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Jennifer had begun to scream the moment John’s hand had been removed from hers. Sally and Dr. Wallace had had no luck trying to soothe the terrified toddler. Her wails gave way to choking coughs and small shuddering breaths before the cries for ‘Unca Johnny’ resumed.
The two were about to give in and go get the young man when the door opened and Kel Brackett stepped into the room. His eyes took in the hysterical child as the small blonde struggled with Sally and tried desperately to knock the mask from her face. He quickly moved to the table.
“What have we got?” He asked Wallace as he reached out to help the blonde nurse hold the small, wriggling child.
“She’s been screaming since Gage left the room,” he almost yelled over the distressed squalls.
“Jennifer…Jennifer, its Dr. Kelly honey,” he said reassuringly, trying to get the little girl to focus on him. He’d been at her home on several occasions and hoped she’d settle down with someone she recognized.
Her watery blue eyes locked with his briefly…She knew this man but he wasn’t the one she wanted. She wanted the one that made her feel secure and safe. A rasping cough erupted from her small mouth and her little face screwed up in preparation of unleashing another barrage of hysterical screams, but the stress and near drowning in the last hour had been too much on the child’s lungs. She tried to draw in a breath but it seemed to catch and hold in her throat.
“She’s in respiratory distress,” Wallace barked, “I need an airway.”
Sally was quick to respond. Kel remembered that Johnny was waiting for him in treatment room five. “I’ll get Gage…Jennifer trusts him and he’ll be able to keep her calm,” he said as he whirled and strode rapidly to the door. He whipped it open to find Johnny and Roy standing in the corridor. ‘Thank God,’ he mused silently. “Roy…We need you in here right now...Jennifer is in respiratory distress.
Roy spun around, his blue eyes widening in terror. His baby girl was in trouble and she needed him. Everything else was forgotten for the moment as he ran to the room and disappeared inside.
Johnny wished desperately that he could go too but it wasn’t his place. Kel threw John a warning look, but the young man was staring tiredly at his feet. Kel didn’t have time to argue and just assumed John would comply with his earlier directive. He turned and followed Roy into the room.
Roy ran to his daughter’s side where Sally and Betty were trying to hold the struggling child still for Dr. Wallace to insert the airway. The little girl was gasping, frantically trying to breathe.
The powder blue eyes were frightened and wet with tears. Roy took her hand and the toddlers gaze locked with her fathers. “Jen… Peanut…Daddy’s here,” he assured her.
The small tot tried to once again to draw a shuddering breath and the look of terror returned when she couldn’t, but between her father and the two nurses, they managed to hold her steady enough for the doctor to work.
Dr. Wallace finally managed to get the airway inserted and the hiss and pop of the ventilator filled the room. Roy’s eyes filled with tears of his own at the sight of his little daughter lying on the table, hooked to this machine.
Guilt at himself and gratitude to his young partner warred equally inside him, even though he knew Bob and Dixie had been right. There was no way to know that his presence in the car would have changed the outcome or merely added to the tragedy. Worse...Johnny wouldn’t have been there to save his family. He knew it in his head but his heart still felt guilty.
Jennifer’s tiny hands clutching desperately at his fingers, yanked him out of his own rueful musings. He smiled down at her reassuringly and now that she wasn’t struggling to breath and her daddy was here, the little girl finally began to settle down.
Dr. Wallace listened to her lungs for a moment and frowned.
“What is it?” Roy asked worriedly, his eyes shifting to Kelly Brackett and back to Wallace.
“I’m still getting crackles here. I’m a bit concerned about the potential for complications Kel,” he said, glancing up at his colleague.
The dark haired doctor nodded his understanding. “Roy,” Kel began reaching out to rest his hand on the young fathers shoulder. “With near drownings, there’s always the potential for brain damage and respiratory issues,” he warned.
“I know,” Roy whispered fearfully, not knowing how long his wife and children had been without oxygen.
He tried to smile at his daughter whose soft, blue eyes were drooping tiredly in exhaustion from her ordeal. Thankfully Jennifer was too young to read the fear in his own. He plucked a tissue from the cart and whisked away the tears from the toddler’s cheeks and then wiped her tiny nose.
“Her heart is stable and I think it’s best if we mildly sedate her so she won’t fight the vent or get upset if she wakes and you’re not here.”
Roy didn’t like the idea but he understood. “Alright,” he agreed.
A moment later the doctor gave her an injection. Jen’s face once again screwed up in a mixture of annoyance and pain, but before she could get really fired up, the drug began to take effect and her eyes drifted closed.
Roy leaned down to kiss the tiny fingers he held within his own and then the soft cheek.
“We’ll send her up to pediatrics in a few minutes. I know you want to check on your wife and son, so I’ll have the nurse call down with her room number as soon as she’s settled.
“Okay,” Roy agreed. “And thank you,” Roy said quietly, still holding his daughters small hand.
“You’re welcome, but go thank your partner…She wouldn’t be in this stable a condition if he hadn’t got to her as quickly as he did,” Wallace assured him.
“I know,” Roy assured him. “I have to thank him.”
“Why don’t you go check on Joanne and the kids first,” Kel suggested, hoping to get a moment to look John over and be sure he was ‘okay’ physically and emotionally while Roy was with his family. The last thing Roy needed right now was to be worrying about his partner on top of everything else.
Roy blew out a concerned breath and the older man smiled and patted his shoulder. “Go ahead Roy, we’ll take real good care of her…I promise.”
The blonde man nodded and headed for the door. Brackett followed. The two stepped into the corridor and both of them glanced around, looking for Johnny, but for two different reasons. Roy wanted to see if his young partner was still waiting and assumed when he didn’t see him that he had gone to get some coffee…Kel was making sure the young man had done as he’d been told and was in treatment five.
Kel waited for Roy to disappear into Chris’ room before he crossed the hall to where John was waiting and most likely growing impatient. He pushed the door open and stopped. He sighed and hung his head in frustration. He knew he shouldn’t be shocked or surprised that the room was empty. “Alright John Gage…Nice try but you’re not getting away with it this time,” he muttered half under his breath, annoyed that the young man had driven him to talking to himself. He’d check with Mike and Joe to be sure they had everything under control here. Then he’d grab his bag from his office…He needed to pay Mr. Gage a house call.
Roy pushed the door open to Chris’ room and stepped inside. Mike Morton glanced away from the light panel where he was studying Chris’ X-Rays. “Hi Roy, come on in," he invited.
Roy threw a quick look at his son. His head was wrapped in a new, stark white bandage and he appeared to still be unconscious. He wanted to go to him, but he also needed to find out how badly injured he was. He moved to Morton’s side.
“How is he?” He questioned in concern.
“Well the good news is that his lungs are clear and there is no internal bleeding,” he informed the worried father.
Roy was relieved by that but his face was still pale with fear. “And the bad?” He asked.
“He has a hairline skull fracture,” he said, pointing to the X-Ray, “and a very serious concussion.
Roy licked his lips nervously at that piece of news. “Will he be alright?”
Morton gave him a small smile. He’d never seen Roy this uptight, but until now he’d always been in paramedic mode and not a terrified husband and father who’d just come very close to losing his whole family.
He didn’t know Roy was thinking the same thing and for the first time understood his young partner completely. Johnny had lived this nightmare as a small child but the difference was, Roy’s family had survived and Johnny’s hadn’t. He’d had to grieve the loss and didn’t get a second chance.
Mike Morton’s voice brought him back from his wayward musings. “As you know Roy, any head injury is dangerous…But there doesn’t appear to be any bleeding. He’s also young and strong and that’ll be in his favor.”
Roy glanced toward his son. “Has he woke up at all” He asked worriedly.
“Not yet, but like I said…the concussion is severe.”
Roy sighed and nodded, “You’re sure?”
Mike smiled and nodded reassuringly. “We’ll continue to monitor him and we will be moving him to the pediatric ICU. I’ll let you know the moment he wakes up.”
“Thanks,” Roy replied before moving over to Chris’ side. As he had with Jennifer, he took his son’s hand and leaned down to kiss his son gently on the cheek. He was rewarded with a soft moan, though the boys eyes stayed closed. At least both men knew the boy was hovering just beneath a conscious level. That was a good sign.
