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There is A Last Time For Everything

An Emergency Story By

Alana
 

 

 

 

 

Links To Parts1. 2.

 

 

A Last Time For

 

Part 2

 

Emily was reading grant applications while Lee was typing something at the computer.   Her friend allowed her to fuss until she heard some very seldom used words from Lee who had retyped the same sentence three times and it was still full of errors.

 

“Would you like another soda or something to eat?  Sounds like you’re are ready for a break.”  Emily spoke softly knowing Lee’s frustration level was stretched beyond limits.

 

“No, thanks…I   …I’m trying to be calm and reasonable …”

 

“When what you want to do is scream and throw things and use all the words you were taught a lady never uses.”  Emily went over to her.  “I remember one time when Hank was still an engineer I had to wait for 6 hours to get any information on him…I knew he had been hurt and his captain had promised to call as soon as he knew anything.   But then the power went off and the phones weren’t working, and I was home with two sick babies.   Back then we only had one car and it was at the station.”

 

“What did you do to keep from going totally insane?”  Lee asked. 

 

“Once both girls were asleep I went into the kitchen and cleaned cupboards and scrubbed everything in sight.   Then I started on the bedroom closet.  Had to finish it before Hank got home from the hospital since the bed was buried under everything that had been in the closet.  He was in there 2 days luckily nothing serious they had to wait for the swelling to go down before they could cast his foot.”

 

“Now with Chloe, it’s even worse…I don’t want her to grow up without a father…At least Johnny and I had some good memories to help fill that cold icy space…All she would have are second hand stories and pictures…Jeff offered to come stay with us, but I told him to wait until we know more.  

 

Gina has called me every day.  They’re so happy…they just bought a town house and have been decorating it…Said it had a perfect yard for Chloe to play in when we come visit and there is a downstairs guest room.”  They talked awhile longer then Lee decided she needed to finish the report she was working on.

 

Kel and Joe came into the office looking totally exhausted.  Kel went straight to the coffee pot, Joe settled in one of the easy chairs.

 

“If we charged that hose jockey by the hour like lawyers do we’d be rich,” Kel joked after a long sip of coffee.  “His vitals are good should be back in his room in about 45 minutes.  We took out several bone splinters and cleaned out a pocket of infection.  One chip was pressing on a nerve in his neck, another was against a nerve in his shoulder…We put a NG tube in to help control the nausea…we want to keep all motion to the bare minimum, so he will be heavily sedated and back on the vent for a day or two.   But I am fairly optimistic that he’ll be making satisfactory progress from now on unless he has some more surprises in store for us.”

 

“No more surprises would be nice.   I think we have settled the issues that had him so upset.   He should have told me he wouldn’t make that promise.   I shouldn’t have asked in the first place.  When can I see him?”

 

“In about an hour.  That’ll give them time to settle him in the room and for you to do whatever you need to do.”

 

“Which means get something to eat and call home and let Ibbie know he is doing fine.   While you get ready to go eat I’ll call Hank and give the station an update.”   Emily said in a no nonsense or argument voice.  “Lee, listen to me…You need to take care of you, so you can take care of them.  How much weight have you lost?  How many days have you skipped your exercises?  You think once he’s better Johnny isn’t going to ask you about the new scar on your forehead?   That man knows every inch of your face.”

 

“I have only lost a few pounds which I really could stand to lose.  Having to cook for that perpetual eating machine who never gains weight can be hazardous to my weight.”  Lee smiled thankful to have such good friends.  “How can I ever thank you all for all that you’ve done for us these last weeks?”

 

“You would have done the same of any of us.  Now go fix yourself a plate or do you want me to fix you one?”

 

                                                     **

 

 Two days later Lee had been in her office for about two hours when Bob Houser came into see her.  She watched him go over to the counter and get some coffee and a cupcake. 

 

“Ok, what do you want?”  Lee asked very matter of fact.  “I know that look.”

 

“I heard that John’s surgery went well.  I was wondering if…”

 

“If I thought any more about not charging Brice with trespassing and harassment?”  Smiling but not sounding or  looking  pleasant.

 

“I know we have no legal right to ask you to change your mind, but it would be a nightmare for the department as far as publicity is concerned.  John is a hero.  If it comes out another firefighter was calling him a liability and his actions totally against regulations…Which they weren’t. We don’t want people seeing the department as so ridged that it endangers them or as so reckless they are put in more danger by their unprofessional behavior.”

 

“Unprofessional…that’s one of the charges Brice leveled against me. 

 

Luckily for you I’m not part of your department.  And to be very honest now I wish John Roderick wasn’t either.” 

 

“Does this mean you’re going to try to convince him to leave the department” He knew that if she wanted him to leave he would…He would do anything in his power to make her happy including giving up a job he loved.  A job that he was excellent at.

 

“No, I will never ask him to do that…But if he ever decides that is what he wants I’ll be supportive of whatever he chooses to do…Even if it’s to become a beachcomber.  Hawaii looks better every day to me.”

 

“What about your house?  John’s proud of what he has built for you out at The Grove.”

 

“Did you know he didn’t want to build that house?  He wanted to stay in the apartment.  He thought it was safer for me.”  She shrugged.  “He never thinks about what is safer for him.  But that isn’t very likely to change so I guess I may as well accept it.”

 

“So that mean you are going to drop the charges against Brice?  I need to let my bosses know.”  The  legal  department  had  been  pressing  him  to talk to her.

 

“Tell them I will drop the charges, but Brice is not welcomed in this office for any reason.  If he has something to say at the monthly meeting put it in writing and you can present it.   Tom and Will both have told me I could ban him from being there but not from sending information or questions in writing.”

 

“Fair enough.  Personally, I think you have every right to feel like you do.  But as a representative of LA County Fire Department I do as I am told.”

“And that means keep anything that could be considered bad publicity out of the 

 

news.”  Lee said with a sad smile.  “I understand that.  Now if you will excuse me I am going to go visit my husband.”

 

“Tell him I sent my regards.”

 

“I will.”

 

                                        

 

Johnny was awake but had his eyes closed.  He was thinking about his past and wondering about his future.  Sooner or later he had to decide.  It would not only affect him but Lee and Chloe.   Why kid himself, it also involved Roy and Jo.   He had a family to think of now.  It wasn’t like the old days when it was just him…when it didn’t matter to anyone except maybe his Aunt Rose if he lived or died.  

 

 That had changed slowly after he became a paramedic/firefighter at Station 51with Roy  as his  partner.  Roy and his family became his family.  He was Uncle Johnny to Chris and Jen, little brother (sometime third child) to Roy and JoAnne.  They had taught him to trust others and his family grew…Dixie, Kelly Brackett and Joe Early at Rampart as well as his shift mates.  They had given him the knowledge and confidence that his biological family had been wrong. 

 

His parents had loved him even when he had showed signs of Asperger’s, a form of autism and a tendency for respiratory illnesses.   The aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins who had rejected him they couldn’t hurt him anymore.  

 

Thanks to Roy and Jo, Cap and the others he had learned how to be loved and love.  Because of them, he had Lee and Chloe and a good future.  That was what really mattered.  Lee had told him she dreamed of Chloe’s wedding seeing him walking her down the aisle.  He wanted that dream to come true.  He wanted to see her grow up, to be there to protect her and her mother. Finally, the combination of the pain meds and the resolution of his inner conflict lulled him to sleep.

 

                  

 

Lee came into the room quietly in case he was sleeping.   Sleep was the best thing for him.   The infection in his leg was  healing  soon  they could safely cast it and discontinue the traction.   Each day was bringing a small new victory to them.   She moved closer and saw  tears on his cheeks.   She thought he was asleep until he spoke.

 

“Call Roy and t-t-t-cell him I n-n-n-eye-did to see him and Jo as soon as possible…ply-lease.”  His voice was soft, and pain filled.   She could hear the conflict he was dealing with in his heart and mind.  “C-cc- come soon as he gets off.”  He needed to do this before he lost his nerve or let the fear push him into a very different choice. 

 

He had known of the three choices only 2 were workable.  The one he had made was the best he was certain.  The uncertainty was if he would have the strength and courage to follow through with the right choice.   “T-t-h-ha-no you for no quux- stations.”   The  stuttering  and  slurring  worried her but  she worked at  not  showing  him she  was concerned.

 

“Boyo, I know you have your reasons.”  She dialed the familiar number as he fell back to sleep.

 

“Station 51, Capt. Stanley speaking,” 

 

“Hi. How is life at 51 today?”  Lee asked, the strength that Hank’s voice conveyed gave her a feeling of security as usual.  

 

“Not bad.  Be better if John was here…Think Chet is going into prank withdrawal.  He even was bugging Stoker today about how he was cooking.”

 

“That is bad.  Is Roy available by any chance?”  Lee hoped her voice sounded more relaxed and calm than she felt.

 

“Yeah, he and Clayton are out cleaning up the squad…How’s John doing?”

 

“Getting stronger every day.  They should put a regular cast on his leg sometime this week.  That puts him closer to coming home.  We’ll to hire someone for a few weeks but that’s no problem.”

 

“Well just remember we all are here to help.”

 

“You’ve all been wonderful, and I hope you know how much we appreciate it.”

 

“Hi. How’s his day going?”  Roy asked.  They had been busy but hadn’t had a run to Rampart since early in the day.

 

“He is …antsy I guess that’s the word I’m looking for.  He didn’t eat very much, and his hands were trembling.  He had trouble looking me in the eye and there was some stuttering.   Not sure if I am over reacting or what but I’m worried.   He wants to see me you and Jo as early as we can be there in the morning.   He thanked me for not asking him any questions.  Roy, there were tears in his eyes…I pretended I didn’t see them…but something is wrong…”

 

“Did you talk to Kel or Joe?”  Roy asked. “If something was showing up as the start of a new problem they would have caught it as close as  they ‘re monitoring him.”

 

“Yeah I did and they both said all his vitals had been good except he had been tired from the passive range of motion pt. he had  earlier in the day.  Talk to Jo and see if she wants me to bring her to the hospital as soon as the kids leave for school.  Just let me know what you all decided.”

 

Lee and Jo met Roy at the hospital the next morning.  It was easy to see Lee hadn’t gotten much rest.   She didn’t  say much when they took the girls to school or even after they had dropped them off.  Jo noticed she had just pulled her hair back into a pony tail and the only make up she had on was a light lipstick.   She was dressed more casual than she usually did when coming to the hospital.   It was if all the energy had been drained out of her.   Roy  came up to her  office to meet  them.

 

“Let’s go see what is going on with him…I don’t think I can wait much longer to find out what he is thinking.   I wish I could explain the feeling I got when I talked to him last night…It was like a part of him was missing.   What if Kel or Joe told him something and he made them promise not to tell us?  That he wanted to do it himself?”

 

“I think you’re letting your imagination run away with you.” Roy said in a calm voice.  “He may just need to talk about what he’ll need when he gets out of here…Kel told you it was not going to be a fast process for him to gain full mobility and independence…”

 

“We know that and have already talked to Jake about hiring at least three guys to help him…12-hour rotation with down time during the rotation.   Jake is going to talk to the hospital supply company about what equipment we’ll need at home and if the sunroom will work as his rehab room or if he needs to have it set up in the pool house.”

 

“It’s good he’s making plans.   Come on before you have a complete melt down.  You aren’t going to do him or you any good by falling apart.”   Roy sounded like a stern parent,  he knew that was what she needed.

 

 Johnny watched as Roy pushed Lee up to the bed.   He frowned at how tired she looked.  “Did you get any sleep at all last night?”

 

“Good morning, I love you too.”  Lee answered him with a shake of her head.  “Boyo, it really isn’t a good idea to tell someone they look bad especially when they already know it,” She took his hand and smiled at him.  “To answer your question, I think it was in an hour or 45 minutes shifts…But I am going to take a nap after I leave here.  Did you have breakfast?”

 

“No, think I couldn’t eat for the same reason you couldn’t sleep.”  He looked at Roy and Jo “Roy, bring a chair around next to Lee, please.  Jo, thanks for coming down here so early.”

 

“No problem, Lee said it was important.”   Roy moved a chair for her to sit down then got one for himself slightly behind her, his hand on her shoulder.

 

“Laying here I’ve had a lot of time to think about a lot of stuff.  Some of it has been bad but most of it has been good.  Especially thinking about the time since I met you, Pally, and became a paramedic.  All the stuff we had to learn, the rescues and the people we saved and the ones we lost.  Even the tough times we learned things the hard way…But the most important things I learned you can’t find in books.  How many hours did we spend at your table Jo studying those manuals and drinking coffee to keep awake?  All the times you fed me…not just my stomach but my soul?  I said it before and I’ll probably say it again, if it hadn’t been for you and Roy and the kids I would have been dead a long time ago.  Because there wasn’t anyone to care if I lived or died.  Most of all I didn’t care. I didn’t have a death wish or anything it just didn’t matter.   Maybe Rosemary would have been sad but nobody else in my family would have been.  The guys I worked with maybe would have cared a little bit, but we were acquaintances not friends.  Seemed like every time I got close to someone I lost them.   But you changed that Pally, you were as tenacious as a bull dog and didn’t give up on me.  You taught me more than any teacher in school, or any instructor at the Academy.  You showed me how it felt to be part of a family and that family was more than just blood relations.  Family is the people that make you feel safe and loved and protected from all the craziness and hate in the world.  You let me know it was ok to be happy or sad or to be scared…that wasn’t being weak it was being human.   Friends don’t always have to agree they still are there for you when you really need them.   Because of you and Jo showing me, what marriage was supposed to be like… I let myself believe I could find someone…I could have a wife and kids and be happy.   Because of you I have Lee and Chloe…” 

 

He stopped and reached for the water glass.  Seeing how his hand was shaking Roy was up and handing him the glass.  His hand covered Johnny’s for just an instant squeezing it slightly.    Lee and Jo both had tears on their cheeks.  The unshed ones in Johnny and Roy’s eyes were there but no one mentioned them. “I thought I was dying…and I was angry and afraid.  It wasn’t fair…I survived when I didn’t care…and now that…that I want to live--- have something …someone to live for I was losing it.   Lee, you told me you dreamed of Chloe’s wedding…I want to be there walking her down the aisle…I want us to have the biggest grandest 50th anniversary party…to see our grandkids grow.  I want to spend years and years of just ordinary days together… I can’t do that if I keep on like it has been.  Roy…being in that squad with you…I never thought I was a quitter…but I can’t keep on risking losing my time with my family.  I keep hearing people say it was a miracle I got to Rampart ---that I got out of the OR alive…I’m not a CAT I don’t have nine lives…I only have one,  I want it to be long and healthy spent with people  I love.   Don’t hate me for being a quitter…  I love being a fireman,  a paramedic, but my heart and mind and body are telling me it’s time… “

 

“To become Captain Gage instead of Firefighter/Paramedic Gage.”  Roy softly finished the sentence.     “Wantta study buddy, Junior? “

 

“Yeah, I do.   Jo, is it ok with you?  I know I promised you I’d always do my best to get him home to you at the end of every shift.”

 

“You’ve more than kept your promise, Sweetheart.  You sent him home to

me knowing he had a best friend, a brother he could rely on to be there for him the next shift.  You sent him home smiling most days.  I’m proud to be the wife of a paramedic.   I’ll be proud to be the wife of one of the best captains in the LA County Fire Department.”

 

“And I will be just as proud to be the wife of the other best captain…Even if you aren’t working at the same station you’ll always be the best team.”  Lee answered the questioning look from Johnny.   “Boyo, you could be a beach bum and I would be proud to be your wife and the mother of your children.”    She looked at Jo and smiled.  “Tell you what, this time we can share having the study sessions…  Or I bet we could do some rearranging and the pool house could be a good school room.    They could scatter their notes and books and not have to worry about anyone moving them…This is going to be even more intense than the recertification study sessions.”

 

“Yeah it is…It’s going to take time away from us…I’ll have to study …It’ll take time away I could be spending with you and Chloe our time together is precious.”  

 

“You’re precious to us.  The time we hare together as a family, that’s measured in memories and joy not minutes and hours.”

 

“Sweet Pea. You’re sure?”  She nodded.  “You were wrong when you said you looked bad, you looked sad…You always are always beautiful to me even when you look sad…but I like the happy beautiful look a lot more.”  He smiled with a teasing wink.

 

“How about me and Jo go up and get us all some breakfast from the office…” Roy said.

 

“There should be a box marked with my name and a Do Not Touch sign on it.  Mick sent me and the Boyo some of our favorite breakfast treats.  He worries the Boyo will lose too much weight.”   

 

Lee waited until Roy and Jo had left before saying what was on her mind.  “Did you really think we would be angry that you wanted to become a captain?”

 

“I thought it might upset you.  This’ll l cut down on a lot of our free time.”

 

“Well for one thing you’ll have about 8 weeks to study while you are healing.    When I let myself think about how close we came to losing  you this time…God was so looking after us.  I know it wasn’t an easy choice for you to make.”

 

“I had three choices, keep on being a paramedic or try for the promotion or quit   the department.  I really don’t think staying on as a paramedic is a real option.   I don’t think I would make a very good engineer.  Roy would be a great one…I even thought about talking to Kel about becoming a full-time instructor.   I think I can be a decent captain… maybe even keep my paramedic certification for a while.   Or if I left the department maybe learn more about the construction business.”

 

“That would never work…you wouldn’t be happy doing that.”

 

“Maybe I could be a househusband and just take care of you and Ladybug.”

 

“That you would have grown to hate.  And me with it.   I think you made the best decision.  Have you thought about when you were going to tell Hank and the others?”

 

“Hank has been re -reading the manual for the chief’s exam.  Think Mike has been thinking about taking the captain’s exam now that they have the two kids.  Maybe he would like to join our study group We could do it in the pool house.  Whatever makes the most sense.  What did you think I was going to say this morning?”

