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“I’m telling you Roy, this girl is amazing,” Johnny announced with a grin as he opened his locker.
“I’m sure she is Junior.”
Roy smiled, shaking his head slightly. ‘Here we go again...’ he thought to himself.
“She is gorgeous, smart and so sweet. I can already tell how sweet she is and I only met her this weekend. Just amazing... I was so lucky to be there at the right time.”
“Are you getting sick?” Roy asked, eyebrow raised. “You sound kind of congested.” He began to raise his hand, to check Johnny for a fever when Johnny slapped it away.
“Geez MOM,” he joked as he sniffed, “it’s just a little head cold.”
“Nothing is ever little with you Junior. If you don’t feel up to work, I’m sure Cap can call someone in.”
“For Pete’s sake Pally! I think I can work with a little sniffle.”
The truth was, he had woken up a couple of days ago with a sore throat and congested head, but he was hoping it would pass. Seemed like the cold pills he took weren’t doing much but making his head ache even more.
“Come on,” Johnny said, “we’ll be late for roll call.”
It had been a quiet morning and as the guys drove back from Rampart getting supplies, Roy decided to ask Johnny how he met his ‘amazing new girl.’ He figured he would find out sooner or later anyway.
As he glanced over, he could see Johnny resting his elbow on the edge of the door as he rubbed his forehead. He looked pale.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” Roy asked.
Johnny turned and glared at him, not responding.
“Ok, ok,” Roy gave in. “So tell me, how did you meet this new girl?”
Johnny cleared his scratchy throat as he began, “It was meant to be I guess. You know how we had that rough rescue the other day, with that girl?”
“Yeah,” Roy replied sadly as he remembered the 3 year old accident victim that they couldn’t save. Johnny had held the little girl in his arms as she passed away. There was nothing they could do.
“Well, I had to go and clear my head,” Johnny continued.“You know how I like to go to the mountains to do that, but it was kinda late in the day, so I drove to the beach and just sat there watching the waves and trying to get that image out of my head of that sweet little girl. Well, as I was sitting there this gorgeous girl comes over and asks me if I knew the time. Can you believe that? It’s almost like the oldest pick-up line in the book...except what’s a guy like you doing at a place like this?”
Johnny chuckled lightly at his own joke as Roy rolled his eyes.
“So then what?” Roy asked.
“Well, hold on... Achoo! Sorry about that... well then we just started talking and before we knew it the sun was setting. Her name is Amber Dawsen and she’s 20. She’s a nursing student over at the University. And she is gorgeous! Blonde hair, blue eyes and an incredible body.”
“Hold on Junior, did you say 20? Isn’t that kind of young?” .
“Hey I’m only 26. It’s not like I’m an old man.” Johnny sniffed and cleared his throat.
“So where does she live, with Mommy and Daddy?” Roy grinned.
“Very funny Roy. I guess just with her Dad. Her Mom is somewhere back East. Guess she took off on the family when Amber was little.”
“Sounds like you found out a lot about her in a short time.” Roy replied.
“Yeah, she’s amazing...” Johnny grinned as he tried to stifle a cough.
“He is sooo cute Shannon.” Amber gushed as they stood in front of her locker.
Shannon was Amber’s best friend and she couldn’t wait to tell her about Johnny.
“But Amber, why didn’t you tell him your real age? Don’t you think he’s going to find out?”
“Do you really think he’d date me if he knew I was 17? Everyone always says I look older than I am, so why not play the part? I just can’t wait to go on a date with him! You should see his eyes! They are the most dreamy chocolate brown, and that hair! So thick and wavy, I just want to run my fingers through it!” Amber declared, her blue eyes gleaming at the memory of meeting Johnny.
“So did he kiss you?” Shannon asked, anxious to hear all the details.
“Not yet, I mean we just met. But I think I was pretty clever asking him the time! I just had to meet him. He was sitting there and he looked so sad.
He supposed to call me later today. I told him I was in class until 3.”
“Yeah, you’re in class alright... it’s called HIGH school!” Shannon replied with a shake of the head.
“What is he going to say when he finds out the truth? And your Dad will KILL you for dating a 26 year old fireman.”
“Dad won’t let me date anyone... he’s too overprotective. Besides dad doesn’t have to know either. I’m good at keeping things from him. I’ll just tell him I’m going to your house to study and he’ll believe me.”
“I don’t know Amber, what if you get caught?” Shannon asked worried.
“Shannon, come on, live a little... it’s fun! Gotta go, break is almost over, I’ll see you after school.”
With that, Amber turned, blonde hair bouncing as she made her way to Science class.
“ I hope you know what you’re doing,” Shannon whispered.
“Squad 51, respond to man down. Twenty-five Andover Street. Cross street Pullen Avenue. Time out 13:45.”
“Squad 51, KMG 365,” Cap replied as he handed Roy the slip, who then handed it to Johnny.
“Man, I hope I get back in time to call Amber around 3 when she gets out of class.” Johnny said in a nasally voice.
