Pairing: non, gen, friendship fic
Words: Complete, betaed by ldyanne
Summary: It doesn't matter how much it hurts, the path always leads back to them.
Disclaimer: Emergency! is owned by Universal, MCA and its affiliates. This story is parody and for entertainment purposes only.
Search and Rescue
The room was private: one lamp, one chair, one window, one nightstand and one call button.
He stared half-mast into the dark and thought he could still taste stale water and the metallic tang of blood that had mingled in with the water. For a while there he thought for sure he was going to drown with the taste of his partner's blood in his mouth. The few coughs he tried wouldn't banish it completely.
Hospital beds weren't made for comfort, but it was still a relief to lean into the thick, cushioned surface anyway and ease the strain off his right hip. He'd refused several offers of a sedative. He preferred to be alert in case of news—good or bad. But it also meant the initial relief the hospital bed gave him deteriorated to growing misery. And being in this room didn't help matters.
The backboard he had been carried out on was meant to secure the alignment of his spine and neck, but it also rendered him blind to where Squad 39 carried out his partner. The sandbags placed on either side of his head kept him from moving his head and preventing further injury but it also kept him from seeing when his partner was taken into the treatment room. All he knew before he was wheeled up to Orthopedics was that an OR had been set up for his friend.
But that was all he knew.
He sank back into the pillows that were generously piled and fluffed up for him; fluffed up because he could have died, fluffed up because people were glad he didn't. While he appreciated the attention, what he really wanted was more news and all anyone would tell him was that his partner was going to be fine.
Great. Swell. That was as useful as an extra antenna for the biophone.
He chewed his lower lip, absently scratched a spot above his brow and thought about the wide eyes that had stared down at him, silently pleading with him not to die. He thought of the blood that came trickling down and how the other man’s arms shook trying to help keep his head above water. Wet wood and the ozone-tainted air soured with the coppery bite of blood.
He cleared his throat but blood leaves an aftertaste that stays in the back of the throat and never quite goes away. Especially if it was from a friend, a partner, a brother.
The bed creaked as he eased himself down a little lower. He coughed and probably would for a while because the water he had swallowed had been filthy.
Even with the lights off, the hallway outside the door quiet, he couldn't get his eyes to close. He ignored the call button the well-meaning nurse had slipped into his hand. A sedative wouldn't help. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and let it escape slowly.
Blood dripped down on his face.
His eyes flew open and he was back in Rampart again, not 422 Causeway Road.
He looked to his left, to his right.
Still only one bed.
This wouldn’t do at all.
With a groan that he didn't bother to stifle—there was no one here to hear—he grabbed a robe, his crutches and hobbled out of his room.
Someone was snoring.
That much he could figure when he was finally able to peel back the layers of haze and whowhatwhere wrapped around him like a lifebelt. He opened his gritty eyes blearily at the pillow his chin rested on, listening to the unfamiliar sounds.
It hurt too much to lift his head up because it would pull at the twenty-three stitches Morton had sewn up across his shoulders. Besides, moving also meant using the back muscles currently crisscrossed with stitches on his lower back, too. Morton didn't tell him how many stitches those took. Darn Morton doped him up and sent him up to the OR for those.
Carefully, he lifted his head off the pillow inch by inch. Even though he was still fuzzy from whatever they gave him, his tongue furry from the anesthesia, he was alert enough to remind himself to be careful not to use anything but his elbows to prop his upper torso up. Lying on his belly hurt less but it also made it harder to move. It took a few seconds after he was done to blink away the pain-induced tears from his vision.
A bald man, sheets pulled up to his nose, wheezed and snorted in the bed to his left with all the sounds a Big Red would make if she were running out of gas. The man looked like a hill, his gut a round lump under the sheets that jiggled as he snored. Every so often, he coughed, scratched his ear and went right back to the noise he was making.
That was not his partner.
There was a cold slither, wiggly like a rattler that crawled in and settled inside his gut.
