Near Misses

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

Note: A new look at "An English Visitor", written by Michael Donovan, as suggested by Audrey W. This story begins after Jason has pulled Johnny to safety.

Johnny Gage sat beside the English observer, gasping for breath. "Man, you could've killed yourself."

Jason Channing peered over the edge of the platform, his mustache twitching. "That's a risk we firemen take all the time. Right?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Hey, what's going on? Where is everyone?" Roy DeSoto's voice echoed up from the rock crusher where he waited with the man caught in the machinery.

"Coming!" Johnny leaned back over the edge and shouted down. "We still need the stokes, Cap!"

Jason winced as he reached for the rope tied off to the stokes. Johnny took the rope from him and started pulling.

"You okay?" Johnny asked.

"Pulled my shoulder," Jason replied. "You're heavier than you look."

"That's what Roy always says."

They took the stokes and splint boxes to where Roy was waiting.

/E/

The three men rode down in the snorkel, their patient in the stokes. While Roy and the ambulance attendants removed the stokes and placed it on the stretcher, Captain Stanley laid a hand on both Johnny's and Jason's shoulders.

"Gentlemen." Stanley looked them both over. "Either of you injured?"

"No," replied Jason.

"Yes," said Johnny at the same moment.

"Which is it?" Stanley waited for an answer.

"Jason hurt his shoulder pulling me up."

"Snitch. I believe that's the term," Jason said sotto voce.

"I prefer tattle tale," Chet Kelly offered, listening in.

"Kelly?"

"Yeah, Cap?"

"Don't you have something to do?" Stanley fought not to smile, well aware that the pugnacious firefighter was merely checking on John Gage's condition. The two men were rivals, yet the closest of friends when one of them was in trouble.

"Uh, clean up?"

"Good idea. Why don't you do that?" He waited until Chet moved away before continuing. "Should he ride in the ambulance with Roy?"

"Captain, I'm not…" Jason protested.

"I'm asking John's opinion as a paramedic, Jason."

Johnny carefully probed Jason's arm and shoulder, taking note of the wince and soft gasp uttered by the Britainer. The paramedic thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't think so, Cap. I'll drive him to Rampart in the squad and make sure he's looked at."

Jason shook his head. "It's not a big deal."

"If you're injured, you get checked out. That's the way it is," Captain Stanley explained. "Oh, and John?"

"Yes sir?"

"Good job keeping your helmet on." Stanley walked off to the waiting engine, smiling.

"Jeez," Johnny muttered. "Just 'cause a guy loses a helmet once in a while."

Jason raised an eyebrow as he followed the dark haired paramedic to the ambulance. "Is that a problem for you?"

"A couple of times."

"Roy, how's your patient?" Jason asked.

"He was lucky. Just a broken leg. You riding with me or with Johnny?" Roy asked, perched in the back of the ambulance.

"With John. After what happened…"

"Okay, Roy," Johnny said loudly over Jason's comment. "We'll see you at Rampart."

"What happened? Johnny?" Roy's voice was cut off when Johnny slammed the ambulance door shut, slapping on it twice to signal the ambulance driver to drive off.

"We don't need to mention that little incident to Roy." Johnny said, gathering their paramedic equipment and trash from the work site.

"I'm sorry?" Jason followed along, picking up what he could manage with one arm.

"Roy has a tendency to…um…how do I put this…feel guilty about things that happen when he's not there."

"Things that happen?"

"Well, things that, you know, happen to me, kinda."

Jason frowned. "Things? What type of things?"

"Well, uh," Johnny stammered.

"He means when he screws up and gets hurt or almost hurt."

"Chet, didn't Cap tell you to get lost?" Johnny glared at his mustached station mate.

"He told me to clean up, which I did. Now I'm supposed to help you guys," Chet replied.

"So help. And mind your own business," Johnny retorted.

"Kelly, let's go." Captain Stanley called to his firefighter, hoping to avoid a fight.

Johnny finished gathering their medical trash. "Let's head to Rampart before Roy wonders where we've run off to."

/E/

At Rampart, Johnny looked quickly about the emergency room for his partner. Not seeing him, he grabbed Carol. "Hey, Carol, can you get somebody to check Jason's shoulder?"

