Disclaimer: All characters represented from Station 51 and Rampart Hospital belongs to Universal Television and Mark VII Limited.

Rating: PG-13

Category: Angst

Author's Note: Thanks, Peg and Donna. You both make me work harder.

Summary: Roy makes a decision that has serious consequences for himself and his partner.

 

Matters of Trust

By Susan Proto

 

 

"But, Daddy, it crashed right on you!The roof all came down and they couldn't find you, and they tried and tried, but they couldn't get to you!Oh, Daddy!Daddy, don't go to that house!Please, don't go to that house!"

 

Jennifer sobbed in her father's arms after waking up from yet another nightmare in the dead of night, a result of a four day long bout with the flu.Roy wasn't sure who was in greater need of comfort at that point - his daughter or him.The only DeSoto that had escaped the flu bug was himself, but all that had done was make him the head caretaker for his sometimes violently ill family.

 

Roy thought if he ever had to wash another set of pajamas, bed sheets, or blankets, he'd be ready for them to take him away in a straight jacket.He couldn't help but wonder how Joanne managed to do this on an ongoing basis, though even she admitted that with her down for the count, Roy had it tougher than she ever had.

 

Finally, on the morning of Day 3, Joanne had started showing signs of improvement, and that evening Chris had been able to keep down a whole glass of ginger ale.Only Jennifer still had a high fever, so Roy had remained at her bedside to offer a comforting hug and gentle kisses to her forehead.

 

It was then that he realized her fever had finally broken.He whispered a small prayer of thanks, gave his daughter a small drink of flat soda, and then tucked her back into bed.He finally left her room to return to his own bed.

 

"Jen's fever finally broke," he whispered to his half-awakened wife.

 

"'Bout time," she mumbled, still groggy from sleep.

 

"Yeah. Listen, I'm going into work tomorrow."Joanne became instantly alert.

 

"Roy, should you?"

 

"Well, you're feeling better, right, Jo?I mean, if you don't think you can handle the kids, I'll stay home."

 

"No, it's not me I'm worried about, it's you.Roy, you haven't had a full night's sleep in threeÖno, counting tonight, it'll be four nights.You've been running on empty; do you think it's wise to go in?"

 

"Jo, I took an extra couple of days that I really didn't have in the first place.Cap's been really understanding, but with this drought, the department's been so short-handed.He told me to make every effort to report in as soon as possible."

 

"But, Roy -."

 

"- Hon?You're right, I've been running around like a madman for the last few days."He smiled."I need to go into work so I can get some rest."

 

Joanne smiled in return; she knew exactly what he meant.

 

 

Roy sat in the locker room, put his shoes back on, and tied them securely.He felt somewhat dazed, and was grateful for the quiet.He needed some time to get back in the swing of things and hoped the shift would be light enough to allow him to do that.As his shift mates entered the locker room, they marked Roy's return with hearty welcome backs.The most sincere one came from his partner.

 

"Everyone doing okay?I mean, you didn't leave them too soon, right?'Cause if you did, and you have to leave again, I think I'm going to hang myself.I can't deal with Brice and not be prepared for it, Roy.Tell me you're staying put, please," Johnny pleaded.

 

"Huh?"Roy looked up from his shoe, as he realized John had just read him a whole litany of complaints but, in reality, Roy hadn't heard a thing the man had said.

 

"Oh, great, you're really out of it.Maybe you should take another day?"

 

"No - no," Roy quickly assured him, "I'm fine.I was just enjoying the peace and quiet, that's all."

 

"Yeah, but what if it gets busy?It's been quiet for the last few hours -," he began before Chet sputtered in protest.

 

" - Are you crazy, Gage?Are you trying to jinx us or something?" he cried out."You know that as soon as you say out loud how quiet it's been, that's the kiss of death!"

 

Of course, it was at that very moment that the tones sounded.

 

"Shoot."John got up as he listened to the request for the squad to tend to a man suspected of having a heart attack.

