Kissin' Cousins

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

1.

"Hey, Roy, look at this." John Gage was sitting at the kitchen table in Station 51, next to Chet Kelly, gently turning the yellow pages of what appeared to be an old book.

"What is it?" Roy DeSoto asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee. He held the pot up in mute question, looking at his partner who shook his head.

"It's a family history, from my great aunt Moira. She's retired, likes to trace the family's…what did you call it, Gage?" Chet asked, flipping through another journal.

"Genealogy. My Aunt Lottie used to do the same thing, but only on my father's side of the family. It was much harder to trace Native American family lines unless you know the tribal name and the clan. She only managed to go back to my great great maternal grandfather." Johnny continued thumbing through the book. "Now, on my dad's side, Lottie had traced the family line all the way back to the late 1400s. She left me all her papers. I've got them in a box in my closet."

"My Aunt Moira wrote all this neat stuff about my ancestors. Listen to this. According to Moira, my great grandfather and his two brothers had a wagon race and when crossing a creek, one of them overturned the wagon and was drowned. Moira thinks this is why the other brother became a preacher."

"Sounds fascinating," Roy commented, sipping his coffee as he leaned over to peer at the book Johnny was engrossed in. "Is that by your Aunt?" Roy asked Chet.

"No, this is older. It's supposed to be a family history from my great great grandmother written in the mid 1800s."

"I'll be…" Johnny muttered just as the tones went off.

As it was a call only for the squad, Chet sat back down, his interest back on his family history.

The paramedics returned to the station two hours later, only to find the engine gone. It was Roy's turn to cook so he began gathering his ingredients to begin preparation.

Johnny disappeared into the dorm, returning with the book he had been reading earlier along with a legal pad from the captain's office. He sat at the kitchen table, furiously writing on the pad.

"Johnny? What are you doing?" Roy asked curiously. Receiving no answer, he tried again. "Johnny?"

"Huh?" His partner looked up, blinking.

"What are you doing with Chet's stuff?"

"I'm not sure, but I found something…" he broke off as he heard the engine backing into the bay.

Roy watched as his partner scrambled out of the kitchen, book and paper in hand. He hoped the engine and Johnny didn't meet in front of the dorm entrance if that was where the paramedic was heading. Shaking his head, Roy returned to chopping vegetables. It never paid to probe too deeply into Johnny's thought processes. A person could get lost.

"What's for lunch, Roy?" Captain Stanley peered over the paramedic's shoulder.

"Linguini with broccoli, carrots, and black olives, lightly coated with extra virgin olive oil."

"Sounds good," Stanley commented.

"Sounds healthy," Chet muttered.

"And that is a problem?" Roy retorted.

"Of course not," said Cap meaningfully, looking at his ornery firefighter. "Is it, Kelly?"

"Of course not," Chet repeated with a grimace. He looked up as Johnny shot through the door. "Hey, where's the fire?" Realizing what he had said, Chet snickered. "Where's the fire? Man, I break myself up."

"Good thing, 'cause nobody else is," Johnny said, moving to set the table. He edged by engineer Mike Stoker, leaning against the counter and doing what he usually did, watching the conversation with no words and a twinkle in his eye.

Roy called Stoker the E.F. Hutton of the fire department. When Stoker spoke, everyone listened. He wasn't speaking now. But from the faint smile on his face and the slight crinkle around his eyes, Stoker was enjoying the show.

"Gage, you wouldn't know funny if it bit you."

"Neither would you, Chet," Johnny replied, sorting through the silverware and pulling out the necessary implements. "Oh, wait a minute. Excuse me, I'm wrong. Your last date said you were hilarious in your kissing skills."

"What Katie said was that my mustache tickled when we kissed. And how come you were paying such close attention to what my date was saying when you had Angie as your date. Ah, struck out again, huh? Man, you can't even make it through one date now. Do they have Indian monks?"

"Chet, why don't you…look, you better…aw, shut up."

"Another wonderful comeback, Gage. You should write these down," Chet cracked.

Marco, seeing that Johnny's patience was at an end, stepped in and distracted Chet with talk about the World Series. Meanwhile, Roy engaged his partner in calming conversation about Halloween and his kids' plans for trick or treating with their Uncle Johnny.

