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Two Halves of a Whole

Part 3

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

 

Links to Parts 1. 2. 3.

 

Roy pushed open the door to Chris’s room and wheeled Joanne inside. Chris was asleep but Roy reached over to give his son a gentle shake. His blue eyes fell on the set of cars laying on the bed.

 

His son’s eyes opened slowly, a mirror image of his fathers. He looked around and a broad smile lit his face as he saw his mother. “Mommy,” he shouted as he sat up. His head spun dizzily and pounded and he moaned as he clamped his hands down on his blonde hair. “Oooh,” he groaned.

 

“Oh baby,” Joanne commiserated, knowing exactly how he felt. Her head still throbbed as well. “I’m so sorry,” she said, as she struggled to stand.

 

“Jo,” Roy said worriedly.

 

She waved him off. “I want to hold my son,” she insisted gently.

 

Roy sighed but knew there’d be no winning this argument. He helped her stand and eased her down to sit next her son on the bed. She pulled Chris into her arms and rocked him gently. Chris relaxed into her arms and laid his head on her shoulder. He finally sat back and let her lay him against the pillows while she stroked his face tenderly.

 

Roy picked up the cars. “Where’d you get these?” He asked curiously.

 

Chris’s eyes lit up and he reached out to take them from his father. He shook his head. “I don’t know daddy,” he replied as his pounding head was forgotten for the moment and he began tearing into the package.

 

Roy and Jo exchanged a glance and shrugged. Roy stepped out into the hall. “Excuse me,” he asked the nurse sitting at the desk.

 

“Yes sir?” She questioned.

 

“Did you see who went in my son’s room?” He asked.

 

She shook her head. “No sir…Is everything okay?” She asked worriedly.

 

“Yeah…They just left him a gift and I’d like to be able to thank them for it.”

 

“Sorry,” she said with a relieved shrug.

 

Roy nodded and returned to the room. He shook his head at Jo. “She didn’t see anyone.”

 

Jo shrugged. “I’m sure someone will own up to it eventually.”

 

They spent about fifteen minutes with Chris before Roy helped his wife back into the wheelchair. “We're going to go see Jennifer now…I’ll be back later and mommy will be back tomorrow okay?”

 

Chris nodded and turned his attention to the new cars he’d received, using his knees for hills. Roy scruffed the blonde hair affectionately and wheeled Joanne out and down the hall to Jennifer’s room. He was afraid of her reaction when she saw her daughter but he knew she’d never go quietly back to her room until she had.

 

He pushed the door open and pushed her inside.

 

“Oh…Oh my poor baby,” Joanne whimpered as she saw her daughters pale and perspiring face. The tube helping her breath, taped in place. Tears welled and rolled down her cheeks. “This was all my fault,” she cried.

 

“No it wasn’t Jo…It was an accident,” Roy assured her. “Please don’t do this okay…Wallace thinks she’ll be okay…”

 

She nodded but continued to cry as she leaned forward to touch her daughter’s soft cheek. Roy’s eyes fell on the stuffed toys and the book. “Looks like our secret gift giver has been in here too,” he said picking it up.

 

Jo looked over and smiled as Roy stepped outside and over to the nurse’s station to repeat his query. She also shook her head. “No… I’m sorry…I just came on.” Roy sighed and nodded. “But,” she began. He stopped and looked at her curiously. “No one but family is allowed in here so it may have been delivered by the gift shop.”

 

“That must be it,” he said, knowing that Jo’s parents and his mom would have stopped to visit Jo if they’d been here. So maybe one of them had sent it.  He returned to the room.

 

“Well?”  Joanne asked.

 

Roy shook his head. “She didn’t see anyone but she did remind me that no one but family is allowed in and that it may have been a delivery from the gift shop.”

 

She nodded and turned her attention back to her daughter. They returned to Joanne's room a half hour later.

 

“Roy,” she said pointing, as he wheeled her inside. He stopped and pursed his lips at the bouquet of flowers on her bed stand.

 

“Looks like they’ve been here too,” he said with a grin.

 

She nodded as he helped her back into her bed. “Johnny?” She began…Roy shook his head in bewilderment. “But why wouldn’t he have stayed if it was him?”

 

“I don’t know,” Roy said, still a little irritated that his partner hadn’t come to see him or his family. Didn’t he care? What was going on with John?

 

 

John returned home and tiredly climbed the stairs. He was feeling lousy and he could almost hear Brackett’s stern voice in his head. ‘That’s why I told you to stay in bed and rest Johnny,’ it mocked.

 

John rubbed his aching chest and let the rasping cough he’d been stifling all day explode from his lips. John’s nose crinkled at the foul taste the cough had brought up. He’d had pneumonia many times as a child and he knew the warning signs.

 

He needed rest and fluids…a lot of them. He didn’t feel too bad at the moment but that could change if he didn’t get help. He still had he antibiotics that Brackett had given him…That would help. He wiped the sweat from his brow and pushed open the door to his apartment.

 

He stepped into the small kitchen to make some hot tea and soup but froze in mid step as his eyes fell on the note Roy had left. His heart sank as he picked it up and read it.

 

He was afraid he knew what Roy wanted to talk about.

 

 

John woke early the next morning. His chest still hurt and the cough that had woken him several times over the course of the evening was more wet than rasping. He’d coughed up a bit of the fluid from his lungs and figured the antibiotics were doing their job.

 

He forced himself to climb from the comfort of his bed and headed for the shower. He had to go to work. If he called in or didn’t show up at the hospital, Cap or Brackett might call Roy and he didn’t want that. The last thing Roy needed was to feel obligated to help him.

 

He sighed and stripped off his clothes before stepping in the shower. He hoped the hot water would help ease the body aches and relieve the congestion in his chest.

 

After he was dressed, he popped his antibiotic and downed two aspirin, trusting the small pills to lower his fever. He grabbed his keys and headed off to work.

 

He entered the locker room twenty minutes later. He still felt terrible but he didn’t want to go home unless he became a hazard to their victims, then he’d have no choice.

 

He got dressed quickly and went to the day room, hoping to get a cup of coffee. Cap, Mike and Marco were waiting for him, along with B shift and a paramedic John had never met before, who was talking to Chet.

 

The conversation stopped as John entered the room. They all glanced up as he came into the kitchen. Hank frowned at his youngest crew member’s appearance.

 

“Are you alright Pal?” He asked worriedly.

 

“Just tired Cap and I took in a little water Friday.”

 

“Yeah I heard about that. I was just telling the guys about it.”

 

“So what happened Gage?” The stranger asked.

 

“Oh…,” Hank said slapping his forehead. “John, this is Will…Will Poston. He’s gonna be your partner while Roy is out.”

 

John gave the other man a nod. “You used to be Roy’s partner when he was in rescue right?” Johnny asked. He remembered Roy mentioning him.

 

“Yeah…We worked together for two years.”

 

John nodded before turning to his Captain. “I went over on Saturday to help him fix the car but…,” he hesitated.

 

“What is it Johnny?” Mike asked.

 

“I don’t know… I guess the car had broken down and she’d dropped it off somewhere else and mean… They just seemed a little upset.” He shrugged uncertainly.

 

“So then what happened?” Marco asked.

 

“Well…Jo wanted Roy to go with her to pick up the car but he said no because I was there…,” he almost whispered the last part.

 

Hank laid his hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “Are you okay Pal?” He asked worriedly, finding out just recently about John’s condition.

 

The younger man nodded. “Anyway…She went alone. I got the feeling they were upset and maybe I should leave.”

 

Will nodded. “I worked with Roy for two years. I went to his house once. The man hates to have his family time interrupted,” he said coolly.  John chewed his lower lip worriedly. “Chet was just telling me how you’re always hanging around with him…Kinda surprised me… He usually keeps work and family completely separate.”

 

John glanced away. Was he right? Would Roy tell him if he was becoming a problem? Was that why he and Jo had been so uncomfortable?

 

“Yeah well…,” John shrugged uncertainly, staring at the table, not wanting them to see the haunted look in his eyes. A ragged cough erupted and Hank frowned.

 

“You sure you’re okay?” He asked.

 

“Yeah Cap…Like I said…Too much water.”

 

“Well you just say the word John and I’ll get someone in to replace you.”

 

“Thanks Cap.”

 

“So what happened then?” Chet asked, not realizing that his comments to Will had been taken the wrong way. He’d only meant that Roy and Johnny were close and that he was sure the younger man would know what had happened and would tell them all about it.

 

“Anyway…I left right after Jo and the kids. I came up on the accident scene…It was a mess. Some teenage boy had run the light and hit Jo…I guess she lost control of the loaner car and it went into the pond. By the time I got there, they were under water. I dove in and got them out but Chris and Jen…weren’t breathing,” he murmured.

 

“Oh wow,” Mike murmured.

 

“Are they okay?” Hank asked as the rest of the two shifts mumbled between themselves.

 

“I got them both..,” he halted, fighting back the fear the memory invoked. He gasped a bit and then continued. "I got them breathing and by then the squad was there. Gil and Bob helped me get them to the hospital.”

 

“How are they?” Hank asked.

 

“Jo and Chris have concussions and Jo has a broken ankle. Jen…,” he hesitated. “Jen has a lung infection…She’s bordering on pneumonia,” he said miserably.

 

Hank patted his shoulder. “They’ll get it under control at Rampart,” He assured him, despite the worried look he still wore. He didn’t want John stressing over it. “Good rescue John.”

 

The others nodded their agreement. B shift shook their heads and began to head toward the door. Their shift was over.

 

“Man…If you hadn’t been there,” Marco said with a shake of his dark head as he turned away to go and pour another cup of coffee.

 

John’s head snapped up at the same words Roy had used but the others had begun to filter out to the Apparatus bay for roll call…All but Will who was eyeing the younger man speculatively. “He’s right you know…If you hadn’t been there, Roy wouldn’t have been worrying about you and he might have gone along and maybe he’d have been able to avoid that accident…His wife and kids wouldn’t have even gotten hurt.”

