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The Waiting Game

Part 1

An Emergency Story By




“Are you about ready to leave?”  Johnny called from the kitchen as he grabbed another sticky bun. “I took everything out to the car.”


“Yes dear heart…You won’t get latrine duty because of me, I promise.”
“No problem, besides, that’s a small price to pay for extra cuddle time with you.” He smiled as she wheeled herself into the kitchen. “Wow, you look great.  New outfit?”


“From the last time Jo and I were over to see Liz. Glad you like it. Ready?”


Johnny parked next to her parking spot and quickly got her chair and tote out of the back. She smiled as he lifted her into the wheelchair then kissed her when she put her seat belt on. He started pushing her towards the door.


“I can make it…you need to get to work darlin’.”


He ignored her comment and wheeled her into the ER hallway. “See you and Roy at 11?”
“Yeah and Brice. Man, doesn’t he ever get tired of being a pain in the…”


“John Roderick there are children in the waiting room.” She giggled since she had said the same thing last night as she was getting her folder for today’s meeting in order. “He has asked for time to present his opinion and concern. That is totally in the by-laws of the committee. Now go…before you are late.” He bent down and kissed her. “Love you.”


She wheeled herself over to the nurses’ desk. Carol was behind the desk.
“You look happy this morning. Dr. Brackett said to remind you that he is going to bring guests to the meeting. He also said something about a pay off on a bet?”


“You tell Dr. Brackett he is very funny…and here is something to ease the pain of his lost. Make him share them with you and Dixie and Joe.” She placed a box of sticky rolls on the counter. Have a good day.”

She went upstairs and began the day’s work.


Johnny did make it into roll call before Chet but surprisingly it was Mike who came in last. No one could recall when he had latrine duty last…and even then, it had been from regular rotation.


“Ok, lets get on those chores…DeSoto and Gage are stood down at 10:45 to go to the monthly advisory board meeting. If there is anything you want them to bring up let, they know. Kelly, don’t even start on what they are bringing back here to eat.” Captain Hank Stanley said with a warning look.
Johnny and Roy went out to the squad and did morning checks. Roy was surprised at how quiet Johnny was as they worked on the hoses after the checks were completed.


“Something wrong?” Roy asked after ten minutes of silence was getting deafening.


“Nawh, just thinking. How did you and Jo decide how to decorate Chris’ room before he was born? Did you have a theme or just wait?”


“We just kind of waited. Most of the stuff that Jo got at her shower was neutral so it could be used for a boy or a girl. After he was born we got a lot of fireman themed stuff from friends and family.”


“Lee’s starting to think about what she wants in the nursery.” He sounded worried. “She’s been making lists of names but doesn’t know I’ve seen them. She’s still afraid to share what she’s feeling…But she’s trying and has been going to see Anna more.”


“So what else have you worried?” Roy could tell there was something else bothering him, something more serious.


“We got a letter in the mail yesterday. The trial for Troy Braxton is scheduled for June. They keep postponing it for medical reasons. They have done two surgeries on his right hand and some plastic surgery on his face. There wasn’t any thing they could do to save his left hand.”


“They never found out who beat him up, did they?” Roy questioned his partner.


“No, Cisco has a pretty good idea who did it he just can’t prove it. Lee’s satisfied with the outcome of the mess with Wilson Chambers. The money she got from him went to several charities. It was never about the money for her. It was about making sure that it never happens to anyone else.”


They finished the hose and headed back inside for something to drink. Johnny had just taken a big gulp of milk when the SCU sounded. Taking another gulp, he sat the glass in the sink and headed for the squad.

Lee finished setting up the conference table. At each place was a folder with the previous meetings notes in it, and an agenda for this meeting and a slip to fill out for any suggestions or topics they would like to see at the next meeting. She had scheduled Brice’s comments for the first item. If Johnny and Roy were late, they would be ok with missing that. If they were there, they would enjoy the food. People started coming so she went into host mode. Soon everyone was there except Johnny and Roy. Brice came into the room. Lee smiled when she saw the look on his face when Chief McConnike walked in. “If you all would like to get some food, we’ll get started in about five minutes.”


“You think that will give your husband and his partner time to get here?” Brice asked. “It seems as if these meetings never start on time because they are always late A more efficient choice would to schedule these meetings on days they are not on shift. Time is wasted waiting on them and people eating and socializing is not …”


“Mr. Brice, Mrs. Gage puts a great deal of time and thought into these meetings. I find your attitude rude and insulting. Miss McCall do you have any idea where Squad 51 is?” Dr. O’Donnell asked. The Hospital CEO was not happy with the brash paramedic. He usually didn’t attend these meetings but had been invited it join them today by Kel.


“Station 51 responded to a building collapsing. They should be on their way in if nothing changed as I was leaving the base station”


The small two story brick and wood building was going to be a clothing shop that specialized in baby and children’s clothing on consignment… The owner and his sons were gutting the building. None of them had ever done anything like this before and had no idea of how it should have been done. The estimates they had gotten from several companies had been more than they could afford. As the two swung the heavy hammers against the plasterboard and studs, they had no inkling that it was a weight-bearing wall they were destroying.


Hank looked at the crumbled side of the building. “Vince, call the power company and shut down these lines the neighbors said there were 3 or 4 guys working in there earlier. They began clearing out the debris working towards the center and left side, which seemed the most heavily damage.


“Hey, over by the doorway…” Chet called out as he saw a foot. “We got someone.” Roy and Chet carried the unconscious man out to the edge of the lawn. Roy sat up the bio-phone after doing the initial assessment.

Johnny and Marco could hear someone calling for help when they entered the large room. They followed the sound and came to a large sheet of plasterboard that was partially covering the space under the staircase trapping the man calling for help. There was a pile of debris holding the board in place at a strange angle.


“Get me out of here before this whole thing crashes down.” They could hear the creaks and groans the building was making. “Just calm down, we’ll get you out…You hurt any place?”
“My leg is bleeding and my shoulder hurts…My brother…did you find him?  I think he was hurt… heard him scream.”


“My partner already has him outside…was there anyone else in here with you?”


“No, they went to the store.”


“Where are you feeling the most pain?” Johnny asked as he and Marco worked carefully to free the trapped man.


“My foot…my left leg…” The man moaned as the plasterboard shifted and cracked. “Gonna come down on us…” He panicked.


“I said just calm down, we’re gonna get you out of here. Marco, I think if we can move this.”   Talking softly with his back turned towards the victim, “Marco, this guy has a large gash on his calf. I’m afraid once we lessen the pressure we’re gonna get a blood splurt …A bad one. But I can’t reach him to get any type of pressure bandage on it.” Marco could hear the frustration in his friend’s voice.  “Go see if we can get some help.” The angle the broken plasterboard had bent in had formed a pressure point of sorts slowing the bleeding.


Roy had called in the vitals of the first victim and had him ready to transport. He looked towards the building. He saw Cap going in with Marco.

“What do you need me to do?” Cap asked as he bent down to get a closer look at the problem.


“See if you and Marco can pull this piece of wall away so that I can get behind it and get a pressure bandage on him. That way I might be able to minimize the blood loss.”


“If we can move this without breaking that section it might work.” Cap and Marco carefully pushed and shoved until the opening was wide enough for Johnny to push his way in.    It began to crack. Bending and twisting in the narrow space, he managed to start the gauze around the deep gash, but before he could get enough pressure on the wound it sprayed his shirt and face. He managed to turn his head enough that he didn’t get the spray full force in his face but the blood was dripping from his hair. Johnny worked fast as he could in the position he was in but he still worried about the guy bleeding out before he got the bandaged tight enough to get him out.

Roy contacted Rampart giving the vitals and other requested information as Johnny tried to clean his face and hands.


“Pal, you’re a mess…Maybe you can grab a quick shower and some scrubs and still make your meeting.” Cap said.



“Excuse me, Lee.” Lois from across the hall came into the office. “You need to see this.” She handed Lee a note.

“Thanks…in my top desk drawer.” Lois went over to the desk and took a set of keys. Lee thanked her and turned back to the task at hand which was the reading of the minutes from the last meeting. Roy came in, nodded to Lee and fixed a plate. He moved quietly into his seat.

“Ok, let’s get started. I am assuming you all received the minutes from the last meeting and had a chance to read over them. Is there any corrections or additions?” Lee said. “If not we will go on to introduction of guests…I believe you all know Dr. Patrick O’Donnell. He is the CEO and has been a staunch supporter of the paramedic program from the start.  We have two guests from the LA county Fire Department. Firefighter/paramedic Craig Brice and Chief McConnike. As you know if you read the by laws of this committee any person who has a question or concern about our committee or wants to bring up a topic for us to look into is welcome to come speak. This goes for the public not just this hospital or any agency involved with this committee. Our regular members are asked to let me know if they have a topic they want added to the agenda a few days before the meeting.”


The door to the office opened and a slightly damp John Gage came in.

“Gage, you’re out of uniform.” Brice stated the obvious. “Unless you have been stood down for medical or other reasons it is totally unacceptable for you to be dressed like that while on duty.”


Johnny looked at Lee, smiled, and shrugged his shoulders.


“Brice, give Gage a chance to explain why he is dressed like that.” McConnikee ordered. Johnny had on a LAC Fire Department sweatshirt and a pair of black jeans. He had a pair of sneakers on instead of his work shoes.


“Yeah, well, it seemed like the best solution to the problem at the time. During the rescue, I got a little messy and I thought that rather than go back to the station to get cleaned up I’d do it here.  I knew there were clean clothes in Lee’s car. …Soon as I get back to the station I’ll get a clean uniform on. It would have taken me longer to just get to the station than it took me to get a shower and changed here.”


“That still doesn’t change the fact you are out of uniform.” Brice said with a frown. “What would you have done if your wife hadn’t had clean clothes for you?”
“Showered here and gotten some scrubs…like I’ve done it before.”


“Get something to eat and we will continue with the agenda. Yes Mr. Brice, I know we would not have this problem if I scheduled these meetings on mine and Johnny’s day off. But then since I am irresponsible and have no sense procedure I guess that just makes me even more unqualified for this job and selfish to boot.” The sarcasm in her voice was hard to miss but her face was perfectly calm. No one said a word but there were some raised eyebrows and puzzled looks “If there are no changes to the previous minutes, we’ll go on to the next item on the agenda. Mr. Brice had some comments he wanted to share concerning a safety issue.”


Brice actually did have some very good points that he brought up in his presentation. There had been a rash of fires and explosions from improperly stored tanks for the gas grills and charcoal grills that had either been left to burn out or disposed of incorrectly. After he finished and answered some questions, he left. After he had left the room, Lee relaxed a little. “Boyo, would you get me a soda please before we start on the next item.” She knew he was probably still hungry but not wanting to disturb the meeting again by getting up. While he was away from the table one of the others asked Roy what exactly happened on the rescue.


“He had a victim trapped by some building material. When he got to him, he had to deal with a fibular artery that had been cut…He got sprayed in the face and chest trying to get the victim into position to put a pressure bandage on him. He was in kind of an awkward twisted position so he had a pretty good idea what would happen. But ya know Johnny, what he needed to do for the victim is what he did.”


“And the victim?”


“In surgery…they had to give him two units of blood before they could even start. But they think he will be fine.”


Several other reports were given then Lee turned the meeting over to Chief McConnikee and Dr. Brackett.