 

"Told you so, Gage," Chet said with a smirk, "Kiss of death."

 

"Yeah, thanks for the reminder, Kelly," Johnny called out as he ran for the squad.Roy stood and double-checked himself.He felt a bit disjointed and for a moment or two wondered if perhaps Johnny and Jo hadn't been right.

 

Maybe he should have taken an extra day.

 

 

The run was uneventful in that the man was in the early throes of having a cardiac episode, but his wife used her head and called for assistance as soon as he mentioned a radiating pain down his left arm.

 

Johnny rambled on and on during the entire trip back to the station about how alert the victim's wife was to call emergency services and that if more people were as aware of symptoms as that woman was, more people could be saved.

 

Roy tuned him out about a quarter of the way into the return trip.He was tired and muzzy and could really use a catnap.By the time they returned to the station, Gage had just about run out of steam, but Roy knew that he'd start all over again once he gained a new captured audience.

 

"How's the victim?" asked Cap.

 

"He's good, good," began John, but before he could go into rant mode, Roy cut in.

 

"Listen, I'm going to try and catch a few winks before the next call."The throes of a headache started creeping in.

 

"Sure, pal.You want to be woken for lunch?" asked Cap.

 

"If by some miracle I get to sleep till noon, yeah, wake me for lunch."Roy offered a wan smile.It wasn't even ten o'clock yet, so the idea of getting a couple of hours of shuteye was more enticing every second.As he turned and walked toward the dorms, Roy could hear Johnny's voice going on and on about the importance of early warning signs.

 

 

"John, why don't you go in and wake up Sleeping Beauty?Lunch is just about ready," said Hank.

 

"Sure, Cap."

 

Johnny walked into the dorm.He heard something that caused him to tense up."Roy?Hey, you okay?" he called out as he moved toward his partner's bunk.

 

Roy moaned and held up his arms and hands in what looked like a defensive position."No, no," he moaned."Get out.Gotta get out."

 

"Hey, wake up, man.C'mon, you're dreaming. Wake up."Johnny gently shook Roy's shoulders in an effort to wake him without startling him too much.

 

"Gotta get out - Jen, I'm comin'," Roy mumbled and then suddenly, his eyes opened wide, alert, yet at the same time confused as to exactly where he was.

 

"Hey, you okay?" asked John, as he automatically grasped his partner's wrist to take his pulse."A little fast," he murmured, "but within normal range."John also noted the slight warmth to his partner's wrist, but attributed that to being covered.

 

"What?" Roy responded as he pulled his wrist out of Johnny's hand.He shook his head and tried to shake off the invisible cobwebs."Are you okay?" he asked.

 

Johnny chuckled."Roy, I'm fine.You, however, have me a little worried.You were taking a nap and had a nightmare.You want to talk about it?" he asked, concerned.

 

It took him another several seconds to clear his head, but he finally felt lucid enough to respond, "I'm okay, and no, I don't want to talk about it because there's nothing to talk about."He stared at John for another second or two before he finally had to ask, "Um, is there something you needed?"Roy's tone was tinged with annoyance, though for the life of him he wasn't sure why.

 

His partner, on the hand, didn't need a reason.He felt he'd unjustly become the brunt of his partner's crankiness. "I was just coming in to wake you for lunch, that's all."

 

"Oh."Roy sat there, feeling a little guilty, mildly achy, and a lot foolish."Sorry, I guess I'm more tired than I thought - didn't mean to bite your head off."

 

"Apology accepted."John, though quick to take things to heart, was just as quick to forgive."Now come on, before Chet eats all of the roast beef slices and leaves us with the bologna," he urged.

 

 

It didn't matter that John and Roy were able to snag some of the roast beef before Chet hogged it all.It didn't matter that they'd each made a sandwich that would have made Dagwood Bumstead proud.

 

The tones sounded and the entire station was called out, so all deli sandwiches, condiments, pickles and coleslaw were unfortunately left uneaten while the hungry firefighters rushed out to their respective vehicles.

