HI folks, it has been a while, I know, but here is finally the start of my next story. It is a continuation of the Past Secrets and The Song of Life. I recommend reading those first if you want to know the full story. The story starts out pretty benign, but there will be a lot of character building and connections with the rest of the crew at the station and the hospital. Oh and of course there will be angst and owies. I can't promise how quickly chapters will follow, life with work and family have a way of distracting from writing. If anyone wants to be emailed when chapters are posted send an email and I will do my best. Now sit back and hopefully enjoy.

Of course the characters of Emergency are not mine, I am only borrowing them for the joy of writing about them. There are some original characters that I can claim.

PANDORA'S BOX

Chapter 1.

Roy sat in the passenger seat watching the streets and the signs and the other traffic; he wasn't use to being the navigator. Johnny sat in the driver's seat. Yes, this was Johnny's Land Rover; not his convertible, not the squad. Still it just didn't feel right. It wasn't so much that he didn't trust Johnny's driving; it's just that when ever the two of them were together, Roy drove. That's just the way it was. But Roy couldn't very well drive this time, not with the muscles of his right chest wall recovering from surgery due to a penetrating stab wound. It wasn't even certain if the doctors at the hospital in Ft. Compass Montana would release him early to make the trip back to L.A. Only after Johnny's newly found cousin, Erin Shaw, an Emergency Room Nurse at the hospital offered to go along and help out; did they consent. Roy sighed and leaned back in his seat, his mind going over the events that led up to his current situation.

It had all started with a letter to Johnny from the wife of his former track coach asking if Johnny could come back and visit one last time before his friend and mentor passed away. The letter came too late and an injury on the job left Johnny without even the ability to drive up and pay his respects. Wanting to learn more about his partner's past Roy offered to drive. As the trip progressed, Johnny slowly told of the horrific abuse he had suffered at the hands of his step father Charles Strongbow. Then during a surreptitious visit to his old house, with his sister Amy, whom Johnny had not seen in 7 years, they had an unfortunate encounter with Strongbow. Johnny had pushed Roy out the door, asking him to get Amy to safety. After leaving Amy with the neighbors and asking them to call for help, Roy returned to the aid of his partner. He shuddered as he remembered walking in and seeing the animalistic look on Strongbow's face as he pushed the lit end of a cigarette into Johnny's back. Stepping in to defend his friend, Roy experienced Johnny's step father's violent nature first hand as the man grabbed for a kitchen knife.

Roy didn't remember too much of the attack, just drifting in and out of consciousness as Johnny took care of him until the ambulance arrived. Strongbow had gotten away, fleeing at the first sound of police sirens. He remembered waking up briefly in a hospital room with a vent tube down his throat, God how he hated that feeling. He had never experienced anything like that before and he hoped he would never have to experience it again. Thankfully Johnny had been there by his side and his reassuring presence squelched the panic Roy had initially felt. Over the ensuing week, only at the insistence of friends and family did Johnny leave the hospital. It was on one of those rare occasions that Johnny left the hospital to have dinner with his sister and his new found cousin that Strongbow made his presence known again. Strongbow attempted to run Johnny down as he crossed the street. Miraculously, a hawk appeared out of no where and dove straight toward the on rushing pickup truck. The truck swerved, missing Johnny and crashed head on into a building. Strongbow had been killed instantly.

The rest of the week had gone quickly, and the doctors were encouraged by Roy's progress. With promises that they would head straight to Rampart General to be checked out when they arrived in L.A. and reassurances from Erin that she would make them stop and rest frequently, Roy was released.

Roy shifted a little in his seat and grimaced as the muscles protested. Johnny who had been caring on a conversation with Erin stopped mid stream and glanced at his partner. "You okay Roy? Do you need to stop for a bit? I can pull over at the next exit?

"No, its okay, just a little stiff. How about you? You doing okay? Your shoulder giving you any trouble?" Roy asked giving Johnny a quick once over, noticing him roll his right shoulder and wince.

"No, its fine. Just stretching."

"You sure, you've been driving for a while now. If you want to stop for a while…"

"I said I was fine Roy, but if you need to stop…."

"No, I'm good"

"Fine"

Both guys heard a loud sigh from the back seat. "Are all Paramedics this macho when it comes to being hurt?" Erin asked with a shake of her head.

Roy looked a little sheepish and Johnny gave a little boyish half grin. "Only the good ones are," they stated together.

