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Witness Protection

Part 3

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

Links to Parts 1. 2. 3.

 

 

Rick lay quietly for a long time, his arms wrapped protectively around the unconscious, young man he held encompassed within that circle. The silence grew and he wondered if they were still out there just waiting for someone to move or if they’d given up and gone away. He was trying to decide whether or not to check when the dark haired paramedic moved beneath him.

 

He heard a fearfully spoken word…”No,” as the boy pushed against him. He sat up as the young paramedic began to struggle and a let out a cry of pain that ripped at his heart.

 

*********

 

John moaned softly as consciousness returned and pain blossomed in his head and in his belly. He felt something heavy lying over him as his eyes blinked open but he couldn’t see anything. At first he was afraid that he’d once again lost his vision due to a concussion as he had once before, but then he realized that he was pressed against something or someone

 

He assumed it was Roy, since his best friend would be the only one that concerned with his well being or so he thought. He tipped his head back and barely caught a glimpse of the wrappings that covered the person’s face.

 

It wasn’t Roy that held him so tightly, it was their patient. There was brief flare of terror as memories of his Uncle George and the way he’d tried to touch him when he was a child flooded his mind. “No,” he whispered as he tried to push the man away. The weight lifted but the motion had been a mistake. John cried out as pain ripped across the right side of his stomach and his head swam until John felt as if he were tumbling down the hillside once again.

 

“John!” Rick questioned the younger man worriedly. “Just relax alright…I don’t know… how bad you’re hurt,” he warned through panted breaths as he struggled to hold the younger man.

 

“Let go…of me…R…ROY,” John gasped, his dark eyes searching frantically for his best friend. He needed to know his partner was okay and he wanted this man’s hands off of him.

 

“He’s unconscious John… but he’s alive… and breathing okay,” he promised him, pointing toward the orange colored pad.

 

John’s dark eyes followed the man’s finger. He could barely make out the feet and legs of his friend. “Help me…Help me up,” he gasped.

 

“John…You’re hurt. You can’t get up.”

 

“Let go…ROY!” John called as he struggled to get up, trying to push Rick’s hands away from him. Shooting pain ripped through his side again. “Oooh,” he moaned as his head spun sickeningly and the gray of unconsciousness edged in. He felt Rick’s arms close around him, pulling him against him. “Noo,” he groaned, panic and fear warring equally in him. He felt the man’s bandaged hand touch his face and he heard the soft whisper of his voice as the gray of unconsciousness edged in.

 

“Shhh…Shhh,” Rick whispered, not understanding the terror his touch was causing or the memories the boy was fighting in his semi lucid state. He could feel the rigid tension in the young man’s body. “It’s alright John…Just rest…You’ll be okay son,” he whispered, his cheek resting against the dark hair.

 

The moment was shattered by another voice. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Roy DeSoto barked from across the small area.

 

 

Roy was floating blissfully in a sea of darkness but from somewhere outside that darkness he heard his name called. JOHN…He’d know his partner’s voice anywhere despite his present condition. He recognized the pain in it and even half conscious he heard something else as well…Fear.

 

Roy forced his eyes open and fought back a wave of nausea as pain made itself apparent. His head throbbed in a rock and roll rhythm, letting him know with certainty that he had a concussion. He tried to remember what had put him in this state.

 

He noted that he was pressed against a hard and rather uncomfortable surface. Something heavy and cool was lying on top of him. He shifted and groaned a bit as his abused body set up a complaint. He forced his arm up to push the heavy orange cushion away from his body.

 

His blue eyes swept the darkened area and came to rest on John and their patient. The man was sitting against the wall and he was holding John in a rather close and intimate fashion and his young partner was having none of it. Even in his semi conscious state, John struggled desperately, trying to pull away.

 

Roy’s eyes widened as Rick laid his bandaged face against the dark head he held cradled against him, his free hand stroked John’s cheek and he spoke softly to the disturbed younger man. “Shhh shhh… It’s alright John…Just rest…You’ll be okay son.”

 

Roy frowned in confusion…Son? Why would the man call a virtual stranger that? He didn’t know and right now he didn’t care. John was hurt and obviously in distress and Roy wanted this man away from his ‘little brother’ right now.

 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He barked angrily.

 

 

Rick looked up at the sound of Roy’s voice and even in the semi darkness of their upside down prison, he could tell the younger man was angry.

 

“John’s hurt…I was uh…Just holding him…to keep him from…moving,” he wheezed.

 

Roy struggled to get to his feet despite the pounding of his brain. “You were holding him a bit close doncha think,” he growled snidely.  Roy moved toward him, staggering slightly as dizziness washed through him but it didn’t deter him. He needed to get to Johnny and get him away from this man who was being awfully familiar with his young friend. He could feel the warm wetness of blood as it trickled down his neck. His collar was stained with it.

 

He finally made it over to where the other two were sitting and squatted next to them. “Shhh shhh Junior…I’m here,” he soothed gently.

 

John relaxed at the sound of Roy’s voice. “R…Roy,” he sighed, sinking back and letting the darkness claim him. Rick felt him go limp as he passed out and recognized the trust he placed in this other man.

 

“You can let him go now,” Roy growled. 

 

Rick hesitated, not wanting to let the young man go, but he had no choice, besides, it was obvious that John wanted no part of being comforted by this ‘stranger.’ He dropped his arms away.

 

Roy lifted him gently, grimacing as his own aching body protested the action.  He carried him back to the cushion and laid him carefully on it. He plucked his penlight from his pocket and shone it on John’s face. Blood ran from a laceration on his partner’s cheek. Roy grimaced and began to run his fingers through the sable hair, trying to find the reason for John’s unconscious state.

 

“Do you know what happened?” He asked Rick, continuing to check his friend over for injuries. He found the lump on the back of John’s head. He grimaced at what was, most likely, a nasty head injury and a sure concussion. He parted the sable hair and found a deep gash.  Johnny moaned as he probed the injury.

 

“Shhh…I’m sorry I hurt you,” he soothed.

 

“Someone ran us…off the…road,” Rick informed him.

 

“Deliberately?” Roy growled angrily as he continued to check his partner over, feeling along his arms and legs for broken bones.

 

“Most likely,” he replied dismally. “They were shooting…at the windows,” he added dryly.

 

“That’s just great,” Roy barked. John shifted restlessly at the raised voice.”Easy Junior,” he soothed, before he turned back to their patient. John was his best friend, his kid brother but he’d also heard the shortness of breath in their patient and his professionalism kicked in. “Are you alright?” He questioned.

 

“Just a little trouble…breathing.”

 

Roy shone the light around the small area and spotted the oxygen tank. His fingers swept gently over John’s brow. “I’ll be right back junior…Hang on okay?” He said close to John’s ear. He made his way over to the canister lying against the far wall. He picked it up and checked it over in the meager light. It seemed to be okay and he carried it over to Rick. He set the canula beneath the man’s nose.

 

He reached over and yanked the pad from the gurney, laying it near Rick. “Here…This will be a bit more comfortable,” he said, helping him over and onto the mattress before turning away. He moved to the front of the vehicle and shone the light through the window of the cab. He swallowed hard. There was no doubt both men were dead and at least one of them wasn’t because of an accident.

 

Their biophone lay on the roof of the overturned cab and frustratingly out of reach. They were trapped in here and cut off from help via the radio. John was injured and he had no idea what had happened to the other two agents. He wasn’t even sure where they were and if anyone would be able to call for help. Roy sighed…Right now, Rick was alright and Johnny became his first priority.

 

“They’re dead aren’t they?” Rick questioned sadly.  

 

Roy nodded, grimacing as his own banged up head swam dizzily. “Yeah,” he muttered.

 

“This is all my fault,” Rick sighed.

 

Roy kind of felt the same way but the man was a witness in a high profile case and he had medical issues. He had to get to Sacramento and for whatever reason, couldn’t fly so he really wasn’t responsible for this attack or John’s injuries. The younger man sighed and let him off the hook. “I suppose you needed to get to Sacramento and you needed help from people you could trust.” He glanced at Rick questioningly, wanting answers as to why they’d picked Johnny and him for it but he’d been told that the man hadn’t asked for them…The Prosecutor had because of his association with Rosemary. But then again…This man had been fixated on John from the moment they met and Roy wanted to know why.

 

Rick looked away from the curious glance. There was so much more to it than this blonde paramedic knew but Rick couldn’t explain that part of the equation.  All he knew was that John was badly injured and Roy was hurt as well because of his insistence that they attend him on this trip. He’d be in Sacramento now and John and his partner would be asleep in their beds. Two, maybe four agents were dead because he’d had to have his own way. Not to mention Rosemary…She’d be devastated if something happened to John. She’d taken the boy in when he was fourteen and raised him as her own, loved him as much or more than her own children. If Rick survived this, she may well kill him herself.

 

Roy realized that the man had no intention of appeasing his curiosity and returned his attention to John. His fingers plucked the buttons of John’s shirt free and he pulled it open. He sucked in his breath at the deep red and purple shades of skin over John’s right side.

 

“What is it?” Rick asked worriedly.

 

Roy shook his head. “He’s got some real bad bruising here, not sure yet what else,” he replied gruffly, trying to keep the fear for his friend out of his voice.

 

His deft fingers moved over the area and he felt John’s ribs shift beneath his fingers. Even in a semi conscious state, the younger man felt it and a low groan of pain slipped free. “Arghh,” he cried, trying to shift his body away from Roy’s hands.

 

Roy reached out to try and stop his partner from moving, but he also heard a sharp intake of breath and suddenly Rick was beside him, his bandaged hand moved to touch the young man’s cheek. “Shh…Easy Ha’keta,” he breathed softly.

 

Roy’s eyes widened in shock. “HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT WORD?” He barked at Rick, suspicion clearly readable on his face.

 

It was Rick’s turn to look surprised. “Do you know what it means?” He asked.

 

Roy pushed the man’s hand away from John’s face. “Yeah…Yeah I know what it means…I’ve used it myself,” he added drawing a look of astonishment from Rick. He’d known they were close but he’d had no idea that they were that close, that John would have shared that particular endearment, much less that the blonde man had used it. “Question is…How do you know?” Roy asked again, bringing his attention back to his slip of the tongue.

 

“I uh…His aunt and I… know one another,” he gasped out.

 

“Well enough for her to tell you she calls her twenty eight year old nephew little one in Cheyenne,” he snapped. “I don’t think so. You’ve been eye balling Johnny since we met mister and I want to know why?” He barked angrily. Rick looked away, deepening Roy’s suspicions that this was someone who knew John and knew him very well. Rick cautiously made his way back to his mattress and sat down. “WHY? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?”  Roy yelled.

 

John stirred and the blonde paramedic reached out to gently touch his cheek.  “Shhh Junior…I’m here…I’ll take care of you,” he soothed his partner.  Rick felt the jealous stirrings in his belly as the younger man relaxed under his friends touch. Roy shot him an angry look. “I want some answers,” he growled, trying to keep his voice level and not upset his partner.

 

Rick looked up at him…His green eyes intense and guilt laden. “I think you already suspect,” he replied with a sigh. He reached over with one wrapped hand and pulled the ‘bandage’ off his hand as if it were a mitten which Roy noticed that it in fact, was…A white stretchable mitten made of bandaging material.

 

The blue eyes fell on the long, slender fingers and he was surprised to see only minimal scarring from burns on his palm. He used his free hand to remove the other ‘bandage’ which was made the same way. This hand was also minimally scarred. Roy’s eyes fell on the turquoise wedding band on the man’s left hand. He barely had time to assimilate the fact that it was identical to the one on John’s hand before Rick reached up to grip the bottom of the wrappings wound about his head, He stretched it out and lifted it from his face as if it were a ski mask.

 

Roy sucked in his breath at the motion, expecting to see some hideously scarred face but the one revealed didn’t cause revulsion or fear…Just rage.

 

“Oh my God,” he breathed out in shock. “You’re Roderick Gage,” he gasped. The resemblance was uncanny and even the mustache and beard he sported didn’t change him enough not to see it.

 

“Yes,” he agreed with a nod but his green eyes were on John. He didn’t know what to expect from John’s best friend but it wasn’t the anger that was about to be unleashed.

 

“YOU SON OF A BITCH,” he yelled, forgetting about Johnny for a moment.

 

“R…Roy,” his young friend mumbled, shifting uncomfortably.

 

Roy shot a warning glare at Rick… He wasn’t done but Johnny needed him right now. “Shhh…Easy junior…I’m here,” he soothed, schooling his voice into gentle tones meant to calm his young friend.

 

“Waaass wrong?” he slurred, the pain and fear in his voice unmistakable. Rick sat up worriedly but stayed put at the angry glare from Roy.

 

“It’s okay John…We’ve had an accident and you’ve got some busted ribs and another whack on that hard head,” he teased, gently stroking back the sable hair. “I’m gonna bandage that up in just a minute alright?” He assured him gently.

 

John grimaced as pain flared in his belly. “Stomach hurzz,” he mumbled, as unbidden tears of pain pooled in the dark eyes.

 

Roy frowned worriedly. “Here?” He questioned, pressing lightly at the bruising just under the break in the ribs.

 

“Unnn…, John grunted. “Y…yeah,” he managed.

 

Roy pressed a bit despite John’s whimper of pain. The area was rigid. “Dammit,” he muttered.

 

“What is it?” Rick asked anxiously starting to stand.

 

John tried to turn his head toward him but Roy stopped him, not wanting him to see the man without the mask. “Don’t you move  Johnny,” he warned his friend before looking at Rick. “Don’t come near him,” he hissed angrily. Rod chewed his lip but complied and sat back down.

 

“Rick…okay?” He questioned.

 

Roy shook his head. Only Johnny would be lying here with a concussion, broken ribs and possible internal bleeding and worry about a stranger, at least a stranger as far as he knew.

 

“He’s fine,” he said through clenched teeth. At least for now, but he didn’t say it out loud. “But you‘ve got some guarding here junior.”

 

“B…blee…bleeding?” He gasped.

 

“Probably…So I want you to stay still…As still as you can okay? I don’t want those ribs shifting anymore.”

 

“Hurzz bad,” he panted.

 

“I know Junior…Let’s hope someone notices we’re missing and sends a search party soon okay?” He soothed.

 

“Guars…Guards,” he managed on the second try.

 

“They’re dead junior and I can’t get to the radio,” he replied.

 

“Oh man,” John mumbled, drawing a hitched breath at the pain rippling through his belly.

 

“Yeah Junior…you just relax and try to rest alright?” He soothed.

 

John didn’t have much choice…He was trapped, concussed, in agony and quite possibly bleeding to death internally. The gray of unconsciousness was edging in. John didn’t fight it…He welcomed it and slipped away.

 

Roy’s fingers stroked over his forehead gently until he was sure John was asleep or unconscious, he wasn’t sure which but at least he wasn’t feeling the pain.

 

“Can’t you give him something…Don’t you care that he’s hurting?” Rick demanded anxiously.

 

Roy turned on the man angrily. “Don’t you EVER tell me I don’t care about his pain you bastard,” he snarled angrily. “I’ve been there for him for the last eight years…I love him like he’s one of my own…I’ve held him in my arms through his nightmares and his injuries and illnesses. Can you say the same? Do you know…Do you have any idea what he’s been through?” He growled. “What those people did to him?”

 

Rick looked taken aback by the younger man’s rage. He didn’t know much about John’s life after the attack on him and even Rose didn’t know or wouldn’t tell him everything that had happened to John…Did Roy know? He’d been too out of it for some time after the attack and Chambers and Tanner couldn’t get close enough to John and Kate on the reservation to find out much. He wanted to know about his son but as livid as DeSoto was, he knew it had to be bad. He shook his head in reply and Roy continued with his angry tirade. 

 

“Did you know he was being abused by those people? That is UNCLE George Walking Wolf…was molesting him?” He ground out.

 

Rick looked horrified. “No…Oh God no,” he whispered. He gagged at the thought of the man’s hands on his son.  “Katie wouldn’t have let…,” he began, before clapping his hand over his mouth to avoid vomiting.

 

“She didn’t know…John was too afraid to tell anyone,” he defended John’s mother.  “Afraid of Walking Wolf and his own grandfather who taught him that fear was a weakness and to take what was handed out to him without complaint. He learned it well…He bore their beatings and being put down and being told he was worthless until he believed them. Until he was almost beaten to death…Until he was nearly raped by that animal that YOU LEFT HIM WITH,” Roy spit out.

 

“I didn’t know…I swear I didn’t know,” he protested, tears spilling over his lids to roll down his cheeks.

 

Roy shot him an enraged look.  “You were alive the whole time and you just left him and his mom there,” he sneered. “And now he’s lying here injured because of you.”

 

“I just wanted to see him…To get to know my son.”

 

“YOUR SON…Where were you when he graduated from high school…The academy? Where were you when he was in a coma and fighting for his life or when he was sick with encephalitis or when he lost his vision? Were you standing with him at his wedding…? NO…It was me…Me and my family that have been there for him and now you want to just waltz back into his life…?” Roy sneered angrily.

 

Rick knew he was right. Rose had told him about all of this as well, but he’d been unable to change anything, though he’d tried once to take him right after he’d been brought home by Rose but she’d refused to give him up. Maybe if DeSoto knew that, he’d calm down. “If you’ll let me explain,” he pleaded desperately.

 

Roy wished there was a way to just throw this man out or to take John and leave but he couldn’t.

 

“There is nothing you can say that will make any difference,” Roy growled, turning back to John. “You weren’t there when my kid brother needed you,” he said softly as he took John’s hand in his own. “You should have protected him,” he said quietly as the anger waned and the hurt his young friend had endured tore at his heart. Hurt that he could have been spared… him and his mom both. Tears pooled and spilled over as he looked at Rod.