 

“Ya know, I’m not sure…I just knew you were very unhappy,  let the fear factor creep in.   There’s a part of me that thinks if Matt had agreed earlier to his promotion he still would be with us.  But we can’t let the what ifs, and could haves control our lives.  You’ve taught me that.”

 

Upstairs Jo was making a new pot of coffee and fixing a basket to take down stairs.  Roy watched her waiting for her to say what was on her mind. 

“Are you really ok with what Johnny said?”  She had always told him since it was his job he was the one who made the choices about the direction he would go.

“Yeah, I am.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  We’ve talked about it a few times since Chloe was born.  Think it’s happening sooner because of    bombing.   We knew we couldn’t be paramedics forever.  Maybe the paramedic part of the job but not rescue men.   Our bodies aren’t made for that type of work after a certain age.”

 

“I think Lee is just as relieved as I am about your choice.  I’ll always support you no matter what, you know that.  But, it will be kind of comforting to know you won’t be the first ones running into burning buildings or climbing down mountains.”

 

“Yeah…it’ll be different.  I think the next awkward thing is telling the others.  I know Hank will be fine with it.    It’s gonna be strange knowing maybe me and Junior won’t ever be back in the squad together.   That was the worst break he’s had in that leg plus the muscle and tendon damage.   I was afraid there for a while with all that infection it might end his career as a firefighter.”  He shook his head.  “Like he said some weren’t giving him much of a chance to survive this time.”

 

“When are you going to tell the kids?”  Jo knew they would have questions and probably be worried about the change.

 

“Maybe we’ll do it together, all four of us so they can ask any questions.    I think we need some time to let this sink in…I knew this day was coming guess I just didn’t think it would  get here so fast.”

 

“I think that the timing is probably just right.”

 

 

                                                     

 

Johnny had been home two weeks.  The three aides that they had hired seemed to be working out well.  Jake had recommended them. Wyatt, Tim and Cody fit in well with the household.  The sunroom had been converted into his room.  Chloe was very content to just be in the same room as her Neoee.  She seemed to know he couldn’t lift her or move about and was happy just to lay beside him.  Sometimes he read to her or have long talks. 

 

Johnny told everyone she was an excellent listener and that she helped past the time when he wasn’t doing his PT or Lee wasn’t in the room with him.  The tray table was used to build with her blocks and play with some of the puzzles she had.    Kel had said limited visitors to make sure that he got some rest and to keep germs away as much as possible.  The guys had been great about coming to see him one or two at a time Between the aids they hired and Ibbie it seemed as if everything was going to work out ok for them while he recuperated. 

 

 The rain and lower than usual temperatures seemed to increase the muscle spasms so Kel had put him on a low dose of a muscle relaxer.  This was partially due to his history of low tolerance for most drugs.

 

Johnny was in a foul mood.  He had been awake most of the night.  No matter how Tim had rearranged the pillows or repositioned him he hurt.   He had had the maximum pain medication he was allowed for the next four hours.   Tim had even helped him into the recliner with a heating pad behind his back.   Nothing helped the throbbing in his legs, back and head.   To added insult to injury Lee never came in to check on him after she went to bed. 

 

 Any other night she would have been in there hearing how restless he was.   Why had she chosen this night of all nights to ignore him?  He shouldn’t have to ask her to come in and keep him company.  She should know he needed her.  Was she tired of him being laid up?  She always had been supportive before,  why was this time different?   He looked at the clock.  It was 2:00 a.m.   He’d knowing it was another 4 hours before he could have a pain pill.

 

A little before 8, Lee and Chloe went into the sunroom with Ashke close behind them.   Johnny looked up frowning at the trio.   Tim was over at the side making sure he had everything written down he needed to chart since Johnny had such a restless night. 

 

“Good morning, Boyo.”   Lee said as she lifted the wiggling toddler onto the bed.   “Would you like some milk or coffee while you’re waiting for breakfast?”

 

 “Nice you finally thought to ask me if I wanted anything,” he growled.  Lee raised an eye brow but didn’t say anything about his tone of voice.  “Yeah some milk if it’s not too much trouble.  I know you have a busy day.   Going shopping with Jo.”

 

“We are going shopping for the fund raiser for special Olympics.  We need to get the baskets ready for the drawing in two weeks.”  The ticket sales have been good Jo and her committee has done most of the work.”  (Jo had taken over for Lee and Johnny after Johnny was injured.)   His sarcastic tone wasn’t setting well with Lee, but she was trying to ignore it.  She had taken a pain pill the night before and had woken up with a headache.

 

 “Stop it Chloe…” Johnny’s voice was louder than normal and harsh.    She was pulling on his blanket wanting to get under the covers and lay close to him.  He pushed her hand away pulling the blanket tighter to his body.     Usually   he wanted her to get under the blanket and curl up next to him as her talked with her while Lee fixed breakfast.  “Get her out of here if she can’t be still.”

 

Chloe pulled back from her daddy the look on her face broke Lee’s heart.  She had never heard Johnny use that tone to Chloe before even when it was to stop her from doing something that could be harmful.  Lee took her down from the bed and wheeled out of the room, Ash following close behind.

 

 Lee put the fussy toddler in her high chair.    “Neoee.”  Chloe said with a sad look.  “Na neoee” she raised her arms to be lifted out of the chair.

 

“Neoee needs some time out.  He’s being grumpy because he is bored and sad and hurting.  Your Neoee made a choice that was very hard for him. 

 

He  worries  about the changes--- worried about disappointing his friends and family.  When you are older you’ll understand how brave and proud he is.  How hard he worked to be the best at his job.  Not because he wanted to impress people but because he cares so much.  He wants to keep others from feeling the hurt he did when your grandparents died.  He wants to make the world a better safer place for everyone not just us.  He is willing to give up a job he loves for us because he loves us more.  Besides, it is hard for him not to be able to move about or get down on the floor to play with you.   So, I guess I really shouldn’t be mad if he is a little grumpy with me but there was no need for him to act like that with you…”    Lee fed Chloe then cleaned her up. 

 

Tim had come out and got Johnny a glass of milk, so she did not go back in there but began fixing breakfast for Johnny and Wyatt.  She put Chloe in the living room with some Disney music on.  She didn’t know if it really helped Chloe relax but it made her feel better listening to the music.   She went into the kitchen and dialed the number for the ER nurses’ station.

 

“Rampart Emergency…Miss McCall.”

 

“Hi Dixie.  Is Kel available?”

 

“He’s in with a patient.  Anything I can do?”

 

“The Boyo had a really bad night and is having a rougher morning…I was just worried about him and wondering if there is anything we can do…He’s had the max on his pain meds for another couple of hours.”

 

“Sorry to hear that.  I’ll let Kel know soon as he is available.   Did Johnny say what exactly was hurting?”

 

“Just that he ached all over and he couldn’t get comfortable.  Repositioning didn’t help he even sat in the recliner with heating pads and blankets and said that didn’t help” 

 

Johnny flipped thru the pages of the new car magazine and then picked up the book he had been reading, it was hard waiting.  Tim had left at 8:30 and now Wyatt was his aid.   They went thru the passive range of motion exercises and had finished them when Lee called on the inter com to tell Wyatt that breakfast was ready and asked if he would come out and get the breakfast tray.

 

 “Lee said to tell you she was gonna get a quick shower and that Chloe was in her play pen.   Ash is out for a morning run.  And Ibbie will probably be here before she is out of the shower.”  Wyatt  said as he  placed  food on  the  tray table,.

 

“She must be in a hurry to get out of here if she couldn’t be bothered to come in to tell me herself.”  Johnny muttered under his breath.  Wyatt wisely said nothing.  Tim had told him it was a rough night.  “Stupid woman, I told her yesterday I wanted sausage and gravy this morning…You can take this back out to the kitchen.  Too lazy to fix me what I wanted….”  He pushed the plate of French toast away but then took the bacon off the plate and ate it.  “Not gonna do those useless exercises ...Just leave me alone.  Gonna sleep now.”  Wyatt took the tray back out to the kitchen.   He was at the table reading when Ibbie came in.

 

“Good morning.”  Ibbie said as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

 

“Exercises over already?”

 

“Johnny had a bad night isn’t doing his exercises until later.   Unless he calls I’m staying out of his way.  You know I never heard him say anything bad about anyone let alone Lee before today.  Tim said he even snapped at Chloe.  Angry  and  rude all morning.”

 

“I don’t believe that.”

 

“He refused to eat what Lee cooked for breakfast…called her stupid and lazy.  He said was going to sleep.”

 

Lee came out to the kitchen about 10 minutes later.  She greeted Ibbie.

 

“Ladybug has had her bath and breakfast.  I don’t think it would be a wise idea for her to play in the sun room today.  Johnny isn’t feeling very well this morning.  I should be back by 12:30. Would it cause you any problems if I’m not?”

 

“No…nothing at home except laundry and dust…Anything special you want done today?”

 

“No just keep Ladybug happy and quiet.  Don’t run the sweeper.  Johnny didn’t sleep well last night and is in a foul  mood.   If Chloe gets too fussy or you need a safe place to hide go out to the pool house.”

 

“Is Johnny ok?  You and Wyatt both seem concerned about his mood.  That is so unlike him.”   Ibbie asked. She was concerned about how tired Lee looked.

 

“I think he is just frustrated and hurting.  The PT sessions are hard, and he doesn’t feel like he’s making progress.  Been there done that as they say.   Maybe if we get some sunshine it’ll cheer him up.” 

 

Lee almost decided against going into to tell him good bye but decided that was childish on her part. He had put up with her moods so often, he was entitled to a cranky day with all the pain he was going through.

 

 She entered the room just as he threw the TV remote across the room.  “Problem?”  She asked hoping her tone wasn’t as shaky as she felt.

 

 “The damn batteries are dead…again.   What did you do buy the cheapest ones you could find?”

 

“No…must have been a bad pack.  I’ll have Wyatt bring you in some new ones.  I’m going to run some errands.  Anything you’d like me to get for you?”

 

“No don’t bother about me.”  A hateful tone and sneer on his face.

 

“I’ll call before I come home just in case you think of something.  Love ya.”

 

When he didn’t respond she turned and left the room.  She hoped Ibbie and Wyatt didn’t notice the fact she was struggling not to cry as she went out to her car.  A half hour later Johnny did his exercises muttering and complaining the whole time.

 

Once they were finished Wyatt placed a moist heated pad on his shoulder and another by his right hip.  That seemed to be the two places Johnny was feeling the most pain.  Since the light was bothering his eyes he closed them and listened to the   tape that was playing.  It was one of the soft slow jazz tapes that Lee liked and had left in the tape deck.  After about 10 minutes of listening Wyatt realized Johnny had fallen asleep.  He got more concerned as the day went on with the mood swings and Johnny’s feeling so tired and achy even after sleeping several hours.   They did not do the afternoon exercises since Johnny felt so bad.

 

Lee had called home to check on Johnny and Chloe.  Ibbie said both were sleeping.  Ibbie told her Johnny did his morning PT with some complaining before falling  asleep.   He hadn’t wanted lunch saying, that he just wanted to sleep when Wyatt had woken him for lunch.  Since he hadn’t eaten he hadn’t had any more pain meds since before breakfast.  Lee told Ibbie she would be home by  two.

 

Jo saw the worry in Lee’s face when she hung up the phone.  “Do you want to go straight home?”

 

“No, we need to pick up the gift certificates at Johnny Pat’s.  I can get the Boyo some of his favorite cupcakes and some of the deli stuff he likes…He loses weight on a what a normal person eats… he lost 12 pounds even with the feedings when he was in ICU.  Mama Lopez has sent his flam at least twice a week since he was able to eat…Besides, as much as I hate to admit it, I have enjoyed today…It was fun buying the stuff for the raffle.  I think between the raffle, the auction and sports event we should more than double our goal.”

 

“Why didn’t you just give them the money” Jo asked feeling a little guilty.  It was really her parents who had asked the question.   “Not you personally but WBSF could have given it to them.”

 

“Oh, a couple of reasons I guess.   One there is a dignity in working for a goal…some of the parents who can’t afford to donate money are donating time and their skills to the activities .  Like the families that will be doing the cooking for the food tents and the families that will be building and running the game booths on Community Day and them working the other events. 

 

Secondly this way more of the public is getting involved and will be seeing what our kids and adults can do.  They will not only see those doing athletic stuff but them doing meaningful work in the food tents, helping with grounds cleanup, selling snacks at the concession stands. They’ll have some of the products they make at their workshops on sale…it will be a chance for the public to see past the disability to see a person.   To see people who have something very worthwhile to contribute to this world.”

 

Ibbie left for the day after telling Lee that Dr. Brackett had called.  He said to let him know if she wanted him to drop by after dinner.  Wyatt was out in the pool house.  Lee had checked on Johnny several times since she had gotten home but he had made it clear he wanted to just be left alone or was asleep when she looked in on him.   Chloe went over to the gate and cried wanting her Neoee, but Lee hadn’t taken her back to see Johnny.  Instead they had sat on the couch and she had held her close talking to her softly.

 

“Neoee loves you very much but today he just doesn’t feel very good…I know it’s hard for you to understand, sweetie, but today is just not a good day.”  Lee let out a deep sigh.  “How can I expect you to understand when I don’t really.”  

 

 He was getting stronger and more comfortable with his decision every day.   Was this mood swing because he was regretting his plan to become a captain?  Wasn’t she being supportive enough?   Chloe wanted down to go play with Ashie, so Lee went into the bedroom. At first, she thought he was asleep but then she heard him talking softly as if afraid to be heard. 

 

She wheeled over to him moving as quietly as she could.  She saw the tears on his face as he kept his eyes closed tightly.  She saw the slight movement.  It looked like a cross between a shiver and rocking.  She hadn’t seen him rock that way in a long time…as if the rocking was protecting him and comforting him at the same time.  

 

His aunt had sent him to bring in water from the well.  The bucket was heavy, and his shoulders hurt from the beating his uncle had given him the night before.   Moving slowly to avoid spilling the water he was almost to the door way.  The dim light made it difficult to see where he was stepping in the ill kept yard.   As he stepped into the rut his ankle went over.  He stumbled but fought to keep hiss balance.  Unfortunately, most of the water sloshed out of the bucket turning the  ground  into a pool of mud.

 

“Your stupid clumsy idiot… Now look at the mess you’ve made…go get me the water I need to cook your uncle’s meal…”  His aunt screeched at him.  He ran as she picked up a rock and threw it at him.  He was limping, but his first thought was to run and hide.

 

Johnny could feel someone was nearby, but he crouched down smaller trying to hide.  He couldn’t put a name to the presence, but he knew it felt different from the others…  caring and kind.  Maybe it was someone who would help him.  He had run as fast and as far from the house as he could with hurting so bad.

 

 “Shush…made a mess…Uncle…will hurt me again…no water for me ‘because I spilled…clumsy no good…too much trouble.   Aunts hurt me too.  Hide in the corner Don’t let them see ya… so   thirsty…don’t let them  hurt you…”

 

“I won’t let anyone hurt you again…you can have all the water or milk you want…anything you want…I’ll do my best to get it for you.  I love you Boyo…you remember that, don’t you?”   She put her hand gently on his trembling arm.  “It was only a bad dream.  Your uncle and aunts are far away…  Open your eyes, you’re safe in our home.” 

 

“No have to hide…they’re angry…caused trouble… Hurt you…can’t let her hurt you again…took your locket…hurt you so you no love me…they hurt me…why did they have to hurt me so bad just because I spilled the water.”

 

“She can’t stop me from loving you…no one can…We are stronger than they are…”  She hit the intercom button for the pool house.   “Help.” 

Wyatt heard the button click and Lee’s call for help.  He ran to the sunroom.  As he started into the room she motioned for him to stop.  He could see Lee trying to calm Johnny down.  He nodded to let her know he understood what he needed to do.

 

“Boyo, Wyatt is here, he’ll help us. I think we need to go see Dr. Brackett…You need to take slow deep breaths…We’ll keep you safe.”    Wyatt left the doorway.

 

Wyatt came back quietly.  “I called for the squad and called your friend Kathy…She is  going to call Jo  to watch  Chloe.”

 

                  

 

Andy Boyd had been Johnny’s replacement for the last three shifts.  He had transferred down to LA from the Bay Area.  Roy hoped that he would be the permanent replacement until Johnny came back since they worked well together.   That was assuming Johnny came back as a paramedic before taking the captain’s exam.  The last time he had talked with Johnny about the exam he was unsure if he would have to take the paramedic exam to recertify and he wanted to keep his certification in case the captain thing didn’t work out.  

 

  Roy had gone over to HQ on a day off and picked up the information and study guides but really hadn’t looked through them yet.  He didn’t want it to accidently slip they were going to take the exam until they talked with Cap and the others.

 

The shift had been a quiet one Mike had his spaghetti sauce in the crock pot simmering.  The salad was ready.  He was almost ready to put the water on to boil.  Roy had washed up the prep dishes and was now reading the paper.  Cap had taken advantage of the quiet afternoon to get a few drills in and had even made a small dent in his mound of paper work.  Marco and Chet had finished hanging all the hoses and were now relaxing. 

 

Marco was doing a crossword puzzle as Chet sat with Henry brushing his ears.

 

“You never move, how does your ears get so matted?”  Chet muttered as he worked on a tangle.  “Hey Roy, does Lee really use the same hair conditioner on their dog as she uses?”

 

 

‘Nope she uses the kind Johnny uses…I don’t think she wanted Ash to smell like lavender…I mean that’s kind of a girly smell for a male guard dog.”   Roy said.  “You are thinking about giving Henry a bath?”

