John out here, He paced the room anxiously...finally deciding he’d waited long enough. He lit a match dropping it on the gas soaked floor of the front living area, hoping it wouldn’t spread too quickly. He needed to be sure the door remained clear until John was inside but burning strongly enough to prevent anyone from rescuing the others. He headed back to the bedroom to wait for him.
He re-soaked the cloth with ether and waited, not realizing that John was only minutes away and that Four Feathers intervention had kept Roy from taking the full brunt of the ether when George had been knocked down.
John sped up the street. He could see the sparks shooting into the air as the cold Montana wind fanned the flames. A quick glance in his rearview showed several other cars a half a mile behind him. He slammed the car into park and was out before the engine died. He slipped to his knees, panting for breath. “Gotta move Gage, they need you,” he gasped as he struggled once again to his feet.
He heard the sound of other vehicles pulling up behind him. He had to go or they’d try and stop him. He glanced down at what he was wearing, realizing the fringe would act like dozens of tiny wicks he stripped the shirt off as he ran tossing it aside.
“He was breathing heavily as he reached the door. He heard Kel’s bellow behind him, “No Johnny! Wait for help…,” then he was inside.
George hadn’t counted on the wind tonight. It was fanning the flames faster than he’d intended. What if John didn’t get here in time? He’d have to make his escape out the back if that happened. Try again another day. He heard the sound of coughing and peeked out. Flames were already licking at the walls and ceiling of the bedroom.
“No…It’s too soon,” He grumbled. He heard the cough again...he glanced at his three victims. The man was stirring… George couldn’t believe it.
He was contemplating using the ether again when he heard a faint sound above the roar and cracking of the flames. He peered through the thick black smoke and saw the figure of a man staggering into the room. He looked closer... a wicked grin broke out on his face. It was John.
Johnny was coughing hard. The thick black smoke stung his eyes. He could vaguely make out the figures on the floor. His heart was in his throat. Then he realized one of them was moving. Johnny knelt next to his friend. “Roy? Are you okay? Can you get up? Man, we gotta get outta here and I need your help.”John coughed again, trying desperately to pull air into his congested lungs. Roy managed to climb to his feet.
“Johnny? What happened?” Roy coughed as he tried to clear his brain.
“Roy, the house is on fire… We gotta get em out,” He gasped pointing at Little Fox and Danella. He pulled the Old Woman upright. Roy finally seemed to clear the fog and moved to help him. John hoisted the woman to her feet, carefully laying her frail body over Roy’s shoulder, “Go…,” he choked out, “I’ll bring Dani.” Roy nodded and headed for the door.
John turned back to Danella. He didn’t see George step out of the closet. He leaned over Danella…saw her eyelids flutter for a moment. “Wake up Dani…C’mon sweetheart,” he urged as he pulled her into an upright position. He felt someone grab him from behind, for a moment he thought help had arrived. Then a cloth pressed over his nose and mouth.
John reacted instinctively as his head began to swim and his lungs couldn’t draw air. He propelled himself backwards from the crouched position he was in, slamming the person behind him hard into the wall. The cloth dropped away. His head swam dizzily as he sucked in a lungful of air and smoke. Johnny was rasping now, he glanced at the man on the floor. He was stunned but conscious…it was Uncle George. John turned back to Danella.
He heard a sharp cracking sound. He looked up in alarm. He threw himself over Dani just as the ceiling came down on top of him. He felt searing agony as the smoking, scorched beam landed across his bare back. He would have screamed in pain if he’d had the breath.
Dani’s eyes cracked open for a moment and then drifted closed once more.
Johnny managed to raise himself up enough to twist around and keep the extra weight off of Dani. His skin felt as if it was melting, but at least the wood was only smoldering and not burning. He braced his hands on the beam, crying out in pain as his palms were scorched from the heat. He continued to try and raise the heavy piece of lumber. He couldn’t get any leverage and it dropped back onto him. He gasped in agony. His vision was once again beginning to swim as pain and lack of oxygen took their toll.
He saw the looming figure of his uncle through the heavy smoke and suddenly the weight was gone.
John looked up to see George standing over him in triumph. He knew if the older man won this round, Dani would die. George leaned down toward him. John reached blindly. He cried out in pain as his blistered hand closed over a piece of the ceiling brace. He swung…connecting solidly with the older man’s head… George fell unconscious to the floor.
Johnny struggled to his feet. He clenched his eyes against the pain as he grabbed Danella. He lifted her in his arms. He looked to the back door. It was completely engulfed. He headed to the front, choking on the smoke. Barely able to see through watering, irritated eyes. The door was completely closed by fallen timbers. John turned briefly in desperation, coughing hard. There was no way out…they were trapped.
John turned again. It couldn’t end this way. She didn’t deserve this. His eyes fell on the blanket over the chair… He had nothing to lose.
Roy made it out with his burden…the effects of the drug causing him to stagger under the woman’s slight weight. He’d just handed her off to Steve Handly, who was waiting with the tank of oxygen they’d originally brought for John. They heard a loud crash. The gathering crowd gasped in horror as the doorway disappeared under falling debris. “Johnny…!” Roy shouted as he tried to run back for the door. Blue Eagle and Kel restrained him, “Let me go, John’s still in there.”
Roy saw the sympathetic looks. Heard the crashing from inside as the ceiling gave way, “No…,” he mumbled. “No…! Oh God…Johnny…,” he bellowed, sitting down hard. Tears streamed down his cheeks but whether from smoke or grief it was hard to tell. Blue Eagle rested his hand on his shoulder.
Four Feathers was suddenly there, “My daughter…?” He whispered.
Roy looked up at him through reddened eyes. They shared a moment of grief for their two lost loved ones. “She was in there…Johnny was tryin to get her out,” he confirmed. “The wail of grief from her family and friends tore at his heart and he wanted to scream out his pain along with them, “What’ll I do without you Junior?” He whispered, rocking in agony for his lost friend.
Kel knelt beside him, “Roy I…I’m so sorry,” he whispered with tears in his own eyes.
Roy nodded vaguely. “He saved my life…again,” he whispered in anguish. A sudden loud crashing startled them all. An odd shaped figure came hurtling through the doorway. Falling as it hit the wet sidewalk. People ran to help. Roy struggled to his feet with Kel’s assistance. They ran toward it. The gasping, struggling figure was finally untangled from the confines of a large blanket to reveal John and Danella, both very much alive.
Sean took Danella from John’s arms, carrying her from harm’s way. Four Feathers and his family followed. Steve handed him the O2 which he laid gently over her nose and mouth. After a moment she began to cough.
Little Fox lay on a blanket watching the whole scene…a little confused but awake and uninjured except for some smoke. Danella appeared to be in the same condition except for a few minor burns.
Roy and Kel knelt next to Johnny. He looked up in confusion at his partner and he suddenly began to struggle to get up. Roy was working to restrain him, “St…still in there,” he strangled out.
“Sean…I need that oxygen when you’re done,” Kel shouted. The crowd finally heard sirens in the distance.
“No Johnny, you got her out…Danella’s safe,” Roy soothed.
“G…George…Uncle George,” he gasped out.
“He’s in there?” Roy asked in shock.
He held John pinned against him to still the struggles, but his eyes went to the house. No one could still be alive in there.
“It’s too late partner,” He said softly.
“K…Kill…ed him,” he panted.
“Hit him, knocked him out.” The dark eyes turned toward the blaze… “I k…killed him.”
“No John…he killed himself.” Roy eased his shaking friend away from him. “Let’s get a look at you okay?” He began to pull the blanket away.
John’s cry of pain stopped him, “Where does it hurt Johnny?” Roy asked gently.
Sean appeared with the oxygen, “Here Roy, let’s get this on him.” They dropped the mask in place. John was struggling hard to breath. The congestion combined with smoke and the ether on top of it was taking its toll on the young firefighter.
Roy took the opportunity to gently finish pulling the blanket away. He sucked in his breath as Johnny’s skin was revealed. The scorched imprint across his lower back and side was clearly visible. Roy suddenly realized that John’s hands were still curled and he was shaking badly. Not from adrenaline but from shock. He gently pried the slim fingers open, wincing in empathy at his friends whimper of pain, easy Junior.”
“I know it does. We’re gonna get you to a hospital real soon, ok?” He soothed, laying his hand gently on the dark head. His eyes lifted to Kel.
“Steve I need your emergency kit out of the jeep…hurry. He’s got some serious burns,” Kel yelled.”Lay him down Roy…on his side. Kel directed as he began to work on John. Steve dropped the box next to him.
“Dear Heavens, what happened to him?”He asked in shock.
“Looks like a beam fell on him,” Roy answered.
The older man shook his head. “How’d he get out?”
Roy shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Dr Handly shook his head in wonder… “That’s one tough kid,” Steve murmured, kneeling beside Kel.
The first fire truck pulled up at the scene. Men scrambled out and began unrolling the hoses. “That means the ambulance is close I hope,” Kel said.
“Probably, but don’t get your hopes up Kel. We don’t have paramedics yet. What the ambulance carries is minimal. I’m afraid we can only wrap and irrigate those burns until we get him to the hospital,” Sean told him…” I’m going to check on the others.”
Kel frowned, looking at Johnny in sympathy. Now that the adrenaline rush was over, pain was crashing in on him. He was writhing on the ground. Roy was barely able to keep him from rolling onto his burned back. “Tell me they carry MS,” he said kneeling beside his friends once again.
Steve shook his head. “It’s in the drug box in Sean’s pick up. I’ll have them stop and get it on the way back to the hospital. Kel nodded in frustration.
“Hang on Johnny, ok?” Kel whispered.
Roy was smoothing back the sable hair, trying to calm his young friend. “We’re gonna help you, I promise.”John flailed out a shaking hand toward Roy... he gently caught his wrist. “Johnny, I can’t hold your hand right now. It’s badly burned and I’ll hurt you,” he said in frustration. The contact was enough... John relaxed a bit.
“Danella…?”He whispered raggedly.
“She’s gonna be fine Junior…You got her out.” A slight nod was his only response. “I thought I’d lost you there,” Roy said softly.
“Al...most,” he wheezed…“Hurts Roy.”
“I know…hold on Johnny.”
Roy looked at Kel in frustration. “Where’s that damn ambulance?” He growled in frustration. It still sounded so far away.
Danella’s eyes flew open. She was lying on the ground. People were standing around her. The smell of smoke permeated the air and her throat was a bit sore. She coughed and tried to sit up. Her mothers gentle hands restrained her. "Lay still Danella.”
Memory came flooding back. “Someone attacked me..,” she cried, clutching her mothers arm.
“Yes, but you're alright now.”
“Walking Wolf,” she said gently. “He wanted his nephew to come for you so he could take him.”
She fought off her mothers hands, “Johnny?” She gasped sitting up.