 

“There were reasons…Good ones,” he pleaded.

 

“Go ahead then…We’ve got time and this had better be good,” he warned him.

 

 

 

 

The phone rang in a hotel room in Sacramento. Agent Chambers fumbled for the receiver for a moment before he finally picked it up. “Hello,” he muttered blearily. The caller’s first words had him wide awake and sitting up in bed, snapping the light on and throwing a pillow at the next bed over where Agent Tanner was sleeping.

“Ed…This is Agent Withers in San Bernadino…We’ve lost contact with your agents in the armored car.”

 

Tanner sat up and looked at his partner. “What is it?”

 

He covered the mouthpiece. “The car is missing, so are our agents,” he growled, before returning his attention to the phone. “Where was their last contact?”

 

“Just north of Los Angeles…LAPD says they contacted them about an accident on the highway…They told them they were getting off and they’d pick it up on the next entrance ten miles north,” he explained.

 

“Get a chopper in the air at first light…Get the police out there to look for them…Keep me informed. Find that car,” he barked before slamming the phone down. He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. He’d known this was a mistake but Rod had had them over a barrel and they’d given in…He hoped he wasn’t going to regret it. If something happened to Rod, they would dismiss the case and they’d have to try and build a new case with what little they still had and no witness to its actual origins. “Damn it…Damn it,” he muttered as he pushed himself to his feet. What the heck was he going to tell Rose?

 

Tanner climbed from his own bed and the two men began to get dressed. Chambers glanced at his watch. It was 5:00 AM. They had six hours before the grand jury was to convene…They’d better hurry.

 

 

 

Roy sat next to Johnny. His hand rested against his friends sable hair while his thumb stroked over the younger man’s temple soothingly.

 

Rick sat across from him. His green eyes watched the motion and there was flare of sorrow mixed with jealousy that he’d never again have this intimate and tender father and son relationship with his boy that he’d once had and that these two now shared.

 

“After I found the evidence…I was supposed to…turn it over to Chambers and Tanner,” he wheezed.
“I guess…Morris and Briggs figured it out. They sent me out to…Nancy.” Roy frowned in confusion and Rick caught the look. “We name the…Rigs. Nancy was a problem…Child,” he explained. “It was a set up.”

 

“What do you mean?” Roy asked cautiously.

 

“They planned the…accident. Bertullo…The man who…ran us off the road,” he added.

 

“How do you know?”

 

“I heard one of them…Call out to him,” he panted, stopping to breathe deeply from the oxygen under his nose.

 

“Dammit,” Roy growled shooting Rick a glare.

 

“I didn’t know they had…this much power,” he said forlornly, well aware that Roy and his son were now in danger because of him.

 

“Anyway…Bertullo set a trap…on the rig.”

 

“What happened?” Roy asked, curious now despite his anger at their predicament and the cause of it.

 

“I was down inside the… mechanical room checking the… Rotary table,” he breathed out, his green eyes taking on a faraway look as he remembered the fear and the stench of his own burning flesh. “I smelled the fuel and thought…There must have…been a leak. The door suddenly closed…,” he swallowed hard at the memory.  “I yelled…Tried to tell them I was…still in there but then…I smelled the smoke…And I knew. I was never going…to walk out of there.”

 

“Oh God,” Roy murmured, thinking about what every fireman fears most…Burning alive and John’s father had lived it.

 

“There was a grating…In the floor…It led to the water. It was rusted and…I was trying to get it open but…the flames were coming to fast…,” he panted.

 

Roy held up a hand at the gasping tone. “Just stop for a minute…Take a few deep breaths,” he instructed.

 

Rick stopped to breathe deeply for a few minutes while Roy did a quick vitals check on John. The bruising around his ribs was deepening toward black now and there was definite internal bleeding. Roy was afraid John would bleed to death before they were found but there was little he could do. His eyes fell on the trauma box. There was no way for him to reach a hospital for instructions and he could potentially lose his certification and his job but John’s life was more important than either. He crawled toward the box and dragged it over to where John was lying in unconscious repose.

 

“What are you doing?” Rick asked curiously.

 

“He’s bleeding internally…I’m going to start an IV on him…Try and keep him hydrated and his fluid levels up,” he informed him, opening the box and pulling out a bag of D5W.

 

“Can’t you give him anything…For the pain too?” He asked worriedly.

 

Roy shot him a glare. “No I can’t.”

 

“But why?” He asked plaintively.

 

“John has a head injury…I don’t know how severe and if I give him anything for pain, it could kill him,” he informed him.

 

“Oh,” he mumbled forlornly. John wouldn’t be in this mess at all if it hadn’t been for his stubbornness to see his son. The look Roy gave said he was just as aware of that fact.

 

Roy quickly got an IV inserted and adjusted the drip before turning back to Rick. “Are you alright?”

 

The older man nodded. “As good as I can be with him lying there, maybe dying because of me,” he whispered despairingly.

 

The look Roy gave him was less than sympathetic since he whole heartedly agreed and he still didn’t know why the man hadn’t come forward to take his son and his wife away from that horrible place. They could have been placed in witness protection along with him.

 

“Can you go on?” He asked flatly.

 

Rick nodded. “I …I uh…felt my clothes catch fire,” he whispered. “The pain… was excruciating,” he added, his breath hitching at the memory. “I remember…Calling out Kate and John’s name and then I fell. I landed on… the grate and… I could feel the…flames on my legs…my back…my neck…I was breathing them,” he gasped painfully.

 

Roy felt his stomach flip at the agony the man had endured but his eyes rested once more on John…He’d endured his own unimaginable pain and Roy wanted to hear the rest…To understand how he could have just left his wife and child in that hellish existence.

 

“Then the grate let go and…I was falling. I landed in the water. I…Knew I had to get away but God…The pain…was horrible. I was barely conscious but …I dog paddled away from the rig…Everything was fading… in and out and I knew I’d drown…but I couldn’t give up. I rolled onto my back…I floated for a while and then I passed out.”

 

“What happened?” Roy asked, curious despite himself.

 

“Chambers and Tanner had sent…Agents to keep an eye on me…They’d followed me out to the rig…They spotted me in the…water and fished me out. I really don’t remember much after that…Except pain… agony really. They kept me in…A coma for months while I healed. I’d seared my lungs and by the time I woke up…I was confused…couldn’t remember… my own name for a while. Then it started coming back…By then…Kate had taken John…To the reservation. Chambers tried to…keep tabs on them but…They’re so closed off and secretive...He couldn’t get any information”

 

Roy couldn’t argue with that…He knew that was true or at least it had been. They were finally being welcomed by the townspeople and a lot had changed there…Mostly because of the young man lying beside him. He nodded his understanding. “Go on.”

 

“We got hold of Rose…To see if she had the reports… or if she could reach Kate… to see if she had them…I knew they were… hidden behind a photo of John.”

 

Roy looked shocked. “Rose knows you’re alive?” He breathed out.

 

“Yes…We were afraid if Morris found out…I was alive…He’d go after… Kate and John to use against me.   We thought…If we couldn’t get to them…Then Morris and Chad couldn’t either…That they’d be safe there…I swear I didn’t know they were being hurt,” he whispered.

 

Roy nodded, beginning to understand, but not quite willing to forgive.

 

Rick continued. “By then…we’d given up hope… of finding the picture… with the reports I’d hidden…We thought she’d… thrown them away. They knew I’d never… be safe if they found out I was alive…That John and Kate wouldn’t be either. Then Rose… lost contact with them. She wanted to tell them… but I was still…in real bad shape and I was being moved…from hospital to hospital. It would have been… no life for them…If I’d known what was happening,” he wept, gasping for air. “But I didn’t and so we decided to allow them to continue to believe I was dead…It was safer for them that way. Then came the skin grafts…They took years…I was finally moved to a nursing home… “I’d always envisioned Kate…On the reservation… I could see her in my head, raising my son. I saw him growing up in my mind...Wondering what he’d look like,” he wept. “It’s what kept me alive. God…I had no idea that my Katie…was gone,” he cried broken heartedly. “How could someone so beautiful and vibrant…die so young?” he questioned forlornly. “She didn’t deserve that.”

 

Roy felt tears well in his own eyes and spill over as Rick wept in grief for his lost love. He managed to pull himself together. “Then Rose finally found the letters she’d written and my…parents had hidden. It nearly finished the job…when I found out Katie was dead. I wanted to die too. Rose went…to get my son…and I had to stay alive…I hoped that one day…This would all be over…And I could explain it to him. She told me…How afraid he was of everything…That he’d been hurt by them but didn’t know how bad…At one point…I wanted to take him…But she was making some…progress with him…And she wouldn’t give him up.”

 

Rick looked away, swiping at the tears that once again were rolling down his cheeks. “Look at me,” he breathed harshly. “What could I offer him like this?” He gasped.

 

“His father,” Roy said flatly.

 

Ricks eyes snapped back toward him. “I did it for him… and Kate,” he whispered. “They would have had no… life at all with me,” he panted.

 

“They didn’t have much of one without you,” Roy replied, still stinging with the knowledge of what his young partner had been through.

 

“I didn’t know that…I thought with me gone… and her being the daughter…of Daniel Sun Walker…That they would have been good to her…That the fighting would…have ended,” he gasped out.

 

“It didn’t,” Roy growled. “Sun Walker felt betrayed that his daughter left with you. When she went back he wouldn’t let her live with him. He made her live with her sister Lacee.”

 

Rick closed his eyes in grief. He well remembered the woman’s bitter hatred of him and John. “What happened?” He asked, not sure he wanted to know.

 

John moaned softly, bringing an end to the conversation for the moment. Roy turned to his young friend. “Hey junior,” he said quietly as the dark eyes blinked open. Rick quickly snapped up the mask and pulled it over his head, covering his face.

 

John’s eyes swiveled toward him briefly before returning to his partner. “Hurrsss really bad Roy,” he murmured.

 

“I know junior…I’m so sorry…They must be looking for us by now.”

 

“Please R…Roy…Need something,” he gasped out.

 

“John…Listen to me…You have a bad head injury…You know I can’t do that.”

 

Tears of pain pooled in John’s eyes. “Please,” he begged.

 

Roy stroked the dark hair back, his heart breaking for the pain he knew Johnny was in. “I love you too much to risk your life ha’keta,” he whispered close to John’s ear.

 

John’s face tightened briefly in pain but he nodded his head. “I know,” he whimpered in defeat. “Thir…sy,” he whispered.

 

“Now that I can help with,” he soothed, grabbing the canteen. He carefully lifted John’s head and held the canteen to his lips. John drank and began to cough, his face twisted as pain knifed through his belly. “Easy junior…Just take it slow.”

 

John gave a small nod and sipped a bit more before turning his face away. Roy laid his head down and brushed the sable waves with his fingers.

 

Rick’s heart broke at the exchange and he felt that same twinge of jealousy as he watched Roy gently stoke John’s brow. It should be him…John was HIS son, not DeSoto’s. He fought down the urge to push the man away, knowing his own boy wouldn’t accept his touch the way he did this man that he thought of as his brother…The surrogate father who’d stepped in to fill his shoes when John had needed him most.

 

John’s eyes finally drifted closes under his fingers as pain and blood loss took their toll.

 

“Please…Please tell me about John?” He pleaded.

 

 

Chambers glanced at his watch. Eight AM…He paced the length of the courthouse floor as he waited for word from the search teams that had been out for over two hours with no luck. The chopper had just taken off and was heading out join them now that it was light enough for them to see.

 

He was concerned of course about his case against Morris but he was just as concerned about Rod and Rosemary. They’d been taking care of Gage indirectly now for twenty years and had become quite close to the man who’d endured the agony of his burns as well as the loss of his family because he’d tried to do the right thing at their request. He didn’t want it to end this way not to mention the case that could fall apart if he couldn’t be found.

 

He heard the click of heels on the tile floor and then Tanner’s indrawn breath of shock and he turned to see who was coming to join them. His face paled as he recognized Rosemary Hughes.

 

She saw the look and her face drew to a scowl. “What’s wrong?” She questioned anxiously.

 

“Rosemary…,” he hesitated. “There’s just no easy way to say this.”

 

“What…Is it Rod…Is he okay?” She asked worriedly, clutching at the man’s arm.

"No...Yes...I mean it is Rod but..."

 

Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

 

“Rose…It’s John,” he said softly.

 

“What about him?”

 

“He and his partner were accompanying Rod…”

 

“What…? John wasn’t supposed to know anything about this,” she snapped angrily.

 

“Rod wanted to see him…Spend some time with him. You know...Get to know him. John had no idea who he was escorting I promise.”

 

“You put my nephew in danger,” she breathed angrily when he’d finished. “It’s the one thing I asked of you,” she hissed. “That you make sure John was safe…That he’d never know about any of this.”

 

Chamber’s scuffed the tile with the toe of his highly polished shoe. Tanner almost guffawed as his highly trained FBI partner quailed before this tiny woman. He might have if the situation wasn’t so dire.

 

“He didn’t give us a choice Rose…he said he wouldn’t testify…”

 

“If anything happens to John,” She warned shrilly.

 

“I know…I know and I’m so sorry…I thought we had this under control…That they’d be safe.”

 

“Well you were wrong,” she growled as tears pooled in her eyes as she thought of Danella and her great niece and nephew that could grow up without their father…swearing to herself that if anything happened to John…They’d never want for anything. Her heart went out to Joanne, Chris and Jenny who had no part in any of this, except their love for John and now they may have lost both their husband, father and uncle all in one stupid moment and her own broken heart if she lost this young man who had become like one of her own children. “What the hell am I supposed to tell his wife…Roy’s wife? That we played Russian Roulette with their lives and lost?” She growled.

 

“I’m sorry Rose,” he replied softly as she began to cry.

 

“Agent Chambers,” a man called from an office across the hall.

 

“What is it?” He questioned, casting a worried glance at Rose as she stood weeping in the rotunda.

 

“Telephone call.”

 

He nodded and patted Rose’s arm. She jerked away angrily. Chamber’s sighed and gave Tanner a head jerk toward the now distraught woman. He bobbed his head, letting Chambers know he’d watch out for her.

 

Chambers went to take his call. He expected it to be the search teams out looking for the missing armored car but the voice on the other end left him gasping in disbelief and renewed hope that their

case wasn’t completely lost.

 

 

Fred Briggs had tossed and turned all night. Fear and Worry in equal parts kept his eyes wide open.  He’d bounced this situation around in his head throughout the long hours until dawn had crept up on him, lightening the sky.

 

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat staring at the floor in dismay at his situation. He knew whatever he decided could go either way…If he betrayed Morris, his life could be forfeit but if he didn’t, he could find himself in jail for the rest of his life, depending on who and what this witness could tell them.

 

He’d pretty much decided to try and negotiate a deal with the FBI…It was the only way to stay out of prison and if he handled this right…He may well end up in witness protection.

 

He sighed and went to get dressed. A short time later he piled up the files in a box. He picked up the phone and started dialing. It took him some time but after he’d explained for the third time who he was, he was given the number to the courthouse in Sacramento. He explained yet again to another secretary that he had to reach agent Chambers. He tapped his foot anxiously while he was put on hold and a few minutes later he heard the gruff voice of the man who’d barged into the conference room.

 

“Agent Chambers…”

 

“Agent Chambers…This is Fred Briggs,” he almost squeaked.

 

Chamber’s eyes widened in shock. “Yes Mr. Briggs…What can I do for you?” He asked calmly.

 

“I have the files…I know everything Morris and his son have done over the last twenty years and I want to make a deal,” he said nervously.

 

“I’m listening,” he replied smoothly.

 

 

Rosemary wiped at her eyes as Chambers gave her one final, rueful glance and left to take his phone call. He looked to Tanner.  “I need to call John and Roy’s Captain,” she said somberly. “He’ll have to tell Danella and Joanne. I just can’t tell them over the phone,” she whispered.

 

Tanner looked alarmed. “You can’t tell them who…,” he began.

 

“I’ll tell him any damn thing I please,” she snapped back. “They wouldn’t be getting this call at all if you and Ed hadn’t put their husband’s lives in danger,” she bit out. Tanner sighed. She was right, but still… “I’m not a fool…I won’t tell them who they were transporting,” she added snidely at his hesitation.

 

Pete sighed again and nodded. “Let’s go,” he said nodding to an office not far away.

 

Once there, Rose fished her address book out of her purse and a moment later picked up the phone and began to dial.

 

“Hello?” Captain Stanley’s deep voice answered.

 

“Hank…This is Rosemary Hughes.”

 

“Yes Rose…What can I do for you?”

 

“Hank…You are aware that John and Roy are accompanying a federal witness?” She questioned.

 

“Yes I am but uh…How did you know that?”

 

“They were chosen for this job because the people involved know me and knew my nephew was a paramedic,” she told him, dancing around the truth.

 

“Oh…I was wondering why they picked them out of the blue,” he replied, finally understanding why they’d been chosen in the first place.

 

“Yes well…Hank?” She paused and drew in a deep breath. “The vehicle they were in is missing and they’ve lost contact with the agents that were accompanying them,” she said in a rush, afraid she’d burst into tears if she didn’t get it all out at once.

 

There was a long silence on the other end. “I see,” he finally replied, sounding a bit shaky himself. “Ahem,” he coughed, clearing the sudden tightness from his throat. “Are they searching?”

 

“Yes…But Hank? Dani and Jo have to be told that…,” she hesitated again, catching the escaping sniffle of tears, before rushing on. “John and Roy may have met with foul play,” she explained.

 

On the other end of the phone, Hank’s eyes closed in dismay. “I see…And you’d like me to do that?”

