Author's note: I'm officially declaring this story finished, just because this seemed like a good place to end it. Of course, that doesn't mean it really is. If I encounter something with my crew that has to be shared, I will. Or maybe make it a sequal. Anyway, For now, this is the end. There are a lot of references in fics about Johnny being abused as a child, and it kinda helped with this part, so I went with it. This makes more sense if you accept that as a fact. Please review:)
"You're the hero, you're not a sadist. It's not the same." Medical Director, CCEMS
Johnny was nowhere to be found, which while not normally a good thing as far as Roy was concerned it generally wasn't cause for alarm. However, they were three-quarters of the way through a nightmare of a shift, had had one rough call after another, missed lunch and were a couple hours late for dinner, and now it was four in the morning, and Johnny was missing. That was cause for alarm. It meant that either Johnny was hurt and trying to hide it, or that he was somewhere having an emotional freak-out over the shift thus far.
The critically injured seven-year-old girl would definitely be cause for said breakdown, without even considering the welfare check they had done with the police on a woman that hadn't been seen in several days. Those never ended well… or that hiker with the badly broken leg that they had to send on a helicopter from the canyon who's knee would never be the same. On a good day, any one of those would be enough to send Johnny into an emotional tailspin (Not that he would let anyone see on purpose, hence the disappearing act). And this had not been a good day.
Just in case, Roy check the bathroom, the kitchen, and the day room for his partner. No Johnny. He sighed. That left one place…
Sure enough, he found Johnny sitting up on the back of the squad. It was his favorite place to sit and think when he needed to. Without hesitating or asking for permission, he climbed up and sat beside him. His face looked relaxed, his eyes weren't puffy or swollen, and he didn't look to be in any distress, but Roy wouldn't be lulled into complacency that easily. The two sat side by side on the top of the squad in silence for several moments before Johnny spoke.
"Ya know, Roy… Even with all the crap that happens, all the close calls, the bloody messes, and the sleepless night, even when I'm ready to give up, we still have the best job in the world."
Okay, Roy was expecting tears. He was expecting to hear about how crappy it was that the little girl might die or that the man might never walk without a limp or that no one noticed that woman was missing for almost a week. Or that sometimes they were expected to be more than any human. This was a little weird. "Think so?" he asked neutrally. If Johnny was in Pollyanna mode, he wasn't about to say anything that might shift things in a worse direction.
Johnny smiled, more of a far away look than his usual mega-watt Gage grin. "Yeah. You know how many little boys out there can't wait to sit where we are right now?"
Roy couldn't help but grin at that. He knew of one at his very own house. "I have some idea…"
Johnny ran his hand almost absently along the chrome rail of the squad. "Little boys grow up dreaming about this. I know I did. Did you, Roy?"
Roy shrugged. "Yeah. Among other things. Little boys have lots of dreams. I wanted to be the first one to go to Mars, too."
Chuckling at the idea of Roy in an astronaut's suit, Johnny shook his head. "Not me. All I ever wanted was this. To be a fireman. I wanted to help people, people who really needed help and might not get it because the doctors couldn't get to them or they were trapped and couldn't get out. That was what I dreamed about."
If Roy thought that was a little sad, he didn't comment. "And now you're here."
Johnny nodded. "Now I'm here." He looked away, and Roy finally got where the trace of sadness in his voice was coming from. "Roy, I know you know a little about my childhood, enough to know that it wasn't exactly the Cleavers, ya know."
Roy nodded. From what little Johnny had told him, he knew that was quite the understatement, and he internally cringed whenever he thought about the origin of some of his friend's multiple scars. "I know, John. You had a rough time."
"I'm past that, though," he added quickly, hearing the distraught tone in Roy's voice. He never talked about this because he didn't want that pity for the person he had been a lifetime ago, but it was important now. Roy wouldn't let it go until he knew what was on Johnny's mind, and he didn't want his best friend to think he was an awful person. "What happened to me isn't a part of this anymore. Just, know that when I was a kid, when things got bad, I always pictured myself sitting on the back of a fire truck, all grown up. A hero, rescuing people. Helping those that couldn't help themselves. Rescuing people that no one else could."
Roy's heart clenched at the tone, even though he wasn't sure where this was going. "That's what you did today, Johnny. No one else could have squeezed into that crushed mess of a car to get that little girl out." He didn't point out what they both knew, that it might be a moot point, that the girl might not make it.
Johnny grinned. "Yeah. I did. Now here I am sitting on the back of a fire truck, just like I always dreamed of. And man, it feels really good. I love it. I love this job, Roy." He touched the patch on his jacket, fingers ghosting over the embroidered numbers. "It's a dream come true."
"So what's the problem then?" Roy had tried to follow what had his friend upset enough to be sitting here at four in the morning, but was seriously failing. "I don't get it."
Johnny smirked, then pushed himself up on the rail to turn, facing Roy. "That little girl probably won't make it. That man will never hike again. And no one found that woman for almost a week. One life changed forever, at least one and probably two ended. And you know what, Roy? I'm having a good day. I'm happy, loving what I do completely. What kind of sick freak does that make me? I'm enjoying myself, when people's lives are being devastated around me! That's sick, Roy. I'm messed up in the head somehow!"
Roy sighed. He put his hand on Johnny's shoulder, trying to absorb some of the confusion and fear from him. "No, Johnny, you're not. You're just a fireman."