 

“Yeah maybe the next warm day I’ll bring in my hair dryer…Then we won’t have to put up with the wet dog smell all shift.”

 

“That reminds me it’s our turn to buy dog food.  And his license must be renewed by the 31st.”

 

The SCU’s tones broke the peaceful mood “Station 51 Squad 51 structure fire…” 

 

When they reached the location, they saw a small building fully engulfed.  Cap began  issuing orders as Roy and Andy began gathering their equipment. 

 

As the paramedics began moving towards the building a CHP squad car pulled up.  The officer went over to Cap quickly looking grim.

 

“We got a report there were two men hiding in there… They’re drunk and probably the ones who started the fire.  Be extra careful the reports suggest there is some sort of illegal cooking   going on in there.”  They nodded to Cap and moved into the building.   It had been a small Mom and Pop restaurant for several years before closing.   The main room was bare except for some broken tables and chairs and a couple of piles of trash. 

 

The two paramedics made their way back to once what had been the kitchen.  More trash and some   rusted pans were all they saw along the   counter and island which was in the middle of the floor. 

 

There were two doors leading out of the kitchen.  Roy was guessing one was to the alleyway the other to a store room. 

 

The first they opened lead to the alley.  They looked but no one was in sight.  The second lead into a large store room.  There were boxes stacked up along one wall   seffa exploodes!!!  was scribbled on them in red marker.  

 

The writing and spelling   looked like that of a second grader. Roy moved carefully around the shelving unit.  There was another door standing ajar.  

 

The room was piled high with boxes and assorted junk.  Roy saw a trail of blood and what looked to be an empty boot just barely visible between two stacks of crates.  He moved closer and realized there was a foot inside the boo.t A bleeding man was laying between the crates a few feet farther in the narrow aisle.  Not sure if he heard or saw something Roy looked up from the gruesome sight.

 

“Andy, behind YOU!”   A small man with a bloody machete lunged at Andy, who was able to side step the screaming man.  

 

Neither paramedic recognized the language, but the meaning was clear. 

 

As he swung the   machete wildly Andy was able to get between Roy and attacker.   Acting on instinct Andy pushed an unevenly stack of boxes over.  He hoped that the boxes would form a barrier that would slow the crazed man down and offer Roy a chance to get nearer the injured man. 

 

 Seeing the pool of blood Roy had little hope the bleeding man would survive the attack if not already dead.  But he had to try to help him if by some quirk he was still alive.

 

The machete welding attacker looked at Andy burt quickly turned his attention back to Roy who had made his way to the body.  One touch to the man’s neck confirmed the man was dead. 

 

 Roy noticed the tattoos on the dead man’s arms and face.  The crazed man charged Roy yelling at the top of his lungs.  Roy put his arm instinctively in front of his face and felt sharp pain   of the machetes point.  

 

Reacting more from instinct than actual planed action Andy threw a small wooden box at the attacker hitting him in the middle of his back.  The man fell hitting his head on another crate.  Roy and Andy quickly got the unconscious man out of the building. 

 

Chet and Marco   were outside the door and were concerned at the amount of blood they saw on the turnouts. 

 

“Any of that blood yours?”  Chet asked as he spread a yellow blanket down on the ground.   Marco had brought the trauma kit and bio phone over to Roy.

 

“Just a little, the guy still in there had his throat slashed and some other wounds.  Andy kept this one from using me as a pin cushion.”  As he was talking Roy was starting his initial exam.  

 

“Hey, I didn’t want to face Johnny or Lee if I let that nut case slash you.” 

 

Andy was only half joking.  On a visit to see Johnny when he was still in the hospital Johnny had told him it made it a little easier for him to rest knowing Roy had a good man watching his back.   Roy had sent Marco over to let Cap know they needed a policeman. Vince Howard came over to them just as Roy finished talking to Rampart.   Andy then   put a pressure bandage on Roy’s arm.

 

“What’s the problem Roy?”  Vince asked looking at the unconscious man.

“His friend’s body is in there with a slit throat.   Andy had to hit him with a small crate to stop him from slashing me.  The machete is in there too.  

 

There are some boxes of something marked explosives…Cap knows about them…Think this is where all that bad ‘shine has been coming from.”

 

                                                    ************************

 

 Johnny   relaxed a little as he listened to the voice.  The words, safe and loving, began echoing in his foggy mind drowning out the hateful ones of the others had been yelling at him. 

 

 He knew that soft voice would protect him…Over and over he heard the voice say he was loved and would never have to face anything bad alone…Someone would always be there loving him, protecting him…Who was that talking?  It sounded like a voice he should know but he couldn’t give it a name or face…Was it his mom?  He didn’t think so, but it had been so long since he had seen her…Maybe she had come back for him? 

 

 He would go with her…but didn’t he promise someone he would stay and not go away?  Someone needed him…She called him by a different name…a special name that made him feel safe.   The foggy shadows wouldn’t let him see who was calling him…It would be easy to get lost in the shadows and never have to be scared or lonely again…No one would find him or hurt him if he could run away into the shadows. 

 

“Boyo… Cam and Paul are here…They’re going to help you, but I’ll be right here with you…They’re friends, remember…”    She looked up and smiled at the two men as they quietly came into the room.  Wyatt had filled them in on the problem. 

 

“You have to let them exam you, so they can help…They’ll make the pain go away…”

 

Johnny pulled away as Cam moved closer, so Lee took his hand. 

 

“No…don’t hit me…no more …”   It broke her heart to see the tears in the pain filled chocolate eyes.

 

“Shush Boyo…Cam won’t hurt you, I promise you…He’ll show you on my arm what he wants to do…OK?”

 

“K—k.”  He was tired and scared, and he wanted this over.  He watched as the one she called Cam put a funny looking belt on her arm then pumped the ball.  All the time she kept talking.   Why couldn’t he remember her name, was she a spirit that had come to take him to take his mom and dad?  It was all too confusing, his head hurt…He just wanted the hurting to stop.

 

Lee jumped at the sound that came from Johnny as he arched then went limp.  Without a word she moved back so that the paramedics could do their job.  She was scared and mystified at what was going on.  He had been doing so well.  Cam got on the bio phone and gave the vital signs and other information to the hospital.   Cam did not recognize the doctor’s voice.

 

“Sounds like a few other calls we’ve had today…Check to see what he was drinking.  Also check for needle marks in case he was doing some creative pharmacology along   with the alcohol Transport non-code.”

 

The paramedics looked at each other after Cam repeated the instructions.    “Rampart do you want an IV started?”

 

“Did I ask for one?  If you aren’t capable of following directions I suggest you find another job.” 

 

Lee heard the door open behind her and was relieved to hear Jim and Kathy’s voices.

 

“The doctor at Rampart is an incompetent jerk.…Take over his care.”  Lee said before they could say a word. 

 

“Kath take her out of the room.”  Jim ordered as he turned to the paramedics.  He had his bag and was getting out his stethoscope.  Cam hung up the phone without a word d to anyone.  He was sure Dr. Brackett would understand why he was not arguing with either Lee or the other doctor.  Let them sort it out once they got help for Johnny.

 

Lee dialed the ER desk.  “Ms. Waters, Emergency Room nurses’ desk.”

 

“Sharon, that so-called doctor in the booth is an idiot.  Tell Kel we hung up on him and Jim and Kathy Kildare are treating Johnny…we should be there in about 25 minutes.  Have him listen to the tape.”

 

“Yes ma’am…”  Sharon was not as scared of Brackett as she had been as a student nurse but giving him a message like that made her uneasy.  Betty came back up to the desk.

 

“Would you watch the desk while I go give Dr. Brackett a message from Lee Gage?  She was really upset.”

 

“Go…If Lee was upset then it’s probably an important message.” 

 

Dixie and the doctors left the table when Sharon gave them Lee’s message.  Dixie assured Sharon she had done right thing coming to them right away.  Joe and Kel had went on ahead of them since Sharon seemed a little unnerved having called a doctor an idiot when giving the two senior doctors Lee’s message word for word.

 

“Seems like this it’s one step forward two steps back.”  Dixie was really concerned with how Johnny was healing from the explosion.   “Lee doesn’t panic easily…she waits until the crisis is over before falling apart.”

 

“Her voice was very controlled and cold…almost like a mechanical tone,” Sharon said.  There was no emotion in it.”

 

“Doesn’t surprise me…When she is really scared she shuts down…But once she knows Johnny is getting good care she’ll be fine.   Dr. Bennett may be in for a rude awakening.”   Dixie had seen this resident be insensitive and flippant to other patients and family members as well as support staff, including her nurses.

 

Dr. Bennett was looking over a chart when he saw Brackett and Early coming towards him.  A firm believer that offenses was the best defenses he   walked towards them.   Before  they  could  say  anything he  began  complaining/

 

“I just had a couple of paramedics hang up on me after I question their competency.”

 

“They hung up on you because the patient’s wife questioned your competency.  Her exact words where you were an incompetent jerk,”  Kel said.  Bennett’s attitude was giving him an idea of why Lee had called Jim and Kathy for help.  “The ambulance should be here in the next few minutes.  After Dr. Early and I check him out, we will listen to the tape.”

 

“Seems like a lot of fuss over a drunk and probable junkie.”  Bennett snapped.  “Those paramedics even questioned if I wanted to start an IV on the guy…” He shook his head.  “Wasn’t long after that they hung up without a word.”

 

The ambulance was met by Dixie, Kel and the orderlies and rushed him into treatment room 3.   Kel started giving directions for blood work and X ways.  He quickly hooked him into the heart monitor and began getting new vitals.  His temperature was only slightly elevated, His blood pressure was lower than normal but not low enough to be critical.    What was worrying him the racing heartbeat. 

 

“What’s going on with you now, Johnny?  We get one thing straightened out and you throw us another curve.”  Kel muttered as he watched the monitor.   

 

 The rate was fast and there was an occasional skipped beat.   He rechecked the blood pressure and saw it had risen.   Frowning he looked at the door as if he could will the lab to get the blood work results quicker and the X-rays back down to him faster.  He  turned  when he  heard  the  door  open.  Dixie  stood  there  looking at her  favorite paramedic.  She  went over to  Kel,  looking  for  any  sign  that  he  was  conscious.

 

“Kel,  Squad  51  just  got here.  Two victims a  head injury to a man  who  killed  one person  then attacked  Roy  DeSoto.”  She  said it  softly  not  wanting to  chance it  that Johnny  could  hear  her.  “The  cut appears  to be  minor.  Mike  Morton is  with the  head  injury.  Vince  is  in the  room  with him  and  Carol.”

 

“Did you  tell Roy  that  John is here?”  Kel  knew  that  Lee  was on  her  way in and  would be  there any  minute.”

 

“Yes , I  didn’t  want  him  to  be  blindsided by  the news  John  was  here.”

Good.  I  need to see Lee  as  soon as she  gets  here.”

 

Ten  minutes  later Lee  was in Kel’s  office.  She  had gotten  some  control of her  emotions  and  was no longer  ready  to  confront  the  doctor  who had  been  talking to the paramedics before Kathy and Jim  got  there.  Her  whole  focus  was on  Johnny and  how  to get him  through  this  new crisis. 

 

“Joe’ll be  joining  us.  Can you  tell  me  what  happened  this  morning?” 

 

  He  was  leaning on  his  desk,  his arms  folded  looking  very  stern.

 

“It  really  started  about  midnight.  I heard  him  telling  Tim  he  wanted  to  sit in  the  recliner,  that he  was  hurting.  Tim got him settled in the chair and got him some warm milk.   I  heard  him  complaining about  his  left  shoulder  really  hurting  so  Tim  put the  heating  pad on  it…I  think I  fell  back  to  sleep  a  little  after  one.   When I  talked  with  Tim  about  6:45  he  said  Johnny  had been  restless all night.   When I  took  Chloe in   he  was  short  with her  and  told  me to  take  her  out of the  room. 

 

Kel,  his  tone  was mean  and so  was  the  look on  his  face.  He  pushed---slapped  at her  hand.  Her  expression  was  so pitiful…and  she  cried  to  go back into  his  room.   He  complained  about  breakfast  and  me and …I  went and  did  some  errands leaving  Ibbie to take  care of  Chloe and Wyatt  to take  care of  Johnny. So,  what  does  that make  me?  A terrible  mother  and  wife?”

 

“No, it means  you are  human  and  made  a  difficult  choice.  You took  care of  you for a  change.  John  and  Chloe had  excellent  care.    I’m  waiting   for  the  blood  work  to  come  back  from  the  lab  and  the  X-rays  should  be here  soon.”

 

 “Kel, something   triggered a  flashback to when he  was a  kid on  the  reservation.  He  didn’t  know  me…I  couldn’t  see  any recognition in  his  eyes,  just  fear  and  pain.   Yet  he  was  trying to protect me  from  his  uncle… Do you  think  there has  been  some brain  damage…Something  that has skewed  his  memory?”   She  looked at him silently  begging him  to tell her  she was wrong.  “He  was  aggressive,  confused  and Wyatt  said he  threw  a book  across  the  room saying the  print  was  too  small and  what  he  could  see  wasn’t  making  sense.”

 

Before  anything else was said  there  was a knock at the  door.

 

“Come in.”  Kel said  frowning.  His  expression  changed  when he  saw  Roy.  Lee  noticed  the  bandage on  his  forearm.

 

“What  happened?  Are you  gonna  be  ok?” 

 

“I’m  doing  ok…8 stitches  to  close a  machete cut.   Morton  is going to  send me  back  to  work  …How’s  Johnny?”

 

“Stable  and  sleeping… We’re waiting  for  labs.   He  isn’t  making  this  easy on  anyone  including  himself.   I  think  regardless  of  what the  labs  show I  want  him  here overnight at least.”

 

“I’ll  call  Hector  to  see if he or  Cisco  can  stay.”  Looking at  Roy shaking her  head  NO!.   “ I  know  that I  can’t  stay  the night…physically  or  emotionally  I  can’t  HANDLE IT  RIGHT  NOW.  If  you  think that is wrong   then  I’m  sorry I  disappointed  you.”   She looked at  Roy  as if  she  expected him to scold  her.

 

“I’m  glad  you aren’t  staying,  he’ll  know  you’re  taking  care of  Chloe and  yourself.  He  worries  about ya,  ya  know.”

 

“Right now, I  think  he  really  doesn’t  care if I’m  here or  not…”  She couldn’t  keep  the  hurt out of her  voice or  off her  face.

 

“Lee,  that isn’t  being  fair to him.  I  don’t  think  he really  knows what he is  feeling  right now  and probably  hasn’t  all day.”  Kel  wanted to  stop her  from  getting  resentful  or  more  hurt.   “Once  we  get the  blood  work  back  we’ll have a  better idea  what  we are   looking  at.  You  can  use  my phone, I’m  going  back  to check on  him.”

 

“I’ll see him before I leave if it’s alright with you.”  Roy  looked at Lee.

 

“Of  course, it is  and I’m  sorry I  snapped at  you.  The  fear  factor  as Peggy  use to  call it is setting  in.”

 

“And the not sleeping more than two hours at a time or not spending enough time in the pool.”  Kel added  with a glare. 

 

“Kel,  once the Boyo is  better I  will be fine.  Besides,  I  have to take  care of the  Ladybug…She  was  feeling  a little  sad  not being in  with her  Neoee  today.  He  didn’t  want her  near  him  today.”   She  explained to Roy.  

 

This more than  anything  else  that had  been  said  bothered  Roy  making his concern for  Johnny’s  condition heighten.  Chloe  and Lee  were the  center of  Johnny’s  being…what  was  going on in his  mind if  he  was  pushing  them  away.   Was  he  thinking  something  was  going to  happen to  him  and he  was trying  to  push  them  away  for  a  reason?  

 

He wished he  had  time to  wait  but he  needed to get back to the  station.

 

                       *************

Roy  called Jo  once he  got  back to the station.  They  talked  about the  kids  then  he  told her about the  stitches  reassuring her he was  fine.  (She  was at Lee’s  with  Chloe  and her  kids.)

 

“So,  is  there  any  news  about  Johnny?   Kathy  and  Jim  couldn’t  stay  until  the  lab  work  came back.”

 

“They  are  still waiting.  Lee  should  be home  soon.  She  was  going to  try to get  Cisco or  Hector  to  stay  and to  bring her home.”

 

“She was  feeling  bad  about  leaving him  earlier  even worst  about  enjoying  herself.  Honey,  be  honest,  do  you  think  he is getting  worse  instead of  better?”

 

“I  thought he  was  doing  really  good…but  now…Hopefully   they’ll  know  something  soon.   I  better  get off here and let  Cap  know  what is  going on.”

 

“Ok, love ya…Honey, has  Johnny  told  Hank  yet he was  taking the Captain’s  test?  That  you  are  taking it  too?”

 

“No.  Call  you  soon.  Love you.”

  

From  the  change  in his  voice  Jo  knew  that  Chet or  one of the others  had  come into the  kitchen.   

 

Roy knocked on  Cap’s  door.  Cap  looked  up  from  the papers on his  desk.

 

“Come on in, Pal.  How’s  the  arm?”

 

“A  little  sore  nothing I  can’t   deal  with.  Thought  you’d  want to know  Johnny is  at Rampart.  They are  still trying  to figure  out  what is  going on  with him now.”

 

“How’s  Lee   handling it?”

 

“So  far  so  good…think  she is  just  to  the  point  she   takes  it minute  by  minute.”

 

“Let me or Em know if  she needs  anything.   Roy,  do  you  think John  will be  coming  back to  the  station?”   Cap  voiced  what  all the  guys  were  thinking but  didn’t  want to ask.  Probably  because they  were  afraid of the answer.

 

“I  don’t  know  Cap…”  Roy  said   being as  honest  as he could.

