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What Would You Say?

An Emergency Story by

Alana
 

 

Lee Spencer closed out her report and looked at the clock.   It was the worst time of the day to start home.  Maybe she would get a start on some of the files she had planned to do in the morning.  Johnny  was  working  so it  didn’t matter if she  was  home  by a certain  time  other than the  fact he would  call around  6  to make  sure got  home ok.   Smiling she dialed the now familiar station number.

 

“Station 51, Fireman Kelly speaking.”  Chet answered as he was in the kitchen fixing a pot of his infamous Irish stew.

 

“Hi.  This is  Lee  at  Rampart…Would  you let  Roy  and  John  know I have the minutes from the  last advisory  meeting  typed  up and they  can  pick  them up anytime  now…I’ll be in my  office for  awhile if they  happen  over this  way.”

 

“They’re here if you want to talk with one of them…Just a second.”  He laid the phone down and went out to the apparatus bay.  “Hey guys there are a call from Rampart about committee meeting minutes.”

 

“Thanks Chet.”   Roy  answered since  Johnny  was under the  squad  trying to  figure out  where the latest  squeak  was  coming  from.  “Want me to get it?”

 

“Yeah…tell her I said hi.”   Johnny answered as he tightened another bolt.  It had been 2 months now since their second first date.  No one at the station or hospital except Roy (and Jo) and Dixie knew they were dating.   This  was  for  several  reasons, a  major  one being  Chet  Kelly constantly  teasing Johnny  about  every aspect of  his  life.

 

“Hi…Chet said something about minutes from the last meeting?”   He was on the phone in the kitchen and knew Chet was listening.  

 

“Yeah I  didn’t  want to  tell him I  just  called to  let Johnny I  wouldn’t  be  home at the  regular  time…so not  to  worry if I  didn’t  answer  his  call…”  She giggled. “His ‘don’t worry about me theory’   doesn’t seem to apply to me.”

 

“Yeah I noticed…He said to tell you hi….The suggestions made for the survey seem to go over well?”

 

“I’ll be glad when this mess is over…for a lot of reasons.   San Diego needs to learn how to control the bullies”

 

“Yeah I  agree…the  Chiefs    here  don’t  put  up  with  that…We’ll  stop  by  tomorrow  …we’ve  got a 48  hour  shift.”

 

“Take care and tell Johnny I’ll be home by 9.” 

 

“”I will…Thanks for calling.”  He went back  out to the  apparatus  bay   just as  Johnny  was  finishing  cleaning  up  the  tools  .  He noticed Chet following Roy into the bay…

 

“Everything ok?”  Johnny asked.   “I tightened a couple of bolts and put some grease on a few places…I can’t believe you don’t hear those squeaks and groans.”  He was cleaning up and putting tools away trying to keep his back to Chet.

 

“Maybe it’s all the lose screws in your head you’re hearing Gage,” Chet said.   “Anyway, you want go bowling Saturday night?  Suzi has a friend…”

 

“Sorry I’ve got plans,” Johnny interrupted.  “Gonna be busy all week end.”

 

“Yeah doing what?  Helping Roy with his honey do list like usual?  When you going to get a life, Gage?   Stop stealing Roy’s.”   He stomped out leaving a very silent John Gage watching him.  Johnny’s  eyes  were narrow  and angry  and his  cheek  bones  stood  out  with a red tinge,  his  mouth a thin  line  when he  turned around to  face  Roy.

 

“Don’t pay any attention to him, Junior.  I like it when you share the honey do list.  Lee’s working late tonight is home around 9….What is you doing this week end?”  He was surprised about how angry John had gotten so angry so quickly.  Was there a problem he had not noticed?

 

“Just hanging out…this weather makes it hard to plan anything…”  He shook his head.   The SCU’s tones put an end to the conversation.  “Station 51…unknown rescue …Canton…1 2 4 5 West Canton…cross street Fillmore….time out 17:27...”    With  well  practiced  efficiency  the  squad and  engine  pulled  out of the  station.  Johnny giving the directions as Roy drove the thru the late afternoon traffic.   Cap and the engine followed trusting Johnny’s instincts on the best route. 

 

A block  from the  address  they  received the  cancellation…it had  been an  alarm  malfunction  due to a squirrel  chewing on the insulation.   Roy  used the  HT  to  call  Cap and  ask  permission  to  go over to  Rampart  on  advisory  committee  business.  Cap had agreed reminding them to stay available and that dinner would be soon.

 

Lee heard the knock on her door and looked up as Roy and Johnny came in.  Johnny quickly entered and gave her a kiss.  “Been thinking about that all day.”…Roy went over to the fridge and grabbed two sodas to give them a minute of privacy.  

 

“I heard you guys turned back…isn’t that the third time this week they have had a false alarm at that location?   They  need to  fix  that  before the  people working there  stop  paying attention to the alarms...if they had a real  problem they‘ll just ignore  the  alarm..…Here are your copies of the minutes…”   She  was  typing as  she  talked  and  trying to ignore  Johnny  sitting on the  corner of  her  desk  swinging one  leg the  other  tucked  up  under  him.  “Finished.”

 

“Do we have plans for Saturday?” he asked.  “Thought maybe Roy and Jo and the kids could come over….get some pizza?  Just hang out and relax.”

 

 “Maria’s going to invite the kids over since she’s watching some of the grandkids while their parents go to a party she has something special planned.  Roy you could have a night out if you wanted…I’d be there to watch the kids if they were done before you got back. Or they could even sleep over…”

 

“Sounds nice…I’ll ask Jo… Do you want to spend your Saturday night babysitting?”   Remembering the cold angry look on Johnny’s face earlier.   “Junior we need to get back…Lee thanks for the notes.”

 

“You’re welcome thanks for all the suggestions and help.  Go get some dinner…and rest…See you Friday for breakfast?”  Johnny bent down and kissed her lightly. 

 

“Yep. I’ll call you when I leave the station… Have a good time with Kathy tomorrow…Tell her I said hi.”  Another quick kiss and he was gone.  

 

They were just getting back into the squad when the call came over the radio.   “Station 51 structure fire 1245 West Canton…”   Quickly getting their helmets on them pulled out of Rampart’s parking lot.

 

“Think maybe this time it’s for real?”  Johnny said as they neared the office building.   “We could be messing around with this when somebody really needs us.   Why keep tying up a squad and engine with a faulty alarm system?”

 

“Who knows but do you want to take a chance on it not being real?”  Roy let out a sigh knowing that Johnny would keep on complaining the rest of the night as they received the cancellation call.  

 

They had  been  back to the  station  for about  15  minutes  and  Chet  was  finishing  up  dinner.  The table was set and the salad, bread and drinks in place.  Using  a  dish  towel  as a pot  holder  he  picked the  pan  and  started  carrying  it to the  table.  A crash and a pain filled yelp brought the paramedics and Cap from the office in a hurry.

                                                    

******

 

Marco  and  Mike  were  cleaning  up the  floor and  table  and  Chet  was  standing  there  holding  his  hand.  The stew was flung on the cabinet and stove front in odd colored   globs that were slowly making their way to the floor.   More of it was splattered over   the table.  Roy quickly left the room.

 

“Chet get over here.”  Johnny ordered as he turned on the cold water.  “Get your hand under here.”   Roy came with the station first aid kit.

 

“Chet, you ok?”  Cap asked as he looked at the mess.  “How did this happen?” 

 

“It’s red but no blisters…”  Johnny was looking at the hand he had under the cool running water.   Chet was flexing it carefully.    Roy handed the first aid cream to Johnny who applied it carefully despite Chet’s complaints after carefully drying the hand.

 

“Cripes  Gage  can’t  you be more  gentle  that  hurts…My  grandma  always  said  butter  was the  best  thing   for  burns.”    He glared as Johnny rolled his eyes.   “Don’t go disrespecting my grandmother Gage…didn’t your grandmother ever teach you anything?”

 

“Kelly, answer my question…how did this happen?”  Cap had seen the look on John’s face at Chet’s barb.  Roy gave Cap a grateful nod.

 

“I  picked up the pot to put it on the table…I  dropped it when I  got  burnt  then  got  burnt  again  when  some of  it  got on my  hand.”  

 

“You twit were you using the dish towel as a pot holder again?”  Cap saw the towel on the floor.  “The wet dish towel?”

 

“It wasn’t that wet, just a little damp…I couldn’t find the pot holders.”  Chet’s said not looking at his crewmates.   “Man that was one of the best stews I’ve made.”

 

The others looked at the gray gluey mess on the cabinets.

 

“Clean it up and order in some pizza.  Ought to make just you buy it.” Cap said before returning to the office with Roy and Johnny following.  Mike  and  Marco  helped  Chet  clean  up  after  he  called in the  pizza  order.  

 

“So  tell  me  more about this  survey,” Cap said picking up the  conversation  that  Chet’s  accident  had interrupted.   “What has the state in such an uproar all of a sudden?”

 

“They  had  a  bad  situation  down in  San Diego…2  paramedics  got  hurt  when they  didn’t  get the  support they  needed  from an  assisting  crew.  It got nasty with each group pointing fingers at the other.   Now the state is wanting a  study of  how  firemen and paramedics  can  get  along  better  especially  since a TV station  down there picked  up on the fact one  of the  paramedics  was  Asian  and  the other  Hispanic…”

 

“State people are due down here in a 2 weeks…LA County’s their test for this survey.   McConnikee and Houser wouldn’t let it get that bad…or any of the station captains here…And they want to make sure any  problems  are stopped  as  soon as  possible.”

 

“So how is this going to work?” Cap frowned. “We gonna have a bunch of civilians running all over our station asking questions they have no idea if  we answer wrong  or right?”   Sounding pretty disgusted with the whole idea.  His body was tense and the lines around his eyes were drawn and angry looking.

 

“No Le…”Johnny stopped and took a deep breath.  “No  it  won’t  work  that  way…two  people  from Sacramento  and  someone  local  will  come in and  give  out  the  survey  forms…no  names  just the  station  number and  shift  and  they  will be shuffled   maybe  even  2  stations  together  so  no way  of  connecting  answers to individuals.   The  visits  will be determined  by lottery  and  could  happen any  shift…We do  know A shift  will be  visited because  Dr.  Brackett requested that…but we don’t know when.”   Hank did not say a word just looked frustrated and worried.

 

“So when will all this start?  And how long will it take?”  Cap  was  unhappy  that   his  station and his  department  was  going to  get  caught  in the  fall out  of  some idiots and their intolerance.   In the back of his mind was a nagging worry about Johnny and Marco.   How would all this impact them?   His worries interrupted by a knock on the door and Mike sticking his head in.  “Pizza’s here.”

 

*****

 

Lee was reading some cookbooks looking for a new idea for breakfast.  Johnny’d eat almost anything and that made it fun try new recipes.  So far, the only thing he wouldn’t taste was Brussels sprouts.  The phone rang and she picked it up expecting to hear Johnny.  “Hello.”

 

“Lee, its Roy…”  He heard the sharp intake of her breath.  “He’s gonna be ok…just got the wind knocked out of him and some smoke inhalation.  Dr. Brackett’s keeping him over night so they can do a few breathing treatments.”

 

“Because of his history of respiratory problems?”

 

“Yeah…he was worried about you seeing it on the news.”  Roy relieved she was being so calm.  “Said to tell you he would call soon as he got home.”

 

“So what happened?”  She was trying hard to keep the fear out of her voice.

 

“The  office building on West Canton…the squirrels did a  number on the wiring  going into the  building  from the transformer…He  was  helping  a  janitor  down the  stairs  and  they  lost their  footing…The  janitor outweighed  Johnny by a good  30  pounds and  landed on  top of him.”

 

“Let me guess the janitor had the air mask on.”  She wrinkled her nose up shaking her head as she said it.  

 

“Yeah but this time it was a good thing…the janitor has a history of heart and lung  problems…If  Johnny hadn’t gave him the mask he could have  lost him.  That would’ve been harder on John than the smoke inhalation.”  Roy’s voice was tight and Lee noticed the fact he called him John not Junior or Johnny.

 

“Are you ok?”  Her  voice was  softer  now  and  the muscles in her throat and  face had  relaxed  so  she  wasn’t scowling  at the  phone.  “Do you need anything?”

 

“I’m ok, thanks for asking.  Better get back to the station…” 

 

“If you see him before you leave tell him I sent him a hug and a kiss and to call me if he needs anything.”

 

“Dixie’s here so I’ll have her deliver the message.  How would that be?”

 

“Perfect…thanks for letting me know.”   After they hung up Lee began cleaning off the table.  It was a warm night for April so she went out on the balcony to think.

 

*****

 

“Chet how’s the hand?”  Cap asked as he watched his junior paramedic inhale a slice of pizza.   “Didn’t we have a discussion not too long ago about using wet dish towels as a pot holder?”

 

“But Cap the pot holders are so worn out and scorched they don’t do much good.”  Chet said in his own defense. “Someone caught the only good ones on fire.”   Soon as he said it, Kelly regretted it.  It was his fault they caught fire but Gage never mentioned that even when he got blamed for it.

 

“Then buy some new ones.”    Before they  could  continue  the SCU’s  tones  called for the  squad and  engine  to  respond to an alarm at 1245 West Canton again.  Every one quickly took their positions and they left the station.   No one said it but all were wondering was this another false alarm?   

 

Soon  as they  turned  down  West  Canton  they  knew  it  wasn’t a false alarm and  Cap radioed  for  reinforcements.   Johnny and Roy quickly suited up waiting for his orders before going in. 

 

“Get in and sweep…Hopefully everyone was gone for the week end.”  He didn’t like the smoke’s color.

 

“You go to the left…Don’t go upstairs until we both do,”   Roy ordered.”  It  was a small  office  building  only  6  floors  with  air  conditioning units on the  roof.   The fire had  started on the  roof  so  they were able to  quickly  search the  first  3  floors.  The  smoke  was  getting  heavier and  the  doors  starting  to feel  warmer to the  touch.  They  came to the  fourth  floor  stair  well  just as  the  alarms  on  their  SCBA tanks  began  beeping.  

 

“Make it quick, Junior.”  They  opened  the  stairwell  door and were  surprised to see  two  men  sitting  on the  steps.  Quickly they gave the men their mask for some quick breaths.  A fast assessment showed no injuries but his breathing was labored.

 

“We sure are glad to see you guys.   Jake‘s having trouble breathing.  He’s got a bad cold.”  The younger of the two said as Roy took his mask back.  Johnny was checking the other man’s pulse and respirations quickly.   “I’m Mike.”

 

“You hurt any where? “ Roy asked.  He was also doing a quick assessment.

 

“Turned my ankle but its ok Jake had to rest a minute…”  The younger of the two stood up with a little help from Roy.  They started down but then Roy turned to see the other two still sitting.   He didn’t like Johnny’s posture as he stood up. 

 

“John, take some air.”  Roy ordered his partner frowning.” With a nod, he took several breaths then gave the mask back to Jake.  Johnny  helped  the older man  up and  they  started  following  Roy  and  Mike who  were  half  way  down the  stairs.

 

Johnny  was  walking  with  Jake  holding his arm to steady him when suddenly  Jake’s  knees buckled  and  his weight pulled Johnny  off balance. 

 

“ROY” Johnny yelled as he tried to catch the falling man.  Roy turned just as Johnny and Jake came crashing down the stairs.   Roy saw Johnny maneuver himself in front of the janitor and cushion the older man’s body with his own.

 

“Go…”  Roy told the younger man as he started up to the fallen men.  Mike hesitated a moment then realized he’d be helping most by getting out of the way.  As he started down the stairs, Roy was moving up to his partner and Jake.  His SCBA alarm began beeping as he reached the men.

 

He felt for a pulse and found one weakly beating.  Quick practiced moves checked for broken bones.  There was a knot on his forehead and some bruising but his eyes were now open and following Roy’s movements.  Carefully he moved the man off his partner.  He could hear the beeping of Johnny’s SCBA alarm. 

 

Johnny opened his eyes as he felt Roy’s fingers on his neck.  “I’m ok get him out,” Johnny rasped out.  His head hurt and his throat was scratchy and he needed to catch his breath.   He closed his eyes.

 

“Oh no you don’t Junior,” Roy muttered as he checked Johnny’s arms and legs.  Hearing a noise behind him, he saw two very welcomed friends.  “Marco, Chet… help Jake out…”    Johnny opened his eyes as Roy began to lift him into sitting position. 

 

“Just help me up, I can walk…”  Knowing  Roy’s  air supply  was  the  same as his  he  wasn’t  letting him  carry  him.  They made their way slowly down to the first floor.  By  the  time  they  got  to the  stairwell  door  Marco and  Chet  were   there to  help  them.    Johnny  was struggling to  stay  upright  and  soon as they  were  outside  he  gave into the  dizziness and  sunk to his  knees  gasping. 

 

“Get him on O2 6 liters.”  Roy  said as he  moved over to  Jake  who  was  on the  ground  with  an  oxygen  mask on.   His  cousin  was  sitting  next to him  talking  to him  trying  to  keep  him  calm. 

 

“Your partner ok?  He wouldn’t take the mask back when Jake offered it…Said Jake needed it more.”  Jake said something but Roy couldn’t hear what he said. 

 

“Yeah  John’ll  be  fine…Jake  you  lay  still and  let me  do my  job  OK?”  The older man nodded in agreement.  “Dose  your  cousin have any  medical  conditions  I  need to  let  the  doctor  know  about?”  He was setting up the bio phone.

 

“He’s got lung damage from when he was in the war and has had 2 heart attacks…bet he didn’t tell your partner that.”  He laughed.  “Says if you tell people that they treat you like an old man…He’s 57.”

 

“Rampart this is squad 51.   How do you read?”

 

“Loud and clear 51,” Dixie said as she motioned Dr. Brackett over to the station.

 

“Rampart we have a victim of smoke inhalation that resulted in a fall.   Victim one is a male 57 years old weighing about 200 pounds.  He has a history of heart and lung problems.  Vitals are…BP is 110/70 and pulse is 90.  He is currently on 6 liters O2.   No apparent injuries from fall on stairs other than a knot on his forehead.  He did not lose consciousness and pupils are equal and reactive.” 

 

“51 start an IV D5WTKO and continue O2 and transport as soon as possible.”

 

“Second victim is a male age?”  The younger man mouthed 30.  “Age  30  with no apparent  ill  effects  from  the  smoke  but  twisted his  ankle  coming  down the  stairs.”

 

“Transport with victim 1 as precaution.”

 

“Rampart I also have a code 1 who took in smoke and fell coming down the stairs.  Was slow getting up but is responding to O2.” 

 

“Would this code 1 be your partner by any chance?”  Johnny shot Roy a dirty look.

 

“Affirmative Rampart.”

“Bring him in for a check.”

 

“Roy I don’t need to go to Rampart…”  The start of a Gage rant that was quickly stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Chet take the squad and John into Rampart…Gage that’s an order.”   Cap watched as his youngest crewmember made his way slowly to the squad.  Chet said something and Cap was surprised at the angry look John gave Chet.  

 

Johnny was in treatment room 3 waiting for the therapist to come in and do the first breathing treatment.  Roy had  finished  with  Jake and his  cousin Mike and was  going to  check on  Johnny  before  heading  back  to  Rampart.   Roy was surprised to see   how upset his friend was.  It was more than the usual dislike of being in the hospital.  “Want to tell me what’s bugging you?   Doc  told me if  you hadn’t  kept  that  mask on  Jake  he  would’ve been  in  serious  trouble…his  right  lung  only  functions at  50%  and  he  was already  pretty  congested from his  cold.”

 

“He didn’t sound good…”  Johnny didn’t look at him but overhead or to the side.  “Chet’s waiting for you.”  

 

“Are you going to tell me why you’re acting this way?  You had to get checked out…is that the problem?  Look, if you don’t talk to me I don’t have a clue…”   Very tired and   more than a little frustrated, he couldn’t get the picture of Johnny tumbling   down the stairs out of his head.    Or, the one of the bigger man landing on Johnny after Johnny deliberately moved in front of him. 

