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Warning: This story references several graphic descriptions of child abuse.
January 1970 – The sun was just beginning to set over the Pacific Ocean when gunshots shattered a quiet Fresno neighborhood. A teenage girl stood looking at the body of a young, Fresno firefighter...His blood spattered her school uniform and beautiful face of the young woman as she ran one hand through her tangled blonde hair. She wiped at the blood on her cheek before she turned and tucked the gun into her book bag. She turned and slipped out the door…her violet eyes blank and vague, seemingly unfazed by what she’d just done. She had one more thing to do…She needed to be home soon or her mother would return before she was finished and that would ruin everything. She smiled serenely as she started her father’s car and backed out of the driveway. He’d be very angry that she’d taken it…not that it mattered…He’d be joining his best friend soon anyway.
April 1976 – The overcast San Francisco morning was a perfect day for a funeral. Seventy Firemen in dress uniforms stood at attention around the casket of a fellow firefighter. Lineman Max Tate was being laid to rest and while it would have been bad enough had he been killed in the line of duty, it was made worse by the fact that Max Tate was murdered and worse still, it had been his best friend and fellow lineman Evan Wainrite who’d killed him and all over a woman.
The beautiful blonde who’d caused the fight between them stood at the back of the cemetery watching. She was on leave until her departmental transfer went through. This would be her fourth posting since joining the Fire Department four years ago. Her superior’s would like to see her permanently removed from the department but they had no evidence of any wrong doing on her part. They never did. She was young, beautiful and she played her game very well…turning friend against friend and no one suspected her involvement and manipulation of each situation… She was merely the innocent victim of these men who preyed upon her guise of innocence and their own lusts. She grinned wickedly…Her next posting would be no different…Men were so predictable.
A friend is someone who has locks that fit our keys and keys that fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; We can be loved for who we are and not for who we are pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other…Richard Bach.
Part 1 – Relapse
June 1976 – “One more day,” Roy DeSoto sighed. In twenty four hours he and Joanne would be off on vacation. They were dropping the kids off with Joanne’s sister Eileen and they were looking forward to this time alone. Ten days…just the two of them and a beach house in Malibu. The blonde, blue eyed paramedic smiled in anticipation.
Roy was tucking his uniform shirt in when his partner of four and a half years came into the locker room. The junior member of their team and four years younger than his friend, John Gage was tall and dark haired…his slender build a contrast to the stockier, older paramedic.
Though opposite in almost everything, the two had been not only partners but best friends for most of the four and half years together…as close to brothers as they could be without a blood tie.
“Mornin Roy,” John said giving his friend a pat on the shoulder as he passed.
“Morning Johnny,” Roy greeted him with a smile.
“You and Jo all ready to go…?”
“Yeah…she was finishing the packing when I left this morning. So as soon as we get outta here tomorrow morning, we’ll be takin off.”
“Great,” Johnny said enthusiastically as he began to strip off his street clothes. John winced slightly in discomfort.
“What’s up with you? You looked like you hurt yourself,” Roy said worriedly.
“I don’t know…Just a little tingling. I musta slept wrong.”
John grinned at the worried tone of his friend, “Yes dad…I’m fine.”
Roy smiled back, giving Johnny’s shoulder a slight shove as he passed behind him. He didn’t see the look of discomfort that passed over Johnny’s face as he left the room.
The younger man hadn’t even realized his neck and shoulders were stiff and achy until Roy had pushed him. Johnny rolled his head left and right trying to loosen up his muscles. Then briskly rubbed the tingling sensation from his arms, “Man…I musta pulled something,” he mumbled to himself as he began to dress.
They had barely made it into line for roll call when the Station control unit toned them out. “Station 51, structure fire… 217 Carson…2-1-7 Carson… Cross street 218th Street. Time out 8:03…”
“Station 51 KMG-365,” Hank Stanley responded, handing the slip to Roy who was already in the squad as Johnny slid in beside him. Cap ran for the engine.
The house was burning intensely by the time they arrived. “Lay duals…,” Cap shouted to Marco and Chet.
A man ran toward them as they were dragging lines from the engine. Roy and Johnny were pulling on their turnouts and SCBA’s as he waved at them frantically. “The lady who lives in that house is still inside,” he shouted pointing.
“Are ya sure?” Cap asked.
“Must be…her cars in the driveway and she’s not out here,” he said.
Cap glanced at the house and back to his two paramedics. They were waiting for the word but Hank hesitated. The building was almost engulfed, burning furiously and Hank was reluctant to send his men inside. “In and out Cap…?” Johnny asked anxiously.
Stanley sighed uncertainly, “Chet, Marco…Cover them.”
“Right Cap,” Marco yelled as John and Roy ran past them and through the front door. The two paramedics made a quick sweep through the lower floor and finding nothing made their way upstairs. Roy pointed to the room on the right as he moved to the left. Johnny nodded and moved away from his partner.
They both opened doors, checking inside before moving on. They heard the cracking sound almost at the same time. Johnny reached out to grab his partner, pushing him back toward the stairs with a shake of his head. They’d only retreated a few steps when the ceiling crashed down where they’d just been.
Roy threw his partner a grateful smile and moved toward the stairs. Roy started down the steps but turned back when he realized Johnny wasn’t following. “C’mon Johnny, let’s get outta here,” he yelled as he started down the stairs.
John waved his hand to signal his partner to keep moving as he took one more look up the corridor. That last closed door inaccessible now. John shook his head in frustration as he took a step in that direction. His partners muffled voice reached him. “Move Johnny…NOW…let’s go.”
He gave a resigned nod and started down the stairs. Johnny barely heard the snapping sound as the stairs seemed to come alive, heaving under his feet and buckling from the strain. John felt himself falling and desperately tried to grab the railing…he missed, tumbling down the steps to land in a heap at the bottom.
Reassured that Johnny was now following him, Roy turned and continued down the stairs. His foot was on the bottom step as the whole structure twisted and began to disintegrate. He turned frantic eyes upward and his heart pounded in his chest as he helplessly watched his friend hit the landing in a crumpled tangle. “JOHNNY…,” he yelled as he ran back for his fallen partner.
Roy knelt next to his friend, his fingers feeling for a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the strong, steady beat against his fingers. The older paramedic gave him a quick once over but the fire was closing in quickly. He’d have to risk moving him. He heaved the younger man over his shoulder and carried him quickly from the building.
“Cap,” Roy yelled. “I need some help over here.” He carefully allowed Johnny to roll from his shoulder and began to tug the straps loose to free his partner from the SCBA. Hank came running. He grabbed the drug box and Biophone, setting them next to Roy.
“What happened?” Hank asked as he set up the Biophone.
“Stairs collapsed Cap…I think he hit his head. Johnny? Johnny…can you hear me?” Roy called.
His fingers slid through the dark hair searching for injuries. He found a bump just over his right ear. He ran his hands over his partner’s arms and legs, reassuring himself that nothing was broken as it had been the last time he’d fallen down a flight of stairs.
Cap glanced up, relieved to see Engine 36 arriving. They could use the help though the house was already a total loss. Hank keyed his handy talkie, “Engine 36, pull a couple of inch and a half’s around the back of the house, Engine 51 have Kelly and Lopez continue from this side.” Hank dropped the HT into his pocket and continued contacting Rampart. “Rampart Base this is County 51…How do you read?”
“Go ahead 51,” Kelly Brackett’s voice came back over the radio.
“Rampart, we have a twenty six year old male. He’s unconscious…He’s sustained a blow to the right side of the head from a fall down the stairs. Stand by for vitals.”
“Cap…doesn’t appear that he broke anything,” Roy said as he reached for the BP Cuff.
“Rampart, it doesn’t appear that anything is broken,” Hank repeated as Roy began to call out Johnny’s vitals.
“Pulse is 60, respirations 16…BP is 120/80. His pupils are equal and reactive.”
Roy vaguely heard Hank repeating the words to Rampart but his attention was focused on his partner as he leaned down close to Johnny’s ear. “Johnny…Wake up for me,” He urged softly. “C’mon junior,” he coaxed. “Open your eyes John,” He finally commanded sternly.
Johnny was peacefully floating in a sea of darkness until a voice he recognized as his partners suddenly penetrated his oblivion. The stern tone brooked no argument…He sounded upset. “Open your eyes John…”
The tone of his voice pierced the fog and the brown eyes fluttered open to focus blearily on the familiar face leaning over him.
“Roy,” he moaned softly.
“Glad to have you back partner,” Roy said in relief as he swept the dark hair away from John’s forehead.
Cap breathed a sigh of relief. “Rampart victim has regained consciousness and is responsive.”
“10-4 51, Immobilize his neck and use spinal precautions. Transport as soon as possible.”
Roy waved the ambulance attendants over as Chet joined them. “How’s he doin Cap?” Chet asked them.
“He’s awake Kelly… He’ll be fine, won’t ya pal?”
Johnny’s dark eyes traveled to his captain and he nodded. Chet grinned. “Fire’s under control Cap and just so ya know…The owner of the house was up the street.”
Roy sighed. “Great…all of this for nothin…” Johnny groaned as he tried to sit up. “Oh no you don’t partner… Just lay quiet.
“I’m okay Roy.”
“You’ve been unconscious for five minutes junior. You’re goin to Rampart.”
“But Roy…,” He began to argue.
“No buts Johnny. Brackett’s already told me to transport so be a good boy and just lay still and let us do all the work.”
“What work?” He asked suspiciously. He tried to turn his head to see what was happening but Roy’s hand on his forehead stopped him. The smile that spread over his blonde friends face was warning enough. “Oh no…,” He protested. “There’s nothin wrong with my neck Roy,” Johnny argued as Cap came over with the backboard and C collar.
Hank threw a grin at his senior paramedic. “He never gives up does he Roy?”
“If he ever does, I’ll be really worried Cap,” Roy said with a grin as he took the collar and fastened it around John’s neck.
“I hate this…,” Johnny almost whined.