 

Kel  had  sent  him  up to ICU to  better monitor  his  heart  rate and  rhythm.   They had  sedated him  after he  woke  up and became  combative.  Dr. Bennett  came  storming  into the room as Lee was waiting on Cisco. 

 

“What  gives you  the  right  to  tell the paramedics  to  hang up on me?  I  am the  doctor  not  you  or those  over trained  wannabes.   I’ll have  their  jobs and  yours  too.   I’ve  seen  you  running  around here like you  own  the  place…”

 

“I  suggest you  leave  this  room  before I  call security,  and have  you  thrown  out.  And let me give  you  something  to  think  about…If I call security  the next  call will be to file a  formal  complaint  with  Dr. O’Donnell  and the  hospital  ethics board  and  whoever else I  can  think of…One step  closer and it  will be to the  police.”

 

Bennett  took a  step  towards  Lee  who didn’t  move  just  glared at him a look of  pure  contempt on her  face. 

 

“Am  I  supposed to be afraid of  you?  I’ve  faced  much  scarier  idiots  than  you before…I  don’t  scare easy  nor  do I  back  down  from cowards, bullies  or bigots.” 

 

“Dr. Bennett  you’re  on  duty  in  the ER.  I suggest you  go  back  there.  We will have a talk  about your  conduct and  medical ethics  when I  get  down  there.  Mrs. Gage  does  not make idle  threats  so  it  would be in  your  best  interest to leave  now.”

 

“Neither  do I.”  Bennett said  giving  what he  thought  was a frightening  scowl.

 

“Do  your  best…my  dad’s  law  firm  would  love a  slander case.”

 

“My lawyer  loves to  put people  like  you in their place,  but right  now  you  bore me  so leave.”

 

She turned to Kel. “ What did you  learn?”

 

“John’s  blood  work  came back…He’s a mess.”  Kel looked over at the  sleeping man.  “If  you hadn’t  called  Jim  and  Kathy  we  could have  easily  lost  him…His  heart  rate  was erratic  and the rhythm so  out of  sync…His electrolytes  are  all over the place, especially  the potassium  level…Who  gives him his meds?”

 

“Whoever is on  duty when, it’s  time.  They  chart it, so  we  know  when and  who  gave the  last dose.   I never  do  because they are  kept  up  high since  the  kids  come  over to  visit and Chloe  spends  time in  there  with  him.”

 

“Could  someone be giving  him  extra  to make him  sleep or  keep  him quiet?”

 

“No,  we  just  got a refill  and  there are some  days he  doesn’t  want them,  said  they  make  him  feel  disconnected  and  sleepy.”  She  gave  the  pill  bottle to Kel.  “See  we have  had  this  a  week  and it’s  still almost  full.”

 

“Damn  it…these aren’t the  right  pills…This  is a  stronger  dosage  than I  would ever give  him…I  think  we  can  get his  levels  straightened  out in a  day or  two…”

 

 

                    

 

“It is with  great sorrow we  report  the  passing of  Firefighter /Paramedic  John Roderick  Gage  from  the injuries he  received in  the line of  duty.”  

 

Lee watched as the line of people slowly moved pass the coffin.  The words  spoken  were acknowledged  and  tears  shared…It  seemed as if the  line  was  never  ending.   Jeff  stood  by  her side, his  hand  always on her  shoulder.   The fact that none of the men from Station 51 were present didn’t seem odd to her…They were too busy to come…  Then suddenly Craig Brice was standing in front of her reciting the rulebook…Telling her it was his own fault for not following procedure…foolish,

 

incompetent…stupidity…useless…a burden…Brice morphed into his aunts …saying all the horrible things they had told him when he was a child on the reservation…Saying they were taking Chloe to be raised by her own people.

 

Lee’s  screams woke  Maria who had insisted on  staying  with her  when they  picked  her up the  hospital.   Maria  had  fixed her something to eat then stayed in  the  bedroom  while  she  showered.   Once Lee was in  bed  she insisted  Lee take a pain pill.   She had been asleep about an hour when the dreams began… first it was dreams about Matt and his funeral then it changed…It was Johnny in the coffin and the news accounts were announcing his death and they put his coffin in a grave in an isolated neglected spot.  His  aunts and  uncles  were  taking  Chloe…telling her  she  wasn’t a  fit mother …that  Johnny had  deserved a  useless  barren  crippled  for a wife  because he  was a  useless burden  to all.    They  took

Chloe back  to the  reservation vowing she  would  never see her again.

 

“Lee  wake up, It’s  only  a  dream.”  Maria’s  voice  worked thru  the  haze.  “Johnny is alive, Chloe is asleep in her room…It’s just a dream…We would never let anyone take Chloe from you…Even if Johnny didn’t survive this…They have no legal right to take her away.   Take a slow deep breath, you’re safe, so is Chloe.”

 

“Call  the hospital,  check on  Johnny…He  told me  he  did  not  want to  die in  this  house…He  wanted …he…”

 

“Leona Elizabeth,  being  hysterical isn’t  going to  help  you  or your  family,  now  stop it…”  Maria’s  voice  was  firm  but kind.  She had  dealt  with  Lee in  this  type of  panic  before.  “I  will call the  hospital  for you  when you are  calm  enough to talk to the  nurse.  When  you are  calm, you  will get in  your  chair and we will go  check on  Chloe.  You  can see for  yourself  no one  took  her  anywhere.”

 

“It was so real…the sounds and smells…the background conversations…just like being at…at Matt’s funeral…it was how it was at Matt’s funeral…It wasn’t just Jeff standing with me…Johnny was with me too…The aunts were saying all the awful things they said in Lame Deer…Brice that first day at the hospital…all the real memories mixed up in that horrible dream…But why did I dream someone was taking Chloe away?”

 

“Maybe  because  you  never  acknowledged  to anyone  you heard the  gossip and rumors…maybe  it  was from  when they  wanted  to take  you away  from Jeff.  You  have  kept  all those  memories  locked  up inside  you…Now,  let’s  go  check on   the  baby,  then  you can call Rampart.”

“Why didn’t it   bother me  that Roy  and the others  weren’t  there  but  Brice  was?”

 

“Because  you knew if  it had  been  real  they  would have  been  there for you…”

 

Lee let Maria help  her into her  chair  then  they  went into the  nursery. 

 

Lee  just  sat  and  watched  the  sleeping  baby.  Chloe had  her  right  thumb  in her mouth, her  left  hand  rested on her  unicorn, Miracle.  Ashke raised his  head  and looked at the  two women  then  settled  back to sleep after  giving  them a look  as if to  say, “I’m  taking  good  care of her.”  Lee resisted the urge to touch her knowing if they woke her she wouldn’t go back to sleep.  Once she was in bed Maria handed her the phone.

 

“I’m  going to make  you  some  hot chocolate  while  you  make  your  phone  calls.  Then  you can  sleep  without  the  dreams.”

 

Lee dialed the ICU nurses  desk  wondering  who  was on.  She was relieved to hear Gale  Hardy  answer.

 

“I was just wondering how Johnny is doing.”  Lee said after exchanging pleasantries. 

 

“I  just  did a vital  update and  he was sleeping but  a  little  restless.  Cisco seemed to think he was dreaming about something that was making him uneasy but then he was calmer when Cisco talked about you and Chloe.”

 

“That’s  good.   So,  his heart  rate is  better and the  rhythm  has  settled  down?”

 

“Yes,  his  blood  pressure  is  still a  little  high  for  him  but nothing  to  be alarmed about.  They’ll be  taking more  blood in a  few  hours.   I  owe Cisco  a  coffee and a  doughnut,  he  bet  me  you’d  call  about  now unless his  mom  took  your  phone  away.”

 

“You tell Lt. Alvarez his mom hasn’t done that to me since I was 17.”  Lee laughed.  “She is  making me  hot  chocolate  with  cinnamon  and  marshmallows  then I  am  going  back   to  sleep.”

 

“Nightmares?  Now I owe Cisco an  Egg McMuffin,  Rampart  version.” 

 

Gale  laughed.  “Seriously, John is  doing well  and you  can rest  easy.”

 

“Thanks,  and you  tell  Francisco  Michel  Alvarez to stop  betting on  me…One of these  days I’ll surprise  and do  something  totally  out of  character.  Oh,  and that  coffee and doughnut you owe  him…get them out of  my  office…Johnny Pat  brings  fresh ones in about  6… the  pecan  sticky  buns are  his  favorite.   Tell  both  my  guys I  love them, ok?”

 

“Will do.” 

 

                                           *********************************

 

Lee  went into Rampart early to take  care of  some matters in her  office.  She  left  word at the  nurses  stations (ER and ICU) that  she  would like to talk  to  Kel or  Joe  when they had time.  Since Lee  was now  officially  a  consultant  rather than  project  manager  Nell had been  given  a  new tittle and a raise.  She  usually  worked the  same  hours as Malcom  so they  only  had to one  car so  she  wouldn’t  be in  until  9.   Lee heard the  door  opening  and  she  wasn’t  totally  surprised to see Roy  and  Andy. 

 

“Mind if  we  come in?”  Roy  asked  before  entering  the   room.

 

“Of  course,  not…An  early  morning  run?”

 

“Andy  just  delivered  his  first  baby…a  healthy  boy, 7 pounds  .   He  decided  to  come  2  weeks  early.”  Roy  said as they  moved over towards the  Mr. Coffee on  the  counter.

 

“Congratulations  to all.”  Lee  liked  the  paramedic.  He seemed to  fit into  Station  51  well.  Maybe  he  could  be  assigned  there permeate.   “I was  waiting  for a  little more  civilized  time to  go  see the  Boyo…maybe around  7:30.”

 

“So  what  time  did you get here?”  Roy  made a  pot of  coffee. 

 

“A  little  before  six.   Maria is at the  house…Ibbie’ll be there about  8.   Andy  help  yourself to the  doughnuts  or  whatever…Johnny  Pat  usually  delivers  them about 5:45…so  they are  good and  fresh…Did you  guys have a quiet night?”

 

“Yeah  once we  got  done  talking to  the  police.   Our machete  wielding  friend  not only  slit his brother’s throat  but  two other  guys  earlier in the  day.  It  was  some rival  tribal  things…they had  been feuding  with  each  other  for  years  over in the Philippines…Machete man and his  brother  were making  their  version of  moonshine…an  old  family  recipe…the other  guys  were trying  to steal the  recipe  and  their profits.”

 

“Glad you  were able to  get out of that mess with  just  8 stitches…Good  work, Andy.  I  know  the  Boyo will thank  you too when he is  feeling  better.”

 

“How is he  doing this morning?”   Roy  asked  trying to  sound  casual.

 

“Gale  said  he  was  doing  better,  less restless and  the  heart issues  seem to be  clearing  up.  They  took  more  blood  for  labs about  5.  Cisco  stayed  until about  6:30…The  boys  have a  martial arts  tournament  next  week  ends and  he is  helping  the  team  get  ready  for that.  The  coaches are  good  but  have  never been to  a state  event  before, just  the  local ones.”   Lee  knew  she  was  babbling,  trying to keep the  conversation  from  anything  except  what had  happen  yesterday.

 

“Jo  said  you  all got a lot  done for the Special Olympic  fund raiser...B  shift is  handling  our  part of it.”

 

“Johnny  is  still  planning on  coaching  water   volleyball  with  me.  Andy,  we can always  use extra  help if  you have  free time…The kids  love it  when  they have a  cheering  section  at the practices or  someone  to  play  against.”

 

The  HT  tones  interrupted  Andy’s  answer  and they  left  quickly.  Lee worked on her  reports and  left  some   notes for  Nell then  did  some  work on WBSF  applications  and  grants.  Finally,  she   decided it  would be a  good  time to  pop into Johnny’s  room.    Even  though  Kel  was  able to  bend  the  rules  some she  tried  hard  not to take advantage  or  be  disruptive.  Well,  at least  most of the  time.

 

She went  quietly  into the  room.  He  was asleep,  his  arm across his  eyes.  She  listened to the  steady   even  breathing and  smiled  at the nose  piece  he had  pushed  lopsided.  He  looked  peaceful  and his  color  was so  much  better  than  yesterday.  She had  been there  about  10 minutes when  he  opened  his  eyes.

 

“You  came back.”  Very  softly  almost  as if he  wasn’t  sure she  was really  there.

 

“Now,  me  Boyo,  why  would  that  surprise  you?  Ya  know  I will always  be  back …Darlin’  I  would have stayed  last night  but  Kel  said no…and  as  much as I  wanted I  knew I  couldn’t….Not  as strong or  as  brave as you.   But  even when I  am not here  in  this  room,  remember I  am in  your  heart and  you are in  mine.”

 

“You were mad…because I  was bad…you  left me  alone…” 

 

“I  left you  with  Ibbie  and  Wyatt  because I had to  do  some  errands  but I  was never  mad at you.   You  didn’t  feel  good  and  were a little  cranky.”  She  smiled and cocked her head  sideways batting her  eyes, trying to make  him  smile.

 

“A  little?  I  think it  was more  than  that.   I  heard  Cisco  talking  to  someone,”  a faint  smile showing  his  lips  but the  worry  still in his eyes. “ …Did  I really  smack  Chloe?” 

 

“No,  you  just  pushed her hand away.”  Knowing the thought  of his  smacking  her  even  lightly  probably  sent  waves of  pain and  guilt  through  him.  “You  just  wanted to  stop  hurting…”

 

 

“There  will never be a  reason  to  hurt her…”

 

“Oh,  I  am  sure  before it is  over  she’ll  be  given a  smack  or two on  her  hand  or  backside…but  always in  love  never in  anger.”  Lee  said, 

 

“some  think I should have  gotten  more  spankings  than I  did…”

 

“Who  spanked  you?” 

 

“Jeff once that I  remember and  Maria  gave  me a few  loves  taps on  the  bottom  to  remind  me  of my  manners.   I  threw a  hook  him and screamed  shut  up  at  Jeff  one  day…Told him  he  wasn’t  my  father  and he  couldn’t  tell me  what to  do…I  think I was about  nine.  He  turned me over his  knee  and  spanked me.  Made  me  clean  up  the mess I  made and  had to  work  for Maria  to pay  for the  vase I  broke.  Folded  towels  and  dusted  for her  for  two  weeks  down at her  apartment.  That cured me of  throwing  books.  Lost my  library  card  for a month that  hurt more than the  spanking.  But  I  still could  read my  books and the  books   downstairs.”  She  giggled.  “Setting  boundaries and  discipline are  part of  love.  I’ve heard the  stories of   how  you reacted  to Chris and Jen  getting  disciplined.”  She  was  glad to see he  was  smiling  and that the tension  lines  were  easing  around his  eyes.  “You  sound  like you  feel a lot  better.”

 

“It’s  not  ok  but its  better…So what  happened?  It  was like I  was in a  fog  and  it  was me but it  wasn’t…Heard  voices and  saw  people I  knew  couldn’t be here.”

 

“A bad reaction to the meds… ”

 

“I  want to  go  home.”

 

 “We  want you  home.…You  get  some  sleep.  I’m  gonna  go do some  work till  Kel  has  time to  talk to us”  

 

“Né-mé hotátse”  He  said  softly  as his eyes  began  to  close but he  tried to  keep  them open.

 

“Love you always muches  and mores.”   His  eyes closed  and he  was soon  sleeping.

 

 

She  went out to the  nurses’ desk  Gale  was  doing  last minute  paperwork  before  shift  change.

 

“He’s  went to  sleep smiling.  If  you  could  give me a  call  when  Kel  comes  in  I’d  appreciate it.” 

 

“We appreciate all the  little  things  you  do for  us.  Not  just  when  Johnny is  up here  but other  times.” 

 

“Our pleasure.”   

 

“Did  you  find  out how  the dosage  for  his Ativan  got changed?”  Lee  asked  Kel  once  Johnny  was  settled in  his  regular room.   

 

“The  pharmacy  tech  misread the  order  and the pharmacist  didn’t  check  as  close as he  should have.  Once  we  flushed as  much  of the  medication  from  your  system as we  could  and  got  some  other  meds into him to  get the  electrolytes  back into  some  sort of  balance his  heart  rate  and  rhythm settled  down.”

 

“So,  the  strange  dreams  and  feelings  were from  the meds…not me  losing  my  mind.”  Johnny  said seriously   “I  thought it  was  just me  worrying  about…” He stopped and  looked at  Kel,  unsure if he  wanted to finish  the  sentence.   “About  things…in  general.”

 

Kel looked at him knowing  what a  bad liar  Johnny  was and how he  hated liars.  But he  knew  Johnny would  tell  Roy or  Lee  what  was  bothering  him  so he  changed the  subject.

 

“Before  you  ask, if all things  goes as planned we’ll send you  home  tomorrow.  Everything is  looking  better…The  leg  and the  arm  are  looking  good…movement is  good.  Tony  Vanace is  really  pleased  with  your  lungs.  My  guess is  you’ll   be back in the  squad  by  April.”

 

“Great.”  Johnny  said  softly  not  daring to look at  Lee.  Did  he  want to  go  back in  the  squad  even  for a  few months?    What if  he went  back  and  something  else  happened  or  once he was  back  he  couldn’t  go  through  with  the  plan to be a captain?   He  knew that  Lee would  back  whatever he  decided  but would it  be  fair  for him  to  change his  mind? 

 

What about  Roy  and Jo?  Would  that  be  fair to  them?   It  was making his  head  spin  all the  questions  and  worries about  what  others thought.

Lee watched all l the  emotions  playing  across his  face  and his  body  language.  She had  a pretty  good idea  what  he  was  thinking.  “Boyo  tell  him  what you’re  thinking.  Don’t  let it  eat at  you.  You  need to  just  concentrate on  the good  stuff, getting  well.”

