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Wedding Plans

An Emergency Story




JoAnne De Soto and Kathy Kildare looked at Lee and did not have a clue   what they could say to stop the hurt look in her eyes.  They both were so angry with the salesclerk neither dared to say a word.   When she  finally got her emotions undercontrol, Lee opened her purse and took out a  bottle of aspirin swallowing 4 of them.   Jo cringed at the thought of taking aspirin dry.


“Didn’t I tell you to stop that?”  Kathy scolded her.  “You take way too many of those a day.” 


“I take too many an hour some days and some days I don’t take any.   So tell me  how bad it is and  find me something stronger that works but  doesn’t make me  feel like as zombie.”  She bit her lip.  “I’m sorry…just because I’m in a bad mood I don’t have to be rude to you.”  She laid her head back and closed her eyes. “What did she gain by being so mean and hateful?”


“Mean petty people like her only feel good about themselves when they’re   making others feel bad.”  Jo said.   “You can almost feel sorry   that they are so miserable in their own lives.”


“You maybe, me not so much….”  Kathy said with a groan.  “I   just wanted to smack her …”


”You’re the one who is supposed to tell me not to say things like that…You’re the proper British lady.”   Lee said laughing.    “Your mum gave up on me years ago.”


“You know she hates it when you call her that…and I’m American not British. I was born here and have lived all my  life  here  …well  except  when we were …”  Kathy  was glad Lee was laughing  now. When they had gotten  back into the car, she was close to tears.

“Hope the guys are having a better day.   Johnny sounded tired and they still have another 16 hours or so left on this shift.   He said the longer shifts were easier than pulling a double since you knew you   would be at your station.  We are not going to mention this morning to him, right.   He would just get upset and he does not need to worry about me.


“Did you two go up to the Bed and Breakfast yet?”   


“No he has been working so much overtime …when he is off he sleeps or   just lies around the pool.  He slept four hours out by the pool. Maria would not let the kids out to swim until he woke up.  Then he stayed out and watched them but never got in the pool.  He keeps telling me he is ok but I’m worried.”


“Roy slept through the kids and their friends being over playing out in the back.  They try to be quiet but still it gets a little loud and there was even construction work going on across the street and he never heard it.”


“Let’s check about the flowers and then have lunch.  Even without   the numbers we can get an idea of what you want and if it’s possible.”


“Oh it will be possible,” Kathy said with a smile.  “This is one dream that is coming true.”  She remembered when Lee had told her about her dream wedding and how it would never happen with her dream prince or anyone.   “Even better than the old one?”


“Much…Johnny would  be fine with  just getting married at the  apartment with you and the guys and the Alvarez  family…Maybe that is what we should do.  A white sundress…”


“NO!”  Kathy and JoAnne both said.  “You  and  Johnny   are having a  grand  wedding  with  all  your family and  friends  and all the  pomp and  circumstance…You  deserve it and  that’s what you are  getting.”  Jo looked like she could  have easily    smacked  that  old  crow  who had told  Lee it  was  ridiculous someone like her  would even  think  about a wedding dress from their  shop.  As horrible as the words had been the tone of her voice and the smirk on her face had been worse.  She had  just  went on and  on…the    dress would  be ruined  if she bunched it  up in that  chair and how would they even beable to fit her…the inconvenience and  problems it  would  cause…




 Johnny and Roy finished hanging the hoses and went into get some ice   tea.  Johnny checked the clock.   “Wonder how the girls are   doing?  She was really excited about looking for a dress…Glad we don’t   have to worry about all that.”   The guys were wearing their dress   uniforms.   “I went back to the jewelry store where I got her ring…I   ordered her a set of earrings and a necklace for a wedding gift.     They’re designing it so no one else will have a set like it.”  He rinsed   his glass out and put it in the drainer.  “Can you believe all she has   gotten done already?  Jo said that no one in their right mind would try   to plan a huge wedding in such a short time.”  Roy listened to Johnny   smiling.  In the two weeks, since he had asked Lee to marry him his usual   rants had been replaced by wedding plans and plans for their future.   


“Gage, she agreed to marry you…Doesn’t that give you a clue she might not be in her right mind?”  Chet said as he came into the   kitchen.   “And she  seems to be so  smart in all the   other  stuff…did  you see how  fast   she  did   the  math the other night  figuring out  how much the flowers  would be?   Man can you believe that much   money for flowers?”


“If she wants 20 dozen roses then I’ll get her 20 dozen roses…or whatever else she wants…Soon as this  shift is over we’re  gonna  go check out  a  few  places to have the  wedding…soon as   we do that  we’ll  get the invitations  printed.”  He shook his head and went out to the clean the yard and get it ready to   mow.  Roy looked at Chet.


“You amaze me…you gonna keep pushing his buttons until he decks you?   And when he gets hauled into headquarters I’ll be there to defend him.”  Roy‘s facial expression let Chet know he was dead serious.   “Ride him all you like but don’t let him think you’re being unkind to her."

The SCU toned in,   “Squad 51 Engine 51 structure fire at   377N.  Crammer …3 …7...7   N. Crammer…. cross   street Ryan Dr….time out…10:22. Cap responded and handed Johnny the slip as he   came back into the bay.


The small wooden building was being used as storage. There was a little of everything in it from papers to old paint cans according to the owner, a gentleman in his eighties.


“My grandsons and their friends put stuff in there once in awhile...I   haven’t been out there for years.  They were out there    earlier …Thought they had gone but their bikes are still here.”


“Roy, John there maybe kids in there.”   Cap yelled two   paramedics.  They quickly suited up and got their air tanks on.     The  building wasn’t  much larger than a 2  car garage  but  there  was  rows   of  boxes  stacked   everywhere.  The smoke was thick and had an oily feel to it. 


They made their way slowly through the maze of boxes.  Roy found the first boy lying half under a stack of boxes that had fallen   over.  Taking off his glove, he felt for a pulse.  It was there.   Looking around he saw Johnny bending over another boy.  Johnny had taken his mask off and had it on the boy.     Roy frowned but continued moving the boxes.  They were large but not heavy.  He soon had his patient freed and did a quick assessment.   The boy was unconscious but had no apparent broken   bones or spinal injuries.  He had also given the boy his mask.  


“Johnny, get out now.”   He couldn’t explain exactly what he heard but he knew they had to get out of there now. Carefully picking up the boys they made their way towards the front.  Roy went first with Johnny close behind.   Roy made it to the edge of the yard before the loud explosion rocked the area.  Johnny was closer to the building and felt the wave of hot air and debris hit him in the back.  


 Struggling, he managed to keep his balance and to protect the semiconscious 10 year old boy he was carrying.   Each step was harder and he was finding it hard to keep his balance.  Marco  was  beside    him and  took  the  boy  and  Chet  took him by   the elbow  guiding him to  Roy.   Johnny felt his legs   turning to rubber as he twisted slightly side’s way.


“Roy, he’s hurt” Chet  said  as he eased Johnny to the   ground  and  stood  behind  him  his eyes   widening  as he  saw his friend’s  back.


“J…Just a … little too…. Much …. Smoke,” he got out between coughs.   “Give me a minute.”   The coughing made the ache in his shoulders   worse and was out of rhythm with the drumming in his head.  


 “Marco gets him on 6 liters of O2...”  Roy ordered as he continued   checking the vital signs of the boy Marco had brought to him. 


“Roy, its more than smoke he’s got a piece of wood sticking out his shoulder.”  Chet said as he watched Johnny twist more sideways.   “There’s blood.”


 “Kelly, don’t joke ‘bout stuff like that.”  Johnny growled taking   off the oxygen mask Marco had just put on him.  “Don’t you think I’d know…?”  Before he could finish the sentence he slumped over as his vision faded to black.  Chet repositioned him so he was lying on his   side

Roy  was on the  bio phone  with  Rampart  when   he heard the additional engine that  Cap had called  for arriving  soon  followed  by squad 36.   Cap had called for it when he saw Johnny staggering out of the building. Doug Stone and Jay Cameron were soon taking care of the two boys so Roy could move over to his partner… 


“Junior, come on open your eyes.”  Roy ordered his partner as he began taking his  vitals  after  Chet helped him  take Johnny’s  right  arm  out of the heavy  coat,  not  disturbing  the  10 inch  long  piece of   splintered broom handle sticking  out  of his  left  shoulder.    Roy winced when he saw the bruise showing from under the shaggy black hair.  “Chet, did he have his helmet   on?”


 “Yeah it was kind of cockeyed but he had it on for a change.”  Chet  answered  watching  as Johnny’s eyes  opened slowly  then  closed again as the light  sent a stabbing  pain through his head. Chet picked up the helmet from where he’d dropped when he put the oxygen mask on   Johnny.  “There are some cracks on this thing.  Man whatever blew   in there must have been heavy duty.”


Rampart  we have  a third victim a  code I…male 25 years old…he has a bruise on the back of his neck at the hairline…he  was wearing his helmet…there is a 10 inch  piece of a splintered  broom  handle imbedded in  his  back  through  his  turnout  coat, There is  blood  visible  on the  coat.  He is   unconscious but showing sign of waking up…pupils are equal and reactive.    Vitals are BP110/70 respirations are 20 pulse 60.”


“Squad 51 starts an IV of D5WTKO.   Secure the splintered wood   and transport as soon as possible. Keep him quiet as possible so not to dislodge that wood.”


“Come on junior wake up.”


Cap had walked over there and heard Chet’s comment.   “The   old  guy  that lives here  just  told me  his grandson  builds off  road  racers  as a hobby and is a welder.  What you want to bet he had tanks stored in there? Said the kid’s mom won’t let him keep them at her house---thinks they’re too dangerous.”  


“Hu…rts,” Johnny opened his eyes.  “F…f eel’s  fu… nny…” His eyes were closed but Roy knew he was working to open them.  “Gonna b…beee sick?”  He opened his eyes and tried to turn.  Roy, Cap and Chet helped him and waited for what little he had in his stomach to clear his system.


“Chet take the squad in. Soon as we clean up we’ll come to Rampart.    Is Lee there today?”


“No, she is wedding gown shopping with Jo and Kathy.  Emily had already made plans with someone when they asked her to go along.”


 “Ok…we’ll have to try to get a hold of her…” 




Lee and her friends drove to the flower shop without the usual laughter   and chatter.    Lee was trying to figure out how to get   everyone comfortably arranged around the pool and decided that wouldn’t   work.   Maybe her “cousin” Amos would let her use his   garden.   Amos’ great grandfather and her grandmother had been   second cousins and Lee had jokingly called him her cousin for   years.   His home in Beverly Hills had a lush garden and…maybe it could be a nice substitute for the wedding he had promised her 10 years ago.


Jo was thinking about what Johnny had told her about the night of the   engagement party.   Lee had thrown up because she was so scared his   friends would think she wasn’t good enough to marry him because of the   chair.   What no one else (including  Johnny) knew was that   after hearing Chet Kelly’s attempt to be funny, Lee had taken the ring off and   was going to give it back to Johnny the next day.  She was praying that   Lee wouldn’t consider that an option later this evening when she was   alone.


Kathy was just plain mad at the whole situation.   She   had  never  seen  Lee so  completely  happy and    for the  narrow  minded old cow to ruin  what should  be a joyful  time.  But she had no doubt that Lee would handle it   fine once she got her second wind.   Besides her and Jo would make   sure she did not get married in a white sundress.


Jo heard the sirens and pulled over to the side of the road. She watched   the ambulance go by and then realized it was squad 51 behind it.     She looked to see who was driving and with a sinking heart realized it was Chet.   It could be the patient required both Roy and Johnny’s help   but she had a horrible feeling it was not that simple.  Lee had seen her reaction.    “Who was driving?”  Lee said softly.   


“Chet….I’m almost positive.”  She watched Lee’s face as she closed her eyes and said a quick prayer.  She had done that most of her life…Maria had taught her that when she was little.  Whenever   you  saw a  policeman or a fireman at  work  always  pray  for their  safety and  the safety of  those they are  helping.  Cisco was from a long line of law enforcement   officers.  


“Think I need to go check something in my office…”  Lee‘s smile was forced but she managed not to cry.  “Guess I need to get used to this…”


“You  don’t  get used to it  you learn to  live with it and  control  the  fear…when Johnny’s  friend   Drew  died…he told me he was glad he didn’t have a family…but that  wasn’t true  then…and it  certainly isn’t    true  now.   And  remember if  you ever get to feeling  too scared or  lonely or  just  plain  mad  you’ve  got  me…Em and Melissa and a lot of others to talk to and lean on.”


 Kathy wondered why they were so sure it was Johnny and not Roy who was   injured.   Lee saw the look on her face.   “A scary   and  sad  side effect of  my  job…not only do  they   have the  highest  survival  rate for serious  injuries   and  illnesses  but they have the  highest  rate of    injuries to  personnel …and  Johnny  has  more than Roy.  He doesn’t give up easy…and he will   do anything he can not to lose a patient.”


“I think it would be ok if you explained…” Jo said reading the expression   on Lee’s face.


“You  already  know  Johnny  lost his parents…his  dad was killed in an oil rig  fire  when he  was  8...that’s  what  drives him…He    never  wants to see  that  look on another  child’s face…or another  wife  when  they are told  …When  they  lose  someone it  tears  him up…makes him feel like a failure.”   Kathy heard the quiver in her friend’s voice and   saw the pain she felt for the kind gentle man she loved so much.  “Shall we go see what they got themselves into now?” 




Carol was at the desk when Lee and her friends came in.  “Dr. Brackett has him in treatment 3...Dixie is in with them.”


“Lee why don’t we go into the doctor’s lounge?” Jo suggested.  Carol   nodded as she caught the look of the new nurse who clearly disapproved of Jo’s suggestion. 


“Any idea what exploded in there?”  Kel asked as he was probing the edges of the wound.’’  


“No  the old  guy  who lived there said he hadn’t    been in there in  years …His  grandsons  keep  stuff in   there  and  there may been a welding  tank…”   Roy   said as he helped hold his partner still.  “How are the boys?”


“Good…a  few  cuts and  bruises  nothing    serious  thanks to you two…Apparently  they  were    mixing  up  some  concoction  to  power a    balloon  racer  for a  school  project.”  He    gave Johnny another shot to numb the area    before he began cleaning the debris from the    edges.  “My guess would be bleach and ammonia…There was enough   ventilation that while it made them pass out it wasn’t as serious as it could   have been.” 


“Hey handsome what was Lee doing today?    I didn’t see her this morning.”  Dixie  wanted Johnny  to  relax and stop  trying to  turn to  see  what  was going on  behind  him.  Kel hadn’t wanted to put him out completely since he’d been unconscious earlier.  Busy making plans?”


“Dress shop...ping,” He hissed as Kel pulled on a particularly stubborn splinter.  “Flowers.”


“Good…there... that is the last of them…”    He stitched up the incision he had made getting the giant splinter out.  “Your turnout protected you... that splinter acted like an arrow…had enough force behind it to bury its self about an inch and a half in your back.  Missed everything vital just gonna be sore …You know the routine.  X-rays were good on your head…just take it easy for a few days.”


Dix went back to the desk where Carol was finishing up a chart.  “What’s with Kramer?  She looks like someone gave her a lemon to suck on.” Dixie said as she watched the older nurse walk by.


“Don’t think she approved I sent Lee and her friends to the doctor’s lounge to wait.”  Carol answered with a shrug.  “I figured the rest of the guys would be here soon and Lee didn’t need that to hear them going over the details till she talked to you or Dr. Brackett.”


“You did right.   Leave Kramer to me.”


The three were at the table Lee making a list of things they needed to do.   The  big party at the FOP Park was next weekend. Mrs. Lopez was helping Maria.  In the short time  they had  known  each  other  Maria and Mrs. Lopez had  became very good  friends.  Anything to keep busy…They all jumped when Dixie came in.


 “Thought you were out shopping for a special dress?”  Dixie teased.  “And a million faerie roses?”


 Lee relaxed knowing Dix wouldn’t be teasing if he wasn’t ok. “We saw Chet driving the squad.   How is he?  Can I see him?”



“He is fine…and I would say you can take him home in a little bit.  He won’t be lifting your chair or you in and out of the car.” 


“I can get in out of my car fine... it’s when he insists on taking his car.”


“I  think he  just  likes  holding  onto you…He  always  gives  you that smile when he  lifts  you.”  Kathy said teasing her.  “And he knows he’ll get a kiss when he sits you down.”   It was nice to hear her giggle at that.


“A cheerful bunch in here,” Kel said as he came in.   “You can take that hose jockey of yours home and put him to bed.   At your place if you don’t mind.  I know you’ll keep him in line.”


 “I have never seen the inside of his apartment.   Has nothing to do with my virtue,” At the upraised eyebrow and smirk Kel gave her.  “I refuse to let him carry me up 2 flights of stairs.”   He laughed. Seriously, anything I need to do for him?” 


“Just  keep  him  from  lifting  anything   or  moving around  anymore than  necessary.…no swimming or   getting the stitches wet for  48  hours…call if  there is  any  increase in  temperature or  excessive  pain.    He has a headache and I gave him a shot that should help that. So once you get him settled he should asleep most of  the day.   Do you think you’ll have any trouble getting him up to your apartment?”


“Nope...In fact I can make sure…I’ll call Maria if Hector or Eddie aren’t available she’ll make sure someone is there to help.  


“Go see Johnny I’ll call her.”  Kathy said   pointing to the door.


Lee was almost to the treatment room when Nurse Kramer stopped her.   “Where do you think you’re going?  Authorized personnel only in the treatment rooms.”


“Dr. Brackett said I could go in.   Now if you’ll excuse me.”   The nurse had moved so she was standing in front of the doorway.  “I told you Kel said I could go in…please move.  …NOW.”  Her voice low the tone deadly.   Her  friends  may  joke  about her being  spoiled  but Lee  really  tried  to  be  nice  and  not  cause problems.   This was beyond anything she would tolerate especially after the way the clerk treated her that morning.


Kel and Dixie heard Lee’s tone of voice as they turned the corner.  They saw Nurse Kramer grab the wheelchair by the arms and push it backwards.  “I said you weren’t authorized to go in there…Until Dr. Brackett tells me himself…and I am sure he will agree hospital policy…”


“I don’t need you to interpret hospital policy nurse.  Lee, are you ok?” 


 Near tears, she shook her head.  “She wouldn’t let me see Johnny.”  She turned so she was facing him.   “Why?  Why do people see this wheelchair and think that gives them the right to treat me like I am a nobody?”   She did not wait to hear an answer but went in to see Johnny.   “Roy, Jo is in the doctor’s lounge.  Hi, Chet… thank you for taking good care of him.