“I know, but you took a bad fall and Brackett wants to be sure.” So did Roy but he knew if he said so Johnny’d give him a dozen reasons why he thought it was unnecessary and Roy didn’t want to fight so he took the cowards way out and let Brackett be the heavy. Captain Stanley and the attendants helped him roll his young partner on his side as he slid the backboard beneath him and then eased him back. “Let’s get him outta here,” Roy directed as they lifted him onto the gurney.
Johnny groaned and swatted at the light that suddenly blinded him. “Cut it out,” he growled thinking it was Roy.
“John Gage, behave yourself,” A woman’s voice said sternly.
“Dixie…?” He blinked his eyes open. He didn’t remember nodding off in the ambulance or arriving at Rampart. “Sorry…,” he murmured to the older, blonde nurse.
“Its’ okay tiger,” she said softly as she brushed the hair from his forehead. Dixie frowned at the slightly elevated skin temperature.
Johnny turned his head towards the conversation to the right of him, suddenly aware that he was no longer wearing the collar. That was good…That meant they were pretty sure his neck was okay. Kel and Roy both turned toward him at the motion.
“How ya feelin junior…?” Roy asked.
“I have a headache but that’s all…,” he replied adamantly.
“Do you hurt anywhere else?” Kel asked moving back to his patient’s side.
Johnny moved a bit. He felt achy all over but there was no real pain anywhere. “Nope, I’m fine.”
“Kel…?” Dixie interrupted. “His temperature is elevated.”
Brackett was well aware that the elevated temperature might just be mild heat exhaustion. He laid his hand on John’s forehead…It wasn’t that bad. “You feel okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Any dizziness…? Nausea…?”
“No…”Roy breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. John’s dark eyes turned toward him curiously. “What was that for?”
“I was just a bit worried. For a minute there I was afraid I’d have to cancel my second honeymoon to stay and take care of you. Joanne would kill me,” he teased.
Johnny frowned. The last thing he’d wanna do was be a burden and spoil Roy’s vacation or cause a problem between Roy and Joanne.
Roy saw the frown and sighed. He and Johnny had been best friends for a long time but John had had some serious emotional issues to overcome from his childhood. He’d been a badly abused child along with having a mild case of Aspergers Syndrome and he was very insecure about his own feelings as well as other peoples and his relationships with them. Roy had helped him through them over the years but the insecurities and emotional fears had resurfaced after a misunderstanding involving Roy’s son a few months ago had put the walls of doubt back up. They still had a long way to go to reestablish their friendship.
Johnny had cut himself off from feeling or caring about anything after his mom had died when he was eleven and the abuse had started from his Mother’s relatives. But then Roy and his family had come into his life and he’d learned to love and trust him and his family, at least until the incident a few months ago. He’d been badly hurt…his trust had been shattered and while they’d been working on the repairs… John still wasn’t ready yet. He was still confused by his own feelings and doubted his own self worth but Roy was determined to get through to his friend no matter what it took…in fact, he’d been taking lessons from a therapist who specialized in people with John’s conditions.
Touch therapy was designed to help people like his young partner find and define their own feelings. To be in touch with themselves and to learn to overcome the abuse, the hurt and mistrust and whatever else drove them and let someone build a bond of trust with them. It was usually a first step toward learning to feel again after a trauma or other emotional problems and open up.
The problem was…Johnny was completely unaware that Roy was learning it and might well be resistant to trying it. It was after all very personal and intimate and John still had issues with being that open with anyone. It embarrassed him and if the truth were known, Roy suspected it frightened him as well but that was normal for someone with Johnny’s problems too.
Roy grinned to himself, he’d actually had been using a form of it on him for some time without even knowing it and lately he’d started to use the therapy more often even without John’s knowledge. He reached out to smooth the dark hair from John’s forehead before he rested his hands on his partner’s shoulders rubbing them lightly. “I was kidding junior,” he said softly.
John grinned up at him in relief before turning his gaze back to Kel and Dixie. Their eyes were watching the older man’s hands soothe the tension from his younger friend in amusement, knowing exactly what he was doing…after all Kel Brackett had introduced the therapist to Roy four years ago. “Can I go back to work?” Johnny asked.
Kel sighed… he’d known it was coming. He knew Roy was going on vacation and John probably really wanted to spend the time with his friend before he left for two weeks. The doctor stared at the floor with pursed lips, refusing to look up...knowing there would be a set of pleading brown eyes watching him.
He finally glanced up. Yep…he’d been right. Hopeful dark eyes gazed back as the younger man chewed his lip nervously. “Dix, get him some aspirin for that headache. Johnny…if you have any sign of dizziness…”
“I’ll come back…, he volunteered. Kel looked at him hard. “I promise…,” Johnny said as he lifted his hand as if taking an oath.
Brackett turned to Roy. “Get him outta my ER,” he growled nodding towards Johnny, but the grin he threw the older paramedic took the surliness out of the words.
The afternoon was fairly quiet, allowing the crew of station 51 to get their chores done and then head outside to shoot some baskets. Johnny seemed to tire after only a few minutes. “You okay Gage…?” Chet Kelly asked concerned.
The others looked at him curiously…Usually Johnny was a ball of boundless energy and the last to leave the game.
“Yeah…I guess I’m just a little stiff and sore from that fall this morning,” he replied as he swung his arms windmill fashion to loosen up.
“Here…sit,” Roy said pushing him down on the tailgate of Cap’s pickup truck. His hands rested on his partner’s shoulders. “Here?” He asked. John nodded as the older man kneaded some of the soreness out of his shoulders for a moment until a snort from Chet Kelly snapped John’s head up. The younger man’s face flushed crimson as he realized his crewmates were watching them with grins. John stood up and moved away rolling his shoulders.
Roy almost pegged an oil can at Kelly’s head in frustration…He shot the Irishman an irritated look and followed his partner. “Still got that headache?” Roy asked?
“What about that fever Dix mentioned?” He questioned, reaching out to touch John’s forehead.
John blushed and ducked away, his dark eyes flicking toward the others… “I’m fine Roy, quit babying me,” he ground out. “I’m gonna go wash up.”
“What’s with him?” Mike Stoker asked.
“Maybe he’s a bit depressed that Roy’s going away?” Hank suggested.
Kelly laughed remembering John’s embarrassed blush, but it died on his lips at the warning blue glare of the senior paramedic. He sensed Roy was angry with him for screwing something up again but he wasn’t sure what.
“Maybe he’s upset that he’s stuck with Bellingham?” Marco suggested.
“Just go easy on him guys?” Roy asked, knowing he wouldn’t be there to be a buffer between Johnny and the others. His eyes returned to Chet. “Leave your smart ass jokes and the phantom at home.”
“Aw c’mon Roy,” the curly haired Irishman protested.
“I mean it Chet…lay off.” Roy fixed his crewmate with a hard look that promised retribution if Kelly annoyed John too much in his absence.
The others caught the look and glanced toward Kelly to see if he’d noticed that Roy was dead serious. He had. “Aw alright,” He whined…resigned to two boring weeks with his favorite pigeon.
After two easy runs, the guys sat down to dinner. Johnny pushed his food around on his plate, taking a mouthful only if he caught his partner watching him for too long. His stomach was upset and he really wasn’t feeling well at all. The aches and pains in his joints had gotten worse and Johnny was getting concerned but there was no way he was telling Roy he wasn’t well. He knew if he complained about being sick, Roy would insist on taking care of him. He wasn’t about to spoil Roy and Joanne’s vacation besides, he’d caused enough turmoil in their life over the past few years to last them a long while. He was afraid he’d wear out his welcome.
“You okay junior?” Roy asked suspiciously. He knew his partner too well. If his friend wasn’t eating then something was wrong. All eyes turned toward the younger man.
“I’m fine, why?” He asked innocently, throwing Roy a smile.
“You’re not eating.”
“Aw c’mon Roy, this is Chet’s Irish stew not Marco’s,” he joked.
“Hey Gage watchit…,” Kelly said indignantly.
Johnny grinned, having successfully redirected the conversation and Roy’s attention away from himself. The smile faded as his stomach rolled uncomfortably. John fought to control the nausea as he broke out in a cold sweat.
He stood and gathered his dishes, carrying them to the sink. He splashed some water on his face as his partner began to clear the table and the others headed for the TV. “Hey what’s on television tonight guys?” Chet asked rubbing is hands together.
“Everything’s reruns,” Marco replied.
“There’s a good movie on…,”Chet suggested, rubbing his hands together. They all groaned, knowing full well what kind of movies Chet liked. “C’mon guys, it’s a classic. The brain that wouldn’t die…”
Roy moved to the sink to wash dishes and Johnny gave him a half hearted grin. “If he’s watchin horror movies, I’m goin to bed,” The younger man said, pouncing on the opportunity to get away from Roy. John knew he couldn’t keep this act up for too long around his partner…Roy knew him too well.
“Oh well…okay,” Roy answered sounding disappointed. “I thought we’d maybe hang out talk since I’ll be gone for two weeks but if you’re tired…?” He let the sentence hang.
“Yeah I am…Hopefully this soreness will be gone by tomorrow.”
“Okay…Well goodnight partner,” Roy said throwing him one more worried glance.
“G’night…,” Johnny replied as he left the rec room.
Roy woke up around 2:00 AM. He wasn’t sure what had awakened him…it was just an uneasy feeling. He glanced at his partner who appeared to be sleeping soundly in his usual position…His left arm thrown over his face. Roy shook his head with a grin as he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He stepped into his turnouts and pulled the suspenders into place. He headed for the rec room for a glass of milk.
Johnny’s eyes flew open a few moments after Roy had left. He felt the saliva begin to build in his mouth and his stomach cramped painfully. He knew he was in trouble. “Oh man…,” he groaned. John bolted for the latrine as his dinner threatened to make a re-appearance.
Captain Stanley woke a moment later to the distinct sound of retching. He sat up, throwing his feet over the side of his bed. Hank stood up and glanced at the bunk across the way where Mike lay sleeping peacefully. Cap rounded the brick partition, noting that both Gage and DeSoto were missing. Cap headed for the bathroom.
John leaned over the toilet panting softly and desperately hoping he was done. He flushed the evidence away and turned to leave, gasping in surprise as he came face to face with Hank Stanley.
“Uh…hi Cap,” he whispered softly.
