Home | Emergency Stories by Tammy | Send Stories | Fun Page | Guest Writer's
“Three weeks,” Johnny grumbled. “Man Roy it’s good to be back. Three weeks for this to finally be over so I can go back to work,” Johnny said as he sat at the table in the Rec Room having coffee. “I didn’t think it was ever gonna stop aching…Not that you didn’t do a great job of surgery or anything, cause the Doc said it was a picture perfect job of surgery. You know what I think…? I think it was the therapist pushing me too hard,” Johnny continued smoothly switching subjects without missing a beat.
Roy grinned, recognizing Johnny’s running commentary as a Gage tirade. They occurred mostly when he was nervous, irate, uncomfortable or stressed. Roy knew Johnny was all four. Mike Morton was due to join them this morning on a ride along and Johnny was none too sure about the prospect. Absolutely sure Morton would find fault with everything he did.
Johnny continued, oblivious to Chet’s irritation as he tried to concentrate on the newspaper. “You know, you and Dixie did a good job with those sutures. You can’t hardly even see them,” Johnny said touching his shoulder.
“Roy, you shoulda stitched his mouth shut,” Chet said in annoyance as he thumped the paper down on the table. “That woulda been a great job.”
“Real funny Chet…,” Johnny shot back. “Why don’t ya go polish the dumpster or somethin…?” Further comment ended as Marco, Mike and Cap entered the room.
“Well...Everyone’s bright and early this morning. Welcome back John…,” Cap said, giving his youngest crew member a pat on the shoulder as he went by.
“Yeah…Glad your back…,” Mike agreed.
“Welcome home…,” Marco added.
“Yeah…Well you haven’t had to listen to him for the last ten minutes,” Chet griped.
Roy turned to Chet as he finished pouring his second cup of coffee. “You know it could be worse…,” he said quietly.
“Yeah how…?” Chet asked.
Johnny looked at his partner curiously as Roy walked toward the table and set the cup down. “I might have slipped and he wouldn’t be here at all…,” he pointed out, resting his hands gently on his friend’s shoulders, giving them a light squeeze. Johnny grinned up at him, his face coloring slightly at the gesture of affection from his partner.
“There is that…,” Cap agreed.
“I guess we’ll settle for his gabbing then…,” Chet said without missing a beat as he picked his paper and continued to read.
Johnny grinned sheepishly at the others.
The front door buzzer sounded announcing Mike Morton’s arrival. Cap went to greet their guest while Johnny’s running commentary suddenly fell silent. A frown crossed his handsome features. The others noted it immediately and glanced at Roy.
“Lighten up Junior…,” Roy said softly as he gave his younger friend a gentle slap on the back. “He’s here to observe, not rate our performance.”
“Huh…Like he won’t try to anyway,” Johnny mumbled.
“C’mon Gage…You’ve got no reason to be nervous…,” Chet said…as close to a compliment to the younger mans skills as the curly haired Irishman was willing to get.
“Yeah John…You’re a great paramedic,” Mike agreed.
“Thanks guys, but it’s not my paramedic abilities he’s always questioning…”
“Well what then…?” Marco asked.
“His judgment during rescues…,” Roy answered.
“Well he might have a cause there…,” Chet teased.
Roy shot Chet a ‘shut up’ look while Johnny frowned at the comment…His silence more worrisome than if he’d launched into another tirade. Kelly threw a worried grimace at Roy. The blonde paramedic’s mouth tightened…Roy frequently worried about his younger partner’s slight reckless streak as well but the last thing he wanted was Johnny constantly having to second guess every decision to please Mike.
Roy was well aware that Johnny occasionally took unnecessary risks but he’d been working on that over the years and was generally there to keep him out of too much trouble. Roy knew it wasn’t a lack of good judgment, just an unwillingness to leave someone to die if there was any way for him to stop it.
It tore Johnny up to see a family members face as they were told their loved one wasn’t coming home. He’d been on the receiving end of that news seventeen years ago…Coming home from school at the age of eight and being told that his Father was dead…Killed in a fire on one of the oil rigs where he was an engineer and troubleshooter.
Only a few people knew about Johnny’s past and the abuse that had followed his mother’s death when he was eleven…Roy was one of them. It had driven Johnny into becoming a fire fighter, rescue man and eventually one the two best paramedics in the business.
Cap led Mike Morton into the Rec-Room. “Gentlemen…You’ve all met Dr. Morton…”
Nods of agreement and greeting met Hank’s comment. “Good…Well let’s get roll call over with then Roy…You and John can show him around and get him set up with a turnout and familiarize him with the squad and the rules…”
“Sure thing Cap…,” Roy answered. John merely gave his Captain a tight nod.
“Dr. Morton, why don’t you get yourself a cup of coffee…We’ll be back in a few. Gentlemen…Roll call.” The crew of Station 51 filed out to the apparatus bay. As Johnny passed by Hank, his Captain gave him a light pat in the shoulder. “John…? You think you could look a little less enthusiastic Pal…?” Cap asked.
“Uh…sorry Cap…,” he mumbled. The talkative paramedic of moments ago was gone. Cap was a little concerned about the stoic manner of his usually overly exuberant youngest crew member.
“John…?” He said catching the younger man’s arm and pulling him to a stop. The somber dark eyes looked back at him… “You’ve got nothing to prove…,” Cap said sincerely.
John threw him a small half smile and continued on.
After roll call, Roy took Mike on a tour of the station, getting him a turnout coat and helmet with a directive to use it.
He listed the basic safety instructions, where to wait for them during a rescue and how to use the handy talkie to keep in touch with them.
Johnny tagged along, speaking only when spoken too. The Station Control Unit sounded. “Station 51…Man trapped. 2979 Commerce… 2-9-7-9 – Commerce…Cross Street…Lawnwood…Time out 8:33…”
“Station 51…KMG365…,” Cap responded.
Roy, Johnny and Mike ran for the squad… “Do I need this…?” Mike asked, holding up the turnout.
“Not yet…,” Johnny said, taking it from Morton and stowing it with his own in the back compartment. “You do need this…,” he said handing him the helmet. “It has to be worn…even in the squad.”
Mike looked at him in amusement… “You should try taking your own advice…,” he quipped, knowing how often Gage was in trouble for not using it.
Roy was waiting for the explosion when he pulled out of the bay but when Johnny remained silent, his partner glanced over at him. A stubborn set to his young friends jaw brought a soft groan from Roy. Mike’s eyes swiveled toward him curiously and Roy threw him a wan smile. The older paramedic knew that look…and it was even worse than a tirade…This was gonna be a long day.
They arrived at a warehouse. A stack of pallets holding pipes had tipped. The hapless worker caught beneath was buried in what looked to be a haphazard pile of matchsticks. Roy, Cap and Johnny stood looking at the pile up assessingly. Morton stood safely out of harm’s way.
“Move the wrong one Cap and the whole pile could come down…,” Johnny said.
“Yeah…I see that,” Cap agreed in concern.
“I can squeeze in there Cap…,” Johnny offered.
“Johnny, you said yourself it could come down,” Roy added.
Johnny glanced at Cap questioningly. Hank pursed his lips and glanced at Roy… “Let’s see how he is…,” Roy said gesturing to the pile. They moved to the opening. “Hey, can you hear me in there…?” Roy called.
A soft groan came from the stack followed by a weak voice… “Yeah man…but I can h…hardly breathe…I think I…got somethin s…sittin on my chest.”
Johnny was practically bouncing on his toes. “Cap…?” he questioned anxiously.
“Go…,” Cap nodded toward the small hole.
Mike stood at a distance shaking his head. Gage was at it again.
“What do ya need Junior…?” Roy asked.
“Ahhh… A safety belt and a line to get this guy out…I’ll let ya know if I need something else…”
“Be careful.” John grinned as he tied the rope to his belt. He lay down on his stomach, tightening his chin strap. Johnny carefully made his way forward…slowly pulling his slender body over, under and between the pipes…Occasionally freezing in place as one shifted or gently pushing others as he cleared a narrow path to the injured man. John finally slid up next to the injured victim.
“Hey man…How ya doin?” He asked calmly as he reached for the man’s wrist to check his pulse.
“H…havin trouble br…breathin…,” he gasped.
“I don’t doubt it with that sittin on you…,” he said indicating the pallet that rested on the man’s chest. Johnny did a quick assessment of the situation, deciding he could raise the pallet enough to take the pressure off. “Are you hurt anywhere else…?”
“I don’t think so…I’m just pinned.”
“Okay…If I lift this, can you pull yourself out from under it?”
“I think so…”
“Okay…Let’s give it a try but move careful…You hit the wrong thing this pallet’s gonna be the least of your problems.” Johnny raised the pallet relieving the pressure. The man scooted out from under it. His foot hit the pipes and several shifted dangerously. “Careful…Careful…,” John admonished anxiously. They both froze until everything settled.
Johnny heard Roy’s anxious voice. “Partner…You okay…?”
“Yeah…,” he yelled back. “I’m gonna check him out and then we’re gonna start back out.” Johnny sat the man up carefully and ran his hands over his limbs, moving up to check his head for any injuries. What’s your name…?”
“Jeff…,” he answered quietly.