“You sound like you’re getting worse, have you taken anything for that?” Roy asked.
“Yeah, some cold pills before I came on shift. Don’t worry, I’m fine,” he replied as his head continued to throb.
“Please hurry!” A middle-aged woman pleaded as she grabbed Johnny’s arm and began tugging him into the house.
“Ok Ma’m just let me get my supplies and we’ll be right there,” he said as he reached in to grab the biophone and drug box.
Roy grabbed the rest of the equipment and they trotted into the house.
“My husband just started saying his chest hurt and then collapsed. Is he going to live?”
Roy and Johnny knelt beside the man and quickly began to assess his condition. Johnny felt a shiver run down his back. Why was he feeling cold in September? It had to be 90 degrees outside.
“Johnny! I said to contact Rampart with the vitals,” Roy repeated. Johnny had suddenly frozen in place with a blank look on his face.
“Oh, sorry,” Johnny replied as he contacted the hospital.
Even with all of their efforts, they were unable to save their patient.
As Roy backed the squad into the bay he glanced over at an unusually quiet Johnny.
“What happened back there? You looked like you were somewhere else.”
“Oh, sorry about that,” Johnny replied.
“Are you feeling worse? You know we still have a long shift ahead of us.”
“Roy, are you going to ask me that every hour?” Johnny asked sternly, “ I think I’m old enough to take care of myself.”
With that, he got out of the squad, slammed the door, and made his way to the phone.
“Hi, Amber? It’s me Johnny. What? Oh, I’m fine, just a little cold. So, how was your class? .... Yeah, pretty good... we lost a guy to a heart attack though, pretty tough on his wife. Hey listen, I need to go but I’d like to get together with you on my next day off. How about Wednesday? Ok, I’ll call you and we can set something up. Great! See ya then.”
Roy came into the kitchen as Johnny hung up the phone. Johnny felt bad for losing his temper. He knew Roy was only trying to help.
“I’m sorry Roy, didn’t mean to be such a grouch.”
“It’s ok Junior. I’ll try to stop bugging you.”
“What’s up with Gage? He sounds terrible,” Chet asked from the couch.
“I’m fine.” Johnny muttered as he made his way to the dorm. He lay on the bed to try to ease his throbbing head and was asleep in minutes.
Back in the kitchen, Cap walked over to Roy, coffee cup in hand.
“Gage does sound pretty bad, is he ok?”
“Yeah,” Roy sighed, “he says it’s just a cold, but you know Johnny.”
“Yeah,” answered Cap with a frown,“that’s what I’m worried about.”
Johnny woke a short time later with stabbing pains throughout his body. His knee, his back, his head, even his fingers took their turn with weird sharp pains. His chest was tight and it ached. And he was cold. Not just slightly cold, but cold to the bone. He wearily pushed himself up to get under the covers when the tones sounded.
“Station 51, structure fire, 45 Hilldale Street. Cross street Tucker lane. Time out, 17:43.”
Johnny stumbled into his turnout and boots. As he ran to the squad he could feel sweat running down his back. How could he be cold and hot at the same time? ‘Man, I’m really sick. I hope I can make it through this ok.’
Roy noticed Johnny’s dark circles under his eyes and a sheen of sweat on his skin, but after getting his head bitten off earlier, he decided to keep quiet. He would keep a close eye on him at the fire though.
“Johnny, Roy, sounds like we have a kid still in there. Chet and Marco, grab an inch and a half and clear a path for them. They think the kid might be upstairs. It’s a 4 year old girl,” Cap ordered.
Johnny and Roy exchanged a worried look as they grabbed their gear.
“God,” Johnny whispered, “don’t let us lose another one.”
“PLEASE HELP HER!” Came a frantic cry from a nearby woman.
“She was right behind me when we came down the stairs, but I think she went back to get Boo-Boo, her teddybear. I was carrying the baby and I couldn’t carry her too! Oh God!! Please!!”
The woman clawed at Johnny’s coat as he hurried to get on his gear. All he could do was nod as his throat choked with emotion. No, he would not lose another child.
“Ma’m, you need to let them do their job. Please, step this way,” Vince, the policeman coaxed.
“Hurry guys, the house looks like it’s going fast,” Cap ordered as the men trotted toward the building.
Johnny’s head throbbed with each step he took. Sharp pains continued to stab his body. Sweat drenched his hair and his clothes clung to his skin. He wasn’t even in the building yet. Should he tell Roy? No, he would NOT let another little girl die. He couldn’t handle that again.
The smoke was thick as they made their way past Chet and Marco.
“I think we should go upstairs first,” Roy yelled through his mask.
Johnny nodded as he followed Roy up the stairs. His vision blurred. Suddenly there were two Roys instead of one.
“Not now Gage,” he scolded himself as he shook his head. His vision cleared as they reached the top of the staircase.
“I’ll go this way, you take the other end of the hall. We’ll meet back here. Are you ok with that?” Roy asked.
