These good fellows 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 return them safely home."
"If we have no peace, then it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." Mother Teresa.
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They watched in silence as Joanne talked to him, coaxing him, pleading with him. Her voice was soft and musical almost mesmerizing those around her. The monitor still showed those erratic few beeps of a heart rate but it was far from enough to sustain life.
Then there were a few more. Joe Early stepped forward. Then they became more regular. It was so slow, initially an almost imperceptible change but it was a change. Kel placed his hand on the nurse's arm to ask her to stop the compressions so they could watch. Joanne was oblivious to the sounds around her as she focused only on him. Suddenly with urgency in her voice she almost shouted to him but in the stillness of the room anything would have seemed loud.
Roy watched her, watched the monitors and then the faces all around him. The A-shift had managed to gather in the hallway just outside the door finding everyone mesmerized by the tranquility in the room. Anyone passing by would think they were saying goodbye in the quiet. But those there knew that if Johnny didn't listen to Joanne that he would really be gone to them all in just a matter of moments.
As the nurse stopped the compressions they watched his heartbeat rise.
The quiet became a low rumble of encouragement, soft and under their breaths but present as they all voiced their own cheers for the young man they called a friend. Then what happened made most of them jump.
Johnny took a shuddering gasp.
Eighties. Yes, something was working and no one wanted to break the spell that had been cast around them. His eyes remained closed but his vital signs began to stabilize.
Joanne turned to Roy, "He needs to hear you hon. Tell him it's alright to come back to us. He's listening now."
Roy just looked at her in amazement then leaned close beside her, "Junior. It's time to come home. Open your eyes for me."
The time that passed felt like an eternity but was actually only a few seconds as the dark eyelashes began to flutter, and then open up a little. Roy just smiled at him, "Welcome back, partner."
Johnny frowned as his endless nightmare had changed. Roy was looking at him but this time he was smiling at him. Was he still dreaming? His eyes tried to question what the wild things in his head were saying to him.
"Everything is okay Johnny," Roy started as he could see the worry on his face, the unspoken questions. "I'm so sorry for what I did. Please fight back and get well."
A tear ran down Johnny's face and his face softened. The deep bond between them had been tested over this but Roy could see what he hoped was forgiveness in his eyes.
For the next three days Johnny did nothing but sleep. The difference was this sleep was quiet and peaceful, free of the haunted images from before. This was the sleep of a newborn baby, deep, dreamless, and utterly trusting of those round him.
Roy stayed by Johnny's side until he was doing well enough to be taken off the ventilator then he spent his days between his true love and his best friend. Both continued to improve at amazing rates. Johnny was as weak as a newborn kitten after his near death experience and needed help with the simplest of tasks.
"If you ever tell Chet about this I swear Roy I'll disown ya."
Roy just laughed, "Shut up or I'll call Chet to come finish it."
He got real still, "Well I'm certainly not going to argue with the man who's holding a knife to my throat."
Roy just rolled his eyes, "Will you just be still before I do cut you?"
"I have never understood why you can't just use a normal razor like everyone else." Johnny continued to complain as Roy pulled the straight blade razor up from his throat and under his chin.
Roy just rolled his eyes, "Shh."
With a deep sigh Johnny resigned himself to the continued attention of his partner. Roy finished up the shave and wiped off his face with a warm towel. "Now for the hair."
Johnny looked horrified. "You wouldn't dare."
Roy's lips were in a fine line as he fought to suppress the smile, "But it's so temping."
His eyes got bigger. Surely he wouldn't cut his hair. He decided to play it cool, "I know you're bluffing."
Roy reached into the drawer and pulled out the scissors and turned to the helpless young man with a smile on his face. A smile that Johnny did not like.
"Roy, back away from the scissors. I don't want to have to tell Joanne that you're tormenting me."
Roy paused for a moment. It was a game they had played for days now and he was enjoying every minute of playful torment on his friend. "Fine. You want to go running to Joanne it doesn't bother me."
"Running to Joanne for what?"
They both looked up to see her standing in the doorway with a nurse at her elbow. "And just where are you off too?" Roy asked although he knew it was time for her physical therapy. As soon as she was up and about better she would be discharged home.
"Apparently I got here just in the nick of time," she flashed them both a big smile.
Johnny pulled up his puppy dog eyes, "Roy's threatening to cut my hair when I can't properly defend myself."
She smiled as her husband winked at her. "I don't know Johnny. You're getting a little shaggy around the edges."
He just sighed with exasperation, "You two are plotting against me again, that's not fair."
They both laughed. Just having him alive and doing so well, fighting back tooth and nail from where he had been was all they could ever ask for.
The nurse tugged on her arm to remind her they were supposed to be walking not standing around, "Behave Mr. DeSoto."
"Always Mrs. DeSoto."
As the next few days passed Joanne was released back home to her family while Johnny finished up his recuperation with some alone time as everyone was busy working and back to their lives. He didn't really like the quiet time. It allowed his brain too much time to think and contemplate. Roy had spent every moment free there taking care of him with apologies that went from spoken to unspoken gratitude.
Johnny still had a twinge of guilt over what happened and that it happened to someone he cared so much about but had accepted the fact that it wasn't his fault. It was something he had no control over. Just knowing that he had his family back was enough for him. He was content and happy.
But after days and days in the hospital he was ready to be set free. Itching to go home was putting it mildly. He was officially completely and utterly stir crazy. Brackett walked through the door for morning rounds and Johnny was ready to pounce.
"Johnny, we've talked about this every single day. At least twice a day." The doctor had to hold the chuckle back, "You'll be ready to go on Thursday. That's only two more days, will you just relax."
Johnny's shoulders slumped down. "Relax? I can't relax. Jenny's birthday is tomorrow and I don't want to miss it. Come on Doc. I'll do anything you tell me too. I promise."
About that time Roy walked in the door to hear his partner. Shaking his head, "Is he pleading again?"
Brackett just grinned, "Of course. My day wouldn't be complete without it." Then he looked more serious, "What's this I hear about a party?"
Roy just beamed, "Jennifer is 6 tomorrow and I have to admit if Johnny can't come to her then I'm gonna be forced by a ferocious six year old to bring her up here."
Brackett thought while Johnny fidgeted in his bed like he was sitting on an ant hill. "Alright on one condition."
They answered in unison, "Anything."
"Wait make that two conditions," Brackett corrected.
"And?..." Johnny prompted him.
"One is that you are back here in 48 hours for a checkup in my office promptly at 11 am and until then you do nothing, and I mean NOTHING but rest."
Johnny was about to burst, yes he could do that. But what was the second thing.
His face became stern and serious. Johnny got real still and was starting to get a little nervous. "Second is that you promise to never, ever pull this kind of stunt again. If you're hurt you come in. No matter what."
Dang, he knew he'd hear about it sooner or later. "No matter what?"
Roy spoke this time, "He promises doc, no matter what. Or he answers to me."
Johnny just grinned. It was nice to be back home. Big brother and all.