A/N: Tag for "Surprise!" (Season 4, episode 6 – Johnny and Roy are planning a surprise birthday party for Dixie, but Johnny doesn't get to go because he gets caught in a gas explosion and ends up in traction). The ending just didn't sit right with me. If you're busted up bad enough to be in traction, you're not going to be feeling as good as Johnny was that same day. Plus, when Brackett, Early, Dixie, and Roy came in at the end, the characters seemed awkward, and it seemed weird that the other guys weren't there if they'd just been at Rampart anyhow for Dixie's party. So here's what needs to happen next.

Disclaimer: I don't own them, and I don't make a dime. I just let them out for air. Preston Wood wrote the episode; the situations and dialog up through "thanks for the surprise" are his.

I Don't Really Like Parties All That Much Anyway

Chapter 1.

Boring. Boring, boring, boring. I suppose any magazine would be boring if you're hurting so bad you can't get through one paragraph of one article. But if I don't try to read, I hear the blast – over, and over, and over. How come I can remember that?

I know Lopez and Cap pulled me out, but I don't remember that. I know Roy splinted up my busted leg – and I'm real sure I would've remembered that if I hadn't still been out. And I know he rode in with me in the ambulance – I don't think I'll be able to forget my own screams waking me up, or the look on Roy's face, either. Maybe someday they'll come up with a really good painkiller that they can give to busted-up folks who've also had a whack on the head. Not today, though. I didn't care if I lived or died, up till the point when Brackett finally was able to pop me with some MS. I don't see why he had to wait so long – I can tell you my respirations were definitely NOT depressed. IV morphine makes me puke – but I'm not complainin'.

And here I am, me and my magazine. Popular Mechanics: if I hold it up just right, I can't see my leg, and I can't see the cast, or the traction wires, or the pulleys. Is there a way I could hold up the magazine so I can stop thinking about what the bone looked like, jutting out through my skin? I didn't really want to see my own tibia – no thanks. It was yellow – orange, really, with all the blood. Okay, stop it, Gage.

Maybe I'll see if I can get some music up here. Can I play it loud enough to not hear that blast? How about the screaming? Probably not – my throat's still sore from that. Worth a try, though. If any of the guys can pull themselves away from Dixie's party, I'll see about some tunes.

Speak of the devil.

"Hi, how ya doin'?" Roy asks, too brightly.

"Fine!" Liar. "How'd it go?"

"Great! I think everybody that works at this hospital turned up at one time or another. Ate every speck of that food. Even got in a little dancing. Too bad you missed it."

Roy said that awful fast – of course I missed the dancing.

"Yeah, well, I don't really like parties all that much anyway." Liar, liar, leg on fire.

Awkward pause. He can't wait to not have to look at me. I'll bet he leaves.

"Yeah. Well, look, I gotta be going."

See?

Should I bother with the magazine? Nope, didn't think so. Shit, moving like that was really a mistake. Next time just put it down normal-like.

"Heads up!"

Everyone's talking at once. Who's here? Roy – he's back! Maybe he's not totally freaked after all. Dixie, and Brackett's pushing her wheelchair. Early, looking tired. Cake? Do they think I can eat that? Tape player? Now there's a thought. How loud can I turn it up without getting in trouble? Probably not loud enough. Okay, have to make nice. What should I say?

"Thanks for the surprise," Dixie and I said at the same time. Everyone laughed awkwardly – even Roy. Are they that uncomfortable? Do I look that bad?

"Hey Roy," I asked, "are the rest of the guys coming up?" I knew something was off if they weren't gonna show.

"Yeah, they're just cleaning up. Joanne and the kids are on their way up, if you're up for a visit."

"Sure I am!" No, I'm not! "I wouldn't deprive those kids of gettin' to see their Uncle Johnny, now, would I?"

Am I decent? Pretty much. Let's just adjust that sheet. Damn. How can one foot itch so much?

Commotion at the door. "Hey Gage! No, don't get up," said Chet. Ha, ha. Cap, Stoker, Marco. Everyone's here. Crap, what an itch in that foot! Feels like ants. And giants, with great big hammers, pounding on my leg, too, in perfect time with my pulse.

"Uncle Johnny! Uncle Johnny!"

"Wow," breathed Chris, "mom wasn't kidding when she said you got hurt. You look awful!" Yeah, mouths of babes. At least someone's being honest.

"Uncle Johnny, look what I brought!" said Jenny. She held up a fat red crayon. "When Bobby Hutchins broke his arm, we all got to draw on his cats. Can I draw on your cats?"

"NO! Don't touch it!" Ooops, didn't mean to yell at sweet Jenny. "Sorry, honey, it's just that, um, this isn't my real cast."

"Yeah, sweetie, this one is just till the swelling goes down. In a couple days, they'll cut this one off and he'll get one he can keep for a while," Roy explained.

"That's right," Dr. Early told her, "And then I'll bet he'll be happy to have a picture from his favorite artist, right John?"

"Sure thing, Jenny. In a couple of days." Goddamned buzzing bees on my foot now. Course they're nothing compared to the chainsaw at work halfway up my shin bone.

"Well, some of us have got to get back to work," said Brackett. "Dix, do you want to stay here for a while, or shall I wheel you back to your room?"

"Oh, I think I can stay here a while longer. Kel, why don't you move me up by John's head," she requested, "so we don't have to shout across the room."

"OK, Dix. Well, bye, John, take care." Brackett and Early head back to their own floor.

Lookit her, she's in a wheelchair herself, and she can still get that mother hen look on like a pro. She's got my number, yup. Nobody notices when she takes my hand, my wrist – taking my pulse. Chet's busy doing somethin' stupid with Stoker, and Marco's telling Chris all about the exploding building, and Roy's talkin' to Joanne. Cap's lettin' Jenny draw in that little notebook he always has in his shirt pocket.

The bees are getting worse. Stinging, now; not just buzzing. Chainsaw's revving up. Are those pain meds wearing off already? Fat lot of good they were doing, anyhow.

Dix whispers to me, "115, Johnny, and you're cold and sweating. Are you doing okay?"

Moment of truth. I whisper back, "Dix, I'm really hurtin'. Can you get the kids outta here somehow before I lose it?"

"Sure thing, John." She looks over to Joanne. "Joanne?" she asks, in that voice that grown-ups know means something's serious, but kids don't. "I was thinking my roommate would really like to meet the kids. How about you three come on over to my place for a while?" She pointed towards me, gesturing a thumbs-down where the kids couldn't see.

Joanne looked at me, and said brightly, "Okay, kids, let's go help Miss McCall get to her room. Who's going to push?"

"Me! Me!" The kids rush over for the privilege of pushing the wheelchair. "Bye Uncle Johnny!" I try to wave, but can't unclench my fists from the sheets. They don't notice – good.

"Hey Roy?" I manage to ask. He's figured it out, now, too. He's checking my toes. I can't see 'em – cold and blue, or hot and red? Pretty sure warm and pink isn't on the menu today. "Hand me that pillow over there, will ya?"

Chet's right by the empty bed, so he grabs the pillow instead. "Here ya go, Gage, where do you want it?"

I manage to unclench my hands, finally. "Just hand it to me!" I plead. He does. I cover my face with it, and finally, finally, I scream, and I sob.

TBC