"Doctor Early is available in Treatment Three."

"Okay. If Roy is looking for us, don't tell him where we are. Just tell him to go have a coffee in the break room and we'll catch up with him."

"Johnny, what did you do?" Carol asked.

"Nothing. And, no, I'm not hurt."

Jason and Johnny headed to the treatment room. Johnny could feel Jason's eyes on him. "Hey, Dr. Early. Can you look at Jason's arm and shoulder?"

"Of course." Early gestured to the gurney.

After Jason jumped up onto it, Johnny helped him remove his shirt. He explained what had happened and stepped back as the older doctor performed his examination.

"I think you're right, it is just a pulled muscle. Some heat and, if it tightens up, I can give you some muscle relaxants. What about you, John?"

"Me?" Johnny asked innocently, his hand pressed to his chest.

"What are your injuries?"

"I'm not hurt."

"John," Early questioned the paramedic. "You were on the other end of Mr. Channing's arm. Are you certain that you didn't pull anything?"

"Nope, I'm fine." When Early didn't immediately accept his answer, Johnny reiterated. "Honest, I'm just fine."

"Hmmm," Early replied. "If you have any problems of your own, you know where we are."

Early left them alone in the room. Johnny helped Jason back into his shirt. "What? Why are you staring at me?"

"Everyone seems to think you had to have been hurt. Why is that?"

"I don't know," Johnny muttered, watching Jason buttoning his shirt one-handed.

"I see."

The silence became uncomfortable. Finally Johnny broke. "I have…accidents. Sometimes on a rescue I get…hurt."

"Often?"

"Not really, but…well, it's happened often enough that…I guess people expect it. It's embarrassing. I mean, I'm not a klutz, not on the job. Believe me, I'm not," Johnny emphasized.

"But you go all out on a rescue, don't you?" Jason asked softly.

"Yeah. And some of the things that happened to me, they weren't always due to rescues. I mean, not directly."

"Tell me about them."

"Well, there was a rescue at this top secret lab, where I got radiation poisoning."

"Radiation poisoning?"

"Yeah, there was a leak from some type of reactor and I had to get in front of it to help get the victim out."

"Where was Roy?" Jason asked.

"He was there, but I was closer to the leak. I had to spend a while in the hospital for that. Man, I was sick as a dog. Then on another rescue, I fell down an embankment, hurt my knee. Roy was pissed about that. He had just told me to slow down." Johnny sighed.

"That kind of thing happens."

"Yeah, I suppose. And then there was the monkey virus. Now that wasn't my fault!"

"Monkey virus?" Jason repeated, befuddled.

"Oh yeah. See, we went on this rescue call, this woman was real sick, like the flu or pneumonia. And she had this pet monkey. Well, me and another firefighter were playing with it. Only it turns out that this monkey has this virus and both of us got it, so did Doc Brackett. That was scary. The other firefighter? He died." Johnny was silent for a moment.

"Roy?"

"He was fine. He was busy with the patient and didn't mess with the monkey, so he didn't get it."

"I see."

Johnny went on. "I had a couple of close calls. Once while rescuing a kid from a hole in the ground, it started to cave in, but the guys got me out in time." He helped Jason hop off the gurney and they walked out into the hall.

"Any others?" Jason asked as they went in search of Roy.

Johnny thought for a moment. "Well, this wasn't on duty, but when I was dating this lady cop, I hurt my shoulder."

"How?"

"Yeah, Junior, you never would tell me how that happened," Roy said as he came up behind them.

"Jeez, Roy, give a guy a heart attack." Johnny jumped back, grabbing at his chest theatrically.

"What are you two talking about?" Roy asked.

"John was telling me about some incidents where he was hurt." Jason watched as Roy's smiling face turned somber.

"Yeah, there were a few of them. Did you mention the time you got trapped in the building where there was a bomb set to go off?"

"And I was caught by a beam on my leg. You got me out just in time." Johnny exchanged looks with his partner. "That was too close."

"You're telling me."

"Oh, then there was the time that house was collapsing, remember?" Johnny asked Roy.