Roy’s fingers stroked gently over the soft blonde hair. “I love you Chris…Dad’s here son,” he said quietly. He blew out a breath. “I’m gonna go see mommy for a minute and then I’ll be back,” he assured the six year old before he looked at Morton. The young, black doctor smiled understandingly.
“Go see your wife…I’ll look after him.”
Roy nodded and set his son’s hand gently on the bed…He turned and left…
He pushed the door open to Joanne’s room. Dr. Early glanced up from his conversation with Kelly Brackett. Both men threw him a concerned glance and a small, forced smile. Roy’s heart climbed in his throat. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He questioned fearfully, throwing a look toward his wife.
Both doctors moved toward him to quickly reassure him that Joanne was going to be fine and neither of them wanted him to know that they were talking about Johnny. Joe had assured Kel that Joanne was alright and he could handle things here while the younger doctor went to check on John.
Joe almost chuckled when Kel told him the young paramedic had once again slipped the ‘noose’ and skipped out on a checkup, but the scowl on Kel’s face when he’d told him was anything BUT amused. He understood that as well…He’d been concerned about Johnny too.
“Roy…Just relax…We have the X-Ray’s back. Jo has a moderate concussion and a broken ankle…But she’s gonna be fine,” he reassured the worried husband.
Roy blew out a relieved breath and grasped Joanne’s hand. She seemed to know he was there and he felt a gentle squeeze on his own. Her lashes fluttered against her cheekbones before the blue eyes Roy loved to gaze into, finally opened.
“R…Roy,” she whispered quietly.
“Hey babe,” he said softly as he leaned down to gently kiss her lips. She smiled up at him groggily as he broke the kiss. “I love you Jo…I’m so sorry,” he said, leaning close to her ear.
“I am t…too,” she breathed out. “But this wasn’t your f…fault.”
Roy knew she was giving him absolution but he wasn’t sure he deserrved it. “I wish I’d been there for you and the kids.”
Jo gasped as memory returned again. “The kids…,” she whimpered. “My babies…,” she rasped out.
“Whoa…Settle down babe. They’re both gonna be okay,” he assured her, hoping he wasn’t lying.
“You’re sure,” she wept.
Roy exchanged a glance with the two doctors before he smiled down at his wife. “Yeah babe…I’m sure.”
Kel gave a nod to Joe… “Thanks for covering for me Joe…I’ll be back in a little while,” he said as he headed for the door. Joe nodded.
Roy was too engrossed in his wife to even notice their conversation much less concern himself with it, but then again…He thought Johnny was in the waiting room.
“Wazz wrong with me?” Jo finally managed to ask.
“You have a concussion and a broken ankle babe,” Roy explained as he gently brushed the back of his fingers over his wife’s cheek. “Your foot was caught under the gas pedal.”
“Wa…ter,” he mumbled. “The car wazz in the wa…ter?” She frowned as she tried to remember.
Roy nodded. “Yeah…Yeah you were but Johnny got you out.”
She looked confused. “John...ny?” She questioned. She had a vague impression on John being close to her in the ambulance but she couldn’t be sure if she’d been awake or dreaming.
“Yeah babe…He left right after you did…He saw the accident and he went in and got you and the kids out of the car,” he told her, once again feeling an over whelming sense of gratitude for his young friend.
“My b…boy,” she breathed out as her eyes drooped before reopening.
Joe Early turned away smothering a laugh, but Roy didn’t even try. He chuckled at the comment. “Yeah babe…Your boy,” he teased.
Joe finally got his smirk under control and wished Johnny had been here to hear the remark. The young paramedic would have crawled under the table in embarrassment.
“Do you remember what happened Joanne?” Dr. Early asked, wanting to test her memory.
Jo frowned again…Her mouth felt dry and she licked her lips.
Roy saw the gesture and grabbed a cup of water. He gently lifted her head and let her drink. Her head spun dizzily for a moment, but she managed to take a couple of sips.
Her forehead crinkled briefly as she tried to remember what had happened and she winced as the cut above her nose pulled painfully. “There was…was…a blue car,” she whispered. “I…I couldn’t turn…The wheel,” she whimpered as tears filled her eyes at the memory. “He hit me…He hit me,” she cried.
“Okay Joanne, that’s enough…Settle down now,” Dr. Early urged as Roy gently brushed the tears from his wife’s cheeks.
“I’m so…sorry Roy,” she wept.
“Shh babe…Don’t be sorry…I’m the one who’s sorry, you just relax okay?”
She sniffed back her tears and grimaced in pain once again. She laid her head back and let her eyes drift closed.
Kelly Brackett pulled up in front of Johnny’s apartment. He’d never been here before but he had gotten John’s address from his medical records.
Kel slid out of the driver’s seat and climbed the stairs…His eyes scanning the doors on the second floor for the correct apartment. He found 2H and gave it a hard knock. He bounced on his toes a bit while he waited, but there was no answer. He tried again. Kel glanced around, wondering if John had gone out or had maybe gone down to the pool but he doubted it. The young paramedic had been stressed and exhausted.
He finally reached out and tried the knob and was a bit surprised when it turned easily under his hand. He stepped inside cautiously and glanced around. “JOHNNY?” He called out, but there was no response. “JOHN?” He yelled again.
The light in the hall was on so he knew the young man had been here. Kel moved further into the apartment, glancing into the small kitchen.
Kel wasn’t sure how far he should go in invading John’s privacy. He blew out a breath and made the decision to keep going. He needed to be sure the young paramedic was alright. He walked further down the hall and into the living room and gasped.
John was sitting on the couch with his knees drawn to his chin. His arms were wrapped tightly about his torso. Kel knew from the position and the slow rock that John had pulled into himself.
He moved quickly to John’s side as a rough cough slipped from between the young man’s lips. He knew better than to try and touch him and pursed his lips as he contemplated what to do. He couldn’t call Roy away from his family right now and he wasn’t sure what had sent him spiraling into withdrawal to begin with.
Johnny had certainly been stressed and tired but he’d successfully delivered all three DeSoto’s to the hospital alive and in fairly good shape. The only thing he could think of was Jennifer…Had the announcement that the toddler was in respiratory distress have upset him enough in his exhausted state to send him over the edge?
Would he come out of it on his own and if so when? Roy was the only one who’d been able to talk John back from withdrawal without a fight and that had only been that one time. Would Johnny trust him enough to accept him in Roy’s place?
He sighed heavily…He didn’t know for sure but he knew he’d have to try.
Johnny was in HIS place…That safe haven inside himself where time was irrelevant and nothing hurt. He was vaguely aware of is surroundings and his own body, the raspy cough that he couldn’t hold back, the sounds around him that signaled someone’s intent to try and pull him back from his refuge.
He’d heard the voice call his name but had let it simply wash over his awareness, like the sound of crashing waves on a seashore…The sound was there in the mind but ignored as he just let the peace of his place surround around him again, but then suddenly the voice became a presence that settled close to him…Too close. He hitched his body away, but the sound of someone speaking interrupted his peace once more. He tensed as someone touched him.
Kel eased himself onto the sofa next to Johnny. The young paramedic shifted himself away from the presence that intruded on his solitude.
“Johnny? Can you hear me?” Kel questioned gently. There was no verbal response from the sable haired fire fighter, just another muffled cough. Kel tried again. “Johnny…Its Dr. Brackett…Can you hear me?” The soft rock picked up momentum and Kel knew John was very aware of him and was becoming distressed by his nearness but he wasn’t prepared to give up. “John…I don’t know what sent you away, but if it was Jennifer…She’s okay…I promise you,” he added. There was no reaction.
Kel sighed. Johnny wasn’t going to make it easy on him, not that he’d really expected him to…He’d gone too deep to reach for anyone but Roy. He reached out and gently touched his shoulder. The reaction was instant and expected…John pushed his hands away and the rock became faster and more intense.
