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The Long Road Back - Part 2

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

Links to Part 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

 

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are. Chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away…Dinah Craik.

Part 2 – Therapy

 

 

Roy and Joanne went home to shower and change and then headed for Dr. Hightower’s. They were ushered into her office a short time later. They sat across from the middle aged woman.

 

She leaned back in her chair, smiling at the couple. She admired these two special people very much. Their love for and determination to do anything to help their young friend did her heart good. “Roy, Joanne…I thought you were on vacation?” She questioned.

 

“We were but Johnny got real sick so we came home.”

 

She sat up straighter in her chair, looking at them in concern. “How sick…?” She asked.

 

“Very…He had Malaria.”

 

“My goodness,” she gasped in surprise. “Where in the world did he get something like that?”

 

“He originally contracted it during a rescue almost two years ago but Brackett warned us then that it could recur months or even years later…”

 

“And it did…,” she stated flatly.

 

“Yes…”

 

“Well that certainly would put an end to your vacation. Is he alright?”

 

“His fever broke early this morning. He’s still pretty weak and he’s got a few weeks of recovering to do but he’ll be okay.”

 

“Good, good…I’m glad to hear that but knowing you like I do Roy I’m pretty surprised that you left him alone to come here.”

 

Roy and Jo both grinned at the woman’s perception. “The station crew is with him,” Roy explained.

 

“So what’s the problem that tore you away from his side?”

 

Roy chewed his lip for a moment. “Martha…Johnny knew he was sick…He even knew what he had and how sick he was gonna get before Joanne and I left on vacation.”

 

 “But he didn’t tell you did he?”

 

Roy shook his head. “No and he wouldn’t let them tell us either. He passed out alone in his apartment. He went over twenty four hours before being treated. He could have died.”

 

“Oh good heavens…Did he say why?”

 

Roy nodded with a look of frustration. “He told Cap he didn’t want to be a burden again.” 

 

Martha shook her head. “We need to get those negative words out of his vocabulary,” she said with a sigh.

 

Roy nodded. “Good luck with that, I’ve been trying for years but they’re just so ingrained in him.”

 

She agreed with that assessment. “So what do you want to do about it?”

 

Roy grinned. Martha always talked like a therapist…that was ingrained in her. “I think I’m…we,” he corrected glancing at Joanne…“Are ready to bring him in here and see if we can get him to try this. He’s still so damn insecure and I know it’s my fault that we’re back to this point but he almost killed himself this time and if we don’t get this relationship back on track it could easily happen again…and it might not be an illness but it could be…”

 

“Or an injury,” Jo added. “He’s done that before too. Hidden them I mean.”

 

Martha nodded as Roy continued.  “Mainly Martha, I just want Johnny and I back where we used to be when he still trusted me completely.”

 

Martha smiled. “In all fairness Roy, Johnny’s been incapable of COMPLETELY trusting anyone for most of his life and he had a lot of insecurities even when things were okay between you…so did you.”

 

Roy looked surprised. “Me?”

 

“Sure…You still do to some degree.”

 

Roy shook his head. “I don’t think so…”

 

“Are you prepared to use this therapy with John?”

 

“I think so. I’ve watched it done with the kids here and I’ve been practicing on Joanne for months and I even tried it with my children.”

 

“That was your wife and your children…That was the easy part. Are you ready to overcome your own insecurities about touching John?”

 

Roy flushed a bit. He’d known this time would come and it would be very different being in such close…almost intimate contact with another man but this wasn’t just some guy, it was Johnny…His best friend and kid brother for five years…Heck he’d almost been using touch therapy on his partner for a long time now, he just never realized it.

 

He’d rubbed his back, stroked his forehead and even held him in his arms he didn’t know how many times. He glanced up to see two sets of curious eyes on him. “Yeah Doc…I’m ready. I don’t want Johnny to have any doubts about our friendship or how we feel about him…He’s a part of this family.”

 

She pursed her lips in indecision, then finally nodded. “I’ve taught you the therapy techniques Roy and you’re ready for that part but you’re not an actual therapist so I guess I better explain what you’re in for.”

 

Roy looked at her nervously. “Okay,” he agreed.

 

“In a way it’s better for both of you that you aren’t because as a touch therapist some of my people aren’t doctors and are limited in what they can say and how far they can push where you aren’t. You’re his friend and you can go into things they’d never attempt.”

 

“Okay,” Roy agreed.

 

“Right now John associates being touched with being hurt…Mentally, physically, emotionally. That’s what he remembers most while growing up and the reason he pulls away when most people touch him. We want to re-teach him that touch is a good thing and a pleasant experience. That it’s healing and he can open up and express himself.”

 

“He’s pretty good at that now,” Roy said drily.

 

“On the surface only…He doesn’t talk about those things that hurt or frighten him. He bottles them up and we want to get him past that so he can tell you about those things and let them go once and for all. But if he’s not ready…He is going to resist this.”

 

“I know.”

 

“And if he does agree, he’s going to reach deep inside himself to a place that he blocks out most of the time…The worst times of his life…Those numb places where he doesn’t feel. He’s most likely going to tell you things that will make you angry, break your heart or maybe even make you sick. You may be very shocked at what he’s been hiding inside.”

 

“But Johnny told me about his past,” Roy argued.

 

She smiled gently. “John most likely just scraped the surface with what he told you.” Roy looked slightly shocked as she continued. “Do you understand where he is? What you’re reaching for?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“You told me his family didn’t want him to cry, that it was weak.” Roy nodded. “From what you’ve told me I’d bet that John most likely wasn’t allowed to express his emotions at all as a child. Not grief, fear, anger, frustration and he most certainly didn’t have much cause for joy either. They forced him to repress those emotions and so he buried them way down deep where he can’t feel them and where they can’t hurt him understand? That’s what we want to him to find and what you’re going to help him remember. Are you prepared to hear those things? The things he’s buried?”

 

Roy locked his gaze with hers…his stare never wavered. “No but I’m going to do it anyway because I can’t lose him. He means too much to me and to my family, besides I’d love to see him free from all that and ready to have a real life…find a wife, have kids…to be able to just open up and trust people.”

 

“It’s not a miracle cure Roy. It’ll be a long road back and he may never be totally free. You can’t erase his past, you can only help him face it…overcome it… and it might take some time. Two steps forward one back.”

 

“I’ll take them with him.”

 

She smiled. “Good. Then call me when he’s well enough.”

 

Roy and Jo stood up. “Thanks Doc.”

 

 

Johnny was sleeping peacefully when they returned. “How is he?” Joanne asked as she leaned over to place a light kiss on the young man’s cheek.

 

“Sleeping,” Cap said stating the obvious.

 

“Man is he whipped,” Chet said worriedly.

 

“We know Chet, but now that the fever’s broken he’ll bounce back,” he said lightly stroking his friend’s hair back from his pale face.

 

“You need to do something about him Roy…I mean man, he almost killed himself,” the curly haired Irishman muttered with a shake of the head.

 

“We are Chet,” Roy said softly as he glanced at his sleeping friend. “And you’re not gonna like this Junior.”

 

 

Johnny woke the next morning, his voice a rasping croak but definitely there. “Well that’s a relief,” Roy teased with a smile. “I can stop lip reading. Your breakfast is here…You wanna try some?” Johnny looked at the covered tray warily, raising his dark eyes to Roy’s.  “I promise it’s not Jello. Joanne and Dixie raided the kitchen for ya partner.”

 

“Kay,” he finally agreed with a half smile.

 

Roy pulled the tray closer and lifted the lid. His friend’s pleased grin would give Dix and Jo a laugh…Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, apple juice, weak tea and no jello. Roy raised the head of the bed and propped Johnny up. The younger man was still too weak to even hold the fork on his own. Roy managed to get most of it down his partner before the eyes began to close once more. He still had a way to go.

 

 

 

When he woke again Joanne was gone and Roy was sitting next to his bed reading a magazine. He felt the dark eyes on him and glanced up. He set the magazine aside and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “Hey partner…How ya feelin?”

 

“T’red,” he whispered.

 

“You ready to try some lunch?”

 

The dark brown eyes held a slightly worried look. “Okay but Roy…I…I’m sorry,” he rasped.

 

Roy recognized where this was going and he wasn’t ready to get into this discussion yet. “Not now Johnny,” he replied, cutting him off. “We’ll talk about this when you’re better okay? Now let me see about getting you some lunch.”

 

“But Roy…,” John began again. “I don’t want you…to be mad…,” he croaked out…His voice cracking from the strain.

 

“Johnny I’m not mad at you…I’m frustrated and we just need to find a way to keep this from happening again.”

 

“Roy…”

 

“Not now…later,” the older man insisted as he swept the dark hair back from John’s face…A reassurance to the younger man that he wasn’t angry.

 

“Where’s Jo?”

 

“Eileen dropped the kids off this morning so she had to go home but she told me to give you her love.”

 

John blushed slightly and gave his partner a small grin. “Thanks.”

 

 

Roy returned to work the next morning but went upstairs to visit whenever he was at Rampart. Dixie made it a point to pop in when she had a free moment as well. The medications were being slowly withdrawn and the monitors and the catheter were removed…The latter much to Johnny’s relief.

 

Dr. Brackett came by late that afternoon with Roy in tow. “Okay Johnny, let’s get you up for a while,” Kel said.

 

Roy helped his partner sit up and had him swing his shaky legs over the edge of the bed. Johnny scooted himself forward, his hand reaching for Roy’s shoulder. A small smile crept over his features…His friend was always there to support him. It was a comforting thought.

 

John sagged weakly as his feet hit the floor and Roy held him securely as they walked him to the chair. Johnny sank gratefully into it. “When you can get from your bed to the bathroom and back on your own, I’ll send you home,” Kel promised him.

 

“Kay,” Johnny agreed.

 

“We’re sending a physical therapist up in the morning, he’s gonna work with you to get you back on your feet as soon as possible,” Kel told him.

 

“Okay,” he agreed as Kel threw the two men a grin and left.

 

“You just rest for a while partner,” Roy said as the nurses came in to change the sheets. “Jo sure won’t miss this part of taking care of you,” he teased. John looked at him curiously. “She changed those sheets six times a day while you were sick,” Roy explained at the baffled expression on John’s face.

 

“Oh,” he whispered. Feeling bad that she’d had to go through that when she should have been hanging out at the beach or relaxing by the pool. “I’m sorry,” he apologized.

 

Roy shrugged. “Don’t be…she didn’t figure there was much point in bathing you and changing your gown if she just had to lay you back down on those sweat soaked sheets.”

 

John’s mouth dropped open in stunned shock. “She did what?” He rasped, as his face turned scarlet.

 

Roy looked at his partner. “What’s wrong Johnny?”

 

“Jo bathed…I mean…you didn’t let her…it was a nurse right? Jo didn’t actually like…see…,” he stuttered.

 

“Every square inch…,” Joanne said from the open doorway. She was grinning from ear to ear.

 

“Oh man,” John groaned in embarrassment. “Why’d you let her do that?” He mumbled to his partner.

 

Roy’s grin matched his wife’s. “Somebody had to do it and she didn’t want any of those nurses near you at the time. They’d done such a lousy job of taking care of you before we got here, she wasn’t taking any chances.”

 

“But Roy…She’s your…and…and,” he began. John’s face was crimson as Joanne came to his side and bent to kiss his cheek. She grinned deliciously. She probably didn’t want to know how many young women had been overnight guests in John Gage’s bed but it tickled her to death that the idea of her seeing him in the altogether left him stuttering and red faced.

 

Roy chuckled at his partners embarrassed blush. “She’s a part of your family too Junior and she loves you just like I do.”

 

John looked up at both of them uncertainly. The look brought a sigh of frustration from both of them and Jo shook her finger in his face. “Don’t you ever doubt how much your loved John Gage,” she admonished sternly.

 

John grinned hesitantly. “Yes Ma’am,” he replied softly.

 

“Besides,” she said to the younger man. “Now when I set you up on dates with my friends I can list ALL of your attributes,” she teased as she turned away to set down her things. John’s jaw dropped once more. She threw a glance over her shoulder. “Or short comings,” she added with a grin.

 

Roy snorted with laughter as John’s mouth snapped shut in mute indignation. “I guess she really got ya huh?” Roy taunted.

 

John shot his partner a glare as Jo returned to the bed. “Attributes,” he rasped out firmly as Joanne and Roy began to chuckle once more. John’s crooked grin finally made an appearance as he joined in with their laughter.

 

The humor faded as a nurse came in with a pan of water and some towels. His dark eyes shot toward Jo as she began to roll up her sleeves. Roy’s blue eyes sparkled with glee as John’s gaze flew toward him. “You…she can’t…I…you need to take her for coffee,” he stammered pointing at Jo with wide eyes.

 

 

June 1976 - In San Francisco a trial had just ended. Evan Wainrite was found guilty of the murder of his partner and best friend Maxwell Tate. The beautiful blonde paramedic…One of the few female’s to achieve that status was acquitted of any wrong doing.

 

Two detectives who’d investigated the case along with the San Francisco Fire Chief stood watching in disbelief. The evidence hadn’t been enough to prove the girl was lying and the only witness who could have backed up Wainrite’s story was dead.