Roy wondered if he should leave Johnny alone, but they had to find the girl fast.
Johnny nodded as he made his way to the end of the hall. It was a big house with several bedrooms. He made his way into a large room, which appeared to be the master bedroom.
“Hello?” He called out as loudly as he could.
He coughed as his voice was strained. His chest ached, along with the rest of his body. He looked under the bed and glanced at the curtains which were beginning to catch on fire. He looked in the closets and the master bathroom, but the girl was not there. The smoke was becoming thicker as he made his way into the next bedroom.
“Hello? I’m here to help you.” Cough, cough...the room began to spin.
“God, please help me find that little girl.” He choked out.
Suddenly he saw a teddybear on the floor, sticking out from under the bed. On his knees, he peered under the bed, and there she was. Her eyes closed, hand clutching the bear.
“Roy!” Johnny hollered as loud as he could. But he knew Roy would not hear him.
He gently grabbed the girl and felt for a pulse. It was there, but faint. He removed his mask and placed it over her sweet little face. He coughed instantly.
“Come on angel. You have to be ok.” Cough, cough...
“Roy!” Johnny called again. At that moment, Roy was in the doorway.
“I found her,” Johnny choked out. cough, cough...“Let’s go.”
Johnny picked up the girl but stumbled as he stood.
“Let me get her,” Roy suggested. “Put your mask on. I’ll give her some air.”
Johnny nodded as he stumbled after Roy out the door. The fire was intensifying and they knew they had little time.
“Are you ok to make it out?” Roy asked over his shoulder as they approached the staircase.
Johnny nodded. Roy began descending with the girl and was near the bottom. Johnny began to make his way down when suddenly his vision blurred again. Which staircase was the one he should walk on? He lost his footing and tumbled down the stairs, landing hard at the bottom.
Roy had just made it to the door in time to glance over his shoulder and see his partner falling down the stairs.
Chet and Marco, who were still manning the hose, saw Johnny tumble down and ran to get him.
Roy continued his way out with the girl, laying her on the grass, far away from the fire.
Roy quickly began to assess the girl, then glanced over his shoulder to see Johnny slung over Marco’s shoulder coming towards them, with Chet following closely behind.
“My baby! My baby! Oh please let her be ok,” the little girl’s mother sobbed as she broke free of Vince.
The girl did not have any burns but Roy knew that she had taken in a lot of smoke. He was taking her vitals as they lay Johnny beside her.
“Chet, get off his gear. Is he conscious?”
“No,” Chet replied as he removed Johnny’s gear. “Man, he is soaked. He must have gotten really hot in the fire. Sounds like he’s breathing kind of funny too and I don’t like the look of his leg.”
“He’s been sick for a couple of days. He’s probably running a fever.” Roy replied as he put the oxygen mask on the girl and made his way over to Johnny.
“Cap, can you contact Rampart while I check out Johnny?”
“Johnny, can you hear me? Johnny?”
Roy began to assess his injuries . He could tell by the angle of his foot that Johnny had broken his leg. He felt down the rest of his limbs for breaks and was relieved not to find any more. There was a gash above his eyebrow that was bleeding and swelling. He could feel the heat radiating off of his body, and hear his raspy breathing.
“Marco, can you hold some pressure on that gash to stop the bleeding?” Roy asked as he got out his stethoscope. “I need to check his vitals.”
After calling in his findings to rampart on his victims, he began the IV and put Johnny on O2. Luckily for Johnny, he was still unconscious when he splint the leg. It would have been agonizing if he was awake. After stabilizing his neck and placing him on a backboard, they carefully loaded him into the ambulance, along with the little girl.
Cap peered into the ambulance before he closed the door.
“Is he going to be ok Roy?” He asked with a frown.
“I hope so Cap, but I think he’s really sick.”
As they approached Rampart, Johnny began to come around.
“Mmmmmm....” he groaned as his whole body throbbed, especially his leg. He was going down the stairs and then.... the little girl! Was she ok? He grabbed the oxygen mask and began to rank it off.
“Easy Junior,” Roy said softly, “take it easy. You’re ok. We are almost at Rampart.
“The little girl?” Johnny rasped out. cough, cough....
“I think she’ll be ok. She took in some smoke, but I think she’ll be fine.”
“Thank God,” Johnny whispered as he shivered, “so cold.”
“You have a high fever. I told you things are never simple with you,” Roy said with a slight smile, but he was worried. Johnny’s fever was high and his lungs sounded congested. He was worried that Johnny had pneumonia again.
At the hospital, they whisked the little girl into treatment 1 and Johnny into 2. He was visibly shaking and in and out of consciousness.
“What happened Roy?” Dr. Brackett demanded as he began to assess Johnny’s condition.
Dixie looked sadly at Johnny. Seemed like he was always the one at station 51 to get hurt. She began to gather the cooling blanket and meds, already one step ahead of Dr. Brackett’s orders.