Brackett knew there was only one other way unless he called Roy and he couldn’t do that. He reached out and grasped the younger man’s wrists to control his hands, so he couldn’t push him away or inadvertently hit him in his struggles.
Kel had been anticipating the reaction, but he was still surprised at just how strong his slender young friend really was. John’s body jerked backward, almost yanking his hands free as he twisted against the older doctor’s grip. His back arched and his feet kicked out. Kel lost his hold and moved away.
John began to cough harshly and immediately curled back into himself…The rapid rock and gasping pants warned him that John was too deep to give in easily. Kel licked his lips. He’d seen Roy do this twice. Once after John had panicked and withdrawn after he’d thought Kel had amputated his legs because of an accident in the squad and the other after he'd been kidnapped by Scott Jackson, but even then, it had only been the tail end of the struggle.
He’d made it look so easy. “Okay Johnny…Let’s try this again,” he warned the young man.
Kel reached for John once again and as he’d expected the young paramedic’s hands rose to fend him off. The doctor grasped his wrists and pulled, yanking John toward him and half into his lap. He wrapped his arms around John’s shoulders from behind, pinning his arms and reacquiring a firm grip on his wrists.
Johnny almost broke his nose as he shoved himself backwards, trying to break free. Kel tightened his hold and jerked his head to the side to avoid the rather nasty bang John would have delivered in his desperation to free himself.
“It’s okay Johnny…Let it go,” he whispered close to the younger man’s ear. “I know you’re tired and almost losing Jo and the kids scared you pretty bad didn’t it?” He added softly. “Jennifer’s gonna be fine,” he grunted as John drove the air from his lungs with another backward lurch.
Kel wondered how Roy managed this…It was all he could do to hold onto the boy. Both of them were beginning to break a sweat with the effort, but John wasn’t ready to come back to face the loss of his friend and the only family that had loved him just for him, at least until he’d once again become a burden to be sent away. Roy blamed him for all of this and maybe rightly so. Chet had said he followed him like his shadow…Roy hadn’t wanted him there to begin with but John had insisted…If he hadn’t been there, Roy would have gone and none of this would have happened.
John was too distressed to think about the possibility that Roy might have died in the car with them or that he wouldn’t have been present to rescue them. It was obvious that Roy didn’t see it that way. “If you hadn’t been there,” he’d said. The accusation made his heart ache.
Jennifer was in respiratory distress… Oh God...What if she died? It would be his fault. No, he couldn’t go back…He didn’t want to feel the pain of this loss. It was still too raw…Too fresh.
John could hear the soft voice close to his ear. He knew he should recognize it but he was too busy being frustrated at the arms that held him. Frustration gave way to anger…Anger at being held against his will…Anger that he’d once again lost what he held dearest…Anger at being forced into returning to a world that caused him pain. He heard the soft drone of a voice urging him to fight.
“It’s okay Johnny…I know you’re angry that I’m holding you and it’s okay to fight. Just let the anger go...,” Kel whispered.
Johnny continued to struggle for a few minutes more but his chest hurt from coughing and he was tired. He groaned in pain and rage and then he began to wheeze, gasping for air…He knew he was too exhausted to fight much longer…That the one who held him was stronger…That he would force him back…He knew he was lost.
Kel heard the soft moan of pain and frustrated anger and then the raspy cough. John began to gasp and his struggles grew weaker as he fought to breath.
“Lemmee…*cough* go,” he finally choked out.
“Johnny…Johnny Its Dr. Brackett… Can you hear me?”
John nodded tiredly and let his head fall back against Kel’s shoulder as he panted, trying to pull oxygen into his lungs. Brackett knew if Dixie ever saw this he’d never hear the end of it, but right now…John needed him…He tentatively let go of one wrist and lifted his hand to gently smooth the sweat dampened hair from John’s forehead as the younger mans’ head lolled in exhaustion against him.
“Shhh…Just relax John…You’re okay.”
John’s face flushed in embarrassment at the familiar gesture that Roy usually used and that Brackett had had to bring him out of withdrawal. “I’m sor…sor…ry,” he stammered.
“For what John…? You have nothing to be sorry for.” Brackett had no idea how guilty Johnny felt…That he blamed himself for the accident.
John might have laughed if he didn’t hurt so much, he mused bitterly. He turned his head to look at Kel. “Jjjj…jenn…ifer?” He managed tiredly.
“She’ll be fine,” he assured the younger man. So he’d been correct…This was what had sent John into withdrawal. At least he could ease his fears and let the young man rest. “So will Joanne and Chris.”
“Bbbb…be okay?” He stuttered, laying his head back against Brackett’s shoulder once more.
“Yeah…They’ll be okay…Now…why don’t you let me help you to your room and get you into bed….I want to check you over and then I’ll let you get some sleep.”
“I’m o…okay,” he mumbled.
“You were in withdrawal…You nearly drowned yourself and you’re coughing. You shouldn’t have left the hospital in the first place, so be glad I’m not calling an ambulance to cart your behind back there,” Kel warned.
John rolled his head around to look at the dark haired doctor. Kel stared sternly back and the younger man sighed in resignation.
“Okay d…doc,” he agreed in defeat.
“Good…Come on John…Let me help you.”
Kel slid out from behind the younger man and pushed himself to his feet before turning to John. He reached out and took his hand, pulling him to his feet. John wobbled unsteadily and Kel quickly moved to grab him around the waist and lead him slowly into his bedroom.
He eased the younger man onto the bed and began unbuttoning John’s shirt. Kel was afraid the boy was slipping again as John pushed his hands away. “I…I cccan do it,” he mumbled.
The doctor eyed him uneasily for a moment before it sunk in. “Alright Johnny,” Kel agreed in understanding. John hated to be touched and Kel knew enough about his past to understand why. Roy was the exception…John trusted his friend, but that trust didn’t extend to anyone else…At least not yet.
Kel waited while the still shaky paramedic fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. He finally managed to get it off and eased himself back on the bed until he rested against the pillows.
“Alright Johnny, I want you just lay back and relax…I’m going to go grab my bag and come right back. Kel left the room and returned a few moments later with his black bag in hand.
Johnny lay quietly, his eyes drooping in exhaustion. The lids struggled to re-open as he felt the mattress sag under Kel’s weight. “It’s all right Johnny…You can rest if you want. I just need to check you out,” he told him as he pulled the BP cuff from his bag.
“I’m okay doc,” he murmured as Kel took his blood pressure.
“Uh huh,” Kel muttered in disbelief. “Johnny…Can you tell me what it was that upset you so much?” The older man questioned as he pulled the cuff free.
Johnny worried his lower lip with his teeth. He didn’t want Brackett to know that Roy blamed him for the accident. That it had happened because he’d pushed Roy into letting him come over to ‘’help’ even though the older man had tried to keep him away. Well he’d helped alright…He’d almost helped Roy lose his whole family, he mused bitterly.
The dark eyes finally lifted to meet Brackett’s concerned gaze and he shook his head. “I…I ddd…don’t know,” he stuttered. “Jen…Maybe…don’t know,” he mumbled evasively, knowing Kel would push if he didn’t come up with something.
Kel frowned as the chocolate colored eyes shifted away but he knew Johnny often had trouble remembering events that upset him. “Alright John…I guess it’s not important as long as you’re okay,” he soothed as he reached out to sweep the dark bangs back, masking the gentle gesture by laying his hand on John’s forehead to check for a ‘fever.’
He returned it to John’s wrist to get a pulse. It was a bit rapid, but that was to be expected after a vigorous session of hold therapy. He tucked the tips of his stethoscope into his ears and listened to Johnny’s heart and then his lungs.
“Can you sit up for me?” He asked. Johnny struggled to comply and Kel was quick to help him. “How much water did you take in,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied quietly, “But I ccc…coughed up “*cough* mmmost of it,” he added, with a stutter.
“Well you’ve still got some rales but you’re not too bad considering. But…Given your history of pneumonia and other respiratory complications, I’m going to put you on antibiotics to be on the safe side.”
“Okay,” Johnny wheezed. “Can I sss…stay here?” He asked tiredly, not wanting to return to Rampart, where Roy and the rest of the DeSoto family still were because of him.
