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When true friends meet in adverse hour, tis like a sunbeam through a shower. A watery way an instant seen, the darkly closing clouds between….Sir Walter Scott.
The scream of a 747 coming in to land pierced the early morning hours at California’s LAX airport.
Forty six year old Dixie McCall waited by the gate as the arriving flight carrying her niece was announced. She waited anxiously as the plane taxied to a stop.
She hadn’t seen Meghan since she was twelve and wasn’t exactly sure what she’d look like now at nineteen. Several passengers made their way through the tunnel but none were obviously her niece. After a few more moments, a young, slender blonde girl made her way through the crowd of disembarking passengers.
Dixie smiled…It had to be her. She was almost a carbon copy of Dixie at that age. Huge blue eyes surrounded by a cascade of champagne blonde curls. She stepped forward. “Meghan?” She questioned.
The girls face lit up in a huge grin. “Aunt Dixie?”
The older woman smiled and nodded as the girl threw herself into her arms. They hugged each other tightly both talking at the same time. “How’s your dad?” Dixie asked as Meghan pulled back asking...
“How’s Dr. Brackett?”
They both laughed. Meghan was well aware of her Aunts affections for the dark haired doctor even though the romance had stalled a year ago. She knew it had had something to do with fire fighters and some new law that had passed that had split the couple back then and even though Brackett had admitted he was wrong and she was right…The romance had ended.
She knew her aunt regretted the loss though she’d never regretted the passing of the bill. In fact she spoke frequently about two of the young firemen that she was particularly fond of…Paramedics she called them. Roy DeSoto and John Gage were names that Meghan had heard often.
“He’s fine,” Dixie answered at the same time Meghan responded to her question.
“He’s great.” They both laughed again.
“You first,” Dixie conceded, wanting to hear about her brother.
“He’s good but he’s horribly jealous,” she whispered conspiratorially. “He really wanted to come too but the case he’s working…,” she shrugged. “He just couldn’t get away right now plus mom was kinda upset about his going away for two weeks and leaving her and Patrick,” she explained. Patrick was Meghan’s younger brother.
Dixie nodded…Her brother David had already told her that her sister in law Colleen had a problem with them both going without her and Patrick and neither of them could take the time off. “How about Kel…?”
Dixie grinned. “Still as stubborn as ever…”
“But does his smile still light up a room?” She teased, remembering her aunt telling her that on the phone once.
Dixie grinned without answering and changed the subject. “C’mon nosy, let’s go get your things and I’ll take you back to my apartment. I’ve taken a couple of days off to show you around LA. Maybe we can go shopping or sailing.”
“Maybe Kel would like to come along,” Meghan suggested.
Dixie pursed her lips and continued. “And then you can probably meet some young people and amuse yourself while I’m at work.”
“I plan on some time at the beach,” she admitted. “Do you know any handsome young man who might like to escort me?” She teased.
Dixie’s blue eyes gleamed with amusement. “Well actually I do,” she said with a smile.
Twenty three year old paramedic John Gage made his way through the smoke filled warehouse…His partner of almost two years, twenty seven year old Roy DeSoto only a couple of steps behind. “You see anything?” Johnny shouted above the roar of the flames.
“Not yet…Let’s try that way,” he yelled, pointing toward the left where a couple of doors that could be offices were barely visible. They moved together in that direction.
Roy had chosen correctly. Their missing foreman and his secretary were huddled in the corner of the room.
“I got him,” Johnny shouted, moving toward the man as Roy hustled over to the woman. They were both conscious and both were coughing raggedly…Their eyes pouring tears from the thick black smoke.
The two paramedics pulled their face masks clear and placed them over their victims, letting them breathe the clean air for a few moments. Roy took a couple of breaths himself before helping the woman to her feet and leading her toward the door…Sharing the mask back and forth between them.
Johnny pulled the man to his feet and followed but halfway across the room the victim’s knees buckled. John dropped the face mask and quickly lifted the man to his shoulder. John choked and tears flowed from his burning eyes, leaving clean trails down his soot covered face but he couldn’t let go to retrieve his mask.
Roy exited the building ahead of him and made his way to the squad. He sat the woman down and yanked the compartment doors open, grabbing the oxygen.
His blue eyes traveled to the door anxiously. Johnny should have come out by now, he’d been right behind him.
He turned back to his victim, placing the mask over her nose and mouth and then began setting up the Biophone. He cast another worried glance toward the door and was finally rewarded with the sight of his partner exiting the building with the victim slung over his shoulder. John’s mask dangled uselessly from his shoulder.
Roy’s mouth set in a tight line of annoyance but he knew another lecture about his proper use of safety equipment was useless…Johnny would always put the victim’s welfare ahead of his own as would Roy. The older man just got there by a different route…Usually one that didn’t land him in the hospital.
John made it to the squad and let his victim ease from his shoulder to the ground. His tear streaked face and rasping cough brought a sigh of irritation from his partner.
John glanced up at Roy. “I know,” he croaked, already seeing the set down that he was gonna get from his senior partner in the blue eyes glaring back at him.
“Apparently not,” Roy muttered as he lifted the phone to contact Rampart.
Johnny grinned but he staggered slightly as he stood up to go around and retrieve another bottle of oxygen from the engine.
Roy watched him in concern even as he keyed the mic. “Rampart base this is squad 51...How do you read?”
Joe Early’s voice came back. “Go ahead 51.”
“Rampart we have two victim’s of smoke inhalation. The first is a female approximately thirty…Stand by for vitals.”
John had already gotten the BP on his own victims and handed the cuff to Roy as he took the phone from the older man’s hand. “Rampart…Vitals on second victim,” John coughed lightly before continuing. “He’s a male, approximate age forty five, suffering smoke inhalation. BP is 130/80, pulse is 80 respirations are shallow and rasping. I’m detecting rales. He’s unconscious and I’ve already started him on seven liters of oxygen.”
“10-4 51…Start an IV Normal Saline…Keep him on the oxygen and transport.”
“10-4 Rampart,” John confirmed as he handed the phone back to Roy and reached for the bag of Saline. He quickly got the ordered IV started and looked toward his partner, coughing lightly. “How’s she doin?” He asked.
Roy smiled reassuringly at the woman. “She’s doin fine,” he said as he finished getting the vitals on the woman. “How are you?”
John looked at him in surprise. “I…I’m fine,” he stammered a bit, knowing his partner was already on to him.
“Uh huh…?” Roy replied skeptically as he arched a blonde eyebrow disbelievingly at his sweating, coughing partner. “Rampart…On the first victim… Her BP is 110/80, Pulse is 80, respirations are 16. She’s breathing on her own and her lungs are clear.”
“10-4 51…Transport her as a precaution.”
“10-4,” Roy confirmed. He signaled the attendants over and the two paramedics quickly helped them load both victims. “I’ll ride in with them,” Roy volunteered, casting a last glance at his partner. He’d have him checked out at the hospital.
Johnny quickly cleaned up and climbed into the squad to follow.
Dixie and Meghan arrived at Rampart as the ambulance was backing in. She and her young niece held back as the attendants ran around and pulled the gurneys from the back. Roy stepped down from the back holding an IV bag,
Meghan watched in fascination as the group hustled inside the building. A moment later a red truck backed into the space next to ambulance. The words Rescue Squad 51 emblazoned on the side.
A filthy, sweaty, young man climbed from the cab and quickly headed through the doors without so much as a glance in their direction, leaving the strong smell of smoke behind him.
Dixie grinned at her niece. “That’s the young man I wanted you to meet.”
Meghan’s nose crinkled distastefully at her aunt.
Dixie grinned, knowing that opinion would likely change when she saw him a little later.
Kelly Brackett was just stepping out of treatment room three when the two women walked up the hall. “If you have any problems later, either come back in or contact your own doctor,” he advised the unseen patient inside.
He turned back and smiled as he spotted Dixie and the girl with her. Meghan just knew that was the infamous Kelly Brackett. “Hey Dix,” he greeted. “I thought you were off today.”
“I am but I wanted to show my niece around. Meghan…This is Dr. Kelly Brackett. Kel…My niece Meghan…”
“Please to meet you Meghan,” he said smiling at the girl.
“Nice to meet you too and I see what you mean Aunt Dixie,” she teased with a smile that was reminiscent of the older nurses.
Kel threw a glance at the pretty blonde nurse at the cryptic comment. Dixie threw him a wink but she didn’t explain. She saw the door to treatment room four open and Johnny and Roy stepped out.
The blonde paramedic spotted Brackett and headed in his direction. Johnny followed more slowly, still feeling a tightness in his chest and he stifled a cough. “Hey doc,” Roy greeted. “Dix,” he added, spotting the pretty nurse behind him.
“Hi Roy,” Kel replied as Johnny stepped to the older paramedics side, his dark eyes quickly finding the pretty young girl next to Dixie.
“Hey doc...Dixie,” he also greeted with a rasp to his voice. “Who’s your friend?” He asked curiously as his lips began to curl in that adorable crooked grin.
Kel and Dixie both heard the rasping wheeze in his voice. “Uh…Excuse us a minute,” Kel said as took the young man firmly by the elbow and steered him toward a treatment room. Roy threw a smug grin at Dixie and followed them.
“Doc…What’re ya doin?” Johnny protested, trying to pull his arm free.
“Quit Johnny,” Kel demanded sternly. “I want to take a look at you…Now sit,” he commanded, pointing at the table.
“Oh man,” he whined with a pout as he shot a glare at his grinning partner but he obediently hiked himself up on the table.
“John…Take your shirt off for me please. Roy,” Brackett called back over his shoulder. “Get him on O2 and take his vitals.
“Sure doc,” he agreed happily…A little too happily for Johnny’s taste. He threw another glare at his partner but Roy ignored it as he plonked the oxygen mask over Johnny’s nose and mouth. He plucked the BP cuff off the table and wrapped it around Johnny’s arm.
“I doan nee this Ro,” Johnny protested…His words muffled and distorted behind the mask but Roy seemed to understand his young partner despite it.
“Just be a good boy and sit there junior,” he ordered, chuckling at the indignant narrowing of John’s eyes as he pumped up the BP cuff. John heaved a sigh of resignation.
“What happened Roy?”
“Warehouse fire doc. Victim’s were without oxygen for quite a while so we were sharing ours but then the man passed out while John was bringing him out and it took him a bit longer to get out of the building.”
“And you weren’t wearing your mask,” Kel finished accusingly as he shone a penlight into John’s eyes and shook his head in exasperation. John gave the doctor an embarrassed shrug. “Sometimes Johnny…,” he began in frustration. John rolled his expressive dark eyes, drawing a sigh from his ever patient partner. “What are his vitals,” Kel finally asked in defeat, knowing John wasn’t going to listen anyway.
“BP is 120/80, Pulse is 80 and respirations 12 and a little shallow.”
Kel listened to his lungs for a moment. “Alright Johnny…I should send you home on general principle but you don’t sound too bad but do us all a favor and avoid taking in any more smoke today.”
“In case you didn’t understand junior…He’s telling you to keep your mask on.”
“I know what he’s tellin me Roy,” Johnny growled in annoyance.
“You can put your shirt back on and clean up,” Kel said with a chuckle at their byplay. “Roy…You might want to keep him on the O2 for the afternoon when you’re not on a run.”
“Okay doc,” Roy agreed.
Kel left the room and John moved to the sink to scrub the soot and grime from his face.
Kel stepped out the treatment room to find Dixie, Meghan and Joe Early making plans for an excursion two days later. “Hey Kel,” Joe greeted. “I was just telling Dixie that I know a place that rents sailboats. I thought maybe we could all go out for the day.”
Kel glanced at the pretty blonde nurse and her niece. The girl’s champagne blonde curls pulled back in pony tail that swept across the young woman’s shoulders as she turned to her aunt. “That sounds like fun Aunt Dixie,” she said excitedly.
Dixie smiled at her enthusiasm. “That sounds alright to me too. Hey maybe we could ask Johnny if he’d like to come along.”
Kel was about to remind Dixie of John’s propensity to become seasick but Meghan wrinkled her nose. “C’mon Aunt Dixie…There’s got to be some other young men that you know. He didn’t impress…” Her words trailed off as the door opened and Johnny and Roy stepped out.
Her mouth dropped open as the now clean and very handsome young man approached the base station with his partner. Seductive dark eyes swept over her appreciatively and the sensitive mouth curled in a grin.
“How are you feeling handsome?” Dix asked with some concern.
John coughed lightly. “Better,” he wheezed. “Doc’s letting me finish my shift.”
“Oh good…Johnny, Roy…This is my niece Meghan McCall. Meghan…This is Johnny Gage and his partner Roy DeSoto. Close your mouth sweetie,” she whispered teasingly.
Meghan’s mouth snapped shut as she came back to earth. Johnny reached out to shake her hand. She extended hers in return, her blue eyes darkening with interest as she looked the man over. She next extended her hand to Roy but her words were for John. “Would you like to go sailing with us Sunday?” She breathed softly.
They all grinned at the girl’s obvious interest as John’s mouth curled in a smile once more. “I’d love too,” he answered but jumped at his partner’s loud…
“Oh…Uh sorry but I gotta work Sunday.”
“Oh,” she mumbled in disappointment.
“But I’m off tomorrow,” he added helpfully.
The girl glanced at her aunt and Dixie gave her a wink and a nod. Her plans to take the girl to dinner could wait. She’d love to see her niece go out and have some fun with her favorite paramedic. “Great…”
“How about dinner and a movie…?” Johnny asked.
“Sounds good…I’m staying with my aunt.” She stepped closer, disregarding the soot stained uniform and the pungent smell of smoke. “What time will you be there?”
Roy shook his head in exasperation as another young woman lost herself in his young friend’s soulful, brown eyes. The others grinned in amusement and Joe Early muffled a snicker as the infamous crooked smile curled John’s lips. “How about five…? That’ll give us plenty of time for dinner and we can decide what we want to see.”
“I’ll look forward to it Johnny,” she breathed softly.
“Squad 51…What is your status?” The voice over the handy talkie squawked?
“Squad 51 available,” Roy replied.
“10-4 51…Stand by for response,” the voice of Sam Lanier came back. The station tones began to sound.
“Gotta go Doc…Dix,” Johnny rasped as he shot the girl a wink. They heard the voice continue.
“Squad 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…”
He’s so cute,” Meghan gushed at her aunt as Johnny disappeared around the corner with his partner.
“I know,” Dix whispered conspiratorially. “And he’s very nice too. You’ll have a good time.”
“You gonna trust your niece with Johnny?” Joe Early teased.
Trust him? What’s he mean by that?” Meghan asked but her eyes twinkled with excitement.
“Ah…Johnny’s a bit wild sometimes but I think he’ll behave himself with my niece,” the blonde nurse pointed out.
Meghan grinned in delight…Her aunt didn’t know it but she was a bit on the wild side herself…Dixie would be shocked if she only knew. “Well I hope he doesn’t behave himself too much,” she replied with a wicked grin. Dixie smiled and hugged the girl understandingly.
The two women left shortly after and spent the day getting reacquainted. They had lunch at a small seaside café before going to the beach for a couple of hours and then Dixie took her shopping. They finally met Kel for dinner. He returned to Rampart afterwards, leaving Dixie and Meghan on their own… they headed for Dixie’s apartment to give the girl a chance to unpack.