 

Neither detective was through yet. Detective Douglas Campbell from Fresno and Detective Walter Newcombe out of San Francisco still believed there was more to this girl than they knew and he intended to find out everything they could, though now they’d have to work separately once again.

 

This wasn’t the first time she’d been involved in something like this…In fact she’d accused several other fire fighters of rape, assault and murder. Three of those she’d accused had been murdered by their partner’s and one had committed suicide. The other had quit the force and disappeared.  One of those murders and suicides had been the girl’s father and his partner.

 

 Detective Campbell sighed in aggravation, he’d been on this since her father had killed his partner and taken his own life. He believed then and still did that the girl had had something to do with it.  Granted the woman was stunningly beautiful and well able to turn any man’s head but this many assaults against her had to be questionable. The problem was they had no evidence to prove she was lying.

 

The Chief didn’t believe the girl for a moment. Wainrite and Tate had been good friends and neither would have turned on the other without a damn good reason. He’d spoken to Tate when the girl had accused him of rape and he’d denied it. He admitted that he’d slept with the woman but he’d sworn she was a willing partner. He claimed the bruises on the girl had been self inflicted but no one had believed him. He’d tried to get her fired but they’d said he needed proof to get this woman off the department…every department… permanently and he planned to go back to the woman’s previous assignments in other cities… but for now he was just glad to see her move on. He prayed the next group of hapless men to fall into her path would fare better than his had.

 

Gayle Markson smiled innocently at the three men as she passed by, knowing none of them had believed her lies but she’d covered her tracks well and as usual left no one to refute her claims. The ones she had left alive all believed they’d saved a damsel in distress. She shook her head in disbelief…Men were all the same and so easy to deceive.  

 

She’d been playing her nasty little game since she’d been attacked by her father’s partner when she was sixteen. Her father hadn’t believed her. He’d slapped her across the face and called her a cheap little whore when his partner claimed she’d come on to him and seduced him in the locker room of the fire station. He said he’d seen the way she teased the man with her short little skirts and low cut blouses.

 

She’d been shocked that her own father has taken Matt’s side against her and something inside of her had snapped. Well she’d gotten even with both of them…and she continued to get even in station after station, luring men into her web of seduction and then crying rape… Turning friend against friend and leaving a trail of broken marriages, destroyed friendships, ruined lives and dead bodies. Her father should have believed her…She'd been defenseless, helpless. He should have taken her side just as these men did. She had an obsessive needed to prove it to herself over and over again."You should have believed me papa," she whispered to herself.

 

She climbed into her car and flipped open the glove compartment. Her beautiful violet eyes glittered maliciously and a psychotic smile twisted her lips as she pulled out a map of California. She closed her eyes and let her finger roam the map dropping it randomly. She opened her eyes. Her finger rested near LA. She looked closer. “Carson…,” she breathed out softly.

 

 

Roy was back the next day, resuming his place next to Johnny’s bed. “Roy…you don’t have to babysit me. I’ll be fine alone,” Johnny protested in a grating whisper. “Go spend time with your family. I’ll be getting in the way enough in a few days,” he rasped out with a slightly worried expression.

 

Roy sighed heavily. “You are family and you’re NEVER in the way Johnny…We’ve told you that before.”

 

“I…I know…but…I meant…just…you know.” He took a deep breath to slow down and get his thoughts under control. “I just mean you won’t have any privacy for a few weeks that’s all.”

 

“Yeah…I know what you meant Junior,” Roy said sternly, stressing the meant.

 

Johnny frowned slightly at the tone. “Roy…Are you mad at me?”

 

“No why?”

 

“You’ve been acting strange the last couple of days that’s all.”

 

Roy reached out to scruff Johnny’s hair affectionately but his friend ducked his head away. “You’re imagining things,” Roy said with an aggravated sigh. Johnny was back to his don’t touch attitude. “Man I hope this works,” Roy muttered to himself.

 

“What?” Johnny asked.

 

“Nothin Junior…Nothin…”

 

 

Johnny pushed himself hard for the next few days and proudly made the walk from bed to bathroom and back. “Can I go home?” He asked looking at Brackett.

 

“A promise is a promise,” Kel said glancing at Roy.

 

The blonde paramedic grinned. “I’ll pick him up in the morning when I get off.” Johnny shot him a crooked grin.

 

Roy picked him up when he got off shift the next day. Joanne was waiting with breakfast when they got there. “Welcome home sweetheart,” she said kissing his cheek in greeting.

 

Johnny grinned at her. “Morning Jo,” he said with a slight rasp still evident. Jo headed for the kitchen as Roy assisted him to the table. She reappeared a moment later with breakfast for both of them. She set the plates down and ruffled Johnny’s hair with her fingers.

 

“There you go sweetheart…and after breakfast we can give you your bath,” she said straight faced. John’s mouth dropped open in shock and Roy leaned forward and covered his own with both hands to contain the laughter. John breathed a sigh of relief as Joanne smiled and threw him a wink.

 

“Very funny,” he said with a grin as he picked up his fork and began to eat.

 

Over the next couple of weeks the children worked Johnny harder than the therapist, just as they had the last time he’d been ill. Chris and Jen soon had him racing around the yard and Kel threatened to hire them for the therapy department. Johnny and Roy just grinned.

 

 

Cap called Roy in the next morning. “Roy, I know with Johnny out that this probably isn’t the best time for you but headquarters is sending us a new paramedic.”

 

“Trainee…?” Roy questioned, not really wanting that responsibility while working with an unfamiliar partner.

 

“No just a transfer but they want the usual six week training course to be sure she knows how we do things. I guess she’s been bounced all around the state.”

 

“She…?” He asked worriedly.

 

“She’s had some problems with the men I guess. Headquarters didn’t go into it.” Well… Roy understood that. They’d had some problems with Karen when she’d worked at the station too. A woman in a predominantly male field could sometimes stir the guys up to acting like a bunch of schoolboys. “Hopefully Johnny will be back in another week…Until then you and Alan can handle things.”

 

“Sure Cap, not a problem.” He turned to leave but Cap’s clearing of the throat stopped him.

 

“Oh and Roy, don’t worry…She’ll be working half shifts until she’s reassigned permanently.”

 

Roy grinned. “Okay Cap.

 

 

 

Roy stopped at the base station after one of their runs. He excused himself from Alan Jefferson, his temporary partner. He moved off with Dr. Brackett and Dixie.

 

“Are you on for tomorrow?” Kel asked once they were out of ear shot.

 

“Yeah,” Roy said a little hesitantly.

 

“What’s wrong Roy?”

 

“I don’t know if I’m doin the right thing here Doc…I mean what if he refuses to try it or worse…gets angry…? I’m not prepared to lose my best friend over this.”

 

“You almost did already Roy. If your Captain hadn’t checked on him he’d be dead now from dehydration if nothing else.”

 

“I know but…”

 

“Roy, I know how much that young man means to you.”

 

“To all of us,” Dixie cut in.

 

“He needs help. If he ever hopes to hold onto a relationship whether it’s you as his friend or someone else, he needs to be able to trust people..more importantly to trust himself and he can’t…There’s just been too many losses and let downs in his life,” Brackett added.

 

“Including me…,” Roy said despondently. “I screwed him up a couple of months ago and set this all off again."

 

“Roy, I wasn’t pointing fingers here. Johnny’s been traumatized by losses and abuse…Let down by a lot of people but it was mostly his own family not you. They caused the worst damage…you’re just trying to help him pick up the pieces,” Kel reassured him.

 

“And you’re really the only one who can Roy,” Dixie added. “He’s opened up a lot over the last few years because of you but he’s still holding back...He's still too unsure of everyone…Staying hands off.”

 

Roy nodded. “Martha said he’s still got places where he’s numb…Where’s he’s locked the pain away…Where he doesn’t feel anything…because if he does, it’ll open up the raw wounds and it'll hurt too much.”

 

“Then you’re the only one who can break that barrier and you’ve got to try,” Kel said.

 

Dixie patted his arm reassuringly. “I know it’s going to be tough for both of you but you can do this Roy. We’d love to go with you but I think he’ll be uncomfortable enough as it is but we’ll be thinking about you both…We love him too.”

 

 

Johnny sat at the breakfast table the next morning. He sensed some undercurrent between Roy and Joanne but couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Several times he looked up and caught them glancing at each other in concern or at him with equally worried expressions.

 

He lifted his head and caught their look for the fourth time. “What…?” He finally asked suspiciously.

 

“Um Johnny…We’re gonna go out somewhere this morning.”

 

John looked relieved. “Oh. Well don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” he said with a shrug. “Have fun.”

 

“Well actually…We’d like you to join us.”

 

“Where ya goin…?”

 

“Well it’s kind of a surprise,” Roy hedged.

 

“A surprise…?” He asked warily. They nodded as the dark eyes flicked back and forth between them. “Um…okay, I guess so.”

 

“Great. Why don’t you go get dressed?”

 

“Okay.” Johnny once again saw the worried glance pass between the two and his stomach turned a small flip. “I wonder what they're up to?” he mumbled to himself as he headed for his room.

 

 

They pulled into the parking lot of a large research complex. “Oh great,” Johnny muttered. “A medical lab…? We all know how fond I am of labs. I mean radiation poisoning, Malaria, explosions…,” he joked as he climbed out of the car and headed for the building.

 

Roy threw him a grin. “C’mon Junior, there’s something we wanna show you.”

 

John followed curious at what was going on. They entered the lobby and were met by Dr. Hightower. John frowned at her in confusion. “Haven’t we met?” He asked.

 

“Yes we have John. We met several years ago at Rampart,” she said smiling broadly. “You explained the paramedic program to me.”

 

“Ooh yeah,” he said snapping his fingers at the memory.

 

“Johnny this is Dr. Martha Hightower,” Roy introduced her, refreshing John’s memory.

 

“Doctor…? I’m sorry… I didn’t know you were a doctor.”

 

“Yes I know.”

 

John looked between her and his friends curiously, wondering why they’d left the title off when they’d first met. “Just exactly what kind of doctor are you?” He asked.

 “I’m a therapist John.”

 

John visibly tensed…His eyes narrowed as they darted a look toward his partner. “What kind of therapist?” He asked…suspicion clearly in his eyes as well as his voice.

 

  “Let me show you,” she invited as she turned to go inside. The couple tagged along but Johnny hung back.

 

Roy turned. “C’mon Junior,” he said with a smile as he nodded after the others. John hesitated for a moment longer before he reluctantly followed them inside.

 

The doctor pointed out several rooms with comfortable looking padded tables. “These are our therapy rooms,” she said, continuing on before Johnny could ask any questions. They passed what appeared to be classrooms with large play areas. “This is a different type of therapy room where we work with the children the most.”

 

“Children…?” Johnny asked. She smiled and continued on without answering the obvious question. John’s frown deepened. “What is this?” He whispered to Roy.

 

“She’s gonna show you, just be patient.” John chewed his lip uncertainly…Concerned by Roy’s evasiveness.

 

“It’s not like a loony bin or something?” He asked.

 

Roy saw the anxiousness in his friend’s eyes. “No Junior it isn’t…Just try and trust me okay?”

 

The dark eyes locked with Roy’s uncertainly. “Okay,” he said quietly.

 

“Don’t worry.” John nodded and followed them into what appeared to be some kind of observation room.

 

“John, we’d like you to watch a short demonstration by two of my therapists…Would that be alright?”

John’s eyes flicked toward Roy nervously. The older man nodded at him with a smile. “Okay, I guess.”

 

“Good, have a seat,” Dr. Hightower invited.

 

Martha and Joanne sat down but Roy moved around behind his partner and rested his hands on his friend’s shoulders as Johnny settled into his seat. When they were ready Martha tapped on the glass drawing the attention of the two people inside. She gave them a nod and sat back. They watched as one of the therapists lightly laid her hands on the other’s shoulders, very much the way Roy was resting his on Johns.

 

They watched the woman’s hands move over the man’s neck, shoulders and back. The touch was light, sometimes barely touching him at all. Roy glanced down at his partner who was watching the demonstration with narrowed, wary eyes… Roy’s hands gently squeezed his shoulders reassuringly.

 

John gave his partner a quizzical glance over his shoulder. His stomach tightening with dread that whatever he was here for, he most likely wasn’t gonna like it…”What’s goin on Roy? Why are we here?” He whispered.

 

Dr. Hightower tapped on the glass again and the two inside nodded and left the room. She turned back to Johnny and the others. “We wanted you to see this for a reason…”

 

“Yeah, I kinda got that feelin but why?” He asked throwing another cautious look at his partner.

 

“It’s something Martha’s been working on for a couple of years now,” Roy explained.

 

“Martha? You’re on first name basis? I mean… just how well do you know Martha?”  John asked suspiciously.

 

“We’ve been talking since we got you back from station 88…A couple of years now,” he answered honestly.” The younger man was tense beneath his fingers.

 

“About me…?” He asked quietly already knowing the answer.

 

“Yeah Junior,” he replied lightly rubbing John’s shoulders.

 

“Why?” He asked as his eyes dropped to the table in embarrassment. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“I’m sorry Junior but you have a couple of unique circumstances and I wanted to be able to help you…Martha’s been helping me understand them so that I could help you.”