 

“Do me a favor and let Lee know I’m ok and I’ll call her from home.”

 

“Ok,  I’ll  stop  by in the  morning  to give you a  ride  back to the  station  or  have  one of the  guys  bring the  rover  over.”

 

“Keep Chet away from my car…”  His  tone  was  cold  and  harsh sounding  even taking into  consideration  the  effect the  smoke  had  on his  throat and  voice.  “I don’t want him around any of my stuff.”

 

“Sure Junior…I’ll go call Lee…”  Anticipating what  Johnny was  going to say  from the  look  on his  face,  “And I  will make  sure  Chet  isn’t  around  when I  do.”

 

The therapist came in and Roy left to make the calls he needed.   First was to Cap to let him know they needed a replacement and then to Lee.  After a few words to Dixie,   he and Chet went back to the station.   Chet was his usual chatty self but Roy was only half listening.   

 

“…geez I never thought Gage would hold a grudge over something so trivial.” Chet droned on.   “It was an accident that it got ruined …”

 

“What was?”  Roy said looking over to Chet    “What got ruined?”    Suddenly Roy wished he had been paying attention.

 

“The  two pictures he had in his  locker…one  was of him,  Jenny  and Chris  and the other  one  was  him  and  someone  on a Ferris  wheel.…thought it  was  him and  JoAnne.  Anyway  since that  happened  he hasn’t  had  much to  say …He didn’t  even  get that upset  when  Cap  called him a twit  for  setting the pot  holders on  fire…when he  didn’t…”

 

It  was making  sense  to  Roy  now  why  Johnny had  been in  such a  bad  mood when  Chet was around.  The pictures had been taken at the Spring Funfest at Chris’ school.   Johnny had won a gift certificate to one of the local ice cream shops and had given it to the kids.  

 

Roy had snapped the picture of them thanking their Uncle Johnny.  The other was Johnny and Lee on the Ferris wheel.   They  had  been  teasing her all day  about  riding it  and  then when she  finally  agreed  to  ride it  with him  the  operator wasn’t  going to let her.   After some intense talking and Lee pleading with them, they had let her.  The picture had  been  snapped  just  as they  were  coming  down  from the  very  top.  It was the first picture they had taken together.

 

“And how did the pictures get ruined?”  Roy had an idea but wasn’t going to make this easy for him.

 

“A malfunctioning water bomb it leaked all over everything in Gage’s locker.”  Chet said looking and sounding contrite.   “The picture on the Ferris wheel was really soggy and fell apart when he touched it.”

 

“You know Johnny could file a formal complaint and Cap would be forced to send it to headquarters….They’re cracking down on that kind of horse play.” Chet’s eyes got wide and his mouth drew into a thin line under the bushy mustache. “The phantom better hope some down time will cool him off.” 

 

“He knows the phantom would never ruin anything on purpose right?  He  maybe a prankster  but he is  never malicious…I  really  did  feel  bad  but he  wouldn’t give me a chance to  explain…”

 

“Maybe he will cool down when I get him copies of the pictures.” Roy said understanding now why Johnny had been so angry.  He was very protective of anything to do with Lee. 

 

The next morning Lee went into work early.  She wanted to see Johnny and make sure he was ok for herself.   She checked to see what room he was in then went down.  She made it look very official and even had a folder full of papers and a clipboard. 

 

Actually she did  have  some  questions  for  him  as she  was  trying to  write a new  computer program.    The nurses  smiled and  said  hi  and  just  took it  for  granted she  was there on  hospital  business as they  saw her  going  down the  hallway.

 

Johnny had a mask on getting a final breathing treatment when she got down to his room.  The therapist was almost finished so Lee waited quietly.  She used the time to watch him and listen.  There  was a  bruise on his  cheek  and  she  thought he  was  squirming  as if  something  hurt  and he  couldn’t  find a  comfortable  way to  sit.  The therapist finished and gave him a list of do’s and don’ts.  Then with a frown looked at him…  “I’m  serious…you  need to do  the  follow  up  for at  least  a week…and  try  to  keep  your  mask  on…”

 

She looked over at Lee.  “Why when I come in and give him this lecture do I feel like I’m wasting my breath?”   She  gathered  up  the  rest of her  things and  left  not  waiting  for an  answer.

 

“Well, Mr. Gage, do you have time to answer some questions for me?”  Being very serious and business like as they brought his breakfast tray in.   The dietary aid nodded and quietly put the tray on the table.   Johnny was trying to keep a straight face.  As formal and business like as she was sounding he could see the laughter in her eyes.  She giggled as the aid left and Johnny winked at her.

 

“For you Miss Spencer, always.” He took the cover off his plate and made a face.  Runny scrambled eggs and limp toast and even limper bacon was on the plate.

 

“Marco was going to fix cinnamon French toast.   Man, if you weren’t sick before you would be after eating this.”  He put the cover on then opened the carton of milk.

 

“Well, considering you have the day off I could take the day off also…”  Lee said as she moved closer to him.   “There are some advantages to being the boss.”  She reached over and took his hand.  “Are you really ok?”  There  wasn’t  any  laughter  in the  green  eyes  now  only  concern.  “Has Kel been in yet to see you?   Roy said someone fell on you?”

 

“Yeah  this  guy  named  Jake…didn’t  tell  us  he had  some  serious  health  problems  including  bad  knees..One of them gave out on him and he kinda lost his balance and …”

 

“You put yourself in front of him so he would have something to land on beside concrete.”  Roy said as he came in.  “Cap sent me over with these and your car.  Dwyer’s getting the supplies.”  He had Johnny’s clothes from his locker. 

 

“You  guys had  three  more  runs  after  I  talked to you…everyone  had  crazy  runs  last night…Must  be the  nice  weather after all the  rain.”  Lee  watched  their  faces  trying to  see  if  there  was still  tension  between the  two.  Roy sounded better and didn’t seem upset.  In addition, Johnny didn’t seem angry or depressed.  Maybe Roy had just been tired and worried last night.   And  maybe she had  been  over  reacting …maybe it  was her  fears and  anger she had  heard in  Roy’s  voice.  “Roy, do me a favor…go shut the door and kind of pull the curtain…”  

 

“And why would you want him to do that?”   Kel and Joe Early came into the room.

 

“How’s the throat this morning?” 

 

“Lots better and my chest doesn’t hurt…” 

 

“”I  better get  going  Cap’ll  be wondering  what  took  us  so  long…See you Johnny…Call if you need anything  this  weekend.” He left before he started laughing.  The look on Johnny’s face when Brackett and Early came in was priceless.

 

“Any trouble swallowing breakfast?”  Kel asked as he raised the lid from the untouched plate.  His eyes narrowed and his mouth twitched.  It set off warning bells when Johnny didn’t eat.

 

“Yeah I couldn’t get past the looks of it…”   Johnny said in with a disgusted snort.  “A  person  could  starve to  death in here …”  As if to  give  credence to the  statement  his  stomach   rumbled  loudly.   “See you need to let me get out of here so I can go get some decent food.”

 

“Johnny  if  you  feel  up to it  stop  by my  office and we’ll  go over this  paper  work.  I’m only here for a little while I  have some  things at  home I need to get  done  today since next  week is the start of the  survey interview.  That  doctor is  why  I  wanted the  curtain  pulled  since I had  some  questions  that  could  be  considered  confidential information and  wanted to let  Johnny  have some  privacy.   Hope you feel better soon.   If you gentlemen will excuse me.”   She wheeled herself towards the door.

“I’m going to be out of the office most of next week so I really do need to see you…Kel don’t forget to fill out the papers I left you yesterday.”  With a nod and smile, she was gone.

 

“Ok, other than starving you got any complaints?  The  night  nurse  said  you asked  for pain  meds about  2:30  this  morning  for your  hip?”

 

“Yeah it was stiff and aching but the aspirin helped.   And when I get home I’ll get a good hot shower.”  Kel nodded and did a routine check. 

 

“Ok, by the time you dressed I’ll have the paper work ready for you to leave.  Just take it easy til your next shift.   Any questions or problems call…you know the drill.   And do the breathing exercises.”

 

Fifteen minutes later Johnny was up in Lee’s office.   She  gave him the paper he  needed to  fill out and  fixed  him a snack  from  the  stuff  she kept  for  the paramedics.   “Soon as you finish that pull the door shut and it’ll lock.  I’m  going  home…by the  time  you get there I’ll  have  breakfast  ready  …French  toast or  waffles?

 

“You don’t go to a lot of trouble I’ll just grab something and go on home.”

 

“No, I’m gonna fix you a good breakfast.  So which one waffle or French toast.” She gave him a look that said no argument. Cocking her head slightly her eyes wide.

 

“Waffles with strawberries and blueberries?”  He gave her a quick kiss.  “And whipped cream

 

“I was thinking more in the line of pineapple and bananas. “  She could hear the hoarseness even if he insisted his throat didn’t hurt.  “You sure you can drive ok?”

 

“Yes…don’t worry about me.”   He looked confused as she giggled then left.

  

 As she waited for the elevator, Lee let her mind wander.  Depending on how Johnny felt, she might have a long lonely weekend ahead of her.   It  was kind of  ironic  before  John Gage had  walked into  that office  two  months  earlier she  always  had  long  lonely weekends.  She just hadn’t realized it.  

 

She  had  thought  she  did a  good  job of  keeping herself  happy  and  busy.   Weekends had been a time to catch up with friends and housework.  She was proud of how little help she needed to keep the apartment clean and what a good cook she was thanks to Maria.  Maria who had  put  up  with all the temper tantrums  and  crying  and  feeling  sorry  for herself  days  that  first  year  after the  wreck.   Laughing to herself,  Lee thought if the  truth  be known  Maria had been putting up with her moods since the day  Jeff had  hired  her almost  15  years  ago.

 

The warm and there was a nice breeze.   Lee decided to set the table on the balcony.  Taking towels from the kitchen, she wiped the small table and chair down and   put place mats down.  In the center, she put a teacup full of pinkish faerie roses.   Each  week  she got  small arrangement  of the  flowers  from  Johnny  and  now  they had  hidden treasures  usually  a  silk  butterfly  but  one had a small silver  heart hidden in the  middle of the  flowers.    She looked at the bookcase next to the fireplace.  At  her  eye  level  was the  cups and  teapot  that had  held  the  flowers and  the  start of her  butterfly  collection.  She bit her lip looking sad wondering how many more she would receive.   It wouldn’t be long before Johnny would get tired of   hanging around with her.  Especially now the weather was getting nice and he could go camping and hiking.   She was going to miss spending time with him.  She  wheeled herself into her  room  and  picked  up her  hair  brush  to  put  her  hair into a  pony  tail.  It  was  getting  long  and once the  days  were  nice she’d have  even more  blond  streaks.  Having the  top  down on her  mustang  made it  easier to get the  chair  in and  out of the  car  by herself.  A red mustang convertible had been her dream car, except the one in her dream wasn’t modified with hand controls.    

 

Back in the kitchen, she washed   her hands and began cutting up the fresh fruit for the waffles.  She had  the  batter  setting  up  and  had  the  sausage in  the  oven  and the  bacon.   She smiled remembering the first time she had fixed bacon for Johnny.  He had never seen anyone sprinkle sugar on it and put it in the oven.   There  wasn’t any  orange juice  but she  didn’t  think  he would  want any as  irritated  as his throat had  sounded.  

 

Lee had  just  finished  doing the  prep  dishes  when she heard the  door  bell  say  me in  Morse  code.   She had  the  door  to the  apartment  open  so  she  just  kept on  doing  her  clean  up  and  going over things in her mind.   Syrup…she had forgotten to get any out.  She went over to the pantry shelves and found an empty bottle.   She knew there was an unopened bottle on one of the higher shelves.  Putting her brakes on   and using both hands pulled she up so she was standing.  Slowly  making  sure she had  her  balance  she  looked  for another  bottle of  syrup but  didn’t  see any.  She was so focused she did not hear Johnny come into the apartment.

 

*****

 

Johnny made good time getting over to Lee’s apartment.   The  forms  had  been  easy  since she had  filled  in  the  parts  she  knew and  like Doc  promised the  discharge  papers and his  return  to  work  order  for the  next  shift  was waiting at the  nurses’  station.   A few quick words to Dixie and he had left.   After  breakfast maybe  he  would  call the  station and apologize  to Roy  for his  bad  mood  yesterday. 

 

 He  decided  calling  would  be better than  going over  there since he  was still  mad at  Chet and  didn’t  want to deal  with that.  He was tired of all the questions and snide remarks from Chet Kelly.   And the  more he  ignored  Kelly  the more  pranks  the  phantom  came  up  with.    The last tactic Chet had come up with was the worst.  

 

 Making cracks about his mystery girl. ‘You so hard up for a date you had to invent someone?’ ‘The mystery girl hasn’t got tired of you yet? ‘Hey Gage, was it the mystery girl on the phone last night?’  ‘Have a good time on your days off with the mystery girl?’   Then it  started getting  personal with  cracks  like  “She  must  be a  real  dog if you’re  hiding  her.’

 

 The worst ever was when the water bomb ruined his pictures.  Roy had brought them to him and he had put them under some extra clothes he had there so they were away from prying eyes. He had planned to take them out to the rover but they had gotten busy and he forgot. Then he had forgotten to take them home.   He  could  still hear  Lee  squealing as the  Ferris  wheel  started  getting  higher and  higher in the  air.   Her adamant  ‘I’m  not afraid of  heights I  just  don’t  like  them.’  Remembering the feel of holding her tight and feeling her relax, laugh, and enjoy the ride made him smile as he waited for the elevator.

 

 

Johnny held his breath as she slowly eased herself back into the chair afraid if he made a sound, she would lose her balance.    “If you need something ask and I’ll get it for you.” He said once she was sitting down.

 

“Thanks for the offer but I can do things for myself.”   She knew he was only trying to help but she hated it when anyone made her feel helpless.   “I don’t need you scolding me like a child.  I know my limitations, thank you…”

 

“Sorry didn’t mean to sound like I was scolding you.   Throat is still kind of scratchy.”   He went over and kissed her long and deeply.  “And  sweetheart,  I  never  think of  you as a  child,” giving her that  crooked  smile  that  she  loved  so much.

 

That was the whole problem…she loved him so much it made her heart ache.  The  old  Gene  Pitney  song  must  be  true…only  love  can  break  your  heart  because hers  was  breaking.  She was ashamed at how sarcastic she had sounded. 

 

“I  know  you were only  trying to  help  and I  know  your  throat  hurts…I’m  sorry.”  The tears started down her cheek and she took a deep breath. 

 

“Don’t cry you didn’t do anything wrong…all you did was try to do something nice for me.”

 

“Don’t be so nice…you were being nice and I was mean and sarcastic and that makes it even worse because you were so nice…”  She was very flustered and embarrassed.

 

“I  never  saw  you  standing  up  like that  before…every time I  ever saw  you  transfer  I  was nearby so if  you fell  I  could  catch  you.”  He was being so kind and patient with her it was just making it worst for her.  It was almost as if she wanted him to get mad and fight back.   

 

“I‘ve had 6 years of practicing how to fall…”  Still not, ready to give up her pouting.  “Don’t you laugh at me?”   Her eyes were narrowed and her mouth drawn into a thin line.   Johnny  smiled  he had never seen her like that  before and actually  thought she  was  kind of  cute  making that  face.

 

“I’ll never do that…remember my promise?”  She nodded now feeling even worst. “I  was just  thinking  how  much  you  sound  like  me when  I feel like Roy’s  being  over protective.   Guess this is one is his pay back moments.  OK now?”  His eyebrows arched as he asked her and a small grin played at the corners of his mouth.  “Now what can I do to help?” 

 

“Look and see if there is any syrup….Do you want some eggs?”  She moved so he could look in the cupboard and would stop looking at her.

 

“There is a bottle of syrup pushed back …and no eggs…the ones from the hospital are still haunting me.”   He handed her the syrup after giving her a quick kiss.  He went over to the fridge and got the milk out.   “What do you want to drink?  Juice or milk…Soda?  Do you want tea or coffee?  Don’t think grapefruit juice would be good for your throat.”  She ladled the batter into the waffle iron and kept busy trying to regain her composer.  He  was  busy  putting  the bacon,  fruit and  whipped  cream and  syrup  on the  tray  along  with the  drinks  and place  settings.

 

“Milk is fine.”   He poured the milk then put the carton back in the fridge.  “You‘re almost out of milk…I can go to the store with you after breakfast if you want.”

 

“You need to get some sleep after breakfast.  You can sleep here if you want.”  

 

“You want me around?  Does that mean you aren’t mad at me anymore?”

 

She stopped what she was doing and looked at him trying to decide if he was serious.   “I was never mad at you, just frustrated with myself.  You never gave me any reason to be mad.  It was just my own bad temper catching up to me.”

 

“So why the bad temper?  Are you feeling ok?”   He sat the tray down on the counter and put his hand on her forehead.  “You don’t feel warm.”   He picked up the tray and started out to the balcony waiting for her to go out ahead of him with the waffles.

 

“I think it’s   all this mess with the interviews and surveys.  The press has  made some  comments and the  locals  down in San Diego  have made  counter  claims and it’s just  going to  keep getting  worst  until  the trial is  over…All we can do  is  try to do  some  damage  control…Keep the all the positive  aspects of the  program in view. Show the public that the problems in San Diego are the exception…” 

 

“Yeah it seems like they always want to hear the bad stuff…Wonder why?”  He was watching her closely as they talked.   Maybe it was just his imagination and she wasn’t trying to pick a fight with him. 

 

“So what do you want to do while I’m off?”  Johnny said as he finished his second waffle.  “I’ll grab some sleep and then we can do anything you want.”  He got up and started clearing the table.   They took the dishes inside and went into the living room. 

 

“I have got to get some work done…I need to make sure everything is ready for Monday….”   She  had a  bad  feeling  about  what  was  going to happen and  hoped  she  was strong  enough to do what  had  to be  done  for  his  sake.

 

“You said you weren’t mad but you don’t seem to want me around right now…Kind of confused here….”  Usually  she  transferred  over to the  couch  and  sat  next to  him  but  now she  just  stayed  in her  chair and that  worried  him. 

 

“No more than I am.”  She said.  “Don’t think because I made breakfast you owe me anything.  She saw the dark look in his eyes but didn’t know why.  He hadn’t told her about his childhood and his family’s throwing that he owed them for anything they did for him.  “You don’t have to hang out with me.”

 

“So what does that mean?  This doesn’t make a bit of sense…either you want me here or you don’t.”   Now he was the one getting defensive.  Was she playing some kind of mind game but that wasn’t like her?   That wasn’t the kind, caring, intelligent girl he loved.   He loved.  He had  never  thought  that about  any  girl…Besides  Roy and his family and Dixie he had never used the word love in connection with  anyone  except  his  parents.   Even all the girls he had dated and even the ones he had slept with there was never any mention of love.   “You can’t have it both ways, Lee.  Either  you  want  to  spend 

time  with  me or you  don’t.  If it’s  because of  work  that I  can  understand…but  this …it  doesn’t  feel  right…It  feels  like you are  trying to  push me away…Is  that it?  You don’t want to be the bad one who ends it?  But you’re tired of me now that you think I care?”

 

A cold gray feeling of emptiness came over him as he said that.  It  was the  same  feeling he  would  get  when his  aunts  would  tell him  how  useless and worthless he  was.  It was like a broken record playing in his head…the same words over and over.  He  could  see and  hear  his  uncle  telling him  no  one  would  ever  want  him  because he  was damaged  goods…He  felt the  pressure  building  behind  his  eyes and the  tightness in his chest.

 

“Is that how little you think of me?  That I’m  one of these empty  headed  girls  who   uses  people to  feel  good  about  themselves?   That  I plays  games  with  people to make  up  for  my own  short  comings?  God knows that list is long enough to give people a good laugh.”   Her voice was soft but full of hurt.  “I  have  cherished  every minute  we  have  spent together…You  are the  one  who  can make me  forget  all the  things  about  myself   I  hate.”   She  looked at him  scared of  what  she  was  going to say  but  knowing  it had  to be said.  “Look  at the  things  you love  most in  life then  look at me…I can’t  do anything  that  you love…maybe it is  better for  you  we don’t  see  each other except  at  work.”