Dixie showed the girl to the guest room that she’d made up for her earlier. “I’ll make some coffee if you like?” Dixie offered.
Meghan nodded as she began to unpack. She pulled a brown, wooden box out of her suitcase, throwing a quick glance toward the door to be certain her aunt was nowhere nearby. She popped it open and plucked something out before she tucked it carefully in the drawer, well hidden under a stack of clothing.
Her parents were clueless but she had to be a little more careful with her aunt…Dixie was a nurse after all and would recognize the signs. She headed for the shower.
Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay. He shot a glance at his young partner. Other than a lingering hoarseness, Johnny seemed to be fine from his latest bout with smoke inhalation.
“How ya feelin Junior…?” Roy asked as he flicked the lights off.
“I’m okay pally,” he reassured his friend as he coughed lightly negating his last statement.
“Yeah I know…That’s what you always say,” Roy reminded him with an arch of his blonde eyebrow.
Johnny threw him a crooked grin. “Well I better be after I made a date with Meghan. Man Roy…Wasn’t she somethin? She looked like a young Dixie…Gorgeous.”
“She was very pretty junior,” Roy agreed with a grin. “But you better remember she’s Dixie’s niece and behave yourself if you wanna stay friends with the lady,” he teased as he opened the squad door.
“I will,” he promised giving another raspy cough as he exited the vehicle.
Roy glanced at him worriedly. “You sure you’re okay Junior?”
“Yeah Roy,” he said exasperatedly. “It’ll clear up…It always does.”
Roy frowned, remembering Hank Stanley’s first week as Captain. Johnny had had pneumonia and neither one had realized it. He’d almost died after having a bout with smoke inhalation. Roy was well aware that his lungs would always be permanently weakened and tended to watch his young partner carefully anytime his lungs were affected…Well to be honest, he tended to be a bit overprotective of Johnny anyway.
The twenty three year old paramedic had become like a younger brother to Roy almost from the time they’d met though Johnny was often resistant to his displays of concern or affection.
The older man grinned thinking of how quickly the dark haired younger man ducked away whenever he tried…His face flaming in embarrassment.
“Be patient with me junior, ya know how I am?” He teased as he reached out to scruff the sable hair and as if on cue Johnny shied away from the affectionate gesture.
“Quit Roy,” he growled, only half annoyed.
The older man chuckled and let it go. Johnny grinned, coughing as he followed his friend into the rec room.
Captain Hank Stanley was just exiting with a cup of coffee. “Hey guys…How’d it go?”
“Victim’s are okay…I had Johnny checked out at Rampart after that first run. He took in some smoke but Brackett released him. We didn’t even have to go in with the last run.”
Cap’s brown eyes looked at Johnny searchingly. He also remembered his first week. Johnny shifted uncomfortably under his gaze and stifled a cough. He tried a crooked grin to reassure his superior but Hank frowned. “Don’t even try that with me Gage,” he said in exasperation. “Why don’t you get some sleep while you have the chance?”
“I’m okay Cap,” he began to protest.
“That wasn’t a request John,” Hank said sternly.
John’s mouth tightened in annoyance. “I wish everybody would stop treating me like a child,” he grumbled as he went over and flopped down on the couch.
He snatched the newspaper off the floor and shot a glare at his partner as the older man chuckled at his irritation. “Think of it this way junior…You’ll be nice and fresh for your date with Meghan tomorrow.”
“Who’s Meghan?” Chet asked nosily, looking for something he could harass the younger man about.
“She’s Dixie McCall’s niece…Not that it’s any of your business,” Johnny replied snidely as he shook out the paper and started to read.
Chet shook his head…Man the kid had all the luck when it came to the ladies…At least until they got to know him. Chet almost chuckled until he remembered why. John Gage had a mild case of Aspergers Syndrome Disorder and it made him almost incapable of holding on to a relationship. It wasn’t something he consciously did…It was a neurological disorder and it caused John to shy away from close, emotional contact with anyone…Well…almost anyone…His blue eyes looked toward Roy.
Chet himself didn’t know about John’s other problem…Johnny had been a battered child. Orphaned at a young age and abused by his mother’s family on the reservation he’d grown up on…Only Kelly Brackett, Joe Early, Roy and his wife Joanne knew about that.
Chet couldn’t let the moment slip by however or his pigeon would feel neglected and babied. “You mean Miss McCall is gonna trust ya with her niece. What is she…A dog?” Chet taunted.
“Oh shut up Chet, she’s a doll,” John shot back with a rasp. “She looks a lot like Dix,” John choked out another cough drawing the attention of his partner. John caught the concerned look and his dark eyes rolled in annoyance but he didn’t say anything as he returned to reading.
Chet looked to Roy and received his confirming nod. Man…It just wasn’t fair.
Despite Johnny’s best efforts his eyes struggled to remain open. His chest felt tight but he’d never admit to his partner that he didn’t feel well.
Chet turned to make another smart aleck comment but noticed John’s dark eyes were fluttering closed as the paper drooped in his hands. He grinned and smacked Roy’s arm as he poured a cup of coffee. “Hey Chet,” he growled as the coffee sloshed dangerously. “That’s hot.”
“Sorry man,” he replied quietly, nodding toward John.
Roy turned to look at his drowsy partner. John coughed…The dark eyes trying to remain open but losing the battle as the long, black lashes came to rest against the high cheekbones. “Marco?” Roy said quietly to the young Hispanic lineman sitting at the table with his own coffee. “Can you get me the oxygen off the squad?” He asked as he set his cup down and moved to Johnny’s side.
He squatted next to his partner. Johnny shifted restlessly as the older man tugged the paper from his hands. He noted the light coating of sweat on John’s forehead and despite the razzing he knew he’d take from Chet and Mike who were both watching, he reached out to sweep the dark hair from his forehead to check his temperature.
It was slightly elevated but nothing to worry over. Marco returned and set the canister next to Roy. The blonde paramedic smiled his thanks and carefully settled the mask over John’s nose and mouth.
The dark eyes fluttered once more but quickly closed again as Roy’s fingers returned to brush the hair back. “Roy,” John murmured sleepily.
“Shhh…Go back to sleep,” he soothed quietly enough for the others not to hear. He stood up as soon as he was sure John had drifted off and headed back to the counter for his coffee. Chet’s smirk greeted him. “Shut up Chet,” Roy warned before he could say anything.
The curly haired Irishman gave him an innocent shrug as Roy took his cup and went to sit at the table with the others.
“So when did Gage meet this Meghan anyway?” Kelly asked.
“At Rampart… Dixie just picked her up at the airport.”
“Man…How come he always gets em?” Chet grumbled.
“Well in this case its cuz Dix happens to be real fond of him.”
“Huh…She doesn’t know him the way we do.” The others grinned.
“Maybe she just doesn’t know any other young, single guys,” Mike suggested.
“Yeah…I mean maybe she has to sacrifice quality for convenience,” Chet agreed.
“She knows lots of single young men…Marco, Dwyer, Carlson…Even you,” he said standing up to rinse his cup. His eyebrow arched in amusement. “I guess she was looking for quality after all,” Roy said, loyally defending his young partner.
Mike grinned in amusement.
The station control unit stayed blessedly silent for most of the day, allowing Johnny to sleep for several hours. He woke at dinnertime.
His dark eyes cracked open…Looking around him in confusion. His hand rose to touch the mask still over his face, though Roy had already changed the canister once. He sat up, pulling it away and drawing the attention of the others.
“Well if it ain’t sleeping beauty,” Chet said snidely.
“Dinners in the oven John,” Hank said as if his long nap was an ordinary occurrence.
John bit his lip and shot them an embarrassed glance but nodded. “Thanks Cap,” he mumbled, switching the tank off and moving to get his plate and rejoin the crew. His cough was still present but much lighter than it had been.
He sat down at the table and glanced sheepishly at Roy. “Thanks man,” he mumbled quietly to his older partner.
The blonde paramedic grinned knowing that because of his past, it was extremely difficult for Johnny to admit he needed help with anything. “Anytime junior… How’re ya feelin?”
“A lot better thanks,’ he admitted.
“Good.” John’s stomach growled loudly. “Eat your dinner before we get called out. John picked up his fork but the SCU began to tone.
“Rescue 51…Possible drug overdose. 2170 Carson…2-1-7-0 Carson…Cross street 218th Street…Time out 18:21…”
Roy and John pushed their chairs back and ran for the squad as Cap stepped through the small access door to respond. “Rescue 51…KMG-365,” he replied, hanging up the mic and tearing the paper off to hand to Roy. The doors began to roll up and the truck surged forward out of the bay, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
They arrived on the scene a few minutes later. Roy ran around to help his partner gather their equipment before they headed inside. They made their way to the door.
“It’s my girlfriend…I think she OD’d,” he said frantically as he waved toward the prone figure of a young woman passed out on the couch. They ran to her side.
John felt for a carotid as Roy set up the Biophone. “No pulse,” John announced as he yanked the girl onto the floor and began CPR.
“How long has she been unconscious?” Roy barked as he strapped the BP cuff in place.
“I don’t know man…Maybe five minutes.”
Roy and Johnny exchanged a glance… If she’d been without a pulse that long, they could be reviving the girl to a living nightmare… Johnny continued to try anyway. It wasn’t up to him to make that call with her life.
“Rampart base this is squad 51,” Roy said as he checked for a pulse.
Kelly Brackett’s voice came back. “Go ahead 51.”
“Rampart…We have a possible overdose.”
“What did she take?” Roy asked looking up at the boyfriend.
“Uppers man,” he mumbled, running his hands through his hair…His face white with fear.
“Amphetamines Rampart…She was without a pulse on our arrival. We are administering CPR and her boyfriend states that she was unconscious for at least five minutes before we got here. BP is 90/60. Pulse is erratic and respirations are assisted and minimal.”
“Start an IV 51…D5WTKO…Insert an esophageal airway and transport.”
John began working on the IV while Roy inserted the airway. They heard the wail of sirens of the approaching ambulance and soon they had the girl at Rampart.
John followed the gurney into the treatment room and helped them make the transfer as Kelly Brackett and Betty Matthews closed in around her. Betty began hooking her into the respirator while John pumped up the BP cuff once more. “90/60,” he announced a moment later.
Kel nodded and barely glanced up as Roy pushed the door open and came inside to join them. “How is she?” He asked.
The concerned dark eyes met blue and John shook his head. “I don’t know man…Why would anyone do this to themselves? I mean she’s young and pretty and has everything to live for ya know?”
Kel tossed them a negative shake of his dark head as well. “I don’t know fella’s…It’s gonna be touch and go for a while.”
The two younger men nodded in discouragement and left the room.
Johnny was starving by the time they returned to the station. He pulled the dried out casserole from the oven where it had been left to warm. His nose curled in distaste but if he could bite it he could chew it and it would at least stop his stomach from grumbling so loudly. He was afraid it would keep him awake all night as well as Roy as loud as it was.
“You better feed that monster,” Roy teased as he headed for the phone. “I’m gonna call Brackett and find out how that girl is,” he added picking it up.
John nodded as he went to retrieve a serving spoon from the drawer. He’d just finished scooping some onto his plate as Roy returned. He sat down to eat… Roy plopped down next to him looking dejected. “She didn’t make did she?” Johnny asked as the dark eyes looked searchingly at his older friend.
Roy shook his head. “No.” John stared at the plate for a moment before heaving a sigh. He picked up the fork and ate a small mouthful. “Yech,” Roy said descriptively, trying to lighten the mood.
John gave him a half hearted smile. “Yeah…It’s pretty bad,” he mumbled around the mouthful.
“If it’ll make ya feel any better…? It was pretty bad before it dried out but at least it wouldn’t break your teeth.”
“I heard that DeSoto,” Hank said from the small area over by the TV where the others were gathered. Hank wasn’t really angry and he recognized his senior paramedic’s attempt to distract the younger man from dwelling on the loss of a victim. Johnny always took these things hard and very personally and Roy frequently had to reassure him that he hadn’t done anything wrong though Hank didn’t understand why…Someday John would tell them he was sure of it.
Johnny giggled at the indignant tone of his Captains voice and received a grin and a wink from his partner as well. John returned to his dinner. He cleaned up his plate and glass a few minutes later and both of them went to join the others in front of the TV.
The two women returned to Dixie’s apartment. “So…Is there anything else you’d like to see tonight?” Dixie asked her niece.
“Yeah…I’d like to see John again,” she teased with a giggle at her aunts questioning look.
Dixie had to laugh. “He is awfully cute,” she agreed.
“Aunt Dixie!” The girl gasped in shocked delight.
“What? You think I’m too old to notice?”
“Well no…But I thought Kel…?” She shrugged.
“Honey, that’s been over for a long time…he’s made that very clear. We’re just friends now but that still wouldn’t mean I can’t notice an attractive young man when I see one…Besides, there’s a lot more to John Gage than a cute smile and gorgeous eyes.”
“Like what?” Meghan asked excitedly, wanting to hear more about the handsome young man she’d met earlier.
“He’s smart and sensitive and he’s a damn good paramedic and fireman…He’s courageous…He’d put his life on the line to save yours in a heartbeat. He’s got a pretty good sense of humor and if he cares about you…,” Dixie shrugged. “He’d do anything in the world for you…That makes him pretty special.”
Meghan grinned. “Sounds like you’re pretty fond of him…”
“In love with him maybe…Would you ever consider going out with him?” Meghan hinted with a grin.
“JOHNNY?” Dixie gasped with a laugh. “Of course not…I’m a little old for him.”
“You didn’t answer my question Aunt Dix…”
The older woman hugged her. “You’re right,” she teased, giving the girl a hug. “Why don’t you get some sleep unless you’d like some more coffee or something?”
“Oh I don’t think so Aunt Dixie…I’m kinda tired…It’s been a long day…I think I’ll just unpack and go to bed.”
Dixie nodded in agreement. “You’ve got another busy day ahead of you tomorrow too…Not to mention your date with Johnny.”
Meghan gave her aunt a speculative glance but smiled and headed for her room. “I wonder why she wouldn’t answer that?” She mumbled under her breath as she tossed another glance at her pretty aunt over her shoulder. Was her aunt interested in the younger man? No…No it couldn’t be… John Gage was young enough to be her son. That was probably the reason she hoped they’d get together but it was obvious that she was very fond of the young man.
Dixie watched Meghan go and smiled as her thoughts traveled to John for a moment. She thought about the dark eyes that could melt her heart and the crooked grin that always lightened it…The vulnerable, childlike spirit that could tear at her soul. She shook her head at her own musings. How could she not love him?
Meghan quietly locked the door and retrieved the box she’d hidden earlier. She opened it and pulled one of the small bags and took out a pill. She popped it in her mouth. One wouldn’t give her the usual high she’d normally get. After several years, her tolerance for the drug had increased greatly but she couldn’t risk her aunt catching on. She’d taken one earlier in the day but that had long since lost the high. The pills worked a little slower than her usual method but they were less risky for the rapid rush that would be easily spotted.
She knew how to handle the outward effects for the most part... She’d successfully hidden the addiction from her parents for two years.
