This story follows Round One: A Small Victory posted on the Mother’s Day Stories Page of my site.
By Audrey W.
Johnny glanced over at his partner as they drank their coffee on silence. The two paramedics had been on duty for three hours and Roy hadn’t said much the entire time. Only during the three minor runs they’d had did he say more than a few words.
Gage was trying to think of a way to find out what was wrong without upsetting the older man. So far he’d only been told “I don’t want to talk about it.”
If it was a problem between Roy and Joanne, Johnny wasn’t sure he wanted to know the details. He’d learned early in their partnership as paramedics that Roy didn’t like Gage butting in when he and Joanne had a fight. And it was something the younger man couldn’t help but get involved in if he knew of the situation.
It can’t be to do with Thanksgiving, Johnny thought. We’re off that day, so Roy should be happy he’ll be able to spend it with his family.
“Is it bigger than a breadbox?”
Roy looked up from his cup when his thoughts were interrupted. “What?”
“Whatever’s bugging you. Is it bigger than a breadbox?”
“It is now.”
Johnny frowned. “Ha ha, very funny.” He leaned forward towards the table. “Roy, you’ve been unhappy since you came to work. What is eating at you?”
Johnny put up his hands in surrender and interrupted. “I know, I know. But it might just help. It has before. . .remember Mothers’ Day, when you had that problem with your mom and mother-in-law? I helped solve that.”
“Don’t remind me.” Roy mumbled. He took a sip of coffee and then set down his cup. “Okay. . .alright. . .you really wanna know what’s eating at me?”
Johnny hesitantly nodded. “Yeah.” He wasn’t sure he did now, by the somewhat angry tone in Roy’s voice. But this was the closest he’d come to breaking through.
“My mother is coming for Thanksgiving.”
“Hey, that’s great!” When he saw DeSoto give him a glare, Gage frowned again. “That’s not great?” He noticed he was being stared at, like he should already know the whole story. “Oh, I get it. . .your mother-in-law is coming, too, and you’re worried about them fighting.”
“No? Oh. . .well. . .”
“Look, do you want to know or not?”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah. . .yeah, I do. I want to know.” He sat back and waited, starting to regret asking.
“My mom’s flying in later today. . .Joanne’s picking her up at the airport. That’s fine. . .she’ll be here for the holiday day after tomorrow. What isn’t fine is that when she called early this morning, she asked if you were going to be in town for the holiday. Before she even made sure I was still going to be off duty, she asked about you.” Roy stood up and walked over to the sink, putting his cup in it.
Johnny turned in his seat, looking puzzled. When he saw the confused expression on his partner’s face, Roy could see that he wasn’t getting the point across.
“She wants to make sure you’re at our house for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Gage’s mouth dropped open in surprise.
As he got to the doorway leading to the apparatus bay, Roy continued. “You spend one afternoon and evening with my mom at a bowling alley, and you rate higher than I do.” He left the room, a bewildered Johnny quickly getting up to follow after him.
“But, Roy! Wait!”
DeSoto stopped in mid stride and waited near the rear of the squad.
“I thought we’d already settled this,” Johnny explained as he caught up to his partner. “On Mothers’ Day we had this all worked out. You were happy your mom had fun with me.”
“I was. And I would be. . .except . . .well. . .she’s my mom.”
“Oh. . .”
“Look, don’t say anything more about it. You wanted to know what was bothering me and now you do.”
“Okay, but I--” Johnny cut himself off as Roy headed towards the dorm. “I have other plans,” he finished quietly to himself.
Gage was out behind the station shooting hoops when the klaxons went off. He tossed the ball over to a corner, and rushed into the apparatus bay towards the squad. Roy was already at the podium, acknowledging the call. When Johnny got into the squad, Roy followed suit and handed his partner the slip of paper with the address.
“Three eleven North Hill Street. . .that’s in a residential area, isn’t it?” Johnny asked. It really didn’t make a difference. The younger paramedic was just hoping to get their friendship back on track with any kind of conversation at all.
DeSoto nodded as he put the squad in gear and drove into the street.
The call was for a man down, which turned out to be a victim of a mild heart attack. Roy and Johnny had put their differences aside during the call, carrying out the job like the top-notch professionals they were. Once they had the patient ready to transport, Johnny climbed in the ambulance with the man, leaving Roy to drive in the squad. As the senior paramedic was closing the ambulance doors, Johnny gave a wan smile.
“See you at Rampart.”