“He’s been sick with a cold for a couple of days but today it got worse and by the time we got to the fire he was really sick. Of course, being Johnny, he didn’t tell anyone and he fell down the stairs and here we are.”
Brackett shook his head, knowing all too well how Johnny hid his injuries.
“Johnny, can you hear me?”
Johnny groaned but did not open his eyes.
“We need to get x-ray in here. Might as well get a complete set after that fall down the stairs, and start him on antibiotics stat. His lungs sound horrible. Get a cooling blanket on him as soon as the x-rays are done. We’ve got to get down this fever,” Brackett ordered.
“Right away,” Dixie replied. “Come on Roy, you look like you need to get cleaned up. Let’s let the x-ray technicians do their job.”
She guided him by the elbow out the door.
“Dix, I knew he was sick, but I didn’t think he was that sick. I never should have let him go into that house,” he stated with guilt.
“Roy, you know Johnny hides things from all of us. Now don’t feel bad. Besides, you saved that little girl. Dr. Morton said she’s going to be fine.”
“Thank God,” Roy replied. “I’ll go get washed up. If Cap and the guys get here, can you give them an update on Johnny?”
“Sure thing Roy,” Dixie smiled.
A short time later Dr. Brackett found the crew of station 51 gathered in the waiting room, still in their turnouts, covered in soot and ash. Tired, but concerned eyes met the doctor as he walked towards the men.
“Well,” he began, “Johnny is very sick. Add to that a badly broken leg that will need surgery, it looks like he will be here awhile. He has pneumonia and we’re trying to get his temp down now with cooling blankets. Last we checked it was close to 104. He have him on a heavy doses of antibiotics. We have not had to intubate him yet, but if his breathing gets worse, we’ll have to. He is starting to come around but is still groggy. You can see him if you want, but just 2 at a time and make it quick. He’s in ICU. As soon as he gets more stable, we’ll have to fix that leg.”
Roy was the first one to visit Johnny. He sighed as he entered the tiny ICU cubicle, seeing his best friend hooked up to IVS and wires. It was not the first time he had seen him this way, but he hated it just as much.
“Johnny,” he whispered, “you should have told me you were so sick.”
Johnny was sedated and did not hear Roy. His breathing was raspy, but at least he was breathing on his own, with the aide of an oxygen mask. Roy could tell by his flushed cheeks, that his fever was still high.
The ICU nurse, Jodi, came in and began taking his vitals. She smiled at Roy as she did so.
“There seems to be quite a crowd in the waiting are wanting to see him. Guess he must be pretty special.”
“Yeah, he sure is,” Roy replied as he squeezed his hand. “I’ll let the other guys come in.”
With a heavy sigh, he turned and left the room.
Next in were Cap and Mike.
“Hey there John,” Cap said as he lightly touched Johnny’s arm. “We are all here for you pal. You just take it easy and rest. We’ll come by again when we can.” Mike nodded in agreement, then they stepped out.
Marco and Chet then made their way to Johnny’s bed. Chet felt uneasy seeing his friend that way.
“Geez Gage,” Chet joked, “you’d do anything to get away from the phantom.”
“Chet!” Marco glared at him.
“It’s just a joke, come on man, you know I don’t like seeing Gage like this.”
“I know what you mean Chet,” Marco replied, “let’s just hope he gets better fast.”
Two days later was Wednesday. Johnny had been in and out of consciousness. They had to repair the leg as soon as possible and took the chance of the surgery. It was now in traction and he was still receiving strong doses of pain meds.
Roy came into the room as Johnny was trying to wake up.
“Roy,” he said weakly, “I’m glad to see you. How long have I been here? Man, I don’t even know what day it is.”
“It’s Wednesday. You’ve been here 2 days. You had surgery on your leg and if you continue to improve then they can move you to a regular room soon.”
“Man, I was supposed to go out with Amber tonight.”
Johnny coughed and cringed at the pain in his body from his fall down the stairs. His leg and head continued to throb in rhythm with each other. His chest still felt tight and he was still running a fever, although it wasn’t as high as before.
“Roy, can you do me a favor and call her? Tell her I’m really sorry,” he wheezed as he took a breath, “I really wish I could make it.”
“Geez Johnny, I think she will understand,” Roy replied.
“Yeah, I guess... her number is in my wallet.” cough, cough...wheeze.
“I think you had better rest. You sound horrible. I’ll give her a call and check on you tomorrow. Get some sleep. Hopefully tomorrow I can see you in a regular room and out of ICU.”
Roy smiled as he squeezed Johnny’s hand.
Later that evening, Roy picked up the phone to call Amber.
“Hello, Amber? This is Roy, Johnny’s partner. I hate to tell you this, but Johnny’s sick and he broke his leg the other day at a fire. He’s at Rampart...yes I think he’ll be ok but he’s pretty sick. I’m sure he’ll call you when he’s better... ok, I’ll tell him... take care... bye...”
Roy hung up and shook his head slowly.
“Everything ok honey?” Joanne, his wife, asked.