She got changed and slipped beneath the covers and waited for the feeling of euphoria. It finally came but at a much lower level than she was used to…Oh well, it would have to do for now.
She let her mind drift to Johnny and the seductive dark eyes that had made her heart race without any help from a bottle of pills. She couldn’t wait for their date tomorrow night and hoped that the handsome paramedic wouldn’t hold her being Dixie’s niece against her.
She smiled to herself. Her aunt would be appalled if she knew the direction her ‘innocent’ niece’s thoughts were taking but Johnny certainly wouldn’t be the first man she’d slept with.
She heard her aunt head off to bed but it was a long while before Meghan finally slept.
The station crew had a quiet night and Johnny felt a lot better when he finally woke the next morning. He sat up and swung his long legs over the side of the bed.
“How’re ya feelin junior?” Roy asked his young partner as he sat up.
“Better than yesterday,” he replied.
“Good…So beside your date tonight…What’ve you got planned for today?” Roy asked as he stood up and pulled his turnouts on.
“I don’t know…The usual stuff. Housework, laundry…”
Roy grinned. John’s house was always spotless…It was part of his slightly obsessive personality. The housework could most likely wait. “How about breakfast with me and Jo…?”
“Sure,” John readily agreed, perking up. The younger man never refused Roy’s wife’s cooking and Roy knew Joanne loved the younger man like a little brother and would never object to Roy bringing him home even without warning.
“Great…Let’s go get some coffee before the other’s drink it all.” John nodded. “It’s too bad we only get the one day off this time…Kinda cuts into your date,” Roy commented as Johnny snapped his suspenders into place.
The younger man glanced up with a shrug. “It’s only dinner and a movie…I’m sure not gonna keep Dixie’s niece out too late,” he assured his friend as they walked across the apparatus bay.
“Not if you wanna live to tell about it anyway,” Roy teased. John grinned back.
“Good morning Honey…Hi sweetheart,” Joanne greeted as the two men entered the front door. She kissed Roy and turned to Johnny setting a light kiss on his cheek as well.
John’s face took on its usual momentary flush of color at the affectionate display from Roy’s wife…The dark eyes glancing shyly away before lighting on the grinning face of his older partner.
Roy knew Johnny still remembered the misunderstanding from several months ago when Roy had accused him of having an affair with his wife. He was still insecure and he sometimes still shied away from Jo’s demonstrative greetings in fear that Roy would be upset by it but Joanne never let that stop her.
She also knew about the abuse John had suffered as a child and about his having ASD and she refused to let him wonder about where he stood in their lives. She loved Johnny as much as Roy did and she always made sure the young man knew he was family.
“You want breakfast?” She asked as she turned away and headed for the kitchen.
“If you’re sure it’s not a bother,” John said worriedly.
“You’re never a bother sweetheart,” she called back.
“Uncle Johnny…?” a voice squealed from the stairway. He turned to see Roy and Joanne’s five year old son Chris rocketing across the dining room to leap into his arms.
“Hey buddy,” he greeted catching the boy and tossing him high in the air. The small blonde laughed gleefully before John caught him and swooped him over toward his father. Roy laughingly caught him and greeted his son with a kiss and a tight hug before setting him down to go sit at the table.
“Jen up yet…?” Johnny asked.
“Why don’t you go check sweetheart…If you don’t mind?”
John shook his head…The tiny, blonde toddler had caught his heart the day she was born and had never let go. John ran up the stairs. Jen stood in her crib…Her blonde curls still tangled from sleep. She broke into a smile as Johnny peeked around the door. “There’s my princess,” he said as he stepped into the room. She held her arms up invitingly as he scooped her up. “Man little girl…You sure are wet,” he teased as he searched the drawer for a clean diaper and an outfit to dress her in.
This was one chore Johnny never shied away from regardless of what filled the child’s diaper. Clean and dry, he carried her downstairs to see her daddy.
Joanne turned as he came into the dining room. “Thank you Johnny,” she said as she took her daughter from him. Joanne appreciated the help when John came to visit. “Did Uncle Johnny get you all clean?” She asked kissing Jen’s nose before handing her to Roy to place her in her high chair.
John grinned. He loved being here in the mornings and being a part of the family’s routine. It always made him feel as if he belonged and he still had a family.
Joanne disappeared into the kitchen and returned with two plates that she set before the two men at the table. She quickly returned for Chris’s and her own. Jen’s bottle and bowl of cereal followed and the family sat down to eat.
“So what are you up to today sweetie?” Jo asked as Johnny ate.
“Nah mush,” he replied around a mouthful of scrambled eggs, drawing a snort of laughter from Roy and a head shake from Jo as well as giggle from Chris at Johnny’s lack of table manners. “Sorry,” he mumbled sheepishly at the look.
“It’s okay sweetheart,” she replied.
“Anyway,” he continued now that he’d swallowed. “I have a date tonight.”
“Oh? With who…?” She asked interestedly.
“Dixie’s niece….Her names Meghan and she just got here from Georgia.”
“Oh…” Jo grinned at him. “You will be on your best behavior right?” She questioned.
John looked at her in surprise for a minute before he realized she was teasing him. He grinned… “Yes mom…I’ll be a good boy,” he replied, drawing another giggle from Chris.
Meghan woke feeling a little tired. She glanced at the clock and realized she’d only been asleep for a couple of hours. She heard her aunt moving about in the apartment and knew she’d have to get up or she’d be asking what was wrong. She just needed to make it through breakfast and then she could take something to help her through the day.
She couldn’t wait until tonight when the handsome young paramedic would be picking her up. She hoped John wouldn’t be a total square or be put off by her relationship with Dixie but she’d be sure to take along a little added insurance.
The two women spent the morning at the beach before lunch and then Dixie showed the girl around LA before heading for home. Dixie grinned at how much Meghan seemed to be enjoying the sunglasses she’d bought her…She hadn’t taken them off.
Johnny arrived at five and Meghan and Dixie both met him at the door. The younger woman looked lovely in a bright blue sundress that showed off her new tan. “You look great,” Johnny said admiringly.
“So do you,” she said with a giggle as she took in John’s suit and tie. Dixie grinned as she remembered the last time she remembered seeing it. It was at John’s twenty second birthday party almost a year ago right here in her home before the paramedics even existed.
“You want to come in?” Dixie asked the young man.
Johnny glanced at his watch. “We really should go Dix…I have reservations for five thirty and the movie starts at seven.”
“Okay…,” she agreed as Meghan picked up her purse. “Don’t forget…We have plans to go sailing tomorrow so not too late huh?”
Meghan groaned. “Aunt Dixie…I’m nineteen not sixteen.”
“I’m sorry sweetie,” she said with a grin. “But I still have to explain to my brother if anything happens to you,” she teased.
“I’ll take care of her Dix…I gotta work tomorrow anyway so I’ll have her back by eleven,” Johnny assured her as he opened the door and held it for Meghan.
The girl threw a wink at her aunt. “I’ll take GOOD care of him too,” she teased cryptically. Dixie’s eyebrow arched a little worriedly at that statement but Johnny closed the door before she could say anything.
Johnny led the girl to his old camper and cringed as the door squealed in protest as he opened it. She giggled and he shrugged. “It’s a little old but it’s paid for,” he said, blushing a bit.
“That’s alright Johnny…I didn’t go out with you tonight for your car,” she teased.
He grinned back. “So I made reservations for us at this quiet little steakhouse I know but if you’d rather go somewhere else?” He said with a shrug.
“No…I’m sure it will be fine…” They headed for the restaurant making small talk.
“So what was that call you went on yesterday?” She asked curiously.
“Car accident…It wasn’t too bad.”
John’s face took on a sad and faraway look. “Lost a sixteen year old girl,” he said softly.
She looked shocked. “What happened to her?”
“O.D.,” he muttered with a shake of his dark head…Her face paled a bit but she didn’t respond…Meghan knew it could happen but she was careful…It wouldn’t happen to her. “We couldn’t save her.” He stayed quiet for a long moment before he shook it off. “So um…What do you do for fun in Georgia?” Johnny asked the girl.
She grinned. “Well…We have dances and we hang out on the beach just like ya’ll do here,” she said making her southern accent more pronounced and drawing a grin from the young paramedic. She gave him a sideways glance. “Sometimes we smoke a little weed and drink,” she added waiting to see Johnny’s reaction.
He shot her a surprised glance. “You don’t?” He said in shock.
“Sure…It’s only a little pot and beer,” she hedged. “But don’t tell my aunt cuz she’d freak and go right back and call my father.”
John bit his lip. He didn’t want to lecture the girl but…He had a responsibility to Dixie too. He decided if he said something himself at least he wouldn’t be telling on the girl. “That’s a really dangerous thing to get into…,” he began.
“It’s just a little weed,” she argued. “Don’t be such a square about it.”
“It’s just that…Well…I see so many nice people get strung out on this stuff…We handle O.D.’s and drunk drivers and…”
“Their addicts and drunks,” she said defensively.
“Well…Sometimes it only starts with pot or a drink and before ya know it…,” he shrugged. “You’re on to something stronger.” She heaved a sigh knowing he was right. Pot didn’t give her the high after a while and she had graduated to stealing her mother’s diet pills but soon the light buzz she’d received from those wasn’t enough and she’d progressed to her current drug of choice…Methamphetamines that she and her friends bought on the streets of Savannah. Johnny heard the sigh and slumped a bit in his seat. “Look…I’m sorry…I guess it’s not my place to lecture you but I just think you’re a really nice girl and…”
She grinned. “Don’t worry Johnny…I have no intention of lighting up in your car or anything and I don’t do it that often so I promise…I won’t get addicted to pot,” she said sarcastically.
He nodded uncertainly. He felt like he really should tell Dixie but would she be grateful or angry? He wasn’t willing to sacrifice his friendship with her to warn her that her niece was blowing a little weed…It wasn’t like she was an addict or something but still...John believed in being honest. He’d have to think about it but he probably should talk to Roy first.
John pulled into the restaurant and came around to open the door for her. She smiled at him now that he’d dropped the argument and stepped out. He smiled back and they headed inside. They had a quiet dinner, though to her disgust and disappointment she’d been refused alcohol. Unlike her native Georgia, the drinking age in California was twenty one…Johnny grinned and ordered them both a coke.
John continued to regale the girl with stories of some of their better rescues…Meghan was enthralled. Her eyes lit up with excitement as he talked about the dangers of being a firefighter and she could easily understand her aunt’s respect for the handsome paramedic.
He finally wound down a bit. “So what else do you want to do? I thought a movie or…”
Her blue eyes swept over him speculatively…The idea of being in a darkened theater with the man gave her a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach and she had every intention of spending the night in the handsome young man’s bed…She patted her purse reassuringly…Even if she had to have help to convince him.
They decided on a movie and headed off to the theater. She sat down and reached over to take John’s hand. He smiled at her and like her aunt…The crooked grin gripped her heart.
The lights dimmed and the movie began. John smiled a bit as Meghan cuddled up against his side and he slid his arm around her but the grin faded a bit as she reached up and pressed a soft kiss against his cheek.
He turned his head to look down into pools of blue as she gazed up at him. He leaned down and gently kissed her mouth but she sighed in disappointment as he quickly pulled away.
Man…The temptation was there and if she’d been anyone but Dixie McCall’s niece he'd never have hesitated. He smiled at her and dropped a light kiss on her cheek but turned back to the movie.
Meghan sighed in disappointed understanding. Johnny wanted her…She could see it in his eyes but he respected her aunt too much. She smiled to herself…She just needed a few minutes alone with him and she could change all of that. She snuggled against him under his arm and waited patiently.
When the movie ended he glanced down once more to find the soft blue eyes watching him…The pink tinted lips parted with a grin and John gave in. He kissed her softly as the lights came up. “Let’s go back to your apartment,” she whispered.
John pulled back. “Uh…Um…No…I…,” he stuttered as he looked at his watch. “I…I…uh gotta work tomorrow and Dixie would kill me…”
She sighed in frustration, knowing Johnny wouldn’t be this difficult to win over if it wasn’t for her aunt. “Okay then how about stopping for a drink.”
“Meghan…,” he began.”
“I’ll be a good little girl and get a coke,” she said snidely.
“Well…I guess it’s still early enough.”
They stopped at a small café on the way home and Meghan restrained herself from coming on too strong and spooking the man again. They sat at a table but Meghan stood up a moment later. “I’m gonna go get us a drink.”
“Oh…the waitress will be right here,” John said looking around.
She grinned at him. “I need to freshen up a bit anyway so I’ll just get them on the way back…You just wait here okay?”
John shrugged. “Okay.” He watched her walk away with a deep feeling of regret. Man she was gorgeous…Sweet and a great kisser but she had two little problems. John would never get serious with someone who had a drug problem…Even grass and she was Dixie’s niece.
Johnny was well aware that he had a hard time maintaining relationships because of the problems in his past as well as having Aspergers and he wasn’t sure he was ready for the kind of commitment a relationship with this girl would deserve just out of respect for her aunt. He sighed wistfully.
Meghan stopped at the counter and waved the young man running the grill over. “Can I get a coke and a beer please?” She asked, giving him her biggest smile.
“Sure,” he said grinning back hopefully. “Umm…Are you twenty one?”
“Oh the beer’s not for me it’s for my friend,” she said pointing at Johnny across the room.
“Well…I really shouldn’t…I mean…It’s the law and…”
“Please,” she asked with a pretty pout. “Maybe I could come back later and…” she shrugged.
“Yeah…Yeah okay,” he agreed. She almost laughed at the eagerness on his face. The poor boy didn’t stand a chance against the handsome paramedic but she knew how to use her looks to her advantage.
He handed her the two drinks. He started to talk to her but another group stepped up to the counter and he smiled ruefully and went to help them. Meghan grinned as she opened her purse and pulled out a small case.
She glanced around to be sure no one was watching before she pulled the handful of small capsules from her purse. Street meth…about 15 mgs each at a guess depending on where her supplier got it… She looked at Johnny and bit her lip…Three maybe four…He could handle that...She handled three easily herself and she was much smaller than the tall paramedic. She pulled the capsules apart and dumped them into his drink, stirring it with her straw before downing two more with her own so she could fly with him.
It would be at least thirty minutes before he began to feel it. She’d take him back to his apartment and who knew what would happen from there. She picked up the drinks and headed back to the table.
John frowned when she set the beer in front of him. “Where’d ya get that?” He asked glancing over his shoulder toward the bar.
“I asked for it and I told them it was for you.”
John shook his head. No wonder the kids got into so much trouble…He should go over there and read the guy the riot act for giving her the drink but he figured he could just let Vince or Scotty know and let them handle it rather than causing a scene.
“Well thanks… but they really shouldn’t have given it to you.”
“Don’t be so square Johnny…I know you’ve been drinking coke for me but you know…have a little fun…It’s just one beer.”
“I guess,” he agreed picking it up. He took a sip, not noticing the bitter taste.
“So where do you live anyway Johnny?” She asked, her blue eyes watching eagerly as he took a longer drink from the glass.
“Oh…I’m right up the street from here. The Palm Court Apartments,” he said pointing up the road. “But I’ve still gotta take you home.” He took another drink.
“We still have time,” she assured him…All night…She almost giggled. “Johnny…Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked coyly.
He grinned. “I think you’re very pretty…you look a lot like your Aunt.”