Gage found himself frowning again with the short and even reply he’d received. He hoped Roy’s mood would pass soon. It was unusual for the older man to be upset with him for very long. For the most part they always were able to work through their differences in a short amount of time. He’d leave it up to DeSoto to clear the air.
Johnny went into the treatment room with the heart patient, while Roy headed towards Dixie’s desk to get supplies.
“Who rained on your parade?” The head nurse asked.
“You look kind of down. Your patient is doing okay, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing to do with the call. I’m just. . .my mom is coming later today for the Thanksgiving holiday and. . .” Roy sighed. “It’s dumb really.” Having tried to explain it to Dixie, he realized he was being ridiculous. So what if his mom liked Johnny enough to want him to join them on Thanksgiving? Why wouldn’t she? Harriet knew Johnny no longer had his own parents. Roy looked at Dixie and could tell she’d been eyeing him while he was deep in thought. The nurse said nothing, but kept her eyebrows arched in curiosity.
“Thanks, Dix! You just solved my problem.”
Roy nodded, grinning.
“Well, let me know if I can be of anymore help. . .I guess.” She couldn’t figure out what it was she had done.
“We do need a few supplies.”
Dixie got up from her seat on the stool and stepped back towards the cabinets. “Shoot. . .what do you need?”
Gage stalled going out to face his partner by staying in the treatment room and watching Brackett take care of the heart patient. A couple of times Kel Brackett had given the paramedic a curious glance, wondering why he hadn’t left. But Johnny’s presence wasn’t doing any harm, so nothing was said.
Roy opened the door and stuck his head in the room. “Johnny, we got a run.”
Gage gave a quick wave to the doctor, then followed his partner out into the corridor.
“You were in there for a long time,” Roy remarked on the way out of the main doors. “Anything go wrong?”
“Nah, I was just making sure he was being well taken care of,” the younger man grinned. It was a lousy excuse. . .of course Brackett was taking care of the guy. But his answer wasn’t questioned.
Roy was ready to apologize to Johnny, but his pride was making it difficult to bring the subject up. He decided that if Gage mentioned it, he would make things right. But for now he’d leave well enough alone.
On their way back from Rampart after their most recent rescue, Johnny decided he had to clear the air with Roy. He turned in his seat and sighed.
“You know, Roy, I’ve been thinking. . .”
“About. . .?”
“Well, it’s this Thanksgiving thing and your mom.”
Roy glanced at Johnny and grinned. “I said it’s okay.”
“You mean you’re not jealous anymore?”
“I wasn’t jealous.”
“Yes, you were,” Gage snorted. “Roy, I know jealous,” he said, splaying a hand across his chest. “And you were jealous.”
“I was not jealous.”
“Look, just forget it. If you say you weren’t jealous. . .then I guess you weren’t.”
“Okay then,” Roy said curtly. Guess? He thought.
The two men kept their eyes on the road ahead in silence. Neither was sure they had settled the issue, but no one wanted to start it up again to find out.
Back at the station, the others noticed the difference in the way the paramedics were acting. The entire time during dinner, neither Johnny nor Roy had said more than “Pass the ketchup.”
“Okay, what’s up?” Chet asked.
When no one answered, Johnny and Roy both glanced around at the others.
“Who’re you asking?” Gage wondered.
“You. . .and Roy. Something’s up.”
Nothin’s up, Chet.”
“He’s right,” Roy joined in. “Nothing’s wrong.”
The engine crew exchanged puzzled expressions, each one shrugging.
“Okay, if you guys say so.”
Dinner continued on, mostly in silence.
At two o’clock in the morning, the paramedics got called out on another run for a man down. As they got into the squad, Johnny rubbed his tired eyes. “Down? The guy should be lying down asleep,” he groused.
“Maybe it’ll be a simple rescue.”
“I hope so,” the younger man said as they drove into the street. “I want to drive to San Francisco in the morning, so I can spend tomorrow and part of Thanksgiving with my aunt and cousins.”
Roy looked at his partner in surprise. “You aren’t gonna be joining us for Thanksgiving?”
Johnny shook his head and yawned.
“How come you didn’t say anything earlier?”
“I did. . .kind of. I was gonna tell you.”
“When? You let me go on and on, knowing you weren’t gonna be there anyway. . .why?”
“Payback for all the times you’ve done it to me.”
Roy glanced at Johnny, and saw a grin spread across his face. The senior paramedic returned the smile and shook his head.