“Hi yourself John…You ah…wanna tell me what’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” Johnny asked innocently.
“Yeah wrong…I mean you don’t usually get up at 2:00 in the morning to throw up do you Gage?”
“Talk to me John,” Hank said…taking in the pallor and the sheen of moisture on Johnny’s face.
“Dinner didn’t sit too well I guess but I’m fine now Cap.” The young paramedic tried to move past his captain but Hank stepped to the side to block him. His hand rose to feel John’s forehead.
John ducked his head away. “C’mon Cap, you’re startin to remind me of Roy,” he quipped with a half hearted laugh as he tried to go around him.
“You take one more step and you’re in a world of trouble Gage.” John froze as Hank took his arm, turning him back toward him. His hand rose to feel the young man’s forehead. “John, you have a fever. Go back to bed now and I’m gonna go find Roy.”
“No Cap,” Johnny protested desperately.
“Because…because….,” he stuttered lamely.
“Because why? Make it good…”
“Because if he knows I’m sick he won’t go on this trip.”
“Sure he would… he’s been planning this for months.”
“You don’t understand Cap. I mean he said it today when I fell…He said he’d have had to stay if I got hurt and if he did go then he’d feel really guilty and I don’t wanna spoil their vacation. It’s just the flu or something and I promise Cap…I’ll go straight home tomorrow and stay in bed. Please Cap…I don’t wanna be a burden again,” he said softly.
Cap didn’t believe for a minute that Roy felt that John was a burden. He’d seen the way the older man handled his young partner too many times and was well aware of the depth of Roy’s feelings for his friend.
Johnny watched the look on his captain’s face and he was afraid he wasn’t convinced. John desperately didn’t want to cause problems for his friend and jeopardize their friendship. He felt as though he’d intruded way too many times on his partner and his family over the years. He was mostly afraid Roy would be getting tired of feeling like he had to look out for him all the time like his own family had and if Johnny had what he was afraid he did it could be a long while before he was well and he knew Roy wouldn’t leave him.
A year and a half ago the crew had responded to a research lab where they had been studying Malaria carrying mosquito’s which had bitten Johnny. He’d been deathly ill for ten days and Roy hadn’t left his side. It had been touch and go for a while whether John would even survive at all.
Brackett had warned him that it could recur months or even years later and Johnny suspected that it was back. He couldn’t let Roy find out. The older man had promised him that if it came back he’d be there for him and if he did that it would ruin their entire second honeymoon and Jo would never forgive him.
Cap was looking at him in indecision. Johnny gave him his best hopeful look. “Don’t turn that on me Gage, I’m not your partner,” He said in disgust. “You better keep that promise.”
“Get back to bed.”
They barely made it back to their bunks before Roy came back. He glanced at his partner who hadn’t appeared to have moved much at all. Roy reset his boots and turnouts. He lay back down and went to sleep.
The SCU tones woke the station at 7:30 AM. Johnny sat up slowly feeling lightheaded and nauseas. He knew his fever was up and he was afraid Roy would notice.
Johnny moved to the locker room as the others filed toward the rec room for coffee, buttoning their turnout pants and snapping suspenders into place. Johnny rummaged through the locker until he found the bottle of aspirin. He swallowed three of them, praying they’d stay down and headed to the sink to splash cold water on his face. He noted the paleness of his skin and the flush of fever on his cheeks. “Oh man…How am I gonna hide that?”
Roy noticed his partner hadn’t joined him for coffee which was pretty unusual for Johnny. He also noticed that Hank was periodically looking at him with an almost guilty expression. He finally got up and headed off in search of his partner. The older paramedic found him a few minutes later…Shaving cream covered the lower half of his face when Roy came in.
“No coffee this morning junior?”
“Ah…no… I have a… ah…um…date this morning at the beach…So I thought I’d get cleaned up so I can split as soon as C- Shift gets here.”
“Who’s the girl?”
“Your date…?” Roy clarified.
“Oh…uh…no one you know,” he said evasively.
“Johnny? Are you hiding something?” The older man asked.
“Roy…,”Johnny responded in exasperation. “You’re so suspicious.” The younger man turned away, struggling to stay on his feet and keep from being sick in the sink. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Okay junior…,” Roy said, giving up. He cast one more wary look at his partner and left.
Johnny whirled retching helplessly into the toilet.
Johnny carefully made his way into the rec room and as he hoped, the coffee pot was empty. “Hey Gage,” Chet called over with a grin. “The early bird gets the worm and the coffee,” He taunted…raising his cup.
“Oh shut up Chet,” He growled. The thought of worms making his stomach roll uncomfortably. The response was so typically Johnny that it put Roy’s mind at ease…for the moment anyway.
The guys from C-shift began to show up a few minutes later. Charlie Dwyer gave them a cheerful greeting, slapping Johnny on the back as he went by. “Morning Gage,” he greeted. “Roy…you all set for your trip?”
“Morning Dwyer…Yeah, we’ll be takin off as soon as I get home,” he responded, turning back toward John in time to see his partners retreating back.
Johnny barely made it to the latrine…his body spasmed with dry heaves. He finally got his stomach under control and looked up into the face of Kirk Carlson, Dwyer’s partner.
“You okay Johnny?” He asked in concern.
“Yeah…just something I ate last night.”
Johnny sensed, rather than saw Roy come up behind him. “Johnny? Are you okay?” Roy asked.
Kirk opened his mouth to tell Roy about the vomiting but saw the look of desperation on Johnny’s face as well as the subtle shake of his head. “Think I’ll go see if there’s any coffee,” Kirk said as he beat a hasty retreat.
Johnny threw him a grateful smile and then turned to face his partner. “Yeah Roy, I’m fine.”
“So…,” Johnny said turning away slightly and looking at his watch. “You ready to take off?”
Roy frowned at his partner…Johnny didn’t look right and he was being way too evasive. Roy noted the paleness of his features and reached out to touch his forehead but Johnny moved out of reach and headed for the locker room, pretending he hadn’t seen the motion.
Roy followed him and found his partner halfway inside his locker obviously looking for something. He backed out holding a roll of lifesavers, carefully keeping the door open as a wall between him and his best friend. John popped a mint in his mouth and began to dress.
Roy sighed as he leaned against his own locker. “Junior…You’re acting awful weird even for you.”
“Oh thanks a lot palley,” he said with a snort of indignation as he sat down on the bench to tie his shoes. “Guess I’m gonna miss ya is all,” he said with a shrug.
“I’m gonna miss you too but it’s only for ten days ya know?”
“Yeah,” he mumbled with a sinking heart. “Ten days.”
In the rec room Kirk told Johnny’s shift mates what had happened. “Boy…he was really sick.”
Hank sighed worriedly drawing the attention of the gathered crew. Chet heard him and turned his gaze toward his Captain. “What’s up Cap? You gonna tell Roy?” The lineman asked.
Cap’s concerned eyes swept across each of them. “I spoke to John last night. He’s says he’s got the flu but he didn’t want me to tell Roy because he’s afraid Roy will cancel his trip if he’s sick.”
“He’s right,” Mike agreed.
Marco nodded his agreement. “Yeah we all know how protective Roy is.”
Chet looked around. “Man…he’s gonna be mad if he finds out we knew and didn’t tell him.”
“It’s just the flu and John’ll be over it by the time he gets back and we won’t even mention it, so let’s respect John’s wishes okay?” The others nodded but it was clear by their expressions they weren’t happy about it.
A few minutes later they all stood in the parking lot. Roy noted that the crew seemed to be watching Johnny. He wondered what was up.
John gave him a playful slap on the back, trying to keep his stomach in place. “Don’t party too hard pally. At your age, you need to rest some,” he teased with a grin that looked more like a grimace.
“I’m not that old yet junior, I don’t need that much sleep,” he laughed but it faded as he reached to give Johnny a teasing scruff of the hair.
John quickly ducked his head away. “Oh man, am I late. Have a good time and give my love to Jo,” he said as he headed for his Land Rover.
“Johnny…,” Roy called after him.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Fine…just late…,” he yelled back, casting a warning glance at the A shift crew.
Roy watched him with a frown as he drove away. “Cap…?”
“Yeah pal?” He replied, knowing what was coming and trying not to look guilty.
“Take care of him for me while I’m gone? I don’t trust Bellingham.”
“You got it Pal.”
Johnny made it home and practically crawled into his bed. He needed to give it about an hour to be sure Roy and Jo were gone and then he’d head for Rampart. He wanted to be sure his friends couldn’t be reached by Dixie or Kelly Brackett. His eyes drifted shut and he sank into oblivion.
An hour later Roy and Joanne were on their way to Malibu… Joanne’s sister Eileen had picked the kids up earlier that morning, leaving Jo time to go to the hairdresser and do some last minute shopping.
She chatted happily about their trip until she realized that Roy seemed far away. She looked over at him, her blue eyes scanning his face in concern. “Something wrong honey…?”
He glanced at her amazement. She knew him so well and could read his moods better than he could sometimes but he didn’t want to spoil her trip with his concerns. “No why?”
Her eyebrow rose with a dubious look. “Talk…”
“I was just thinkin about something…I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
He stared at her for a moment in surprise. “How’d you know that?”
“You have that… ‘He’s done something and I’m worried about him’ look,” she teased with a grin. “So what did he do?”
“Well I can’t put my finger on it exactly. He fell down a flight of stairs yesterday.”
Joanne’s grin faded. “Was he hurt?”
“He got knocked out and bruised some but Brackett said he was okay and let him go back to work.”
“But you think he’s hiding something?”
“Yeah…But not an injury… I mean he was moving okay…A little stiff maybe but…”
“He wouldn’t let me touch him or even get near him for that matter.” That wasn’t that unusual for Johnny who generally shied away from being touched and public displays of affection but Roy was usually the exception. She glanced back at him as he continued. “He kept backing away from me. It was strange. And then there was something else.”
“What was that?”
“The guys seemed to know something was goin on. They kept watching him.”
“Maybe you should call him when we get to the hotel, just to check on him honey. It’ll put your mind at ease.”
“Yeah,” he agreed with a nod.