“You think Aunt Dixie’s pretty?” She breathed out as she leaned over the table to look into his eyes.
“Well…Ya…I mean…You know for a woman her age…she’s beautiful.”
“So you’re not interested in her or anything?”
“In Dixie…?” He gasped almost choking on the sip of beer he’d just taken. “No…No of course not…I mean…I’m really fond of her…She’s my friend ya know…Kinda like a big sister.”
“What if she were younger?” She teased.
John grinned… “That would be a whole different story then wouldn’t it?” John felt a rush of heat into his cheeks and set the almost empty mug down on the table with a suddenly shaky hand. “Wow…Man…I don’t feel so good all of a sudden,” he mumbled.
“What’s wrong?” Meghan asked a bit worriedly. Johnny looked sick. She had no idea how low a tolerance for drugs Johnny had or how badly the narcotic would affect the man or how quickly…That was a problem with a first time user…You never knew how they’d react.
John’s vision blurred for a moment and he felt nauseas. His heart felt as though it was pounding in his chest and his mouth felt very dry. He held his head in his hands for a moment. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” he whispered.
“C’mon Johnny…Let me take you home. You said it was right up the street right?” She said starting to look a little worried.
“Ummm,” he mumbled. “I need ta take you…home firs…,” he slurred. What was wrong with him? He’d only had one beer hadn’t he? He couldn’t remember. What was happening to him?
“I’ll take a cab…C’mon,” she said tugging him to his feet. John staggered slightly…The combination of drugs and alcohol was taking its toll. John let her help him to the camper and she fished around in his pocket for the keys…
John was feeling quite ill by the time they reached the camper and Meghan was scared that she might have given him too much…That was the problem with buying it on the street…You were never quite sure what you were getting. She’d used almost that much many times without being sick and she’d never seen anyone react this badly.
She helped him into the passenger seat of his camper. “Man,” he groaned miserable. “I’m really sor…ry Meg…han,” he gasped. “I d…don know wha’s happen…ing.”
“It’s okay Johnny…Let’s just get you back to your apartment and then you’ll feel better.”
“H…ome,” he whispered. “I…I nee to get ya home. Disie’ll be mad,” he slurred.
“Don’t worry about her alright? I can handle my aunt.” She ran around to climb into the driver’s seat. She backed out and managed to find his apartment building despite the slightly vague directions the young man gave her. “C’mon Johnny,” she said softly as she helped him from the camper. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, feeling horrible that Johnny was handling the drug so badly.
John practically had to crawl up the stairs but they finally made it. She tried several keys until she managed to find the one that unlocked the door and she led him inside.
Johnny’s head was spinning and he felt awful. His stomach was trying to rid itself of his dinner and he staggered into his living room to flop onto his couch, holding his head in misery.
Meghan rung her hands worriedly, trying to decide if she should call for help or wait and see if he’d be okay after a bit. She eased him onto his back.
John was gasping…Trying to keep from losing his dinner and breathe at the same time. His heart was racing and sweat beaded his face.
Meghan ran to the kitchen and returned a moment later with a wet hand towel. She gently blotted the sweat from John’s face. His eyes closed. “God…What’s happening to me?” He panted, in a bare whisper. His hand fumbled blindly.
“What are you doing?” Meghan asked worriedly.
“Part…ner…,” he managed to clarify.
Her heart climbed into her throat. If they took him to the hospital, they’d find out very quickly what she’d done to him and she didn’t want that but what if she had overdosed him? What if he died? God, she didn’t know what to do.
“Just lay back Johnny okay…You’ll be okay,” she said a bit dreamily as the pills she’d taken earlier kicked in as well.
“I’m gonna help you alright?” Johnny’s eyes closed in defeat. She once again wiped the sweat away from the handsome face.
After a few minutes Johnny seemed to be a bit better…His breathing began to settle though it was still panting. His eyes fluttered but remained closed.
She felt for his pulse. It was rapid…Way too fast but it was strong. She bit her lip worriedly and reached for the phone but pulled her hand back in indecision. She’d give it a few more minutes. Meghan went to his kitchen and opened the refrigerator and found a beer.
She was feeling pretty high herself now and wasn’t able to focus on the fact that John really should get some help or that she was a lot more out of it than she thought.
She popped the cap off of the bottle and returned to Johnny who appeared to be asleep but his eyes blinked open at her touch.
Johnny was feeling horrible…Gasping for air and fighting to keep his stomach in place. He felt a cool cloth sweep across his face and he desperately wanted to reach his partner. He needed Roy…Roy would help him but a soft hand pushed his away from the phone…He heard a feminine voice and somewhere in his confused brain he vaguely thought he’d answered her.
The voice came again along with the cool wetness… A feeling of elation began to sweep through him replacing the nausea…He’d lost all sense of time and wondered idly how long he’d been like this. His dark eyes blinked open but he couldn’t seem to focus.
A pair of blue eyes swam before him. They distorted briefly before the face seemed to coalesce…A very pretty face. Johnny gave her a slightly vague smile and the face hovering over him smiled back.
Who was she? He should know her…Shouldn’t he? “Dixie…?” He mumbled.
“No Johnny…Not Dixie. It’s Meghan,” she clarified with a slightly relieved smile. The handsome fireman seemed to be able to breathe now. The flush of color in his cheeks was still there but had faded considerably and he shivered slightly. “How do you feel Johnny?” She asked worriedly.
He lay there quietly, considering the question for a long moment. How did he feel? He felt hot and cold at the same time. His head hurt but he felt almost as if he could fly. His muscles were jumping beneath his skin and somewhere in the back of his mind he knew this was a bad thing but he couldn’t focus on anything but the pretty face leaning over him at the moment.
“Johnny…?” She prodded again.
“I…I doan know,” he finally slurred.
“Okay…Let’s get you into bed and maybe that’ll help some,” she suggested.
John grinned up into the concerned face above him. Well this certainly looked promising. He raised a shaky hand to cup her cheek. “Do…n’t frown,” he murmured. “Too pret…ty,” he pulled her head down and gently kissed her.
Meghan smiled down at him as she pulled back and finally helped him sit up. This was more like it. This was what she’d hoped for before he’d given her such a scare. She pulled him to his feet but sucked in her breath as the young paramedic staggered against her, almost taking them both to the ground.
He regained his balance and the two of them managed to get him to his bedroom. She decided to get him comfortable.
His eyes held a slightly glassy look but a slow smile began to spread as her hands tugged his jacket off and returned to loosen his tie. The dark eyes swept over her as her fingers began to unbutton his shirt. She pushed it from his shoulders, letting her hands run over his upper arms and down his chest.
The drug was doing its job and John’s body quickly reacted to the girls touch. She saw the look and grinned…It seemed as if he was over the worst of its bad effects. He tried to lean down to kiss her once again but he lost his balance. She managed to wrap her arms about him and push.
He stumbled backward and they both tumbled onto his bed. She looked down into seductive, brown pools as he pulled her against him. His hands were moving over her now and she didn’t hesitate to urge him on as his mouth claimed hers in a passionate kiss.
Meghan idly wondered if he’d even remember this in the morning but it didn’t matter…She would and even in his drugged state, the touch of his hands and mouth was intoxicating…She wished she could experience it without the um…added incentive but she knew he’d be too concerned about Dixie’s wrath to risk it.
Her body arced in anticipation as he pulled the dress off over her head…
Meghan’s eyes blinked open a long while later and she glanced at her watch… Oh wow…After one A.M….Her aunt would go crazy. She sat up and glanced down at the man who slept restlessly beside her. Sweat beaded his brow and lightly coated his body and she knew the drug was still in his system and would be for quite a while…She knew she was still feeling it herself and she was used to it but she was at least pretty sure he was out danger from the overdose she’d given him…She could only hope the worst of the effects would have worn off by the time he went to work…Maybe he’d just think he was sick and call in and sleep it off.
Her eyes swept his naked body and she almost decided to wake him for one last time but changed her mind. Three times was enough and she was already late and her aunt would kill her or worse, she might call her father. She leaned over and kissed his neck, drawing a soft groan from the handsome young man and she giggled…Despite the drug…He’d been great once she’d got him started…Again and again.
She wiggled her dress on over her head, tugging it into place. She padded on bare feet out to his living room to call a cab. She hung up after her call and pulled her shoes on, heading downstairs to wait. She hoped Aunt Dix wouldn’t be too angry at her for being late but after all, she wasn’t a child. It never occurred to her that she might have destroyed a beautiful friendship.
Dixie paced the hallway of her apartment. She glanced at the door and then at her watch for what was…she was sure, the millionth time. Just wait until she got her hands on John Gage. She’d let him have it for sure for keeping her niece out this late.
She was well aware that Meghan was a legal adult and she’d wanted them to have fun but she still was responsible for the girl until she went back to Georgia and she’d hoped Johnny would have enough respect for her to behave himself…He’d just better have had anyway.
She heard the doorknob jiggle and retraced her steps. Her arms folded over her chest as the girl tip toed inside and turned to close the door behind her.
She gasped as she spun around to find her Aunt standing there waiting. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” The older woman snapped.
“Yes and I’m really sorry…We just lost track of the time.”
“Where’s Johnny?” Dixie growled angry that he hadn’t even seen the girl to the door.
“He’s at home…I took a cab.”
“What? He didn’t even bring you home?”
“Well…He um…Fell asleep.”
“Just what were you two doing that made him so tired?” Dixie questioned warily as she stepped closer to her niece. She noticed the slight smell of alcohol on Meghan’s breath and flipped the lights on. Her eyes still held a slightly glassy look that Dixie mistook for drunkenness. There were vague marks on the girl’s neck and just above her breasts and the blue eyes of the nurse narrowed angrily.
“We were um…”
“Were you drinking?” She asked as her nose crinkled at the smell of beer.
“It was just one Aunt Dixie…Its perfectly legal in Georgia.”
“Well it’s not perfectly legal here…What the hell was Johnny thinking to let you have that?”
“Well…He didn’t exactly let me have it…I uh…I took it from his refrigerator after he passed…Um after he fell asleep,” she corrected.
“Passed out? That’s what you were gonna say…Did Johnny pass out?”
“Well…Sort of…He was really tired and…”
Dixie reached out and lifted Meghan’s chin to examine the obvious signs of necking if not worse. “Is this what he was so tired from?” She snapped. “Just exactly what happened?”
Had Meghan been stone cold sober herself she might have been thinking a little more clearly but she’d taken enough of the potent drug herself to lose any sense of discretion.
“Oh for Pete’s sake Aunt Dixie I’m not a child and John Gage is certainly not the first man I’ve been to bed with,” she yelled back.
Dixie’s eyes widened in shock… “He didn’t?” She bit out angrily.
Meghan smirked almost smugly. “Oh he needed a bit of persuasion,” she teased as she patted her purse…Dixie was too angry to pick up on the hint. “But once I got him started,” she teased her aunt. “He was wonderful…I’m going to bed Aunt Dixie…I’m pretty tired too.”
Dixie’s mouth dropped open in shock as Meghan turned and headed for her room, leaving her horrified and furious aunt staring after her. How could he? How could Johnny do that…She’d trusted him? Meghan glanced back at her. She grinned flippantly… “Don’t be jealous Aunt Dix…You really should give him a try,” she giggled as she disappeared inside and closed the door.
Dixie stood there fuming at the taunt…Just wait until she got her hands on John Gage.
Johnny woke the next morning to an insistent buzzing…His head hurt horribly and he was nausea’s. What the hell had happened to him last night? He couldn’t remember. He’d gone out with Meghan hadn’t he? Yes…They’d had dinner and gone to a movie but that’s all he could recall…
The buzzing sound wouldn’t go away and John lifted his head blearily from the pillow. He squinted into the early morning gloom and realized it was his alarm clock that was making that awful sound. He gasped in shock at the time and sat up quickly.
He suddenly wished he hadn’t. His head spun and his stomach flipped in a somersault and John catapulted from his bed to race for the bathroom. He barely made it in time to lose the contents of his stomach.
Sweat was beading his brow and he was having trouble breathing. What was wrong with him? He sat on the cold tile floor of his bathroom and suddenly realized for the first time that he was naked and shaking.
Johnny seldom slept in the nude as he’d learned from experience that in an emergency, one seldom had time to search for clothing and the idea of standing helplessly naked on a sidewalk while his colleagues put out a fire didn’t appeal to him. He always slept in his boxers and left a robe or a pair of sweats at the foot of his bed in case he needed to make a quick exit.
John pulled himself to his feet. He turned the water on in the shower…He needed to hurry if he was going to make it to work on time.
Dixie knocked on the door to Meghan’s room. She was still angry with Johnny for getting Meghan drunk and taking advantage of her young niece and hoped that Meghan had ‘sobered’ up enough to talk sensibly with her about it. Dix still couldn’t believe that Johnny would betray her trust that way not to mention her niece flaunting the act in her face and daring her to take the young paramedic to bed…What was the girl thinking?
The door opened to a tired looking Meghan. “Morning Aunt Dixie?”
“Morning…Is that all you have to say?”
“No…I’m um…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said all of that to you last night but…,” she shrugged. “I had such a good time with Johnny and I didn’t want you to spoil it.”
“Spoil it? I trusted him with you…,” she began.
“Aunt Dixie please…I’m not going to fight with you but what I said last night was true…I know you might be disappointed in me but…He’s not my first, understand? I’ve been with other men and I’m telling you in confidence so please don’t go back and tell my father…He’d be really upset.”
“Meghan…Don’t defend Johnny. He got you drunk…took advantage of you…Passed out and left you to find your own way home…,” she finished, unwilling to shift the blame to Meghan.
The girl sighed… “It wasn’t like that…John was…reluctant,” she admitted.
I’ll just bet,” Dixie growled.
Meghan rubbed at her forehead tiredly. She was crashing and she didn’t want to fight right now. All she wanted was a shower and to take another hit to bring her up. “Are we going sailing?” She asked wearily.
Dixie pursed her lips, recognizing the attempt to change the subject. They’d finish this discussion later and then she’d have a few things to say to Johnny Gage and then he’d be lucky if she ever spoke to him again. “Yes…”
“Good,” Meghan murmured as she brushed past her aunt on the way to the bathroom.
Roy glanced up as Johnny came into the locker room…His teasing greeting about his young friends date with Meghan dying on his lips as he saw the pale face and light coating of sweat on John’s face. John’s breathing was rapid and he looked tired.
“Johnny what’s wrong?” Roy asked as he shot from the bench to grab his partners arm and sit him down.
“I dunno…I feel a little fuzzy Roy,” he murmured as he raised a shaky hand to his brow to wipe the sweat away.
Roy laid his hand on John’s forehead but he was cool to the touch…almost too cool. “What did you do last night?”
John frowned… “I…I’m not sure,” he mumbled. “We uh…Went out to dinner.”
“What did you eat?” Roy asked in concern. Maybe Johnny was having some kind of reaction to something he ate.
“Um…Just a steak and uh…Baked potato…Uh I think I had peas and apple pie for desert.”
Nothing that John hadn’t eaten before… “You think? You’re not sure?” John shook his head…That was worrisome. “What about drinks?”
“I drank coke…Meghan isn’t twenty one yet so…,” John gave him a wan smile. “She wasn’t happy about it either cuz in Georgia ya only have to be eighteen.”