 

John’s brown eyes swiveled toward the woman. She smiled at him. “You asked me what kind of therapist John.” He nodded hesitantly. “I deal mostly with Aspergers and Autism and lately with trauma patients because my therapy program was originally designed for patients with traumatic stress disorder but we’ve found that it works for my patients as well. You fit into both of those categories.”

 

John’s eyes shot up to meet Roy’s. “How much did you tell her?” He asked looking shocked at her statement.

 

“I told her everything Johnny,” he admitted.

 

“I couldn’t help him or you through him unless I knew what I was dealing with.”

 

“You promised you’d never tell anyone. I trusted you,” he whispered forlornly, the dark eyes filled with betrayal. Roy looked worried at the hurt in John’s tone.

 

“Johnny, I’m…,” he began.

 

“And you still can,” Martha assured him quickly, cutting Roy off. “He didn’t want to tell me but I told him I couldn’t help him unless he did. I needed to be absolutely certain that it’s what you had, understand?”

 

John bit his lip…his body rigid under Roy’s hands. The older man sat next to his friend. “I needed help and she was the best. She understood your problem and I didn’t. She didn’t know you or me then and she couldn’t repeat anything I told her.  I wanted to help you and I didn’t know how…,” Roy said softly as he reached out to curl his hand around John’s neck. The younger man pulled back, not quite ready to let it go.

 

“Was everything you’ve done because I have Aspergers? Did you feel guilty or something?” He asked looking hurt.

 

“God Johnny no…It was because I loved you and I wanted to help you.”

 

John’s face flushed at that open admission in front of this woman. He didn’t know what to think at the moment and he still didn’t know what they wanted from him now but he decided to give Roy the benefit of the doubt until he heard him out.

 

“Okay,” he breathed quietly. “So why are we here?”

 

Roy swallowed heavily and took a deep breath. “Do you remember our conversation at the hospital?”

 

“Which one…?” Johnny asked warily.

 

“I told you we needed to find a way to be sure what happened didn’t happen again…That we’d need to talk about it later…?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“This is later.”

 

John bit his lip nervously. He’d been hoping Roy would just forget the whole thing…“Okay…I’m listening,” he said still not understanding where this was going. It couldn’t be what he was afraid it was. Roy would never ask that of him...he hoped.

 

“Johnny…I want you try this therapy,” Roy said softly.

 

Johnny stared at him for a moment speechless. He couldn’t believe he’d actually gone there.  “NO,” he said adamantly as he shot out of his chair. “I’m goin home, are you comin?” He asked as he turned for the door.

 

“Johnny…?” Roy began.

 

“I said no. I can’t believe you’d even ask. You know I’d never let some…stranger,” his eyes took in the therapist sitting there quietly. “Not even her…touch me like that,” he said as his face flamed in embarrassment. How could Roy ask him that? He knew how much John hated being handled so familiarly by people he didn't know...heck even some of the ones he did know.

 

“Not some stranger Johnny.” The younger man looked at him in bewilderment. “Me,” Roy finished.

 

John breathed a sigh of relief. Roy was teasing him…This was nothing more than a warning, much as Brackett’s had been a few months ago when he’d threatened to put him in restraints if he ever snuck out of the hospital again. His cool as a cucumber best friend would never be willing to put his hands on him that intimately. He’d curl up and die of embarrassment. “This is a joke right? You really had me goin there for a minute. Okay Roy…lesson learned. I’ll tell you next time okay?” He said with a laugh.

 

Roy didn’t join his laughter. The blue eyes were resolute. “No Johnny it’s not a joke. I’m very serious.”

 

John’s grin faded…“Well so am I…NO,” Johnny said looking shaken. He couldn’t believe this.

 

“Johnny…This is a new therapy and it’s got great results in test studies.”

 

“Yeah…? Well test em on someone else Pally.”He said with a derisive snort as he headed for the door.

 

“Johnny…?” The grave tone of Roy’s voice stopped him from leaving. He turned back.

 

“What?” He snapped.

 

Roy looked at the two women. “Can I talk to Johnny alone for a minute?” They nodded and quietly left the room, hoping Roy could get through to his young friend. They knew that this would be so good for him if he’d just try it.

 

“Johnny,” Roy began quietly. “I want you to try this therapy program.” The dark haired paramedic shook his head and opened his mouth to argue but Roy cut him off. “Hear me out.”

 

John’s mouth set in a tight line and he folded his arms across his chest stubbornly but he finally nodded his head. “Alright…”

 

“You didn’t tell me that you were sick a few weeks ago…”

 

“Roy we’ve been over that…” John started to explain.

 

“Listen…!” Johnny nodded and clamped his mouth shut. “You said you didn’t tell me because you thought it would spoil our vacation.” He received a nod of agreement. “But you told Cap not to tell us because you didn’t want to be a burden.”

 

“It was a figure of speech Roy…,” he said quietly.

 

“Was it? I don’t think so. John…You’re family beat that into your head, your heart …your soul from the time you were little and you can’t think of yourself any other way and that’s one of the first things we need to work on but for right now let’s talk about your lack of trust in our friendship…our family.”

 

John looked at him in surprise. “I trust you,” he said hesitantly.

 

“Do you? If so you’d have told me the truth but instead you lied. To me…To Cap…You hid the fact that you were sick…”

 

“I’m not a child Roy,” he said defensively. “You’re not my father you know? I don’t have to tell you everything,” he snapped out angrily.

 

“No you’re not a child and I’m not trying to treat you like one but you are my best friend and you know I’ve come to think of you like a brother and you do have a couple of special problems that cause fear and the lack of trust…”

 

“Fear…,” John snorted. “I’m not afraid.”

 

“Fear John…Fear that you’ll become a problem for us just like your family told you you were for them. That we wouldn’t want you around like they did if you got in our way too often…We’ve dealt with this issue how many times before so be honest with me here Junior... It preys on your mind all the time doesn’t it?”

 

John looked at the floor nervously… ‘Honest’… Roy had said. Did it?  His looked up, his dark eyes meeting Roy’s…“Yes…I don’t wanna cause any trouble for you and Jo,” he whispered softly.

 

Roy sat down close to his friend. “Because you think we won’t want you around anymore if you do but you are such a huge part of my life and my family and you can’t see that. You don’t trust that friendship or our love enough…you can’t.”

 

The dark eyes lifted to meet his. “I’m trying to…,” he said quietly.

 

Roy smiled as he reached out to lay his hand on John’s shoulder. “I know you are but the problem is that you don’t know how…You can’t reach a part of you that you’ve lost somewhere deep inside, understand?”

 

Johnny shook his head. “No.”

 

“Martha says your family made you bury those feelings…They wouldn’t let you be who you are Johnny…The sensitive, gentle, loving person we know is in there because we get to see him from time to time.” John’s face turned scarlet and he threw his partner a small embarrassed grin. “Instead they left you hurt, afraid and insecure…Shoving those other emotions way down out of reach. I want to help you get rid of that…to find that other part of you…I wanna help you trust me and my friendship and this can help…Don’t you want that John? To be able to really open up with your feelings…to fall in love? Have a family?”

 

“I guess so but I don’t need this. I know you lo…well you know,” he stuttered. “And I do trust you Roy,” he said softly.

 

Roy shook his head. “I don’t think so or you would have known that you were more important to Jo and me than sitting on some beach in Malibu.”

 

“I didn’t wanna spoil your vacation…I did that for you,” He argued, still resistant to the idea of letting anyone…even Roy touch him that way but he couldn’t tell his friend why, he wouldn’t understand. “I didn’t want to be a burden on you again and cause a problem…”

 

Roy heaved a sigh of frustration at the words he’d just spoken. “You know what Junior…?” He growled angrily. “I’m damn tired of hearing those insulting words come out of your mouth. That’s my best friend and little brother you’re talking about.”

 

The younger man looked at him in bewilderment. “I don’t understand.”

 

“Problem, trouble, burden…You use those words about yourself like most people use their own name and I don’t wanna hear them anymore.”

 

John chewed his lip nervously. “I’m sorry…I just…They always said…I mean…They told me I…”

 

“I know what they told you and that’s what this program can help you with. To realize you’re none of those things. Please Johnny will you work with me on this?”

 

John’s eyes dropped to the floor. “I can’t,” he whispered. “You don’t understand.”

 

“Explain it to me then John because I’m not gonna watch you kill yourself.”

 

The dark head snapped up in fear. “What does that mean?”

 

“Just what I said…I love you…you know that.  You know how hard it is for me to say that but I’ll say it every day if I have to until it gets through…I’ll do it for you because you mean too much to me not too. I’ll work with you on this therapy program for the same reason even though I’m just as uncomfortable with it as you are. What I won’t do is continue on the way we are and have you hide an injury or an illness again and die because of it.”

 

John’s heart dropped into his stomach.  “You don’t mean that…”

 

The stricken look his young friend gave him tore at his heart but Roy didn’t back down. “Yeah I do…so whatever it is that I don’t understand, you need to make clear right now or I’ll walk out the door and I won’t look back.”

 

John’s heart thudded wildly. “I can’t let you do that…that…whatever it is, it’s humiliating,” he said quietly as he waved his hand toward the therapy room.

 

“No it’s not…It’s a simple relaxation therapy. If you walked into a massage parlor you’d never think twice about it…”

 

“Yes I would…,” he disagreed adamantly.

 

Roy stood up. “That’s it then? That’s your answer? ” He shook his head. “Not a good enough reason though,” he said as he headed for the door.

 

“Roy wait…Please don’t do this to me.”

 

He turned back. “Talk to me…,” he pleaded.

 

John swallowed hard and clenched his eyes shut. “I…he…,” He breathed out a hitched breath as he struggled with the words. “Roy…He…he touched me…,” he whispered. “He put his hands on me.” he choked back a sob.

 

Roy moved to squat in front of his friend. “Uncle George…?” He asked gently.

 

John nodded. “He used to try to…you know…rub my back…my chest…other places,” he whispered in humiliation. “And if I didn’t let him he’d beat me…,” he gasped. “I don’t like…I can’t…It frightens me…Can't you understand?” He asked barely audible. Tears slipped from the closed eyes at the admission.

 

“I understand that you’re afraid,” Roy said softly. “Look at me Johnny…” The dark eyes opened slowly as an embarrassed flush stained his high cheekbones…The lashes were still wet with tears. Roy cupped the side of John’s face with a flash of déjà vu. He’d done this in a dream he’d once had, only that time Johnny was a child. “I will never hurt you…I’m not your Uncle and I’d never do anything to humiliate you. I will never touch you anywhere that will make you uncomfortable and you will control the sessions. If you’re uncomfortable with where my hands are you say so. If you’re uncomfortable with the subject we’re talking about we’ll change it…I’m asking you to help me get our friendship back where it used to be…maybe even stronger. I want you to relearn to trust me.”

 

John stared at the floor. He shuddered fearfully as he remembered his Uncle’s hands on his body. He tugged at his bottom lip… He began a slow rocking motion. “I don’t know if I can,” he whispered. Roy could feel his friend’s frightened trembling.

 

He closed his eyes in defeat. Johnny was upset enough to show the warning signs of withdrawal and Roy wouldn’t risk that. “We’re done then Junior.” He turned and headed for the door prepared to tell Martha to forget the idea but Johnny misunderstood…He thought the older man was going to carry out his threat.

 

“Roy…Wait,” he called after his friend. “Please I… I’ll…I’ll do it,” he gasped.

 

“Are you sure…?” He asked, feeling guilty at the shattered tone of his friend’s voice.

 

“Yes…,” he croaked out.

 

“Hold on a minute…Let me tell Martha.” Roy stepped outside the door. “He’s gonna try it,” he said in relief.

 

She smiled. “I don’t think I wanna know how you convinced him but I’m glad. Now…I want you to start slow. Don’t talk about anything today. This is only to get him accustomed to your hands touching him.”

 

 “He told me he was afraid because his Uncle touched him that way…Rubbed his back and…you know,” Roy shrugged unable to finish the sentence. “How do I get past that?”

 

“Talk to him…Make sure he hears your voice the whole time. What you don’t want is for him to relive the events. We don’t want to re-traumatize him. We only want him to remember what happened, talk about it, face it and let it go.” Roy nodded. “Stay up by his head, neck, shoulders and back for today.  You can move on to other areas when he’s comfortable and at ease down the road. He’s got to learn to trust you not to hurt him and that he’s in complete control of the situation. Here I wouldn’t do this but at home I think it would help if Joanne were present because a familiar woman’s voice might help keep him from regressing. Obviously there was never a woman present when he was being molested.”

 

Roy shook his head. “I don’t think anyone else knew about it, he was too afraid of his uncle to tell anyone.”

 

“That’s typical in abuse cases. The victim rarely tells anyone. They’re too afraid or too ashamed to.”

 

Roy nodded. "He’s both.”

 

She nodded. “Alright then let’s do this before he changes his mind.”  Roy nodded and went back inside. Jo and Martha followed him.

 

John glanced up as they came in. “Why are they here?” He asked biting his lip nervously.

 

“Dr. Hightower is the Doctor. I’m only the touch therapist Junior and Joanne is here because she loves you and she’s a part of your life as much as I am but for now she’s just gonna sit in the other room.”