“Yeah, I guess but she sounds so young. Johnny said she was 20 but she sounds even younger than that.”
“Johnny is a grown man Roy. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing,” Joanne stated. “Tomorrow I am going to see him and bring him some of my chicken soup that he likes so much.”
“You can try, but he’s still really sick. I’m not sure how much he will eat,” Roy replied sadly.
“He’ll be ok sweetheart.” Joanne softly rubbed his back.
The next morning at the hospital Johnny woke to an extreme tightness in his chest. Each breath was agony. He could not get enough air. At that moment, the alarm went off in his room. His oxygen level was dropping to a dangerous level. Gasping and wide eyed he struggled for each breath.
Nurses rushed into his room as they paged Dr. Brackett.
“Dr. Brackett to ICU stat! DR. Brackett to ICU stat!”
Dr. Brackett burst into the room a short time later.
“What happened?” he barked.
“His oxygen level dropped. He’s not getting enough air,” the nurse replied, trying to remain calm.
“We need to intubate him. His lungs are more congested. Sedate him and let’s do this.”
“Johnny, we need to intubate you,” Dr. Brackett explained, “your lungs are worse and you can’t get air. We will sedate you and give you stronger antibiotics. Do you understand?”
Johnny nodded weakly, gasping for air. He knew if he didn’t get some soon, he was going to pass out. As it was, he felt the meds as they made their way into his arm and he blissfully blacked out.
Amber gazed at the window of the taxi as they made their way to Rampart Hospital. She had been worried about Johnny since she had gotten the call from Roy the night before. Now, clutching the cookies that she made for Johnny, she could feel her stomach flutter with excitement. She couldn’t wait to see him. She hoped he was doing better today.
She had called her Dad at work and told him that she was studying at Shannon’s then she had called a cab to take her from school to the hospital. He would not be home from his plumbing job until 6. She did not like lying to her Dad, but he was so protective of her, that she knew he would never allow her to see Johnny or even any boy her own age for that matter. Besides, boys her own age were too immature.
She knew her Dad was doing his best raising her. He meant well and was only trying to protect her from getting hurt the way that he was. Her Mom decided that being married wasn’t for her, or having a family. She just left one day, and Amber and her Dad had not seen her since. He tried to contact her family, but no one had seen her. It’s almost like she had dropped off the face of the earth and didn’t want to be found.
Since then, her father had been alone. He did not trust any other woman and did not want to be hurt again. He figured it was best to stay alone. He said women lie and that he wasn’t going to go through that again.She wished he would meet someone, but he didn’t want to.
“Miss, we’re here,” the cab driver announced.
“Oh, sorry...here you go.”
She handed him the money, and made her way to the information desk.
“I’m sorry Miss, John Gage is in ICU and only family members are allowed to visit,” replied the receptionist.
“But I made these cookies and I really want to see him,” Amber pleaded.
“”I’m sorry Miss. Those are the rules.”
“Ok, thanks anyway.”
Amber turned and walked into the lobby. She had to find a way to see him. As she crossed the lobby she noticed a sign on the wall directing people to the correct floors. ICU was on the 4th floor. With cookies in hand, Amber made her way to the elevator.
As she walked towards the nurses’ ICU station, she could hear the beeps of the heart machines and the hissing noises of the vents. There looked to be about 5 patients, but the curtains were closed so it was hard to tell.
“May I help you?” A nurse inquired at the desk.
“Yes, I’m here to see Johnny Gage. I’m his sister,” Amber replied.
“Oh, I wasn’t aware he had a sister, but I don’t really know Mr. Gage very well. I think he already has a visitor. I’m afraid he took a turn for the worse and if those cookies are for him, he won’t be able to eat them for awhile.”
“What happened?” Amber asked, feeling her stomach flip.
“He was having a difficult time breathing and we had to sedate him and put him on a vent. If you are part of the family, weren’t you notified?” The nurse asked with suspicion.
At that moment, one of the curtains moved to reveal a grim Roy Desoto walking toward the desk.
“Oh Roy, Johnny’s ‘sister’ is here to see him,” the nurse informed him.
“What? Johnny doesn’t have a sister.”
Roy looked at the girl standing before him with blonde hair and sad blue eyes.
“Are you Amber?” He asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yes,” she quietly admitted, looking at her shoes, “but I really want to see Johnny. He’s so sick and I just want to help.”
She looked up at Roy with pleading eyes.
“I’m his partner, Roy, but I’m afraid he is not up to visitors and you hardly know him. I can take you in to see him, but only for a minute and you probably shouldn’t come back, at least not for awhile.”
As Roy moved the curtain aside, Amber gasped at the sight of Johnny. All of the tubes and wires, the machines hissing and beeping was a scary sight for her. She had never seen anyone in ICU before.
“Oh, poor Johnny,” she whispered, with tears in her eyes.
The tan, handsome guy she met on the beach now looked so pale and pathetic, with dark circles under his eyes and a large bruise and cut above his eyebrow. His leg was heavily bandaged while in traction and wires and tubes seemed to be coming out of him everywhere.