Lunch passed as calmly as was possible in a busy station house. The squad was called out just as Johnny finished pouring milk out for the hungry men. Johnny, who had enjoyed the linguini recipe at Roy's house, threatened Chet if there wasn't any food remaining upon their return.

Returning from the hospital, Roy remembered the frantic note taking and rush to hide it from Chet. "What was all the secrecy about with the journal?"

Johnny didn't pretend not to know what Roy was talking about. "It's a scary thought, but…I saw a name I recognized in Chet's family tree."

"Somebody famous?" Roy pulled up on the street in front of the station, preparing to back into the garage.

"Nope, somebody related."

Roy processed the reply, a grin spreading across his face as he realized exactly what his friend meant. "You and Chet…"

"…could be cousins. Man, the very idea makes me nauseous. Roy, you can stop laughing any time now. Roy, you need to slow down. Roy!"

"So, gentlemen," Captain Hank Stanley asked his two paramedics, "would you like to explain how you managed to miss the entrance to the station? Completely miss it?"

"Well…"

"Uh, it was just…"

Sighing, Stanley shook his head. "I don't expect this type of thing from you, Roy. From John, yes, but not from you."

"Hey! I resent that. I've never crashed the squad…well, not really…it was just a little…the sun was too…and the wall was in the wrong place, that's all." Johnny stumbled over his protest, remembering a too sunny day, the squad, and a brick wall. "Besides, I never get to drive the squad." He rubbed his arm, grimacing.

Stanley huffed, turning to call Charley to report the accident and request a tow truck and replacement squad. It wouldn't be pleasant.

"How's the arm, Junior?" Roy asked softly, touching his own nose and forehead gingerly.

"Just a little sore. How's your head?" Johnny returned, eyeing the bruises on his partner's face.

"I'll live. Until Joanne hears about it."

"Maybe she won't find out," Johnny offered hopefully.

Roy gestured to his face. "I think this might make her curious."

"Oh. Yeah." Johnny slumped in his seat, darting glances at his friend. "Uh, I'm sorry, Roy. I didn't mean to make you lose control of the squad."

"That's okay. It was just so…unexpected."

"Yeah."

"When are you going to tell Chet?"

"Never!"

"Johnny."

"Okay, okay. I'll tell him as soon as I know for certain. I mean, I haven't gone through Aunt Lottie's papers yet. I might be wrong about the name."

"Are you?"

"Nah, I don't think so." Johnny could imagine the reaction of his adversary when Chet found out that he and Johnny were related. "Maybe I could transfer."

"As much as that thought occasionally brings me comfort, John, I think that's overreacting, don't you think?" Captain Stanley interrupted the gloomy young paramedic's musings. "Besides, it wasn't your fault." He paused, then continued. "Was it?"

"Uh, well…it might've been…well, yeah, kinda."

"Cap, Johnny told me something I wasn't expecting. It distracted me and I forgot I was still backing up into the bay."

"And what did you say, John, that was so astounding that your partner forgot he was operating a three ton vehicle?" Stanley asked.

"It wasn't important, Cap." Johnny wiggled in his seat, desperate to avoid telling his Captain.

"It was important enough that it caused your partner to hit the side of the building, missing completely the very large opening into the garage. An opening, I might add, that was empty of the engine. It was important enough that you and Roy are now bruised and battered from the abrupt stop! It was important enough that I have to call the Chief and put you out of service until Charley can get here with a replacement vehicle! It was IMPORTANT enough that I had to endure a conversation with Charley to tell him that one of HIS vehicles had been damaged extensively due to the CARELESSNESS of my men!" Stanley's voice got louder and louder with each sentence, causing both paramedics to cringe and slump lower into their chairs on the other side of the captain's desk. "So I think I have the RIGHT to know what the hell was so all-fired IMPORTANT!"

"IthinkChetandIcouldberelated," Johnny whispered in a rush.

"Excuse me? Repeat that, slowly, with pauses between the words," their Captain ordered.

"I-think-Chet-and-I-are-related." Johnny repeated slowly, but still in a whisper. He knew Stanley heard when his face went from irate to confused to dumfounded.