 

John closed his eyes in humiliation and blew out a frightened breath. This was just getting worse all the time but he knew Roy and Jo wouldn’t back down and he didn’t want to lose them. They meant too much to him but he was terrified of what was about to happen and he wasn’t sure if he could handle it.

 

“C’mon Junior,” Roy said gently, noticing the look of fear on his partner’s face. “Just try and trust me.”

 

Johnny nodded and followed him into the other room. “What do I have to do?” He asked with a shaky voice.

 

Roy patted the table. “Just lay down on your stomach,” he directed.

 

“I don’t have to undress or anything?” He asked hesitantly.

 

“Nope…”

 

John breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay,” he said softly as he lay down on the table. Roy threw the Doctor a ‘here goes nothing’ look and stepped to his partners side. He raised John’s arms to rest on the table above his head. John’s body was rigid with tension.

 

“Just try and take it easy Junior,” he suggested but John flinched as Roy’s hands came to rest on his shoulders. “Johnny, please just try to relax. It’s not like I’ve never put my hands on you before,” he said quietly as his hands rubbed the tight shoulders.

 

“That’s not the same thing…,” he mumbled through clenched teeth, anything but relaxed.

 

Roy had to agree. His hands moved lightly over John’s upper arms feeling the tight muscles jump beneath his fingers and he knew the younger man was terrified. Roy lightly brushed over the back of John’s neck and a moan of fear slipped from his friend as his hands played over his back. “Johnny it’s me and I’m not going to hurt you…It’s not George Walking Wolf and I’ll never let him hurt you again okay. You just remember that. You’re a part of my family now and I protect my family right?”

 

“Yes...,” he whispered as his partner’s hands massaged the tension from his back and shoulder’s. Roy’s hands were firm where his partner’s muscles were in knots beneath his fingers and barely touched him at all in other areas. Roy kept up a running commentary…reassuring his friend constantly that he wasn’t Uncle George but John jumped at every new touch…His mind wreaking havoc with his emotions. It was all he could do not to bolt from the table. His body felt like granite under Roy’s fingers but after a long while he finally began to relax.

 

Roy grinned and threw a glance toward Jo and Dr. Hightower along with a triumphant nod. “How ya feelin Junior…?” He asked quietly after a few more minutes, brushing the hair away from John’s face.

 

The younger man was quiet for a long moment…John wasn’t sure when it had happened but he’d finally pushed George from his mind and allowed himself to unwind under Roy’s hands. He felt calm and relaxed…even a bit sleepy. “I’m tired…,” he replied.

 

“Okay Junior…You’ve had enough for today.”

 

“Today…?” He asked as he flipped onto his back and sat up. “You’re not gonna do that again?”


Roy grimaced at the worried question. “Round two,” he muttered. “Yeah Johnny I am but at home where you feel comfortable and safe. Then when you’re ready we’re gonna talk.”

 

“About what…?”

 

“About anything and everything you wanna tell me about from your past.”

 

John’s face paled. “I already did.”

 

“No Junior…We just scratched the surface.”

 

“I don’t know if I can Roy…I don't wanna remember what they did. Please don’t make me do this?”

 

“It’ll be a long road back Johnny but you can do this and I’ll be with you every step of the way I promise you.”

 

The dark eyes locked with Roy’s. “I’m afraid,” he admitted in a bare whisper.

 

“I know you are but you just took your first step Johnny and I’m afraid too but we’ll reach the end of this together I promise you and I won’t let you fall along the way.”

 

John’s eyes squeezed shut…he let out a sigh of resignation, afraid Roy would leave if he refused. “I’ll try,” he agreed softly.

 

 

They stepped out of the room and were met by a smiling Joanne and Dr. Hightower. “You did great Roy,” Martha said with a smile. “John, you took a big step toward healing your past. Let Roy help you. He loves you so much.” John’s face flushed scarlet as she continued. “He’s been coming here every day for weeks to learn how to use this therapy with you. He’s taken a huge step from his own insecurities because he cares about you that much.”

 

John nodded. “I know he does…,” the younger man said softly, glancing toward Roy.

 

“You look tired John and you’re still getting over being ill so I recommend that you go home and get some rest…Doctor’s orders.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

 

It had been an emotionally trying day for the young paramedic and it didn’t take long before Johnny nodded off in the backseat of Joanne’s station wagon.

 

Roy’s pretty auburn haired wife turned to look at him over her shoulder and Roy glanced at her. “Is he asleep?” He asked.

 

“I think so,” she answered softly.

 

“God Jo, he was terrified,” Roy said quietly.

 

“What exactly did he tell you Roy…?”

 

“He said his Uncle George touched him. That he’d rub his back and put his hands on him and if he fought him he’d beat him…”

 

Jo’s face had paled with each word. “I really hate that man,” she whispered.

 

“I know and he was so afraid. I thought he was gonna run a couple of times, I could feel the tension and he was practically jumping out of his skin when I touched him.”

 

“But you got him through it and it’ll get easier each time.”

 

“Will it? How’s he gonna feel when I start dredging up his past and asking him to remember all the hurt and hate and abuse? I’m not a doctor, just a simple paramedic.”

 

“Don’t sell yourself short Honey…You’re what he needs and we’ll overcome all of that other stuff with love and support. That’s what Martha said he needs most and that’s what easiest for us to give him.”

 

Roy threw a grin at his wife knowing Johnny was just as special to her as he was to him. He wondered how Johnny would respond to her when she joined them. He could envision the argument that would entail but he had no doubt Jo would win that one, Johnny never stood a chance against her. She had the young paramedic wrapped around her little finger but that was mutual…John had Jo wrapped around his as well.

 

 

Johnny was still tired when they returned home and quickly retreated to his room to sleep. He woke as the sun was beginning its descent and lay there listening to the sounds of the household getting ready for dinner. He felt so peaceful here and it had become his home and the place he turned to when he was troubled but now he was scared.

 

John sat up and hitched himself back against the wall drawing his knees up to his chin and resting his head on them.

 

They wanted him to open up all those places he buried his past in and talk about them. He wasn’t sure he could do that. The very idea made his stomach turn and this morning…while he had finally relaxed under Roy’s hands he’d been terrified when he’d begun. The image of his Uncle’s leering black eyes and huge calloused hands caressing his body as a child had left him rigid and shaking. How would he get past that? Why were they doing this to him?

 

 John knew he should have told Roy the truth about being sick and he was shocked that his partner had been dead on for the reasons he hadn’t. He smiled to himself at his partner’s edict that he wasn’t to use those words about himself anymore. He wondered if Roy sometimes forgot that he was John’s partner and not his father but then, in all honesty…Johnny sometimes forgot too.

 

He’d been so independent and determined that he didn’t need anyone five years ago until Roy had come along. He’d bristled angrily when he’d treated him like his kid brother but now he’d grown so accustomed to Roy’s protective nature and big brother attitude he just accepted it by rote. He couldn’t picture his life without Roy and Jo in it but could he do what they wanted him too? Would Roy really walk out of his life if he didn’t?

 

A soft knock on the door interrupted his reverie. He looked up to see Roy standing in the doorway. “How ya feelin Junior…?”

 

“Tired…A little stiff,” he admitted.

 

Roy came inside and sat down next to him…Scooting back until they were side by side. “Are ya hungry?”

John shrugged. “Wow if you’re not hungry I need to get ya back to Rampart.” John threw him a small, crooked smile. “You can’t hide in here forever,” he said leaning over to bump John’s shoulder with his own.

 

“I know.”

 

“Are you mad at me?” Roy asked leaning forward to look up into John’s face.

 

“No,” he answered quietly.

 

“It’s okay if you are…We can talk about it.”

 

“I’m not angry…I’m just not sure I can do what you want me too. I don’t know if I can stand having someone…Touch me the way he did.”

 

“It’s not the same…”

 

“Not on your part…but on mine…?” He asked hesitantly. “It feels the same and I’m scared…”

 

“I know…Maybe it would be easier if Joanne did it…,” he began, broaching the subject he knew would bring another argument.

 

John’s head snapped up. “God no…,” he replied quickly.

 

“And just why not John Gage?” Joanne said from the doorway.

 

His head whirled around to face her. “Oh man,” he groaned burying his face against his knees. Roy grinned as Jo approached the bed. She sat next to him, reaching out run her fingers through the sable hair.

 

“I’m a part of your family and your life Johnny…Is there some reason you’d be afraid of me touching you.”

 

“Yes…You’re Roy’s wife,” he mumbled.

 

She giggled. “Sweetheart I wasn’t planning on going to bed with you,” she teased.

 

His head jerked up in shock. “Of course you wouldn’t,” he gasped. “But…but what Roy was doing…was…well it was…”

 

“Intimate,” she whispered the word as if it was dirty.

 

John blushed. “Well…yeah…not you know…but kinda.”

 

“Oh sweetheart…,” she teased. “When you were sick, Roy and I took care of you…Do you remember that?”

 

“Pieces of it…And I know that you saw…And that you…well…you know but that was different,” he stuttered, his face flushing in embarrassment.

 

“Why?” She asked as she stroked his cheek.

 

“I didn’t know what was happening then.”

 

“That doesn’t change the fact that I was still there sweetheart and I will be through this too but don’t worry…I think it would be better if Roy handles the majority of it. He’s the one you trust the most.” She spoke so matter of fact that John almost began to believe he’d be able to do this.

 

Dark eyes turned toward Roy. “We love you Johnny and Dr. Hightower thinks it would help you to have me there. Please just try and trust us in this?” He closed his eyes and nodded his reluctant acceptance. “C’mon Junior…let’s eat.”

 

 

The next morning Roy and Joanne were up early. Joanne got Chris and Jen ready to spend the morning at the beach with some friends. While she got breakfast ready Roy headed out to the deck to set it up in the hopes that Johnny would be more receptive in a comfortable setting outside.

 

Roy woke the younger man after the children were picked up for the day and they enjoyed a quiet breakfast. “Hey Junior, how about hittin the pool…?” He suggested hoping John would be much more relaxed after a swim.

 

John looked at the small above ground pool in the back yard. He’d helped Roy put it up a few months ago. The day was warm and it certainly looked inviting. “Sure…But I uh…Don’t have a suit here.”

 

“I’ve got a couple, you can borrow one.”

 

“Okay…”

 

They floated peacefully for about an hour, talking and laughing while Roy told them about his last shift and a particularly humorous rescue in a restaurant that had ended up with Chet Kelly under an overturned dessert table covered in whipped cream and frosting of various colors.

 

“Oh yeah…I’ll be getting a new paramedic next shift too,” Roy added after the chuckles had died down.

 

“Trainee…?” Johnny asked.

 

“No…I guess she’s already a trained paramedic. She’s just transferring here from some other city.”

 

“She…?” Johnny questioned.

 

“That’s what Cap said. He said she’d had some problems with the guys in a couple of other stations.”

 

Johnny nodded remembering Karen and what she’d been put through by the guys when she’d first started. “Hopefully Chet and the others won’t pull the same crap on her,” he added.

 

Joanne shook her head. “For a bunch of grown men they sure act like children,” she pointed out.

 

Roy and John both grinned their agreement.

 

“You ready to get out for awhile?” Roy asked. They nodded and climbed out of the pool and toweled dry. Roy glanced at Joanne as they climbed the stairs to the deck. “Johnny…?” Roy called quietly, standing next to one of the chaise lounge chairs.

 

“Yeah…?” He answered looking up. His stomach turned a flip and his heart began to race wildly at the look on Roy’s face. He took a step backward. “I don’t want to…,”

 

“C’mon Junior, it’s just the three of us.”

 

Johnny took a hesitant step forward and then stopped. “I don’t feel so good,” he mumbled. “I think I’m gonna be sick.” He bolted for the bathroom.

 

Roy sighed and looked at his wife. “Well that didn’t go over too well.”

 

“Maybe we shouldn’t push him,” she suggested.

 

“And maybe I can bury him someday...for real the next time he hides something like this from us…If he had a nice safe job I’d say hey no problem, but it’s not and it’s dangerous enough without adding this problem to the mix. I don’t want to lose him Jo…Not over something we can fix.” He turned and followed his partner inside. He found him leaning over the toilet in the bathroom. “Better?” He asked.

 

Johnny jumped at the sound of his voice. “I don’t know if I can do this,” he pleaded softly.

 

“Yes you can. C’mon Junior…My partner is absolutely fearless.”

 

“Yeah…Well your little brother isn’t,” he mumbled.

 

Roy laughed as he hooked his arm around Johnny’s neck and tugged him back toward the deck. “C’mon brother…”

 

 

John threw Joanne a tight lipped grimace as he sat on the lounge chair. He tossed Roy one final pleading glance but the older man shook his head and patted the seat. John clenched his eyes shut and lay down. Roy reached out and laid his hand on his partner’s dark head, smoothing the hair back as he’d done a hundred times before. “You ready?” He asked softly.

 

John gave the barest nod. He jumped nervously as Roy’s hands touched his bare shoulders, fighting back the urge to bolt in fear. Black, lust filled eyes swam before him and he sucked in his breath at the memory of the man’s hands caressing his body. A frightened whimper left his lips. A voice he knew as well as his own shattered the vision. “I’m here Johnny…I’m always gonna be here…That man is never gonna hurt you again I promise,” he reassured him as his hands continued to move lightly over him.