“Is he going to be ok?” She squeaked out.
“We are not sure. Time will tell,” Roy replied sadly, “you had better leave now.”
“Ok, but these are for him. When he wakes up, can you tell him I came by?” She asked as she handed Roy the cookies.
Roy nodded as he took the cookies and watched Amber walk down the hall towards the elevator. He still thought she looked young, but he could tell she really cared about Johnny.
“Guess you did it again Junior,” he grinned sadly, “got another girl to fall for you. I just hope you get to see her again.”
Two weeks passed and in that time Johnny had made great improvement. He was off the vent and in a regular room. He was still weak, but had begun light physical therapy for his leg.
Friends had stopped by bringing “real” food and lifting his spirits, but his favorite visitor had been Amber.
She had called the station a few days after visiting Johnny in ICU and was thrilled to hear that he was doing better.
Now, she sat near his bed watching him inhale the burger and fries that she brought.
“So,” he began between bites,“it looks like I should be getting out of here in a day or two.”
“That’s great Johnny!” Amber declared enthused. “But are you going to be ok at your place? Doesn’t your apartment have stairs? Can you be alone yet?” Amber asked worried.
“Oh, I’ll be fine. I’ll be staying with Roy and his family for awhile. Remember I told you his wife and the kids are like my family. It won’t be the first time I’ve recovered at their place, that’s for sure,” he chuckled.
“And,” he continued, “when I do get back to my own place, it’s time we went out on a real date...course hopefully by then I can walk more than 5 steps without being exhausted.”
“You have been through so much Johnny,” Amber said as she leaned closer to his bed, “I’m sure it will take time to get your strength up and when you do, we can make up for all of this time you have been in here.”
“Yeah, sounds like a plan,” Johnny grinned.
Two more weeks passed quickly at the De Soto’s. With Joanne’s good cooking and the family’s TLC, Johnny was ready to move back to his own apartment. His therapy was going well and he was now able to walk steadily with crutches. It would still be months before he would be able to return to work, because of his badly broken leg, but he was determined.
Amber had not felt comfortable going to the DeSoto home to visit but she had spoken to Johnny several times on the phone. She was thrilled he was going home and planned to make a special dinner for him at his place.
She discussed her plans with Shannon at lunch.
“So he gave me directions to his place and I told Dad we had a huge History test to study for, so you’ll have to be my cover for tonight, ok?”
“What if you get caught Amber? What if your Dad calls me or something? I don’t know if I could lie to him!”
“Shannon, you know I have never been on a date before! My Dad never lets me do anything, except hang out with you and study. Can’t you let me enjoy this time with Johnny? He is really special and I can finally spend time alone with him tonight. Do you know how long I’ve wanted to do this? I haven’t even kissed him yet!”
“Ok, ok,” Shannon gave in, “just be careful. Have you told anyone else about Johnny?”
“Nope, just you and my diary, so let’s keep it that way ok?”
Shannon smiled slightly, feeling very uneasy about the whole thing.
Amber’s Dad, Ben Dawsen, was driving home from work. He knew that Amber had a big History test to study for so he knew she would probably be eating with Shannon.
“Maybe the girls would like a pizza brought over while they study,” he thought out loud.
Several minutes later, he knocked loudly on the Shannon’s front door, pizza in hand.
“Hey, Mrs. Webster, I brought this over for the girls to eat while they study.”
“I’m sorry Ben, but Amber is not here. We are just sitting down to dinner right now and I haven’t seen her.”
“WHAT?!” Ben boomed, “can I see Shannon please?”
“Of course...Shannon come here please.”
Shannon came to the door, saw who it was, and began to panic.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Dawsen. I told her not to lie, I told her you would find out and that she was going get in trouble!” She blurted out as the tears began to flow.
Ben stood there frozen in shock as Shannon spilled all the details about Johnny and Amber.
“I uh...” he stammered, “I need to go.”
He staggered down the stairs to his car, leaving a hysterical Shannon and a bewildered Mrs. Webster standing in the doorway.
Ben Dawsen felt like he had been hit by a truck. The wind was knocked out of him. His whole body trembled.
How could that MAN be with his daughter? His little girl?! He fumed as he drove his way back to his house.
He would find him and he would make him pay. No one was going to take his little girl from him.
Ben dialed the phone with a shaky hand. He tried to control the quiver in his voice.
“Yes, station 51? I heard that fireman Gage was still recovering at home and I would like to deliver a special gift for him. He saved my family from a fire a few months back and I really want to show my appreciation. Could you give me his address please?”
At the station the captain of B shift hung up the phone with a bewildered look on his face.
“Everything ok Cap?” His engineer asked him from the couch.
“Yeah, I guess...it’s just kind of odd that someone would want to thank Gage months after a fire. Well, sounds like a thoughtful thing to do I guess. I’m sure Gage will appreciate it,” he said with a smile.