Stanley turned to Roy. "Did I just hear what I thought I heard?"

Roy nodded vigorously, then moaned at the pain this movement started in his battered nose. "Yes, sir. The terrible two may actually be related. Cousins, maybe."

It was too much for Captain Stanley. He broke down in hysterical laughter, tears running from his eyes. He waved the paramedics from his office, wiping at his face with the heels of his hands. "Dis-dis-missed," he choked out.

The two men escaped, running into three eavesdropping firefighters who suddenly found the ceiling and the floor of great interest.

"So, Gage, you suspended?"

"No, Chet, I'm not suspended. Don't you have something to do? Like go play in traffic?"

Johnny tried to act normal, but his heart wasn't in it. Instead he found himself looking for signs of family traits, a chin, the shape of the nose, anything that he might've missed until discovering their common ancestor. But there was nothing. Although Chet's hair was dark, his mustache was auburn. Despite his alleged Cherokee background, Chet's eyes were blue, not brown. Although the Cherokees had intermingled so much with Europeans, it wasn't uncommon to find blue and gray eyes in the tribe. Chet was short and stocky. All the men in the Gage family were tall and thin, on both sides.

It wasn't until Roy touched him on the arm that Johnny realized that Marco was asking him a question. And had repeated the question at least once. "Huh? Sorry, Marco, I didn't hear you."

"Are you okay, Johnny? You didn't hit your head in the accident, did you?" The Hispanic firefighter asked in concern.

"Nah, Roy hit his head. I just banged up my arm and shoulder. Why d'ya ask?"

"I wondered what happened. How did you crash the squad into the corner of the station?"

"Man, I didn't crash it! Why does everyone think it was my fault? I wasn't even driving. Ask Roy what happened…NO! Don't ask Roy! Roy?"

"I haven't said anything and I won't, Johnny, not until you're ready." Roy began snickering again as he looked from Chet to his partner. "If you're ever ready." He walked off, still fighting a case of the giggles. "But, Johnny," he called back, "I am telling Joanne."

"Oh, man! Why me?" Johnny tried to leave, only to have Chet on his heels while Marco and Stoker exchanged puzzled glances and the sounds of laughter leaked from the Captain's office.

2.

Johnny was sitting in front of his locker when Roy arrived. "Hey, partner."

With a sigh, Johnny returned the greeting. "Roy."

"Bad couple of days off?"

"Yeah. Well, no. Not exactly."

"That's clear. Girl trouble?"

"Worse. Chet trouble." Johnny got to his feet and started changing for shift.

"Ah, you found your aunt's genealogy papers."

"Uh huh. And I was right. Seems that my…" Johnny bit his lip as he tried to remember the exact relationship. "My paternal great great grandfather's sister was Chet's maternal great great grandmother."

"So you're, what, cousins?" Roy asked curiously.

"Yeah, I guess. Something removed, I think. I never could get all that straight past a few generations." Johnny tossed his shaving kit onto the bench. "Man, how am I gonna tell him?"

"And how is he going to take it?" Roy wondered, a reluctant smile crossing his face.

"Worse, how is he goin' to exploit it?"

"I've gotta admit, hotshot, this is not something I ever thought to hear. You and Chet being…"

"Shhhhhhh! He could be listening! You know how he likes to eavesdrop."

"Eavesdrop on what, Gage?" As if conjured by the mention of his name, Chet popped out from behind the lockers.

"How long were you there, Chet?" Johnny asked suspiciously.

"Why? Did I miss something?" The firefighter was looking from Roy to Johnny and back again, certain something was going on, but what escaped him.

"No!"

"Johnny, don't you think now would be a good time to…you know?" Roy asked, motioning at Chet.

"I…"

"Good time to what?" Chet interrupted, even more intrigued by the conversation between the two paramedics.

"Chet, I have something to…tell you and…" Johnny's faltering speech was interrupted by the tones. The three men, all dressed for duty, scrambled out the door to the bay, met by crewmates, Stoker and Marco. The men waved off the "C" shift, taking the call as Captain Stanley acknowledged dispatch.