He is here Danella, but he’s injured. His friends are caring for him… He’ll be alright,” she said trying to hold onto her now struggling daughter.
Four Feathers knelt next to them, “Danella, you nearly died because of this man.”
“I nearly died because of George Walking Wolf, not Johnny,” she shot back… “I want to see him.”
Four Feathers sighed…He knew she was right. He also knew after his second humiliating verbal assault on John at the lodge, that the man would never have the nerve to ask for Danella. She would never forgive him.
He helped her to her feet. “I will take you to him, but Danella be warned…He’s burned and he’s in pain.”
Tears flooded her eyes but she nodded determinedly. He led her towards where John lay on the ground being tended to by his friends. She glanced at Sean as he knelt next to Little Fox…saw her reassuring grin. Blue Eagle hovered near his aunt. Danella continued on to John.
Her hands flew to her mouth to cover the gasp of horror. John was shaking in shock. Roy had him rolled on his side. The purplish red burns trailed across his ribs from where he’d twisted under the beam to free himself, but the worst was a wide swath across his lower back and his hands. John held one hand curled and tucked against his chest. Roy held the other gently by the wrist.
Kel was kneeling next to him with Steve’s stethoscope. “I’ve got rales on both sides,” he said to Roy… “His pulse is rapid and his respiration is shallow.” He glanced up to see Danella standing next to him. “He’ll be okay honey,” He told the girl. “But he’s in a lot of pain right now.”
She knelt next to him, her hands lightly brushing his face, “I love you Johnny… I’m here Mé’oo’o.”
John’s pain filled eyes raised to meet hers briefly before sliding closed once more.
Roy heard the siren growing louder and saw the telltale flashes of red that finally signaled the arrival of the ambulance. The sheriff followed close behind. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay Junior…we’re gonna get you outta here okay?”
“Kay,” he mumbled vaguely.
Kel was running toward the ambulance before it stopped...Steve was right behind him. They waited for the attendants impatiently. “We need sterile sheets and saline solution, “Kel ordered the moment they appeared from the cab. One of the attendants complied and then turned to help the other pull the gurney from the back. Kel was back at John’s side before they finished.
Roy transferred John’s wrist to Danella, “Hold him right there okay? His hands are burned too,” he warned her. He and Kel spread the sheet over his partners back. Even that light touch caused Johnny to arch away and cry out in pain. “I know it hurts Johnny, but you’ve got to lie still okay?” Roy soothed softly. “We’ve got to treat these burns.” Kel began to pour the cooling saline solution over his back.
Roy turned back to his friends hands. He gently opened the first, laying a gauze pad gently on the palm and pouring the cool liquid over it. He took the other hand from Danella and repeated the process and then carefully wrapped both hands in gauze bandages. Roy nodded at Kel, “Let’s get him outta here.”
They waved the attendants over. They carefully loaded him on the gurney, being careful to keep him on his side. Roy rolled a blanket from the stretcher and placed it behind him to keep him from rolling onto his back. Steve was directing the attendants to stop in town to get Sean’s bag with the much needed Morphine. Danella …, the least injured of the three was seated in the backseat of Steve’s Jeep. Blue Eagle joined her as Little Fox was loaded in the ambulance with John. Roy and Kel climbed in beside them.
Steve and the others would follow behind. Four Feathers leaned in. “I will see you at the hospital Danella,” He said gently… she smiled. He was hoping it wasn’t the last smile he would see from his daughter.
Johnny’s eyes were open and fixed on Roy, who was once again lightly holding his wrist. He smoothed the sweat dampened hair from his friends’ face, “So Junior, I didn’t get to hear it earlier,” He asked quietly, “What’s your new name?”
“Dances with Fire,” he whispered raggedly.
Roy smiled. “It fits.”
They stopped briefly in front of the lodge. Sean grabbed his bag and he quickly loaded a syringe with Morphine. He pulled open the ambulance doors and handed it to Roy. “We’ll be right behind you.”
Sean slammed the doors and ran back to the others as the ambulance began to roll once more. The searing pain began to diminish, as the effects of the drug began to take hold… John’s eyes’ drifted closed. Kel and Roy exchanged a relieved glance that Johnny was no longer in pain but his labored breathing was still a worry. It was thirty minutes to the hospital.
Roy continued a softly spoken dialogue as they sped along the reservation road. His worried eyes lifting to Brackett as John’s breathing continued to grow worse. “One more breath John, another one…c’mon Johnny you can do this. Don’t quit on me Junior," Roy continued to urge.
Exhausted dark eyes turned to Roy as his breathing diminished. “C…can’t B…breathe g…good… T’red.”
Kel banged on the window separating the driver from the back. “Pick it up he’s in respiratory distress,” He yelled. The ambulance accelerated.
Little Fox watched with worried eyes as Roy continued to coax John to breathe just one more breath.
Behind them Steve looked at Sean…“Something’s gone wrong,” he said worriedly. They’re picking up speed… “John or Little Fox could be in trouble.” He hit the gas, Danella and Blue Eagle held each other’s hands, worried about both occupants of the ambulance.
“Please Johnny…don’t give up… one more, just one more…for me Johnny… I need you… Keep tryin,” Roy pleaded.
Roy heard the driver yell something back at Kel, “We’re almost there,” he told the worried paramedic.
Frightened brown eyes looked at Roy. “B…b…breathe… C…an’t…” John was frantically struggling to pull air into his lungs.
Kel felt the ambulance slow, then stop. It reversed and began to back up… “Thank God,” he whispered. The back doors were whipped open and Doctors and attendants were pulling John from the back… “He’s in respiratory arrest…, “Kel bellowed, “He needs to be intubated stat."
They nodded as they raced him into the emergency room. Two others pulled a weeping Little Fox from the ambulance and followed at a more leisurely pace.
By the time Steve and Sean burst through the treatment room doors, Johnny was already on the examination table. His head was hanging slightly over the edge…Kel had already inserted the laryngoscope…The tracheal tube was carefully being slid into place. His skin was a frightening shade of bluish gray, especially around the mouth. The gasp from the doorway reminded them of Danella’s presence.
“Get her outta here,” Kel snapped at Roy as he continued to work on John along with two other Doctors that Roy didn’t know.
He looked at the doctor in shock…“I can’t leave Johnny,” he gasped.
“Roy, we’ll take care of Johnny, You stay with Danella. She needs someone who understands what she’s feeling right now…So do you. You know I’ll do my best to save John.”
Roy understood what Kel was saying. He started to protest that he needed to be with John even more so, but the look on Kel’s face was unyielding. “I’ll be right outside,” he whispered in anguish. He brushed John’s arm lightly as he turned to leave. “Hang in their junior… I need you.”
Roy moved to Danella’s side, “C’mon Dani,” he said softly. “We’ll wait out here.” He gently took the girls arm and steered her toward the waiting room. He sat her down in the chair... She threw her arms around Roy and began to weep.
“I can’t lose him,” she sobbed. Roy knew exactly how she felt…he wanted to join her. He put his arms around the girl and patted her back gently.
A moment later a hand rested on his shoulder. He looked up into the concerned eyes of Blue Eagle. Danella’s father stood behind him. “John?” Blue Eagle questioned in concern.
“He went into respiratory arrest in the ambulance.” At their blank looks, he explained further. “He stopped breathing."
Four Feathers reached for his weeping daughter, pulling her into his arms. Her family gathered around her offering comfort. She met Roy’s eyes over their heads... He nodded at her.” I’m gonna go check on Johnny." Blue Eagle followed after him.
Roy slipped into the treatment room while Blue Eagle waited in the doorway. The chaotic activity had settled somewhat. Johnny was still unconscious, but was making small groans as if he were trying to wake. He lay on his left side. The right was swathed in bandages that continued around his lower back and waist. He had an IV in his outstretched left arm. Both hands were heavily wrapped and the ventilator was hissing away in the background.
Johnny’s eyes opened. Something was choking him…his eyes flared in panic. His hand came up to push the obstruction away. Roy was moving before anyone else even saw the motion. He grabbed the younger man’s wrist… “No Johnny,” he said gently… “It’s the vent Junior, it’s helping you breathe...You’ve got to leave it alone.”
John was frantically trying to pull loose. Frightened eyes met Roy’s as he continued to struggle. Roy let go of his wrist and grabbed both shoulders trying to hold him in place before John could roll onto his burned back. Recognition finally came and he began to calm… His eyes traveled the room, lingering on Kel and moving back to Roy.
“It’s okay partner… I’m here,” Roy soothed as the younger paramedic finally relaxed. “Breathe Johnny…,” he whispered brushing the dark hair out of John’s eyes. Kel and the others stood watching. One of the two emergency room doctors was standing by with a sedative in hand. Roy waved him off, “He doesn’t need that…he’ll be alright.”
The stranger glanced to Kel, The dark haired doctor nodded. “Roy, we’re gonna have him moved to a room soon. The burns are very painful but thankfully not life threatening. Second degree… He didn’t break anything when the beam hit him, but there’s some really deep bruising.” Kel already knew the answer but asked anyway, “Do you need me to fix it so you can stay with him?”
“Yeah, please… We’ll both feel better.”
John reached for Roy… The older man gripped the wrist above the bandages. “I’m gonna stay this time Junior I promise.” Kel knew it would take an act of God to move the blonde man from his partners side again. John rolled his eyes at Roy. “He wants to know when you’re taking the tube out,” Roy asked.
“How does he know that’s what he’s askin?” the younger ER doctor asked.
Kel grinned, “Trust me…He knows.” Brackett turned to Johnny…We’ll try and get it out tomorrow morning. Let’s see how you do, Okay?”John frowned. “It’s the best offer you’re gonna get,” Kel said sternly. Johnny nodded.
The Montana doctor shook his head. “All you people from LA talk without talkin?” He asked.
Kel and Roy began to laugh. Steve and Sean added theirs to it, “You’ll get used to it Frank,” Steve told the man.
Blue Eagle shook his head in bemusement at the laughter… “I think Danella would see her young man,” he said.
“As soon as we get him to a room,” Kel agreed.
Danella finally pulled away from her father. She wiped the tears from her eyes. A young nurse approached her a moment later to ask if she needed medical attention. Danella let her dab some ointment on a couple of small burns, but refused to leave the waiting room for fear something would happen to Johnny while she was gone. “What’s taking so long?” She whispered. “What if he’s…?”She trailed off fearfully... “What will I do without him?”
“Danella…,” her Father said gently. “His friends are doing all they can,” he assured her.
“He wasn’t breathing Father... They were putting a tube in to help him breathe,” she wailed as the tears again spilled over.
“He’ll be fine. I suspect his friends would move the sun and moon to save him, but Danella there is something I should tell you. I…,” he hesitated, afraid of losing his child forever with his confession.
She looked at him suspiciously, “You what father?”