 

The site of the fire was an old, two-family home in a small residential district not too far from a local shopping area.When they arrived at the scene, Captain Stanley spotted a distraught young woman waving her arms frantically in an attempt to get someone's attention.

 

"Miss?Miss, are you the one who called the fire in?" asked the captain.

 

"Yes, I called.Oh, God, I don't believe this.I just don't believe this."

 

"Miss, is there anyone in the house?"

 

"I don't know.Grandma?Maybe Grandma is upstairs still?She may have snuck out again, I don't know.If she did, I didn't see her go.Oh God, what if she's up there?"

 

The young woman pulled away from Hank and started running for the house."Miss!Miss!" he yelled as he caught up to her and grabbed her arm."My men will go in and check the upstairs.Stay here," he ordered.

 

"Gage, DeSoto!"The two rescue men appeared before their captain immediately."This woman says her grandmother may be upstairs."He turned to young woman and asked, "What's your grandmother's name?"

 

"Helen.Helen Thompson."


"Okay," he said and turned to the paramedics, "make sure you keep in touch.Have that HT on full volume; I don't know if I like the looks of this place."

 

"You got it, Cap."Both men returned quickly to the squad to get their required gear.

Meanwhile, Hank turned back to the young lady and asked, "What's your name?"

 

"Sandra.Sandra Thompson."

 

"Well, Sandra Thompson, why don't you go stand over there by one of your neighbors and wait where it's a little safer.Do you live there by yourself?"

 

"Grandma lives upstairs.Mom and Dad are away on vacation; I was supposed to keep an eye on her.They're going to kill me.Oh, God, she's got to be all right. I'll never forgive myself if something's happened to her," she lamented.

 

"Our guys will do everything they can, Sandra."He took her by the arm and motioned over one of the concerned neighbors. "Wait with Mrs. - ?"

 

"Harkin, dear.Mrs. Harkin.Come, Sandra, let's let these good people do their job."The older woman led the much younger woman away from the house.

 

"HT 51, what is your status?" asked the captain.

 

 

It was hot.Too, damned hot.

 

The smoke filled the upper floor and flames were coming full-tilt out of what was once a kitchen, or at least an area dedicated to being a kitchen.The upstairs apartment was tiny, but had four little rooms to search - bathroom, bedroom, living room, and kitchen.The kitchen had a small, two-burner stove, with a small sink and refrigerator nearby.

 

Now, the pot, the apparent culprit, sat blackened on top of the stove.Johnny made his way into the kitchen and then poked inside the tiny bathroom to search, while Roy entered the small bedroom that was to the left of the living room area.

 

When he didn't find anyone in the bedroom, Roy emerged to see his partner's back, still partially in the bathroom.Suddenly, the HT squawked, "HT 51, what is your status?"

 

"Still searching, Cap, but it doesn't look like anyone's up here," called out Roy.

 

"Take another minute and then get out," ordered the captain.

 

"One minute and out; that's affirmative.HT 51 out."

 

Roy moved to look around the living room when he suddenly heard a rumbling and then a cracking sound.It was loud enough to be heard over the roar of the fire and the noise of the hoses going full tilt.Roy turned and looked up.The roof was bulging; it could not take much more water before it collapsed on top of him.

 

On top of him.'Get out.Get out, Daddy. It's going to crash right on you!The roof will come down and they won't find you.They'll try and try, but they won't get to you! Oh, Daddy!Daddy, get out of the house!Get out of the house!'

 

Roy turned and ran toward the exit.He had to get out of the house.He had to get out before it crashed on top of him.

 

 

"Sandra?Oh my goodness, Sandra, what's going on?"A middle-aged man, dressed in a shopkeeper's apron approached the crowd, with an elderly woman on his arm.

 

"Grandma!Grandma Helen, you're okay!" Sandra Thompson cried out in relief.