“I should take you back on general principle,” Kel said sternly.
“Sorry doc…I just…I was jjjjust to uptight to ssstay,” he admitted.
Brackett frowned at Johnny’s depressed attitude but misunderstood the reasons behind it. “Johnny,” he began, reaching out to gently rest his hand against the dark hair. John blushed at the gesture but the dark eyes lifted to meet his. “I promise you…Joanne and the kids will be fine,” he assured him.
John nodded. “Thanks doc…That’s gggood to know,” he stammered. He just hoped Roy would forgive him someday, if not, Station 51 could become a very uncomfortable place to work. “Will I bbe o…kkkay to work?”
Kel frowned. “What’s your shift schedule look like?”
“I’m off tttomorrow…On the next ddday.”
Kel pursed his lips as he considered it. He wasn’t worried about the stutter…John seemed to have that problem when he came out of withdrawal but Kel knew it would clear up. “You promise me you’ll stay in bed tomorrow?” He questioned with a raised brow.
“Sure,” John agreed.
“Alright Johnny, I’m going to go and fill this prescription for you.”
“I want you to rest…That means you…stay…put,” Kel stressed, pointing at the bed.
John sighed in defeat. “Alright.”
“I’ll let Roy know that you’re okay and…”
Johnny bolted upright and almost shot from the bed, interrupting the doctor’s words. “NO,” he rasped, before he began to cough harshly.
Kel moved quickly to grasp the younger man by the shoulders and hold him on the bed. “Hey…Hey…Settle down,” he soothed as he eased John back against the pillows.
John’s face was red from coughing and he wheezed in a breath, trying to regain control. “Doc…Please…please don’t…tell him,” he gasped out between breaths.
“Johnny? What’s wrong?” Kel asked in confusion. The two men were so close…Like brothers. He was listed as the younger man’s next of kin and would definitely want to know that John had been in trouble but was now okay. Why wouldn’t Johnny want him to know? Something was definitely wrong here.
Johnny panted heavily, trying to get his breathing under control. He didn’t want Brackett to know that Roy blamed him for the accident. He didn’t want them upset with Roy and he didn’t want Roy’s pity or worse…A guilt trip that the older man was even better at than John was. “I uh…*cough* I just…I don’t wwwant him to worry,” he finally stuttered. “He’s got enough tto deal with.” Well at least that part was true.
Kel blew out a breath. He didn’t like the idea of keeping this from Roy but at the same time, Johnny was right. Roy really didn’t need the added stress, though he’d never see it that way. In fact, he’d be pretty upset that he wasn’t told, considering Johnny had just saved his entire family from drowning. Kel frowned, he really didn’t have a choice here. Doctor/Patient privilege over ruled all else. He couldn’t tell Roy unless John changed his mind.
“He’ll be pretty upset if you keep this from him,” Kel warned the younger man.
Johnny didn’t believe that and shook his head adamantly. “No doc…Please,” he pleaded.
Kel had no option. “Alright Johnny…Have it your way. I won’t say anything, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
John nodded. “Thanks.”
“You get some rest. I’ll be back in a few minutes with the pills…You take them for ten days and you promise me…If you run a fever or that cough gets worse you’ll let me know?”
Kel didn’t like it but it was the best he could do for now. He pulled the covers over the young fireman. “Sleep…I’ll try not to wake you when I come back.”
John nodded in relief, willing to give in if would keep this a secret from Roy. He laid back and closed his eyes.
The door swung closed behind the orderlies, leaving Roy and a groggy Joanne alone in the room.
“Are you comfortable babe?” Roy asked his wife anxiously as he reached out to adjust the pillows beneath her casted leg.
Joanne gave him a drowsy smile. “My head hurs,” she slurred tiredly.
Roy gently stroked the auburn hair away from her forehead before he leaned down to kiss her gently.
“I’m so sorry Jo…I was such a jerk,” he apologized yet again.
“Don’t honey,” she murmured. “We were both angry and we both said some things we shouldn’t have,” she said quietly. Her blue eyes welled with tears. “I knew I shouldn’t have been driving the car…I was being stubborn.”
“I know but,” he began, smoothing the tears away from her cheeks.
“Honey,” she interrupted, reaching out to take his hand. “I love you…I forgive you for anything you said or did. Can we just forget it and be grateful that you weren’t in the car too and that Johnny was there when we needed him,” she said tiredly.
Roy suddenly remembered that he hadn’t seen his young partner and wondered where he’d gotten to? He kissed his wife’s fingers gently and smiled. “Alright babe…I guess you’re right. Why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll go check on the kids and find Johnny. I need to thank him.”
“Alright,” she agreed as she laid her head back against the pillows and let her eyes drift closed.
Roy rode the elevator up to the pediatric wing. He stepped out and almost ran into Mike Morton, who was waiting to get on.
“Hi Mike...How is Chris?” Roy asked anxiously.
Mike gave him one of his rare smiles. “I was just coming to get you Roy...Chris is awake." The blonde paramedic grinned and blew out a relieved breath as the doctor continued. “He was a bit sick to his stomach, but you should be used to that after babysitting Gage so often,” he informed him. Roy’s smile faded as he scowled at Morton over the jab at his young partner. The black doctor smirked and folded his arms over his chest. “We gave him Phenergan to settle his stomach. His head is hurting and his belly is badly bruised. He won’t feel much like running around for a few days but…He’ll be okay. I’ve ordered something for pain and the nurse will be in with it shortly.”
Roy’s blue eyes closed briefly in relief, despite his annoyance with Morton’s teasing. “Thanks Mike,” he said gratefully.
“He’s in 421,” Morton told the younger man, giving him a pat on the shoulder as he passed by.
Roy nodded and walked quickly down the hall. He pushed the door open and stepped into the dimly lit room.
Chris turned his head and his blue eyes filled with tears as he saw his father. “Dad…dy,” he whimpered, as the young face screwed up with pain.
Roy hurried to the bed and leaned over the rail to carefully gather the boy into his arms. “Hey buddy…Its okay,” he soothed, as he cuddled his son close to him.
“Mmmy head h…hurts,” he sniffled plaintively.
“I know it does pal, but the doctor promised me that you were going to be okay and the nurse will be in soon to give you something so it won’t hurt anymore alright?” He promised.
“Mmmom…my…Jen?” He hiccupped.
“They’re gonna be okay too, I promise.” Roy assured him.
That seemed to reassure the boy to some degree but he still clung to his father as his dad rocked him in his arms.
The door opened behind him and a young nurse bustled in. “Dr. Morton ordered meds for this young man,” she said, offering the boy a smile and a wink.
Chris eyed her warily but the young nurse’s charm won him over and a tiny smile curled the boy’s lips at her teasing. She emptied the contents of the syringe she held in her hands into the IV port. She gave Roy a reassuring smile and a pat on the boy’s leg before she turned and left.
Roy’s fingers stroked the tousled, blonde hair gently, and just as it worked with Johnny, It wasn’t long until Chris’ blue eyes drifted closed. The thought brought a rueful grin to Roy’s lips and he shook his head at his own musings as he eased his son back against the pillows before he leaned down and kissed his cheek tenderly.
He blew out a relieved breath and quietly left the room. He walked to the nurse’s station where a nurse he’d never met greeted him.”Can I help you sir?” She questioned politely.
“My name is Roy DeSoto…My son is in room 421,” he explained.“She nodded and waited expectantly for him to continue. “My daughter was brought in at the same time…They were in a car accident. Can you tell me what room she’s in?”
“What’s the name?” She asked.
She looked at her clipboard. “She’s in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Mr. DeSoto,” she replied, glancing up at him.
Roy’s face paled. “Why? What happened?” He asked worriedly.
“She’s sedated and on a ventilator sir…She needs to be constantly monitored. It’s standard procedure in a child this young.”
Roy blew out a sigh relief. “Alright…Where is it?” He questioned, looking around.
“Down that hall and through those double doors,” she answered, pointing down the long corridor.
Roy walked swiftly down the hall and pushed through the double doors. Another nurse stopped him just inside.
