Should Have

Should Have

By Mady Bay – [email protected]

Written – Summer, 1998

Disclaimer – No, I don't own any of the CHiPs or Emergency! characters. As if…

Author's Note – This is a companion piece to Deb Flint's story "New Skills," which can be found on the Emergency! fanzine page, "KMG-365." They can be read independently. They are just different perspectives of an incident. Thanks Deb! It also follows the Bear/Sindy relationship set in "Sunset."

Should Have

Bear yawned as he pulled onto the 405. So far the first two hours of the day shift had been relatively uneventful. He'd stopped a couple of speeders, but that was about it. He yawned again, vowing to pull off soon to get some much-needed caffeine into his system. He had worked some overtime during the midnight shift and it was catching up to him. One of the midnight guys had to leave early for a family emergency and Bear was next on the list of day shift officers to 'volunteer' for the overtime. So, at 2:30 AM he showed up for duty. After only two hours of sleep, he was NOT bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He smiled, though, at the thought. He had been out late with Sindy, double dating with Johnny Gage and his latest girlfriend. He yawned again. Then the radio squawked to life.

"LA to any unit near the 405 interchange at Valley. Multiple car MVA with injuries," the dispatcher called. "Paramedics enroute," she added.

"LA, Fifteen Seven Adam responding," Bear replied quickly as he flipped on his car's siren and overhead lights.

Bear heard Jon and Ponch, as well as Sindy respond to the call. He was only a couple of miles away from the accident, but it was rush hour. He hoped people would actually move over and out of his way for a change, heeding the lights and siren. When he got near the scene, he saw Jon and Ponch already starting to direct traffic, getting it moving again. Sindy was helping some of the injured people until the paramedics could take over. He got out of his car as one of the fire department's squads drove by. He waved to the familiar face in the passenger seat. Johnny gave him a mock salute in reply. Bear smiled and headed toward the scene, directing a few cars as he walked between them. He was nearing one car when he heard a woman scream. He saw a teenage boy run from the car, carrying the woman's purse.

"Stop! Police!" he yelled at the boy.

Bear quickly checked on the woman, saw that she was uninjured, and started to run after the boy. He was weaving in and out of the slow moving traffic. He thought he saw something shiny in the boy's hand and realized it was a knife. He tried to run faster as the boy got closer to the accident scene, where paramedics, officers and civilians were all gathered outside their vehicles.

"Jon! He's got a knife!" he shouted, hoping Jon or Ponch would intercept the boy.

But the honking horns of the cars stuck in the traffic jam and the sirens of the approaching ambulances drowned out his warning. The boy looked back defiantly at Bear, who was getting closer, now. But just before Bear caught up with the boy he lashed out with the knife, plunging it into the side of one of the paramedics next to him.

"NO!!!" Bear screamed, seeing who that paramedic was.

Bear tackled the boy to the ground, hitting the pavement hard. The boy struggled, lashing out with the knife as Bear tried to gain control of it. He finally grabbed it out of the boy's hands and tossed it aside. He rolled the boy onto his stomach and handcuffed him. Before he knew it, Jon and Ponch were at his side, helping him up. He didn't even see them approach. Ponch immediately took the boy away and put him in the back of Sindy's patrol car.

"What happened?" Jon asked.

"Kid took a purse from a woman back there," he panted, pointing toward the cars backed up. "I chased him, then-," he continued, then stopped, mid-sentence.

Bear ran toward the median. He heard Johnny tell Roy that he couldn't breathe. Bear felt like he couldn't breathe at that moment. Guilt washed over him. He should have caught the boy sooner. He should have run faster. He should have yelled louder. He should have warned Johnny, somehow. He wanted to go to him. He wanted to be the one holding onto him, instead of Chet. So he could say he was sorry. So he could help. But he knew he would just be in the way. He looked at Johnny. He didn't look too good. He heard Roy call the hospital. It didn't sound good either. He watched in horror as Roy inserted a needle into Johnny's chest. He was startled as someone touched his arm. He looked to see Sindy and Jon on either side of him.

"Come on, Bear, sit down," Sindy said.

"I'm fine," he replied, shrugging away from them, returning his gaze to Johnny.

"No, you're not, Bear," Jon said. "You're hurt, too."

Bear looked at them, confused. Then he looked at himself. He saw his uniform stained with blood in several places, where the boy's knife had managed to cut him during the struggle. Suddenly Bear wasn't feeling too good. Jon and Sindy eased him to the ground. Sindy held him as Jon went to get some help.

He returned with Captain Stanley who was carrying a small trauma box. They wrapped bandages around wounds on Bear's leg, upper arm, side and hands.

"None of them look too deep," Captain Stanley remarked. "But you should have them checked out at Rampart anyway. They might need stitches," he added.