Morton said his partner was okay. The femoral artery wasn't cut. It wasn't that. The blood in the water and the cold clammy skin was from the beginnings of hypothermia and a gash on the right calf, not because he was bleeding to death. His partner hadn't bled to death because he couldn't get one crummy boiler off him. No, he was told the other man was fine. Told. Because by the time Marco reported he'd cut through the boiler and his friend was freed, he himself had folded over. Chet had caught him. Sort of. They both fell into the water. Bet Chet was sore about that.
So…his partner was okay. They wouldn't lie to him. Right? Brackett assured him his friend was fine. Early did the same. Morton, too—well, sort of. The young doctor pushed him back down on the bed, told him to stop asking and pointed out that if his partner wasn't fine, would they be here, wasting precious time trying to tell him otherwise?
He scowled. Morton always did have a rotten bedside manner. He surveyed the room as best he could. Nope. Two beds here with one of them occupied by a stranger.
Whose dumb idea was that?
With a whimper that he swallowed back, he held the bedrails and eased himself off the bed and into the wheelchair that stood between their beds. His roommate drowned out the squeak of the wheels so when the door opened and the wheelchair bumped the wall and he groaned, the old man never stirred.
The people on the seventh floor who glanced his way as he limped by weren't familiar so he dismissed them as unimportant. He concentrated more on the blurry room numbers and on planting his crutches firmly on the floor so he could swing forward his right leg, which wasn't easy with his leg casted from knee to foot. Plaster turned out to be surprisingly heavy.
It was good to feel dry again though. The water that had surrounded him before was cold, gritty and oily from grease, silt and just a mess of a lot of things that came spilling out of a kitchen and down into the collapsed basement below. The water main on the next hill over had burst and made the winding, sheltered and already flooded lane into a raging river and the house he was evacuating a death trap.
The hospital gown was thin but still warm enough paired with the robe. He squinted at one room number before grimacing and shuffled to the next. Then to the next one. It didn't seem like it was that far away when he initially got the room number from a very sympathetic nurse. He had scowled when she told him, his face darkened enough that she'd backed away and looked tempted to call for an orderly. It wasn't her fault, he told himself as he limped towards the elevator. The flooding on the Causeway had created a huge mess for Rampart and despite the lack of fire, Battalion 9 called for a third alarm when the water main exploded with enough force to tip over Engine 17 and knock over three houses they were still trying to evacuate.
But all the way up on the seventh floor? Whose bright idea was that?
With visiting hours over, the hospital was quiet. Then again, after all the shouting, the sirens, his partner's constant demands to hang on, the roar of water rising higher and higher above his ears, anything else would be whisper quiet. But now it was too quiet. He'd grown too accustomed to the white noise of his partner next to him in the squad: the grunted responses when days were rough, the laughter on days that were not. Anything else hurt his ears.
His eyes brightened when he sighted the room number before him. 722. At last. He'd almost walked by it in a daze. He staggered closer and with a shoulder nudged the door open to reveal twin beds. There was a man sleeping, snoring, which stuttered when light from the doorway crossed his face.
"W-what? W-who?" An unfamiliar lined face scrunched up with annoyance and lifted up to glare sleepily at him.
"Sorry," he offered in a raspy voice. He eyed the empty bed next to the man. "Wrong room." He shut the door just as the patient inside grumbled something about his wheelchair. He leaned against the wall; his right leg ached like it had grown three times its size and like the stupid boiler was still on top of it. A nurse walked by and gave him a curious look that he returned with a shaky smile.
Great. Now what?
He nearly passed out in the elevator.
Okay, that wasn’t good.
He made a note not to reach, stretch or strain for anything anymore. Trying not to breathe might be a good idea, too.
His arms shook as he reached back and down for the wheels to propel himself out of the elevator car onto the third floor. He rolled past the waiting area, the familiar labs and down hallways he knew by heart. It was a floor he visited many firemen on, including his partner and vice versa. The business they were in was not boring to say the least.
As he wheeled towards his destination, he thought he could still feel the glass and metal raining down on his back from the sagging, buckling house. Some had felt like nothing, others felt like they stuck him in all sorts of places. But nothing hurt more than the realization that help might arrive too late for the pinned paramedic he was straddling and pressing an O2 mask on.