 

“Yes…I think they need to hear this in person.”

 

“I agree…I’ll um…I’ll call my Chief…We’ll do it together.”

 

“Thank you…I’m sorry to drop this on you and I promise…I’ll keep you all informed,” she assured him.

 

“I’ll um…I’ll be praying Rosemary,” he said quietly.

 

“You and me both Hank I assure you,” she replied before hanging up the phone.

 

She put her head in her hands and began to cry. She may well have lost her brother..Again, but this time John may be lost to her as well.

 

 

“After John and his mom went back to the reservation, things got really bad,” Roy told Rick. His grandfather began to take him to the ranch everyday but he treated him more like a servant than a grandson,” he informed him, remembering what John had told him during a therapy session.

 

“He said his mother let him hang out at the fire station after school but then after she died…Well…His grandfather wouldn’t allow it. Wouldn’t even let him talk about being a fire fighter and when he did, he was punished. I guess you bought him a fire truck for his birthday?” He said, giving the older man a quirk of his blonde eyebrow.

 

“Yes…It was his fifth birthday…We went to the fire station… and then I bought him the engine,” he said with a small smile.

 

“They burned it the day after his mother died,” Roy said quietly.

 

“Those Bast…,” he trailed off with a hitch to his voice.

 

“His aunt and uncle beat him regularly for every excuse,” he informed him. He heard the indrawn breath of despair but the man had asked and needed to know.  “By the time his grandfather found out…John was already terrified and withdrawn and failing in school. He’d given up hope and just wanted to die.”

 

“Oh God…,” he whispered as tears welled again.

 

“So I guess the old man took him away from them and handed him over to Walking Wolf and his Aunt Mase.”

 

“What the hell was he thinking?” He muttered, remembering the huge man and shuddering at the thought of his hands on his son.

 

“He uh…He apparently liked to touch John and if he fought him, he got beaten again,” he said sourly.

 

Rick turned pale at the thought. “What did he do?” He whispered, his eyes closing in despair.

 

“Johnny managed to keep him at bay. He has something called Aspergers Syndrome.”

 

Rick’s head nodded. “I knew he had…some kind of neurological problem…A doctor in Montana…diagnosed him with it…We didn’t really…know what it was then?”

 

“Well…Johnny would pull into himself whenever he touched him and I guess it freaked George out…But then when Johnny was fourteen…The bastard attacked him…Tore his clothes off him…Put his hands on him…He tried to uh…”

 

Roy heard the gag…He launched from the floor to get to the man as he vomited. He held his head as he gasped for air when he was through. “I’ll kill him,” he panted, trying to catch his breath.

 

“You’re too late…He’s already dead.”


“What? How?”

 

“Johnny and I went back to help out with an influenza epidemic…He attacked John in a burning house. John hit him with a piece of wood and knocked him out. He died in the fire.”

 

He looked at his son. The pride in his eyes was unmistakable. “Saves me the trouble,” he muttered wiping at his mouth with the edge of the sheet.

 

“Anyway…I guess while he was trying to uh…attack him…John threw up on him and George beat him near to death. That’s when his grandfather took him in, but by then Johnny was so beaten down that he couldn’t feel anything anymore…He’d buried his emotions so deep it was almost impossible to break through them. I guess when granddad was too sick to look after him, he wrote to Rosemary to come and get him.”

 

Rick nodded.”She said…he was a mess…But she didn’t tell…me the rest,” he gasped.

 

“She didn’t know…John wouldn’t tell her…Wouldn’t tell anyone. When I met him…he was totally withdrawn. He wouldn’t speak to anyone about himself or his past…We hit it off pretty well. We seemed almost bonded somehow, but it still took me months to break down the walls he’d built but then…Once I got him to trust me, he began to open up and then one night he had a nightmare and he just broke down in my arms and told me everything. He was so sure I’d hate him…that I’d blame him, but once he realized that I wasn’t leaving him too…That I thought of him like my brother. He started to come around some, but he was still so insecure and unsure of us and our friendship…and then a while ago…Joanne, that’s my wife…We took lessons in something called touch therapy. Once we got Johnny to try it…Well…it made all the difference. We’ve been closer than brothers ever since…John’s been like a second son to me,” he told him. His eyes narrowed dangerously. “And I’m not gonna let you hurt him…He’s already been through enough,” he warned the older man.

 

Rick looked into determined blue eyes and knew Roy took his role as John’s big brother very seriously. “Thank you… for telling me all of this and for taking…care of my son,” he whispered, looking despondent. He hoped that someday soon when all of this was over, that Roy would give him a chance…Let him and John put this behind them and become father and son once again but from the look in his eyes, he wasn’t hopeful, besides…Would John feel the same way? Would he hate him the way Roy did? He needed time to think this through. "I wish I could tell him how proud of him I am...Have always been," he said sadly.

 

Roy nodded, "You have good reason to be," he replied before he turned and checked his partner over and frowned. John was sweating lightly and his vital signs were falling. This wasn’t good at all.

 

“What is it?” Rick asked.

 

“I’m going to start another IV…,” he said, reaching for another bag of solution and without answering the question. He quickly got it started and smoothed the sweat dampened hair from John’s brow. “Hold on Johnny…Hold on. I need you,” he said softly.

 

Roy glanced at his watch, the sun should be up by now but it still seemed rather dark to him, though it was definitely getting warmer in their prison. He leaned down and tried to look out the windows but all he could see was dried brush and a hint of sunlight. They appeared to be buried beneath a pile of foliage…He could only hope that there was enough showing for someone to spot them and soon. John was getting worse.

 

He and Rick settled back and waited…There was nothing else to do. Roy’s head had been pounding since he’d woken up and Rick was emotionally and physically exhausted, it wasn’t long before both of them drifted off to sleep.

 

  

Chad and Wyvern Morris were led into the waiting room where Chambers sat looking glum. They glanced at each other smugly, figuring their crew had come through and their witness was no longer a problem.

 

Carl Weiss came through the door and sat down next to his clients. “The judge said you wanted to see us?” He said looking a bit bored at the whole meeting and throwing the Morris’ a sideways glance. He’d already heard from Bertullo and Farmer and he knew the witness was out of the picture.

 

Chamber’s looked up and shook his head sadly. “Gentlemen…It seems as if our star witness has um…disappeared. His transport was run off the road somewhere between here and Los Angeles.”

 

“Then my clients are free to go?” Weiss said smugly, starting to stand.

 

“No…The judge has given us until two o’clock to try and locate him before he makes a decision on whether or not he’ll allow him to testify for the grand jury.

 

“I see…Well we can wait,” Weiss said as he folded his arms over his chest, knowing that nothing would change in that amount of time.

 

“We just wanted you to know…We’ll um… let you know as soon as we hear anything,” he said standing up and allowing the guards to remove the two prisoners before he turned to Weiss who was still looking smug...It was short lived.

 

Chambers waited for the door to close before turning back to Weiss. His forlorn look was being replaced with a smirk now that the other two were gone.

 

“It seems that we may need to postpone the trial for a few hours regardless since the Morris’ will be needing a new attorney and he’ll have to be brought up to speed,” he said reaching down to pull a handful of files from a box beside him.

 

The smug look faded away. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He demanded.

 

Ed shoved the file toward him. Carl flipped the first one open and his face paled. “Where did you get this?” He croaked out, seeing the evidence of his own perfidy in black and white.

 

“Seems someone high up in that organization doesn’t trust you or the Morris’ very much. After reading through some of these…I can understand why,” he said, sitting back in his seat with a grin. “Now you can help yourself and tell me what you know about the disappearance of my star witness?” He questioned as the door opened behind them and several officers stepped inside. “Or these nice gentlemen can take you down to the station for booking…Your choice.”

 

Weiss’ face went white.

 

 

Roy and Rick were still sleeping a short time later when John woke. The first thing he noted was that it was now uncomfortably warm inside the vehicle and then he felt pain ripping across his belly…pain like he’d never felt before. His dark eyes swiveled toward Roy and he almost called out to him…He’d beg for pain meds if he had too. John bit his lip…He couldn’t do that. He already knew what his answer would be…had to be…No…his best friend couldn’t help him and he didn’t want to put him in the position to watch him suffer or break the law or put his career on the line…Not even to take this pain away.

 

His eyes fell on the drug box. He knew there was relief from the tearing pain he was feeling within inches of his fingertips. He glanced toward the IV in his arm and knew he could do this. He’d done it before when he’d been bitten by the rattlesnake.

 

He gritted his teeth and reached for the drug box. He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat from the pain lancing through him and bit back the moan that would have alerted his partner instantly and managed to get his finger tips on the edge of the open box and tug it toward him.

 

John panted with the effort and sweat beaded his brow. A low moan slipped from his lips before he clamped down on his lower lip with his teeth to stop any further sound that would wake his partner.

 

He managed to find a syringe and stopped to try and get the pain in his belly under control. His fingers fumbled with the small bottles of drugs in the box. John knew the contents and their locations in his sleep. He pulled the small vial close to his face and blew out a relieved breath that he’d found the morphine.

 

He gasped in pain again, clenching his teeth to stop the cry from leaving his mouth. He finally managed to get the drug in the syringe. He tried to hitch his body to the side to get the needle in the IV Port. A small cry of pain slipped free. Roy stirred but the man was exhausted and slipped back into sleep as John clamped his jaw shut against the pain. John inserted the needle into the port and began to push the plunger.

 

“JOHN NO…!” A shout came from behind him and then a strong hand closed over his own.

 

 

Rick was sleeping fitfully. The horrors his son had endured because of his decision to allow them to believe he was dead weighed heavily on his heart and mind. Would John ever be able to forgive him for abandoning him and his mom to that nightmare existence? Could he blame him if he didn’t? Regardless of the fact that he’d thought it was the best thing to do at the time and that Rose and his doctors had agreed. So had Chambers but it had been his decision in the end. None of them had known what was happening to his family then.

 

Rick heard a small sound within their small prison. His green eyes drifted open and he laid there listening, not wanting to move around and disturb DeSoto if it was just some animal snooping around the truck.

 

He heard a sharp gasp and then a low cry of pain and he knew it was John he was hearing. He wanted to go to him…Comfort him, but he knew it could just make it worse if the boy fought him. He eased himself to a sitting position, intending to wake Roy.  His eyes widened in shock, seeing John getting ready to inject something into his IV line.

 

DeSoto’s words came back to him. ‘John has a head injury…I don’t know how severe and if I give him anything for pain it could kill him,’ he’d said.

 

Rick ripped off the canula and pushed himself to his feet, launching himself across the small area. “JOHN NO,” he shouted, closing his hand over his son’s, preventing him from completing his task.

 

“Lemmee go,” John groaned, struggling to free himself.

 

Rick was afraid if he let him fight he’d do more internal damage. He closed his arms around him, pinning the boy against his chest.

 

Roy had awakened instantly at Ricks shout and shot from the mattress and came to his aid, prying John’s hand lose and tugging the syringe clear of the IV line. “Ah Johnny…What did you do?” he questioned understandingly. He looked at the syringe and was relieved that John hadn’t gotten a full dose of the drug. He knew his kid brother had to be hurting really bad to try something this desperate.  He reached out to gently stroke the sable hair back.

 

John hadn’t gotten all of the MS, but he’d gotten enough to take the edge off the pain. His dark eyes began to drift shut. “Hurz …I’m S…sor…ry Roy,” he slurred as he drifted off.

 

“It’s okay Junior…I understand,” he soothed reassuringly.

 

 

Rick held John against him as he dropped off to sleep.

 

Roy’s eyes narrowed a bit and he felt the stirrings of anger and a bit of jealousy at the proprietary way the older man was holding Johnny. Part of him understood the man’s need to be close to John but the other part of him didn’t want to share the familial bond he’d established with his friend and kid brother…After all, he’d earned that right, he’d fought for it, tearing down John’s walls and dragging him back to the living and hours of therapy sessions, while Rick had forfeited that right twenty years ago.

 

He reached over to take John from Rick’s arms but the man’s eyes lifted to meet his and Roy could see the glisten of moisture pooling in his eyes. “Please…Please,” he pleaded. “Just let me hold my son?” Roy’s jaw clenched and Rick saw it and knew what his answer would be. “Just for a minute…Please,” he begged. “I won’t ever try to take him from you…To come between you, even if I could. I promise you, but please…He’s my boy,” he said imploringly, correctly reading the emotion in Roy’s blue eyes.

 

The blonde paramedic saw the tears rolling freely down the man’s bearded face. ‘What if it was you and Chris?’ a small voice seemed to whisper in his mind. Rick had had his reasons.  He had sacrificed his life with his wife and son for them, so they could live a normal life…or at least what he’d thought would be a normal life.  Roy still wasn’t sure he’d made the right choice, but he understood that the man hadn’t known of the abuse John and his mom had endured either.

 

Roy sighed and reigned in his anger and his jealousy with the man. As long as John was asleep and not aware of just who held him, there was no harm in letting the man have those few moments. He sat back against the wall. “For a few minutes,” he said gruffly. “But watch his ribs and that IV,” he finished with a growl.

 

Rick nodded and reached up to pull the mask from his face before resting his cheek against the sable hair, the same color as his own.  His fingers stroked through the thick, dark waves he’d inherited from his mom as he held his son for the first time in twenty years. He lifted his head and let his green eyes wander over John’s face, memorizing every detail, much the same way he had when his son had first come into the world. He kissed his forehead gently and Roy had to swallow back the tightening in his throat at the tender gesture. He closed his eyes, still feeling the sting of jealousy that this man would somehow come between him and his kid brother, but mostly to give Rick a few private moments with his only child.

 

After about an hour, Johnny began to stir restlessly and Roy knew his partner was no longer sleeping deeply enough not to notice that it wasn’t his trusted best friend that held him… Rick knew it too. He smiled his grateful thanks to Roy for giving him this time and carefully laid his son back on the cushion.

 

“You have no idea how much that meant to me,” he breathed out softly. “Thank you.”

 

“Yes…Yes I do,” Roy replied, remembering back to those few times when he’d thought he was going to lose John himself and how he’d felt when he’d gotten him back.

 

They were about to settle back in their places when they heard the faint whump…whump…whump of a helicopters rotors. They gave each other a hopeful glance. It faded as the sound passed over and retreated only to return a moment later. Their hope grew to a relieved smile as the sound grew closer until it was directly above them and began to hover there.

 

 

Chief Sorenson and Hank Stanley climbed from the bright red car now parked in front of the DeSoto residence. They threw each other a disheartened glance at the news they were about to deliver. This was supposed to have been a simple escort assignment for John and Roy but it had turned out to be a nightmare.

 

Chambers had called Sorenson early this morning to tell him that the armored car carrying their witness and their two paramedics was missing and they didn’t know if the trio was dead or alive. There had been no contact from any of the four agents that had been with them and that alone was enough to leave them fearful that the news wouldn’t be good.

 

They’d stopped at Gage’s ranch first but his wife and the babies weren’t at home. Hank assumed that she’d be at the DeSoto house since that’s where John would most likely have gone to once they’d dropped off their patient and flown home but if not, they would return here after they spoke to Joanne.

 

The pair made their way up the driveway to the front door. Sorenson drew in a deep breath and knocked softly.

 

A moment later Joanne opened the door..., her smile of greeting fading as she realized who was on her doorstep. Her blue eyes flicked between the two men warily. “Hank…Chief Sorenson?” She questioned, swallowing back the threatening hysterics. She’d been through this once before when the chief appeared on her doorstep, but she’d been wrong that time and it had actually been a friend that was visiting whose husband had been killed in a fire.

 

This time the visiting friend was Danella and the loss of her husband would be almost as devastating to Joanne as Roy would. “Joanne…Is Danella here?”

 

Jo choked back a sob. “What’s wrong?” She asked plaintively, now fearing that something had happened to John, but if that was the case, why hadn’t Roy called her?

 

“Jo…We need to talk to both of you,” he said gently.

 

Danella heard the distress in her friend’s voice from the kitchen and came to the door to see what was happening. She saw Hank and the Chief, but unlike Joanne, she didn’t understand the significance. “Oh hello Captain Stanley,” she greeted cheerfully. Her smile slipped away at the somber look both men gave her and the sight of the tears now coursing down Joanne’s face. “What is wrong?” She asked, looking frightened now herself.

 

“Can we come in?” Hank asked.

 

Jo stepped back to let the men inside. Hank waved the two women toward the sofa. “Why don’t we all sit,” he suggested. Jo and Dani exchanged a frightened glance.

 

Chief Sorenson’s eyes shifted to the two small infants lying on a blanket on the floor and his heart seemed to turn a flip in his chest. What if the worst happened to Gage…? DeSoto’s two children were older and while the loss would still be devastating...They at least would have their memories of their dad, but these two tiny infants would never even remember their father…Never know what kind of man he’d been.

 

He shook his head forlornly,… And what about DeSoto’s children? Who’d walk his young daughter down the aisle someday? Who’d proudly cheer his son on when he graduated from college? God…He hated these moments and this was even worse…It wasn’t even a venture they should have been on or had chosen…He should have asked them for their help instead of ordering them into harm’s way on their time off. If these two young men were dead…He’d bear the blame for this, if not with anyone else, then in his own heart.

 

Standing next to him…Captain Stanley was feeling much the same way…Should he have tried harder to keep them from this journey they’d been set on? None of them could have known that it would be more dangerous than the job they went to every other day but still…It should have been their choice.

 

“Jo…Danella…There’s just no easy way to tell you this,” he began.

 

Both of the ladies went pale at those words. “John is not dead,” Dani whispered with a negative shake of her head. “He is not…I would know.”

 

“Please Hank…What’s going on?” Jo pleaded, reaching over to take the younger woman’s hand in her own. She gave it a squeeze.