 

John’s face paled at the man’s words…They’d hit home in his head and his heart.

 

Chet stopped in mid stride and turned back as John shot to his feet and looked back at Will…

 

“Don’t you think I know that?” Johnny mumbled miserably as he turned and fled the kitchen.

 

Chet stalked back to the table. “That wasn’t necessary,” he barked.

 

“Look…You’re the one that told me he’s always hanging out with Roy…I know the man…He hates having coworkers hanging around. He likes to put the job behind him not bring it home with him,” he snapped.

 

“Yeah…Maybe…But not with Johnny…”

 

Will snorted in disbelief… “DeSoto had a reputation for being ice cold at his job…I doubt he’s changed that much,” he said dubiously as he stood and headed for the bay.

 

Chet frowned and watched him go. He finally followed and found Johnny leaning against the squad while he waited for roll call. “Hey uh John…What he said in there…You know that wasn’t true right?”

 

John looked away. “Yeah…Yeah it was. You were right Chet,” John mumbled, as a wet cough rumbled from his chest.

 

The Irish fire fighter frowned at the cough but continued on.  “What Johnny? What was I right about?” Chet asked warily.

 

Roy didn’t want me to come over that day…I uh…I pushed him into it. I just…Wanted to help ya know?” He said softly. “I guess I just...hang around him too much.”

 

“Johnny no…I was kidding…Look if Roy knew you…,” Chet began, but John held up his hand to stop him.

 

“You weren’t there Chet…I was...I know what he said…I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

 

 

The Station Control Unit had called them out early for the first run of the day. John set the tone early on by sliding into the driver’s seat, barely casting a glance at his new partner. Will may have been older and known Roy longer but John was the senior paramedic here…

 

They responded to the scene and found themselves surrounded by police. Vince spotted the approaching squad and waved them over. John slid from the vehicle and trotted over to where the older, black officer was waiting.

 

“What have we got Vince?” He questioned, covering his mouth to contain the ragged cough.

 

“You okay Johnny?” He asked. The sable haired paramedic drew in a ragged breath and nodded. Vince frowned and pointed at the building. “Guy in there is holding his wife and kids hostage. Guess the little woman tried to leave him this morning and he took exception. One of the kids got between them and I guess the gun went off. Kid’s wounded.”

 

“Is he going to let us in there?” John asked.

 

Will looked at him in shock. “Go in there? With a nut job armed with a gun. Are you crazy?”

 

John shrugged. “The kids wounded and needs help.”

 

Vince grinned and slapped John on the shoulder. “I knew I could count on you John,” he said as he leaned into his trunk and pulled out a bullet proof vest and handed it to the young fireman.

 

John began to strap it in place. Vince threw a look at the older paramedic that was staring at Johnny as if he had two heads. Will shook his head but held out his hand to take the second one. “I gotta be crazy,” he muttered, as he donned the flak jacket.

 

Vince picked up the megaphone and bent down to run back to his car. “Mr. Sullivan?” He called through the instrument. “I have two paramedics here…They’re gonna come in there and look at your son.”

 

“They better not try anything,” he yelled warningly.

 

John looked at Will...He could see the fear on his pale face. “You hear that…Don’t try anything,” he said dryly.

 

Will glanced at the calm face of the younger man. “Wouldn’t dream of it,” he mumbled as the two picked up their equipment and headed into the house.

 

John pushed open the door and stepped inside…He halted immediately when he saw the middle aged man holding a small handgun on him. Will almost plowed into his back.

 

“Put that stuff down and raise your hands,” he demanded. John did as he was told. Will quickly followed suit. “Over there,” he demanded giving them a head jerk toward the living area.

 

John and Will moved away from the equipment. Sullivan moved to John and gave him a quick pat down, all the while holding the gun to his head. John was terrified but he didn’t let it show. The man moved to Will.

 

“Hey uh…Could you point that thing somewhere else,” he mumbled nervously.

 

“Shut up,” Sullivan snapped angrily.

 

John shook his head at his partner. Will snapped his mouth shut and let the man finish.

 

John turned around. “Where’s your child?” He asked softly.

 

The man seemed to visibly relax at the quiet sound of John’s voice.  “He’s over here,” he replied, leading them into the living room where a woman sat on the floor trying to sooth her injured child who was lying on the bloodstained sofa. Two other children sat huddled together on the love seat opposite. Tears streaked all of their faces.

 

John smiled reassuringly at the frightened looking children before he knelt next to the young boy on the sofa. “Ma’am…Can you let me in here?” He said as he took her arm and gently moved her out of the way. He pulled the drug box toward him. “Get Rampart on the line,” he instructed Will.

 

“Yeah,” he agreed, keeping one eye on the father as he pulled the Biophone close to him.

 

“What are ya doin?” The father demanded…Will froze.

 

“He’s getting the hospital on the line so they can tell us what to do for your son?” John said calmly as he tore the shirt away from the bleeding wound in the boy’s side. Sullivan eyed Will suspiciously and moved closer. “Go ahead Will,” Johnny said without looking up from what he was doing.

 

Will swallowed hard and glanced at John. He couldn’t believe how calm the kid seemed to be. He pulled the antenna free from its clip and set it in place. “R…am…,” he almost squeaked. “Ahem…Rampart base,” he tried again. “This is squad 51…How do you read?”

 

A familiar voice replied. “This is Rampart Base…Go ahead 51,” Joe Early’s voice replied.

 

“Rampart…We have a boy…Approximately ten…He’s been shot Rampart…Please hold for vitals,” he said as he looked at Johnny who already had the BP cuff out and wrapped around the boy’s arm.

 

He quickly pumped it up and listened. John frowned and checked the boy’s pulse and then his respirations. He leaned over the child and spoke softly, reassuringly. He looked at Will and for the first time showed some emotion. “He has a wound to the lower left quadrant. His BP is 85 over 40…he’s lost a lot of blood. His pulse is barely discernible and his respirations are shallow.”

 

The boy’s mother began to weep and the man holding the gun turned pale. “Is he gonna die?” He asked shakily.

 

John gave him a sorrowful look. “He will if we don’t get him out of here real soon,” he replied as Will repeated the vitals to Early. He could hear the doctor’s instructions as he looked at the man.

 

“Start an IV 51…Ringers Lactate…Transport as soon as possible.”

 

John looked at the man. “Can I tell him we’ll do that man?” The father’s hand that held the gun shook. “Or do we tell him no and you and your other kids can watch him bleed out,” John said coldly.

 

Will glanced at him in shock for almost baiting the older man. The woman wailed and tried to throw herself on her dying child but John held her off. “Please,” she begged.

 

John looked at the father. “You’re running out of time. What’s it gonna be?”

 

The man began to weep and finally lowered the weapon. “Yeah…Yeah go ahead,” he mumbled, his love for his son out weighing his anger and frustration.

 

“I’ll need the stretcher,” he told Will as he turned back to his patient and efficiently started the IV.

 

Will eyed the man worriedly but Johnny turned and held out his hand. Sullivan hesitated for a moment and then handed him the gun. Will sighed in relief and ran for the door.

 

He yanked it open and yelled. “He’s surrendering…We’re gonna need an ambulance and a stretcher.”

 

Vince and his partner ran for the house as two ambulance attendants unloaded a stretcher and trundled it up the walk. Four other officers raced by them and onto the house…A moment later, Vince led the handcuffed man toward the door.

 

“My son…Is he going to be alright,” he wept, looking at John.

 

“I’m sure he will be,” Johnny replied soothingly, as they led him out the door.

 

The mother hugged her two other children as John turned his attention back to the boy. He smoothed the hair back and smiled down at the child and gave him a wink.

 

Will’s mouth dropped open in surprise at the small giggle that came from the boy. “What the Hell?”

 

The mother moved closer to look down at her son. The boys gray eyes were open and pain filled but far from expiring. She looked at John in stunned amazement. “It’s just a flesh wound,” he assured her. “Lots of blood but the bullet isn’t still in there,” he soothed. “He’s a great little actor.”

 

She looked angry for a moment and then realized what he’d done and why and she began to laugh…It turned to tears a moment later and John stood to take the woman in his arms and pat her back reassuringly.

 

Will shook his head at the younger man and the chance he’d taken but what could he say…It worked. The ambulance attendants picked the child up and placed him on the stretcher. Will looked at John. “If this is what you do to Roy….It’s a wonder he has any hair left,” he growled.

 

John shrugged and began to gather his equipment. “I’ll ride in with him,” he rasped, coughing harshly.

 

 

Roy called John from Joanne’s hospital room. Hank answered the phone.

 

“Station 51…Captain Stanley speaking,” he replied.

 

“Cap…This is Roy…Is Johnny there?”

 

“Hey pal…No…He’s out on a run.”

 

“Is he okay?” Roy asked, worried that maybe John had gone into withdrawal or was ill. Hank squashed that idea.

 

“He’s coughing a little but he seems okay…Why?”

 

“He hasn’t come to see Jo or the kids…I thought maybe…Maybe something was wrong but…,” he let the sentence hang.

 

“That doesn’t sound like John,” Hank replied worriedly. “He loves those kids.”

 

“I know…At least I thought so,” he added softly. Hank could hear the hurt in Roy’s voice.

 

“I’ll talk to him when he gets back,” he offered.

 

“No Cap…If he’s okay and he doesn’t want to come here…That’s his choice,” Roy said in a mixture of hurt and anger.

 

“Alright Roy,” Hank replied, worried now himself. He didn’t want to see Roy and John at odds with one another but he hadn’t heard the comments Will had spoken or seen John’s reaction to them and he certainly didn’t know about what had taken place in John’s apartment.

 

“How are Jo and the kids?” Hank asked.

 

“I’m bringing Joanne and Chris home this afternoon…Jen has to stay a while longer. I’m going up to see her now.”

 

“That’s great news Roy…”

 

“Yeah…Yeah it is Cap,” Roy agreed, sounding a bit depressed. He didn’t understand why Johnny would turn his back on them when they needed him. What was going on in his young partners head?