Water had rose higher and, despite the rolled up turnout coat he stuffed under his partner's shoulders, it was creeping up past the chin, the ears, the mouth. He couldn't stop his partner from being submerged and he could only hold the other man’s head up even higher above the surface with both hands until the rest of 51 finally broke through with the K12.
It wasn't until they got the boiler off his partner's lower torso did they realize the blood in the water was from two men, not one.
The wheelchair halted at one corner because, suddenly, he was back in the house, his heart hammering in his chest, his arms shaking as he tried to prevent his partner from drowning. He pressed the mask over his friend's mouth so hard it left a bruise. But it was better than the alternative: calling a Code F, sitting in the ambulance staring at a canvas bag—
It didn't happen, he told himself as he took a deliberate slow breath. In. Out. In. Out.
It. Didn't. Happen.
The vise around his chest loosened a fraction and he sighted the room he was looking for. His mouth quirked; he could only imagine what his partner would have to say when he rolled in.
"Hello, hello," he began in as loud and steady of a voice as he could muster. He kicked open the door into the private room. "Just wanted to—"
The wheelchair slowed to a stop at the foot of the bed. He blinked at the rumpled covers. Tentatively, he gave the bed a nudge.
Okay, that didn't go according to plan.
His partner had sworn like the drunks they came across sometimes on the boulevards at 02:00. The water crashed over them, pounding relentlessly and soon he found himself staring up at a watery, gritty image of his partner. A hand had snaked behind his neck, jerked his head up above the water then his partner swore when part of a ceiling fan dropped. His partner let go of his head as his upper torso jerked and he found himself back in the water, air bubbles clouding the look of panic he saw as he fell back.
He resurfaced coughing, blood dribbling down from his partner's back onto his face, his partner's hands clasped behind his neck. His friend's limbs shook with strain; a human body was never meant to stay crouched in such punishing conditions for so long. He stared up at his friend, wincing with him as more debris rolled off the destroyed kitchen above them and slammed into a bowed back.
He told his partner to get out of here.
His partner had replied shut the hell up.
He leaned forward into his crutches and stared at the elevator down the end of a bone-achingly long corridor. He grimaced because he knew his partner was probably out there wandering as well.
It would make more sense, he reasoned, to go back to his room and wait for his partner there; better than both of them roving around. It would be like searching the hillside at midnight without a flashlight or rope.
Logical. Reasonable. He just needed to go back down to the third floor, back to his room and wait.
He thought he could still hear water sloshing in his ears as he maneuvered around and hobbled towards the elevator again. He set his jaw, nodded at the orderly who stuck his foot out to hold the elevator doors and balanced on his left foot as he punched for the sixth floor.
Hang on, he thought and his mouth curved at the unintentional echo.
I'm coming, partner.
Maybe it was 417?
He screwed up his face as he shifted his weight in order to turn the wheelchair around to steer back towards the elevator. He bobbed his head absently as nurses chimed in greeting, but names escaped him right now. His eyes were focused on the floor because if he looked up to see how far he still has to go, he might really pass out.
The elevator display on top indicated it was going down and stalled at six. Even though it wouldn't do any good, he jammed a thumb at the 'up' button again. He sucked in his breath when something on his lower back burned.
It burned like that after something hard broke off from above them and came spinning down towards them. He didn't see it but his partner's eyes told him enough. They'd widened at something behind him and suddenly, hands that were holding onto the air mask now splashed towards him, to try to shove him off. It was like a rodeo, trying to stay on a horse that wanted to buck you off. He tensed his shoulders, hunched forward and swallowed the scream when he felt it bounce off his back with hot accuracy and knocked his helmet off. He knew it was bad when he saw his own blood trickling around from his back and dispersed into pink spidery lines in the water below.
His partner made jerky gestures telling him to go. He ignored it because the water was now rising past his friend's nose. The air mask didn't make a perfect seal and he held up the other man’s head as high as the pinned torso let him.