Johnny glanced at his watch with bleary eyes. It had been over three hours since he’d gotten home. “Musta dozed off…,” he mumbled tiredly. His stomach lurched suddenly and Johnny bolted from the bed, trying to make it to his bathroom but he felt like his body wasn’t connected to his feet. Dizziness washed over him and Johnny fell to his knees. He vomited over and over again. Dry heaves racked his body leaving him aching and shaky. He tried to stand but couldn’t make it to his feet.
Johnny could tell his temperature was already extremely high…He needed to call for help. Chills began to spread through him and the room began to distort...spinning wildly before fading to gray around him. Johnny slumped to the floor unconscious.
“He’s not home, must still be on his date,” Roy said. “Maybe I’m wrong. I mean if he’s okay to be hangin out at the beach then he’s probably fine,” He told Joanne trying to reassure himself.
John woke awhile later…he had no idea how long he’d been on the floor but the room was dark. His body shook with chills and he was feverish and disoriented. “Oh God…,” he whispered, trying to push himself to his feet only to collapse weakly to the floor.
The phone began to ring. Johnny pushed himself to his hands and knees, crawling toward his bedroom and the help he knew was on the other end. He finally managed to sit up against the bed and grasp the cord with a shaking hand. He pulled the phone from the bedside table. Johnny picked up the receiver from the floor, barely able to lift it to his face. “H…hello…” The dial tone answered him…He almost wept.
He tried to dial but the numbers swam out of focus…John tried to pull himself onto the bed but another wave of chills swept through him. He slumped over, phone in hand.
“Still not home…?” Jo asked.
“No.” Roy glanced at the clock. 9:30… “No,” he said again, hanging up the phone. “He must be okay though right? I mean someone would have called if he wasn’t,” Roy said, trying to reassure himself as much as Joanne but the pallor of his partners face, the flushed cheeks and his refusal to let Roy near him were all sounding alarm bells. He smiled at Joanne. “Let’s go dancing...,” he suggested.
“Okay,” She agreed. Not fooled by the smile. She could see the worry still hovering in his eyes.
Johnny’s eyes cracked open as the sun brightened the room. He was disoriented and unable to focus on anything. The dark eyes were glazed with fever and flitted vaguely about the room. Dry heaves once again racked his body. He was too weak to even turn his head and didn’t notice the sweat, saliva and tears that mingled together to drip from his chin. His eyes closed once more.
Cap was becoming concerned. He’d been unable to reach John throughout the whole of yesterday. He’d promised him that he’d go straight home to bed but Cap had received no answer to his repeated calls. “That twit better be sleepin and not off with some girl somewhere,” He muttered to himself. He picked up the phone and dialed the number again, hoping to catch him early. The phone threw back a busy signal. “Well at least he’s home,” Hank breathed out with a sigh of relief.
“Did you reach him?” His wife Emily asked.
“Busy signal…I’ll try again after breakfast.
“Busy,” Roy said looking at Joanne.
“Well at least he’s finally home,” she replied getting up and heading for the bathroom. “I’m taking a bath.” She raised one eyebrow in invitation. “Care to join me?”
Roy grinned as he hung up the phone. “I’m on my way.”
“I thought you might be,” Jo threw back as she disappeared through the door.
Johnny’s head tossed from side to side as flames shot up all around him. His feet churned frantically but he couldn’t get away. The wall of flame began to close around him and he felt as if he’d dissolve into a pile of ash. He was burning up and dehydrated. He’d had two more bouts with dry heaves that left his body weak and aching and he knew he desperately needed help but he could no longer focus his thoughts on how to get it. “Roy,” he whimpered weakly as the fever once again rendered him unconscious. His body slid sideways to lie on the floor.
“Damn it,” Roy growled as he slammed the phone down.
“Yes,” he snapped. “It’s been three hours.
“The only person Johnny talks to that long is you,” she pointed out.
“Well…maybe he had a busy night,” she suggested with a grin. “Maybe he took the phone off the hook to get some sleep.”
“Maybe, but that’s not like him either. Mister Bundle of energy can run for thirty six hours straight without sleep and still be bouncing off the walls,” Roy grumbled in disgust.
“Its’ okay honey,” Joanne soothed with a giggle. “He’ll be your age eventually.”
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Roy shot back with a grin. He reached up to pull his wife onto the bed. “Was that a challenge?” He demanded as his mouth closed over hers and he proceeded to meet it.
“Damn it,” Cap muttered setting the phone down.
“Still busy…?” Emily asked.
“Well maybe he took the phone off the hook so he could sleep. I mean if he was sick and didn’t want to be disturbed…” She let the sentence hang.
“I’m gonna call Chet.”
“Because he has an extra set of keys to Johnny’s apartment and I promised Roy I’d look out for him, so I’m gonna go check on him.”
“Can I come?”
Hank looked at her in surprise. “I guess but why?”
“If he is sick with the flu than he’s not gonna feel like cooking so I thought I’d fix him something to eat and maybe a couple of extra meals to put in his freezer,” she said with a shrug.
“Geez…What is it with that kid that makes every woman want to mother him.”
“That lost little boy look, in those beautiful brown eyes,” she teased her husband.
“Beautiful brown eyes,” Cap muttered with a shake of his dark head. He picked up the phone as Emily went to get her purse.
Chet met Hank and Emily at Johnny’s apartment a half hour later. “Well the rover’s here,” Chet pointed out.
“So let’s go find Gage,” Cap said as they started up the stairs.
“Man I hope he doesn’t have some chick with him,” Chet said absently and then flushed as he remembered Cap’s wife was with them. “Uh…beg pardon Ma’am,” he stuttered in embarrassment.
“For Heaven’s sake Chet,” she said with a smile. “I’m well aware of the young man’s propensities. Hank was young once too.”
“Was…?” Cap muttered.
“A little less so now dear,” she teased.
Cap just nodded in resignation as Chet smothered a laugh.
They stopped in front of Johnny’s door. Chet banged on the wood and then rang the bell but no one answered.
“He’s gotta be here,” Cap said. He glanced at the pool area where several people were lounged about but Johnny wasn’t one of them.
“Maybe he went off with someone else,” Chet suggested.
“He better not have,” Cap warned. “He promised me he’d come straight home to bed.”
“Maybe he felt better after a good night’s sleep,” Chet suggested.
“Only one way to find out…Open her up pal.”
Chet unlocked the door and stuck his head inside. “Hey Gage…You home?” He yelled. Silence greeted him. Johnny’s keys lay on the table. “He wouldn’t have gone off without those,” Chet pointed out, growing uneasy. “I’ll go check the bedroom,” he said heading down the hall. Cap and Emily stood in silence…waiting. “Cap…he’s in here,” Chet yelled. The frightened tone of Kelly’s voice made Hank break into a run.
“Chet…? What is it?” He asked as he came through the door.
Chet was on his knees next to the feverish, shaking younger man. “Cap he’s real bad,” The Irish firefighter said, his hand feeling the burning heat of Gage’s forehead.
“Get him on the bed,” Emily directed as she turned and left the room.
Hank gently pulled John to a sitting position and carefully lifted the young man in his arms as Chet pulled the covers back. Cap laid him on the bed as his wife returned with a pan of water and a dish towel. She began to bathe the sweat and saliva from his face.
Johnny’s head tossed restlessly and a small whimper of pain escaped his lips, followed by a groan as his stomach rebelled. Hank and Chet got him on his side just in time. “I don’t think this is the flu Cap,” Chet observed.
“I think you’re right pal. This looks more like he did when he had malaria a couple of years ago.”
“Should we call Roy?”
“NO,” Johnny gasped from the bed. They turned to look at the ill younger man as he struggled against Emily’s restraining hands. “No…Roy… Vac..cat…ion. Pr…pro…mise Cap,” he gasped out between chattering teeth and low groans of pain.
“You just lay back Johnny,” Emily soothed pushing him back down.
“Cap…? You don’t mean that?” Chet whispered. “Man, Roy will be furious.”
“I know but I have to respect John’s wishes too Chet,” he said softly, smoothing the sweat dampened hair from John’s forehead.
The younger man turned away, “Well maybe you do,” he mumbled. He picked up the phone to call a squad.
Chet and Cap helped Tom Wheeler and his Partner Kurt Anderson load Johnny onto a gurney a short time later. Cap held the bag of Ringers solution as they wheeled the stretcher out the door. Chet turned the lock and closed it behind them. A few seconds later the phone began to ring.
“Well?” Joanne asked.
“But not busy anymore? So he must be around somewhere.” Joanne reassured Roy but the uneasy feeling remained.
“Let’s go have some lunch and lie on the beach for awhile,” he suggested trying to stay upbeat and not spoil the day.
“Good idea…maybe he’ll stop gallivanting around and stay home for dinner and you can reach him tonight.”
Chet had called Mike and Marco. They arrived at Rampart fifteen minutes after he and Cap brought Johnny in. “Well what’s happening?” Marco asked.
“We don’t know. Doctor Brackett’s still in there with him. Cap and his wife are waiting at the base station.”
“Did you call Roy?” Mike asked.
“No…Johnny doesn’t want us too.”
“He told Cap no. He said he didn’t wanna spoil his vacation.”
“Boy,” said Marco softly. “He’s gonna kill Johnny himself.”
“Yeah and us with him,” Mike warned.
“Dixie set up for a lumbar puncture,” Kel said. “I want a blood smear and ABG, CBC and Electrolytes. What are his vitals?”
“B/P is 110/60, pulse is weak, respiration 12. Temperature is 104°,” Dix reeled them off even as she stroked Johnny’s sweat dampened hair from his forehead. “C’mon sweetheart,” she said as she gently rolled the young man on his side. Unfocused dark eyes glinted with fever and unshed tears of pain.
Dixie gently drew his knees up to his stomach, resting her hand on his head to hold him in place as she whispered softly in his ear. Kel pulled up a stool. The blonde nurse nodded for him to begin as she rested her forehead against Johnny’s. The young man was too far out of it to feel anything. He was unconscious before they finished.