“Okay Jeff…Did you black out at all…?”
“No…Just my chest…”
John nodded. “Okay, I don’t think you broke anything and you’re definitely breathin easier so what I’m gonna do is have you follow the rope out the way I came in. You’re a bit bigger than me so you’re gonna have to move real slow okay…?”
“Yeah…okay,” he agreed.
“Follow the rope out the same way I came in okay…?
“Let’s go… Roy…,” Johnny called. “We’re comin out…”
Both men edged back into the crazy maze of pipes which currently reminded Johnny of one of Jennifer’s games of pickup sticks… in super size.
After a few tense moments and a couple of pipes shifts, Jeff emerged from the stack. John was close on his heels. Roy reached down to help Jeff to his feet but one foot hooked on a pipe…It fell forward, starting a chain reaction. Johnny dove for safety while Roy threw himself over their victim until the crashing stopped and the dust settled.
Roy raised his head, his blue eyes searching anxiously for his partner. The anxiety eased and he broke into a smile of relief as his eyes found Johnny. The younger man was throwing him a cocky grin. Johnny glanced over at his Captain and Mike Morton.
Hank was shaking his head in amused resignation at his youngest crew member. Mike Morton however wasn’t amused…he was frowning in irritation as Johnny climbed to his feet and moved to help his partner.
Roy waved the ambulance attendants in. “Alright Jeff…,” Johnny said rolling the man onto his back. Let’s get you to the hospital alright and hey you’re in luck…We even have a doctor here to check you out…Good service huh…?” Johnny grinned reassuringly at the man as they lifted him onto a gurney…Mike shot him a scowl as he moved in to check him out.
Roy and Johnny waited at the base station sipping their coffee and chatting with Dixie.
“How’s it going with Mike…?” Dixie asked.
“Fine so far…,” Roy answered, casting a glance at his suddenly silent partner.
“Johnny…?” She asked with a hooked eyebrow.
“Fine I guess…,” he mumbled quietly.
The blonde nurse threw a quick look at Roy…He frowned back at her. “What’s wrong partner…?
“He just doesn’t understand…”
Understand what Junior…?”
“Why we do what we do…Why I do. The risks we take that are a part of our job…”
“That’s why he’s with us today…So he will…”
“Well it’s not workin… Did you see his face Roy… He was uptight that I went in after that guy…”
“Johnny…,” Roy began.
“You’re right, I was…,” Mike interrupted from behind them.
Johnny held out his hand in a ‘see there…’ gesture.
“What do ya think we did wrong Doc…?” Roy asked.
“You could have found a safer way to extricate that man…What if Gage had moved wrong…?”
Johnny harrumphed in annoyance and his dark eyes rolled in aggravation. “I didn’t…,” he pointed out.
“But you could have…”
“You’re right I could have…Or he could have at anytime and brought the whole stack down on him…He also could have suffocated from that pallet on his chest…”
“But you didn’t know that…You just went charging in like always…”
“He told me he couldn’t breathe…,” Johnny snapped back…
“He was talking…he was breathing…”
“For the moment…but if I’da waited…”
“Alright you two…,” Dixie interjected, stopping the fight. "Mike…Did Johnny complete the rescue…?”
“Is the patient okay…?”
Dixie held up her hand. “Could that stack of pipes have fallen on him…?”
Yes…,” he said adamantly. “And Gage as well.”
“But it didn’t…Because John knows what he’s doing…”
“This time…he got lucky…but how many times have they brought him in on a gurney…?” Mike pointed out, nodding at Gage.
“How many times have they had to bring my victim in here in a body bag…?” Johnny countered angrily.
“The ends don’t justify the means…,” Morton said stubbornly.
Roy laid his hand on John’s shoulder in a calming gesture…Johnny blew out a frustrated breath… “Man, just…just…forget it…See ya Dix…,” Johnny snapped as he snatched up the Handy Talkie and turned away, brushing by Dr. Brackett without a word as he stalked out.
Roy shot an aggravated look at Morton as he picked up the supplies… “Doc, we’ll be in the squad…See ya Dix…” The older paramedic followed his partner out, nodding at Brackett as he passed.
“What was that all about Dix…?” Kel asked as he approached the base station.
“Kel…,” Morton began in exasperation. “It’s Gage…He just doesn’t get it…”
“That there’s always another way to accomplish a task instead of just barging ahead.”
“That’s not always true Mike…,” Kel argued.
“Ooh…Not you too…,” Mike complained.
“He’s right…,” Dix agreed.
“They make life and death decisions in the field just like we do here...,” Kel said. “Sometimes they they have to make them instantly. That’s what I wanted you to learn. The difference between them and us is they don’t get the luxury of running tests, taking X-Rays and analyzing the results.”
“Or go back and try again if they guess wrong…,” Dixie pointed out. “Their decisions are immediate and final…They have to live with them right or wrong…”
“They’re driven and dedicated to saving lives Mike…just like you,” Kel added.
“And everyone of them know they could save your life at the price of their own,” Dixie said softly.
“I can’t begin to guess what drives them to become fireman, but you can bet if I was trapped somewhere…,” Kel said sincerely. “I’d want Johnny and Roy to show up…”
“Well…I see they’ve got their cheering section…,” Mike said, feeling double teamed. “But I guess I’ll have to reserve judgment until I see that…”
“That’s what today’s all about…,” Kel agreed.
Mike headed out to the squad as Dixie and Kel exchanged a glance. The dark haired doctor shook his head at Mike’s lack of understanding.
As Roy walked out to join his aggravated partner, he was thinking some of the same things. Why do we do this? He knew he was called to it…every fireman was. Driven by a need to help others…to follow family tradition. Some did it for the glory or the adrenaline rush…It was certain it wasn’t for the money. For Roy it was the natural progression from army medic to rescue man to paramedic.
He knew Johnny’s was because of the way his father had died. Johnny had told him the story a couple of years ago. His father had been trapped in a fire…They’d been unable to reach him in time. Johnny had wanted to be a fireman for a long time, but that day had changed his dream from Tillerman to lineman…to paramedic. Roy wondered if Johnny even consciously realized when or why he’d changed.
To be the one who went in and brought the victim out. To make up for his father…so no other woman or child would receive that devastating news. Roy had put it together the day Johnny had told him. It had been a startling revelation into his partner’s sometimes overly enthusiastic manner. Roy understood Johnny when Johnny didn’t understand himself sometimes.
Roy couldn’t explain it to Mike Morton, Cap, Dixie or anyone else without revealing what he knew about Johnny’s personal life and he’d never do that without his friends permission.
The senior paramedic climbed into the squad and glanced at his younger partner. “You okay…?”
Johnny was staring out the window, worrying his lower lip with his teeth in annoyance. “Yeah…,” he answered curtly. He turned to look at his friend. “Roy…?”
“Am I missing something here…?”
“Like what Junior…?”
“HE doesn’t… I don’t… Why can’t…?” Johnny looked at Roy in frustration…Stumbling over his words as he always did when he was stressed.
“Slow down Junior…,” Roy advised.
John took a deep breath. “Why doesn’t he get it? This IS our job…It’s what we do. We save lives. Is that wrong…?”
“No… He just thinks there’s a nice clinical way to go about everything. He hasn’t learned that that’s not always the case… That’s why he’s with us. Be patient Junior…He may smarten up over the course of the day.”
John gave his friend a lopsided grin. “You think it’s possible…?”
“We’ve been surprised before…It could happen…”
“I guess…,” he said thoughtfully. John frowned. “How come he never accuses you of charging in?”
“Because you usually two steps ahead of everyone else and volunteering before I can…”
“Sorry…,” Johnny mumbled.
“Don’t be sorry Junior…That’s why we work so well together. I may take a little longer but we get to a right decision.”
“That why you hardly ever get hurt…?”
“Nah…I’m more coordinated than you and I duck faster too.”
Johnny gave him a mock frown before they both laughed, lightening the mood. “I think you’re right.”
“I usually am…”
Johnny rolled his eyes but nodded his head. “Okay I give…,” The young paramedic raised his hands in surrender.
Roy reached over and gave his friends sable hair a light scruff… “Besides…I have a crazy partner who keeps pushing me outta the way…?” Roy said with an arc of his blonde eyebrow. John grinned.
Mike Morton appeared at the passenger window. “Am I still invited…?” He asked looking at Gage.
The young, dark haired paramedic shot a look at his best friend… “Yeah sure…,” Johnny said, climbing out to let Morton inside…grateful that his partner could almost always put him in a better mood.
Morton glanced between them with a subtle shake of his head, baffled as usual by Gage’s mood swings. He’d never understood why these two were such a great team and often wondered why Roy had CHOSEN John Gage as his partner. He knew Roy had an over protective streak but it had to be more than that. He’d chosen Gage even before he’d really gotten to know him, when Gage was practically still a kid.
What did he see in the younger man…? Roy was dependable, responsible, mature, calm and straight laced while Gage was…in his opinion… Wild, reckless, over sensitive and sometimes Mike thought…Irresponsible…
Strangely Kel, Dixie and even Joe Early didn’t share his opinion. They somehow seemed to understand Roy and John’s relationship…They even encouraged it. They saw DeSoto and Gage as reliable, responsible, intense, decisive and enthusiastic. The two best paramedics they’d ever trained. Mike had to admit they were a good team despite what he saw personally…
He shrugged ruefully to himself, Kel and the others were aware of and were frequently amused or impressed by some of his antics but they never saw Gage the way Mike did…He respected all three of his friends at Rampart so It was something to think about.