“As you all know, last year we were part of an event that was co -sponsored by the state and the LA County Fire Department. Using information learned from the experience the state is holding two smaller but similar events in the San Francisco area and another location to be determined. This year in July, we will be co - sponsoring a Health and Safety Fair in conjunction with Rampart and other area hospitals. I am sad to say that Mrs. Gage will not be helping us, at least officially.” The Chief looked over at her and Johnny who just smiled and nodded. “Dr. O’ Donnell will be getting together with his people and hopefully this event will be as successful as last year’s Fireman Challenge.”


“May I ask why you aren’t helping this year?” Asked the representative from the Sheriff’s department. “Is it because of the pending trial?”


“Partly but I need to concentrate on my work here and with the WBS foundation. Which will be giving your project a grant of $5,000 to help with some of the medical tests that will be available? They are hoping that many of the county residents that don’t have family doctors or the money for preventative care will come and get the basic assessments. Social service agencies will have booths. There will also be drug reps and others there to showcase their products, with some programs that will help people find some solutions and options. If everyone is finished eating I am going to have the food boxed up so Johnny can go get changed and back in service. If anyone wants to get a snack to take along feel free. I have been accused of being bias and favoring Station 51 so if you want to take some of this you are welcome,” she had ordered more than usual for the luncheon knowing she was going to offer this option.


The food was quickly boxed up. Johnny kissed her and whispered in her ear then they left. Lee finished what little clean up there was before typing up the minutes from the meetings. She then did the update from the information she had received in yesterday’s mail.


Dixie was finishing some charting when Kelly came up to the desk. He was getting ready to leave for the day.


“Dix, has Lee said anything about quitting her job to you?”


“No, from what she said today it sounded as if she was more committed to it than ever. I think the guys up in Sacramento had expended what they want her to do so she has to prioritize it more. She uses to just work with LA county information now its most of the state.”


“Yeah but the way she reacted to Brice and his comments, like she didn’t care because it wasn’t going to be a problem much longer. Those programs she runs and writes have helped not only paramedics but other agencies too.”


“You worried if she quits working and travels like she talks about, Johnny will leave the fire department? I wouldn’t worry about that…they love that house too much to go traipsing off for too long. You should hear the plans Johnny has for The Grove.”


“Maybe, but she has something on her mind she isn’t telling.”


“I think they are just so happy that they are finally going to Hawaii the other stuff isn’t phasing them.”


“I hope so. This last year has been tough for them.”


“As long as they are together they’ll be fine.

“Yeah, if anyone deserves some breaks in life it’s John Gage. Want to go over to O’Sheas’ for dinner?”



Two weeks later Lee was back in the office catching up on a few things that Nell had not been able to do. She had just finished when Johnny and Roy came into the office.


“So what have you two been doing?” She asked after getting a kiss. “You have a good day?”


“Yep. Just did some inspections and the only run we had so far was minor. A lady tripped over her new kitten and sprained her ankle. She was more scared than hurt.” Johnny answered as he made a sandwich. “You want anything? We called in for a lunch break.”


“No but thanks for asking. So, Roy, did you talk to Ruth Anne? I saw her earlier when I stopped by to get the grant applications.”


“Jo did…we sign the final papers tomorrow and start moving in. Most of the boxes and our furniture are already there…and if I need help moving or rearranging anything, I’m suppose to call her. The ramp is all set up.”


“I know. “ Lee said giggling. “Our dear friend is complaining we destroyed the neighborhood.   The woman is a snob at best and a bigot at worst.” she shrugged it off. “She won’t be bothering you for long. Her husband is retiring and planning on moving to Nevada. He owns the house and is planning on selling it back to WBS. He hasn’t lived there for about 3 years.”


“I guess I need to tell Cap today and start the paper work on changing my address. Ruth Anne said she had already contacted the insurance companies about the change.” The guys finished their lunch and were getting ready to leave.


“I’m going to stop by and see Anna. I got some tapes for her from the gift shop.”


“She’ll like that…She smiles more when the music is playing.” Johnny said. He was really happy that she was making more of an effort to see Anna. She had even stopped by a paint store to get some ideas on what colors they might want to paint the nursery. Ever since they had moved into the house, she had kept that room locked. “That’s great Sweet Pea. Ya know, everyday brings us closer to that miracle we thought we lost a year ago.” Johnny kissed her lightly. “See you in the morning.”


Roy was the one who did most of the talking as they drove back to the station. “Maybe after we sign the papers the four of us can go have lunch and celebrate. Jo was going to start packing up our things today, not that we have that much there…I think I know exactly where I am going to put my pottery wheel and all the stuff that goes with it…And the kids can have part of the basement for a rec room. That’ll be really nice, as they get older. They have already picked out which bedroom they want. Chris is getting the one with the build in selves…”


“The kids know you’ll be moving tomorrow?”


“No, didn’t want to tell them before school. Figure they are gonna be as excited as we are. Didn’t want to make it hard for them to concentrate.”
“That makes sense. Jo tell her mom yet?”


“She was going to call her today. Her mom was kind of snitty when Jo called after we got home.”


“Gotta minute, Cap?” Roy asked as he stood in the doorway to the office. Johnny was unpacking the food.


“Sure Pal. Everything ok?”


“Yeah, in fact everything is pretty great. I need the forms for change of address.”


“You’re moving? Is there a problem with the rebuild on your place?” Concerned, Hank stopped looking for the forms.


“No, it’s going good. We had a chance to sell our house and get this really great house. It was such a great deal and Jo and I both really like the house and its location.”


“That’s great pal. Glad something good came out of that whole mess. If you need any help in moving stuff let me know.”


“Thanks. WBS is taking the stuff we have in storage over tomorrow and we should be able to get the stuff from the pool house in a couple of carloads. It’s mostly clothes and a few pictures we have there.”


“Well, if there is anything let me and Emily know.”


“Thanks, we’re planning a thank you dinner for the station when we get everything settled.”


Roy and Cap went out t the kitchen where Chet and Johnny were bickering.
“I said you can’t have any until dinner. It wouldn’t be fair to the others.” Johnny had the box of cupcakes in his hands. “So keep your hands off.”


“How many did you have already? Look, one little cupcake isn’t gonna hurt…”


“If you two can’t find something better to do I’ll find something for you.”
“Cap, honestly do you think it would be so bad if I got one cupcake before dinner? I mean what’s the big deal?” Chet complained. “Gage probably stuffed his face when he was at that meeting.”


“Cap, Lee sent 18 cupcakes…I leave the box here 5 minutes and I come back and there is 3 cupcakes gone. Chet here is holding the box…What am I suppose to think?” Johnny countered.


“Kelly, did you take any cupcakes out of that box? Even if it was just too   annoy Gage?”


“NO, honest Cap.” Chet looked worried. What if they didn’t believe him?
“Good, then you twits are done arguing, understood?”


“Yes, sir.  Sorry Cap.”  Johnny held out the box… “Have a cupcake.”

Jo was going to pick Roy up at the station after dropping the kids off at school. Cap and Johnny were still the only ones who knew about the move. For some reason he didn’t understand he didn’t want to tell the others until it was a done deed. Johnny got a glass of milk and went over to the table.

“Yeah. I think I can kind of understand what Lee is feeling.” Roy’s answer surprised Johnny.


“Glad you can…maybe you can give me a clue.” Neither man had noticed Chet coming into the kitchen.


“Gage, you have been clueless so long you wouldn’t notice one if you tripped over it.”


“Ha ha very funny Kelly.” Johnny gave him an annoyed look. “Any idea what time you’ll be back to the house?”


Nope, depends on what Jo wants to do after we finish our errands.” Roy checked his watch again. “She should be here soon. Think I’ll go out and wait for her.”
Twenty minutes later Roy and Jo were sitting across from Jaxon Shepard and a stack of papers to sign.


“Kinda feels like we’re signing our life away.” Roy said as he signed the first paper.


“No, just you’re first born.” Jaxon’s easy smile put Roy at ease, “I assure you Mr. DeSoto this is all formality. As far as WBS Reality is concerned that house was yours the minute you said you wanted it.” He gave a little laugh. “If truth be told, I think it was yours the first time Lee Gage decided your family was the perfect occupants for that house. If she had her way, we would just sign the house over to you in exchange for your old house. But,” Jaxon said as Roy started to interrupt, “she knew you would never agree to that. With the exchange of ownership to us of your old house this is a fair agreement.”


“Lee’s a very smart lady.” Jo answered. “She understands that sometimes you need not only to see the other’s point of view but understand why it is the way it is.”


They finished signing the papers then went to lunch. Roy was still amazed at how fast everything had happen. “You know, once when Johnny was hurt Lee said if there was anything we ever wanted to do we needed to do it now, not wait. Think buying this house is one of those things. We were settled and comfortable in the old house…but the neighborhood was changing. This is the right thing for us now and the kids are going to benefit…” He smiled. “So what do you think about Lee’s news?”


“Johnny’s going to be a wonderful father. I can’t imagine a baby that will ever be more wanted than that little one.” She sipped her tea slowly. “If this baby doesn’t survive…It’ll destroy her.” She let out a sigh.    “But we’ll be here for them besides; every day that passes gives them a better chance of getting their miracle. We got ours.”


 He reached across the table and squeezed her hand.   “After we pick up the kids we’ll go see our new house. How are the kids picking their rooms? Or are we just going to assign them?”


“The two with the bath in the middle. I think Chris should have the one with the built in book case and desk. That small table in the den will make a nice desk for Jen…and somehow I think she will enjoy the window seat more.” Jo said looking pleased with that arrangement. They talked awhile longer then went to run some last minute errands.


Both the kids were thrilled with their new rooms. Jen loved the window seat and planned to put her bookshelf next to it. She was even more thrilled when she discovered it opened and she could store stuff inside it.


Chris loved the built in desk and the shelving. His favorite books, his photo albums and his sports trophy would look really good there. Since the room was bigger maybe later, they could get another bed so he could have sleepovers. Then he remembered the basement and how cool it would be to have sleepovers down there. After spending some time letting the kids explore they went back to the pool house to pack up their clothes and the few other things they had from the old house.


“I think we’ve all worked hard enough…Jo, why don’t you call and order pizza? Call and see if Johnny and Lee want to come share it.”


When Roy and Chris left to get the pizza Jo decided this was a good time to call her mother. Her mom had came to visit her once since they had been living at the pool house and then only after making sure it was a day Lee was at work. (If she thought that was an insult she was sadly mistaken. It was a relief to both Jo and Lee.)


“Well, Joanne, it’s nice you remembered this number. I’m sure your friend has kept you too busy to call.” Aileen said with unmistakable sarcasm. “Did you have a special reason for calling?”


“Yes. I wanted to give you our new address and phone number.”


“Don’t tell me you are going to stay in that silly house…”


“The pool house is lovely and the design is perfect for what Lee and Johnny wants…No we bought a new house. We signed the papers earlier today.”


“Why would you do that? I’m sure once your old house is repaired it will be adequate and I’m sure there is nothing better out there you could afford on a fireman’s salary.”


“Mother, drop it or this conversation is over.” She gave her mother the address and phone number. “It’s a lovely neighborhood, the schools are excellent. Jim and Kathy Kildare live across the street.”


“That is practically in the Gage’s back yard. I knew that girl would do anything to keep us from our grandchildren. She’ll be over at your house even more or you over with her helping her take care of that totally ridiculous house they built …it was just her rubbing everyone’s nose in the fact she is rich.”


“Good bye Mother.” Jo hung up glad no one else had heard that conversation, she busied herself by setting out paper plates and plastic cups so0 they could eat as soon as the Roy and Chris got back. Lee and Johnny had not been home when they called them.