 

"I found her wandering around the market.I saw she was still in her nightgown; I figured she got out on her own again so I brought her back.But what's happened, Sandra.Your house - oh, your house..."

 

"Grandma, why did you go to Mr. Gardella's store?"

 

And for the first time the elderly woman spoke; it seemed as if she were oblivious to the tumult that surrounded her, or the chaos that she was the center of."I was cooking my breakfast.I wanted my eggs.I put the butter in the pan; you know Sandy, how I like it.Lots of butter, the real stuff.But I didn't have any more eggs. I needed my eggs. So I went to the store."

 

She looked around with a confused expression."Where are my eggs, Sandy?"

 

"Oh, Grandma, you left the pan with the butter on the stove, didn't you?" her frustrated granddaughter asked.

 

"I needed my eggs.I like my eggs with lots of butter.You know that, Sandy."She looked around some more."Where did I put my eggs?"

 

"Oh, Grandma."Sandra heard the voices of the firemen shouting."Oh no, those poor firemen!"She quickly ran over to Hank Stanley and cried out, "She's here.She was at the store!She left the frying pan with butter on the hot stove.I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!" she sobbed.

 

"She's not in there?"The distraught woman shook her head."HT 51 - Victim has been found.VACATE NOW.I repeat, vacate now!"

 

Seconds later, just as the roof came crashing down Roy appeared at the home's entrance.As the other members of A-Shift and Station 110 continued to hose down the hot spots, Hank ran over to Roy and grabbed his arm.He helped him walk toward the squad, all the while asking him if he was all right.It was only after he'd settled Roy on the running board and automatically turned around to ask the younger member of the paramedic team to tend to his partner that he realized something was wrong.

 

No younger partner.

 

"DeSoto, where's Gage?"When the paramedic remained silent, Hank's anxiety increased."Roy, where in hell's name is Johnny?"

 

Roy turned and looked around him.He heard the cap's question; he even understood it.He just had no idea of how to answer it.He couldn't remember anything that happened in the house.All he knew was that he was now sitting on the running board of the squad and his partner was nowhere in sight.

 

"I don't know, Cap," he barely whispered."I don't know where Johnny is.I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

 

"Damn it," Hank growled."Stay here, DeSoto.Do not move from this spot.Do you understand?"Roy nodded his head ever so slightly, but it was enough to indicate to Hank that Roy knew to remain put.

 

Next he ran over to where Marco and Chet were manning a hose."I need you two to check out the house.Gage is missing."

 

"Missing?"Chet echoed and then looked over toward the squad."Where did Roy say he was?"

 

"He didn't.Something happened in there, but I'll be damned if I know what.Roy says he doesn't know where his partner is.I need you to get in there and find him, hopefully in one piece."

 

"You got it, Cap," said Chet."C'mon, Marco, let's show 'em how real firemen do the job."The last was said with a nervous energy that only Marco heard.None of the three men were happy with the scenario before them: one missing man and one man who didn't know why.

 

 

It didn't take all that long to find him.When the roof caved in, it fell in pieces, but Gage had the presence of mind to dive under the small kitchen table.Though it didn't do much to protect his legs, it did prevent a possible concussion.

 

The guys called out to him when they reached the second floor. Gage responded immediately and though there seemed to be a ton of wet roofing all over the floor and one heavy beam, Marco and Chet were able to free John relatively quickly.

 

His shins were bruised, but nothing was broken - not even the skin.Though he wasn't injured, Gage was shaky on his legs, so both Marco and Chet provided him with support on either side and led him down the stairs and onto the street.They sat him down on the grass near the squad.

 

"Well, he's all in one piece, but you should probably give him the once over anyway, Roy," said Chet.

 

Roy remained seated on the running board and made no attempt to move off of it.

 

"Hey, Roy, aren't you going to check Johnny out?After all, a roof did fall on top of him."Chet meant it as a lighthearted commentary, since it was obvious that Johnny had no serious injuries.You'd never have known that given Roy's reaction.