Lunch was almost ready by the time they returned. They’d made idle conversation on the way back, none of them willing to bring up the rescue and restart the argument. Roy backed the squad in and the three men climbed out and headed for the rec room.
The engine crew was just sitting down. “Hey guys, just in time…,” Marco said, setting a bowl of chili and a plate of bread on the table.
“Great…,” Johnny said enthusiastically.
Morton half grimaced but sat down at the table casting a worried glance at Roy… “It’s really pretty good…,” Roy encouraged.
“Yes…I’ll just bet it is…,” Morton agreed half heartedly.
They all dug in…eating in silence for several minutes before Cap finally looked up at the young doctor. “So what did you think of your first rescue…?” he asked.
Across the table Johnny visibly tensed. Roy sighed knowing where this was going.
“Well…,” Mike said thoughtfully. “You got the victim out safely so I’d say it was successful.” The younger paramedic gave him a skeptical glance and seemed to relax. “But still…” Johnny and Roy both looked up sharply.
“Here it comes,” Johnny muttered aside to Roy.
“Yeah Gage…here it comes,” said Morton. “I still think there was a safer way…”
“How…?” Johnny asked. “What did you see that we didn’t? A better way I mean?”
“You could have pulled that stuff off of him first…”
“And maybe pulled the whole pile down on top of him…,” John shot back. “You saw how unstable it was. How fast it all came down once we were out…”
“Exactly…It could have done it while you were in it…”
“I knew what I was doing…I was careful…”
“What about the victim…What if he’d done something wrong?”
“That didn’t happen…”
“You were lucky…Moving it was the safer route…”
“Our victim would likely have suffocated before we could get to him…If we didn’t drop the whole stack on him…”
The engine crew was listening…unsure whether to stay out of it or jump to Johnny and Roy’s defense.
“But you didn’t know that…,” Morton pointed out. He cocked an accusatory finger at Gage. “But you still took a risk…went crawling in there when there might have been a better way if you’d just took a couple of extra minutes to assess the situation.”
“You’re right…We didn’t know,” Johnny snapped angrily. “We couldn’t know what was happening under there until one of us went in to assess the situation. What if he’d been bleeding to death or like he was…something laying on his chest and restricting his breathing… The decision needed to be made to check it out…We made it. Roy would have gone but I’m smaller…There are good points to being thin…It was the right move,” he growled.
“Maybe…This time… But I don’t understand why YOU…,” he stressed. “Always feel the need to go charging in…”
John slammed his hands on the table in frustration as he shot from his chair and leaned across the table towards the stubborn doctor. “You’re right…You don’t understand…You’ll never understand until you’ve seen the look in someone’s eyes when you tell them someone they love is dead…Dead because you failed to get the job done… When some guys standing in your living room telling your mom that her husband is never coming home or an eight year old that his father’s dead or to have to live with the abuse that comes af…,” Johnny suddenly choked on his words…They calmed to a whisper on the word "after"… He stilled his tirade when he realized what he blurted out…
John looked at the five shocked faces staring back at him. Roy was the only one staring at the table, a look of sympathy on his face…he’d already known.
Johnny took a deep breath, trying to regain control…His mouth trembled in shame and tears of sorrow welled in his eyes… “Oh God…,” he whispered in embarrassment. “I…I’m sorry…” He stuttered to the crew as he staggered back a step. John suddenly turned and bolted from the room.
They all looked at each other in stunned confusion followed by dawning realization. “Roy…,” Cap asked gently.
“Was he talking about his own mom and him? I mean…do you know…?”
“Yeah Cap…He uh…told me a few years ago…right after we became partners…”
“We never knew…,” Mike said softly.
“He never talks about his family…I mean except his aunt…,” Marco added quietly.
Chet bit his lip remembering how he’d ridden the younger man unmercifully about his family and mentally kicking himself for the pain he’d probably caused him. He should have guessed. “We were never sure if they were somewhere else or if they’d abandoned him or if they were dead or what…?” He said remorsefully.
“I’m so sorry…,” Mike Morton said softly… “I had no idea.”
“Roy…what abuse…?” Cap asked.
Roy shot them a look and sighed. “His father was killed in an oil rig fire when Johnny was eight. His Mother died three years later of cancer. He was uh…passed around from family member to family member after that. Some of them weren’t too happy about it and they let him know it. If you want to know any more than that…It’ll have to come from Johnny.”
“Oh man…,” Chet whispered.
Cap’s heart was wrenched but he looked at his senior paramedic stoically. “I should go talk to him…”
Roy stood up… “No Cap…I’ll go talk to him…He just needed a few minutes to himself first.”
Cap nodded… “Okay Roy…” The blonde paramedic left the rec room in search of his friend. He heard the soft murmur of voices as he left.
“Wow…,” Chet muttered. “That’s so awful…Man…all the times I picked on him about his family…,” he said…barely audible. The others looked at each other in concern…remembering the many times the Irishman had teased Johnny about family gatherings and how many times they’d laughed at John’s discomfort along with him.
“What do we say to him Cap…?” Mike asked.
“Let’s see how he is when Roy’s done…If he wants to talk about it fine but if he doesn’t then we go on as if nothing’s happened.”
“Okay Cap…” they agreed.
Hank turned his attention to the young doctor. “Dr. Morton…let me tell you something though…”
“What’s that Captain?”
“You seem to see John as irresponsible…charging into a situation without a thought…but that’s not true at all…John’s come up with better, safer sometimes ingenious ways to perform a rescue more times than I can count especially when we have time to really step back and assess a situation, but that’s not always possible…Like today. The man made it clear he couldn’t breathe…we simply didn’t have the time to shore up those pipes and remove them one by one.”
“Okay…,” Morton agreed quietly.
Cap smiled… “I’m not going to tell you I’ve never had to order John out of a dangerous situation…or Roy either for that matter…In fact I’ve had to do it for every man here and I’ve been ordered out of a few myself. We certainly don’t do this job for the pay, I can promise you. We do it mostly because we want to help people. Johnny is sometimes brash and overeager…,” he smiled sadly “And now we have a better understanding of why…but I guarantee you…He and Roy assess a situation quickly and efficiently…Sometimes even quicker than I do…They hit it from two very different viewpoints and come to a middle ground that usually works.”
The others were listening intently, nodding in agreement as Cap continued.
“But let me assure you…I wouldn’t send my men into a situation where I thought there was a safer way and disregarded it. I won’t send them in unless they have a better than average chance of coming out alive, but I’m also the one who sometimes has to send them in.” He indicated his men… “We’re a family here and I’m telling you, they’re very important to me and I won’t waste their lives needlessly.”
The others grinned… “And if you think Cap’s bad about us…Roy’s even worse when it comes to Gage…,” Chet assured him.
“I can see that…,” Mike said quietly. “I guess I have a lot to think about. I’ll keep what you said in mind Captain.”
Roy checked the dorm…peeked into the locker room, stopped to throw a glance into Cap’s office and then the cab of the squad…There was no sign of his friend anywhere… Roy finally wandered out to the parking area to check the rover. He stopped as he spotted his friend sitting against the wall by the back door.
His knees were drawn up to his chin, arms wrapped tightly around them with his head resting on his knees. He rocked softly back and forth.
Roy didn’t say anything…just slid down the wall to sit next to him.
Johnny didn’t acknowledge him verbally but the older man knew Johnny was aware of his presence by the subtle shifting of his body…not quite but almost leaning against Roy. The soft shudder of his shoulders let Roy know the younger man had been crying…something John rarely did… He reached over to gently lay his hand on his friends arm.
They sat silently for several minutes before Johnny finally lifted his head and leaned back against the wall. He used the heels of his hands to wipe his cheeks. “Man…do I feel stupid…,” he whispered to Roy.
“After what I just said…? I don’t even know where all that came from.”
“Oh I do…,” Roy said softly.
“What…? You do…?”
“Sure… I’ve known since the day you told me about your life and how you lost your dad…In fact…I was just wondering this morning if you were consciously aware of why you do your job with such intensity…”
“Really…? You were…?” Johnny looked at him curiously.
“Johnny…That morning after you told me what you’d been through and then later on the ledge when you told me all of it…You explained a lot of things about yourself. Things you do that stem from your upbringing. We all have those things in our past but yours were pretty traumatic for a child to have to deal with.”
John shrugged. “No more so than anyone else’s.”
Roy looked at him in shock. “Are you kidding me…?”
“Well…I mean other people have lost their parents…”
“John…that was hardly your only issue…,” Roy pointed out.
“Well…you lost your dad too….”
“When I was eighteen and that was divorce not a fire. I still had my mom…I wasn’t shuffled from one abusive situation after another.” John chewed his lower lip as he listened to his friend. “I didn’t have Aspergers Disorder and live in a family where screaming fights were normal like you and your mom had to. I wasn’t abused and molested and almost…assaulted by my uncle…Those things all effect you in your life…your thinkin, your job. They’ve made you who and what you are.” Johnny looked at him skeptically. “They’ve made you the hard working, dedicated and decisive paramedic that you are. They’ve also made you honest and loyal…They make you my best friend.”