When Johnny had gotten home, breakfast was ready and Lee was dressed to go as soon as Johnny had eaten. Before going shopping, they were going to stop over to see Anna. Lee had gotten some more tapes. Listening to the music seemed to help her relax. Johnny hadn’t let Lee know how worried he was about the spiking temps the medical personnel were seeing. The doctors were concerned about the increasing frequency of the UTIs and were also seeing some decrease in her kidney function. The doctors and nurses were more candid with the young paramedic about her condition than with his wife. They knew that she was concerned for both the mother and child but didn’t want to worry her with medical issues. They had been impressed with her concern for the others patients. Little extras had been provided for all the patients not just Anna. In some cases, the patient’s family had also received gifts or unexpected help with finances or other needs.


“Anna, your friends are here…Can you open your eyes?” The nurse asked as she rearranged the pillow. “Doesn’t she look pretty in the new gown you brought her last time?” She asked as she repositioned the young woman and rubbed some of the lotion on her arms. As she talked and rubbed her arms the young woman’s eyes opened. They were a dark brown but there was a lost quality to them. Lee talked to her and smiled when Johnny got more of a response than either she or the nurse had.


“Look, Amy, she is flirting with my Boyo…you have good taste in men, Anna. I bet your Mark was a lot like the Boyo… We’re going to go shopping today for our little one, Anna. You know we are so blessed you are sharing your child with us…We won’t ever let her forget how much you and Mark loved her they had read diary they had found in the wreck. “In my dreams I see me and Johnny with a beautiful daughter. We’ve picked names out…” Johnny stood back listening and nodded and smiled at Amy when he saw the tears in the nurse’s eyes.


“Anna I promised your grandmother that we would write and send her pictures…so she can she her great grand child grow …Maybe some day we can even go back and visit…But I can’t promise that.” Anna closed her eyes and was asleep. “Sleep easy…” Johnny bent down and kissed her on the cheek. He and Amy moved over to the door to talk.


“Dream of your Mark and how happy you were…and will be again.” Lee whispered. She knew without anyone saying anything that Anna was weaker and less responsive. “Forgive me for praying that you live till its safe for your baby to be born if you are wanting to go to be with your Mark.” Lee spoke so softly that Johnny and Amy could not hear her.
Johnny helped her into the rover. “Where to now?” He could see the hurt and sadness in her eyes. He saw the question she wanted to ask but was afraid to.


Let’s go home. I just want to be with you. Maybe cuddle up and watch a movie…or take a nap.”


“Sounds good, Baby girl.” He realized what he said. “Sorry, I know you asked me not to call you that any more.”


“That’s ok…Johnny, are we losing her…  we’re so close…I finally let myself believe it was going to be ok…that we would unlock that room and turn it into an amazing nursery…”


“Lee. Sweetheart, don’t do that to yourself. We aren’t losing the baby…Anna is weaker but the doctors are still hopeful she’ll be able to carry the baby close to full term. Keep believing that.”
Once they got home, Lee changed into one of Johnny’s favorite nightgowns and took her hair down. She was in front of her vanity brushing her hair when he came in from the kitchen with a soda for her and a glass of milk. There was a plate of cookies on the tray also. He put the tray on the table and took off his shirt and jeans. “A movie or TV?”


“Check the movie channel and see what is on.”


“The Pajama Game is starting in 10 minutes.”


“Good, I like that, do you?” she said as she wheeled over to the bed.
“I like you…a lot.” He kissed her then lifted her onto the bed. Helping her get the pillows arranged behind her he reached over and stroked her cheek. “It’s all going to be ok, you know that right?”


“I know, it was just so ---intense---in there tonight. Boyo, you don’t really know…”


“I know I love you and I know that isn’t going to change and I know you are gonna be an awesome mom.”


“You keep telling me that but I am scared to believe it…scared I’ll disappoint you and everyone…How do I explain to your aunt that I can’t …that that the only way you can be a father is to adopt?”


“It’s none of her business…or my cousins…Rosemary never tells them anything we talk about…and even if she did why care? What matters to me is that you are happy and we are together. You can never disappoint me…Or anyone who matters…except yourself…You don’t have to be perfect.”


“I don’t try to be perfect… had to be extra good at what I do so people won’t think too much about what I can’t do…”


“Bull…and by the way, Rosemary knows we can’t have biological children. She found out at Christmas.”


“I didn’t think you had given her any details when you called to invite her to the party…just that I had some minor surgery…”
“Kathy and Jo told her...they were afraid she was going to ask you more questions about when we  would have a baby…they also told her we were trying to adopt. They were trying to protect you, sweetheart. You can’t be angry at them…”


“No, I can be ashamed of myself for not being honest with her like I was with Matt, Jeff and Maria and Hector. I guess I just never considered her family then…I’m sorry.”


“No reason to be. Let’s just concentrate on all the good stuff…and remember what we’ve learned from the other.”


“You’re very smart Mr. Gage. The smartest thing I ever did was fall in love with you.”


The next morning Jo took the kids to school then went over to the new house to supervise the guys as they moved boxes and placed furniture just as Jo wanted it. About 11:30, they were surprised when Lee, Emily and Kathy rang the doorbell. They had picnic baskets of food and Hank had a cooler with soda and beer.


“Thought maybe you could use some extra hands.” Emily said.


“And I’ll help by staying out of the way.” Lee said with a laugh.


“Oh no, we’ll find you a job. Remember, it’s what you can do not what you can’t that’s important.” Johnny said as he came up behind her. Bending down he kissed her. “You want to tell them?” He was literally bouncing on his toes. They had talked about not telling anyone else till they talked to their family members. But these were family member.


“Tell us what?” Kathy said. She had seen the look of fear and sadness that had quickly came and went in Lee’s expression.


“Yeah, you tell them.” Lee said with a laugh.


“We’re having a baby…in May….The adoption is all set up except the final papers which we can’t sign until the baby is born.”


“When did this all happen, Pal?” Hank asked. Johnny grinned even bigger as Kathy and Em each gave him a kiss and he blushed. Hank went over to Lee and bent down and kissed her. “Congratulations…You two are going to be great parents.”


“We were thinking of having everyone over for dinner one next Thursday. If the Boyo can keep it a secret a little longer.”


“How long have you known?” Kathy questioned as she gave Lee a hard look. She was wondering what Lee wasn’t telling them.


“Since November but…”


“It’s ok; you don’t owe any one an explanation.” Kathy said giving her friend a huge smile.


Soon they were all working to get the house set up. Lee helped by loading
And unloading the dishwasher, putting items under the sink, etc. Jo had her make a list of items they would need for the kitchen you took for granted.  By time to get the kids, the kitchen and the downstairs bathrooms were done and most of the front room was set up to Jo’s liking. The kids’ bedrooms were done as much as their parents were going to do.  Their bathroom was clean and ready for them. Jo and Roy’s room was the only one not even started. Roy, Johnny and Cap had unpacked the garage boxes and Roy decided he might need to buy another shed.


Roy and Johnny went to get the kids while the girls went over to Lee’s to start dinner. On impulse, Lee called Marco, Chet and Mike and invited them over for dinner, telling them it was a spur of the moment dinner. She had plenty of food and turned down their offers to bring anything. Kathy went home saying they would be back around six. Jo put the potatoes on to cook so she could make her potato salad.  Lee asked her to put on enough eggs so they could make some deviled eggs also. She took a container of shredded beef from the freezer t start thawing. She made a barbecue sauce and quickly and had it simmering. She told Hank she appreciated his offer to help but that for him to just go into the front room and relax. He found a western movie and settled down in Johnny’s recliner. Emily was cleaning vegetables for the potato salad and a green salad. Lee was frowning.


“Something wrong?” Emily asked.


“What sounds good for dessert? I was just going to have cookies and ice cream. The Boyo wanted some chocolate chip cookies yesterday. I have about a dozen left…I could make a pan of brownies? We have plenty of ice cream and topping…They could make brownie sundaes…I can do a pan of chocolate and a pan of peanut butter …”


“Sounds great or we could just send Hank to the bakery.”


“Let me make a phone call.” She called Keelsons and when she got off the phone, she was laughing.  “There will be an assortment of treats waiting for whoever goes to pick them up.  Did you know that Keelsons now has bake goods from Johnny Pat? The lady that did their baking retired and moved to Arizona where her son lives? So he and the O’Sheas came to an arrangement. The bakery is expanding and Johnny Pat has hired several of Cynthia Hogan’s students to work there full time. Cynthia and the O’Sheas had done several joint projects and were even working out the details for the college to use O’Sheas as a site for some of their Interns.”


“You have a way of bringing people together …You and Johnny both.”


“We like to keep our friends close…and if we think one friend might be able to help another…you know someone told me I had a Dolly Levi complex…think that was their nice way of saying I was a busy body.”


“Was it Chet?” Jo asked.


“No, not sure if he even knows who Dolly Levi is.” Lee said, shaking her head. “It was a friend at the hospital. I introduced her to a friend at the police department.”


“How did that go?”
“They’ve been seeing each other at least twice a week for the last 6 weeks. She really likes him a lot.”


Hank came out to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. “What are you plotting?”


“Nothing, just talking. Any requests for dinner?”
“Looks like you have it well in hand. Is that asparagus?”


“Yep. Gonna roast it with some olive oil and garlic…don’t you like it?”


“It’s one of my favorites never had it that way…Em; did you call home to let our daughter know we won’t be home for dinner?”


“No, because she wasn’t planning on being home till late. She and Lori are working on their project for history class so she is having dinner there.”


Roy, Johnny and the kids came in. “Smells good in here.” Johnny said as he bent down to kiss her. “That’s a lot of food.”


“We’re having company…we’ll be eating around 6:30...Do you think Chet would stop by Keelsons and pick up an order for me?”


“Sure I’ll give him a call.” He kissed her, took a handful of carrot sticks and went into the other room to call.


By 6:15, Kathy and kids were there, Jim would be there soon as he could. Chet had brought in two boxes from the bakery department at Keelson’s as Mike and Melissa and Mikey were arriving.  Marco was already there.


“Lee, the guy at Keelson’s wouldn’t let me pay for these. He put them on your tab.”


“He was under strict orders not to let you pay. Thank you for getting them.” Lee put them on the counter. “Everything is ready…It’s help yourself and find a place to sit.” Jim had said to start without him


 The kids chose to eat in the kitchen while the grown ups went into the table in the great room.
“So, why the impromptu dinner? Any special reason?” Jim asked as he looked around the room.     He had gotten there about 6:45.  This group had fast become friends he was comfortable with.
“Well, yeah there is in fact.” Roy said looking pleased with himself. “Johnny and Cap and Em and Kathy helped us get moved into the new house.” He heard a snort from his partner. “And of course Lee helped. She helped a lot.”


“Wow, that’s great Roy. Why didn’t you call? I would have came to help.” Marco said.


“Yeah, we would have helped.” Chet added.    Neither had known they were moving.


“There wasn’t a lot to do actually. WBS delivered most of the furniture yesterday and we took most of what we had here…Today was just going to be me and Junior and Jo…then Cap and Em and Kathy showed up. The whole new house thing that just kind of happen. It wasn’t something we had planned on.”


“Yeah so Gage didn’t have timed to mess it up this time.” Lee giggled she had heard about the house that Johnny had bought out from under Roy and Jo. (He had rented it out for a while before selling it to the renters.)


“So where is this house and when can we see it?” Mike asked. “We’ve been thinking about getting a new place with the baby coming”


“It’s across the street from Kathy and Jim. Our old place will be available in about 3 weeks I think.”