He took a deep breath… “When you turned up missing, I went looking for you… I couldn’t find you. I saw Walking Wolf kidnap Johns’ friend. I tried to fight him off but he got away. You were also missing and I assumed he had you as well. I…ran to the lodge to tell them. I…blamed John for your disappearance as well as his friends. “
She stared at him in horror. “How could you?” She gasped in outrage, “He is not responsible for another’s evil acts.”
“Danella…I’m sorry. I will apologize of course but he may not forgive that humiliation. He may never ask for you after what I said.
“He saved my life in that house. He was burned trying to protect me…he covered me with his own body. Be warned Father, If Johnny leaves without me, I will follow him to Los Angeles. He will have to tell me himself that he doesn’t love me before I will give him up,” she said turning away from her father in anger. She saw Blue Eagle coming down the hall with a somber look on his face… Her heart sank.
She stood as he approached her, “Johnny…?” She asked apprehensively.
Blue Eagles eyes crinkled as he smiled at the girl. “Dances with Fire is awake and they think he will be fine.”
She stared at him in confusion for a moment. Neither she nor her father had been present at the naming ceremony. They hadn’t heard his new name. It suddenly dawned on her who he meant. “Dances with Fire,” She whispered. “What a wonderful name Blue Eagle.” He nodded. “Can I see him?”
“Shortly Danella. They want to get him into a room first. Danella?” The warning tone alerted her that there was more.“He is very weak and tired. He also still has the tube in his throat…He cannot speak.”
“Blue Eagle, he doesn’t need to. Dances with Fire speaks without words.”
“He can’t do that right now either Danella,” he said with a teasing laugh.
The girl blushed crimson. Her father looked outraged for a moment and then began to chuckle as well. “I meant his eyes,” she said indignantly…then she and her mother began to laugh too.
Kel led Dani to John’s room. “Only a few minutes Danella ok? He needs to rest. Roy’s with him and he’ll stay the night to be sure he stays quiet. Johnny’s in good hands.” She nodded as she pushed the door open and went in quietly.
John lay on his left side. Pillows tucked in behind him to keep him from rolling onto his back. His left arm extended and hooked to an IV of antibiotics and Normal Saline. The vent tube was taped firmly in place and the hiss of the machine an audible reminder that Johnny wasn’t quite okay.
Roy was sitting next to his friend, one hand resting gently on his arm, the other rested on his friend’s dark hair. He was speaking in quiet soothing tones. John’s eyes were closed but his bandaged hand tried to reach for his partners. Roy caught the wrist. Johnny’s face tightened as pain flared from the movement. A quiet whimper escaped his throat.
“Just rest Junior, I’m gonna be here…I promise…I won’t leave,” he said softly.
A soft sound behind him brought Roy’s attention to the door. Danella stood there, tears trickled down her cheeks. Her amber eyes looked softly at Johnny. “C’mon sweetheart,” Roy said beckoning the girl over. “Johnny?” Roy said gently. “Open your eyes Junior...someone’s here to see you.”
John’s eyes fluttered open. They locked on Roy for a moment then flickered to Danella. Roy patted his partners arm. “I’m gonna step out for a minute,” John shook his head with a momentary flair of panic in his eyes.
“I’ll be right outside Junior. I’ll only be gone a few minutes…okay?” Roy assured him. John gave a single brief nod.
Danella moved into Roy’s place. She rested her hand lightly on John’s arm. She leaned over him and brushed the hair from his face. “Oh Ná’méhόt … just look at you," she whispered bending down and gently kissing his forehead. “I cannot stay long Mé’oo’o. I needed to see you…to touch you…to be sure you were alright.” She kissed his brow again. “Né-méhotâtse,” she said softly.
Tired brown eyes locked with amber... a soft groan left his lips, he blinked once. She smiled... “They said I could only stay a moment, so I have to go now but I will see you soon. I love you,” she whispered following it with a final kiss to his cheek. She heard the door creak open and knew Roy was checking to see if it was safe to come back. She turned to John’s friend… “I have to go now…will I be able to see him tomorrow?” Roy nodded. “Good night,” she said giving Roy a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Good night,” he replied slightly surprised by the familiarity.
“You and I will be friends as well won’t we Roy? We have to be if we are to share his love,” he nodded in grateful understanding. She was promising that she wouldn’t try to come between them. He smiled at the girl, she grinned back. They understood each other...Johnny needed them both.
She left with a final look to Johnny as she closed the door. Roy took the seat next to him once again. “Well partner, You’ve got a terrific girl there.” John’s lips curled in a slight smile. “You told Brackett you had to come here...that you had to find yourself. Maybe you had to come home because you had to find her. What you wanted…needed wasn’t in California.” John’s eyes were fixed on his partner but there was sadness in the look.
“Johnny… don’t look at me like that. If you love her, fight for her. Throw everything else aside just like your parents did. All that mattered was each other. That they were together, right?” He received a slow, hesitant nod. “Then listen to me…to Blue Eagle…to Dani. Turn the charm on her father, win him over. Tell him you love his daughter…” There was a slow shake of the head as John’s eyes closed. Roy sighed in defeat.
John could still see her father standing before him. The accusatory words hung in his memory. Her father blamed him for what had happened tonight and rightfully so. His uncle had almost killed her because of him. Little Fox and Roy had almost died as well. What had almost happened could happen again.
He thought of his friend Drew. Anytime he was called out on a response, there was an understanding for all of them who wore the uniform that it could be their last. Could he put her through that? He seemed to draw trouble like a magnet. Last night he’d put her life in danger. Would he ever want to risk that happening again? The answer was No…No…No.
John had only been asleep for a few minutes when a quiet knock at the door interrupted Roy’s reverie. He looked up to see Blue Eagle and a strange man dressed in a sheriff’s uniform enter the room. “Roy,” Blue Eagle said. “This is Sheriff Pratt. He is investigating George Walking Wolf’s death and the fire."
“Sheriff," Roy acknowledged.
The sheriff took Roy’s personal information. “What can you tell me about tonight’s events, sir?”
“Not much I’m afraid. George’s son…Ben… I think that’s his name… He came in during the ceremony.”
“What ceremony sir?”
Roy nodded toward his sleeping partner, “A naming ceremony for my friend.”
“A little old for that isn’t he?” The sheriff drawled.
Roy shrugged. “He used to live here but he left before it could be celebrated,” he explained shortly.
“I see... What’s your friend’s name?”
“Is he also a fireman?”
“Yes, he’s my partner.”
“He came in. Told me Danella was injured and needed help so I left with him. I saw Four Feathers…That’s Danella’s father, running toward me and I assumed he was coming to get me so I turned to go meet him and then someone grabbed me from behind and pressed something over my face. That’s all I remember until I woke up in that house. It was very hot and thick with smoke and Johnny was leaning over me, telling me to get out…that the house was on fire. He helped me get Little Fox on my shoulder and he turned back to get Danella. I got out and a few seconds later the roof collapsed. I thought…,”Roy trailed off. “I thought they’d been killed when the roof came down.”
Johnny tossed his head restlessly. Roy lightly touched his friends arm and John groaned softly, but settled back to sleep. The hiss of the vent was the only sound in the room for a moment. “Anyway, a minute later…Johnny came busting out through the door with Danella. He told me his Uncle George was still inside. He wanted to go back in… I wouldn’t let him.”
“You’re both fireman… It’s what you do for a living. Why wouldn’t you let him go?”
“The building was completely engulfed by then. The roof had already come down. We had no gear and John had barely gotten out the first time. Not to mention that he’d been badly hurt and he had smoke inhalation on top of influenza. He’s on that vent for a reason. He’d never have survived it... We don’t throw our lives away needlessly sheriff.”
Sheriff Pratt nodded his head as he looked at Johnny. "Well I’ve heard pretty much the same from the young lady and Little Fox. They both said he saved your lives…” Roy nodded in agreement. Pratt looked at John ...“I really should get a statement from your partner but Walking Wolf’s son pretty much told us everything to keep his sorry butt out of jail. so I won’t bother Mr. Gage with this. I’d say he’s been through enough."
From his tone, Roy had no doubt the sheriff had heard from Ben why George wanted John. Roy was grateful that he wouldn’t put his friend through that humiliating torment. Roy looked at the man… "Have they found his body yet?” Roy asked quietly, wanting to be sure.
“Yes they have sir,” The Sheriff said with an understanding tone. “It’s definitely him and your friend’s safe.”
Roy slept in the chair next to John’s bed waking several times as the younger man had shifted restlessly. Kel spent the night in Steven Handly’s guest room and was in early the next morning. Roy woke to a harsh coughing as the vent tube was removed from John’s throat. He stood quickly and moved to his partners side. Kel was listening to Johnny’s lungs. “Sounds good… You’ve still got some congestion and a bit of wheezing but you’re breathing on your own alright.”
“Can I get outta here?” Johnny rasped out… His throat still irritated from the tube.
“John you’re still not okay. You’ve got some nasty burns and a lot of bruising. You’re still very weak and your breathing is still not up to where it should be.”
“We’re leaving tomorrow night,” he said in gravelly tones. I want to say good bye to my aunt and…a few others,” he finished with a plea in the dark eyes.
Kel looked at Roy. “I hate it when he does that.”
Roy just chuckled. “Tell me about it.”
Kel sighed. “You’ll be surrounded by doctor’s and one anxious paramedic, so…alright…but you will rest… Clear?” John nodded… "Roy and I will ask anyone you want to say good bye to, to come to the house… Deal?”
“Deal,” he agreed.
Kel left to get him discharged. Roy turned to his tired friend, “Johnny…about last night…What we were talkin about…”
“Roy,” Johnny rasped. “What happened last night…could happen again. My uncle won’t be involved but…I remember Drew and what Pam went through…I don’t want to do that to her.”
“Then let me ask you one last thing. Let me tell you what Joanne said to me that night.”
Johnny nodded. “Okay.”
“Do you really think Pam regrets marrying Drew?”
“No of course not but…”
“No and do you know why?”
“She loved him.”
“Did your mom regret marryin your dad?”
“No…I…I don’t think so.”
“She loved him,” He answered softly.
If your mom had known your dad would die in ten years, would she have married him anyway?"
“Yes, I…I think so.”
“Exactly… Johnny we can’t live our lives on ‘what if.’ I told Joanne what happened the day Drew died. What you said about not getting married and I asked her what she thought."
“What did she say?”
“What Joanne explained to me was something a very smart young man told her while she and I were separated a couple of years ago." John frowned in confusion until Roy continued. "That she’d rather have whatever time we’re given with me, than one day without me. She’d at least have those times to hold on to. Johnny…none of us are guaranteed tomorrow…you have to live your life now…understand?”
John stared at his Partner uncertainly, now that his own words to Joanne were being tossed back at him.