 

“You know what their assignment was?” He questioned.

 

“Yes…They were escorting a witness to Sacramento,” Jo answered for them both.

 

Hank nodded. “They were being followed by other agents as well but…,” he hesitated before plunging ahead. “But they’ve lost contact with the vehicle and the agents,” he finished in a rush.

 

“Oh Spirit,” Dani whispered forlornly. She slid off the sofa to sit nearer the twins. Her hands reaching out to rub their tiny backs as tears welled and trickled down her face.

 

Jo put her hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. Her chin rose defiantly. “So you don’t know for sure what’s happened to them?” She questioned, her auburn brow rising curiously.

 

“Not yet, no,” Sorenson replied. “But…They had a radio and John and Roy’s Biophone so we should have heard from someone if they were…,” he hesitated but he didn’t want them to get their hopes up only to have them crushed if it turned out badly. The silence from the agents and the two paramedics was telling.  “Still alive,” he finished softly.

 

Jo squeezed the now sobbing younger woman’s shoulder as she stood. “Well…You have both seen just how resilient Johnny and my husband are, so let’s not count them out just yet alright?” She said stubbornly.

 

Hank and Sorenson knew she was right about that but still…They were afraid she was in denial and might well be disappointed this time…They didn’t understand that Joanne was simply not about to believe that they’d all come this far, only to have it end this way, at least not until she saw the bodies. She was well aware that both John and Roy were strong and too stubborn to let the other die without one hell of a fight. No…She wouldn’t give in to the despair that was trying to claw its way up her throat until they had the evidence.

 

“Thank you for coming to tell us in person Hank…Chief Sorenson…Please…Keep us informed about the search, but right now…Danella and I need some time,” she said, brushing at the tears that were trying to escape.

 

“Of course Jo…Dani…If there’s anything we can do?”

 

“Yes there is,” Jo said.

 

“What’s that Jo?” Hank asked.

 

“Pray…It’s what we’ll be doing, and bring our husbands home,” she finished softly.

 

The two men nodded and hats in hand, turned and quietly left the two women to console each other.

 

Joanne slid down to sit with Danella on the floor. She took her hand and the younger woman turned her tear streaked face toward her. “How do you stay so strong?” She wept.

 

Jo gathered her into her arms. “By trusting the bond they share,” she replied softly. She felt the nod against her shoulder. “Let’s pray,” she added.

 

“Yes,” Danella agreed.

 

 

 

Army Lieutenant Carlos Gibbs flew over the brush covered ravine, keeping well clear of the steeply sloping canyon walls. He’d been flying over the twenty mile stretch of road between where the accident on the I5 had taken place and the nearest two exits and entrances to it for over three hours. He could barely make out the vehicles from the local police, federal agents and the military as they swarmed over the hillside. Fire fighters from the Los Angeles County and Bakersfield Fire departments were on standby and were waiting nearby in the hopes that there would be survivors. Gibbs sighed. Right now, he’d just be happy to find the vehicles.

 

Chief Sorenson, along with Hank Stanley was also waiting anxiously for some word on their missing men.  Right now, none of them even knew if their disappearance was accidental or deliberate, though the missing agents seemed to point toward the latter.

 

His eyes lifted to the helicopter that flew by overhead. He’d seen it coming and going for over two hours now without seeing anything. How could a vehicle that size and its accompanying car have just vanished?

 

The helicopter flew on but suddenly slowed…Hank saw it bank and looked to his Chief…Both men climbed from the vehicle and stood shading their eyes from the harsh glare from the sunlight. The helicopter flew toward them only to bank again and begin to hover. Both men began to hope that the long wait was over.

 

Aboard the helicopter, Gibbs gave his co pilot Ernie McCoy a negative shake of his head as they flew over the ravine. They were about to move on when a flash of sunlight on metal caught his eye. He banked and came around again to check.

 

“What is it?” Ernie asked.

 

“I saw something,” he replied as he passed over the area where the glint had come from but saw nothing. He heaved a sigh of disappointment, but as he turned there was once again a flash from below. “There…,” he shouted, pointing to a small patch of white below them…The rest of the vehicle appeared to be covered by brush and branches in a deliberate attempt to conceal the armored car from view.

 

He hovered over the area and grabbed the radio. “This is Lt. Gibbs…Search 4…We have located the missing vehicle,” he said excitedly.

 

“Give us your coordinates Search 4,” the voice on the other end came back.

 

Gibbs reeled off their current location and it wasn’t long before Hank and Sorenson heard the radio in their car crackle to life. “We have a sighting of the missing vehicle…All teams converge on grid area C72, Search helicopter 4 is maintaining visual,” he said.

 

Hank and Sorenson slid back inside the car. “Let’s go,” Sorenson said softly. Hoping that against the odds, they would find their men alive and bring them home.

 

 

 

Inside the armored car Roy and Rick exchanged a relieved smile. “Oh thank God,” Roy whispered, throwing a glance Heaven ward. He wiped the sweat that was beading his brow and leaned over John. His fingers lightly brushed over his friend’s forehead. “Hey Junior…can you hear me?” He questioned softly, blotting the perspiration dotting John’s face away with a piece of gauze bandage.

 

John’s dark lashes fluttered against the high cheekbones for a few seconds before he managed to force them open to look up into his partner’s blue eyes. He saw the smile and he frowned. “R…Roy?” John gasped out. His hand lifted and the older man took the long, slender fingers into his own, squeezing them gently.

 

“I’m here Johnny…You’re gonna be okay.”

 

John heard the thumping sound from outside. “What’s hap…happening?” He panted, trying to sit up. His face twisted in pain. “Agggh,” he moaned.

 

“Shhh, shhh…Lay back Junior…We got help coming,” he soothed quietly. “We’re gonna get you to a hospital real soon,” he assured him.

 

John nodded. “Rea…really hurs bad,” he huffed.

 

“I know…Just hold on a little longer,” he pleaded.

 

“Dani…twins…tell them…,” he began, but Roy stopped him.

 

“Don’t you dare John…We didn’t get this far for you to quit on me now,” he barked, squeezing John’s hand. “You got something to say, you better stick around Junior, cuz I’m not passing on any goodbye messages, got it?” He snapped.

 

A small smile tried to make an appearance. “Yes sir,” John breathed softly.

 

“Good boy,” Roy replied before he leaned down close to John’s ear. “I love you Johnny…I need my kid brother here with me.”

 

“Love you too big brother,” he managed before his eyes closed once more.

 

Rick’s eyes misted as he watched the gentle exchange and knew he could never come between these two young men. It was painfully obvious who held John’s heart, his soul, his trust.

 

Their attention was diverted a moment later by the sound of voices coming closer. They heard the scrape of tree branches being pulled away from their very warm prison. Light suddenly began to filter in through the now clear windows.

 

Roy saw movement in the front of the cab and while he couldn’t hear the words, he knew their rescuers had found the bodies of the agents. A face suddenly appeared close to the window and the blonde paramedic leaned down to wave frantically at the man. “WE’RE HERE!” He yelled. WE NEED HELP,” he added pointing at John.

 

The man’s eyes swiveled toward the injured paramedic and he nodded his understanding. They shifted to Rick and a moment later he disappeared from sight.

 

Roy and Rick heard the sound of many voices and sat back in relief. It was just a matter of time now for them to burn their way through the lock and they’d be home free.

 

Hank and Sorenson were just pulling up to the scene. They saw the men scrambling down the hill. The Bakersfield Fire Department were already working their way down the slope with stokes baskets and drug boxes. They threw each other a hopeful look and Hank glanced up to offer a silent prayer. A moment later that prayer was answered as the radio crackled to life.

 

“Search 4…Find a place to land…We have survivors…You’ll need to get them to a hospital.”

 

“Affirmative Ground 6…There’s a place about a half mile north of your position to set down.”

 

“10-4…"

"How many survivors?”

 

“Three…Both paramedics and their patient.”

 

“Oh thank you God,” Hank whispered. “I need to find a phone,” Hank told Sorenson. “I have two young wives waiting for good news,” he added gruffly, holding back his own tears of joy. Sorenson nodded his head in complete agreement.

 

 

 

Hank and the Chief watched somberly as the bodies of the four agents were carried up the hill in black plastic bags and knew but for the grace of God, John and Roy could also be in one of these impersonal shrouds.

 

Their eyes returned to the armored car as the military crew used a blow torch to cut through the locking mechanism and Hank grinned to himself, remembering a younger John Gage doing the same and his awe at the piles of money he’d had to climb over to get to the trapped guard.

 

There was no money in this vehicle but as far as Hank was concerned, its cargo was worth far more than the one a few years ago had been.

 

Inside the car, Roy and Rick listened impatiently to the odd sounds and voices of the men working diligently to free them. Both of them gave anxious looks toward John as soft gasps of pain slipped from between his lips.

 

Roy held John’s hand and bathed his face with cool water from the canteen as he soothed his younger friend.  “Hold on Junior…just a few more minutes,” he assured him.

 

Rick tugged his mask and his gloves back in place...He didn’t know who was out there, but his resemblance to John would surely be noted and for the moment, his identity needed to remain a secret. He was well aware that the time for him to be in Sacramento had come and gone and he had no idea if the Grand Jury would refuse to give them more time or throw out the indictment. If that happened, then John’s life would be in danger once again from the Morris’ while they worked to build a new case.

 

Despite this whole fiasco, Rick would never willingly put his son’s life at risk or Rosemary’s or John’s new family and Rick now understood just how much power these people wielded and that they’d stop at nothing to protect themselves.

 

The door suddenly flew open and light flooded the small area, causing both conscious men to squint, and with it was a cool breeze that brought a sigh of relief to the two men. “Hurry…My partners hurt bad,” Roy said to the two paramedics who climbed inside.

 

“Is he the only one injured?” One asked, his blue eyes taking in the other two passengers.

 

“I have a bump on the head and a possible concussion…Our patient has some bruises,” Roy replied as one of the paramedics moved over to examine the blonde fireman.

 

“Alright…We have a helicopter on standby…We’ll airlift him to Bakersfield Memorial as soon as we get you out. He looked to Rick. “They have another coming to take you Sacramento…,” he told him.

 

Rick looked to John…He hated leaving his son when he was injured but he had no choice, besides, he reminded himself, looking at the still hand clasped in Roy’s…He was with the one person who would look after him as well or better than he could.

 

The two paramedics turned their attention to the matter at hand. They took note of the IV line and threw a glance at DeSoto, who stared unflinchingly back.

 

“D5W to keep his fluid levels up. He’s got a head injury but his pupils are equal and reactive. He’s been in and out of consciousness.  His ninth rib on the right is broken and he’s probably bleeding internally…His BP has been dropping over the last few hours,” he informed them, refusing to explain or defend his decision to treat John without a doctor’s orders.

 

One of them finally nodded in understanding...There really hadn’t been any other choice. “Get Bakersfield on the radio,” he told his partner as he wrapped the BP cuff around John’s arm.

 

Johnny stirred restlessly as he began to pump it up. The dark eyes blinked open slowly and he stared blearily at the stranger leaning over him. They flicked toward his partner in confusion and he relaxed at Roy’s reassuring smile. The paramedic saw the look. “Hey you’re awake…I’m Tim Lathem…I’m a paramedic from Bakersfield and we’re gonna get you out of here real soon,” he reassured the injured man.

 

“Glad…to see…ya,” John gasped before his face twisted in pain.

 

“I’ll bet you are…Now you just relax…We’re gonna get you outta here,” he replied as he set the bell of the stethoscope and twisted the valve. He took John’s pulse and respirations. He looked to his partner a moment later. “BP is 80/40…Respirations shallow and pulse is 40,” he told his partner worriedly.

 

His partner Scott Cooper lifted the handset. “Bakersfield Memorial this is squad 18.”

 

“Squad 18…This is Bakersfield Memorial…Go ahead,” a man’s voice replied.

 

“Bakersfield, we have three victims of a MVA…Victim one has no apparent injuries. Victim two is a male about…,” he paused waiting for Roy to fill in the missing information.

 

“Thirty two,” Roy replied.

 

“Thirty two…He has a scalp laceration and some swelling around the area…His pupils are equal and reactive and he is conscious. Victim three is male approximately…”

 

“Twenty eight,” Roy supplied.

 

“Twenty eight…He has a head injury and has been drifting in and out of consciousness. The ninth rib is broken on his right side and we suspect internal bleeding. There is rigidity and guarding in the lower right quadrant.” He threw Roy an apologetic look as he continued. “He um…He already has an IV D5W on board,” he duly reported.

 

“Who authorized the IV?” The doctor’s voice replied.

 

“Uh…Bakersfield…He and his partner are LA county paramedics. They’ve been trapped inside an over turned armored car for seven hours,” he hedged.

 

“Understood but who authorized the IV?” He questioned again.

 

“Um…,” Lathem hemmed.

 

Roy snorted and snatched the phone. “This is Los Angeles County Paramedic Roy DeSoto…I authorized the IV,” he snapped angrily. “I wasn’t about to sit here and watch my partner die from blood loss and dehydration, now would you like to authorize further treatment or do I need to do that as well,” he barked.

 

“Now see here…,” the doctor began.

 

“Give me the phone,” another voice spoke. They all looked toward the door where Hank Stanley and Chief Sorenson now stood. Roy handed the phone over to his chief, now looking a bit sheepish at his outburst.

 

“This is Chief Sorenson…LA county fire department. Doctor…I’m taking full responsibility for DeSoto’s action so lets please get on with handling this rescue before Gage dies while you argue,” he said calmly, but the tone clearly brooked no argument.

 

“Uh…Yes Chief,” he replied, a bit embarrassed that he’d forgotten the patient in his irritation with the paramedic. “Squad 18…Start a second IV of ringers lactate and transport as soon as possible…We’ll have an OR standing by on arrival.”

 

“10-4…Ringers and transport…We’ll be airlifting him from here…ETA…twenty minutes.”

 

Roy looked to his captain and his chief as Lathem set to work. “Thank you sir,” he breathed out in relief.

 

Sorenson nodded and clapped Roy on the shoulder. “Glad you both made it son,” he said gently.

 

Hank didn’t waste time with words. He reached out and pulled Roy into a fatherly embrace. “Boy… are you two a sight for sore eyes,” he said quietly, his voice cracking with emotion.

 

“I could say the same about you Cap,” he replied with a grin as Cooper pulled the stokes basket close to where John was lying. Roy turned back… “Here…Let me help,” he told them as he moved to join the two paramedics. The three men carefully lifted John into the basket, wincing at the cry of pain that slipped from the young man’s lips. They laid him down gently and strapped him in, tucking the IV bag under his shoulder.

 

Two others were loading Rick into a stokes as well, but his eyes were on his son. The cry of pain tore at his heart and he knew if he had just let them fly him up to Sacramento, John wouldn’t be in this kind of pain right now. He’d be at home with his wife and children, enjoying his day off. He gave him one last glance as the men began to carry him away.

 

 

They quickly carried both men toward the lines that were waiting to pull them all up to the road for the final leg of this journey…A hospital for John and a ride to Sacramento for Rick.

 

Roy turned to Hank and Chief Sorenson as he waited his turn. “Cap…Jo and Dani…?” he began.

 

“We spoke to them both Roy…We had to tell them that you and John were both missing and they’re very worried and upset of course,” he said, giving him an apologetic look. “Jo did tell me that we were giving up on you too soon though,” he informed him.

 

Roy grinned. “Thanks Cap…I’ll call her from the hospital.”

 

Stanley and Sorenson nodded. “Tell her we’ll gladly take the ‘I told you so’,” Hank laughed.

 

“I will Cap,” he replied with a grin as he turned away.

 

“Hey…,” he called after his senior paramedic. Roy turned back to look at him curiously.

 

“Take care of John.”

 

“Always do Cap,” he said, throwing a glance toward Rick.

 

Hank watched as they pulled the two baskets up the hill, Roy followed with the assistance of one of the Bakersfield paramedics and a man that looked to be a federal agent from the suit he wore.  Hank wondered idly who the witness was and what he knew that was worth killing someone for.

 

 

They loaded Johnny on board the ambulance for the short ride up the road to where the helicopter was waiting to airlift them to the hospital. Roy stood nearby, waiting patiently to climb in behind him.  He was feeling pretty lousy himself and he knew there were several hours ahead of him before he could settle down into a soft bed and rest. There was no way he’d be able to relax until he knew Johnny would be okay.

 

He looked over to where Rick was being assisted into another vehicle. The man’s green eyes met his. “Take care of him,” he mouthed to the blonde paramedic.

 

Roy nodded and wondered if when this was all over, would Roderick Gage want back into John’s life? He wasn’t sure what he was hoping for himself at this point.

 

“Mr. DeSoto,” the agent called, drawing his attention back to the matter at hand…getting John to the hospital. Roy looked at the man. “Let’s get moving,” he directed, waving toward the back of the ambulance.

 

Roy nodded and climbed inside, wondering idly why the agent was there with them since their job was now done. Roy sat next to John and reached out to take his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. John gave him a tired smile and a weak ‘thumbs up’ with his free hand as the vehicle pulled away.

 

Ricks eyes filled with tears as he watched it carry his son out of his life once again. A moment later his own pulled out.

 

Fifteen minutes later, two helicopters lifted off and headed in opposite direction…One to Bakersfield and the other to Sacramento to where Wyvern and Chad Morris were waiting for justice, twenty years in the making.

 

 

Ed Chambers stepped from the small office he’d been using as a makeshift command post. He spotted Tanner and a still visibly upset Rosemary Hughes sitting on a bench in the lobby of the courthouse and waved them over.