“I can guarantee you would get it for a very good price and financing would be no problem.” Lee said with a giggle. “Chet if you ever want a house we could find you one. You too Marco.”


“I just want an apartment with hot running water that doesn’t go cold mid shower and a nice pool.”


“I’ll keep that in mind.” Lee answered. She looked at Johnny who was trying not to say anything. Chet looked over at Johnny and saw it too.


“Gheeze, Gage, you look like you’re about to explode. Spit it out before you choke.” The others looked over to see what Chet was talking about.


“There’s ---there’s nothing to … s s s ay.” Johnny finally said. “You’re imagining things.”


“You are looking a little flustered there, Pal.” Cap said.


Johnny did not look at Roy or Lee. Just shook his head. Lee looked up at him and felt guilty. These were his friends and family. He wanted to share the news so badly and she was being selfish.


“He has something very special to say…and I think he should say it. He should have said it before now but he was …He was putting up with me not wanting to tell anyone.”


“You sure, Sweet Pea? I know…well you said…” She nodded and he smiled and went over and stood behind her. “In May we’ll be the parents. Don’t know if it will be a boy or girl but it doesn’t matter.”   He was in his usual protective position of her.


All were talking at once offering congratulations and hugs and handshakes were shared. Kathy watched closely as a variety of emotions played across Lee’s face. Kathy couldn’t help but wonder why after all the pain from the rejections she hadn’t wanted to share the good news. The kids had came into the dinning area when they heard all the noise to see what was going on.


Johnny went over to where the two little girls were standing and knelt down before them. “I have a very special favor to ask you two, well all four of you…Aunt Lee and I are finally going to get our baby. We are going to need you to help us…think you can be like big sisters to her? Your aunt Lee keeps dreaming about a little girl…but you could be big sisters to a little brother. Treat him how to be a big brother some day?”
“When are you going to bring her home? Does she have a name yet?”

Jenny asked excited. She knew that she would always be Johnny’s number one princess and was happy and excited for him and Aunt Lee.


“Not until May, that is when she will be born…and we’re still working on a name.” Johnny asked.


Stacy looked a little more serious. Lee wanted to take her in her lap and tell her it was all ok. “Why is the mommy giving her baby away? Doesn’t her mommy and daddy want her?”

“Her daddy was killed in a car wreck like your birth mother was…Her mommy is hurt really bad…she would love her little girl very much but she is too sick and hurt to take care of her…So she is trusting me and your uncle to love and take care of her baby.   Just like your mom and dad take good care of you and love you …Just like my Uncle Jeff and Matt took care of me…” Lee said softly. She had wheeled herself over to Johnny’s side. “You can help her understand how special she is to us and that us being allowed to adopt her makes us so happy and Blessed.”


Jo, Kathy, Em and Melissa all had tears in their eyes as did Lee. Johnny had a tight hold of Lee’s hand and a look that told her how much she was loved. The guys all had a lump in their throats. Lee had forgotten that the others did not know Stacy was adopted.


“Guess this means we are going to be uncles,” Chet said breaking the silence.


“It sure does…we’re counting on that. You two, are going to be apart of this little one’s life. You have to be big brothers to her like Cisco and his brothers were to me.” Lee said turning to Chris and Jimmy. Ok?”
“Sure…if it’s a boy we can help teach him to play ball and stuff.” Chris said. He was really happy for his aunt and uncle. He had heard his mom and dad talk about how much they wanted a baby.


“Hey, there is still dessert…Who wants some ice cream and brownies or cupcakes?” Lee asked. “Johnny Pat has a new lemon curd cupcake that is fantastic…Boyo, why don’t you get the ice cream and toppings out?”


Soon all were eating and laughing. The look that Kathy had given Lee let her know she wasn’t angry but they still would be having a private talk soon. It was later than us usual for a school night that the DeSotos and Kildares left. Em told Melissa and Mike to go on home to Mikey that she and Johnny and Hank would help Lee clean up. Marco and Chet also volunteered to help. There was plenty of laughing and good-natured ribbing going on between the friends. It was almost 11 when everyone left. Lee started into the bedroom then stopped.


“Boyo, call her…now…please,” she said. “We should have called her when we called my uncles. Tomorrow I am going to call Maria.”


“Call who?” Lee’s request had caught him off guard.
“Rosemary…you need to tell her now.” They went on into the bedroom and Johnny sat on the bed with the phone in front of him. He watched as Lee brushed out her hair and then chose a nightgown from the dresser.


 “Wait and I’ll join you in the shower.”  He grinned at her.


“Call your aunt…then you need to get some sleep. You have to work in the morning.”


“And you don’t?” He picked up the receiver.


“I’m the boss I can go in when ever I want.” He laughed then dialed the number as she wheeled into the bathroom.


“Hello.” Rosemary answered the phoned wondering who was calling that late.


“Hi, Aunt Rose…Ahum, I didn’t wake you up did I?”


“No, I was just thinking I should put this book down and think about going to bed. Is everything alright?” A little worried that he was calling so late.


“Everything is great…Lee and I wanted to share some great news with you. We are adopting a baby. Won’t know until it arrives in May if it is a boy or girl. Lee keeps dreaming it’s a girl. Before you ask… I’m gonna be happy with a girl or a boy…It really doesn’t matter.”


“You two are going to make wonderful parents…I’m so happy for you. Lee is doing well?”


“Lee is as wonderful as ever. Think next day off we are going to go shopping and start getting a nursery ready. There is one other thing I want to tell you about the baby…The biological parents are from Lame Deer. They had moved to L.A. for better jobs…The father was killed and the mother seriously hurt. She won’t ever be able to take care of herself…so her grandmother has decided Lee and I will be good parents.”


“You will and thank you for sharing this news with me. Have you talked to Lee about coming down to visit me?”


“Give her time …maybe we can come down for a day or two, but won’t be staying at the house.”


He talked awhile longer with Rosemary then he and Lee went into the shower.


An hour later Johnny was sleeping peacefully next to Lee. She was wide-awake, her mind racing. She thought back over the calls she had made to Jeff and Matt. They both had been very happy for them and had assured her she would be a great mom. There had been certain sadness in Matt’s voice but also an element of relief. He had known that Lee shouldn’t attempt to have a baby but until the near drowning and resulting surgery he had been afraid she would try. Jeff had just laughed and told her he had known it would happen when it was the right time. Both had promised to come to California when they held the baby’s dedication. Even though she had gone to church with Maria and Hector for many years, she was not a member of the church.  She was sure Father Chuck would do a dedication ceremony that encompassed her and Johnny’s belief. It was after one before she fell asleep.
The alarm went off at 6:00 like any other morning. Lee fixed Johnny’s breakfast then went and finished getting ready for work. She knew that word of the adoption would soon spread thru the hospital and the fire department. She wanted to get to the hospital and let Dixie and Kel and Joe know before the rumor mill started.


Dixie was at the nurses station with Kel when Lee came in. she wheeled over to them.


“You look happy this morning. What’s up?” Kel asked. He wasn’t sure what but something was different this morning.


“Is Joe around? So I only have to do this one time?” She asked.


“Think he went up to the Doctor’s lounge. I can page him.” Before she could do that, he came strolling up. “Good timing, Doctor.”


“Why? Is something wrong?” Joe looked at the group confused at what was going on.


“I have an announcement. Joe, you remember the young girl that Micha Little Bear had you consult on back in November?”


“Severe head trauma due to an auto accident. She was from the same reservation Johnny use to live on, right?”


“Yes. She is still at the Westwood Trauma Center. She is about 7 months pregnant. Johnny and I are adopting her child. Micah has all the papers drawn up and approved by his tribal council and the state of Montana. Soon as the baby is born, we will be parents with his signature on the final papers. We have told my uncles, his aunts, Kathy and Jim and A shift. Now you…We wanted to do this together but you know the best laid plans of mice and men ….Anyway I didn’t want you just hearing the rumor mill. I realized this morning that we hadn’t told anyone at the station except Roy and Jo that our baby will be full blooded Cheyenne…not that it matters ….guess it is no big deal to us so it just didn’t come up in the conversation.”


Congratulations and well wishes were expressed and Lee went up to her office. When Nell came in, she told her and asked if she would be willing to take on more hours. The 20-hour a week job had now grown to a full time 40 hour a week job. Nell was excited for Lee and willing to take on more hours.


Johnny had the box of left over treats from the night before with him when he went into work. Chet, Roy and Marco were already changed and drinking coffee with some of the guys from C shift.


“Hear there was a party at your place last night.”


“Yeah kind of a last minute thing. Started out just dinner after helping Roy and Jo then Lee invited the other guys. We had good conversation, great food and a few surprises.”  Cap came into the kitchen.


“Did you share the good news with the rest of the Station?” Cap asked getting a cup of coffee to go with a cupcake.


“What news? Who has news?”


“Tell them John.” Cap was smiling at the young paramedic who was looking a little embarrassed but smiling from ear to ear.
“We’re adopting a baby…due in May…Lee keeps dreaming it’s gonna be a girl.” He shook hands and accepted the slaps on the back and the well wishes from his friends. The morning was busy with routine chores then some new building plans to go over. After lunch, they did some drills until the SCU chimed in.
The call was for a car that had hit a water-filled pothole. The driver over compensated and ended up hitting a parked car and a tree. Scotty a deputy who was friends with the Station had things under control.


“Chet, Marco, put out some flares and spray the gas off the road.” The small car that had been hit was leaking gas.

Johnny and Roy were busy with the driver. He was 16 years old and had only had his license two weeks. He was more worried about what his dad would say than getting the cut on his forehead taken care of.


“Now settle down…we need to get your vitals.” Johnny told him.

“It doesn’t matter. When my dad sees his car he’s going to kill Me.,” the boy said. “He is gonna take my license…and I just asked Jolene out to the show…She only said yes when I told her I was driving…”


“Your dad might surprise you…He might be so glad you aren’t hurt too bad he’ll be understanding about a bent fender.” Johnny said trying to calm him down.
“Did you ever wreck your dad’s car?” the boy asked Johnny hopefully.


“No…but he would have understood. You weren’t speeding and wasn’t reckless…I hit one off those potholes a while ago. If it had been my wife’s car it would have been worst those light weight cars are touchy.” Johnny nodded at Roy as he we took the boy’s pulse and it was slower…and his blood pressure was down.

“Let’s get a bandage on that cut and we’ll transfer soon as the ambulance gets here.” Roy said after giving the vital updates to Rampart. Scotty had already called in and the boy’s parents would meet them at Rampart.


“Go on in with him Roy.” Johnny said as he began gathering up the equipment.


The engine and Johnny were about to leave when an older couple came up to the car.


“Who did this? Why didn’t someone come get us?” The man began yelling at Johnny.


“Look, there wasn’t any way to know with store you were in. There was an accident …a car hit a pothole then hit your car. The driver is on his way to Rampart. That police officer over there has all the information you’ll need for your insurance company.” Johnny talked to the couple a few minutes longer to make sure they were all right. He had been worried about how agitated the man had been. Scotty came over and Johnny left for Rampart.

Roy was waiting at the nurses’ desk. Dixie came out of treatment room 3. She smiled at him. “So, how is your partner doing?   Lee told us the good news.”


“I’m not sure…This morning he was happy, excited and grinning from ear to ear. He looked a little down when the kid we just brought in asked about his dad. But, Junior handled it well.”


