By Audrey W.
This takes Place as Johnny and Vince are struggling with the gun near the ambulance. . .
Johnny felt his head connect with the pavement of the street. White dots danced before his eyes, as he blinked to clear his vision. Vince was looming over him, having the upper hand on the situation with Johnny on the ground. Both men fought for the gun as they continued to struggle. Having heard Johnny yell something about a gun, Roy and the others at the scene were just about there to aid him when a shot rang out.
The scene played as if in slow motion. Johnny's questioning look was replaced by one of shock as he fell back on the ground, letting go of the gun. Vince stood over Gage with the gun pointed at the paramedic’s chest.
"Don't move!" He yelled. "I'll shoot!"
Everyone froze, looks of horror on their faces. Roy could already see a red stain seeping through on Johnny's blue shirt on his lower left side. They all realized before anyone could help the injured man, they had to reassure Vince that Johnny wasn't the enemy and that he had to put the gun down.
Roy took a cautious step forward, quietly talking to the confused policeman. "It's okay, Vince. Put the gun down. That's just Johnny. No one will hurt you."
Vince glanced at Roy, keeping the gun trained on Gage. He winced slightly, his head beginning to throb. He blinked hard in an attempt to clear his head. Looking back down at Johnny, Vince gripped the gun tighter. There must be a reason why he was holding this man at gunpoint.
Roy looked over his shoulder at Captain Stanley. He quietly whispered, "Cap, we gotta get to Johnny. We're losing precious seconds here. And if Johnny tries to move. . .well no telling what Vince will do."
Johnny was in a daze. His vision was fuzzy and he was in intense pain.
This can't be happening.
He tried to get up, but as he moved he felt his shin get kicked hard.
"I said don't move!"
Johnny looked up at Vince, then at the witnesses, taking in the faces surrounding him and his assailant. Why didn't anyone do anything? He could make out Roy watching him. He gritted his teeth, reaching out with his left hand toward Roy, his right hand covering the wound.
Everyone sprang into action, converging on Vince, as they all knew what was coming next. But before Vince could pull the trigger and do more harm to Johnny or anyone else, he was hit with a bout of dizziness. His surroundings blurred and he once again winced at the pain in his head. An officer saw Vince's reaction and knew this was the moment they needed to end this thing safely. The police officer subdued Vince, easing him to the ground where he lay in a daze. He carefully took the gun from Vince's hand.
Roy and Cap ran to Johnny's side, followed closely by Marco, Mike and Chet. As Roy stooped down, Johnny lifted his shaking hand off his side, staring at the blood on his fingers and palm.
"R. . .Roy . . .it. . .hurts. . .b . . .bad. Burns."
Gage shut his eyes tight, trying to block out the pain. He moaned, his head falling back to the pavement as he once more grasped his side tightly. "Oh. . .God. . .R. . .roy."
"Johnny, I need to look at your side." Turning to the others, Roy said, "Marco, get me the drug box and the biophone out of the ambulance. Chet, check on the victim inside the ambulance and make sure he's okay. "
Both nodded, running to do as Roy asked.
"Hey, Roy," Cap said. "I already called for an additional ambulance and squad to help you take care of Johnny, Vince and your other victim."
Without looking up Roy replied, "Thanks, Cap."
Roy was carefully examining the gunshot wound. He gently lifted up on Gage’s side to look for an exit wound, wincing when the younger man gasped. "Sorry, Johnny."
Captain Stanley knelt down beside Roy. "How bad is it?"
I’m not sure, Cap. He’s losing a lot of blood. I did find an exit wound on the backside, but he may have some serious internal injuries. We just won't know ‘til we get him to Rampart."
Marco arrived with the equipment Roy had requested, and was already contacting Rampart. Sirens could be heard as another squad arrived on the scene.
After taping ABD pads on Johnny’s lower left abdomen and over the exit wound, Roy palpated Johnny's abdomen, frowning.
It's rigid and flat.
He quickly took Johnny's vitals, relaying them to Marco. As Marco passed the vitals on to Rampart, the other paramedics came over near Roy.
"What the hell happened, DeSoto?" One of them asked.
"A mishap. Vince accidentally shot Johnny." He pointed towards the disoriented police officer. "Can you two take a look at Vince and the patient in the ambulance? Chet’s in there now, but he's not trained to handle it by himself."
"Sure." They went over by the ambulance, one going to check on Vince, the other stepping up into the ambulance.
Roy breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the other victims would get the treatment they needed. That relief was short lived when Johnny moaned, bringing his partner's attention back to him. Roy was directed to give an IV and transport as soon as possible. He and Marco got Johnny onto a gurney and into a waiting ambulance.
Hank walked over as they were lifting Gage into the ambulance. "Marco, go ahead and drive the squad in to Rampart."
Marco nodded. "Okay, Cap." He trotted over to the squad and climbed in. He flipped on the lights and siren, as he followed behind the ambulance.
Marco had been picked up at Rampart by the engine, but Captain Stanley had opted to stand the squad down for the time being. Gage’s replacement hadn’t reported in yet and as distressed as Roy was, Hank decided it was best if the squad stayed out of service awhile.