Kel pushed the door open with a wheel chair. “Let’s go,” he said. “Steve’s on his way to pick us up.” He glanced between the two realizing he’d interrupted something. “Everything okay…?” He asked. They both nodded. Roy could only hope he’d gotten through.
They arrived back at the reservation a half hour later. Roy helped his shaky partner out of the vehicle, turning him toward the stairs. John managed a couple of tentative steps toward the house before Roy scooped him up and carried him up the stairs careful not to put pressure on his lower back. He set him on his feet at the top. “Sorry Junior, but the idea of watching you struggle up those steps was too much.
John grinned. “I wasn’t lookin forward to it either Pally…,” he rasped.
Roy helped him inside and back into bed, laying pillows behind him to keep him on his side. “You rest now Johnny okay? I’ll let your aunt know you want to see her alright?” John nodded.
John’s eyes were already beginning to droop. “Blue Eagle…,” he said softly. “Little Fox… Dani…,” he trailed off as he fell asleep.
Dani was sitting next to him when he woke. “Danella,” he said softly… His eyes traveled about the room. “Where’s Roy and Dr Brackett?”
“They are with Blue Eagle. He is letting your family know you are here and that you are leaving tomorrow. He will bring Little Fox then. She is still in the hospital,” John’s eyes snapped back to her.
He tried to sit up and a hiss of pain escaped through clenched teeth. “Johnny?” She gasped reaching out to help him.
“Was s…she that b…badly injured?” He stammered through the burning sensation in his back.
“No,” she answered laying him back gently. “She is merely old. So they kept her as a precaution only, now lay back Mé’oo’o…you will hurt yourself. “
Sweat beaded his brow. She brushed the hair from his face. She leaned down, her lips brushing his gently. “Dani…I…can’t…I…need to think. I….,” Johnny was panting as the pain subsided. “I’m l…leaving tomorrow…I…”
He trailed off as her mouth closed over his. She pulled back to look into his eyes. “Then think of me,” she kissed him again.
“You’re all I can think of,” he whispered as she lifted her mouth from his. “How to say goodbye… How to leave you behind…”
She sat back in shock. “Good bye? You would leave me behind? You don’t mean that? You love me... You said so.” Tears sprang to her eyes.
“Dani please…don’t. I do love you…I just want what’s best for you.”
She stood up looking at him angrily. “Then let me choose. I know what’s best for me John Gage… You,” she snapped. She turned and stormed out the door.
“Dani…,” He yelled after her… trying to sit up. He gasped in pain and quickly lay back down. He grinned to himself. Man she was beautiful when she was angry. He lay there thinking about everything that had happened in the last twelve days. The things Roy and Blue Eagle and even Danella had spoken to him. The changes in his families attitude that he’d thought to never see… Danella. His eyes closed as his mind replayed every touch of her hand…every kiss. He drifted off to sleep.
Roy and Kel returned a short time later. They both went over to the young paramedic, reassuring themselves that he was sleeping peacefully. They did some packing and cleaning, careful not to disturb the injured man. Blue Eagle had told them that Little Fox would be staying here now that her home had been destroyed. It was convenient and he would be close by. After several hours they fixed themselves some lunch and Roy went to wake Johnny.
“You hungry Junior…?” Roy asked.
“Okay, let me get you something.” Roy returned a minute later with a bowl of soup and a sandwich. He sat next to his friend. He helped him into a sitting position...propping him up with pillows.
With both hands wrapped, Johnny was completely helpless and dependent on his partner. He blushed in painful embarrassment as Roy fed him each bite. “Relax Johnny…, we’ve been through worse than this together.” Roy reminded him, wiping soup from his chin.
“Yeah…well don’t worry it’ll get worse later when I have to use the bathroom,” he complained.
Roy chuckled. “That won’t be a first time either.”
“That doesn’t make it easier,” he muttered. “Roy?”
“Danella was here today. “
“She was? When…?”
“While you were with Blue Eagle.”
“Did you get a chance to talk?”
“Not really. I tried to tell her I wanted what was best for her but…”
“She got mad and stormed out. Told me I should let her decide what was best for her.”
“She’s right…,” his partner agreed. “She’s a grown woman John, not a child… If you don’t love her that’s fine, but if you do…let her make her own decisions. She wants a partnership, not a dictatorship.”
John looked down. “She may not want anything now,” he said softly… “She was really mad.” He glanced up with a wry grin. “Beautiful… but really mad.”
Roy smiled at him, “Yeah, I know what you mean. Jo’s beautiful too when her eyes are flashing and her face is flushed."
“Bet you’ll be glad to be home tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, I’ve missed her…a lot.”
“Maybe I should go home to my place when we get home.”
“Not a chance Junior. You can’t take care of yourself like this…,” he said nodding at John’s hands. “And Jo would kill the both of us if she knew you were hurt and I let you go home alone. Get used to the idea...you’re comin back with me until the bandages come off.”
Johnny nodded. “Thanks.”
“Oh by the way, Blue Eagle said rather than have people comin and goin and disturbin your sleep all afternoon…he’s just gonna have your family come by tomorrow afternoon before we leave…so today you rest, okay?”
Johnny nodded. “Okay…,” He said tiredly, sinking back on the bed. His eyes closed in slumber.
It was dark when John woke later. He struggled to sit up… Roy was at his side instantly. “Easy partner,” He said as he assisted the gasping younger man to a sitting position.
“Hey Roy…?” Johnny said red faced.
“I’m afraid it’s later.”
Roy laughed. “C’mon Junior let me help you." he said easing Johnny to his feet and supporting him as they headed for the bathroom.
A short time later, Roy led his friend back into the living area. “Roy?”
“Can I sit outside awhile?”
“I don’t know Johnny...,” Roy said hesitantly, “It’s really cold out and you’re just getting over influenza…and you’re still awfully weak. Dr. Brackett’ll kill us both if you get sick again.”
“Please Roy, It’s my last night here and I just want to remember everything. The stars…the scents…”
He turned pleading eyes on Roy. “Doc was right…” Roy muttered to himself. He glanced back to Johnny. “Don’t turn those eyes on me Junior. You’re worse than Jennifer to say no too.”
John grinned in victory. Roy saw the grimace on his friends face as he helped him to his feet. The burned skin on his back pulling painfully as Roy carefully walked him out on the porch and sat him in the chair. He disappeared inside the house, returning a moment later with a blanket and pillow which he tucked behind his partner and then wrapped him warmly in the blanket. “Call me when you’re ready to come in otherwise I’ll come get you in twenty minutes,” Roy warned.
Johnny nodded…long since resigned to Roy’s mother hen attitude. He glanced across the street. Danella’s light was on in her upstairs bedroom. He didn’t know how to make this right. Could he make a promise to this girl? What if something happened to him? Roy was right… You couldn’t live your life on a ‘what if.’ He saw her father step out on the porch.
Ahh the other problem, getting around a man who hated him and blamed him for his daughter almost being killed. Was she worth the fight? Yes…yes she was. He’d ask Roy to go get the man. Just to talk to him…apologize for what had happened. Tell him how he felt for Dani. Maybe… Just maybe he could somehow make things right.
He sat for a few minutes looking up at the stars. He remembered years ago, all the times he and his mom had stood on another porch like this one and danced together…, both of them missing the man in their lives…her husband…his father.
John closed his eyes and began to hum the tune to April Love, almost feeling his feet moving in time to the music. The stairs creaked suddenly...the memory was broken.
“Twenty minutes already?” He asked opening his eyes. Four Feathers stood before him. John tensed. He was in no condition for a fight. He assumed Four Feathers was here to finish the brutal set down he’d started at the lodge. He quickly glanced at the door. Roy was only steps away, but John refused to hide behind his friend. Well he’d wanted to talk to the man… now was his chance. He opened his mouth to speak but Four Feathers held up a hand to stop him.
“My daughter was a happy, carefree child twelve days ago John Gage…now she does nothing but cry.”
John looked down in dismay. This wasn’t starting out well.
“I…I’m sorry…,” John began, but again he was waved to silence.
“Her unhappiness is not your fault.”
There it was…not his fault… wait a minute…had he heard that right? His head snapped up…his eyes on Four Feathers as the man continued.
“It is mine,” he was saying. “I have been wrong about you Dances with Fire. You are a good man and your being half white does not change the fact that you are also half of us.”
John was listening intently. “What…What about y…yesterday…? You said… “
“I was wrong. You are not responsible for the actions of another. Someday you may also have a daughter John… Fathers sometimes become over protective.”
Johnny grinned. “I already know that,” He said thinking of Roy with Jennifer.
“My daughter is no longer a child. She is a woman and I need to let her go to find her own life. Is her life with you Dances with Fire?”
John’s eyes turned to Danella’s window. He could feel her mouth on his, her hands burning a trail across his skin. He smiled. “After she finishes school maybe,” Johnny said softly. “I want her to have choices.”
Four Feathers smiled. “Then I would be honored to have you sit with my daughter, Dances with Fire.” John’s head snapped around in surprise.
“Th...Thank you…Four Feathers.”
The older man nodded. He turned and left.
He felt his friend’s presence beside him. “Everything okay Johnny? “ He asked, watching Four Feathers walk away. Roy had heard him come up on the porch. He’d stayed close enough to get to John if he needed to without eavesdropping on their conversation. Johnny would tell him what was said when he was ready.
“Yeah Roy, everything’s fine.”
“Good… let’s get you inside before you have pneumonia,” he said assisting his now shivering friend to his feet and helping him inside.
John woke the next morning. He’d been hoping for a miracle cure overnight, but he still felt weak and shaky. Every movement brought the tearing pull from his burned skin and bruises around his back. Roy and Kel were in the Kitchen getting their coffee, “Spare some of that for me partner?” Johnny called out to them.
“Sure thing Junior,” Roy answered coming into the room with two cups. He sat next to his friend. “Careful Johnny it’s really hot,” he warned holding the cup to John’s mouth. He sipped from it cautiously.
“So Johnny…Have you decided what your doin about…Danella?”
“Roy…,” he groaned. “What’s to decide? She’s stayin here…goin to school. It’s what she deserves... it’s what she wants.”
“She wants you.”
“She deserves to have her dream… To have choices. To have a life…without me if that’s what she chooses later.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Johnny…, why do I have more faith in that girls love than you do?”
John sat stunned. “I think she loves me,” he said softly.
“Well I know she does. Totally…hopelessly…completely.”
“I know…I just want to be sure I’m right for her…that I won’t break her heart.”
“How about your own Junior? Worry about your own. Can you let her go?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered.
“What did Four Feathers say last night?”
“He told me I could see Danella. He apologized for what he’d said.”
“So you have parental approval as well Junior. So what’s stopping you?”
John sat silently, looking at the floor. “Think about it Johnny, but think fast. You’re runnin outta time.”
Danella sat in her room. Her teary gaze locked on the house across the street, willing the door to open, for John to come and bang down her door… to sweep her off her feet. It remained obstinately closed. “Stubborn indian…,” she wept.