 

Johnny felt Joanne kneel next to his head. She stroked the dark hair back. “I’m here too…You’re not alone and no one will hurt you.”

 

He nodded and cracked his eyes open to meet her gentle blue gaze and a soft smile. Roy could feel it the moment he relaxed. The rigid tension faded and the muscles eased beneath his fingers. “Johnny…”

 

“Hmmm,” he murmured.

 

“You feel like talking?”

 

“About what…?”

 

Roy thought for a moment and decided a safe subject would be best the first time. “Well, how about your Parents. You told me about them but you never talked about them to Jo. I think she’d like to hear that.”

 

“Yes I would,” Jo agreed as her fingers trailed through the still damp sable hair.

 

“Okay I guess…Um…she was beautiful Jo…,” he began hesitantly. She nodded but didn’t interrupt. This was about Johnny and letting him probe the places he didn’t usually allow himself to open. “She was only nineteen when she met my dad and they fell in love at first sight. They only knew each other a couple of days but they both knew they were the one ya know?”

 

“I know sweetheart.” She smiled at Roy as he continued to move over John’s upper arms and shoulders, barely touching at times or occasionally stopping to press hard and work out a kink. Johnny didn’t seem to notice when he moved down his back.

 

“Her parents didn’t want her marrying a white man and my grandfather absolutely forbade it so they ran away and got married.”

 

Well Jo and Roy could easily commiserate with that. Her parents had been dead set against her marrying Roy as well… just for different reasons but at least she’d been able to talk them around and didn’t have to run away though she would have if it had come to that.

 

Roy already knew most of what he was saying but this time Johnny told them both stories they’d never heard about his parents. Roy stopped him before he got to the part where his father had been killed. “Johnny…I think that’s enough for today okay?”

 

John’s eyes blinked open. He lay on his back while Roy knelt beside him and wondered when he’d rolled over. He’d been so comfortable he only had a vague memory of Roy telling him to turn over. He blushed furiously as he suddenly remembered Roy’s hands moving over his throat and resting motionless on his chest. Roy grinned at his partner’s embarrassed expression. He gave the dark head a pat. “Why don’t you go get dressed and we’ll try this again tomorrow.”

 

He nodded tiredly and headed inside to shower and change.

 

“What a difference,” Joanne said excitedly. “He just totally relaxed with you and talked about his parents and things he’s never told me before. Did you know all of that?”

 

“Some not all but Jo that was the easy part… Johnny’s life was really rough and he’s gonna tell you things that will tear your heart out,” he began hesitantly.

 

“I know that,” she whispered. “But I’m ready to hear it when he’s ready to talk about it even if I do want to kill Uncle George.” Roy nodded but he wasn’t sure either of them were really ready to hear what kind of torture had been inflicted on Johnny as a child.

 

They headed inside stopping to check on their friend for a minute. He was sound asleep in his bed. “I guess I relaxed him a little too much,” Roy quipped.

 

 

Gayle sat in her small hotel room studying the information she’d been given by the LA County Fire Department. Familiarizing herself with their rules. She turned to the papers showing her new assignment. Station 51…A Shift. Captain Hank Stanley. She’d already driven by there a couple of days ago. She’d parked across the street and watched the crew come and go. There had been several handsome men at the station and she was sure she’d have no problem luring one of them into her bed.

 

 

Johnny woke a couple of hours later to a gentle hand on his shoulder. “C’mon sweetheart...lunch time,” Joanne’s voice urged.

 

He blinked several times before rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He sat up expecting the same stiffness as yesterday but was surprised at how relaxed his muscles felt.

 

Joanne squatted in front of him looking up into his face, her hands resting lightly on his. “You okay?” She asked expecting John to be as stiff and sore as he’d been the day before but he surprised her by almost bouncing to his feet. He gripped her hands and pulled her upright.

 

“I’m fine,” he said with a grin as he put his arm around her waist and headed for the kitchen. “And I’m starving.”

 

They made their way to the table in the dining room and Joanne threw her husband a smile and a wink. “Go sit and I’ll get you your lunch before you wither away,” she teased, giving him a gentle squeeze before dropping her hand away and heading for the kitchen.

 

Johnny slid into his chair and gave his partner a hesitant smile. “I’m sorry…,” he began but Roy interrupted him.

 

“Stop,” He said raising his hand in a halting gesture. He looked his young partner straight in the eyes knowing he was about to apologize for being afraid. “Do not apologize to me for what you feel Junior…We all do whether it’s fear or anger or embarrassment.

 

“But I’m such a pain in the…”

 

“Johnny…That’s what this is all about. Don’t you understand? You’re not a problem or a pain or anything else and I told you I don’t wanna hear those words outta your mouth around me. We love you and nothing you do will change that no matter how much you try.”

 

Johnny looked shocked. “I’m not tryin.”

 

“Martha thinks you are and so do I sometimes. Somewhere deep inside you’re afraid of losing us and so you try to keep us at a safe distance so it won’t hurt when you do. You push us away but partner, we’re not goin anywhere.”

 

Johnny glanced at his friend somehow knowing he was right. “Thanks Roy…Just don’t give up on me huh?”

 

“Never…,” Roy replied with a smile. This was the first time Johnny had asked someone not to leave him. He’d always just expected that they would eventually and accepted it almost in relief when they did. People always wanted emotion and commitment and John hadn’t been able to give it…It frightened him.

 

He had finally come into a circle of friends that truly loved and cared for him. From the crew of station 51 to the doctors and one very special nurse at Rampart. It scared him silly but brought a feeling of contentment and comfort too.

 

He was terrified of losing it and yet pushed them away so he wouldn’t be hurt…something he’d done his whole life. It was terribly confusing. He knew Roy and Joanne were determined to break that cycle…To help him break the fear of commitment…of rejection and the fear of feeling at all.

 

The light suddenly seemed to go on at what they were doing and why. They loved him completely... even with all of his hang ups and insecurities. He stared at his friends. They looked back, curious at his sudden look of realization.

 

“What Junior?” Roy asked.

 

Johnny shot them his crooked smile. “I just realized how lucky I am to have you two.”

 

“Well Junior, that goes both ways.” Roy reached over to give his friend a scruff of the hair, fully expecting Johnny to duck away as usual but he didn’t. Roy smiled at Jo. It was a step.

 

 

Roy returned to work the next day. The crew arrived along with Alan Jefferson, Johnny’s replacement. “How’s Johnny feeling?” Mike Stoker asked Roy as he sat on the bench opposite the blonde paramedic.

 

“Bouncing off the walls…He’s almost ready to come back. Between him and the kids…Jo’s gonna lose her mind,” he joked.

 

“So why do you continue to punish yourself?” Chet asked innocently.

 

Roy glanced up sharply to see the twinkle in Kelly’s eyes. He realized Chet was only joking. “Masochist I guess,” he quipped.

 

“Glutton for punishment,” Marco added.

 

Alan grinned at the byplay. He’d never met Johnny but his curiosity was peaked by the comments always tossed around about him. John Gage was the lone subject he was never invited to comment on. He recognized the care behind the tough posturing and teasing words most especially by Roy. He already knew from the last time he’d filled in here the depth of feeling that ran between these two and he was almost envious. He suddenly began to recognize it in the others as well. Maybe someday he and whoever became his permanent partner would have half of what these two men did, if so then he’d be happy.

 

“So what about this new paramedic we’re getting?” Marco asked.

 

“What about her?” Roy questioned. “You all know as much as I do.”

 

“Probably some Amazon,” Chet quipped.

 

“A six foot tall, hundred and ninety pound one,” Marco added.

 

“Might be able to bench press both of us,” Chet finished.

 

“Alan, quite lookin scared, they’re just joking,” Roy assured him.

 

“Well if she does look like that,” Mike put in. “We can always use her on the lines.” They all laughed.

 

“ROLL CALL…,” Cap bellowed.

 

They all climbed to their feet, closing locker doors and tucking in shirt tails. “Hey where’s C Shift anyway?” Marco asked curiously as they exited the locker room.

 

“Don’t know…I haven’t seen any of…,” Chet’s voice trailed off as he spotted Captain Stanley and five of the six C Shift crew members gathered in a small group.

 

They heard Cap’s bellow. “Back off you pack of vultures. I need to get my crew to work.”

 

“Sorry Cap…”

 

“Uh yeah…We’re goin Captain Stanley.”

 

“See you tomorrow huh Gayle?” Another added.

 

“Ahhh,” Roy said, beginning to understand. This could be bad. The group began to disperse and Roy shot a glance at his crew mates. Their mouths were hanging open. “Close your mouths you guys…You look like a school of blow fish,” Roy muttered.

 

They moved en masse toward Captain Stanley. Only Roy hung back. Standing next to Cap was an incredibly beautiful young woman. Her blonde hair pulled back in a French braid, large violet eyes wide set in a heart shaped face that twinkled in amusement at the attention she was receiving but there was something else as well. Roy couldn’t explain it but he suddenly shuddered. Her smile was stunning but there was a coldness about it that gave the blonde paramedic a strange feeling.

 

The A shift crew crowded around her all trying to talk to her at once. “Ahem gentlemen…?” Cap said clearing his throat.

 

They looked at him completely bewildered. “Yeah Cap?” Chet asked.

 

Line up…,” he said distinctly.

 

“Oh…uh…yeah…,” Marco said.

 

“Sorry Cap,” Chet murmured as they fell into line, anxiously waiting for an introduction.

 

Roy sighed. “Wait’ll Johnny see’s her,” he muttered aside to Cap as they watched the others grinning at the girl.

 

Captain Stanly reeled of their names and then went about assigning their chores. “Now let me introduce our temporary crew member Gayle Markson. Gayle this Engineering Specialist Mike Stoker.” They nodded at each other but by then Mike had remembered his wife and regained his composure. “Lineman Chet Kelly…” She smiled coyly.

 

“Glad to have ya here,” Chet said enthusiastically.

 

“Lineman Marco Lopez…” Her eyes traveled over the handsome Hispanic man as if she was purchasing a new horse.

 

“My pleasure,” Marco said feeling flattered.

 

“And these two gentlemen are the ones you’ll be working with. Fireman Paramedic Roy DeSoto and his partner Alan Jefferson…” Alan shook her hand eagerly but her eyes were on Roy.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Roy said with a smile.

 

She noted the wedding ring and took in the youthful appearance of the young partner. She smiled seductively at Roy raising the same feeling of discomfort he’d had initially. She always loved using a married man in her game when she could and she hadn’t found one she couldn’t seduce. She frowned as the attractive Captain dismissed them and Roy turned his back on her. He looked over his shoulder at his partner. “Alan…Why don’t you show Gayle around and I’ll show her the squad in a little while.”

 

“Okay Roy…,” the young man replied as the others once again converged but Gayle’s eyes were on Roy. He’d virtually ignored her, moving off with his Captain and talking about someone named Johnny. Must be his son or something she guessed. Well she’d hoped for a challenge…Roy could be it. He hadn’t given her a second look.

 

 

Gayle had been at the station for about eight hours and she was horribly disappointed. She’d eyed the men speculatively…All of them were attractive enough, even Captain Stanley but he was more a father figure to his men than a close friend to any one of them. The one who really appealed to her was Roy. He was almost perfect…even married and completely uninterested in her…For now at least.

 

He’d tensed uncomfortably when she’d ‘innocently’ rested her hand against his thigh on their first run. She’d grinned to herself as he’d shifted his leg away. He’d be great to play her game with but the problem was there was no close friendship between him and any of these others…Nothing to break apart as her father should have broken from his partner to prove his love for her.

 

She’d considered Marco and Chet but even that seemed a casual friendship and while she’d have no problem turning them against one another, there was no challenge in it. Roy and Alan…Brother, she’d never seen two partner’s so completely uninvolved with each other. Oh they worked well enough together…They joked and laughed with the others but their conversations were impersonal and shallow…As if they hardly knew one another. This wasn’t what she wanted at all. Destroying a partnership…It was an all consuming obsession she had to fulfill.

 

Shortly before dinner a tall, handsome, dark haired man entered the station through the back door. He was carrying a pan of something that he set down on the stove. Gayle glanced up from the log sheet that she was going over with Alan.

 

“Hey…Either of you know where Roy is?” The sable haired man asked. His expressive dark eyes roamed appreciatively over Gayle. “Um…You must be Gayle.”

 

“Yes,” she answered, slightly taken aback that this man seemed to know about her.

 

 “Wow…Roy didn’t do you justice,” he said with a heart wrenching, crooked grin. “Probably didn’t wanna worry Jo,” he concluded, remembering the call this afternoon. Roy had only briefly glossed over the girls appearance. He suddenly seemed to remember the other person in the room. “You must be Alan right?” He questioned.

 

“Yes.”

 

“I’m John…Uh…,” he looked back at Gayle. “Gage…Roy’s regular partner.”

 

Alan stood up and offered his hand. “You’re Johnny?”

 

“Yeah,” he agreed shaking the younger man’s hand.

 

“Regular partner…?” Gayle questioned, her curiosity peaked. “But I thought you were…,” she trailed off looking toward Alan.

 

“Oh no,” Alan corrected. “I’m just filling in until Gage gets back on his feet.”