 

 

 

Johnny stepped down from the ambulance holding the IV bag. He trotted alongside the gurney and into the treatment room where Joe Early was waiting. Will and an Officer from the scene followed them in.

 

They made a quick transfer from the stretcher to the table and Joe moved in quickly. Those vital signs that John had given him earlier were worrisome.

 

“Uh doc…*cough*…Relax…,” Johnny said between coughs.

 

“What?” He asked in confusion. “This boy could bleed out,” he barked.

 

John threw the doctor a sheepish grin and tossed a wink at the boy. “Uh doc…This is Eddie…Eddie, this is Dr. Early.”

 

The boy gave the doctor a small wave. Joe’s blue eyes narrowed suspiciously. “This is my dying ten year old?”

 

John nodded. “I told him to pretend he was asleep so I could get his dad to let us go,” John shrugged. “I had to make his father believe the kid was about to keel over so…,” he let the sentence hang.

 

“I see…”

 

“That’s the same reaction I had Dr. Early,” Will said grouchily. 

 

John ignored him. “His vital signs are all stable doc…It’s just…*cough* just a flesh wound.”

 

Joe shook his head at the young paramedic but a broad grin finally pulled at the corners of his mouth. “How are you feeling John?” Joe asked, having heard the rasping cough.

 

“I’m okay,” he assured the older man as he turned away. He didn’t want Early to look too close or he’d see that John was running a fever. “I’m uh…Just gonna run upstairs for a minute…,” he began but the Handy Talkie began to squawk for their attention.

 

“Squad 51 what is your status?”

 

John sighed. His visit with the kids would have to wait. He lifted the instrument to his lips. “Squad 51 available.”

 

“Squad 51…Man down…”

 

John threw Joe a shrug as they turned and ran from the room.

 

 

Roy pushed the door open to his daughter’s room. His eyes widened in surprise at the sight of his little girl. She was sitting up on the bed and an oxygen tent surrounded her as she played with the Pooh bear and piglet toys that someone had sent to her.

 

She glanced up and saw her father and a grin tugged up the corners of her tiny bow mouth. “Daddy,” she squealed happily. The cry was followed by a raspy cough. She looked a bit perplexed at the tight feeling in her chest but tried another smile at her father.

 

“Jennifer?” He whispered in disbelief.

 

The door opened behind him and Dr. Wallace stepped into the room. He patted Roy’s back and grinned. “She doesn’t have pneumonia Mr. DeSoto…As I pointed out earlier…She inhaled a lot of dirty water…She picked up a bacterial infection from it. It’s something we call Pontiac Fever…It mimics the symptoms of pneumonia but it’s far less dangerous and a lot easier to treat.”

 

“Oh my God,” Roy breathed out in relief as he rushed to his daughters side. “Can I hold her…Please?”

 

The Doctor nodded. “Certainly,” he said with a smile.

 

Roy unzipped the plastic and reached in to pull his daughter from the bed and enfold her in his arms. “My sweet Jennifer,” he whispered against the soft curls as he sank into the chair and rocked her in his arms.

 

She threw her small arms around her father’s neck and cuddled against his neck and at the moment, Roy couldn’t think of anything that felt more wonderful.

 

“Have you checked her over…I mean is there any…?” He hesitated unable to say the words but the doctor understood.

 

“She’s going to be fine Mr. DeSoto. You’ll be able to take her home soon. Unlike pneumonia…Pontiac Fever really doesn’t require hospitalization for someone who’s otherwise healthy, just antibiotics and bed rest. She doesn’t have any other lung issues so she should recover quickly…Usually within a few days.”

 

“Oh God…Thank you,” he replied looking skyward in relief. He couldn’t wait to tell Joanne. He kissed his daughters soft face over and over while she alternately coughed or giggled in his arms. The doctor watched for several long moments before the coughing began to overpower the laughter. He rested his hand on Roy’s back.

 

“I think we need to get this young lady back into her bed,” he suggested.

 

Roy didn’t want to, but he nodded and put his little girl back on the bed and laid her down. Her thumb found its way into her mouth and Roy placed the stuffed piglet toy into her arms. She cuddled it to her and the soft blue eyes drifted closed as her father gently stroked the blonde curls.

 

The doctor pulled the sides of the tent down and zipped it back in place. Roy smiled at him gratefully. “I have to go tell my wife.” Roy turned and left the room at a rapid pace.

 

Dr. Wallace grinned as the ecstatic father ran from the room.

 

 

John and Will never got a chance to return to the station until after lunch. John was exhausted and his fever was back. He popped two more aspirin and prayed it would do the job.

 

“John?” He turned at the sound of his name and saw Hank standing in the doorway.

 

“Yeah Cap?” He questioned, tossing the bottle of pills back in his locker and stifling a cough.

 

“Roy called here looking for you,” he said, looking at John curiously.

 

“Oh,” John said softly, glancing away. “Did he um…Did he say…*cough* …what he wanted?” He asked, afraid he already knew.

 

Cap hesitated. Roy had told him not to push John but he wanted to understand why John would stay away… He sighed and shook his head. “No, he didn’t say. He seemed a little upset and he just wanted to know if you were okay I guess,” he replied.

 

John’s dark eyes took on a sorrowful look. ‘If you hadn’t been there’ the accusatory words flitted through his mind once again. ‘If Roy hadn’t been worrying about you’ Will’s voice reminded him. ‘The man hates his private time with his family being interrupted’. How many times had Johnny done that? Dozens, he answered his own thoughts.

 

“What did you tell him?” He asked, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.

 

“Just that you had a cough but you were okay…That’s the truth isn’t it John?” He asked, his eyes moving over the younger man searchingly.

John glanced away evasively. “Yeah Cap…I’m fine.”

 

Hank didn’t like the way John looked and he knew something was definitely bothering him. Captain Stanley still hadn’t gotten to know his youngest crew member well enough for John to trust him. He hoped that would change one day.

 

 

John did his chores in between runs and stayed to himself for the most part and except for their runs, he’d barely spoken to his ‘partner’ for the day.

At Rampart... John had been busy avoiding Kelly Brackett.

 

Cap had sought him out twice to check on him but both times, John had assured him that he was fine, despite the wet cough that plagued him.

 

Will had watched the young paramedic work and despite his opinion about John’s relationship with Roy…He was impressed with the kid’s professionalism and knowledge not to mention nerves of steel.

 

If Roy DeSoto had a heart of ice when it came to his job, then pure ice water ran in this young man’s veins. John never hesitated no matter how difficult the rescue.

 

 

Johnny pushed his dinner around on his plate. He wasn’t feeling up to whatever that was that Chet had concocted. “You okay Pal?” Hank asked his junior paramedic.

 

John glanced up and saw five sets of eyes watching him. He shrugged… “Yeah cap…Just not hungry.”

 

“Can’t blame you for that,” Marco agreed ruefully as he pushed his own half eaten dish of food away.

 

“Oh that’s real funny Marco,” Chet grumbled.

 

Cap chuckled at his men as they teased the mustachioed fireman but turned back to John. “You look tired…Why don’t you hit the bunk early and maybe we’ll get lucky and get to sleep through the night.”

 

John nodded. Between his aching heart and his aching body, he really didn’t feel well. “Good idea Cap,” he answered as he pushed himself to his feet. He tucked his hands into his pockets and walked slowly from the room.

 

Will shook his head at the kid’s quiet demeanor…Why would Gage think Roy would want him around if he was always this depressed. He pushed himself to his feet and left the kitchen. He needed a shower before bed.

 

“What’s up with Johnny?” Mike asked worriedly.

 

Hank shook his head. “I’d don’t know…He won’t talk to anyone.”

 

“Well uh Cap…He told me Roy uh…said something…He didn’t say what but I got the feeling that he thinks Roy’s blaming him for the accident.”

 

“I don’t believe that,” Hank said. “Roy wouldn’t have called here all upset over John not coming to visit if that was the case.”

 

“What are we gonna do?” Marco asked.

 

“I’m going to talk to Roy tomorrow and find out what’s going on between them.”

 

The others nodded. Johnny had saved Roy’s entire family. Surely the senior paramedic wouldn’t be blaming John for that?

 

 

Hank’s hopes for a quiet night were dashed as the SCU tones sounded around 10:00 PM.

 

“Station 51…Station 36…Squad 45…Structure fire at the theater. 1101 Maple St. 1-1-0-1 Maple…Cross Street Pine…Time out 21:17.”

 

The crew rolled out of bed, shoving their feet into turnouts and boots and yanking suspenders over their shoulders as they ran for their vehicles.

 

John slid behind the wheel as he waited for Hank to hand him the address and the doors to roll up. He heard Cap respond. “Station 51…KMG-365,” He replied. He handed John a slip of paper and ran for the Engine. Johnny pulled out of the bay, leading the way as the huge engine followed.

 

They arrived on the scene and Johnny jumped from the cab and grabbed his air tank. Will ran around to join him.

 

People were streaming from the large cinema while others stood watching on the pavement, their faces soot stained and their clothing singed and reeking of smoke.

 

“Is there anyone still in there?” Hank yelled at several of the stragglers.

 

“I don’t know man,” one yelled back, coughing harshly.

 

“John…Will,” Hank yelled waving his arm toward the building.

 

Johnny nodded. “Let’s go,” he said to Will as he turned and ran for the building. The older man followed.

 

They pushed their way past the milling crowd and disappeared inside. Choking, black smoke filled the building and shooting flames crawled up the curtains toward the upper balcony. “I’ll check the bathrooms,” Will yelled, as John headed down the aisle with his flashlight, checking each row.

 

“Anyone in here?” He yelled. “Fire Department…Is there anyone here?”

 

John paused…He thought he heard a sound and he flashed his light around but saw nothing. “Here,” a small voice called again, followed by a choking cough.

 

“Where?” Gage yelled.

 

“HERE…*cough…Up here!”

 

John shone the light toward the balcony where he saw a teenage boy and girl waving frantically. The stairs are burning…We can’t get down,” the girl wailed.

