Roy stopped in front of the apartment building and waited. A few minutes later Johnny emerged from the front door. An elderly woman followed him out. It looked like she was telling him something. Johnny looked sheepishly at her, then leaned down so she could give him a kiss on his cheek. Roy watched, amused now, as she continued to wave as Johnny made his way to the car.
"So, how's your girlfriend this morning?" Roy asked, a big grin on his face.
"Don't even start with the 'girlfriend' stuff," Johnny warned, trying to hide his embarrassment. "Mrs. Meyers was just thanking me for helping her take out her garbage last night, Roy."
"I knew you had a thing every now and then for older women," Roy started, laughing out loud now.
Johnny just glared.
"She's my landlady, Roy," he said. "I've been helping her out since her husband died," he added.
"I know, Johnny. I know," Roy said. "Mrs. Meyers can't tell me enough good things about you. 'My, that Johnny's such a nice young man,' 'Oh, he's such a good looking boy, why hasn't he found a wife yet?'" he said, mimicking the woman's voice.
Johnny rolled his eyes.
"And I've seen how Mrs. Meyers looks at you. She wants you, Johnny," he said, leering and then laughing.
"She's sixty seven years old!" Johnny exclaimed.
"Yeah, so?" Roy asked, starting the car.
"Roy, let's just drop it, okay? Please?" Johnny asked.
"Of course, Johnny. Of course," Roy answered, placidly.
"Oh, no you don't," Johnny responded, recognizing Roy's tone. "I don't trust you. Don't you dare tell the guys about Mrs. Meyers," Johnny warned.
Roy smirked, tried to look innocent.
"Me?" he queried, feigning innocence.
"Yeah, you," Johnny replied. "Let's just change the subject, shall we," he continued, no longer looking at Roy, but out the window.
"Okay. When does your car get out of the shop?" Roy asked.
"Tomorrow afternoon," Johnny replied. "So tomorrow morning should be the last day I'll need a ride to work."
They continued the ride to the station relative silence. Roy was unable to come up with any conversation that didn't include a jibe about Mrs. Meyers. They finally arrived at the station about a half an hour later.
Roy was very tempted to tell the shift all about Mrs. Meyers when Johnny shot him a pleading look, begging him not to tell.
"You owe me, Junior," he whispered as he walked past Johnny and into the truck bay.
Johnny blew out the breath he'd been holding and silently stored all the comebacks he'd come up with planning his defense. He followed Roy out to the truck bay and began helping him check out the squad.
"Thanks, Roy," he said.
"Like I said, Johnny, you owe me," Roy replied.
The shift was relatively uneventful for the station. The engine didn't have any calls to go to. The squad went on two minor injury calls. On the first, a woman who had been standing on her bed removing ceiling molding had badly sprained her ankle when she stepped off the bed. On the second, a man had suffered a minor laceration and possibly a mild concussion when he walked into some low hanging pipes in his basement. They were heading back to the station from the second call when they were toned out to respond to a house fire.
They arrived at the house, discovering it was in a well-to-do section of town. They watched as smoke billowed from the back of the house. Both donned their turnout gear and oxygen tanks and headed over to the engine, where Chet and Marco were already pulling hoses from the truck.
"Johnny, Roy. You two head in and look for victims," Captain Stanley ordered. "Neighbors say the owners aren't home, but that the servants might be around today. And yes, this house does belong to the deputy mayor's ex-wife," he added, matter-of-factly.
"Right, Cap," they said, simultaneously.
They looked up and for the first time noticed media lining up in the area. Television vans with large antennae were making their way closer to the driveway of the house. Johnny and Roy just shook their heads and moved toward the front entrance of the home. Chet and Marco were holding their lines, aiming the water at the second floor windows, the site of the majority of flames.
Johnny and Roy were about to enter with their own line, when they noticed that the water had stopped flowing. They turned around.
"Cap!" Chet shouted, pointing towards the roadway.
Johnny and Roy followed Chet's gaze and saw one of the television vans parked near the engine, its tires resting upon the hoses. Stanley and Stoker made their way to the reporters. When they saw that Stanley had already begun talking to the reporters and waved back to Chet, letting him know that the van would move and that he'd have his water pressure back soon, Johnny and Roy continued on to the doorway.