“Come on Chet; let’s go say hi to Jo before we leave, check with you later.”                     


“Wake up sweet heart.”  She kissed his hand.  “I need you to wake up so we can go home….”   He moved slightly and she held on tighter.   “I need you to smile at me…It’s not been a very good day for either of us…But you’ll make it ok once you smile at me.”    She held his hand absent-mindedly rubbing the top of it in little light circles.


“Feels good.   Sorry you had a bad day…”pose to be a good one.”  His voice was soft and caring.  “What’s wrong?”


“After we get home and you rest.”  As if it had been scripted Roy, Jo, Chet and Kathy came in.  Roy was pushing a wheelchair and Jo with the discharge papers and instructions.


“Too much trouble for you.”  Johnny said. 


“Don’t do that to me…not today…not you too.”  Lee said with a sigh.  “Please not you too.”  Lee started to wheel away but he had a hold of her.  She had to stop afraid to pull on the stitches Kel had put in earlier.  “Let Roy help you so we can go home.   We’ll talk then.”


“Ok.”  He was not sure exactly what had happened but he knew she had been hurt somehow No one had a lot to say on the way back to the apartment.  Johnny had fallen asleep again.  Lee was relieved to see Hector and Cisco there when they pulled into the parking lot.    Johnny woke up when Hector slammed the tailgate shut after getting Lee’s chair.  Johnny started to get out of the car and would have fallen if Cisco had not been standing there.


“Come on mijo, you’re a little too wobbly.”  They got him settled in Jeff’s old room.


Kathy checked the stitches and gave him the meds Kel had sent.  “Ya know Kathy, I have a feeling you could get rich being this one’s doctor.”  Cisco said with a grin as Lee frowned.


 “Not even funny besides Kel is his doctor.  Thank you.”  She giggled at the shocked look on Kathy’s face. 

Everyone left and Lee went in and changed into sweats.   It had been a crazy day.


  She had dealt with all kinds of reactions to her chair before but that clerk today had been horrible and then the nurse and Johnny’s reaction had been the last straw.   Maybe this wedding was a bad idea.   She knew Chet had been teasing Johnny about being so slow he got caught by a wheelchair.  She had  heard  him at the  pool  party  for  A shift  the  Sunday after they got engaged. Was she being fair to him?


“A penny for your thoughts?”  She had not heard him come into the room.  He was moving slow but was steady on his feet. 


“Can I get you something?”  He carefully sat down in Jeff’s recliner.


“No I need to ask you a question.  Did I say or do something wrong?  At the hospital?”


“No, “she answered not wanting to deal with how his reaction had hurt her feelings

“Good because  I was pretty  foggy from the bump  and  from the stuff they  gave me to stitch  me  up…Didn’t  know if  I  said  something  …You  seemed  pretty  sad.” 


“I guess it was just seeing you hurting but I’m fine now.   You hungry”   She transferred back into her chair.  “I made chicken salad yesterday… Make you a sandwich or a salad plate with fruit?”


“No thanks…so the dress hunting didn’t go well?”


“I’m gonna get a soda you want one or some tea?”  She started towards the kitchen ignoring the question, which pretty much gave him the answer.   When she came back in, she had a tray with some milk and a piece of cake on it as well as her soda.


“Thanks.”   He watched her as she started out of the room again then turned back.


“No the dress hunting didn’t go well and I let someone make me feel small and stupid and ugly…because I wanted a beautiful wedding gown.”


“Wanted?”  Alarmed at the flatness of her voice.  “Don’t you still want one?”


 “I don’t know…Maybe a small wedding would be better…not so involved. We  could  get married here  around  the pool…I  could  probably  find a  pretty  plain white dress  to wear…One that I wouldn’t ruin sitting in and wouldn’t be hard to fit and not inconvenience anyone.”   She took a deep breath.    “And  Kel  told me I  could  go see you this witch of a nurse  wouldn’t  let  me … Then  when I  did…you  looked so pale and in  pain  and  …and  then acted like you didn’t think  I could take care of  you.”


 Johnny  was drinking his milk  as she  said  all this and he  was trying  not to  laugh  because he  knew that would  just make it  worse  but he  couldn’t  help himself.  She glared at him and that just made him want to laugh even more. “Sweetheart, you know what Roy would say if he was here?  He would tell you that you just had a Gage rant and be shaking his head. I am sorry those women were idiots.   I never thought you couldn’t take care me and I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.”    She looked at him trying to decide what to think.  “Maybe tomorrow if everything goes ok we can go look at the gardens at the bed and breakfast.   Plain or fancy you ‘re gonna be the most beautiful bride in the world.”


“I wasn’t going to tell you all this because I didn’t want you to think I’m a cry baby. But I knew the longer I held it in the worst my mood was going to get.”


“If I wasn’t so tired and this chair wasn’t so comfortable I’d come over there and kiss you.”  He said as his eyes began to go half-mast.


“Put your feet up and sleep.  Later I’ll fix us a nice dinner.”  He laid back and she covered him with the blanket that she kept on the back of the couch.  At least I can still do that right.”




Dixie  was  finishing up  some  charting  when she  saw  Roy  and Brice  come in with  patients.  She had been thinking about calling Roy since she and Kel had a talk with Nurse Martha Kramer.  Soon as  Roy  was  finished  in  treatment  room  2  she  called him  over to the  desk.   “Have you talked to Lee since they left?” 


“Yeah a little while ago.  Johnny was sleeping again.   Reminded her he probably wouldn’t ask for any pain meds so watch and if he looked like he needed them give them.  She sounded better.”  


“Nurse Kramer has a bad attitude towards paramedics and an even worse one towards Lee.”  Dixie told him.  “If she is going to work in ER she better get over that quick.  Kel  let her  know  you all are  valued members of the  medical  team….As for her  problem  with  Lee I’m  not  sure what the answer is.”


 “Lee can handle it…She would have run Kramer down with her wheelchair in a heartbeat to get to Johnny.   I’d guess unless something else happens Lee will just ignore her.”


“Kramer better hope that Lee doesn’t decide to complain…People don’t realize how much influence she has with some pretty important people.”    Dixie looked up and saw Brice coming out of the treatment room.   “You doing ok with him?”


“Yea  it helps  knowing it  only  for this  shift.….Johnny  was  lucky  that  turnout coat  kept that wood from  going in to deep.”



Lee was asleep on the couch when Johnny woke up.   Johnny watched her thinking about what she had said about a small wedding and a plain white dress.  He  would  be happy  just  going to the  justice of the peace or  a judge  just  with  Roy and Jo  there.   But , she  deserved  the  big  fancy wedding  with all  their  friends  there.   He wanted her to have her dream wedding in a special dress not just something she settled for because it was easy.  He knew soon as he moved she would be awake but he had to get up.  Trying to be quiet he let the foot rest down and stood up. 


“Are you ok?”  She asked as she sat up.  “Is there anything I can get you?”  She rubbed her eyes trying to wake up. 


“I’m fine…You make sure you’re awake before you try to get up.”  He smiled at her.  “Thanks for taking such good care of me.  We  will  Not  have a  small  wedding around  the  pool  and  you will  Not  wear a  plain  white  dress.  I know this is important to you.   So it makes it important to me too."  He smiled at her disbelief.


"Roy teases about my lack of social skills…but I’m learning…Just be patient with me, ok?” 


“Your social skills are fine.   I was just having a hard time with that woman at the dress shop.  Now are you hungry?”


 “Yeah I am…You said something before about a chicken salad sandwich?  On that good cheese bread from the bakery?”


A  little after  10  Lee  gave him  his  meds and  they  both  went to  bed.  She had turned on the intercom so he could call her in the night if he needed anything.  (Jeff had the intercom system put in when they redid the apartment after the wreck.)  By 11:30, she was asleep.    Lee  was up by 7 but  stayed in her  room  making some  lists and  just  trying to  get herself  organized  for the day  after a quick  shower.   About nine, she heard Johnny getting up.


The smell of coffee and bacon greeted him as he came into the front room.  The stereo was playing some soft jazz.  The balcony table was set up for breakfast.


Lee was cutting up fruit when he came into the kitchen.  She smiled when she saw him.   His color was good and he was moving easier.  “Good morning. Coffee is ready.  Do you want pancakes, waffles or French toast?’ 


 “Good morning to you…Is this what it’s going to be like when we’re married?”  He was pouring a cup of coffee.   “You looking beautiful and being very domestic?”


“Hopefully …except we won’t be coming out of 2 separate bedrooms,” she teased.  She giggled when he turned red.  “So what do you want?”


“Besides a kiss?  Maybe French toast?”   He put the cup down, went over, and kissed her.  He was relieved to see the laughter in her eyes because yesterday it was gone.


She put the bread on the griddle and dished up some fresh fruit for him.


“You realize that the majority of people at this wedding will be medical, law enforcement or fire department personnel or their families?” 


 “Never thought of it…but I guess that is who we hang out with.”   She put all 4 pieces of French toast on one plate and started to wheel over to the table.    “Where’s your plate?”


“I have fruit and granola and yogurt over on the table healthy and good for me…Besides it’s what I like.”


“You know what I like?”  He was moving his arm to see if it pulled on the stitches; it didn’t so he took the sling off and sat down.


“What?” As she moved to the table


“Seeing you smile and waking up to this…”   She nodded and reached for his hand.  “After breakfast we’ll go look at gardens…Bear said his friend was excited about us coming out there.”


“If you’re sure you feel like it.   Remember this is your wedding too.  I don’t want you to think everything has to be my way just because I do.”  Giggling as she said it.


“What  did  Cisco  tell me about  Maria  being the  boss…think  you’ll  do just  fine as the  boss in our  house.”


“Not our house our home…Any place can be a house…what I want for us is a home.”   Johnny knew exactly what she meant.  His apartment was his house…Roy and Jo’s place was his home.   “A home where all our friends and family feel comfortable just dropping in and where we feel safe and secure.”


“That sounds perfect…Maybe someday we’ll build a house.”


“Since we own 75%f one of the biggest real estate development and property management companies in L.A.  I don’t think that will be a problem…but for now I think staying here is best…like we talked about before.”  


When did WE get 75 %?”    He raised his eyebrow questioning her statement. 


“Jeff told  you his  wedding  present  to  you  was 5%  of the  stock in  WBS  he has.   And I have 70% I think.”


 ”I thought him and Matt were giving us plane tickets as a wedding present?  I’m confused.”  He did a double take.  “You think you have 70%?”


“They  are but Jeff is also giving  you the stock  and  he  has something  for me  but he  wouldn’t  tell me  what it  was.   I think that’s it…maybe it’s more.”


“Every time I think I have you figured out you surprise me again…”  Laughing as he said it.


“Well that’s good…because you wouldn’t want me to be boring would you?”


“I’m going to kill Chet Kelly one of these days…”                                           


“Let me do it…the jury will feel sorry for the poor mousy girl in the wheelchair.”   Seeing the look on his face.  “I accepted his apology I didn’t say I forgot what he said.”  She finished her fruit.  “If we are going to Rose Hill I need to change …I’ll be ready in 5 minutes. “  


The estate had belonged to a movie producer from the 1930’s.    The  house  needed  some  repairs and  updating  but  basically  was in  good  repair.  The huge terrace opened into a sweeping lawn with several garden areas.   The  couple who had  bought it  from a  bank  were trying to  convert it into a bed and  breakfast and  event  site.   It was built on the plans of a French palace.  There were  stairs out  front  but  also  a ramp  that  had a  low  incline and  had  been  added in  such a  way it  seemed  to have always  been  there.   Lee had fallen in love with it as soon as she saw it.  .   Marshall and Cynthia Hogan were friends of Barry Baricza who was one of Johnny’s friends from CHP.  Barry or Bear, as his friends called him, had suggested they check it out.


“The downstairs is all done and we have several of the guest room’s upstairs ready.”  Marshall said as they looked around the ballroom.  “If the  weather  turned  bad  we  could  move the  tables in here and set  up  serving  lines …or  were  you planning a  sit  down  dinner?  And how many people are you inviting?” 


“This is  where it  gets interesting…We sending out  175 invitations   so  roughly  250  people  from  them  but there are  going to be open  invitations  going  out to the LA County  fire department,  several  law  enforcement  agencies and to  Rampart  hospital.  My guess is another 100 to 125 from that.   So we’ll plan on 350.”   Marshall’s eyes got big.   “Ok   I have a question…is there a place downstairs we can use for a dressing room for me…Since stairs are not an option”


 “The library would work fine and it’s near the small downstairs restroom.   Actually, we have an elevator but are having trouble with it and are having even more trouble getting it fixed.  The library will be big enough for you and several others.   People can use the rooms upstairs.   Seven of the twelve are ready for guests…  The  others  just  need  some  minor  work  and if I  could  get someone out here  we’d  be able to  offer your  guests a  good  rate for anyone  who  wanted to  stay over.”


 “What  would  you say if I  guaranteed  your rooms  would be  done  and  we’ll take all  12...And if  you agree I  can  get  people out here to  help  finish  up  with  your  garden  work .  But I have a favor to ask about that.”


“Like what?”  Marshall was surprised at this offer.   Barry had said his friend was a paramedic and what they were talking was big money.


“The beautiful stone planters along the terrace…if we provided them I really would like to fill them with faerie roses.  Is that ok with you?” 


“I have no problem with that…”   Marshall said in shock.  He had never met anyone like this before.    When Bear had said they were a special couple he wasn’t kidding.


 “You know what I think …anything you want you get.”  Johnny smiled glad she was getting her dream and not settling for less.  “That’s what your uncles and Kathy and Jo have been telling you just like I do.”


“If  you want to  talk to  Cindy  about  food…She  teaches  pastry  and  some other  food  related  classes at the  local  junior  college…”


“Great  we  can  get that  settled…Every one told me I  couldn’t  get  this  wedding together in  such a short  time…”  


“That sealed it…soon as they told you couldn’t--- you made up your mind to prove them wrong.”  Johnny grinned as he said it.  “They should know better than to underestimate you.”


 “May I use your phone?”   Lee asked as they were being settled in the dining room.  “I need to call Ben and Hector…”  Hector answered on the third ring and she explained what she wanted.  He promised  Eddie  would  be over there by  4  and  that  everything  would  be as she  wanted.  “The landscaping is taken care of.  Eddie is great.”  She dialed the number for WBS.  


“WBS Real Estate Developers and Property Management.   How may I direct your call?”


“Hi this is Lee Spencer.   I need to talk to Ben Oliver, please.”


 “I’m sorry Mr.  Oliver is with Mr.  Franklin. Mr. Franklin said they were not to be disturbed.”


“I suggest you find out exactly who I am… get him on the phone now, please.”   Her tone left no room for questioning her.


 “Yes Miss Spencer please hold.”   She went over to the office door and knocked.  “Mr. Oliver there is a Miss Spencer on the line…She said it was very important.”


 “I thought I said we were not to be disturbed?  If you can’t follow simple directions…”


 “Quiet Ralph…Put the call through Janet and you did the right thing.”   He frowned at the grumbling real estate broker.  “Lee, my dear, what can I do for you?”


 “I need a crew out at Rose Hill to finish up some remodeling and repairs. I’m  having my wedding here. I think  it would be nice if the bridal  party except me and Johnny could stay here ….How  soon can you have someone come out here and talk to the owner, Marshall Hogan?  I’m paying for this so whatever they want they get.”


 “There will be someone there by 6 if that works for Mr. Hogan.”  Ben Oliver smiled thinking how much she sounded like his old friend.  Her grandfather would have enjoyed hearing her give orders.


“That will be grand…See you and Aunt Lilly at the party Saturday?”


 “Of course my dear.   I’m looking forward to meeting your young man.”


 “Thank you …love ya and Aunt Lilly.”


 “There now we get to the part Johnny is going to have the most say so in.”  She giggled.    “What he wants is what we’ll have …Seems to me that is what you’ve said about anything I wanted.  We will probably have about 60 at the rehearsal dinner…”


 Cynthia came in with a tray of sandwiches and salads.  “I thought since we were talking food we may as well have lunch.  I brought ice tea but I can get coffee or whatever you would like.”  


 “This is fine with me,” Johnny said as she put a plate in front of him.   “This looks really good.”   His stomach growled.


“I did feed him this morning… Do you want a pain pill?” She asked as she watched him carefully move his left arm.  “He had some stitches yesterday when he got hurt at a fire…that’s why he gets to spend the day with me.”


“As if that wasn’t my favorite thing to do,” laughing at the face she made.


“So what is your favorite type of food?   Do you have any idea what you might like to have?”  Cynthia asked as he took a bite of the barbecued pork sandwich.


Remembering to  swallow  before  answering,  “I  like about anything…I  guess  the  only  thing I  don’t  like is lamb and mutton as far as meat  goes.”


 “I didn’t know that.”  Lee said surprised.  She liked lamb.


 “I had to help heard them when I was little…I always felt bad when they went to slaughter.”   His smile did not reach his eyes.  “I like spicy food…and most vegetables.  I  want everyone to have a good  time and  eat  well…There has to be some  seafood  since that’s  Lee’s  favorite…shrimp and  crab  especially.   Nothing real fancy something the kids will like.   I want it relaxed and friendly not stuffy and formal.  Is that ok with you?”  Lee nodded as she had a mouthful of sandwich.


 “Do you have a theme or a particular time period in mine?  What colors do you like?  Do you want a lot of candles?”


“No I’m not going to listen to a bunch of firemen give me a hard time about my candles…”  She was serious but laughing.  “I  like  purples and lavenders and  soft  blues and  greens…We are  having  lots of  flowers  especially  faerie  roses.”


“What if we just plan a picnic type meal…informal and relaxed? Fresh fruit and veggie trays…maybe homemade ice cream and cookies.   What to drink?”


“That sounds perfect to me.  There needs to be lots of sodas and ice tea and lemonade. Maybe some beer and wine coolers but no hard liquor.”  Johnny nodded in agreement.


"We are  booking all  12  rooms  for  3  days…We’ll have an  exact  count  and  breakdown  on  who  and how  many  by the middle of  July.   All the New York people so that is two rooms for Johnny and Marie connecting if possible.  Chris and  Nancy  …all  3 nights…Thursday  till  Sunday  after  breakfast…Merce and her  family  will need  3  rooms  Friday  till  Sunday…So  when  we  figure the  prices include the  rooms and  any  meals…Why  don’t I just  write you a deposit  check and  let me  know  what  else there is…”


 “I’m going to hire some of my students to work on the food and maybe help serve.  Do you have a problem with that?”