An hour later Kel and Dixie escorted the gurney carrying Johnny from the room. “Hank,” Kel said, greeting the Captain. “Emily…”
The team at Rampart and the station 51 crew had socialized on several occasions and they all knew each other quite well.
“Doc…? Is it malaria again?” Cap asked.
“I’m afraid so and thirty six hours without treatment didn’t help,” Kel said watching the elevator doors close in front of the stretcher carrying Johnny to the ICU. He shook his head. “I should have checked him yesterday. Dix said he was running a fever but he said he felt okay.”
“I should have made him come in yesterday morning but we thought he just had the flu,” Cap said guiltily.
“Has anyone called Roy and Joanne? They’ll want to be with him.”
“Uh no…Johnny absolutely didn’t want us calling Roy.”
“Johnny doesn’t want to spoil his time with Joanne…Said he didn’t wanna be a burden.”
“Well that’s real thoughtful of him but Roy’s going to be real unhappy when he finds out about this and John’s gonna hear about it,” Kel said warningly. He knew Roy had been taking classes with Dr. Hightower to help Johnny explore his own feelings. Especially the negative ones that made him feel as if he were a burden on his partner and here Johnny had almost killed himself by keeping this illness to himself for just that reason. Kel blew out a frustrated breath. “Dix…Tell the ICU I want someone with Johnny twenty four seven. Without Roy, they’re gonna have their hands full.”
Roy was pacing the floor. “Where the hell is he Jo? Its 11:00 and he’s gotta work tomorrow.”
Joanne giggled. “Roy…He’s not a child and he doesn’t have a curfew. Maybe he met his lovely young lady at the beach yesterday and he’s well….being Johnny,” she finished tactfully.
“If that was the case then he’d be home already,” Roy said drily.
“Oh you…,” she laughed, throwing a pillow at his head. “They don’t all dump him that fast or end up in his bed…I mean sooner or later he’s going to find one that sees the real John Gage.” Roy looked stricken at that thought and Jo shook her head in exasperation. “Come to bed daddy…,” she said with a giggle.
Roy gave her an embarrassed look as he got undressed and climbed into bed. “Sorry…,” he mumbled.
“If you’re this bad with Johnny, I can’t imagine what you’ll be like when Chris and Jen get older,” she whispered nuzzling his ear.
“Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking…,” Hank said as he answered the phone in the rec room the next morning.
“Hey Cap…This is Roy.”
“Roy…uh…hey pal. How’s the vacation going?”
“It’s fine Cap but…”
“Great,” he interrupted. He looked over at the table with a look of panic. Five sets of eyes watched him expectantly, waiting for the inevitable.
“Can I speak to Johnny Cap?”
“Johnny? Uh…he’s not here pal.”
“Is he on a run Cap?”
“A run…? Oh…uh yeah…a run...”
“Well can you tell him I called…I was worried about him.”
“Um…What…? Oh yeah sure…I’ll tell him you called to check on him.” Hank started to sweat.
“How is he cap?” Roy asked worriedly.
“How is he?”
Cap was a terrible liar. Roy could hear it in his voice. Something was definitely wrong. His heart began to sink into his stomach.
Chet couldn’t stand it any longer. “Hey Cap…? Is that Rampart with an update on Johnny?” He yelled out. If Roy didn’t hear that he was stone deaf.
“Chet,” Hank snapped, covering the mouth piece.
“Cap…? Who was that and what did he say about Rampart?”
“What? Oh uh…That was Chet.”
“Cap…Is Johnny okay?”
“Uh…um…I’m sorry Roy but Johnny asked me not to tell you.”
“Not to tell me what?” The younger man said in frustration.
“He doesn’t want to spoil your vacation.”
“Spoil it how Cap…?” Roy snapped, fear climbing into his voice. “What’s goin on?”
Roy heard a mumbled conversation and then Chet’s voice. “Roy…?”
“Chet,” the paramedic said in relief. Chet would tell him everything. “What’s happening? Where’s Johnny? Is he okay?”
“Whoa…one question at a time…”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. Where’s Johnny?”
“Johnny’s at Rampart.”
“WHY?” Roy barked.
“He’s really sick Roy.”
“How sick…? I mean what’s he got?”
“Um…you remember a year and a half ago?”
“Oh my God,” he whispered.
“Well why the hell didn’t someone call me?”
“He didn’t want us to. He made Cap promise not to call you.”
“Besides, we only found him yesterday.”
“Found him? What do you mean? How long has he been sick?”
“I guess since the morning you left.”
“You mean he went twenty four hours without being treated?”
“Yeah at least, maybe more…”
“The others heard the shout from across the room. “I’m gonna kill him myself.”
“Roy…he was only thinkin of you and Jo and how much you were lookin forward to this vacation and he didn’t wanna spoil it by having us call you and tell you he was sick. He didn’t wanna burden you with taking care of him.”
Roy sighed. “What does it take to get through to everyone including my thickheaded partner that Johnny is never a burden to me?”
“That’s not what I meant Roy. He just wanted you and Jo to come first.”
“I’ll let Jo make the call but you can bet I’ll see John in an hour but just in case take my number… 555-1504 room 314. If anything happens before that I wanna know.”
The head ICU nurse, Carol Dawes was frustrated. The patient that arrived yesterday afternoon was being difficult. Granted, he was terribly ill with malaria of all things…but her nurses simply couldn’t handle him. He’d become combative whenever they touched him. Even as weak as he was, they could barely keep him in the bed. She’d had no option but to order restraints.
She stood watching as he writhed on the bed, pulling hard at the straps holding him down. Groans of pain and delirious whimpers of fear escaped his lips.
Carol chewed her lip…Brackett had put a twenty four seven order on this patient and he’d said no restraints but she was short handed. He should be okay as long as they checked on him frequently. It would have to do. As sick as he was she doubted it would matter much in the long run.
Jo came out of the shower to find Roy sitting next to the telephone. His hair was in disarray, a sure sign that he’d been running his hands through it. Something he only did when he was upset or worried and usually related to his partner. “Did you reach Johnny Honey?” She asked.
“No…,” He replied softly.
She glanced at him as she began to dress. “Were they on a run?”
“No Jo…um…Johnny’s at Rampart.”
She turned to face him. “At Rampart how? You mean as a patient?”
“Why? I mean what happened?”
“Remember when he was sick with Malaria?”
“Dr. Brackett said it could recur months or even years later.”
“I’m afraid so.” Roy remained sitting. He glanced up at Jo. “He ah…told the guys not to call us.”
“Why?” She gasped.
“He didn’t want us to worry about him or spoil our vacation.”
“Oh Roy…he always puts everyone before himself…but good Lord, what was he thinking?”
“That he was a burden,” Roy murmured in disgust. Joanne’s mouth dropped open in surprise as she stared at her husband…He couldn’t still believe that could he? Jo stood watching Roy, waiting for him to tell her to pack but he didn’t. She continued to gaze at him expectantly. He finally glanced up and caught her look. “What?” He asked.
“Why aren’t we packing?”
“Jo…this is our vacation…our second honeymoon. Johnny wanted that to come first.” Roy said. He looked back at her waiting and hoping but not saying anything more.
She cocked her head to one side. “Honey…I know I come first in your life but I also know that Johnny is your kid brother and you love him too. I don’t need fancy hotels and days lounged out at the beach to know where I stand and right now Johnny needs us more than I need this.”
“I love you…,” Roy said softly as he stood to take his wife in his arms and kiss her warmly. He pulled back a moment later. “Let’s get packing.”
“Dr. Brackett?” The familiar but unexpected voice brought Kel’s head around in a hurry.
“Roy…Jo, What are you doing here? I was told you were on vacation and weren’t reachable.”
“We were…How’s Johnny?”
Kel pursed his lips as his brown eyes dropped to the floor. “I won’t lie to you Roy, he’s in pretty bad shape.”
“Where is he…? Can we see him?”
“He’s in ICU. I’ll clear it for you but you didn’t need to come Roy…He’s not alone. I ordered a nurse to be with him for the duration but…”
“I’m stayin. I’ll take care of him just like I did before.”
“We’ll take care of him,” Jo corrected. Roy smiled at his wife.
Brackett shook his head at both of them. “It’s really not necessary but he’s in ICU 3.”
Kel smiled as they walked away and reached for the phone to call the Intensive Care Unit to let them know the couple was coming but a man ran in carrying a child. Kel slammed the phone back on the hook…He’d get Dixie to make the call in a minute. Kel directed the man into treatment room two.
Roy and Joanne stepped off the elevator. They both knew the way to ICU in their sleep…They’d spent a lot of time here when Johnny had been a coma a year ago as well as with his first bout of Malaria. Joanne had the children at home then and hadn’t been able to stay but Roy knew she’d never leave Johnny this time. He meant as much to her as he did to Roy now.
They stopped at the nurse’s station. A dark haired, middle aged nurse glanced up from her charts. “Who are you here to see?” The woman asked abruptly.
“I’m Roy DeSoto…I’m here to see John Gage.”
“Are you family?”
Roy glanced at Joanne…Obviously Dr. Brackett hadn’t called yet. “The only family he has here,” Roy answered evasively. “Look Dr. Brackett knows I’m here. Johnny’s his patient and…”
“Sir,” she cut him off. “You’re not family, you can’t come in…It’s that simple.”
“Man…This is not happening again,” he muttered to Jo. She nodded…The first time Johnny had been sick another nurse had attempted to keep Roy away from Johnny. Roy had called Dixie and Brackett at 2:00 A.M. and they had come in to take over his care. “Can you just call Doct…”
She cut him off yet again. “Sir…I do not have time to track down Dr. Brackett,” she said dismissively, going back to her paperwork.
Roy had had enough. His blue eyes narrowed angrily and Jo put her hand on his arm to restrain him as she recognized the impending explosion. He leaned over the counter and slapped his hand angrily over the charts. “Lady…You’re standing between me and my brother. Now I suggest you either buzz us in or call Dr. Brackett…Either way I AM going to see John Gage right now,” he snarled at the wide eyed nurse.