 

"The roof?What do you mean the roof collapsed on him?Damn it!"Roy walked tentatively over to his partner.He kneeled down and whispered, "I'm sorry."Next, he looked up at his captain."I need the biophone and the drug box."Cap nodded.He and Marco ran over to the squad to pull out the necessary equipment and laid it down by Roy's side.The problem was Roy's hands were shaking so badly, Hank wondered if he would be able to run the call.

 

Roy ordered a backboard for his partner and moved to put a cervical collar on.However, as soon as Roy moved close enough to touch Johnny, Roy saw Johnny flinch. The next words out of John's mouth were spoken just loud enough for his partner and captain to hear.

 

"Don't.Don't touch me."

 

 

Hank didn't understand the reason for John's objection, but it was obvious the younger man was in great distress and would not allow Roy to treat him. "Roy, what do you want to do?"

 

"I'll notify Rampart."Roy called in and explained that 'the victim' was being combative and would not allow himself to be treated.Rampart confirmed that the victim was conscious and that the ETA was within ten minutes."That's affirmative, Rampart.We'll wrap and run."

 

There was something about Roy's demeanor that caused an alarm to go off in Hank's head.He wasn't sure if it was a professional calm, lack of concern, or something else that caused Roy to behave the way he was to Johnny's demand.

 

"I want you checked out, too, Roy."When he saw him about to object, Hank added, "It's not a suggestion, DeSoto, it's an order."He turned to Chet and said, "Drive the squad in and make sure it's carried out."

 

Roy immediately quieted down, became sullen, and responded monosyllabically. It wasn't unusual for Roy to become quiet after a difficult run, so his silence, though disturbing wasn't what caused Hank's major concern.Johnny, on the other hand, was rarely if ever silent.He might be grumpy, or pouting, or somber, but he was never simply silent.

 

Until now.

 

Johnny was conscious but hadn't said a word from the time he'd voiced his objection to the time he was loaded into the ambulance.During the ride in the ambulance, Roy made one more attempt to check on his partner.

 

"I said don't touch me."

 

Roy said nothing.

 

 

Roy followed the gurney into the emergency room.John was sent to Treatment Room 3, but instead of following him into the treatment room as was common practice, Roy headed toward the lounge.Shortly thereafter Chet arrived.Dixie walked up to the fireman and told him where each of his colleagues were.

"I just saw the damnedest thing.Roy didn't go into the treatment room with Johnny. Chet, am I missing something?"

 

"You know, Miss McCall, I'll be damned if I know."

 

"But something is going on, right?"

 

"Maybe."

 

"Something big?"

 

Chet shrugged."I've got to get back to the station.Cap's standing the squad down for now until we get the doctor's okay for those two to get back to work."

 

"Two?What's wrong with Roy?"

 

"I don't know.He was caught in the building collapse, too, but he got out quicker than Gage.Cap wants him checked out just to be sure."

 

Dixie nodded. "Okay, I'll make sure he gets seen," she assured."Chet, did anything happen between the two of them?"

 

"I - I ..." Chet shook his head.He was feeling uneasy about everything he'd just witnessed.The two people that he thought had the best working relationship and personal friendship he'd ever seen were acting like two complete strangers. "I'm sure Cap will call later to check on them.If there's anything we need to know before that, you'll call the station, right?"

 

"Sure, Chet."She watched him leave.He didn't even stop to say goodbye to them.

 

It was big.

 

Dixie entered the lounge.She noted the flushed cheeks, glassy eyes, and lack of expression.He shuddered slightly when she walked toward him.'Sick? Shock?' she wondered.She quickly grabbed a throw blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders.Roy barely moved.

 

"Roy?What happened?" she asked gently.When he didn't respond, she asked again, with a little more force."Roy, I need to know what happened at that fire.Talk to me."

 

At least he looked toward her direction, though he consciously avoided eye contact."Roy? What's going on?What happened in that house?"

 

Roy looked down at his knees; he began to pick at the threads on the blanket.He spoke quietly, hesitantly."I donít remember."