 “No…hire as  much  help as you want…Marshall  you  can hire  people to help  set up  but I think maybe  Hector and Eddie  will be  more than  glad to  help and provide extra  workers  from  their  crew.   Someone  from  WBS  will be here to get  started  making  plans for the  remodeling  and Alvarez and  Son  landscaping  will be here  to do that…And I  will probably  drive you all crazy  with my  questions and  lists…and ideas.”


Lee wrote a check and gave it to Marshall.   “This should cover the deposit and I will give you the address where to send any remaining charges…”   She giggled.  “My  friend  Kathy  told me I  was  becoming  hyper active and  out of  control…but I think am  doing  well.  This is my faerie tale…Where the wedding is not the end but just the start of happily ever after.  And you John Roderick  Gage can’t  tell me you aren’t tired and  your arm isn’t hurting…Because you  didn’t  keep the sling on like Kel told you.”


“I’m the paramedic not you,” Laughing at the look she gave him.  “Has Roy been teaching you to read my mind?”


 “I’m not as good as he is at it but I can read the look in your eyes my love.”    The Hogan’s walked them out to the car.  “Oh parking…you all worry about that.”  Marshall put the wheelchair in the back seat and promised to call her soon after talking to the others.


 “Now aren’t you glad you didn’t settle for a wedding in the backyard?”


 “Very now just have to do invitations and flowers and dresses … And food for the reception.  However, we are not doing that now.  Now you are going home and taking a nap and a pain pill.   You are important... not all this other stuff…”


“Home or my apartment?”




 While Johnny slept, Lee called the printer and gave them the information they had been waiting on to start printing the invitations.   She grabbed the phone quickly when it rang so it wouldn’t wake Johnny.  “Hello.”


 “Hi…Roy was wondering how things are going?”  Jo asked trying to keep from laughing.   “You know how mother hens are.”

Tell him I’m taking good care of his partner.   We went out to Rose Hill and made arrangements …He has been asleep about 2 hours.”


“I  just  talked to  Kathy…Roy  said he  would  come over and  visit  Johnny  if you  wanted  to  go  see about the  flowers.”


“That would  be great…The  kids  can  swim  if they  want as long as the  guys are  down there…We’ll  stop at the  deli and  get  stuff  for  dinner  on the  way  back to the  apartment.    Still have to work on what we want at the reception.”  


 “And the cake…Did you hear the conversation between Johnny and the kids?  I  swear I  thought I  was  going to  cry I  was laughing  so  hard.  Chris was putting his vote in for  chocolate and  Jen wanted  strawberry…Johnny  said next to  your  pineapple cake his  favorite  was your carrot  cake…then it  was caramel  versus chocolate versus peanut  butter  icing…You  would have thought  they  were solving the world’s  greatest problems.”


 “That’s one of the things that make him so good with the kids.  He takes them serious when they want him to even if it’s something most grown up would think is trivial.”


 “Yep…see you in about an hour…I’ll call Kathy and let her know…”


 Johnny came out into the front room about a half hour later.  She smiled but did not say anything about the fact he had his arm back in the sling.   She told him about the others coming over and dinner plans.   “You have everything under control.”  He kissed her lightly.   “Smile.  It’s going to be beautiful besides no one is going to be looking at anyone or anything except you.”   He was in the recliner, which she had begun to think of as Johnny’s chair.


“You are a little bit bias…No there are going to be some who’ll find fault with everything I do…”


“As long as you aren’t finding fault anything anyone else says matter.   Can I ask you a question?”  Knowing sometimes, she was her harshest critic he worried about her.


 “Yes but that doesn’t mean I’ll give you an answer that you’ll like.”


“You said you had a dream wedding and a promise from Amos…tells me about it?”


 “Some  day  when you have  lots of  time  to listen to  whine  and complain and  feel  sorry  for myself…Today  is a  happy day  and I’m  not  gonna  spoil it.”   He nodded in agreement.  “So anything you need before I leave?”


“No I’m fine…Don't look at me that way.”


 “I  was trying to  remember what  you’re  saying  I’m  fine  translated  into…Roy  needs to write that all down  for me.”


“It  means I am doing good  just a  little achy no fever no major  concerns.  So you know what you want at the flower shop?”


“I  think so I  want  fun  pretty center pieces  not the  big  dramatic  things in that  magazine  Kathy  got. I did like that canopy that was all flowers…And the flowers made into a picture especially the butter fly.”


“Well just make sure you get whatever you want…Because that is what I want.” 


 Lee  looked at the steps going up to the  flower shop and her heart sunk.  She did not want to deal with that at all.   Then she realized there was a ramp behind the planters and it was a gentle slope.  The outside of the old Victorian house and its gingerbread  style  porch  was  a  mass of  hanging  pots and  containers with a  sprinkling of wind  chimes.  There was something soothing about it.   A  small  silver  bell  rang  as  the  three  came into the main  room of the  shop.   Lee felt as if she had been there before from Johnny’s description.   When Nana came into the room she instantly knew her.


 “Good afternoon, how may I help you ladies today?”  The light accent had a musical quality just as Johnny had said.


“I’m getting married August third and I‘d like to have you do the flowers. Faerie roses on all the tables and a canopy of them for us to stand under…it is a garden wedding.


 “So the young brown eyed paramedic has found his lost heart.   I told him it wasn’t lost that his lady was keeping it safe for him.  He told me that she had beautiful green eyes and a smile that  lit up the  room…and  that she  loved  looking  for buried treasure in the faerie  roses.”  She smiled at Jo and Kathy as they looked around the shop.  “I think the heart you give him in return is as kind and gentle as the one he gave you.”


 “Thank you…that is the greatest compliment I could ever receive.”    She looked at the shelf full of antique teacups and saucers.   “We will need about  50  of those for the tables and I saw a  picture of a canopy  made of  flowers…It  just  seemed  perfect.”


 “We  will  make one that is  perfect for  you and  your  Johnny…He  comes  in every week and  is so happy to be going to see you…even when he is  looking  tired and  sad as soon as he talks about you  that is replaced with a joy and a light  that  comes from his heart.”  Lee blushed and nodded.  “And the brides flowers?”



“I haven’t  found a dress yet  so I  don’t  know   that  or what  colors or style  the  attendants  will  be  wearing  but there will be 5 and  two flower princesses  and  then the 5 groomsmen and  some others who we want to have flowers that day…and the  flowers for decorating the food  tables and the table for the wedding  party.”


 “The colors will be purples and lavenders and blue and greens if what I have heard is right…Those are your favorite?”


 “Yes…He has told you a lot about me?”


“Yes little one he has…but  what he did not tell  me was about that chair…He  does not see it  when he  looks at you he only sees the one he  loves.  And the one who loves him.”  Nana smiled as she saw the tears in Lee’s eyes and knew they were joyous tears.


 “Leave it to John Gage to find a florist who is also a West Indian priestess.”  Jo told Kathy as they listened to the conversation with lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes,   A  few  more  minutes and  Nana  had a good idea  what Lee wanted and  promised  her everything  would be  perfect


“Now if finding a dress was as easy and painless.”  Lee said with a loud sigh.  “This is what I’m dreading the most.”


“Why does this trouble you so?  Most brides look forward to finding the perfect dress.”  Nan could see the tightly drawn mouth and down cast eyes.  


“We were in a well recommended shop and they were very rude and hurtful. “  Kathy said frowning.   “It was not a good experience.”


“There is a new shop not far from here…A young lady and her mother own it…They have vintage fashions as well as fabrics.   Elizabeth is an excellent designer…I am sure she can help you.   It is called Styles Remembered.”


“Thank you…for everything…”   She paid for the flowers she bought to take to Maria.  


No one had much to say on the way over to the dress shop.  Lee was thinking about what Nana had said.  The other  two  were worried  about  what  would  happen if  it  was  another  bad  experience.   The shop was in a small upscale shopping center.   Lee was glad to see there were no steps.   They went in looking at the various displays from different eras that greeted them.    


“Good afternoon.  Welcome to Styles Remembered.  I’m  Liz and  this is my  store…mine, my  mom and the bank’s.  Nana called and said you were coming over and gave me an idea of the flowers you’ll be using.   Is  there anything  in  particular you have in mind or  do you  just  want to  look around? “


“I  want  something  that will  be elegant  and a little sexy  and won’t  look  like it’s  been  crammed into  the  chair.   It  really needs to be something that  doesn’t  take a long  time to  get into…I  can  stand  with  something to  hang onto for maybe 10  minutes…I have some adaptive  equipment  we can use  maybe?”   Waiting for Liz to tell her, it’s too much trouble and she didn’t want to be bothered.


“That’s no problem…Is there a particular period in history you like?   That blouse has a Victorian feel … Do you like the high neckline?”

“It   makes  me uncomfortable  when someone I  barely  know  is  looking  down  at me…especially strange men …and I  feel  like the  neckline  is too  low.”  Jo and Kathy both looked surprised at this.  “So I just try to make sure they aren’t.”


“Let’s  go  look  thru  some  books…and  besides  your  dress what  else  will  you be needing?”


“2 flower princesses and 5 attendants…The flower princess are 6 year olds…”


 “I  have  just  gotten some  fabric…would  your  princesses  like  looking  like they had  stepped out of a Beatrice Potter book?”


 “I know Stacy would…those are some of her favorite stories right now,” Kathy said. 


“Jen loves them too.”   Both looked relieved.  Liz  quickly sketched a  little girl in a dress and  pinafore and a hat with ribbons down the  back.


 “The ribbons can be the same colors as the flowers in the material or they can match the colors in the attendants.”


“I  like that  but  instead of the  hats  could they  have  more  like a band of  flowers  with the  ribbons  hanging  down…or  would that be mixing eras?”


“It’s  your  wedding  you can  mix and  match as  you like…whatever you  want we will  do,” Liz  told her  with a  huge  smile.   “Have you chosen a tux type for the men?”


“No tuxes they are wearing their dress uniform…LA County Fire Department…my uncles are escorting me down the aisle in dark suits.”


 “Kathy  and I are  going to  go look at the kids clothes and some other things  call us if  you need us.”  Jo waved and they were off exploring.   Lee and Liz went over to the fabric and she showed her the lovely soft cotton print for the girl’s dresses.  It was a soft white with delicate pink and lavender roses.  The pinafores would be out of heavier cotton.


“I love the fabric it’s a shame to cover it up with that pinafore…”  Lee said. 


“Then  we won’t…I  can  make it  more of an  empire  waist  and  accent it  with  ribbon.  Why  don’t  you take  some  samples and  let your princesses  pick  what they  would  like.   White  tights and  white paten slippers  I  don’t  think  they would want  gloves but we can get  them….lace ones of  course.”


 “Sounds wonderful.”


“You  seem  more  excited about  the  dresses  for the  little  girls  than  your  own.   Is there a reason for that?”


“My first shopping trip was horrible.   I was told I was stupid for me to want a formal wedding gown.”   Liz looked shocked and then angry but made no comment.



“I  think  for you  we  need  something  that  blends  the  Victorian and  Regency  period…Lots of  beading and  detail  work at the  fitted  top and a modified  A line  for the  skirt.   It  should  be just  a  wee  bit  above your  ankles  when you  sit  so  your  white satin slippers will show.  Flats or heels”


 “Flats…heels are not allowed unless I am not standing at all.”   Lee said glad that Kathy or Jo hadn’t heard that remark.  She did a quick sketch and Lee loved it.  They agreed not to share the details of the dress with the others.  Kathy and Jo came back to where they were.  They loved the design changes for the girls and they had found some things they liked as well.   Liz  did another  quick  drawing  after  getting some input  from  the two  and they  came  up  with an idea for the attendants  dresses.  Liz promised to have more detailed drawings and samples of material by Friday. 




 The bakery/deli was near the apartment   and Lee went there often.  Lee  ordered  fried  chicken and some salads and rolls then decided  the  brisket  looked  really  good  and  added that to the  list.   Thinking about Johnny and his conversation with the kids ordered an assortment of cupcakes.


 “I am stuffed.”  Johnny announced to the world at large.  “That was the best beef I ever ate.   With or without the sauce.” 


 “Yeah I liked that Asian one and the mustard vinegar based one…”  Roy added as he watched Johnny get another cup cake. 


“Want to go talk to them about catering the reception?”  Lee asked as she picked up a spice cupcake with caramel icing.  “I use them  when we have the catered  lunches  for the  advisory  board….Hopefully  they  can  do  the  wedding.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of them before.”


“Maybe because you have too many things on your mind.”   Jo said with a grin.  “Now that the dress issues are taken care of.   The  boys  will just have  dark  pants,  white, short  sleeve  shirts and the  vests…The  guys are  done  …We see  the  sketches  for our  dresses  Friday…”


“So what is your dress going to be like?”  Jim asked as he grabbed a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing.  “Something big and poufy?"


 “She isn’t telling anyone anything about her dress,” Kathy said as her husband grinned at her.  “Remember I told you that.”


“Well whatever it’s like she’ll be beautiful,” Johnny said as he sat down besides her.  Thank you two for helping her…She forgets sometimes it’s ok to need help.”


 “Look who’s talking …Junior it’s nice to know you’ve been listening to me even when I don’t think you are.” 


“Yeah I am …just a little slow on the up take sometimes.”  Johnny looked over to Lee who knocked over a glass of soda as he said that.  “You ok?”

“Yeah I  am…”  she  looked at Jo  pleading  with her  eyes  for her not to  say  anything  that  would ruin the  happy  mood everyone  was in.   “Just  a little  clumsy  paying  more attention  to the  kids  than  what I  was  doing.”


“Ok.”  He  and  Jim  started  talking  as  Roy  went  over to the  pool  edge.  Jenny  and Stacy  didn’t have  life  jackets on  so they had to  stay in the  shallow  end  but  had  been inching  closer to the  deep  end.  Jo followed him over as Kathy and Lee took some of the left over’s upstairs.  


“Ok what was that look about that Lee gave you. She looked scared to death.”


 “Chet Kelly.   He has to stop before he does real harm.”  Jo said very disgusted with the Irish firefighter.  “The first night they were all  here…Lee heard him  say  something  about  Johnny  slowing  down if he  let  a wheelchair  catch  him…she  was ready to give his  ring  back.”


Why?” Roy could not believe Lee would ever do that to John.


 “She’s still scared they don’t think she is good enough for him…So help me I don’t understand why…”  She saw Johnny coming over to them.  “You look like the canary that ate the cat.” 


 “Not me…Jim and Kathy are heading home…Kathy wanted to ask you something, Jo.”   She left them to go over to where Kathy was.


 “You got something on your mind Junior?” 


 “Yeah I do.   Do you know why Lee looked so sad when she knocked the soda over?  It was more than just a spilled drink.  She looked almost frightened.”


 “No maybe she was just tired.   These last few weeks have been pretty busy and this is the first time she’s really has dealt with you getting hurt.”


“I  think  she’ll  relax a little  since  she has  her dress  problem  solved…you’re probably  right…Cap  called  earlier to  check on me…Said  everyone’s  looking  forward to  Saturday.   I  guess  Maria  and  Hector  have  got a  real  big  fiesta  planned…games and  music and  food and  dancing…Lee has  no idea of  my  surprise…”


Friday  morning  Lee,  Jo  and  Kathy  dropped  Johnny off at the station to visit and  pick  up his  rover then  went over to the  dress  shop.   Johnny was going to meet them at the bakery/deli at 1:00.    They were supposed to pick up the invitations at 4:00.  Lee was glad they were on a schedule so she had an excuse not to see Chet.


She  knew they  had to  work  this out  sooner or later  but  right  now she  preferred  later.


Johnny got out of the back seat and opened the front passenger door.  Bending down carefully he gave her a quick kiss and whispered something in here ear.  She giggled and turned red.  Another kiss and he went inside leaving Lee smiling and the other two looking puzzled.  “Ok, are you going to tell us what he said?’


“Nope…it was something special just for me.”   She got red again.  “Do you have any suggestions for the menu for the reception?”  Changing the subject quickly. “Did you think about the dresses?”


“I  really  liked the  design  she  came up with…and I  think  for an outdoor  wedding in  August  she  the materials she suggested  were wonderful.”


“Lee knows  that the  only  sewing I  do is  an  occasional  button…and it  takes me  longer to sew it  on than  it lasts.”  Kathy admitted with a laugh.   “But I agree with Jo.  And I absolutely love the dresses for the girls.” 


When  Johnny  went into the station  they  were just  finishing  up  morning  chores.   Roy and his temporary partner had just gotten back from an early morning call.  A two year old had  managed to   fall off a  dining room  table after  his  5 year old  sister  had  lifted  him up to a  chair  and then he  had  crawled  up on the  table.   Luckily  he  wasn’t  hurt  and his  hysterical  grandma  had  calmed  down once she  knew the  baby  was  fine.   Cap and the others were glad to hear he would be back on duty Tuesday.  


“So is everything set for tomorrow, Junior?”   Roy said as he got a glass of ice tea.   “The  kids  are  excited…Seems  they have a  special  surprise  for you and Lee…They  won’t  tell  us anything  about it  except  its  awesome.”


“Speaking of awesome surprises…Lee hasn’t got a clue…


 “Oh yeah we could have told you that when she said yes to you…”  Chet said as he and the others came in.  Roy shot Chet a dirty look but Johnny just laughed.


 “Chester B today I am in such a good mood not even you can ruin it.   Cap tell Em  Lee has  found this  shop that  does  designing  and  has  fabric and vintage  clothing as well as a lot of  other  cool  stuff.   The girl that owns it is designing the dresses for the wedding.  Then we are going to go see about the food.  You  all have  rooms  at Rose Hill  for  Friday and Saturday  nights.…Chet  you and  Marco are  sharing a room….And  Lee is making  arrangements  for  babysitting and  someone to  help  with the  kids…One of  Maria’s  grandkids I  think.”


“Sounds like you have it under control.”  Cap said.  He was enjoying watching the sad shy insecure kid he had first known sit there a happy confident man.  Part of it  was maturity and  confidence in his ability as  a firefighter and paramedic  but Hank  knew a greater part  was John’s  feeling  of  being accepted as part of a family.   The De Soto family had given him the  chance to  know what love and  family was and  that had carried over to A shift  going  from a group of  guys  who  worked well together  to  being family.   It  went  beyond the  traditional  concept of  the  brotherhood of  firefighters  to a  deep  personal  connection.   Even  with  Chet’s  teasing,  they all  knew  he and  John  were  good  friends  underneath all that.   “So how much is the room?”