 

Her eyes sparked with interest. “Were you injured?”

 

He shook his head. “No…Ahh…Sick,” he clarified. “Well it was nice meeting you and um…we’ll be working together in few days. I should be released for duty soon.”

 

This was looking a bit more promising. This man was gorgeous and she wouldn’t mind at all if John Gage became her new lover. She was almost tempted, game or not. Her violet eyes raked over him and Johnny had the uncomfortable feeling that he was being stripped bare in her mind but then again maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing after all…She was stunning.

 

Her thoughts were interrupted as Chet Kelly came into the room. “Johnny! What are ya doin here man?” The curly haired Irishman asked. He leaned out the door before the younger man could answer. “Hey guy’s, Gage is here.”

 

Marco, Mike and Captain Stanley came into the rec room. “Hey pal…How ya feelin?” Cap asked patting his youngest crew member on the shoulder.

 

“Pretty good Cap… Anxious to get back…”

 

“We’re anxious to have you back…uh no offense Alan,” Hank said hastily.

 

“Hey Mike…Marco,” Johnny greeted as they gathered around him.

 

Gayle smiled speculatively. These men had all livened up considerably with the younger man’s presence in the room…She wondered why…?

 

Roy came in and her suspicions were confirmed. “Hey partner,” He greeted. His cheerful smile lit up the room as he gave his friend a light pat on the side of his dark head.

 

“Um…I was getting on Joanne’s nerves,” he said with a sheepish grin. “So you all benefit. She made lasagna and she sent me to deliver it.”

 

“Well that’s terrific pal,” Cap said moving to the counter to inspect the unexpected offering.

 

“Let’s get it in the oven Cap,” Marco suggested. “Heat it up.”

 

“I’ll make a salad to go with it,” Mike suggested.

 

Chet began to dig out the dishes but Gayle’s eyes stayed on the two partners. “How ya feelin Junior…?” Roy asked.

 

“Pretty good… A little tired maybe…”

 

Worried about a potential relapse, Roy automatically reached to feel Johnny’s forehead. Three days ago his young partner would have ducked or slapped his hand away but today he stood patiently as his friend reassured himself that there was no unhealthy reason for his partner’s weariness.

 

“Didn’t sleep well?” Roy asked, noting the fact that he didn’t pull away as he usually did.

 

“No just a little restless I guess. I want to go back to work but…”

 

“I know, but Brackett told you three more days at least.”

 

“Yeah,” he muttered in disappointment.

 

“Don’t push yourself so hard Junior…You don’t…WE don’t want a relapse.”

 

John grinned his agreement with that statement. “No WE don’t,” he said emphatically.

 

Roy chuckled. “C’mon Junior…”

 

“Can I stay and eat with you guys?” Johnny asked. “I think Joanne would welcome the peace and quiet. I’ve been a burd…,” Johnny stopped in mid word seeing a scowl settling on his partner’s face. “I mean a…a…”

 

“Houseguest…,” Roy supplied, knowing Johnny was flustered at not being allowed to use those negative names he’d always called himself.

 

“Is Joanne your wife?” Gayle asked John curiously.

 

“Uh no…She’s actually Roy’s wife. I’m just staying with them til I’m back on my feet.”

 

“Darn nice of Jo to put up with ya Gage,” Chet put his two cents worth in.

 

“Ah shut up Chet, she loves me…I just get on her nerves when I can’t sit still.”

 

“She’s not the only one,” Chet pointed out.

 

“Oh go play on the freeway,” Johnny snapped.

 

“Why don’t we give John some slack pal,” Cap suggested, slapping Chet’s shoulder.

 

“Yeah,” Marco added. “He did bring us food.”

 

“So we don’t have to eat yours,” Mike added thankfully.

 

“Hey…,” Chet grumbled.

 

Roy chuckled as he patted his partner’s shoulder. “Good to have you home Junior, it’s been way to quiet around here.”

 

Gayle’s eyes gleamed. This was more like it. She saw the concerned touch, the eye contact and quiet conversation. The closeness of the crew was suddenly obvious. She’d have to watch this a bit more closely. They all seemed centered around this one young paramedic. She’d never pulled an entire station apart but it could be a first here.

 

 

The station control unit stayed silent through the meal, giving the guy’s time to eat and catch up with Johnny. Gayle watched the byplay between the crew and smiled coolly. She’d have to work on Roy until the younger man returned from sick leave but she knew she’d have the challenge she’d been looking for.

 

After dinner Johnny helped Roy with the dishes while the others sat at the table playing cards. Gayle noticed the entire crew was surreptitiously watching the two paramedics as they spoke quietly by the sink. They couldn’t hear what was being said but they could tell it was a serious conversation.

 

John leaned against the counter as he spoke to his friend about their last therapy session. “I really came here tonight cuz I just wanted to tell you thanks for pushing me into this,” Johnny said. “I mean it kept me up all night thinkin about it. I just finally understood at the table yesterday what you were really trying to do…So thanks.”

 

“Anytime Johnny but I want you to understand that it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. We’ve only just started.”

 

“I know.”

 

Roy reached out to lightly touch John’s cheek, once again expecting his usual withdrawal. John flinched a bit, slightly embarrassed by the fact that they had an audience but he forced himself to stand still and accept the familiar gesture of affection with a wry grin.

 

Chet opened his mouth to make a crack but suddenly found Cap’s hand resting heavily on his arm. “Stow it Kelly,” he commanded softly, not sure himself what he was witnessing but sensing that something important was happening between these two men who’d become like brothers. That it was something that Roy was doing to somehow help John and he didn’t want Chet and his smart aleck sense of humor to spoil it by embarrassing them.

 

The dark eyes lifted to meet Roy’s…“I’ll try not to be so difficult about it in the future but it still makes me…,” he trailed off.

 

“Uncomfortable and afraid...,” Roy stated.

 

“Yeah,” Johnny said softly.

 

Roy dropped his hand on his friends shoulder. “Like Martha said…It’s not a magic, instant cure all Junior. It’s gonna take time and that’s something we’ve got plenty of.”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Now go home, get some sleep. Tell my wife thanks for dinner and give her and the kids a kiss for me.”

 

“I will,” he said with a smile as he turned away. “Hey guys, I’m goin now.”

 

“Goodnight Pal,” Cap called to him.

 

G’night Johnny,” Marco said.

 

“It was good seein ya,” Chet tossed at him grudgingly.

 

“Hurry back Johnny, we miss you,” Mike added.

 

“It was nice meeting you Gage,” Alan said.

 

John grinned at them as Roy gave him a slap on the back. “I’ll see ya in the morning Junior.”

 

Gayle’s eyes glittered maliciously as she watched the handsome dark haired man leave the rec room unsure now which of them needed to die when she was done with them. She approached Roy a little later as he sat on the couch reading the newspaper. She sat down close to the blonde paramedic.

 

Roy shifted away a bit, slightly uncomfortable at her nearness. Gayle pretended not to notice. “Johnny seems really nice,” she said confidingly.

 

“Yes he is,” Roy agreed.

 

“You seem very close.”

 

“We are…Johnny’s kind of like a kid brother to me.”

 

“Is he married?”

 

Roy grinned at the less than subtle inquiry but breathed a sigh of relief that her interest seemed to be turning toward his single partner. “No, he isn’t,” Roy answered, hoping she’d leave him alone and turn her sights on his more accommodating friend.

 

“You must find it difficult when he’s sick. So many different partners I mean.”

 

“Yeah, Johnny and I know each other pretty well. We just always seem to know what the other one needs. Working with strangers can be uncomfortable.”

 

Roy frowned as her hand came to rest familiarly on his arm. “Maybe you’re ready for a change?”

 

Roy thought about the therapy program and John’s sudden willingness to participate. “Yeah, some big ones I hope,” he said with an entirely different meaning than she had.

 

“Would you consider a new partner…? One a little less accident prone…?” She asked with a teasing grin.

 

Roy pulled his arm clear but her hand dropped to rest on his leg instead. “No need for that,” Roy said standing up abruptly, worried about where she was going with this line of questioning. “There’s nothing wrong with the one I have,” he said with a tight smile.

 

“But the guys said he gets hurt a lot. Doesn’t that bother you?”

 

“Yeah…It bothers me a lot,” Roy said not meaning it the way it sounded. He moved away from the woman. Mike and Marco exchanged a glance at the conversation and the woman’s rather forward behavior but they figured Roy could handle it. Roy sat at the table with the others and Gayle smiled at his words as well as his discomfort.

 

Roy stayed safely at the table until she left an hour later.

 

 

Roy arrived home early the next morning. Jo and Johnny were at the table eating breakfast and the children had already finished theirs and were upstairs playing.

 

Jo greeted him with a kiss and Roy headed to the table while she went to cook his bacon and eggs. The older man scruffed John’s dark head drawing an irritated growl from his young partner. “Cut it out,” he groused smoothing the shaggy sable hair back into place but a grin hovered around his lips taking the sting from the tone.

 

“So how’d it go yesterday?” Johnny asked.

 

“It was pretty quiet, though we did have a couple of tough runs.”

 

“How’d Gayle do?”

 

Roy’s blue eyes flicked toward the kitchen where his wife was cooking breakfast and decided against telling Johnny that the woman made him uncomfortable for fear of Joanne over hearing and getting upset about him working with this woman. “Well I can tell you she’s a good paramedic. She really knows her stuff.”

 

“Really…?” Johnny asked, a little miffed that Roy didn’t seem to miss him at all.

 

“Yeah Junior…Between her and Alan, they almost made up for you,” he teased, having seen the worried expression.

 

John grinned back in relief. “Thanks.”

 

Roy threw him a wink and leaned forward to rest his chin on his hands. “Um Johnny…?” He began hesitantly.

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“You’re moving back to your apartment tomorrow and I think it would be a good idea if we had a therapy session both days and then go to two or three times a week after our shifts,” he suggested, glancing at Joanne as she rejoined them and placed his plate in front of him. “Is that okay with you?”

 

John swallowed hard. “Do I really get to choose or does the ultimatum still stand?”

 

“Ultimatum…? What are you talking about?”

 

“You said you’d leave if I didn’t go along with this? You were walking out.”

 

Roy remembered the incident but he hadn’t been walking out. His eyes lifted to meet John’s “I would never really have done that Johnny.”

 

“But you said…and then you headed for the door and…”

 

“Johnny…You were so upset you were bordering on a full scale withdrawal. I wasn’t walking out…I was gonna go tell Martha to forget it. I wasn’t gonna risk that. It’s always going to be your choice.”

 

“Oh…” John thought about that for a minute. If he wanted to take the easy way out, now was his chance. Roy watched the play of emotions cross his partner’s face and knew at the same moment he did what his answer would be. “I know it’s a little embarrassing for both of us but I think…I think I wanna try this.”

 

Roy grinned. “We’ll get over that little bump too.”

 

John smiled back. “I guess that schedule would be the easiest to keep besides,” he smirked. “It would guarantee me at least a couple of home cooked breakfasts a week.”

 

Joanne threw her wadded up napkin at him. “Brat,” she teased as Roy chuckled at them both.

 

 

They moved to the deck after breakfast. John gave them no resistance this time but heaved a nervous sigh and hard swallow before laying down on the lounge. Joanne sat at his head her slender fingers began to sweep through his dark hair as Roy knelt next to him. His hands came to rest on John’s shoulders.

 

After several minutes Roy started him off. “We were talking about your Mom Junior, you ready to go on?”

 

John nodded and began to speak. “We moved to Duarte when I was eight,” he began. Once again he spoke of things that Roy had already heard years ago while they were trapped on a ledge during a camping trip but it was all new to Joanne. Her eyes filled with tears as he recounted the death of his father and his withdrawal afterwards.

 

“We moved back to the reservation not long after that and my mom got a job as waitress,” he explained.

 

Roy’s hands moved lightly over John’s back and shoulders as he spoke. John began to tell of his mother’s illness while Roy and Joanne listened with breaking hearts as he finished the story with her death just before his twelfth birthday and having to be taken in by his Aunt Lacee. John had tears trickling down his cheeks…His breaths were hitched.

 

“I think that’s enough for today Johnny,” Roy said quietly as he wiped a tear from his own eye. Joanne was crying freely.

 

John sat up slowly and wiped the tears off his cheeks. He looked at the couple with him. “I’m sorry,” he murmured flushing in embarrassment at the tears.

 

Roy cupped his hand around John’s neck. The dark eyes lifted to meet his and he chewed his lip nervously. “Don’t be sorry,” He said quietly. “That’s what this is all about Johnny…So you can open up those places and talk about them. Let the hurt and the trauma go.” John nodded and as usual his eyes looked tired from the emotional strain.  “Why don’t you go lay down for a while Junior?”

 

“Okay.”

 

The couple watched him go. Joanne looked at her husband with sorrow in her eyes. “I thought I was ready for this,” she said softly. “But it’s a lot harder than I expected, to listen to him talk about his past.”

 

Roy nodded. “I know,” he agreed softly having already heard most of this. He knew what was coming would be even more difficult as he began to push Johnny for the details he’d left out in the first telling.

 

Kel called that afternoon. “Roy, if its’ okay I’d like to come to your house to give Johnny his final check up before I release him for duty.”