 

Dixie's response was quick and anything but quiet or hesitant."Bullshit, Roy DeSoto, and you know it.Now stop avoiding the truth and tell me what the hell happened that's got you tied up tighter than a pretzel?"

 

He stared at her and wondered if he could ever admit the truth to her.Roy didn't think he could; hell, he could barely admit the truth to himself.

 

 

"Johnny, you don't have any broken bones and you finally did something to protect that hard head of yours, so there's no concussion.But something is definitely wrong." declared Dr. Brackett in the most authoritative tone he could muster.

 

"I'm fine.Can I go back to work?" His voice was toneless.

 

"Not until I can find out why your blood pressure is lower than it should be."

 

"I feel fine," he gritted out.

 

"You're not feeling fine.You're tighter than the skin on a bass drum.Johnny, what's going on?"And then it hit Brackett.What had been really odd about the entire examination - not once had Johnny asked about his partner's condition.Not once had he asked where his partner was -not once.

 

He decided to play out his hunch."Roy's waiting for you."Brackett waited for a response but got nothing in the way of a reaction.He pushed the situation further."Do you want to see him?"

 

"Look, all I want to do is to go back to work.Could you check my BP, please, so you can release me?"

 

"Sure, Johnny, I'll check it again."He wrapped the BP cuff around the paramedic's upper arm and began to squeeze the rubber ball and noted the numbers."John, I can't release you.Too low."

 

"What?" he asked, his jaws clenched tightly.

 

"You appear to be a little shocky."

 

Johnny met Brackett's eyes - .Gage realized that Brackett probably had good cause to keep him right where he was and knew better than to argue further.

 

"Okay, now that you know I'm serious, would you mind telling me what the hell is going on?"

 

Johnny looked away.He didn't know if he could respond, didn't know if he wanted to.If he said it out loud, then it would make it real.And if that happened - if he made it real - then he wondered if he would ever be able to trust his partner again.

 

 

"I abandoned my partner."The words came out so softly, so breathy, that Dixie feared she hadn't heard them correctly.But the look on his face spoke the truth.It was exactly what he'd said.

 

"Roy?What makes you say that?"

 

"Because it's a fact.I just left him, Dix.I panicked and I abandoned him."

 

And then it was like the floodgates opening, and as reticent as he was at first to talk about it, he couldn't stop himself now if he tried.

 

"I heard the damn roof creaking; I saw it bulging, and I knew it was going to go.I didn't hear anything but the roof starting to give; I don't know if Cap ordered us to vacate or not.

 

"All I could see was the bulging ceiling, and I knew I had to get out of there.I had to get out, I had to get out. It was going to collapse on me, it was going trap me and the guys can't reach me.They can't get to me and I have to get home...Jen's sick...I have to go before it collapses...I'm coming, Jennifer..."

 

It was as if he'd gone into a hypnotic trance.Dixie rang the call button into treatment room 3.Something wasn't right, and she knew a doctor needed to witness it.

 

 

"Well, it's tell me now, or tell me later, but you are going to fill me in on what happened.C'mon Johnny, we've known each other too long to bullshit one another. What's got you so wound up that you can't even bring yourself to talk about it?"

 

John looked at Dr. Brackett and opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come.He averted his eyes - it was easier to speak the unspeakable when you didn't have to look someone in the eyes.

 

"He left me."His voice was small, so unlike the huge personality that usually filled the halls of Rampart whenever John Gage was in the building.

 

"What do you mean, 'he left you'?" asked Brackett, gently.He quickly realized this was more serious than even he could have imagined, and the last thing Kel wanted to do was to say something that would shut Johnny down.

 

"I'd just come out of the bathroom; hell, the damn thing was so tiny I never was really in the thing.Just put my head through the door and saw no one was there.When I came out, I heard it.There's something so distinctive about a roof about to come down; have you ever heard it, Doc?"

 

Kelly shook his head.