 “That’s all taken care of in the rental agreement.”  Johnny grinned.  “Roy,  don’t tell  Jo  I said so  but  Lee  has already  taken care of the dresses and Jen’s outfit…and she’s  planning on  getting  Chris and Jimmy’s  outfits  too.”  


 “She   doesn’t have to do that.”  Roy said knowing it was useless to try to change her mind.  “We appreciate that.”   He was the only one at the station to know about Lee’s money.   “So you headed over to O’Sheas?”


 “Yep then we are going to pick up the invitations…Mike, Lee said to be sure to tell you how much she appreciates Melissa’s help in addressing these.”


 “She’s glad to help…She and Lee are gonna be really good friends, they seem to like a lot of the same things.”


“Yeah Lee is already making plans for all the parties she wants to have.  She  calls you  guys her  family of the  heart…guess  that  sort of  sums it  up  how we  both  feel about  you all.”   No one said anything for a minute each absorbing what Johnny had said in his own way.   And each  remembered  when  Johnny felt as if  he had  no family or friends and belonged  nowhere.  “Well  I had  better get  going…see ya all tomorrow…and Chet and Marco,  remember all  your family is  invited …”


Chet went over to Roy a short time later when no one else was around.  He looked at Roy then down at his feet.   “She heard me didn’t she?  At the pool party.”


“Yeah  she  was  ready  to give  him  that ring  back…Jo  managed to talk  some  sense into her.  She is afraid you all think she isn’t good enough for Johnny.”


 “Why?  Because I was teasing?”  Chet was truly shocked.


 “Because  she  loves  him  so  much  she  doesn’t  want to  cause  trouble  between  him and his  family…Because she  doesn’t  want to be the reason he stops camping and fishing and hiking….  Just think about how he is now and what it would be like if she did call off this wedding…for both of them.”  



Liz  was excited to  show them the  sketches  she had  done for  Jenny and  Stacy  and  the ones for  the  attendants.   The batiste dresses for the little girls looked like they could have been illustrations in a Beatrice Potter books.   The dress for the attendants was elegant and practical.   Lee decided to let Kathy and Jo decide if they wanted long or short dresses.   After much  discussion  they  decided the  long ones would be  best  and  they  picked out the  colors.   The  jewel  tones  or pastels  was the issue  and finally it  was decided they  wanted the  softer  pastels  in purples and  lavender and  greens. 


“Everyone  lives in  the area except  Mercedes  who  works  all over  but she  will be here  the  last  week of  June  for a  job..   I  can have her  send  you her measurements  and  maybe  do her  dress  first…she is  something  like a size  2.   After that  Lee asked the  other  two  to go  to the  other  side of the  store  so  they  could  talk about her  dress.   The attendant’s dresses would be silk double Georgette (and Lee’s a silk char Meuse).   Stacy and  Jen  would  get to decide  what the  ribbons on  their  dresses would be…The streamers on the  flower  wreaths  for their  hair  would be all the  colors of the  dresses.


 “Did you decide which one of the drawings you liked the best?”  After Lee had been looking at the three sketches, Liz had done of gowns.   The  girl in the  sketches  looked like  Lee and each  had a  different  hair  style.  Lee  giggled and  told her  what  Johnny had  said as she was  leaving  him at the fire station.  Liz smiled and promised to keep his wishes in mind.  Before leaving  Lee  did a  little  bit of  shopping in the  vintage  clothes  section  of the  store.    Johnny was waiting for  her at O’Shea’s even though she was 10 minutes early after dropping Jo and Kathy off at Jo’s.


“Mick and Sean will be right with you…Lee did they like the salmon salad at the last meeting?”   Shelia asked as they were waiting.  “Mick  has  found a  supplier  that  flies the  salmon  down  within  4  hours of  being  caught…Its  iced  but  never  frozen…”   Shelia did the decorating for the cakes and was married to Sean.


“I  liked it  but the  salmon  with  the  brown  sugar  glaze is  still my  favorite. In fact that is one of the choices we’d like to have …”


“How many will be at the reception?  And where?”


“Rose Hill  and  we are estimating  350 to  400...mostly  fire,  medical and  law enforcement  personnel and their  families…The Hogan’s are doing the rehearsal  dinner  but Cynthia has another  commitment  and  can’t  do the  reception…”


“Lucky for us,” Mick said as he came into the room with a tray of samples.   Lee, I take it this is your young man?”  Johnny stood up and extended his hand to Mick.


 “John Gage this is Mick O Shea chef and co owner,” Lee introduced the two.  “Johnny’s a paramedic on the advisory board so he gets your lunches.”


“And my crew mates get the left over’s which they appreciate.”  Johnny added as he looked at the tray.


“Now would that be why the amounts you order have increased and you’re feeding the same numbers?”  Mick gave her a wicked grin.  “Especially the number of cup cakes and a request for more of the chocolate with peanut butter and chopped nuts.”


 “That was supposed to be a secret Mick.  I  know  we  want the  salmon  with the  brown sugar glaze and the brisket  with  the  2  sauces…ham or  chicken as the  third meat?”


“That fried chicken the other night was great…as good as Mike’s if not better.   In addition, with the number of kids there maybe that would be a good choice.  And the salads you get for the lunches…”


 “Do you want some hot veggies or potatoes?”  Mick asked as he was busy   writing things down…"We do potatoes au gratin that are excellent…green beans, corn…”


“The potatoes” Johnny said as he ate some of the broccoli salad from the plate Mick had handed him.  “Corn or green beans either one sound good.”


“You  heard  him...and of  course the  veggie and  pickle and  olive  trays  along  with  cheese and fruit…Talk  with  Marshall  Hogan  about  the  wine and  beer and  soda  it may be easier to just  order it all  for  the  rehearsal and  reception at  once…Jamie  Frasier has an  excellent  wine  store  that also  carries other  beverages…I have used  them  for  both  work and  personal  events…There  won’t  be any  liquor  besides the  beer and  wines…”


 “I’ll  get  with  Sean and we’ll  work  up a  price  …probably  $15  to  $25  per  person  but that includes  everything…not like  some of these  places  that  give  you a price then add on  extras…The only additional  may be the  wines …but I  think we can cover that in the  $25.00”


“Great  now  I  have a question…If I  gave you a  cake  recipe  could you  do a 3 tier  wedding  cake  from it  then  about  600  cup cakes?  We are sending  cup cakes over to the  hospital,  the  police station and  several  firehouses  for the  people we’d  like to have there  but have to  work.   In addition, we will figure this out later some food to the firehouses…especially Station 51.   For all the  flack  I  have been  getting  from HQ from the people who do scheduling  we’re  going to be sending  them  something  on the  Monday  after.”  Lee giggled.  “Chief Houser said I was a trouble maker and owed them.”   While they were talking, Shelia had assembled a tray of cake slices to taste.  “Johnny’s eyes got big at all the choices.  "He’s gonna need some milk with that."   A half hour later it was settled.


“We  thank  you for thinking of  us,”  Mick  said as he  looked at the  check  Lee had  just  written  him.


 “Sorry I got tied up on a phone call with a supplier,” Sean said as he came into the room.  "So what did I miss?”   Mick handed him the check and Sean did a double take.   “How big of a wedding is this?”


“Well it keeps growing.”Someone  told me if  we get  a 50%  yes  response  it  would  be about  normal…But I  think it’ll be  higher  so I’m  thinking around  300.”  Lee answered.


“I’d guess higher because we’re including families.   Cap  said half  the department has asked  off  for the day and  HQ is telling them if they can find  someone  to work  trade among themselves.”  Johnny  said  with a  grin,  “All those jokers who didn’t  think I’d ever find  someone who’d  put up with me want to come see  if  she’ll  wise up at the last minute.”



Johnny  woke  up  before the alarm  went off and  just took a  few  minutes to lay  there and  think  about the  day.  He  was suppose to  be at  Lee’s by  1  so he had  plenty  of  time.   He got up and went out to find something to eat. 

He decided he really needed to get some groceries for the apartment.   It  seemed as if  anymore  he was at  work  or with  Lee  but it  would be nice to have some  milk,  juice and  bread in  case he  woke up  hungry.  Laughing at that thought  the only  time he  didn’t  wake up  hungry  was  when he  was  sick.   After  deciding  there  was  nothing  to  eat he  went in and  showered and  shaved.  He had laid out his clothes the night before.  A habit he had gotten into after over sleeping too many times. 

He needed to  do  some  laundry  soon,   His  new  black  jeans  and  Western cut  shirt   was on the  chair.  His dress boots were shined and ready.  He had  found  the   belt  with the silver  buckle  that  Mario  and his  family  had  given him  last  Christmas and  was  going to  wear it  today.   He finished dressing then called Lee.  She answered on the third ring.   “How are ya?  I missed seeing you this morning.” 


 “I missed you too.  I  went  out and  did  exercises and  laps  and getting  ready  to  get  dressed.  So did you get some breakfast?”


 “Not yet nothing here to eat…”   His  fridge had  a carton of  spoiled  milk and  some  lunchmeat  he  wouldn’t  trust  and  no  bread  or  eggs.   “Want me to grab something and bring it over? “


“There is milk and cereal here and fruit…I can cook you some eggs…”

 “Nope  today is  your  party  day  no  cooking  just  enjoying  yourself…But I appreciate the  thought…I’ll  stop  buy the  bakery  and  then  be over.”


“Love you.”


 “Love you too…be there soon.”


Maria came up a few minutes later to help Lee dress.  Lee  had  picked out a  white  peasant  blouse and a    Mexican  white  underskirt that  had a ruffle  that  just  peeked  out  from under the  multicolored  over  skirt.  Maria  braided  the  sides of her  hair  and  pulled  the  braids  back  so they  met in the  middle of her  head and  fixed a  bunch of  silk  flowers  there.   The back hung down just touching her shoulders.   Double silver  hoop  earrings  and a  silver  necklace  with a  lace  work  heart  completed her  outfit.   “Maria, do you think Johnny will like the way I look?”


 “No,  he is going to  love it  and  he’ll  be  falling  in love with you  even  more  if that is  possible.   Theressa  and  Elaina  went to  the  dress  shop  and  they have  been telling me  how  beautiful  the  dresses will  be…”  


“The  plans  are  coming together  and  I’ve  stopped having  nightmares  about  things  going  wrong.  Well at least they aren’t happening as often.  And it’s always the same one.”


 Maria had just left when Johnny up.  .  She was out on the balcony when he came in.   She turned when she heard the door open.  “Hi darlin’.”  She waited as he sat the box of rolls on the table.  “You look so handsome…”


“Just trying to look good enough to be with you…”  She blushed as he came over and bent down to kiss her.  “You look so beautiful…”


“Only because you think so…I always thought I was pretty plain and as much as I hate to admit it, boring.   But don’t tell Chet I said that” She smiled.   “Sure you don’t want some eggs or bacon?”


“No I want you to  go over to the  table  while I  get  us  some  milk  or  would you rather have  juice?”


“Milk is fine… Eddie said that the Lopez and Alvarez families have adopted one and other.”   He carried 2 glasses of milk to the table.  Lee had already set out plates and napkins. 


”Roy  said the  kids are  really  excited about  their  special  project…Jenny said  she  and  Stacy  worked  on  something  for  you and  Jimmy  and Chris  worked on  something  for me  but that is all they  would  say.”   Johnny took a big swig of the milk to keep from adding any more.   He had his own special surprise for her. 


They talked about wedding plans and plans for redoing the bedroom.  They were going to have it painted and new curtains and a new bedroom set.   They really couldn’t change the configuration because of the special equipment in there for Lee. 

They  had  talked about a new  couch and  chairs  but  really  didn’t  need them so decided to wait until  they  built  their own  house.   Johnny said he was giving most of the furniture he had to charity the only good pieces were his stereo system and the television.   And he was giving the TV to the station to replace the old one they had.   He had some photos he had  taken and  of  course his pictures of the  DeSoto family and  station would still be out. 

Lee had  cried  when Johnny  told  her of the first Christmas with the  guys from the station and the  special gift from Roy.   Jeff had made arrangements with a photographer friend to do the wedding pictures and to be there today filming the party and taking pictures. 


“Are you ready? “  He asked watching her as she played with her ring.  He had noticed when she was getting nervous she would twist the ring around and around.   “Something bothering you?”


 “No, not really.”  She looked at him and decided to be totally honest with him and herself.  “Sometimes I get scared…and really don’t even know why.  That nerdy kid  that never fit in seems to  come out  and  wants to ruin  everything  that  makes me happy now by  reminding  of  all the  things  that use to make  me  sad.    And there is no reason for me to feel like that today…”


 “Ya know, I think that’s one reason we belong together.  We  both had  some  stuff  that  made  growing  up  even harder…But instead of  letting it  make us  feel  sorry  for  ourselves and  helpless we worked at  making  ourselves  stronger  and  wanting  to help others  not  feel  that  way.   Think it might have taken me a little longer to learn it’s ok to let others know  how we feel and it’s ok to feel.”  He squatted down in front of her and took her chin gently in his hand.   “I’m  here to tell that  nerdy  kid  she  grew up to be a beautiful  and loving  woman…One  who  makes a difference in the  lives of a  lot of  people…And I thank God  that she  loves me and makes a difference in my  life.”


“He  gets a lot  of  thanks  from a lot of  people  for all the  good and  kind  things  you  do,” she  told him.  “I  believe good or bad  everything  in  life is  part of His plan and I thank Him for  bringing  you into my  life…Sometimes I   wonder  why  things  happen  but I  never  doubted  He knew  best…And I  know you  are a gift  from Him  to all of us  who  know and  love  you.”   He leaned in and kissed her.  It  was a  long  slow  kiss  that  finished  the  thoughts of  each of  them.   They had  never really  talked about  religion or  church  but  had  just known  their  feelings and  beliefs  would  be respected  by  the other. 


He gently wiped the tears from her cheek.  “Hey, you better stop that…Maria and Hector’ll have my hide if they think I made you cry.  Especially today,”


“Oh they know me…I cry when I’m happy just as much as when I’m sad…or mad.”  She giggled as he stood up.  “Let’s go party …”


 After they  entered the  park  there  was  signs along the  road  welcoming   friends and  family  to the fiesta with  bright  colored  streamers   blowing in the  soft  breeze.   Across the  front of the  large  shelter  house  was a banner  that  said  Johnny and  Lee…and  more  streamers.   Johnny   pulled up and  soon as he  was  out of the  car  Roy  and  Hector  were  there.    Hector got the wheelchair out and took it around to Lee’s door.  Roy held out his hand for the car keys.   “I’m your valet parking attendant, sir,” he joked.   “I expect a nice tip when I return your keys.”


“We will  wait  for  Roy  before  we  go in,”  Hector  said  as he  gave  Johnny a nod.  “You will make your grand entrance to begin the fiesta after a few words of welcome the party will begin.” 


 Johnny and Lee know that invitations had  been  sent out to all the  fire  and  law enforcement  agencies  that they had  friends  at and  that  one had  went  out to  Rampart also.  Maria and Kathy and Jo had also sent invitations to several out of town friends.  What had  started out  as a simple  picnic  had  grown as  more and  more  people had  wanted to  help  show a special  couple how much they meant in


Their lives.  But  still it  was a  shock  when  they  went  down the  path  to the  shelter  house.  There were  people  everywhere and  behind the  main  shelter  house  was  a collection of  brightly  colored  stalls  like you  would  find in a  small  Mexican  village.   Once the  clapping and  yells of  congratulations  had  died  down  Hector and  Maria  went over to  stand  by the  awestruck couple.   


“I want to thank you all for coming to our fiesta.   As  some of you may  know,   Lee’s  uncle Jeff  hired  me  to  be a  nanny  for  Lee  when she  was 7.   What  none of  us  knew then  was I  wasn’t  going to be her nanny  but  we were  going to be a family…Love makes a  family  and  these  two  have  shared with  us  love and  friendship   through the  good and  bad  times…Always  putting  others  first…Now it is  time for us to  return that love and friendship as we celebrate  their upcoming  marriage and  life  together.   Johnny  has a special  gift  for  Lee  but  before  he  gives his  gift  …we  have  something  special  for  them…Francisco,  please  ….”     Cisco and the kids came out from behind the crowd.   Chris  and Jimmy  handed Johnny a  large  wrapped  box  and  Stacy and Jenny  handed  Lee one  that  was  smaller  but  just  as colorfully  wrapped.


 “Ok you want to open them together or one at a time?”  Cisco asked.


 “Johnny first.”  Lee declared.  The paper came off quickly but there must have been a roll of tape closing the box.  While the on lookers cheered and gave helpful hints Johnny tore thru the tape.  Wide eyed like a kid on Christmas morning he slowly…Pulled the box open to find another box buried under wadded up tissue paper.


“Let me guess you guys wrapped this.”  Looking at the two boys who were laughing so hard they were wheezing.  He tried to sound serious but no one was fooled.


 “Cisco helped.”  Chris said with a big grin.  “He gave us suggestions.”


“I bet he did…”  There was a sharp intake of breath when he opened the last box.  He pulled out a white Stetson with leather hatband decorated with silver and turquoise.   “It’s the Roper…I was looking at it in the catalog.”  His voice was cracking and soft, “It’s beautiful.  Thank you…”


 “The  boys  wanted  to  get you the  black one  but I  told  them  good  guys  wear  white.”  Cisco said grinning as much as the boys.  “That’s  from  a few of your  friends  from the  fire department and a  few of us  in the  different  departments  you’ve  helped  over the  years…even  before you  hooked up  with that one we  knew you were one of the  good  guys.   There  was  more money  collected  than we  needed so the  extra  went to the  Aspergers ‘s  foundation  where you  guys volunteer.”  Johnny nodded his thanks.


“Your turn Aunt Lee,” the girls squealed.   Since Jenny called her Aunt Lee, Stacy had started doing so.   “We didn’t wrap yours funny because it would be hard for you to open.”  Jenny primly announced.  


“I appreciate that…especially since your Uncle Johnny doesn’t have his knife or scissors with him today.”   The girls giggled as she slowly and carefully unwrapped the oblong box.  She didn’t say a word  as the tears slid down her cheeks.  She took the lace veil from the box.   “My mother’s lace… How?   Where?  My  dad  had  the  lace made  when  he was in Ireland  before they were married…I  remember  seeing  it in  pictures and in  my  bedroom  there is a piece they  framed…She had her  veil  cut  up and used in the Christening dresses  for me and my sister.   Thank you so much.”



