Tree Houses are for the Birds

These good fellow's don't belong to me but I promise when I'm done to pick um up, dust um off and with a kiss on the cheek send them safely home.

"We are one big family, trying to make our way through the unfolding puzzle of life. We are all connected to on another in the heart." Sara Paddison.

Chapter 8

Roy just stood back and laughed out loud, he would do ANYTHING that Johnny asked him at this point. Dixie and Joe were standing at the nurse's station pondering over Johnny when Roy came busting out of the room.

"Guys over here!" Before they could answer he was back in the room again. They ran in to find Roy at Johnny's bedside but when Joe looked at the patient he was quiet, unchanged.

"What's wrong Roy?" Joe asked as he started to check on Johnny. If Roy was this upset then he knew something had happened.

"He woke up! He told me to shut up that I was talking too much." There was no containing his excitement.

Joe leaned over Johnny and started to examine his eyes. Johnny stirred. "Can you get that out of my eyes?" He protested.

"Well, so you are awake in there," Joe said with a big smile on his face.

Dixie was beaming, "About time you decided to rejoin life."

Johnny's voice sounded raw, "Hard to sleep with him talking nonstop. And he complains about me."'

Roy suddenly stopped in his tracks, his excitement halted by a memory. "Doc, his legs?" Roy was afraid to even ask.

Joe uncovered his legs, "Johnny I want you to try and move your toes for me, ok?"

Nothing happened. "Johnny can you hear me?"

Johnny nodded.

"Try as hard as you can and move your toes."

Roy saw the tears well up in Johnny's eyes.

"It's ok Junior, you just woke up. That's wonderful in itself. Let's try again tomorrow, ok?"

Johnny nodded and went off to sleep.

Of course Roy was in a private state of panic over Johnny's paralysis despite the fact that he had spent every day telling himself it would be ok, either way. He would always be there for his friend. But the reality of it was harder than he imagined. But Johnny had woken up and that meant Roy had phone calls to make. He looked back to see Johnny sleeping, quietly fighting the urge to wake him up again, just to make sure. Moving out into the hall he headed to the phone in the waiting room.

First he called Joanne and almost cried with her on the phone but for the first time joy filled his heart and he managed to hold it together. Yes, he was awake. Yes, he seemed to know who everyone was. No, he didn't stay awake long. Yes, Joe seemed very pleased with his progress. Next he called Hank. The A-shift was off duty today so if he called Hank he would then call everyone else to update them. They were all Johnny's family and everyone asked the same questions. Yes, yes, no, yes. As Roy hung up the phone for the last time he sat back in the chair. He was hungry. Yep, finally hungry. Peeking in on Johnny, still sleeping quietly, Roy headed to the cafeteria.

Johnny progressed fairly quickly following that first day of waking up. He was still restricted to bed but within a week he was sitting up, eating real food and beginning to get a little stir crazy. Roy no longer was staying day in and day out. He felt that Johnny needed the quiet time to sleep and heal and if Roy was around Johnny always managed to found something to talk about.

Dixie got the emergency phone call to rush up to the neuro floor. At the nurses station they only pointed to his room. Before she could open the door she could hear something crash against the inside of the door. Waiting a few seconds she bravely opened it up to see Johnny sitting up with a vase in his hand, up over his head.

"Put that down right now!" She used her official voice and it caught Johnny off guard as he put it down. "Now, you have my nurses scared to death out there, afraid their gonna get smacked in the head with something. I can assure you that is not part of their job description!" While she talked she worked on fixing Johnny's bed, moving throwable objects out of reach and mentally noted to call Roy as soon as she left the room.

"Now," she sat on the edge of his bed. "What's going on with you today?" Her voice softened and she reached up to push the dark curls from his moist forehead. He visibly relaxed under her soothing, his shoulders slumping.

"I'm sorry Dix. I'm just so mad I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I'm mad at the stupid neighbor lady. I'm mad at the Kilgore's for endangering our lives. I'm mad at," he paused.

"Who Johnny?" she asked gently.

"I'm mad at Roy."

That took Dixie by surprise but she knew that he was dealing with overwhelming emotions right now. "You have the right to hold a lot of anger right now Johnny but tell me what's upset you with Roy?"

Johnny turned his head. He hated himself for feeling this way towards his best friend.

"John Gage."

He looked back at her. She took his face in her hands as the tears started to flow down his cheeks.

"Why did he do it Dix?"

Again, she didn't understand.

"Why did he save me?"