“S…sir…I…I…,” she stuttered. The phone at the desk rang and the nurse snatched it up as if it were a lifeline. “H…Hello? Oh Miss McCall…No…” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “There’s a very angry man here who wants to see a patient but he’s not family. Yes, that’s his name…Okay,” She said breathing a sigh of relief. “I’ll have Miss Dawes call you.” She hung up, glancing into frosty blue eyes. “I’m very sorry sir. C’mon in,” she said reaching for the buzzer to open the door.
“Thank you,” Roy said in calmer tones. He and Joanne headed for room three.
“You know honey?” Joanne began musefully. “You never lost your temper with anyone until you met John Gage.”
He looked at her in surprise and then grinned. “No I guess I didn’t. So what does that mean?”
“I’m not sure but you only seem to have a problem with people who try to keep you and John apart or people who hurt him. Maybe you can figure it out.”
Roy chuckled as he pushed the door to Johnny’s room open. The laugh faded and rage began to build in its place.
Joanne gasped behind him…”Oh dear God…,” she whispered.
Johnny was soaked with sweat as fever raged through his body. His hair plastered to his forehead in wet strings. He groaned in pain as he strained against the restraints. His groans turning to small whimpers of distress as his back arced off the wet sheets. His head tossed restlessly. The cardiac monitor was going crazy.
Thankfully, he’d somehow managed to dislodge the oxygen mask as he’d apparently vomited. It trailed across his cheek and into his hair…tears trickled from his closed eyes. Roy looked at Joanne with a mixture of anguish and absolute fury.
Joanne’s blue eyes glittered in anger. “How could they leave him like this? Where’s the nurse who’s supposed to be with him?” She whispered in horror.
“I don’t know but I’m gonna find out.” Roy retraced his steps to the nurse’s station. “Miss…Where’s the nurse who’s supposed to be in there with him?” He asked, trying to stay calm.
“Miss Dawes sent her on a couple of errands…We’re shorthanded and…”
“Shorthanded?” Roy interrupted. “Have you seen the condition he’s in?”
Roy looked her square in the eyes. “You get Dr. Brackett up here and I mean yesterday and then you tell Miss Dawes I want to see her NOW!” Roy spun on his heel and headed back to John’s room.
Joanne was at Johnny’s side when he returned. She held a wet towel in her hand. “Don’t Jo!” Roy snapped.
“Roy, he’s a mess. He needs to be cleaned up.”
“I know and we will as soon as Brackett sees this.”
“See’s what?” A woman’s voice came from behind them. Roy turned to face the woman. She was perhaps forty with a light peppering of gray in her dark hair and a cold set to her face.
“The condition of my friend here, that’s what. Would you care to explain to me why he’s alone and in restraints when his Doctor ordered a twenty four seven watch on him? No oxygen, vomit all over him and in obvious distress.” The anger was climbing with each word.
“Sir, we’re very busy here and I’m sure you can understand that we’re shorthanded. We have been checking on him and his nurse would have cleaned him up as soon as she gets back,” she said frostily.
Roy snatched Johnny’s chart from the foot of the bed, shoving it in front of the woman’s face. “Twenty four seven…NO RESTRAINTS…There’s a reason for that,” He snarled pointing at Johnny’s frightened and struggling form.
“Sir…you have to understand…,”She began again.
“Understand what?” Kel Brackett said as he came into the room. His brown eyes met the frigid blue of Roy’s. “What’s wrong Roy?” He asked.
Roy stepped aside so the doctor could see Johnny. “That’s what’s wrong Doc...”
“What the hell?” He snapped as he headed for his patient but Roy stopped him.
“I’ll take care of Johnny Doc…Can you just deal with her?”
The blonde paramedic was seething. He’d never wanted to strike a woman in his entire life but right now he was sorely tempted. He schooled his voice into a soothing, soft tone as he approached his partner. He placed his hands on John’s shoulders, pressing him firmly but gently back on the bed. “Shhh Junior. It’s Roy Johnny…I’m here…we’re gonna take care of you okay?” He soothed as his hand stroked the sweat covered brow.
It took a few moments but Roy’s voice finally penetrated the feverish fog and Johnny began to calm down.
Roy let go and slowly began to remove the restraints. Jo took her cue from her husband and began to pull them loose from his other arm. Roy’s temper flared again as he saw the angry looking bruises around his best friend’s wrists.
Behind them, Kel was reading Miss Dawes the riot act. “Twenty four seven means someone is with him every minute. He could have aspirated nurse…what then? What if he’d had a seizure? Did you think of that when you took it upon yourself to countermand my orders and send his nurse off on some errand?”
“N…no,” She stammered…all pretense at coolness gone in the face of Kelly Brackett’s wrath. “We were watching him.”
“WATCHING HIM? How’d he get in that condition then if you were WATCHING him?” She stood in mute fear, unable to answer…Kel shook his head angrily. “Never mind… Roy and Joanne are going to stay with him. Roy’s a paramedic so he knows what to do and I’ll be directing him so anything he wants…you get him…understand?”
“Your nurses need to handle flushing the catheters and switching out his IV… anything else Roy can do…are we clear.”
“Y…yes sir…” She stuttered quietly. She turned to leave but stopped as he cleared his throat. She turned to face him once more.
“We’re not done here. I’ll see you in my office with the nursing director at 6:00.”
Her face paled. “Yes sir.”
“Jo, see if you can get these angels of mercy…,” Roy said snidely. “To get us some towels, sheets, a fresh gown and a pan of water,” Roy instructed quietly as he took the cloth from her hand. She nodded and left as Roy used the towel to gently bathe the sweat and saliva from his friends face and neck. “Hold on junior, we’re gonna fix ya right up,” he soothed softly.
John tossed restlessly as chills racked his body. His eyes cracked open, the distress in them evident. He moaned in misery and Roy rolled him quickly to his side as his partner began to retch violently. The groans of pain turned to feverish whimpers that tore at Roy’s heart as John clutched his arms across his sore stomach and drew his knees up.
Kel came to join Roy as Miss Dawes left the room and began taking his vitals. He glanced at the blonde paramedic. “I’m sorry Roy. I had no idea she’d countermanded my orders. I was up here this morning and everything was fine.”
“It’s not your fault Doc,” Roy said tightly as he continued to soothe his friend. “Just please keep her away from Johnny.”
Kel nodded in understanding. “We have him on Quinidine and Tetracycline.” Roy nodded. “We also have him on small doses of Lorazepam.”
Roy looked up sharply. “Has he already seized?”
“No and we’re trying to prevent it but his fevers very high and it’s always a possibility. He was badly dehydrated when he was brought in and we’re guessing he was sick for twenty four, maybe thirty six hours before they found him.”
Roy nodded, he already knew that part. His heart ached at the thought of Johnny sick and alone in his apartment for that long. “Why didn’t you call for help junior,” Roy asked softly as he brushed Johnny’s hair back from his face. John’s hand twitched weakly and Roy clasped it in his own.
Joanne came back with a young candy striper in tow carrying the requested items. “Jo honey, can you get him cleaned up?” Roy directed, pointing toward John’s hair as he stripped the sweat soaked gown from his partner.
“I’m so angry,” she said softly as she wiped the residual from John’s hair. Johnny moaned softly and she smoothed the wet hair back. “Shhh, it’s okay sweetheart…,” she soothed, before she continued. “How could they leave him in that condition? Why didn’t they call us?”
Roy shook his head…He wished he could answer that. A short time later, they had him clean and resting on fresh sheets.
Johnny’s eyes opened. His unfocused gaze rested on Joanne briefly before wandering on to Roy. He licked dry, cracked lips trying to speak. His voice muffled beneath the mask. “N…not s’posed to…b…be here,” he whispered. “Th…they p…pro…mised,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.
“You never mind that right now. We’ll deal with that later. Let’s just get you better,” Roy said softly squeezing Johnny’s hand.
Johnny began to pant…a warning sign that he was going to be sick. Roy rolled him on his side…lightly rubbing his partners back with one hand and holding his forehead with the other as his body began to spasm. He groaned miserably as his stomach muscles protested…John drew his legs up once more, curling into a tight ball. Roy eased him onto his back when he was through.
Joanne laid her hand gently on his stomach making small circular motions. “Easy sweetheart,” she soothed. “It’s okay baby.” Tightened muscles eased and after a moment Johnny relaxed.
“How’d you know that would help?” Roy asked curiously.
“Are you kidding? I have two kids at home besides,” she said with a giggle. “It works for pregnant women.”
Roy grinned. “Johnny’ll love that...Wait’ll I tell him.”
“Roy DeSoto…don’t you dare. He’d be mortified.”
With Johnny finally calm and sleeping, Roy took a moment to call Hank. “We’re at Rampart Cap.”
“He’s in pretty rough shape. He’s dehydrated and weak. His fevers down a bit right now but we already know from past experience that it’s probably only temporary.”
“Roy I’m really sorry,” Stanley began.
“Cap…,” Roy cut him off. “I know Johnny asked you not to call me and I’m upset and angry but I know you had to respect his wishes too. I’m frustrated with Johnny that he’s still seeing himself as a burden on us. I’m angry at the deplorable condition I found him in.”
Roy explained and by the time he was finished Cap was just as angry as he’d been. “I never thought that could happen at Rampart… I should have insisted that we tell you. I’m sorry Roy. We’ll be there to see him in the morning if they’ll let us in.”
“They’ll let you in Cap. We’ll be here with him until it’s over.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Roy tried to call Rosemary but the housekeeper informed him that she was in London and wouldn’t return for a couple of weeks.
Roy and Joanne worked as a team throughout the rest of the day and into the evening. Roy allowed the nurses to handle his medications and the changing of the IV’s but other than that they stayed clear of the frosty blue eyes that bore into them whenever they entered the room.
Roy and Jo took turns bathing his face and chest. They held his hand, stroked his hot forehead when he became agitated. Roy rolled him on his side as violent spasms racked his already aching body. He rubbed his back until the fever glazed eyes closed once more.
Jo soothed the strained stomach muscles with a gentle, circular motion on John’s belly bringing a gleam of amusement to Roy’s eyes. She often teased him about his feelings for his young partner but Roy knew Joanne’s feelings ran just as deep. She switched frequently from friend to big sister to mom without even being aware of it but Roy always was.