 

Will ran into the theater area from the other door. “We’ve got two people trapped up there,” John yelled as he ran back up the aisle.

 

 “I’ll get a ladder,” Will yelled.

 

“No time,” John shouted back as flames suddenly flourished behind the teens. The girl screamed and covered her face from the surge of heat.

 

John ran to the row of seats below the balcony. “What are you doing?” Will yelled.

 

“Give me a boost…I’m going up there,” he said pointing up. “I’ll lower them down to you.”

 

Will shook his head at the younger man but ran to help. He climbed up on the seats beside John and cupped his hands. John placed a booted foot into them and let Will boost him until he could grab the metal bars that ran along the balcony’s frame.

 

John felt his partner push and scrambled his way to the top and swung his leg over the side, before he followed it with the rest of him. “Come on sweetheart,” he told the young woman as he pulled his mask off and placed it over the choking girls face. He let her take a few quick breaths before he pulled it away and shrugged out of his tank and handed it to her companion. “Put that over your…*cough…cough…*,” face,” John shouted as he picked up the girl in his arms.


Will…*cough*…I’m gonna lower…*cough*…her down. Grab her,” John choked out.

 

“Alright,” he hollered back. The fire damaged balcony shifted beneath his feet as he leaned over the side and released the girl’s legs, holding her firmly around her back, he lowered into Will’s waiting arms.

 

Station 45’s paramedics ran into the room. Jay Cameron spotted the rescue in progress and ran to help as his partner ran down the aisle once more, making sure there was no one else.

 

He took the girl from Will and half dragged, half carried the teenage girl out of the smoke filled room.

 

“Your turn…*Cough*…,” Johnny wheezed as he helped the teenage boy to climb over the rail. This time there was a distinctive crack. He pulled the mask away and gripped the boy’s wrists.

 

“Hurry Gage,” Will yelled.

 

John nodded, finding it too difficult to speak. He lowered the boy down to Will.

 

Jay’s partner Bob Belliveau was running back toward them. “It’s clear,” he yelled pointing back the way he’d come. “Come on Johnny,” he yelled up at his young colleague.

 

John swung his leg over the side but at that moment the balcony finally gave way. Will and Bob jumped clear as the structure crumbled, hurling the young paramedic into the seats below.

 

John grunted in pain as his ribs and stomach took a solid hit against the backrests of the chairs. Stars danced before his eyes for a brief moment, as what little air he’d had was driven from his lungs.

 

All he could do was lay their gasping and floundering like a fish out of water. He felt hands grab a hold of his arms and he was yanked up and over someone’s shoulder. “Let’s get outta here!” Bob yelled as he headed for the door with his burden. Will grabbed John's air tank and followed.

 

They staggered out through the doors and carried John to the blankets that had been set out for the injured. Bob eased him down. John was still struggling to breath and Belliveau set the young man’s mask over his face. “Here ya go Johnny…Just lay there and breath while I check you out,” he said quietly.

 

“I’m…*cough*…okay,” Johnny wheezed.

 

“Yeah…I believe ya…You sound great,” he added. “Just let me be sure. Roy will kill me if I let anything happen to ya,” he teased. Will looked a bit surprised by the statement…Johnny wasn’t too sure of that anymore but he didn’t have enough oxygen to argue the point. He closed his eyes and let Bob work.

 

He sighed in exasperation as he heard an unfamiliar voice order an IV of normal saline. Damn it, he mused silently. That meant Rampart and that was the last place he wanted to be.

 

He felt the sting of the needle and then he was being lifted. His hand shot out to grip Will’s arm.

“Don’t let…let them call Roy,” he wheezed.

 

 Bob’s eyebrow rose at the raspy sounding words but Will nodded. “Don’t worry I won’t. That’s the last thing DeSoto needs is to have to take care of you too,” he said dryly, as Johnny’s eyes closed.  Bob shook his head. Man…would Roy be pissed.

 

 

John’s dark eyes blinked open a while later. An oxygen mask was strapped firmly to his face and he was he lying on a hard table in an examination room. He recognized it as treatment room four. He was at Rampart. He hoped that Brackett and Early wouldn’t be here at this time of night. He’d been doing his best to avoid both of them all day. Early had eyed him suspiciously several times after that first run and John was afraid he’d tell Brackett…Well there was no way out now…If they were here, he’d have to face the music.

 

The door opened and Betty Miller stepped inside. “Well hi there sleeping beauty,” she teased, seeing the young man’s eyes open.

 

John gave her a small smile. “Hey Betty,” he replied, his voice muffled from behind the mask.

 

She came to stand beside him. Her weathered face creasing in a grin. She picked up his wrist to get a pulse. “How are you feeling sweetie,” she asked the handsome young man.

 

“Chest is really…*cough* hurting. My side hurs too,” he mumbled, the young face screwing up in pain as he shifted position.

 

“You lay still…We don’t have the X-Rays back yet and we aren’t sure if anything is broken.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he whispered.

 

The door opened again to admit a doctor John didn’t recognize. He came to the table. “Hello Mr. Gage…How are you feeling?”

 

“Sore,” Johnny admitted as his free hand came up to rub his chest and side.

 

 

The doctor took it and pulled it gently away. “I’ll just bet you are,” he agreed, having seen the bruising across the young man’s belly and rib cage. “That was quite a fall.”

 

Johnny nodded, remembering it quite well himself. “Where’s my partner?” He asked, looking around.

 

Betty frowned. “He left…Dr. Stafford here told him he’d be keeping you for the night so he took the squad and went back to the station,” she informed him with a frown at the older man’s lack of concern for John’s well being. “He also told us not to call Roy…I didn’t believe him but…”

 

John sat up quickly and a groan of pain sipped from between his lips. “You didn’t…call him? He said with a hitched breath.

 

Betty and the doctor grabbed his shoulders and forced him back on the table. “Johnny lay still…No I didn’t call him…But why…I don’t underst…”

 

“I just don’t…want him to feel…*cough*… he has to come down here,” Johnny said miserably.

 

Betty frowned, unable to believe that Roy would feel ’obligated’ to do anything where Johnny was concerned…Everyone knew of Roy’s big brother attitude with his young friend, but nevertheless…Johnny had a right to keep this to himself if he chose.

 

“Alright John…I won’t call him.”

 

John relaxed back against the pillow. “Thanks.”

 

The door opened and another nurse came inside. She handed the doctor a folder. He took them and went to the light panel across the room. John tried to turn his head enough to see for himself but Betty stopped him. “He’ll tell you in a minute nosey,” she teased.

 

John tried to grin but he really hurt and it came out as a grimace.

 

Stafford walked to the table. “Well Mr. Gage…You didn’t break those ribs but they’re sure gonna feel like you did for a couple of days.” John nodded. From the way he was feeling, he didn’t doubt it. “You’ve got some very severe bruising here,” he added as he felt along John’s side and stomach. John’s face twisted in pain and a small moan slipped free.

 

“Not to mention you’re running a rather high fever and a nasty cough.”

 

John nodded. “Took in some smoke on the last run,” he said. “And I had some water in my lungs from another rescue…,” he added.

 

“Well the X-Rays show no broken bones so I’m going to give you a pain killer and something to try and bring that fever down. I’m going to keep you on oxygen for the night…I’ve taken a blood sample, if it comes back okay, I’ll send you home in the morning if you have someone to look after you. You’re not going to feel like moving around for a few days.”

 

Two days ago, that would have meant spending time with Roy and Jo, now…There was no one but John didn’t say that. He nodded. “I’ll go home…My…Family will take care of me,” he added, not meeting Betty or the doctor’s eyes.

 

She smiled down at him, assuming he meant Roy…He was all the family Johnny had as far as Betty knew.

 

“Good…If you’re still coughing tomorrow though…I may want a chest film,” he warned.

 

Just great, John mused. If he had pneumonia as he suspected, the doctor would catch it for sure. “Okay doctor,” he agreed.

 

The doctor nodded and left the room. “I’ll get you into a room as quickly as possible,” the older nurse assured him.

 

 

 

Johnny watched the door swing shut behind the orderlies and struggled to sit up. He wanted to go check on Jo and the kids. He’d been trying to all day but the calls had been non-stop.

 

He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and reached over to cut off the IV drip. He pulled the end free of the canula and draped it over the stand.

 

He managed to ease himself off the bed and shuffled painfully over to the wardrobe. He pulled it open and yanked the blue hospital robe off the hangar. He struggled with it briefly as his ribs set up a painful protest at his twisting maneuvers to get his arms in the sleeves but he finally succeeded.

 

John moved slowly to the door and eased it open. He peeked out. No one was about. He was only going to be gone a few minutes and hoped none of the nurses would decide to check on him or Brackett would kill for sure.

 

John moved as quickly as he could to the elevator and pushed the button. The doors slid open a few moments later and he stepped inside. He smiled ruefully to himself as the doors closed in front him. At least he was back on track, he mused. He was sneaking out of his hospital room and not into it.

 

 

The doors opened on the fourth floor and John stepped out. A pretty brunette nurse was walking up the hall but she stopped as she spotted John. Her brown eyes swept over him and his obvious hospital attire and she was about to tell him he was on the wrong floor when recognition came.

 

“Johnny?” She questioned in disbelief. “What are you doing up here?” She questioned as she hurried to his side.

 

John recognized her from the ER. She was often down stairs to pick up injured children and help out when they were brought in. “I uh…I just wanted to check on Chris and…*cough*…Jennifer DeSoto,” he replied.

 

“Johnny it’s late and you should be in bed yourself,” she added, taking note of the cough and the sweat beading the young man’s brow and the way John favored his ribs.

 

“I will…I uh…I promise but…I’ve been trying to see them all day and..,” he trailed off as another racking cough erupted.

 

“Alright…Look…Chris DeSoto went home today.”

 

John smiled in relief. “Oh that’s great,” he wheezed. “But Jen’s in the PICU.”

 

She shook her head. “Jennifer isn’t there anymore,” she said.