“Is that all then?” Roy questioned.
Johnny’s brow wrinkled in concentration. “We went to a movie and I think we stopped for a drink on the way home…I had a beer.”
“Just one…?” Roy questioned worriedly.
“Yeah Roy…I think so…You know how I feel about drinking but…I can’t remember anything. I don’t remember going home or Meghan…I don’t know how Meghan got home…Man Dixie’s gonna be really mad at me,” he mumbled.
“She’s probably fine junior or Dixie woulda been calling you but that doesn’t explain your condition. Why don’t you get dressed and after roll call we’ll swing by Rampart and let them take a look at you.”
“Roy…I don’t need…,” he began to argue but the gentle blue eyes of his friend turned to steel and John’s protest dwindled. “Okay,’ he breathed in defeat.
Several minutes later John stood with the others as Cap began roll call. Hank’s brown eyes swept over his youngest crew member. “John…Are you alright?” He questioned after a moment, noticing that Johnny was breathing a bit heavily and he that was sweating slightly.
“I’m not feeling my best Cap but I’ll be okay,” he assured his superior.
The eyes turned to Roy questioningly. “I’m gonna run him by Rampart Cap…I thought maybe he was having an allergic reaction to something he ate or….,” Roy explained with a shrug of the shoulders. “He’s not running a fever or anything.”
“Musta been a fun date?” Chet teased.
“I wish I could tell ya Chet but I really don’t remember too much.”
The others frowned, the teasing turned to looks of worry. That wasn’t like Johnny…Something had to be wrong. “Roy, why don’t you two head over to Rampart now …The guys will handle the chores until you get back okay?” They all nodded and even Chet didn’t offer a protest.
“Sure…Thanks guys,” Roy said as he gripped John’s arm and steered him toward the squad.
Dixie and Meghan climbed from the car at the pier. It had been a long drive for both of them…Neither one had wanted to start another fight and they were both afraid that any conversation might just start it all over again so they had driven in an uncomfortable silence, both hoping that when they joined the others they could find something to talk about that wouldn’t set the whole thing off again.
Meghan felt bad that her aunt was angry with Johnny and was trying to find a way to make her understand that it wasn’t the young man’s fault but there wasn’t a way without admitting to her aunt that she’d drugged the guy and not only drugged him…She’d almost killed him.
Kel was already there when they arrived and he looked great in khaki shorts and a deep green tee shirt. He smiled appreciatively at the two women. Dixie was lovely in a deep blue top with white shorts and Meghan looked stunning in green shorts and a pale yellow tank top. They looked sun kissed from their day at the beach yesterday and Kel grinned at them as they approached.
The grin faded as they drew closer and he sensed the tension in the air between them. “Good morning Dr. Brackett,” Meghan greeted as she stepped aboard the large boat tied at the dock.
“Morning Meghan…Dix,” Kel greeted, kissing the older woman’s cheek familiarly.
“Kel,” she said softly.
He frowned a bit as Meghan moved away and went to look out over the other side. “What’s wrong Dix?” Kel asked gently.
“Meghan…She went out with Johnny last night.”
“And…?” Brackett prompted.
“She came home at one thirty this morning,” she whispered angrily.
“Oh,” Kel murmured.
“Alone…” At Kel’s raised eyebrow she continued. “It seems our young friend got drunk enough to pass out and leave her to find her own way home.”
Kel eyebrow climbed again. He didn’t believe that…Kel was one of four people that knew Johnny had been abused as a child and he also knew that John had been beaten worse when his abuser had been drinking. Kel knew Johnny had an aversion to alcohol and why and that he usually only drank beer and even that was sparingly.
“Are you sure Dix…That doesn’t sound like Johnny…”
“Oh…Well it gets better. He apparently let her have it as well and she spent part of the night in his bed.”
“Oh dear,” Kel murmured at a loss for anything else to say.
“Oh dear is right. You just wait until I see him,” she growled.
Brackett grinned ruefully… “Did he force her?”
“No…Of course not,” Dixie said defensively. “Johnny would never…,” she hesitated in disbelief that she’d been about to defend the little skunk. “What’s that got to do with it?”
“Just that she’s a grown woman Dix…She’s not a little girl and you can’t protect her. If John didn’t force her and she was a willing participant…,” he trailed off with a shrug.
“He got her drunk,” she protested.
Kel’s eyebrow lifted skeptically. “That’s not the Johnny I know but honestly Dix…You know John Gage’s reputation with the ladies but you still set them up?”
“Don't blame this on me Kel. I thought he’d be at least respectful because of his friendship with me.”
“Look…I’m not saying I think sleeping with her is okay…I just think you have to point the finger at both of them,” he said with a shrug.
Her mouth tightened at Kel’s unconcerned look. “Oooh…I should have known you men would all stick together,” she grouched angrily as she folded her arms across her chest.
Kel chuckled and she slapped his arm in irritation. “Where’s Joe?” She asked, changing the subject.
“He’s at Rampart. He had a couple of cases he needed to check up on before he could head out. He said he wouldn’t be long.”
Dixie nodded as her blue eyes found her niece. They softened at the dreamy look the girl had in her own blue eyes unaware that it wasn’t just the memory of a certain young paramedic’s lovemaking ability that had brought on the look.
Meghan had already taken a pill this morning and she was feeling the effects and was already at a point when common sense was flitting away from her. She’d been held on a tight rein for two days now…She wanted to fly and she was hoping that Dixie would be distracted by her two friends enough not to notice... Meghan could control it…She’d been doing it for years. She slipped her sunglasses on to hide her eyes.
Joe glanced up from the base station as Johnny and Roy walked up the corridor. His blue eyes swept over Johnny and a frown creased his forehead. Johnny looked a bit shaky and was walking slowly…Too slowly for the normally hyperactive, young paramedic. His eyes glanced toward John’s partner who stayed carefully at his side though he avoided actually hanging on to him.
Joe left the base station and met the two men in front of treatment room four. His hand reached out to take hold of John’s arm and steer him into the room. “Sit,” he ordered the younger man. “Take off your shirt…Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Wow…I must really look as bad as I feel,” he muttered softly at the doctor’s abrupt actions as he unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off with Roy’s help.
“You look pretty rough Johnny,” Joe admitted as he pulled his stethoscope from his pocket and tucked it in his ears. He listened to John’s heart for a moment and another frown pulled at his mouth. He tucked the instrument in his pocket. He handed Roy the BP cuff and reached for John’s wrist.
His blue eyes held a look of concern but he shook his head in disbelief. If he didn’t know better, he’d almost bet Johnny was on something but Joe knew the young firefighter too well. John Gage would never put that garbage into his body at least not knowingly.
Joe checked his eyes… “What’s his blood pressure?” He asked the older paramedic.
“140/90,” Roy replied with a concerned frown.
“Johnny…Have you taken any medication this morning?”
“No,” he replied with a confused look at his partner.
“Nothing of any kind…Even aspirin or vitamins…?”
John shook his head. “I haven’t eaten anything…I woke up late and I didn’t have time but I’m starving right now,” he admitted ruefully.
“What about last night?”
“I had a steak dinner with Meghan and pie after…Nothing unusual doc.”
“Did you drink anything?”
“Just coke and um…one beer,” he trailed off remembering how irritated he’d been with the bartender for selling an underage girl alcohol.
“What happened after that?”
Johnny shrugged. “I don’t remember anything after that…I don’t know what happened.”
Joe glanced at his watch…He was running behind and the others would be waiting for him. “Okay Johnny…I’m gonna have the nurse draw a blood sample.” Johnny bit his lip unhappily, drawing a chuckle from his partner and a grin from Joe who both knew John’s aversion to needles.
“I’ll do it,” Roy volunteered as he moved to the cabinet and grabbed the necessary items. He quickly drew the sample, drawing a teeth clenching wince from Johnny even though he barely felt it. Roy shook his head in amusement as he folded John’s arm up and handed the tube to Early.
“Your heart rate and pulse are both a little fast and your BP is elevated but not to the point where you can’t function so I’m going to let you go…But my guess is that you ate or drank something last night that you’re having a reaction to. I’d recommend that you get some sleep and not over tax yourself but I’ll know better when the results of the blood test come back.”
“Okay…Can I stay on duty?”
Joe looked at him worriedly. “Well…you seem to be functioning alright and thinking clearly at the moment,” he hesitated. Johnny really should be in bed…He didn’t like the racing of his heart…” The Handy Talkie took the decision away.
“Squad 51 what is your status?”
Joe frowned but nodded at Roy’s questioning look. “Go ahead but keep an eye on him,” he said looking a little concerned.
John grabbed his shirt and started for the door as Roy lifted the HT. “Squad 51 available.”
“I’ll call you when we get back from sailing,” he yelled after them. “I’ll have the results back by then…Roy…Monitor his vitals.”
The two younger men threw him a wave as they ran down the hall. Joe took his coat off and headed for the door.
Meghan watched gratefully as Joe Early finally arrived. Maybe now they could finally get out on the water and then maybe she could get from under the watchful eye of her aunt and Dr. Brackett. She knew Dixie was telling him what had happened…Well at least as much as she thought she knew.
The older, gray haired doctor climbed aboard. “Hey Joe,” Kel greeted, glancing at his watch. “What happened…You’re running later than you expected?” He asked.
“Roy brought Johnny in this morning…I stayed to check him out.”
“What?” Kel asked in concern. “What was wrong with him?”
Dixie and Meghan moved closer but for two different reasons. Meghan was concerned that they’d figured out what she’d done but Dixie folded her arms over her chest in irritation, wanting to hear Early tell Brackett the young paramedic had a whopper of a hangover.
Meghan had already ‘crashed’ this morning from the two she’d taken last night but she knew she’d given Johnny double the amount she’d taken herself and even though she thought they’d been fairly strong to her, it had been Johnny’s first time where she’d been used to them.
Johnny had been really buzzed…No he’d been sick and very close to an OD and if they still hadn’t worn off…? Should she warn them? Have Johnny brought in. She could have killed the young paramedic. She’d had no idea of John’s low tolerance for drugs and how badly he’d handle the pills she’d given him.
“I’m not sure yet…He was sweating and nausea’s…He had some memory lapse and he seemed a bit shaky. I did some blood work but I didn’t get the results before they got called out…”
“So Johnny was alright to work?” Meghan asked worriedly.
“Not alright…He definitely wasn’t feeling well but he wasn’t bad enough to keep him either.”
“But you wanted to?” Kel teased jokingly with a grin as he looked at the worry lines furrowing the older man’s face.
Joe nodded with a smile of his own at Kel’s astuteness. “Yeah…I was worried about him…If I didn’t know better I’d have sworn John was high on something,” he said hesitantly. Meghan stiffened.
“JOHNNY?” Kel snorted in disbelief.
“Drunk was more like it,” Dixie grumbled. “Don’t make such a big deal over a lousy hangover.”
“He only had one beer Aunt Dixie and I bought it for him,” Meghan snapped back, turning to stalk angrily away.
“Meghan!” Dixie called after her.
“Stop treating me like a child,” she shot back at her aunt as she disappeared below deck. It was as close as she could come to admitting the truth.
The Captain of the vessel stepped out from below deck, turning to look back at the angry and very pretty young woman who’d just brushed past him. “Are we ready to get under way?” He asked.
Kel nodded. “Thanks Sam,” he said as he moved to help him untie the boat while Joe Early raised an eyebrow at Dixie. “I’ll tell you later,” she muttered.
Johnny and Roy arrived back at the station forty minutes later…Their last run having turned out to be a simple sprain from a little boy jumping off his swing…while it was still swinging. Roy had reassured the mom that he’d be fine and advised her to take him to his own doctor just to be sure and they’d headed back.
Roy glanced at his partner in concern…Johnny still seemed to be acting oddly. His mood swinging from high to low and back again in a blink of an eye. Johnny was tired and that was unusual for someone with John’s usual energy levels.
“I’m starving,” John mumbled to his partner as he began to climb out.
“Hold it junior,” Roy called to him. John turned back, looking at him curiously. “I wanna check your pulse again,” he told him.
The younger man frowned but his slightly flushed and sweat coated face was sending out warning flags to his older partner. Johnny wasn’t prone to sweating that easily and could usually tolerate the heat better than Roy could.
“I’m alright Roy…Early let me go remember?” He protested as he began to climb from the vehicle once more. He felt a hand close around his wrist and turned back. “What?” He barked in exasperation.
“We can do this here or we can do this in the rec room in front of the others,” he warned his partner despite John’s slightly surly tone. “Just sit still for a minute and let me take a look.”
“Look Roy…The nausea’s eased up and I’M HUNGRY,” John emphasized again. “And I just told ya I’m fine. Early released me…”
“Early released you cuz we got called out but I don’t think he wanted too and he also told me to keep an eye on you and monitor your vitals and that you needed to rest,” he reminded him. “He was worried about you too…The same as I am. Now we can sit here and argue about it or you can give in and let me check you out and then go eat but either way…I am going to win this fight,” Roy said positively.
“Can I rest later…I’m hungry now.” Roy frowned…Johnny was often hungry. His hyper metabolism burning off calories faster than he could sometimes take them in but being this hungry was unusual for Johnny since he’d been nauseas only an hour ago.
Roy gripped his wrist and frowned again at the rapid throb of John’s pulse. He reached over to tilt John’s chin up and look into his eyes. They were still a bit overly dilated and Roy wondered just what could have caused this. If Roy didn’t know better he’d swear that Johnny looked high but one beer would never have brought this on and Roy would never believe that John Gage would willingly take any drug but what about accidentally…That was possible he supposed. He understood the concerned questions Early had been asking but Johnny had denied taking anything so then how? There had to be an explanation.
Johnny reached up to push his partners hand away…breaking his reverie. “Quit Roy…I’ll be fine…Just let me eat,” he groaned as he climbed from the cab and headed for the rec room.
Meghan stomped down the stairs to the small living area. She tossed her purse on the small bunk but stopped to look at it longingly…Maybe later…A little artificial courage to help her tell her aunt the truth. No…Her aunt would tell her father for sure. She paced worriedly before flopping down on a bunk herself. No…She’d keep what she’d done to herself. Joe Early said Johnny would be alright and she’d learned her lesson…She’d never give him any more but she was different. She could handle it.
She was stressed and she hated feeling that way…Why couldn’t Dixie just let it alone. She was a grown woman not a little girl. She opened her purse and pulled out the small bag. She’d taken one earlier but it wasn’t enough…She glanced at the door and popped another one…Hopefully this would take the edge off and she could get through this trip.
Nurse Sharon Walters wandered up the hall at Rampart. She held several files in her hands. She glanced at the name on one of them. John Gage…She smiled to herself at the thought of the handsome paramedic. He was so adorable but the tall, dark haired fireman never gave her a second glance. She was afraid it was because she was young and timid…Johnny must think she was a child…Maybe someday she’d get up the nerve to ask him out. She sighed as she opened the door to Dr. Early’s office and went in. She laid John’s lab results on the older doctor’s desk along with several other charts she’d been asked to deliver.
She left the office and closed the door behind her.
“Roy…?” Captain Stanley called from his office as he climbed from the cab. The blonde paramedic watched Johnny head for the rec room and sighed. He was very worried about him. He turned and stepped into Hank’s office.