“Can help you sir?” She questioned officiously.
“Yes ma’am. Roy DeSoto…They said they just brought my daughter Jennifer up here,” he replied.
She nodded and pointed to a door two rooms down. “Unit C…The doctors in with her now,” she told him as she turned back to her work dismissively.
Roy frowned a bit at her abrupt attitude but turned and walked up the hall. The door was open and he saw Dr. Wallace checking on Jennifer’s vitals. The doctor glanced up as he stepped inside.
“Hello Mr. DeSoto, I’m just getting her settled,” he informed him.
“How is she?” Roy asked as he stepped over to the bed. He reached down to take his daughters tiny hand.
The doctor frowned a bit. Roy worried his lower lip anxiously at the concerned expression. “I’ll be honest with you Mr. DeSoto…She’s got some pretty heavy crackling in her lungs. She took in a lot of water and she was without oxygen for several minutes.” The Doctor glanced back at the sleeping toddler. “I’m very worried about complications…Pneumonia specifically.” He shrugged. “We’ll have to wait until she wakes up to know if there are any…uh…others,” he said hesitantly.
Roy looked ready to weep. “You mean brain damage?” He whispered despairingly.
Wallace nodded. “Yes.”
The blonde paramedic licked his suddenly dry lips and tears filled his eyes. “Oh God…Awe Jenny,” he whispered as he leaned down to kiss her forehead.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves alright? I said it was possible…Not a certainty,” he reassured the distraught father.
“Don’t tell my wife,” he murmured, as he glanced up at the doctor. “She has enough to deal with right now.”
The man nodded his agreement… “Alright Mr. DeSoto.” He threw one last glance at the small girl and let his gray eyes sweep over the ventilator to be sure everything was in order. He patted the younger man’s shoulder before he left the room.
Roy pulled a chair over to his daughter’s bedside and slumped into it. He reached through the rails to take the small hand in his once again. “Jenny…Its daddy…I’m here Peanut,” he whispered reassuringly, not sure if she could hear him or not, but praying she could. “I’m so sorry baby,” he murmured, feeling the guilt rise up again. He should have been there…He should have gone with them…If he hadn’t been acting like such an ass…
‘You could be dead or injured right along with them,’ a small voice whispered in his head. Roy shook his head. He knew the others that had told him that were right, but it was hard to let the guilty feelings go.
He glanced at his watch. It was close to one in the afternoon and he still hadn’t talked to Johnny. He needed to find him and be sure he was okay and he needed to thank him for what he’d done but he couldn’t leave Jennifer right now. He lifted the tiny hand and kissed it gently, and then let it rest against his cheek as his gaze settled on his small daughters angelic face and the ugly tube that was making sure she was breathing.
He settled back to wait and keep watch.
An hour later, Roy made his way down to the ER…He was tired and hungry and he figured it would be a good time to find his partner and have something to eat. He could tell Johnny how grateful he was over a late lunch. His blue eyes scanned the waiting room expectantly. Roy was sure his best friend would be hanging around and waiting anxiously for news and felt guilt rise up in him again, this time for waiting so long to come down and tell him what was happening. He knew John didn’t handle emotional stress very well and he should have checked on him.
He didn’t see his young partner and figured he might have gone to the doctor’s lounge for coffee. He’d be far more comfortable on the couch than the hard plastic chairs in Ramparts waiting room. Roy turned and walked swiftly down the hall.
He pushed the door open and saw Joe Early and Kelly Brackett deep on conversation over their cups of coffee. Both of them looked up as he came in and the low voiced talking stopped.
Brackett had been telling Joe about Johnny’s earlier episode of withdrawal and that John didn’t want Roy to know…The two men exchanged a glance, hoping Roy hadn’t heard.
“Hello Roy…Come on in,” Kel invited standing up and walking over to the coffee pot. “Can I pour you a cup?” He asked the young blonde man.
“Sure doc…That would be great but uh…Have you seen Johnny?”
Kel turned his attention to pouring a cup of coffee for the off duty paramedic. “Yes…He um…went home Roy.”
“What? He left? I needed to talk to him…I can’t believe…,” He began, shocked that John would have agreed to go without knowing how Joanne, Chris and Jen were doing.
Kel saw the surprise on Roy’s face and didn’t want him upset that John had gone home and he couldn’t tell him why without breaking his promise or the confidentiality of doctor/patient privilege. Kel didn’t want to lie but he had no real choice at the moment.
“I ordered him to go...He was upset Roy...He was wet and cold and tired and so I uh…I sent him home. I promised I’d call him when we knew how everyone was doing,” he added.
“Was he alright?” Roy asked anxiously, worried that John might be close to the edge of withdrawal and he’d be alone or even that he might be ill from the aftereffects of the rescue. John had had pneumonia several times as a child and once since Roy had known him. Any type of irritation to his lungs could cause inflammation and his ‘mother hen’ partner watched him like a hawk whenever it happened.
Kel glanced at Joe and scuffed his toe on the linoleum guiltily as he set the coffee cup down in front of Roy. “I uh…I wouldn’t have let him go if I was worried about him,” he replied, almost wincing at the blatant lie. He was very worried about John but he couldn’t tell Roy that. He planned to swing by later and check on the young fire fighter on his way home. “He was just tired…That was a pretty exhausting rescue…Especially without any equipment and being personally involved with the victim’s,” he hinted.
Roy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at the doctor’s odd ‘body language’ and evasive behavior but he couldn’t very well call Brackett a liar either. “Maybe I should call him,” Roy suggested as he turned toward the pay phone.
“I told Johnny to get some rest…If you call him, you’ll probably wake him up,” Kel said warningly, knowing if Roy spoke to John and heard that cough or worse…The slight stutter that John picked up after an episode of withdrawal…He’d quickly figure out what had happened and he’d be a nervous wreck…Worse would be the stress of having to choose to be with his family or Johnny and right now…Roy didn’t need that. John had known that when he’d chosen to leave the hospital.
Kel wasn’t happy about it but he respected the unselfish attitude of the younger man. He had no idea that Johnny believed that Roy blamed him for the accident or he might have suggested that he go and talk to his partner to clear it up.
Roy sighed but he realized that the doctor was right. If John was exhausted and sleeping, he wouldn’t want to wake him. He slipped into the chair and picked up his cup.
“How is everyone?” Kel asked.
“They’re all asleep. Joanne and Chris both have a concussion and some bruises and contusions. Jo’s ankle is broken and Chris has some bruising around his belly.” The two men nodded. “Jen has some rales in her lungs and Wallace isn’t certain she won’t have complications from it,” he admitted worriedly. “He uh…*ahem*…,” he cleared his throat from the sudden tightening. “He isn’t sure if there will be any brain damage until she wakes up,” he finished, trying not to cry.
Kel heard the fear in his voice. “Roy…Complications are always a possibility in a near drowning, you know that. Look at what John went through after you guys got stuck in the water when the helicopter went down a few months ago.” Roy nodded in agreement. “He has to warn you of the possibilities,” he soothed.
“But just remember…,” Joe Early began with a grin. The younger man looked at him curiously. “Your kids have been hanging out with Johnny for a long time now…If any of his stubborn determination has rubbed off on her…She’ll be fine,” the older man teased.
Roy had to grin at that. He nodded and sipped his coffee. Awhile later he set his cup in the sink. He threw a longing look at the telephone. He wanted to call John but he knew Brackett was right…He’d check on him tomorrow and give him a chance to get some sleep. He turned and left the room…Brackett and Early exchanged a glance and Kel blew out a relieved breath. Roy would be furious when he found out the truth but for now, it was best to keep him in the dark.
Churning black water swirled about him and he could barely see. He kicked desperately toward the bottom. He could just make out the three limp figures still trapped in the car.
He yanked desperately on the door handle but it wouldn’t open. He thumped uselessly on the window in frustration.
He heard Roy’s voice. “If you hadn’t been there…”
“I’m sorry,” he moaned softly in his sleep.
“You killed my family,” his best friend’s voice accused.
John tossed restlessly. “Noooo,” he wept.
“They’re all gone John,” he snarled.