The elevator finally arrived and he rolled into the car, alone. There was no one to hear his groan when he reached and punched the 'four' button. Oh yeah, that's right: no more straining, stretching or reaching. Oops.
He rested his head against the back of the chair and took a steadying breath as he tried to ignore the fact that the walls were closing in and he thought he could feel water around his ankles. He shivered. The water had been cold, cold enough that his partner's fingers clasped over the mask had started turning blue. When the elevator dinged its arrival, he shook his head furiously, rattled the taste of water and he'sdeadhe'sdeadIfailed out of his mouth. He pushed forward in his chair harder than necessary. The wheels bounced as they coasted over the tiny gap made by the elevator car and the fourth floor. The tiny jolt ignited the careful stitching on his back. He accidentally rolled into a potted fern by the vending machines before his vision cleared.
Just a little bit more, he had told himself then. He'd grasped the faint sounds of Marco and Mike furiously chopping away over their heads under the backdrop of Cap's hollering as that last lifeline of hope. Just a little bit more, a few more minutes, get his head up a few more inches—but he didn't dare give himself an estimate—and they would get his partner out from under the boiler, out of the filling basement.
Just a little bit more, he repeated in his head right now as he zeroed in on 417 up ahead. His jaw set, his shoulders stiff, he urged his wheelchair to travel a few more feet. Just a bit more…reach for the knob…
"Aw man," he breathed. He rested his head on the doorjamb and swallowed back the urge to vomit. Ironically, his legs shook even though he hadn't been walking. Lifting up his head, he stared with burning eyes down the passage he had just traveled down.
Maybe it was 517?
Chet told him he looked like a drowned cat.
The burly fireman hauled him up easily from under the boiler and with two fists, transferred him to 39's backboard. Then, with a smile that might have been a frown under that mustache, Chet told him he looked like a sorry wreck.
Then his partner crumbled, toppled against Chet like a felled tree without so much a sound or warning. Chet yelped, twisted around to catch his partner, only to end up in the water, completely immersed.
That was the last time he saw his partner. They didn't put him on the same ambulance.
He rested against the archway for the waiting room on the fifth floor. Sixth was pointless. No one was at the CCU wards and he didn't dare ask anyone because it may just earn him an escort back down to three.
This was dumb, he thought as he sat gingerly on a chair to rest his throbbing leg.
So he hasn't seen his partner. So what? They told him he was fine, that he was alive. That should be enough. Except the increasingly tight knot in his chest said it wasn't. Like a cord of rope, it squeezed around his ribs, shrinking around him the longer he looked, the longer he remembered.
"Idiot," he whispered to himself and got a dirty look from a disheveled man in the chair next to him. He offered a wan smile that received only a grunt in return. He sighed and stared glumly at the empty chairs in the waiting area. Somehow, seeing all those chairs made his eyes burn. They looked forlorn. He gingerly eased himself into one of the chairs and propped his crutches on an empty seat next to him.
He'd told him to get out of there, that he didn't need his partner to shield him from the debris above. He told him not to take off his turnout coat, not to jam it under his shoulders for leverage, not to hunch over him like a human scaffold.
The right leg twinged. He rubbed his hands over his knees and grimaced. He swallowed convulsively and rubbed his palms deeper into his thighs to massage the aches out. He needed to get up. Maybe the fourth floor? Maybe…damn it, maybe he should convince a nurse to page his partner.
The coil around his chest loosened at the whispered syllable and he let out his breath in a whoosh. His hands stilled and he turned a heavy head towards the newly arrived wheelchair that had crept up on his left unnoticed until now. Experience has him automatically scanning from feet and upwards, his stomach unclenching more and more when he reached the face.
His mouth crinkled to a smile that mirrored the other man’s.
"Johnny," he croaked.
His arms were already steering the chair for the waiting room while his mind was still trying to catch up, still puzzling over why he was heading for the bowed head in the waiting room, barely visible through the chicken-wired window.