He smiled at her as he watched his wife soothe her ‘third child’, grateful as always that he’d married such a wonderful, caring woman who never begrudged Roy’s attention or affection for his troubled friend. She glanced up and caught his look. She smiled back and continued with what she was doing until John relaxed and slid into sleep. They both knew their family wouldn’t be complete without this young man being a part of it.
Cap, Mike, Marco and Chet showed up the next morning. They were stopped at the desk by the same nurse who’d given the DeSoto’s a hard time until Roy went out and cleared them. Miss Dawes was subdued but they could tell by the cold look they received that only the threat of Kelly Brackett coming down on her kept her from tossing them all out.
John was awake when they came into his room and semi lucid. “Hey pal,” Cap said softly as he rested his hand on Johnny’s dark hair.
“Cap,” John mouthed the word weakly but his voice was a bare croak from vomiting…The stomach acids having burned his esophagus. Miserable, exhausted eyes met Caps before moving on to the others. He tried a weak smile but it quickly turned to a grimace of pain as his lips cracked and began to bleed.
“Oh sweetheart,” Jo murmured as she gently blotted his mouth. “Here Roy,” she said handing the tube of ointment to her husband. Johnny hated it. It tasted awful and stung the open wounds. Roy was the only one who could get it on him and even that was a fight.
Roy set it aside, “Here Junior…Let’s do this first,” he suggested picking up the cup of ice chips. Joanne lifted John’s head a bit as Roy spooned the chips into his partner’s mouth wincing in sympathy at the grimace that followed every painful swallow. Jo finally laid his head back as Roy picked up the tube of ointment. “This isn’t his favorite thing,” Roy muttered to the crew. He tilted his partner’s head toward him. The younger man’s eyes flew open and he tried to turn his face away. “No you don’t Johnny,” Roy said softly as he firmly held his friends head steady and smoothed the cream onto his lips.
John strained away with a groan of irritation escaping his lips. His hand lifted to swat Roy’s away but he was too weak to get it more than a few inches off the bed.
The crew exchanged a worried glance and Cap shook his head. “Roy, I’m so sorry we didn’t get him help sooner. We just thought he had the flu. If I’d just told you before you left you could have gotten him here sooner.” The senior paramedic looked up sharply as Cap continued. “But he was so afraid it would ruin your vacation.” The others nodded in agreement.
“Are you telling me you knew that he was sick BEFORE I left?”
Johnny’s brown eyes had grown frantic with each word Cap spoke. He looked at his captain in desperation…the subtle shake of his head a plea for him not to say anything more but Cap ignored it. “Yeah pal.”
John groaned in misery, knowing Roy would be furious with him. Roy turned to his friend. “He’s tellin me you knew you were sick before I left. Is that why you wouldn’t let me near you?” Johnny remained mute as he rolled his head away, refusing to meet Roy’s eyes. “Did you know what you had?” He snapped. John didn’t answer but he felt Roy’s hand grip his chin and force his head around. Wary, dark eyes met angry blue. “Did you know?” He pressed angrily.
“Yes…,” his young partner croaked, barely audible.
“DAMN IT JOHN…,” Roy barked out. John flinched away from the anger in his voice.
“Roy,” Joanne began warningly. “He did it for you…for us.”
Cap scowled at the young man as well. John had told him it was only the flu. He’d willfully lied to him and put his life at risk.
The young paramedic had become visibly agitated at Roy’s anger. The older man recognized the anxiety in the dark eyes and got his temper under control. He lifted his partners chin, forcing John’s eyes to meet his own. “Why? Over a damn vacation…?”
“M s…sorry,” he mouthed. Tears of misery burned behind his eyes. “D...doan yell at m…me,” Johnny whispered defensively.
“Yell at you…?” Roy snapped.
“What about the lie you told me John?” Cap growled angrily.
John looked between the two men. “Didn’t wan…na spoil ev…ryth…thing. D…doan be m…mad.” The lips formed the words but only a painful groan was audible.
“Oh man Johnny,” Roy mumbled in frustration as he leaned down to briefly rest his forehead against his friends. He felt the heat from Johnny’s brow against his own and pulled away slightly… Smoothing the sweat dampened sable hair away from his face. John shuddered lightly. “Shhh Junior. It’s okay…I’m not mad,” he lied. “You need to rest now. We’re here now and that’s all that matters.”
Cap mellowed as the others watched with aching hearts as Roy soothed his young friend.
“M sorry,” he rasped again.
“I know…Jo can you get me a new towel and fresh water,” he asked. She glanced at Johnny…Sweat beaded his brow and his body had begun to shake with chills…The fever was back. Once again they took up positions on either side of the bed.
The crew stayed for about an hour before saying goodbye. Fear for their friend was reflected in their faces.
Kel and Dixie came to check on their patient. Kel shook his head in dismay at John’s condition as the young paramedic began the gasping pant that warned them that he was about to be sick. Roy sighed as he held his partner's head and his body heaved. Muscles cramped and tears trickled from the dark eyes, mingling with the sweat that rolled down his face and into his hair. Kel watched with a grin as Joanne gently rubbed John’s abdomen until the spasms eased and John drifted into sleep. The young man was in the right place. Intensive Care was what he was most definitely receiving from these two.
Despite the medications and the cooling sheet, Johnny’s fever spiked. Roy called Kel as it began to top 105° and Johnny shook with chills…His body sweating out fluids almost faster than they could replace them. “He could end up with brain damage if we don’t get this fever down,” Kel warned them quietly. “Dix…let’s switch him to Dilantin…I don’t want him going into seizures.” She nodded and hurried from the room.
“What do we do now?” Roy asked.
“Keep bathing him with cool water…If that doesn’t work soon, we’ll use ice to bring his body temperature down. Joanne nodded as she picked up the cloth and began to bathe his face and chest once more.
John’s body writhed on the bed in the throes of delirium. Roy had to hold him down as he became combative. Nurse Dawes entered the room with the restraint bands in hand and a smug look on her face. She’d been right to use them before and now they’d have to admit it.
Roy glared at her. “Get out and take those with you,” he growled.
She watched in surprise as he pulled Johnny into his arms holding the gasping, struggling form against him. He began a gentle rocking motion, stroking his friends sweat soaked hair. “It’s okay Johnny. You’re gonna be okay. We’re gonna get you through this. Hold on for me partner. Don’t leave me okay? Breathe one more time Johnny…good boy. Now another…good…One more…”
Johnny slowly began to calm and his body began to relax. Fever and chills still gripped him but his breathing was a bit steadier.
Kel came back a while later… “Any improvement…?”
Roy shook his head. “He’s not fighting anymore but his fevers still up there.”
Kel nodded. “I’ve ordered an Ice sheet Roy. We’ve got to get that temperature down or we’re going to lose him.”
Roy nodded and Joanne brushed tears from her eyes as Dixie stripped the gown away and draped the young man’s body with a sheet. Ice packs were placed all around him and Kel stayed at his side, monitoring him closely.
Dixie finally took Joanne’s hand and pulled her gently toward the door. “C’mon Jo…Let’s get something to eat and some coffee. Kel and Roy will stay with him and you need to think about something else for awhile. Joanne hesitated, throwing one final glance back at Johnny…afraid something would happen and she wouldn’t be there with them. Roy threw her an encouraging smile and she allowed Dix to pull her from the room.
Carol Dawes watched them leave. She shook her head as she turned to several other nurses. “They’re wasting their time. He’s not going to make it,” she declared knowingly.
One of them grinned at her. “You haven’t been here very long…I’ve seen him live through worse…Johnny never quits,” she assured her. Dawes shot her a glare and left.
Roy stayed at Johnny’s side speaking softly and blotting the sweat that beaded on his brow. The glazed eyes were barely open and Roy was truly afraid Johnny was fading away. His hand stroked the hair from John’s forehead and he leaned close to his friend’s ear. “Just keep fighting Junior. Don’t quit okay? I know you’re tired but I love you and I need you here Johnny…Don’t leave me?”
Tears spilled over the dark lashes of the younger man…Roy wiped them away and continued talking. Johnny was exhausted but an hour later Kel grinned at Roy. “He’s out of danger for now Roy. His temperature is down to 103°…I think we can remove the sheet.”
“I knew you could do it Junior,” the blonde paramedic whispered to his friend.
Roy sat in the chair next to John’s bed, rarely leaving it even to sleep. He was exhausted. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and glanced up into the face of his Captain and the station crew. “You need to rest pal,” Cap said quietly. “You’ve been here for five straight days. Let us sit with him for a while and you get some sleep.”
“I’ll rest when he does,” Roy whispered as John stirred restlessly in the bed. “He’s more worn out than I am and he can’t take a break.”
“But you can and you have enough willing hands.” The blonde paramedic shook his head.
“Roy…you’re no good to him if you put yourself in the hospital.”
Johnny rolled his head as a soft whimper of misery slipped from his lips.
Roy started to stand but Mike Stoker waved him back into his seat. “Let me,” he said as he moved to John’s bedside.
“You can try,” Roy answered as he watched Mike take the younger man’s hand. Johnny let him but was still restive. His mouth formed one word… “Roy…”
“Roy’s right here Johnny,” Mike reassured him as Cap moved over to join him, resting his hand on John’s shoulder…Johnny shifted uncomfortably, too weak to shake Hank’s hand away but still obviously resisting the contact.
“Roy…,” he gasped as his head rolled from side to side.
Roy smiled tiredly and slid the chair closer. He laid his hand on John’s forehead and swept the sable hair aside. “I’m hear junior just take it easy,” he whispered. His partner sank into a restless slumber.
Joanne came into the room with coffee for Roy. She smiled a tired greeting to the crew as she moved to her husband’s side. “How is he?” She asked rubbing his tense shoulders.
“Sleeping…exhausted and he’s vomiting blood.”
“Oh no,” she murmured. She rolled her head around, trying to loosen her own stiff muscles before moving to John’s side. She leaned down to kiss his forehead. “Hi baby…did you miss me?” She whispered softly as she resumed bathing his face and neck.
Chet reached over and took the cloth. “This I can do…,” he said quietly.