Marco and Chet went out to finish hanging hose while Mike cleaned up the engine. Johnny wiped down the squad then was cleaning the inside. Chet and Marco came into the bay. They didn’t notice Johnny in the squad.


“Man, can’t you just picture Gage with one of those wooden things on his back? Carrying around a papoose?   Maybe they can make something like that for Lee.  I mean how is she going to carry a baby and wheel her chair?  She gonna be able to take care of this kid when Gage isn‘t around?”


Johnny felt like someone had just kicked him in the head. As he heard the words replay in his head he saw Lee’s face. She had been so happy last night when they had finally told his friends about the baby. What if she had heard that conversation? It seemed to him as if they stood there in the bay talking forever. Soon as they left he got out of the squad and just leaned against it, his head lowered on his folded arms. Mike had heard Chet’s comments and saw that Johnny had heard them too. Looking at his friend’s dejected posture he left the bay without a word. Roy was at the table updating the logbook. Mike looked around to be sure no one else was in the room. He went over to the table. Very softly he said, “Roy, think Johnny needs you.”


“Why? What happen” Is he alright?” Roy asked concerned and worried at the look on Stoker’s face and his tone. Quietly Mike explained what he had seen and heard.


“Look, tell Cap that Johnny and I are outback…at the wall and I’m not sure how long we’ll be out there unless we get a run.  Keep Chet away from John. Unless he asks you a direct question what is wrong…just leave at it that we need to have a serious talk, ok?”


“Roy, you don’t think he would quit, do you? He said that last time Chet was making cracks about his being part Indian if it didn’t stop he’d ask for a transfer.” Mike was concerned that this time Chet had gone too far.


“If anyone transfers out it sure as hell won’t be John.” Roy replied as he hurried out to the bay.


“John lets go out to the wall.” Roy said as he handed Johnny his jacket from the cab of the squad. With a sigh he followed his friend out.


“Look, I don’t want to talk to anyone right now.” Johnny said as he slid down the wall  drawing his knees up to his chin. “I just need to be alone.”


“No way junior. You remember a long time ago we agreed you weren’t going to listen to Chet when he thought he was being funny?”


“Damn him…What if he had thought it was funny to say it in front of her? Does he have any idea how many nights I’ve held her when she cried herself to sleep because she felt like a failure because we couldn’t have a baby? Or after the rejection letters? Now, just when she ---we are finally so close and she is ready to share with others …That is what she is so afraid of…that people will judge her and …that she wouldn’t be good enough….You know why she asked me to stop calling her Baby girl after all this time? Because of Chet Kelly and his mouth. She heard him and Muller, the linesman over at 88 laughing at her. She didn’t tell me for a long time. It was after one of the softball games back in the fall. Muller asked Chet why I called her that. Chet told him it was because taking all her extra things was as bad as taking all the crap you needed for a baby. And maybe that was why we didn’t have any kids, that she was enough trouble to get from place to place.“

Roy let him rant and rave. It was better than Johnny keeping it in and letting it fester. Muller was a bully and bigot and really didn’t know Johnny. But there was no excuse for Chet’s words then or now. Roy made up his mind even if John didn’t say something he was going to have his say.


“I’ll leave here before I’ll let him hurt her…God, he doesn’t even know that the baby is Cheyenne and he’s making cracks like that. If our friend  do that what is other people gonna say? I won’t let my child be hurt…not like I was.” Johnny laid his head on his folded arms.   “They’ll have someone to protect them…”


Mike came out to the two paramedics. “Sorry…but Cap wanted you to know it’s time to eat.”


“Go on in Pally.”


“Not without you Junior.” With a very faint smile Johnny got up, taking Roy’s offered hand.


“Does Cap know what he said?”


“No, Mike just told him we were out here. Unless Cap made it a direct order Mike wouldn’t  tell him what happened.” Both men knew that unless he thought it would affect on their job performance Hank wouldn’t question them.


“Thanks Pally…for caring.” Johnny said as they started towards the building.
“Always. And if Chet keeps this up…We can always tell Cisco what he said about Lee.” This brought a smile to Johnny’s face and a small laugh.
They went in nothing was said about the delay. Johnny sat down and took two bites of Marco’s cooking then pushed his plate away.

“Sorry…something just turned my stomach. I can’t sit here looking at him.” There was no mistaking the look he gave Chet.


He got up and went to the dorm. Everyone else just sat there in shock. Cap put his fork down. “Would you like to explain what just happen?”


“Ask Kelly.” Roy said as he stood up.  Marco and Mike looked down at their plates.


“Cap, I don’t know why those two are so upset…” Chet was clueless. He really didn’t have any idea why Gage had looked at him like that.

He had never seen a look of such hate and disgust on Gage’s face.


“Johnny was in the squad when you and Marco were in the bay after hanging hose. Johnny heard what you said to Marco. How did you expect him to react?” Mike said.


“Since everyone here seems to know the problem, would one of you be so kind as to tell me.” Hank’s voice left no room for argument. “Kelly?”
“What did I say that was so bad?” Mike and Marco looked at him trying to decide if he was telling the truth or really did not remember.


“You say something that crude and cruel and don’t remember? That’s some selective memory you’ve got.” Roy said. “Does the word papoose jog your memory?”


“That wasn’t anything bad…ghezze…Gage needs to grow some thicker skin.” He looked at the others expecting to see some support. “Honest Cap I just said can you imagine Gage with a papoose on his back? On one of those board things…”


“And?” Mike asked wanting Chet to own up to what he had said about Lee.

Before Chet could answer, the SCU sounded.


Johnny was lying on his bunk, his arm thrown over his eyes.

“Go finish your dinner.” He said as Roy sat down on his bunk. “I just need some time alone.”


“You need to eat…What if I brought your plate in here? That way you wouldn’t be looking at him.”
“Nah, don’t think I could keep it down. Why does he do that? Think it’s ok to make cracks about a culture he knows nothing about. I can live with it long as he doesn’t   do it in front of Lee.  She really has worked hard to get to the point where she trusts him as a friend. Even after the crack about why we didn’t have a baby…she said it was not biggie...she was a lot of trouble sometimes and besides he was a little drunk. But for him to question what kind of mom she’ll be…” His voice cracked and he coughed dryly.


“I’m gonna go get you something to drink. “Don’t have any answer for you.”


“I know the answer; he’s a bigot and a jerk.” Johnny’s answer took Roy by surprise. He had seen Johnny mad at Chet before but never like this. “He isn‘t going to hurt Lee or our  baby.”


Roy went out to get a glass of water for him.

The abandon apartment complex was home to some of the area’s homeless. No electric or water except in the front building. The electric was being pirated by an ex electric company employee who felt it was only fair since the electric company had laid him off for something a supervisor had done. The water had been turned on by some creative individuals who used the skills they had learned in the military. By the time the firefighters from Battalion 14 had arrived it was apparent the fire was totally out of control in the first building. A second was burning but not as involved as the first. The best they could hope for was to keep it from spreading to the last two buildings. Cap soon had his men positioned where the Battalion chief had directed.

“Roy, John, they have a report of people in the second building. Hank watched as his men trotted off to the building then got back to this business. Chet and Marco were sent to the second building taking their hoses around to the back on the left side. Once the SCU sounded all personal problems were forgotten as they became completely dedicated professionals. Hank had no problem putting Gage and Chet in the same area.

The fire was more involved than they had first thought. As the paramedics moved thru the semi dark building. The flashlights they had provided some light but the smoky dark made it hard to see in the corners and nooks. Roy and Johnny had to convince some of the squatters to leave their belongings behind as they tried to gather up the blankets and piles of clothing. Several of the bundles that were in the far corner had began to smolder. There were two more apartments to clear in the left hallway. Roy motioned to Johnny to finish there then went to the right hallway as he realized time was running out on their air tanks.

Johnny thought he saw someone going into apartment 2D as he came out of the apartment 2A.   He crossed over and began pounding on the door. Getting no response he raised his air mask and pounded again this time shouting, “Fire department, you gotta get out now!” Still no response so Johnny entered the apartment. At first he didn’t see any one but then saw an older man frantically trying to stuff his belongings into an old grocery cart. “Come on, it’s not safe in here.” The cart was almost full and there was still stacks of books and magazines scattered around as the old man ignored Johnny.  The old man mumbled something and continued to ignore Johnny. The paramedic knew the building was filling up with smoke and that his air tank was nearly empty. Putting a stack of books and papers in the cart, Johnny began pulling it out of the apartment. Yelling and waving his arms the old man followed.  Roy was coming out of the building with a semi conscious man in the traditional fireman’s carry. Marco nodded as he went past. The HT sounded as he came up even with Chet.


“Everyone out now…” The static could not cover the urgency in Cap’s voice.


Chet nodded to Roy and began moving back. Marco had also heard the Cap’s orders and began moving towards the exit also. He faced forward clearing a path for Roy and his victim. As he began moving, backwards Chet tripped over a pile of trash. He went down backwards, the impact of landing on his air tank sending a pain through his shoulder. He struggled to get up but the pain made him dizzy and he sunk back to his knees. He did not notice his air mask had a large crack in it since his vision was blurry. Roy did not hear Chet fall and continued on his way out of the building.

Johnny was guiding the older man down the hallway when he saw Chet fall. Once they were even with the fallen firefighter Johnny guided the old man towards the door and watched as he followed down the corridor. Once he was sure the old man was not stopping, Johnny went back to Chet. A quick check confirmed he was unconscious. Doing a fast check for broken bones or spinal injuries, Johnny pulled his mask and air tank off so he could replace the damaged mask.   Johnny reached for his HT. The walkway’s floor and banister from the third floor began falling before he could call for help. He threw himself over the unconscious man. Luckily for the two firefighters the majority of the debris came straight down and missed them but Johnny still felt the pain of the piece of railing that caught him in the across his shoulders.


Roy was just stepping out the door when he heard the crash of the falling walkway. He turned to see the old man following him but his friends were nowhere in sight.


“Cap, Gage and Kelly are in there.” Roy yelled once he had his mask off.

He handed the man he was carrying to another paramedic and started back into the building.  Marco following close behind. They didn’t have far to go into the hallway until they found Johnny and Chet.  Roy frowned when he realized that Johnny had no mask on. After doing a quick check of their back and neck and limbs Roy called for two cervical collars and two backboards. He checked the bloody cut at the base of Johnny’s neck. The cut wasn’t deep but it had been bleeding heavily.   Soon  they had  Johnny  and  Chet and  one of the  walking  wounded  from  Station 36  in  the  ambulance.   Roy  went in the  ambulance.  Marco would follow with the  squad  when the fire was under control.


Lee  went  down  to  ER to  drop  off  the minutes and  another  paper from the  advisory  board meeting.   She was surprised at the number of firefighters milling around.   She saw Rob Jones talking with a nurse.  When he saw her he went over to her.


“How’s Johnny?  Have they told you anything yet?”


“No.   What   happen?”   Rob explained about the complex fire and the   collapse of the walkway.   Trying to  sort out  who was injured and  who  was  waiting for  news on crew mates Lee decided to try to help  cut  down on the confusion.   She saw one of the guys from 36.


“Tell  anyone waiting on  information  or  transport  back  to their station  to  go up to my office.  There is plenty of soda and juices as well as tea and coffee.   Tell  them to get something to eat or drink,  soon as  there is any  news I’ll  call  up there.  You all know where stuff is if you need to restock sodas or snacks.”


“Ok.   Any word on Johnny and Chet yet?”


“No…but thanks for asking.”


The tired and hungry firefighters were happy  to go up to the office.   Lee let Carol know what she had done.