After several hours she couldn’t take anymore. She grabbed her coat and headed down the stairs. Her mother and father were working in the store. They stopped to watch her as she stalked through. “Where are you going Danella?”
“To see Johnny…”
“Danella, let the man be.”
“What…? Father I can’t. I…love him. I can’t let him leave,” she wailed. Tears were coursing down her cheeks.
“He must make this decision on his own. You can’t force him to love you enough.” he said pulling his daughter into his arms as she began to sob.
“He loves me… how can he leave me?” She cried.
Her father was worried…John hadn’t come. He knew the man was very ill but he hadn’t even sent word. Why hadn’t he asked for Danella. Maybe he’d misjudged what the man felt for his daughter.
“Maybe to give you a chance to choose your life.”
“I already have.”
“How can you choose when you don’t know what other choices are out there?”
“I don’t know…I just know what I feel for him. When he held me…kissed me.”
Four Feathers blushed. It still shocked him to think of his little girl in the arms of a man. He closed his eyes, hoping he hadn’t misread the young man’s feelings. His daughters heart would be shattered.
Danella wiped her eyes. " I will go to Janessa’s… That’s where I’ll be if Johnny should come looking for me,” she said sadly.
“Will you be back to say goodbye?”
“I don’t know that I can father.”
“You claim to be woman enough to be in love, then be woman enough to face him and say goodbye,” she nodded briefly.
The day passed quickly…too quickly for John. Roy and Kel were anxious to be home. They both had someone waiting who would be missing them terribly. They’d packed the rest of their belongings. John slept off and on through the morning and early afternoon.
Roy woke him about an hour before they were due to leave. “Hey Junior, it’s almost time to go.”
“Kay Roy,” He answered wincing in pain as he struggled to sit up. Roy took hold of his arm to help him. He raised his dark eyes to his partner, “Could you get Danella for me?”
Roy smiled. “Sure partner.” Roy ran across the street but he came back a short time later. “She’s not home Junior, she’s at her friends. Her father tried to call but her friends parents said they went to the river. He went to find her.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to see me. Saying goodbye isn’t easy.”
“Good bye…but I thought…”
John didn’t look up. Roy turned away in frustration.
Blue Eagle knocked on the door a few minutes later... “Is he ready?” He asked Roy.
“As ready as he’s gonna get.”
“Hey partner, Blue Eagle would like you to come outside for a minute.”
“Why? What’s happening?”
“Just trust me. A few people wanted to say goodbye.”
John struggled to get to his feet. Roy moved quickly to give him a hand. Helping him pull his jacket on and then leading him outside.
John stopped short looking at Roy in shock. More than a hundred people were gathered in the square. It appeared that they were waiting for him. “R...Roy what’s goin on?”
“Looks like you made a few friends. They came to say goodbye Junior,” Roy said with a smile, scooping John up and carrying him carefully down the stairs to the chair Kel was setting in place. He set him down, adjusting the pillow to cushion his back.
John’s aunts came over, “We wanted to say goodbye and to tell you again how sorry we are for what we did to you.” Mase touched his cheek. “I can never make up for the fear George placed in you, or the hurt that I did, but you always have a home here. Someday maybe we can learn to be a family.”
John smiled forgivingly. “Thank You Aunt Mase,” he whispered.
His Aunt Lacee was next along with his Uncle Joseph and Johns cousins. Several people brought the children Johnny had treated. He teased with them for a few minutes. Others came to wish him well and say goodbye.
Blue Eagle presented Kel and Roy with a set of Moccasins’. “We regret that we haven’t the time to give you the naming ceremony but we would present you with a gift and a name among the people.”
“We’d be honored,” Kel said after a glance at Roy.
“Roy we offer the name of Naahéo hé o Ôh-vό’komestse…White Otter,” he said translating. “It means loyal friendship.” Roy smiled at John.
“I’ll accept that name… Thank you.”
“Doctor…We offer you the name Vόaxaa’ Ôh-vό’komestse , White Eagle. It means great strength, a leader.”
“I accept that name. Thank you Blue Eagle.”
Both men took a moment to examine the bead work on the moccasins’. It was exquisite. The otter on Roy’s…the white eagle with wings spread on Kel’s.
“They’re beautiful,” They told him. Blue Eagle pointed to a young woman across the road.
“My daughter will be pleased,” He said, leaving them to approach the young woman and Little Fox who stood with them.
A moment later, Blue Eagle led Little Fox to John’s side. He tried to stand but Kel ordered him back into the chair. Roy set a second chair in place for Little Fox.
“I will miss you Dances with Fire.”
“I will miss you as well, Little Fox,” he said softly.
“You will return to visit?”
“I don’t know…I hope so.”
“You would leave her behind Dances with Fire?” She asked peering over his shoulder.
John turned...His heart picked up its pace. Danella was coming through the crowded square. Her mother and father close behind. Johnny struggled to stand, his hand reaching back for his partner. “Help me Roy. I don’t want to say goodbye to her sitting down like an…”
“Old woman…,” Little Fox supplied with a grin.
John smiled back. “Yeah…like an old woman,” he agreed kissing her cheek. Roy helped him to his feet, turning him to face the girl and her family.
Johnny looked down at the ground. “I was hoping you’d come,” he said. “I didn’t want…I couldn’t leave without seeing you. I wanted to say goodbye properly.” His eyes rose to Four Feathers as he stood behind his daughter, a hopeful look in the older man’s eyes. John wasn’t quite sure what he was hoping for. Tears streamed down Danella’s cheeks. John struggled to hold his own back as he felt a hundred pairs of eyes watching him.
“I want you to go to school…become a nurse Danella. I want you to have that. I can’t…I won’t take that from you.”
“You wouldn’t be taking it from me. I will give it up freely for you,” she wept.
“I don’t want you to Danella… I want you to have choices. To understand what you’re choosing and maybe what you’ll have to leave behind,” he said looking around at her family. “But Dani, when this year is over. When you come to LA to work at Rampart…I’ll be waiting to find out what you chose.”
She raised tear filled eyes to his, “You will wait for me?”
“Forever…I would wait forever for you Ná’méhόt.” He took her face between his bandaged hands, disregarding the pain it caused him… He kissed her gently. “Danella…” He hesitated... His eyes flicked to Roy as his partner brought their luggage out onto the porch. “My friend said that maybe you were the reason I had to return here, that you were what I had to find. Are you?”
She raised hopeful eyes to meet his, she nodded. “Dani… Anėstaeše Ôh-vó'komaestse,(White Mist)” He corrected using her proper name. “ Tse’ vovéstoem?”(Would you sit with me) He asked softly.
She stared at him in shock. A broad smile slowly broke over her face, “Héehe'e … Oh Johnny, héehe'e Nâ-htsê .” (Yes Oh Johnny Yes I will). She threw her arms around his neck, his slight wince reminding her to go gently. She kissed him…both of them disregarding the eyes watching them and the smiles breaking out all around.
Only Johnny’s friends were unaware of what he’d just asked the girl. They were simply happy that there was some hope for a future between them. The kiss lingered and then deepened as her mouth parted under John’s. Only the clearing of Four Feathers throat seemed to penetrate their awareness. They broke apart, both of them blushing furiously at the laughter around them.
He grinned at Four Feathers, laying another gentle kiss on Danella’s lips, “Né-méhotâtse Danella.”
“And I you John Gage…”
Roy grinned at Kel. They both headed inside to retrieve the rest of their things.
Four Feathers leaned in close to Johnny. “You will bring great joy to my child my son and many strong grandsons,” he whispered. John flushed crimson as the older man laughed. “And a granddaughter as well… so you will someday know how I am feeling right now.”
John smiled and nodded. Danella was clinging to his arm. Her other arm hugging Janessa as her friend cast shy glances at Johnny and offered her congratulations to Danella.
Kel and Roy had missed most of this exchange. They began to load their baggage into the trunk. Kel broke up the party. “Johnny it’s time to go. You’ve been on your feet too long as it is.”
“Will you write to me?” Johnny asked Danella.
“Every day,” she whispered.
He kissed her again. Roy had to give him a gentle pull. “C’mon Romeo, let’s get movin before we miss our flight.”
“I love you,” he whispered one final time.
“I love you,” she began to weep as Roy helped John into the car, propping him against several pillows.
“No Dani, please don’t cry…I’ll get you to LA in the summer… I promise…I’ll see you in six months,” he said.
She nodded smiling through her tears.
Roy reached across his partner pulling the seatbelt tight across him. “You comfortable enough Junior…?” He asked.
John nodded, still watching Dani over Roy’s head.
Four Feathers stepped in close… "Take care my son,” he said resting his hand on John’s shoulder in farewell.
“Goodbye Four Feathers,” he answered with a smile.
Sean and Steve stepped forward to say goodbye. “Thank you…all of you.” They shook hands with Kel and Roy, giving Johnny a gentle pat on the arm. “There’ll be a wheelchair waiting at the airport and special seating on the plane for John, so he can rest. Roy and Brackett nodded.
“Come visit me in LA,” Kel invited. “I’d love to show you around my hospital.”
“You got it,” Steve promised.
Sean nodded. “I’m in,” he agreed.
Roy and Kel got in waving goodbye. The older paramedic put the car in gear and drove away amidst the waves and shouts of farewell. John grew quiet in the back seat.
“You sleepin back there Junior…?” Roy asked.
“No,” came the soft reply.
“You gonna be okay?”
Roy glanced at Dr Brackett. The one word answers concerned him. He tried again. “So what got her all shook up? You promise to visit her or something?"
“I asked her to marry me.”
It was a good thing the three men were seat belted as the brakes locked up. Smoke billowed from the tires, as the car slid to an abrupt stop. Kel and Roy both turned in their seats to look at their friend.
“What?” Roy yelled.
“Aaargh…Man, Roy I think you gave me whiplash,” Johnny complained turning his head from side to side with a grimace.
“Johnny…what did you say?”
“You gave me whiplash,” he said innocently.
“No you little smart ass, before that.”
“I asked her to marry me…When she finishes school of course.”
Roy grinned at his friend and then glanced at Kel.
“Well, what did she say?” Kel asked.
“She said yes.”
“Congratulations!” Roy whooped in laughter.
“That’s wonderful,” Kel added.
“What about her father?”
“He gave me his blessing last night,” John looked like he was fighting tears.
“Is that why he just called you …?” Roy trailed off.
“His son…? Yeah,” Johnny nodded.
Roy laughed… “Wait’ll Joanne finds out.”
“And Dixie,” Kel added.
“And the guys, I’m so happy for you Junior.”
“There will be a lot of broken hearts in California when we get back.”
“Aw cut it out Doc,” John grinned.
“I may have to move her to another hospital so my other nurses won’t tear her hair out,” he grinned.