Suddenly Jennifer’s face swam before him. Her soft blue eyes were lifeless, her face gray and her lips were blue.
Johnny sat bolt upright in his bed… “NOOOO JEN,” he shrieked, before a ragged cough burst from his lips. John’s eyes were watering and he gasped for air, trying to get his breathing under control.
His door flew open and Brackett ran inside. “Johnny…Are you okay?” He asked as he grabbed the younger man’s shaking shoulders and eased him back on the bed.
John’s dark eyes searched the dimly lit room frantically before he suddenly realized he’d been dreaming. The wide and fear filled gaze finally returned to Brackett’s face. “I…I um…*Cough* I was…,” Johnny halted as he panted for breath. “I was dr…dreaming,” he finally managed. “Jen, Chr…is, He moaned, as the nightmare replayed in his mind.
“They’re fine Johnny…I promise you…Joanne and the children are all alive and they’re okay.”
The chocolate brown eyes lifted to meet Kel’s searchingly. “Are you su…sure?” He stuttered.
“They’re fine Johnny…Now you need to lie back and try to get some rest.”
John nodded, still breathing heavily. Kel perched on the edge of the bed and reached out to sweep the tousled sable hair away from John’s forehead before he rested his hand on his brow to be sure the younger man wasn’t running a fever.
He was warm but not enough to worry the doctor. Kel dumped a pill into his palm and handed Johnny the tablet and the glass of water he’d left there earlier.
John obediently swallowed it with a swig from the cup. He relaxed back on the bed. Kel nodded his approval and patted the young paramedic’s hand reassuringly. “I spoke to Roy…Jo and Chris are going to be fine.”
John struggled to sit up. “Jo and Ch…Chris…What about…What about Jen?” He panted.
“Johnny. Lay back and settle down,” Kel barked grabbing the young man once more. “Jen is in the intensive care unit in pediatrics.”
John’s eyes widened in horror. “Oh God no,” he whispered. Not his Princess…Roy and Jo’s precious daughter…Because of him…Because he’d taken too long…Oh God…They’d hate him forever…He’d hate himself.
“Johnny stop…She took in a lot of water. She’s on a vent to help her breath and we always put them in the PICU with a vent okay?” John stared at him as if he wasn’t hearing the words. Kel gave him a small shake, afraid John was about to slip away once again. Johnny blinked and seemed to regain his focus.
“Will she…Will she be alright?” He questioned plaintively.
Kel smiled gently and patted John’s hand. “There is always the possibility of complications, you know that, but you got her breathing very quickly and there’s a better chance that she’ll be just fine when she wakes up.” John nodded, looking a little more relieved at that. “Roy was asking for you,” he told John.
“You didn’t tell him…?” Johnny began but Kel interrupted.
No…I told him I sent you home. He was pretty upset.”
John looked away. “I know,” he mumbled, misunderstanding.
Kel sighed. “Alright Johnny…I think you need to sleep some more. Maybe you won’t have any more bad dreams now that you know they’re okay.”
John nodded…He hoped so too, but he was troubled and he knew nightmares from his past always plagued him when he was stressed. He’d lost his best friend and almost killed his family…He couldn’t get much more stressed. He closed his eyes, not wanting the doctor to see the lost look in his eyes and guess that he was still uptight.
Kel gave him a relieved smile and a quick pat on the shoulder. “Good night Johnny,” he murmured as he pulled the tangled covers over the young man in the bed.
“Night doc,” John mumbled.
Kel reached over and unplugged John’s phone before he left, pulling the door closed behind him. He took the extension in the living room off the hook. He wanted Johnny to rest and he didn’t want Roy to call and wake him until John had gotten a good night’s sleep.
John’s eyes opened as he replayed the events of the day, wishing he’d stayed home and not pressed Roy into letting him come over this morning. He should have remembered that he was nothing but trouble to everyone and the lapse had cost him his best friend and the only place he’d ever felt like he belonged.
He laid awake for most of the night before exhaustion finally claimed him in the small hours of the morning.
Roy slept in the chair next to his wife’s bed. He’d called headquarters the afternoon before and told them he needed some time off to stay at home and look after his family when he brought them home.
Chief Houts had been very understanding and had readily agreed to his request.
He’d spent the rest of the evening running between rooms to check on his wife and children. He’d finally collapsed into his chair and tried to call Johnny, but the phone had beeped back a busy signal. He’d tried repetitively for over an hour without luck.
He’d finally nodded off in the chair a bit after nine.
A nurse bustled into the room the next morning, and even that didn’t wake the slumbering, blonde paramedic until she whipped the curtains open.
Sunlight flooded into the room and Roy’s blue eyes snapped open. He squinted for a moment until his eyes adjusted and then he sat up, stretching the cramped muscles in his back. He yawned and ran a hand over his face, trying to wake himself up.
“Good morning Mr. DeSoto…Mrs. DeSoto…How are we this morning?”
Roy always hated that phrase and almost chuckled as he remembered his disgruntled partner’s grumbled. “WE…? What we…? You gotta mouse in your pocket?” Response the last time Johnny had been a guest here at Rampart.
Roy managed to refrain from giving the woman a flip retort and turned his attention to his wife instead as she replied to the nurse.
“My head hurts and my ankle is throbbing, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. I’m still alive,” she said wryly. The nurse smiled and began to get her vitals.
Roy stood up and stretched again before he leaned down to kiss his wife gently on the mouth. “Morning babe,” he murmured against her lips.
“Morning honey,” she replied. “I’m sorry I conked out on you last night,” she said softly.
“Don’t be…We were both tired.”
“Did you reach Johnny?” She asked rubbing at the persistent ache in her forehead.
Roy caught her fingers and shook his head with a frown. “No...No I didn’t. It was busy and I can’t imagine who he was talking too for so long, but I fell asleep before I could reach him. I’ll try now,” he added, picking up the phone.
Jo smiled tiredly at the nurse as she finished up and headed for the door. She turned her attention back to Roy. The smile slid away as Roy’s eyebrows knotted over his nose as the phone once again beeped out a busy signal.
“Hmmm,” he grunted worriedly.
“Still busy?” She asked. “Maybe he took the phone off the hook so he could sleep,” she suggested.
“Maybe…,” he mumbled, surprised that John would deliberately make himself unreachable in case something happened to Jo or one of the kids.
Jo reached out and took his hand. “Honey…Go home and take a shower…Change and stop by his apartment on the way back…You’ll only drive yourself crazy worrying over him if you don’t,” she added.
Roy grinned. Jo always encouraged his relationship with Johnny and he appreciated the fact that she never made him feel guilty when his concern for his ‘kid brother’ took center stage.
He kissed her again. “I won’t be long,” he promised as the door opened and a young candy striper came inside carrying Joanne’s breakfast tray.
“Just make sure he’s alright. Tell him I love him and I want to see him. I need to thank him for what he did.”
Roy nodded and left the room.
Jo smiled as the door swung shut behind her husband. She loved the difference in her husband since Johnny had become a part of their family.
Johnny’s dark flashes fluttered against his cheeks. His throat burned from the ragged cough he’d been dealing with all night and another erupted from his lips once again. The exhausted brown eyes finally managed to open and stay that way despite his lack of sleep.
John glanced at the clock beside the bed…It was almost ten. He must have been more tired than he’d thought to have slept this late. He managed to pull himself to sitting position and swung his long legs off the bed.
He ran his hands through his sable hair and pushed himself off the bed, padding on bare feet into his bathroom to shower and shave.
He toweled himself dry and got dressed before heading to the kitchen. He still wasn’t hungry though the hot shower had loosened some of the congestion. He plugged his phone back in and called a cab before he made himself some coffee and slid into the chair at his small kitchen table. He had to pick up his rover from where he’d left it the day before.
He sipped the steaming liquid while he contemplated what to do. He wanted to check on Joanne and the kids, but wasn’t sure of his welcome at this point and he didn’t want to upset them or Roy anymore than he already had, besides, Brackett would kill him if he caught him at Rampart after he’d ordered him to stay in bed.