 

Rose saw the serious look on Chamber’s face and stood up, walking rapidly across the large hall. Her feet beat out a staccato tattoo on the tile floors. Tanner was hard pressed to keep up. “What is it Ed?” She asked worriedly. “Have you heard something?” She pressed, desperate for answers.

 

The older man nodded. “Yes…They found the missing car.”

 

Rose licked her suddenly dry lips before asking. “John? Is John alright…Rod? What about Roy?” She asked urgently.

 

“Their vehicle was apparently ambushed and run off the road just north of LA,” he explained, holding up his hand to stave off the panicked questions he saw in her eyes. “They’re all alive,” he added.

 

Rose blew out a relieved breath. “Oh thank God,” she breathed and then his phrasing hit her. He hadn’t said they were okay. “What does that mean exactly?” She asked warily.

 

“John is badly injured,” he told her gently.

 

“WHAT? How badly?”

 

“They suspect some internal injuries and they’re airlifting him to Bakersfield Memorial right now.”

 

“I have to get there,” she said, sounding frightened. “What about Rod and Roy?”

 

“DeSoto is with John…He’s banged up but he was walking on his own and there’s an agent with them. He’ll stay with them until the trial is over. I’ve made arrangements to keep John isolated until this is over and the news about it dies down. “

 

“Thank you,” she breathed out in relief, uncertain that John wouldn’t remember these people he’d met a few years ago and maybe put two and two together. Rose never underestimated John’s intelligence and wouldn’t bet against his remembering.

 

“Rod is on his way here by chopper,” he told her. “We’ll use that to fly you back to Bakersfield memorial as soon as it lands here,” he told her.

 

“Thank you Ed,” she replied. At least she’d have a chance to see her brother for a moment just before she killed him herself for putting John and Roy in danger.

 

 

 

John’s gurney was whisked into the treatment room at Bakersfield Memorial. They wasted no time in transferring him and simply shoved the existing table out of the way, before casting a worried grimace toward Roy.

 

John’s BP had dropped dangerously low during the flight and that concerned them. Regardless of the fact that he was LA County, he was one of them. They were also sympathetic for the tongue lashing DeSoto would receive from Dr. Darrow for the unauthorized IV, but really…What else could he have done?

 

“Good luck man,” Lathem said to Roy as he and his partner hustled from the room. They cast a glance at the agent that had taken up residence outside the door before they headed down the hall.

 

“Thanks,” Roy replied as they left. He moved to John’s side ignoring the surly glance the doctor threw him, before he began to examine Johnny. He’d deal with the blonde paramedic later.

 

John was barely conscious, but the dark eyes moved searchingly until they rested on Roy. “Wha…ss happen…ing? He breathed out, grimacing in pain as the doctor probed the injury.

 

“You’re in the hospital Johnny…Just hang on okay?” The older paramedic soothed.

 

The doctor checked John’s eyes and then his pulse, frowning at how weak it was beating beneath his fingers. The man was loath to give John an anesthetic without an X ray of that head injury, but he had no choice. The young man was obviously bleeding internally and he needed surgery right now.

 

He snatched up the phone on the wall and waited briefly for whoever was on the other end. “Is O.R. 3 ready?” He barked. There was an apparent affirmative answer. “Tell them I’m sending that accident victim up right now,” he snapped before hanging up and moving to the door.  He pulled it open and glanced about, catching sight of an orderly.  “Get someone to help you and get in here,” he ordered.

 

“How is he?” Roy asked worriedly.

 

“He’s bleeding internally, which is why you should have asked for permission before you started that IV,” he growled as the door opened and the two orderlies hustled in. “O.R. 3 Stat,” he snapped.

 

Roy took John’s hand before they could move him. The dark eyes were barely open. “Hey junior,” he said softly. The chocolate brown orbs locked with his. “They’re taking you up to surgery alright? I’ll be here when you’re done. I’ll call Dani,” he assured him.

 

“Kay,” he whispered weakly.

 

“Don’t leave me junior…I need you,” he added.

 

John threw him a tired smile. “Try,” he mumbled as the gurney began to move and he let his eyes close till the dark lashes rested on his cheekbones.

 

 

 

Roy waited until the elevator doors closed before he turned to go find a phone but Dr Darrow reached out to take hold of his arm. Roy’s blue eyes narrowed as he looked at the man’s hand keeping him from walking way.

 

Roy was tired and feeling pretty lousy himself. “Take your hand off me,” he growled angrily.

 

“I could have you washed out of the paramedic program for what you did,” he said arrogantly.

 

“What did you expect me to do…Sit there with a box full of medical equipment and watch him die?”

 

“You should have called it in….,” he replied.

 

“Well unfortunately my radio was trapped in the front of the armored car with two dead agents…I couldn’t get to it,” he snarled. "I’ve been doing this job for seven years now…I had to make a decision to let him die or try and save his life.”

 

“You aren’t a doctor…,” he began.

 

“Tell me doctor…If I had called it in, what would you have told me to do?”

 

The man stared at him mutely for a long moment. “I will have to report this of course,” he said smugly. Roy walked to the phone in the room and picked it up. “What do you think you’re doing?” The man growled.

 

“You’ve already spoken to my chief, I’m getting the man in charge of Rampart on the line for you,” he replied as he waited for the phone to ring. “Dr. Early please,” he said to whoever answered. A moment later another voice came on the line.

 

“Dr. Early...This is Roy DeSoto…”

 

“What can I do for you Roy?” The blonde paramedic explained the whole situation and finished it by adding, “The doctor here would like to report my actions,” he informed the gray haired doctor.

 

“Certainly Roy…Put him on,” he replied.

 

Roy handed the phone to Darrow. “Dr. Joe Early. He’s in charge of the ER at Rampart while Kelly Brackett is on his honeymoon,” he said snidely.

 

“Hello Dr. Early,” he said, prepared to hear the doctor on the other end tell him DeSoto would be on the engine when he returned to LA but he was shocked.

 

“Dr. Darrow…I understand you have a problem with what Roy did out there?”

 

“Of course I do,” he said indignantly.

 

“Well…I assure you that John Gage and Roy DeSoto are not only two of the first paramedics in LA County but they are also the two best paramedics in LA. If Roy had been able to call it in, I would have ordered him to start an IV of D5W and most likely so would you so…Let’s just get John through surgery and we’ll airlift him back to Rampart as soon as he’s stable,” Early told him. His tone would have shocked most people who saw the physician as the kindly, gray haired gentlemen doctor but the man knew Roy had been absolutely correct in what he’d done and he wanted to be sure this would be the end of it.

 

“You approve of what he did?”

 

“I not only approve it…I applaud it. He was absolutely correct and I’ll take responsibility for it,” he finished. “So now, Instead of berating him for saving John’s life, why don’t  you get him the medical attention he needs and thank him for doing exactly what you and I would have told him to do if he’d been able to call it in.”

 

Darrow flushed in embarrassment at the open rebuke from such a well renowned colleague. “I’ll take care of that,” he grumbled unhappily.

 

“Good…Have Roy give you my number so that we can get Johnny home as soon as possible…,” he added, his tone saying he’d finished the conversation.

 

Darrow hung up the phone a moment later and glared at Roy. “I’ll get another doctor in here to look at that head injury…Leave the number for Rampart at the admitting desk,” he growled before turning to stalk away.

 

Roy nodded and picked up the phone. He had another phone call to make before he worried about that.

 

Roy dialed the number for his house, bouncing on his toes in anticipation. Joanne answered, her voice sounding both depressed and wary. “Hi babe,” he said softly.

 

 

 

 

 

At the other end, Joanne picked up the phone, throwing Dani a tremulous, half smile, almost fearful of who was on the other end and what they were about to tell her.  “Hello,” she said, almost choking on the words.

 

The voice when it replied caused her knees to shake and she sat down hard on the floor.  “Hi babe…”

 

Tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “ROY!” She shrieked joyfully.

 

Roy held the phone away from his ear for a moment while Danella ran to her side, her amber eyes locked on the woman’s face, uncertain whether it was joy or despair that had wrenched the cry from her friend.

 

“Yeah babe, I just called to let you know that I’m okay,” he assured her gently.

 

“Are you sure? What happened? Is Johnny okay?” She asked urgently, the questions pouring out without giving him a chance to answer.

 

Danella was almost dancing with anxiety. “Johnny?” She pressed.

 

“I don’t know yet,” Jo mouthed back as Roy replied to her questions.

 

“I’m a little banged up babe, but I’ll be okay. I’ll tell you all about it when you and Danella get here.”

 

“Get there? Where are you...Where is Johnny?” She asked fearfully, realizing that he hadn’t answered her about John’s condition and knowing if her young friend was okay he’d be badgering Roy to talk to Dani. Her heart began to beat a bit faster and her eyes locked on Danella’s frightened face. There was a long pause on the other end before Roy answered.  “Honey…There was an accident. Johnny’s hurt bad. He’s in surgery..They think he’s bleeding internally.”

 

“Oh God,” she whispered. “Is he gonna be alright?” She pressed.

 

“I hope so but I won’t know until he’s out of surgery.”

 

“What is it Jo?” Dani asked tearfully, correctly reading her friends face.

 

“Hold on Honey,” Jo said before looking to Dani. “There’s been an accident…Johnny’s been hurt and he’s in surgery…We have to go to uh…,” she halted, not even sure herself where John and her husband were. “Roy…Where are you?” She questioned.

 

“Bakersfield Memorial,” he told her.

 

“Okay…We’re on our way. We’ll be there soon. I just have to pick up the kids,” she told him.

 

“I’ll see you when you get here babe,” he replied. “I love you.”

 

“I love you too...Give our love to our boy and tell him we’re on the way,” she said. Roy hung up as the door opened and a doctor stepped inside.

 

Jo slammed down the phone and snatched up her purse. “C’mon Dani,” she said taking the girls arm and steering her toward the living room.

 

“Johnny? Is he alright?” She asked, looking scared.

 

“He’s in surgery…That’s all Roy can tell us right now…We have to get there,” she replied, picking Katie Jo up off the blanket on the floor. Danella scooped Rory up and gathered her purse and the diaper bag…The two women practically ran for Joanne’s station wagon. They were soon on their way to Bakersfield to find their men.

 

 

Agent Chamber’s was waiting on the sidewalk when the black sedan carrying Roderick Gage pulled up in front of the door. He pulled open the door and stepped back to let the heavily bandage wrapped man climb out.

 

Ed gave him a look that told Rod they’d managed to dodge a bullet this time, both literally and figuratively from what his field agents had told him. “It’s good to see you Rod, now let’s get you inside before someone else does. We have some things to talk about.”

 

“It’s good to see you too Ed…I thought for a while there… that that armored car was gonna… be my mausoleum along with my son… and his partner,” he murmured haltingly.

 

“You came pretty damn close Rod…,” he began as they approached a closed door.

 

“If you’re gonna say… I told you so, then spare me…,” Rod shot back as the door opened.

 

“I won’t tell you that...I will ask what the hell you were thinking?” A feminine voice questioned.

                                                                                                                                                                       

Rod glanced over and saw his sister standing there with her hands on her hips, her angry face anything but welcoming.  “Rose,” he breathed out, reaching up to pull the mask away.

 

Her anger fell away for a moment at seeing her brother for the first time in many years. They hadn’t been able to risk someone recognizing her frequently visiting a hospital or nursing home and putting two and two together. Consequently, after her initial visit to Rod in the burn ward while he was still in a coma, she hadn’t seen her brother in twenty years, though she’d spoken to him frequently on the phone.

 

She stepped into his arms, holding him close for a long moment. “Oh God, it’s so good to see you Ricky,” she murmured against his chest.

 

“It’s good… to see you too… and I’m so sorry Rose, about …what happened with John I mean,” he panted.

 

She stepped back and gave him a gentle slap on the arm, swiping the tears from her face with her other hand. “Yes well…I’m still mad at you about that Ricky…I asked you to please not involve him,” she growled.

 

“I know but…I hadn’t seen… my son in twenty years Rose…I just wanted…a chance to see him, talk to him. I didn’t…know Morris would ever figure out who …or where I was…I’m so sorry,” he huffed breathlessly.

 

“How is John?” She asked worriedly.

 

“He was hurt… pretty bad… but thankfully his partner was alright… and he knew what to do,” he wheezed ruefully.

 

“Yes…They’re very close. Roy would move heaven and hell for John,” she informed him.

 

Rod nodded ruefully. “So I saw,” he said with a hint of jealousy.

 

Rose grinned. “I know how you feel. I felt it myself a few times but don’t be jealous Roderick…Johnny needs that man in his life like no one else. I thought for a long time that John’s spirit was dead and unreachable but Roy did and he brought our John back to us and I’ll always be grateful. He and his family have taken good care of him and loved him like their own,” she told him.

 

Rod felt his eyes grow misty at her words. “So I saw. He told me off straight away.”

 

Ed and Rose both looked shocked. “He knows who you are?” Ed asked in alarm.

 

Rod nodded. “John was hurt…I was trying to calm him down…I called him…, he hesitated. “I called him Ha’kéta,” he said.

 

Ed looked blank but Rose rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Oh no,” she moaned.

 

“What is that? What’s it mean?” Ed questioned.

 

“It’s something… I used to call him… when he was a child. It means little one in Cheyenne,” he explained.

 

“And I called him that after he came to live with me. Rod and Kate told me they called him that…I said it in English and John told me how to say it in Cheyenne. I told Roy.”

 

“Yes…Well needless to say he figured it out once I said it. It’s not exactly a common word in a common language is it,” he sighed.

 

“No and we need to find a way to be sure DeSoto keeps his mouth shut,” Ed murmured.

 

“Well I suppose we could put out a hit on him,” Rose said snidely.

 

Chambers flushed a bit as Rod chuckled at his sister’s sarcastic words. “That’s not what I meant. It’s just that we had no idea how far reaching and deep seated the power and criminal behavior was until today,” he admitted.

 

“What do you mean?” Rod asked. “I know… I wasn’t the first witness… they silenced,” he added ruefully.

 

“It’s worse Rod…Much worse. I’m afraid if you testify, that you’ll never be safe…Neither will John or Rose or anyone else you’re close to.”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“Rod, Rose…Fred Briggs came to us a while ago with a box of files. Those files carry the evidence of Wyvern and Chad’s crimes…Their payouts to buy officials and licenses to drill where they shouldn’t and bribes to others. He has records of moneys to silence the families of injured workers and their payouts to silence you Rod…you and others who might have come forward.”

 

“Dear God,” Rod whispered. “I know… one of them was… Sam Bertullo,” he told him.

 

Ed nodded. “I know…We have an APB out on him and a few others that were named here, but that’s how they knew where you were…They didn’t know who our witness was, but Mr. Fitzsimmons in the Sacramento Justice Department is apparently very friendly with them.”

 

“Oh no,” Rose said, looking horrified.

 

“Yeah…He told them where to find Rod.” He looked between the pair. “There’s something even worse,” he added, tossing a file down on the table.

 

Rod gave him a wary look and picked it up. He opened it and began to read. His eyes widened and began to fill with tears as he looked up at Rose. She saw the distress in his eyes.

 

“What is it?”  Rose asked fearfully.

 

He handed her the file to read before turning to Ed. “Now I really… want to testify …I want that… son of a bitch put away… forever,” he gasped.

 

“We don’t need you to anymore. Briggs is prepared to testify to save his own ass. He’ll tell the court everything you would have.”

 

Rod stared him in dumbfounded silence. All of this had been for nothing.  “I want to see Wyvern…I have to,” he growled.

 

“Rod…It isn’t necessary. He’ll pay for that,” he added nodding to the file Rosemary held in her shaking hands. Tears rolled freely down her face as she choked back sobs of disbelief.

 

“You owe me,” Rod growled.

 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Ed demurred.

 

Rod’s fist struck the desk and he whipped open the door to stalk from the room. Across the hall Tanner was standing with another man… Fred Briggs.

 

Briggs glanced up as the tall man stormed angrily from the room. His face blanched as he recognized an older but very obvious and very much alive, Roderick Gage.

 

Rod’s green eyes narrowed as he spotted him. “You bastard,” he snarled as he stalked toward him. Briggs backpedaled away from the very angry man coming toward him.

 

“Now Rod…,” he began in a panic.

 

“You had a hand in…All of this,” he gasped breathlessly.

 

“I didn’t…I didn’t want them to hurt you…I didn’t know…,” he squeaked, the rest of his words cut off as Rod grabbed his shirt collar.

 

“I should kill you,” he rasped as Tanner and Chambers rushed forward to pry his fingers loose from the man’s clothing.

 

“Rod…Let him go,” Chambers ordered, though he understood the man’s anger.

 

“I’m going to testify for you,” Fred said in a rush, quailing in fright under the frigid green eyed stare.

 

“That’ll make it alright?” He barked.

 

“What’s going on here?” Another voice said from behind them.

 

Rod froze at the familiar voice but the rest of the group turned to face the man and his escort.

 

Wyvern Morris stood in the rotunda with three armed, federal agents. His eyes swept over Chambers and Tanner…They stopped and narrowed at the sight of Rosemary Hughes and he realized that she’d had a hand in his arrest.  Well she’d be the first one he’d have killed for this humiliating experience, the thought flitted through his hate filled mind. His cold, snake like gaze landed on Fred Briggs and his eyes filled with a promise that Briggs recognized instantly… His life would end if Morris or his minions ever found him when this was over.

 

Wyvern’s blood pressure was soaring and the veins in his neck were popping with rage. “Well Fred…I guess I should have sent Bert to come visit you,” he sneered angrily at this betrayal. He opened his mouth to continue but the tall man with his back to them slowly turned around.