 

“Sure Doc, I guess that wouldn’t be a problem.”

 

“Good…Um…I spoke to Martha and she wondered if it was possible for me and Dix to observe a therapy session with you and John. She’d kind of like to have a medical opinion on Johnny’s condition before during and after just to be safe since she isn’t able to monitor them herself.”

 

“Johnny’s doin great Doc... I mean he’s pretty tired afterwards but he’s getting through them alright.”

 

“Just humor us okay?”

 

Roy hesitated, unsure how Johnny would handle having an audience but concerned that if he refused, Martha might insist on moving the sessions back to the clinic and John would resist that. “Okay Doc but if Johnny doesn’t like the idea than we’ll have to forget it…He’s in control of these sessions.”

 

Kel was a bit surprised at that as he’d never actually talked about the procedure with Martha though he had witnessed a demonstration along with Dixie when they’d visited there.

 

“Alright then...”

 

 

Johnny woke before lunch time and rolled from the bed feeling refreshed. He was glad that he’d be seeing Brackett tomorrow and hoped the Doctor would release him for duty soon. He was torn about moving back to his apartment the next day however. He always missed being with this family…His family but at the same time he missed his independence when he was here and having to keep to the family’s schedule and feeling like he was messing up their busy lives because of his presence. He knew Roy would have his head if he said as much so he kept that concern to himself.

 

He headed out to the kitchen where the family was getting ready for lunch. Jo glanced up as he came into the room. “Oh good you’re up,” she said with a smile. “I was just going to come get you.”

 

John threw her a grin and settled into his usual place at the table. Roy smiled at his partner as Joanne began to serve. “Brackett called this morning Junior,” he informed the younger man.

 

“Yeah…What for…?”

 

“He just wanted to know if he could come here to do your final check up,” Roy explained. He decided to leave the other reason for the morning to avoid having his young partner worry over it the rest of the day. He’d tell him tomorrow before they arrived.

 

John shrugged. It didn’t matter to him where the physical was done, though he was curious as to why he’d wanna come to the house. Maybe he had somewhere else to be and decided to just stop on the way there.

 

Roy was relieved that he didn’t press it further.

 

They spent the rest of the day working on cleaning the garage and the deck and then took a swim before dinner. Johnny got his exercise in with Chris and Jen while Roy and Joanne looked on.

 

 

The next morning John was out working on the lawn when Kel and Dixie showed up. Roy answered their knock looking a bit nervous. “Hi Doc…Dix, come on in.”

 

“Morning Roy… How’s Johnny handling our being here for this?” Kel asked.

“I haven’t told him yet.”

 

“How’s he handling the therapy sessions?” Dixie asked.

 

“The first one sent him bolting for the bathroom to throw up but he’s been fine since then.”

 

“How are you handling them?” She asked with a wicked twinkle in her eyes.

 

Roy grinned at her. “I was a little uncomfortable the first time with him but it’s getting easier…I just remind myself that a masseuse does this everyday and no one thinks a thing of it right? So why should it bother me?”

 

“Because you aren’t one…?” Dixie reminded him playfully.

 

Roy grinned. “I know but it’s my best friend and he’s worth a little discomfort besides I think the fact that we are getting more comfortable with it says it’s already working to some degree. Neither one of us blushes anymore, at least not from that part of it,” he explained wryly.

 

John stepped in from the deck interrupting further conversation. “Roy I can’t get this line free,” he grumbled, fighting with the weed eater he was carrying. He looked up and spotted the other two with Roy. “Oh…Hey Doc…Dix… I didn’t know you were here. I wasn’t expecting you til later,” he said a little surprised that Roy wouldn’t have warned them to wait until his therapy session was over.

 

Kel smiled tightly without answering as Dixie’s eyes flicked toward Roy. John suddenly had a sinking feeling that they were here for just that.

 

“Um…Johnny,” Roy began. “Why don’t we go to your room for a minute? I need to talk to ya.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me they'd be here?” He asked flatly.

 

“I was gonna.”

 

“When…?”


“While we were working on the lawn…They just showed up a little earlier than I expected.”

 

Johnny frowned. “You’ve always said you want me to trust you Roy. I can’t do that if you’re not honest with me too.”

 

“I’m sorry…You’re absolutely right but I just didn’t want you to worry over it all night.”

 

John chewed his lip nervously for a moment. Kel already knew he’d been abused but Dixie had only suspected and neither he nor Dix had ever heard the details. Roy was waiting but he said nothing and Johnny knew he was waiting for his decision and that it was his choice. “Okay,” he finally agreed with a slight blush. He turned and headed outside.

 

Kel glanced at Roy. “I’m surprised he agreed to it without a fight,” he admitted honestly.

 

“There wouldn’t have been a fight Doc. It wouldn’t have happened if he’d said no.” Kel looked surprised. “He’s not a child Doc and I won’t treat him like one besides Martha said for this to truly work he has to call the shots or he’ll just be forced into doing something else that will traumatize him, ya know? He had no control of anything as a child...He has to have it now or he’ll never learn to trust me.”

 

Kel nodded as he and Dixie followed Roy out onto the deck. Johnny had abandoned the weed eater and lay on his back on the lounge chair. Jo was kneeling next to him on a small pillow.

 

She glanced up as they came outside, throwing a smile at the two visitors. “Good morning,” she greeted. “Pull up a chair.”

 

They sat down. “I like your choice of locations for this,” Dixie commented.

 

“Johnny’s much more comfortable out here than he would be inside feeling trapped…Right Junior?” John nodded, looking up into the face of his partner with a nervous smile.  “You ready?”

 

“I guess,” he agreed letting his eyes drift closed. From Johnny’s position, Roy knew he wanted to start a little slow. He rested his fingers on John’s forehead, lightly stroking the dark hair back as he’d done so many times over the last few years. It was familiar and comforting and both of the visitors had seen him do it often but this time Roy continued on.

 

His fingers moved over the younger man’s face and throat until they rested on the slightly tense shoulders. He kneaded the tight muscles of his shoulders until he felt him relax before moving to his upper arms and then to his chest to rest unmoving above his heart. Roy felt it the moment the tension began to drain away. He had him roll onto his stomach before he began to talk. His hands were barely touching John at all now, merely keeping contact.

 

Roy began to speak. “You told us that after your mom died you had to live with your Aunt and Uncle Johnny. You told me she was your mother’s sister…”

Johnny nodded hesitantly. "My Aunt Lacee and Uncle Joseph."

Roy closed his eyes. He knew very little of John’s time with the couple but he knew they’d hit him frequently…“What happened there Johnny?”

 

“They were angry,” he whispered quietly. Kel and Dixie had to strain to hear him.

 

“Angry at what…?”

 

“Being stuck with me…”

 

“Why Johnny…?”

 

“Because I wasn’t a full Indian…I was Ó'xevé'ho'e (a half breed). She hated the whites in town and the way they treated us…She hated my father. She could only see the Vé’ho’e (white man) in me and she hated me. I embarrassed her.” he half shrugged. "He hated me because she did I think".

 

Kel and Dixie had never heard him speak Indian at all and though they didn’t know for sure what the words meant they had a pretty good guess.

 

“Because you were half white…?”

 

“Yes and because I went away…”

 

“Into withdrawal…?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You couldn’t help that.”

 

“I know…But they didn't know that. It was funny ya know?”

 

“What was Johnny?”

 

“My Indian family could only see the white half and my white family could only see the red.” His voice caught. “I just wanted them to see me...I wish they could have just seen ME.” Tears trickled down his cheeks. Jo’s eyes filled with tears at the lost little boy sound of his voice.

 

“We see YOU,” Roy pointed out as his hands gently pressed John’s back.

 

“I know,” he murmured. “That’s why I lo…,” he hesitated. Roy held his breath waiting for the words John had only spoken once before.  “Love you guys,” he finished softly. Roy’s eyes closed in grateful thanks toward heaven before he continued on.

 

“How long did you live with them?”

 

“Almost a year…”

 

“Tell me about it?”

 

John drew a deep shuddering breath. “They hit me…” His head jerked slightly as if remembering the stinging thwack across the face from his aunt and the blows his uncle rained on him and his breath caught.

 

Roy swallowed down his anger at the couple. “Why did they hit you?”

 

John’s shoulders lifted in a confused shrug. “I don’t know.”

 

“They didn’t say?”

 

“They said a lot of things. I was at fault for eveything that went wrong. I was bad luck… It didn’t rain…or it rained too much… I forgot to water her garden and it was dry… My cousins got sick because I had it first and gave it to them…It was cold out of season…I didn’t clean the kitchen right…There was a drought, I left the gate open to her garden and the rabbits got in.” John’s breaths were gasping and every new excuse he gave was punctuated with the same head jerk. “My uncle drank too much and lost his job on the council.” John’s hands rose suddenly as if protecting his face and quickly covered his head. “Stop it…stop it please…don’t hurt me,” he begged.

 

“Johnny…,” Roy called to him, grasping the hands and holding tightly. “Johnny they’re not here and they can’t hurt you anymore. You can let them go now…,” he said softly, close to his young friend’s ear. “I’m here and I won’t let them hurt you…Let them go…they can’t stay there anymore.”

 

John’s breath caught for a moment before he whispered. “They can’t?”

 

“No…no they can’t…let them go now…”

 

“Try…,” he breathed softly.

 

“Okay.”

 

Kel and Dixie exchanged a look of sorrow and a head shake of disgust at what he’d had to bear that no child should ever be put through. Neither had any idea what was coming.

"Joseph...He hit me...Punched me. The day he lost...His place on the...on the council," he panted..."I thought he'd kill me," he gasped just above a whisper.

"It was his own fault for drinking," Roy protested.

The dark head shook. "He blamed me.He would've killed me...The fire captain saved me," he explained. "He wouldn't let him hurt me."

"So there was someone that cared about you."

John shook his head... "I thought so...But...He didn't want...Want me either," he explained with a hitched breath. "He sent me back," he whispered.

The hurt was obvious. "I'm sorry Junior...What about your aunt?"

“She never let a day pass without reminding me what I owed them and that I was a burden on them.”

 

“You owed them nothing Junior. You were a child...You never asked for any of this to happen to you." John's body trembled beneath his fingers and Roy knew he needed to calm him once again. They can’t come back now…” Johnny nodded and slowly relaxed. “What happened then?”

 

“I think they were glad when my grandfather took me away and sent me to Uncle George and Aunt Mase.”

 

Kel hadn't known about the first set of abusive relatives but he knew this Uncle had brutally beaten Johnny and he reached over to grip Dixie’s hand knowing how she’d react to what was coming but he had no idea himself what Johnny had experienced.

 

Roy closed his eyes. He didn’t want to go through this and wished he could skip it but John had to face this too. “Tell me about Uncle George?”

 

John shivered in the warm sunshine as if he was cold. “I don’t want too,” he whispered.

 

Roy reached up to brush the sweat dampened hair from John’s face. “You don’t have too. It’s up to you, but you can’t let him go until you do.” John shuddered but nodded.

 

“You said your uncle beat you too...Worse than the first. ”

 

Kel felt a hard squeeze on his hand and glanced at Dixie. Tears pooled in her eyes and spilled over at what she was hearing. “Did you know about all this?” She whispered angrily.

 

“I knew he was abused. I didn’t know how badly,” he whispered back in warning that he himself didn’t know where this was going.

 

John began to speak slowly. “When I was little he scared me...He hit me sometimes or knocked me down. Then one day when I was five... he kissed me and tried to touch me…there. He put his hand between…” John’s body arched up from the lounge. “No…,” he gasped. Roy barely caught him before he flipped out of the chair…

"It's alright Johnny...I'm here and you're safe. I won't let him hurt you."

Roy saw the subtle nod of the sable head and John continued. “He touched me and I pulled away…he got angry and he hit me. Told me to stand still but I didn’t…It was wrong...I knew it was wrong...I kicked him and ran but...he caught me...Choked me. He said he'd kill me if I told anyone what he'd done."

"You didn't tell anyone?"

"I couldn't...I was too scared..."

Kel glanced to Dixie. Her face was a frozen mask of rage. “Dear God…What did he do to that child?” She whispered fearfully. Kel could feel her body shaking in anger.

"My dad found out that he'd hit me and he knocked him down...Made him leave me alone and then later...he moved us to California but then after he died, we had to come back to the reservation...He looked at me differently than he used to. I didn't understand why and at first he was okay. He was nice to me but he was always touching me. My face…My hair…he played with my hair a lot. Sometimes he’d touch my mouth and he’d rub my back…I didn’t like it much. I didn’t like to be touched but if I pulled away he’d get angry.

“It’s okay Johnny,” Roy whispered soothingly. His hand rubbed John’s back but the reaction was instant. The gentle hands of his partner became hard and calloused in his mind. The soothing voice a threatening growl.

 

“Nooo,” he wailed.

 

“Johnny open your eyes and look at me,” Roy commanded. The dark eyes snapped open to lock with Roy’s. The older man could see the terror there. “He’s not here. Those are my hands and my hands will never hurt you.”

 

John’s breaths were coming in sharp gasps. “Yeah...Okay…,” he panted. “Okay.”