He sighed and pushed the half empty cup away. He’d go and quietly find out what he could, avoiding the ER and any possible run ins’ with Kelly Brackett.
He stood and stared dismally out the window. John had stopped letting people into his life a long time ago…He always seemed to lose those he loved and so he’d learned to love no one. He’d made the mistake of letting this whole family somehow sneak into his heart and now he was paying for it. He saw the cab pull into the parking lot.
He scooped up the keys and almost grinned at the irony. This would be the first time he snuck into a hospital instead of out.
Roy rode the elevator to the fourth floor to check on Chris and Jennifer. Chris was awake, but his breakfast sat untouched on the tray in front of him.
“What’s the matter pal?” He questioned, indicating the still full plate.
“Don’t feel good,” he mumbled, trying not to cry.
Roy pressed the nurse call. “Do you feel sick to your stomach or is it your head?”
“Both,” he whimpered as the tough guy façade crumbled and tears welled in the blue eyes. Chris bit his lip in frustration. Uncle Johnny and his daddy never cried when they got hurt.
The nurse poked her head inside. “Can I help you?” The pretty young nurse asked.
“Yes…My son is in pain and sick to his stomach. Could you ask Dr. Morton if you can give him something,” he questioned.
“Sure Roy,” she replied, recognizing the blonde man as one of the hospital’s paramedics from when she’d worked in the ER.
She tossed a wink at Chris and retreated. The young boy wiped at the tears on his cheeks and sniffled.
Roy sat on the edge of the bed and soothed the tousled blonde hair back. “It’s okay to cry if you hurt Chris,” he assured him with a smile.
“You and Uncle Johnny don’t,” he mumbled.
Roy grinned. “Chris…Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean we don’t cry. I did just yesterday when I thought I’d lost you guys in that accident,” he informed him.
“Uncle Johnny doesn’t think it’s okay.”
Roy remembered back to the first time Johnny had stayed in his home after he was injured and the nightmare that released the flood of painful memories of abuse and the tears that had torn at Roy’s heart as he’d told him the truth of his horrifying past.
The next morning, he’d been embarrassed by his tears. He’d said it was weak. Roy knew now that John’s grandfather had forbidden the boy to cry or show his emotions. He’d reassured him that day, as he was now telling Chris, that it was okay to cry…That it was human. He was a bit surprised that his son had remembered it, but he shouldn’t be. Chris loved Johnny like he was a part of the family, which he was in everyone’s eyes but John’s. He was still often unsure of their love for him and how much he meant to them…And even more so now in Roy’s eyes.
The nurse returned and smiled at Roy and Chris. “Dr. Morton said I could give him Compazine...That should settle his stomach and this,” she said holding up the syringe, “Will take away that nasty headache,” she promised, injecting it into the boys IV port.
“Thank you Alaina ,” Roy said gratefully.
“No problem Roy. It should kick in soon,” she promised as she turned and left.
“Anyway pal...I told Uncle Johnny the same thing didn’t I?” He reminded the boy.
Chris nodded ruefully as he remembered. “Uncle Johnny saved us?” He said softly.
“Yes he did.”
“How come he didn’t come see me?”
“I don’t know.”
“I wish he would so I could so I could thank him and tell him I love him.”
“I wish he would too, so I’m gonna go and talk to him and maybe bring him back to see you okay?” Chris nodded and grinned. He eyed the tray. “Are you feeling better?” His dad asked.
“Yup,” he said with a smile as the medicine’s kicked in.
Roy pulled the tray over and leaned down to kiss Chris’s forehead. “You eat…I’m going to go see Jennifer and then go see Uncle Johnny.”
Chris nodded and poured the milk over his cereal.
Roy pushed the door open to find Dr. Wallace with Jennifer. The older man looked up and Roy saw the worried frown. His heart dropped into his stomach.
“What is it?
“I’m afraid Jennifer is developing a lung infection Mr. DeSoto. We’re running some tests.”
“Oh God,” he whispered, moving to his daughters side.
“Try not to worry…We’ll be giving her antibiotics to combat it and keeping her on the vent a while longer.” Roy nodded.”I’m afraid that pond water was pretty dirty and most likely full of bacteria. Jennifer was the last to expel it and it was in her lungs longer than your wife and son, not to mention that she was without oxygen for several minutes.”
“I know,” he mumbled worriedly.
The doctor patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry Mr. DeSoto…We caught it quick and she’s otherwise a pretty healthy, strong little girl.”
Roy nodded again and turned back to his little daughter. He leaned down and kissed the tiny blonde on her delicate cheek. “I love you peanut…Daddy’s here,” he said softly. “You get better Jennifer Lynne…Mommy and Daddy need you,” he whispered into her small, shell shaped ear.
He sat with her for another half hour, just stroking her fingers, her cheek or gently brushing the soft blonde hair from her forehead and fighting the burning sensation behind his eyes.
He finally sighed and kissed her one final time. “I’m gonna go see Uncle Johnny for a few minutes sweetheart…Then I’ll try to bring Mommy to see you this afternoon,” he promised, hoping the doctor would let Joanne up to visit.
He turned and left the room, wiping at the tears Chris thought he never shed.
Roy pulled up in front of John’s apartment and parked. He glanced around and noted that John’s motorcycle was parked in front of the building, but the Rover was nowhere to be seen.
He climbed out and headed up the stairs to Johnny’s apartment. He knocked on the door and waited for several long moments. He knocked again but there was still no response. He finally remembered that Johnny had gone to Rampart with the ambulance and his Rover had been left at the accident scene.
Roy fished in his pocket for his keys and unlocked the door. He stuck his head inside. “JOHNNY?” He yelled. Silence greeted him.
He moved into the apartment and looked around. It was dark and neat as always. He moved through the rooms and gently tapped on John’s bedroom door. There was no answer, so he pushed the door open. The bed was rumpled…Johnny had obviously been here but he wasn’t now.
Roy frowned and ran his hand through his hair in confusion. Where was his partner? Why hadn’t he come to the hospital to see Jo and the kids? Didn’t he know they’d be hurt that he hadn’t bothered to come to see them?
Maybe that’s where he was now…Only one way to find out. He picked up a pen and the pad of paper next to John’s phone and wrote a quick note.
Call me when you get home, we need to talk.
He left it on the counter and retreated out the door locking it behind him. He needed to get back to Jo and the kids.
Roy returned to the hospital and took the elevator to the second floor. He pushed the door open to his wife’s room and peeked inside.
She turned her head at the sound of a squeak and gave him a smile. “Did you see the kids?” She asked.
He nodded. “Chris was feeling a little sick so they gave him something to settle his stomach and a something to ease the headache.”
“And Jen?” Roy glanced away. “What’s wrong?” Jo asked in alarm.
“They’re um…They’re afraid she’s developing pneumonia from the dirty water Jo.”
“Oh no…,” she said as she flicked the covers back and started to get up.
“Whoa…Wait a minute…Where do you think you think you’re going.”
“Where do you think? Upstairs to see my babies.”
“Jo…Dr. Wallace was optimistic. He thinks they caught it early on and she’ll be fine.”
“I don’t care…I want to see my children.”
“Alright…Alright... let me call Dr. Early and get you a wheel chair.”
She folded her arms over her chest and Roy knew he’d better secure the doctors permission or Jo would break John Gage’s record for sneaking out of a hospital room.
He came back a few minutes later with a wheel chair and helped his wife up and into her robe before seating her in the chair.
“Did you talk to Johnny?” She asked as he pushed her from the room.
Roy shook his head. “He wasn’t home,” he said sounding a bit annoyed. He’d been hoping that John would be here when he arrived and was disappointed that he wasn’t.
“That’s so odd that he hasn’t come by. I hope he’s alright,” she said.
“Don’t worry Jo…I’m his next of kin. If he wasn’t, don’t you think someone would have told me?”
She nodded. “I guess so.”
Johnny pushed open the front door to Ramparts main lobby. He glanced around to be sure there was no one about that might recognize him and tell Brackett he was here. He didn’t see anyone he recognized and quickly headed for the elevators, stifling yet another cough and wiping the slight beading of sweat from his forehead. He breathed a sigh of relief as the doors slid closed in front of him and adjusted his grip on the bag in his hands.