“Why don’t you get some rest Jo?” Cap suggested.
The extra bed they’d brought in looked awfully inviting but her blue eyes watched John uncertainly. “We’ll wake you if anything happens,” Mike promised.
“You too Roy…Just kick back in the chair…He’ll stay calm as long as you’re right there.” Roy suddenly recognized the crews need to help both him as well as Johnny. He finally nodded.
“For a little while…,” he agreed. They both settled down and sleep quickly claimed them.
The crew stayed for several hours letting the couple rest.
Jo sat at John’s side the following morning while Roy continued to sleep in the chair. She’d already bathed the young paramedic and resettled him on clean sheets with a new gown and was busy sponging the sweat from his face when she noticed Roy’s eyes were open and watching her. She threw him a smile. “Good morning,” she said softly as she continued with what she was doing.
Morning babe,” he replied yawning. He stretched and stood up, leaning over his partner to feel his forehead…the fever still raged.
“Why Roy…?” She asked softly as John moaned softly under her ministrations.
“Why what honey?”
“Why wouldn’t he let them tell us? Doesn’t he know how important he is to us yet?”
“You heard Martha the last time we were there. John’s still just not secure enough after what happened a couple of months ago. He doesn’t trust our friendship enough yet to know where he stands. He still afraid if he becomes a burden he’ll be pushed away like his family did and that’s my fault.”
“How are we going to fix that?”
“I think when he’s well enough we may need to take him into Dr. Hightower’s whether he’s ready or not. We need to get our family back on track before he kills himself with one of these little stunts.”
Johnny’s fever rose and fell as the days slowly passed…lapsing in and out of a coma. When he was conscious his glazed eyes tracked the room until they found Roy and the dark gaze would lock on his partner. John struggled to live hour by hour…His breaths coming in short shallow gasps…Too weak to speak and his throat raw from vomiting.
Roy spoke softly to him…Reassuring and gentle…Reminding him of past escapades and rescues.
Joanne watched with a smile. She knew Johnny really wasn’t understanding any of what was being said but he gazed intently at Roy as if hearing every word.
Carol Dawes expected every day to be his last. She had no idea of Johnny’s will to live or of Roy’s tenacity to see to it that he did.
Eight long days after it began... Johnny lay on the sweat soaked sheets. Roy was asleep with his head on his folded arms, one hand locked with John’s. Joanne was asleep on the extra bed. Roy felt the smallest squeeze on his fingers. It snapped him awake instantly.
He sat up quickly, his gaze moved to John’s face. Exhausted but lucid brown eyes looked back.
“Johnny…?” He called softly as he reached for his friend’s forehead. For the first time in nine days, he felt cool to the touch.
“Over…?” He rasped through cracked lips.
“Yeah Junior, it’s over,” Roy whispered, stroking his friend’s brow. Johnny nodded slightly. “Time for you to rest now okay? I think you’ve earned it.” He asked as he dropped his head to rest against John’s forehead and breathed a sigh of relief. The younger man’s lip curled in a slight smile as his eyes closed in sleep.
Roy hit the call button. A young nurse at the station signaled Miss Dawes. She shook her head with a knowing smile at the ones who had told her she was wrong. She’d been waiting for this call. There was no way that John Gage would pull through as weak as he’d been last night. Even Dr. Brackett had shaken his head in despair at the young man’s condition. It’s not that she wanted the young fireman dead but she was simply positive that he was a lost cause. She schooled her features into lines of sympathy and pushed the door open.
Roy was exhausted but the joy of knowing Johnny was out of danger and would recover made him charitable even to this nurse. “Would you page Dr. Brackett?” He asked.
“Certainly…I’m very sorry.”
“For what…?” Roy asked slightly confused.
Her eyes flew to Johnny, noticing the rise and fall of the man’s chest. “I thought…,” she began.
Roy suddenly understood. “His fever’s broken,” he said coldly. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“I…I’m sorry…He was so bad last night…I’m not disappointed of course. I just thought…”
“You don’t know Johnny,” Roy said proudly.
“Or my husband,” Jo said from the bed as she sat up. “He’d never let Johnny go without one hell of a fight.” She came to join Roy at Johnny’s side. She kissed the young man’s brow. “Would you bring us some sheets and a gown? He’ll be much more comfortable in a dry bed,” she said in relief.
Kelly Brackett arrived a few minutes later…Dixie and Miss Dawes in tow. Dixie jumped in to help as Roy and Joanne finished getting their young friend settled on fresh linen. John didn’t even stir. The blonde nurse dropped a kiss on John’s cheek before she and Kel checked him out.
Brackett looked at Roy. “Let’s get him back on ice chips again as soon as possible Roy. As much as you can get into him without making him sick. Miss Dawes, stop the Dilantin as soon as his fluid levels stabilize. Let’s get him off Quinidine and start him on 300mg of Quinine. Keep him on the Tetracycline a while longer. As weak as he is, I don’t want some passing bug to bring him down.
“Yes Doctor,” she agreed contritely…not meeting Roy’s eyes.
“Roy…Joanne, I truly thought we’d lost him this time but you never gave up and you never let him give up.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I don’t know why I’m surprised,” he said with a grin. “C’mon Dix…Nurse,” Kel said ushering them out.
“Doc…?” Roy called.
“Yeah Roy…?” He questioned, turning back.
“I’m gonna try and get Johnny to therapy with Dr. Hightower.”
“You think he’ll go for it?”
“Not at first but I think I can talk him around. He’s still unsure of our relationship…He still doesn’t trust me and he’s still afraid we’ll see him as a burden and push him away. It’s too ingrained into him not to. I don’t want to risk a repeat of this. I think it’s time and I’m ready.”
Kel grinned and nodded. “Let’s hope he is.”
Bleary dark eyes met smiling blue when Johnny woke the next morning. “Welcome back Junior,” Roy said softly.
John’s cracked lips turned up in a slight smile. His eyes traveled around the room, stopping to rest on Joanne who was sleeping on the other bed. He looked back at Roy in dismay. His mouth formed the silent words. “Spoi..led vac..ca…sion huh?”
“No you didn’t partner. We’d rather have been with you these last eight days than sitting on some dumb beach but don’t worry Junior…We’ll get it back on a few long weekends and you can babysit.”
Johnny grinned slightly…”Deal,” he mouthed.
Roy reached for the Ice chips as Joanne opened her eyes. She glanced over at her husband’s softly voiced words and sat up. “Is he awake?”
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and quickly moved to John’s side. “Good morning sweetheart.” She smiled as she brushed the tangled, sable hair from his forehead.
His mouth once again moved without sound. “M s…sor…ry,” he wrestled with the words, lips cracking with the effort.
“For what baby…? What are you sorry for?”
“B…ein a pro…blem. Spoil…ed ev…rything,” he gasped, struggling to keep his eyes open and to get the words out.
“John Gage,” she said sternly in Mother mode. “You are NEVER a problem sweetheart. Don’t you know that?” She brushed his cheek with her fingers. John smiled hesitantly. “You still look very tired sweetheart…Why don’t you try to get some more sleep.”
“Y…yes Ma’am,” he mouthed, his eyes closing in exhaustion.
“How do we get through sweetheart?” She asked the sleeping figure. She looked up at Roy. “Why can’t he understand? What did they do to him as child to make him this way?” She asked Roy sadly.
Roy thought back to the night three years ago when Johnny had told him about his childhood. Roy had shared some of it with Joanne but not all. He didn’t want to betray his friend’s confidence and he strongly suspected there was even more to that story than John had even told him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the pain…both physical and emotional, that his partner had endured but he knew if he went this therapy route with Johnny he’d have too. His heart ached for his friend but he was also incredibly proud of everything Johnny had accomplished through the years of their partnership. He squeezed his friend’s hand. “I guess we’ll find out,” he said softly.
The crew of station 51 came by the next morning. “Hey pal,” Cap greeted his youngest crew member.
“Cap,” John mouthed.
“Still no voice John?” He asked.
Johnny shook his head weakly. Knowing his pigeon was out of the woods, Chet quickly reverted to form. “Enjoy it while it lasts Cap,” he teased.
John shot him an offended look but softened it with a grin followed quickly by a grimace as his lips cracked. The younger man rolled his head in frustration.
“Here sweetheart,” Joanne said…The endearment drawing a grin from the guys. “Let’s try this instead of that nasty stuff my husband uses on you,” she teased as she pulled a flavored lip balm from her pocket. John lay quietly as she applied it, the strawberry flavor drawing a small grateful smile from the young man. Joanne winked and dropped a kiss on his forehead.
“Johnny, Jo and I are gonna leave for a couple of hours today, is that okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” he mouthed silently. “Where… going…?” He asked in a bare whisper.
“We have to talk to someone.”
“Oh.” Johnny sensed his reluctance to discuss it. “Ever…thin okay…?” He rasped.
“Fine partner,” Roy answered brushing the hair back from his friends face…drawing grins from the crew. “But Johnny…When you’re better…?” John tensed at the warning tone. “We have to talk about what happened or could have happened.”
“Roy…,” he began in a croak.
“Not now…later but this can’t happen again.”
John chewed his lip nervously, concern that his friend was angry with him written in his eyes. Roy turned to their friends as the men gathered around the bed, either sitting at the foot or pulling up chairs. Roy and Joanne gave Johnny’s hand a squeeze. “We’re gonna let you visit. Joanne and I are gonna go home and shower and change okay?” Johnny nodded and seemed to relax so they felt comfortable leaving him.”Don’t overdo it okay? He tires easily.”
“Okay dad,” Chet said.
“Geez Roy,” Marco piped in. “We weren’t gonna run him around the block or anything.” Roy blushed slightly.
“Don’t worry Roy, I’ll keep an eye on him and them,” Cap reassured him.
Roy shoved the cup of ice chips at Mike who sat closest to Johnny’s head. “Make sure he gets these. Don’t let him out of it,” Roy said sounding like a worried father leaving his child for the first time. John rolled his eyes in annoyance but didn’t protest. “Don’t you roll those eyes at me Junior,” Roy said warningly as he left the room.
John grinned in embarrassment as the guys chuckled at the fatherly tone.
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