Seeing Roy slumped in the chair, crutches next to him, staring at his slippers made him lightheaded. And John couldn't think of anything to say. He sat there for a few seconds, unnoticed, drinking in the bandages on Roy's leg, the flushed pallor on his face and the steady rise and fall of his partner's chest, breathing alivealivealive.
"H-hey," John whispered finally.
Roy looked up and his eyes, once dull with pain before, were now light with relief. He studied John, opened his mouth, closed it and tried again.
"Johnny." Blue eyes flicked up and down. A smile quirked.
"You look terrible."
There were a lot of things John wanted to say in return. A whole bunch in fact but the only thing that crawled out of his dry throat was, "You weren't in your room."
An eyebrow rose high. "You weren't either."
John scoffed and even though it made the stitches on the back of his shoulders sting, it felt good to be talking back to someone.
Roy reached over and guided John's chair closer by gripping the armrests. He left his hands on them, knees touching—well, one knee, the right leg was forced to stretch out to the side between them.
"Hey," Roy rasped.
John couldn't help but grin. "Hey yourself." He nodded towards him. "Heard it wasn't the femoral."
Roy mimicked John. "Heard it was fifty six stitches."
An eyebrow rose. "Was it? Total?"
Roy's brow knitted. Eyes narrowed. "Total? Where else did you need stitches?"
John clamped his mouth shut. He sat back carefully into the seat and offered Roy a grin. It was easier to make with Roy sitting there, alive, in front of him.
"Joanne left?" John asked quickly when he realized Roy was giving him a considering look.
"Went home to stay with the kids." Roy's mouth pursed. "Should you even be up?"
"Should you?" John countered. "You have a cast."
"You have fifty six stitches," Roy shot back. He clicked his tongue against his teeth. "At least."
They grinned at each other and John gave a half-hearted slap on Roy's left knee. Roy looked down, grunted then leaned back. He folded his arms and studied John.
"I'm all right," John promised. Hell, he was feeling better and better already.
Roy's face contorted as if trying to hold back but the words tumbled out anyway. "You should have left, got the others, not stay behind to be a human asbestos blanket!"
Huh? John scrunched up his face. "There wasn't a fire, Roy."
Roy swatted towards his head but made no effort to connect. "You know what I mean." He exhaled and sat back in the chair.
John shrugged. Ouch. Okay. Big mistake. "You can't tell me you wouldn't do the same." He eyed Roy warily.
The swat this time connected to the back of his head and it was all the answer he needed. Roy exhaled and scratched his jaw with a finger.
"If any of that stuff had been sharper or gone in deeper…" Blue eyes darkened to flints as Roy's thoughts turned inwards.
"It could have cut into your spine, Johnny and it didn't help that you didn't have your turnout coat either."
"None of it was," John pointed out. "You know…deeper…or sharper. You told me once never to dwell on the 'ifs', Roy."
"Well that was different," Roy muttered but he didn't explain. He lifted up his gaze at John. "Thanks." Roy shook his head slowly.
"But you're still an idiot."
John's smile flipped. "You're welcome."
"Don't ever do that again," Roy warned.
John rolled his eyes. "Sure, Roy. As long as you don't fall through a collapsed floor and get trapped under a boiler and nearly drown in two feet of water, I won't try to save your life again."
The rubber tip of a crutch nudged his chair. "Cap said it was barely ten inches."
"Yeah." John felt himself sagging, his limbs pulling him deeper into his seat. "Well, it felt like two feet." John gulped. "Felt like a lot of water." He rubbed at his eyes wearily with the back of a hand and blinked fuzzily at the IV port taped to his forearm. Where did that come from?
"You weren't in your room," John yawned as he lowered his arm before Roy could see it.
Roy cocked his head. "You already said that."
Did he? John shifted in his seat. He wished leaning back or forward would ease the lump in his gut. "Everyone kept telling me you were fine."
A shadow crossed Roy's face. "Same here." He tapped John's right knee. "But that's all they would say." He gave John a crooked grin. "Saw your room mate." His smile faded at John's blank look. "Uh…722?"
John flipped through his memory like a box of pictures. "Oh. Him." He looked down ruefully at his lap. "He ask about his chair?"