“Thanks…we were running out of room.”   About  10 minutes later  Lee  saw  Roy  and the  orderlies  taking  Johnny  and Chet into a  treatment room.  Roy and another paramedic began helping with the less seriously injured.  There were  many of the homeless who had  received  minor  burns and cuts  trying to save their  possessions as well as suffering  from  smoked inhalation.   It would have been  much  worst if the  fire  department hadn’t   already evacuated the  building before the  structure  began  crumbling.  From what she was hearing most of the injuries to the firemen were minor.  The only ones she hadn’t heard anything about was Johnny and Chet.  


Dixie came over to the desk.  Lee was on the phone giving  th  latest  updates to the men  waiting in her  office.


“Kel is finishing up with Johnny.  He is going to have a terrible headache but no concussion.  They put 10 stitches in his neck and shoulder.   They are doing a breathing treatment then you can take him home.  You know the drill.”


“What about Chet?”


“Looks like he has a concussion and a hairline crack on his shoulder blade.   His brother is on the way over, I think.   Thanks for your help.”


“I think there are only about 5 or 6 guys up there now.   Most of the guys  from the  stations  were  cuts  and  smoke  inhalation.  They  were  sent  home or  back  to the station.   Think   Station 110 and 51 are the only ones still here.  The last of 88 just left.   Cap is waiting to hear when  they should  be getting  a  replacement for  Chet and  Johnny  before heading  back…same with 88  except they need 2 linesmen.”   


“Kel  said  you  could  go back  to 4...Johnny  was asking  about  you.   I told him  you were fine and  working  hard.”


“Thanks.”  Lee  started to  wheel herself  back  to  4  but  she had  only  moved a  little when  someone took hold of the handles.  She let out a soft yelp.


“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.  Thought you heard me when I said your name.”  Roy was behind her.  


“I guess I wasn’t paying attention…Let’s go see the Boyo.”


Roy pushed her not saying anything.  He was worried about what kind of mood Johnny would be in.   As they  opened the  door they  could  hear the  repertory  therapist  giving  Johnny  directions  for  follow  up  care.   Lee listened and smiled as Johnny scrunched up his face.   He hated the taste the chemicals left in his mouth.  If he was feeling well enough to complain and tease, she felt much better.


“Oh he will be behaving himself and doing exactly as he is told.”  Lee said with a giggle.  “Won’t you?”



 The therapist laughed as  he  left.


He smiled at her.  “Heard you have been bossing firemen around?”


“Just sent them up to my office to keep them out of trouble.    Feed them and they’ll follow you anywhere.”   A student nurse came in and gave Lee the prescriptions Kel had written for Johnny.


“Everyone doing ok?”  Johnny asked.   “What about the buildings?”


“Chet and two others are staying over night for observation.   Several of the homeless were admitted mostly due to breathing problems.  There  were no  deaths…Two of the  buildings were  completely  destroyed  and the other  two  will be  torn  down  as  soon as  possible.”


“Good.  Do I still have some clean clothes in the car?”  Johnny asked with a grimace as he moved to quickly.


“Yes.  Want me to go get you a shirt?”


“That would be nice.”   She left to get the clothes and make the phone call.


Soon as she, left Johnny looked at Roy with a very serious expression.
“Glad Chet is ok but still don’t want to be around him or have him near Lee.”


“He’ll be  out a few weeks  with the concussion and shoulder…No  use  worrying about it  now,  that would  just  upset  Lee.  You two have more important things to think about…like getting a nursery set up.   She’s going to know if you are pouting or brooding about something.   You going to let it go or cause her to worry?”   Roy  knew  this was  being  harsh but he also  knew it was probably best for the long  run.


Lee came back in with a button down the front shirt.  “Thought this might be easier than trying to pull on a shirt.”


“How many outfits do you carry around with you?”  Roy laughed.


“Right now there is one complete change and two pairs of jeans.   He has been hard on his uniforms this week, usually have an extra or two in my   car or his rover.


The door opened and Kel came in.  “Lee, can you get this hose jockey home ok?”


“Yep…someone will there if I need help.  Roy, can you stay until I get back?  While he changes into that shirt, I will go get my purse.”




Lee  wasn’t  surprised to see  both  Kathy and  Jim  when  she  pulled into the  driveway.   Johnny did not protest when Jim helped him out of the car and into the house.  Kathy and Lee followed.


“The kids are with Jo.   She took the girls with her when she drove the boys to scouts.”


“Thanks for coming over.   He is probably just going to sleep once I give him the pain meds.   He doesn’t have a concussion  but  Kel  said he would  have a  really  bad  headache and  it’ll be  sore where they  put the stitches in his neck and shoulder.”


“There is food in the oven staying warm.   You get something to eat.  Call us if you need anything.”


“I will.  Thanks.   And  thanks  for not  getting upset  with me  for  not  telling  you about the  baby  sooner.   It was like I didn’t want to tempt fate by letting anyone know.”


“I know you had your reasons…and that you sometimes have to let the insecurities   work them out.  Just  don’t  forget  that  others are  here for  you …just like  you tell  Johnny,  you’re  never alone.”


They went inside.  Johnny  was in his recliner  with an  ice  pack  on  his  shoulder and a  pillow behind  him  so his  shoulders and neck weren’t touching the  back  of the chair.


“He should be set for the next few hours.  I  think  he’ll  do  better if he  sleeps in the chair or  on his stomach  tonight.”  Jim said as they walked to the door.   “Call us if you need anything.”


Two  days  later  Johnny  was finally  rid of the  headache and his  shoulder  had  stopped  throbbing.  Lee was in the nursery looking at the floor plan she had of the room.   The walls were still white, the hard wood floors bare. The shades on the window would darken the room  the same as the one she had put up at the side window in their room but  there  weren‘t  any  curtains  up.


“So what have you decided?”  He asked her as he came up behind her.


Before she  could  answer the  phone  rang and  Johnny  went  into their  room  to  answer it.  “Hello.”


“Hi, it’s Jo.  Roy was going over to see Chet and wondered if you wanted to ride along.”


“I told Lee we would go over to see Anna then do some shopping.  She wants to check out some things for the nursery.”


“Well, he isn’t leaving for about an hour if you change your mind.”


“Tell him thanks for asking.”


  “You could have gone with Roy.  We can see  Anna  later  and  go   shopping  tomorrow  since  you  won’t  be working  for the  next  8  days…”


“I want to do what we planned, ok?  Not going with Roy today isn’t any big deal.”  He told her going to the fridge in the sunroom.  “Want a soda?”
She was surprised at his tone, how negative and sharp it was.  “No but I want to know what you are thinking.”  Lee looked at him.  “You are usually concerned when  one of the  guys are in the  hospital.”


“I didn’t say I wasn’t concerned,   I just didn’t want to go over there.  I  think it’s  important  that  we go  see Anna and  it’s  important  to  you  that  we go shopping.  We have a life outside Station 51.  We  have others friends and other things to do….Like make time just for us.  It’s no big deal.”


“ Your  family at  the Station is  important to  you,  I  know and  understand  that, Boyo.”  Wondering if she had  said  something to make  him  feel  he  was neglecting her or unhappy with how often they had people over.


“Like I said it’s no big deal, he’ll have plenty of company without us.

If we aren’t going to go see Anna I’m going to take a nap.”   He turned and left the room.  She just sat there not sure of what to say or do.   She stayed in the sunroom to read and write some letters.    It was hard to concentrate on the words on the page when the memory of  what  Johnny said drowned everything else out.  Had she said or done something to cause a problem? Or was it just that he was tired and hurting?


“You still want to go see Anna?”  He asked as he came into the sunroom   90 minutes later. Not sure if she was angry at the tone he had used earlier.


“Yes, if you’re feeling ok.”  She looked at him closely.   “We don’t have to go shopping after we visit Anna.”


“After we see her we can go out to eat.  How does Chinese sound?”
He  watched her  closely  to  see if  he  could get  an idea of  what she  was  thinking.   “Then go shopping?”


“That sounds good.  We haven’t been to the Golden Dragon for awhile.” 


The visit to Anna was eventful.  She  was  sleeping so  Lee left the  new  lotion  with  Amy,  who  was  one of  Anna’s  primary nurses.  The   monitors  and  lab  work  reassured  Lee  some  but  Johnny  was still  worried about the  kidney  function  and the  occasional  spike in  temperature. 


Amy rubbed the lotion on Anna’s stomach.  “Johnny put your hand here.”  He did and the look on his face was incredible.


 “Lee, you have to feel this.”  He  helped  her to  stand  up  and  stood  behind her  supporting  her guiding  her  hand.  “I think she is doing ballet kicks or maybe he is practicing to be a field kicker.”   Lee  giggled  as she  felt the  kicks  and  Johnny  leaned  closer to her and  kissed her on the  neck.   “I love you…both of you.”   To himself, “And I will protect you.”


Lee had a picture in her head of how she wanted the room to look. The store they went to did not have the furniture Lee and Johnny wanted.    They did go to the  paint  store and  got  the  shade of  green  she  wanted  for three walls  and  some  ivory  she  wanted for the  fourth  wall.  That would be where the mural would go.   They had talked about a forest or mountain like background maybe with a mix of animals.    Maybe even a few mermaids, elves and faeries thrown in for good measure along with some dragons and unicorns…   They stopped at Styles Remembered on the way home.  Liz had added more to her children and baby section.


“Is there anything special you’re looking for today?”  Liz asked after greeting them.  “I  got  some  lovely  new  material  that  would make  very  pretty  sun dresses…Or  skirts.”


“Today I want to look at your layettes.”  She said as she smiled at Johnny. 


“Will this be a gift for a girl or boy?”  Liz said as they walked towards that section.  “Does the mother know yet?”


“We don’t know but think it’ll be a girl.”  Lee answered.


“The mother’s favorite colors?   Any theme for the baby’s room?”


“It’s  going t  be our  daughter or  son…so  you  know  Lee’s  taste  pretty  well.”   Johnny said.   The  smile on his  face  was infectious.


“That’s wonderful…I know this wee one will be well loved.   So any ideas on what you’ll be wanting today?”


“Receiving blankets, sleepers and socks and booties.   Cloth diapers for   home and some disposables for when we are out.   I  want to  wait  until  we  know  for  sure if it’s a  boy or  girl  before  getting  some  things…but  some cute  pants and  shirts   with  generic  colors and designs   might  be  good to get.”


“How do you know the sizes?”  Johnny  asked as he  looked at the  clothes, especially the dresses,  Lee  was so  sure it  was  going to be a  girl.


“Most  people  buy  the  basics in  newborn to  three months,”  Liz said  smiling as he gently  touched one  of the  dresses.  “That one would be a lovely dress for bringing a little girl home.”  Liz went off to let them   pick out what they wanted.  She could hear them laughing and teasing one another.   Lee had a lap full when Johnny pushed her up to the register.  He  winked at  Liz  then  went  back  to the  section  coming  back  with two large packages of  diapers.   And  the  dainty   lavender and  lace  dress  hidden  so  Lee  couldn’t see it.  Liz  slipped it  down  under the  counter  knowing he wanted to surprise Lee with it  later.


“When will the wee one be coming?”  Liz asked as she rang up the purchases.


“The doctors are guessing the first week of May…”


Johnny   was  quiet on the  way  home  listening as  Lee  was  making  plans  and lists of  what  they  needed to get…furniture,  bedding,  curtains,   maybe an  area rug…  “I’m  going to  call  Dr. Westmore’s  office and  see if  Dr. MacKinney  is  taking  new  patients….Technically  we  won’t  be  new patients  since  Dr. Westmore is  my  doctor.”   Thomas McKinney was a pediatrician who was part of Sarah Westmore’s Womens’ Health Group.