As they arrived at the scene, the paramedics saw the house was in complete darkness. They gathered their basic equipment together, then walked up to the door, knocking on it. After several seconds with no answer, Johnny tried the doorknob. It turned freely and the door opened. He exchanged a glance with Roy.
“It smells like there’s a gas leak.”
“I’ll call for an engine,” Roy said, as he set down the drug box on the porch. He trotted towards the squad.
Johnny stepped inside the dark interior of the house. “Hello? Anyone home?”
No answer. He set down the biophone and started forward to make a quick sweep of the structure. If anyone was indeed still inside, the paramedic knew he and Roy had to get them out.
Gage started for a room that was lit by the glow of a streetlight filtering in through a window. It was the kitchen and Johnny could hear the slight hiss of the gas leaking from within and behind the stove. He quickly turned the knobs to ‘off’ and unlocked a window, opening it. He could barely make out the area where the stove had been pulled out from the wall, but reasoned messing with a line back there could spell disaster. The paramedic decided getting victims out was his priority. “Hey, anybody in here?” Once he discovered the room was empty of any people, he continued on to the next room.
Johnny met into Roy as he came entered into the livingroom.
“The engine’s on its way.”
Aware that using the light switches inside the house could set off an explosion from a spark, Roy handed him an already lit flashlight and the two started down a hallway off the livingroom. There were three rooms on the right and two on the left, then a linen closet at the far end. The paramedics each took a side of the hallway and began a room-by-room check. The men opened a bedroom window in each room as they did there sweep for victims, hoping to air out some of the gas fumes.
Johnny found a large man lying on the floor unconscious in the third bedroom he searched. “Roy! In here!”
Having found the two rooms he checked devoid of any victims, Roy hurried to where Johnny was. With his partner’s assistance, Gage lifted the man in a fireman’s carry and the men started for their way out of the house. Roy grabbed the biophone that was just inside the doorway and the drug box on his way out. As the men started down the sidewalk leading from the front porch, the telephone inside the house started to ring and the structure exploded, sending debris and glass in all directions.
The paramedics and their victim were propelled across the yard from the blast, landing on the ground several feet away. Johnny and his charge were forced in the opposite direction of Roy due to the distance between them on the walkway. Much of the debris rained down around the three.
Johnny was on the lawn, lying on his left side, and instinctively covered himself in an attempt to keep the fragments of glass and wood off. Roy hit his head as he landed on his backside, briefly losing consciousness. The victim Johnny had been carrying was lying in the grass on his stomach a few feet from the dark-haired paramedic.
When Engine 51 arrived at the scene, Captain Stanley immediately called for another engine company and squad to assist, as his crew climbed down from the truck.
“Marco, Chet. . .grab an inch and a half!”
The men glanced at their shiftmates who were still on the ground. Johnny was sitting up, cradling his left arm and hugging his left side. The dark-haired man had a dazed expression on his face.
Roy was coming around, softly moaning as he rolled onto his right side. The original victim of the call was still unconscious and hadn’t moved. Captain Stanley ran towards Gage as he yelled out to Lopez and Kelly, “Get the line going! I’ve got these guys!” When he looked at Gage again, he could see the paramedic wince as he scooted towards the unconscious man on the ground.
Chet and Marco were concerned for their friends but carried on with their duty of giving their attention solely to fighting the house fire.
“What happened?” Hank asked as he squatted down by Johnny.
“The house. . .blew. . .”
“Anyone else inside?”
Gage shook his head, then gritted his teeth in pain. “Man. . .” He reached with his right hand to check the pulse and respirations of the victim. “Cap, I’m okay. Can you get. . . the oxygen for this guy? Then check. . .Roy.”
Stanley patted the younger man’s right shoulder, nodding. “I doubt you’re as okay as you think you are, but I do need to check on your partner. Just take it easy. Help’s on the way.”
Johnny nodded, taking his attention back to the unconscious man by his side.
As he trotted to the squad to retrieve the requested equipment, Stanley watched Chet and Marco trying to beat down the flames from the house with the water spray from their hose. It was fast becoming a futile attempt for the two men without the backup help from additional firemen and equipment. The house was going to be a total loss.
After delivering the oxygen to Gage, the captain trotted towards DeSoto, glancing around at the crowd of people dressed in their sleepwear and robes that had gathered across the street. It was obvious the explosion of the house had awakened them. He was just thankful they were all staying back a good distance and out of the way.