With trembling hands Ben Dawsen took the gun from his nightstand and headed towards his car. It would be a “special gift” alright.
“Wow, something smells great!” Johnny declared from the couch, with his leg propped up on pillows. Amber peeked into the living room.
“I hope you like it. I make it for my Dad quite a lot. It’s lasagna.”
“Can’t wait to try it!” Johnny grinned, “why don’t you come sit down for a minute.” He patted the couch next to him.
“Ok, but I got to get back to making dinner soon.”
Her heart beat faster as she sat near him, looking into his chocolate brown eyes.
“I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you have done for me since I was hurt. I know we haven’t been able to spend much time together, but I’m hoping that will change.”
He gently took her face into his hands and gave her a soft kiss on the lips.
Her heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest. At that moment, the door flew open with Ben storming into the room, pointing his gun at Johnny.
“Get away from my little girl!” He demanded, waving the gun.
Amber flew off the couch and confronted her father.
“Dad, what are you doing here? Put that gun down!”
“Get back Amber. He is taking advantage of a young girl and I won’t have it!”
By that time, Johnny had staggered off the couch and was doing his best to stand with a cast on his leg.
“Look,” Johnny said calmly, “ let’s just calm down and talk. Please, just put the gun away.”
“How dare you tell me what to do!” He screamed, aiming the gun at Johnny’s chest, “can’t you find someone your own age to date?! Why go after a 17 year old? You’re sick!”
“What?!” Johnny questioned, glaring at Amber. “Seventeen?”
“Johnny, I was going to tell you but I thought you wouldn’t want anything to do with me,” Amber pleaded.
Johnny stood there in shock, not quite knowing what to say. He had trusted Amber and was beginning to really like her, but she had lied all along.
“You didn’t...tell him?!” Ben stammered, “how could you not tell him the truth? You are just like your mother! Lie upon lie! ”
By now Ben was shaking more than when he came in which was making Johnny even more nervous.
“Let’s just calm down and talk about this,” Johnny said again, stepping in front of Amber.
“Just like her mother! A liar! What did I do wrong?” He choked out, backing up with the gun still aimed at them.
Suddenly, he tripped on the edge of the couch, and the gun went off. It all happened so quickly that Johnny did not have time to do anything. He felt a hot white pain in his shoulder as he fell back against Amber.
“Oh God! What did I do?” Ben gasped, then ran from the apartment.
Amber was under Johnny and managed to wiggle her way free.
“Oh Johnny, I’m so sorry, what do I do? You’re bleeding so much!”
“Grab that blanket,” he panted, “I’ll put pressure on it while you call a squad.”
“Ok, I’m so scared! I’ll try to hurry.”
She quickly made her way to the phone and called a squad. In the meantime, Johnny was becoming light headed. He was trying to stop the blood flow but was having trouble doing it himself. He felt a grinding in his shoulder and knew that the bone had been broken by the bullet. The pain was agonizing.
Amber hurried back to his side.
“Amber, you need to keep pressure on it. If I pass out, don’t worry, the squad...will...” Johnny fell limply against the floor.
“Johnny!!” Amber yelled.
She leaned her weight into the blanket, trying to keep the blood from flowing but she could still see it seeping through, causing her hands to become red, wet and sticky.
‘Where were the neighbors??’ She thought desperately. ‘Didn’t anyone hear a gunshot?’ But no one came.
It seemed that time stood still as she waited there applying pressure to the wound, but less than 20 minutes later, a squad and ambulance appeared, along with the police.
“Ok Miss, we can take over now.” Dan, the paramedic, gently pushed a shocked Amber aside.
“Oh Johnny! This is all my fault!” She sobbed.
“Rampart, this is squad 16. We have a male gunshot victim, age 26. He has been shot in the shoulder at close range. It appears the shoulder is broken. There is considerable bleeding. Patient is unconscious. Vitals are BP; 90/ 60, pulse 120 and respirations 16 and shallow. Be advised, victim is John Gage.”
At Rampart, Dixie and Kel looked at each other in disbelief. He had just gotten out of the hospital a short while ago.
“Not again!” Cried Dixie “who would want to shoot Johnny and why?!”
“I don’t know Dixie, but he doesn’t sound good. Let’s hope they can get him here in time. We had better contact Roy. I think it’s his day off.”
Dr. Brackett ordered the IVs and and O2 and demanded that an OR be on standby.
“Get him in here as soon as you can,” Brackett barked.
“This is all my fault!” Cried Amber in the waiting room. She had admitted to Roy that she had lied about her age, and then had told him how her father had barged into the apartment, out to get Johnny.
Roy and Cap were with her, waiting for news on Johnny’s condition, but the other members of Station 51 were on a fishing trip for the day and could not be contacted.
“You’re damn right this is your fault!” Roy angrily replied.
“If you had told Johnny the truth to begin with, he would have told you to find someone your own age! And then to lie to your father on top of it! You had better hope they find that lunatic and lock him up, and you should be there with him!”