Chet was still looking at the van as it moved, so when the water pressure returned, full force, he was not prepared. Chet lost his grip on the nozzle and it flew out of his hands. The snake like hose coiled around this way and that, its heavy metal nozzle darting like a cobra's head. It lashed out as Chet tried to catch up with it, finally finding a target as it made contact with Johnny's lower back. Johnny dropped to his hands and knees as the force of the hose overwhelmed him.
"Johnny!?" Roy cried, rushing to Johnny's side.
"I'm alright," Johnny responded, slowly rising.
Johnny and Roy turned around to see Chet wrestling on the ground with the hose and finally regaining control.
"Are you okay, Gage?" Chet called, feeling somewhat guilty.
"Yeah, Chet. I'm fine," Johnny responded, rubbing at his back.
"You sure?" Roy asked.
"Yeah, let's go," Johnny answered, heading to the door once more.
Johnny and Roy entered the house and searched for the victims. They searched the house, room by room, occasionally dodging some fallen debris. When they reached the rear of the house, Johnny found the butler.
"Roy?" he called.
Roy left a small pantry area and found Johnny in the kitchen. He had a very large man in a butler's uniform already slung across his shoulders. Roy saw a woman lying on the floor, coughing. He picked her up and followed Johnny out of the rear door of the house. They made their way past the guys from station 23 who were headed up to the roof to ventilate the house and brought the victims over to the squad where Captain Stanley had their gear laid out already. They administered oxygen to both victims and after quick relays with Rampart, had them on their way to the hospital.
They returned to the house after leaving Rampart to help with the clean up. Roy watched Johnny wince and grab his back as he pulled a length of hose toward the engine.
"You alright, Johnny?" Roy asked, nodding toward his back.
"Yeah, I think I just pulled something lifting that butler up," he replied. "Man, he was huge! Must have been at least six feet six," he added.
"You could have taken the maid, you know," Roy countered. "Or was she too young for you?" Roy chided.
"Ha, ha, ha," Johnny replied with a dirty look.
"What's this about the maid being too young for Johnny?" Chet piped in.
"Nothing, Chet," Johnny replied sourly, giving Roy another dirty look.
"Johnny's got a new girlfriend. One who's just a little bit older than he is," Roy teased, pulling at another length of hose.
Johnny just rolled his eyes.
"Oooh, Gage," Chet teased. "You going for older women, now, huh?"
"Chet why don't you just mind your own business? Like paying attention to what you're doing," he said, pointing to the unruly lump of hose at Chet's feet. "We don't want to have to see you wrestling with another hose again, do we?" he remarked, hoping to change the subject.
"That wasn't my fault!" Chet exclaimed. "It was that damn news truck!"
"Oh, yeah, sure, Chet," Johnny replied.
They returned to the station to find the B shift already there. It was actually three hours since the shift change.
"Man, I'm beat," Johnny remarked, getting out of the squad.
"Yeah, me too," Roy responded.
"I'm just going to go home as is," Johnny started. "I just want to crash," he added.
"Yeah, me too," Roy repeated.
After filling out their reports and paperwork from the fire and its victims, Johnny and Roy headed out to the back parking lot. Roy drove Johnny home.
"Same time tomorrow?" Roy asked.
"I'll be here," Johnny replied. "Thanks Roy," he added as he got out of the car.
Johnny was putting the key into the lock of his apartment door when he heard a familiar sound in the hall. Mrs. Meyers came down the hall, her slippers shuffling on the hardwood floor.
"Oh, Johnny, you're late. Are you okay? You look tired," she said, approaching him, placing her hand on his forehead.
"Yes, Mrs. Meyers," he answered her with a smile. "We had a late fire call tonight, that's all."
"Oh, yes. I saw it on the news. The mayor's ex-wife's house," she began. "I even saw you and Roy carrying those poor people out of the fire. My, you looked handsome," she continued, pinching his cheek.
Johnny blushed and shook his head.
"Mrs. Meyers, how could you tell it was me?" he asked. "I had a full face mask and air pack on."
"Oh, I'd know you anywhere, Johnny," she said. "Now you best get to bed. I don't want my favorite tenant missing out on his beauty sleep," she said with a wink.
"Do I need it that bad?" he asked, pretending to be hurt.
"Oh, you! Go to bed!" she admonished.
Johnny leaned down so she could kiss his cheek.
"Good night, Mrs. Meyers," he said.
"Good night, Johnny," she replied.