 

Wyvern Morris shot him a glare and began to look back at Fred until recognition suddenly clicked. He stood with his mouth hanging open in shocked horror…His eyes almost bugged from his head. “Gage,” he breathed out. His heart pounded wildly and his hand rose to touch his chest. “You’re alive.”

 

“Obviously…And no thanks…to you,” he snarled, moving toward him.

 

“I…I uh,” his words stumbling over his tongue. He suddenly couldn’t breathe and the pain in his chest grew worse as Rod continued toward him.

 

“You son of a bitch,” he growled. “THEY WERE YOUR FRIENDS,” he shouted in the man’s face.

 

“What? What do… you mean?” He gasped, his eyes shooting to Briggs and he knew…Fred had told them EVERYTHING.

 

YOU HAD MY…PARENTS KILLED!” He railed in a rage, stopping to catch his breath. “YOU DID THIS TO ME... STOLE MY FAMILY…I SHOULD KILL YOU RIGHT HERE,” He bellowed angrily.

 

“There is now a capital charge against you Mr. Morris,” Ed said smugly.

 

Wyvern’s eyes widened in terror, never before having to face the people he’d hurt and their wrath and now the potential for the death penalty was an option…It was the last straw. “Argh…,” Wyvern suddenly cried as agony shot through his chest and down his arm. His knees began to buckle.

 

The agents grabbed him and laid him down on the cold tile floor.  Chamber’s grabbed Roderick by the arm and hustled him back toward the small room. “C’mon Rose,” he urged the woman who stood there watching the old man have a heart attack before her eyes with cold indifference. She finally turned and followed.

 

“Call 911 and get him to the hospital. I’ll tell the judge we’ll need an extra hour,” he said calmly before closing the door behind them.

 

“Both of you sit down,” Ed told the two very angry people standing with him. Rod was gasping for air from his outburst and Rose moved to help him to a chair.

 

They were both just about calmed down when they heard the shout in the hallway. “FATHER!”

 

“Stay put,” Ed commanded as he opened the door and stepped out, closing it firmly behind him.

 

 

Chad Morris was being brought to the interview room where his new attorney waited. They’d told him his father was already headed down as well and Chad was smirking triumphantly, sure that they would be told that something had happened and their witness would no longer be available. A good lawyer would be able to refute the evidence as being made up and get the case dismissed without the ‘witness to verify where he’d obtained it in the first place.

 

He and his accompanying guard stepped from the elevator and his eyes nearly bugged from his head as he spotted the commotion in the hall and who was at the center of it. “FATHER…!” He yelled, trying to run toward him, but the guard grabbed his arm and held him back. “Let me go…That’s my father,” He shouted, trying to pull free.

 

The old man lay on the floor gasping in pain.  He knew he was having a heart attack but he had one last order for his son. He weakly lifted his hand to wave him over. Chamber’s saw the eyes of the old man and knew he didn’t have much time. “Let him come,” he said quietly.

 

The guard brought him near to where his father was lying and he knelt beside him. His gray eyes fell on Briggs and narrowed dangerously but he didn’t have time to say anything as his father grabbed hold of his hand. 

 

“Father,” he said, looking very worried that he might be facing all of this alone very soon. The old man’s face was ashen and twisted in grief.

 

“Ch…ad,” he gasped. “You…You make…them pay,” he panted.

 

“Who…Fred?” He questioned, shooting the man a threatening glare.

 

“Yes…turn…ed on us,” he gasped. The look the younger man threw Briggs sent a shiver up his spine. His body felt cold as if he were already dying.

 

Chad remembered his father’s words…THEM, he’d said. “Who else Father…Who did you mean?” He questioned.

 

“G…g…AHHH,” he suddenly cried out. “Rrrr,” he tried again but his breath was a rattle now. They heard the sound of sirens and the arriving paramedics and ambulances but Chad felt his father’s hand drop away from his arm.

 

“WHO ELSE FATHER?” He yelled as he was pulled away from the man on the floor. “FATHER…,” he shouted again as the paramedics ran in and began to work on the old man.  His eyes turned to Fred. “You’re a dead man,” he hissed and Fred knew he meant it. All he could do now was pray that the Fed’s would keep their promise to protect him from Chad’s retribution.

 

Fred was pale with fear but he wasn’t about to take the blame for what had brought this on, he mused as he watched the paramedics work.

 

“I didn’t cause this,” he breathed out.

 

“WHAT? WELL WHO WAS IT?” He shouted.

 

Ed and Tanner both saw the answer was coming and Pete stepped in, pointing at Briggs. “YOU... SHUT YOUR MOUTH,” he ordered sharply.

 

“Get him out of here,” Ed ordered the guard who began to hustle the younger man away from the scene.

 

“LET ME GO…THAT’S MY FATHER…YOU HAVEN’T WON….I’LL FIND OUT WHO AND I’LL MAKE THEM PAY,” he bellowed as he was dragged from the area and hustled into another room.

 

Ed and Tanner breathed out sighs of relief but it was short lived as he heard the whine from one of the paramedic’s pieces of equipment. He glanced back…Morris’ body bucked beneath the charge, flopping like a rag doll before lying motionless…There was a steady hum from the monitor and a flat line scrolled across the screen.

 

There was another flurry of activity and again the man’s body bucked but without any change. IV’s and drugs were being administered, but they didn’t seem to be working, at least not to the untrained eyes of the two federal agents.

 

“He’s gone,” one of them finally said after several long minutes of trying to revive the man.

 

They heard the hospital respond. “Continue CPR and get him in here fast,” it commanded.

 

“10-4 Sutter,” they replied. They loaded the man on the stretcher but both agents saw the pair shake their heads and they knew it was too late. Morris had escaped a trial and the gas chamber but justice had still prevailed…He’d gotten the death penalty after all. They knew they wouldn’t be as fortunate with Chad. He’d been involved in all of it but it had been Wyvern who’d ordered it done. The best they could hope for was that he’d rot in prison for the rest of his life but they also knew that like his father…His influence was far reaching. Rod wouldn’t like what would have to be done, but they had no choice now that he’d been seen and recognized.

 

 

 

Ed went back inside the room where Rod and Rosemary waited. “What happened?” Rod asked.

 

“Morris had a heart attack…He’s dead,” he replied.

 

“Damn it,” Rod muttered under his breath.

 

“What is it Rod? The man’s dead…He’s paid for his crimes,” he reminded him softly.

 

Rod’s green eyes blazed with rage. “He destroyed my life…He took my family…Killed my parents and he tried…To kill me…He put me…and my son through…HELL,” he finished with a shout of frustration. “I wanted to be there…,” he growled.

 

“I know Rod and I’m sorry you didn’t get that chance but it’s over now and we can find you a new home where no one will know you and…”

 

“What do you…mean?” He asked in shock. “With Morris dead…I can start again…,” he began.

 

“It’s over as soon as he testify’s against Chad…I want to bring him home with me,” Rose said.

 

“I thought you wanted to protect John?” Ed reminded them.

 

“But Morris is dead,” Rose protested.

 

“Chad isn’t and he’s vowed revenge…How long do you think it will take him to find out you’re alive if you come out of hiding and put two and two together?”

 

Both Rod and Rosemary’s faces paled. They’d known John would be at risk as a weapon against Rod before the trial and maybe even if Morris was still alive but they’d thought with him dead that this would be over and they could start again. Give John and Roderick a chance but now…

 

“If he finds out you’re alive…He’ll know who set this all in motion. Do you understand? You, John, Rose…You will NEVER be safe from him. “

 

Rosemary and Rod exchanged a sorrowful look. “This isn’t fair,” Rose wept.

 

“I know it isn’t and I’m sorry…It’s your call Rod…We’ll take that risk if you want to.”

 

Rod once again looked at his beloved sister and thought of the handsome young man he’d gotten to know in the back of a renovated armored car…HIS SON…A young man just starting out, with a new wife and two small babies. Could he put them all at risk?

 

He stared sadly at his hands before he shook his head. “No…No I can’t take that chance,” he said forlornly.

 

“We can still tell John…He can visit you there?” Rose said.

 

Rod shook his head. “Can’t risk that either, besides…Roy was right…John may not want …to see me… after everything he’s been through… because I wasn’t there,” he murmured.

 

“There won’t be a risk anymore,” she argued.”He’d understand.”

 

“Would he?” He replied, shaking his head. “After everything he went through…If I’d just sent for him and his mom…,” he added.

 

“That would have been no life for them,” she protested. “You didn’t know what was happening there…None of us did.”

 

“That doesn’t change it and If Chad finds out I’m alive…”

 

“He won’t,” she argued.

 

“Rose,” Ed said gently. “This is going to be all over the news…Chad isn’t his father but he is being charged with being an accomplice in your parents death…Jonathan and Lenora Gage’s name will be on everyone’s mind again…It’s not a common name. It would be recognized in any hospital or nursing home and for the right amount of money…,” he shrugged.

 

She sighed. It would only be a matter of time before it became a newsworthy piece of information that John Gage was making frequent trips there and not long after before Chad Morris would know about it. They were right…They couldn’t risk John’s safety.

 

“I’ll still come,” she assured him, but Rod shook his head.

 

“You’re even more well known then John is,” he reminded her. She opened her mouth to argue but he held up his hand. “It’s better this way Rosie,” he said softly. “I’m not sure…I could bear…John’s hatred if he…found out,” he admitted quietly. “I know it’s…A coward’s way out but…He’s better off…Thinking I’m dead…”

 

Rose’s eyes flooded with tears but she nodded her head. “Whatever you want Ricky,” she said softly.

 

“We’ll be sure that DeSoto keeps his mouth shut about what he knows and we’ll do our best to keep John in the dark until this all blows over,” he promised.

 

“I’ll talk to him when I get there,” she said somberly. “Roy will do anything to protect John,” she assured them both.

 

Rod nodded. “So I’ve seen,” he agreed sadly. “I wish I had,” he added, grieving for the son he about to lose again and this time forever.

 

“Let’s go Rose. Tanner will get you to the helicopter and then we’ll transport Rod to his new place as soon as we find one…I promise…We’ll let you know where he is as soon as he’s settled.”

 

Rosemary went to her brother and wrapped her arms about him, weeping in pain at losing him all over again. “I’ll come and see you Ricky…I’ll wear a wig and sneak in…I promise,” she said, determined not to lose him again.

 

“Just call me Rose…I won’t put you at risk either,” he said softly as he pushed her gently toward Chambers.

 

The other man tugged her from the room. Rod sat in the chair and began to weep softly for his loss but thankful for the small time he’d been given with John…He’d cherish it always.

 

 

Roy paced the length of the waiting room for the…How many times? He’d lost count…Didn’t matter he guessed, it was a lot. He tossed a glance at the Federal Agent standing near the door keeping an eye out for anyone coming or going. He looked like a mannequin, Roy mused and he wondered idly how he could stand in one spot so long and just…wait.

 

He glanced at his watch…Two and a half hours now…What was taking so long? His hand reached up to touch the bandage at the back of his head. He was supposed to be in a bed in a room upstairs but he couldn’t rest until he knew John would be alright.

 

He paced back the way he’d come and glanced at his watch again. Only two minutes had passed. The sound of rapidly moving feet brought his head around to the door where the agent, Randall Boudreau was suddenly coming to life and moving to block the door.

 

Roy spotted the auburn hair and half ran to the door. “They’re mine and John’s wife,” he snapped, almost pushing the man out of his way and grabbing Joanne into his embrace. “God babe…I’m so glad you’re here,” he whispered against the auburn hair.

 

Jo hugged him fiercely. “I was so scared I’d lost you,” she said, standing on tip toe to kiss him hard. Chris and Jennifer moved close to wrap their arms about them both. They were old enough to understand that their father and uncle had been hurt and almost killed and they were frightened as well. Roy reached down to pull them into a group hug.

 

Dani bit her lip and tried to be patient as she watched the reunion but she needed to know about John. “Roy,” she finally said pleadingly.

 

Roy set the kids away from him and kissed Jo’s nose reassuringly before turning to Dani. “He’s still in surgery…They should be done soon….It’s been almost three hours now,” he told them, leading the group into the waiting room and getting them seated. He sat next to John’s pretty, young wife and took her hand…His blue eyes taking in the two infants in the stroller. “He’s gonna be alright…He has to be,” he assured her but his eyes clearly showed the worry.

 

Danella didn’t look convinced but she nodded her head, clinging to Roy’s hopeful assertion.

 

Jo’s hand touched the bandage on Roy’s head. “It’s just a laceration and a mild concussion babe,” he reassured his wife.

 

The door opened and a young black man dressed in scrubs stepped into the room. He glanced around at the group gathered there and the agent who was eyeing him suspiciously. “Gage?” He questioned.

 

Roy, Jo and Danella came to their feet. “I’m Roy DeSoto, his partner…This is his wife Danella Gage and my wife Joanne,” he clarified at his curious look.  “How’s Johnny?”

 

The man nodded his head at the introduction before he began. “He has a broken rib…It punctured his liver. It wasn’t bad but it caused a slow bleed. We’ve repaired the damage and he’s being given a transfusion now. He’s also got a rather nasty concussion,” he told them.

 

“He will be okay?” Danella asked hopefully.

 

The doctor smiled at the beautiful young woman. Gage was a lucky man, he noted before he gave her a reassuring nod. “He’s gonna be fine ma’am,” he promised her.

 

“Oh thank you,” she breathed out in relief,  looking skyward, before throwing herself into Roy’s arms. He hugged her to him for a long moment.

 

“Can we see him?” Roy asked.

 

“He’s in recovery. You can see him when he’s in a room. I’ll send someone to let you know.”

 

The agent moved over to the doctor and flashed his badge before leading him away from the group. Roy frowned as he watched them speak and then the doctor nodded and left.

 

“What’s going on?” Roy asked the man when he returned.

 

“Nothing to worry about Mr. DeSoto…They’ll be moving Mr. Gage into a room with you in a private section of the hospital,” he said matter of fact.

 

The two women shared a confused glance and Roy frowned. No one knew about Rod but him and Rosemary so why all the secrecy and special protection for John and him now? He didn’t have time to worry over it before Boudreau waved them from the room where an orderly was waiting to take them to the room. 

 

Roy hated leaving Johnny but he had to admit that he was exhausted and he was looking forward to being able to lie down and rest for a bit. They exited the elevator and Roy spotted yet another agent standing outside it.

 

“What’s going on Roy?” Joanne asked worriedly as they were ushered inside. Dani pushed the carriage inside and parked the sleeping twins close to the bed where John would be, while Chris and Jen stared wide eyed at the men dressed in black suits that were following them everywhere.

 

He sat down on one of the empty beds and looked at the two women. “We were guarding a federal witness,” he told them without giving them any detail about whom. Rory drew Danella’s attention as he began to whimper in his seat.

 

“But you aren’t now so why…?” Joanne pressed.

 

“Jo…I can’t explain it right now,” he said warningly as he cast a glance at Danella who was leaning over checking on the fussing infant.

 

Joanne frowned worriedly. What the heck was going on, she mused? She recognized his warning look and dropped the subject until she could talk to him alone. A moment later the door opened and two orderlies wheeled a gurney containing a sleeping John Gage inside. Roy pushed himself tiredly off the bed and moved over to be sure the transfer was smooth.

 

“He’s not awake yet…,” he began in confusion.

 

“They wanted him up here where they can keep an eye on him,” one of the orderlies replied with a glance at the agents and a confused shrug of their own. “A nurse will be in to monitor him in a minute,” he added as they headed out the door.

 

Roy nodded and turned his attention to Johnny. Danella moved quickly to his other side. “Oh Na’méhoht,” she whispered worriedly. John was ashen…A packet of blood hung from the pole, running steadily into his arm along with an IV of ringers. Danella’s fingers trailed over his cheek tenderly.

 

Roy took John’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, knowing Dani understood his and John’s relationship as well as he and Joanne and would never begrudge his intrusion into the quiet moment…She’d welcome it, knowing John would rest easier as long as Roy was near.

 

The dark eye lashes fluttered briefly against his cheekbones before cracking open to gaze blearily up at his wife and then shifting to Roy. His face tightened with pain briefly, before he licked his dry lips. “Me’oo’o,” he rasped weakly. “Roy,” he added tiredly.

“Hey junior…,” Roy said quietly, giving his hand a squeeze and stroking his fingers over his friends forehead. “You’re gonna be okay,” he promised.

 

John nodded and gave Dani a small, drowsy smile. “I love you Na’méhoht,” she said, giving her best smile.

 

“Love you too,” he replied, his dark eyes drooping tiredly before he forced them to open.  

 

Joanne and the children had given them a few minutes but now she moved to join them, Chris and Jen stepped close to the bed, wanting to reassure themselves that their uncle was okay. “Hi baby,” she whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead.

 

“Jo,” he murmured, his dark eyes moved to the kids but he was too tired to say much more.

 

“Yes baby. We’re all here and we’re gonna get you home real soon,” Jo soothed, recognizing the weakness in the brown orbs.

 

“Kay,” he mumbled as his drug weighted lids slid closed.

 

The door opened and a nurse bustled in. She pointed at Roy in a no nonsense manner. “You…Get back in bed. Is he awake?” She asked, moving to John’s side to take his pulse.

 

Roy hesitated briefly, rebelling against being ordered to leave John’s side but his head was throbbing mercilessly and he really did need to rest. He finally moved to his own bed and climbed in. Joanne and the kids climbed up to sit on its edges near him.

 

Danella stayed close to John, watching the nurse check his vitals. She waited until she was through. “He is alright?” She asked.

 

“He’ll be fine ma’am,” she replied, giving the young woman a tight smile. She moved to Roy to repeat the procedure with him. Roy endured it in silence. “Your vital signs are all good…We’ll be bringing up your diner shortly.”