He waited impatiently for the car to stop on the fourth floor. The door finally opened and John peeked out. There were several people sitting or working in the lobby but no one he knew. He stepped out and walked rapidly to the nurse’s station.
One of the nurses glanced up. “Can I help you sir?”
“I’m looking for Chris DeSoto…Can you tell me what room he’s in?”
She glanced at her clipboard. “421,” she replied as she turned back to her work.
“Uh thanks,” Johnny replied. “Can you tell me if there’s um…anyone with him?” He questioned hesitantly. She looked up at him suspiciously at the odd question. “I uh…I don’t want to interrupt,” he added at the look.
She shook her head. “His father just left,” she answered finally.
“Okay...Um thanks,” he murmured as he turned and walked away.
He stopped in front of the door, hesitating uncertainly, not sure of his welcome even by the six year old. He finally drew in a deep breath and pushed the door open, prepared to retreat if the boy showed any sign of distress at his presence.
He stepped into the room and glanced at the bed. Chris was asleep…and Johnny breathed a sigh of relief as he moved to the bed. He reached out and took the boys hand in his own. Chris moaned and shifted restlessly but he didn’t wake up. Johnny used the back of his long, slender fingers to sweep the blonde hair from Chris’s brow. “I’m sorry Chris…I hope you’ll forgive me someday,” he said softly.
He reached into the bag and pulled out the set of matchbox cars he’d just bought and placed them on the bed. He leaned down to kiss the boy on the forehead before he finally backed away and stared down at the young face he’d come to think of as a nephew. It hurt to think of his life without this boy and his sister and Joanne and Roy in it but there was no help for it now.
He sighed and turned away, slipping quietly out the door and into the corridor. He almost bumped into a pretty brunette nurse as she came up the hall. “Oh sorry…,” he apologized. “Uh…Alaina right?” He questioned softly.
She grinned back. “That’s right…Glad you remembered Johnny,” she said coyly.
If he hadn’t felt so lousy and been so worried about Joanne and the kids, he might have turned on the Gage charm but he just wasn’t up to it. He managed a wan smile. “I never forget a pretty face,” he said quietly.
She grinned but it faded as she gazed into the tired brown eyes. “Johnny…Are you alright?” She asked in concern.
“Yeah…Rough night,” he replied, sounding a bit raspy.
“I saw your partner earlier…He looked pretty rough too…Is that the problem…The kids?” She asked knowingly.
John looked down at his feet but nodded. “Yeah,” he admitted.
She patted his arm reassuringly. “Well don’t you worry Johnny…I’ll take good care of them,” she promised.
John smiled ruefully, before stifling another cough. “Thanks…Um can you tell me where Jennifer is?”
She frowned at the rough sound of voice… “She’s in the ped’s ICU, right down there,” she replied pointing. “But don’t stay too long…It’s really only supposed to be family,” she reminded him.
John nodded… ‘Family,’ he mused unhappily. It’s what they used to think of him as. He sighed and moved off down the corridor and through the double doors.
The nurse just inside the door stopped him. “Can I help you?” She questioned with a frown.
“Yes ma’am…I’m here to see Jennifer DeSoto,” he replied.
“Are you family?” She questioned doubtfully.
Johnny threw a glance through the window of the double doors to where Alaina still stood watching him. He looked back at the older nurse at the desk. “I um…I’m her um…”
“He’s her uncle,” Alaina’s voice came from beside him.
“Well why didn’t he just say so?” The other nurse barked in annoyance.
“Maybe you scared him Jackie,” she said with a grin.
The older woman snickered at the comment but nodded her head. “Go ahead…She’s in three.”
John nodded and made his escape. He stepped into the room and his heart broke at the sight of Jennifer. The ventilator hissed and thumped and the monitor beeped out the rhythm of her tiny heart. Tears of grief welled in the dark eyes and spilled over as he moved to her bed side.
“Hi Princess,” he greeted softly, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “I’m so sorry baby,” he whispered as he took her small hand. He assumed she was sedated as it was a common practice so the child wouldn’t fight the vent, but he hoped she could still hear him. “I love you so much Princess and I’m so sorry this happened to you,” he wept. “It’s all my fault Jen,” he confessed as he sank into the chair Roy had just left.
He sat for a long time just watching the rise and fall of her chest, feeling guilty for having caused all of this by pushing his way into Roy’s life and family. He should have just stayed to himself like he used to and none of this would have happened. ‘You’re just bad luck Gage,” he mused to himself, remembering his cousin’s and their snide comments when he was a teenager living with his Aunt Rosemary.
His Uncle Geoffrey had died just days after his arrival…His cousins swore he was to blame. Johnny had thought so too since his parents and everyone else in life had all left him as well.
John shook off the self pity and reached into the bag, pulling out two stuffed animals and a book. The Winnie the Pooh Bear and Jen’s particular favorite, Piglet sat opposite one another, each holding a corner of a Winnie the Pooh book between them.
Jenny loved the stories and Johnny read them to her often but this was one she didn’t have. He set it on the small bedside table. Maybe Roy would read it to her and she’d remember ‘Uncle Johnny’ fondly.
He leaned down and kissed her one final time before he made his way to the door. It was getting close to lunch time and he didn’t want to be here in case Roy returned. The last thing the children’s ward needed was an argument between him and his partner in the waiting room.
John left the room and walked down the hall. Another nurse sat at the desk and Johnny assumed that ‘Jackie’ had gone to lunch. He nodded politely to the woman and pushed through the doors. He was waiting for the elevator when Alaina came to stand next to him. “I'm going to lunch Johnny…Would you like to join me?” She asked, smiling up at him.
John gave her a tired glance and shook his head. “I have to go see someone and then I need to go home…I’m not feeling well,” he said quietly.
She nodded understandingly and stepped onto the elevator with him. “Well…Some other time then?” She asked. “When you’re feeling better?”
“Sure…Maybe,” he replied softly. She frowned at the obvious depressed attitude. He glanced at her. “Um…Would you please not tell Roy I was here?” He asked. “I don’t want him upset.”
Alaina nodded, wondering why John’s partner would be upset that he cared about his kids. Maybe he just didn’t want him worrying over him too. She decided that must be it.
The doors closed in front of them. A moment later a ping heralded the arrival of the elevator next to theirs. The doors opened and Roy pushed Joanne’s wheelchair out and down the hall to Chris’s room.
Johnny stopped on the second floor and gave Alaina a final grin and a sketched wave as he stepped off the elevator and made his way to the nurse’s desk. “Excuse me,” he said softly.
She glanced up and smiled at the handsome paramedic. “Hi Johnny?” She greeted.
“Hi Maggie,” he replied. John had been a guest on this floor himself a few too many times and knew most of the nurses that worked here. “Can you do me a favor?”
“What is it Johnny?”
He reached into the bag and pulled out the last item, crumpling the bag and throwing it in the trash container near the desk. He held up a small bouquet of flowers. “Can you deliver these to Joanne DeSoto’s room for me…But um…don’t tell her who they’re from,” he asked and bit down on his lower lip nervously.
Maggie frowned at the request but she nodded. “Sure Johnny…But she’s not in there right now.”
“Oh…Where is she?” He asked worriedly.
“Roy just took her upstairs to see the kids.”
John barely contained the relieved breath but he nodded. “Okay…Then I’ll just run these in and leave them,” he said, turning away. “Um…What room?”
“216,” she replied, shaking her head at the young man’s nervousness. “Why don’t you want him to know?” She asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.
John stopped in mid stride. “Um…Roy’s a bit jealous,” he said with a wan grin. “Don’t want him to get upset,” he added. A ragged cough slipped free.
“Are you alright John?”
The younger man nodded and turned away. “Just took in some water yesterday,” he replied.
She nodded. She’d heard about the rescue and that Johnny had single handedly rescued the whole family from a submerged car. “That was a good job John,” she said admiringly.
“Yeah…Great job,” he said softly.
To Be Continued in Part 3
Posted to Site 07/07/14
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.
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