 

“I..m..kinda  thinking  ….maybe…it’s  time I  try  taking  the captain’s  exam…Not  that I  don’t  still  love  being a  paramedic…but  just…haven’t told  Cap or the  guys  yet…’cept  Roy.”

 

“Roy going for the exam too?”  Brackett had his  arms  fold across  his  chest,  frowning.   “Don’t  answer that.   I hate to  lose you  both  but I’m  glad  for you…you  both’ll  make  great  captains.”  He noted the uneasy  look on  Johnny’s  face. “And  don’t  worry  this  comes under  patient /doctor  confidentiality.” 

 

That  seemed to ease Johnny’s  mind  and  his  eyes closed.  Kel  and Lee  left  so he  could  get  some  sleep.

 

“You  know  what is  worrying him,  don’t you?  Lee asked  Kel  once they  moved out into the  hallway.  “It’s  more  than he  said in  there.”

 

“That he won’t  pass the  captains exam?  That he  won’t  be a  good captain?”

 

“No,  he’ll make a  great  captain  they  both  will.  What he is worried  most about is  disappointing  you  and Joe and Dixie as well as  Hank.  That you’ll think he is scared to be a paramedic and is taking the  easy  way out.   That he is a quitter  and a failure.”

 

“The  easy  way out is  him is  quitting  the  department and  living on  your  money.”

 

“Don’t you  ever  dare  say that or imply  that he  would  do  that.  Even  joking.”  The  fire  was  jumping out of her  eyes.  “He would  no  more  do than… than you  would  let Dixie support you  if  you  ever  get the  nerve  to  ask  her to  marry  you if  she  said  yes.”

 

“And  just  what  makes  you  think  she  would  say  no if I  asked her? “

 

“Because even though  you  two love  each  other  you both are too hard headed and stubborn for  your own  good.   I’ve known that since Jeff and Dixie dated and you were so jealous steam came out your ears when anyone mentioned his name..”

 

Brackett glared at her and she glared right back.  “Now he and Gia  are  happy  and  you  two are still alone.”   She  smiled  and  wheeled  to  her  office,  leaving one   scowling  doctor  standing  alone. 

 

Kel was still fuming  when he  went  down to the  ER.  Joe  Early  saw him  and went over to check on Johnny’s  progress.        

 

“He is  doing  better than  Lee.  That  girl  has a  wicked  sense of  humor and a sharp  tongue to go with it.   Wouldn’t want to  cross her  right  now.”

 

“Then  you  better  hope she  doesn’t  hear about  Craig  Brice’s  latest  maneuver.  Or  that  we  aren’t  around when she  does.”  Joe said  seriously.

 

  “Don’t  tell  me, I  don’t  want to  know.” Kel started to walk away then  turned  back.  “Okay,  what  did he  do  now?”

 

“Sent a  letter to the Fire Department explaining  why  John  Gage  should not  receive any  type of  commendation  for  his  part  in the latest  fiasco  that he has  been  involved with also a letter to their  union  complaining  that  all  firefighters suffer when he  runs  up these  huge  hospital  bills.   That is  why  their  premiums  have  gone  up.”

 

Kel just  shook  his  head  and  walked away. 

 

 

Cap  got  off the  phone  then called  Roy  at  home.  He was rubbing his forehead as he dialed.  After  getting off the phone  he went out to the kitchen where  Em was.

 

“Roy is on his way over.  don’t think he is  gonna  be  very  happy after  we  get done  talking.”

 

“Is Johnny worse?”

 

“No,  it’s what  Brice is up to now.”

 

 They  settled in the  living  room  while  Emily went  upstairs  to give them some  privacy.

 

“Did  you  talk  to  Lee  yet  today?”  Hank  asked before taking a  sip of  coffee.

 

“No,  I  thought I’d  run  over to the hospital after  we talked.   Is  there a problem?”

 

 “Yeah,  HQ called me.  We need to talk about what is gonna happen when Lee and Johnny gets wind of the latest stunt Brice pulled.”   Cap  put his  coffee  cup down.   “There isn’t any way this isn’t gonna cause more hard feelings on Lee’s part.   Brice still hasn’t a  clue  about  how  close  he came to getting arrested.”

 

“So,  what has he  done  now?”  Roy  asked  not  really  wanting to  hear the  answer.

 

“He is making a formal request to stop any kind of recognition for what John did to save that littler girl…and the firefighters he alerted to the bomb.   In  fact, he  wants  him  disciplined  for  failure to  follow  proper  procedure.   Plus,  he  sent  a  letter  requesting John  be removed  from the  department  insurance plan.  Blaming him for the recent increase in premiums.   He quoted the rules to Chief Houser…The man has the social skills of a rock at times.”

 

“What  did they  say?”

 

“He has the right to state his opinions but he is still not allowed at any meeting at her office.  He  can  request an  official  copy  of  all notes  taken  during  any  meeting  and  can  submit items  for the agenda  as long as they are  written in a  respectful  manner.   Any  suggestions  on  how she  should  be approached?”

 

“Think the sooner we talk with her the better.  Hearing it thru the rumor mill wouldn’t help matters.   And  that it  should  come  from  us  not  HQ or Brice.”

 

“We?  Not  you?”  Hank questioned  knowing the  answer.

 

“We… needs to know we don’t agree with Brice especially about the insurance thing.   That was talked about and we were told it was coming back before Christmas.  Any  extras  he needs  they pay  for it  out of the policy  she has  with  WBS  or their  own  pockets.”

 

Hank  went  upstairs and told Em  where they were  going  and  why.  She offered to go along but Hank declined saying this was official department business but maybe she could go over later in the day.

 

Lee was in her  office  since  Johnny  was   sleeping after being  moved to a regular  room.   As they  walked in the  door she  saw they  were  frowning.

 

Giving  them a heartfelt smile, she asked “What  are you  going to  tell me  you  think  will send  me  into a Gage  rant?” 

 

“Well, you are almost as good at them as Junior,” Roy answered.  He  let out a sigh of  relief.  If she  was  teasing  things  might  not  be as bad  as they feared.

 

“Hey,  some  days I  am  even  better…So  get  some  coffee or a soda  and  tell  me  what  brings  you here, besides  visiting  the Boyo.  Hank there’s a few pineapple upsides down cupcakes left… Would one of you please bring me a Dr. Pepper?  Thanks.”

 

“OK, uhum…Brice has written to the department with…his…views about Johnny’s involvement in the bombing…He made it an official request…He wants him disciplined for failure to follow department guidelines and procedure and that he receive no positive recognition for actions.”

 

Much  to their  surprise  Lee  rolled her  eyes  and  giggled.   “That man  has  no  idea  what a  fool  he  makes of  himself,  does  he?  I have  2  choices…scream  yell  and  raise a fuss  that  would  put a two-year-old  to shame   or ignore  him.   You  two  know  as well as I  do  Johnny  doesn’t  do  this  for  glory.  He  does it  because he  cares about  people.  So, I totally refuse to let that man make me miserable or so angry that I have nightmares any more.   My  time is too  valuable to  spend  thinking  about  him  when I  can  be thinking  about  the Boyo  and  Chloe  and  how wonderful our lives are together.” She shrugged, “My energy is better spent thinking about the future and helping Johnny get past these injuries.”

 

 She took a long drink of her soda.  “I thought about the kind of person I was turning into and I didn’t like me, worse, I knew while he would still love me, Johnny wouldn’t like that person.   Does  that make  sense to  you?” 

 

“Yeah  knowing  Junior, it  does.  The anger and hurt only  hurts  you  not  the  person  you’re  mad  at.   Heard  him say  that  more than once…especially  when he  was talking  about his family.   Heard him  tell you he never  wanted  you  to hate  anyone  because of  him.”

 

“When we were in Lame Deer.  He showed more class and compassion and strength than I ever could.   I  want to have  that  kind of  strength.”  Lee  looked  serious  for a minute  then  giggled again.  “Poor Bob was almost afraid to come in here for something to eat the other day…Because he is Brice’s partner and Brice is banned from this office, even to eat.  They  can  take  something to him  but he  can’t  come in here.”

 

“Isn’t that  a little  harsh?”   Hank was surprised  she  said  that.

 

“That  isn’t  my  call…My  bosses  made  that decision  and  your  chief  agreed.   I left it up to them.”

 

“After you said if he  ever  walked into this office again  you would  walk out  for  good?” Roy  remembered  that  conversation.  “I  was  there  remember.”

 

“I  may  have made  a statement  like  that.  I was a little  upset  and  angry  at the  time.”  She laughed.   “Seriously, guys,  what else is it  you aren’t  telling me?  I’ll  find out  sooner  than  later.  Rather know now from you.”

 

“He wants the department to drop Johnny from their insurance.”

 

“If they  do  no  big  deal.   Remember I am  the irresponsible  rich  kid  who has no concept of the  value of  money…Ask  Roy’s  mother-in-law.  She said that several times.  She is another one  who  can’t  hurt me  by  her attitude  anymore.  She makes the  top ten on my  list of  non-important  people.”

 

“That  sounds  like an interesting  list.  Who  else is on  it?”  Hank  asked.

 

“It is.  The bigots in Lame Deer, Josh and Tiffany, Richard Palmer, Kevin Richards, Brice, a few people you don’t know…Now, if we are done with this bull, let’s go see Johnny.   Poor baby  was worn out  by  the time they  got him  moved.   Kel  said it  was because  he had been hallucinating  when he  was awake  and  having  very  vivid  dreams  when  asleep. So,  he  wasn’t  getting  any real  rest.  The  levels  were all  looking better so he will most likely be going home tomorrow.”

 

The three went down to Johnny’s room talking about Chloe and her newest accomplishment.  She had managed to climb on the small table Lee had in the front room for the girls to use for board games and coloring when they were sitting on the big oversized pillows Johnny had gotten them. 

 

“She is her father’s child…she loves high places…Up is one of her favorite words…” 

 

“Hey,  Boyo,  want  some  company?”  Lee  said as they  went into  his  room. 

 

“Cap,  Roy…good to  see ya.”  He greeted the with a warm crooked grin.   “I was just thinking about you both…Sweet Pea, ya know that was the best sleep I’ve had in ages… no bad dreams, no funny feelings like I was in a fog when I woke up…I   feel better now than I have in days.”

 

“That is  why  you have to tell us  when you’re  feeling  that  way.”  Lee  rolled her  eyes  at him  but  she  was smiling.

 

“Silly, how can I tell you I feel that way until I didn’t anymore?  I  didn’t  know how  bad I was feeling  until I  felt  good  again.”   He  gave  her one of his  special  smiles.  “I’m  sorry  I  worried  you.”

 

“No problem.  Speaking of  problems…”   They  filled  him in on  what  Brice  was doing.

 

He lost the smile  and  looked  down  at his  hands,  not  meeting  their  eyes.  “Sorry.”

 

“Listen to me,  Pal,  you have  nothing to  be  sorry  about.  Brice is …”   Cap  stopped  stuck  on  what to  say.

 

“Brice is a   control freak.  What he can’t control he can’t understand…He uses rules and regulations to try to gain that control.  Yeah,  everyone  needs to  work at trying to  do the best  they  can…But  not at the  expense of  making others  feel  inferior.”  Lee  shook  her head. “ I  saw  kids like  that  when I  was at Westwood.  They were  bright  over achievers  who  feared  not  being  the  best.  Their  whole  self-identity  was being the  brightest.   You can almost feel sorry for them.”

 

“How  did you  get  so  smart?”   Johnny  asked  the love  shining in his  eyes.

 

“Hung you with smart people like you and Jeff and Matt, the Alvarez family…now with my Station 51 and Rampart family.”

 

“Think  we  both have  been  pretty  lucky  having  the  guys at 51  in  our  lives.”

 

Johnny’s  voice  cracked and all the  laughter  left his  eyes.  He  looked at Roy and  they had one of their  famous  silent  conversations.  Only because she was watching so closely did Lee see the nod Roy gave to Johnny.  The  tears  began  to well up in her  eyes.

 

Hank  looked  confused at the  sudden change in the  room’s feel and the  expression  on  their  faces.

 

“Cap,  ya  know…I  guess  you  know…I look  up to  you…sometimes  when  you  talked to me… it  was  like  hearing  what I  think  my  dad  would have  said.  You as much as Roy have taught me what it really means to be a man, a father…Chloe and her mom are the best and most important part of my life…”   He took several deep breaths and reached out for Lee’s hand.  “Because of them and our future as a family…I’m gonna take the Captain’s exam in the fall.”

 

“We’re taking the exam.”  Roy said,  “It was going  to happen  sometime.”

 

“Fathers look forward to their sons growing up…watching you two grow…How can I be anything except proud to be your captain, your friend.”  He  smiled at Lee.  “Bet you are already planning their graduation party.” 

 

“Hope Em will let me help plan your part when you’re promoted to Battalion Chief.” 

 

“You  know  anything I  can  do to  help you  two…just  ask.  I wouldn’t  be  surprised if  Mike  joined  you…Think in a way I’ve  been expecting this to happen.  Maybe  not  this  way.”

 

“You’ve taught us so much about being a leader and a good human being…We’ve been learning from the best all these years.”  Johnny  said.  Suddenly he was exhausted both mentally and physically. 

 

“Why  don’t  we  put off telling the others  for  a while.  Maybe  when  you’re  feeling a  little  stronger.”  Cap  told  them.  “I  think  we need to let you  get  some  rest.” 

 

“Hank,  Station  51  A shift  is  always  going to be  part of our  lives  because  you all are family.”  Lee  didn’t try to  hide the  tears when  Hank  kissed her on  the cheek.  Roy  gave her a  quick  hug.

 

“Junior, you get  some  good  sleep.  Lee, I  can  help  you  get him  home  tomorrow.  Call me, ok?”

 

                            ***********************************

 

Johnny had been home a week.  It was a busy morning of therapy and playing with Chloe then a good lunch. 

 

 Chloe was perfectly happy to lay next to him as they both took an extralong nap.  Ashie  was sleeping  at the foot of the  bed, as usual not far from Chloe.

 

Lee was in  the kitchen  making a  pie.    Wyatt was  out in  the  pool  house  working on his  homework…at the  end of the  semester  he  would  be a certified  physical  therapy  assistant.  Lee  finished her  kitchen  clean  up  and  went in to  watch  TV.  When  the  phone  rang  she  answered  quickly.

 

“Hello.”

 

“  Cap  just  called me.  The  guys  want to  come  to visit  tonight…if  you  don’t  think  that  will be too much  on  Johnny,”  Roy told  her.

 

“Actually,  I  think  that  will be  good  for him.  He is  feeling  so  much  better,  he  could  use the  company.  Why  don’t  you see if they  want to  comer for dinner?  May not, be  anything  fancy but it  will be plentiful.”

 

“You sure?   You didn’t  take  that  bunch  to  raise.   Wouldn’t  want you to go to any  extra  trouble.”

 

“No, I  took  them  as  family… it  won’t  be  that  much  trouble.   Already  have  an  apple  walnut  pie  in the oven.   How many  more  times  will  we have  our  51  family  all together?  What  are the  chances  you all will  be on  the  same  shifts?”  There  was a sadness in her  voice.

 

“Hey,  these  friendships are gonna  survive   no matter  where or  what  we’re  doing.”

 

“I  know.  Call the  guys  and let me  know what they  said  about  dinner..   I hear Chloe so I better go rescue her Neoee.  Talk to ya  soon.”

 

Roy  went  into the  laundry  room.  “That was Lee she wants us to come to supper.  Sounded  more like the old  Lee  than  I’ve   heard her  since  this all began.   Think  everything is  gonna  be  ok now  with  her.” 

 

“Roy,  do  you  think  there is a  chance  he’ll  change  his  mind  about the Captain’s  test?”

 

“No, ...it’s  time.   He was hurt so bad time, he was sure he was going to die. It isn’t so  much that  he’s  afraid of  dying,  he’s  afraid  of  what it  would  do  to Lee  and Chloe.   He had  some  nightmares in  the hospital about  when  his  dad  died,.  He felt angry and hurt and confused...then helpless to make to his mom feel better.  He asked me once if something happened would we take care of his kids…I told him in a heartbeat…His whole career as a fireman has been to keep any other women or children from having to feel that lost and hopelessness.”

 

“Yeah,  just  like  his partner  and  best  friend.”  Jo  said  bending over and  giving him a quick  kiss on the  cheek.

 

It  was a pleasant  meal  with  everyone  relaxed and  enjoying  the  company.  Johnny   was in  a wheelchair  sitting  at his regular  place at the  table.      Lee  looked around  and  felt a  pang of  sadness.    How many  more times would they  be together like this as  part of  Station 51? 

 

 It would be March before Johnny could return to work and the exam wasn’t till September…would he go back to the station or take Kel up on his offer to teach paramedic classes?     Lee and Johnny had had several long serious talks about their future.  A  lot of unanswered  questions but also a  lot of  hope  and  dreams shared.

 

“Hey,  Gage,  beat  her in any  wheelchair races yet?”  Chet  asked as he  watched  Lee wheel over to the kitchen  doorway.

 

“Nope…wouldn’t  be a  fair  race”  Johny  answered  laughing.  Em  and Jo  noticed the  look  on  Lee’s  face.  A brief  flash of  anger then  the eyes  rolling as she  shook her head.

 

“Why because she’s a pro ad you’re a rank amateur?” 

 

“No,  because I  can only  maneuver  with  one  hand,” Johnny  replied. 

 

“Besides its  not  good  for  you  to be  wheeling  yourself  too much…give those ligaments,  muscles and  tendons  in your  back  and  shoulder a  chance to  heal and  get stronger.”  Lee  reminded him.  “Anther  two  weeks  and  the  cast  will  be off  your  arm…then  just a  soft  brace  for a while.”