The engine crew came dragging in from the multistory structure fire. They found that the squad still hadn't returned to the station, but whether they were still at the hospital or on another call was not known.

After everyone had gulped down some fresh coffee, they hit the shower, one by one. Chet and Marco worked quietly side by side, fixing sandwiches while soup simmered on the stove.

"Marco, do you know what's goin' on with Gage and DeSoto?"

"Like what?" Marco tasted the soup, added some spices from a bottle.

"I don't know, but Roy wanted Gage to tell me something at the beginning of shift. Something Gage seemed reluctant to bring up." Chet told his friend, frowning. "You don't think anything is wrong, do you?"

Marco hid a smile. Although Chet made Johnny's life a living hell at times, there was an underlying friendship that went beyond even the bonds of brotherhood known in the fire services. "Why don't you ask him?"

"Me? Ask John Gage to explain himself? Not a chance!"

Chet's wild gestures while speaking reminded Marco of the paramedic in question. He shook his head in mild exasperation. "Well, then you'll have to wait until Johnny is ready to tell you."

"Wait? I'm not waiting for anything. I'll get it out of the pigeon, mark my words." Chet grinned evilly.

They heard the squad back into the bay, but neither Roy nor Johnny appeared in the kitchen. Captain Stanley, concerned, walked out to the squad. Marco stopped Chet from following.

"Leave them, Chet. It must've been a bad run. Let Cap check it out first."

They continued setting the table, now assisted by their engineer, all three men keeping one eye on the door. Finally Stanley returned to the kitchen, followed by a subdued John Gage. Johnny went straight to the couch, throwing himself down beside Henry, the basset hound who had suddenly appeared one day. Henry moved closer to Johnny, sensing the need for doggie comfort and companionship.

"Cap, where's Roy?" Stoker asked quietly.

"Calling his wife. They had a call after leaving the hospital, a child down. It was a little girl, about 5 years old. The child's mother poured a pot of boiling water on her."

"Why?" Stoker couldn't fathom such an action.

"She was playing around in the kitchen, using the pots for drums." Johnny answered the question, his voice husky. "The mother wanted to teach her that pots weren't toys."

"Will she be okay?" Chet asked, a softie where children were concerned.

Johnny shook his head violently, jumping to his feet and dislodging Henry. He ran from the room. The three firefighters looked at Stanley.

"She had third degree burns all over her upper body. She died of respiratory failure on the way to Rampart. Johnny was riding with her."

Marco crossed himself, turning to stir the soup, then choking as he saw the pot it was cooking in. Stoker walked out to the bay to sit on Big Red's front bumper. Chet followed Johnny. Stanley walked towards his office, only to hear the soft murmur of Roy's voice. He went back to the kitchen to begin putting the sandwich fixings back into the refrigerator. No one would be eating for a while.

Chet sat on the wall separating the station's parking lot from the interstate, watching Johnny work himself into exhaustion shooting baskets. He knew the wet on the paramedic's cheeks were more than sweat. He waited until Johnny was forced to stop, bending over and leaning on his knees, his back heaving in the struggle for breath. When Johnny wobbled while trying to walk across the lot, Chet jumped down and hurried to his station mate's side, supporting him to the Rover. He maneuvered Johnny about until he could get the car door open and let the trembling man collapse into the seat.

"Was she…conscious?" Chet asked.

"God, yeah. But, it was strange. She didn't seem to be in pain. I don't know if it was due to shock or the nerves being destroyed." Johnny rested his head back on the seat, staring blindly at the parking lot.

"Thank God."

"She just looked at me. I don't think she understood why her mother did that. But I swear, Chet, I swear, she was smiling at me. I could see it in her eyes, ya know?"

"At least she wasn't alone. You were there for her, Johnny."

"Why the hell couldn't I have been there sooner?" Johnny sniffed. "Could you…would you mind leaving me alone, Chet? I really need to be…by myself for a while."

Chet reached over and gripped Johnny's upper arm in mute support. "Don't stay out here brooding for too long, okay?"

"Yeah, I hear ya." As Chet began to walk away, Johnny called out to him. "Hey." When Chet turned to look at him, "thanks."