They all laughed as Roy threw the car in gear and continued on to the airport.
Their plane touched down in LA three hours later. John had slept most of the way home. They eased him into the wheelchair. Kel pushed the chair towards the door, while Roy turned to grab their jackets and Brackett’s bag.
“You suppose you could take the bandages off.”
“Not a chance John.”
“How about one Doc…? If I can just use one hand then I can go home and Roy can be alone with Jo. I mean she hasn’t seen him in twelve days and…”
“Forget it Junior…,” Roy interrupted, coming up behind them, “I already told you your comin home with me.”
“But Roy…,” he protested
“It’s that or Rampart Johnny,” Kel offered.
“Uh…No thanks Doc...”
“Look Johnny, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but Jo would be really upset if she found out you were hurt and I let you go home alone. You can’t even eat by yourself much less…anything else.”
John blushed at the reminder. He looked at Roy in disappointment knowing he wouldn’t win this fight. He heaved a sigh in resignation, “I’m sorry Roy, I really wanted you to have some time with Jo…maybe Rampart would be better.”
“Maybe your room at my house would be better and more comfortable,” Roy said stubbornly.
“Kay…,” he sighed in defeat.
“Besides you’re gonna have to tell Jo about Danella,” Roy grinned.
“But not tonight,” Kel said. “John’s been up too long as it is and even though he slept on the plane he didn’t get much rest. So try to get him to sleep tonight and talk tomorrow. “
Roy saw the tired droop to Johnny’s eyes and the way he was slumped in the chair... He knew Brackett was right.
John opened his mouth to protest, but Kel cut him off. “I can give Roy a sedative to take with him for you,” he said in warning.
John shook his head. “No…that’s okay…I’ll go to bed when we get home. At least Roy will have some time to himself with Jo that way.”
Roy went to get his car from the long term parking lot while Kel stayed with Johnny. They made the transfer from chair to car with only a few hisses of pain from the younger man. “Roy, be sure to change those bandages every day. Bring him in to Rampart in a few days. I’ll take them off then and let those burns breathe and see how well he can use his hands. I’ll let you know then when he can be on his own. Keep him on the antibiotics and pain meds Roy.” The older man nodded.
Kel waved them off and headed out to retrieve his own vehicle. It was still early, maybe he’d swing by Dixie’s and tell her everything that happened…except Johnny’s engagement, he’d leave that for him to tell.
Roy pulled into his driveway. The lights shone with welcoming warmth on the cool February night. Johnny lay dozing in the back seat. Roy climbed out stretching tired muscles cramped first from the flight and then the drive home. Roy opened the back door and squatted next to Johnny’s head, resting his hand lightly on his partner’s hair.
“Johnny?” He said softly giving him a gentle shake, “C’mon Junior we’re home.”
“Hmmm…” The younger man sighed barely cracking his eyes open.
“Let’s get you inside partner,” Roy said easing his friend into a sitting position...“We’ll get you into a bed and you can sleep, okay?”
“Uh huh,” he murmured still not fully awake.
Roy chuckled and eased him out of the car. John staggered against him, leaning on his partner for support. Between everything he’d been through, the long flight home and the pain meds. Roy was surprised he was even on his feet. He half led, half carried his friend to the door. He was trying to dig his keys out of his pocket one handed when the door opened.
Joanne stood there in shock for a moment before it sank in. “Roy…,” She gasped throwing herself at her husband. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He managed to keep one hand on his partner and embraced his wife with the other.
She pulled back and her eyes went to Johnny. She saw the bandaged hands and the exhausted droop of his eyes. “Good Lord Roy what happened to Johnny?” she asked moving to his other side. She wrapped her arm about his waist before Roy could warn her.
Johnny cried out in pain, arching his body away from her touch. “I’m sorry sweetheart,” She said pulling her hands quickly away… “Roy what’s wrong with him?”
“He’s got some burns on his lower back and his right side honey. Just take his other arm okay?”
She nodded and the two of them together managed to get him inside and sat him gently on the couch. John’s eyes immediately closed and his head dropped back against the cushions…he was asleep within seconds.
“Daddy…!” Roy heard from the stairs. He glanced up to see Jennifer standing at the top…“Chris,” she yelled... “Daddy’s home and so is Uncle Johnny,” she called racing down the stairs and into her father’s arms. Chris was seconds behind.
“Dad,” he yelled. Even the loud raucous home coming didn’t disturb the younger paramedic.
Jennifer turned her eyes toward her Uncle Johnny as she took in the bandages and the pale skin. “What happened to Uncle Johnny?” She asked softly plopping next to her favorite man in the world next to her daddy. She cuddled next to the slender man sliding her arms around his arm and hugging it to her. She took care not to touch the bandaged hands. Johnny’s mouth curled up in a smile.
“Hey Princess,” he murmured softly before falling back to sleep.
“Let’s get Uncle Johnny to bed and I’ll tell you all about our trip, okay?” Roy asked.
“Including how he got hurt?” Joanne asked.
“Uh…There was a fire and your Uncle Johnny ran in to save some people and he got pinned by a burning beam.” He turned to his worried children, “He’s gonna be okay, but he’s still hurting right now so you’ve got to be careful how you touch him okay?” They nodded somberly. “He’s also taking some medication for pain and that’s what’s making him so sleepy… Jo, could you turn his bed down for me?”
She nodded and headed off to the room Johnny used when he stayed with the Desoto’s. What used to be Joanne’s sewing room was frequently referred to as Johnny’s room. The children followed to try and help. Roy unzipped John’s jacket, leaning him forward against his shoulder as he carefully slid the coat off his partner. “C’mon Junior let’s get you to bed.”
“I can sleep here…,” the younger man mumbled, trying to lie down on the couch.
Roy grinned. “You’ll be much more comfortable in your room,” Roy pulled him to his feet.
“Lemme sleep Roy,” Johnny grumbled.
“I will in just a minute,” he said scooping his friend up in his arms. “You gotta stop gettin hurt Johnny before you put me in traction,” Roy groused good naturedly as he carried his friend to his room and sat him on the edge of the bed.
“You kids go wait for us in the kitchen. We’ll have hot chocolate and I’ll tell you all about Montana and... I’ll let you stay up a little later tonight okay?”
They nodded eagerly and headed for the kitchen. Jo waited until they’d left, “So what really happened?” She asked worriedly, recognizing that Roy was hiding something. He glanced at her as he began pulling John’s shirt off. She sucked in her breath at the heavy bandages around Johnny’s waist and back.
“Uncle George happened, he said softly as he laid his partner gently down on his left side. “Can you get me a couple of extra pillows or a rolled up blanket? I need to keep him from rolling onto his back,” he explained. She ran to the closet for the requested items as Roy finished undressing his friend. He lifted Johnny’s feet onto the bed, pulling the covers over him. Jo returned a moment later with a blanket. Roy rolled it and laid it carefully against John’s back under the covers.
“What did Uncle George do to him?” Jo asked fearfully.
“Don’t worry Jo…, he didn’t hurt him… that way, though he did try. Johnny managed to fight him off until I got there and finished it. But then a coupla days ago he tried again and decided that me and a coupla others were in his way. So he kidnapped us and put us in a house together and set it on fire. He was trying to lure Johnny somewhere so he could grab him alone and get rid of the people protecting him at the same time.”
Jo was staring at him in horror, “John got there and managed to get me on my feet and I carried one of the others out. John was trying to get the other one when the ceiling came down on him. God Jo, I thought I’d lost him for sure this time, but then… wham! He comes smashing through the doorway carrying Dani. He was burned and couldn’t breathe. He went into respiratory arrest in the ambulance.”
Jo’s hand covered her mouth in shock, “God Roy!” She exclaimed. Her eyes going to where the man she thought of like a younger brother lay sleeping, “Is he gonna be ok…really?”
“Yeah…but…but Uncle George didn’t make it out.”
“He was in the house?”
“Yeah… he tried to drug John, but…he fought him off. George got knocked out and…well by the time Johnny got out and told us he was in there…,”Roy shrugged. “It was too late.”
“Well it may not be a very nice thing to think, but I can’t say I’m sorry for the loss. Not when I know what Johnny suffered through as a child because of him.”
“Well that’s not all... John was also just getting over having influenza when all this happened so he’s still pretty weak.”
“Poor baby,” she whispered softly as she leaned down to kiss the younger man’s forehead. “I’m sorry it was such a lousy trip.”
“Well not all of it, Johnny did get to be welcomed back by his family.”
“Nope… Aunt Mase and Aunt Lacee apologized to him... especially after they found out what George had done to him as a child. He even went through the naming ceremony. He has an Indian name now as well as his English name.”
“Well what is it?”
“I should make you wait for him to tell you but I know I won’t get any rest if I do, so I’ll leave it for him tell the kids. His name is Dances with Fire.”
Jo smiled, “I like it… It suits him.”
“There is another surprise as well, but that one does have to wait for Johnny to tell. So let’s have Hot Chocolate and I’ll give the kids and you what I bought in Montana and tell the kids about Blue Eagle and Little Fox and my Indian Name.”
“Your Ind..?” Their voices trailed off as they left the room. Roy flicked the lights out as they left… John’s mouth curled up in a sleepy smile.
Johnny woke up late the next morning. He still felt pretty tired, but much better than the last few days. He struggled to his feet, biting his lip against the pain in his back as he struggled into his robe and slowly made his way to the kitchen. Roy, Jo and the kids sat at the table enjoying their Saturday morning breakfast.
Roy glanced up as he entered the room, “Johnny, you shouldn’t be up...,” he said rising to go and help his partner. Embarrassed dark eyes looked into Roy’s.
“Uh…I need some help Roy,” John’s eyes flicked in the direction of the bathroom.
“Gotcha…sorry partner, c’mon...,” he said leading him down the hall.
Jo was placing a plate of bacon and eggs on the table when they returned. “Um…I’m not really hungry Jo...,” Johnny told her, looking away uncomfortably.
“Take him to Rampart Roy… Johnny must be feverish to turn down food.”
The younger man’s face flushed crimson.
“Johnny, you have to eat and I know you’re a little embarrassed that someone has to feed you right now but…we’re family.”
“Ohhh…so that’s it,” Joanne said softly.
John’s eye’s rolled in mortification.
“Don’t you roll those eyes at me John Gage,” Joanne said sternly shaking her finger at him…her scolding sending the children into peals of laughter as it always did when their mom talked to Uncle Johnny like he was one of her kids.
John looked at her in shock and then chagrin as he smiled hesitantly, “Yes ma’am…,” he agreed softly...his mouth turning up in an embarrassed smile.
Roy turned in his chair to help his friend. They made short work of breakfast while Roy kept a running commentary, continuing with the highlights of their trip. He wiped Johnny’s mouth quickly without making a big deal out of it, as the kids continued to listen enthralled by Roy’s story. John smiled gratefully at his partner as Roy continued with his conversation as if feeding his friend was an everyday occurrence.