Johnny smiled. He liked the woman. She treated him as if he was her own son. And deep down, he did have fun flirting with her. He helped her out around the apartment building when he could, especially since her husband died last year. Her husband had done most of the care and upkeep in the apartment building himself, adding many personal touches. Mrs. Meyers didn't want to leave or sell the building that was her home for the past thirty years. Johnny understood her feelings and therefore offered to help out as long as he lived there. He looked at the small woman, saw how much she cared for him.
Johnny closed his apartment door and locked it. He crossed the room to the couch and collapsed, leaning his head back. He turned on the television and surfed through the channels with the remote. He watched bits and pieces of the various news shows airing and even caught glimpses of Roy and himself carrying the victims from the fire out of the burning house.
"Gotcha this time, Brice," he said to himself, sleepily.
Johnny awoke with a start. He looked around, momentarily forgetting where he was, not used to sleeping on his couch. He looked at his watch, ready to panic about being late for work. 5:34 AM. He put his head back, relieved. He wasn't late. He still had two hours before Roy would be there to pick him up for work. He contemplated going back to sleep, but decided against it, knowing that if he went back to sleep now, he wouldn't be waking up in time later. He started to rise up from the couch, stopping as a sharp pain lanced through his back. He let out a groan and tried, this time more slowly, to get up again. He succeeded, barely, and slowly shuffled toward the bathroom, rubbing the sore spot on his back as he went.
Johnny put his head under the hot spray of the shower and basked in its warmth. Leaning against the cool tiles behind him, the mixture of hot and cold felt unusually soothing to his tired, sore body. Slowly, the smoky smell that had been clinging to him since the fire dissipated as the soapy lather did its job and washed the soot and smoke from him. Johnny reached down for the shampoo and stopped. A wave of dizziness made him grab the walls of the shower. Sharp pains lanced through him, paralyzing him. He cried out in agony, slumping against the tile wall, slowly sliding down until he was curled up, sitting across the drain of the shower stall. The water continued to spray over him as he gasped for breath, squeezing his eyes shut.
Roy waved to Mrs. Meyers. She was out working in the flowerbeds in front of the apartment building. He looked at his watch.
"Come on, Johnny," he said aloud. "We're gonna be late."
He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He looked at the building again. He looked at his watch again. Finally, disgusted, he shut off the car's engine, got out and headed to the building.
"Hi, Mrs. Meyers," he greeted her. "Have you seen Johnny this morning?" he asked.
"No, but I know he's up," she answered.
Roy gave her a quizzical look.
"I heard him in the shower before I headed outside. You can hear everything through these old walls," she said, gesturing to the building. "Too bad you can't SEE everything," she added to herself, with a smile.
"He must have gone back to bed, then," Roy muttered, looking at his watch again.
"Well, come on then," she said, taking his arm. "Let's go wake him up."
They walked into the building and made their way up to the second floor. Roy knocked on Johnny's door.
"That's funny," she said.
"What?" Roy asked.
"His shower's still running," she said, looking at her watch. "I've been outside for over an hour," she added.
Roy tried the door and knocked again, this time, harder.
"Johnny?!" he yelled. "Mrs. Meyers, do you have a key to the apartment?" he asked her urgently.
"Uh, yes. Yes," she replied, flustered, before running to her own apartment.
She returned a minute later with a ring full of keys. Her hands shook as she searched through the keys trying to find the one to Johnny's apartment. Finally, she found the right one. But her hands were shaking so much that Roy had to take it from her. He quickly opened the door and went in.
"Johnny?" he called. "Johnny?" he repeated, heading for the bathroom, finding it locked.
"Oh, look!" Mrs. Meyers cried, pointing to the water coming out from under the door.
Roy tried the door again.
"Stand back," he told the woman, moving her away.
He kicked at the door, sending it flying inward. Inside, he saw a foot sticking out from under the shower curtain.
"Oh, God, Johnny!" Roy cried, opening up the curtain
He found Johnny sitting on the bottom of the stall, leaning against the cold tile wall, shivering, as cold water now fell on him.
"Mrs. Meyers, call 911!" Roy ordered as he shut off the water.
He looked around and found some towels, wrapping them around Johnny.
"Johnny? Come on partner, talk to me," he said, fear in his voice as he lifted Johnny's face up, hoping for some sign of consciousness.
Johnny's eyes opened halfway upon hearing Roy's voice, but he did not respond. Roy saw that they lacked focus.
"The fire department's on the way," Mrs. Meyers said, returning to the bathroom. "What can I do?" she asked.