Chet walked into the station to find Roy and Captain Stanley watching. He nodded, continuing on to the kitchen. "Let's eat, guys. At least let's have some of Marco's momma's homemade soup."

Roy stared out the back door toward his partner. "Dix said Johnny was holding her in his arms when they opened the ambulance doors at Rampart. He wouldn't let the attendants touch her. He carried her into the treatment room himself. The kids tear him up."

"Like you're different?" Chet commented.

"It bothers me, sure. But I have one advantage."

"Joanne." Captain Stanley stated, knowing how much his own wife helped him survive bad runs.

"Joanne. And the kids."

It was a quiet night, for which all the men of Station 51 were thankful. There wasn't one call after midnight until the wake-up tones sounded. They dragged through their morning ablations and prepared to head to their respective homes.

"Johnny, you're coming home with me," Roy announced.

"Uh, Roy, I don't think I'd be really good company."

"Jo's orders. If you don't want to come, you can call her and tell her."

"No thanks. I'll follow you home."

"Hey, Johnny," Chet called as he saw the paramedic climbing into the Rover. "Wanna come over to my place for breakfast?"

"Nah, I'm heading to Roy's place."

"You were wanting to tell me something when shift started yesterday."

Johnny searched his memory, a weak smile starting to appear as it came back to him. "Oh, yeah. Yeah, I did wanna talk to you, but I can't right now. If I know Joanne, she's waiting with a big breakfast. Look, why don't you come over to my place this evening. We can watch the game afterward."

"What time?"

"How about 6:30? We'll order pizza and I'll pick up some beer."

"Sounds good. See you then. And, Johnny? You did all you could."

"Yeah, but I wish it could've been more."

"I know. See you later."

Joanne did have pancakes and sausage waiting for her husband and his partner, along with large glasses of milk and two adoring children. "Chris, don't eat with your mouth open."

"Uncle Johnny does," the youngster replied.

"Uncle Johnny is an adult. You are not."

Redfaced, Johnny closed his mouth. "Sorry, Jo," he mumbled.

She patted his hand. "That's alright, Johnny. If that's the worst habit of yours that they pick up, I'll be happy."

Johnny stopped chewing, trying to decide if he'd been insulted or not. And what other bad habits she was referring to. He finally gave up, digging into his breakfast once again.

"Oh, honey, I haven't told you the news." Roy's grin was wicked. "Johnny discovered a family member who lives very close by."

"Oh? That's nice, Johnny. Roy, he's choking. Maybe you should use that Heimlich thing on him."

"No," Johnny waved his partner away, swallowing with difficulty the mouthful of pancakes. He washed it down with milk. "I'm fine."

"You sure, Unca Johnny? You were sad when you got here." Jenny snuggled up against the chair of her favorite honorary uncle.

"Yeah, I was, princess. But you made it all better."

"Roy DeSoto, what is so funny about Johnny finding family?" Joanne watched her husband fighting a case of the giggles.

"It's…gasp…who he's…related to…"

"Roy, that's how you got those lovely bruises on your face. Do you want more?" Johnny threatened, fist in the air.

"Unca Johnny, are you gonna hit my daddy?" Jenny asked curiously.

"Uh, no, baby. I'm just teasing your dad. I wouldn't really hit him," he said, at least not in front of you and Chris, he thought to himself.

"Okay, tell me."

"I'm related to Chet," Johnny announced, deciding he couldn't put the bad news off any longer.

"Chet? Chet Kelly?" Joanne frowned, uncertain she has heard right. "The man you call the Phantom?"

"Yep."

"Small guy? Mustache?" Joanne continued, still disbelieving. "What sort of joke is this, Roy DeSoto?"

"No joke, hon. And, Johnny is telling him tonight."

Johnny explained what had happened and how the two men's family trees had the same branch. By the time he was done, Joanne DeSoto was fighting giggles of her own.

"Uncle Johnny?" Chris looked at his parents in confusion.

"Yeah, sport?"

"Why are momma and daddy laughing?"

"They're weird."

"Johnny, call Chet and tell him that you guys will be meeting here tonight. I simply have to see this." Joanne ordered the hapless paramedic.