“But you’ll have to get Uncle Johnny to show you his moccasins and his head band from his ceremony. They’re beautiful… I showed them mine last night,” he added for John’s benefit.
Johnny nodded. “Okay later.”
Roy continued “He’ll also have to tell you about something else he found there, won’t you Junior?”
Jo saw a look of sadness enter the dark eyes but there was also a smile of joy.
“Well what was it sweetheart?” Jo asked him.
“Yeah... c’mon Uncle Johnny what did you find?” Chris asked excitedly.
When John didn’t answer right away… Roy prodded him, “You picked up something rare and beautiful didn’t you Junior?”
“Unfortunately he had to leave it behind for a while.”
“C’mon sweetheart… the suspense is killing me,” Jo urged.
Chris and Jen looked at him curiously as well.
“My fiancée,” he answered softly.
Joanne stared in speechless surprise for several seconds. “Your what?” She finally gasped.
John grinned. “Her names Danella… Jo you’re gonna love her.”
“If she loves you, then I’m sure I will. I want to hear all about her Johnny,” Joanne said excitedly.
“She’s beautiful Jo and smart and she’s goin to school to be a nurse. Doctor Brackett arranged it for her... I don’t know how I’ll repay him for that.”
“Don’t worry about it Junior, She’ll repay him…he’s got himself a great nurse for Rampart.”
“Yeah but…he’s keeping her in Montana to go to school. He’s afraid she’ll be too distracted by everything here to concentrate on her studies,” Johnny shrugged in disappointment.
“He means you right?” Joanne asked with a grin.
John smiled. “Yeah.”
He glanced at the kids. Chris was grinning back at him…the ten year old was finding the moony eyed look on his Uncle Johnny’s face to be terribly amusing. John looked to Jennifer…the six year old was darkening up like a thundercloud. Tears began to roll down her small cheeks.
“What’s the matter princess?” Johnny asked reaching out with his bandaged hand to touch the small distraught face.
“You said I was your best girl, y…you lied to me,” she wept in misery.
“Oh Jen,” Johnny soothed pulling her into his arms… “You’ll always be my best girl…my Princess and I think you’ll really love Dani. She won’t push you out of my heart I promise… I’d never let that happen. She’s happy to share my heart with my family, just like I share your heart with yours, right?”
“Y…yes,” She sniffled. “Okay then... and you know what?”
Jen shook her head.
“When she comes to visit in a few months I’m gonna ask her to bring you a dress…a special dress. One made like the Indians wear on special occasions…would you like that?”
She buried her head in Johnny’s neck and nodded. John’s eyes went to Chris who was looking slightly indignant, “I’ll ask her to bring an outfit for you too okay? Like the one I wore to my ceremony.”
The boy nodded enthusiastically, “Dad said you have a new name Uncle Johnny, but he said we had to wait for you to tell us what it was. He said his was White Otter and it means Loyal Friendship.”
John nodded. In Indian it’s pronounced Naahéo Ôh-vό’komestse and they gave the name Vόaxaa’ Ôh-vό’komestse or White Eagle to Dr. Brackett, which means a leader of great strength.”
Joanne and the kids rarely heard Johnny speak in Indian…they were duly impressed. “But what name did they give you Uncle Johnny?” They chorused.
“ No’ȯhόmo’he Ho’ēsta…”
“What does it mean?” Chris asked.
“Dances with Fire,” Johnny said proudly.
“You danced a little too close to the last one Mr. Gage…,” Joanne said standing up to clear the dishes…“In the future keep it at arm’s length please,” She leaned down to place a light kiss on John’s mouth … “We’d really hate to lose you.”
“Yes ma’am,” he agreed with a grin at her obvious concern.
Three days later Johnny was dressed and headed for Rampart at an early hour. He was looking forward to having the bandages off. It was terribly embarrassing to have to be fed, bathed and taken to the bathroom like a two year old. Especially with two young children around that giggled furiously whenever their dad had to head off to the bathroom with him, despite his dire warnings of retribution when he got his hands back.
Roy just chuckled at his threats but at least promised that Chet would never hear about this embarrassing ordeal from him.
Dixie was at the base station when they arrived. She stood up immediately when she saw them coming, disregarding the grins of her staff and even a few patients as she hugged both of these two men who had became like family to the pretty nurse. She took John’s face between her hands, “You were supposed to be carefu,” She admonished sounding like an irritated big sister… “I nearly killed Kel when he told me what happened.”
“Don’t be mad at Doc, It wasn’t his fault. He tried to stop me from goin in but…” He shrugged. “I couldn’t wait…by the time the fire department could get there it woulda been too late.”
“You could have been killed.”
“Maybe… but it was a sure bet they would have died if I hadn’t gone when I did,” he pointed out.
“I know and I don’t want to lose either of you, but it woulda killed me to lose you both. C’mon Kel’s in his office... I’ll call him and get you ready in treatment two okay?” She said heading back to the base station…the two men followed.
She made a quick call and led them to the room. “You want me to wait out here junior?” Roy asked.
“What for…? It’ll save me from having to repeat it all if you just come in.”
“Okay,” Roy nodded following him into the room. Dixie began to cut away the bandages wincing in sympathy at the deep purplish skin tones. If this was six days later she hated to think of what it looked like then.
Kel came in a few minutes later.
“Well how are you feeling Johnny?”
“A little tired still but I feel a lot better than I did four days ago.”
“Good, let’s take a look.”
After a few painful prods and winces. Kel decided to leave the bandages off his back and let the damaged skin breathe. He checked the hands…there was some cracking as he went through the range of motion tests with him. John bit his lip...the dark eyes pleading with him not to put the wrap back on.
“Alright Johnny, I’ll leave the bandages off,” John perked up…, “but I’d like you to stay with Roy at least another day or two before you try picking anything up or doing too much on your own. That means you need to treat your back and those hands as if they’re still bandaged. You can use your hands for anything that doesn’t require a firm grip...deal?”
“Deal,” he nodded.
They headed out to the base station. The three men stood talking with Dixie as a beautiful blonde nurse walked into the small area behind the head nurse. Her eyes fell on Johnny and she smiled in open invitation at the handsome paramedic. He smiled politely back and then turned to Dixie in a definite dismissal of the woman’s attentions. She looked disappointed but hurried to get the items she was looking for and leave.
“So Dix, how much did you hear about our trip to Montana?” He asked. The older blonde nurse was staring at him in stunned amazement.
“What?” He asked, bemused by her look.
Kel and Roy grinned at each other. Kel was enjoying being one up on Dix for the first time.
“She’s single and not dating anyone.”
Dixie nodded at the retreating back of the pretty nurse… “Cindy,” she said.
“Oh. Sorry Dix but I’m not interested.”
Dixie’s hand flew to Johnny’s forehead. “Quick Kel get him a room…there’s more wrong with him than we suspected,” she said absolutely straight faced.
“Aw cut it out Dix,” Johnny protested. “Didn’t Doc tell you I’m off the mark…?” He stopped as he caught Kel’s negative shake of the head.
“You mean you didn’t tell her?”
“Nope, I thought that was your right. I only asked if she’d mind taking a young student nurse under her wing for awhile next year.”
“Tell me what?” Dixie asked suspiciously.
“Well whaddid she say…?”Johnny asked Kel, ignoring Dixie’s question.
“She said okay.” Johnny grinned pleased that Dixie would watch out for Dani when it came time.
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” Dixie asked irately.
Roy patted John’s back, “I think you better tell her.”
Johnny turned back to Dixie… “I’m getting married,” he said softly.
“What?” Her shriek of disbelief echoed down the corridor. Heads turned in her direction but she was oblivious. The three men grinned at her.
Joe Early and Mike Morton both stuck their heads out of their treatment rooms, seeing the two Paramedics standing there. They thankfully were both dealing with non life threatening situations at the moment. They excused themselves to come out a find out what had rattled the normally unflappable head nurse.
“Dix…” Joe said, “What is it? Is everything okay?”
“You’ll have to ask Johnny because I just don’t believe it.”
Their eyes turned to the dark haired Paramedic standing there with a silly grin on his face.
“Johnny?” Joe asked.
“I’m getting married Doc,” he repeated to the two men.
They looked at Kel and Roy as if seeking confirmation. They weren’t sure if their young friend was putting them on or not…they’d heard this once before.
Kel nodded. “He’s not kidding...,” he confirmed.
Dixie whacked his arm. “You knew that and you didn’t tell me?”
“I thought Johnny should be the one to tell you when he was ready and on that note hold on a minute Johnny I have something for you.” Kel left the station and headed for his office.
The others started asking him questions, “Well what’s her name?” Dixie asked.
“That’s the name of the girl I’ll be taking in for Kel,” Dixie said. “What a coincidence huh?”
Johnny grinned. “And I really appreciate it too. You won’t be sorry Dix I promise. She really will be a great nurse… she practiced on me.” His face turned scarlet at the way that came out. “I…I m…mean I…Well… I really was sick,” he stammered out.
They all laughed at his confusion.
Kel returned a moment later with a manila envelope and handed it to John.
“What is it Doc?” Johnny asked.
John curiously opened the envelope. He pulled out several 8 x 10 photos. The first one was of him in full Indian dress…the one Roy had snapped. The others gathered around oohing and ahhing at the picture as John blushed.
“You look great Johnny,” Joe said.
“You looked ill,” Dixie pointed out.
“I was… I was just getting over influenza,” The others looked at him in concern…“I’m okay now.”
Dixie had heard all of this but the others hadn’t.
” I picked it up while I was there.”
Joe saw John’s hands which were obviously still healing from severe burns, “What happened to your hands Johnny?”
He held up his hands. “There was a fire and I got trapped inside. I got some burns on my hands and back, but they’re ok now too,” he said reassuringly.
“He saved my life and the lives of two others that night,” Roy said. “The ceiling came down with him under it. I couldn’t get to him. I thought I’d lost him for sure but I forgot how stubborn he is. First thing I know he’s crashing through the burning doorway with Dani in his arms. He arrested on us in the ambulance…he scared the hell outta me that’s for sure,” Roy said somberly his eyes meeting his partners.
John shot him a crooked smile, “I’m okay Roy.” The older man nodded, remembering how frightened he’d been.
“So what were you dressed up for?” Mike asked.
“A naming ceremony… They finally gave me a name,” he said softly.
“What is it Johnny?” Joe asked, sensing that this was something important to the young man.
“Dances with Fire,” he murmured flushing slightly in embarrassment.
They nodded. “I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than that,” Joe agreed… Mike nodded.
John flipped to the next photo. It was of Blue Eagle and Little Fox. “This is the leader of the reservation…this is Blue Eagle and his Aunt Little Fox. She was wonderful…She accepted me back before any of the others. “
He turned to the next photo. “These are my Aunts...This is Mase…her name is Indian for Joyful.”