Johnny finally turned to look at Roy with sorrow filled, watery brown eyes that tore at Roy’s heart. “You really mean that…,” he said with a sniffle. It was a statement not a question.
“You bet I do…John your dad’s death in that fire drove you to become a rescue man…To give up your dream of driving a tiller truck and replaced it with the one of pulling people to safety. It’s what you had to do. To be sure other people don’t go through the pain that you did if you could stop it…,” he said softly.
Johnny nodded… “Pretty bad that you recognized it before I did…,” he said softly, leaning to bump his shoulder against Roy’s…giving his friend a gentle nudge.
“I could see it from the outside lookin in Junior…,” he said reaching over to give his partner’s shoulder a teasing shove.
Johnny grew quiet…chewing his lip. “What did you tell them…?” He finally asked softly, looking sheepishly at Roy.
“I told them how your dad died and that you lost your mom three years later and that your family wasn’t happy about having to raise you…”
Johnny nodded, looking down at the pavement… “I can’t believe I did that…”
“What…showed them that you’re human…? That you can hurt too…” Johnny snapped his head around to look at Roy once more. “Let me let you in on a little secret Junior…They already know…”
“What do I say to them…?”
“An apology for getting angry maybe…but other than that…Nothing…”
“Nothing…?” He asked in disbelief.
“Nope…If they offer their condolences accept it…If they don’t, then accept the fact that they’re gonna just let things stand or that they don’t know what to say to you.”
“They care about you…More than they’re willing to let on sometimes…They wouldn’t think any less if you told them the truth.”
“I don’t want their pity…”
“Don’t worry about that Junior…It might be at first maybe but then they’d remember just who they’re dealing with…Their friend Johnny…”
John grinned crookedly. “You think so…?”
“I do…,” Roy said standing up and dusting his pants off. He offered his hand to Johnny. The younger man took it and Roy pulled him to his feet. He gave him a gentle shove toward the door. “Let’s go in Junior.”
They entered the rec room…The table had been cleared and the dishes washed. The guys sat around the table talking quietly…Obviously waiting for them. They looked up as Johnny and Roy came in. Johnny looked at the floor in embarrassment, scuffing the tiles with the toe of his boot. “Are you okay Pal…?” Hank asked.
John’s face was crimson but he nodded his head. “Yeah Cap…I’m ah…I’m really sorry for that outburst,” he said softly. He started toward the coffee pot but Mike Stoker stood up, reaching out a hand to stop him… “Johnny…There’s no need for you to apologize okay…and I’m really sorry about your parents.”
“I’m sorry about your dad…,” Marco said quietly.
“And your mom…,” Chet added. “We just never knew…”
“You weren’t supposed to…I just don’t like to talk about it…Besides it was a long time ago…” He said quietly, continuing on to the coffee pot.
“Pour me one too Junior…?” Roy asked.
“Sure thing Pally…,” he said smiling back at Roy.
Hank glanced at Roy with a smile of his own, wondering what Roy had said that brought Johnny around so quickly. He was always amazed at Roy’s ability to handle John Gage and his moods.
Mike Morton…the only non member of the crew stayed conspicuously silent. Cap tossed a glance at the man with a subtle jerk of his head. Mike took the hint, standing up and stretching. “Mind if I take a closer look at those rigs out there…?”
“Not at all…,” Stanley said with a grin.
John returned as the man left, setting a cup of coffee in front of Roy. Cap pulled the chair out from the table in an invitation for Johnny to sit next to him. John cast a nervous glance at his partner on the other side of him before sinking into the chair. “John…We’re all real sorry about the loss of your parents. That’s a tough way for a kid to grow up…,” He said quietly.
“Thanks Cap…,” Johnny answered, hoping he’d drop it there but Hank continued on…
“John…I want you to know we care about you Pal…And we don’t know what happened to you after that but if you ever want to talk…I’m available…My doors always open.”
“That goes for us too…,” Mike said quietly.
John raised his dark eyes to meet Cap’s, glancing hesitantly at the others around the table before they dropped once more. He sighed in resignation at the mixture of sympathy, concern and curiosity in their eyes.
“Um…You all know I’m only half indian…,” he said quietly. They all nodded, unsure of where this was going. “I was raised on the reservation where my mom grew up…my family ahh…was a little embarrassed by my uh…half br…um…half indian status…,” he corrected himself…seeing the tightening of Roy’s mouth.
“I see…,” Cap said in disgust.
“When my mom died I went to live with my mom’s sister and her husband…She um…didn’t like me much…I uh…embarrassed her,” John whispered softly. The crew was silent, even Chet kept his mouth shut. “She pretty much let me know she wasn’t happy about being stuck with me…My having Aspergers…well they didn’t understand…They just thought I was nuts ya know?”
Mike looked away in pain while Chet and Marco exchanged an angry glance. “I’m sorry Pal…," Cap said softly as Roy reached out to gently rest his hand on Johnny’s. The younger man’s fingers curled around it, seeking comfort and reassurance as he continued.
“They hurt me pretty bad so my Grandparents took me away from them…they sent me to live with my other aunt and her husband. They were…worse than the others. My uncle…,” John hesitated…unable to tell them about being molested…Roy squeezed his hand. Cap’s heart was aching…he reached out his hand to curl gently around John’s head pulling the younger man close.
“It’s okay…You can tell us or not…”
John’s eyes squeezed shut and he blew out a ragged breath…Chet, Mike and Marco…glanced at each other…their faces reflecting anger and sympathy…
“He…um…He beat me…,” Johnny whispered. “A lot…He um…,” John finally shook his head…his breathing rapid.
“God…,” Chet muttered…wiping his eyes. Marco reached over to pat his friends shoulder but his own dark eyes glistened. Mike was staring at the table…rage coloring his face at what he was hearing.
John regained control but couldn’t go on with what had happened with his uncle. “My grandparent’s finally figured out what was happening and took me out of there…Eventually my Aunt Rosemary showed up when I was fourteen…She brought me here to California and raised me…,” he finished quietly.
The crew was silent for several moments…each mulling over in their own minds what they’d just learned about their young friend. Roy stood and moved behind his partner…his hands resting lightly on John’s shoulders. “It’s okay Junior…You did great…,” he said softly, leaning close to John’s ear.
The more Cap learned about his youngest crew member, the more he realized what a complex individual John was. He watched his senior paramedic comfort his young partner and wondered idly what else Roy knew about John that he’d never shared. What else John was holding inside?
Cap glanced around at his crew and knew the words he’d used with Morton were the truth. They were a family and they’d come together for Johnny…Love him, protect him and occasionally torment him but no matter what…They’d be there for him. He remembered his first week as the Captain of this Station. He’d almost transferred the young paramedic…But now…Hank couldn’t imagine Station 51 without him.
The Station Control Unit broke the quiet contemplation of the men. “Station 51, Squad 36…Foam 127…Vehicle accident...Gasoline tanker involved… Northbound 405 Freeway…Nearest crossroad Wilmington…”
The crew was already moving toward the apparatus bay before the call out was finished. John shook off his embarrassment and ran for the squad…Mike slid in between them, glancing at Johnny’s face and then Roy’s…If anything had gone on, The young doctor couldn’t tell. The only visible look was the intensity on their faces as both men focused on the call…All else forgotten as they sped towards the freeway. Mike had a lot to reconsider.
Cap could tell it was bad as they approached the scene. Two cars had sideswiped one another…One had spun out on impact, sliding front end first under a gas tanker. The tanker…unable to stop in time, had dragged the small red car forty yards up the freeway before coming to a stop.
Smoke billowed from under the tanker. Roy and John gave one quick glance at the paramedics from Station 36… Bob Belliveau and Kyle Harris …Waving them toward the second vehicle.
Roy threw a look to his partner and nodded toward the car as Roy climbed up to check the truck driver. He sat at the wheel obviously shaken and holding his dislocated shoulder. Roy began to work on getting him out.
Johnny stooped to peer under the tank section…Checking out the car pinned beneath it. He pulled on his gloves and then tugged his chin strap a little tighter. He bent down and made his way under the tanker.
A man in his mid twenties was at the wheel unconscious. A baby strapped in a car seat was screaming in the back seat. Johnny tried the doors but they were jammed. He retreated to get a pry bar from the squad.
“Cap…I got two people trapped in the red car under the tanker…,” John called, pointing at the car. “Baby in the back’s alive. I can’t get to the driver. We got smoke and leaking gas from the tank…” John grabbed the pry bar and headed back.
“You want the Jaws?”
“Ahhh…No…Too much gas around…Might set it off…”
“Okay Pal…Guy’s…?” Cap called. “We need some water under that tanker…,” Cap directed. His crew turned the hoses away from the now smoldering white car and began spraying under the tanker…Trying to disperse the leaking gasoline.
Mike Morton’s eyes shifted from one scene to another. It was like a dance these men performed… Shifting from one move to another without breaking stride… Each one knowing their role and moving smoothly…
Mike heard the shouts as flames suddenly erupted from under the tanker. John broke into a run…Without thinking Morton moved to quickly intercept him.