 

“I am looking at what I love most in life…you.  What would you say if I said I love you?”

 

“That I love you too.   But  that  would  be a mistake  Johnny…you  deserve  someone  who  can  do  things  with  you and  help  make  your  dreams  come  true.   What do you want most in the world?”  She knew what the answer would be. 

 

“A family likes Roy’s.   It’s  funny  the other  day  Chet accused me of  stealing  Roy’s  life and asked  why I  didn’t get one of  my  own.  Now with you maybe…”

 

“No.   That is why  we  can’t  be together…If I had  ever  thought  it  would  turn out  like  this  I would have never  …I  love you so much  but it  wouldn’t  work …“I have been  trying to  find a way to  tell you I  couldn’t  see  you any more  since that  day  we spent  at the  school  festival…When you told me how  much someday  you’d  like to have at least  2  kids…maybe more…Then we  would  be  together and I  was too  selfish and  didn’t  want it  to  end…that maybe  you  would  change your  mind about  wanting  kids.”

 

“Because I’m a half breed?   Is that why you wouldn’t want a family with me?”  He was angry and hurt but even as he said it he was sorry.   He knew Lee wasn’t a bigot and that what he said had been mean and hurtful.

 

“No,  dam it,  because  that  wreck  didn’t  just  take  my  legs it  took away  all the  dreams I  had…including  being a mother  some  day.   Oh  there is a 10 to 20  per cent  chance  maybe I  could have  a baby  but  with my  luck I  wouldn’t  count on it  happening.”

 

Johnny sat there feeling as if someone had taken all the oxygen from the room, “Let me get this straight ok,   you love me …but because you love me you don’t want us to be together?   And Roy thinks I don’t make sense.” 

 

“You  aren’t  listening …We can’t  be together…it  wouldn’t be fair to you…and  after awhile  you’d  hate  me…I…won’t  kill  your  dreams… I will not do that to you. After the  wreck  for a long  time  that  was  how I  felt….Dead inside…nothing  hurt  but  nothing  made me  happy  either…Jeff  was hurt and I  was  so  scared of  losing him… When you  don’t have a  dream  you  don’t have any  hope …it’s  like your  very  soul is  dead…I  think  that is  what  people mean  when they say it’s  hell on  earth.   Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere and never will…any hope of anything getting better.”

 

“Sweetheart, you just described my life…until the De Soto’s took me in.   Now  there is Cap and  the guys, Dixie,  Dr. Brackett and  Dr. Early  they  wouldn’t  let me  live in that  empty  place  any more  But  most of  all there is  you  and I’m  not  giving us  on us.   Are you?”  He smiled.  “Who knows maybe I changed your luck.  But  even if  I  didn’t  you  changed  mine.  …I don’t use the word love easily…but I do love you.”

 

“I love you John  Roderick  Gage…so much it ….it  seems  like I have  loved you forever…since that  day  you came in here with those  faerie roses…You make my  heart  smile.”

 

“That’s nice to know…now no more silliness about us not being together?  We will just take each day as it comes and figure this all out… Not gonna promise you it’ll be easy…But I think you are worth it…we are worth it.”  His eyes never left her face.  They were dark and intense and challenging but extremely gentle.

 

“When you look at me like that I believe it is…”  She said with a sad smile.  “I  want it to  be true…I’m  scared…and I am  so tired of  being  scared…Scared  people  will  laugh at me,  scared of  not  being  good  enough…scared of  getting  hurt  by  what  people  think…most of  all  being  scared  of  being  alone.   Not the no one is home but me kind of scared but the no one cares feeling.” 

 

“I care.  And  you  were never alone because  there was always  people  who cared…your  uncles,  the Alvarez family,  your  friends.”  He stroked her cheek lightly wiping the tears away.   “I  won’t  say I  understand  why you felt  that way but I  know  what it was like when I  felt like that.  And you will never have to feel that way again.”  

 

He went over to her and picked her up.  Soon as she put her arms around his neck, she began crying again.   This time she  didn’t try to stop she buried her  head in his  shoulder and  let all  the  fear and  anger and  hurt  drain  away.   He sat on the couch holding her and rocking her softly. 

 

“You  keep  rocking me  like this and I’m  going to  fall asleep…for the  first time in awhile I  feel  safe…It  was harder than I  thought  it  would  be when  Jeff left for D.C. and  then  waiting for you to say you didn’t want to see me anymore.   I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t…”

 

“Now I am  going to  get mad if  you  don’t  stop  talking  like  that,”  he said  but the smile  and  look  he  gave her  took the  sting out of the  words.   “I told you I’m not leaving you and not gonna let you push me away.”   He yawned and she giggled. 

 

“What’s so funny?”  

 

“Nothing…just  feeling  safe and  happy…and  sleepy…Why  don’t you go into Jeff’s  old  room and  take a nap  and maybe I’ll get one  too…Then later we can go do  something.   I do not care what even if we just hang out here as long as we are together.  I have been dreading this conversation for so long…”

 

“You should have had more faith in me.”  He softly said as he kissed her.   “I  guess I  just  never  thought  you’d  think  that…here I  was  wondering  why  someone  like  you  would  want to  hang  out  with me.”

 

“Let’s  not  start  playing that  game  again  both  of  us are new at this …we’ve  got a lot to  learn  about  ourselves and  each other  at least I  do…so  let’s  just  enjoy  it and our  time  together.”  He kissed her letting her know he agreed.

 

“That’s my girl, smart and beautiful.”  He helped her back into her chair.  You go take a nap and I’ll be back in awhile.”

 

“Can’t you stay?”  She looked at him pleading.   “Please.”

 

“No I have some things I need to do…And didn’t you say you had some work to do?  After your nap?”

 

“But I’ll sleep better with you here, honest.”  She looked at him.  “Did anyone warn you I’m a spoiled brat?”  She giggled.  “I  promise  I’ll  try not to  be…It’s  just that I  was   so scared and  unhappy  and  now it’s  like  all that is  just a  bad  dream.”  She pushed herself towards the front door.  “Go home call me when you get there…Then call me again when you wake up, ok?   Besides being   a brat or maybe its part of it I’m very bossy.”

 

“I have never seen a person switch moods as fast as you have today,” he said laughing.   “Is this what the rest of our lives is gonna be like?”

 

“ No…yes…I  don’t  know…I  told  you I have been so scared and  now it’s like I’m  so happy…Is this what it’s like to be drunk?”

 

“I wouldn’t know…I told you I don’t drink.”  He kissed her and left. 

 

After  calling  Lee to tell her he had  gotten home ok  Johnny  went into  shower  then  laid  down.   Once his head touched the pillow he was asleep.    The last thing he remembered was thinking he wanted to take Lee somewhere special for dinner.  He couldn’t believe when he looked at the clock and it said eight thirty.  He had planned to be back over at her house by six.  He quickly dialed her number worrying she thought he had forgotten his promise to be back.  

 

After  Johnny  left  Lee  went  out to the  kitchen  to  finish  cleaning it.  As she  was  loading the  dish  washer  she  began  humming the  song  that had  been  playing in her  mind  for the  last  two  weeks  ever since she had  heard it  driving  home from  work. Gene  Pitney had  sung  only  love  can  break  your  heart  and that had  been  what she  kept  hearing  over and  over  but  now she  could  heard  the next  line…And  only  love  can  mend it  again. 

 

After she  finished in the  kitchen  she  spread  the  paper she  needed out  on the  dining  room  table and  began  making  up the  packets  she  would  need  Monday  morning.    She  had  been  given the ok, in  fact  encouraged ,to  hire someone to  work in  her  office  but she hadn’t  found  anyone  yet.   Maybe she needed to get more aggressive with the search.    Before she  realized it  she had  been  working  for  4  hours and  was  almost  finished  with  enough  packets to  get  thru   the  first  3  days…  She left the papers on the table and went into her room.   She  was  tired  but it  was a  good  kind of tired  not the bone  cold aching  tired she had  felt  for the  last  two  weeks.  She  decided a  quick  shower  would  be  great for her  back and  then  maybe a  nap.   She  hadn’t  told  Johnny  how  bad she had  been  sleeping  because  he  would have asked  her  why and  she  was afraid  to tell him.   Now she understood it would have been so much easier to just to talk to him.   By the time, she had showered and dried her hair it was almost 4:30.  She  laid  down  thinking  she’d  get up about  6 but it  was  after  7  by  the  time she  woke  up.  She checked the phone to make sure she hadn’t missed his call.

 

Waiting  for  Lee to  pick  up the  phone  he  was worried she would  be mad or  worst  think he  hadn’t  planned to call at  all.  After four rings, she answered.  “Hi sweet heart.”

 

“Hi sleepy head.  Glad you got some good sleep.”  She could tell by his voice he had just woken up.  

 

“Yep and now I am starving.  How about pizza?”  He had really wanted to go somewhere nice and romantic but it was too late now.

 

“OK  I’ll  call it  in and  make  us a  salad…By the  time  you  get over there it  should be  about  ready…That’ll be  quicker than  delivery.  See you soon   love ya.”

 

“Love you too,” he said surprised at how easy it was to say.  “Ya know… it feels almost as good saying as hearing it…”

 

“Yeah it does…and I plan on saying it a lot.” 

 

Lee had just started to fold the laundry when Johnny called.  It was 7:15 she was surprised he was up already.  He hadn’t left her place until almost two.

 

“Good morning …were you up?”  He was still a little raspy but not as much as when he had left her earlier that morning.

 

“Yeah I got up at 6 like usual…wanted to get some things done here …”

 

“Anything that can’t wait till tomorrow?  If it’s just house work I’ll come help you tomorrow.”  He laughed.  “Being a  fireman  you  learn to  clean  really  well,  especially if  you’re at  Station  51  with  Captain  Stanley.”

 

“I may take you up on that offer one of these days,” she answered relieved he sounded so much better. 

 

“I  was  thinking  maybe we  could  just  go down to  Venice and  hang  out  for the  day  or maybe  go over to Marina  Del  Rey …”

 

“Sounds wonderful…but don’t do it just because you think we have to go somewhere. Didn’t Kel tell you to get some rest?  We need to do what is best for you.”

 

“Spending the day with you is best for me.   Remember I’m the guy who loves you.   So, I’ll  be over about  10...Wear shorts  or  something  cool…but  bring  something  with  you in  case it  gets  cooler in the  evening.”  They talked awhile longer.  “Guess I better go get some things done…see you soon, love you.”

 

“Love you too…”    After hanging up she just sat there looking at the phone.  It was crazy   that someone as wonderful as John Gage loved her.   Just the sound of his voice sent a feeling of floating through her very being.  She quickly finished the laundry and went into change. 

 

 She couldn’t  wear  shorts…the only ones she  owned  were  very  short  and were  just  for  therapy  sessions.  With a  jolt  she  realized  he had  never  seen  her  legs   or the  scars  on her  back or  stomach.  Oh well he loved her and they were a part of her.  She  was  surprised  she  felt  that  way…she had  been so  embarrassed by the  scars  for  so  long..  That is  why  she  never  wore  anything  but long  skirts or  slacks  when any one  was around.

 

She  looked at the  sun  dresses  and  skirts  thinking  they  would  be  cooler.. Her new  skirt  was a  soft  green  with  a  floral  print  in  blues and  pinks and  she had a  shell  that  matched  the pink.   Her white sweater would go with it fine.   Before getting dressed, she used a lot of sunscreen on her arms and face.  It  didn’t matter how  much time she  spent in the  sun  she  never  tanned  just  got  red and  blotchy.   She gathered her hair into a lose twist with soft wisps framing her face.   A little mascara and some rose lipstick and she was ready. 

 

*****

 

Johnny was whistling as he gathered up his dirty clothes and put them into the hamper.  Lee had sounded really excited about their day.   He hadn’t  been  down to  Venice in a long  time  and had  been  surprised  last night  when she said  she had  never  went there.  She had  told him  about  traveling  with  Jeff  and  how  scared she  was the  first time she flew to New York after the wreck  alone.  But she had never been to a lot of the places around L. A.  …But then all her good friends seemed older and more settled. 

 

He checked  his  watch it  was  just a  little  before 8...If he  picked her  up  early  maybe  they  could  stop  for  breakfast.   Nana’s  Garden  opened at  8 so he  could  stop  by  for  some  flowers.   It was hard to believe he had been stopping their once a week for 2 months.   And that because he had stopped their first time Lee loved him.  Well, hopefully she loved him for more than that.   He frowned knowing before long they had to sit down and have a long serious talk.  But  he  also  knew it  would  be ok…she  loved  him  and wasn’t  about to  change her mind.  He had seen that in her eyes and heard it in her voice. 

 

“Good morning Johnny, you are out early on a bright beautiful day.”  Nana said   her soft West Indian accent giving the words a musical feel.  “Faerie roses for your lady?  With a treasure?”

 

“Yes…and maybe something extra special for a treasure this time?”  Johnny said as he looked at the items in the case.  

 

“Does she ever wear her hair up in a bun or a twist?  You told me it was   long and brown with golden highlights.”  As  she  was  talking  she  was  going  through a  box of  Victorian  hair  pins.   “Maybe this would be nice…”  It was a silver butterfly.

 

“It’s perfect…She said she knew she loved me the night I gave her the first faerie roses.”  

 

“And you?”  Nana smiled at the look on his face.  It was a mix of puzzlement and concentration and joy. 

 

“Took me longer but from the first time I saw her I knew she made me feel different from any other girl…Just took me awhile to figure out why.”

 

*****

 

Lee was just finishing putting what she thought they might need in one of her tote bags.  Her  sweater, a camera and  more  sun  screen , a  comb and some  lipstick in a  small  make up  bag.  She had keys and her sun glasses her id and some money in a small purse she could slip down beside her.  She heard the  door  bell  chime  me in  Morse  code and  smiled  as she  went over to unlock the  door.

 

“Do you make it a habit of being almost an hour early?” 

 

“No…but then if it’s you I’m coming to see…”  He bent down and kissed her.  “I might.”  She giggled as they went on into the living room.   “Like your hair up like that.”   He handed her the now familiar box.  “I bet you thought I had forgotten.”

 

She  carefully  opened the  box and  took  out the  lovely  porcelain  box  that  held the  flowers.  “It’s beautiful and the flowers …” She found the hairpin.  “Johnny its …it’s so beautiful and delicate…”  She was trying hard not to cry as she set it on the table.

 

“Maybe that’s why it’s so perfect for you.  Glad you like it.”  He kissed her and felt her stiffen.    “What’s wrong?”

 

“I just twisted wrong nothing to worry about,” she answered.  “It happens some time…Now shall we go and get you some breakfast?”

 

“”You’re sure it’s ok? “  He was in paramedic mode as he placed his hand on her back.

 

“Yes let’s   get some breakfast then on to our adventure.  .”  She started wheeling herself towards the door.  “Don’t forget the tote bag….Your car or mine?”

 

“Mine if it’s ok with you…unless you don’t like riding in it.”

 

“”It’s your back…if you don’t mind lifting me.” 

 

“Mind?  That just gives me another excuse to hold you.  Besides you’re lighter than most stuff I lug around…I’m a fireman I have lots of stamina…”  He gave her a smile, handed her the tote, and began pushing her.   “Any place special you like for breakfast?   Or some place on the way?”

 

“Let’s just drive until we see something that looks good.”    They  were  still  not  ready  for  Lee  to meet Johnny’s  friends  as a  couple  yet  but  for  very  different  reasons.   Johnny  wanted  to  protect her  from the  teasing and  snide  remarks about his  past  girl  friends and  failed  relationships  he  knew  would  happen.   Lee  don’t  want  to  face  the  looks and  comments  and  be judged  by  his  friends.   She knew Roy and Jo accepted her and the limitations…but would the others.   And  would  Roy and Jo  change their  minds  when they  found  out about the  other  problem?  Jo  had  been  telling her  how  great  Johnny  was  with the  kids and  what a great  father  he  would  make  not  realizing it  was like a knife  in her  heart.   Once  the  survey  was  done and  all  the  interviews and  ratings  sent  into  Sacramento…maybe then  they  could  tell Johnny’s  friends.   Or  in the back of her  head  was  that nagging   self  doubt  was  telling her  enjoy it  while it  last.  He’ll get tired of you quick enough.

The  board walk  was  crowded  but  Johnny  carefully  pushed her  chair  keeping   it  safe  from  the  joggers,  skate  boarders and  skaters who  seemed to think  they  were the only  ones  around.   It  was  warm  but  there  was a nice  breeze and  they  laughed and  just had  fun.  Lee had a collection of  stuffed animals  Johnny  had  won at the  various  booths  and had a wreath of   artificial  flowers he had  gotten  her  with  bright colored  ribbons  streaming  down.   They  were at a booth  where you  had  to  knock  down  cutouts  with a  stream of  water.  Johnny had just made a perfect score and won a huge teddy bear.    Just as  the attendant  handed  it  to  Johnny  Lee  saw a  Venice  police  officer walking  by. 

 

“Excuse me Officer?”  She called, as he got nearer.  Johnny looked at her frowning.

 

“Yes ma’am, can I help you?” 

 

“Could your station use a teddy bear for one of its children’s programs?”

 

“We  kind of adopted the  pediatric  ward at the  hospital and we  are  starting a  program    when  little  ones are in  accidents  we  give them a stuffed  toy  to  ride in the  ambulance with  them.” 

 

“Johnny is it ok with you?  I would like to give the officer some of these.  Not the  one  you  picked out  for  Jenny…and  not  the one  you said  looked  like  Henry.”

 

“I think that would be a great idea…”   He smiled that quirky smile and she blushed.  “Bet we could even have some more for him by the end of the day.” He extended his hand.  “John Gage L. A.  County firefighter/paramedic.  This kind lady is Lee…”

 

“I  thought  you looked  familiar…Your  station  softball  team  played in our  charity  tournament  last  fall…You hit the  winning  homer.   You people donated the prize money back to our charity.  Chad Jenkins.”   They shook hands.

 

“Barney, my friends here are going to leave some animals I’ll pick them up later.”

Johnny handed the teddy bear back to the booth attendant.  “The kids will love that.”  

 

“You ready for some lunch?  Any where you want.”  Johnny  asked as  Lee  gave him the  two  stuffed animals she  kept to  put in the  tote  and  handed the others to  Officer  Jenkins.

 

“No it’s where you want and it’s my treat and no arguments.”

 

I  think  your  lady is  use to  getting her  own  way, : Chad  laughed.  “The  Mermaid  Inn  across the  street has  great  steaks and  burgers as well as  seafood…And the  best pies in the  city.”

 

“Can’t beat that.   Thanks.”  Johnny and Lee made their way over to the café.   The old  fashion  pub  type  sign  had a  mermaid and sailor  drinking  from  mugs and  the  caption  said  ‘good  food  good  drink  good  friends’ 

 

They were seated in the courtyard where it was shady and there was a nice breeze.  They were surprised when they were given dinner menus instead of lunch.  The server explained they changed menus at four and it was 4:30.   He took their drink orders and gave them some time to look over the menu.  

 

“And  this  does  not  change the  deal,”  she  said  before he  could  protest.  “I get to spoil you for a change…”

 

“Ok …I like the sound of that.”  He held her hand tightly.  “Having fun?”  

 

“Yes…thank you for bringing me here.    Sometimes I  think I  don’t  go  places  because I’m  afraid of  not  fitting in…I hadn’t  been to an indoor  movie in years…because it’s  such a hassle  with the  wheelchair…Jeff or  Maria and Hector  or Eddie  would  take me  to the  drive in  if there was a movie  I  really  wanted to  see.    But you made it seem so easy and natural…”

 

“Good...So what are you having?  Our server’s on the way over.”

 

“The seafood salad with extra garlic bread.   Now the  pool is  open I can  eat more  bread and  junk  food  since I swim  every day.  What are you having?”  Changing the subject quickly.   It was going to be hard having Johnny see her in a swimsuit.