"I think there were some choice words about it when I came knocking." Roy chuckled. "Actually, there's probably some people right now with a few choice words about us, partner." Roy grabbed his crutches. "Come on, let's get you back upstairs."
John frowned as he watched Roy try to get up and fail. "Downstairs first. It's closer."
Roy huffed even as he shifted closer to John and tried to use the armrests to push off. "Closer? I'm on the third floor, you're on the seventh. We're exactly in the middle. Upstairs."
John gulped. Wow, when did that hot poker get shoved down his back? That little ache he had been ignoring returned with all the intensity of a two alarm. It didn't feel like he was sitting anymore. It felt like he was lying on a bed of needles.
"Downstairs is closer," John insisted anyway. He puffed between his teeth. John dropped his head to his chin so Roy couldn't see his grimace as he offered Roy a hand and pulled him to his feet.
The crutches banged against John as Roy struggled to slip them under his arms. "Look, we'll just go upstairs. It's just two flights up—"
"Exactly. Up, Roy. Up."
"I shouldn't ask but…what are you talking about?"
John tried to laugh but his tongue was stuck on the roof of his mouth. It occurred to him maybe that IV had something important for him because his lower back was boiling.
"Gravity," John managed as he trailed behind Roy and kept an eye on the cast clopping clumsily on the floor. A few orderlies had to get out of Roy's way. "We go up, we're going against gravity."
The crutches halted. Roy nearly fell sideways when he turned around. "Gravity?" He rolled his eyes. "Going downstairs just means gravity's pulling you down."
"Exactly," John wheezed as the pair made a stuttering turn around a corner that was neither graceful nor pretty to look at. A nurse with a trolley nearly ran into Roy then nearly got run over by John. Roy nearly planted a crutch on another nurse's foot. John flashed her a smile before she could call an orderly on them. He wheeled closer, so Roy could use his handlebars. John grabbed the left crutch and tracked Roy's wobbly progress. "Less work letting gravity pull you down."
"Most fall injuries we see is because gravity is pulling you down," Roy reminded him. He grabbed hold of John's right handle. Between that and the one crutch, he was steadier. Kind of. Sort of. Well, he wasn't running into anything at least. Or anyone.
"Besides, what work? We're using the elevator," Roy argued.
John stopped because Roy was starting to sound breathless. He watched Roy lean on the wall next to a door. He inched his chair closer, against Roy's good leg. Just in case.
"We should get you back upstairs first," Roy was still saying. "I'm sure your roommate misses you."
John toed the floor with his left slipper and wondered when he'd lost the right one. "He snores," John grumbled.
"I heard. I think all of the seventh floor heard, in fact."
The wheelchair rocked back and forth a little. He really didn't want to go back to that room even though now the cold lump that had been rolling in his gut was thawing. John shifted in his seat and flinched when his back pulled.
A hand touched his left shoulder. "Hey."
Bile rolled in his throat. "I think…" John managed, "I think I need to sit down, Roy."
"You already are." Roy edged closer to John. His hands moved up to brace both of his shoulders. "You're sitting on a stolen wheelchair, remember?"
"Oh…" John swallowed, "then I t-think I need to lie down, Roy."
Roy craned his neck to look for a nurse. "Let me get you some help back upstairs." He made a sound. "Where did everyone go? Come on." Roy's hands on his shoulders tightened. "If I give you my crunches, think you can hold on to them?"
"Yeah," John gasped out. He accepted the crutches and rested his cheek on the cool supports.
A hand rested on top of his head briefly before moving back to the handlebars. The wheelchair falteringly began to move under Roy's urging.
"You shouldn't have left your room," Roy said hoarsely.
John grunted. He wanted to retort something about a pot, a kettle, but for some reason, he couldn't remember how the saying goes today. He could feel Roy stumbling to walk behind his chair. He frowned, tempted to wave a nurse down, get a chair for Roy as well. He squinted at the time and made a face. No wonder the place looked deserted. He sat there and tried to breathe slowly as Roy quietly urged him as they walked—well, Roy was—down a hallway that seemed to have grown since the last time they'd been through here.