“When I  wrote  my  mom  about  your getting  engaged  she  remembered having  a piece  of the  lace in a  box  …When  your  mom  had the  dresses  for you and  your  sister made she  sent  some  to my  mom  to have  for  me…and  Mom  has  kept it all these  years and  sent it to  me.   I  took it to  Liz  and  we had  this  veil made…Its  from  me and  all the  ladies of  Station  51 and  Dixie.   There is a pillow for the ring bearer and a small purse for you that you’ll get later.”  Johnny  had  came over  and  was  standing  behind her,  She  reached  up  for  his hand. 


“Ready for another surprise?”  She nodded as he bent down resting his chin on the top of her head.  “Close your eyes tight and don’t look.”   She did as she was told and she could hear people moving around.   “Ok open your eyes.”


 “You said…”  She  was  sobbing  so  hard  Johnny  was  afraid  she  was  going to  hyperventilate.  “…come….”


 “Think we would miss this for the world, sweet pea?”  Jeff said as he bent down to kiss her.  “Don’t cry.” 


 “Hey, I had to check this guy out before I gave my final ok.”  Matt kissed her and wiped the tears away.  “The others couldn’t come but sent you and Johnny this.” 


He handed Johnny an elegantly wrapped package.   “Marie and Nancy said this was the perfect gift…  Johnny you hold it while she opens it.”   Johnny  went  around to the  front of the  chair and  squatted  down  so  she  could  undo  the  wrapping.   Johnny helped her take the lid off as she was shaking so much.  Inside was a photo album.   The  white  satin had  been  embroidered  with  small  delicate  roses  in  pink  and  lavender  and in the  center  was  a heart  shaped  place  to put a  picture.


“Marie  did the  embroidery  and  Nancy  made the  book…They  said it  was a combination  photo album  and  journal.”   Matt said as he flipped the pages showing her the journal.   “I  had  some old  pictures of  you  but  they  left spaces  in  the  front  for  you to add  pictures, Johnny.   To chronicle the Spencer-Gage family history.


“Thank you all…This is so kind and generous of you…”  Lee told the friends and family standing there. 


“Th…ank you   a…a…ll.”  Johnny looked at Lee embarrassed by the stutter; she squeezed his hand tightly reassuring him.  “Mmmm…eans a lot.”


“Ok  let’s  get this party  moving,”  Cisco  said  “My mom and  Mrs. Lopez has  enough  food  fixed to  feed a  village…out  there is  snacks  and  drinks…Dinner  will be served  here at  6:30  but  don’t  worry  there is  plenty  to hold  you all  till  then…Both  those ladies are on a mission to  fatten  Johnny  up…There are  games and  activities  for all the  kids  regardless of  age…After  dinner  there  is  one more  surprise  for  the  those  two  as well as  music  for  dancing…My  nieces   have a tent  set up  to  watch any of the  little ones  who get  tired and  need a quiet  place to  rest…Other  than  that…have  fun.”


People came up and congratulated the couple then wondered off to join in the festivities.  Hector and Cisco locked the veil and album in the storage closet in the corner of the shelter house.  (The lock was brand new one that Cisco had put on and he and his dad had the only keys.)    Lee and Johnny and her uncle’s were off in a corner talking.   “So were you surprised?”  Johnny was sitting on a picnic bench beside her.   “I  called  Jeff a  few  days  after  the  date was  set and  he  called  Matt  and  …and  we thought  this  would be a nice  surprise.”


“Plus if something happen and we didn’t make it that wouldn’t ruin it for you.”  Jeff added.   “He offered to buy us plane tickets so we could come.”


“Didn’t know you had use of the company plane, did he?”  Lee giggled but it meant a lot to her


“Johnny,  you know I  was teasing  about  giving  you a  final  ok…I  knew that  night  you  called  that  nothing I  could  say or  do  would  keep  you two apart.   As long as she is happy that’s all that matters…Of course it’s nice you’ll be happy too.”


 “Thank you sir.”  He looked at her smiling and laughing at something Jeff said. 


“Hey, you two need to go enjoy your party…we’ll be here until late tomorrow.”


 Lee gave her uncle’s a smile and he pushed her off to join the fiesta.  Matt watched them as they moved away.


“She looks more like her mom every day.”  Matt said with a sad smile.   “You’re  right  he  did  give her  giggle  back  to her…I  don’t  think I  ever heard  that  before.    Come-on lets go join the party.”


 Roy and Jo and the kids were watching Johnny throw baseballs at a stack of tin cans as Lee cheered them on.  Jeff introduced Matt to the De Soto family.  “Jo, I don’t know if it was you or Kathy but that veil is perfect.”  Jeff said after giving Jo a kiss on the cheek.   “Did you know she called me after that witch made her so miserable?” 


“No  but  Kathy and I  wanted to  do something  special and  we were at the  shop  when we saw the lace they  had  Kathy  remembered  that her  mom had  some  from  Lee’s  mother.   Liz  wouldn’t tell  us anything about the  dress  but said the  veil  would  go  perfect  with it.   And the band its on is not the one she’ll be wearing that day…it’s a decoy.”


 “Can I ask a question?”  Matt turned to Roy.  “I  saw your  face  when he  was  thanking  everyone and I  noticed he didn’t say much  …Does the  stutter happen often?”


“No  and  never  when he's  working…It’s  when he is emotionally stressed or over whelmed…today  the  emotion  was  happiness.  For all that he comes across confident and brash he has a shy side.”


“Just like  her…I’ve seen her argue with state senators and federal  judges and  parole  boards then  turn shy when  around  people  she has  known  for  ages if it  gets too  personal.” 


 Awhile later  Johnny  and  Lee were  walking  around  talking to  their  friends and  just  enjoying themselves.  They  watched the  kids getting their  face  painted and  Johnny  smiled as he  watch the  artist draw a fire truck on someone and then he laughed when he noticed Jenny  had a squad painted on her cheek.  Stacy had a caduceus on her cheek.   


“Hey, Gage, you gonna get let them face paint you?”  Chet said as he and Marco came up behind them.


“Don’t know about him but I am,” Lee said before Johnny could answer.  She wheeled herself up to the artist’s table.   “Hi, I need a heart on my cheek that says Lee loves Johnny.” 


“What colors?”


“Pink with purple letters.” 


 “And I want one that says Johnny love’s Lee …red and blue” 


“You two are just big over grown kids….”  Chet said shaking his head.  “And who ever heard of an Indian cowboy?”   He added looking at Johnny’s hat.  (Seeming to forget he had thrown $5 in the pot to help buy it)


 Lee just smiled because she knew what was going to happen next.   Chet  had  been so  busy  giving  Johnny a  hard time he  hadn’t  noticed Cisco and Hector  coming  up  behind  him.   Chet about jumped out of his skin when two hands were placed on his shoulders.  “Now  Chet…let me  be  sure of  the situation…You  wouldn’t  be harassing my  mijo  Johnny now would   you?”


“Or disrespecting my adopted daughter?”  Hector growled.  “Not a nice young fire fighter like yourself?   Especially at this party in their honor…”


 “What do you think Lee?  You  know  Chet,  my  mijo  is a  brave  person  taking on a hell cat  like her…when she  gets  mad at  someone she can hold a grudge for  years…”


Johnny and Marco were trying not to laugh at the look on Chet’s face.   Lee just looked up at him in wide eyed innocence and smiled.   To make matters worse Cap and Emily and Jo came over.  “Um, no I’d never do that not at their party…”


Chet said quickly not wanting trouble with anyone.


 “I’d hate to  think  what  would happen  if the  Phantom  had nerve  enough to  show  up  today…Wouldn’t  you  Cap?”  Lee said so sweetly. 


 “Yeah  because  I  think I’d have to  wait in  line to  deal  with him…after  Maria and Mama  Lopez  and  Jo  and Em  and then  of  course  there is  Matt and Jeff and  Cisco and Hector…and  probably   Hector’s  other  sons  that are here…and a few  others  who  would  be  real unhappy if anything  made  Lee  unhappy  today.”


 “Ok I get the message…besides the Phantom had no intention of coming today…He is getting wiser in his old age.”


“Good…Em lets go see how the others are doing…I think they are about to start letting the kids break the piñatas.



Lee  pulled herself to  standing  and  held on to the  rail  with  both  hands  as her  hip  tightened in  protest.   She had stood unaided for 3 minutes the day before.   Today she was going to try for 5 minutes.   As the tightness eased she let go of the railing.   She  let out a  breath  and  watched  the  minute  hand  on  her  bedside  clock  move  slowly.    This was going too slow and not accomplishing what she wanted.  Holding  onto the  rail  with  one hand she  carefully  pivoted  so  she  was  standing  sideways.  That was better and the pain in her hip seemed to lessen.  Concentrating she took a step still holding on.  The second step seemed easier.  As  she  went to  put  weight  on her  left  foot  her  knee buckled and  she  went  down  hard…Her left shoulder hitting the railing hard as she twisted. 


She  wasn't  sure if  the tears were  from the  pain or  from  being  angry  as she  caught  her  breath.   Suddenly  doing  this  when she  knew  no one  was  home  downstairs  didn't  seem like  such a  smart  idea  after all.   Working  hard  not to  panic  she managed to  get herself  turned around  so she  could  get  both  hands  on the  railing. It took her 4 tries to pull herself up and her arms and shoulders were protesting especially on her left side. 


She managed to reach the wheelchair and sat down hard.   She could see in the mirrored wall that bruises on her shoulder and arm.  She was glad that Johnny and Roy had just started a 48 hour shift.  Maybe by then her bruises would be fading.  Fat chance but she could hope.   She called her office glad that she had a part time assistant and let her know she would be working from home since she had a killer headache.  Which  wasn't  a lie  she  just  didn't  say  why she had the  headache.   She dialed the station's number. 


"Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking…"


 "Hi Hank…It's Lee. Could you give Johnny a message for me?"


 "Sure but he is here if you want to talk with him. He's hanging hose."


 "No, don't bother him…just tell him I decided to stay home today…I’ve got a bad headache and gonna try to get some sleep and that I love him."


"Sure thing.  I'll tell him not to call that you'll call him when you wake up."




She went into the  bathroom and  found the  pain  pills  that  she had  for  emergency use and  took  two  them  went out and  made an  ice pack  for her  shoulder  and  grabbed a soda then  went  back into the  bedroom.  Getting  into  bed  was  a little  painful  but  between the  ice and  pills  was  soon  asleep.


Lee did not want to move…it hurt to move it hurt to breathe. And  what  was  worst  was that in  90 minutes  Johnny  and  Roy would  be there  for  breakfast.  And  they had  errands  to  run after  that…and she  could  not  think of a  good  excuse  for wearing  long  sleeves in  85  degree weather.  At least it was better than it had been 2 days ago.  Her shoulder and arm was a yucky yellowish green with purple splotches.   She knew that sometimes it took her bruises longer to fade than normal.   She  hoped they  would  fade  quickly  she  did  not  want to  get married  looking  like she  had  been  beaten.  After  taking  four  aspirin  with  lukewarm soda  she  went  in  and  took another hot  shower.



The smells coming out of the kitchen made Johnny’s mouth water.  Bacon and cinnamon competed for their attention.    Johnny was surprised Lee was not in the kitchen when they got there.  “Sweetheart?”

“Be out in a minute…”  She could not put it off any longer.  She went out to the kitchen.  “Hi darlin’…Hi Roy.”   She wheeled over to  Johnny  and  looked at  him and waited for him to say something.   “Breakfast is ready except for the eggs…didn't know if you wanted scrambled or over easy.”


“Forget the eggs…what happened?   When did this happen?”  He squatted down in front of her.


“It’s no big deal I fell 2 days ago.”  She said not looking at him but at her feet.  


 “Why didn't you call me or have someone take you to Rampart?”   His eyes were gentle but his voice was firm.  He began to pull up her shirt.   She pushed his hand away.  “Stop that and let me look.” 


“No …it’s ok…I told you I have 6 years of practice falling.” 


“And I have 6 months of practice loving you…and I need to check you out.”  Johnny told her gently as he pressed on her shoulder as he moved her arm. 


“I have good range of motion the swelling is gone and the bruises are fading…the pain is manageable with aspirin.  I know the drill.”


Roy surprised them both by laughing.  Johnny looked at him and then began laughing also.  Lee was not sure what exactly was so funny.  She knew she had just witnessed one of their famous wordless conversations.  She just was not happy to be the subject of said conversation.


 “Sweetie, this is what Roy has been threatening me with for years.  He is always telling me paybacks are hell and this is a payback situation.”


 “I  wasn’t  laughing at you  Lee, I  was laughing  at how  much  you  sounded  like  Junior.  Even to batting his hand away it was like watching a home movie.”   He took a good look at the bruises and pushed on a large one.  “Did you ice it?”


“Yep and have had several showers and did my exercises yesterday in the pool.  Now are you two eating breakfast?”


“Yes but promise me if you fall again to tell someone.”  Johnny kissed her.


“I fall once in awhile it’s no big deal…but if I think something is wrong I’ll tell you, ok?”



 Thursday was the  first  day of  Johnny’s  vacation,   Soon as  Dwyer  came in  Johnny  left to  go over to  see Lee.  Jeff  and the  New  York family  would  be in about  4 o’clock and after  getting  settled   at  Rose  Hill  would  come  over to the apartment  for  dinner and  to  swim and  just  visit.   Lee was curled up on the couch making a list.  When he came in, she started to get up.   “Stay put…I had coffee cake and juice at the station.  You look tired."


“I woke up early…You know that pesty nerdy girl that lives in my head?   She was telling me all the things that can go wrong.  She doesn’t like it when I get too happy.”  She didn’t  want to tell him  some of the  nurses at the  hospital  had  been teasing her about his  reputation  with nurses and  dating.  They had not been trying to be mean they were just teasing.   God how she hated that phrase and the people who used it to hurt others “She was giving me a list of all the things I can’t do.”


 “Tell her she is evicted.”  He kissed her lightly on the forehead.   “I need a nap and so do you.”  He pulled her chair over closer to her.  “When we get up you can make me a sandwich …” He saw her frown.  “Problem?”


“I was just thinking how it would be in 3 days…then we can take naps together…”


“And that makes you frown and look sad?”


 “It scares me a little…That I won’t…that you’ll be disappointed…”


“Do you know how hard it has been to keep my promise to you and your family?”


“I never asked for that promise.”


 “No I gave it because I wanted to…do you know how many very cold showers I have had in the last 6 months?”


“No but …what if…you know what I’m trying to say.”


 “How did you ever convince me to write these vows?  Why can’t we do the regular ones?  What if I stutter and embarrass you?  What if I forget the words?”  He wanted to change the subject quickly and he knew the best way was to make her laugh.


She looked shocked then started laughing.  “You aren’t playing fair, John Roderick Gage.”


“Well you know what they say, all’s fair in love and war and this is definitely love.”  He  pulled her  over onto his  lap and kissed her,  His  tongue licked her lips then  pushed gently on her mouth until it opened.  His hand  slipped  under her shirt and he began kneading the knotted muscles in her  neck  then  let  his  hand  work  down  slowly down  her  back.   She let herself go limp and leaned into the kiss and the feel of his touching her skin.   “Soon baby girl, soon,” He whispered in her ear as he carried her into the bedroom and laid her on the bed.  “Call me when you’re ready to get up.”  He put the pillow behind her back as she lay on her side.  “You call me and I’ll bring your chair in.”


 “This is not fair…I’m stuck here until you let me up.”


 “Exactly my plan.  Now relax we have some serious partying to do the next few days…”    He kissed her  lightly  and left  after turning on her  radio  to a  soft  easy  listening  station.   He  went  out and  got  a glass of  milk  then  went into the   living  room and  laid  down on the  couch.   He  could  hear the  music  from her  room(he had  left the  door  open in case she  needed him). 


 It was almost two when he woke up.  He laid there listening but he didn’t hear anything except the music.   He went into the  bathroom  that  Jeff’s  old  room and the  guest room  shared  and  laughed  when he  saw the  note she had  taped  to the  mirror…  Johnny,  your stuff is in the  other bathroom now…had to  move it so I could see how much of my stuff I had to move/get rid of…love ya!   P.S.  Your  clothes are in  the  closet  in a  suit case…They’ll  move the  furniture  out  while we are  gone…you’ll have to teach me how you like your stuff arranged !oxoxoxoxoxoxo! 


 Last  shift off  Roy  and the  guys had  helped him  move  everything  over  to the apartment  except a few  bare  necessities. He had his suitcases packed for their honeymoon and he thought she had most of hers ready also.

   While they were gone the painting and new furniture would arrive and be all ready for them.   Everyone  thought  they  were  going to stay at a hotel  the  first  night  since  they had an  early  morning  flight to  Hawaii  but  actually  they  were  spending the  night  at the  apartment.  Maria, Hector, and Cisco were the only ones who knew.   That was to keep Chet from planning any surprises.   But  neither one  really  thought  Chet  was  foolish  enough to  risk the Alvarez’s  displeasure.   He thought he heard her and went into the bedroom they would soon be sharing.   She was awake.


“Hi …was wondering when you’d remember me in here.”  She grabbed the crossbar and pulled herself up so she was sitting.   He  watched as she  carefully  turned and  moved  so  she  could  ease her  legs  off the  bed.  “You’ll get use to me and the way things work maybe if you stick around 50 or so years.  May not be graceful but it works.”


 “Looked pretty graceful to me.”   He went out and got her chair.


After  eating a  tuna  fish  sandwich and  some  chips  Johnny  went into  watch  the  ball  game  while  Lee  got  ready  for their  company.   Johnny asked her if there was anything to do to help but she had said no.  Maria was taking care of dinner she just had to change and fix her hair. 

She had on a new swimsuit it was a little more conservative than some of her others.  It  had a  pretty  wrap around  skirt  and she  was  hoping  she  didn’t  have to  swim…but knew  from experience it  probably  wasn’t  going to  work out her  way.    A  little  after  5  the  two  cars  pulled into the  lot and  Jeff   lead the  visitors  to  the  patio.  After  hugs and  introductions were made  and they  were  settled  around   the  table  with  drinks  talking and  catching  up. (JJ and Michael were already in the pool)   


 “Lee did you tell Johnny that when you were 16 you had a crush on Chris?”  Johnny Russo said with a laugh.  Chris Ballard just laughed at his friend.


“I was 15 and that was before the wreck.   Chris had just been promoted to homicide then.  And I spent 6 weeks in New York and he was very kind to put up with me.”