"Jo," he protested uselessly.

"I'll get a sitter for the kids." She got to her feet, cleaning the table. "And, if you're going to watch the game, we'll need some munchies. Roy, you can go to the store after you wake up."

"Joanne." Johnny tried again, but when his partner's wife got an idea in her head, there was nothing else to do but go along.

"Now, Johnny, you go home, get some sleep and come back here at 6 p.m. I'll fix some dinner. How about pot roast, browned potatoes and carrots? With a nice apple pie for dessert?"

Johnny was weakening and she knew it. The way to Johnny's heart was a direct line through his stomach. He was painfully thin, yet managed to eat like a stevedore.

"Don't forget to call Chet before he drives to your place. Now, shoo, let me get to work." She kissed Roy lingeringly on the lips, planted a quick kiss on Johnny's cheek, and sent her children to their bedrooms to play quietly until their father awoke from his nap.

Chet arrived at Roy's house before Johnny did, wondering why Joanne was giving him strange looks. "Joanne, is something wrong?" He looked down at himself, worried that he might have forgotten to zip up.

"No, of course not. Would you like a beer? Or maybe something stronger?" She quickly looked away.

Chet was getting the creeps. Roy's wife acted like she knew something Chet didn't. And, he wondered, why were they meeting at Roy's place anyway? Roy wasn't a big fan of baseball or any professional sport, for that matter. "Where are the munchkins?"

"We thought it would be best if they weren't here when Johnny tells you," she faltered. "Well, when he tells you what he has to tell you."

They're all starting to sound like Gage, Chet thought. "Do you know what it is?"

"Yes, Roy started to tell me, but it was too much for him, so Johnny had to."

Oh, man, this is worse than I imagined. It must be very serious if Roy couldn't handle it.

"Where is Roy?"

"In the garage. He's making a special urn for Johnny."

Now Chet was really worried. To him an urn could only mean one thing and it wasn't good. Before he could pursue that subject with Joanne, Johnny came bouncing into the room. "Hi, Jo! Hey, Chet. Where's Roy?"

"In the garage. Get him for me, will you, Johnny? I'm ready to put the dinner on the table. Chet, do you need to clean up?"

"Yes, ma'am," came from Johnny.

"No, I'm good," replied Chet, peering at Johnny as he went to the side entrance to the garage.

Johnny and Roy came in from the garage together, Roy wiping his eyes. Chet sat down at the dinner table with the others, but found his stomach tied in knots. He had to force himself to eat the meal Joanne had so carefully prepared. He was further disturbed to see Johnny pushing the food around his plate and eating less than he normally did. They engaged in mild chitchat, from what happened at work to how the kids were planning to spend Halloween in four more days. Finally the meal was over. Joanne sent the three men out of the kitchen while she cleaned off the table.

"You boys have things to discuss. After it's done, if you're still in the mood, I'll serve pie and ice cream. Chet?" Joanne looked at Johnny's nemesis with a motherly look and a peculiar expression on her face. "I want you to listen to Johnny without getting upset. Okay?"

"Uh, sure. I guess." He followed the paramedics into the living room, noticing that neither Johnny nor Roy would meet his eyes. "What's going on? Gage? Johnny?"

"Well, you see…" Johnny paced about the room. "Man, this is hard."

"Tell me! Are you sick or something? Are you…dying?"

"Dying?"

"Dying!"

"Oh, Chet," Joanne's soft voice came from the doorway of the kitchen. "Whatever made you think that?"

"Well, Roy crashed the squad in our driveway because Gage told him something so…so…so horrible, so surprising that he lost control of his vehicle. And then, Gage has been trying to tell me something for a couple of days now. Suddenly I'm invited to your house to watch a baseball game, something Roy doesn't really care about. And he's making an urn…an urn for Johnny!"

"Well, sure I'm making Johnny an urn. It's for his landlady. She wants to replace the one that was in front of the apartment complex. They're too expensive, so he asked me to make one for her. What did you think it was for?" Roy asked.

"Well, urns are usually used for…well, you know, for ashes," Chet muttered, realizing that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. "And you were cryin', Roy."