 

“So  how  long until  you’re  gonna  be  back to the  station?”   Chet  really  was missing his  pigeon.  Even with the ban on locker water bombs and water bombs in general frowned on, the Phantom hadn’t retired.  Chet missed the  verbal  sparring  as well.

 

“I’m  not  sure…may  help  with  the new  class of  paramedics  starting  in a few  weeks…that’ll help  keep my  certification  up to  date…”

 

“No  more  shop  talk…Lee while you and  Melissa  check on  your  children  we’ll  clear the  table…Trivia or  Euchre?”  Emily  Stanley  knew  the  paramedics  were  going to  be taking the  exam in September  but  she also knew they  weren’t  ready  to  tell  the others.

 

“You  all decide.”  Lee was  grateful  for the  excuse to  leave  the  room.  Johnny and Roy followed the two women down the hall.  They went into the  nursery   while  the men  went into the bedroom.   Roy  waited in  the  bedroom  while  Johnny  was in the  bathroom.

 

Meanwhile the table was being cleared and it was decided on by flipping a coin to see what they would play.

 

“Call it  Jo.”  Cap  said  as he flipped  the  coin.

 

“Heads  trivia.”  She answered smiling at the way Hank and Em had eased the building tension.

 

“Tails it is…”Cap  announced.  “Marco, you  and  Chet  go out to the  pool  house and  bring in  two  tables and  some  chairs.  Knock first Cody is out there watching tv.”

 

“Cap,  can  Gage  hold  the  cards?  I  mean he is  kinda  one  handed  now.”  Chet  wasn’t  being  funny  he  was  concerned  for his  friend  being  embarrassed.

 

“No problem, they have card holders from when Roy had a broken hand a year or so ago.”  Jo  said  as she  got the  cards and  score pads  out.  “We  going to  draw  for  partners?”    She got the can with the colored blocks and the card holder out. 

 

By  the  time  Lee and Melissa  came back into the  room all  was set up.  By  11:30  all  was  cleaned  up  and  by  midnight  Johny  was settled in  bed. 

 

“Love you Boyo…Peaceful  dreams.”   Cody had gone out to the kitchen to give them a few minutes to say good night.

 

“Love you too…Man, it’s gonna be good when we can be in the same room again…You’ve put up with a lot this last month…Gonna have to do something really special for you on Valentine’s Day …and to celebrate our second first date anniversary.”

 

“Silly, you do something special for me every day…the love and smiles you give me are the best presents I could ever get.  I saw a poster the other day that said Love is a verb…  Keep your love active not stagnant and dying.   Made me  kind of  sad  that  so many  people  take  love  and  life  for  granted  and  waste it.”

 

“Beautiful  and  smart  and mine…Makes me  pretty  lucky  doesn’t it?  If it  wasn’t  for  you  and  Ladybug,  I  don’t think I would have  survived  that  bomb…It  was  you two  that  kept me  fighting. “

 

“And we always  will…Who  knows maybe it  will be three or  four of  us.”

 

                             

 

Time passed quicker once Johnny was able to do more for himself.  Once he  was in a walking cast, the three aids  were no longer necessary.   Roy and he had talked more about the Captain’s exam but they still had not said anything to Mike, Marco or Chet about their plans.   Once the cast was ff he worked even harder getting the muscles and tendons back into shape.  He had been doing a lot of walking sometimes pushing Chloe in her stroller, sometimes with Roy or Lee or the kids. 

 

 Marco and  Chet  came over  with Mama Lopez’s  car.  They were using the garage to do a tune up since the weather was iffy. As they were leaving  Chet looked  around the  garage that  reminded  him  of the apparatus  bay  in its lay out.

 

“It’s  gonna  be nice when we’re all at the  station  together.  Those other guys  have  no  sense of  humor.   Boyd is a nice kid but doesn’t understand good humor at all.   The station’ll feel like  home again.”  

 

 Johnny knew this was Chet’s way of saying he had missed him and was glad things would be back to ‘normal’ soon.  “With  us  all working together, it’ll be great.”

 

“Your  brand of  humor  isn’t  what I  would  exactly  call good, Chester B.” 

 

Johnny  said with a straight face.   “Roy said he was a pretty good paramedic…a fast learner.”

 

‘Chet’s right, it will be good to have our crew back together.”  Marco added.  Johnny was supposed to go back in three weeks.   Johnny listened  as Chet and  Marco  filled  him in on the latest  happenings  at the  station  and the  department in  general.

 

“Did Roy tell you that Brice got reamed royally for his suggestion you get dropped from the insurance and got reprimanded for getting hurt?  They said the rate hike was to all county insurance policies and your actions at the bombing saved lives and prevented injuries.”

 

“He  didn’t  because he  knew  we didn’t  care.”  The  way  Johnny said it  told  Chet the  subject  was  closed  especially  around  Lee.

 

 

Two  days  later:

 

 Johnny  just  pushed  his  lunch  around the  plate  and  hardly  said  a word at  lunch.  Lee watched  hm  not  sure if she  should  say something or  not.

 

“If it  doesn’t  rain  after you  get a  nap,  want to  let Chloe  drive us  over to see Jeff?”

 

“Sure,  anything  you  want.”  Johnny  gazed  out  into  space.

 

“Okay,  John  Roderick,  that is it.”   Her  voice  sharp and  demanded  his  attention.

 

“What?”  He  frowned.  “What did I do?”

 

“What are you obsessing on?  Something is bothering you.”

 

“What makes you think I’m obsessing on something?  Nothing is  bothering me.”

 

“You haven’t eaten hardly any of your lunch, you haven’t said 2 words to me unless I asked you something.  But the  real  give away  was when you said  Chloe  could  drive us to see Jeff.   Don’t think she should drive that far until her feet can reach the pedals.”

 

Johnny did a double take then shook his head. 

 

“I  can’t do it.”  He  took a deep  breath and let it out slowly.  “I  can’t …Chet…Marco  they  think  it’ll be  like  before…It  won’t  be…It  can’t  be…”

 

“Tell  them…or if you  can’t  then  have  Roy or  Cap do it.   Or tell Roy you want to stay in the paramedic program.   Call and talk to Roy…or Hank…but don’t let this eat at you until it makes us both miserable.  I’m  selfish, ok?  I am glad you decided to become a captain once I got used to the idea I realized how very glad I was.  Wouldn’t  be  surprised if  Jo  feels  the  same  way.   Being captain doesn’t mean your job won’t still be dangerous but it means you won’t be the first one running into a burning building or climbing down a mountain.  It means you will have a better chance to come home to me and our daughter.    But if being a paramedic is what you want to do then I will be happy for you that you are doing a job you love.  But be  honest with me  and yourself.”

 

“I  haven’t  changed  my mind.   I didn’t realize how  hard it  was  gonna  be.   Wonder if Chet knows that in some ways that was my home…the first one I really felt like I belonged at since my folks died.   But, like I said, it’s time.  If I put off telling them about not staying at the station it’s like I am lying to them.”

 

Lee didn’t answer just let Johnny talk and remember good times and bad at the station.   The pranks, the parties…The serious times when someone was hurt or ill.   Lee made occasional  comments  or  nodded  but  she  let  Johny  talk without  any  real  interruptions. 

 

Ashke’s barking put  an end to the  conversation when  Chloe came into the  kitchen.  She went over to Johnny.

 

“Up.” 

 

She raised her arms up to him.  The fact he could lift her now had not been lost on her.  Soon as she was on his lap she cuddle up to him and her thumb went in her mouth.    The  contented  sound coming  from  her  was almost a purr.

 

“Ok, Ladybug,  think  you  and  your  daddy  could  both  use  a quiet time out.”

 

 “Ya  know,  your  mommy  has  this  bad  habit of  being  bossy  sometimes.  Worst part is she is usually right.”   He  stood  up.  “I’ll  put her  down.”

 

“Her bed,  not  ours.   She needs to get use to taking her naps by herself.”  

 

 During  his  recuperation  Johnny  had  gotten  into the  habit of  letting  Chloe  nap  with  him.

 

“See,  what  did I just  tell  you.”   Johnny  went over, kissed  Lee  then  took  Chloe  into her  room.  Ashke followed to take up his usual position at the foot of her bed.

 

Johnny dialed Roy’s number chewing on his lower lip as he did.   Jo  answered on  the  second  ring.

 

“Hello.”

 

Hi.  How’s  your day  going?  Is Roy busy?”

 

“Good.  He  just  went to the  store  for me.  How’s  your  day?”

 

“Good,  just taking it  easy.   Would  you  please have  Roy  call me  when he  gets a  chance?  It’s  nothing  all  that important…I  just had a question.”

 

“He shouldn’t be long.  Ask  Lee if she  wants  to  work on  grants  dinner.

 

Both  the  kid  are gonna  be  gone tonight…dance  and  scouts.   It’s  Kathy  turn to  drive.”

 

“Ok…well  you  all take  care.”

 

Lee  watched  as  Johnny  went out to the  swing  on  the deck.    She debated if  she  should  go  out  but decided  he needed   time  alone.  

 

She  went into  the  sunroom  to  get  some  work  done  for WBSF.   Tomorrow  she  was  going into Rampart and  do the  weekly  reports  and  go over a  few things with  Nell.  She  was  down  to one or  two  days a week at the  office  but  doing  some  programing  at home and  received  weekly  reports  from the other two  offices in  the  state.

 

“I’m  back.”  Roy said  as he placed the groceries on  the  kitchen  table.  Jo  came into the  kitchen  from  the  den.  She  gave him  a kiss.

 

“Thanks.  Did you get  everything on  the  list?”  Looking at the three  bags.

 

“Yeah ad a few more things.  The had  some  good  sales on some  stuff so I  got  some  extras.   They  had  steaks  on  sale...rib eyes….and some  chicken  and a  roast. Got  10 pounds  of  ground  beef  freezer  wrapped.   Pork  chops  so  you  can  make  stuffed  ones.”

 

“Good.   Johnny  called,  said he had a question for you.  He  sounded a  little  down.  Sad  like he  was worried  about  something.”

 

“Chet and Marco were going over this morning…He didn’t say what the question was?”

 

“Just that he had a question but it wasn’t very important.”  She  watched  the  expression  on  his  face.   “Why don’t you  walk over there?  You  can  check  it  out  better than on the  phone.

 

“Smart lady.”  He  kissed  her and  said  he’d be  back  soon.

 

Johnny  was in  the  recliner  reading  and  Lee was out in the  sunroom.  Chloe  was  playing  with her  blocks near Johnny’s  chair.  Roy  knocked on  the  door then came in.  Ashke  had  stood and growled  just before the  knock but  had laid  down as quickly.

 

 

 

“Hey,  Pally.   Nice to see you.”  Johnny   put his  book  down.  “Want a soda or a beer?  Should  be  ice tea  out there too.”

 

“Nothing  right  now.  Jo  said  you  called.”     He  bent  down  and  gave  Ashke a  scratch  behind  the  ears.  “Good  watch dog.   I  heard that  growl.”   He sat  down on the  couch.

 

Chloe looked at her Uncle Roy and got up taking him a block.  “Hey  Ladybug.”  He helped her up on the couch beside him. 

 

“Jo  said you had a question.   Chet and Marc make it over this morning?” 

 

“Yeah.  The car was sounding good when they left.   Have you  thought  about when we’re going to tell the others about our taking the exam?”

 

“Not  really.  What do you think?”

 

“Chet and Marco, they were talking about us all being on shift together again. Really looking forward to it. Is it fair for us to let them think it’s gonna stay that way?  I felt like a liar not telling them it wouldn’t be like before.”

 

“Yeah,  you have a point.   Maybe  we  should tell  them  before you  go  back.  Cap might have an idea when it would be best.   Why  don’t I  talk to him  about it  and  then  we can  decide?”

 

“That would  work.  Once we tell them there won’t be any easy way to change our minds, will there.?”

 

“Don’t  think  there is  now…Jo  and Lee were pretty  happy  when  we told  therm.  Even  Brackett  seems to  be  fine  with the idea.  Once  we tell the  guys  we’ll  need to tell Dixie  and Dr. Early…wouldn’t be fair to them to hear it thru the rumor mill.”

 

“Yeah…Lee  said  something  about  telling  Jeff and  Gina…They  are  coming out  for Chloe’s  birthday.  What do you think the kids will say?  Lee  has  been  wanting to  tell Jim and Kathy…And I  guess I  should  let  Rosemary know…Didn’t  think  this  was  gonna  be  such a  big  deal.   Lee and I talked about it today...said she would support me no matter what we decided.”

 

“Yeah that is kind of what Jo told me.  We’re pretty  lucky  to have  supportive  wives.    Kent  Wise over at  36 is  getting a divorce  because his wife  can’t  handle  the  stress…Her  brother  who  works  up north  just  lost a  leg in a  building  collapse.  She told Kent it was their marriage or his job.”

 

“That’s a tough choice…I know what I would chose but it would be hard.” 

 

Johnny said looking at Chloe as she climbed down from the couch.  “He’s  got a  little  boy about  her  age…”  

 

Before any more could be said Chloe went over to Johnny and held her arms up.

 

“Wet  Neoee…yucky.”

 

“Toilet training  not  going  real  well?” 

 

“Nah,  it  was  then  we  kind of  got  off  track…Come on,  let’s  go  get you  cleaned  up.   Let me know what Cap said.”

 

“I  will.  Tell Lee Jo wanted to know if she wanted to work on grants tonight.” 

 

“She’s out in the  sun room…Go  on  out there.”

 

The  next  afternoon  A shift meet  at Roy’s.  Jo  went over to  see Lee and  work on  WBSF grants and  reports.   Lee and she decided it would be best if the guys and the house to themselves.

 

“What is so important that we needed to meet today?”  Chet  sad  as they  got settled  in  Roy’s  living  room.  “If it’s about station stuff why couldn’t we meet tomorrow after roll call?”

 

“Because I  suggested we meet here,  you  twit,  so we wouldn’t be interrupted.”  Hank  said.  He didn’t  want  this it  be  any  harder on  John  than it  already  was.

 

“Why  is Gage here and  not  Boyd?  He’s supposed to be there until Gage stops   goofing off.”

 

“If you  would  shut  up  maybe  Cap and  Roy  could  tell us  what  the meeting is  about.”  Mike said.    Chet had been getting on his nerves more and more lately.

 

“It’s my fault you guys had to give up part of your day off.”  Johnny’s nerves and guilt were starting to make his head ache.  At least the drummer in his head was keeping time with the throbbing in his leg.

 

“Is everything ok with you, Johny?”  Marco asked  seeing  how  uncomfortable  his  friend  was  looking.   “You  still  coming  back in  a  few weeks aren’t  you?   Wells said he heard you were gonna teach paramedic classes because your leg didn’t heal right.”

 

“Wells is as big on gossip as Kelly.”    Mike  muttered.  Hank  nodded in  agreement.  “He…”

 

“Of course, he’s coming back…We aren’t just a crew we’re the best team in the county. “  Chet interrupted.   “He wouldn’t give up being a paramedic …He’s not a quitter…Not like he has to do it for the pay raise.”

 

“We both are.”  Roy said before Chet could make it any harder for Johnny.We aren’t doing it for the pay raise, it’s just time.”

 

“You quitting the department?   Gonna  go to  work  for that  company  ya  own. He gonna give you a nice cushy office job?”  Chet challenged Roy.

 

“That’s enough of that, Kelly.”  Hank  snapped.  “John and Roy have every right to go for a promotion or get a better job.”

 

“You always said there wasn’t a better job than being a fireman.”  The look he gave Johnny was anger and disappointment.

 

It was the tone of his voice and the look of disgust that hit Johnny so hard.  Suddenly it was like her was back on the reservation and they were telling him he was useless and would never amount to anything.   


“We aren’t leaving the department. We’re going to take the captain’s exam.    And you are right about one thing, there isn’t a better job than being a fireman no matter what rank or job you do.”   Roy answered coolly. 

  

Mike and Marco looked over at John and then at Chet. “You  guys  are  gonna make  great  captains.”  Marco said wanting to be supportive of his friends.  “So, Johnny, you gonna be at 51 until after the test results?”

 

 

“Yeah, ..looking  forward to  being  back.”    He  still  didn’t look  up.  “I…I  told  Dr. Brackett I appreciated the  offer to teach  but I  wanted to  be  back at the  station.”

 

“To prove that you aren’t too scared to do the job you were good at before making a fool of yourself trying to be a captain?”

 

“You  want a  study  partner?”  Mike  asked  with a  grin.   “Melissa and I have been talking about me going for the exam in August.”   He  looked at  Chet.  “You got a problem with my trying for captain?”

 

“No,  you’ll  be a  great  cap…Hell,  you  do a  good  job  when  Cap  puts  you in  charge of  things.”

 

“Gage is an adrenaline  junkie,  he  acts  without  thinking.   He’ll  get  some  linesman killed  rushing in  without  thinking  things  out.”  Even as he  said it Chet knew  that  wasn’t  true.  But  the  words  came out  without  him  thinking  what they were  doing to his  friend. Chet  hated the idea of  change at the  station.  They had  worked  together so  long  and  so  well.   They  were family  they  looked out  for  each  other.

 

Johnny  didn’t  say  anything  he  just  left the  room.  Cap started after him but Roy put his hand up to stop him.

 

“Give him a few minutes to clear his head.   You think you could have done any   better tearing his heart out?  Maybe made some of your famous references to him being a half Breed or cracks about him being a disaster magnet?   Maybe thrown in some of the snarly things you’ve said about Lee and Chloe?  That would have put the finishing touches on your hatchet job nicely.”  Roy turned away from the stunned linesman and went out to check on Johnny. 

 

 

 

Lee  and  Jo  were in  the  sunroom  when the  phone  rang. 

 

“Hello.”

 

“Is Johnny there?  He left here without saying anything to anyone.”