“Tell me you’re not thinkin of goin under there…,” Mike snapped, clearly frightened at the thought.
“Yeah…,” Johnny said as he shook Mike’s hand from his arm.
“You’re crazy…There’s got to be a safer way…Wait til they get it under control…”
Johnny hesitated… He glanced at Mike and then at the tanker…The foam truck was just coming into view but the crew was having trouble containing the flames and the foamer was still a distance away. The tanker could go any minute…There wasn’t time. The exchange lasted ten seconds…John shook his head. “No time…It could blow before they get here…”
“With you under it…,” Mike yelled.
Johnny ignored him as he ran for the truck. He threw a quick glance back at Morton… “You move away…Now,” Johnny shouted at him.
Roy finished up with the driver. He looked up in time to see John shake Morton’s hand from his arm…He saw him glance between the doctor and the Tanker and then race toward the truck…yelling something back at Mike. Morton backed away…His look clearly said he thought John was crazy.
Roy broke into a run to go and help his partner. Johnny was just prying the door open when Roy arrived. Flames were still shooting from under the car despite the efforts of the linemen to beat it back…Flaring up where they weren’t…creeping inexorably towards the cars underside.
Cap was yelling into his handy talkie…telling the foam truck to hurry as the police worked frantically to clear a path for it.
Johnny reached inside and wasting no time to unclip belts and buckles…he stripped off his gloves and pulled out his pocket knife, quickly cutting the straps away. The young paramedic grabbed the baby from the car seat and backed out, handing her to Roy. “Go…Go…,” He yelled as he turned back to the front door and applied the pry bar. Roy ducked out from under the tanker, racing the baby to safety and shoving her quickly toward Morton.
“Here…,” he shouted before turning back to his partner.
The driver of the car groaned in pain as he began to come around. Awareness of his surroundings seeped in…His eyes flared in panic as he tried to look behind him at where his baby had been and then to the left toward the fireman prying his door open.
“Help me…,” he screamed in terror. The door popped open a crack and Johnny grabbed it and gave a shove fueled by adrenaline. He was reaching for the man when the flames suddenly shot from underneath the car completely engulfing the back seat of the vehicle. John instinctively flinched backward to protect his face and then turned toward the vehicle once more.
The foam truck finally arrived and its crew began to spill from it, working frantically to set up. The baby’s car seat was in flames. John slit the driver’s seat belt. “Get me out…Help me…,” he cried clutching at Johnny’s turnout and trying to get out.
The hose crew was desperately trying to battle the flames down but the car was now blazing and the young man cried out in terror as flames shot into the front seat. Johnny grabbed hold of the man’s shoulders and pulled but it wasn’t enough, the victim didn’t budge…The man’s clothing suddenly erupted into flames and the screams of fear turned to screams of agony. John felt a searing pain in his hands and jerked them away. The gas tank exploded blowing John backwards away from the car.
He struck the pavement hard, leaving him winded and disoriented. He gasped for air as he writhed on the ground in agony…His burned hands clenched against his stomach. The screaming abruptly stopped. John turned distraught brown eyes toward the car and the gruesome sight within. Tears of pain and frustration welled in his eyes.
Ten seconds…ten seconds more and he would have had him out…Ten seconds he’d wasted talking to Morton…Trying to find a safer way…He’d failed…
Roy was suddenly there…He grabbed his partner’s turnout, dragging him away from the flames and then knelt beside him holding him against him. “Let me see Johnny…Let me see your hands…,” Roy said urgently. “Look at me…Can you hear me…?”
Johnny turned anguished dark eyes toward his partner. “My fault…,” he gasped. “I hesitated…Oh God…,” he whispered as his eyes watched the chemical truck begin to spew out foam.
“What…? What are you saying Junior…?” Roy asked still trying to pull John’s hands away from his stomach.
John’s head lolled on Roy’s shoulder. “I hesitated…My fault…shoulda gone right back…”
“You didn’t hesitate that long Johnny…It’s not your fault…Now let me see your hands,” Roy grunted finally prying them away from his partner’s stomach. He forced the fingers open, breathing a sigh of relief. They were obviously burned and more than likely extremely painful but not as serious as Roy had feared. It could have been much worse.
Roy helped him to his feet, taking care to keep John from looking toward the car and the awful sight of the crew trying to extricate the unfortunate victim. He half carried his partner to the squad.
Cap came over to check on his young crew member. “He okay…?”
“I think so…,” Roy assured him.
Mike Morton arrived, having handed the uninjured infant over to Kyle Harris. “How bad…?” He asked.
“Not too bad…,” Roy said wrapping sterile cloths around Johnny’s hands and pouring saline over them. Johnny leaned against the squad, eyes closed as Roy worked on him. His silence worried Roy more than anything else. He was blaming himself and Roy knew he’d be hard pressed to make his friend understand that he wasn’t at fault…Not for anything.
Mike and Roy got his vitals… “BP is 140/90…Pulse is 80, respiration 16. His pupil’s are equal and reactive…,” Roy told him.
“John…Are you in a lot of pain…?” Mike asked.
A slow negative shake of the head answered him…He didn’t believe it, neither did Roy…He knew John would deny it hurt if his hands had been blown off…He still hadn’t opened his eyes.
“Let’s get him to Rampart…”
“I don’t need a hospital…,” Johnny murmured.
“I think you do…,” Mike replied. “I want Kel to take a look at your hands…”
Johnny’s troubled dark eyes opened and he looked at his partner. “I’m okay Roy…,” he assured his friend.
“Well Junior…On this one I have to agree with Morton. I’ll take you in the squad though okay?”
Johnny nodded in resignation and Roy helped him to his feet and into the squad. “Cap…,” Roy yelled.
“I’m taking Johnny into Rampart.”
“Okay Pal…,” Cap waved a hand in their direction then turned back to the accident investigator who was waiting his turn at the scene. Mike joined Kyle in the ambulance with the baby and the drivers of the two vehicles.
Johnny sat silently in the squad. His hands lay loosely in his lap. The haunted look in his eyes worried Roy and he knew Johnny was obsessing…replaying the rescue in his head. “You okay Junior…?”
John’s head snapped around to look at his partner in shock. “What…?”
“Don’t lie to me partner…I know that look…You’re not fine…pull that crap on someone else okay?”
John glanced down at his hands… “Sorry…,” He murmured. “I was…I mean he was…” John clenched his hands in frustration…punishing himself…wincing at the pain he was causing himself.
Roy reached over and rested his hand on Johnny’s bandaged fists. “Stop it John…,” he said softly.
John’s hands slowly uncurled. “He was screaming for help Roy…,” Johnny whispered. “I didn’t get to him in time…”
“You only had two hands…You got the baby…That was your first priority.”
“I could have got him too Roy…I was so close. I…,” John swallowed hard… “I hesitated…I…I had my hands on him when the fire flared. Maybe if I hadn’t let go…I coulda pulled him out… Damn it Roy…If I hadn’t hesitated…I’da had time…”
“John…You had no choice but to let go and you didn’t waste that much time. I was watching…You lost a few seconds…no more.”
“I had him…,” he cried out…
Roy pulled into Rampart… “We’ll finish this later…,” he promised as he spotted Dixie waiting at the ER doors. Roy put the squad in park and came around to open the door for his partner. He gestured his friend out with a slight tilt of the head.
John heaved a resigned sigh and climbed reluctantly from the squad. Dixie patted the wheelchair. “I don’t need that Dix…,” Johnny said quietly.
“C’mon tiger…humor me…Free ride…”
“Give it up Junior…,” Roy said casually. “She’s gonna win…” He took John’s arm and steered him toward Dixie. Johnny gave in and sat.
“Pretty painful…?” Kel asked.
“Not so bad now…,” Johnny said.
“You’re very lucky…From what Mike tells me…It could have been a lot worse.”
Roy nodded his agreement… "Much worse…”
Johnny tensed. “That guys dead because I didn’t do my job. What could be worse…?”
"Johnny…,” Roy began.
Kel looked at the young man sharply…his own words cutting Roy’s off. “I don’t think that’s true at all John. From what Mike told me, you very nearly died trying to get that man out of that car.” Kel noted that John had gone rigid at the mention of Mike’s name but he fell silent. “Can you move your fingers for me?”
Johnny complied, wincing slightly in pain but able to bend and straighten his fingers without too much difficulty. “So what else did Morton say…?” John asked softly.
“Only that he was concerned about you…”
“About me…Why…?” John asked suspiciously.
“He mentioned why you take a victims loss so personally…”
“Did he…?” Johnny said quietly, his eyes narrowing in annoyance. Despite the fact that Kel already knew about his family, it bothered him that Mike had talked about it without his permission. He bit his lip.
“I’m sorry Johnny…I never knew how your parents had died.”
“Thanks…Who else did he tell…?” He asked.
Kel glanced up at John, finally realizing that the young man was angry. Kel shifted his gaze to Roy who was rolling his eyes and shaking his head in irritation at Morton. “Was it a secret…?” Kel asked.
“No…,” Johnny said slowly… “It’s just not something I generally discuss…It sorta slipped out.”