Roy sat in the lounge, waiting for word on Johnny. He couldn't get the guilt he felt for all of this happening off of his mind.
How could I not see that something was wrong with Vince? I should've never just left him alone. I may as well have pulled the trigger on that gun myself.
He sighed, closing his eyes and resting his head on the back of the couch. "C'mon, Johnny, you have to be okay. . .I’m so sorry, partner."
Dixie walked into the lounge, overhearing Roy talking to himself. "You okay, Roy?"
Roy lifted his head to see Dixie watching him closely. Wiping his hand across his face, he sighed. "Yeah, I'm just worried about Johnny. It's my fault, ya know."
"Now how do you figure that, Roy DeSoto?"
"I treated Vince on the scene. I left him sitting alone by the squad, thinking he was okay."
"And did he seem okay when you checked him?"
"Well, yeah. . .of course, or I never would have left him. But I missed something somewhere." Roy shook his head. "Dix, I messed up and Johnny paid for my mistake."
Dixie sat down beside Roy on the couch.
"You didn't mess up. It was a hidden reaction to the injury. Anyone could have missed it. It wasn't your fault, Roy. And I'm willing to bet Johnny will tell you the same thing."
"Yeah. I know he will. But that’s just Johnny’s nature. It doesn’t mean he’s right. And right now, I’m not even sure he’s gonna pull through. How am I supposed to live with this mistake if he doesn’t?"
"Now, Roy, stop talking like that. You did the best you knew how with the situation. Throwing guilt on yourself isn’t going to help your partner any, you know. You need to hold positive thoughts right now.”
Roy nodded. He knew it wasn’t helping anyone for him to be moping, while his best friend was fighting to survive. Roy felt like he was being selfish. He actually had the easier part of the ordeal and here he was worried about how he would be if Johnny didn’t survive. But at the same time, he couldn’t help it. Every time he replayed the scene in his head, he wished he‘d spent more time examining Vince.
If ever I wanted a chance to do something over again, it’s now.
Brackett and Early were already up in surgery with Johnny. Gage had been losing blood too quickly for them to wait any longer on the OR. The bullet had nicked his bowel and the two doctors worked feverishly to repair the damaged tissue and to stop the bleeding.
It took them longer than they had hoped, but finally the dark-haired paramedic was in recovery, still receiving blood to replace the large amount he had lost.
A weary Roy looked up as Brackett and Early came into the lounge. The paramedic quickly got to his feet.
“How is he? Is Johnny okay?”
“He’s stable,” Kel answered. “He’s getting another blood transfusion now. It took us longer than we’d hoped to stop the bleeding. Roy, the bullet nicked his bowel.” Brackett saw the look of alarm on Roy’s face and raised his hand to let Roy know there was more information yet. “We didn’t see any signs of peritonitis, but we irrigated the abdominal cavity thoroughly to wash away any contaminants. Johnny is being given antibiotics and he’ll be monitored for signs of infection.”
Early cleared his throat.
“Dix tells us you’re blaming yourself for this.”
“Yeah. . .yeah, I am. Doc, I screwed up big time.”
“Are you referring to Vince’s head injury?”
Roy nodded. “I left him alone too soon.”
“You did, but that’s not your fault,” Early explained. “If he seemed okay, there was no reason for you to stay on him with more seriously injured victims at the scene. Even we miss things like he had when we see patients in here.” He gave a reassuring smile. “It happens, Roy. And no one gains anything by pointing fingers at anyone else. You just carry on and try to do the best you can afterwards. And you did just that with Johnny.”
“But, what if Johnny hadn’t made it?”
“But he did,” Brackett was quick to point out. He didn’t want one of his best paramedics to lose confidence in himself. “Except for the chance of infection, he’s going to be okay, Roy. So is Vince and so is your other patient from the accident scene. We’re lucky. It’s going to be okay.”
The three men brought their attention to the door as it opened, revealing Mike Morton. He saw the stares and questioning looks.
“What? Oh, let me guess. You’re all waiting for me to say ‘I told you so’.” The doctor walked over to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. He then turned to face the others. “Well, I’m not gonna say it.” He looked directly in Roy’s eyes. “Because the fact your partner just got out of emergency surgery for something that didn't have to happen speaks louder than anything I could possibly say.”
“Mike. . .” Brackett began.
Morton waved him off. “Forget it, Kel. I’m done.” He set the still full cup down on the counter and left the room.
Roy didn’t know what to say. He swallowed hard and looked at the other two doctors. “I . . .can I see Johnny now?”
“You okay?” Early asked.
Roy nodded. “Yeah.”
“Hang in there, Roy. It’ll be alright. Johnny’s still in recovery, but go ahead,” Joe answered. “For a short time.”
Roy nodded and headed up to the OR recovery area.
The paramedic couldn’t get over how pale Johnny looked. Roy figured all the blood must have drained out of his partner if that was possible. In reality he knew it wasn’t. But it had to be a huge amount. He stared at the unit of blood currently going into is friend.
This day he had come too close to losing a good friend and co-worker. He knew he was going to have to report back on duty soon. With the good news on Johnny, Captain Stanley wouldn’t want to leave the squad out of service much longer. Only bad thing was, every time Roy looked across and saw a fill-in partner in Johnny’s place, it would be a constant reminder of what had happened.