"We're going upstairs," Roy ground out. He staggered, bumped into the back of John's wheelchair, into the stitches. It was a glancing blow, unintentional but John clutched his armrests to stop himself from doubling over. His air whistled out between his teeth.
"R-roy…" John blinked away the wetness collecting at the corners of his eyes.
"Of all the…" Roy grunted as he stumbled. The wheelchair stalled. John set his jaw.
"We. Are." The wheelchair jittered as it caught on Roy's cast. He grunted. "Going. Up—"
John pointed to a partially opened door on his right. "That room looks empty."
The wheelchair squeaked when Roy abruptly turned it to the right.
Men, Dix thought for probably the tenth time today, are dumb.
"I see it but I don't believe it," Kel Brackett grumbled. He folded his arms across his chest and scowled into the room.
Dix sniffed. She slanted a look to Kel and Mike and wondered how unbecoming would it be for her to gloat. She nodded towards the two beds.
"I told you," she murmured, "you two should have told the nurses to put them in the same room."
Dix was right, of course, but as stubborn as men usually were, she knew these two would never admit it. Only Joe Early had agreed with her. When both Kel and Mike approached him after it was discovered that both John and Roy were missing, he merely smirked, tucked his hands into his pockets and said he had a broken arm in Four he needed to see to. Dix thought she heard him whistling as he walked past her with a wink.
"I should have sedated him with something stronger," Mike Morton grumbled. He waved at them with a disgruntled look on his face. "We have orderlies and nurses looking all over and here they are."
The wayward paramedics currently occupied a room originally thought empty. Roy DeSoto was asleep on top of the blankets, his casted leg propped up by pillows, arms akimbo and dangling off the sides of the bed, his crutches a messy pair discarded on the floor.
Johnny was a bit more neatly arranged, which Dix suspected was thanks to his partner Roy. He slept on his stomach, one arm folded and pillowing his face, the other neatly placed by his side. Only the thin sheet was drawn up to his shoulders, the heavier cover tucked around his legs to avoid the stitches Dix could see through the open flap of his hospital gown.
"We better get gurneys up here, Mike," Kel sighed, giving up trying to understand. It had been too long of a shift, of fighting to keep two good friends alive and intact, to wrap his head around anything.
Dix looked at the pair, their heads turned slightly towards each other, as if they had been talking and fell asleep mid-sentence. She spied the wheelchair angled towards Johnny so he could transfer over easily and the pillows Roy had under his leg while Johnny suspiciously only had one.
"Leave them here," Dix found herself saying. "I'll have my nurses transfer everything to this room."
"In the maternity ward?" Kel blurted out in disbelief.
Dix snickered. "We couldn't find a room for both of them together. Well here, we do." When the two doctors shared a look, Dix rolled her eyes. "Look, all anyone does on this floor is sleep. It'll be perfect."
Mike made a face. "Yeah, but—" Something caught his attention and without warning, dropped to a crouch.
Kel wasn't fast enough. A pillow smacked him on the face. His arms did a little flail as he tried to stay upright.
"Quiet," Johnny yawned. He dropped his head wearily to the bed. "We're sleeping."
"No, we're not," Roy spoke up with a bigger yawn. He sat up and gave them all a sheepish grin.
Kel scrubbed his mouth with the back of his hand.
"What are you two doing here?" Kel demanded although any anger that should have been there wasn’t. He held the pillow with both hands, looking sorely tempted to throw it and if he threw it towards Dix, she was going to be real sure not to miss when she threw it back.
Mike scowled at the pair. "Why aren't you two in your rooms?"
The two blinked at each other then to the waiting doctors.
"Gravity," the two chorused together.
Kel held up a hand. "Never mind, I don't want to know. We'll get everything up here. Stay put."
"Not going anywhere," Johnny mumbled into his arm.
Kel really looked like he wanted to throw the pillow. He grumbled, passed it to Mike who wisely just handed it over to Dix.