"You got out of that one with just a sore shoulder," Roy responded.

Johnny explained in more detail to a fascinated Jason. "See, we have these homes on stilts on the side of the hills around here. These guys didn't have the house inspected and the wood began to give out. The owner was caught underneath. I had to go in after him."

"And where were you, Roy?"

Roy heard the insinuation and frowned. Johnny, who didn't catch it, answered for him. "Roy was up top. There wasn't enough room for the both of us."

They waved goodbye to Dixie, busy at the nurse's station, and strolled out to the squad. Johnny continued searching his memory for other incidents.

Jason moved to the middle of the squad seat, turning his attention to Roy. "How many times have you been injured, Roy?"

"Some minor scrapes. I've been lucky."

Jason nodded. "Any others, John?"

"There were some minor incidents. I remember falling off a second story staircase pulling a baby from a fire, but I was only badly bruised on that one, because of falling on the SCBA. And on a tower climb, I slipped. I was lucky, I caught myself under the arm, but, man, it sure hurt. And on that fire where I was moving the bookcase full of books, I hurt my shoulder. Morton was a pain in the ass on that one! Said I was soft! Can you believe that? Me, soft!"

"And the snakebite," Roy added softly.

"Snakebite?" Jason exclaimed.

"Yeah, we had this MVA, motor vehicle accident, with a car full of kids who drove off the side of a hill. We got them out, but when I went back for the HT, a rattler bit me. That was scary." Johnny shook his head in remembrance. "I don't like snakes to this day. And having to treat myself wasn't fun either."

"You had to what?" Jason shook his head in amazement.

"Well, we were way out in the boonies and Roy wasn't there. There was no air support available, so it was me or nobody."

"Roy wasn't there?"

"I had gone in with the accident victims on a copter." Roy began to see a pattern in Johnny's stories and didn't care for it. "I remember you getting caught a few months ago in that burning building. Where the guard was missing."

"Right, and the roof collapsed on me, messed up my leg. Thank heavens for you." Johnny turned to Jason, his hands waving about. "He had to rescue both the guard and me. It took so long that once we were out of the building and Roy was following me out, the flashover blew him out the window. He started falling down the ladder, headfirst."

Roy smiled at his partner. "And you grabbed for me and joined me in my fall."

"He was burned."

"A little on my upper arm. You had to stay overnight in the hospital."

"And you gave up your promotion to engineer to stay a paramedic." Again common memories took them far from where Jason could go.

Roy carefully backed the squad into the station. The three men exited the vehicle and strolled to the back of the station where Marco and Chet were playing some one-on-one basketball while Stoker watched.

"Roy! Phone call!" Stanley's voice came from the building. Roy trotted back to the kitchen.

Jason and Johnny stood side-by-side in silence, watching Chet arguing over a missed shot.

"You and Roy are more than just partners, aren't you?" Jason commented quietly.

Johnny looked at the ground, smiling. "He's my best friend in the world, my brother, the man I most admire and envy."

"Envy?"

"For his life, his marriage to Joanne, his kids."

"He takes your injuries to heart. It hurts him to not be there to help. That's why you don't want him to know about how close you came this time, isn't it?"

"Our job is dangerous. We all know and accept that. Sharing the danger is one thing. But to know that your partner, your friend, was in trouble and you weren't there to help, that's different. Roy has been through that enough times with me. Too many times. If I can shield him from some added guilt, I will."

Jason reached out to snag the basketball that flew their way. "And you'd do anything for Roy, anything to protect him."

Johnny grabbed the ball away from him. "Yeah, I would." He ran out to join in the play, verbally digging at Chet's athletic ability.

Jason Channing knew he would take back to England more than just a favorable report on the paramedic program. These men were family, with all the good and the bad that comes with one. It was special and Jason hoped to find that relationship with a coworker someday.

"Hey, Jason, know how to play basketball?" Roy came up behind him. "Come join in."

With a laugh, Roy and Jason jumped into the fray, the shouts of the men filling the lot.

The End

Oct. 2003

(So, how many episodes could you name in my listing of Johnny's injuries to the date of this episode?) Once again, kudos to Audrey for the beta read!