 

John’s heart sank into his stomach, fearing the worst. “Where is she?” He asked plaintively.

 

The nurse heard the fear in his voice and quickly reassured him. “She’s okay Johnny…They moved her into a regular room.”

 

John stared at her disbelievingly. She’d been so ill. “Come on Johnny…I’ll let you see her for just a minute okay?”

 

John nodded and let her help him down the hall. She pushed the door open to another room and let John precede her inside.

 

Jen lay sleeping on her stomach. Her thumb tucked firmly in her mouth and piglet cuddled to her side. Pooh Bear sat on the bedside table. John moved over close to the bed and leaned down to kiss the small girl‘s forehead. “Hey Princess,” he whispered.

 

Jen’s lashes fluttered and the soft blue eyes that could melt John Gage’s heart blinked open. “Unca Johnny,”she murmured, as a happy smile lit the child’s face.

 

“Hey baby,” he murmured. “I didn’t mean to wake you…I just needed to see you.”

 

She lifted her small arms and John leaned down to hug her to him. “Unc Johnny,” she mumbled as she snuggled against his chest. John’s slender fingers smoothed the blonde curls.

 

“Did you like Piglet and Pooh? I bought them just for you,” he whispered. The small head bobbed against him. “Good…Okay Jen,” he said stifling another cough. “Be a good girl and go back to sleep now okay,” he whispered, laying the child back down and setting the stuffed pig into her hands.

 

Her blue eyes watched him adoringly as he tenderly stroked her cheek until the lids slid closed once again.

 

John felt tears burn behind his eyes. Jennifer and Chris and Jo would be okay…He may have lost them anyway but he’d be alright as long as he knew they’d be fine.

 

 

Roy woke up early the next morning. He rolled over and slipped his arms about his wife. She moaned softly at the feel of his body pressed against hers. Roy grinned, placing a gentle kiss on her neck.

 

She rolled over and looked up at him. He smiled down at her tenderly before he leaned down to kiss her mouth. She returned it whole heartedly. “I love you Joanne,” he whispered against her mouth.

 

“I love you too.”

 

Roy wished she were well enough for him to prove how much he loved her but that would have to wait. He brushed another kiss on her nose. “I need to go check on Chris. I’m hoping they’ll let me bring Jennifer home today too,” he added as he rolled from the bed.

 

Jo smiled ruefully in disappointment that she wasn’t well enough to keep her husband in bed for a while longer. “That would be good…I want my babies home,” she said. “All of them,” she added.

 

Roy gave her a glance and grinned understandingly. “Alright…I’ll try and call John this afternoon and find out what the heck is going on with him,” he promised.

 

Joanne grinned as Roy helped her from the bed and assisted her in getting dressed in shorts and a light shirt. He carried her down the stairs and sat her on the couch before he returned to his son’s room.  

 

Chris was still sore and a bit dizzy but he managed to get up and get dressed while Roy watched him carefully. When he was done, Roy carried him downstairs to wait with his mom while he made breakfast for all of them.

 

“Hey babe…I’m gonna call Cap and see if Emily can come and stay with you two for a while. Then I can go and see if they’ll let me bring Jenny home.”

 

“Alright honey,” she called back, knowing Roy wouldn’t want her alone and trying to do too much just yet. 

 

Roy picked up the phone. Hank answered it on the first ring. “Station 51…Captain Stanley speaking.”

 

“Hi Cap…This is Roy.”

 

“Hi Roy…What’s up?” Hank asked, wondering if he’d heard that John had been injured. He’d just been planning to call and check on him himself. He’d been furious when Poston had returned with the squad the night before and shrugged at their questions about John’s welfare.

 

“He’s a big boy Cap…I didn’t need to stay and hold his hand,” he’d said defensively.

 

“No…But as his partner and us as his friends you…we would at least like to have known how he was,” he barked back. “Did they call Roy?” He barked.

 

“No…He told me to tell them not too.”

 

Hank had frowned. Just what the heck was going on between his two paramedics.

 

The rest of the crew were barely speaking to him, Hank mused. But even worse…Chet had finally confided to Hank what John had told him. Captain Stanley was surprised. How could Roy possibly blame John for what had happened? Not after Johnny had saved his whole family from drowning.

 

“Um Cap…Jen is out of the woods…,”Roy said, breaking Hank’s reverie.

 

“What? That’s great news Roy,” he said excitedly, hoping that if Jennifer was alright then maybe Roy wouldn’t be too angry at John anymore.

 

“Turns out she didn’t have pneumonia…Just a bacterial infection from the water.” Hank frowned…Was that what Johnny was dealing with? Roy’s voice caught his attention back to the conversation. “I uh…I need to go see if I can bring her home…I was wondering if you could ask Emily to come and stay with Jo and Chris until I get back?”

 

Hank grinned as an idea popped into his head. “I’ll do better than that Roy…We’ll all come over…See the kids and do some cleaning and yard work and a barbecue,” he offered. “You and Jo and the kids can just sit back and rest and let us do everything,” he suggested, hoping that he could get Roy and Johnny back together.

 

“Cap you don’t hafta,” Roy began.

 

“Hey pal…We’ve ALL been worried. Let us help,” he pressed.

 

“Alright Cap,” he agreed, figuring that Cap would press Johnny into coming over as well and then he’d get a chance to talk and find out what was going on with John.

 

Roy hung up and explained the plans to Jo. She smiled at the thought of her friends wanting to do this for them and nodded her agreement.

 

A short time later the doorbell rang. Roy opened it to find Emily Stanley on his doorstep. “Hank told me everything…You go get that baby…I’ll take care of Jo and Chris,” she said with a smile.

 

Roy grabbed his keys and left. Everything was right in his world once more…Well almost…

 

Hank called Rampart and asked for Johnny’s room. He was told that the young man had left already. Hank was a bit surprised…John had been hurt pretty bad. “Can I speak to Dr. Brackett?” He requested.

 

Kel picked up the phone a moment later. “Dr. Brackett,” he answered.

 

“Dr. Brackett…This is Captain Stanley from Station 51…I called to check on John but they said he’d already been released but…”

 

“Johnny was here?” Kel asked in surprise.

 

“Well yeah…They brought him in last night…he took quite a fall…I thought between that and that cough he’s been fighting, that you would have kept him,” Hank said worriedly.

 

Bracket frowned in annoyance. “I’ll check on that and get back to you,” he said.

 

“Well…I’ll be at Roy’s later…You can reach me there.”

 

“I’ll do that,” Kel said hanging up. He picked up the phone and started dialing.

 

 

 

John turned his head as the door opened the next morning and Dr. Stafford stepped inside. “How are you feeling Mr. Gage?” He questioned as he picked up the chart and read it over. He frowned at the notes the nurse had left. “You took out the IV and left the room?” He asked with a raised brow.

 

John’s face flushed a bit that he’d been caught but he nodded. “Only for a few minutes…My partners…,” he hesitated as he stifled a cough. “Little girl is in pediatrics…I just wanted to check on her.”

 

The doctor shook his head. “That was very foolish Mr. Gage…You could have fallen.”

 

“But I didn’t and I’m fine.”

 

The doctor noticed the sheen of perspiration on the young man’s forehead and frowned. “Hardly fine,” he argued.

 

John shrugged. ‘Can I go home?”He asked.

 

The man sighed. “I’d like to run a few more tests…You still have a cough and a fever and those bruises may cause you some trouble.”

 

“I’ll be fine doc…I don’t want to stay here and I’ll be much better at home,” he pleaded, knowing if this were Early or Brackett or even Morton, he’d never get away with this.

 

“Is there someone there to help you?”

 

John looked away evasively. He hated to lie but then he thought of his neighbor Laverne…She’d help him if really needed it. “Yeah…,”he replied quietly.

 

The doctor finally nodded. He couldn’t keep the young man against his will. “I’ll send up the nurse with your medication and your release.”

 

John nodded in relief.

 

 

Roy arrived at the hospital and made his way to the fourth floor. He was early and rounds were still underway. He was grateful for that…He wouldn’t have to hunt down the doctor. He spotted him coming out of another room at the end of the hall.

 

“Dr. Wallace,” he called as he approached him.

 

“Good morning Mr. DeSoto,” he greeted. “You’re here early.

 

“Yes sir…I was hoping maybe if Jennifer was doing alright that maybe I could take her home?”

 

Wallace smiled. “Well…Why don’t we take a look at the little lady,” he teased. Roy grinned and nodded and followed the man down the hall to Jen’s room. They pushed the door open and went inside.

 

The toddler was awake and showed the obvious signs of having already having her breakfast…So did the young nurse’s aide that had been assisting her. She wiped the spattered remains of oatmeal from her uniform and cheek.

 

Roy covered his mouth to keep from laughing. “Jen hates oatmeal,” he mumbled to the doctor who was struggling not to snicker at the young woman’s appearance.

 

“Well she uh…Seems to have regained some of her strength,” he chuckled as the young woman left the room.

 

Jen sat in the middle of the bed. Her small mouth was settled in a pout as she held Piglet against her. The doctor tucked the ear pieces of his stethoscope in his ears and pulled the stuffed toy away.

 

Jen let out a squeal of indignation at the loss of her toy. “Unca Johnny,” she wailed.

 

Roy frowned. Why would Jen call for Johnny? Oh he knew John was Jen’s favorite person in the world next to him and Jo but still…

The doctor grimaced at the amplified screech as he placed the bell on her chest and then her back. He stepped back and pulled the instrument from his ears and rubbed at the side of his head. “Well her lungs are definitely stronger,” he said drily, handing her back the toy.

 

Jen clutched it to her as the doctor plucked her chart up and checked her vitals from the evening before.

 

“So what’s the verdict?” Roy asked.

 

Wallace grinned. “Her fever is down too…I’ll get her set up with oral antibiotics Mr. DeSoto…You can take her home.”

 

Roy managed to restrain the whoop of joy as he scooped his daughter from the bed and hugged her tight.