“Roy,” Cap said, gently taking Roy’s arm, “now is not the time or place to be yelling at her. She’s already upset. She cares for Johnny. What she did was wrong, but she still wants to be here for him.”
“Well, she shouldn’t be!” Roy warned.
“Let’s let Johnny decide that Pal,” Cap stated calmly.
“Yeah Cap, IF he’s around to make that decision.”
Several hours later, a tired Dr. Brackett made his way to the waiting room.
“Doc, how is he?” Roy nervously asked.
“He’s stable. The bullet did break his shoulder, so we had to put a couple of screws in to hold it in place. Dr. Ross, our orthopedic doctor, thinks it will heal in time, as long as he follows the therapy. We managed to get the bullet out and control the bleeding. It looks like he will be ok, but we need to watch for infection. We’ll start him on antibiotics right away. You can see him but he’s still asleep from the surgery. He’s in ICU for now, but I think he’ll be moved to a regular room by tomorrow, if things go well.”
“Thanks so much Doc,” Roy sighed.
“Thank God!” Amber let out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. “Can I see him?”
“NO, you cannot!” Roy replied sternly, “you are NOT his relative, you are NOT his friend. You need to just go home!”
Dr. Brackett was taken aback by Roy’s outburst which was quite unusual for a quiet Roy DeSoto, but he knew he was protecting Johnny.
Just then, Vince, the policeman, came into the waiting room.
“Hey, I just wanted to come tell you myself that Ben Dawsen came to the station and turned himself in. He was quite distraught. He wanted to see if Johnny was ok. Guess he feels pretty bad for the way he behaved. How is Johnny doing anyway? I’m sure he’ll want to press charges.”
Dr. Brackett filled in Vince on Johnny’s condition and then excused himself to the lounge. It had been a long day and he needed coffee badly.
“Let me take you home, Miss,” Vince suggested.
“But...I wanted to see...” Getting a glare from Roy, she reluctantly agreed.
“I know you don’t like me,” she began as she passed Roy, “and I know what I did was wrong, but I do care about Johnny. Please tell him I wanted to see him and tell him how sorry I am.”
“Just go,” Roy said quietly.
The next day Johnny was moved into a regular room. The whole thing seemed so surreal.
“Hey Junior,” Roy greeted as he pushed the door into his room open. “How are you feeling today?”
Roy took in Johnny’s tired, sad eyes and the arm in a cast and sling. He looked like quite a site, still sporting his leg cast as well.
“Hurts some, but I just had my pain meds so not sure how long I’ll be able to stay awake. Roy, I just can’t seem to win. Just when I think I found someone special that I really like, something happens. Seventeen??! Why didn’t she tell me the truth?! Whatever happened to her Dad anyway?”
“Well, Vince said he turned himself in. You’re pressing charges right?”
“No,” Johnny sighed, “it really was an accident. The guy was just freaked out by it all and I can’t say I blame him. He probably thought I was some kind of a creep! I don’t think he meant to shoot the gun. It just went off when he tripped on the couch. Man, what a mess!”
“Johnny, Amber wants to see you, but I don’t think that’s a smart thing to do. I already gave her a piece of my mind.”
“I should talk to her.” Johnny yawned, “I know she still cares about me, but I can’t be with her. It’s against the law for crying out loud.”
Roy noticed Johnny’s drooping eyes.
“Listen Junior, get some rest and I’ll come visit later.”
“mmm...k” Johnny drifted off as Roy went out the door.
Amber peaked into the room as Johnny slept. He was alone in the room and looked so peaceful.
She quietly approached his bed.
“Johnny,” she began, lightly touching his arm “can you hear me?”
“Mmm...what?” He asked, opening tired, brown eyes.
“Amber, I didn’t hear you come in,” he said coldly.
Amber noticed right away the change in his behavior toward her.
“I’m so sorry...I wish I could change what happened and...”
“Look,” Johnny interrupted, “don’t bother. What you did was wrong. I could have gotten in a lot of trouble if things had gone further with us. I could have lost my job or even gone to jail. Don’t you realize that?”
“Well, I only did it because I wanted to meet you and I knew you would never be with me if I was too young.”
“Of course! Like I said, it’s wrong!” Johnny declared. “I can’t see you anymore. You need to leave. I can’t be even be friends with you. I can’t have a relationship with anyone that starts out with a lie, even as a friend.”
Tears slipped down Amber’s face as she nodded.
“Ok, but I want you to know that I’ll always care about you.”
“I’m sorry,” Johnny said quietly, “but you need to go.”
Amber looked over her shoulder once more as she walked out the door. She would never forget Johnny.
When Roy entered the room a short time later he found Johnny awake looking out the window from his bed.
“You ok Junior?”
“Yeah, I got a visit from Amber. I told her I didn’t want to see her. I think she took it hard, but it’s better that way.”
“You got that right,” Roy replied. “Besides, there are some pretty cute new nurses I see working tonight.”
“Roy! You’re a married man!”
“I might be married, but I’m not dead!”
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