That broke her heart. She took him into her arms and hugged him letting the flood of emotions come out. She could feel the anger melt from him. When he got quiet she pushed him back a little.

"Would you really have wanted Roy and all your friends to have left you there?"

He looked like a little child, "No."

"Then don't hold Roy responsible for saving something that means as much to him as you do."

"I …don't. It's just so hard Dix. I know how much he's hurting over all this. It's hard to stay upbeat and positive about something I hate so much." Dixie brushed the tears from his face.

"Johnny no one expects you to be happy and upbeat all the time. They know you're hurting, that you're upset. Let Roy in, let him help you get through this."

He just nodded his head. She could see that he was now spent and helped him get comfortable. Before she reached the door he was already sleeping. Walking out to the nurse's station she picked up the phone to call Roy. Johnny needed all the help and support he could get right now to help him through this and the number one person to call was the one closest to him.

Roy hung up the phone.

"Who was that hon?" Joanne asked him.

"It was Dix. Johnny's having a bad day today. Sounds like he's finally venting his anger and frustration about all this. Unfortunately he's taking it out on the nurses."

Joanne walked out of the kitchen to stand next to Roy. "Go see him honey."

"Are you sure? You don't mind?" He felt guilty for how much time he had been away from his family recently.

"Of course not. Part of our family is in trouble, I expect you to go to him. He's my little brother too and it sounds like right now he doesn't need to be alone."

Roy knocked on the door before pushing it open. Johnny was lying in bed watching TV. He looked up at Roy and nodded but didn't seem very joyful to have company.

"Rumor is that you're giving the nurses a hard time Junior?"

"Well, didn't take Dix long to go run and tell on me." He still didn't look at Roy.

"She's just worried about you. Don't be upset with her. You want to talk about it?" He saw Johnny's posture soften some.

"Not much to talk about. This is how it is from now on I guess."

"There's still hope Johnny. Joe said…."

Johnny interrupted him. "I know what he said Roy but nothing is changing. I've accepted it." He looked at him, "I need you to accept it now."

Roy saw the pleading in his eyes. "Johnny it doesn't matter to me if you walk out of this hospital or not. I will still continue to hope and pray for you to get better. But if not, then we are still here for you."

"I know," he whispered. Then he perked up suddenly, "What 'cha bring me?"

Roy chuckled, so much like a little kid he thought, "Just a burger and some fries."


Roy sat and had lunch with his partner, they chatted over the soap opera he was watching but mostly just enjoyed each other's company for the afternoon. When Roy said goodbye and headed out Johnny seemed to be in better spirits . Heading home he knew these days weren't over yet.

Kelly approached the desk with trepidation, "How's our patient today Margo?"

"Roy spent the afternoon with him," the nurse replied with a big smile.

That was the only answer the doctor needed. That meant that Johnny would be in a good mood for a while. He was amazed at the influence Roy had over the younger paramedic. Kelly knew they had been friends for a while now but he was seeing first hand the depth of that bond.

"You ok today Junior?"

"Well, there's something I want to ask you."

"Sure, go ahead."

"Well, you know I'm still trying to piece together the memories of that day."

"I know but Early said it should come back with time."

Johnny looked at Roy, "Last night I remembered Amy."

Roy froze. He had avoided any conversations about that day, the Kilgore's and especially Amy.

"She didn't make it did she?" Johnny was more telling than really asking.

"No Johnny she didn't. We did everything possible for her but there was too much damage." Roy watched the questions play across his partners face. Deciding he would answer any questions that Johnny had, he asked, "Do you remember anything else?"

"I remember coming down the tree but nothing after that." He went back to eating, obviously not ready to talk about it anymore. Roy knew that at some point he would have to tell Johnny more of the details about that night, but not now. Right now they enjoyed lunch and watching TV.

Johnny looked up to see Marco and Chet coming by to visit.

"Hey fella's." Johnny was glad for the company. Being alone in the room gave him too much time to think.

Marco sat in the chair and Chet sat on the end of his bed.

"How ya feeling today pal?" Chet asked.

"Pretty good. I've been up cruising the halls today. Was good to get out of this room for a while."

"The nurses were probably glad to get rid of you for a while too," Marco smiled.

"Hey, I've been a model patient recently." Johnny feigned sounded hurt.

"I'm sure you've been a model something," Chet laughed.

Johnny just smirked back at him, "So, what's been happening at the station?"

"You mean other than Roy struggling to NOT kill Brice?" Chet asked.

Johnny was confused, "What do ya mean? I thought he's been working with Dwyer?"