“Well even then you had great taste,” Nancy said.  She and Chris had been married 3 years.  “So have you put many pictures in the album?   That  was  a lovely  thank  you note  you sent and the  flowers  were  so  different  from anything I had  ever seen…”


You’ll be seeing a lot of them this week end…how many dozen did you get?”


“I lost count you’d have to ask the accountant…I am sure this wedding has given him an ulcer.”  She giggled and Matt shook his head.  “I just tell people what I want and I get it…”


“Yeah she has trained me well.”  Johnny said as he came back with another soda for her.  “The boys want to play volleyball.”  He looked at her and she knew there was no putting it off.  “The chair or just throw you in?”


 “Wouldn’t be the first time…”  She undid her skirt.  “Deep end…that’s a house rule…You guys decide who is on what team.” 


“Leave us old people out of this,” Matt said.  Johnny  stood  up  with his  back to Matt and the  Russo’s  and  took  his  shirt off and  stepped out of  his cutoff jeans.  Marie looked at his back and the sound she made drew his attention to Johnny’s back.  Before there  was anything  said  they  watched as  Johnny  picked  Lee up and  gently  sat her on the  side of the pool.  He dove in and she did a seated dive after him.  Marie turned to Jeff.   “What happened to his back?”


 “He signed  up for the  fire academy  the  day he  turned  18...graduated  first in his  class  and  became the  youngest  rescue man in the department’s  history…same  story  when  the  paramedic  program  began...He and his  partner  Roy are the  best team in the  county if not the  state.   He puts the victims first.   But in the last  6  months  there hasn’t  been any  serious  injuries  except the  10 inch  splinter  in his  shoulder…went  through  his  coat.   Lee handled it well.”  He watched the two playing in the water.  “Probably better than he would if something happened to her.”  He knew a little of Johnny’s background and the Aspergers.  “The other big scar is from a bear attack,”


“He  adores her as much as she  does him,”   Marie  watched  them  as  he jumped  up and  hit the  ball out of the  pool.  You’re right they are perfect for each other.”  While she and  her  husband  had  trusted Matt’s approval of the  young  fireman  they had  needed to see for themselves.   They had loved and worried about Lee since the first time they had met her when she was eight.  Over the years their love and respect for her had deepened so she was as much family as their sons. 


“Jeff, check with Maria to see how soon we eat.   Someone is  complaining they are  starving…poor  baby  just had  tuna  salad   and chips for  lunch and a dozen  chocolate  chip  cookies.”


 “Did not… only had 8,” He corrected her and disappeared under water.  A minute later she squealed as he balanced her on his shoulders then flipped her over his head.  Everyone  laughed and it  was amazing  for the  New Yorkers and  Jeff to  watch  them  rough  housing   but  they  also  knew he  was totally in  control so  nothing  would  hurt her. 

Lee was still clinging to his back.  “Ok I’m tired…”  To  every ones  delight he walked  down to the  shallow  end  and  up  the  stairs  and  carried her to the  lounger and  sat  down.  She  moved  back and  he  helped her  get positioned  then  quickly  covered her  legs  with an  oversized  beach  towel.    After  getting them  a soda  he  sat  down  on the  lounge  beside  her.  By  this  time  Maria  was  bringing out  the  fixings  for  tacos  and  several trays of  cookies and  fruit.    The party broke up a little after nine since it had been a long busy day for everyone. 


 Lee and  Johnny had  some  last minute  projects to  do on Friday  and  had  told  everyone  they  would  see them at  Rose Hill  at  6.     The rehearsal was slated to start at 6:30 and dinner at 7:30.   Johnny was picking her up at 5:30.   She was brushing her hair thinking about her gift for Johnny.    It was down in Maria and Hector’s apartment and they would bring it upstairs tomorrow.  Roy had   helped her with it and she was so grateful to him.  


She braided her hair and let the braid hang down her back.   She  had  a  white  sundress on…Liz had made it  for her after she’d  told  Liz about  Johnny’s  declaration  they  would not have a  small  wedding and she  would not  get  married in a  white  sundress.    Johnny came up to the apartment at 5:15.   He had on a light blue polo shirt and a pair of khaki slacks.   He had gotten his hair trimmed after he had dropped her off.


 “Ready for this?”  He kissed her lightly.  “I wanted to give this to you before we went over there.”  He handed her a small box.  


She opened it and smiled at him.   “You remembered.”  It was a heart shaped locket. LGJ was etched on the front.  When she opened it, there was the first picture they had taken together.  Roy had taken it the day of Chris’ school festival as just before they got off the Ferris wheel.  “You remembered when I told you I always wanted a locket.   That was months ago in passing when we were just window shopping.”


“It was important to you so I remembered.”  He kissed her then he fastened it around her neck.


“You have to wait for your gift…but I wanted you to have this also.”   She gave him a small package and held her breath while he opened it.  It was a tie tack with a jade star as the center.   “My mom gave this to my dad on their 5th anniversary.”


 “That makes it even more special…”  The kiss was long slow and full of promise.  He wiped a tear from her eye.  “They’ll be waiting for us…”


 Lee could not believe the change in the terrace and the front garden area.  Hector and  Eddie had  planted  the  faerie  roses she  wanted  but  there were also  other  flower  beds with  blue and  purple and  pinks  and  a  trellis  of  some  deep  purple  climbing  flower.  Hanging  baskets  of  ivy  and  rose  geraniums  were  lining  the  drive  on  Sheppard  hooks.    There  were  rows of  chairs  and in  an  area  near close  by  tents and  tables.  The tables  were  covered with  pale  lavender  cloths and  there was  flowers in  teacups  on the table.


 Jeff and Matt  met  them at the  car  and  helped  them  take the  boxes  they had   over to the  tent  where  they  would have   dinner.  Lee  was surprised at how  over  whelmed she  was  feeling and suddenly was  worried about  how  Johnny  would  handle  all this.   When they had began all this planning she had not taken into consideration his reaction to all this.   She looked around for Roy in a panic.    She saw Jenny and Stacy running to Johnny saw him scoop them up in a hug.    Roy was talking with Cap and Mike who had just gotten there.  Lee jumped when Jo came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder.


 “Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.”  Jo said looking at how pale Lee was.  “Are you ok?” 


“Jo, can you ask Roy to come here?  Please it’s important.”  Lee said softly.  Jo  quickly  went  over to  Roy and  Lee  saw her  pointing  to  where  she  was sitting.  He nodded came over to her.


“Hey, you need to take a deep breath and let it out slowly…Come on, again…”  She followed his instructions.  “Now can you tell me what’s wrong?”  He was holding her wrist taking her pulse.  “Now slow down and relax.   Are you hurting somewhere?”


“No… just a plain ole case of guilt…Roy is Johnny going to be ok with all this?  He  was  teasing me  about  being  embarrassed if he  stuttered…but  what if he  wasn’t  teasing.  Maybe I should have …” 


“Lee, its ok…we talked about all this…He wants you to have this…he is fine with it…I think he is more than fine with it…he is enjoying it.   Seeing you happy is all he is needs.   He knows we are all here for him but most of all he knows you are supporting him.”


“It’s nice having another big brother…thank you for letting me be part of your family.”  Lee felt all the tension and fear dissolve as he talked.  “Cisco  and  Johnny  are going on a 5  mile  run in the  morning  and Cisco  said if he  was too  hyper  he might  make it a 10  mile  run.”  She giggled.  “Can you imagine anyone thinking Johnny might be too hyper?” 


“Nope not at all…Come on I think they are waiting for you.”  He pushed her over to the others.    Johnny  had  noticed them  talking  and  was  curious  but  didn’t  ask.    Jo  and Kathy  were  trying to  get  everyone  situated  so  they  could  begin  on  time.    Lee introduced every one and waited as Father Chuck O’Malley finished talking with Marco and Chet.  He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.   Johnny was standing behind her and shook hands with the priest.


“Well,  you see  promises are  kept and  dreams  do come  true,”  Father  Chuck  said  as  he  looked around.


“They  do and  I’m finding the  reality is  so much  more than the  dream…You’ve  waited  6  years so I  think you’ve  earned a “I told  you so.’  or  two  or  three…Why  you ever  put  up  with me  is  beyond  me…I  was  terrible.  I am probably the second worst patient in history.” 


“And who would be the first worst?”  The twinkle in his eyes suggested he knew what her answer would be.  


“That would be a certain hose jockey who never admits he is hurt.”  Kel answered as he and Dixie came up behind Lee and Johnny.   


“At least he never threw a bedpan at you…my only regret was it was empty and I miss that idiots head.”  Lee told them laughing.


 “Let’s get this over with so we can eat.”  Johnny said with a grin.  “Glad you made it Doc, Dixie.” 


“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Tiger.”  


The rehearsal went well and smoothly.   Fr. Chuck enjoyed the teasing between the groom and his groom’s men.   The   good-natured teasing kept the mood light and relaxed.   Everyone  laughed  when  Lee  did  a double  take at  something  Chet  said  to  Marco.  


“Hey  give me a  break…the Phantom  knows  this is  no time  for his  jokes…He  wishes  you  two the  best of  everything.”  Chet said knowing an appearance by his alter ego would not be tolerated.   “Give me some credit.”


The  tables  were  groaning under the  weight of the  barbecued  pork and  hot  dogs  and  hamburgers  and  the  baked  beans,  Cole  slaw,  sauerkraut  salad,  deviled  eggs  and  potato  salad ,  chip and  dips.  There  was a  sundae  bar  set  up  with  fresh  fruit and  a  variety of  toppings .  Platters of cookies were passed by the young   servers Cynthia had   hired.   Lee and Johnny were moving among the tables talking with everyone.  Dixie, Kel, Hank and Em were sitting with Merce and her parents.   

“John Paul was just telling us you are responsible for his son becoming a doctor instead of a football player.”  Kel said.  “How did you accomplish that?”


“Easy I yelled at him and told him he was a dumb jock that had mush for brains.”  Lee said very matter of fact. 


“She  told him  he  should  get  down on his  knees and  thank  God he  had  parents  who  loved and  cared  for him and  stop wasting his  time  complaining  that Papa cared  enough  to  yell at him about his  grades.”  Merce added.   “Lee was my tutor but Paul would sit in on the sessions.  He worked just hard enough to keep his grades up for football.  One  day he  was  complaining and  belly  aching  that  Papa  had threaten to  take his  car.   Lee had enough of it and let him have it.”


“Merced  worked hard on the  math  but  did not  understand it…we were  happy  she  passed the  class  with  Lee’s  help…Her talents are in the arts…designing  beautiful  clothes and jewelry…Now  she is  making a lot of money  wearing  others  people’s  designs…Paul  was  taking  everything   except the  football as a  joke.”   John Paul looked at Johnny.   “If you ever need anything, anything at all you call me if I can help.   She has chosen well …welcome to our family Johnny.”   The big man   smiled tenderly at Lee.  “She has a giving soul and I think you as well.”   The Cajun accent became more pronounced as he spoke softly. 


 “Thank you Mr.  Broussard.”  John was touched by the sincerity he saw in the older man’s eyes.    “Lee I think we need to start with the presents.”  They  excused  themselves and  went  up to the  front of the  tent  where a table  was  covered  by  several  sheets.  Johnny took the sheets off with Roy’s help.


 “Johnny and I want to welcome you all and thank you all for being here.   Not only here tonight but in our lives…and we have a few gifts.  Jen and Stacy come up here please.   These  two  are our  flower  princesses  and  have  been  kind  enough to allow  us to be their  aunt and  uncle.  You  all are  part of  our  family  of the heart and  we  love you all for the  special  joys you  bring  into our  lives.”


The two little girls had come up and were waiting patiently.   Johnny handed each a brightly wrapped box that was almost as big as they were.  Their eyes wide they  opened  the  boxes to  find  dolls  that  looked  like them and  were  dressed   in  their  flower  princess outfits.  The adults were as thrilled as the girls with the unique gift.


“These  dolls are made to  be played with and  loved  not to  sit on a shelf and  be lonely…They have other outfits…We  wanted to  let you  how  glad we are that you’re  sharing our  special  day  with us.”


 “Thank you Uncle Johnny.” Jenny ran to him and gave him a hug and kiss as he picked her up.   “You’re the best uncle and aunt in the world.”  He let her down and she went over to Lee.  “I’m glad you are my aunt and sharing Uncle Johnny’s heart with us.”  She took her doll and ran to her mom and dad. 


 “Uncle  Johnny and Aunt  Lee,  thank  you…and  thank  you for my  new  cousin  Jenny…we have so  much  fun  together.”  Stacy said as she gave hugs and kisses.


 “Ok, that’s a hard act to follow…Johnny…your turn.” 


“Cap, guys…”   They came up.  “I  don’t  have the  words  to  tell  you  what  you  mean to me…and  to Lee since you’ve  saved my  skinny  butt  more  times  than you can  count  according to  Chet…Just  wanted  to  give you  something to  remind  you  how   we  feel…Thanks  for  being  there for us.”  

He handed them all small packages.   They opened them to  find  silver money  clips  engraved  with a  fire engine  and  the  number  51.  In  each  clip  was a gift  certificate---  each one  different  reflecting  something  each man  was interested in. 

“Roy,  I  didn’t  forget you…Roy  is not only my  partner  but  my  best  friend  my  big  brother and  sometimes  he and  Cap  share  being my  dad…” There were nods and a few laughs at that.   His  package  was a little  larger  and when he  opened  it  found  a watch  with an inscription  on the  back as well as a  money  clip.  Instead of a fire engine there was a squad etched on his.  No words were said as Johnny and Roy looked at each other.


 “Why do I feel like I just eaves dropped on a private conversation?”  John Paul asked Kel.  


“Because  we  did…that  is  what makes them the  best  team in the  county…they  have this  connection where they  don’t need  words  to  communicate.”


 “Ok, Lee you have something for your ladies?”  Johnny broke eye contact with Roy.


“Yep, ok  ladies  …I have been  blessed  with  friends  who have  put up with my  tantrums and  moods…and in the  last few  months I  got another  wonderful  lady to add to my  sisters…another  gift  from  Johnny…bringing  the De Sotto family into  my  life…”


The packages were handed out.  Inside was a gift certificate   that matched each of their interests and a necklace.  The  gold  chain’s charm  was a heart  with  a  gem  stone that matched  the  color of  each  dress.   “Jim,  thank  you for  sharing  your  family  with me and  letting  Kathy  be the  big  sister I  needed  so  many  times…” 


 “Chris,  Jimmy  you  guys  want to  come  up here…We couldn’t  forget you two…These  two  young  men have  been  given a special  task  by  Lee not  just  for  tomorrow  but  long  term…So to say  thank  you…”   He handed them their packages.  Their eyes got big as they realized what they had.   Autographed  shirts  from their  favorite  football  players  on the  Rams  and  each had a gift certificate for  a  ball  game.


“Wow Uncle Johnny…How?”


 “Your Aunt Lee  knows  some  people…Me , you and  your  dads we’ll  sit  down and  find the  game we want  to go  see.”


 “Ok,  we have a few more…Em  and Melissa,  would  you please accept  these  small  thanks  you  for  everything  you have  done to  help me  learn about  being a firefighter’s  wife.  Mrs. Lopez   thank  you for  helping  with our  wonderful  party…Chet  would you give this  to your  mom  as a thank you for  her help  on  some  special  projects…”  Johnny and Roy were passing out packages.  Em’s was a beautiful book of quilt patterns and the history of each pattern.   Melissa received a gift certificate to her favorite craft store.  (Chet  would  find out later  his mom  got a  set of  tapes  from her  favorite  Irish  singers.) 

“Back  in February  Kelly  Brackett and  Dixie  McCall  decided  Roy and Johnny  needed to be on the  new advisory  committee  being  formed.   I  was  the  chair  person  for that  committee  and  I heard later a  certain  dark  haired paramedic  grumbled about  being  asked to  join  us…”  Johnny shook his head no and looked very innocent.  “And we all know what happened after that…”  


Johnny took the packages over to Kel and Dixie.  Kel was surprised at the book he had gotten. It was an out of print edition   of one of his favorite writers.  He had been looking for this book for years.   Dixie opened her box it was charm bracelet with just one charm.  A gold tiger with a topaz eye.  She smiled as she had Kel put it on her.   “There are some  more  gifts  but they  are  going to be given in  private  because I  don’t  want to  keep  everyone  here  too late.   Cisco,  remember you have to have him  back here  by  3: 00...and  don’t  run anywhere he can get  hurt…no  mountains …”  With that  everyone  laughed.


Fr.  Chuck and Jeff were standing off to the side.  Watching and listening as Lee and Johnny moved among their friends and family.  “So what is his story?”


 “Just that his story  to tell or not…Just  let’s  say  he was  raised  about  as  opposite as  you can get from  her.   And they both have lost too much to be that young.”


“I heard him whisper something to her…It was a language I didn’t recognize.”  


“He  grew up on a  Cheyenne  reservation in  Montana…He  was  probably  telling her he  loved her or calling her sweetheart.   He doesn’t do it often but she looked a little stressed when they first got here.” 


“Maria, Hector…”  Lee called as she saw them walking towards the parking area.  “Wait up a minute please.”   Johnny pushed her over to them.  “There is  something  for you  back at the  apartment…I  knew I  couldn’t  talk about  what you  mean to me  without  crying……”


“We know how  you  feel…you  show us  every  day  And you are  right  it is  not a night  for  tears.   It is a night to dream of  tomorrow and  say a  prayer of  thank  you for all the  blessings…As  for the  present  don’t you know  seeing you this  happy is the  best gift you  could have  ever given us…You  rest  well and if  you need me in  the morning…”  Maria said kissing her on the cheek.


“Thank you.”     Johnny  didn’t  say anything  just  let her  sniffle  as  they  went  back  to the  group.  Matt,  Johnny and Marie  and  the  Ballards  were  talking to  Hank  and  Mike. 


“There are packages for you in your rooms…I …love you…”  Lee told them.


 “Young  lady  you have already   spent  way too much money  on us…the  flight…and I  find out  today  there is no  hotel  bill…What am I  gonna  do  with you?”  Johnny Russo growled.


 “Same thing you have done since I was 8...give me a kiss on the forehead and love me.”  She smiled at him.  “Take the money you saved here and spoil Marie and the boys…”


“She has you there Sergeant.”   Matt shook his head.  “You both did a good job with the speeches…”


“Yep I think we need to get home …Tomorrow is gonna be a long day…”  Hank said.  “So you go running in the morning?”