 

"Well, if you had, you'd know what it would sound like every time.It's a pretty ominous sound, you know?Well, I looked up and saw the ceiling was starting to buckle and it was obviously holding its limit of water.It was coming down and soon.I looked across the room; it'd gotten really smoky, but I could still make out Roy's form.

 

"I couldn't hear anything, but I saw Roy looking up and then -."He stopped speaking.

 

"What happened, Johnny?"The doctor could guess what had probably happened, but he figured it was important for John to verbalize it.If he could say it aloud, then hopefully he could work it out for himself and with Roy.

 

"Then - he left me."Johnny took a deep breath, paused, and began again."Doc, he never looked over at me.He never looked for me.He.Just. Left. Me."

 

It was at that moment that Johnny started shaking convulsively.He couldn't stop; it was as if he'd been thrown into the Arctic Ocean in his birthday suit.Even his teeth chattered uncontrollably.

 

Brackett quickly reached over and pulled a blanket from the closet and wrapped it around him."Johnny, take it easy.It's going to work out, you'll see."

 

He quickly ordered a dose of Valium for his patient.He pushed John down on his side and injected the drug into the hip.Brackett hoped it would do the trick and allow the young man to calm down enough to be able to deal with the situation.

 

At that moment, the call button rang.Brackett watched as the nurse answered the call and informed him, "It's Dixie.She needs you in the lounge; I'll stay with John, Doctor."

 

Brackett nodded and left to see what was going on.He had a strong suspicion it had something to do with the other half of the troubled team.

 

As he entered the room he first noticed the chalky pallor, yet very flushed cheeks, of the man sitting on the couch. The next thing he noted was the lack of expression on the man's face, but he was muttering on and on.Brackett looked at Dixie.

 

"It's almost like he's in a trance, Kel."

 

"I'm trapped.I'm trapped.They can't get me.They're trying but they can't get me, and I'm going to die.I don't want to die.I'm sorry, Jennifer, I don't want to leave you, honey, I'm sorry.Forgive me, Jen, I'm trying to come home. I want to come home.It's going to collapse.I can't get out - I have to get out. I'm coming...I have to get home...Jen's sick...I have to go before it collapses...I'm coming, Jennifer..."

 

"Roy," Dr. Brackett called out.When he received no response, he called out Roy's name again and then pulled his arm out from under the blanket and pinched it.Hard.

"Roy! Wake up and talk to me!"

 

"Ouch."Roy blinked and looked down at his arm."That hurt."His expression was one of confusion.

 

"I'm sorry.I needed to get your attention, and it seemed the most expedient way."

 

Roy still looked confused.And his pallor went from a chalky white to a tinged green.His eyes took on that special, panic-stricken look that all nurses know as the universal cry for the emesis tray.

 

The last few days had finally caught up with Roy in more ways than one.He was immediately placed on a gurney and brought into treatment room 1.Roy's bouts of nausea increased to the point that Brackett decided to admit him.He feared that his patient would become badly dehydrated if the vomiting continued at the same rate.

 

Brackett issued an order for Compazine to help reduce the vomiting.The drug was once routinely prescribed as a tranquillizer; that was probably a bonus effect in Roy's case.

 

He waited till Roy settled into a restless sleep, and then Brackett had Dixie follow him out into the hallway."Dix, I think we've got a problem."

 

"I know, Kel.Roy is really upset by this; I think he really blames himself for Johnny's accident."

 

"Dix, according to Johnny, Roy's well within his rights to do just that."

 

"What are you saying?Johnny thinks Roy's responsible for Johnny being caught in that roof collapse?"

 

"John feels Roy abandoned him in the building, without giving him any kind of signal that he was in danger or that Roy was going to seek help.According to Johnny's version, Roy turned around and just left him."

 

"Which means they're both going through hell at the moment, doesn't it?"

 

Brackett had no choice but to agree with her.