 

 

Hank and the rest of the crew arrived at Roy’s almost at the same time as Roy did with Jennifer. Mike’s wife Melissa and his son were already there, having been called by Emily.

 

Will had hesitated at coming, having felt the coolness of his crewmates over having left Gage at the hospital alone the night before but he wanted to see Roy and he knew his former partner would understand.

 

They stopped and waited for the blonde paramedic to unstrap his daughter from the backseat and carry her across the lawn to join them. His blue eyes scanned the group. They not only noticed Will Poston but also the absence of his young partner.

 

The look of hurt and disappointment didn’t go unnoticed by Hank as the rest of the crew fussed over Jennifer.

 

Roy finally jerked his head toward the house. “Let’s go inside,” he invited.

 

The others nodded in agreement and followed him into the house. Jo was practically weeping with joy as Roy set their daughter in her lap. She hugged the little girl to her and Jen laid her head against her mother’s shoulder. The blue eyes closed as her mother rocked her in her arms.

 

“Let’s go see what needs to be done,” Mike suggested, gesturing toward the back yard. They’d need to get the grill out and the lawn needed mowing. Will volunteered to get that started while the others took on the hedges and Marco fired up the grill. That way Roy could just relax and concentrate on his family over the next few days.

 

Joanne glanced around and frowned. “Where’s Johnny?” She asked Hank.

 

He knew he shouldn’t say anything. Poston had told them that Johnny had told them not to call but Hank couldn’t stand it, besides…Johnny hadn’t told him anything.“He uh…He got hurt on a run last night,” Hank admitted, waiting to see Roy’s reaction. If he was angry with John he’d know it soon.

“WHAT?” Jo said worriedly. “Oh Roy?”

 

“Why didn’t someone call me?” Roy barked. “Where is he? Rampart? I need…?”

 

“Whoa Roy,” Hank interrupted holding up his hand. “He told us not too and he’s not at Rampart…He left this morning,” he told him.

 

Roy blew out a relieved breath. “Well then he wasn’t hurt too bad then.”

“Looked bad enough last night… He could hardly breathe when they took him to Rampart. He’s been fighting a cold since the day after the accident and then all that smoke last night before he fell.”

 

And then what cap had said sank in. “Not too…? But Why?”

 

“He wouldn’t tell me,” Hank said quietly.

 

Roy and Jo’s eyes met. “Go and get him Roy,” Joanne said with a determined tilt to her chin.

 

“I’ll be right back,” he said as he grabbed his keys and headed out the door.

 


Johnny paid the cab driver and slowly and painfully made his way up the stairs to his apartment. He unlocked the door and went inside, tossing his keys on the small kitchen table. He pulled the bottle of pills he’d picked up at the pharmacy from his pocket and set them on the counter next to the antibiotics Brackett had given him.

 

He took a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water. His chest felt tight and he knew between the smoke and what he feared was another case of pneumonia that he was in for a rough night.

 

His stomach and ribs hurt pretty bad and they only got worse every time he coughed, which was more often now that he had smoke inhalation too. He knew he should have stayed at the hospital but with Roy coming in to see Jennifer, he knew it would only be a matter of time before someone spilled the beans that John was in a room upstairs.

 

He’d managed so far to keep his injury and this illness from his crew mates, Brackett and Early and even Dixie…At least that it was worse than they supposed. None of it compared to the hurt he felt at the idea of losing this special family from his life but he’d never use it to win them back. If Roy blamed him, then he’d have to learn to live with that. He didn’t want Roy’s pity.

 

John popped open the pills and swallowed one of each with his water. He slowly made his way to his room and eased himself onto the bed. He kicked off his boots and shrugged carefully out of his shirt. His bruised ribs twinged warningly.

 

John glanced down at his pants…They’d have to stay…He just wasn’t in the mood to wrestle them off. He felt lightheaded all of a sudden and his eyes drooped. What had the doctor given him? He wondered idly as he laid back on the bed…He was asleep in minutes.

 

 

Roy knocked on John’s door and waited. There was no answer. He knocked again, experiencing a  moment of déjà vu from the other day. When John didn’t respond, he used his key to unlock the door.

 

“JOHNNY?” He called into the dim apartment.

 

There was no answer. Roy walked farther in and glanced into the kitchen. John’s keys lay on the table. Roy began to get an uneasy feeling. Why hadn’t he answered? He moved through the apartment…The bathroom door was open and the room dark.

 

He pushed John’s bedroom door open. Johnny was curled across his bed…His arm was tucked tightly against his side as if he were in pain. His head tossed restlessly and sweat beaded his forehead.

 

“Johnny?” Roy gasped and ran to his partner’s side. He swept the damp sable hair aside and laid his hand on his partner’s forehead. “Oh man,” he murmured at the warmth of John’s skin. “Johnny,” he called again as he used the back of his fingers to stroke his young friends brow. “Johnny…I need you to wake up…Can you do that for me?” Johnny moaned softly in his drugged slumber and a fluid cough erupted from his lips. “Ah junior,” Roy murmured with a shake of his blonde head. The kid was really out of it.

 

He returned to the kitchen to get a dish rag to use to cool his young friends fevered skin and his blue eyes noticed the open bottles of pills. He picked them up…Tetracycline and Percocet. That last one was a new one for John and the doctor’s name was unfamiliar. Did he know about John’s low tolerance for drugs? He’d call Brackett when he got home and ask but in the meantime, he needed to get Johnny back home where he could take care of him, but why hadn’t John come there himself…He knew they’d have looked after him. Why hadn’t he wanted them to call him? He’d find out as soon as John woke up…Even if he had to shake it out of him.

 

Roy shoved the pills in his pocket along with John’s keys and then returned to John’s bedside and placed the cloth on his forehead. Johnny stirred restlessly. “Hey junior,” Roy said gently as the dark lashes fluttered. John gazed up at Roy blearily. Was he really here or was he dreaming? John felt so foggy, he couldn’t tell.

 

“Ro.…oy,” he sighed as the dark eyes drifted closed.

 

“Oh boy junior…You’re really out of it,” he murmured. Well there was no help for it… He gripped John’s arm and pulled him to a sitting position. John slumped forward and his head drooped to his chest. “Alright junior…Up we go,” he said as he slung the younger man’s arm over his shoulder and pulled him to his feet.

 

John groaned in pain and jerked against his partner but Roy wrapped his arm tighter around him and half walked, half carried him to the door. He looked out, hoping there wouldn’t be too many witnesses to this. John would be horrified later.

 

There was no one about so Roy took the chance. He slipped out the door, pulling it closed behind him. He started forward but John’s legs weren’t working too well at the moment. Roy sighed and bent over, letting Johnny fall over his shoulder and lifting him in a firemen’s carry. He made his way down the stairs and to his truck. He opened the door and let John half fall inside. “You’re a mess my friend,” he said wryly as he slammed the door and went around to the other side.

 

John was half sitting and half laying on the seat, his head nodded and jerked up as he tried to wake before he gave up and slid over to lie on the bench seat.

 

Roy chuckled and started the truck. He backed out and put it in drive before he reached out and laid his hand gently on the dark head tucked against his leg.

 

 

Cap and the others continued to work on the yard while Melissa and Emily sat on the deck with Joanne. The two women wrapped ears of corn and skewered meat and vegetables onto thin sticks for shish kabob’s, and chatted while they watched the men work.

 

“So you mean John’s been avoiding you this whole time?” Emily asked in confusion.

 

“Seems to be…,” she replied.

 

“But why…He must know how Roy feels about him,” Melissa said.

 

Joanne shook her head. “I don’t know…Johnny can be so…insecure sometimes but…I can’t imagine what upset him. He did a great job of rescuing us and we’re all fine so it doesn’t make any sense,” she replied, looking upset that John had just walked away from his family.

 

They heard the front door open and Joanne turned to see who it was. Emily and Melissa heard her gasp and she began to struggle from her chair. She grabbed the crutches that were leaning against the wall.

 

“What is it Jo?” Emily asked worriedly.

 

“Johnny,” was all she said.

 

The two women followed her into the house and they both sucked in shocked breaths as Roy carried his unconscious partner across the living room and set him on the couch.

 

“What happened?” Jo asked, sounding a bit shaky as she hobbled her way across the kitchen.

 

“Some doctor gave him a pain killer that John’s never had before…,” he said with a shake of his head. “He’s running a fever too,” he added as he cupped the dark head in his hand and laid him back on the sofa. He turned and lifted his feet onto it and then grabbed the throw from the back to lay over him. Roy sat on the edge and reached out a hand to smooth the dark hair back.

 

“Pain Killer…? How bad is he hurt?”

 

Roy shook his head. “Not sure yet,” he added as he lifted John’s tee shirt to check him over. “Oh wow Johnny,” he murmured as he saw the bruising across his belly and the lean ribs.

 

Joanne leaned over to see. “Oh sweetheart,” she murmured.

 

Emily and Melissa moved closer and their eyes widened as well. “I’ll get a pan of water and a cloth…He’s perspiring pretty bad,” Emily offered.

 

Roy nodded. “Thanks,” he replied. “Johnny…Can you hear me?”

 

The dark head tossed restlessly at the sound of his friend’s voice. John could hear him but was too out of it to respond. Was Roy really here?

 

“I’m gonna call Brackett,” he said, sounding a bit worried that he couldn’t wake John up.

 

“Don’t bother Roy…I’m already here,” Kel’s voice said from the open doorway.

 

“Doc,” Roy said in relief. “Am I glad to see you.”

 

Kel came and sat next to John…He did a quick check on his pulse and then his eyes, before resting his hand on John’s forehead. He frowned at how high it had become. "I didn't realize he'd gotten this bad."

 

“Is it pneumonia?” Roy asked.

 

Kel shook his head. “No…Dr. Stafford ran a few tests…He has the same thing Jennifer did… Pontiac Fever.”

 

“But Jennifer is all over it and Johnny didn’t take in near as much ater as she did,” Roy argued.

 

“Roy…You know Johnny’s lungs will always be a bit prone to infections not to mention all that smoke he breathed.”