“Yep Lee and Roy figured that would keep me out of trouble.   She has to get her hair done and all that so she’ll be busy.”  He laughed as she wrinkled her nose at him.  “She has this silly idea I can’t see her until the wedding,” he complained.


“It’s  not a  silly  idea and  you can’t…Lee  if he gives you any  problems  call me, “  Cap  said  bending  down to give her a kiss.


“Can I at least call her?”  He  frowned  but it  didn’t  come anywhere  near the  laughter in his  eyes as  he  wrinkled his  forehead. 


 “Before you go running …,”   Cap said grinning.   “But not afterwards she’ll be busy”


A few minutes later Lee said a private good bye to Jeff and Matt.  They then walked her and Johnny to the rover.   Johnny lifted her into her seat and whispered something in her ear.   Matt and Jeff kissed her bye and they left. Neither said much as they drove back to the apartment.  Johnny wasn’t even sure if she was awake.


“Can I walk you to the door?”  He had lifted her into the chair.


 “Yes  …Johnny  this  time  tomorrow  you  won’t have to leave…ever  again…neither one  of will  ever be alone…the  kind  of  alone  we talked about  so  long ago…not the  I am  the  only  one in the  house  alone  but the  no  one cares alone…”  He kissed her and pushed her inside.  They didn’t talk as they rode the elevator up to her apartment.   He unlocked the door and stood there a minute before bending down to kiss her.


“Tomorrow I’ll carry you into our home.


“Just like in the movies and the faerie tales.”  A last kiss and he was gone.


Johnny had just gotten out of the shower when the phone rang.  Grabbing it quickly as he looked under the bed for his other shoe.   “Hello.”


“Good morning.  Just wanted to tell you have a good run.”  Lee said wondering why he sounded so aggravated.  “Are you ok?”


“Yeah just looking for a shoe…They were both here last night…It’s under the bed…What are you doing up this early?”


“Thinking about  you…and  finishing  packing…I  have repacked  about  3  times  now…I   better let you  go you’re  supposed to be meeting  Cisco in  twenty  minutes…Love you.”


 “Love you.”


 Cisco was waiting for Johnny at the park entrance.  He was doing a set of stretching exercises when Johnny drove up. 


“That looks almost like dance.”  John said as he watched him finish up. He was doing some stretching as he talked.


“It’s a Shaolin exercise…Did you ever study any martial arts?”


“Nope if I had maybe I wouldn’t have gotten beat up so much.”  The sad thing was Cisco knew Johnny wasn’t joking.   “I  have to  be  at  Rose  Hill  and  dressed by  3  so they  can  do some  pictures  of  me and the  guys.”


“Then let’s get moving.”  They  ran at an  easy pace for  about  half  an  hour then picked the pace  up  for another  half  hour  before starting  back to the  cars. As they reached the parking lot, Cisco got serious.  “John, I  know I  tease about  Lee  being a hell cat  and  the  girl  does have a temper and has  been  known to hold a grudge…But she is still really  young in some  ways…Just  like she can hold onto the old grudges  the old insecurities are still there.”


 “The nerdy pest that lives in her head…I  evicted  her the  other  day…But those old  hurts and  insecurities are  hard to  get  rid of..  But I’m gonna do my best to make sure they don’t hurt her anymore.”


“Good man.”


Lee had  just  gotten  dressed  when Maria and  Hector  came  up  with  some  fruit and yogurt  and rolls  for her. 


“You  need to  eat,  There isn’t  anything  in the  fridge since we  cleaned it out  yesterday..no  fresh  fruit or  vegetables or  milk…I  will make  sure there is  something  here  tonight.”


“I’m not hungry.”


“Eat…she isn’t going to be happy until you do.  Eat that and I’ll get you a soda.”  Hector sat down and she knew she had to eat.  Surprising herself once she tasted the food, she was hungry.   They talked and just kept it low keyed.    Soon as she had  ate  they  gathered  up  her  makeup  case  and  they  left.  She was meeting the others at one to get hair and makeup done. 


 A friend of Merced’s was doing the makeup and hair for all of them.   Liz had  delivered  all the  dresses  on  Friday and  would  be there  for any  last minute  needs.   No one had  seen the  dress  or  even  what the  final  design  was for the  veil.    Jen and  Stacy  were  thrilled they  got to  wear a  very  pale pink  lip  gloss and their  hair  had  been  curled   and  they had  their  head  bands  on.  They were sitting in a corner of the library coloring and looking at books. 


 Chris and Jimmy were upstairs in the adjoining rooms the guys were using as a dressing area.  Cynthia had provided snacks in both dressing areas. 



Hair and makeup was done everyone except Lee was going to the parlor to rest and eat.   As Kathy and Jo started to leave Lee asked Kathy to stay.   Lee told Kathy what she had decided.


 “You are not serious…Tell me this is a joke…”  Kathy was up pacing around and trying hard not to yell at her friend.  “You honestly can’t be considering…What did Matt and Jeff say?  Or have you even told them yet?”


“No not yet.”  She wouldn’t look at Kathy.  “Don’t be mad at me.”


“I’m not mad I just think this is so wrong…I …What is Johnny going to say?”


“I’m  doing this for him…as much as for me  me…Will  you please  go tell  Matt and Jeff I  need to  see them  but  don’t  tell anyone  else  what I am  going to  do.”


Kathy knocked on Matt’s door.  She was still upset and it showed on her face.  Matt opened the door and she went inside.  Jeff was there watching a ball game on a small TV.


“What’s wrong?”  Jeff knew Kathy’s expression wasn’t good news.


“Go talk to her…try to talk some sense into her…”


 “What did she do now?”   It was times like now he regretted giving up smoking.   “She  seemed  fine a few minutes ago…A  little  nervous  but  nothing  out  all  that  bad…”


“Go talk to her…Please.”    She explained what Lee had decided to do


 “Ok  but if her  mind  is made up  there  isn’t  much  we can  do…I  just hope  you’re  wrong.”


Johnny  walked into the  room  that  Marco and  Chet  would  be  sharing  for the  night.  Mike and Melissa had the adjoining room but it was also being used by the people. Melissa  was  down the  hall  in the  small  sitting  room the  bridesmaids  were  using.  There  was a  cooler  with  beer and  soda  sitting  by  the  window  and  snacks  on the  table.   Mike, Marco and Cap were there.  Chet looked up from the small TV.  “Bout time you go here.  Was starting to think you’d changed your mind.”


“Fat  chance of that happening,  Chester B…I   ran  10  miles with Cisco  then  went  home and  cleaned  up….Traffic is  a  mess…usually takes me  20  minutes to  drive out here  today it  took me  35...Where is  Roy?”  He had been undressing while he talked.  His dress uniform was hanging in the closet since he had brought it over Friday.  Roy and Cap came in before anyone could answer.  “How’s it going Junior?” 


“Fine as rain Pally…I’m ready to get this show on the road.”   He  opened the  cupboard  door and  2  dozen  helium  filled  balloons  came  floating  out  of  the  closet.  Some were heart shaped and some were pink and purple.  Johnny  had  jumped  back  when  the  first ones  had  sprung  out at him  and  would have  lost  his  balance if  Roy  hadn’t  grabbed him.  “Thanks Pally, for having my back.” 


 “Always Junior.”


 “Chet, you twit…”  Cap  tried to  sound  stern  but  couldn’t help  but  laugh at the  expression on  Johnny’s  face.  “You  got  10  minutes till we’re  supposed to  be  down  by the  fountain  for  pictures,  Johnny.


“The Phantom   just  wanted to  tell you how  happy  he is  for you and  Lee  and  wish  you the  best of  everything,”  Chet  said.  


 No  problem  Cap,” the  grinning groom  answered  batting  a heart  shaped  balloon  at  Chet’s  head.


 Jeff and Matt knocked on the door to the library.  Lee asked who it was ad told them to come in.


 “Heard you needed to talk to us.”  Jeff said as he leaned on the corner of the desk.  He waited for her.


 “You aren’t going to try to change my mind?”  Biting her lip as she waited for his answer.  “Tell me what a stupid idea this is?”


 “No we just want to hear your reasons.”  Matt answered in a cool controlled voice that had a calming effect on her.  She explained and they listened.  After some discussion and a tear or two on her part, they reached an understanding.


 Liz came into the library ready to help Lee dress.   The  heavy  curtains  had  been  shut  so  no one could  see in the  windows  that  ran  along  one  wall.  


“Do you want Kathy and Jo here to help?”


 “Yeah…that would be a good idea I think…just for moral support hopefully.”  she had  not  talked to  Kathy since Matt and  Jeff  left  as she and Jo  were  busy  with   getting the  girls  dressed  and  checking on the  boys.   Pictures would be taken of Lee and the attendants in the library before the ceremony.  Nana had fixed a background for the indoor pictures.   They had wanted as many of the formal shots taken before the wedding as possible.


The large desk made a good place for Lee to lean against as she stood up.  Kathy and Jo helped Liz slip the dress over her head.  She  took  a  step  forward  supported  by her  friends  as they  smoothed  the  dress so it  hung  perfectly.  Liz  fastened  the   hook and  eyes  that  were  hidden  under  fake  buttons .  She adjusted the off the shoulder sleeves and made sure the bodice fitted tightly.


The dress was perfect for her.  The low scalloped neckline was beaded, as were the small sleeves and bodice.  The empire waistline let the skirt hang in a soft straight flow.   The  lace  veil  was gathered  in the  back of  a  wreath   of  silk  flowers  of pale  pink and  lavender  so  pale almost white.   The white slippers matched the creamy ivory of the dress.   Her  hair  was  up  like  Johnny liked with  the  soft  wisps around her  face.  She had the locket on he had given her the night before and pearl earrings that had been her mother’s.


 “You look like a china doll.”  Kathy said.  Carefully  they  helped her  back into her  chair  and  they  went  over to the  area  where the pictures would be  taken.   Hector had  brought an  antique  white  iron  garden  bench  in for them and there  was flowers in  arranged  at the  sides.   The attendants would be standing behind the bench.   Several different poses were taken.  Lee’s favorite was the one with   her flower princesses’ sitting in front of her.   Pictures of  Lee and  Kathy  were  taken and a  picture of the  girls  on  the  bench  and  the adults  behind  them were taken.


The guys had been getting pictures taken outside at the same time.  A  variety  of  poses and  individual  pictures of  Johnny  and  Roy   then  Johnny and Cap and then one of all three .  Theirs were taken by the fountain.  As they were finishing up guests were starting to arrive.   Johnny  and Roy  went  back inside and  the  others  began  their  duties as  ushers  along  with  Cisco and  Eddie.   There  was no  seating  brides  or  grooms  side  as  most  people  were  mutual  friends.   Cisco had  talked  with   some  of his  friends and  parking  was  being  taken  care of  by  some  of the  recruits  from  the academy  a  donation  would  be made to the  FOP  as well as  a  $50  per  person  working. 


  Cisco  was  talking  with  Vince and  Scotty  as they  watched the  packages  being  carried into the  house.    “Lee called me up about a week ago dying laughing.  Seems  this  joker  called  her  up and told  her  he  was with the  security company  hired  by  Rose Hill  and  wanted information  on  where the  gifts  would  be kept  during the  ceremony  and  what  type  of  security  she had  arranged  for and  was  there another  location  where  gifts  would  be  stored  during the  ceremony.   So  she listened and  played along…Yes she  was  glad to know  her  gifts would  be protected   and  could she have a number to  call  them  back  after  talking  with her  fiancée… The  jerk  gave her the  number…They  busted  the  guys  a  half  hour  later and  solved  3  major  robberies…Lee  called me  and I went in  and they  were a couple of  guys I had  busted  before.   They  couldn’t  believe it  when I  told  them it  was my  little  sister they’d  been  gonna  rip off.”


“Gentlemen  you  need to  go  to the  terrace ,”  Maria  told  the  nervous  group of fire fighters.  Johnny is going to the fountain now.”


Earlier  Matt had  talked  to Marshall  about a slight  change in  plans  and  no one  seemed  to notice  that a  pub  chair  had  been  placed  back  behind the  fountain and it  was  draped  with a white sheet  and  had a bow holding the sheet in  place.   


The bride and her attendants were lined up ready to go out the door.  They would go out to the terrace and down to the fountain.  When they had  decided  on the  fountain as the  ceremony  spot they had  dropped the idea of the  canopy   but  there was  flowers  floating  in the  fountain and the  water  pressure had  been  turned  down as  low as  possible to  keep the  splash  down.  The music began and Jenny and Stacy waited as Chris and Jimmy unrolled the runner. 


Johnny stood there feeling as if it was a movie he was watching.  The boys   slowly unrolled the white fabric then went to their seats next to Jim.   Stacy  and  Jenny  came  towards  them  tossing the  pink  and  red  rose  petals  as  they  walked.   So serious and focused.  Then  came  Elaina  and Marco,  Theressa and  Mike,  Merce  and Chet ,  Jo  and  Hank  then  Kathy and  Roy.  


The long simple but elegant dresses shimmered in the sun.  Then   Matt  and  Jeff  came  each  with a  hand on  the  handle of  her  chair.   There wasn’t a sound except the birds, the water and the soft music.   Instead  of  the traditional  wedding  music  the  do  was  playing  songs  requested  by  the  bride and  groom.   As  they  reached  the  half  way  mark  down the aisle  Matt and  Jeff  stopped.  Johnny frowned worried she was ill or worst having muscle spasms. 


It  was if  everyone there  was  holding  their  breath as  Jeff  put the  brakes on the  chair  and  moved  the  foot rest.   Slowly carefully Lee stood up and got her balance.    Matt and Jeff offered their arms  as support and  slowly  with a  look  of  determination  Lee  took a  step.  With  each  step  the  look on her  face  relaxed  from  concentration  to  pure  joy  as each step  brought her closer to Johnny.  Roy  had  his  hand  on  Johnny’s  shoulder  in support  knowing the  fear in  Johnny’s  heart  but also  knowing  how  proud he  was of  her.


Roy whispered something   and Johnny nodded never taking his eyes off her. When she had only a step left til she reached him he went to her.  Someone quickly moved the hidden chair to the place she was to stand.  Looking  in her  eyes  Johnny smiled and  with as  much  ease as if it had  been  practiced  sat her on the  chair.  There was a collective sigh of relief as she was safely seated.


All  watching   realized  what a  gift  she  had  given  Johnny  and  what a gift her  uncle’s had  given  her by allowing her to  do  it.


“Who gives this woman in marriage?”  Father Chuck said clearing the lump that had formed in his throat.    He had  been there  6 years ago  when they told her she  would  never  walk  again and had  seen the  struggle  she  faced accepting  that  fact.


 “I give myself to my love with the blessing of all my family and friends.”  Lee answered.  Matt and Jeff kissed her and went to their seats.


 “We have all  heard at  most  weddings  that love is  kind…but  today  we have seen that  love is  strong and  brave  and  gives us  a strength  to  draw  from.  In addition, what   we just saw makes what I was going to say seem trite.  I  don’t  need  to  ask  you if  you …either one of  you  understands  the responsibilities  of  love and  the  commitment it  requires.  I  am  not  sure if  you  who  were not  close  by  could  see  how  badly  John  wanted to  go to her and  keep her  safe or  hear the  soft  reassurance  all was  well from his  best  friend .  Lee and Johnny have chosen to write their own vows." 


“John Roderick Gage you are my love, my heart and soul belong to you.  I love you for so many  reasons and  that list  grows  every  minute I  spend  with  you.   But the  fact you accept  me  for me…That  you invited  me to  go  dancing  on  our  first  date  because you had  never noticed the  wheel  chair in the  corner of  my  office…That  you  threw  me into a swimming  pool  because  I was too  scared to  show  your  friends  the  scars on my  legs…That  when  I  went to  order flowers  for  today  the  wise and  beautiful  lady  who  owns the  shop  knew who I  was soon as I said I wanted faerie  roses…and  told me  how  you described me to her…but it  was  the  last  thing  she  told  me  that made  you  love me  even  more…She  said  that  you  never mentioned  the  wheelchair   that you  never saw it   that you saw only  me  the  one you loved and who loves  you.   I can’t  promise there  won’t  be  bad  days  and you  know  what a  temper I have and  how I like  things  my own  way…But this I  do  promise  you  …I  love you for you…and  whatever happens  nothing is  going to  change  except  that  each  day I’ll  love you more.   You have my love and my respect always…And also my promise never to be boring.” 


“Leona Elizabeth, I forgot everything I planned to say when I saw you walking towards me.  As  much as I  knew  I  loved  you  and  respected  you  it  seems so  little  compared  to what I  feel  now.   You  have accepted me  for me  and  love me  knowing   all  about  my  past.  The past is  just  that  past…now  we are  going to  build a  future  together and that is  what  is  important….A future  full of  family and friends  but  most importantly  full of  love and  respect.”   That crooked grin slowly made its way to his lips.  “Just  promise me  no  more  surprises  like that…Man I  thought I   was gonna pass out  when  you  stood  up like  that  so  afraid you’d  fall.”

“I promise,” she giggled.  “But why worry?  The best paramedics in the county are standing here plus all the doctors and nurses …I wasn’t worried.”  She smiled and he rolled he rolled his eyes at her before laughing.  "Because I  know  you will always  be there for  me."


 “I love you Baby girl and I don’t think bored is something we’ll ever be.”  There was scattered laughter and one groomsman with a red face.


 “Ok  lets see if I  can get some  sort of  control  over these two…but this is what  your  life and  marriage  should  be.  A free and joyous reaspect of each other…a life of love and laughter…  Johnny  will  you  please  place this  ring on Lee’s  hand as a symbol  of the  never ending  love and  respect  you  have  pledged  her today.”   He slipped the gold band on her finger.   “And  now  Lee will you please  place this  ring on  Johnny’s  hand as a symbol of the  never  ending   loving  and  respect  you have pledged  him   today.”   She did.  “Now you two are one …and may God’s smile always be upon you.  Please  kiss  to seal the  promises  made  before  God and  your  family  of the heart  this  day.”  Johnny   helped her stand and she put her arms around his neck as they kissed.  His arms around her holding her tight and safe.  With  what  seemed  practice  ease  he  helped her  to  turn  so they  were  facing all  their  friends.  His arm around her waist and her leaning into him for support.   To no one’s surprise Johnny sweep her up in his arms kissing her again.  Then as their  friends  clapped and  cheered he  carried her to the  wheel  chair and  gently  sat her in  making  sure she did her seat  belt  before  moving the  chair  forward  to the  fountain.  There were very few dry eyes in the crowd male or female.