 

 

Kelly Brackett didn't give it much thought when he made the decision to keep Johnny overnight for observation; it was when he decided with whom the young man would room that caused him to think long and hard.He knew having John and Roy stay together could backfire badly, but he also knew it was the best chance the two friends had in coming to some kind of understanding.

 

The doctor made sure the staff psychiatrist was on call and available; it wasn't a question of if the two would need to speak with him, but more like when.Brackett knew Roy and John had some important issues to work out between them if they were ever to work together again.He hoped his plan would put them on that path.

 

 

Johnny woke up very early the next day to moaning.It took him a moment to remember where he was - and why - before he was able to get up and see what the problem was.He dangled his feet over the bed, stood up slowly, and straightened out his rumpled hospital gown.

 

"I hate these damn things," he muttered as he slowly shuffled over to his roommate's bed. When he was only a couple of feet away, John saw Roy's face and gasped.He wasn't sure why, but his partner's face was the last one he'd expected to see in the hospital.

 

"You weren't hurt," he whispered."Why the hell are you here?"

 

"He's sick, Johnny.Which is what you'll be if you hover over him too much."Joanne came out of the bathroom with a basin of water.

 

"I thought you were sick," Johnny said.

 

"Well, I'm not a hundred percent, but I'm doing better than he is," she explained as she mopped her husband's forehead with a damp cloth.

 

"The kids?"

 

"My mom came to stay with them.They're both still weak as kittens, especially Jennifer.It's been a really rough last few days.Roy ran himself ragged trying to take care of us all."

 

Johnny nodded in acknowledgment, but he didn't say anything.He didn't know what to say.He was confused and hurt, upset and - angry.He was angry with his partner for putting them both in danger.He was pissed off that Roy didn't use the common sense he was born with and take an extra day to rest.

 

As it turned out, he'd come down with the same stomach flu that had knocked his family down for the count.But it could have gotten him killed.And that scared him, because if he couldn't trust Roy DeSoto to use common sense, how could he trust anyone?Hell, how could he trust himself?

 

"Jo-" he began.

 

"-Not now, Johnny.Wait until he's awake."

 

"Okay, but I don't know what to say to him, Jo."Johnny turned and walked back to the bed.

 

"Nice view, Gage."

 

"Oh, Joanne! It's not like you can see anything," he grumbled in disgust as he grabbed the back of the gown to cover his underwear.

 

"Sorry, couldn't resist."

 

"Yeah, well, I just may have a talk with your husband about your ogling my butt."

 

"Whose butt you ogling?" Roy rasped.

 

Joanne smiled."Your partner's."

 

He sighed."Do I still have a partner?" he asked.He turned from Jo toward John."Do I?"

 

John didn't answer at first.He wasn't sure how he felt at that moment."Roy, I don't know what to think."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"I'm sure you are, but that doesn't change-."

 

"-John, I don't know what happened."

 

John felt as if all of the fear and rage he'd been feeling was going to cause him to explode.

 

"You left me! That's what happened!"

 

"I know, and I didn't mean to leave you.I just got so scared and mixed up.I'm sorry," Roy pleaded.

 

"Johnny?"Joanne spoke."He's been so run-down and running himself ragged taking care of me and the kids until he got sick himself.He didn't know what he was doing when he left you in that building.Johnny, that wasn't Roy who left you; it was someone who was exhausted and ill.Can you understand that?"She wore an expression that begged him to believe her.

 

John knew under ordinary circumstances Roy would never abandon him in a fire.It just wasn't something he'd do if he were in his right mind.The question that kept running through his mind was that if it could happen once, could it happen again?

 

Johnny shook his head and sighed, as he looked at Jo and then at his partner.Although it wouldn't happen that moment, John knew that he and his partner would work things out.When push came to shove, John couldn't see himself partnered with anyone but Roy.As he looked at his now sleeping, feverish partner, it occurred to John that sometimes all that was important was remembering and trusting those that really mattered.

 

"Later, Jo.I promise we'll all talk more, later."

 

 

The end