"Well, he was but they pulled Dwyer over to 86 and put Brice with us this past week. I tell ya Johnny boy that guy would push even Ghandi's buttons."

"Roy never mentioned it."

"Oh, well I'm sure he just didn't want to bother you with it is all. So how much longer they gonna hold ya hostage here?" Marco wanted to change the topic.

Johnny was easily distracted for now, "Soon, hopefully this week. Man I'm ready. I hope I live to be 90 and never see a hospital bed again."

"At least it's better than the station bunks," Chet mumbled.

"Chet it's your own fault that yours is broken," Marco started to laugh.

"Marco, you better not go there pally."

Johnny was interested, "Why is your bed broken Chet."

Chet got off the bed, "Just waiting for them to replace it is all."

"Again Chet, why is your bed broken?"

Marco could see that Chet wasn't gonna confess. "Apparently the Phantom was going stir crazy and just had to prank someone. So while Mike was cooking dinner, smart one here decided to loosen all the leg screws on Mikes bunk."

Johnny laughed, "So how did Mike take it?"

"Oh Mike did fine, his bunk was just fine. Later that night Chet crawled into his bunk and the whole thing hit the floor," Marco laughed. "Cap was so annoyed at all the noise that he wouldn't let him get up so he had to sleep on the floor for the rest of the night."

Chet frowned, "I still can't figure out when he did it. I mean he was in the day room the whole time with us!"

"Mystery man strikes again," Johnny continued to laugh.

Roy was back to work and taking care of his family, visiting Johnny every day. Johnny's spirits were actually pretty good and Roy admitted that he seemed to be dealing with everything better than he was himself. There were good days and bad days in dealing with his paralysis. Bad days were mostly related to the rehab he had started. His ribs had healed and his spinal injury was stable enough to be up and about daily. Roy helped him as much as possible with the rest of the 51 crew coming by on a regular basis to pitch in. Mike and Chet were taking care of his apartment and cat. Marco's mother was bringing him good food to help him put some of his lost weight back on. Hank and Emily kept him stocked in magazines and books. But Roy knew that Johnny was grieving in his own way. He could see the change in him, it was subtle but there.

Joe Early kept saying it could take a while for the spinal shock to resolve and things could still change but that time frame was quickly coming to an end. Roy found himself keeping hope for the change where Johnny seemed to have already moved on with this new life and was ready to get out of the hospital now.

Roy tried to not break any speed limit laws heading to the hospital following the call from Johnny. He was coming home today. Joanne had already cleaned out the guest room on the ground floor for Johnny and they planned on him staying for a while until his apartment could be readied for his wheelchair. As he drove he remembered his promise to Johnny that first night, to be there no matter what.

He felt bad that it had been over a week since he had seen Johnny. His vacation time was almost up and Joanne wanted to spend some time taking the kids to see her mom, sister and brother. Johnny had actually encouraged Roy to go telling him he needed the break. That is Johnny needed the break from Roy. He laughed. He remembered that look Johnny gave him saying that. It was all in jest but it was important to Johnny that Roy had the time with his family. So Roy went off. He still called everyday, harassing Johnny to keep his rehab up. The 51 crew came by but Johnny made sure they came when he was in his room and things were quiet.

Roy came into Johnny's room to find him still in the bed. "Why aren't you up?" You feeling ok?" Roy's mother hen syndrome was setting in again.

"Feeling good partner," Johnny said casually. "Just resting until time to get out of here." Johnny was leaning back in the bed with his arm over his head. Classic Johnny. Roy sat in the chair and watched TV with him; happy that Johnny seemed to be in such a good mood today. He couldn't wait to tell him what he and Joanne had planned.

They both looked up to see the rest of the A-shift family come in the door. They had planned to be there with Roy to help get Johnny settled in at home. It was their day off and they were refreshed and ready to go. Johnny sat up and looked seriously at the group of men. He knew they had been with him through all this and it was hard for him to say how much they meant to him. And how much he needed them.

"Uh, I need to talk to you guys before we go."

Roy stopped short. What was he up to?

"I know that everyone has been tip toeing around my paralysis so I've been thinking of how to bring it out in the open so you guys won't feel awkward about it."

He motioned to Chet, "Chet can you help me out buddy?"

Chet moved over to the bed, "Sure Johnny, what ever you need pal." Chet took Johnny's legs and helped him gently swing them over the bed so his feet rested on the floor.

Johnny kept talking. "Anyways, I was thinking about setting up a rotation schedule for you guys to spend off days at my apartment so someone is always there to help me out."