“Yeah Cap?” he questioned.
Roy shook his head. “Early took some blood and checked him out but he let him go so I guess he’s okay. He did tell me to keep an eye on him and monitor his vitals for the day.”
“Any chance it had something to do with all that smoke he took in the other day?”
Roy shook his head. “I guess we’ll find out later this afternoon once he gets the results back. He said to be sure Johnny rested as much as possible so I’ll do his chores Cap if it’s okay?”
“Chet already did them…Marco and Mike did yours so you owe them lunch,” Cap hinted with a smile.
“Thanks…I’ll take care of that.” He turned to leave but Hanks voice stopped him.
“See to it that John lies down for a few minutes if you don’t get a run.”
“I will Cap but it’s gonna be a fight.”
“Then let me know and I’ll make it an order.”
Roy grinned and headed to the rec room. John sat at the table and Mike and Marco sat opposite him as he wolfed down a sandwich that would have filled two of the others. They glanced up at Roy in awe. “What’s with him?” Mike asked.
Roy frowned. “Johnny…For crying out loud, slow down huh. What’s goin on with you?”
“I tol ya I was hungry,” John muttered around a mouthful of bread.
“Yeah well…You look like you haven’t eaten in a month…Just slow down okay. You’re gonna make yourself sick.”
John rolled his eyes at the paternal tone but he did at least slow his chewing and swallowing.
“Is he okay?” Chet murmured as Roy joined him at the sink.
“I don’t know…Early ran a blood test but we got called out on a run before he could get the results. Now he’s out on a sailboat so we’ve got to wait until this afternoon to find out what the results are.”
“Great,” Chet muttered.
“Well…I don’t think it’s anything serious and neither does Joe Early or he woulda had Morton or someone else follow it up.”
John pushed his plate away slowly…A slightly sick look crossed his features. “Uh Roy…?” Mike said quickly.
Roy was at John’s side in three quick strides. “Johnny…Are you okay?”
John’s eyes were clenched shut. “I don’t feel so good,” he mumbled as a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over him. “What’s wrong with me Roy?”
“I don’t know Junior,” he replied worriedly as he brushed the sable hair from John’s damp forehead.
“I’m gonna be sick,” he mumbled as he raced for the latrine…Roy was on his heels. He knelt next to Johnny as the younger man lost his lunch…His body spasming over and over until there was nothing left to come up.
“You done?” Roy asked gently as he handed him a wet towel
“Think so,” he gasped breathlessly.
“Why don’t you lie down for a bit?” He said leading him back to the rec room. The others watched worriedly as Roy led his young partner to the leather sofa. “Sit,” he ordered.
“Chores,” he mumbled.
“The guys handled that for us so don’t you worry okay? Early said to be sure you got some rest so come over here and get settled.”
John lay down on the couch as he had the other day…The dark eyes looked up at Roy worriedly. His friend seemed distorted and out of focus and John thought his heart was pounding out of his chest. The older man sat beside him on the sofa and let his fingers sweep the hair back, completely uncaring that the others were watching. John closed his eyes. “I feel awful…Maybe I should go home…I don’t wanna hurt anyone or give a victim whatever I have.”
Roy nodded his head… “That might be a good idea junior. Let me tell Cap.”
The station control unit began to tone… “Squad 51…Boat Explosion…Meet the coast guard helicopter at the airport…Time out… 10:08.”
John groaned pitifully but he sat up and swung his long legs off the couch. “Guess I go home later,” he mumbled as he ran for the squad. Roy’s worried blue eyes followed the slightly staggering gate of his young partner but he shook himself back to the moment and quickly followed. Johnny was setting his helmet in place as Roy slid into the driver’s seat.
“You okay?” He asked as he took the slip from Cap.
“I better be,” he muttered as the squad began to roll.
Meghan lay on the bunk for a long while but she tossed restlessly. Why wouldn’t people just stop trying to run her life…First her parents, then her aunt…Heck even Johnny had tried to tell her what she shouldn’t do. She was an adult and she’d darn well make her own decisions.
She heard the engines of the boat fire up. She almost wanted to jump over the side and swim back to shore, knowing her aunt wasn’t going to let this go. She felt the boat begin to pull away from the dock and sighed. It was gonna be a long day.
She bit her lip…What would happen when her aunt confronted Johnny about it and worse…What would happen when Joe Early’s test results came back on John’s blood work. It wouldn’t take them long to figure out where the drugs had come from.
Now what was she gonna do? She’d had no idea it would take so long to wear off or that it would still be affecting him…She’d thought the worst that would happen was that he’d be tired.
She decided she needed a bit more help to get through this day. She sat up and pulled her purse to her, opening it and plucking the small bag out. She dumped a small rock of the crystallized drug into her palm. She moved to the small galley and turned on the stove to let the water heat. She grinned as her hand tightened around the rock…A cup of tea would be really good right now… Especially the way she brewed it.
She heard the engines cut off and within a few minutes she heard the snapping of sails and felt the boat lurch as the wind caught the canvas.
She heard footsteps on the stairs and quickly dropped the crystal rock into her tea cup and dropped a dishtowel over it. Dixie came down and stepped into the small area with her niece.
The younger woman almost groaned at the idea of another argument with her aunt…She’d come here to have some fun not to deal with lectures and fights.
Meghan honey, can we talk?” She asked quietly.
“We already have Aunt Dixie…There’s really nothing more to say.”
“I think there is…I just need you to understand that I feel responsible for what happened to you last night and…”
“Well don’t,” she interrupted. “I’m a grown woman…He didn’t take advantage of me.” Meghan almost groaned. It had been the other way around hadn’t it…She’d taken advantage of the drugged paramedic who’d tried very hard to put her off. She pushed the thought away. “Please Aunt Dixie, can we just leave this subject alone.”
She wanted to add that it would never happen again…The way Johnny probably felt this morning, he’d never ask her out again, especially after Dixie lit into him for something he most likely wouldn’t even remember from what Joe Early had said.
Dixie reached out to sweep the blonde curls off her nieces face. She’d talk to Johnny tomorrow and let him know how disappointed she was that he’d let her down but Meghan was right…They were both adults. “Will you come up on deck if I promise not to bring this up again?”
Meghan grinned in relief. “Okay Aunt Dixie…I’d really love to get some more sun.”
“Alright sweetie…You coming?” She asked as she glanced toward the teapot steaming on the small gas stove.
“In a minute…I’m making some tea, would you like some?”
Dixie wrinkled her nose. “I’m more of a coffee drinker but you enjoy it…I’ll see you in a minute.”
She waited for her aunt to leave before she picked up the pot and poured the boiling water over the crystal…There was no way for her to know for sure how much was too much…Especially after she’d taken the two capsules earlier…She had to guess but she should be alright...This wasn’t her first time.
She picked up the cup and sipped it. The tea masked the bitter taste of the drug. She heard footsteps at the top of the stairs and took a longer drink. “Meghan honey…are you coming?” Dixie called down.
“Coming right now Aunt Dix,” she replied, gulping down the rest of the tea and setting the cup down. She turned the knob and tossed the dishtowel onto the stove and headed up the stairs. She didn’t notice that the knob wasn’t turned all the way off or that the corner of the dishtowel was laying on the hot burner…It began to smolder but there was no longer anyone to notice the curl of smoke rising up from it or the smell of gas as it began to fill the small cabin.
Kel and Joe sat on the bow of the boat enjoying the feeling of the breeze in their faces and the sound of the sails snapping in the wind. Kel glanced at Dix as she sat down next to him. “Everything okay between you two…?” Kel asked his friend.
Dixie nodded briefly. “As long as I’m a good girl and I don’t bring up John Gage or their date last night,” she bit out still sounding angry.
Joe and Kel exchanged a concerned glance. They both knew how special John was to Dixie and hoped she’d eventually be able to let this go.
Dixie glanced at her watch. “I wonder what’s taking her so long. She was only pouring a cup of tea. I’m going to go check on her,” she said climbing to her feet and heading for the cabin.
Kel looked at Joe. “I really hope this whole mess doesn’t ruin John and Dixie’s friendship,” the dark haired doctor commented softly.
Joe nodded. “You know Kel…I really was pretty worried about Johnny this morning. He was looking pretty bad. Honestly…I almost admitted him and stayed behind.”
“That bad huh…?”Joe nodded. “Just what do you suppose happened on that date last night?” Kel asked warily.
Joe glanced over his shoulder to be sure Dixie wasn’t within earshot. “I have my suspicions but I don’t want to say anything until I see those results.” Kel frowned as Joe continued. “But we both know Johnny and I don’t believe he’d do anything to hurt Dixie and we both know that he’d never willingly take anything but Kel…The symptoms? Memory loss…He couldn’t remember anything about last night after about nine thirty but Dixie said Meghan didn’t get home until almost one thirty.” Kel nodded…A four hour lapse was serious and Joe shrugged. “He was shaking, headachy, nauseas and he was experiencing tachycardia.”
Kel’s eyes widened worriedly. “I see,” he muttered as Dixie headed back in their direction ending the conversation.
“She’s coming now,” she informed them as she returned to her seat.
“Dix…Are you going to be okay with Johnny?” Joe asked in concern.
Dixie arched a blonde eyebrow. “That depends on what he has to say for himself doesn’t it?”
Joe grimaced, knowing Dixie wouldn’t like what he had to say. His blue eyes rose to the beautiful young girl as she stepped out on the deck. He sighed…It would have to wait until later.
Meghan tottered across the deck to join them, setting her sunglasses in place. Joe frowned at the slightly unsteady gait but he supposed it could be the rocking of the boat that had caused it.
The girl slid into one of the deck chairs and lounged back completely oblivious of the tension in the mood around her. They changed the subject.
Twenty minutes later Meghan felt the euphoric rush of the drugs spread through her. She didn’t notice that her heart rate seemed a bit faster than normal even for the amount she’d taken or that the onset had been faster than usual. She smiled a bit dreamily as she let their voices become a drone in her ears.
She barely reacted as a warning yell erupted from the boat’s Captain a moment later.
Dixie, Joe and Kel whirled at his startled cry…Smoke was wafting from the cabin of the sailboat and they began to run toward it as Sam pushed the door open.
The fresh air hit the smoldering dish towel and it burst into flame…A split second later the gas filled cabin exploded.
Sam’s body blew backward away from the door as the ship bucked beneath them…The explosion throwing pieces of boat and shards of wood everywhere.
Joe Early was thrown sideways…His head impacted a bulkhead and he fell unconscious to the deck.
Kel managed to snag the railing and grab hold of Dixie as she fell but not before she hit the rail herself, dislocating her shoulder, her arm went numb and she cried out in pain as she slipped to her knees beside Brackett.
Meghan was thrown from her chair, sliding across the deck as the ship listed to port. The waves battered against the floundering vessel, making it roll and rock. It was all Kel could do to hang on as the flames shot skyward.
Smoke billowed thickly as they licked along the varnished wooden deck. Sam and Joe Early’s unconscious bodies tumbled over the side.
“Get Joe,” Dixie yelled as she helplessly watched her friend and the captain go over the side. Kel had no choice…Dixie was conscious but Joe needed help right now. He let go of Dixie and dove into the water.A moment later the blonde nurse lost her struggle to hang onto the rail and fell into the water beside him.
She went under quickly as she only had one arm to work with. Kel snagged her shirt and pulled her to the surface shoving a piece of the ships planking toward her. “Hold onto this he yelled as he pushed it toward her and swam toward Joe.
Dixie turned to see where her niece was and saw her swimming toward the Captain’s body. She managed to flip the man onto his back and held his head above water. Dixie turned toward Kel and saw him do the same for Joe…He began to tow him toward the remains of the burning hulk and grab hold of a life jacket that was floating nearby.
Meghan managed to catch a hold of another piece of wood but she lacked the strength to swim them both back to the others…It was all her drugged mind and body could do to hold on and focus on staying afloat. She was breathing heavily...In ragged gasps but she waved toward her aunt to tell her she was okay and Dixie breathed a sigh of relief.
All they had to do now was tread water and wait for help to arrive.
John was still feeling a bit shaky and lightheaded as they pulled onto the airport tarmac. The Coast Guard helicopter was already warmed up and awaiting their arrival. Roy cast his partner a worried glance but Johnny waved him off. “I’ll be alright,” he assured his anxious partner as he climbed from the cab and pulled the compartment doors open.
Roy ran around to join him and they gathered the equipment together. Roy slammed the doors closed and locked them before turning to follow Johnny who was already running toward the chopper. He hoped his young partner would be alright.
They climbed aboard and strapped themselves in. Johnny raised a shaky hand to his forehead and forced himself to focus on the task at hand. He threw his partner a half hearted smile as the helicopter lifted off.
Roy and Johnny spotted the rising column of smoke almost at the same time… “Wow,” John murmured at the sight. There was a lot of wreckage and not much left of the boat.
Roy raised a pair of binoculars and tried to get a better look at what they were dealing with. His whispered, “Oh my God,” warned Johnny that something really bad was waiting for them down there.
“What?” He questioned urgently.
“It’s Dixie and Brackett and Joe Early and…” his voice faltered.
“Oh my God,” John echoed as he began to pull the straps loose. They needed to get down there right now. Johnny didn’t hesitate as he pulled the side cabin door open and leaned out to get a better look.
Dixie was barely hanging on to a wooden plank with one arm while Kelly Brackett held an unconscious Joe Early up with the aid of a life jacket. His dark eyes swept over the wreckage and he finally spotted Meghan clinging to another piece of flotsam. Another man was injured but it appeared that Meghan had a good hold of him.
The helicopter began to hover over the scene…The rapidly rotating blades sending the water into small waves that lifted the victims and set them bobbing in their wake but there was no help for it.
John stepped to the edge with Roy right behind him while one the Coast Guard Crew readied the basket that would pull the victims from the water. “I’ll get Early,” Roy shouted above the loud whop…whopping sound of the blades. Johnny nodded…His adrenaline pumping. His heart felt as if it were pounding from his chest with it but not nearly as bad as it had been earlier thankfully.
John jumped…His body hit the water feet first and he started swimming toward Meghan and the injured man. Roy hit the water behind him and he lit out toward Early and Brackett.
The dark haired paramedic reached Meghan quickly but his breaths were coming in gasps. What the hell was wrong with him today? “Y…You okay?” He panted at Meghan. She gave him a slightly dreamy smile and nodded.
“I’m fine Johnny…You just worry about him,” she said.
John cast her a worried look at the lackadaisical attitude…It was almost like the girl didn’t recognize the danger she was in but she seemed to be keeping herself afloat for the moment and John had to take the more seriously injured person first.
His brown eyes shot to Dixie as he looped his arm around the Captains neck and began to tow him toward the pickup point.
The basket was already being lowered and he saw Roy reach Kel and Joe Early. They’d be ready for him next. John clutched at the stokes… gasping for breath but he managed to tip it on its side enough to roll the injured man inside. He closed his eyes briefly, worried about how weak he was starting to feel but he couldn’t stop now…There were two more victims to worry about. He pulled the straps over the man and circled his hand above his head to signal them to take the man up.
He could see Roy issuing instructions to a rapidly tiring Brackett and they began to gently tow Joe Early toward the pick up.