 

“The rib eye steak and shrimp…and extra garlic bread.”  She laughed.  “Why so sad looking all of a sudden?   You stopped laughing with your eyes.” 

 

“You pay way too much attention to me…Just thinking about something I have to do that I don’t want to do…but it’ll be ok.   I’m  glad  you’re  off this week  end…The next  2 or  3  weeks are  going to be really  busy…Tom and Will are  going to be here  Monday  thru  Friday  and  want to  do at  least  3 interview  sessions a  day…except on  Friday it’ll be all in  office and they  want to  leave here  by  12.  So that isn’t going to leave us much time together.’ 

 

After placing  their  order they  went  back  to talking  about  the  possible  time  conflicts  they’d  face  with her  hours and the  shifts he  worked.  

 

“If it  becomes  too  much of a problem I’d  quit…or  tell  them they have to let me  work  the  hours I  want.     And they pretty much let me do that now.   I have a few  strings I  can still  pull up in  Sacramento…between  my friends and Jeff’s and a few others  who  like  me.   But there are a few up there that don’t …”

 

“What’s not to like?” Before she could answer there was a crash and scream from the street. Johnny was up and over the small fence before Lee could react.

 

The three kids had been skating and laughing not paying any attention to the others around them.    The  two  men on  bikes were arguing  sports and  not  paying  attention  either.The  five  tangled  bodies  were  in the  middle of the  street. 

 

“Don’t  move  anyone  until  we  check  for  injuries,”  Johnny  said as a man  began  to move  one of the  skaters.  “That leg is broke and moving him has to be done easily and with it stabilized…”  The man backed off as Chad Jenkins came over to Johnny.

 

“Squad is on the way…What do you need me to do?”  Chad said as Johnny was checking the one of the skaters. 

 

“Can you get some ice and towels?”  Johnny yelled. This one has a  broken  arm and  probably a  broken  hand…The  guy over there has a  gash  I  think he  caught a  skate to the  head…”   …”    The  server who  had  waited on  Johnny  and  Lee  came over  with a bowl of  ice and  several  more  towels.   Johnny quickly put some ice in a towel and had the man hold it on the cut.  He  was  checking the  man’s  bloody  knee  when he  heard  the  other  biker  coughing  and  gagging.

  

“Help me turn him…keep his back straight…”  They had just turned him and Johnny was taking his pulse and respirations when the squad arrived. 

 

“Think the blood was from the cut on his lip…was gagging on it…”  He gave the paramedic the vitals.   And his assessment of the others.   “They  were  lucky  they  all had  helmets and  the  skaters  had  some  good  protective  gear.”

 

Once all the injured were on their way to the hospital Mitch Drake turned to Chad.

“Good job of triage…”

 

“Thanks to John here….I was just following his lead.   Mitch is the senior paramedic here in town.”  Chad said as he turned to start getting witness statements.

 

Johnny finished cleaning the blood off his hands and nodded at Mitch.  “John Gage, Station 51 out of Carson.”

 

“Thought high rise buildings and cliffs were your specialty?  I’ve heard some good things about you and your partner.”

 

“Nasty rumors…Just glad I could help.   Better let you get back to work and I think my dinner is ready.”

 

“Are you Ok?”  Lee asked looking at his bloody shirt and shorts.  She  shouldn’t have  been  surprised at how  good he was after  reading all the  reports  over the  years  and    having  heard him and  Roy  talk  about  their  jobs.  But it  was totally  different  watching  and  hearing  the  cries of those in pain he  was  helping.  “I  am  so  proud of  you….I …”  She  shook her  head and  took a deep  breath  trying not to  cry.

 

“Shush it’s…”  There was a tee shirt vender across the street.   “I’m gonna get a clean shirt…You ok to wait here?” 

 

“I’m fine…bet if you hurry you can get it and be back before your steak gets here.”  He had just left and the server came over with two new drinks.

 

“Your friend was pretty impressive out there…Is he a doctor?”

 

“No  a  paramedic …He went to  get a new  shirt since he  was all  bloody…Guess I have  been  around  paramedics and police  for too  long when  bloody  shirts  don’t  really  bother me  …at least  when its  someone else’s  blood.” 

 

“Your  food  will be  out in a few minutes…the  cook  had to  redo the  steak  he  burnt it  watching the  accident  out  there.”

 

Johnny came back in a clean t-shirt just about the same time the food came.  After  eating and  talking  about  lots of  general  things  Johnny  suggested they  head  home.

 

“I’ll take  you  home  then  go home and  get  cleaned  up  and  come  back over if  you  want…or if you’re tired?’   As they were walking back to the car.

 

“Sounds  good to me…Ya  know  maybe you  should  just  pack  some  stuff and leave it  over  at the  apartment?   There are two empty bedrooms…would save you some time and gas…” she blushed as she said it.  “I  don’t mean to  sound  like  I  expect you to  spend  every  free minute  with me…I  know  now  that it’s nice  weather you’ll  want to go  hiking and  camping…and  that you  do have  other  friends.”

 

“That’s a good idea and I also think when we get back we need to have a long serious talk about the future…”  To himself   ‘and   the past.’

 

 

 

Soon as Johnny, left Lee went in and took a quick shower.   The  water  felt  good on her  tired  back  and  she  could  feel  it  relaxing.  Once she  was  dried  off   she  put on a  tee  shirt and a  pair of  light  weight  sweat  pants.   She undid her hair and brushed it out.  It  was  damp  from the  shower so she  pulled it  back  into a  pony  tail  that she  twisted  up  off her neck.   She  then  went out  and made sure there  was  tea and  soda in the  fridge and  something she  could  fix  later for  a snack.   If  she  needed  she  could always  call  downstairs she  knew  that there was an  excess of  food  for the  party.  There  was always  an excess of  food  down there  so Maria  could  feed  whatever   number  showed  up.  Cisco was famous for inviting his fellow police officers over to his mom’s to eat.   He  thought of  Cisco and  wondered  how  he and  Johnny  would  get along…She  really  wasn’t  worried about it  she  knew  her  “big  brother”  would  be happy she had found someone to love and who loved  her.  She had just gone out on the balcony when she heard the doorbell.    She had unlocked the door so she just waited for him.   “Out here.”  She called as he opened the door.

 

“I wish you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked.”  He sat down the ice cream he had stopped for on the way over.   “Butter pecan.”  He went out on the balcony. He came gave her a quick kiss.  “Now or later for ice cream?”

 

“Whatever you want.”    She was watching the kids below.  “Johnny, are you sure?  I need you to be sure.”

 

“What I want is for us to be together.  What I want is to see you happy and laughing and us growing old together.”  He had pulled the chair out straddling it his chin resting on   the back.  “I want to know you are safe and loving me as much as I love you.  I want you to trust me to never stop loving you.”     She sat there without a word.  “You’re scared of being hurt…I see it in your eyes…but I also see that you love me…”    He stood up and went over to her.  “Let’s go inside and we’ll talk…All the questions and secrets…”

 

“Put the ice cream in the freezer please…”  She was scared and it was only going to get worst if they put this off.  “You want something to drink before we get started.”

 

She went in and transferred over to the couch while he put the ice cream away and grabbed some sodas.   He sat them on the table then sat down next to her and kissed her lightly.  “Ok this is either the end or the start of us being together.”  His voice was soft but firm.    “Ask anything you want.”

 

“Tell me about your parents…”  She was sitting at an angle so she could watch his face.  The mixture of pride and hurt in his eyes made her heart ache. 

 

“My dad was an engineer who worked for an oil company.  His family pretty much disowned him for marrying my mother.  Her  family  was  just as  angry  at  her for marrying  a  while man and  leaving  the reservation…I was 8  when he  was  killed in a  fire.  We lived here in California…”

 

“Is that why you became a fireman?”

 

“No  I  wanted to be a tiller man  since I  was 5...then afterwards I  wanted to be a rescue  man…After he  died  we  went  back to the  reservation in  Montana  and  it  wasn’t a  good  situation…My  aunts and  uncles  resented her  coming  back  with a  half  breed son…They  were…there  was a lot of  yelling and  when my  mom  wasn’t around  my  aunts were  quick  to  slap me  for  being a  burden and  trouble  and  worthless…After she  died  when I  was 12...she had  cancer…it  got  worst.   The  town and the  reservation  weren’t  exactly  one  happy  community…The  town  kids …and  a lot of  the  kids on the  reservation  saw  me as an  easy  target…And  there  was  some other  problems…I  stuttered  a lot  and would   just  sort of   go away…Sometimes it  was only a  few minutes,  sometimes  days  would  just  disappear…I  wouldn’t  remember anything  that happen.”  The tears had started and he closed his eyes.  “The worst  was my  uncle…He  was  mean  when  he  was sober  but  when he was drunk…He almost  beat me to  death…a lot of  broken  bones…and he  would  grab  me by my  hair and  try to  kiss me…and  touch  me…”  He  didn’t open his  eyes  but he  could  hear  her  soft  sobs  and  felt her  holding  his  hand  tightly.  “That’s when I’d go away…deep into my mind where it was safe.   Finally after he  almost  killed me  I  went to  live with my  grandfather  but  that  didn’t  last  long…my  dad’s  parents  refused to see me…but my  aunt  took me in and  it  got  better…but by  that time I  was a teenager…and  she  tried  but  I  couldn’t  trust or  let her  love me…She did her  best…She lives in  Europe  now…haven’t  heard  from her in a  couple of  years other than   Christmas  cards…guess she  tried  her  best and  got  tired of  being  rejected…”  He stopped and took a long drink of the cold soda.  He rubbed his forehead and temples as the memories ached in his heart and mind. 

 

Lee could see the pain in his face and hear it in his voice.  “Put your head in my lap.”  She moved around so he could be more comfortable.   “When I was little   and then after the wreck, Jeff would sit for what seemed hours like this.”   She began gently massaging his temples and forehead.  Brushing the thick dark hair back from his forehead.

 

“Roy  does  that  when I’m  sick or hurt…like my  dad  then my  mom  would do  when I  was  sick…sometimes  after I  went away I  would  wake  up to my  mom  doing  that  and  singing to me…Rocking me  and  talking  soft…”  He was quiet for a few minutes and she wasn’t sure if he was awake.  “Did you ever hear of Aspergers Syndrome?” 

 

“Yes.”

 

“Dr. Brackett  and  Roy  knew  something  was  wrong…They  both  knew  some of  what my  life had  been like…Doc  had   the  X-rays  from  some  new  injuries  but the  scars from the  old were there…Then after I was  kidnapped and  beaten  they  put  things together…I  didn’t  know  about it  until  then.  

 

The  department  knows  now  but  for awhile I  never  told  them…was afraid.   My  uncle use to  tell me if I  told anyone  they  would  think I  was dirty  and  never  want to  be around me…Roy and  Jo  went to classes to  help  me  …they  learned  a technique  called  touch  therapy…They  saved my  life…I  had  built  walls around  myself…didn’t  feel anything…seemed like  every time I  let  someone in I  got  hurt…If  Roy and Jo  hadn’t …  Dr. Brackett  and  Dr, Early, Dixie and  the  guys  hadn’t  cared...I …I  would be  dead…because no one would have cared if I  was  sick or hurt…most of all I  wouldn’t…”   She didn’t  say anything  because she  couldn’t find the  words or  find a way  around  the  lump in her  throat.   “I  have  been officially  diagnosed  with a  mild case of Aspergers  and with  Childhood  Traumatic  Stress  Syndrome  from  being a  battered  child.   Now you know all my secrets.”

 

“All that  and  you have  become  the  kindest  most  loving and  gentle  person I  have ever  met…Most  people  would have  given  up  or  became  so  bitter and  uncaring…” She touched his lips to keep him from interrupting.   “It makes the fact that you love someone like me even more amazing.”

 

He kissed her fingertips then held her hand tightly.  “You  keep  saying  that like I  am  doing  you a  favor  by  loving  you…I’m amazed  you love  me.   That chair doesn’t define who you are.  What  defines you is  your  loving  heart and  the  way  you care for  others…You  show  more  courage every day…You  think  we  don’t  see the  pain in  your  face  or the  way  you arch  your  back  when it  hurts?   That I  don’t  see  how  sad your  eyes  get  sometimes?  I want that to change.  Now you tell me about Leona Elizabeth Spencer.

 

“Leona  Elizabeth  Holbrook  Spencer…my  dad promised  grandpa  Holbrook  he  would  include  my mom’s maiden name in my  name…My uncle  Matt had  just  lost his  wife  when  my  mom  found out  she  was  pregnant with me.   My  dad had to go to  Paris  for  meetings…but he also had  some  leave time coming  he  combined them…Two  days  before they would have came  home  a  drunk  driver  hit  them…my  little  sister  was with them  she  was almost  4...”

 

“Why didn’t you go?” 

 

“I had the measles…I  was so mad  they left me…I thought  for a long  time it  was my  fault…because I  was so  mad I  told  my  dad I  hoped  he had a terrible  time on his  vacation…Jeff  did  everything he  could  to make  sure I had a  good  child hood…My  grandfather Spencer  owned this  building and  they had it  changed  from 4 apartments  to  2  bigger ones…He died a  few  months after my  parents.   I heard a  lady  say it  broke his  heart  when my  dad and  mom  died…A  social  worker  tried  to take me away  from Jeff  because it  wasn’t proper for  a single  man to  raise a little  girl…That’s when he  hired  Maria  and …I  wasn’t  very  cooperative  so the  school  suggested I  go to Westwood  Progressive  ….it  was a pilot  program  for  child  based  education…connected  with  UCLA…you  studied and  took  test when you were ready…That’s  how I  graduated when I was 13...and  started  college classes at  14...They  were  trying to  decide if  it  was  socially  beneficial  for  kids  who  were  advanced   to be with peers or  with those on the  same  educational  level.   I was great with the academic part socially I was a dud.  Then the wreck …I was even more a freak.  At least  when I  could  surf and  ski  I  had  something in  common  with other  kids  my  age…”

 

“You never call it an accident but the wreck.”

 

“Because it  wasn’t an  accident it  was attempted murder…A  drug  dealer  didn’t  want Jeff to testify so  they  waited  till he  had  picked me  up at  school and  shot him as he  was driving…we hit a car and a tree…He had  2  bullets in him…and I  was  sitting  sideways  with my left  leg  tucked  up  under me  arguing  that if I was old  enough to go to UCLA I was old  enough to  go to a party at a frat  house. ..Really smart wasn’t I?  A  16 year old at a frat  party…People  passing  by and a policeman  got  us  out  of the  car…Pulling and  twisting me…but they  saved our lives…If  there had  been paramedics  6 years ago ….standard  spinal  precautions…so that is  how I  got involved in  helping  pass the  bill that created  the paramedic  program and  why I am  still involved…”

She took a deep breath.  “Sit up please… They  kept  telling me  they  could  fix  my  knee…after  4 operations and  a lot of  broken  promises  they  decided  it  wasn’t  just  my  knee  but the  nerves in my  hip  and  back and  some  disc  were  damaged also  compounded  with excessive  scar tissue…After I fell too many  times in  therapy  they  decided  walking  was no longer a practical option  using  braces  and  a  walker just  wasn’t  an  option…The  tears and  resulting  scar tissue  makes it  very  unlikely I  could  conceive  let alone  carry a  child…”   She but her lip.  “So do you want to still be burdened with a barren cripple?   That’s how one doctor described me…”

 

The anger in his eyes frightened her.  Taking hold of both her hands, he held her tight.  “Don’t  you  ever use those  words  again…I  won’t  let anyone including  you  say    hurtful  hateful  things  about  you…”

 

“You love me in spite of everything…you really would give up your dream of a family for me?”      

 

“We’ll have our family…maybe  we can adopt or  maybe it’ll just  being  Aunt Lee and Uncle  Johnny  to  our  friend’s  kids…Do  you  trust me  not to  hurt  you?”

 

“With all my  heart and  love…I’m  not  so  naive to think their  won’t  be problems  and  we will never get mad at each other  but I  think  we can  work it  out  as long as we  remember  to love and  respect  each other…and be honest  about  what we are feeling…”

She bent down and pulled up her left pants leg.   “This is  why  I  wear  long  skirts and  slacks…The  ones on my  back aren’t as  bad or  the one on my  stomach…not  very  pretty is it”

 

“One of these days  I’ll  show  you mine…Honey  what I  love about  you  is  what ‘s in  your  heart and  mind…not  just that  cute  smile and  beautiful  eyes  so  stop  trying  to  find  fault  with  yourself,  ok”  He  grinned.  “The fact you’re a great cook doesn’t hurt.”  She giggled when his stomach growled.    “See what just thinking about your cooking does to me?   Seriously don’t ever think you aren’t   beautiful to me…and most others who know you would agree with me.”

 

“Thank you.” 

 

Lee was at Rampart in her office by 7:00 on Monday.  At 8:00, she and her bosses left for the first day of survey and interviews.   The fire stations were picked at random and no one had advance notice.   Tom  Clark  and     Will Fargo   had  estimated  each  station  visit  would  be about an  hour  long  but in reality  were  taking  closer to 2  if  they were  lucky  enough   not to be interrupted  by a  run.  So  far everything  had  went  well  and  no  major  concerns  had  popped  up.     They had been invited to lunch at Station 36.      Doug  Stone and Jay Cameron  the  Para medics  on  A  shift  was telling  Will  about a  MVA  the  week  before that had  ended  up with  2  squads  sending in  4  ambulances  to Rampart.    There had been several critical patients but all had survived.

 

“I wouldn’t have given the driver of that little sports car a chance in a million,” Doug said. “ There  was a truck  load of  steel  beams next to it  and  when the  load  shifted   they had  buried the  small car.    The guy wasn’t hurt that bad but trapped and that steel was shifting.  Looked  like a  game of  jack straws…move one  piece  the  wrong  way  and they  were all coming  down.  And the roof of the car was slowly caving in more.”

 

“How did you get him out?” Will asked.  “How could you without dislodging the supports?”

 

“John Gage…man  he  can  wiggle into places no one with any  sense  would  try…He  squirmed  around  until he  got this  guy’s  foot  free  then  crawled out  backwards guiding  this  dude…They hadn’t  cleared that  car  by  more than a  foot  when that  roof  gave  way.”  

 

Lee had turned towards Doug at the mention of Johnny’s name but had forced herself not to say anything.   Doug  looked  up as  he  was talking and  noticed  how pale she had  gotten  and  how as he  told  about  the  roof  crashing in she had  let out a  gasp. 

“You ok?  Looking a little upset, Ms. Lee.”   Stony  like most of the paramedics  respected Lee and the work she did  for the  program and  appreciated  the  little  extra  things she  did  for  them.

 

“I’m fine…just thinking about…”  She caught herself before she said Johnny. “…the wreck I was in…How things might have been different.”   After  lunch  they  went  back to her  office  for a few  minutes  then  onto the  next  station. 

 

 

Monday  morning  Johnny already in  uniform and  drinking a  cup of  coffee  when  Chet  got  to the station. 

 

“Cutting it a little close aren’t you, Chet?”  Johnny said as he raised his cup.   “Busy week end?”

 

“Can it Gage,” Chet growled.   “I suppose you and the mystery date had a wonderful time?”

 

“As a matter of fact, Chester B.  We did …A very enlightening one.”

 

“Roll call in 10 minutes.”  Cap informed everyone.  “John  got a  call from a  captain  down in  Venice  telling me  what a  good  job  you did  helping at a  bike  accident…Nice to hear.”   Chet watched as Johnny just smiled and nodded at Roy then hurried into change.  As the  others  started into the  bay  for  roll  call  Roy  put his hand  on  Johnny’s  shoulder.

 

“There’s a package for you and one for Lee under the front seat of the rover…you forgot to lock it again.”

 

“A package?  What kind of package?”  It’s not my birthday or any special day.”  He grinned at the memory.  “Friday was a really special day…and Saturday and Sunday.”    They went in and Johnny nodded as Chet came in last.   Announcements were made, assignments given out.