 

“I guess,” Roy agreed, sitting on the arm of the couch where he could rest his hand against the sable hair.

 

Emily touched Melissa’s shoulder. “Come on … Let’s go finish up and let the guys know Johnny’s here. They’ll want to see him,” she suggested, sensing that Roy needed a minute with his young friend.

 

“I just don’t understand why he didn’t come here when they let him go. Why would the hospital let him go home alone? Why didn’t he have them call me…Why didn’t you?” Roy asked in confusion.

 

“He asked me not to Roy…You know I couldn’t break that confidentiality.” Roy nodded but he looked unhappy. “As far as the other things…He told them he had someone to watch out for him.”

 

“He lied,” he said in shock. Johnny rarely told a lie…He hated lying and he was terrible at it.

 

“Apparently but you’ll have to ask him why he didn’t want anyone to call you.”

 

“I would if I could doc.”

 

“He never came to see us,” Joanne said quietly, looking hurt. “Like he didn’t care about us anymore…I just don’t understand.”

 

Kel pursed his lips. They already knew about everything else…He didn’t see any need to keep it a secret. “Roy…Jo…Johnny was very upset by what happened. He went…,” he hesitated…He could lose his license for this but John was a special case to all of them. Roy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Kel blew out a breath. “He left the hospital that day after I’d told him to wait for me so I could check him out.”

 

Roy shook his head at his young partner. “John...nny,” he groaned in frustration.

 

Kel smiled but continued on. “Roy…When I got there…John was in withdrawal.”

 

“WHAT?” Roy and Joanne gasped almost simultaneously.

 

 “Oh my poor baby,” Jo said softly.

 

“I brought him out Roy…He said he couldn’t remember what had caused it except that he’d thought Jennifer was badly hurt…Maybe had brain damage.”

 

John shifted and moved his head restlessly. “Shhh junior…You’re okay…I’m here,” Roy soothed.

 

“Yeah but what’s he doing here?” Will Poston’s voice came from the sliding doors.

 

The others turned to see Roy’s former partner standing there with a disgusted look on his face.

 

“What do you mean?” Roy asked as his eyes narrowed dangerously.

 

“I told him Roy…I warned him…Told him you hated having your time with your family interrupted…I told him yesterday when I dropped him off at Rampart that you didn’t need to be having to deal with him too but here he is,” he said with a shake of his head.

 

“Oh Roy,” Jo said, sounding distressed.

 

“He thinks the accident was his fault,” Chet added coming up behind Will.

 

“What? Why? Why would he think that?”

 

Will shrugged but Chet didn’t… “He said I was right about him shadowing you…That he’d forced you to let him come that day…”

 

Roy shook his head. “That’s not true…I just didn’t want John upset. Jo and I were fighting,” he said in a bare whisper. “Johnny always gets uptight when Jo and I fight.”

 

“Been therrre,” Johnny sighed.

 

“Roy…,” Jo began as she noted that John’s eye lids were fluttering open.

 

“I know…Doc…can I sit there,” he asked the dark haired doctor.

 

Kel moved and let Roy sit next to his partner.  “Johnny…Can you hear me?” Roy questioned as he took the long fingers in his own. He plucked the now warm towel from his partner’s forehead and gently swept the cloth over Johnny’s face and brow.

 

John moaned and let his eyes finally opened. “Roooy,” he whispered in confusion.

 

“Yeah junior,” he replied smiling down at his partner as the rest of the crew came in to stand in the dining room. They halted at the sight of Roy sitting next to John, blotting the beads of sweat from John’s face.

 

“Where…?” He began.

 

“You’re at my house.”

 

“Nooo…Nah suppose ta tell ya,” he murmured.

 

“Why Johnny…Why shouldn’t they tell me?”

 

“My faul…Sor…ry.”

 

“John…None of this was your fault…None of it,” Roy soothed, stroking the sable hair back.

 

 Will saw the tender gesture and his eyes widened in shocked surprise at his former partner.

 

“If I had…hadn’t been…here,” he murmured before a wet cough slipped from his lips.

 

“Shhh shhh…Easy junior,” Roy soothed.

 

“You said so,” John wheezed.

 

Jo hobbled to the couch on her crutches and sat on the arm. “Roy? Did you say that?”

 

Roy looked confused and then he remembered. “Oh God Johnny…Did you think I meant… Ah Johnny no, no…I meant…I would have lost my whole family if you hadn’t been here.”

 

John squinted blearily up at his partner. “You dint wan me to come…Jo was upset…Made ya.”

 

Jo leaned over to kiss his forehead. “Oh baby…That wasn’t because of you.” Will’s eyes almost bugged from his head. ‘Baby’ she’d called him. His eyes flew toward Roy to see if his partner would explode in anger at the tender endearment but was shocked to see him calmly smile at his wife and take over the story.

 

“Johnny…Jo and I had been fighting for days…We just didn’t want you to know and get upset over it. God Junior…I’m so sorry you felt like you were to blame…That you thought I felt that way.”

 

John looked up at the couple and Roy could see the disbelief. He needed to get rid of that fear.

 

“Johnny…Don’t you understand? We have a friendship that goes way beyond our understanding.” John frowned in confusion as Roy continued. “Sure we have some disagreements and maybe I should have told ya this a long time ago but you know I have trouble saying this stuff too.”

 

John gave him a small smile at that but Roy could see he still wasn’t getting it. Damn it…His young partner was going to force him to say the words out loud.

 

He threw a glance at the others…His gaze lingering longest on Will. Jo watched her husband with tears in her eyes as her tough, strong and sometimes aloof husband bared his heart to his young friend.

 

Roy knew he was going to have to grit his teeth and take Dr. Hightower’s advice. His hand reached out and tilted his young friends face toward him. The dark eyes lifted to meet his and Roy saw the uncertainty that had been beaten into his young friend’s soul, reflected there.

 

“Johnny…I need you to listen to me …Really listen?”

 

The sable haired paramedic nodded. Roy cast one more embarrassed glance toward Will and the rest of their friends standing there watching and then dismissed them. Will and even Chet and Marco needed to know how Roy felt once and for all.

 

“Johnny…Our friendship goes way beyond partners…you know that right?”

 

John nodded. “We’re frens,” he mumbled, in a combination of exhaustion and drugs.

 

Roy smiled… The best of friend’s junior but it goes even beyond that too.”

 

Will’s eyebrows rose practically crawled up his forehead in stunned amazement at a side of his former partner he’d never seen…Not even a hint. What was it that had changed this man so much in the last two years? He didn’t have long to wait for the answer.

 

“You are a part of me…My other half. Jo…,” he stopped and looked up at his wife, knowing she’d understand what he was about to say. She’d said it before he and John had realize its truth. “Jo holds the other half of my heart, but junior…you have the other half of my spirit. We’re brothers…Maybe even closer…I don’t know…I don’t claim to understand it myself but I KNOW,” he emphasized by patting his chest. “Here…That you are a part of me that I don’t want to live without. My best friend…Now…in the future, God willing. You are a part of this family…This is your home…Always Junior.”

 

John frowned in confusion. He’d heard the words before but he’d never understood and still didn’t that anyone could feel this way about him. His A.S. and his upbringing made it difficult but despite his lack of understanding of the why’s…he did believe his partner’s words for the first time.

 

Will’s mouth hung open in stunned shock, even as he reached up to wipe at the moisture that was gathering in his eyes. Jo had tears rolling down her cheeks and the rest of the group wasn’t much better off.

 

If Gage wasn’t moved by his friend’s words, he certainly had been and he deeply regretted the doubts he’d placed in the young man. He’d simply never seen that Roy was capable of letting this part of him show to anyone but his wife and children.

 

“Thanks Roy,” Johnny murmured, blinking away the sting of tears.

 

Roy patted his cheek gently as Joanne reached down to brush her fingers through the sable hair. “We love you baby…Don’t you ever doubt that,” she said as she leaned down to kiss his cheek.

 

John nodded, unable to reply past the lump in his throat. He finally managed a shuddering breathe. “Thanks Jo,” he murmured, grateful that he still had what he’d always wanted…Needed most…A family that loved him.

 

Chris and Jenny came into the room with Mike junior. “Uncle Johnny?” Chris shouted, running toward the young man. Roy stopped him from pouncing.

 

“Uncle Johnny is hurting…No jumping,” he warned.

 

“Did you get hurt in the accident too?” He asked as Jen toddled toward him with her Piglet toy.

 

“No Buddy…A different accident.”

 

Chris lifted his shirt… “See mine,” he said, trying to see past the material he had wadded in his hands.

 

John gave the boy a smile. “Got ya beat Buddy,” he teased as he pulled at his tee shirt. Chris’s eyes widened at the bruised swath that decorated John’s torso.

 

“Wow…you sure do,” he said in awe.

 

Roy chuckled and Jo tousled the dark hair. “Okay boys…We can compare war wounds later…Uncle Johnny needs some rest,” she teased.

 

Chris giggled and smoothed his shirt in place.

 

“Unc Johnny,” a small voice said near his ear. He turned his head and came face to face with Jennifer.

 

“Hey Princess,” he said quietly.

 

The toddler pushed the Piglet doll toward him. “Unc Johnny,” she said again.

 

John took it and wobbled it back and forth toward his niece. pretending that it was alive and trying to kiss her. She squealed in delight. Roy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Jen hadn’t let anyone touch that toy without a fight since she’d gotten it.

 

“Uh…Unca Johnny?” He said with a grin. John looked up at him questioningly. “You wouldn’t happen to know where that came from would ya?” He asked with an arched brow.

 

John grinned, knowing Roy had somehow figured it out.

 

“It was you?” Jo asked, looking relieved. He hadn’t walked away after all…

 

Johnny nodded. “I thought…I thought you were mad at me so…”John coughed harshly and closed his eyes for a moment. “I had to sneak them in,” he mumbled.

 

“Well that’s a change,” Kel said drily. “Sneaking in instead of out.”

 

“Funny doc…I thought the same thing,” Johnny replied with a grin.