“I don’t think you need to worry too much Johnny…He only told me and Dixie and I already knew they were dead…Just not how…It won’t be repeated to anyone else I promise you…,” Kel said. Johnny was only grateful the doctor hadn’t been present for the rest of the discussion. “He thought you took this rescue pretty hard.”
“Rescue…Rescue…,” Johnny snorted in disgust at himself…”It wasn’t a rescue…He’s dead.”
“Not because you didn’t give it your all partner,” Roy said sincerely.
“Yeah…? My all woulda had him outta the car in time…,” Johnny muttered, the emotional distress evident in his eyes and in his tone.
“Dammit John…Your hands were burning…you had to let go…”
“IF I HADN”T HESITATED…,” John yelled.
“I don’t think it would have made a difference…,” Roy snapped, cutting him off.
“You don’t know that…”
Roy reached out to lay a calming hand on John’s shoulder…“Neither do you…Please Johnny,” Roy pleaded. “Don’t do this to yourself.”
John looked away in dismay… “Okay Roy…,” he whispered, not wanting to upset his friend. Roy knew he hadn’t let it go…
“Can I go back to work…?” John asked.
Kel picked up a hypodermic and handed it to the younger man. “Let me see you handle it…”
John maneuvered it around his fingers, wincing slightly. The bandages wound around his palms and lower fingers not hindering his dexterity.
“Okay Johnny…but if you have any further problems come back in and let your partner handle any rescue that isn’t on level ground.”
As they left the treatment room, Roy gave his partner a gentle pat on the shoulder. Johnny and Roy turned to say goodbye to Kel. They looked towards the waiting room where a young woman stood listening to Dr. Early.
He explained that the fireman had managed to save her daughter but then Joe’s face set into sympathetic lines and they knew that he was giving the girl the bad news that they hadn’t been able to save her husband. Her hands flew to her mouth as she burst into tears.
Mike Morton came out of treatment room three. “Hey guys…”
“Mike…,” Roy acknowledged.
“The baby’s gonna be fine…”
“That’s great…Isn’t that great Junior?”
Johnny was silent…His dark eyes sorrowful…knowing this was the baby’s mother…The widow of their lost victim.
Joe glanced in their direction…nodding toward them and explaining that it was these two who had managed to save her baby…She’d appreciate that later but right now the pain of her loss was too raw…She looked toward them as well. She spotted the two firemen. Perhaps it was the bandages that drew her to Johnny but she suddenly walked straight toward them. As she neared, her hands balled into fists. “Why…?” She screamed at John.
Heads began to turn in their direction. The young paramedic stood silent…His eyes on the floor in dejection. The girl raised her hand and landed a ringing slap to Johnny’s face with such force that he took an involuntary step back. “How could you leave him to die like that?” She yelled as she advanced on him again. “How could you…?” She screamed again as tears streamed down her face.
John stood frozen as she hit him again, this time her hands clenched into fists as she pounded them against his chest. His own misplaced perception of his guilt kept his feet rooted in place, his hands at his sides…Not even attempting to ward off the blows…
“I’m so sorry…,” Johnny gasped out, barely audible as he struggled to keep his own emotions in check…
Roy finally recovered from the shock of the unwarranted attack on his young friend and moved to get between his distraught partner and the woman as she lifted her fists to deliver yet another blow. He caught her gently but firmly by the wrists… “Stop It…,” he said quietly, guiding her backwards a couple of steps into Dixie’s waiting hands. “He did everything he could to save your husband.”
“Oh sure he did…,” she said sarcastically. “Sure he did…” She sagged visibly and then began to weep.
Dixie looked at Roy and nodded towards Johnny, even as she put her arms around the young woman and led her away. Roy turned to his young friend at the same moment Kel and Mike recovered and turned their stunned eyes on Johnny.
Both of them opened their mouths to offer sympathetic words that Johnny would be deaf to right now. Roy cut them off. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine…,” Johnny choked out in a monotone. “Can we just go…?”
The older paramedic recognized the younger man’s need to retreat from prying eyes. “C’mon partner, let’s get outta here.”
Mike looked at Kel as Roy and Johnny left. “That’s unbelievable…,” he said quietly, for the first time understanding what Johnny had meant earlier that day about facing a family member… “Because you didn’t get the job done…,” he’d said.
Kel nodded in understanding remembering what Mike had told him.
Mike nodded in the direction the two younger men had gone. “His hands okay…? They looked pretty painful.”
“I’m sure they are and he’s hiding it…”
“And you sent him back to work?”
“He may hurt some but he can do his job…John wouldn’t put a victim at risk…” Mike looked at Kel in confusion and the older doctor raised an eyebrow… “You disapprove…?”
“That you let him go back to work injured…Especially after what I told you and then that lady blaming him for her husband’s death.” He let the statement hang…
“I think I had to send him back to work Mike… It’s like falling off a horse.”
“You have to get right back on…”
“Right…I could let him lie here or at home with nothing better to do than think about what happened but I think sending him back out there is the best therapy.”
“And keeping him close to Roy who’s John’s best therapist,” Mike asked.
“You’re learning…,” Kel said with a grin. “Don’t worry Mike… Johnny will bounce back…He always does. He just needs time to come to terms with it in his own way.”
“You’re so sure of him…?”
“I suppose I’m not welcome to join them?”
“Why not…?” Kel asked.
“John blames me for that man’s death. I can see it in his eyes…”
“He didn’t tell you…?”
Kel shook his head. “I stopped him on his way back to the car. I told him to wait for them to put out the fire…Man…I couldn’t believe he was goin in there.”
“Ahh…So that’s what he meant.”
“So he did blame me…?”
“No Mike…He blames himself. He never mentioned you… He might be angry that you still don’t understand what they do…need to do sometimes…but Johnny places the blame squarely and unfairly on his own shoulders.”
“Unfairly…? Are you saying I’m to blame…That I shouldn’t have stopped him?”
“Mike I don’t know what happened out there and it’s not my place to lay the blame anywhere. I’m saying you need to let them do their job. I cringe at the thought that my friends could be killed and Johnny and Roy are friends…We all remember the pain of thinking Johnny was dead last Christmas…Of almost losing him twice since then…What we felt when we thought we'd lost Roy in that plane crash. I also know it’s what they do…What they love to do and I accept that. I thought John was reckless and brash when I first met him too. I thought Roy was crazy…First for choosing some kid as his partner and later…Both of them just for being a firemen…paramedics. Then I really got to know them and what they do and how they feel. I have a lot more respect for both of them…” Mike nodded.
Their conversation was cut short by a yell from Roy… “Mike…You comin…?” Roy called.
“Yeah, I’m on my way…,” he said surprised that they’d waited for him at all…Morton threw Kel a wave and headed for the doors where his temporary partners waited.
Cap stepped out of his office as Roy backed the squad in. His brown eyes looking at Johnny searchingly as he climbed from the cab… “Hey Pal…?”
“Cap…,” Johnny muttered tiredly as he headed for the dorm…
Hank looked at Roy. “He okay…?”
Roy shook his head… “His hands are burned but Brackett released him…The victim’s wife was there…Cap she blamed Johnny…She slapped him…screamed at him….Accused him of not trying hard enough to get her husband out…”
“That’s a damn shame…,” Hank muttered. “He did everything he could to save that man…He shouldn’t have had to go through that.”
“Cap…If you coulda seen the look on his face…That woman couldn’t have done any worse to him if she’d stabbed him in the heart,” Roy said softly. Hank patted Roy’s shoulder.
“You gonna talk to him?” Stanley asked.
“I’m gonna get some coffee and give him some time…I’ll talk to him in bit…You comin…?” Roy said as he turned toward the Rec room.
Mike looked at Hank… “You think talking’s going to help…?”
“From you or me…? No… From Roy…?” Cap pursed his lips. “He’ll make sure Johnny hears him.”
Mike nodded skeptically… “If you say so…”
Roy sipped his coffee while Cap filled the others in on what had happened. “Poor Johnny…,” Marco muttered.
“That’s so unfair…,” Chet said in John’s defense. “He was almost killed tryin to get that man out…”
“We know that Chet…Now all I gotta do is get Johnny to believe it.” Roy set his cup down and slowly stood up. “I’ll go see what I can do…”
“Good luck Pal…,” Cap said as Roy headed for the dorm.
Seconds later Chet got up and followed. Mike and Marco exchanged a glance at each other. A moment later they followed Chet…
“Guy’s…,” Cap called after them shaking his head.
“Where are they going?” Mike asked.
“They’re worried about Johnny too…They want to be sure he’s okay…”
Cap sat drumming his fingers on the table. A minute passed. “Damn it…,” he mumbled as he stood up and followed his men.
Mike sat there alone for a few seconds… “Oh, what the heck…”
Johnny lay on his bunk…His left arm thrown over his face and even though he appeared to be asleep, Roy knew better. “Johnny…?”
“Hmmm,” he muttered.
“You okay…?” He asked sitting down on his own bunk.
The younger man sighed and lowered his hand. “Yeah…”
“Johnny…What happened at the hospital…”
“I’m okay Roy…,” he murmured as he sat up. The darkening bruise highlighted against his pale skin. The somber dark eyes wouldn’t meet Roy’s
“Johnny…What she said to you was completely unfair…”
“It was true…”
“I let her husband die in that car Roy…,” Johnny choked out. “I didn’t go right back…I shoulda gone right back,” Johnny said jumping to his feet to pace the floor in frustration…his hands raking through his dark hair.