"Well I need a break," Erin said smiling as she leaned forward and pointed to an up coming exit. "Lets stop here and stretch a bit; and if you two behave I might even treat you to an ice cream cone."

"Can I have a sundae instead," Johnny asked as his eyes lit up.

"Hot fudge with whipped cream and a cherry on top," Roy added with a smile.

"Nah man, Strawberry with whipped cream and those little sprinkle things on top," Johnny countered.

"Jimmies," Roy corrected.

"Who's Jimmy?" Johnny asked perplexed.

"Not who, what. They're what you call the little sprinkles." Roy supplied helpfully.

"Who calls them that? I've never heard them called that before."

"My Dad and Mom, and all the rest of my family. My Dad was stationed on the east coast when we were little and everyone there called the little sprinkles that you put on ice cream, Jimmies." Roy explained.

"But why Jimmies? Why not Scotties, or Dannies, or Mikies?" Johnny inquired as he made the turn from the exit ramp onto the street heading towards the ice cream place.

"Just because, that's why," Roy countered.

"Hum," Johnny said shaking his head as he parked the car, "Jimmies….well I'm not going to call them that. I mean why anyone would go around giving a name to little sprinkles is beyond me."

They all climbed out of the car and headed into the little store; the cool air conditioning washing over them. Roy ordered while Erin used the ladies room and Johnny found a table. In a few minutes they were all enjoying their ice cream and debating about the remaining leg of the trip. Roy and Johnny were all for pushing on through and driving 10 more hours bringing them into LA around Midnight. Erin immediately nixed that idea reminding the guys that there was no way either of them were in any shape to drive that long and there was no way she was going to drive that long either. Instead she suggested they split the remaining time and drive 5 more hours today and then 5 tomorrow bringing them into LA around noon tomorrow. Grudgingly her idea was agreed to and when they headed out to the Rover, Erin commandeered the keys and stated she would drive the next 5 hours. Johnny took shot gun and Roy climbed into the back. Within an hour both of them were lightly snoring.

As the Rover hummed along over the smooth highway surrounded by the low barren hills of southwestern Utah, Erin quietly sang along to the Peter, Paul, and Mary 8-track. They had left Salt Lake City behind them when they had stopped for the ice cream and were now heading toward Las Vegas. Erin glanced over at the sleeping figures. Both guys had argued that they were feeling okay, but to Erin's trained eye, she could tell that was not entirely true. Roy was definitely hurting, he couldn't hide it. It was there in his eyes, in his posture, and in his voice. She peeked in the review mirror and saw him laying on his left side, turned in toward the back of the bench seat, his good arm protectively cradling his other and both wrapped around his chest.

Johnny was another enigma all together. She did not know his whole story and could only guess at pieces and parts of it. She knew that he had been horribly abused at the hands of his stepfather from the evidence she has seen in the scars that laced his back. But Erin knew that the surface scars were infinitesimal to the scars that laced his soul; scars that were laid down and built upon from early childhood. Scars that did not, would not, and could not let pain be seen. The world would see even the most serious of injuries shrugged off and dismissed as if it was a minor nuisance. It was only if one looked deep enough, that the uncertainty, the fear, and yes even the pain could be seen in the guarded eyes.

Stealing a glance over at her cousin in the seat next to her, Erin knew from the way he positioned himself that his right shoulder was hurting him more then he would let on. She had seen him grimace as he went through the stretches in the morning to loosen up his shoulder to prevent it from locking up. She knew, from talking with Roy, that he refused to take any pain meds due to his mother overdosing. She wondered whether he had ever tried any alternative forms of healing. She would have to consult with their Aunt Rosa and see if she could recommend anything. Their aunt was into all the holistic health and healings, and Erin was sure there was some herb or concoction her Aunt Rosa could recommend to help with pain. Rosa lived in Berkley where she and her life partner owned a small holistic health food store from which they ran a small clinic out of the back room. Deanna, her life partner, had even studied in China and became a master in the practice of acupuncture.

Erin smiled to herself; she couldn't wait for Johnny to meet his aunt. When she had called and told Rosa that she had found her long lost nephew, she was overjoyed. Rosa had been the only one on Johnny's father's side of the family to accept the marriage of Johnny's mother and father. Roberta, Erin's own mother and Johnny's other aunt, had refused to accept the union and had blamed Johnny's mother for the death of his father so far from home. The existence of Johnny further defiled the memory of her brother in her mind, and she swore that the abomination of a child of mixed heritage would rue its existence. It was that very hatred and close mindedness that drove Erin from her own home to go and live with her aunt where she found peace and harmony with diversity. Erin turned her attention back to the 8-track and sang quietly along with Peter, Paul, and Mary.