Bear nodded his head as he watched the ambulance carrying Johnny speed away from the scene. He felt Sindy put her arm around his shoulders, giving them a squeeze. He knew she knew what he was feeling. She knew how close he and Johnny were. And Johnny was just as much her friend now, as his.

Captain Stanley packed up the trauma box and headed back to his own men. He'd have his own morale problems to deal with.

"You okay?" Jon asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Bear replied.

Sindy looked at him, knowingly.

"Come on, we have a suspect to transport," she said as she and Jon helped Bear up. "Then we'll get you looked at."

Bear was about to get into the patrol car with Sindy to transport the boy back to Central when Sergeant Gatraer stopped them.

"Sindy, you and Ponch take this guy back to Central," he started. "Bear, I want you to go to the hospital, now. Jon will take you," he continued.

"But Sarge, I'm fine," Bear protested.

"No, you're not, Baricza. You're going to the hospital and you're not coming back without a doctor's note," Gatraer countered. "Now go," he added, motioning to Jon.

Bear sighed. He closed the door to the patrol car and followed Jon back to where he had parked his own patrol car, limping slightly.

"Come on, Bear," Jon began, putting his hand on Bear's shoulder. "You know it's for the best. This way you can check on Johnny and we won't have to worry about you adding a few bruises to the suspect," he finished.

Bear looked up sharply at that last remark.

"Don't worry. We know you'd never do that, Bear," Jon chided.

Bear gave Jon a weak smile in return. But deep down, he really did want to add more than a few bruises to that boy. Especially if Johnny didn't make it – 'NO!' he scolded himself, interrupting the grim thought. He stopped, squeezing his eyes shut. 'Johnny HAD to make it. He WOULD make it,' he said to himself, trying to think positively.

"Bear?" Jon called, interrupting Bear's thoughts. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sorry," he replied, handing Jon the car keys as they approached the patrol car.

***

Jon sat with Bear in the waiting room at Rampart. Johnny and a couple of the car accident victims were injured much more severely than he was, so he had to wait. "Worst Come, First Served," being the motto of this emergency room. Bear saw a flurry of activity outside one of the trauma rooms. He saw Johnny being wheeled out on a gurney. They were bringing him down towards the elevators. Soon after, Roy exited the trauma room. Bear limped over to him.

"How is he?" he asked, his voice trembling despite his efforts to control it.

"He's pretty bad," Roy replied, his own voice trembling. "They're taking him to surgery to try to stop the bleeding and repair his lung," he added, looking down the hall at the elevators.

"I'm sorry, Roy," Bear said, looking down. "I should have caught him sooner. I should have-," he started, only to be cut off.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Bear," Roy said, putting his hand on Bear's arm.

Roy was going to continue when Carol called Bear's name. It was his turn to be checked out.

***

A little over an hour later, Bear was still sitting on the exam table in Treatment Room 3. He looked down at the twenty stitches on his thigh that Dr. Joe Early had just finished stitching. He looked at the matching ones on his upper arm and side, as well. Surprisingly, he didn't get any on his hands. There was a light knocking at the door. Joe Gatraer peeked in.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

"Sure, we're just about finished," Early replied.

Gatraer entered and approached Bear.

"How is he, Doc?" he asked.

"A pretty lucky young man," Early replied. "I put about fifty stitches into him, overall. And it's a good thing he was wearing his vest, or he'd have had quite a few more, judging from the slash marks on it," he added, gesturing toward the Kevlar vest lying on a chair.

Gatraer nodded.

"Will he be able to come back to the office to give a statement today?" he asked.

"I'm fine, Sarge," Bear interjected, not wanting to be left out of the conversation anymore.

"If it's necessary and you're up to it, I have no problem," Early said. "However, I want you to stay off that leg and rest as much as possible for the next few days. I'll give you a prescription for some pain meds and instructions for caring for the wounds," he added. "I'll be right back," he said before leaving the room.

"I brought you some clean clothes," Gatraer said to Bear, gesturing to the bundle he held. "I figured, you'd need them," he added.

"Yeah," Bear replied lightly, smoothing the sheet laying across his hips, the only thing he was wearing at the moment. "My uniform is over there in the corner. I had them bag it for evidence," he added.

"Way ahead of me, as usual," Gatraer said with a smile.

"The kid say anything?" Bear asked, wincing as he tried to get his shirt on.

"No, he's already lawyered up," Gatraer responded, helping Bear with his shirt and eventually the rest of his clothing as well.

Bear received his prescription and instructions from Dr. Early and checked on Johnny's condition as well, before heading back to Central with Jon and Gatraer.