“Humph,” Kel snorted…“That name was inappropriate.”
John grinned, “And this is My Aunt Lacee and Uncle Joseph and one of my cousins…, Thomas. He was good to me when I was little but I didn’t get to see much of him this time.”
John flipped to the next photo, “This is my future mother and father in Law. His name is Four Feathers and hers is Whispering Dove.”
There were several more shots of Steve and Sean, John explained who they were. There was one of Roy and John together and several of each alone. “I sent that one to Danella John,” Kel pointed out one of John with the crooked Gage grin in place.
“Thanks Doc,” he said wryly.
“She’ll love it.”
“I’d like copies of some of these myself,” Roy requested.
“Not a problem Roy.”
John pulled another photo from the envelope…his breath caught in his throat. His eyes lifted to Kel, “Thanks Doc,”
He said softly. Danella stared back at him from the photo. Her soft amber eyes gazing off at something or someone with the longing look of a woman in love.
“What was she lookin at Doc?” Johnny asked staring at the picture.
John looked up with a smile...he turned the picture for the others to see…“This is Danella.”
“Oh Johnny she’s lovely,” Dixie said. He grinned at her, leaning over the base station to look at the photo with the others.
Mike looked up. “This beautiful young lady agreed to marry you Gage?”
Roy jumped in before Johnny could answer, “Agreed? She roped and hog tied him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. “
“Aw c’mon Roy,” Johnny said blushing.
“C’mon nothin, she chased you from one end of the reservation to the other. She set out to win you the minute she laid eyes on you."
“Was it mutual?” Dixie asked seeing the softening of John’s eyes when he looked at the picture.
“I’d say so,” Roy answered… “He was speechless when he laid eyes on her. She only let him come up for air when he was sick,” he said patting his partner on the shoulder.
John flushed but shot him a grin… “Anyway, she’s nineteen and she wants to be a nurse. Dr. Brackett’s sponsoring her through school, John said smiling at Kel. “She’ll stay in Montana until she gets through classroom and then she’ll come to LA for clinicals, if she still wants…If she’s still…,” John hesitated.
“She will be partner, I have no doubt,” Roy said turning the final photo. John and Danella stood together just after he’d asked her to marry him, though Kel hadn’t known that at the time. The look they held for each other was proof of Roy’s words.
“Well congratulations Johnny,” Joe said... “I look forward to meeting your young lady.”
“Same here Gage,” Morton said with a grin.
“She’ll be here this summer, I’ll be sure to bring her by.”
They turned to leave but Joe siddenly turned back. "Oh Johnny...I meant to tell you..."
"Tell me what Doc?"
"That hang glider pilot?"
"Yeah?" John questioned warily.
"He's gonna make a full recovery."
John smiled in relief as they returned to their respective treatment rooms. Dixie leaned over the counter to kiss the young man’s cheek. “Congratulations Johnny...For everything. ”
“Thanks Dix,” he said softly. “Hey let’s get home…I wanna show Joanne and the kids.”
Roy returned to work the next day. He told the guys at the Station all about John’s home, only mentioning Dani in passing. He told them about Blue Eagle and Little Fox, about the epidemic, about Sean and Steve and John’s family.
“So where’s Gage today?” Chet asked. “Lounging around his apartment basking in the Departments favor for the PR work,” he said snidely.
“Ahh no, actually he’s lounging around my house…recovering. He came down with influenza while he was there.”
They all looked at Roy in concern. “Is he alright?”
“Well he was really sick for a couple of days. I was pretty worried, but he got over it…But then there was a fire. I was inside with two other people. Johnny ran in and got me on my feet and I got out with Little Fox, but John was trapped inside.”
“Geez,” Cap muttered…“Roy, please tell me he’s alright.”
“The ceiling came down on him Cap. A beam landed across his back and he was burned pretty bad. He burned his hands trying to get it off and he managed to get free,” Roy told them, glossing over how he’d gotten there and how John had gotten free. He was trying to avoid bringing Uncle George into it and having to explain to the guys what the younger man had been through.
“He grabbed the other victim but they were trapped. When the ceiling came down it buried the doorway too. I was outside, but I couldn’t get back in either. We all thought…I mean I was sure… John was…gone. But damn if he didn’t come through that door like a cannon shot, and carryin the girl with him.”
“So he got burned pretty bad?” Mike asked.
“Yeah but he also took in a lot of smoke…He went into respiratory arrest in the ambulance.”
“Oh man… is Johnny okay Roy?” Marco asked.
“Dr. Brackett had to really scramble to keep him alive, but he pulled him through. John’s had a rough coupla weeks so cut him some slack okay Chet?”
“Sure Roy, you know I’d never mess with John if he’s sick or injured.”
“When you see him tomorrow morning, you tell him we’re thinkin of him okay?”
“I’ll do that Cap.”
Johnny returned to work two weeks later. He lined up with the others for roll call at about the same moment Danella was getting ready for her first class at college.
“Welcome back John,” Cap said.
“How ya feelin…?”
“Much better now Cap, thanks.”
“Okay let’s get started. He handed out assignments and gave them a quick rundown of the days’ activities... “Oh and the annual charity fundraiser is comin up. That’s the annual auction for a date with our single firefighters. The Chief is askin all you single guys to volunteer. Marco, Chet…John we can always count on you to raise us a bundle,” he teased with a grin.
“Uh…actually Cap…Um…I’m not available for that this year.”
“Still not feelin up to it Pal?” Cap asked.
“Oh no I… I’m feelin fine…I’m just not available.”
“What are you talkin about Gage…? You always go for this auction thing. Some beautiful babe’s always biddin for you, at least until she gets to know ya.”
Roy began to smile and glanced at his partner, “You better tell em Johnny.”
“I don’t think my fiancée would like it much.”
“Your what Pal?” Cap asked.
“Fiancée…?” Chet repeated... “As in some girl who’d actually marry you…?”
“Yeah Chet…, some girl,” Johnny said with emphasis on the some.
“Not another Valerie we hope,” Mike said.
“Yeah how many kids does this one have?” Marco teased.
“Only the ones we’ll have together,” Johnny said with a grin.
“Where’d ya find this chick Gage?”
“What’s she look like Johnny?” Marco asked.
“Will you vultures back off and give him time to answer?” Cap said… “Roy have you met her?” He asked.
“Yeah Cap... and she’s everything Johnny ever hoped for. She’s beautiful, gentle, sweet and most of all she’s crazy about him.”
“So when do we meet this perfect woman Gage?” Chet asked.
“She’s comin in July, when she gets outta school on break.”
“Cripe Gage your hittin em awful young aren’t ya? Get her before she smartens up and graduates from Junior High or what?”
“Nursing school you jerk" Johnny shot back.
“John go get her picture…, let em see Danella.”
John trotted off to bring her picture. “Is he serious Roy?” Hank asked.
“As a heart attack Cap. She’s quite a girl and it was quite a battle."
“She wasn’t interested huh?” Marco asked.
“Huh…she hunted him like a lioness stalking prey…he didn’t stand a chance.” Roy grinned.
John came back a moment later...he handed Cap the photo as the others gathered around. “Wow Pal,” Cap said. “She’s stunning.” John shot him a crooked grin.
“I said it before Gage when you thought you were gonna marry Valerie, that girl ain’t gonna marry you.”
“I’ve already asked her Chet.”
“And she said yes?”
“A very emphatic yes,” Roy said with a grin.
“She’ll come to her senses Gage, don’t worry.”
Roy saw the fear in Johnny’s eyes that she’d do just that.
Marco punched Chet in the arm... “Knock it off Kelly…,” he said irritated with his friend… “Congratulations Johnny, she’s beautiful.”
“Same here Pal,” said Cap.
“Me too John… Congratulations,” Mike added.
“Thanks guys… Cap.”
“Yeah…well I’ll believe it when I see it,” Chet said as he headed for the Rec room. The others followed still talking among themselves.
“Aw you’re just jealous Chet… She’s gorgeous,” Marco taunted.
“Man how does he always get em?” Chet mumbled as they disappeared through the doorway.
“You comin Johnny?” Roy asked with a grin as he turned to the Rec Room. “I’ll be right there I just wanna put this away,” he said heading for the locker room.
Johnny and Roy were kept busy the rest of the day and they barely had a chance to talk. John managed to squeeze in the contents of the many letters that he’d received from Dani in between runs. Roy could tell something was bothering him...he was afraid it was Chet’s comment that was the cause. Someday he was gonna strangle that man, Roy promised himself.
John disappeared right after dinner. Roy went looking for him a little later, he found him in the back lot leaning against the wall. He stared out into the cool California night and sipped his coffee, his eyes looking northeast with longing. The older man went over to lean beside him.
John sensed his presence more than he actually saw him there. He smiled but didn’t turn his head.
“Where are you Junior?”
“I was just thinkin about what Chet said.”
“Johnny I thought we’d agreed not to listen to Chet a long time ago.”
“What if she doesn’t want to leave Montana when she finishes school? What if she changes her mind?”
“Johnny I saw her with you, that’s not gonna happen. That girl’s in love with you.”
“She’d have to leave everything behind to be with me.”
Roy looked worried. If she couldn’t bear to leave her parents and friends behind, where would that leave John? “You aren’t…,” Roy hesitated, “You wouldn’t consider moving to Montana?”
John looked at him in surprise, then understanding at the concerned tone. “No, I could never go back there permanently. You know the expression…You can’t go home. I love her.. but my life is here…With you, Jo, the kids, my job…my friends… At your side and you at mine, the way it should be,” he said quoting Roy’s words back at him.
“I know I’m asking her to give up all those things as well and that’s why I’m scared. I just pray she’ll choose me and my life and not Montana.”
“She will Junior… I think she made that decision when she agreed to marry you. She never hesitated to tell you she’d leave it all behind for you…follow you to California to keep you in her life.”
“God I hope so Roy. I can’t see my life without her now…ya know?”
“I know, but John she’s a smart girl and one in love… She’ll be here.”
"You know Roy...A very long time ago, Little Fox told me you would come into my life."
"She did?" He questioned curiously.
John smiled and nodded. "She said someone very special would come into my life and that he would save me."
Roy's eyes grew misty for a moment. "I'm glad it was me."
They stood in companionable silence for a while. The SCU tones sounded. County 51 unknown type rescue…They both grinned and ran for the squad. It was good to be home.
Sadly the Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the Property of Universal Studios and Mark VII.
My grateful thanks that they allow me to take the boys out to play. The Characters of Montana are purely fictional. Please forgive any inadvertant use of a real name. Thanks for sharing a beautiful language and some of the Indian culture (Not necessarily from the same peoples). I hope I didn’t massacre it too badly. Any medical mistakes are mine.
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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