 

“Thank you,” Roy replied as she turned and hustled out of the room. Roy looked to Joanne. “Why do we always get the charmers,” he said drily, drawing a chuckle from his wife.

 

The door opened again and they all looked surprised when Rosemary Hughes stepped into the room. “Rose!” Jo exclaimed, moving to greet the woman with a hug.

 

“Hi Joanne,” she greeted somberly. Her eyes meeting Roy’s over the younger woman’s head. She held his gaze for a long moment before letting her green eyes wander to John’s young, worried wife. “Roy, Danella. How is he?” She asked, moving to John’s side.

 

“He’s gonna be fine Rose,” Roy said quietly. She looked toward him and saw the accusation in his eyes.

 

“That’s good,” she breathed in relief. She’d been a wreck all the way here, not knowing if John were alive or dying in some strange hospital miles from home.

 

Roy wanted to ask if Rick had arrived safely and what had happened but he couldn’t with Jo and Danella and the children there.

 

She gave him a warning smile and moved over to John’s bedside. She hugged Danella tightly, wanting to apologize to her for John’s condition but she couldn’t do that either. “Hello Dani…Are you alright?” She asked.

 

“I am now that I know that John will be okay,” she replied, holding the older woman to her.

 

“Good.” She turned to John. “Oh Hakéta,” she whispered softly as she leaned down to kiss his forehead. John shifted restlessly but didn’t wake.

 

One of the twins began to wiggle in the carriage, drawing Danella’s attention. She glanced at the clock and knew it was a matter of time before they both woke and would be demanding their dinner. She looked around worriedly, not wanting them to start crying and wake John.

 

“Danella…I think I can get you a room to nurse the children,” she promised the young woman before she headed for the door. She spoke to one of the agents there and he shot a look at the beautiful young woman and nodded. He moved away, returning a few moments later and waving the girl out of the room. She gave Rose a grateful glance and pushed the carriage toward the door.

 

Joanne gave Roy a kiss. “I’ll go help Danella with the babies,” she told her husband. “I’ll be right back,” she added, herding the children toward the door.

 

It closed behind them and Roy turned to Rose. “What happened?” He asked urgently, shooting a glance at Johnny to be sure he was still sleeping.

 

“I’m so sorry Roy,” she began. “John was never supposed to be involved with any of this,” she explained.

 

“Well he is and so am I now, so what happened?” He asked again.

 

“Wyvern Morris is dead,” she whispered, glancing toward Johnny.

 

“What? How?” He asked worriedly.

 

“He had a heart attack,” she said, explaining the whole chain of events. “That’s why the guards are here.”

 

“To protect John? But why if Morris is dead?”

 

“Not to protect him Roy…To shelter him,” she added.

 

“From what?”

 

“Finding out about the trial…They’ll keep any of this from him,” she explained.

 

The blonde paramedic chewed his lip uncertainly. “So what’s next?” Roy asked point blank, wondering if the man would want back into John’s life.

 

Rose saw the fear in Roy’s eyes and sighed. “Chad Morris vowed to get revenge...He swore he’d find out who’d caused all of this and get even,” she said. Roy’s eyes widened with worry. John would be vulnerable if the man ever found out. Rose saw the look and held up her hand. “Don’t worry Roy…Rod knows he can’t be a part of John’s life…He’s going back into hiding,” she whispered forlornly.

 

Roy felt a pang of remorse for his feelings of jealousy but dammit…He didn’t want his relationship with John to change if he found out his beloved dad was alive but at the same time…he deserved to know the truth.

 

“He has a right to know,” he said softly, his blue eyes resting on John’s still form.

 

“To what point Roy? Rod told me what you said and you were right,” she said sadly. “He doesn't need to feel the pain of rejection... to find out Rod was alive the whole time and didn’t come for him? To know his father is out there and he can’t ever see him even if he did forgive him? To hate me because I knew and didn’t tell him?” She continued. “No…He can’t ever know. For his own good…His own protection…He can’t ever know,” she said sadly.

 

“You’re asking me to lie to him?”

 

“No…I’m asking you simply not tell him what you know.” Roy didn’t like that idea at all. He didn’t want John to be angry with him if he ever found out but at the same time there was relief…Relief that John would be safe and that he’d still be the big brother and father figure that John looked to and he felt a flare of guilt at his selfishness but not enough to argue it further.

 

“What if he hears about the trial? I mean we can try and keep him in the dark but he’s bound to hear about it at some point…What if he remembers?”

 

“We’ll simply tell him that the company his father worked for was indicted for unsafe practices…It’s the truth after all,” she told him.

 

Roy nodded and looked to John once again, praying he wasn’t making a mistake that would drive an irreparable wedge between them if John ever found out.

 

“Alright Rose,” he finally agreed reluctantly.

 

The door opened and Joanne, Dani and the children returned. Rose threw Roy a warning look and turned her attention to John once more.

 

The nurse came in a bit later, followed by an aide with Roy’s dinner. She warned them that visiting hours would soon be over.

 

Rose waved her hand toward the door. “Come along…It’s been a long day and Roy and John need to sleep. I’m taking you all to dinner and then we’ll get a hotel room for the night,” she said brightly.

 

“We don’t have any clothes with us,” Jo protested.

 

“Then we’ll go shopping…My treat,” she said hustling them out of the room.

 

Roy climbed from his bed and went to sit next to John. He took his partners hand and stared at the slender fingers clasped within his own. He reached up to smooth the dark hair away from John’s face. The younger man’s head turned toward him, seeking out his best friend even in his sleep. “Forgive me Junior,” he whispered softly.

 

John slept peacefully through the night for which Roy was immeasurably grateful. He was exhausted himself, though he’d wakened several time and raised his head from the pillow long enough to check on his partner before laying down and drifting back to sleep.

 

The nurse bustled in shortly after eight, waking both of the injured men. She quickly checked their charts and moved to John to get a new set of vitals. Roy picked up the controls and raised the head of the bed before looking over at John. He smiled in relief at the dark eyes looking back at him.

 

“Morning junior,” he said, happy to see that the transfusion and a good night’s sleep seemed to have done wonders for the younger man’s health. His face was almost back to its normal coloring, though Roy noted that his eyes were still looking a bit tired and his mouth tightened a bit as the nurse elevated his head. “You alright?” Roy questioned at the grimace.

 

“Yeah…Yeah I’ll be okay,” he murmured, his face easing a bit as the painful spasm passed.

 

The nurse finished with him and moved to Roy’s side to check him over as well. “How are we feeling this morning?” She questioned briskly.

 

Roy shot John a glance and had to bite his lower lip to keep from laughing at the eye roll of irritation from his friend. He knew Johnny hated that phrase, calling it the ‘royal we’. “I’M doing pretty good,” he stressed, not adding that he had no idea how she was. John giggled and then winced as pain flared, silently rebuking him for his laughter at he and Roy’s private joke at her expense.

 

She glanced suspiciously between them but finished up her examination in silence before heading for the door. “Your breakfast should be here shortly,” she announced as she breezed through the portal.

 

John caught sight of the agent standing outside and frowned. “What’s he… still doing here?” He questioned tiredly, looking over at his partner.

 

“They’re uh…Just being cautious I guess…I mean, we were with Rick and they may just want to be sure we’re safe…Maybe Rose pulled some strings since they picked us because they knew her in the first place,” he said, skirting the truth.

 

“Yeah maybe,” John agreed. “So what happened?” He asked.

 

“I guess the guys that attacked us just wanted to be sure he didn’t testify so they attacked the van. It went off the road. You got tossed around pretty good junior,” he told him.

 

“Yeah I know…I remember,” he said ruefully. Roy grinned and continued. “You busted a rib and that punctured your liver and that’s what you were bleeding from,” Roy finished.

 

“Wow…Good thing they found us when they did. Hey…I wonder if Rick got to testify?” He asked excitedly, looking around the bed. “Maybe it’s on TV,” he added, wincing in pain as he felt around for the remote.”

 

“ Uh junior…?”Roy began.

 

“Yeah?” John asked, glancing up.

 

“We um…Don’t appear to have a TV,” he pointed out.

 

John looked around in surprise and then a scowl drew his brows together. “Wow…What a crummy hospital,” he growled.

 

Roy almost chuckled at John’s annoyance but he caught it and shrugged. “Maybe they just want their patients to rest,” he suggested.

 

“I guess I’ll have to wait til they bring us a newspaper,” he sighed. Roy hoped they’d warned the nurses against it but he didn’t say anything. He’d cross that bridge if he came to it.

 

The door opened and a nurse’s aide bustled in with a tray. She deposited it in front of Roy before returning to the door to bring another in for John. “Thanks,” he replied, ignoring the slightly moony look the young woman gave him.

 

“You must be in love Junior,” he teased after she left.

 

“What?” He questioned, completely oblivious the girls obvious attraction.

 

“She was really checking you out,” he teased.

 

John grinned. “I’m a married man,” he reminded his partner primly before a giggle slipped free. The smile faded as he inspected his breakfast tray and then glanced at Roy’s. “Wow…They didn’t even give us a newspaper or anything,” he said tiredly, but still looking surprised. Roy shrugged and began to eat hoping John would drop it and do the same. “Hey…How come you got eggs and toast and cereal and I got oatmeal and jello,” he complained.

 

“I didn’t just have surgery,” Roy reminded him.

John scowled a bit at that but began to eat…His nose wrinkling in distaste at the plain fare. Roy gave him an affectionate shake of his blonde head and turned to his own meal.

 They were just about finished when the door opened again and Jo and Dani and the kids came in. Jo, Chris and Jennifer ran to give their uncle a quick kiss of greeting before they went to Roy’s bed, while Danella pushed the twins close to John.  “Morning honey,” Joanne said leaning over to kiss her husband. 

“Morning babe,” he replied, pushing the tray away so Chris and Jen could sit on the bed with him.

 “Pa’ave’oona’o  Na’méhoht,” she greeted, leaning over to kiss John tenderly.

 

“Mornin beautiful,” he teased as she pulled back. He leaned over to look at his children and grinned. Danella quickly slipped them from their seats and laid them on the bed near their father. John reached out his hand to gently caress his daughter’s cheek, before chucking his son under his tiny chin. His sensitive mouth trembled as he looked up at his wife. “For a while there…I thought I’d never see any of you again,” he murmured softly.

 

“I was afraid of the same thing,” she whispered, leaning over to kiss him again.“You are feeling better today?” She asked.

 

“A lot better,” he added but she could still see the tiredness in his eyes.

"Oh, I almost forgot," she said suddenly before reaching into her purse. John gave her bemused look before she pulled John's green pen from within and handed it to him.

"You found it," he breathed out as relief lit his eyes.

She nodded. "It was on the bed the morning you left."

"Thanks babe. Hey look Roy," he said, waving it toward Roy.

The older man smiled poignantly. "That's great junior," he said softly, glad he'd found the simple token from his father that meant so much to him.

 

“So can you tell us what happened Uncle Johnny?” Chris asked, looking excited now that he knew his dad and his uncle would be okay.

 

“I guess that guy we were guarding was hotter than we thought…I really can’t tell you much,” he said with a shrug. “One minute we were on the road and the next we were upside down in a ditch…I don’t remember much after that except…,” he frowned a bit.

 

“What is it?” Jo asked, seeing his face cloud with confusion.

 

John shook his head. “I just…I think Rick was holding me real close to him at one point.”

 

Roy nodded. “You were trying to get up…remember? He was afraid you’d hurt yourself and he stopped you,” Roy explained.

 

“Oh,” John replied, still looking bewildered. Why did he remember him calling him Ha’keta…But that was impossible. “Ha’keta,” John murmured.

 

Roy’s eyes widened in surprise that he’d remember that. “Yeah…Uh sorry junior….I know you hate it when I call you that,” Roy said quickly.

 

John shot him a look of confusion…Had it been Roy’s voice? It had to have been, he supposed. He was just confusing the moments. He nodded. “It’s okay pally,” he replied. He gave his partner a sheepish look. “And I’m really sorry…about the MS,” he mumbled looking embarrassed.

 

Roy threw him a wink. “It’s okay Junior…I understood.”

 

“I knew you couldn’t give it to me and I didn’t want you to feel bad,” he explained.

 

“I know,” he answered as the door opened and Rosemary came inside.

 

“Good morning everyone,” she greeted, moving over to kiss John’s forehead affectionately before scooping Rory up in her arms. “Hi precious,” she cooed, kissing his chubby face until he gave her a toothless grin. She handed him off to Danella before doing the same to Katie Jo. “Give grandma a big smile,” she murmured. The tiny girl complied drawing a laugh from the group.

 

“Well…Is everyone ready to go home?” She asked cheerfully.

 

John gave her a surprised look. “They’re gonna let me out of here?” He asked.

 

She grinned and stroked the sable waves back. “Long enough to transfer you to Rampart sweetie,” she teased, “But they are going to let Roy go home. I’ve already made arrangements to have an ambulance pick you up. Roy can travel with you just to be on the safe side.” She explained. Roy was fine really, but she wanted to be sure no well meaning ambulance attendant said too much.

 

“Good…I feel like a prisoner here,” John said grouchily. “They didn’t even give us a TV or a newspaper,” he complained.

 

It was a good thing too since the news and the papers had been full of Wyvern’s untimely death and the grand jury trial that had been presented yesterday afternoon. Her parent’s names had featured prominently in the charges and their ‘accidental’ death. “Well…Maybe tomorrow Hakéta,” she soothed, giving Roy a wry grin.  

 

“Maybe I can…,”Joanne began, but Roy squeezed her hand and gave her a subtle negative shake of his head.  Jo had been about to offer to buy John a newspaper but she correctly read her husband’s warning look. “Buy you a book to read on the way home,” she finished, getting an approving nod from her husband.

 

“He’ll most likely sleep all the way home,” Roy said, “But you can see what the gift shop has,” he added, knowing from the suspicious looks he was getting that he’d have to give Jo an explanation sooner or later. He wasn’t sure himself if he’d tell her the WHOLE truth. He didn’t want her carrying that burden too.

 

The doctor hustled in a short time later. Roy was relieved that it wasn’t Darrow. The man gave both men a quick once over before signing Roy’s release papers and John’s transfer order to Rampart where Joe Early was waiting.

 

Rose had already explained the situation to the gray haired doctor. He’d been hesitant to keep all of this from Johnny at first but after she’d warned him that John’s life could depend on it, he’d agreed to keep what he knew to himself.

 

A while later both paramedics were loaded on an ambulance and headed for Los Angeles. Jo followed them with Danella and the children.

 

Rose had kissed her nephew and caressed his cheek gently. He looked like a carbon copy of his father at that age and she now had an image of what John would one day look like. “I love you little one…More than you’ll ever know,” she said softly.

 

John frowned a bit at the almost wistfully spoken words, not understanding the secrets she and Roy shared to spare him further pain or what she and his dad were giving up to protect him, but he nodded. “I know you do,” he replied simply. “I love you too.”

 

John was released from the hospital a few days later. Roy had had a heck of time keeping him occupied and amused and had been grateful when the news had stopped broadcasting every bit the Morris Grand Jury indictment.

 

He’d run out of excuses for why the TV in his room couldn’t seem to be repaired or that those nurses constantly forgot his newspaper.

 

Joanne and Hank had cornered him and he’d had to explain to them both what had happened, stopping short at telling them that their ‘witness’ had actually been John’s father. They’d agreed that John shouldn’t know that his father and grandparents had been murdered, rather than just being tragic accidents. That it would only hurt more to know it had been a deliberate act that had taken his father from him. And another deliberate act that had taken him away again, Roy mused sadly…Feeling guilty at his relief that John would never know his father was still alive somewhere and he couldn’t see him.

 

Hank had warned the guys off the subject and they could only hope that by the time John was back on duty, that the rest of his colleagues would have forgotten the passing coincidence that John’s last name was the same as those two murdered victims, after all…None of them knew John’s relationship to Rosemary Hughes except his own crew and those people had been rich and powerful…Certainly not related to a poor fire fighter.

 

Things were beginning to return to normal. John was home, finishing his recovery under the watchful eyes of his wife, big sister and a mother hen brother. Roy and the guys from A shift were there whenever they could to help John with the horses and cleaning the stalls, since John couldn’t do any heavy lifting just yet and it wasn’t long until the accident and ‘Rick’ became a passing memory and Roy breathed a sigh of relief.

Marco and Janessa’s wedding day arrived and the crew and their families gathered once again. John was supposed to be an usher but his ribs still weren’t quite up to that much activity just yet. Mike volunteered to step in for him.

“Where are the twins?” Emily asked John, glancing around. 

“We left them with Roy’s next door neighbor Debbie…"

"I thought Danella was still nursing them," she questioned.

"She's going to be going back to school when we get back from our hneymoon and her parents are going to be baby sitting and taking care of the ranch while we're away, so Danella’s been bottle feeding them for the last week so that we can go on our honeymoon," he said wryly. “Not that we can do anything,” he muttered and then flushed in embarrassment as he remembered he was speaking to Cap’s wife. “Sorry,” he murmured. 

She laughed and patted his arm. “I understand John,” she teased before they all went to sit down. The music began just a few moments later. 

Danella preceded her best friend down the aisle. Giving Marco a wink as she stepped to the side to give him a clear view of his bride as she walked toward him on the arm of her father, Many Horses. Dani giggled…The man looked positively miserable in the rented tuxedo he wore for this occasion and she remembered her own wedding at Christmas time. They’d all been dressed in Indian fashion that time but just a week from now…She and John would be joined again in marriage…This time for all of his friends and family here. She couldn’t wait to see her own father trussed up in a tuxedo, she mused. Her attention was drawn back to her friend as Janessa reached the front of the church and her father passed her hand over to Marco and kissed her cheek. The Priest began to speak.