 

“Why? Was he ok?”  Lee felt the panic rising.  “What  happened?”

 

 “Any idea where he might have gone?  He isn’t supposed to be driving  yet.”

 

“No, the Rover is in its spot…Ashke would have let me know if he heard it. 

 

 Would he have had time to walk home?   Hopefully he is taking it slow and easy.”

 

“Does he ever take anything slow and easy” 

 

“Jo can stay here and I’ll start over that way.  He shouldn’t have any trouble walking that far…would he?”

 

“He  shouldn’t.”

 

“Come on, Marco, Gage has played the prima donna and I’ve got better things to do than sit here and wait on him to make a grand entrance back in here.”   Chet grumbled at the glares he was getting from Hank and Mike. 

 

 “Roy is  gonna  be playing  mother hen and all  protective of  him.”

 

“Let me know Johnny’s  ok.”  Marco asked after Chet grabbed his coat and stomped out.

 

Cap and Mike were sitting there talking quietly when Roy went back into the living room. 

 

“Lee going to start over this way…Think maybe I should start walking that way.  Chet settle down any?”   Roy  asked as he  got his  jacket.  

 

“No.  I  think  he  and  Marco  will probably  have a  long  talk on  the  way  back to  Chet’s  place.   I can’t believe he behaved that way.”

 

“Think this whole thing hit all of us harder than we wanted to admit even to ourselves.   Like Johnny said a lot of people gave up on him this time…He was ready to give up on himself.”

 

Lee  met  Roy  at the  Y  in  the path.  He didn’t say a word there about the tears in her eyes.

 

“I brought his heavier jacket…Think he went out to The Grove?   He  is  so  worried  about  letting  people  down.    He thinks he’s failed us in some way.” 

 

“You need to get back to the house…I’ll find him.”  He could see she was shivering.  Taking the heavier  jacket  from  her he  watched as she  started  towards  her  house.   He  quickened his  pace  as he  walked the  half  mile to the  grove.  He   saw  Johnny sitting on  the  picnic  table. 

 

“Lee  brought  you a  warmer  jacket.”  Roy  said as he  handed the  coat to  his  best  friend.  “Junior, don’t let Chet get under your skin.  We decided a  log  time  ago to  ignore  him,  remember,..”

 

Not  looking  up  Johnny  took  the  jacket  and  put it on  over the  lighter  one.  He  pulled  the  hood  up  then  stuck  his  hands in  the  pockets.  A slight  smile   showed on his  lips  when he  found a  pair of  gloves in the  pocket  and a HT.

 

“What if other people think the same thing?  That I  lost my  nerve?  That I’m too scared to do my job?  If they  can’t  trust me  to  do  this  job  why  would  they  trust me to be  a captain?   A crew has to trust  each  other…especially  their  captain.”

 

“Junior, no one who knows you are going to doubt you.  You have great instinct when it comes to fires.  You’ve  proven  it over and  over.  Chet shot off his mouth because he’s Chet.  Once he has a chance to think things over he’ll know you didn’t lose your nerve.  We know that most of us take promotions sooner or later…I think he reacted that way because he missed the feeling our shift had.  The best team out there.  A  family  more than just  6  guys  who  worked together.  But, families change…kids grow up, people move away from home, change jobs…that’ the natural order of life.  The ones  that  know  you  or  matters in  your  life  are  going to  support  you and  be  proud of  your  accomplishment.  Me,  you  and  Mike  we’ll  study  and  work  hard  at learning the  bookwork  but  we have the  experience and  knowledge  you  can’t  get  from  books  on  our  side.” 

 

“Better  call  Lee and  let her  know  we’re on  our  way  back.”  Johnny said looking up for the first time since Roy got there.   “Thanks,  Pally.    The  guys  still at your  house?”

 

“Mike  and Cap…Marco  took  Chet  home.”

 

“Think he’ll find a new pigeon once I’m gone for good?” 

 

“Probably but the new guy will benefit from the rules that are in place now.”

 

Before starting back Johnny keyed the HT and smiled when he heard Lee’s relieved voice telling him hot fresh coffee would be waiting for him.

 

                       

 

Johnny  was up  before the  alarm  went off and  was out on the  deck  drinking  coffee  when  Lee  went out to the kitchen.  She smiled as she looked out the window at him.  

 

He looked so  healthy  and  strong  and handsome.  Today  was the  first  day back on  the  job since January.  There had been times over the last three months she had thought this day would never come.  It had but it was the start of a new phase in their lives.  

 

Johnny would be taking the exam to be a captain in August so the next months would be filed with study time and some sadness knowing his time at 51 was drawing to a close.  But what would not change was the close bonds between A shift. 

 

Johnny, Roy, Mike  would  be taking the  exam to be  captains.   Hank was finally going to put his paranoia about McConnikee to rest and take the chief’s exam.   Even  Marco had  talked about maybe  someday  taking the  exam to be an engineer.  Chet  was  still  refusing to  even  talk about  retaking the  engineer’s  exam. 

 

Lee tapped  on the  window  and  Johnny  turned  giving her a  huge  grin.  As always  her heart  melted at  that  crooked  grin  and the look in his eyes.  He  came into the  kitchen.

 

“Thought you’d be sleeping a while longer.”  He bent down and kissed her tenderly.

 

“I  missed  you  beside me.  Guess I’ll have to get use to that  again.  Chloe is  gonna  be  lost  without her  favorite  playmate.”

 

“Ash’ll keep her company.  Tina and the twins can come for more play dates…Along with Mickey and Lizzy…She’ll be fine.”  He sat down at the  counter.   “I’m  gonna  miss  you two…but it’s  time to  go  back.” 

 

 

“I know, Boyo.  You have worked so hard…I am so proud of you for all you did and will do.  I fixed a basket for you to take with you since Hank told me you were cooking today.”

 

“And why did he tell you that?”

 

“Because I  asked him  when I  called  Em the other  day.  Think  there  was a mention of  a  pecan  pie or a  pineapple  cake  being made to  celebrate  your  return to work.”

 

“Girl what am I gonna do with you?”

 

“Tell  me  you love me  give me a  kiss on my forehead  and  eat the  breakfast I’m  going to fix  you.”

 

Johnny noticed that only Cap’s car was in the parking lot when he pulled in but didn’t think nothing of it since he was earlier than normal.   Four  cars quickly pulled in from across the street as soon as he went in the building. 

 

“Good morning, good morning good morning.”  Johnny said as he entered the station. 

 

 It  did  feel  good and  right to be there.  C shift all welcomed him back as he made his way not the locker room.  There was balloons and streamers on  his  locker.  He  shook  his  head  and  opened  the  door  half  expecting a water  bomb.  Instead he found it filled with tissue paper and streamers. 

 

He  and Lee had  come over  last  week  bring his  extra  clothes  and  uniforms.   Lee had taken the stuff that had been in there for 3 months home to wash.   

 

Chloe and Lee had given him a new shaving kit the night before and he placed it on the top shelf.  There  was a Welcome  back  sign  fixed on  his  poster of  Smokey  the  Bear.   He was just starting to think it was strange none of the others were there yet when Mike and Roy came in followed by Marco. 

 

“Morning  all.   It’s  gonna  be a  good  day.”  Johnny  greeted his  friends.

“Good to see you, Amigo.”  Marco said extending his hand.

 

 

 “You’re  looking  good.  Nice  haircut.”  Mike  said  with a nod.

 

“Yeah,  Cap reminded me that a pony tail wouldn’t be anywhere near regulation.”

 

Johnny said with a grin.  He hadn’t had a haircut since before the bombing until last week.  “Lee  said if  she  was  getting a  haircut  so was I.  Chloe  even  got  a  little  trim.  She was not happy  about it.” 

 

“Like  Lee  says,  she’s her  father’s  daughter.”  Roy  said  smiling.  He  knew  that  for  a while  that had  been a  sore  point but they had  gotten it  worked  out.

 

Chet came in and changed clothes not saying much.  He and Johnny had talked once after the fiasco at Roy’s.  Johnny and he had agreed it was over and done and their friendship intact. 

 

The five friends went out to get a cup of coffee before roll call.  Johnny went first after some jockeying around by the others.

 

“Welcome back, John.”   There was a banner across the cupboard with platters of breakfast sandwiches, of doughnuts and one of fresh fruit on the table.  A large helium balloon  fire truck  floated  above the  table  anchored  by  a small  toy  truck  and  a  fireman  toy.

 

Johnny  looked at the  table  then all the men  around it and  realized  men  from  all three  shifts were there.   The  three   captains  had  came out of the  office.

 

“This is a first and probably a last, a speechless John Gage.”  Chet  laughingly  said. 

 

“We just wanted you to know we’re glad your back and that what you did that day for everyone hasn’t been forgotten and is appreciated.”   Murphy  from  C shift  said,.  “A lot of good men owe their lives to you for what you did that day.   The arson guys figured out there was at least four bombs that went off that day after that madman pushed the detonator.”

 

Roy knew Johnny had never read or heard the full report and saw the amazement in his face as well as all the other emotions.

  

A  little  later  than usual  roll call and  morning  chores  were  started.

 

 Johnny and Roy went into do the morning radio checks and check supplies

“Why don’t you do the radio check?”  Roy  suggested.  

 

“Rampart this is County 51…How do you read?”

 

“Loud and clear 51.”  Dixie  responded.  Roy  thought he  could almost hear  her  smiling.

 

“Stand by for lead two…”

 

“Looking good on this end.  Sounding  good, too.”  Kelly  Brackett  responded.  “Welcome back, John.”  

 

 Cap  was  standing in  the  door  way  watching his  two paramedics  and  smiled.  He didn’t think anyone was gonna mind the slight deviation from protocol this morning. 

 

An hour  later the SCU  sounded and the  engine  and  squad  were  off to a  warehouse  fire.  As they pulled  up to the  building  Roy  glanced  over at his partner.

 

“You  doing ok?” 

 

“Yeah,  I’m  fine.”

 

“Gage, De Soto  they  think  there  are two   women in the office, northwest  corner  second  floor.”  They  quickly  got  suited  up  and made their  way  up to the second  floor.   There  were two offices in  the  northwest  corner.  Roy  went in the one that  said  Accounting  while  Johnny  went in the one that  said  Personnel.   Both offices  were  empty.

 

“Let’s  try  down  the  hall.”   Roy  shouted  not  raising his  mask.  Johnny  nodded and  followed,.  They  checked  the  supply  room  then  came to the  bathroom.  Pushing  their  way into the  room  Johnny  raised his  mask.  “Fire  Department.” 

 

He  went  farther into  the  room  and  saw  the  two  women  huddled in   the  corner.

 

 

They  had  wet  paper towels  over their  noses  and  mouths  and  looked  up  at the  men  wide  eyed.

 

“Ok,  ladies,  let  get you out f here.”  Johnny  said as he  knelt  next  to the  women.  A quick  check  showed no  injuries  other  than a  burn on  one  woman’s  hand.

 

“Roy,  you  lead  them  out.”   He helped them  stand up all the while reassuring  them  all  would  be  fine.  He  let  each  breathe  in  some  oxygen from  his  mask  as Roy  went to make  sure the  passage  was  clear. 

 

“HT51 to 51…we’re  on our  way  out  with the  victims.”

 

Outside the  women  were quickly  given a  closer  exam  and the information  given to  Dr. Early.  It  was decided  to  send  them  to Rampart as a precaution  since  both  had  slightly  elevated  blood  pressures.  

 

Since an IV  had  been  established I the older of the two Johnny  rode in  with  them.

 

Johnny  was  drinking  coffee  at the nurses  desk  when  Brice came in to  pick  up  supplies  and his  partner.

 

“Gage.”  Brice  acknowledged  him  with a  nod.

 

“Brice.  How’s  your  morning  going?”

 

“Two  minor  runs.  Morton  ordered an  IV  that  was precautionary so  here  to  pick  up  Belliveau.  You?” 

 

“Just  waiting  for  Roy.  Rode in  with a  lady who  took in  some  smoke.”

Belliveau  came  up  to the  desk.

 

“Good  to  see you Johnny.”  Bob said.  “Glad  you’re  feeling  up  to it.”

“Yeah,  a  lot of  people  didn’t  think  I  would  be  back.”  Johnny watched  as Brice  started to  walk  away.  “You better go before your partner gets upset.”

 

“Johnny about what he said…”

 

“That’s just it  Bob,  its  what he  said,  not  you.”    Bob  nodded  his  thanks  then  went out to  his  squad.

 

 

“You’re a  good  man,  John  Gage.”  Dixie  said  as she  watched  Bob  walk  away.  “There is a  lot of  men  who  wouldn’t have  been  that  civil.”

 

“Learned a  long  time  ago  to  ignore  people  worse  than  Brice.    Dix, there’s  something I  need to tell you…Before  you hear it in the rumor  mill…Kel  already  knows  so  you or  him  can  Dr. Early…”

 

“Tell me what?”  Johnny had  not  noticed  Joe  coming   down  the  hall.

 

“Roy and I  are going to be taking the captain’s  exam  in  August.”  He  waited to see their  reaction  with  some  trepidation.

 

“That’s  great, Tiger.  You’ll  both make  excellent  captains.”  Dixie smiled her pride in him and Roy as always.

 

“The paramedic program is losing two of the best…Our loss is the Fire Department’s  gain.”

 

“Thanks.”  Roy saw the look on Johnny’s face as he approached the desk.  “So, Junior  you  tell  them  the  news?”

 

“I’m  gonna  miss  you but  really  proud  of  you.  Jo  and Lee  excited  about the  change?”

 

“Yep…but it’s  not  happening  for  a while…Even  after the  test, it  may be  a while  before there are any  positions  available.    They’re  given  out  according  where  you  place on  the  test.”

 

“Then you two won’t have long to wait”. 

 

“Thanks  for the  vote of  confidence,  Doc.  Mike  Stoker is  taking the  exam  too.  Not  sure  how many  others.”

 

“HT51,  what is  your  availability.”

 

“HT51  available  from  Rampart.”   They left  with a  wave to respond to a  child  injured  call.

 

The  rest of the  day  was  fairly  quiet.  Cap was able to  get  some  drills in  and  to  no ones surprised  Johnny  was the  fastest on  the  knots and  getting into  gear drills.  He  was  just  a little  slower than  normal  getting up the  ladder and  bring  down  the  victim,  the  CPR  dummy that had  been  retired  from  CPR training.

 

Dinner  was a huge  success,  the  chicken  casserole, Cole  slaw  and  home-made rolls  Lee had  sent in  were enjoyed  then  when  Johnny  brought out a pecan  pie  and a  pineapple  cake  everyone  was  happy  and  full.    They  settled  down  to watch TV,  Return of the Magnificent  Seven.   Johnny waited until all were engrossed in the movie then went out to the kitchen to call Lee.

 

“I  was  hoping  you’d  call.”  She said.  “Did you have a good day?”

 

“Yeah, it  was.  I’ll give you all the  details  tomorrow.  How  was  your  day?  Chloe in  bed?”

 

“It  was  good.  She kept looking for you and I would tell her you were working.  She  went to sleep  about  15  minutes ago.  I  let her  stay  up  longer than  usual  so maybe  she’ll  sleep late in  the morning.   Did  the  guys  like  dinner?”

 

“Loved it.   They  left  some of the  cake  for in  the morning  but the  pie is  gone.  I  missed you today…Thought of  things I  wanted to tell you…wondered  how  Chloe  was  doing.  Did  you  turn on  the alarm  and  check all the  doors?  Make sure the  safety bar is  in  the patio doors and the  sunroom doors.”

 

“I did.   Ashke  had  his  evening  run  and is  with  Chloe.  She  feel  asleep  pretty  quick  after I  put her  down.  I stayed in  there  for  a  few  minutes after  we  finished our  story time.   We only  did  one  book  tonight.  You sound  content  but  tired.  Why  don’t you  go  get  some  sleep?”

 

“You too.  Love  you.”

 

“Love you  mores  and  muches…Be  careful  all of you  and  peaceful  dreams.”

 

Within  the  week  it  was known  that  Mike,  Johnny  and Roy  would  be  taking  the  exam.  There  was none of the negative  feedback  that Johnny  had  worried  about.   The  days  and  weeks  flowed  by.   The three friends would meet once a week to go over the manuals and old test questions as well as time spent studying on their own.  They were able to find a way to study and still have quality time with their families.   Lee planned to celebrate Chloe’s second birthday   with a small family party.  A small family party  that  ended  up  being  3  times  the  size  Lee had originally  planned.  But with 5 honorary uncles, the Kildare and Farrow, Alvarez families, Jeff and Gina and Rosemary it just seemed to keep growing.    It wasn’t unusual for the entire crew to end up at their place especially once the weather turned hotter than usual their pool was a very popular place to be.

 

Since the  exam  was the  week  after their  anniversary  Lee insisted  that other than  dinner  out  they  postpone  any  celebration.    They would combine their  anniversary and  Johnny’s  birthday into one  celebration.

 

Two  nights  before the  test  Mike, Johnny  and Roy  had  their  last  study  session in  the  pool  house.  While they all felt confident they, all knew it wasn’t a good idea to be too confident. 

 

Lee had  typed up a  practice  test made up of questions  from  old  tests  and the  study  guides  they had  been  using.  She knew the areas each was most concerned with and used those areas for the questions.  They went over the test and when they did not agree on an answer talked it out, looking up references for that question.  Lee made sure there  was plenty of  snacks  and  coffee available  that night. 

 

The  day of the  test  Johnny  was  up before the alarm was set to  go off.  He  wasn’t  surprised  when  Lee  joined  him  at the  kitchen  table.  She  knew he was too  nervous  to eat  so  she  made  a pot of  coffee  (half  regular, half  decaf)  and  quizzed him on  the  areas  he was most  worried  about.   When it was time for Roy to pick him up she gave him a package.