“Isn’t Dr. Walters’s part of the group?  That is who has been taking care of Anna?”  Johnny asked.  “I think that is who Amy said was coming in to see Anna.”


“I had forgotten that so we should be covered.   Boyo, it is really happening, isn’t it. Think now I really believe it…”


“Yeah that was pretty incredible feeling her kick.   So you still working on names?”


“You need to give me some ideas of names you like…It shouldn’t be just me.”


“I  liked  your  idea  the other  night   and  the  part about  not  telling  anyone  before hand  what  we’ve  chosen.”


Johnny was out in the woodshop when Roy and Jo walked over after dinner.   Jenny was with them but Chris was at soccer practice.  He and Jimmy were playing on the same team.  The girls went into the sunroom so Jo and Jenny could see the things they had gotten that afternoon.


“Hey, what are you thinking about so hard?”  Roy could see the deep lines around Johnny’s eyes as he concentrated on the sketch he had just made.


“A present for Lee.   So how was Chet?  I’m  assuming that is what you came to talk about.”


“Easy there Junior.   You   know what they say happens when you assume something.”  Johnny just glared at him.   “I came over to see if you wanted help painting the nursery.  Lee told Jo you had the paint and I figured with your sore arm you could use some help.”


“I know she wants this room all set up but I wanted to do the work.”  Johnny said frowning.  “Maybe after the stitches  come out  I can  get the  painting  done and everything I want to do finished in the next 6 weeks.”
“Why not let me and the guys help?”


“I don’t want Chet over here.  I don’t want him near Lee.  Today was so great… We went to see Anna and we felt the baby kicking.  The look on Lee’s face.   I think she is finally convinced this is gonna work out and we’re going to be a family.”


“Thought you already were a family.”    Roy said   knowing he was pushing.   Johnny’s expression proved he had hit a nerve.  “How long you gonna be able to hide what you’re feeling from her?  If you won’t let the others help, at least let me.” 


“Ok.  Earlier today, the way I talked to her…I could hear my aunt’s voice in the tone I used.   Do you know what that felt like?   Hearing  myself  talk to her as if she was stupid and  couldn’t understand a  simple sentence?   It  wasn’t so  much what I  said  but   how…dismissing her  like she  was  nothing…that she deserved to  be treated like that.”   Johnny had his head down not able to look at Roy.   “She only  wanted me to  do  what I  wanted…not to feel  obligated to take her  shopping or go see  Anna.   I left her sitting there and went in and took a nap.   I  saw the hurt on  her  face and  still  just  walked away.”


“What did she say when you came back out?”


“Asked me how I was feeling when I asked if she wanted to go visit Anna.  She never said a word about how I talked to her…just worried about how I felt.   Made me feel more like a louse than I already did.”


“She probably just figured you were grumpy and achy.”  Roy shook his head.  “John, you have to get this settled.  It’ll tear you up and make you both miserable.”   To himself, “Chet and the other guys are pretty worried   if this is gonna blow over, too.”


Jo and Jenny ohed and awed over the clothes and blankets.   Jo liked the colors Lee and Johnny had chosen for the room.   Jo made some suggestions on what she might want to add to her list of supplies.   Jen said that the baby needed some toys…like the lamb Uncle Johnny had gotten her when she was a baby.  


“Why don’t you go out and ask Uncle Johnny and your dad if they’d like some cake?”  Lee said as they put the baby things   away. 


“Has Roy said anything about Johnny being upset with me about something?”  Lee asked once Jen was out of hearing distance.


“No, in fact, he was telling me how happy Johnny was  that you were  being more…more  open about the adoption.   Did Johnny say something to make you think he was upset?”


“Maybe not so much what he said as how he said it?  Maybe it is just me over reacting again.   After I  talked to you earlier  he got  really defensive about why he  didn’t  want to go  see Chet.   We were both tired  so it is probably nothing.   He  looked  so  amazed  when he  felt the  baby  kicking…It  was like a  gift  that  I  needed to remind me it  was  real.  Sometimes I get the feeling its all dream…I’m going to wake up and there won’t be any baby or even any Johnny…”


“He seems fine now.  I  wouldn’t  worry about it ,  he  is entitled to  a  bad  day  once in   awhile.   We all are.”  Jo  didn’t  want to  lie to Lee  but she knew  that  Johnny had  been  livid  at  something  Chet had  said.  


Lee came out of the bathroom and looked at her sleeping husband.  He had been restless most of the night.   He was going back to work in the morning so it was important he be rested.   She got back into bed as quietly as possible.   Johnny opened his eyes as she eased back into bed.


“You ok?”  He questioned.


“Yeah, guess I shouldn’t have drunk tea so close to bed.  Sorry I woke you up.”   It was a little after 2 a.m.


“No problem.   Any special plans for today?”  


“No.  I need to do some work at both offices.   Maybe I will call Jo and   see if she can come over to Rampart and we can do the WSB stuff there.   I’ll run over by the trauma center before I come home.”


He was laying there, his arm thrown over his eyes.  He let out a loud sigh.  “I’ll start painting this week.”


“We can hire someone to do the painting if you rather.  We don’t need to talk about it now.   If you want to talk, we could talk about what ever has been bothering you all day.”


“Nothing in particular is bothering me.  Guess we should get some sleep before the alarm goes off.  Love you.”  He kissed her then turned his back to her.


“Love you too.   Sweet dreams, Boyo.”  


Johnny laid there awake for another 45 minutes before drifting off into an uneasy sleep.



Johnny came into the empty kitchen (the engine and the squad were out on a run.)  He placed the two pans of rolls Lee had sent on the table then  made a fresh pot of coffee before he  went into the locker room.  He felt a little guilty about how anxious he was to get back to work.   The idea of  transferring  some place  else wasn’t  pleasant  and to  be honest,  probably  wouldn’t  solve the  problem.  There would always be jerks around.   He had seen  Cap’s  truck in the  parking  lot  but hadn’t  went into the  office since he  figured  Hank  was working on  the never ending  piles of  paper work.   He was changed and heading towards the kitchen when Mike and Roy came in.


“Here early…someone might think you missed us.”  Roy teased as Johnny grinned.   “Except Jo told me Lee had an early meeting at the hospital today.”


“Yeah she had to be there at 7:00 so I left when she did.”   Marco came in to the locker room just about the time the engine returned.   A shift went out to the kitchen.


“Hey, Johnny, good to see you back…Get tired of hanging out with that rich wife of yours?”  Muller said as he  slapped Johnny hard on the back.   “Pretty, rich and crazy about you…Got it made dude.”


“Yeah I do.”  Johnny took a deep breath.   “Couldn’t ask for anything more.  Except another one of those pecan sticky buns.  You forgot to add she is a fantastic cook.”


Muller frowned; he wanted to goad Gage into an argument.    Before anything  else could be said, Hank came out  into the kitchen.


“Roll call in 5 minutes.”  Cap called out before going back into his office to talk to Capt. Hookraider  taking  two of the rolls with him.   Johnny went out to the bay.  Roy and Mike was already there when Marco and  Chet’s replacement came in.


‘Good to have you back, John.   This is Eddie Dean, Chet’s replacement for the next few weeks.   Eddie is new to our department but has worked in Chicago for a couple of years.” 


“Nice to meet you.  The guys were telling me all about you.”


“Only the good stuff, I hope.”  Johnny said with a grin. 


“Ok, let’s get started,” Cap, said looking around at the faces of his men.
He went over the announcements and chore assignments.   Cap  was  glad  Muller had  done  overtime  with the  other shift as he  wasn’t  fond of his  attitude  towards  John  or Marco.   Johnny and Roy did the morning checks   then began their chores.  It didn’t take Johnny long to sweep, dust and take out the trash in the day room.  He washed the window then mopped.  Henry sat on the couch watching with his usual sleepy demeanor.   Marco  came into the  dayroom  just  as  Johnny finished  gathering  up  old newspaper and  other trash.


“Johnny, could we talk?  About what happen before you got hurt?”


“There isn’t anything to talk about.  You all heard him…”


“Can you still work with him?”  Marco knew if it came down to Johnny or Chet, it would probably be Chet who left.


“I honestly don’t know.   I don’t want to leave here …Can’t imagine working with anyone except Roy full time.”


“Chet can  be a real pain…but  he’s  my  best  friend…If it  comes down  to a choice  between  you leaving and  Chet,  who  do you think  Cap is  gonna  keep?  He  really  does  feel  bad about  what he  said, think it  hit  home  how  much  trouble he was in when you didn’t  come visit him.   Just think about it, ok?”


“Yeah, I will.”  Johnny  felt  bad  for  causing  Marco  to  worry  but  he  was still  determined  to  keep  Chet and  Lee  apart  some  how.   At least until he could figure out how he felt.


The morning  passed  quickly  with  only  2  minor  runs and a run  that  was cancelled.  Johnny  helped  with  hanging  the  hoses  while  Roy  caught  up on  paper  work.    Working  up  top   he  had to pay  attention  to  what he  was doing so he  didn’t have to think about  what Marco  said. 


Johnny came down off the hose tower when the SCU sounded.    It was an unknown illness at a small community park about 15 minutes from the station.  They found the victim   in the shelter house.  A 45-year-old man was having difficulty breathing.   It  didn’t  take them long to establish it  was an allergic  response to an insect  bite plus  an  anxiety attack.   They  started  the IV ordered by  Dr. Morton,  Roy rode into the hospital  with  him.   As  Johnny  was  loading  up the  equipment the  man’s son  came up to him.


“Thanks for helping Dad.   He was sure he was having a heart attack.   His dad was 45 when he had his first heart attack…He was 50 when he had his second attack…the one that killed him.   Think it has been bothering dad since his birthday last week.   We had this silly argument a few weeks ago…  Then he  wanted me to come over for dinner and to  talk…I  got stubborn  and wouldn’t  go, went to hang out with friends instead. For about 2 years, we have been meeting here to jog…last week I didn’t come.   Almost didn’t  today …because I didn’t want to argue any more.   What if I hadn’t had come and he had been out here alone?”


“But you did …and he is gonna be fine.”  Johnny   said.  “Go on over to Rampart.   I’d guess they’ll be sending him home soon as the IV does its job.”


Lee was down in the ER checking on some information she had received   concerning a complaint that had been filed by a citizen.   Lee got the transmission information and was starting back when one of the paramedics from 110 stopped her.


“Hey, is it true?  You’re pregnant?”


“No, but we are adopting a baby in May.”


“Congratulations…it’s a lucky baby…”    The heartfelt kind words made Lee smile and eased some of the tension she had felt at the start of the short exchange.


Roy was waiting at the desk when Johnny came in.   He was talking to Dixie.   


“Good to see you back,” Dixie said with a warm smile.  “I  saw Lee earlier,  she said you had  been shopping for baby clothes and  furniture.  Pretty exciting?”


“Yeah it is.   She can  spend  ten  minutes  looking at two tiny  little  night gowns  telling me  how  they are  different and they  look  exactly  alike  except the  color to me.   But watching her and seeing her so happy makes it really fun.”


“That reminds me…she has something for you to take back to the station.  Said it was a special surprise for you all.”


Roy and Johnny went up to the office after calling in available.  Lee was reading a report when they came in. 