Marco looked at Mike. Mike looked at Chet. Chet looked at Hank then they all looked at Roy. Hank spoke first, "Johnny, you know were gonna always be there for ya pal, anything you need."

Johnny kept going, "Well I was just thinking that if you guys just stayed with me, then I wouldn't have to bother you all the time to come over." He paused and studied their reactions. They would never tell him no, he could see that. But he could see their little wheels turning………Johnny wants us to live with him forever and take care of him?

Roy's mind was definitely twirling, "Johnny?"

"No Roy, I've made up my mind about this. I know that you and Joanne have something planned and there is no way I could ever tell you thank you enough for your offer. But Roy I want to go home. I'm ready to be home. I'm just gonna need help so just let me finish will ya?" Johnny didn't want to hurt his best friends feelings but he had this all planned out and he had to get through it.

Dixie and Joe were standing at the nurse's station, just outside Johnny's door. It was obvious that Dixie was trying to hear what was going on in the room.

Joe was curious beyond belief. "Isn't Johnny going home today Dix?" He asked her.

"Yep, going home soon, the guys are here to pick him up now." She was grinning ear to ear.

"What are you up to Nurse McCall?" Joe asked with his questioning smile and gentle eyes.

"Oh, just wait, you'll see, or hear."

Joe now understood and leaned back to listen with Dixie.

Roy wasn't sure what to say. Didn't Johnny know they would be there for him? His brain was working on over load here. The guys were looking to him with some silent plea for 'what do we do'. They all wanted Johnny to know they would always help him.

"Just don't want you guys to go and forget about me is all," Johnny said, looking forlorn.

"Johnny," Roy felt mildly panicked, "how could you ever thing we would forget about you. Your family. We're all family." How could Roy make him understand?

Everyone else chimed in with that, "We would never forget you," and "we're all here for you pally."

Johnny continued, "Chet, could you grab my shoes from the closet?"

Chet leaped forward, "Sure pal," Chet could do that. He bent down and carefully put on Johnny's socks and shoes and then tied them for him.

"Well, like I said. I was only thinking about that plan. Then, ya know what? I decided that you guys have enough to do. You have your own lives, jobs and families." He shook his head, "You can't spend 24 hours a day taking care of me!" He looked over to Roy, "Including you Roy. I know you well enough that you would open your home, take me in and have a brilliant plan to care for me." Something in Johnny wanted to swing his legs on the side of the bed but they remained still. "But I can't invade anyone's life. So like I've said, I've decided it's time for me to take care of myself now."

With that last sentence finished Johnny leaned forward, stood and walked, slowly, but walked to the closet to get his clothes out. He was wobbly, his gait was unsteady and it made everyone want to instinctively reach out and grab him, except they were frozen. Before he even turned around he grinned from ear to ear. He could hear a good 3 seconds of jaw dropping silence.

"Johnny, you're walking!" It was Mike that found the words first.

Roy was still in a state of shock and at a total loss for words, "When?"

Johnny turned around. "It was like Early said. I just woke up and the feeling was back. And well, with you on vacation and everyone so busy I spent all my free time in the physical therapy department building up my muscles." He smiled at their faces, "Figured you guys didn't want to nurse maid me from now on." With that he flashed a huge Gage smile.

Everyone circled around him, about knocking him over with hugs, back slapping and congratulations. "Whoa, whoa, easy now fellows. I'm not that steady yet," he laughed. The group backed up and Hank helped him to the chair to sit and rest. The joy was overwhelming to the crew. The A-shift was whole again. They knew then that Johnny would be back with them soon. It would take time for him to finish healing but he would be back.

They sat for a little while to talk and joke around, each one still trying to absorb what had happened. Hank moved towards the door, "Well, I think that John's spent enough time sitting and lolly gaggin around here and is ready to be home. So let's get out of his way. I'm sure that Roy can handle this on his own."

The men headed out leaving Johnny and Roy alone again in the room. Johnny pulled his shirt on and buttoned it up then turned to see Roy leaning on his bed, grinning at him.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"I ought to choke you, you realize don't you?" Roy's grin never faded.

"Well, I thought the element of surprise would be better. Besides Dixie agreed," Johnny was beaming at this point.

"Dixie? You had her in on this too?" Well, when Roy thought about it everyone but the 51 crew probably knew about it. "I'm just glad you're ok Junior."

Roy let out a sigh of tension that he had held onto for way too long.

Johnny got quiet, "Well, ok for now."

"What does that mean?" Roy felt his concern growing again.

"Just wait until Chet remembers I made him put my shoes on for me."