Sindy met him at the conference room door. She looked at him, worry and concern in her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to take him into her arms and hold him. She was worried because he was hurt, she'd seen his injuries on the highway. She saw the bulky bandages beneath his clothing now. She also knew he was hurting inside, for Johnny. She was too. But at the office, with an attempted murder suspect in the other room, it had to be all business. So Sindy just smiled for him and gently squeezed his shoulder as he sat down at the table.

About two hours later, with about half of the arrest paperwork and statements done, Sindy returned to check on Bear. She found him asleep at the conference table, pen in hand. She slid the papers out from underneath his arms and shook her head. He'd managed to finish his statement and report and sign his name before falling asleep. She backed out of the room with the paperwork, letting him sleep a little while longer. She headed to Gatraer's office.

"Sarge, I have Bear's report and statement," she said, handing him the paperwork.

"Where's Bear?" he asked.

"He's asleep in the conference room. I didn't want to wake him yet," she replied, sheepishly.

"Why don't you take him home, now, Sindy," Gatraer said. "I don't think there's anything else we need from him today," he added.

"Sure, Sarge," she replied, turning toward the door.

"And, Sindy?" he called.

"Yeah, Sarge?" she asked.

"Why don't you take the rest of the day, too. Use your personal time," he added quietly.

"Thanks, Joe," she said, a slight smile coming to her face.

***

Bear and Sindy wound up at Rampart again. He refused to go home without checking on Johnny again. Sindy relented, knowing that he wouldn't get any rest at home even if she did manage to get him there.

They met up with Roy outside of the ICU.

"He made it through surgery just fine," Roy said, before Sindy or Bear could question him.

"Can we see him?" Bear asked.

"I think I can sneak you in," Roy replied. "Just a few minutes, though."

Bear and Sindy, hand in hand, followed Roy into the ICU, to Johnny. Bear felt Sindy squeeze his hand, reassuring him as he looked at his friend. He looked around, frightened by all the tubes and wires connected to Johnny.

"Really, it's not as bad as it looks," Roy said, trying to allay his own fears as well as Bear and Sindy's.

"He's really going to be okay?" Bear asked.

"The doctor's think he'll recover fully," Roy answered. "It'll just take a little time," he added.

Bear placed his hand on Johnny's and said a silent prayer.

"You get better, you hear me, Gage?" he said, tears threatening to fall.

Sindy turned Bear around and led him out of the room.

"Thanks, Roy," she said. "Keep in touch, okay?" she added.

"Sure," he replied, heading back to Johnny's bedside to continue his vigil.

***

Bear returned the next afternoon. Roy had called him and told him that Johnny had regained consciousness and was making good progress. Bear sat next to the bed in the chair Roy had spent the night in. He would have been there, too, if Sindy and the doctors hadn't ordered him home. He heard what Roy had told him was the "vent" alarm. He looked up and saw Johnny staring at him.

"Hey, Johnny," Bear said quietly, trying to work up a smile.

Johnny nodded to him, his only way of saying "hello."

Bear sighed. He'd been trying to think of what to say to Johnny since it happened. He still hadn't come up with anything viable. Every time he even thought he was ready to say something, tears came to his eyes. He looked at Johnny. Johnny was questioning him with his eyes. He knew something was bothering Bear.

Finally, Bear just spoke his mind.

"Johnny, I am so sorry," he started, his voice trembling. "This is all my fault."

Johnny couldn't believe what he was hearing. He looked at Bear, confusion showing in his eyes.

"I should have caught that kid sooner. I should have run faster. I should have yelled-," he tried to say, but was interrupted by the 'vent' alarm.

He looked up to see Johnny shaking his head.

"Yes!" Bear responded. "If I had just been a little faster, I would have gotten this guy before he got you!"

Johnny just continued to shake his head.

"And maybe he would have stabbed YOU in the chest, instead," Roy said.

Bear looked up and saw Roy and Sindy standing in the doorway.

Johnny nodded his head, pointing toward Roy, agreeing with his statement. Sindy stood behind Bear and put her hands on his shoulders.

"They're right," she said softly. "There are no "should haves" here. You did everything right," she admonished. "That boy was determined to hurt somebody. It didn't matter whom. So stop blaming yourself, okay?"

Johnny and Roy both nodded in agreement.

"I'm just glad you're going to be alright," he quietly said to Johnny.

Johnny smiled as best he could with the tube in his mouth.

***

Three weeks later Bear and Sindy pulled into the parking lot of a small Italian restaurant. They entered lobby and met up with Johnny.

"Where's your date?" Sindy asked.

He looked around before spotting her coming from the ladies' room.

"There she is," he said, a smile coming to his face.

Sara, the nurse from the ICU came to his side, putting her arm around his waist.

"You didn't get enough of him at the hospital?" Bear teased.

"Well, if he could have friends like you, I figure he can't be all bad," she replied.