Hank knelt down beside Roy, who was making an effort to sit up. The paramedic had several nicks on his face from where some of the shattered glass fragments had hit him.
“Just lay down, pal. Wait till the other paramedics get here.”
“Where’s Johnny?” The blond man asked, as he felt himself eased back to the ground.
Captain Stanley glanced over at Gage. He could see him re-checking the victim’s vital signs and adjusting the oxygen mask one handed. Hank shook his head. No matter what, his paramedics always had someone else’s welfare in mind.
“He’s okay. He’s going to be taking a trip to Rampart, too, but he looks to be doing okay.”
Roy nodded, closing his eyes again. His head was starting to throb.
Once the other station was on the scene, their engine crew assisted to battle the blaze while the paramedics took care of the three fallen men. The victim Johnny had carried out was slowly regaining consciousness. Gage watched while Charlie Dwyer, who was filling in for another paramedic at Station 18, quickly checked the man’s blood pressure, pulse and his respirations.
“I’m not sure how long he was breathing in the fumes, but it may have been awhile,” Johnny commented, pain in his voice.
Dwyer nodded. “Who called it in? Maybe they’d have more information.”
“We don’t know. When we got here, we smelled gas and he was inside on the floor.”
Charlie stared a moment at the paramedic from Station 51. “Anything hurtin’ anywhere besides your left arm and side? Did you injure your back at all?”
“No. I’m okay.”
“Okay, my ass. Gage, you’re not ‘okay’...hang on and I’ll get you taken care of as soon as I get him set up,” he said, motioning towards the large man nearby. “You think your arm is fractured?”
“No, I don’t remember feeling or hearing a pop.”
“During an explosion?”
Johnny shrugged, a move he regretted as soon as he did it when pain radiated throughout his left arm. He gave a weak grin. “Okay, so it might be.”
Dwyer shook his head and got on the biophone to give information to Rampart.
After finishing his transmission with Doctor Brackett, Charlie Dwyer quickly set up the required IV on the first patient. He then moved over to Gage, gently probing his arm.
“I can’t tell if it’s fractured for sure, but I’m gonna splint your left arm at least as a precaution.” When Johnny nodded in acknowledgement, Charlie continued with his assessment of the younger man. “Can you breath okay? Or does it hurt your ribs?”
“Just sore. I can breath.”
Johnny nodded again and glanced over to where Roy was being taken care of. His partner was being lifted onto a stretcher, a backboard underneath him as a precaution. “Roy got the worst of it.”
Dwyer followed Johnny’s gaze. “He’ll be okay, Gage. You guys are lucky you got out.”
As Johnny opened his mouth to agree, Captain Stanley stepped up, causing the younger man to pause.
“Well, we know what happened.”
The dark-haired paramedic looked up at his superior, while Charlie finished splinting his arm. “What?”
“Seems this couple was having a disagreement on whose parents to spend Thanksgiving with. The wife got mad when her husband insulted her family and decided to wait until the poor guy was asleep, then left with the gas leaking in the house. When she came to her senses, it was too late for her to do anything to change the outcome on her own; so she called it in. After that, she tried calling her own house to check on her husband.”
Johnny nodded, knowingly. “And the phone touched off an explosion. Where is she now?”
Captain Stanley pointed to a squad car driving by. “They found her down the street, sitting on the sidewalk. Apparently she waved them over and blurted everything out.”
Dwyer shrugged. “At least it wasn’t over something stupid like which is best. . .light meat or dark meat,” he said sarcastically.
Gage and Stanley each gave him a disapproving look that had the man wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. “Let’s get you and your ‘friend’ out of here,” the paramedic said, when he saw a stretcher being brought over. “Can you walk to the ambulance? I’ll get your IV started in there.”
“Yeah,” Johnny said, and Hank helped him to his feet. Together they slowly made their way to the waiting ambulance; Gage being supported by his captain. They both watched ahead as the ambulance transporting Roy departed the scene, lights and siren on.
“He’ll be okay,” the captain assured. “In fact, no surprise, he was worried about you.”
Johnny kept his eyes on the departing red lights flashing in the distance. He and Roy had come so close to being inside when the house exploded. The thought had him glancing at the structure that was keeping the other firemen busy. It was going to be nothing but an empty shell when this was over. He and DeSoto had a lot to be thankful for this year. They’d been through a few close calls together and this one had been a huge reminder of that.