“The investigator told Cap the man’s legs were pinned…You couldn’t have gotten him out, even if you’d had the extra time…”
“I shoulda tried…Maybe I could have…”
“You did try…,” Roy snapped back.
“I let go…”
“If you hadn’t you would have died too…or in his place…Would that be better?”
“Maybe…I don’t know…I don’t know…,” he whispered forlornly. “He had a wife…a baby…I don’t…”
Roy shot from his bunk infuriated, pointing his finger in his partners face. Johnny blinked in surprise… “You know John…I’m getting real tired of you sayin you have no family, so it doesn’t matter if YOU die…” Roy reached out and grasped his partner’s shoulders in a firm grip, giving him a hard shake. He had Johnny’s full wide eyed attention.
The crew stood watching, glancing at each other and hoping that the youngest member of their crew was finally listening.
“I hate to break this to you Gage…but you have a family now too…” Johnny’s eyebrows furrowed in a frown, obviously not getting it. “My Kids…My wife…The guys here…ME… You know we’d be pretty lost without you…Your life IS important too… To us… So quit thinkin that way. How do you think I’d feel if you'd died in that car?” Sometimes Johnny needed to reminded that he wasn’t alone anymore. He had people who loved him and would miss him if he were gone. Even his aunt who’d raised him had trouble getting the concept of her love for him across to her emotionally challenged nephew.
Mike Morton watched stunned. He’d never seen Roy DeSoto so angry at his young partner. The crew appeared to be unfazed. Cap gave Morton a wink. “Roy knows what he’s doin Doc…,” he assured the doctor in a whisper.
“It’s my job…,” Johnny began to protest.
“NO…,” Roy interrupted, adding another gentle shake. “No…It’s your job to try and you did that. It’s not your job to go in on a suicide mission. Cap wouldn’t even let you go if he thought it was that dangerous and you know it…” Johnny’s eyes dropped to the floor. “Neither would I. It’s not our job to die needlessly. I’d a pulled you out of there myself if I coulda reached you in time Junior…”
“I keep hearing him screaming …I hear what she said at the hospital…,” he whispered in dismay.
Roy’s hand slipped to the back of Johnny’s neck… “She was wrong…You were hurt yourself…We’re not supermen Junior…just firemen…” Johnny nodded hesitantly. “Look at me Johnny,” he said softly. John raised his eyes to meet Roy’s. “You didn’t do anything wrong at that rescue…Do you understand…?” Grief stricken eyes met Roy’s, but the understanding was finally there as well… "He would have died anyway and you with him…needlessly. YOU COULDN’T save him. Those few seconds didn’t matter. Let it go…You did everything you could….Let it go…,” he said again. Roy stared hard at Johnny, His blue eyes locking with John’s brown… “Okay…?”
“Kay…,” John whispered softly.
Roy gave John’s cheek a light pat before moving to gently slap his back. “How about some coffee…?” Johnny nodded.
The Crew made a hasty scramble to look busy so they wouldn’t be caught eavesdropping. Cap grinned at Mike Morton as the two paramedics exited the dorm. “John Gage 101…,” he whispered. Roy’s eyes met Caps as he and Johnny passed by him on the way to the rec room. He grinned and nodded. Cap smiled back.
Johnny remained quiet but at least made an effort to join in the conversation. Roy knew it would take a while for John to get over the man’s death and the wife’s accusation but he saw improvement as Marco and Mike’s harassment of Chet’s cooking brought…as it was intended…a crooked grin to his partner’s face.
Morton still saw the sadness in his eyes but he also saw that Roy had reached his partner. He was coming to terms with it as Kel had predicted. Chet was just dishing up whatever it was he’d cooked for dinner…but the SCU toned them out before they could eat it.
“Squad 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…Meet the caller. Fire Road 23 in Bear Canyon...”
“Squad 51…KMG365…,” Cap replied.
“Do you guys ever get to finish a meal…?” Morton asked, sliding into the cab.
Johnny gave him a small smile. “Not very often…,” he said quietly.
They arrived at the scene a short time later following the caller they’d met at the fire road. They saw where the car had plowed through a rocky area and plummeting for more than 50 yards…smashing through small bushes and knocking down saplings in its path before rolling over. It was now balanced precariously upside down on a ledge down the incline. “Oh wow…,” Johnny muttered as Roy snatched up the radio and keyed the Mic.
L.A. Squad 51…”
“Go ahead 51…’
“L.A….We have a car over a cliff…Dispatch engine 51 to our location along with an ambulance.”
“Roy…,” Johnny shouted.
“I’m goin down…Can you handle the rest of the equipment?”
“Yeah…You need the rappelling gear?”
“Umm…No…It’s not that steep. We can walk down but we’ll need the lines to get them back up…”
Mike went to help Roy with the equipment as he watched Johnny in admiration. Despite everything the young paramedic had been through today, Gage never hesitated. He threw a coil of rope over his shoulder and picked up the drug box in one bandaged hand and the biophone in the other and headed down the slope. If his burned hands were hurting…Mike couldn’t tell.
Roy was pulling the stokes from the rear compartment of the squad and came around to tie a rope to the squads front bumper. Mike set the trauma box inside the aluminum framework as Roy tied the rope to the front and slid it to the edge. The two men lifted it and started down to join the dark haired paramedic.
From his vantage point he watched Johnny quickly assess the situation. The victim inside the car moved causing the vehicle to rock dangerously.
“Don’t move…,” Johnny shouted as he grabbed hold of the tail end of the car, wincing as the metal bit into his seared flesh. “You gotta stay still...”
The vehicle stopped moving as the victim settled down. “Help me…,” A teenage boy’s voice called from inside.
“I’m gonna help you…,” Johnny yelled. “But you gotta stay still. Are ya hurt…?”
“My foot’s stuck and my arms bleeding…”
“A lot or a little…?”
“A little…,” he called back.
“Okay just hang on…”
The younger paramedic untied the stokes and reattached the end to the car’s undercarriage. “Johnny…I don’t know if that’ll hold.”
“It’s gonna have to.”
John tried to open the rear door but the tumble down the hill had jammed them. Moving around to the back Johnny lay down on his stomach. He reached under the trunk to peel the broken glass from the rear window frame.
“Let me go Junior…,” Roy said looking at John’s hands.
“Frames crushed…You won’t fit…,” Johnny informed him sliding forward.
At first touch the car rocked again and Mike’s heart froze in his chest as he realized John intended to climb inside the unstable vehicle. The one rope the only thing holding it. “We’re going to wait for the engine right…?” He asked nervously.
“That might be a good idea…”
The car rocked again and the rope creaked ominously. The boy screamed from inside. Roy was laying his whole weight on the tail section.
“This isn’t gonna hold long enough for the engine to get here…”
“I don’t know if I can hold your weight too…,” Roy argued.
“Gotta try…,” Johnny said as he began to wiggle inside the car.
“Johnny….,” Roy called. The car rocked again but Roy suddenly felt the weight of Dr. Morton as he laid his body over the tail end and grabbed a hold.
“Go ahead Gage…,” Morton said.
Johnny stared up at him in shock for a moment. “Thanks Mike…”
Johnny grinned and disappeared inside. He slowly worked his way forward lying on the roof. He reached the front and began to work to free the boy’s foot. Each movement brought a whimper of fear from the boy as the car teetered over the edge of the precipice. “Just hold on…,” Johnny grunted out reassuringly. “What’s your name…?”
“Well Kevin…Mine’s John…and we’re gonna get you out of here in just a minute okay…?”
Johnny worked quickly, every movement caused the vehicles nose to drop a little further forward. The car tilted and ropes creaked. Kevin cried out…
“JOHNNY…,” Roy called. “You’ve got to hurry…It’s not gonna hold. Where the hell is the engine…?” He muttered to Mike. The car slid forward and Roy’s heart pounded a little faster. “Johnny you gotta get out…"
“You’re not gonna leave me…?” Kevin choked out.
Johnny glanced toward the rear of the car. He knew Roy would be furious and he’d be in for it for sure from his partner and his Captain but the fear in the kid’s voice overrode it. “No…No Kevin…I’m not gonna leave ya.”
Johnny kept working despite Roy’s urgent demand for him to back out.
Dr.Morton’s voice called to him. “Break the ankle if you need to Gage but do it now…,” he yelled, fear plain in his voice as the car rocked yet again.
Johnny glanced at Kevin. “I think we’ve got it…,” he said giving the boys foot one final hard pull. The foot came free. “Let’s get outta here.”
Kevin managed to roll onto his stomach and crawl toward the rear window…He was of slender build so John wasn’t worried about whether he’d fit through. John waited for the teen to get past him and then began to back out himself. The car shifted as the Kevin crawled clear.
“Hurry John…,” Roy yelled, struggling against the weight of the vehicle.
Johnny could hear the wail of sirens in the distance and the engine was close…But it wouldn’t arrive soon enough.