 

Everyone laughed. “Alright, let’s get this young man to bed…He needs to rest.”

 

“Doc…Is it pneumonia?” John asked worriedly as he rubbed at his aching chest.

 

Kel grinned. “No Johnny…You have something called Pontiac Fever…You get it from contaminated water. You breathed in some of that water from that containment pond too…Your lungs are weakened from your past cases of pneumonia and smoke inhalation…So it hit you pretty hard…”

 

John looked a bit worried. “Is it bad?” He asked nervously.

 

Kel shook his head. “A few days of rest and antibiotics and you’ll be fine. And Roy…Cut that pain killer in half for Johnny.”

 

“Don’t worry doc…I don’t want to have to carry him around the whole time he’s here.”

 

The others laughed, having already been told about Roy carting John in over his shoulder by Emily and Melissa…Johnny looked at them all in confusion.

 

“Go to sleep Junior,” Roy said, tousling the dark hair. John let his eyes drift closed.

 

Will reached out and touched Roy’s back. “I’m sorry Roy….I just thought…I thought I knew you better,” he said quietly.

 

Roy smiled. “That was the old Roy…,” he said lightly. “Johnny…? He changed that.”

 

“So I saw…Hey Roy…This partner of yours is a damn fine paramedic,” he teased…”So if you ever get tired of him…I’ll be happy to work with him,” he said.

 

“Over my dead body,” Roy replied.

 

Everyone grinned at the expected reply.

 

 

Epilogue….

 

A week later Johnny had returned to work and Chris had gone back to school. Emily and Melissa had promised to come by to help Joanne until the cast came off so Roy would be returning on their next shift.

 

The accident investigators had turned in their report…The accident had been caused by the speeding teenager and that Joanne couldn’t possibly have avoided it due to the poor mechanical condition of the car she’d been driving.

 

Roy had wanted to drive over to Ernie’s and clobber the guy when he’d found out but Johnny had managed to restrain him. He’d reminded him that Joanne still needed him to be there and not in jail, he’d teased.

 

Roy and Joanne were relaxing on the couch while Jen played with Piglet and Pooh Bear and the Teddy Bear John had bought for her on her very first Christmas. Boo Bear had a very special place in Jen’s heart.

 

They heard a car pull into the driveway and Roy stood up to go check out who had arrived unannounced. He was surprised to see Joanne’s gray station wagon parked there. He was even more surprised when Johnny climbed out of it.

 

John threw him a grin as he trotted across the lawn to meet him. “Hey Roy,” he said holding out the keys.

 

“Hi junior…What’s going on?” He asked as hetook them.

 

“Sorry to show up uninvited.” Roy sighed at the words. It was time Johnny got this part too. “But I uh…I knew you guys didn’t have the time or the money to go get the car so…,” he shrugged.

 

“What do I owe ya junior?” Roy questioned with a smile as he hooked his arm around John’s neck in a playful headlock and steered him towards the house.

 

Johnny staggered along beside him for a second before he fended him off. “Quit that,” he growled, but the silly grin took away the sting of the grouchy response. “You don’t owe me anything,” he finished.

 

“Johnny…,” Roy began, knowing Johnny didn’t always have a lot of extra money floating around either.

 

John held up his hand. “I went to Ernie’s and told him I wanted to pick up the car. He told me it was gonna be a hundred and seventy dollars…”

 

“WHAT?” Roy barked angrily.

 

“He said he’d had to store it all that extra time.”

 

Roy’s face was scarlet with anger. “That crook,” now what was he gonna do? They didn’t have that kind of money right now…Not to mention that louse’s crummy car had contributed to the accident.

 

“Don’t worry Roy” Johnny said soothingly.

 

The older man blew out a breath. It wouldn’t do any good to get upset at this point. He’d go fight it out with the guy later. “Yeah so…?” Roy questioned, not understanding why Johnny would think Roy didn’t owe him anything.

 

“He got a bit nervous when I told him I wanted to check out the work.”

 

“Why?” Roy asked suspiciously as they walked into the house.

 

“Unca Johnny?” Jen squealed happily when she spotted him.

 

“Hey Princess,” he greeted reaching down to sweep the little girl off her feet and hug her to him.

 

John plopped down in Roy’s favorite chair and set the child in his lap.

 

“Why don’t ya have a seat?” Roy teased with a grin.

 

“Thanks,” Johnny replied, blushing slightly that he’d just made himself at home without an invitation.

 

“Hi Jo,” he said sheepishly.

 

“Good morning baby,” she replied, smiling happily that Johnny had felt comfortable enough to do that.

 

“So back to the car junior,” Roy prompted.

 

“Oh yeah...Anyway…I popped the hood and checked out his work.”

 

“And…?” Roy pressed, knowing how Johnny tended to beat around the bush.

 

“Don’t rush me…I’m getting to it,” Johnny replied huffily.

 

Jo giggled and Roy sighed in exasperation. “Sorry junior…Go ahead,” he invited as settled down on the sofa next to his wife.

 

“Anyway,” John began, throwing a glare at his partner and trying to remember where he’d left off before being so rudely interrupted. “Do you know that guy had replaced that fuel pump with a rebuilt one?” John said in disbelief…

 

Roy and Jo both looked angry. “Why that jerk…I told him a new one,” Jo began.

 

“And he wanted that kind of money…Now I’ll end up replacing that one in six months,” Roy said angrily.

 

John held up his hand. “Oh don’t worry…You got a new one…Put it in myself,” Johnny added smugly.

 

“What?” Roy asked worriedly…Now he’d have to pay John for that too. “How much do I owe you for that?”

 

John grinned. “Not a penny Roy…See…I told Ernie that Jo and the kids got hurt partially because of that piece of junk they were driving…And then I told him I got sick…Cuz I had to jump in that dirty water to save them…I told him the medical bills from that were most likely going to be really, REALLY expensive,” he said with a smirk.

 

“Johnny we have insurance…They’ll cover all of that,” Roy reminded him.

 

John shrugged innocently. “Ernie doesn’t know that.”

 

“You little con artist,” Roy laughed.

 

Jo giggled and patted her husband’s leg. “Don’t knock it,” she replied.

 

“Yeah…It worked,” He added looking affronted. “I pointed out that was pretty expensive for a rebuilt fuel pump but that I’d have plenty of money to pay for it after the lawsuit.” Roy chuckled. “He apologized…Said he must have used the wrong one by mistake. He said he’d put the new one in free of charge…I uh…Went to my car and got my camera…I snapped a picture of the fuel pump and um…suggested that maybe I could forget the lawsuit if he’d forget the charges for the car. He agreed.” Johnny said with a pleased grin.

 

“So he put a new one in?” Jo asked.

 

John drew himself up indignantly. “Do you think I’d let him touch that car again? I put it in,” Johnny said with a cocky grin.

 

Roy stood up and came over to his partner. He plucked Jen from his lap and set her on the floor, giving her a light pop on the behind to send her on her way. She wandered over to her blanket and plopped down with her collection of toys.

 

John looked up at him uncertainly and then realized that he was in Roy’s chair…The one no one else sat in. He blushed at the reminder that he was currently ensconced in it.

 

“Uh sorry Roy,” he said as he started to stand. “Kinda forgot myself,” he added.

 

Roy smiled and took his arm, pulling him from the chair. “Yup…Made yourself right at home Junior,” he teased as he tugged a thoroughly embarrassed Johnny to the kitchen. Jo turned in her seat to watch. Her chin propped on her hand on the back of the couch.

 

Roy picked up a key from the counter. John eyed it hesitantly. “What’s that?” He asked.

 

“It’s called a key Junior,” Roy replied with a smirk.

 

John threw him an exasperated look. “I KNOW it’s a key Roy…," He said in exasperation. "What’s it for?” He asked warily.

 

“Our front door.” John looked at him in confusion. “It’s for you…”

 

“Why…I don’t…,” he began.

 

“This is your home Junior…You're my kid brother...We’re your family….I told you that the other day. You’re welcome here any time.”

 

John’s eyes burned for a moment but he blinked away the stinging sensation but not before Roy and Jo had seen the look of joy…Of belonging somewhere…Of being a part of a family where he was wanted and welcome.

 

John stared at the key as if was gold. He finally looked up and gave them both a slightly tremulous smile. “Thanks guys,” he whispered. Roy reached out and pulled John into a tight embrace.

 

“Anytime junior,” he said close to his ear.

 

 

John felt a tug on his pant leg and glanced down to where Jennifer stood holding the book he’d bought her. She held it up to him and Johnny understood the unspoken request. Jennifer wanted him to read to her. He didn’t mind…It was one of his favorite pastimes.

 

He scooped the little girl up and headed back to the living room. He turned toward the love seat across the room but Roy gripped his arm and turned him toward the chair. “That’s much more comfortable Junior,” he said with a grin.

 

John swallowed back the lump in his throat but he nodded and sat down. He settled Jen in his lap and the tiny tot snuggled up against him, gazing adoringly up into his face. John bent down to kiss her nose before he opened the book.

 

Roy settled onto the couch next to his wife and put his arm around her. “That was beautiful,” she said, reaching up to kiss his cheek. Roy smiled and they turned their attention to John as he began to read.

 

He was several minutes into the story when he flipped to the next page. He began to read about Pooh Bear and Piglets special friendship…

 

“It seemed they had always been, and would always be, friends.” John stopped and looked up at Roy. The older man saw tears spring to John’s eyes with understanding. Odd what a children’s book could teach even adults. Roy nodded his head in agreement with the sentiment.

 

 “Ahem…,” John cleared his throat and continued. “Time could change much, but not that. They were two halves of a whole, sharing a single spirit. It was the spirit of friendship, and it was alive and well…”

 

John looked toward his friends once more. “It was alive and well,” he said again softly.

 

“Yeah junior…Welcome home.”

 

 

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

Posted to Site 07/07/14

*Dedicated to my sister of the heart....My other half Mypiot. Love you little sister..

 

Links to Parts 1. 2. 3.

 

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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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