Hank and an attendant helped the injured paramedic into the ambulance, where he took a seat on the bench, leaning his head back in relief to finally be on his way to Rampart. Next, the stretcher carrying the other victim was placed inside, Dwyer climbing in behind. After two slaps by the captain on the closed doors of the ambulance, letting the men inside know the doors were secure, the vehicle started forward. Stanley took in the sight of the burning house that would soon be nothing but a smoldering skeleton of a building. Like Gage, he knew how lucky they’d been that his paramedics were out of the house when it went up in flames. And the fact they’d gotten the other man out was a godsend. It was a bittersweet ending knowing the man lost his home, and his wife had a long road of legal problems facing her. But it could have been a much worse outcome.
November 28, 1974
Thanksgiving Day arrived and Roy was still at Rampart after suffering the moderate concussion. The paramedic watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while he anxiously waited for word on whether or not he would be home to celebrate the holiday with his family. As he thought back over the past two days, the image on the TV screen faded from his mind.
Just two days earlier, he had been put off by his mom’s concern about Johnny joining them for dinner. But the more thought he’d given it, the more he wanted Gage to join them for the holiday as well. Chances of that were slim to none now that his partner had already made his escape from the hospital. When the younger man had stopped in to see how Roy was doing, the senior partner didn’t think to bring up the subject of Thanksgiving dinner again.
Johnny’s probably already in San Francisco with his aunt and cousins, Roy surmised.
Gage was released the previous afternoon, upon getting his left forearm set in a cast and several hours of observation since he had been dazed when crews had first arrived on the scene. No one, not even Gage himself, was certain the dark-haired man hadn’t lost consciousness when he was first thrown to the ground. But not showing any signs of a concussion, Brackett had declared him as okay to go.
The door opened, taking the blond paramedic out of his thoughts. He smiled when he saw Joanne walk into the room, a nurse behind her with a wheel chair.
“I take it this means I’m getting out of here?”
“You better believe it, Mister,” Joanne said, smiling.
“Doctor Brackett had you cleared earlier this morning. The papers are all here for you to sign,” the nurse said, handing a small stack and a pen to Roy. “Just a few signatures, and you’re home free.”
“Thanks,” he said, as he took the items from her. He smiled up at Joanne again. They both knew how thankful they needed to be that he was still alive to celebrate the holiday, period. If he and Johnny had been in or slightly closer to the house when it exploded, they would have been killed.
Joanne opened the front passenger door of her station wagon, and Roy started to get in. He stopped when he saw who was sitting in the back seat.
“Is that a good stunned look on your face or a bad one?” Gage asked.
“What. . .?”
“You look surprised. But I can’t tell if it’s an ‘oh no’ look or an ‘oh good’ look.”
“An ‘oh no’ look? No, but I thought you were still going to your aunt’s house.”
The younger man lifted his left arm . “Too far to drive one-handed. Besides, your mom--” He stopped, not sure the small problem they’d had earlier wouldn’t surface again.
“Let me guess, she wouldn’t let you go,” Roy said, grinning. “Well, I’m glad.”
Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “You are?”
A throat clearing behind him had Roy turning around. Joanne was standing beside the nurse with her arms folded across her chest.
“Do you two mind? Just get in the car, Roy. I’ve got a dinner to help prepare.”
Roy looked at his wife a moment before getting into the car. He then turned his head slightly to talk to the man in the back seat. “These DeSoto women are a strong force, Junior. Hope you know what you’re in for the rest of the day.”
Johnny grinned. “That’s another reason I’m here. You and Chris need me with three DeSoto girls in the house. Especially with you just recovering from a head injury. You don’t stand a chance.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jo teased, getting into the driver’s seat.
“Uh. . .that Roy’s gonna be one well-taken care of guy,” he quickly responded. Johnny then glanced at Roy. “How does your dad handle it?”
“You don’t see him out here very often, do you?”
Joanne and Roy looked at one another and grinned. It was going to be a special Thanksgiving sharing it with the family and a very close friend. A friend they could have lost forever.
Given the fact Roy could have lost his life in the explosion, too, Joanne knew they had reason to be doubly grateful this year. As she smiled at Johnny, and then at her husband, Joanne was confident Roy's mother would make both men feel special, while silently reminding them that a mother has an infinite amount of love to give...and always a lot to be thankful for.
Thanks for the beta read and help with the ending, Kenda....any mistakes, medical or otherwise, are mine. And thanks to my husband for some assistance figuring a few things out. :o)