“Ok  the  state is  pulling  surprise  inspections and  interviews  to  do  some  sort of  survey on how  engine  crews and  paramedics  get along.  No one  knows  when  or  who will be  interviewed  but  I have a  feeling  we will be included  since  Roy and  John  were the first team  in the  field  when the  law  passed. ..And since they are on the committee…Roy anything to report?”

 

“No today is the first day…they are getting started sooner than they planned.  This isn’t a witch  hunt…The  purpose is to see what is  being  done  right and  help  those  stations  that  are  having  problems.   L a County was picked because we are doing thing the right way and have had very few problems.”  

 

As  soon as he  could  Johnny  went out to his  rover to  check  what the  package from  Roy  was.  It was 5 by 7 reprints of the pictures from the spring festival.   Jenny and Chris had signed theirs to their favorite uncle.   Johnny was surprised there were two copies of him and Lee on the Ferris wheel.  He  looked at the  picture  and  made  up  his  mind  about  something he  had  been seriously  thinking  about since Friday.

 

The next three weeks were really busy for Lee and she was tired and missing Johnny.   Monday thru Thursday, she was going on interviews and compiling survey results.  On  Fridays  she  did   most of the  paper  work  for the  week and caught  up on her regular  reports.  Johnny  had  been  busy  too  pulling  several  doubles as virus  had  been  hitting the  department  hard.  Chet  had  no let  up  on  his  quest to  find  out  who the mystery  girl friend  was and if she even existed.  

 

Johnny was the first one from a shift to arrive on Wednesday morning.  The  engine and  squad had  not  returned from a 6:30  run  so Johnny had  made a fresh  pot of  coffee and was sitting there  reading the paper when  Cap  came in.  “You pull another double?”

 

“Nope  was  just  up and  ready  early…It  was too  pretty of a  day to  stay in  bed.”  He poured his captain a cup of coffee.  “It’s amazing how good you feel after a couple of   hours of sleep.   No dreams you can remember, no nightmares just good peaceful sleep.”  Slowly the others came in and for once, it was Marco who got there last.  He had  gotten  caught in the  traffic  jam  from the  accident  the  station  was  working.  

 

“They should be back here in about 10 minutes the clean up was almost done.”  Marco said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.   Roy was watching Johnny who was even more hype than usual.   He  was trying  to avoid  Chet  who  was grilling him  about  his  day off and  did he  spend it  with his  mystery  girl.( Roy  knew the  answer was  no since she  was  busy working.)  The  questions  made  John  glare and  frown  but he  didn’t  say  a word.  The looks and the non-answers just pushed Chet farther in his grilling.

 

“Can it  both of you…you  twits are giving me a headache…John  start on the  dorm…Chet  go pick up the  trash out of their yard…you can  trim the  hedge  and  mow.”

 

“Cap I need to go out to my car before I start the dorm…”  Johnny said looking contrite.  He hadn’t meant to cause Cap any trouble.  It  was  just he  needed to talk to Roy  and  Chet  had  been  hovering  and  picking at  him.

 

“Go but make it fast.”  Hank shook his head wondering what was going on now.   For the last several weeks, he had noticed a change in Johnny’s behavior.  He  was  still  full of  energy and  the  silliness (that  sometimes irate  but  usually  made him  laugh)  but there  was  something  different.   He  seemed  more relaxed and  less  likely  to fly  off  in a  huff at  Chet’s  teasing.   He just seemed more mature…Maybe that was it.

 

Johnny went outside and checked the package he had under the seat and then made sure the rover was locked.  He went  back in and made  quick  work of  changing the  sheets and  sweeping and  mopping the dorm  then  went out to help  Roy in the apart us  bay.  It was a little after nine when the engine and squad returned.  Dwyer tossed the keys to Roy and headed for the shower.   His  partner just  went  on into the  locker  room to  change after  talking  quickly  with  Roy.

 

Roy  and  Johnny  quickly  began the morning  radio  check and calibrations and  did an  inventory  of  needed  supplies.   They were low on several things so Roy went into o the office.  “Cap,  we’re  gonna make a supply run…shouldn’t  take  long…The  ER  was  pretty  crazy  earlier  but  should  be calmer  by  now.”

 

Soon as they pulled out of the drive way Johnny began talking about Lee.  He hadn’t  seen  her  for  3  days  but had finally  gotten to  talk  with her.   Friday she was taking the day off and they were just going to hang out at her apartment and pool.

“She  said the  interviews and  surveys are  going  good  that the  biggest  problem  was  some of the guys  took the horse play  too far  and  at  Harbor there were a few  of the older  doctors who still have an attitude problem…”

 

“How close are they to being done?  They’re already a week later than they thought.”

 

“She didn’t say.  We  didn’t talk  for  long  and  she  is  really  careful about  confidential  information…She  sounded really  tired…Jeff is  coming  in  to  visit   on  Sunday.  He has a  few things he  needs to  do…its  perfect  timing…I  need to talk to him…and to her Uncle  Matt…but I’ll have to  call him.”  Johnny let out a deep sigh.  “Lee  calls  him  every  week and she has  told  him  about  us  dating  and …that  she  loves  me.”

 

Roy laughed and Johnny looked hurt.  Realizing what his crazy partner was thinking

Quickly he explained.  “You sounded so surprised…Junior anyone who sees you two together knows that.  And?’

 

“I  love her…Soon as  this  stuff  with  Sacramento is  over  I suppose  you already  knew  that.   I just hope Chet’ll keep his mouth shut.  She worries about what people think too much.  Guess  that’s  because of  how  some people  treated her  when she  first  got  hurt…and  because  she  felt  like an  outsider  growing  up.”  He looked serious for a minute then smiled.    “I’ve got something to show you out in the rover…when Chet or the others aren’t around…”

 

Roy listened and nodded knowing Johnny really wasn’t expecting him to answer.  He  really  was  happy  for his  friend  but  couldn’t help  but  wonder  how this  was  going to  end.   He  and  Jo  had watched  them together with the  kids and  it always  seemed as if Lee  was  uneasy  and unsure  around them.    What if she didn’t want kids?  What if  she  didn’t  want to  share Johnny’s  time  with  him and  his  family?  He remembered how hard it had been at first for Jo.

 

“Did you hear what I said?’  Johnny’s question broke through Roy’s thoughts.  “I’ve asked you the same question twice.”

 

“Sorry I was thinking about something Jo said.   What was the question?”

 

“Never mind.  It wasn’t that important.”  They were pulling into the parking lot at Rampart.   “I don’t think she is here…they were going to try to do 3 interviews today.”   Her car wasn’t in its usual parking space. 

 

The  ER  was  fairly  quiet  so it  did  not  take  long to get the  supplies.    Dixie and  Dr. Bracket  were at the  base  so  they  talked a  few  minutes  before  going back  to the  station.

 

They  had  just  gotten  back  to the  station  when they  received  a  call to a  nearby  school  to  treat a  child  who had  fallen  from a swing.  The  7 year old had a  broken  wrist  but  was in  good  spirits and  excited about  riding in the  squad.  Johnny rode in with him and they were soon on their way back to the station.   Johnny told Roy he had promised the boy a tour of the station and that he and Roy would sign his cast.

 

Roy answered the phone.  “Station 52 Fireman/Paramedic DeSoto speaking.”

 

“Oh I’m glad it s you…We will be there in about a half hour…Let Johnny know I will behave…”   She giggled   “Tell him I promise.

“Can I tell anyone?” 

“You really shouldn’t…but you might want to let Cap know just so the phantom hasn’t left any unpleasant surprises.”

 

“Ok…thanks.”  He hung an up going over to the office.  Cap was working on the pile of papers that never seemed to get smaller.  He knocked on the door and Cap waved him in.

 

“What’s up, pal?”

 

“A friend  just  called…you might  want to make  sure there isn’t  any  leftover  phantom  attacks  lurking  anywhere.   But you can’t let anyone know why…”

 

“Thank your friend for the warning.”  They left the office.  “Chet”

 

“Yeah Cap?” 

 

“There better not be any nasty surprises around…I’m in no mood to hear any splats.”

 

“Sure Cap.”   Roy went out to find Johnny who was washing the windows out back.

 

“They’re on their way over here to do the survey and interview…Lee said to tell you that she’d behave.   She seemed to think that was terribly funny.”

 

“Squad  51  illness  6790 North  Griffin  Park   6 7  9 0  North  Griffin  Park  cross  street  Williams  Way…time  out  15:45.…”

 

When  the  squad  reached  the   address  they  were  lead to a shelter  house  by a  very upset   lady  in her  early  70’s.  

 

“I  told  them it  was a  bad  idea…but they  wouldn’t  listen  and  now  my  husband  can’t  catch  his  breath…”

 

“The  fools  decided to  play a  game of  tag…they  were sitting here  talking about  how  kids  today  never  play  the old  games…”   Another lady about the same age continued as they set up the equipment.

 

Roy  knelt in front of  a  man in his  mid to late  70’s  who  was  breathing  heavily.  ‘I’m  Roy  and this is  my  partner  John…we’re  gonna  check  you out and  see if  we can  get you calmed  down.”     He got the vitals and Johnny relayed them to Dr.  Morton.

 

Dr.  Morton ordered an IV for them to transport as soon as possible.    Johnny took the squad in while  

Roy rode with the patient.   Johnny was hoping it didn’t take long to get back to base.  He wanted to see Lee even if he had to pretend  they  were  just  casual  friends.,  He  was  worried about her  how  tired  she had  sounded.   He  knew  her  back  and  legs had  been  hurting  pretty  bad  from all the  transferring in and  out of her  chair  and  getting in and  out of the  car.   And he still hadn’t shown Roy the package in the car.

 

Lee had gotten up early so she could spend longer in the shower.  I t had been good to talk to Johnny finally   and make plans for Friday.   She had twisted wrong   getting out of the car last night and could really tell it today.  Friday  she  was  finally  going to  get to  swim and  relax…When  she  went to the  closet  she  saw  nothing  she  wanted to  wear.  Everything looked too dull and drab.   But the truth is known that is how she felt.   She  found a short  sleeved  man  tailored  blouse and  her  navy blue  skirt and  jacket.  Jeff always called it her little old lady from Sacramento outfit.  She had gotten it to look older for a meeting at the state legislature when she wanted to look official.  Since the  outfit  was  so  drab and  it  fitted her  mood  she  put  her  hair  up in a  French twist.  Now she not only felt old and dull she looked it.  She didn’t woven bother with any make up accept a light lipstick.   The  morning  went  well  and  at  1:00  they  stopped for  lunch  then  went on to the  next  station.

 

“I think we have all we need except for Station 51.   Dr. Brackett wanted us to be sure to see that station when a shift was on duty.   If we finish them today …I may ask   to do a ride along with them…”   Tom said as they went were gathering up the papers

 

“The chiefs at HQ would have to ok that…”Lee said quickly.   She had no idea they had even considered that.  “Why them?”

 

“We  keep  hearing about  the  paramedics on that  shift…several  captains  as well as  crew members from other stations  have mentioned  them.   Several of the  captains  have  even  said they are  one of the  best if  not the  best  team in the  county  or  even the  state.”   Lee bit her lip to keep from saying anything.  “I keep hearing how well they communicate almost as if they read each other’s mind.”

 

“Aren’t they on your advisory committee?”  Will asked.  “I’m sure you have an opinion of them.”  

 

“I’m keeping my opinions to myself, gentlemen…Shall we order?”  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry or laugh   at this point.     If  you  excuse me I  need to  make  a  phone  call.   She  went into the  station  office and  asked to use the  phone  and  that it  was a business  call and  would be very  quick.   The cap smiled and told her sure and left to give her some privacy.  Thinking to herself,  well it  was  kind of  department  business she  justified  the  white  lie she had  just  told.

 

Johnny and Roy pulled into the bay just as Lee was pulling into the parking lot.  Tom  got  out  and  took her  wheel chair  from  the  trunk  and  held it  while she  transferred to  it.

 

“Good timing junior.”  They  went in  Johnny  swallowing  hard at  being  so  close to her and  having to  pretend they were  just friends  from  work.

 

“This is Miss Spencer and Mr.  Clark and Mr. Fargo.   They will be asking you questions individually and as a group and we’ll do our best to answer their questions.   Miss  Spencer  works  for the  State  but  her office is at  Rampart and she heads the  advisory  committee that Roy  and John  are on.”

 

“Lee  tells  everyone we are her  bosses  but in  truth  she is  the one who  does  all the  work and  tells  us  what  we  should  think….”  Tom said giving her a nod.  “While Will and I talk with your captain and look around Lee will start the interviews…”

 

“Since it is  getting  late I  am sure you need to start thinking  about  dinner   so perhaps instead of  using  the  kitchen there is another  table we  could  use?’ 

 

“What about the table in the day room?  The one they use for puzzles?”   Mike Stoker suggested.” 

 

“That would be fine, thank you.”  Lee smiled at him as she began moving towards the other room. 

 

“Thank you for your  consideration…Marco  why  don’t you take  the  box of  forms into her  and gentlemen  if you’ll  follow  me…” 

 

Johnny went to the fridge and pulled out a soda.  He fixed a glass of ice and took it into to Lee.    “Thought you might need something to drink.”

 

“That’s very kind of you…”  Noticing Chet watching she smiled at him.  “John  has  bee4n to  enough  meeting  at my  office to know I  usually  have a soda  at  hand.”   Johnny and Chet left

 

“Yeah  he’s  thoughtful  that  way,”  he  said with  just a  hint of  sarcasm  in his  voice.

 

“…There   will be no names associated with the report and a copy will be sent to your captain as wells LACFD headquarters.  Actually  you will receive two  reports  one  just  concerning  your  station  and one  an overall  report  that will also be sent  to members of the  state  legislature.  Well Mr. Lopez, it seems you get to be first.”

 

There was a break between interviews so Lee could make notes and set up for the next interview.  All was quiet.  Roy and Johnny were with Cap and the two from Sacramento.   Chet, Mike and Marco were in the kitchen. Chet was watching Mike cut veggies as Marco browned and seasoned the meat for tacos.   “Gage is up to something.”

 

“What makes you say that?”  Mike said   with a shake of his head.  “He seems pretty normal to me.”

 

“Those are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence…Gage and normal.   He is  being too  quiet  about this  mystery  girl…I  think  if  she  does  exist  she  must  be someone he  doesn’t  want to  be seen in  public  with…maybe it’s  someone mousy   like  that  girl in the  wheelchair.   She looks as if she’d faint if you said boo to her.”  Chet laughed at his own sense of humor.  “Can’t you just see Gage with someone like that?  Or maybe she is so dumb…some ditzy blonde…that is if she even is real.” 

 

What  they  did not  realize is that  Lee  could hear  every  word  Chet  was  saying and  it  was  hard  not to  scream at him  to  shut  up.   Now  she understood  why  Johnny  had  not  wanted  her to  meet the others…Was he  ashamed of  her  after all?  Mousy…like that…girl in the wheel chair... No matter  what she  did  that  was  how  she was  perceived…She  blinked  back the  tears and  called  for  Mike to  please  come in.   She  did  not  want to  deal  with Chester B  Kelly  right  then…she  could  not. 

 

The interview went well and she had to face Chet.   Will and  Tom  would  do the interview, a more in depth  version,  with  Captain  Stanley  and she  would  do  the  paramedics  when they  finished  with Cap and the others.  Her head was splitting and her stomach churning when Chet came in.   She asked the questions keeping her tone as neutral as possible.   Where she had  talked  with the others  about  family and  interests  outside the  job  she  kept unit  very  low  keys and  almost  robotic  with  him.

 

“Man  that’s one  cold  fish,”  Chet  said as  he  went  back into the  kitchen and sat  down.  “I think if she smiled her face would crack.”

 

“That’s  funny  she  was  really  nice and  friendly  when  was in  there…she  made it  more like a conversation  not  just official  question  and  answers.”  Marco said.

 

“Yeah  we talked about  how  what I see here  carries  over into the  community and  how  I  thought  we  could  improve  the  ways  the  public  see  us…Asked me  what my  biggest  concerns  were  …”

 

“You  got to be  kidding…she  sat there  looking at the  paper never  smiling  and  using this  mono tone  that almost  put me to  sleep…like I  said a  cold  fish.”

 

Roy  went in  before  Johnny  and  soon as he  saw her  knew  something  was  wrong.

“Not going well?” 

 

“It’s going great…everyone here likes and respects one another as people and friends as well as co workers.”

 

“You  and  Johnny  make a good  pair…he is a terrible liar  too…and  why  he is  such a bad  card  player.”

 

“What?”  She looked confused.  “Everyone here does like and respect each other.”

 

“Then why do you look so upset?  You don’t think Junior is gonna see that?’  Before she  could  think of an  answer  Roy  heard  what had  her  so  upset.  Chet’s voice calling her a cold fish.  Roy ran his hand through his hair and looked at the hurt and shock on Lee’s face.  “Lee doesn’t…”

 

“I  can’t  face Johnny…not  yet…I don’t  want to  cause him any  trouble…he and  Chet  are  friends in their own  strange  way…I  know  from  what you  told  me about  how  Chet  does  when  Johnny is  hurt or  sick..And how Johnny was when Chet got those cracked ribs…You got anything in that magic drug box for a headache and upset stomach?”

“Not that I can give you without doctor’s orders…but I do have some aspirin in my locker.”

 

“Can I have about 4 please?”

 

“No you can have 2...Didn’t any one ever tell you they are bad for your stomach?”

 

“All the  time…Roy  when Johnny  comes in here…make  sure  Chet isn’t…isn’t  being  Chet,  please,  I  don’t think I  could  handle  that right now.”

 

“You  shouldn’t have to …” He was  angry  and  knew  that  Johnny  would have a  hard  time  controlling his  anger.  After all these months of protecting her from Chet for this to happen. 

 

“Give me  10  minutes and  send  him in…oh  and  if  you  want you can  fill out  this  form  but  we’ve  pretty  much  covered it all in the  meetings and  our  conversations.”

 

Cap saw Roy coming towards the office and saw the look on his face.  He excused himself and went out to his senior paramedic.  “Problem?”

 

“Not one I  can explain…Cap  can you  find  something  somewhere in another part of the  building or  outside while  Johnny is  doing his  interview.   Just keep him out of the kitchen and day room area.”

 

“What has that twit done now?   I know you can’t explain.”   He  gave  Roy  a  pat on his  shoulder and  went  out  to talk  with  Chet.   

 

“Hi there.”  Johnny came in and gave Lee two aspirin.  “Roy sent you these.   You ok?”

 

“Just tired and have a headache…anything you need to add to my report?”   After looking around, he held her hand.  She  slid  the  questionnaire   over to him and he  laughed  when he  saw  what  she had  written  on it…”I  LOVE  YOU  BUT THAT’S OUR SECRET  FOR  NOW!!!!!!!!!. 

 

“Yeah I agree totally…but that’s a problem we’ll have to find a solution for soon…Hopefully the next meeting.”

 

She folded the paper up and put it in her purse and thanked him for his   time and helpful input.  She  wheeled herself  into the  kitchen where Captain  Stanley  and the others were  talking  sports  and  just  waiting  for her to  finish. 

 

“I  think  we  should  get out of here and  ;et these  gentleman  have their  dinner in peace…hopefully  no  SCU’s  til after  dinner…Again  thank you all it  was  very informative.”    Lee said as she smiled at Cap and the others.  She was glad to see Chet wasn’t around. 

 

“Johnny  why  don’t you  carry out the  box  for them and Marco  go  tell Kelly he  can  come in and  clean  up  for  dinner.  Roy can you come into my office please?”

 

Roy went in and was surprised when Cap gestured for him to shut the door. “Have a seat.”   Roy sat down.  “That’s her isn’t it?”

 

“Who?  Lee is the project manager we’ve been working with.”

 

“That is who called to warn you about them coming because she was worried about the Phantom and John.   That is the mystery girl that has been driving Chet crazy.”

 

“What makes you think that Cap?”

 

“They  look at  each other the way  my  daughter and her new  husband  do…The  way  Em  and I  look at  each  other and the  way  you and JoAnne  look at  each other…Do I  need any  more  reason  than  that?”