 

“What’s  this  for?”

 

“From me and Chloe…Melissa helped me make it.  Just  something to remind you how  proud  we are of  you.”

 

He opened the package and his crooked grin spread across his face.  It was a tee shirt with Chloe’s picture on it.  It was a picture Johnny had taken on her birthday in the pedal car Chet and Marco had given her for Christmas.  The caption read Proud daughter of a LA. CO. F.D Captain.  

 

Johnny looked at the shirt then at Lee.  She  was looking very  pleased  with herself.

 

“Go do your best and know you and Roy have a whole lot of people who believe in you and no matter what the outcome is love and respect you.” 

 

He bent down and kissed her long and hard.   Johnny hoped to score in the top 10 to make his family proud. 

 

Roy  honked  the  horn  to let  Johnny  know  he  was  there  so  one  quick  kiss and  Johnny  was  out the  door.

 

                                 ***********************

The  exam  was over  and all three  candidates  from  Station  51  felt  good  about it.  Waiting  for the  results  would  be  hard  but life kept  them  all busy so none had  time  to  brood  about the  results. 

 

Finally, the  results  were  published  and  to no ones  surprise  3  of the  top  5 spots  went  to A shift  Station  51 personnel, with  Brice  scoring the  fourth  highest  score.

 

Two weeks after  the results  were posted  Roy and  Johnny  were told  their  last  shift as  paramedics would  be  the  following  Monday.  Andy Boyd  and  Greg  Ramsey  would  be  taking  their  place. 

 

 Mike  would  start at  his new position  the  following  Wednesday. They  would  be filling in  for vacationing  captains  until permanent  openings  were  available.

 

Johnny  had a  restless night  and  was  up  and  dressed  by  5:30  Friday  morning.  Lee  was awake  burt  forced herself to  give  him  the alone  time  he  needed.  At  6  she  heard in Chloe’s room  talking  as  he  changed  her.  (She  wore her  big  girl  panties in  the  daytime  but  slept in  diapers.) 

 

“Tomorrow  when I  come  home I’ll   be a  man  without a station to  call  my  own. Me  and  your  Uncle  Roy  start  our  new  jobs on  Monday…at least  for the  first  two  weeks we’re on the  same  shift.  You’re still  gonna have all your  uncles…They  all love you and made it  clear they still  wanted to be  part of  your  life.  Think  Chet  is  gonna  make  life  interesting  for Andy  and  Greg  as he introduces  them  to the Phantom.  But  Cap…he’ll  make  sure  he  doesn’t  go overboard.  Your  mama  is planning  a  big party  to celebrate our new  jobs.  Her and Jo and Melissa have  been  talking  and  making  lists.   Makes  sense to have one party  since  we have a lot of  the  same  friends.    Tell you a secret…it’s  kind of  scary  and  sad to  think  about this as my last shift as a paramedic  and the  last time I’ll be  Roy’s  partner. The  day  I  signed  up to be a paramedic  was  just  about the  luckiest  day of  my  life…It  started all the  really  great things that happened to me…getting to  be part of  Roy’s  family,  meeting  your  mom, us  getting  you…Made  some  great friends and a few enemies… could have  done  without  some  of the injuries  and times I  was pretty  sick  but in their own  way  they  were important times  too.  Made me  realize  what  great family and friends we have.   You go back to sleep   now…I’ll  see you  before  I  leave.”   Lee  could  hear the  rocking  chair  squeak  as  he  rocked and  hummed  to Chloe.

 

Roy  also  was awake  before  the alarm,  just not  as  early.  He  smiled  as  Jo  moved  closer. 

 

“Didn’t  mean  to wake  you.”  He  softly  brushed  her  cheek.  “You  don’t have  to  get  up.”  She had turned over  so she  could  sit  up.

 

“How  many times have I  sent you  off to  work  without  breakfast?”  She  asked  as she reached for her  robe.  “You  think  today’ll  be harder  than usual?”

 

“It’s either  gonna go  really fast or  really slow.  Cap  has  some  drills  he  wants  to  do  and  I  know  there was a stack of inspection  forms  on  his  desk.  Hopefully  the other shift got most of them done.   Mike told him he wanted to cook  today...wasn’t  sure if it  was  gonna  be  spaghetti  or  chicken.  I’m   gonna  try to  make it  as  normal  as possible.”

 

“And  Johnny?”   She had  laid  back  down,  her  head on  Roy’s shoulder.

“Junior is  gonna  be  fine.  He’s  at  peace with the  choice he made.  Not  saying it  won’t  be  sad  but  we  all  know  this is the  right  time  for  both of us.”

 

“I knew  you  wouldn’t have been  happy  being  an  engineer…but I  know  this is  the  right  thing  for  you.   Who  knows in  5 or  6 years  maybe you’ll  be  studying  to be a  chief.”

 

“Let’s  get  through  today  first  before  we  start planning  that.”  He  turned  and  kissed her  deeply,  his  hand  moving  down  her back.

 

************************************

 Cap’s  car  was  the only  one  from A shift  in the  parking  lot  when Johnny  got to the station.  He  sat out in  the  Rover  remembering  the  times he had  been  the  last one in  and  the times  he had  been  the  first to leave often in response to a prank  by  the  Phantom.   He  was still sitting  there  when  Roy  pulled in.  Roy got out of his  car and  got into the Rover.

 

“You  doing ok?”  He  asked  looking at Johnny’s  expression.

 

“Yeah just  thinkin’.   Part of  me  wants  today  over  quick  the other  ….   Johnny  stopped and  shrugged  his  shoulders.   Lee  said  she  hopes  we  can  get some  vacation  days  at the  same  time  so we can  go to Hawaii  together.  But  you  know anytime  you  want to  use the  condo  you can,  it  doesn’t have to be with us.”

 

“Chet  still saying he’s  gonna  go over with Suzi for  New Years?’

 

“Yeah,  think  he is still trying to talk her into it.   Maybe  see if  Marco  and Anita  want to  go…Cap said  Em  would  like to  go over again,  maybe  take the  girls.”

 

They  both  knew  there  were  rambling not saying  what really was on  their  minds. 

 

“Hope  Andy  and  Greg  make  a  good  team.  They’re  both  good  paramedics.”

 

“Yeah.   Hope Andy lets  Greg drive  once in  a while so they both know  the  streets.”   Johnny said with a  grin.

 

“Yeah  wonder if  either of  them  will spend  part of their  days  off  driving  around  memorizing  cross  streets  and  addresses.”    This was first time Roy let Johnny  know he  knew about his habit of  doing  that when they  first  became  partners.

 

“It was worth it.   It all was, Pally.”   Johnny  let out a  deep sigh.  “Thanks  for  being  the best friend a  guy could  ever have…The  best big brother and  sometimes  dad.   I  owe  you so  much.”

 

“I thought  we  were over your feeling like you owed  me for being  your friend.  It  has and  will  continue to be a  pleasure to  be your best  friend.  What  we have  is  a bond  that  goes  beyond  friendship,  being  brothers…There’s a deeper  connection neither one of  us  can  explain.   And to  borrow a  line  from  Lee,  it’s  never  boring  being  your  friend.”

 

“Is  that why you blame that thin spot on the  top of  your  head on  me?”  The impish  grin spreading  across  his  face.  Roy  just  rolled  his  eyes.   They saw Mike  puling in  and  without a word  both  opened their  door to  go  inside.

 

Roll call went smoothly with no mention made of it  being  the last time they would be together as a crew.    Chores we assigned  and   everyone  went off to do their  jobs.  Marco  and  Johnny  were  given  hose to  hang  after   the  bay.   Mike had  meals and day  room. Roy the  dorms  and Chet  for  booby  trapping  the  supply  closet had the latrine.  

 

“Junior,  you  want to  do the  honor of  our last  radio  check?”  Roy  handed him  the bio phone.

 

“Rampart  this is  Squad  51,  how  do you  read?”

 

“Loud and  clear  51.”   Dixie answered pride.”  She  felt a moment of  saneness  knowing it  was  the last  radio  check  from her  favorite  paramedic  team.  But even more so she felt pride in all they had accomplished over the years.  Pride in the  lives  they  had  saved,  pride in the professionalism  they showed.  Even  more so  she was proud of the men they  were, men  she  called her  good  friends. She  was proud in the  part she had  played in  their  lives  both as  a colleague  and as a friend. 

 

Roy  teased and said he  knew  he  was  second  favorite but  he  understood  the  special  bond  between her and  Johnny.  There had been (still was to some extent) a part of Johnny’s personality that made you want to protect him, to reassure him he wasn’t alone. 

 

Thankfully now it was rare to see that lost little boy in his eyes or his behavior.   Roy  she  watched  as he  grew into a more open  person.  He had  always  had  cared  about  others  but  now  it  showed in a  more  open and  natural  way.  She knew that  they   were  going to  be  excellent  captains  following the  lead of Hank Stanley.  Johnny handed the  mic  over to Roy  so he  could  finish  the   check.  This  brought a  smile  to her  face.  Partners  sharing  responsibility  to  the  end.

 

Morning  chores  finished, Cap ran three of the standard drills.  As always, 
Johnny was the quickest in  full  gear and the fastest knot tier.  To everyone’s  surprise  Roy was  faster  going  up the  ladder  and rescuing the  rag  doll  victim.   Cap  and Roy had  both  noticed  that Johnny  favored his  recently   healed  leg  as he  went  up and  down the ladder but  neither  mentioned it. They  were  just  cleaning  up for  lunch  when the  SCU  sounded.

 

A convoy  of   trucks  were  heading  down  the highway day  the  traffic  was  moving  at a  good  pace.  Two car  carriers from a  local  auto  plants  carrying  brand  new  pickups and  SUVs  to a local  dealership were  talking on  their  CBs  making  plans  for after work.  A truck  full of  liquor  going to a  local  state  stores  was  following  them. 

 

The  driver  was  getting impatient with the  two drivers who  were e going  just under the speed  limit.  He  was  running  late  because of  paper work  that  wasn’t  filled out  correctly  and had  two  more  stops to ache  before the end of the  business day.   He hit  his  horn  but the  two  front  trucks  ignored  him. 

 

Those  drivers  traveled  that  stretch of  road  regularly  and  knew it  was heavily  patrolled  by CHP officers.  The  liquor truck’s driver lost  his  temper  and pulled  around  the  car carriers. He had just started to move back into the right lane when a passenger side tire   blew.  The  driver  of the first  car carrier pulled  to the  right  and  put   his  brakes on.  The second  carrier   couldn’t  stop  quick  enough  and  hit the  first.  Pieces of the tire  that  had  exploded  littered the  road.   A small  car   that had  been  behind  the  trucks  slammed on her  brakes  and lost  control  as a  large  fragment df rubber  hit  the  windshield. 

 

By  the time  LA  County Fire Department  got there  it  was a mess.  Accidents  had  happen on  the other  side  of the  highway  because of  people  rubber  necking.  And  the  original  3  vehicles had  started a  chain  reaction  that  now  numbered  10  cars and  trucks.

 

“Kelly,  start  disconnecting  the  batteries,  Lopez,  spray  down  the  road…Engine  51  requesting  another  squad  for the  west  bound  side of the highway  and another  engine  crew for  same.” 

 

The  majority of  the  injuries were  cuts and  bruises.  A  few heads  had  hit the steering  wheel  or  the  door  because  seat  belts  weren’t  used. 

 

The driver of the  small car  that had  been  behind  the  trucks  was  trapped in  her  car.  Her legs  were  jammed up under the  dash board  where a  small  pickup  had  landed on her  roof  and hood. She also had a cut on her forehead.  Roy was  taking  care of her.

 

“Cap,  we’re going to need the jaws to get her out.  A backboard to put her on.”  Roy said.  “Johnny, what you got  over there?”

 

“Drivers got a cut on his head, a broken arm. Unconscious but  reacts  to  pain.  Gonna need help getting him out.”   He  saw  a  couple of  CHP officers he  knew  and  called  to  them.

 

“Bear,  Grossie,  need  some  help  here.”  They came  over.  “I’m  gonna  go over on  the  other  side  and  Bear,  you  can  help  lift  him  out of  here.  Grossie, can  you grab  a  couple of the  yellow  blankets and a  back  board?”

 

“You  got it  John.”   Grossie went to do as he was asked.

 

Johnny  made his  way  slowly  into the  truck.  On  his knees  he  was  able to safely  move  the  trucker  so his  body  was straight.  With his  arms   under the  man’s  shoulders  and  Bear guiding  him they  were able to get  him  out of the  truck  and  onto the  ground. 

 

“Thanks.”  Johnny  said as he knelt to  do a  more in-depth  exam.  Once he  was  satisfied with the  results the  two CHP officers  took  the  backboard   over to the  waiting  ambulance.   Johnny  following   behind to  check for  any  other  injured. 

 

A couple of teenage  boys  had  decided  to  steal  whatever they  could  from  the  liquor  truck  since  all  the  attention  was elsewhere.  Running  away with  several  bottles in hand,  he  slipped on the  wet  pavement.    Now  besides the  water,  gas and  oil there  was a  a stream of  cognac  running down the  pavement.    The  boy who fell  cut  his  hand and wrist  badly,  blood was  spurting.   

 

HELP!! HE’S  BLEEDING  TO DEATH!!!!!!!”   The frighten boy screamed at the top of his  lungs  not  knowing  what to  do for his  friend. 

 

Ponch and  Johnny  heard  the screams, quickly  making their  way over to the two  boys.   Johnny  reached the  boys  first.   Seeing the  spurting  blood. he  knew an artery  had  been  slashed.  The  boy  screaming  had a bandana  Indian style  around his  long  hair.

 

“Give  me  that.”  Johnny  ordered.  He  took  the  bandana  and  quickly   wrapped it  around the  wrist  tightly. 

 

“Get  him  over to triage, they’ll  get a  pressure bandage on  it and  check  the other  cuts.”   Ponch  and  the  boys  friend  set off towards  triage  while  Johnny  made his  way  back  to heck  for injured passengers  and  drivers.

 

 Johnny  came  up on a  cargo  van  with  two  people still in it.  The  drivers  was semi- conscious,  the  passenger  was  dead. The  odd  twisted angle  of  his  neck  left no  question  of  how  he  died.  As  Johnny  was working  he  could  hear a  strange  hissing noise.  His  first  reaction  was  snake  but then  realized it was  something  more mechanical. 

 

Johnny  could  see  the  driver  was  caught  because the  front  was so  crushed inward.  The engine showed inside the cab.  He had been  hit  from  behind  by a  large tractor trailer.  The driver of the  tractor  trailer  was standing  nearby.

 

“My  brakes  froze and I  hit him  hard.  Can I  do anything to  help?  Let me  help.”

 

“Just  move back  and give me room.  You could walk up forward and tell any  fireman or police to send the jaws and some help.”   He  knew  the   driver  was  showing  signs of  shock ,  but driver in  the truck  had to be his priority,   by  sending the  man to  get help  for him  he was  sure the  others would  see his needs also.

 

Johnny  heard   people  talking  and  relaxed a  little.  He had  been  able to  get a  pulse  and  respiration  on  the  victim.  Also, he had  checked his  pupils,  sluggish  but reactive. 

 

“What you  got,  Junior?”  Roy inquired.  “They’ll  bring us  the  jaws  soon  as they  get  finished in  the other  car.”

 

They had  been  working  about  10  minutes  when  Johnny  raised his  hand  to  stop.  Looking  confused the  others  turned off the  jaws and  waited in silence.  They  could  see Johnny  heard or  sensed  something  was wrong.   As much as they teased him about the squeaks and creaks only he heard in the squad, at a fire they never questioned his instincts.

 

“We’ve got to get him out fast, something is leaking…I can hear it.”   They  resumed  working  faster  and  were  able to  get him  on a  backboard and in a stokes.     Several  others  had  came  over so they had  plenty of help  carrying the  stokes. Roy  and  Johnny  were  walking  behind  the  stokes  carrying  equipment.

 

They  were  about  50  feet  from  the  cargo  van  when it  exploded.  Debris flying   started  several  fires  and  when a  piece of  burning  metal  crashed into  the  over turned  liquor  truck  all  near there  ran.   The  explosion sent out  a  huge  surge of  hot  air  and  sound  waves  that   knocked  Roy  and  Johnny and  several others  off their  feet.  Luckily  no  one  was seriously injured in  the  blast.   Cuts,  bruises  and  sore  bottoms  from  hard  landings  were the only  injuries.

 

Once  back  to the  station  showers  were   taken  and  the tired  men  just  relaxed.  Mike had planned on making fried chicken for supper but the spaghetti sauce he was going to have at lunch had been slow simmering all the time they were out.  The pasta was soon in boiling water and Marco and Johnny who had already showered made the salad and fixed the garlic cheese bread Mike had taken out of the freezer earlier.    A  fresh pot of  coffee to  go along  with the  dessert  and  ice tea  completed the  meal.  Lee had sent a pecan pie and Jo sent a carrot cake so the meal was a huge success.  Chet and Marco helped with the cleanup.

 

“Roy, John  I  want to  thank  you  for what you  did  today.” Cap said  as he  finished his  coffee.

 

“We  just  did  our  jobs  like always.”   Roy  and  Johnny  said  in sync.

Chet  rolled his eyes  the others  just  smiled.

 

 “You  twits,  what  I am  thanking  you  for is the  fact  after  two  explosions I  didn’t have  to  call  either of   your  wives  and tell her  you were at  Rampart.”

 

The famous Gage grin  spread  across  his face.  “But  you  have to  admit, Cap,  we went out with a bang.”

 

 

 

                   The End

 

Posted to Site 7/10/18

 

 

 

Links To Parts1. 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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