"We need to get him warm," Roy said. "Let's get him into bed," he continued. "Can you take his feet?" he asked her.
"Yes, of course," she replied, going to the shower.
Roy grabbed Johnny under the armpits and Mrs. Meyers took hold of his ankles and they backed their way out of the bathroom. Johnny let out a few moans and cries of pain as they moved him.
"Sssh, it's alright, Johnny," Mrs. Meyers soothed. "It's alright."
They carefully laid him on the bed. Mrs. Meyers immediately sat at the head of the bed and pulled Johnny into her lap.
"Body heat. It'll help warm him up," she said, gathering the blankets around his shoulders as Roy covered the rest of him.
Roy heard the familiar sound of a squad siren getting closer.
"Cavalry's here," Roy said. "I'll go show them the way. You'll be okay?" he asked her.
"Fine. Go," she said, shooing him away.
Roy saw the worry on her face as she held Johnny tight. He watched a moment longer as she gently rocked him in her arms, quieting his soft cries.
Roy met squad 48's paramedics in front of the building.
"Roy?" Steve McDaniel asked, surprised to see him. "What've you got?"
"Something's wrong with Johnny," he responded, grabbing some of the equipment. "I came to pick him up. His landlady and I found him in the shower. She says he'd been in there for over an hour. He's hypothermic and a little shocky, too," he explained as they entered the building.
When they got to the second floor, Roy sprinted for the apartment, hearing Mrs. Meyers' cries for help.
"Roy! Roy!" she yelled.
Roy made his way to the bedroom and found Mrs. Meyers struggling with Johnny as he writhed in her arms. He was breathing heavily and crying out loudly in pain.
"Johnny? Hey, man, what's going on?" Jim Foley asked, approaching the bed.
"My back!" Johnny gasped.
"Did he fall or something?" Steve asked.
"No, I don't think so," Roy said. "Maybe he pulled something carrying that butler yesterday," Roy added.
Steve and Jim looked at Roy for an explanation.
"He carried a huge guy out of a house fire yesterday. The guy must have been at least six-six," Roy recalled.
"You guys get started on vitals, I'll go get the backboard," Jim said, getting up.
Steve and Roy started taking vitals.
"BP's 90 over 62," Roy said, a look of worry on his face.
"Pulse is 120 and respiration is 24," Steve said, writing the information down.
"BP's too low," Johnny murmured.
"Don't you worry about it, Johnny," Steve said. "We're running this call, not you," he chided.
"No, he's right. He usually has systolic's around 120 or 130," Roy whispered to Steve.
Jim came back with the backboard and placed it on the bed next to Johnny. They took the covers off Johnny and rolled him away from the backboard. Johnny let out a loud cry, tensing up.
"Easy now, Johnny," Jim said, as he held his shoulders.
"Roy, you see this?" Steve asked, pointing to Johnny's lower back.
The entire lower section was bruised. Mrs. Meyers gasped at the sight.
"That's no pulled muscle, Roy," Jim remarked.
"No, but I think I do know what it is. That's where he got hit by a flyaway hose yesterday," Roy recalled grimly, gently pressing on the area.
Johnny cried out and tried to squirm away from his touch.
"But he looked fine on TV last night, and when I saw him in the hallway, too," Mrs. Meyers interjected, worry in her voice.
"I know," Roy replied. "Sometimes injuries like this take a while before they bother you. And you know Johnny. He wouldn't have wanted to worry you if he was feeling sore last night," he said, hoping the woman wasn't feeling guilty.
"There's rigidity there," he told Steve as they gently rolled him onto the backboard and covered him back up.
"Johnny, have you been nauseous, dizzy or anything like that?" Jim asked, picking up the biophone.
No response. Johnny was unconscious.
"Rampart, this is squad 48," Jim called.
"Go ahead, 48," Dixie answered.
"Rampart we have a 30 year old male. He was found in a shower, and is unconscious at this time. He is suffering from hypothermia. He also complained of severe back pain. He is showing a large contusion on his lower right back where a witness states he was hit with a fire hose yesterday evening. The area is rigid and tender to touch," Jim reported. "Vital signs are BP 90 over 62, pulse 120 and respiration 24," he added.
"10-4, 48," Dixie replied. "Start IV D5W, O2 and transport as soon as possible."
"10-4, Rampart," Jim acknowledged.