 

“No.” 

 

“Does this survey have anything to do with them not telling anyone?”

 

“Lee didn’t

 

“Lee  didn’t  want  their  relationship to  have any  input on  what  rating  the  station  gets…she  does the  collating and  reporting  the  guys  from  Sacramento  take her info and their  impressions and  rate us.   If we do well it’s because of us if we do badly it’s us not her.” 

 

“Any other reason?”  Roy shook his head.  It was not his place to tell Cap or anyone what Lee had said.   He just  hoped  that it  could be  cleared up  without  causing  problems  for  Lee, Johnny  or the station.  

 

After  leaving  the  station  Lee went  back to her office and  worked  until  after  10 on  finishing  up  everything  to  send to Sacramento.   Will and Tom  would  pick  the  finished  project  up in the  morning  then  go on  home.   She was spending the day with Johnny at the apartment’s pool.    He was coming over for breakfast and they would have the whole day together.   She hadn’t been home long when the phone rang.

 

“Hello.”

 

“”Are you ok? Where have you been?”  Johnny said his tone telling her how worried he was.    “I’ve been calling since 7...Had just about decided to call Maria and Hector to go check on you.”

 

“Sorry I worried you…I wanted to finish the report so they can take it back to Sacramento…It’s done and I am so glad.   Please don’t be angry with me.”

 

“You shouldn’t have been there that late.” 

 

“My  door  was  locked and the  security  office  knew I was  there…Tim  walked  me to the  car and  made  sure I  was ok…I  love you  and  appreciate  you  worrying  about  me.”  

 

“I love you; of course I worry about you.”

 

“Good…now go get some good sleep…I’ll see you about 8:30?”

 

“Probably closer to 9...Night.”

 

As soon  as   he was  dismissed  Johnny  left  and  went to  Nana’s  Garden.  When he came into the shop,   Nana smiled and greeted him by name.

 

“I  need  something  extra  special  this  time  Nana…About  twice the  size of the  usual  bouquet  and in something  special…with  this  hidden  in  the  flowers.”  He handed her the package from the rover.

 

“This will make your lady very happy…I have the perfect thing…”   He  looked around  the  shop  while  she  went to the  back and  fixed  his  bouquet.   It only took her about 10 minutes but to him it seemed as if it was hours.

 

She handed him a  beautiful  heart  shaped  porcelain  bowl  filled  with  3  dozen  faerie  roses.    “You’re right it is perfect.”

 

Lee had gotten up about 6:30 and began making sweet rolls.    While the dough was proofing she cut up fruit and veggies.   The  vegetables  were for his  omelet…green and  red  bell  peppers and onion  and  finely  diced  celery .   She would sprinkle it with a blend of cheeses he liked.  The  bacon  was  ready for  the oven  the  brown  sugar  sprinkled on it  just as he  liked it.  She  got her  kitchen  cleaned and  set the  table  with  her Grandmother Holbrook’s  china  and  glasses and  silver.     She  laughed to herself  when she  didn’t  put a  center  piece on the  table…she  was  getting  spoiled…expecting  a  bouquet  from him.   She went in, showered, and dressed.  She  put on her  new  swim  suit  and  the  matching  wrap around  skirt.   She  was  a little  worried  what  he  would  think of the  scars  but  it  was  something  she had to  face  sooner or  later.   It  was one  thing  to see them in a dimly  lit  front  room  but  another  to see  them in the  bright  sunlight.   That nagging part of her mind that was afraid to be happy was trying to ruin the day.

 

Johnny rang the doorbell then waited for the elevator.   As he opened the apartment door   he called out, “It’s me.”  He put the flowers on the table by the door.

 

“I’m in the kitchen.”   She turned as he came into the room.  “Good morning luv.”

 

“Good morning.”  Looking at her critically.  “Your head ache better?  And did you sleep well?”

 

“Yes to both questions.  Did you have a good night?”

 

“Yep only one run and it wasn’t that bad.   A girl tripped over her boy friend’s dog and broke her ankle.  Smells good in here.”  He bent down and kissed her.  “Anything I can do to help?”

 

“Pour the juice and your milk…Do you want coffee?”

 

“No coffee thanks I had 2 cups at the station…The table looks pretty…”  He poured a large glass of juice for her and a small one for himself and a large glass of milk.   You want some milk?”

 

“No thanks…ok soon as your omelet is finished we can eat.”

 

“Where are your eggs?  Did you have dinner last night?”

 

“I ‘m  eating  fruit and  yogurt  and  granola…and I  had  a  sandwich  and some  chips  for dinner…and  half a  bag of  turtles…the  good  kind  with lots of  gooey  caramel.”

 

During  breakfast they  talked about  a lot of  things in  general  and  Lee  told him  how  impressed  Will and  Tom  were  with  station  51  and  how  well they  worked together.  One  thing  they had  talked a bout  at  every  station  was the  fact  paramedics  were  not  able to  be promoted  and it  was a growing  concern.  If  something  wasn’t  done to  change the  law  they  would  be losing  good  paramedics  to other  ranks.    After they finished  eating  Johnny  helped her  clear the  table  and  put away  the  left overs.

 

“Go over to the table I have something for you,” he said as they finished in the kitchen.  Without her noticing, he had moved the florist box to the table. 

 

“It’s   beautiful…”  She had gently taken it from the box.  “The bowl is the same pattern as the tea cups and saucers…”

 

“You might find a hidden treasure…”  He watched as she carefully felt in among the flowers.  He was holding his breath as she found the box. 

 

“Johnny?”  She held the box in her hand not daring to believe what it was. “Are you sure?”

 

“I told you I love you and now I’m asking, Leona Elizabeth, will you marry me?  I  promise you all my  love for ever.”  He opened  the  box and put the ring on her finger.  “Whatever happens  we’ll  face it  together .”   She  just  sat there  looking at the  ring  with  tears in her  eyes.  “Those  better  be happy  tears.”

 

“Yes..Oh  it’s  so  beautiful…I  love you so  much.”  The  band  looked like twisted  strands  and  the  diamond  while  not  large  was  perfect.    She  watched it  catch the  sunlight.   “Its  perfect…Our  lives were separate  now  they’re intertwined…”   he  bent  down and kissed her  his  hand  behind her  head  pulling her  closer.

 

“In my  dreams I  stand  up and  put my  arms around  your  neck  and  kiss  you…So many  times…”  He  moved  her  chair  back  and  moved the  footrest.  After she put the brakes on,  she  pushed  herself  to  standing.  A minute to  gain  her  balance  then  she took  two  steps  toward  him.  He  wanted to grab her but knew this was important  to her so he  waited.    A  third  step  and  she  reached a round  his  neck  her  body  leaning  against  his.  His  arms  wrapped  around her  holding her  tight.  “I  love you John  Roderick  Gage…with all my  heart  and  soul…I  am  so  proud  to be the  one  you  love.”  She  tilted her  head  up  to  look in his  eyes.  He  kissed her  hard  with a  power  she had  never  felt  before.  His  tongue  played  over her  lips  sending  shivers  down her  back.  She  didn’t  even realize  she  was on her  tip  toes as his  touch  blocked  everything  else  from her  mind.   His  hand  was  moving  across her  back  in  small circular  motions.   It  was a shock  as she  felt his  tongue  in her mouth…

 

Johnny  was  suddenly aware of  her  arching as he  held  her  then  felt  her  jerk  as her  knees  began to  buckle.  He  shifted her  weight and  picked  her  up  setting her on the  couch. “Baby  girl?”

 

“I…my  knees  just  gave  out…I’m fine…that is  why I  can’t use a walker  like the  doctor  kept  telling me I  could..”She  smiled and  touched his  cheek  softly.  “Don’t  worry  it’s  no  major  problem…” 

 

“Was it as good as in your dreams?”   He  watched, as her color got better and then laughed realizing  she  was  blushing.

 

“Better  so  much  better…” 

 

“You  rest a few  minutes and I’ll  change into my  trunks…Think  you  need to relax in the  pool  for awhile,”

 

Johnny  was  impressed with the  patio and  how the  pool  was set up.  There  was a chair  that  lowered her into the  water  like he had seen at  some of the  rehab  units.  The  landscaping  was  excellent.   There was a small  bar  area  with  running water, a  cooler  and next to it  was the  grill.  

 

“Pretty impressive.”  He said  as he  watched her  get into the  water.  He  dove in  next to her.  It  was  warmer than he  expected.

 

“Jeff had a  heater  installed  when  we  redid  the  pool area.  The  water stays  about  80 degrees…anything  below  75  bothers my  back….”

 

“The plants and  everything are  really  cool…it’s almost like at a hotel.”

 

“Hector and  Eddie  own a  landscaping  company…Eddie is a junior at UCLA  in landscaping  design…he  uses this  place  for his  projects.”

 

She  showed  him the  exercises the pt  had  given  her and they  swam  laps  then  just  relaxed and  enjoyed  each other’s  company.  Soon  as they had  gotten  out  and  Lee was in one of the  lounge  chairs she  covered her  legs  with a beach  towel.   Johnny  noticed  but  didn’t  say  anything.   He  got  them  sodas and  he got a handful  of  cookies  from  the  basket.   Lee had put more sunscreen on  and  was  sitting there  watching the sun  play  off her  ring. 

 

“Can I  ask  you a  favor?”  He  nodded  yes  since he had a mouthful of  cookies   “I  don’t  want to tell anyone  until  we tell Jeff…except  Roy  and  Jo.   There is a  telephone  over in the  hut…I think I’ll  call Jeff.”  Johnny  brought her the phone.  “Jeff Spencer  please.”    She had  called his  office directly.

 

“This is Jeff Spencer how may I help you?”

 

“You  sound  very  official…so  prim  and  proper.”

 

“What  can I  do  for  you  sweet  pea.”

 

“Any way  you can  come to  LA  tonight?  There’s  something  we need to talk  about.”

 

“Sure I can be there about 10 your time.”  He  was puzzled  she  didn’t  sound  hurt or  sick so  what  was so important it  couldn’t  wait  till  Sunday?   But if she needed him,  he  would  be there for her.

 

“Great  you’re the  best  uncle in the  world…”   She heard someone in the  background.  “You  didn’t tell me you had me on the speaker phone.  Hi  Napoleon…Bye… love you.” 

She  hung  up and  watched as  Johnny  settled  down on the  lounger.  “You look  like you’re  ready  for a nap…Before you do that  why  don’t you call Roy  and see if they  want to  come  over  for a cookout and  to swim  after while.  There’s  plenty of  steaks in the  freezer…”

 

“You  sure?”  She nodded  knowing how much his adopted family meant to him  and handed him  the  phone.

 

Roy  answered on the  third  ring.  “De  Soto  Residence.”

 

“Hey, Pally, we were wondering if you  could  come over to Lee’s  for a swim  and  cook out.”

 

“Let me  check  with JoAnne.”  He put the phone down and went out to where Jo was planting flowers.  “Honey Johnny and Lee want up to come over for a cook out and swim. “

 

“Oh I was just thinking about going to the mall…Jenny has a birthday party Sunday and I haven’t gotten a gift yet.”

 

“Think they might have a special reason for asking …” 

 

“Ok just find out what I can bring.”

 

“Johnny she said that would be good…and what can we bring?”   He heard him ask Lee.

 

“She said just your smiling faces…and not to argue with her.”   They set up a time.

 

Lee transferred back into her chair being careful to keep her legs covered.  Johnny started to say something but decided against it.  She would let him see the scars at her own pace. 

 

While  Johnny  laid on the  couch and slept she made macaroni salad and  deviled  eggs and  got  a  pan of  baked  beans  ready  for the oven.  She took out four steaks and a package of hot dogs from the freezer.  There was ice cream, toppings, and fresh fruit.  She knew there was soda and beer in the cooler down by the pool.

 

It was 3:30 so she decided to lay down for about a half hour to rest her back.

 

The next thing she knew Johnny was leaning over her kissing her.  “Hey Sleeping Beauty it’s a quarter till 5.”   He kissed her.   “I thought I better wake you.”

 

“Just like Sleeping Beauty…a prince’s kiss…Can’t wait until this is the way I wake up every day.”

 

Lee had just finished packing a picnic basket when their company arrived.  Johnny  had  already  went  down to the  pool  with the  first  load of  food.  Roy and Jo took the rest and they all went down.

 

“We haven’t stocked the pantry down in the changing room yet.  Soon as we do that everything we need for a cook out will be down there accept the perishables…The cooler was stocked.”   Lee  was  nervous  and that little nagging voice was back telling her they were not  going to be happy  when Johnny  told them.  Lee called the kids over to her.   “Ok  you  guys  we’ve  got  some  rules  for the pool…these are for all the kids  and  adults  who  come here…no one  goes into the  pool  unless  someone  knows  it…and anyone under 13  doesn’t  go into the  water unless  an  adult is  out here…not  even on  the  steps.   You have to  be able to  swim 3 laps  before  you  can  go  into the  deep  end…Oh  and the  lift  chair  is  off  limits.   Other than  that have  fun…maybe  your  Uncle  Johnny will  put the  volleyball  net up…it’s in the cupboard  in the  changing  room with the other pool  toys and some  child size  life  jackets.”

 

“Very well organized …impressive.”  Roy  said as he  watched  Johnny  dive into the  deep  end  and  hold  out his  arms  for Jenny  to jump to him.

 

“Maria and Hector have  8 grandkids and they  range in age from  16 to 3...and  this is the place they  hang out all  summer  and their  friends are welcome  once Maria and Hector meet the parents…anyone  who  can’t  follow  the  rules  can’t  come.   We  only had a problem once  and that  was uninvited  kids  trying to  crash a party …Cisco  took  care  of  them  real  quick….They  found  themselves arrested for  trespassing,  underage  drinking and  property  damage.   Kind of stupid to crash a cop’s party for their kid’s baseball team.” 

 

Roy and Jo had changed and were in the pool.  Lee was watching from the sidelines.   Roy  noticed  she had  been  avoiding  getting into the  pool  making  excuses every time  Johnny  called to her.  After about 15 minutes, Johnny decided enough was enough. 

 

“Ok its guys against girls…Jen get a life jacket because you’re gonna be in the deep end… Lee’s team is always in the deep end.”

 

“Why don’t you and the kids play against Roy and Jo?”

 

“Nope…” He pulled himself up out of the pool and went over to her.  “Time to get in the water …”

 

“No Johnny…please don’t…don’t make me…”  He untied the wrap around skirt and picked her up.  He had picked her up so her left leg was against his body.  He kissed her then took her over to the pool edge and threw her in.  Jo looked shocked.

 

“Uncle Johnny that was mean.”  Jenny said her hands on her hips tapping her foot.

 

‘No  it  wasn’t  Princess…Lee  was afraid  for

you to see her scars and she was letting  being afraid  stop her from having fun with us…Not making her come  have fun that would be mean.” 

 

The little girl stood there thinking over what her Uncle Johnny had said.   She knew he was never mean so it must be ok.  Johnny  did  a  flip into the  water and  held  out his arms and Jen took a  leap  into them.

 

They pulled the net across the pool and soon everyone was having a great time.  Being in the water gave Lee so much freedom of movement she was soon enjoying herself. By 7:00, everyone was ready to get out and eat.   Johnny got out of the pool and lowered the chair so Lee could get in it easily.   He draped a beach towel over her legs and carried her to the lounger.  Whispering in her ear, forgive me?”  

 

“If you forgive me for being such a brat…”  He kissed her quickly.  “Ok  ladies  you  just  sit  back  while  we  man  the  grill.   Hot dogs for you munchkins?” 

The kids went in one at a time to change into dry clothes and   then went into the playroom.  Johnny brought Lee   and Jo a wine cooler and got a beer for him and Roy. 

 

“I think these two have something they want to tell you Jo.”  Roy said as he stood behind his wife.”

 

“Actually there I s something we would like to ask you.”  Johnny was sitting on the edge of the lounge chair.  He looked at Lee and then at Roy.   “Was wondering if you’d be my best man…the first Saturday in August…”

 

“And if  you would  be one of my  bridesmaids…and if  it’s ok  with you we want  Jen to be a flower  princess  with  Stacy  and  for Chris and Jimmy to be in charge of  the  bridal  runner…”   Johnny took Lee’s hand and held it out for a shocked JoAnne to see.

 

Jo could not believe she had not noticed the ring before.  Roy looked at his partner, his best friend, his little brother.  He didn’t  see the  confident  smiling  man sitting there  but the  sad  lonely  kid he’d  first met and  was  so  proud  of  how he had  grown.  As if reading his mind Johnny looked up at Roy and softly said, “Thanks Pally, for caring.”  Roy nodded.

 

“I’m honored you asked Junior…Congratulations to you both…”  He went over and gave Lee a kiss.  “Welcome to the family.”

 

“We aren’t going to tell anyone else until we talk to my uncles and Maria and Hector…”  Lee said as she looked at Jo.  “I’m  going to ask  Kathy to  be my  matron of  honor  but I would  be very  honored if your’s  be one of the bridesmaids.     Thank  you  for  welcoming  me into your  family…but  first I  think  there is  something  you need to know. “Johnny was shaking his head no. “They are  your  family  and they  deserve to know  …its  not  something  we’ll tell others  but  they  need to know…for my  peace of mind, ok.”  He nodded and reached back to take her hand.  “We …we have talked about this a lot.  Johnny….Johnny  loves me  and  still  wants  to marry me  knowing  he is  pretty much giving up any chance of  being a father.   I know you all think he would be a wonderful father and so do I.   I’m not exactly the perfect ...” 

 

“Lee, you are perfect for him all anyone who sees you two to know you two belongs together.   And  like Roy said  welcome to our  family I’m gonna  like having  you  for a sister.   And I think the kids are going to love having you as their Aunt Lee.”         

 

There  was a lot of  tears wiped away  before  Roy  and  Johnny  started the  steaks.  Jo told  Lee to  just  rest  and  sat out the  other  food and the plates and  utensils  on  the  counter of  the  hut.  (Maria did not want it called a bar because of the kids.)  When they had finished eating decided it was a good time to talk to the kids about the wedding.

 

“Uncle Johnny needs you two to do him a favor.”

 

“I  asked  Lee to marry me and  be part of  our  family…The  only  thing  this is  gonna  change is  you having an  aunt  who loves you as  much as I  do and  who you can  love.  We want you to be part of the wedding…Jen would you like to be a flower princess?  We are going to ask Stacy too.   And  Chris we would  like  you   and Jimmy  to  be in  charge of the special  rug  that the  bride walks  down…you’ll unroll it just  before she  comes  to  me.”

 

“When you  marry  her  does that mean  you  won’t  go  camping and  hiking  with us  any  more  since she  can’t?’  Chris asked.  Roy started to say something but Lee held up her hand and shook her head no at him.

 

“That’s a fair question Chris.  And I told you the first time we met if you ever had  questions about  what I  can and  can’t  do  to ask me.    I  love your  Uncle  Johnny  so much  I don’t  want him  to  stop  doing the  things he  loves  doing…I can’t hike and I  don’t  know if I can camp…maybe you can  help me  learn…But I  need  you to  help  make sure he doesn’t stop  doing those  things…Ok?’

 

“Sure I can do that.”

 

“Until Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lee tell her family it’s a secret ok? “  Jo said.  “We should  feel  really  special  we are the  first  ones  they  shared  their  good  news  with.”

 

“Can we start calling you Aunt Lee now?   I’m glad you want me to be a flower princess.”

“Can I ask a question…why a flower princess instead of a flower girl?”  Roy asked.

 

“A  few  months ago a friend of  Jim and Kathy  got  married and  when  Stacy  saw  the  flower  girl in her  dress she  started  calling  it  flower  princess and  asking me when I  was gonna get married so she  could be a flower  princess too.  I had never even been on a date then.”

 

“What?”  Jo was finding out all sorts of things about Lee she did not know.

 

“Until Johnny, I never had a date.  Guess I was waiting for the best.”

 

“Was it worth the wait?”  Roy teased her.

 

“Most definitely.”