He looked down at the sheet white face of his friend.
“Johnny, I’m so sorry. I wish I could have this day back to do things differently. I can’t believe I missed the fact that Vince was so disoriented.” Roy sighed. “He doesn’t know what he did yet. Brackett and Early don’t think anyone should tell him until he’s had a chance to recuperate a couple of days. He didn’t mean to do it, Johnny.”
Roy paused as if waiting for his partner to say something. He chewed his lower lip, once again staring at the sleeping man. The older paramedic remained silent and gave a quick wave, as he turned to walk out of the recovery room. He didn’t know what else he could say.
It had been two days since the shooting incident. Johnny lay propped up in bed, watching television. He was having a hard time comprehending what was going on in the show since he was drowsy from being on pain medication, along with still feeling the effects of the anesthesia from his surgery.
As a commercial for fast food came on, the paramedic wished he could have some. Although he wasn’t ready to eat, the IV’s and steady liquid diet for nutrition were already getting old. Just to be able to chew real food again would be a luxury.
He lazily glanced at the door to his room as it opened.
“Hi! How ya’ feelin’?” Roy asked.
“Like I got run over by a semi.”
“You’re looking better.”
“Yeah. . .sure. Keep tellin’ me that,” Johnny slurred. “Maybe I’ll start believin’ it.” He gave a weak smile.
Roy grinned. His partner was going to be okay. He knew that now for sure. Even under the influence of medication and feeling like crap, the Gage sense of humor remained intact.
After a lengthy stay in the hospital, Johnny was finally home to recover. He had a few weeks of desk duty ahead of him before he would be in the squad again. But anything beat looking at the same walls in the hospital room, and watching daytime television that he didn’t even have any interest in.
As Johnny eased himself onto the couch in his livingroom, he heard a knock at the front door. Not wanting to go through the up and down process, he dismissed proper etiquette of walking to the door to greet whoever it was, but instead opted to use the lazy man’s technique.
“Come on in!”
The door opened, revealing Vince Howard.
“Vince!” Johnny slowly started to stand, but the police officer saw the pain etched on Gage’s face and stopped him.
“Don’t get up. You’re fine.”
“How are you doing? Have a seat,” Johnny said as he motioned towards a nearby chair.
Vince sat down and looked across at the dark-haired man. This was the first time they had seen each other after what had transpired that unfortunate day. Vince had tried several times to visit Gage, once he had been told what he did. But he couldn’t think of what he should say to the man. Sorry seemed so lame. Now that the moment was here, the police officer felt awkward. How did one apologize to a friend for shooting and nearly killing him for no good reason?
“I. . .look. . .”
Johnny could see how uncomfortable Vince was. He didn’t hold any grudge against the man and he wanted him to know it.
“Vince, it’s okay. Don’t forget I’m a paramedic. I see people with head injuries all the time, and I know that injuries like that can confuse a person. . .make them act how they never would normally.”
“I just can’t believe what I did. I’m sorry.”
Johnny shook his head. “Man, you and Roy should get together. He’s been as guilt ridden as you.” He sat forward, his elbows resting on his knees. When he winced and shifted to lean to the side slightly, Vince got up, alarmed. Johnny waved him off. “I’m fine. I forgot it still hurts to do that until I did it.”
“I saw Roy the other day,” the policeman explained, sitting back down. “We both realize it was us who set this whole thing off.”
“No, it was just one of those things that happens. No one was to blame, Vince. No one. Besides,” Johnny said grinning, “it got me a date with a nurse I’d been trying to ask out for a month.”
“You’re nuts, you know that?”
“Hey, gotta look at the bright side of things, ya know?”
Vince nodded. Yep, Gage was right. Wallowing in guilt wasn’t constructive and the policeman knew that. It was time to move on.
When he was finally back on duty, Johnny and Roy were standing in the dayroom after returning from a call. Since the latest run had involved a head injury, Roy was lamenting about the incident that happened with Johnny and Vince two months before.
“You know, I’ll never take it for granted a victim is okay ever again. Not until I’m absolutely sure.”
“You never did.”
Roy looked curiously at his partner.
“When you came over to me that day, you said Vince was fine. . .just had a bump on his head. You were sure of it.”
“Yeah, but. . .”
Johnny shook his head. “No buts. You were sure. I’d have done the same thing. In fact I have. I’ve just been lucky there wasn’t a hidden response to the injury at the time.”
Now that Gage had mentioned it, he was right. Roy remembered he was sure Vince was okay that day. He knew he wouldn’t leave a victim if he had any doubts. Although he would always remember what happened, DeSoto decided this was one of the few times his partner was making perfect sense. And it was a time he would listen to the man. As much as he hated to admit it, the fact was, Doctor Morton had been right all along. A victim who seemed okay at first could very well develop unexpected symptoms later. Roy could tell Johnny saw that clearer now, too. It was a lesson learned at a high price, but one the two paramedics would never forget.
Thank you, Kenda, for the beta read. And thank you Peggy for the medical help and the beta!