John’s eyes swept the scene. Meghan was swimming strongly but Dixie was having trouble holding on to the piece of wood. Her head dipped under. She seemed to be having some trouble with her left arm. John had to make a decision…Dixie was closest and Meghan was alright for the moment but somewhere in the back of his mind he knew it wouldn’t have mattered even if they’d both been in trouble…John wouldn’t risk losing Dixie. He started swimming in her direction.
Meghan was rapidly tiring but she was too high right now to even notice. She felt a warning twinge in her chest from the exertion and the effects of the drug and absently rubbed at the dull pressure. What had caused that? She continued to tread water as her blue eyes watched the scene unfold before her.
The basket carrying the ship’s captain began to rise and she saw Johnny turn in her direction. His dark eyes shifted to the three men now swimming toward where Johnny was and his eyes turned toward her aunt.
She absently noted that the blonde head had dropped beneath the surface…She came up a moment later sputtering. She saw her aunt look toward her and John shook his head as he peeled the older woman’s fingers free from the plank. He flipped her onto her back and looped his arm around her neck as he headed back toward Roy and Kel.
Dixie saw John approaching her. “Hang on Dix…I’m coming,” Johnny gasped as a wave washed over his mouth, choking him for a moment. He fought to keep his head up.
“Get Meghan,” she gasped looking toward her niece, her head dipped beneath the swells for a moment before resurfacing.
“She’s alright…She’s alright,” he assured her as he tugged her hand free of the wood. “Let’s just… get you… outta here,” he gasped breathlessly as he rolled her to her back. “Relax...” He looped his arm about the blonde nurse’s neck and began to swim, ignoring her protests.
“You need to get Meghan…Please John.”
“I w…will,” he panted, spitting out a wave of water as he approached the others. Joe Early was already in the helicopter and the basket was on its way down yet again. Roy reached out to grab Dixie…His blue eyes taking in John’s breathless condition.
“You alright…?” He yelled above the thumping of the choppers blades.
“Yeah…Just gotta get Meghan…Get Dixie and Brackett up,” he shouted back as he turned and started swimming toward the young blonde.
Meghan saw John turn in her direction and she smiled. Well it wasn’t exactly how she’d planned to end up in the young man’s arms again but it would have to do for now…Later she could show him how grateful she was for him saving her this way.
She felt a sharp pain in her chest and she sucked in her breath. There was a brief moment of fear as another painful sensation swept through her and then the feeling of pressure took her breath away…What was happening to her? It was all she had time to think before she lost consciousness and slipped beneath the waves.
John was swimming as quickly as possible but he was tiring rapidly. It was just one more rescue and he could get out of this damn ocean…Man he hated water rescues. He was having a bit of trouble catching his breath and he stopped for a moment, treading water.
His dark eyes watched as the basket began to descend and knew that Dixie was safely on board…Brackett would be next and by the time he got back with Meghan they’d be ready for him. He turned back toward the girl in time to see the blonde head slip beneath the surface.
“Oh my God,” he breathed as he began swimming for all he was worth. He saw a brief flash of her long blonde hair swishing past him and then she was gone. A wave picked him up and John didn’t have the strength to resist its force. He was pushed back momentarily and had to fight back to the place he’d last seen the girl. He dove down…Kicking hard…His eyes stinging from the salt water as he scanned the area for the young woman but there was nothing…He surfaced and sucked in another lungful of air before diving once again…Nothing.
He climbed once more…God…Where was she? How could she disappear that fast, she’d been fine just seconds before…She couldn’t have drowned that fast…Why wasn’t she trying to swim for the surface? He gasped another lungful of air and dove again but there was no sign of the girl…How could he ever face Dixie again? He had to find her…He kicked hard for the bottom knowing that’s where she had to be.
John’s usual endless stamina was failing and his chest began to burn. What was wrong with him…He’d never had this problem before? There was a rushing in his ears as that euphoric feeling he’d had last night swept through him but for an entirely different reason. His lungs felt as if they’d explode…He turned for the surface but it was too late and it was only moments before John lost consciousness. He didn’t feel the hand that closed over his collar and hauled him toward the surface.
Roy finished getting an exhausted Kelly Brackett in the stokes and turned to see how close John was in returning. Neither Meghan nor Johnny was anywhere in sight and Roy’s heart climbed into his throat. What the hell had happened? Where were they? He started swimming rapidly toward the place he’d last seen them. He heard an engine and glanced around in time to see a LA County Fire boat arriving on the scene.
One of the crew from the boat suddenly jumped into the water and started swimming in his direction. Roy was grateful for the help as he took a deep breath and dove. He saw no sign of his partner or Meghan...He climbed to the surface and took another breath before diving again.
A flash of pale blue caught his eyes and Roy realized it was Johnny. He was kicking for the bottom and Roy knew he was searching for Meghan…He saw John turn for the surface but then his body suddenly seemed to go limp and he began to float. “Oh sweet Jesus,” he prayed silently as he kicked hard toward his partner…His fingers closed over John’s collar and he kicked toward the surface.
His head broke the surface and he gasped in air as he hauled John upward. The other diver finally joined them as the chopper got Brackett aboard and moved to hover over their location. “Where’s the girl?” He yelled.
Roy shook his head. “No sign of her,” Roy coughed as he rolled his partner on his back. John’s lips were already turning blue and Roy knew instantly that he wasn’t breathing…He gave Johnny a couple of breaths as he waited for the basket to lower enough to get him inside.
The other diver saw that Roy had it under control with John and didn’t need his help. “I’ll keep trying,” he said somberly as he took a deep breath and disappeared beneath the surface.
Roy was tiring himself but he continued to breath for John until the stokes reached them…He knew Brackett was exhausted and more than likely had his hands full with Early, Dixie and the other man that Roy assumed was the boat’s Captain. He needed to go up with Johnny to help out.
He rolled John into the basket and pulled the straps tight before wrapping his arm tightly about the cable and signaling them to take them up. He felt himself rise out of the water but he never took his eyes off the still form of his partner. “Hurry up…Hurry up,” Roy breathed agitatedly. He needed to get air into his partner or he’d lose him.
He finally felt hands grasp them and pull them inside the helicopter. Roy shook his arms free from the cable and all but pounced on his unconscious partner. One…Two…Three breaths. He knew Brackett’s brown eyes were on him along with Dixie’s blue but he couldn’t stop right now and neither could Brackett as he worked between the other three patients.
He felt the chopper bank and heard Dixie’s cry of protest. “Meghan…We can’t leave Meghan.” Roy felt the rising of regret, knowing the girl was most likely dead and he knew the grief Dixie would be feeling at her loss but he couldn’t help Meghan and he could help Johnny…That was his main focus right now.
He glanced toward Kel’s questioning look and Roy shook his head. “They’re still looking,” he bit out and then he saw Brackett move toward her from the corner of his eye as he leaned over Johnny once more.
Kel took Dixie in his arms as she struggled against him to get to the door. “No Kel…Meghan’s still down there…We have to get her on board.”
“Dixie,” the dark haired doctor murmured gently. “They’re still looking for her.”
“What do you mean…Looking for her…She was swimming…She was okay...,” she cried.
Kel threw her a look of sorrow… “I don’t know Dix…” Her eyes filled with tears of anguish and rolled down her cheeks. How could this be happening? How could her beautiful, young niece be gone? She turned toward Johnny angrily. He’d let her drown…Dixie had told him to get Meghan first and he’d refused…He’d assured her that she was alright and then he’d let her drown. She’d never forgive him for this.
Kel wished he could stay with Dixie but there were now three serious conditions to be dealt with, not to mention Dixie’s dislocated shoulder. He quickly gave her an injection of MS to help with the pain and eased her back against the seats. “You just relax Dix…I gotta check on the others.”
She turned pain filled blue eyes toward him but Brackett wasn’t sure she’d really heard him. His heart broke for her but there was nothing he could do right now…He had live people who needed his help but he’d be sure to be there for her through the grieving process over the next few days.
Kel cast a worried look between the three patients. “You need me?” He questioned as he worked on Sam’s burned body.
Roy waved him off. There wasn’t much he could do until he got the water out of his lungs anyway. Another two breaths and Johnny’s body bucked beneath him. His back arched and water suddenly erupted from his mouth like a geyser as he choked and coughed…Finally sputtering to a wheezy rasp as Roy quickly turned his head to keep him from aspirating it yet again.
“Easy junior,” he soothed softly as a ragged cough slipped from John’s lips.
“M…Meg…han,” he gasped.
“They’re trying to find her Johnny…You just rest now okay?” He reassured him as he grabbed the oxygen canister and slipped the mask over John’s nose and mouth.
“NO…Need to f…find her,” John protested, trying to sit up and push the oxygen mask away but the older man held him down.
“Stop it Johnny…You need to relax…Now quit,” he commanded as John continued to struggle.”
“That’s right John…She’s already dead…You killed her and there’s nothing you can do,” Dixie muttered dully as her eyes drifted closed from the MS.
Kel shot her a look of shock and then they quickly turned to Johnny. The look in the young man’s dark eyes warned both Roy and Kel that he’d heard her softly spoken words. He sank back in despair.
“It wasn’t your fault.” Roy said quickly as he shot a look at Kel.
“Johnny…You did everything you could,” Kel assured him. “Roy…Start an IV on Johnny. D5WTKO…Draw a blood sample too. I want it ready when we land at Rampart.” Roy nodded and did as he was told. John no longer protested…His eyes looked lost and confused. Roy gently smoothed the sopping mass of dark hair back before moving to help Brackett with Sam and Joe.
Two ambulances were waiting to meet the helicopter as it landed in Ramparts parking lot. They pulled Joe Early and Sam out first and loaded them into the first one. “Roy…You ride in with Johnny and Dixie, I’m gonna go with Joe and Sam.”
Roy nodded as they began to pull John from the back. They loaded the stokes on a stretcher and whisked him into the ambulance before pulling the gurney bearing Dixie from the back. The MS had done its job and Dixie was drowsy and obviously out of it and Roy was grateful. The last thing he wanted was anymore verbal assaults on his young, sensitive and very insecure partner.
They were met inside the emergency room entrance by Mike Morton and Dr. Bouchard from orthopedics. Morton directed Gage’s stretcher into treatment room four and Dixie was taken to two.
They lifted John onto the table…He was still having difficulty breathing and Roy watched him worriedly as Morton began to examine the young man. “I need a blood sample,” he barked at the nurse.
“I already have it,” Roy said, handing her the tube of blood he’d drawn on the chopper.
Morton nodded. “I want a CBC, BUN and Creatnine and a chest X-Ray,” he instructed. She nodded and left. “What happened Roy?”
“The boat they went out on exploded,” he explained. Morton’s head snapped up…His eyes wide with shock. “We got the others out and Johnny was trying to get Meghan but she’d gone under and he couldn’t find her.”
“Oh my Lord,” Morton muttered, knowing that Dixie had to be devastated.
“I went to help but I couldn’t find her but by then Johnny had lost consciousness too and I had to get him out.” Morton nodded.
“It was my fault,” Johnny whispered.
“Stop it Johnny…You did everything you could…”
“Dixie hates me,” he mumbled. Roy could see the pain reflected in the dark eyes as he struggled to keep his emotions in check.
Morton’s brown eyes flicked to Roy in disbelief. The blonde fireman shook his head. “She doesn’t hate you Junior…She’s grieving that’s all…,” he assured him as he gently stroked the still damp hair from John’s forehead.
John’s mouth trembled but exhaustion was quickly overtaking the young paramedic. The dark eyes closed under Roy’s familiar, soothing motion.
He glanced up at Morton’s questioning glance. “John couldn’t get to her in time,” he explained. “She went under and John almost drowned trying to find her.”
Morton nodded in understanding…John never did anything in half measures and he was sure that the young man had given it everything he had and he figured Dixie would understand that in time or at least he hoped so. He didn’t always understand it but he knew the blonde nurse loved these two young men like family…Particularly John Gage and he couldn’t believe Dixie wouldn’t forgive him eventually.
“Okay Roy…Let’s get the portable in here so we can get Gage into a room. His lungs sound pretty good considering he almost drowned. I think a good night’s rest might be all he needs unless he develops complications.”
Roy nodded and smiled at the young black doctor in relief. “Thanks Mike…I need to call my Captain and my wife and let them know John’s been hurt…She’ll want to be here. Once he’s settled I have to go back to work.”
Mike nodded. “We should be done with X-ray by the time you get back.”
Kel checked Joe’s eyes and frowned in concern. There seemed to only be a sluggish response and the older man had shown no sign of coming around. Brackett was very concerned. He glanced up as the X-Ray tech Malcolm pushed open the door and trundled his machine inside.
Kel and the pretty blonde nurse Sally both left the room. Brackett went to treatment room two to check on Dixie…Her eyes were closed but Dr. Bouchard was with her and Kel knew he was the best which was why he’d requested him.
“How is she?” He asked quietly.
Bouchard glanced at him. “She’s pretty groggy but she’s called for someone named Meghan a couple of times.”
Kel frowned and his dark eyes filled with sorrow for the pain he knew Dixie was feeling. He briefly contemplated the angry comment she’d made on the helicopter but he could only hope that it was grief talking and that she didn’t truly think John was responsible for what had happened or it could become very ugly around there.
He pursed his lips thoughtfully before looking to Bouchard. “Her niece,” he explained. “I don’t think she made it. She went under and they couldn’t find her.”
Bouchard’s hazel eyes glanced at the pretty blonde nurse and he shook his head. “I’m very sorry to hear that,” he commiserated softly.
Brackett nodded and headed for the door. “I’ll be back to see her later…I want to check on John Gage.”
“What happened to him?” Bouchard asked having met John when he twisted his knee his first year as a paramedic.
“Almost drowned trying to find Meghan,” he replied with a frown.
Bouchard’s eyebrow rose in surprise…John Gage was a damn fine rescue man and paramedic and the doctor knew it but then again he didn’t know all the circumstances either. Anyone could tire pretty quickly in the water. Kel threw him a confirming nod as he pushed the door open and walked across the hall.
Kel was also aware that Johnny had been under a great deal of physical stress this morning and it was quite possible that it had just been too much, especially if he was already feeling ill, which Joe Early had told him he was but still…Johnny was usually a high octane, bundle of energy and that concerned the dark haired doctor a lot.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside. Roy turned toward him…His blue eyes full of concern. Morton glanced up. “Hey Kel,” he greeted as he leaned over to listen to John’s lungs.
“Roy…Mike…How’s he doing?” He questioned, his brown eyes watching John intently. The young man never even glanced toward him…His dark eyes staring straight up but they seemed haunted and vague.
“Malcolm just left so I haven’t seen the X-Ray’s yet but I think he’s going to be okay as long as he doesn’t develop any complications. I want to keep him overnight for observation,” Morton informed him.
“Johnny?” Kel called, laying his hand on John’s shoulder. The chocolate brown eyes swiveled toward him briefly before returning to gaze unseeing at the overhead lights. “Johnny…I’m sorry for what she said to you…I know you tried very hard to save Meghan. I just want you to know that.”
“Not hard enough,” he whispered as his mouth trembled. He clamped down on it with his teeth.
“What?” Kel questioned. “What did you say?”