At just a little before 6 p.m. Erin turned the Rover from the Freeway a couple exits before Vegas and headed for the cluster of hotels, restaurants, and truck stops. "Hey guys, wake up. We're stopping for the night. There's a little hotel up a head that looks respectable enough." Erin said as she headed toward a single level no frills mom and pop joint. Getting out, the three of them stretched tired aching muscles and walked into the small lobby. An older woman sat behind the counter and looked a little askance at the trio as Roy approached the desk.

"Hi, we would like one room please."

The woman looked from Roy to Johnny and Erin and back to Roy, "Sorry we don't have any vacancies."

Roy looked perplexed, "But your sign says vacancy, and your lot doesn't look full."

The woman looked back at Erin and then to Roy and Johnny again, crossing her arms she shook her head, "We are a respectable establishment, we don't accept her kind of business here. I am sure you can find some 'room' down the road to satisfy your 'needs'."

Johnny stood there with his mouth open and Roy's face turned pink as he looked back to Erin. Erin was not amused and the anger in her eyes was evident as she stepped up to the counter. "I don't know what type of 'business' you think I am in, but I'll have you know I am a nurse," she said while producing her hospital ID, "and these two gentlemen are Firefighters from Los Angeles. They were injured while training in Montana. It is my job to escort them back to L.A. so they can recuperate in the loving care of their own family and friends."

The woman behind the desk looked closely at Erin's ID and then back to Johnny and Roy who had both produced their badges. "Well, I guess all seems in order. One can never tell these days. I suppose we do have one room available with two doubles in it. It's $9.99 a night and you pay upfront. Room 110, last one on the left," she said as she laid a key on the countertop.

"Thank you," Erin said as she handed the woman a ten dollar bill and took the key. As they turned to leave the office Johnny stopped and turned back around. "Can you recommend a good place to eat, some real home cooked type of food?"

The woman looked at the skinny young man in front of her, 'he definitely could use a couple of good home cooked meals to put some meat on his bones,' she thought to herself, saying out loud, "Josie's across the way. Best food in town and fair prices."

"Thanks," Johnny said as his face lit up with a grin.

Stopping briefly in the room to freshen up and so Roy could call Joanne, the trio then immediately headed over to the dinner, deciding to walk and enjoy the evening air.

The lady at the hotel had not lied; the plates came filled with hot steaming fresh cooked food and baskets of melt in your mouth biscuits. The discussion at the table revolved around folks back in L.A. as Johnny and Roy filled Erin in on all the folks at Rampart and the station.

"I'll tell you, if Bracket thinks he is going to keep me overnight at the hospital when we get back, he has another thing coming," Johnny said, emphasizing the statement with a french fry punctuating the air.

"I'll have to agree with you on that one partner, I just want to get home to Joanne and my own bed,"

"I'm sure this Dr. Brackett will understand. Besides I am sure Joanne has had some practice at taking care of various injuries and I'll be staying with you Johnny so you will have someone to watch over you," Erin stated with a smile.

"You don't know Brackett, he can be a real hard nose sometimes," Johnny grumbled.

"Johnny you have to be fair, Brackett just has his patient's best interests in mind," Roy countered.

"Yeah, well my best interest is to just get home and have life return to the way it was," Johnny sighed.

Johnny stared at his plate as he drew designs in the ketchup with a french fry. He knew that his life now would never be 'the way it was'. Too many things had changed. Oh, sure some of the changes were for the good; his sister was back in his life and he had a cousin and an aunt that wanted to be part of his life. But the lid to the Pandora 's Box that had so effectively kept his past shut away had been unlocked. It was only a matter of time till it was thrown wide open for the entire world to see. And what would happen then? Would everyone runaway at the horrors that came spewing out?

With an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach Johnny pushed the plate toward the center of the table. "If you guys don't mind, I'm going to head on back to the room," he said as he stood up from the table.

"Sure you don't want to stay for dessert?" Erin asked noticing his half finished dinner.

"Nah, I'm not that hungry right now, you guys go ahead and enjoy."

After watching Johnny leave the dinner, Erin turned to Roy, "Is he going to be okay?"

"Yah, he just has a lot of heavy stuff to face when he gets back," Roy said as he looked toward the door his partner had walked through.