 

After Roy and Jo helped take the leftovers upstairs they left.   Lee took a quick shower in her bathroom while Johnny used the one in Jeff’s old room.   Johnny was still in the shower when Jeff got there.   Lee was in the kitchen when he came in.

 

“ Thank  you  for  changing  your  plans …”  He  gave her a  kiss  then  stood  back  to  look at  her.  “What?   You’re looking at me like you were inspecting a car or something.”  She giggled and he looked surprised. 

 

“Hey sweet heart, did you see my…”  Johnny came out dressed in a pair of cut offs, no shirt or shoes, his hair wet.  “Oh hi…didn’t know you were here yet.  Lee where is my shirt?”  Looking very embarrassed.

 

“Probably in the  hamper with the  beach  towels…The one I  washed the other  day is  in on the  bed in the guest room…all the  blood  didn’t  come out  but it’s just  faint  stains .”

 

She was giggling again.  Jeff just looked at them waiting on an explanation.  “Johnny  took  me to  Venice Beach and  there  was an  accident …not us …skaters and a biker..and  Johnny  did  a  wonderful  job of  taking  care of them until  the  squad  got  there…his  shirt  was all  bloody and we were  just  getting ready to  eat so he  bought a new  shirt…And tonight  we had a cook out and  were swimming  with his  partner  who is also his  best  friend.”

 

“Stop and take a breath sweet pea.  Hi Johnny good to see you again“

 

“Nice seeing you sir…excuse me.”   He made a hasty retreat to find a shirt.

 

“Do you want something to eat or to drink?”

 

“I think I’m gonna need a drink…”  He went over to the bar and got a glass of scotch then out to the kitchen for some ice.  “You want anything while I’m out here?”

 

“Some soda please…brings one for Johnny, too please.”

 

A few minutes they were all seated in the living room.  Lee and Johnny were on the couch and Jeff was in his favorite chair.

 

“Jeff,  sir,  I  asked  Lee to  marry me and she  said  yes…I’m  not asking  permission  because there is  nothing  on earth  that  would  stop me unless she  changed her mind.  What I am asking for is your blessing…I love her with all my heart.  And I’ll promise you the  same things I  promised her…All my  love and the  respect  she  deserves…We  know  there are some  problems  we’ll have to  face…but together  we  can  do it.”

 

“You have my blessing and my permission…I’m happy for both of you…”  He got up, gave her a kiss, and shook Johnny’s hand.  “Any plans?”

 

“I need to talk  to Matt  to find out if he can  get  vacation  the  first  2  weeks  of  August…I  would  like   garden  wedding…like  Amos  promised  but I  think maybe it’ll be  bigger than his  place would hold…”

 

“We’ll find you a garden…Anything you want we’ll try to give you, right Johnny?’

 

“Yes  sir…ahum…I know that the  bride’s  father usually  pays  for  everything…but I  want to help …”  Jeff’s  respect  for Johnny  was high but  growing as he listened  and  saw  the way he  looked at Lee.   “I mean I have a fairly good paying job…and I’ll try to give her anything she wants.”

 

“Lee is there something you forgot to tell John?”          

 

“If  you mean about her  medical  problems…If  we  have  kids  that would be  great if  we don’t  it’ll still be great because we’ll  be together.”

 

“I’m glad to hear that but that isn’t what I was asking her about…Lee?’

 

“I never think about it…and he never asked …”   She looked uncomfortable for a minute then smiled.  “Did you ever wonder what you’d do if you were rich?”

 

“No because that isn’t going to happen on a fireman’s pay.  I mean I  daydream about  buying  fancy  cars or motorcycles or even a small  ranch  someday  with some  horses…”

 

“Did you ever think what it would be like to have about 2 million dollars?  Because that’s about what we’ll have, isn’t it Jeff?”

 

“I have no idea…Ben and the lawyers take care of your money.”

 

“You have two million dollars?   And you never think about it”   Johnny was at total loss for words.    “You’re kidding me right?  You have to be kidding me… Man, I don’t believe you forgot to mention something like that.”  He was up walking around.

 

Suddenly very afraid of his reaction she began to cry.   Jeff just sat there waiting to see how this would play out.  Soon as he  saw the  tears and  heard  her  crying  Johnny was on  his  knees in  front of her.

 

“I’m  sorry  I  didn’t  mean to make  you cry…please  don’t…It  doesn’t matter to me if  you have  a  billion  dollars  or no  money…It’s  you I  love…I  told  you …I  promised you  nothing  was ever  going to  change  how  much I  love you…Keep it  or  give it away…just  don’t cry.   I told  you I  never  wanted to  do or  say  anything  that made  you unhappy  and I  mean it…”

 

“It has always been there whenever I needed anything I just never think about it…It’s not like I was trying to hide it from you…”

 

He kissed her and wiped the tears from her face.  “It’s ok honest…Just know it’s you I love not your money.”

 

They talked awhile longer then Johnny went home.   Lee and Jeff stayed up talking for a few more hours.

 

 Johnny  was  waiting  for  Lee to  call  so  when the  phone  rang  he  picked it  up on  the  first  ring.  “Hello.”

 

“Hi, were you up?”    It was a little after nine and Friday had been a long day.

 

“Yeah…for about a half hour….How you doing?”  He thought she sounded funny, upset about something.  “You’re back doing ok?”

 

“Soon as I know…are you mad at me?  I didn’t handle the money thing very well…”   He could almost hear her chewing on her lip.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“I have no reason to be mad at you…I told you last night I wasn’t.   It just surprised me that’s all.”   He  was  glad  Lee had  no  idea  what  life had  been on the reservation  how  little money there was just  for basics.

 

“Have you had breakfast?   I  think  Jeff  just got up  so  by the  time  you  get here it  should  be about  ready.”

 

“Sounds good to me…anything you need me to pick up?”

 

“No…Unless there is something special you want me to fix for dinner.”

 

“I’m taking you and Jeff out to dinner.   See you soon…love you.”

“I love you.”   Soon as they hung up, she went out and began breakfast.  Jeff came out of his room a few minutes later.

 

“That coffee smells good.   So you talk with Johnny yet this morning?” 

 

“Good morning…yes he is on his way over.”  She poured him a cup of coffee.  “What would you like for breakfast?”  He took the coffee and went over to the table where the morning paper was waiting for him.  

 

“How do corn waffles and eggs sound?  With some sausage.  Have any chorizo?”

 

“Of course and if I didn’t I’d call down stairs.”  She giggled and he looked at her in surprise.  “What is that look for?  You know Maria always has chorizo and is use to me calling to borrow stuff.”

 

“When did you start giggling like that?   You never did as a little kid or as a teenager.”

 

“Maybe because I was never in love before.   Being with him thinking about him…just makes me happy.  Knowing he loves me…He is not mad at me.  I  really  never do  think  about the  money…The  bills  go to the accountant  and  there is always money in  the checking  account…”   As she was talking, she was making the waffle batter and then cutting up fresh fruit.   “Johnny  and I  talked about his  childhood  one  night…His  uncle almost  beat him  to death…more than once…and  tried to  do  worst…Just made me  realize  how  blessed I am  to have you and  Matt and …everyone  who has  loved and  taken  care of me…”

 

“No tears…you don’t want your eyes all red and swollen when Johnny gets here.  Sweet pea you were easy to love and still are…”

 

“Johnny has some things he wants to talk to you about alone so after breakfast and after we talk to Matt I’m going down to the pool.”

 

“Ok…”

 

Soon as  breakfast  was over  Lee  called  Matt’s  office  after she  couldn’t  reach him at  home.

 

“Homicide, Detective Russo.”

 

“Hi Uncle Johnny…is Matt there?”

 

“Lee is everything ok?”

 

“Yes I just have something important to tell him.   If he’s busy would you have him call me back?”

 

“Hold on just a second and I’ll get him.  When you coming to see us?  It has been too long…You wouldn’t believe how tall the boys are.   I’m gonna put you on hold.   Johnny went to the interview room where Matt and Chris were going over some notes.   “Lee is on the phone said she had something important to tell ya.”

 

“Lee?  Everything ok?”   Matt said frowning.  He could not remember the last time she called him at the station.

 

“Everything is wonderful…Why is it when I call you and Jeff you think something is wrong?   Am I that much of a problem child?”  

 

Matt relieved to hear the laughter in her voice, “No it’s just you never call here…What can I do for you?”

 

“There is someone here who wants to tell you something.”  She handed the phone to Johnny grinning at how serious he looked.

 

“Captain  Holbrook,  my  name is  John  Gage…I’m a firefighter/paramedic  with  L A County…and  I  asked Lee to  marry me.   I wanted to tell you the same thing I told Jeff last night.  I am asking for your blessing not your permission.  The only thing that would keep me form marrying her is if she changed her mind.  I love her with all my heart and will always honor and respect her.” 

 

“Hearing the joy in her voice makes it easy to give you my blessing.     Is Jeff there?’

 

“Yes sir.  Would you like to speak with him?”

 

“Yes.”  Johnny handed   the phone to Jeff looking relieved.  Lee was trying hard not to laugh.   He looked like a little kid who had just been sent to the principal’s office.

 

“So what do you think of all this.”  Jeff  was watching  Johnny  as he  stood  behind  the  wheelchair  his  chin  resting on  top of her  head,  his  arms  crossed  protectively  across  her.

 

“Is she as happy as she sounds?  What do you think?”

 

“Wait till you hear her giggle and see the looks give they give each other.   He’s a good man.  Lee wants to ask you something.”  He handed the phone back to her.

 

“Can you all get off the first week of August?   My New York family has to be here for my wedding.” 

 

“You  give us the  date and we’ll  be there…Better  warn  your  Johnny  about  your  Uncle  Johnny…I  have to go  but I’ll  call you  soon…Love you.”  After he hung up, he looked at his two friends who were waiting to hear the details.   “Put in for vacation the first week of August…we’re invited to a wedding in L.A.  And I don’t think you want to miss this one.”

 

“Who is the guy and what do you know about him?”  Johnny Russo said as he chomped down harder on his cigar.   “Does Jeff say he’s ok?”

 

“His name is John and he’s a paramedic and Jeff said he was a good man.” 

 

“Two down one more to go…For an orphan I sure have lots of parents to get approval from.”  She giggled and Jeff looked at her in shock.  She had actually said the word orphan and smiled while saying it.  John Gage was a miracle worker.  “I’ll be down in the pool when you’re ready to tell Hector and Maria.”

 

“Why don’t we do that now then Johnny and I will come back up here and talk?”  Jeff refilled his coffee cup and started towards the elevator.   “Meet you at the pool.”

 

“I love you so much…Is it terrible to have to do this?   I was a nervous wreck when we told Roy and Jo…”

 

“Nope it’s not terrible at all …I like telling the world you love me.”  He pushed her out to the elevator.

 

When they got down to the pool Maria, Hector and Cisco were waiting. 

 

“Hear you got something we need to see,” Cisco   said eyeing Johnny.

 

Lee held out her hand the light catching the diamond.  “I’m  gonna  give you  the  same  promise I  gave  her  uncles…I will love her and  respect her and  honor her  forever.”

 

“You’re a braver man than me mijo taking on this hell cat.   You’ll never be bored.”

 

Everyone laughed when Lee stuck her tongue out at him but they could see   how much it meant to her to have Cisco say that.”

 

“Welcome to the Alvarez family, Johnny.”  Hector  put  his  hand  out for  Johnny  to  shake and  when  Johnny  took  his  hand  pulled  him into  a warm  fatherly  embrace.  “Now I have 5 fine sons.”

 

“As  do I…Francisco,  make  the  arrangements  to  rent the  park  for a fiesta to celebrate  the  engagement .”

 

“Yes ma’am…Any special date?”  He smiled at his mother then at Johnny.  “First rule in our family is mama is always the boss.   She may let others think its dad but it ain’t.”

 

They all laughed but everyone knew what he said was the truth.  Jeff looked a t Johnny and they went upstairs.

 

“You have something we need to talk about?”  Jeff said as he sat down in his chair.

 

“Lee told me a little about your uncle.”

 

“He and my aunts were ashamed  of the  half  breed  they’d  been  saddled  with…Crazy  kid  couldn’t  even  t…talk  right.”    He stopped and took several deep breaths letting them out slowly.  “The  doctors  told  me a few years ago  besides  having  childhood  post  traumatic  stress I  have a mild  case of  Aspergers…most of  which I outgrew…Never  on the  job  but  sometimes  when  really  emotionally  stressed…the  stutter  comes  back…haven’t had a problem  with the withdrawal  for a  couple of  years.”

 

“Lee knows all this and doesn’t care so why should I?  You  make her  happy  and that is  what I  care about…You  make her  feel  safe and secure  and  good about herself…I’m  sorry  ‘bout the  pain you had  to  endure…but  it  doesn’t  matter  now…what matters now is  you  love her and she  loves  you.  Topic closed as far as I’m concerned.  You can talk to Matt about this if you want or downstairs but they’ll tell you the same thing.”

 

“Thank you sir.”

 

“Now go down and spend some time with Lee.”   Johnny  went  down  to the  pool and  Jeff  thought about  what had  just  taken  place.  He could have every piece of information about John Gage and his family sent to him from a hundred different sources.  But  Johnny didn’t know  that  but  still had  felt it  necessary to  explain  things in his  past that  were  painful.  Like he had told Matt   John Gage was a good man.” 

 

Lee was in the shower when the phone rang so Jeff answered.  Hello.”

 

“Hi this is Tom Clark is Lee there please?”

 

“She can’t come to the phone right now this is Jeff…How’s it going in Sacramento?” 

 

“Good thanks  to that niece of  yours…She had everything  laid  out in the report she  did  made our  part a snap…The results are pretty much what she predicted.  I called  down there  and  talked with one of the  chiefs…Houser and let them know the results.  They’ll get the official report in few days….Station  51  A  shift  received  the  top  rating…Chief  Houser didn’t  seem too  surprised  by that  but  said it  was nice it  was officially  acknowledged.   I want to come back down soon and do a ride along with De Soto and Gage.   We were both impressed with the feeling of that station and how well they seemed to get along…  Have you met them?”

 

“Yeah   a few times.”  Trying not to laugh.  “Nice guys.”  

 

“Yeah well tell Lee I’ll call her later in the week…Worked today so I can take a few days off.”

 

Lee dressed with extra care.  She wanted   tonight to be perfect.   Johnny had  originally  planned on taking her and Jeff  out  but had called  asking if  it  was ok  Roy and  Jo  came also.   She put on her new sundress.  It was a soft lavender and very light and flowy.  She put her hair up in a twist with the soft wisps around her face.   That seemed to be Johnny‘s favorite style.  She  could  see the  light streaks  were already  coming  out  more just the  few  days  she had  been  swimming.   She put the silver butterfly pin in her hair.    She did her make up with extra care.    She looked at herself in the mirror pleased with what she saw.   No mousy cold fish…How dare he say those things about her when he had never ever talked to her?     Lee went out to the front room to wait for Johnny.  Jeff was watching the ball game when she came out.

 

“Wow, if you didn’t have that ring before you would have once he saw you tonight.” 

 

“Thank you kind sir…but I think you maybe just a wee bit bias.   Did I hear the phone earlier?”

 

“Yep it  was Tom Clark…said he’d  call you in a few  days…Was very  happy  with  your  report  and I  think  you’ll  be happy  with his.”

 

“Why?  He usually doesn’t work weekends.”

 

“He’s  taking some  days off…A shift  received  the  highest  rating of  any  station and he  wants to come  back down and do a ride along  with a  couple of  nice  guys  he  met…De Soto and Gage.”

 

“You didn’t tell him?”

 

“Nope that’s you and Johnny’s call….”   She just giggled.

 

Johnny looked at her and could not believe someone that incredible loved him.  She looked like one of those expensive china dolls people collected.   He kissed her and took a deep breath.  He loved the smell of her perfume.  It reminded him of some of the fields up in the mountains when the wild flowers were in bloom.   “You are more beautiful every time I see you.”

 

“You’re looking very handsome yourself, luv... As are you.”  She looked at her uncle standing next to Johnny.  “I’m so blessed with two handsome men taking me to dinner.

 

Jo came out of the bedroom and Roy whistled.  She had on a green dress that suited her hair and skin coloring perfect.  “We may have to make a short night of it, Mrs. De Soto.”  He  kissed her  pulling  her  close,  his  hand  traveling  across her  neck  downward.    “What time do we pick the kids up?”

 

“My sister will bring them home late tomorrow afternoon,”   She smiled at the pleased look on his face.

 

Johnny had reserved a table for five on the patio.  The ocean was calm, the air warm and the sunset lovely. 

 

“Johnny  I  know  this is  your  party but  I’d like to  get a  bottle of  champagne  to  celebrate both  special  occasions.”

 

“Both? “

 

“Your  engagement and the  soon  to be announced  results of the  county  wide  survey and  interviews  done  by the lovely Ms Lee  and her assistants.  It  seem as if  A  shift  of  Station  51 has  received the  highest  rating  given  by  said  assistants  who  just happen to have fancier titles than Ms. Lee.”  The two paramedics looked very surprised.  “All teasing aside, congratulations guys …Will and Tom was very impressed by your station.”

 

“Wow that’s great….  When will Cap get the news?”

 

“Officially in a few days but Tom  already talked with Chief  Houser and  gave him  the  news…Oh  and he  wants  to  come  down and  do a ride along with  you.”

 

“Wonder if he’s called Cap yet?”

 

“Roy, Johnny…no fire station talk tonight…Tonight is Lee and Johnny’s night.”  Jo said with a wink at Lee.”  The three men laughed and Jeff called the server over and ordered the champagne.  They toasted to the survey and to Johnny and Lee.   The food was very good and the band playing inside was piped out to the patio.  There was a dance floor inside and a smaller one outside.

 

“Roy, I  think  you  should  ask  your  wife to dance,”  Lee  said  as they  played a  song  she  knew  was one of Jo’s  favorites.   “Please don’t let me stop you.”

 

“That was nice of you.”  Jeff said watching her face as she watched the dancers.

 

“Other people shouldn’t have to give up what they like because of me…Johnny and I have talked a lot about that.”

 

“Sounds like you two have done a good job of pairing your heads and hearts.” 

 

“I just want him to be sure …He shouldn’t have to pay for my problems.”

 

Jeff looked very serious and a little sad.  “Do you know how many times I have thought that?  You’re paying for my actions.”

 

“But I never thought that.  …I never want you to be  sad about me…I  firmly  believe  everything in life  happens  for a  reason…we may not understand  why but  we  need to  remember there is a plan  for each of us…”

 

“I told you not only beautiful but smart.”  Johnny said as he leaned over and kissed her.

 

Sunday Jeff had to go back to Washington so Johnny didn’t come over until after he left to give him and Lee some time together.   Besides, he had to laundry to do   and the sweeper to run   in his apartment.   He  wasn’t  sure  what she  wanted to  do about  dinner  so he  put a  nice  shirt and a pair of  black  jeans in the  car  in case he  needed to change.

 

Lee had  given him a  key  but he  still  rang the  doorbell to  let her  know he  was on the e way  up.    She was curled up on the couch reading a book when he came in. 

 

“Hi luv, you’re early.”  She said putting the book down.  “From the way you were talking I didn’t think I’d see you till after 5.”

 

“Got done faster so I could come see you.”  He could tell by her red eyes she had been crying.  “Jeff gets off ok?”  

 

“Yeah...we had a nice  quiet  morning,   I  made breakfast and we  ate out on the balcony…I  know it’s  silly  but it  was  hard seeing him  leave again.  But  he  did  say  that  he  will be  back  any time  we  need him. In addition, his and Matt’s wedding present to us are tickets to Hawaii and Tahiti if we want them.    His friend owns an island   that is very deserted.  He has a  small  house there  and he will  make  sure there is  food  delivered  every  day or  two if we want to spend some time  there.”

 

“I hadn’t really thought about it…whatever you want…”  He went out to the kitchen and opened the fridge looking for a snack.   “Want a soda?” 

 

“I just want to be with you…”  The phone rang.  “Hello.”

 

“Hi…is my partner there by any chance?  I called his place and didn’t get an answer.”