 

“Marco and Janessa, our God of love has established marriage as the symbol of Christ's perfect relationship to His Body, the Church. We have come to bring you as one before Him. Marco, God has ordained the man as the spiritual head, as the responsible provider, and as the initiator of love in this human relationship. By His enablement, your strength must be Janessa's protection, your character her boast and pride, and you must so live that she will find in you the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.” Marco nodded his agreement

“Janessa, it is God's purpose that you be a loving wife, that you respond to Marco's love in tenderness with a deep sense of understanding, through a great faith in Christ who brought you together. It is His desire that you have that inner beauty of soul that never fades; that eternal youth that is found in holding fast the things that never age.”

“Marco and Janessa, Christian marriage is not living merely for each other; it is two uniting and joining hands to serve God. Seek His kingdom first, and His righteousness, and He will add all other things to you. Do not expect perfection from each other, perfection belongs solely to God. You need not minimize each other's weaknesses, but always be swift to praise and magnify each other's points of comeliness and strength and see each other through kind and patient eyes.”

“God will lead you into such situations as will bless you and develop your characters as you walk together. He will give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough of failure to keep your hands clenched tightly in His, and enough success to make you sure you walk with Him. May you never take each other's love for granted, but always experience that wonder that exclaims "Out of all this world you have chosen me." When life is done, may you be found then as now, hand in hand, still thanking God for each other. May you ever serve Him happily, faithfully, together until you return to glory or until at last one shall lay the other into His arms. And all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“Marco… have you in the quiet hours of your companionship considered what is your Christian duty as a husband?”

“I have,” the young Hispanic Fire fighter replied.

“Janessa, have you in the quiet hours of your companionship considered what is your Christian duty as a wife?”

She nodded, with tears welling in her eyes. “Yes I have,” she said, sniffing back tears.

Marco and Janessa, you stand before us as the children of God, redeemed through Jesus Christ. Is it your purpose to establish a home that is truly Christ-centered, where the Word of God is read and obeyed; a home that is welded together by prayer in which the Holy Spirit is your constant guide?

“It is,” they answered together.

In the front row, Marco’s mother and sisters were crying quietly as they watched. Danella brushed a tear from her cheek. Her eyes shifted to Chet Kelly as he stood at his best friend’s side and she could see the emotion in his blue eyes, she noted the way they lingered on the pretty redhead that stood near her. Her attention was pulled back as the Priest began to speak again.

“And now, in token that your hearts are joined together in love, will you please join your right hands.

“Marco, this woman whom you hold by the hand is to be your wife. She has given you one of the most sacred things under heaven: a woman's life and a woman's love. You may bring her great joy or cause her deep sorrow. It is not what you bring her in a material way that will make true happiness--riches without love are nothing. The gift without the giver is bare. The practice of those virtues as husband that you have shown as her lover will keep her heart won to your heart. Do you vow here, as you have promised Janessa that you will be true and loyal, patient in sickness, comforting in sorrow, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her so long as you both shall live?”

“ I do,” he replied, smiling into her eyes.

“Janessa, this man whom you hold by the right hand is to be your husband. On your life, your love and devotion he will lean for strength and inspiration. He is going to look to you for encouragement, for cheerfulness and confidence. No matter what the world may say or think, people may forget him, lose confidence in him, and turn their backs upon him, but you must not. May your life and your love be the inspiration that will constantly lead him to greater dependence upon our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you vow here, as you have promised Marco that you will be loyal in adversity, ministering to him in affliction, comforting him in sorrow, and forsaking all others, keeping yourself only unto him so long as you both shall live?”

“I do,” she whispered through her tears.

 

“May we have the rings,” he said to Danella and Chet.

 

They handed them over and the man blessed them before turning to the couple. “Marco…Place this ring on Janessa’s finger and repeat after me. Marco took Janessa’s hand and slipped the ring on to her knuckle as the priest began to speak.

 

“Take this ring as a seal upon the marriage vows I have spoken, and as you wear it, may it be a reminder of how much I love you, not only on this precious day, but every single day of your life,” Marco repeated the vows as he slid the ring on her finger. Janessa took the ring and followed suit with Marco.

 

The priest gave them a grin as they finished.

 

“Now that Marco and Janessa have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I now pronounce you wife and husband, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder. “Marco and Janessa…I now pronounce you husband and wife…You may kiss your bride,” he intoned.

 

"Gladly,” he said enthusiastically as he turned to Janessa and took her in his arms. He kissed her gently while the room erupted with wolf whistles and applause.

“Ladies and Gentlemen…I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Marco Lopez,” he finished.

The group rose to their feet and applauded the couple as they walked back up the aisle. Johnny pushed himself stiffly to his feet. His side still ached and he made his way carefully to the front of the church where the couple was greeting their guests.

Marco watched his young colleagues slow gate. “You okay amigo?” he asked worriedly.

 

“Yeah man…Still just a bit sore.”

 

“Well you just grab a drink and relax pal,” he told his young friend. “You’re gonna need your strength for your own wedding,” he teased.

 

Danella laid her hand on John’s arm. “Yes…He will need it for the honeymoon,” she teased her husband.

 

John shot her a questioning glance and she grinned and nodded. “The doctor said I could resume ‘normal’ activities,” she said with a lift to her dark brow. John grinned but then frowned

 

“But I’m not sure I can,” he said grumpily.

 

“Trust me my love…You have taught me a few tricks,” she assured him with a seductive smile.

John flushed crimson as the others all laughed. A while later the reception began.

Danella's parents Joseph and Sena arrived two days after Marco's wedding and they took over running the ranch for Johnny, as well as the majority of the care for the twins. Getting reaquainted with their grandchildren and allowing the young couple time to rest and focus on the last minute details and spend time with their friends before the big day arrived.

Marco and Janessa would be coming home the day before the wedding as she was to be one of Danella's bridesmaids along with Erin. Joanne would be her Matron of Honor.

Kelly Brackett and Dixie would have also returned from their honeymoon by the day of the wedding.

John's surgical incision had almost healed but it still caused a pang or two if he strained or lifted too much and his rib was still tender to any form of exertion . He sighed in disappointment as he rubbed at it. He and Dani would be in paradise in the most romantic of settings on their honeymoon and after six week of celibacy, John felt like a starving man with a buffet table before him and unable to take advantage of it, he mused sourly.

 

Things hadn’t changed by the time Saturday rolled around. John paced the confines of the small room at the front of the church while Roy leaned against the wall watching his young friend in amusement.

 “Relax Junior…You’re just reaffirming your vows for heaven’s sake…It’s not like you aren’t already married,” he teased.

 “I know,” he breathed out. “But still…,” he said peeking out the door at the gathering crowd. “Look at all those people,” he mumbled. He saw his aunt arrive and grinned at the sight of her former servant escorting her to her seat.  

“What is it?” Roy asked, seeing the smirk.

 “Edwards here with my aunt,” he said, looking very pleased.  

“It’s a good thing she’s paying for all of this,” Roy said drily. “Every off duty fire fighter in LA is out there, not to mention half the doctors and nurses from Rampart,” he added.

John suddenly scowled.

“What is it?” Roy asked, coming to John’s side. 

 “My cousins,” he growled unhappily.  

“Well…I guess there had to be a black cloud for the silver lining,” he teased.

 “Haha,” John said grouchily.

Roy tousled the dark hair drawing the usual annoyed hand slap from his partner. “Cut that out,” he growled.

Roy chuckled. John turned and looked at his long time friend. “Thanks for being with me today,” he said softly.

 “Where else would I be?” He said, curling his hand around John’s neck and pulling him close.

 John grinned. “Well at least this time it’s as my best man and big brother and not my father,” he teased.

 Roy’s smile froze in place. “Yeah…Your father,” he mumbled.

 “I wish he and my mom were here to see this,” he said looking a bit melancholy.

 “I know junior,” he said softly, “But I do know one thing…” 

“What’s that?” 

“He’s…They’d be proud of you.” 

John smiled. “Thanks pally.”  They both heard the music start and a moment later there was a tap on the door.

“It’s time,” Roy said as he and John stepped from the room and moved to the altar.

 The door at the back of the room opened and Jennifer stepped into the room carrying a basket of flowers, she was followed a moment later by Erin. Chet sucked in his breath at the sight of her… She was stunning and the Irish fire fighter decided at that moment that it was time, and he’d be asking the beautiful redhead to be his wife before he lost her forever. 

Janessa followed and Marco beamed proudly as she tossed him a wink. Joanne was next and Roy shook his head. She was just as beautiful to him now as she had been when he’d married her fourteen years ago.  

Danella stepped into the doorway with her father and John sucked in his breath. She was gorgeous. Her black hair piled atop her head, the old fashioned, slightly off white of her gown accentuated the tawny color of her skin. The lacy veil held on her head with a circlet of sparkling diamonds.  

She smiled at him as she made her way down the aisle and John’s breath caught in his throat. Six weeks after giving birth to twins and she was still breath taking.

 A moment later Joseph handed her over to John for the second time in less than a year.

 The Fire Department Chaplain began to speak.“Welcome, one and all. How beautiful is the day that is touched by love! May this be a moment to be remembered and cherished. Marriage is a very special spiritual connection of two people united for a common purpose, bringing love and trust together into single focus. We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.”

“The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all who are gathered here. The union of wife and husband in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and their nurture in the knowledge and love of God. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.”

“Into this holy union John and Danella now come to be joined. If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or forever hold your peace.”

Since this was a renewal of their vows, there was little chance of someone speaking but Roy glanced around the room. His breath caught as his blue eyes fell on the three men slipping through the back doors. Two of them were dressed in the black suits that Roy had come to equate with federal agents but the third? The third man wore a dark suit as well but he had a hat pulled down low over his face. Roy squinted for a moment but then he was sure. The graying beard and mustache were a giveaway.

 The man caught Roy’s pointed stare and gave him a brief nod. The blonde paramedic frowned a bit but turned his attention back to his best friend’s wedding as the minister continued.

 “Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on valentines and romance in movies. We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true, the most important thing in our lives. For love is the creator of our favorite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams.”

“Without love, we merely exist. With love, we truly begin to live! For love is a promise that is always kept, a fortune that can never be spent, a seed that can flourish in even the most unlikely place. And this radiance that never fades, this mysterious and magical joy is the greatest treasure of all - one known only by those who truly love.”

“We are together as friends, relatives and family to mark the end of one beginning and to recognize officially a new beginning which for John and Danella serves as a public affirmation of their friendship and their love.”

John gave Danella a wink and she giggled as the man continued.

“Someone once said: The most wonderful of all things in life, is the discovery of another human being with whom one's relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It's a Divine destiny."

“They want this day to mean something special to you as guests. Those who are married may want to silently renew and reaffirm your vows today by gently taking the hand of your partner during this ceremony. Others may want to also join hands and think about what it means to be a friend, for marriage is built first on friendship.”

Roy reached across and took Jo’s hand. In the audience the others flowed suit. Kel and Dixie, Marco reached to across to take Janessa’s hand, Mike and Melissa, Hank and Emily.

“There are no ties on earth so sweet, none so tender as those you are about to assume. There are no vows so solemn as those you are about to make. There is no institution of earth so sacred as that of the union you will form, for the true home is not only the place in which you will live, but is also the dwelling place where each lives in the heart and mind of the other.”

“John and Danella, true marriage is the holiest of all earthly unions. It is to be entered into reverently, consciously and with full understanding of its significance. To be complete, marriage must be spiritual as well as an earthly estate. When it is Spiritual in thought, purpose, plan and action, it becomes the harmonious, peaceful and happy union for man and woman. The state of matrimony is true marriage only when it is based upon a deep, inner communion of two souls who find completion, each in the other. Today, your separate lives, each with your individual memories, desires and hopes, merge into one life - a new dimension. Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage the little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say, I love you" out loud, at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry, it is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is at no time taking the other for granted. . . for what you take for granted, disappears. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in a spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and not bring it up later. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful in each other. It is not expecting the the wife to have the wings of an angel or the husband to wear a halo.”

"Ain't that the truth," Chet said sotto voce. "OUCH," he he barked as his mother Muriel reached out to twist his ear.

There was a chuckle from the audience and John scowled, drawing another giggle from Danella. The chaplain waited for the snickers of the crowd to die down before continuing.

“It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is BEING the right partner. Marriage can be a great adventure when it is the outward expression of a great love; such a love is characterized by compassion, passion and courage. It allows you to see through to your partner's essence, willing to be in total support of your partner's well-being, goals, purpose and spirit; and unwilling for your partner to be less than all he or she can be spiritually, mentally, and physically."

“Such a love requires that you be totally honest with yourself and your mate, that you ask for what you want, take action even though you are afraid, share your feelings and listen but leave your partner free to be who they really are. In other words, always love your partner for who they are, not for who you think they should be.”

“Always remember, "Relationships are something that must be worked on all the time, not only when they are broken and need to be fixed. Never stop doing the things that brought you together in the first place. We as your friends gathered here today, accept for you a love that brings out your magnificence, a love that gives you the courage to stand apart and the willingness to stand together. When times call for you to be apart, may you always return to your togetherness in the same spirit of love that you are feeling in this moment.”

“Most of all, we want that, at the end of your lives on this planet, you will look into each others eyes and be able to say: Because you have loved me, you have given me a faith in myself, and because I have faith in myself, I have loved my fellow man. My life with you has been complete."John smiled into Dani’s eyes and she grinned back.

“Repeat after me,” the chaplain said.“I John, take you Danella to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”

He turned to Danella and repeated the process. “I Danella take you John to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”

“The chaplain smiled at the two. Do you have the rings?” 

Joanne and Roy handed the man John and Danella’s wedding rings.

“The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two loyal hearts in endless love. It is a seal of the vows John and Danella have made to one another. Bless these rings that John and Danella, who give them, and who wear them, may ever abide in unity, love and happiness for the rest of their lives.”

John took the ring and placed it on Danella’s finger for the second time. “Danella, I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. With this ring, I thee wed.

”Danella smiled and repeated the vows as she slid it on John’s finger. “John, I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. With this ring, I thee wed.”

John gave the girl a wink and she giggled as the chaplain closed the ceremony. “In as much as John and Danella have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I now pronounce you wife and husband, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder,” he finished.

John pulled Danella into his arms. “Hold on John…I haven’t said you can kiss her yet,” the chaplain laughed. The others joined in.

 “Just getting a headstart Sir,” John replied as he leaned down to kiss his wife.

 “Well…John…I guess you can kiss your bride,” he teased. John gave him a slight hand wave without looking up, drawing another round of laughter from the audience.

 

Roy chuckled at his young partner’s antics and glanced toward the back of the room where the three men were now climbing to their feet. They headed silently to the door. One of them pushed it quietly open and Rod turned to look at Roy. He touched two fingers to the brim of his hat in farewell before he slipped from the room and out of John’s life.

 John broke the kiss and looked to the chaplain, who was still laughing at the young man’s behavior. He shook his head. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. John Gage,” he introduced.  

The room full of people began to applaud the couple as the pair walked rapidly down the aisle and climbed into the limousine parked in front that would carry them to the reception.

 Roy escorted Joanne from the room. “Excuse me,” he whispered as he headed for Rose. “Hello Edward,” he greeted the man briefly.  

“Mr. DeSoto,” he replied.

 Roy led Rosemary a few steps away. “Did you know your brother was here?” He questioned simply.

 Rosemary nodded briefly with tears pooling in her eyes. “He’s leaving Roy… He won’t tell me where but…He just wanted to see John get married,” she explained sadly. 

“Will he ever come back?” Roy asked pointedly. 

She shook her head. “Not if it will put John or I or Danella and the children at risk.”

 Roy nodded. As long as John was safe, he mused.  Safe from Rod’s enemies, safe from any more pain or upheaval in his life. All Roy wanted was for his kid brother to be happy.

“We have a reception to get to,” he said simply as he waved Edward over and headed for Joanne.  

   Epilogue: 

 The reception had lasted a few hours before John and Danella boarded a flight to Hawaii. Their honeymoon trip another gift from his Aunt Rose.  John sat on their private beach with his arms around his wife as they watched the sun set. She cuddled against his side and her hands caressed the lean torso. John sucked in his breath as his body reacted to his wife’s intimate touch but he sighed in disappointment, knowing his battered body still wasn’t up to the act of love making.

 Danella heard the intake of her husband’s breath and then the woebegone sound of disappointment. She smiled up at him seductively, before reaching up to kiss him passionately.  

“Danella,” he ground out miserably after she broke the kiss. 

“Don’t worry na’mehoht,” she teased pushing him over backward, her leg sliding over his lean hips until she straddled him. She grinned deliciously as she bent down to kiss him tenderly. Her hair falling around them like a satin curtain. 

John sighed and grinned up at her, his dark eyes hooded with passion. This was going to turn out to be a wonderful honeymoon after all.

 

Eleven hundred miles away, Roderick Gage sat on a private patio in a small non descript nursing home far from home…His eyes watching the same sunset that Danella and John made love under. He regretted the injuries John had sustained during this whole ordeal, but he’d never regret the memory of holding his child in his arms, one last time.

“I love you John,” he whispered to the sky as the sun slipped below the horizon.

THE END… Sort of…

 

A/N I had to jump to the narrative near the end or this would have gone for a whole new chapter. LOL. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the wedding scenes. I was going to cut them out but I had so many requests not to exclude Marco's so I had to slide it in there. There will be more to this series but I'm going back to younger John and Roy stories for a bit.

 

Posted to Site 6/8/15

Links to Parts 1. 2. 3.

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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.

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