“While  pictures are  being  taken of the  bridal  party  there are   refreshments  being  served at the  tent…  May  God  be with all of us as we celebrate this  joyous  day and  bless  the  friends,  family and  good  food  we are about  to  share.”


 The photographer got some sort of order and pictures were snapped.  The pub seat had been moved and was used in some of the pictures. 


“I  thought  Gage was  gonna  pass out  before  he  could  grab her,” Chet  said  he  watched as the  photo  of  Johnny and  Lee  and the little  girls  was taken.


“Think a lot of us were  feeling  like that…She  didn’t  tell anyone she  was  going to  do it  until  right  before the ceremony.”  Roy  said  watching his  daughter  as she  clung  to her  uncle’s  hip  and  was  whispering in his  ear.   “But Jo thinks she has been planning to do it all along.   I would guess that’s how she got all those bruises practicing standing up.”  


 The pictures were finished and they made their way over to the tent.  The  guys  quickly  got  rid of  coats and  ties and Lee  noticed  several  pairs of  heels  sitting  under the  table and  the  slippers she had  put on the  chairs at the  bridal table on  relieved  feet.   She had  had  time  during  pictures to talk  with  Jeff and Matt and  thank  them  again for  helping  her make  her  dream  wedding  come true.  She had  had a  chance also  to  talk  with  Amos  and  she  told him his  promise had  come  true with  just a  few modifications.   By the time, everyone was served and settled down at the tables Lee and Johnny had eaten.    Maria  and Hector had  fixed their  plates and  brought them  to the table  while the  rest of the  bridal  party had  went thru the  buffet line  at the  head of the  line.   Mick, Sean and Cynthia had worked together to make sure everything was perfect. 




“I  think  Lee  wants to  start  moving around  talking to  people…You all  just  sit and  relax  for awhile.”  Johnny had said as he got up.   Jeff, Matt, Maria, Hector, Jen, and Stacy were at one table.  That was where they stopped first.   Then onto the  table with  Cisco and  Linda,  the  Russo’s(minus  sons  who were off with a bunch of  kids their  age)  and the  Ballards.   The women were trying without great success to keep the conversation away from police topics.  Dixie, Kel, Jim and Joe Early were at a table with Melissa and Emily.  


“You almost gave some of us heart attacks with that little stunt, young lady.”  Joe said kissing her lightly. 


“Don’t tell anyone but I was glad to see that pub chair…and have Johnny hold on to me.”


“He had a good grip on you that are for sure.”  Joe teased.


 “How did Chet rate getting paired up with your model friend?”  Dixie asked as she watched Chet escort Merce to get some more food.


“They were a good match in height and I knew she could keep him in line…”  Lee giggled.  “Her  brother  was suppose to  be here  but he  got  a call and is in surgery  with some football  player…He is  gonna  try to get here  soon.”


 Slowly they continued on their rounds.   Chief Houser and his wife were sitting with John Paul, Maggie, Will, and Tom and their wives.   Johnny  was  a little  taken  back at first  by the  teasing  way  Lee  had  with his  Chief.  “John, you did the department proud today.  We’re delighted to be included in this day.”


“Well,  just  remember  it’s  because you’re a  friend not  the  boss today…As  unnerving as that maybe  for  Johnny….you and I have  been  friends a long time…since  before the  paramedics  came into being officially."


“That‘s true…”


“So Will, Tom when are you coming down for your ride along?    See I told you the guys at 51 were pretty nice.”


 “Actually that is about all you told us about 51.”   Will say laughing.  “You worked very hard at being impartial.” 


 “Oh it was very hard indeed…But worth it…”


 They were called back to the head table so they could do the cake.  Lee was giggling with Jo and Kathy so Roy and Johnny knew something was going on.  They  brought  out a  cart  with the  3  tiers of  pineapple  cake with  butter  cream icing and  decorated  with  small  pink and  lavender  faerie  roses.  Then another cart came out with a package sitting on it.




“Johnny…everyone here knows I am pretty spoiled and you have let me have everything pretty much my way…” 


“Yeah he’s a fast learner he knows it’s easier that way.”  Cisco yelled to her. 


“Anyway,  this is  my  way of  saying  thank  you…and  saying  thank you to  you  guys  from  Station  51  A shift.”    The servers lifted the box up and there were two cakes.   One was the squad the other engine 51.   “The squad is a carrot cake the engine is chocolate…”  


“Lee and  Johnny  made  sure  cupcakes  were  sent  to all the  fire stations  that 51  works  with and  to  their  friends at  Rampart and the  various  law  enforcement agencies they are  friends  with,”  Jeff  announced.  


 “I have been told under no circumstances am I to smash cake in her face.”


 “Already taking orders, Gage,” Chet called out.


“Yeah Kelly, from me,” Hector called back.   "This time.”


 “Are you ever gonna learn Chet?”   Marco laughed as his best friend turned red.


Lee  cut  a  piece  from  each  cake and  fed them  carefully  to  Johnny.  He smiled  and  making  sure he had  frosting on his  lips  leaned  closer  and  kissed her.  Everyone laughed and Hector the loudest.  Johnny  did the  same  cutting  a small sliver of  each and  feeding her  careful  not to  spill  on her  dress  then leaned  in  for another  kiss.


 As  the  cake and  cupcakes were served  the  music  began and  the   dance  floor  was  cleared.  

Amos was given the job of emcee.  He  called for  everyone’s  attention…”For those who may  not  know me,  my  name is Amos  Burke  and I’m  an  old  family  friend.  My grandfather and Lee’s grandmother were cousins…our grandfather’s friends.   I made a promise to a  little  girl once …and as she  told me earlier today  with  some  modifications  that  promise  was  fulfilled  today. …Thanks Johnny for keeping me honest and keeping my promise.   The  bride has requested  that  Johnny  dances  with Maria,  Jeff  with  Jo  and Matt  with  Kathy,  Hector  with  Dixie  to the  songs  that  were  the  favorites of  their  parents.”  


Johnny looked shocked and started to say something but Lee shook her head no.   The  soft  sounds of  Unchained  Melody  began  as the  couples  danced  then  changed into  Secret Love.    Roy and Cap stayed with Lee while the songs played.  At the end of the song, Johnny went over to the DJ and talked for a minute then to Amos.  “Ok  the  groom  has  a request,  will the  bridal  party  join  him and  Lee on  the  dance  floor…”  


 It  was Lee’s  turn to look  shocked  but  Johnny  went  over to  her  and picked her  up  and  took her out to the  middle of the  dance  floor.  Her  arms  tightly  around his  neck  her head  on his  shoulder  the  music  began.   There wasn’t a  sound  except the  music as it reminded all it  only  takes a moment to  be loved  your  whole  life  long.    After a short while  Lee  whispered in his ear  and  he  smiled as  he  let  her  stand. 





They  stood in  one place  but  moved to the music  before he  lifted her  up and  carried her  back  to the  chair.   “Please all   who would like to dance…”   Jim claimed Kathy and Roy took Jo into his arms.  Hank  went over to  Em  and  Cisco  smiled as he  saw  Charlie  Dwyer  go  ask his  sister  to  dance.   About an  hour  later  after  visiting  with  people  sitting around  talking and  enjoying the  music  Jeff  went over to   went over  to  Amos.  Amos handed the mic to him.  Lee and Johnny were getting ready to leave. 


“Excuse me…As  some of you noticed  Lee and Johnny  skipped the   toasting of the  bride and  groom as  they  wanted  the  dancing to  begin.  However, Matt and I want to take this time to thank you for all coming and sharing this day.  We want to  thank you all for  sharing in the  lives  of  these  exceptional  people…And  we  want  to thank  them  for all the  love and  happiness they have  brought into  our lives…And  a special  thank  to  the  Hogan’s, O’Shea’s ,  Liz and Nana  and all  who  did the  work to make  this a  dream  come  true….And  Johnny   I have a message for  you from  Liz…yes she  did  as you asked.  Every time Lee went in for a fitting she was reminded of your request.”   Jeff handed the mic to Roy.


“Johnny  has  been  my  partner and  best  friend  since the paramedic  program  began…From the  first time I  met him I  just had a feeling he  was  someone I  wanted to  know and  be friends  with…Today  we are more than  friends … we  are  brothers  and  Junior I  just  want you to  know  how  proud  we all  are at  Station  51  to  call  you  friend and  be  your  family.   Lee welcome to the family…crazy as it may be at times.”


Lee and Johnny looked at their friends and family…Lee took the mic first.


“I  …heard  Jeff tell  Johnny  he  was a miracle  worker  a few months  ago  and I have to agree…I…am  so  thankful  for  each and  every one of  you in our lives and  for the  way  you have  given us a  family  to  love and  be loved  by…”  She handed the mic to Johnny.


“Lee said it all …Thanks.”  Johnny handed the mic back to Jeff.


 “Lee for  weeks Johnny has  been  whispering  something in  your  ear  every time your  dress  was mentioned and you'd  turn  red…What  did he  say  to you?”  Kathy called out to them.


 “Be sure to tell Liz to make it so it comes off quick and easy…And she did.”  Everyone laughed as Johnny turned red this time.


 A short time later Lee and Johnny and her uncle’s were off by themselves.


“I  can’t say  good  bye…because  even as  happy as I am  right now  that  hurts  too much…I love you…tell  Uncle Johnny and  Aunt  Marie  and  Chris and  Nancy  we’ll see them soon.”


 “I will…love you…”  Matt kissed her and nodded at Johnny.  “I don’t have to tell you to take   care of her…That’s a given.”  He shook Johnny’s hand then gave him a hug.


 “Jeff…love ya” She swallowed…”See ya soon?”


 “Only a phone call and plane ride away.”  Roy joined them.




“Keep Chet in line Roy…and be safe Pally,” Johnny said.”


 “Always Junior…”


 When  Johnny and  Lee  got  home they  were  surprised to  find  Joey  K  sitting on the  doorstep.  He was one of the people on Hector’s payroll.  Joey smiled as he saw Lee and Johnny coming up the walkway.


“Evening Mr. and Mrs. Gage…nice night for a wedding.”


“Joey…yeah it is.  What are you doing here?’


“Hector and Maria  hired me to  watch the  place…to make  sure no one thinks it’s  funny to bother you  tonight…No practical  jokers or  worst…I made some  easy money and  got to  eat  Mrs. A’s   good  food.   In addition, they are going to bring me some cake."


 They went upstairs.   Johnny unlocked  the  door  then  with a  crooked  grin  picked her  up and  carried her into the  apartment.  “Welcome home Mrs.  Gage.”   He sat her on the couch then brought the wheelchair in.  He locked the door.   He sat down next to her.  “You doing ok?”  She had been very quiet in the car.  “How would you like the first in a long line of showers for two?”


“Sounds wonderful…do you want to do your package tonight or wait?” 


“You  know you can’t  keep  doing  stuff  like this…those  cakes were  fantastic…and  you’ve already  given me the  tie  tack…”


 “Let me splurge right now Mr.  Gage…I   have a lot of  years to make  up  for of not having  anyone  special to  spoil…”  to herself  …and to make up for all the years  you had no one to  spoil  you…”There is a  package on  the  dining  room  table.”


The brought it over and sat down next to her.  The package was   about 30 inches squared and not very heavy.   Lee was chewing on her lip as she waited for him to carefully open it.   He looked at the painting in his hand and it took his breath away from him.   Tears came streaming down his face.  He looked at her in total disbelief.  All the emotions he had kept in check that day were released.  He slowly touched the painting with soft loving fingers.  He was pale and still not breathing normally.


 “Johnny…says something please.”  She looked at his face so like the one in the painting except for the color of his eyes.


 “How?  When?”  His voice was soft but urgent.  


 “Roy went to your apartment and took your photo   and had it copied then to the artist.  He put your photo back.  I had one done of my parents also.  You don’t like it?”




“Not like it?  This  is  so much  more than anything I could  ever do for you…That you love me so much to go to al that  trouble…Isn’t she  beautiful?  And dad’s expression…”


 “When I saw that picture I cried…Johnny that’s the same look you get on your face sometimes when you look at me.  That is the look I saw today when I walked into your arms.  I  had never  felt so loved as I  did when I saw you looking at me  like that…knowing  how  much  they  loved  each other…”


 “Where is the other one?”  He stood up


“On the bed in Jeff’s room.   No one has seen them…not even Roy…”


 Johnny went in and brought the painting out.   Her dad was in his Marine dress blues.  His smile was a lot like the one Johnny had seen on her face when she   getting ready to zap someone.  Ornery but kind was how someone had described it to him.   Matt had told him she looked a lot like her mom and now he could see it.  Carolyne’s hair had been darker but the eyes and nose were the same.    “You look a lot like your mom but you have your dad’s smile.   Full of life and mischief.   Thank you so much…Now you ready to take the first of many showers’ for two?’


“Sounds like the start of a lovely tradition.   Help me out of this dress please.’


  “You are something else, Baby girl.”  He carried her to the bedroom and sat her on the bed.  “Tell me what to do.”


 “You’re  the  one  who  should be telling me  what to  do,  sir,  since  I‘m  the one who has  never done this  before.”  She giggled and he just shook his head.  “Ok Help me stand up and let me hold onto the railing.  She had kicked her shoes off. “There are 3 or four buttons to undo   that aren’t really buttons but hook and eyes.  Once you do that the dress will just fall to the floor.”  He  did as he  was  told and  then  carried her  back over to the  bed  after  he  finished  undressing her.  When  she  shivered he  wasn’t sure if  it  was from the  cool  air or his  touch  but  decided hopefully  it  was his  touch.  He undressed feeling her eyes following his every move.  He went into the bathroom, started the shower, and did some rearranging of the bath chair.   While he was doing that, she took her hair down.


 “Ready?”  She nodded not trusting her voice.  She held on tightly burying her head in his shoulder.  “Are you scared?” 


 “Yes.” Very softly.   


“I won’t hurt you…I’ll let you control it…”


 “That’s not why I’m afraid silly…I’m afraid I won’t be…That you’ll be disappointed…” 


 “There is  nothing  in this  world  you could  do  that  would  disappoint  me as  long as you are  honest with me.  Understand?   I  know  that there are some  limits  to the  way  you can move  but think of the  fun we’ll  have  finding  ways  you  can…”  He kissed her neck and nibbled on her ear.   “Bet there are lots more ways you can than can’t …”    




By the time  the  shower  was  done  Lee and Johnny were at  ease  with  each  other and she had  only  cringed  slightly  as  he  traced over the  scars on her  leg and  hip  with the  wash  cloth.  The  smaller one  on her  back  and  on her  lower  stomach  didn’t  bother  her.  He  let her  trace  the  various  scars on his  body and she  was  surprised she had  never  noticed the  ones  on his  left  knee.    They explored each other’s body   Johnny guiding her hands or moving her   hips carefully.   She  moved  closer  wanting  more of  his  touch  when she  suddenly  arched as  he  kissed the  long  curved  scar on her  hip  that  ran  down  below   her  knee.  She pulled back and he raised himself so he was looking in her eyes.    “Why did you do that?”


“To make a  point…there is  nothing about you I  see as ugly  or  deformed…I  see  you my beautiful  wife….You’ll  tell me if I   hurt you? “


 “Yes but you won’t…” 


“Johnny, you asked me to be honest with you…now it’s your turn…”  He opened his eyes and looked at her turning slightly so his mouth was touching her ear.  He had discovered she was very ticklish there.   “Did I do ok?”    Suddenly wide-awake again he frowned slightly before kissing her ear.  She snuggled closer.


 “No you did not do ok.”  He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at her.  “You were wonderful…what kind of silly question was that?”


 “It wasn’t a silly question…you’ve done it lots of times…” 


 “No  my  sweet  Baby  girl…I’ve had  sex  before…but this  was the first  time I’ve  ever made  love.   There is a difference  between  making  love and having  sex…it’s  kind of  sad  some  people never  learn the  difference…but you taught me that  tonight.”  His  mouth  found  hers  then  he  moved  slightly  as his  body  responded  to her  moving  closer .


 It  seemed to Johnny  they had only  been  asleep a  very  short  when he  heard his  name  being  called.


“Sorry darling but you have to get up…at least long enough to bring my chair here.”  She watched him stretch and thought of pictures she had seen a big cats out in the wild.  


“In a minute.”  He was not ready to move. 


 “Dear heart…I need my chair so I can go to the bathroom…so please…”  That was a different matter all together.  He went out to the living room and brought the chair in and watched as she transferred   then went into the bathroom.


He went out to the kitchen and opened the fridge.  There  was a small  bottle of  milk  and  a  note saying there was  doughnuts  in the  container on the  counter.  He had never seen the fridge that empty.


 He got the milk and some doughnuts and went back to the bedroom.  Lee had slipped on a robe.    “Why isn’t there any food in the fridge?” 


 “Because  we are  going to be  gone for  2  weeks…and  we have to be at the airport in  two  hours…Someone  will be here  in about  45  minutes to  pick  us  up…You  want another  shower?  Or was the two we had last night enough?”


 “Since we have to be ready to leave in 45 minutes I suggest a shower for one…Me first…It takes me longer to dress and do my hair.”


 “Ok”  He  laid  back  down on the  bed as she  went  back  into the  bathroom.  “Oh by the way, I love you!  Even a t 5:45 in the morning when we didn’t go to sleep till 2.”


 “That’s good to know,” she called back.


“Are you always so cheerful in the mornings when you first get up?’


 “Only since my mornings start with you beside me.”   He  laid  there  listening to the  water  running  in the  bathroom  and the  next thing he  knew  she  was  waking him  up.  “You have  30  minutes  to  get  ready…Your  clothes are  laid  out  and  your  camera  bag is  on the  table with my  purse  so  get  moving  my  love.”


 “Ugh.  Not only cheerful but bossy in the mornings…Why didn’t you warn me?”   He gave her as kiss and went on into the shower. 


  Hector   knocked on the  door  at  6:30  and  said the car was  loaded and  he  was  going to  drive them to  the  airport.  Johnny  grabbed the  camera  and  handed Lee her  purse  which  was  actually a  small  tote.


They went into the check in area and Lee gave Johnny the tickets.  He  was  surprised to  find out they were  first  class and  that  arrangements  had  been made for them to  board first  so that they  could  get  Lee’s  wheelchair  stowed   and  out of the  way.   Soon everyone was seated and the plane began its take off.  Johnny leaned over and kissed her lightly.   “Welcome to the first day of the rest of our lives, Mrs.  Gage.” 








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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.

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