“Nothin Doc,” he mumbled.
“Johnny…You didn’t do anything wrong,” Roy assured him, having grown accustomed to hearing Johnny’s annoyed mumblings. “You had to choose and you chose the one in the most trouble at that moment.”
He shook his head…“I just couldn’t lose Dix,” he mumbled. “Guess I did anyway.”
Roy tilted the younger man’s face toward him. “She was the one in trouble Junior…You made the right choice for the moment.”
John nodded but the sorrowful look in the eyes said he still didn’t believe it. Roy hoped Dixie would come around…Tell him she understood so Johnny could let this go.
Sally peeked into the room. “X-Ray’s done with Dr. Early,” she informed Kel.
“I’ll be right there,” Kel said. He threw a worried grimace at Roy and gave John’s shoulder a final pat before heading for the door.
It was only a few minutes before Carol Williams came into the room. She handed Morton the X-Rays and cast a sympathetic smile at Roy and Johnny. The whole hospital was buzzing about the loss of Dixie’s niece though none knew of her blaming Johnny for it, at least not yet.
Morton slapped it into the light panel and looked it over carefully, before clicking the light off. “Looks good John…I think a good night’s sleep will help a lot but I’m going to put you on antibiotics for a couple of days just because of your past history with pneumonia.
“Kay,” he whispered despondently.
Roy shook his head and reached over to smooth the sable hair from John’s forehead. He hated the idea of leaving Johnny in this condition…Not the physical but the emotional state. The door cracked open and Joanne peeked inside.
“Can I come in?” She questioned a bit worriedly.
Roy threw a questioning look at Morton and received a nod. The young Intern was well aware that John had a very special relationship not only with his partner but with his family as well and Joanne DeSoto might be exactly what John Gage needed right now.
“Come on in babe,” Roy replied.
She came in and joined Roy at the table. John’s sorrowful dark eyes turned toward her. “How are you sweetheart?” She questioned worriedly, as she dropped a kiss on the younger man’s forehead.
“I’m fine,” he mumbled softly. Her blue eyes turned worriedly to Roy speculatively. He certainly didn’t sound fine.
“And why shouldn’t he be?” A woman’s voice asked from behind him.
Bouchard scanned the X-Rays of Dixie’s shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing broken…A simple shoulder dislocation that should be easy to reset. She probably wouldn’t even need to miss much time from work. The man frowned at that thought…Well…At least not because of the injury.
He glanced up as Brackett re-entered the room. “How is she Alan?”
“Looks good Kel…She won’t need surgery. A couple of days of immobilization should do it. Maybe some therapy if she still has trouble with it.” Kel grinned in relief. “How’s Joe?”
“I have Wenkert from neurology in there with him. We’re getting very concerned that he hasn’t woken up yet.”
“He must have taken quite a hit?”
Kel nodded. “You want a cup of coffee while we wait for Betty to get a room for Dix?”
“Sure…Have they um…Found her niece yet?” He asked quietly, tossing a glance at the nurse who appeared to be sleeping.
“No…They’re figuring she got swept out to sea…They’re still searching,” Kel replied quietly.
“God I’m sorry Kel.”
“Yeah…Me too… Dix is going to take this pretty hard…So is Johnny,” he said softly as they left the room.
The blue eyes opened as the door swung softly closed behind the two men. Tears filled them and began to flow down her cheeks. Her sweet nineteen year old niece was gone…How could she ever tell her brother that his only daughter was dead.
Her tears of sorrow turned to tears of rage…This was all John’s fault. If he’d just gone to Meghan like she’d told him too, her niece would still be alive.
She sat up slowly, cradling her injured arm. She swung her feet from the table and made her way to the door. Kel wouldn’t have to tell John anything…She’d tell him herself. She pulled the door open and stepped into the hall.
Carol Williams was just coming out of treatment room four. “Dixie…?” She said looking shocked. “Should you be up?”
“I’m fine Carol,” she said, though her tear streaked face belied the statement. “Where’s John Gage?”
Carol glanced over her shoulder. “He’s in there…Dr. Morton’s still with him,” she said.
Dixie nodded and brushed past the pretty black nurse…She pushed the door open and stepped inside. She heard Joanne’s softly voiced question. “How are you sweetheart?”
“I’m fine,” Johnny mumbled.
“And why shouldn’t he be?” Dixie said softly, though the tone was anything but gentle.
Joanne and Roy looked up at the quietly voiced comment. Morton turned to look at Dixie in surprise. “Dixie…You shouldn’t be up,” he said quickly coming around the table to take the blonde nurses arm but she shook him off.
“Leave me alone Mike,” she growled as she turned back to the young man. “I asked why you shouldn’t be? I mean you’re still alive right? It’s only Meghan who’s dead…”
“Dix,” Roy began…
“No Roy…,” she snapped angrily before turning back to John. “I told you to get Meghan John but no…You knew better right?” She railed at the stricken looking young man. “And now she’s dead so I hope you’re proud of yourself…They haven’t even found her yet…Did you know?” She yelled.
John shook his head. “I…I’m s…sorry,” he whispered despairingly.
“Johnny…,” Roy began only to be interrupted again by Dixie’s angry retort.
“Sorry…!” She bit out. “You got my niece drunk and slept with her last night…And you didn’t even care about her enough to try and save her today…And you’re SORRY? That’s IT?” She yelled. “That’s all you have to say?”
John’s dark eyes widened in shocked horror at every word. “N…N…No…,” he stuttered. “I…I d…didn’t…I…,” his eyes burned with unshed tears at the bitterness of Dixie’s words.
“So you’re telling me she lied to me…Cuz she sure thinks you slept with her? What…Were you too drunk to remember?”
“No…No…I…,” The dark eyes turned toward Roy in confusion. “I d…don’t re…mem…member,” he stammered.
“I’ll just bet,” she growled angrily. “Why didn't you listen to me...Get her first. You just had to do it your way didn’t you? Well John…You failed,” she railed irately.
John’s mouth shook with emotion. “I…I’d trade places with her if I c…could,” he whispered.
“Well I wish you could too…”
John looked stricken as the words he’d heard for most of his young life hit home…His Aunt Lacee’s and Uncle Joseph’s constant barrage of verbal abuse that she wished he’d died with his mother or that he’d never been born at all. His Uncle tellin him that he was a failure…Bad luck or that he’d never amount to anything. His heart sank into his stomach and his face crumbled in despair and he fought for control.
“DIXIE…THAT’S ENOUGH,” Roy snapped angrily as tears finally welled in his young friends brown eyes. Even Morton was shocked at the venom in the blonde nurse’s tone...He left to go find Brackett and Bouchard. He didn’t think either patient needed to be this upset right now but it was Jo that took control of the situation.
She moved forward and grabbed Dixie’s good arm. “Leave…Right now Dixie,” she commanded as she propelled the older woman toward the door as Roy turned back to reassure his partner.
“I have to send my niece home in a box and it’s all your fault,” she yelled back as the door closed behind her. Several people in the hallway turned to stare in shock at the blonde nurse, especially those who knew her usual unflappable nature.
Joanne was very fond of Dixie and she knew she had to be torn apart but her first loyalty was to Johnny and her protective instincts rose full force as she turned the woman to face her. “What the hell was that all about?”
“You weren’t there Joanne so don’t try to defend him…”
“No I wasn’t there Dixie and I can’t even begin to understand what you’re feeling right now and I can’t tell you how sorry I am but what I can tell you is that you have no right to take it out on Johnny and what I DO know is what a good paramedic he is and I know that he would have given everything he had to try and save her and you just destroyed him.”
Dixie’s mouth set in a hard line… “Well then we’re even.”
Joanne shot her a glare. “The difference is …John would never have done it on purpose.”
They heard rapid footsteps and both women looked up as Kel, Mike and Bouchard approached them. “What’s going on?” Kel asked.
Jo shoved the door open and threw Dixie one more glance…An even mixture between anger and sympathy… “Ask her,” she replied scathingly as she returned to John’s side.
Roy turned to his young partner who was desperately trying to comprehend what the older woman had been saying. He turned distraught and tearful brown eyes on his friend. “I…I didn’t sleep…I mean I…I don’t think I did…I can’t…,” He stopped long enough to try and get his thoughts together. “Roy…Why can’t I re…member?” He asked with a hitch in his voice.
Roy smoothed the dark hair back. “I don’t know Junior but Dixie sure seems positive that you did. Why would Meghan lie? It wasn’t in Johnny’s nature to lie either but how could there be two entirely different stories?
Roy knew Johnny had experienced blackouts in his past because of the Aspergers but that was usually only when he was under a great deal of emotional duress. “I wouldn’t have done that,” he gasped miserably. His mouth trembled and he bit his lip to keep it still. God…Dixie hated him and part it was for something he couldn’t even remember but why would Meghan tell her that if he hadn’t…He wished he could remember.
“Johnny…Can you tell me what you do remember about last night?” Roy asked.
“I t…told ya earlier…We had d…dinner and…and we w…went to a movie,” he stammered.
“That’s it?” The older man asked as he gently brushed the sable hair from John’s forehead soothingly.
John frowned, trying to remember. “We st…Stopped for a coke…I felt sick.”
“Sick? You mean last night? You didn’t tell me that before…Where? When did you first start feeling sick?” Roy asked, trying to come up with something that might explain this.
“That lit…tle restaurant up the street from my apart…ment,” John said finally getting his emotions under control, though he was obviously still very upset. “Right after I had the beer.”
Roy shook his head in bafflement…he and Johnny had eaten there several times…There was nothing untoward about the place…it was a quiet family restaurant and a single beer shouldn’t have bothered him unless...? Roy shook the thought off. Why would anyone drug John?
The door opened and Joanne came back in, followed by Mike Morton. Jo’s mouth was set in a tight line and her cheeks were flushed and Roy knew from experience that it meant she was spitting mad. He swallowed and hoped it wasn’t with his young partner…John didn’t need that right now but her expression softened instantly as John turned his dark eyes toward her.
“Jo…I…,” he began.
“Shhh baby…You just rest right now okay? We’ll figure this all out when you feel better,” she said as she brushed her fingers across his cheek and kissed his forehead. Roy breathed a sigh of relief and John nodded. Johnny really didn’t know what to say anyway.
Morton approached the table with a syringe in hand. “Gage…I’m gonna give you something to relax you.”
“No…No I d…doan want…,” he began to protest as he tried to sit up and swing his legs off the table. “I need ta think Roy…I…,” he stammered as his partner’s strong hands grabbed his shoulders to keep him in place.
“And that’s exactly what I don’t want you doing…You need to rest,” Morton ordered as the needle pierced John’s skin.
“Ahhh,” he grunted in protest but the drug began to work quickly. John’s eyes began to close and his head drooped forward to rest on Roy’s shoulder.
“That’s a boy,” Roy said softly as he held the dark head and laid him back on the table.
“What happened Roy?” Mike asked in confusion…Joanne looked perplexed as well.
The blonde paramedic shrugged in bewilderment. “I wish I knew,” he whispered.
Bouchard and Kel led Dixie back into the treatment room as Mike followed the irate Joanne DeSoto back to John’s room. The dark haired physician helped her back on the table. “Would you like to tell me what that was all about?” He questioned gently.
“Joanne was upset with me,” she said shortly.
“I gathered that,” he said wryly. “But why…?”
“Because I just let John Gage know how I felt about what happened out there.”
“Ahh Dix,” Kel moaned in exasperation.
“Don’t you oh Dix me,” she said angrily. “He let my niece drown.”
“Dixie…,” he began to argue.
“NO KEL…You tell me how you can spend half a night in bed with someone and not even care enough to save them the next day. Can you tell me that?” She wept as rage gave way to sorrow.
Kel thought about telling her of his and Joe’s suspicions but she’d never forgive him if he was wrong and without Meghan’s body…? He sighed. No…That was something he’d better keep to himself until he was positive. “Dixie…Johnny did what he was he was trained to do and you know that. You were the one closest to him and you were the one in the most trouble at the time. He had to make a decision.”
“He made the wrong one,” she muttered despairingly.
“He couldn’t know that…Not then. I thought she was okay too but…” He held up her hand to stop her protest. “I’m not going to argue with you. You need to rest.”
Dixie looked away for a moment. Deep inside she knew Kel was right but she was too angry to think rationally. She was also angry that John hadn’t respected her enough to keep his hands from her niece, despite the fact that Meghan had said he was reluctant…Apparently that hadn’t lasted long and to make it worse he’d denied it.
Was he lying or was he truly so damn drunk he couldn’t remember it and how that had happened? Dixie couldn’t remember ever seeing Johnny with anything more than a beer or two. She pushed that thought away before she could let it take root and actually forgive the man for letting her down.
“How’s Joe?” She asked changing the subject.
Kel breathed a sigh of relief but it was followed by a worried frown. “Not good…Hairline skull fracture… He’s still showing no sign of coming around. Wenkert’s with him. Sam’s holding on but it doesn’t look good…” She nodded sadly. “We’ll get you in a room soon so you can rest.”
“I don’t need a room,” she muttered.
“You’re staying the night Dix, so give it up okay? I’m going to go check on…Uh…Johnny and then I’ll be back,” he finished in a rush as he started for the door. “Try and get some rest.”
“Kel…?” She called after him. He turned back. “Have they found Meghan yet?” She asked in a barely audible whisper.
“No Dix,” he said gently. “They’re still looking.” She turned her face away and Kel felt his eyes burn in sympathy. “They’ll find her Dixie,” he reassured her, hoping desperately that he was right because even if it broke her heart to find out the truth…Maybe it would save her from losing even more.
Continued in Part 2
Crashing" from meth often entails severe anergia, or lack of energy, and massive anhedonia, a sustained lack of motivation to perform normal tasks and inability to experience pleasure. The severity and duration of these symptoms vary depending on the amount of drug you've used and how long you've been doing it. Common symptoms include loss of energy, depression, fearfulness, suicidal thoughts, wanting to sleep a lot or difficulty in sleeping, shaking, nausea, palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, increased appetite, irritability, memory loss and drug craving. These symptoms can last from days to weeks after you stop using methamphetamine.
Physical effects can include anorexia, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, flushing, restlessness, dry mouth, headache, tachycardia, bradycardia, tachypnea, hypertension, hypotension, hyperthermia, diaphoresis, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, dizziness, twitching, insomnia, numbness, palpitations, arrhythmias, tremors, dry and/or itchy skin, acne, pallor, and with chronic and/or high doses, convulsions, heart attack, stroke, and death
Psychological effects can include euphoria, anxiety, increased libido, alertness, concentration, energy, self-esteem, self-confidence, sociability, irritability, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, psychomotor agitation, grandiosity, hallucinations, excessive feelings of power and invincibility, repetitive and obsessive behaviors, paranoia, and with chronic and/or high doses, amphetamine psychosis can occur
Withdrawal symptoms of methamphetamine primarily consist of fatigue, depression and an increased appetite. Symptoms may last for days with occasional use and weeks or months with chronic use, with severity dependent on the length of time and the amount of methamphetamine used. Withdrawal symptoms may also include anxiety, agitation, akathisia, excessive sleeping, vivid or lucid dreams, deep REM sleep and suicidal ideation
Published to Site 03/15/11
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