Outside…Roy knew it too. The older paramedic saw one of John’s feet emerge and then the other. He breathed a sigh of relief but it was short lived as the car slid forward…the weight of the engine pulling it inexorably over the edge. “Get out now…Jump Johnny…,” he yelled in fear as the rope snapped. He dug his feet in, holding desperately to the car.
Mike felt the car slide. A glance down told him Johnny was only half way out. The cars momentum picked up…They were losing it and Gage with it. He let go of the vehicle as the rope snapped.
Johnny was halfway free of the vehicle when he suddenly felt it begin to slide. He tried to move faster but the car suddenly tilted forward, throwing him off balance. He knew he was about to go with it when he suddenly felt arms wrap around his waist, pulling him backwards. His head hit the window frame and darkness closed around him.
Mike knew they couldn’t hold on…he had only one option. He wrapped his arms around Johnny and gave one hard yank as Roy lost his grip on the vehicle. The car went over the edge, tumbling over and over, exploding about halfway down.
Roy stood in frozen horror for a moment before realizing Mike Morton was sitting on the ground with an unconscious Johnny in his arms.
Roy blew out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. He looked toward Kevin and reluctantly headed in his direction. Morton stopped him. “Roy…take care of your partner…I’ll take a look at the boy.”
The blonde paramedic threw him a smile of gratitude and moved back towards Mike and Johnny. The engine pulled up behind the squad. The crew ran towards them.
John’s eyes were beginning to flutter as Roy laid him back on the ground. There was a moment of confusion before recognition came. “R…Roy…? What hap…pened?”
“You hit your head on something when Mike pulled you outta the car.”
“MIKE…!” Johnny exclaimed in shock. His eyes flicked to the side to locate the young doctor. He saw him splinting Kevin’s ankle a short distance away. “How’s the kid…?”
“Broken ankle and a cut on his arm…”
“He’s pretty lucky…”
“Yeah…A LOT luckier than you’re gonna be when I get through with you.”
The younger man’s grin faded. “Ahh Roy…I couldn’t leave him…”
“I ordered you out…”
“I know but…”
“But I was this close…,” he said stubbornly as he held his thumb and forefinger an inch apart. “And I got him out,” he said stubbornly.
“You were this close…,” Roy said imitating the gesture in front of John’s eyes… “To going over with that car…And it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still the senior partner here and you disobeyed a direct order.”
Johnny chewed his lip, knowing Roy was right and he could be in a world of trouble if Roy was truly angry with him. “I couldn’t lose this one…,” he said softly, turning those dark eyes on his partner.
Roy looked away… “But we could lose you? We back to that again…?”
“No…,” he mumbled.
“You could have backed out…Helped us hold the car until help came.”
“He asked me not to leave him…I…I couldn’t.”
Roy shook his head in exasperation. “You’re impossible.”
“Would you have…?” Johnny challenged.
Roy looked away… “I don’t know Junior…Maybe…If Cap had ordered me out.”
“Liar…,” Johnny whispered as his eyes closed.
The Engine crew finally made it down to where they were. “Is he alright…?” Cap asked pointing at Johnny as the dark eyes re-opened
“Yeah Cap…He’s gonna be fine. He just took a knock on that hard head…” Johnny shot him a grin but it faded as Roy continued. “But I’m still taking him to Rampart with our victim.”
“Don’t start with me Junior,” he warned.
“We’ll get the stokes off the engine…”
“I can walk…,” Johnny protested.
“Not right now…”
Johnny rolled his eyes in irritation. “How’s Mike doin over there…”
“The kids ready to transport.”
Mike moved to Roy’s side. “How are you feeling John…?”
“I’m fine but Roy won’t let me get up…”
“Uh…Mike…?” John began hesitantly.
“Thanks…um…Thanks for pulling me out…You ah…probably saved my life but you took an awful risk…My weight mighta pulled you over with me…”
“Hey…,” Mike said. “It’s what we do right…?” He quoted Johnny’s words back at him…
The younger man grinned. “Yeah…Yeah it is…”
“Roy…What are his vitals?”
“BP is 120/80…pulse is 70…respirations 16…his pupil’s are equal and reactive. He has a small contusion on the back of his head and a facial laceration.”
“Sounds like he’s okay but let’s get him to Rampart.”
Mike had the opportunity to talk to Roy while they waited for word on Johnny. “I heard what he said about not losing this one…”
“Yeah…He’s still pretty upset about not gettin that other guy out.”
“The fact that the wife blamed him certainly didn’t help.”
“Yeah…,” Roy agreed. “That was pretty rough on him.”
“You know Roy…I think I finally understand you guys…Well kind of…,” He waffled at Roy’s arced brow.
“Man when I saw that car start to go and realized Gage was still in it…I didn’t even think…I just reacted. I realized you were right…Sometimes you have to just do what it takes without taking the time to think it through. If John had listened to me…That boy would be dead…And I watched him at the scene…He was cool and looked over his options…He still took a risk but only because there was no other way…”
Roy smiled. “Well I’m really glad you were there to help out…You probably saved my best friends life…”
“No…Thank you…,” he said giving the man a pat on the shoulder.
They both looked up as Kel came out of treatment room two. “He’s fine…,” he reassured them. “Just a minor concussion.
“Great…,” Roy said with a sigh of relief.
“He can probably go back to work next shift. How about you Mike…? Learn anything…?”
“Yeah Kel…I’ve come away with a great deal of respect for Paramedics and what they do out there,” he shrugged. “And a better understanding of why they do it…”
“Then this was worth it…And um… Mike…?”
“I told you so…” Brackett smirked.
Three days later Johnny was making beds in the dorm. Cap being very conscious of Johnny’s still bandaged hands and the lingering headache from his concussion had assigned him the easiest detail much to Chet’s loudly but half hearted protests.
“John…,” Cap hollered.
“Yeah Cap…?” He yelled back, coming to the doorway of the dormitory.
“You got a visitor…”
The younger man came from the dorm, curious as to whom his guest might be. He rounded the front of the engine and froze. His hand lifted subconsciously to his cheek.
Standing with Hank was the young wife of the man who had died in the car fire. She held an Infant in her arms.
The rest of the crew had left their chores, curious about Johnny’s visitor as well. Roy was the only one who recognized her. The engine crew looked at the older paramedic in surprise when he quickly moved to his partner’s side to hover protectively at his shoulder. Johnny glanced at him, giving him a smile of amused gratitude.
The young woman moved toward him… “Mr. Gage…I’m sure you remember me…?”
“Yes Ma’am…,” Johnny replied softly.
“My name is Jill Patterson and I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what I said to you and for hitting you…”
Johnny’s friends suddenly realized who this woman was…They edged a little closer.
Jill reached up to softly touch the bruise as she spoke. Johnny pulled back slightly but then allowed her to rest her hand on his cheek. “You didn’t deserve this or what I said to you…”
“I…It’s um…I mean… that’s okay…,” he said with a flustered shrug as he ducked his head away.
“It’s not okay… Your friend Dr. Morton came to Adam’s funeral.” She reached out to lift one of John’s bandaged hands. “He told me you were with Adam when the car exploded…He said that’s how your hands were burned.” John stared at her in surprised shock… “He said you could have been killed when the car exploded…That it threw you backwards…He said you went under there even though you knew you could be killed…”
She began to cry softly. Johnny looked frantically at Roy not sure what to do. Roy shook his head, letting him know there was nothing that needed to be said as she continued.
“I was so upset that day that I didn’t stop to think I could have lost her too…,” she said, chucking the baby under her chin. “Dr. Morton said if you hadn’t climbed in and got her, Michelle would be dead as well.”
Johnny was growing more red faced by the minute. “I was ah…Just doin my job…I’m really very sorry I couldn’t get to your husband in time…,” he mumbled.
“But the point is that you tried…” She smiled through her tears. “I have to go but I just wanted you to know.” John’s face turned crimson once again as she stood on tip toe and kissed his cheek in farewell. “Thank you for forgiving me, but Mr. Gage…?”
“Yeah…?” He asked.
“Forgive yourself…” She smiled again and turned to leave. Hank escorted her out.
“Thank you Mrs. Patterson…,” he said softly.
“No…I needed to thank him…He’s a very brave man to do what he did…”
“Yes he is…,” Cap agreed softly.
The others gathered close to Johnny. “Wow…!” The young paramedic said softly. “For a minute there I thought she was here to finish what she started,” he said, brushing his fingers against the bruise. “I can’t believe Mike Morton did that for me…”
“I can…,” Roy said. “I told ya he could change.”
“Roy…You know I hate I told you so’s…”
“The day you got hurt he told me he’d finally come to understand why we do this and that he had a lot more respect for us and our job…”
“What…? Why didn’t you tell me…?”
“I was gonna when we had a chance to talk…”
They were still arguing when they disappeared into the rec room. The others grinned as they turned to follow them, knowing their young friend was gonna be fine.
The Character’s of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. Thank you for allowing us to use them from time to time. Any medical mistakes are mine.
Posted to Site 02/21/10
Home | Emergency Stories by Tammy | Send Stories | Fun Page | Guest Writer's
The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
Copyright © 2009 - 2010 - 2011 -2012
Send feedback or post your story by sending an email to Tammy at firstname.lastname@example.org.