"And I wasn't crying, I was sweating from the heat from the kiln. The sweat ran into my eyes and was stinging."

"Ashes?" Johnny finally realized what his nemesis was talking about and began laughing. "He thought I was gonna be cremated."

"Hopefully after you were dead," Roy commented.

"Not if I have my way." Chet didn't think it was funny at all. He was ready to stalk out of the house when Joanne laid her hand on his arm.

"Chet, that is so sweet. You were worried, weren't you?" She beamed at him, seeing once again the caring man underneath the jokester.

"Nah, of course not." He would deny it to his dying breath. That wasn't how their relationship went. "So if you're not dying, what the hell…excuse me, Joanne…what do you want to tell me."

"You're on, Junior." Roy sat back on the couch, grinning. He was joined by his wife, and flung his arm around her.

"Well, you see, when you brought all that genealogy stuff in, the stuff from your Aunt Moira?"

"Yeah?"

"I saw something…someone whose name I kinda recognized."

"Oh yeah? Someone famous? The Kelly genes strike again!"

"No, not somebody famous. Somebody related."

"Huh?"

"What Johnny is trying not to say is that you and he share a common ancestor." Roy was tired of the shilly-shallying and got to the point.

While Chet sat in numbed disbelief, Joanne, Roy and Johnny watched. And waited.

"Related. You and I are related? How?"

Johnny explained it, pulling out a family tree from his Aunt Lottie's papers and compared it with the quick copy he had done of Chet's journal.

"I've gotta think." Chet walked to the back deck, snagging a beer on the way.

Johnny and Roy sat in the living room. Joanne began bustling about the kitchen, cleaning the dishes, stacking them in the drainer. All the while she watched out the window as Chet paced back and forth, leaned against the edge of the deck, and then started laughing. She smiled. It was going to be okay.

Chet came back into the house, winked at Joanne, stalked into the living room and confronted the two men. "It doesn't leave this room. Understand? Nobody, and I mean nobody, is to know that I am…gag… related to walking disaster magnet."

"Hey! I don't particularly want anyone to know I'm related to you either, Chester B," Johnny retorted, grimacing.

"So, are we agreed? This doesn't leave this room?" Chet demanded.

"Agreed."

"Uh, guys?" Roy interrupted the rare moment of solidarity. "Remember me? I was so looking forward to letting the rest of the station know about this new family connection."

Chet and Johnny turned in unison and glared at Roy. He sat there grinning. It wasn't often that he could get both of them. He was planning to enjoy it.

"Roy DeSoto! You will do as Johnny and Chet want. They'll tell everyone when they're ready to. Now, since we know that Johnny isn't dying and that Roy will keep his mouth shut, let's have pie. Johnny, get the ice cream. Chet, will you get the plates. Roy, bring the pie over here."

The game over, their bellies full from dinner and munchies, Chet and Johnny left the DeSoto house at the same time, walking to their respective cars. Johnny leaned against the Rover and looked at Chet. His brother in all but blood was now distant cousin by blood.

"So," Johnny said with a wry grin, "what do you think?"

Chet shook his head. "Damnedest thing I've ever heard of. You and me…related. I really don't want the others in the department to find out about this. At least, not for the time being. I need to think it through."

"Yeah, you know what they'd do with it. But I don't know how long we can keep it quiet. I mean, Cap knows. I think we should tell Mike and Marco, don't you? I mean, they're…" Johnny hesitated.

"…family. Huh, I swear, Gage, you are the last guy I ever thought to be related to." Chet smiled evilly. "You know what this means, don't you?"

"Uh, no." Johnny looked at his nemesis. "What?"

"You have to come to the Kelly family reunions. And as soon as I tell her, my mother will be looking for a 'sweet colleen' for you to marry! Welcome to the family, Gage."

"Kelly? Why don't you just…go home, okay? I'll see you at work." Johnny smiled, waving a hand in farewell before climbing into the Rover.

Chet laughed, getting into his Volkswagen van. "Not if I see you first. And, Gage, just because we're cousins doesn't mean that Phantom will give you a break."

"Wouldn't think that for a moment, Chet. Have a good one."

The End

Nov. 2003