Dix bit back a grin as she turned to leave when Johnny cleared his throat.
Dix paused and glanced over her shoulder. Brown eyes and a lopsided grin gazed back at her.
"Uh…could I have my pillow back?" Johnny asked in a meek voice.
Dix hugged the pillow to her. "Sure thing, Johnny." She went to the tiny closet every room had and grabbed an extra pillow and new pillowcases. She switched out the old covering and eased one under Johnny's head. She grimaced at the barely audible hiss.
"Just let me do all the work, okay? I'm going to slip this one under your stomach so your back doesn't arch too much, all right?" Dix murmured. She settled a hand on a spot between the stitches on his shoulders and lower back. She frowned when he just nodded. No, an obedient John Gage was never good.
"They're bringing down your IV and morphine drip," Dix whispered. "But it might take a few minutes. How about I get you a cooling blanket for your back in the meantime?" She could feel the heat through the thin sheet.
Johnny shook his head carefully. His hands curled on either side of his head.
"I'm good," Johnny yawned. He exhaled softly, eyes fluttering closed as he rested a cheek on the pillow Dix slipped under him. "I'm fine."
"Of course you are," Dix hushed. "You were fine enough to walk around Rampart with your gown wide open in the back."
Johnny's right arm twitched as if reaching behind him. Dix chuckled and patted the back of his head. She waited until his breathing evened out before her hand drifted to his forehead. The cool skin reassured her and she flicked out a delicate wrist to study her watch as her other hand crept down to capture a pulse.
"Hold 'or BP, 'ampart," Johnny mumbled out thickly.
"Sure, 51," Dix whispered as she set his arm down. She rested a hand on the back of his neck, a thumb rubbing circles on the spot where his hairline ended until Johnny settled down.
Dix turned back to his roommate and frowned mildly at the glazed blue eyes that greeted her.
"You should be asleep, too," Dix scolded as she approached the bed. Roy tracked her wordlessly. When she reached the bedrails, his eyes flicked towards Johnny.
"No fever," Dix assured him and Roy relaxed, his shoulders slumping. He slid down the bed an inch and she wondered if anyone had bothered to tell him that the whole time he was downstairs.
"His back?" Roy croaked. "They said they took him to the OR."
"Some of the cuts looked deep. Mike was worried they may have penetrated but none of them did." Dix tugged the blankets out from under his legs.
Roy exhaled. "He didn't tell me how bad he was hurt before," Roy whispered, his gaze back on his partner.
"Like you didn't tell him about your broken ankle or that you swallowed some water?" Dix returned. At Roy's crooked grin, Dix scoffed. "Uh huh. " Men.
Roy obediently sank deeper into his bed and watched sleepily as Dix pulled the covers up.
"The sling for your leg will be here soon. You missed your antibiotics before so you're taking the next round they're bringing to you. Got it, mister?"
Roy gave her a crooked grin that made her wonder if he had been taking lessons from Johnny. Dix shook her head, rearranged the pillows so his leg was elevated properly and bade him to sit up higher.
"Better in case you start coughing," Dix murmured as she tucked the other pillow behind his back. "Kel wants to take another look at your lungs tomorrow."
"All right." Roy didn’t argue but did minute waving with his hands in a polite shooing gesture at her. "We're fine, Dix. Thanks."
Dix set her hands on her hips. "Gravity, huh?"
Roy shrugged. He didn't try to explain and Dix didn't want to understand. Rules were different when it came to these two. She patted his cast carefully.
"I'll let your wife and the guys know you two are…" Dix grinned broadly. "…In the maternity ward now." At Roy's sigh, she chuckled. "Think you two can stay put and get some rest now?"
Roy's expression sobered and he stared back at her with a steady gaze.
Another pat on his cast. "Good." Dix closed the door carefully behind her. She made a mental note to tell Beth to cover for her in a few hours when she came back to check on them.
The two stayed up on the fifth floor, perfect patients and quiet.
Until Chet Kelly somehow convinced the floor nurse to bring in a warmed baby bottle with Johnny's lunch tray.
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