As Jim and Steve started the IV and placed an oxygen mask on Johnny, the phone rang. Roy answered it, knowing who it would be.
"Yeah, Cap," he responded. "Yeah, Johnny's hurt. I think it happened yesterday when that inch and a half got away from Chet…Looks like it hit pretty hard…48's here, we're taking him to Rampart, now," he said. "If it's alright with you, I'd like to go with him…. Thanks, Cap," he added.
Jim and Steve finished packaging Johnny up and placed him onto the ambulance stretcher. Roy followed them out of the building and to the ambulance.
"I'll follow you guys in my car," Roy said.
He turned around to see Mrs. Meyers standing nearby, looking worried.
"I'm sure he'll be just fine, Mrs. Meyers," Roy offered, putting his hand on her shoulder.
"Do you think I could go to the hospital, too?" she asked.
"Sure, I'll drive you," he answered.
Roy and Mrs. Meyers sat in the waiting room. Roy had gone through the magazines a few times already. Mrs. Meyers was on her 5th Rosary recitation. Every time one of the treatment room doors opened or closed Roy looked up, hoping it would be Dixie or Dr. Brackett bringing news. Finally he heard Dixie call his name. He stood up and met her and Brackett halfway across the room.
"How is he?" Roy asked.
Brackett gave Roy a questioning look, glancing at Mrs. Meyers.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Roy started. "This is Mrs. Meyers, Johnny's landlady. She helped us out this morning," he said to Dixie and Brackett. "Mrs. Meyers, this is Dixie McCall, head nurse here in the ER and Dr. Kelly Brackett," he said to Mrs. Meyers, finishing the introductions.
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Meyers," Brackett said, shaking her hand. "He's stable," Brackett continued. "We're sending him over to radiology for a CAT scan. He's got some blood in his urine and I suspect some damage to the kidney. I'm hoping it's just bruised," he finished.
Roy saw the gurney with Johnny on it being pulled out of the treatment room. Mrs. Meyers grabbed Roy's arm as she saw it too, and worried.
"How's his BP?" Roy asked.
"We started to have some problems at first. Steve told me about your concern," Brackett responded. "But now that he's all warmed up, it's holding."
Johnny heard someone singing. He opened his eyes.
"Mrs. Meyers?" he croaked.
"Oh, Johnny, you're awake!" she exclaimed, moving her chair closer to his bed.
"What's going on? What happened?" he asked.
She brushed the hair off his forehead and took his hand.
"You got hurt at that fire," she answered. "That nice Dr. Brackett said your kidney was bruised. Oh, we've been so worried about you," she continued.
He shifted in the bed, wincing at the pain it caused.
"Take it easy, now. Try not to move around," she told him.
"But what are you doing here, Mrs. Meyers?" he asked.
"Roy and I found you this morning. I've been with you since," she said. "And when you get out, I'm going to take good care of you, Johnny," she said.
"Thanks, Mrs. Meyers," he responded, smiling.
"Roy and your other friends are downstairs. I'll go get them," she said, getting up.
A few minutes later Roy, Chet and Marco entered the room, along with Brackett.
"How are you feeling, Johnny?" Brackett asked, checking the various tubes and wires attached to him.
"Sore, and confused," he replied.
"Man, I am soooo sorry," Chet interjected.
"Why?" Johnny asked.
"When you got hit with that hose yesterday, it bruised your kidney," Brackett replied. "Luckily the damage was minor, we didn't need to operate."
"That's good. I guess," Johnny responded, still unsure about everything that had occurred.
"We'll catch you later," Marco said.
"Feel better," Chet added, guilt still in his voice as he and Marco left.
Brackett also left, telling Johnny he'd check on him later. Mrs. Meyers followed Brackett out, wanting to ask him some questions.
Roy sat in the chair next to the bed.
"Man, you had us scared for a little bit there," Roy said. "When Mrs. Meyers and I found you in the shower-," he started.
"Wait. Mrs. Meyers saw me in the shower?" Johnny asked.
"Yup. She saw it all," Roy replied, mischief in his voice and smile.
"Oh, man," Johnny replied, embarrassed, as he put his arm over his eyes.
"Yeah," Roy said with a sigh. "Now she REALLY wants you."
Johnny threw his pillow at him.
Author's note – Thanks to Mary for the encouragement. It's still not quite what I wanted, but if I stayed in that shower with Johnny any longer my skin would have gotten wrinkly! ;-P Thanks to Jane too!