 

“So you decided he was here…great detective work for a fireman.  He’s in the kitchen raiding the fridge.” 

 

“Making himself right at home….”

 

“He better…we’ll be living here after the wedding so it is his home.”  Johnny came in with a glass of milk and some cookies.  “It’s Roy for you.”

 

“Hey Pally…figured you and Jo would be off enjoying your time alone.” 

 

“Cap called here and said if I saw you to  let you  know  we got the highest  rating in the  county and the  big  chiefs  were  very pleased  with our  commitment to the  department.  Didn’t tell him we already knew.”

 

“Thanks…that would be hard to explain.”

 

“Actually he knows you and Lee are dating.  We talked about it after they left the other day.   Said he could tell from the way you two looked at each other.  That you had the same look his daughter and her new husband have. Cap sounded really pleased and we should think about having a cook out or something to celebrate.”

 

After he finished talking with Roy, Johnny changed into his trunks and they went down to the pool.  Lee did her exercises while he just floated around watching her.  They did laps   then just relaxed.  Maria  came out  as they were getting  ready to go  upstairs  and  gave them a  picnic  basket  filled with  homemade  chicken and  dumplings,  Cole slaw,  mashed  potatoes and  brownies.

 

“She thinks we are both too skinny…Johnny…do you have Captain Stanley’s home phone number?’  

 

“Yeah why?  What are you up to?” 

 

“I just have a question I need to ask him.”  Wide-eyed and innocent looking   she smiled at him but she sounded sarcastic.  With a shrug of his shoulders, he decided it was his imagination.   They went  upstairs  on  while  Johnny  was  putting the  food  away she  went into her  bedroom  to change  and use the  phone.

 

Emily Stanley was watching a cooking show on TV as Hank worked out in the yard weeding the flowerbed.  She was writing down a recipe when the phone rang.

“Stanley residence.”

 

“Hi Mrs. Stanley,   is Capt, Stanley available?”  It wasn’t a voice Emily recognized.

 

“May I ask who is calling?”  She wasn’t going to bother Hank for a sales call. 

 

“I’m Lee Spencer and my work at Rampart in connected with the paramedic program… If this is a bad time, I can leave my number.  I just wanted to ask him a question.”

 

“Oh no my dear…Hank told me about you.   Your Johnny’s friend correct?  The one who works for the state and did the survey?”

 

“Yes…” 

 

“I’ll get him for you.   I’m sure he’ll want to talk to you…After the call from Chief Houser.”   She called to him explaining who was on the phone.  He came in quickly.

“How can I help you, Miss. Spencer?” 

 

“First of all I’m Lee…and I wanted to ask you a big favor.  Johnny doesn’t know why I am calling you.  I just told him I needed to ask you a question.”  

 

“Anything I can do to help I’d be glad to,” he answered.  The way her voice changed when she said Johnny made him smile.

 

She explained what she wanted to do and he agreed.  She thanked him and went out to see what Johnny was doing.

 

“Em, I’m not sure exactly what she is going to do but I have a feeling it’ll be interesting.”  

 

“She sounded very lovely on the phone.  Go finish your weeding and I’ll start dinner.”

 

 After Johnny left the apartment, Lee got busy baking.   They had had a nice dinner and had made some plans.  Soon as he  got to the station  Monday  morning he  was going  to  do the paper  work to  sign up  for his  vacation.  As soon as that was Okayed, they could get down to some serious planning.   Kathy and Jim  would  be  home from their  long  week end away  in the morning  and she would  be able to  tell Kathy  all about the  wedding.  She began making a list of things to do. 

 

Jo had been pleased when Lee had asked her to help with the planning.    Lee had been fairly certain Jo and Kathy would be good friends after they met the first time.   Jim enjoyed talking with Johnny and Roy and the kids got along great.   Johnny  called  about  10  before he  went to  bed and they talked a  few minutes  then  she  went out and  finished  cleaning her  kitchen.

 

 

Lee  was  up  before the alarm  went off and set her pecan  sticky  buns  to  thaw so  she  could  get them  into the  oven  by  7:00.   Everything else was ready and packed for Hector to take down to the car.  As she  was  drying her  hair  she  was  going over  the  list of  things she wanted  to accomplish  for the day.   She had laid out her clothes before going to bed last night.  

 

An  emerald  green  skirt and a  floral  print  top  that had  a soft  floral  print.  Kathy  was always  teasing her about  the  fact most of her  summer things were floral  prints  and  slightly  Victorian in  design  with the  high  necklines.   She  did her  hair  up in  the   lose  twist and  made wispy  curl  for  around her  face.  She did her make up paying special attention to her eyes, using some of the tricks her model friend, Merce,   had taught her.  The lipstick was a darker rose than she usually wore.   The silver butterfly pin was in her hair.   She was surprised to hear Cisco calling her from the kitchen.

 

“Mom said you had boxes to be loaded in the car.”    He turned when he heard her coming into the kitchen.  “Who you going to war with today?  That’s an evil gleam in those eyes.”

 

“Just following some advice my big brother gave me one time.”

 

“Now what sage advice would that be?  And is the other fellow gonna survive?”

 

“Don’t get mad get even…and he’ll survive maybe.”

 

“Like to be there and see that,” Cisco said with a grin.  “Mom wants you to call me today and let me know when you want your fiesta…”

 

“Ok …You have all 5 boxes right?  Hand me that picnic basket please…”    He followed her out the door and into the elevator without a word. 

 

As he put her wheelchair in the back seat, “Sure I can’t come and watch the fun?”

 

“It’s tempting…but I need to do this one on my own…”

 

Roy was finishing changing when Johnny came in.  Mike and Marco had already gone out to the kitchen.

 

“You look well rested after your busy week end.”

 

“Yeah I  was in  bed  by 11...Swimming  all those laps …we  only  did  25 yesterday…by the  end of the  summer she  does  125 to 200  laps a week.”   Chet came in so Johnny changed the subject.  “Tell  Chris  once  school is  out  we’ll  do a  bike  ride  on the path  near the  camp  grounds…maybe make it  an overnight  trip  and he can ask his  friend Jimmy  to  come.”

 

“So Gage, you and your mystery friend have a good time this week end?”

 

“It was an exceptional weekend…One of the all time great weekends wouldn’t you say Roy?”

 

“Well now, Junior that may just be an understatement…”   Before  Chet or  Johnny  could  answer they  heard  Cap  yell  “Roll  call in  5  minutes.”

 

Cap looked at his crew feeling very proud.  He had gotten more phone calls that morning congratulating him on his crew’s performance on the survey.   Quickly they went thru the assignments and announcements.  

 

“We  will be having a visitor  this morning…I am not  exactly  sure  what the  reason  for the  visit is  but  was  told it’s extremely important.”   They heard a horn beeping in the lot where they parked.

“I think that is our visitor.  Roy, John, would you go escort our visitor in please.”

 

Lee couldn’t help but laugh at the look on their faces as they came over to the car.  She waited for Johnny to get her chair and carefully transferred before saying anything.

 

“I told you I would see you sometime today…There are 3 boxes and a picnic basket to go into the kitchen.   Do I get a kiss?”

 

“Yeah sure.”  He bent down and kissed her.”

 

“Come  up for  air  you  two,  Cap’s  waiting”  Roy  said laughing at the  way  he  was  being  ignored.

 

They went in dropping off the boxes in the kitchen.   Lee watched Chet’s face as he saw Johnny pushing her in.  The way she had her purse on her lap covered her hand.

 

“I think you all remember Miss Spencer from the other day.   She  called  me  at  home and  asked if  she  could have a few minutes of  our  time this  morning.”

 

“And I thank you for your kindness in granting me this time.   And I  congratulate  all of  you on the  rating  you  received  from my  bosses.   I had absolutely no say in the ratings…I just enter information and they made the decisions.    I told Captain Stanley this is a personal visit not job related…Mr.  Kelly  you made  some observations  the other  day  that I  could not  address…until  the survey  and interview  process  was  complete.   Now I can and most definitely will comment on your remarks.”  

 

Everyone looked at Chet who looked completely   stunned and lost.  “First point I want to make is the obvious I do exist.    Second,  I may  have  some  natural  blonde  highlights in my  hair  but I  do  not  consider myself  ditzy  by  any means…I have  a BA  in  statistics  and a MA in  computer  programming  and  over  half a  MA  in  statistical  analysis…Thirdly   it may be  vanity on  my  part  but I  don’t  really  think I’m  a cold  fish or  mousy  and  I  try  not to  be boring and I  do  like to  smile.” 

 

Roy quickly placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder as he felt his partner moving   forward.  The others just stood there shocked that she had heard that conversation.  Cap  was  giving  Chet  a  look  that  said a lifetime of  latrines  was in his  future.  “Sorry  you  thought my  voice was  boring  but I  was working  very hard at not  crying over your  remarks…You  know  that old saying  about  sticks  and  stones?  Well its wrong words do hurt.   Now  the  last and  most important  point to  be made…Because I knew the  survey and interviews were coming up and because I  did not  want anyone to be able to say I had any  influence  over the ratings…asked Johnny  if  we  could  keep the  fact we were dating  quiet.  Roy and Dixie as well as my family knew…”   She put her hand up in the air.  “And  now  I  am  so  proud   and so  happy  to tell the  world  that in August I  am  going to be  Mrs.  John Roderick Gage.   Therefore, Chester B, I hope all your questions are answered.   You  see Johnny  sees me  not  some girl in a wheelchair  that  would  faint if  you  said  BOO to her.”   The  fire in her  eyes as she  looked at  Chet  made him  feel  even  smaller and  worse than he already  did.  “Oh, by the way,” smiling warmly to the others.  “I made some muffins and pecan sticky rolls…They are out in your kitchen.  Think Johnny and Roy will vouch for my cooking.”

 

“Gentlemen I  suggest  we  go into the  kitchen and  let these  two have some  time  alone  before John  explodes. 

 

Roy moved his hand off Johnny’s shoulder and let him go over to her then went out to the kitchen.   Johnny squatted down in front of her.  “I have never been so proud of anyone in my life.   Why didn’t you tell anyone what he said?”

 

“Because this is your family and I want them to accept me for me.   I want Chet and me to be friends because you and him are friends…Now I said what I needed to say it’s over and done.” 

 

“Every time I think I know how amazing you are somehow you amaze me all over again.”   He kissed her.  “Like you said you are never boring.”

 

Out in the other  room  Roy  was  getting  questions  from all  sides  except a very  quiet and contrite  Chet  Kelly.   “So how long has this been going on?”

 

“Since the end of February…after we started going to the advisory committee meetings.  Jo and Lee and the kids all get along fine.”

 

“Johnny and I would like you all to come over for a cookout and swim on Sunday.”  Lee said as she and Johnny joined the others.  “And my  adopted  family  is  planning a  huge  party in  June…A fiesta  to  celebrate  families and  friendship…”  Lee looked over at Chet and smiled warmly.  “Chet, please come join us…get something to eat.  I remembered  Johnny  saying  how much  you  liked  banana  nut  bread so there are some muffins  there with  cream cheese icing and  black  walnuts…Capt.  Stanley,  there are  pineapple  muffins  with  the  cream cheese and  the other  two are  blueberry  and  my  favorite  the orange…Luv  hand me one of  the  banana  muffins  please.”  Johnny did and gave her a wink.   “Excuse me…” 

 

She moved over to where Chet was still standing and held the muffin up to him. 

 

“A peace offering from me to my new friend.”

 

“After what I said you want to be friends?  I it sounded pretty awful hearing my words thrown back at me.”  He took the muffin.  “I never meant it to be mean or to hurt you or Johnny.”

 

“Like I told Johnny, you two are friends…you guys here are his family…I want to be part of that family.  Do you think that will be ok?”

 

Sure…thanks for giving me a second chance.”   They went back   over and joined the others.   Johnny moved behind her and as usual leaned down putting his arms across her.   He kissed her lightly on the cheek.

 

“Just a warning Chet, she has 4 big brothers who are very protective especially Cisco.”  Roy said.

 

“Not to mention Hector and Maria…”  Johnny added. 

 

“If they are so protective how did they ever let you near her?”  Chet said with a grin. 

 

“Maria likes me…”Johnny, answered.

 

“No  she  doesn’t…She loves  you…you are now one  of  her sons…So  like  Cisco  said…Mama  rules.  You are now a part of the Alvarez family my love.”

 

“Cisco Alvarez is your big brother?”  Marco was impressed.  “Man Chet you are lucky he didn’t hear you.”

 

“He asked me this morning who I was going to  war with and could he  come  watch…Well  I need to get to  work and I  bet  Captain  Stanley  would  like his station back  to normal.”

 

“With this bunch normal is a relative term.   Thank you for the muffins and rolls and congratulations to you both.”   He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  “I will check with Em but I am sure we will see you Sunday.”

 

“You to gonna make a pineapple cake for Sunday?”  Roy asked as he helped himself another pecan roll.  “As much as Junior likes to eat she likes to cook.” 

 

Oh…one more thing…I think Johnny has something he wants to say?”

 

“Yeah…Roy is going to be the best man but I’d like you all to be groomsmen.  We are going to ask a family friend of Lee’s to do the ceremony and it’ll be a garden wedding…”

 

“Ok back to work, guys.  Lee we’ll see you soon.  John why don’t you help her out to the car.”   She and Johnny left and Cap turned to Chet.  You are lucky she is as forgiving as he is…Why would you say things like that?”  He walked away not waiting for an answer because there wasn’t a good one.

 

“Cap’s right…but if Roy hadn’t stopped him I think Gage would have taken a swing at you…,”Marco said.  

 

“Lee  calmed him  down  but I  wouldn’t  push it  Just  kind of  stay out of his way until  he’s  ready to talk to you, ok”  Roy  advised him.”

 

Roy went out and did the morning radio check and calibrations then began his chores.   John came in and after a quick check with Roy called the scheduling department at headquarters.   Tentative approval was given for the dates he wanted off.  He was smiling as he knocked on Cap’s door. 

 

“Come on in…Well that is some girl you have.”

 

“Yep…I had no idea what she was up to…said she had to handle it herself.   They gave me a   tentative ok for the first two weeks in August…She wants a big wedding with all our friends…”

 

“The scheduling department is gonna love this…”

 

She figured it out that   will be our Friday and Saturday off any way…You all might want Sunday off to rest up.” 

 

“Good idea…Now get your chores done …I would imagine you need to go get supplies at Rampart?”  Cap said with nod.   Soon as Johnny  left he  called  the  scheduling  department  and  requested  that  Sunday  off  then  called  Emily  and  filled her in on the  details.

 

“Johnny, me and Chet’ll   the dorm if you want to go get supplies.”  Marco said as John went into the dorm.  The beds were already stripped.  “I cook today but with all the food Lee left…Did you look in that picnic basket?”

“No.  But that doesn’t surprise me.”   Mike had helped Roy do the day room and he was waiting for Johnny

 

Lee  was  waiting  for  Johnny  to  come over to Rampart before she  talked to  Dixie  and  Kel.  The morning had gone as planned except she had surprised herself when she actually felt sorry for Chet Kelly.   She was  glad they had  cleared the  air and  that  hopefully  Chet  would  think  before making those  kind of  comments  again.   The phone rang and it was Chief Houser.

 

“Good morning Lee.   I hear you’ve been causing some uproar this morning.”

 

“Me?  I haven’t been here in the office long enough to do that yet this morning.”  Laughing at his tone.  “Just what have I done?”

 

“It  seems as if the  entire  A shift  at Station  51 is  asking for the  same day off  on  personal business.   Except for one who has requested vacation then.   And  when I  called  Hank  he just  laughed and said  it’s  your  fault  and it  was going to get  worst.   So what do you have planned for that day that is so important the whole shift needs to be off?”

 

“I  am thinking  they  will be too  exhausted from  Friday and Saturday  which is  their  scheduled  days  off…The  rehearsal   and  dinner   on Friday  then the  wedding on Saturday  and the  reception  will   still   last into the wee  hours of the night  regardless when we leave…Johnny  tells me you  fireman  love a good  party.”

 

 “Johnny?  John Gage?   In addition, you?   That’s wonderful new…How in the world you have managed to keep the gossip mills from hearing about this.  And why?”

 

“Because I  didn’t  want any onto  say  I  did anything to influence  Tom  and Will’s  rating…They  still don’t  know…so  please until  we tell a few other  special people…”

 

“Of course. But I will let  Hank  know those days are approved and that  there is  going to be a rash of  days  off  requested and  trading  going on …He’s  a  fine  young  man…I’m  happy  for you  both.”

 

“Thanks Bob…tell Susan to pencil that Saturday in and be expecting a party invitation for some time in June…’

A few minutes after she hung up Johnny called from down at the nurses’ station.

 

Johnny and Roy came up to the base station laughing.    “Hi Dixie we need a few things.”  They gave her the list.

 

“What’s so funny?  Johnny you look like the canary that ate the cat.”

 

“Can I use your phone real quick?  I need to ask Lee a question.”  Johnny said ignoring her question.   She nodded and dialed Lee’s office.  “We’re picking up supplies.  Any chance you can come down?   Ok.” 

 

Roy and Dixie were chatting and he went over to wait for the elevator.  He pushed her over to the desk.

 

“You look very pretty today?  Something special going on?”  Dix knew Lee usually dressed a little more conservative when at work.  

 

“Yeah I had a very important meeting this morning.”  She laid her hand on the desk.  “Had to show this to a few people.”  Johnny slipped his hand under hers.

 

“And put one Chester B Kelly in his place…He may get fleas from being in the doghouse so long.”  Johnny said with a wink to Lee.  Roy just shook his head in relief.  He  had  been afraid  Johnny  was  not  going to  be so  forgiving  this  time.

 

“It’s about time.   Congratulations.”  She looked up send saw Joe and Kel coming out of treatment room 3.  “Dr.  Brackett, Dr. Early, I think you need to see this…”Pointing to Lee’s hand.”

 

“Did something happen to your hand?”  Joe asked concerned as he came up to the desk.

 

Definitely …and its all Johnny’s fault.”  Dixie said with a straight face.  “She’ll never be the same.”  

 

“Neither will he.”  Roy added his two cents.

 

Joe and Kel looked at her hand frowning then realized what they were seeing. 

 

“And when did all this happen?”  Kel stood there his arms folder a slight grin playing at the corners of his mouth.  “You actually let this hose jockey do that to you?”

 

“”Yep and it’s your entire fault…you and Dixie are the ones who put me and Roy on that committee.   Thank you.”  There was laughter in his voice but the look he gave them was sincere.    “So keep the first Saturday in August open…”

 

The HT came on “Squad 51 what is   your status?”

 

“Squad 51 available.”  A quick kiss and they were gone.

 

“So do your uncles know?”  Kel asked as Lee watched them leaving.

 

“Yeah  Jeff  was here this  week end and we called  Matt and then  this morning  I  went over to the  station and  took them  muffins and  rolls and  told  them.   Now you…Maria and Hector are planning a big party for us…

“Did you make your pecan rolls?  In addition, didn’t bring us any?  Now Dixie is that in gratitude or what?  After Johnny tells us we are responsible…”  Kel said pouting.

 

There are  two  boxes of  rolls and  muffins  up in my  office…I  couldn’t  bring them  down  until  Johnny  came and  we told  you…I  have work to  do and I want to  get out of here early so I can  tell Jim and  Kathy the  good  news at dinner tonight.   Party at my place Sunday.”

 

The  rest of the  day  was  busy  for the  squad and  Lee  as  she  had to  play  catch  up on all the work she hadn’t done while working on the survey.    She managed to get out and to Jim and Kathy’s on time.  Soon as she got in the door, Kathy knew something had happen.  They went out to the patio.

 

“I have never seen you look so happy …That smile is all the way in your eyes…Any special reason?”

 

“Yep…I need a BIG favor…Will you be my matron of honor and help me plan this wedding?   It is the first Saturday in August and I have a feeling it’s going to be huge…”

 

“Of course I will…and of course it’s going to be huge…”

 

Therefore, begins the next adventure.

 

 

 

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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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