 

Roy thought about stopping here but then decided against it, afraid he’d never get him to start again. Besides he didn’t want to put him through this twice. “What did he do when you ran away?” He asked, forcing his voice to remain calm and his hands light when he really wanted to go beat Uncle George to a pulp the way he had a defenseless child.

"He'd threaten me...He told me he'd tell my mom it was my fault and I wanted him to do that and my mom wouldn't want me anymore either."

"It's alright...You were just a little boy. You were a victim of an adult...It wasn't your fault."

"And then they sent me to live with him after Aunt Lacee and Uncle Joseph hurt me."

"And what happened?"

 

“At first...He left me alone...Then after I was there awhile it started again. He hit me when I wouldn't let him touch me. I'd leave early in the morning and I didn’t come back for hours sometimes until someone else came home…I tried to be sure I was never alone with him.”

 

“Smart boy,” Roy said softly.

 

“Sometimes I couldn’t get away,” he murmured mournfully. “He’d try to hold me down but I guess…I went away.”

 

“You went into withdrawal?”

 

“Yes… He’d get really mad and I guess and he beat me…I don’t remember…I…I’d just wake up hurting all over and I was bruised. He broke my ribs and my arm…my wrist a coupla times. He even tried tying my hands but…I fought him so hard I’d bleed and I dislocated my shoulder. My grandfather was getting angry that I was getting hurt all the time. The school questioned it too but I heard my uncle tell him that I was clumsy and…and that my crazy fits were to blame. I…I didn’t know what he meant. I never remembered what happened. He told me he’d kill me if I ever told anyone. He said it was my fault…That I was the bad one and no one would want me. I was so scared but I had nowhere to go,” he moaned pitifully. "I couldn't tell grandfather...He'd have blamed me too because I wasn't strong...That I was useless and weak...That I let him do that to me..."

 

Roy closed his eyes, wiping his own tears from his face with his shoulder but his hands never left John’s back…“How long were you with him Johnny?”

 

“Eight months.”

 

Roy pushed for the last piece. “Johnny did he ever…finish what he started?” John had told him he couldn’t remember once before but now, while he was talking and the whole ugly story was being poured out, Roy wanted to be sure. He ignored the indrawn breaths of his wife and friends as they waited anxiously for the answer.

 

“Don’t know…Don’t think so…He was afraid of my withdrawals. Thought I was crazy…Heard him tell my aunt and my grandfather that I was crazy…Rocking and screaming but I never remembered that either,” he whispered with a hitched breath. “Then one night, he almost finished it." Roy wasn't sure what he meant...A physical rape or almost murdering the boy. "He came into my room. No one else was home. He pinned me to the bed and started ripping my clothes off.”John gasped at the memory…His body jumped under Roy’s hands.

Roy heard Dixie's soft moan of despair at what her young friend had endured and what she was afaid was coming.

 

Joanne covered her mouth to keep from crying. Her watery blue eyes met Roy’s. “And then what?” Roy asked, giving his wife a reassuring nod...He knew she was distraught but he needed John to finish this now.

 

“I couldn’t get away and everything started to go gray but he shook me until I thought he’d break my neck. I didn’t go away that time. I was so scared and I screamed and screamed. He put his hand over my mouth. I kicked him and I bit his hand. He hit me in the face.” John’s body jerked violently, his head snapping to the side and Roy’s hand reached up to smooth the hair from his cheek.

 

“My hands are all you feel okay? He can’t hurt you anymore.”

 

John’s brown eyes were locked on Roy. Tears coursed down his cheek. “His hands were on me and I couldn’t get away,” John gagged violently."HE... HURT ME," he cried out in terror...His eyes clenched tightly.

 

“I know he did ha'keta," Roy soothed softly, ignoring the poignant smile his wife threw him at the endearment.. "Just take it easy Johnny…He’s not here. What happened?” The older man pressed.

 

“I threw up. He was so mad…He started swearing and swinging at me. Oh God…,” Johnny cried out with a gasping breath. He flipped onto his back…his hands lashed out at Roy’s in terror..."Don't... touch me," he gasped...but Roy quickly caught them, holding him securely.

 

“Shh...Shhh Johnny, it’s me…," he soothed quietly. "Its’ okay…You’re okay. He can’t hurt you. He’s not here.”

 

“Roy…?” Joanne began but stopped at the negative shake of her husband’s head. 

 

“Let him finish this,” he said softly as he held John against him…His hands once again gently rubbing his back. The dark head tucked under his chin…“I’ve got you Johnny and your safe now. I don’t want you to relive what he did to you Junior, just to remember so you can let him go.” He felt a slow nod.

 

“He almost... beat me to death. He broke three ribs, my collarbone… my wrist, two fingers…, my cheekbone and my arm,” he gasped out the list of injuries. John was rocking now…beginning to show the warning signs of withdrawal but he’d managed to finish the tale. Roy knew there’d be months of talking about lesser injuries and abuses but the worst was thankfully over. “My aunt found me. I was barely conscious and my grandfather came and took me to the hospital in Lame Deer. I hurt so bad...," he whimpered. "I couldn't even...even move my legs after," he breathed out.

Roy rested his cheek against the dark head. " I know...What about your grandfather?" Roy asked.

"He didn’t believe him anymore and he took me to live with him when I got out of the hospital. The fire captain there called the police and Children’s services. They would have taken me anyway I think if grandfather hadn’t promised them he’d keep me. They tried to get me to tell them what happened but I was too afraid. I couldn't bear anyone touching me after that... ”

 

“Understandable,” Roy soothed as he smoothed the dark hair. “I’m so sorry you had to live through that.”

"Grandfather said...Said it was my fault..That I should have told someone," he whispered, with a hitched voice through the tears. "But I couldn't...I was so ashamed and humiliated... I wanted to die."

"Shh...Shh," Roy soothed, rocking his young friend gently. "You didn't do anything wrong...Nothing...None of this was your fault ha'keta," he assured him.

 

John stifled a sob. “Why’d they have to go away?”

 

“Who Johnny…?”

 

“My mom and dad… Why’d they go away and leave me…with…them?” John stammered through the tears. He was struggling desperately to regain control.

 

“I wish I could answer that for you Junior but I can’t. What I can tell you is that Jo and I are here for you now. We’ll always be here for you understand? You will never be alone again. Now let Uncle George go. He’s not allowed here any longer. He can’t hurt you anymore and he’s just a memory. He can’t hurt you and you have people who love you.” He felt the nod of his friends head. “I love you Johnny and we’ll be here, I promise you,” he assured the younger man he held tightly in his arms.

 

John began to calm. A slight shudder ran through his body before he relaxed against Roy. The dark eyes were red and exhausted as he finally sat up and wiped his cheeks. “Wow…,” he whispered tiredly.

 

“You can say that again. C’mon Johnny, I think you should rest for a while.” Roy pulled him to his feet, half supporting his partner against him.

 

John’s dark eyes barely met Kel and Dixie’s as he passed by them but he was too tired to be embarrassed.

 

“Lousy, rotten bastard,” Dixie muttered. “How could he do that to a child…? Especially one as sweet and sensitive as Johnny is?”

 

Joanne was just as angry and she’d already heard part of this years ago. She knew Roy had been told a bit more than she’d been privy too and she understood now why he’d told her she probably didn’t want to know the rest.

 

Roy rejoined them a moment later. “How is he?” Joanne asked anxiously.

 

“He’s asleep.”

 

“Did you know all of that?” Kel asked.

 

“Some of it,” he admitted. “He sorta glossed over the worst of it the first time. He told me he’d beat him several times.”

 

“Well I can tell you one thing,” Dixie said.

 

“What’s that Dix?” Kel asked.

 

“It’s a damn good thing his Uncle is a thousand miles from here…I like to kill him myself.”

 

Joanne nodded her agreement. Roy sat next to his furious wife. “Small wonder that he can’t trust anyone huh? I mean if your family does that to you…How can you trust anyone else? Who do you turn too when you’re a kid?”

 

“Poor Johnny,” Dixie murmured.

 

“Yeah…Well don’t lay any of that poor Johnny stuff on him when he wakes up huh? He’d be mortified,” Roy said.

 

“Don’t worry Roy, I’ll treat him the same way I always do. He’s earned that love and respect…Trust me.”

 

“I do and so does Johnny or you wouldn’t have heard any of that.”

 

“Roy…Do you believe Johnny was sexually assaulted by his uncle? He was molested obviously but he can’t remember for sure beyond that.”

 

Roy cringed at the thought. “I don’t think so but maybe someday you can bring it up with him and check that out. I mean…You’d be able to tell wouldn’t you?”

 

Kel nodded. “Yes…There’d be scarring but I doubt John would allow that.”

 

“Can’t hurt to ask him somewhere down the road?”

 

“Regardless, Martha said the attempt, the molestation would be devastating enough and she’s pretty positive from what I told her that he’s carrying a lot of guilt that he’s at fault and somehow to blame for what happened to him and that’s what he’s carried over into his whole life. That’s some other things we need to work on.”

 

Kel looked at Roy. “Look I didn’t get a chance to look him over. Why don’t I do a basic check on him now and if he looks alright I’ll release him for duty tomorrow. I’ll try not to disturb him.” Roy nodded and led him to John’s room. He took his blood pressure, pulse and respirations…All were normal. John shifted restlessly a couple of times. The dark eyes fluttered only to close again a moment later in sheer exhaustion. “How’s he been the last few days…physically I mean?”

 

“Great…He’s been active. He plays with the kids in the yard and he’s been swimming most every day this past week.”

 

“No lingering weakness or headaches? Night sweats?”

 

“Nope…”

 

“Appetite good…?”

 

Roy chuckled. “Always, unless he dying.”

 

Kel grinned. “Okay. Let’s get our young friend back in the squad where he belongs then.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

“I’ll call headquarters when I get back to Rampart and let them know.”

 

“Thanks Doc.”

 

He and Dixie left a short time later leaving Johnny to wake with as few people to face as possible after that ordeal. Both of them amazed at just how strong Johnny really was to have come through this sane. That he could still be gentle, good natured and sensitive as well as being one of the two best paramedics they had. That he was even capable of maintaining a friendship with anyone. Roy and John’s relationship was incredibly special when seen from this new viewpoint. How had Johnny ever learned to trust anyone…Even a little after what he’d been through?

 

 

John woke several hours later. He blinked away the sleepiness, turning his head slightly. Roy sat in a chair by the bed reading a newspaper. “Roy…?” Johnny questioned.

 

The older man set the paper aside. “Hey Junior, how are ya feelin?”

 

“Tired…”

 

“You wanna sleep some more?”

 

“No…I have to get up. I have to finish weeding Jo’s garden.”

 

“Ahh don’t worry about that. I’ll finish it up later if you’re still tired.”

 

“No…I want to finish it myself.”

 

“Okay partner.”

 

Johnny pulled himself to a sitting position. “Man I feel stiff.” John’s head suddenly snapped up. “Roy…Did we…Talk about my um…uncle?” He asked timidly.

 

“Yeah Johnny, we did.”

 

He groaned in humiliation. “Oh man…What exactly did I say? I uh…Only remember pieces of it.”

 

“You told me he beat you several time, once almost to death. That he touched you in inappropriate places.”

 

John’s face paled. “Did I say anything else?”

 

Roy hesitated but then plunged ahead. “Johnny? Did that animal do something to you that you’re afraid to tell me?” Roy was looking intently at his partner. “If he hurt you…you can tell me.”

 

John’s eyes welled with tears. “I don’t remember. I don’t think so. I know he tried. But I was so out of it I don’t know what he did while I was… gone.” There it was. John truly didn’t know for sure and it preyed on his mind…his heart and soul. Roy reached out to brush the tears from his face but John flinched away. He looked at Roy contritely. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

 

Roy tilted his young friends head up to look into his eyes. “From my experience with you when you’re in withdrawal, he’d have had one hell of a fight to even hang onto you.”

 

John gave him a small grin. “But I was much smaller then.”

 

“Probably just as feisty though but Johnny Dr. Brackett could tell you for sure.”

 

“No…”

 

“Wouldn’t you rest easier if you knew one way or the other?”


“I don’t know…I mean…What if he did?”

 

“Then we’d deal with that together too.”

 

He nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

 

“Good.”

 

“What did Dixie and Brackett say?” He asked softly.

 

“Other that the fact that they’d like to drive to Montana and kill George Walking Wolf…?” Johnny snorted with laughter. “They think you’re pretty incredible.”

 

“Me?”

 

“They think you’re a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

 

“Really…?”

 

“Yeah really…” Roy pulled him to his feet. “There’s a weed eater outside waiting for you.”

 

“John grinned. “Let’s go.”

 

“Oh by the way…,” Roy began. John gave him a questioning look. “You better get some sleep tonight. Brackett cleared you for tomorrow.”

 

John let out  a whoop of joy and followed his partner out.

 

Roy drove Johnny home after lunch. He stayed to help him clean up as the young paramedic hadn’t been home since falling ill five weeks ago. He gave him a quick pat on the back and left. The silence of the apartment was deafening and he found himself lonely. He missed the kids and the companionship of his two closest friends. Bored…he turned the TV on and settled on the couch looking forward to returning to work the next morning.

 

 

To be continued - Part 3 Obsession

Published to Site 05/02/10                                                  Links to Part 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.6. 7.

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