“Good afternoon Roy, hi darlin’.”   He bent down and kissed her.  “There is a package in the fridge for you and one on the counter.  I had Mick add it to the delivery.   Tell Hank I said enjoy.”


“Thanks…It’s my turn to cook.”  Roy said. 


“So you about done here?”  Johnny asked as he got the box out of the fridge.  Roy had the one off the counter.


“Yeah, going over to the other office before going home.  Should I stop by the paint store?”   He had mentioned there were a few things he   still needed.


“I’ll stop in the morning.   You going to be home before dark?”  


“Yep.  I want to get some stuff done tonight so we can do whatever you want tomorrow.  Oh, I  saw Chet  come  in  just  before  you all got here…  said hi  but he  didn’t  see me or  hear me.  He was with Suzi and they were talking.”


“Must have had a check up or pt today.   We better get back to the station.”   Roy said  seeing the  frown in Johnny’s eyes.


“You all be careful and stay safe.”   She reminded them as Johnny bent down and kissed her.


“You remember that, too.   No standing up putting things in that closet.”


  “Go.”  She rolled her eyes at him but smiled.


On the way, back to the station Johnny was quiet.  Roy was waiting for the coming Gage rant.


“Do you think he really didn’t see or hear her?    Do you think he was snubbing her on purpose?”


“Are you looking for a reason to still be mad?  Do you really want him talking to her when you aren’t around?”


“I  don’t  know…I  think  she  thought it  was  funny I  didn’t  go  visit him…I  just  don’t  want her  hurt.   She  says  he  doesn’t  make her  feel  like  he use to  but  she is  still  worries about  the adoption…She is afraid  people  will  be extra critical of her . Can you believe that she’s afraid of embarrassing me?”


“Yeah I can believe that…”   Roy   answered.  Sometimes he still did not understand those two.  However, it was usually pretty great seeing how happy they were together.  


As they were finishing dinner, Edie spoke up.  “Captain Stanley,  if there is  ever an opening for a lineman I’d  sure  appreciate  you  considering me for the  job.  This place reminds me of my station back home.”


“I don’t see any changes happening any time soon.  This crew has been together since the station opened, except for me.”  Cap   replied.  Marco and Mike both looked over to John who did not say anything.


After dinner was done Cap called Johnny into the office. “I was kind of waiting to see if you’d come to me about  this,” Cap said.


“About what?”  He had a good idea about what but wasn’t  going to say  just to be on the safe side.


“Look, I know what Chet said and it was totally out of line.   If you don’t think you can or don’t want to work with him I need to know.”
He was leaning back in his chair, his fingers laced behind his head.  “A shift has to be able to work as one and that means trusting each other.  Doesn’t mean they never disagree …but they trust the others to be there.”


“Cap, I honestly think I can work with Chet.  Even as mad as I was that day, I did my job. Anyone think I didn’t?” 


“Of course not.   But I don’t want everyone in this  place walking on egg  shells waiting for you two twits to go at it or exploding over something the  other said.  That’s not fair to anyone.”


“Including Lee.  Cap  you  know how  excited she is…I  just  want to  protect her from all the jerks…but  it  isn’t  gonna  happen.  There are just too many of them.  Guess the best I can do is being there for her and let her know the jerks are wrong.”


“She can handle just about anything that is thrown at her as long as she knows you have faith in her.   That’s all the protection she needs.”  He smiled.  “Besides I think you have plenty of back up if you need it.    Relax; you two are going to be fine.  Lee will figure out the best way to handle the every day stuff.    You keep on  being this up tight is gonna  make her  nervous and self conscious…If she  thinks you’re  judging her every  move  or don’t  trust her  she’ll be  crushed.   Your opinion  is the  one that matters most  to her   That is all the  protection  she  needs,  your  love and  trust.”


Johnny left the office going into the dorm.  He needed some time to think about what Cap and the others had said to him throughout the day.  He knew that what Roy and Cap had told him was right.  He made a decision and in his heart, he knew it was the right one.


Lee answered the phone on the second ring.  “Hello.”


“Hey, beautiful.  Gotta question for you.”


“Ok, let’s see if I have an answer.”  She was not sure what but there was something different in his tone.  It was more relaxed she decided.


“Is it ok if I call and invite Chet over tomorrow?  We don’t have any place to be at any certain time done we?”


“No…Other than you were going to meet me at the pool…but that’s no biggie.”   She would be glad when they started using their pool in another week or so.  “Talk to him and let me know what time is best for you all.”


“I’ll  call  you  if he  wants to  come  over early  but I  think it’ll  probably  be  lunch or  later.   Did I mention the fact I love you?   Thanks for putting up with my mood lately.”


“Hey, considering what my moods have been like the last couple months.   I saw Anna today.  She  was asleep  when I  went  in…Callie  said she had  opened her  eyes  but  hadn’t  really  responded to  anything except  when they did the pt but  did make a  sighing  sound  when they  rubbed the lavender  lotion on her.  The baby was kicking and they took blood for more tests. ”


“Gotta go luv ya.”  He said hanging up.  She could hear the SCU in the background.


The structure fire was quickly contained and there were no injuries.  As  they  were going  back to the  station the  squad was sent to a  residence on an  illness.  It turned out to  be a panic attack  by  a  young woman  who  was taking an important exam the next day.  On the way back to the station Johnny had a chance to talk with Roy.


“I talked to Lee.  She didn’t have a problem with Chet coming over tomorrow.”


“Did you tell her why you wanted him over there?”


“No  but  she   knows  something has  been  bugging  me and she  thought it  was strange I  hadn’t  visited  Chet or  called him.”   He let out a deep long sigh.  “She knows me too well.”


Once they got back to the station, Johnny called Chet and they set a time. 


Johnny came into the house surprised Lee was not in the kitchen.  He went into the bedroom.   He was surprised to see her sitting at her vanity crying softly.


“What’s wrong?”  He asked gently as he stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders. 
What  can I  do to make it  better?”


“I  just realized that I came to live with  Jeff  17 years ago this  month…and  that Sarah  would be  21 years old.   Why wasn’t I with them?  Why save me and then let this happen?”  She hit the arms of her chair.   “What if I can’t   …” She stopped as the pressure on her shoulders got harder tighter.


“I don’t have any  answers, sweet heart.   I do know me and Jeff and a lot of  other people are so  thankful  you are in our lives.  There are  gonna  be  things  we have to work out and  people  who  don’t know any better are  gonna say things that are  hurtful and  stupid.  Together you and me we can face any problem.   We’ll show the idiots what fools they are.  Our  baby is  gonna  be so loved  none of that  other  bull is  gonna  ever hurt them  or  you…Because you’ll  know you are  loved  by  the people that matter.”   He bent down and after brushing her hair away and kissed her neck softly.  A soft gentle kiss said more than any to her than any words could have.    She didn’t answer just reached up and squeezed his hand as hard as she could.


Chet rang the doorbell feeling very nervous.   When  Johnny  answered the  door  he  felt a  weight  being  lifted  off him seeing the welcoming  look on  Johnny’s  face.


“Come on in, Lee’s just taking a pan of muffins out of the oven.   You doing ok?”


“Yeah,   doing great.   Had my last pt session yesterday.”  Chet said as they moved towards the kitchen. 


“Hi…You want coffee or juice or milk?   Did you have breakfast yet?”


“Coffee would be fine…I wasn’t very hungry this morning.”  Chet was dumbfounded at the reception he was getting.  He had expected Johnny and Lee both to be so angry with him.


“OK, I’m gonna fix us something to eat while you two talk.  Why don’t you take your drinks and the tray with the muffins and go out on the deck?  I  don’t  know  what the  problem is...but I  know  whatever it  is it’s making  the Boyo  pretty  cranky  sometimes.  I hope that you can work it out.   Our daughter is going to need all her uncles to be around.   I--- we-- need all our friends to be here for the good and not so good times.”


The men went out on the deck.  Chet sat down at the picnic table.  Johnny was leaning against the railing post waiting for Chet to start.


“What I said about you and the papoose…It was totally out of line.   I  know  if you wanted to file a  complaint  with Headquarters I’d  be  in  big  trouble.   It was disrespectful and crude…not just to you but to Lee and the baby.   Guess I  watch too many  old  Western  movies,  the  B ones  that weren’t  very  good  role  models.”


“So who did you practice this speech on?”  Johnny  wanted  to  know  what  Chet  really  felt and what was the  chances of this  happening  again.  He didn’t want to hear a rehearsed memorized speech  that someone else had written.   “They help you write it?”


“Suzi helped…She was pretty ticked off too about what I said.   I  think something and it comes out…you don’t always filter real well either, you know.”


“Must be, my poor selective memory…but I don’t ever remember making   hurtful jokes about your being Irish.”   Chet had no answer for that.   “I never hear you giving Marco a hard time for being Mexican.   I sure as  hell  never hear to make cracks about  McConnikee…what  was  it he  asked you that day?  Are you lace curtain or shanty Irish?   Look, Lee was right, the argument we had did bother me.   But not for the reasons she thought.  I CAN ignore you and you’re so called jokes.  I Will NOT ignore you saying things that are hurtful to her or  our baby.”


“I thought papoose just meant a baby…didn’t know it was something wrong.”


“What was wrong  was the way you used it and the tone.   Yeah a papoose is an Indian baby.   Yeah our  baby is going to be full blooded Cheyenne  but  that is something she is going to grow up being  proud of…We are  going to teach her to love and  respect the  culture of  her  grandmother and her  biological  parents.  Teach her she does not have to accept being the butt  of  someone’s  sick  sense of  humor.   I  pray she’ll never  know  the  verbal or  physical  abuse…”  Johnny  stopped not  able or wanting to continue  that line of  thought.


Chet set with his head hung down.  He saw and heard   the anger and hurt he had caused.    He had  seen the concern  that Mike and Marco had  been  trying to share with  him .  He knew Cap  didn’t want to  split up  A  shift  but would if that was the only choice Chet left him with.  Roy  was civil  to him but there  was still a  tension between  them.


“We know there is going to be some problems and we’ll have to make adaptations for her being in the wheelchair.  But she has never let that chair define her…or keep her from doing her best.   If  you have any questions about  how well we take care of our  child ask us .  Or tell it to  the man in the moon,  I don’t care.  But  you sure as  hell better  never tell  anyone  that Lee can’t  be  a good  mother.   Our baby is going to loved and safe and no one is ever gonna say it isn’t  when I’m around.”


“I  never said she  would be a bad  mother,  I  just wondered  how she  was  gonna do some of the things  it  takes to  take care of a baby.”


“Then why didn’t you ask?  Instead of making it a  joke?  Look,  we’ve been  friends a long time…She  would  be really  hurt if she  thought she  was the cause of  us not being friends or was the cause of my  leaving  51.   It  wouldn’t  be her   fault,  understand  me?”


“Roy and Cap wouldn’t let that happen…and it shouldn’t.”    Chet answered.  “Look, I’m sorry and I want us to be friends. You think that can happen?   If not I’ll put in for a transfer.”


“Yeah I do.  For two  reasons,  one  being I  don’t  want to  have to explain to her why we aren’t and two,  for some  reason  it  would be really  strange if  we weren’t.”

Lee  stuck her head out the door.   “If you two are finished talking …come in and eat.”   Lee looked at Chet and smiled.  “Whatever you did to tick the Boyo off don’t do it again, please.  I hate it when he is so cranky.”

“I’ll try to do better…but the Phantom --- he’s still gonna be around.”  Chet answered with a big grin.








Posted to site 6/7/25




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