by ardavenport

- - - Part 1

He knew he was going to be fine. Everyone was there. John could hear them . . . .

Chet Kelly: "Oh, This is nothing, I hurt my shoulder."

Marco Lopez: "Yeah, just a scratch. That wall practically fell on you."


Chet Kelly: "A plane crash, man. Must'a practically landed on top of you."

A plane crash?

Marco Lopez: "Yeah. Real bad, too. Must've gone straight down."

Did anyone make it?

Chet Kelly: "Not from what we could see. It's bad. Body parts everywhere. We're just trying to put out the fires and find anyone who might be trapped in the houses, like you and Roy."

Roy. . . . . he went to Rampart with Jennifer, they had been on a call for the little girl; she had a head injury; her mother, Chris, was a fireman's widow. John stared up at a sky so blue, it hurt, marred by dissipating smoke plumes.

Mike Stoker: "There they are, Cap."

Captain Stanley: "Hey, how ya doin'?"

Chet Kelly: "Oh, I'm fine, Cap. Just waitin' my turn."

Marco Lopez: "Yeah, Doctor Morton heard one of Chet's jokes and said he was more likely to die from that than his shoulder, but he's still got to get it x-rayed."

Captain Stanley: "Well, that's good. If you're done here, Engine 18 needs some more manpower as soon as they get that fire knocked down on the house on the end. How're you doin', Gage?"

The pain from the sky had descended and pierced his temples; a paralyzing whine drilling through his skull.

Chet Kelly, Captain Stanley: "Hey, John. Johnny? Hey, Gage, Gage!"

Marco Lopez: "Hey, Doc! Over here!"

Dr. Morton: "What'a'ya got?"

Captain Stanley: "I don't know, he just went out on us."

"Gage! Gage! . . . . "

The pain went to black. The roar of it washed out all other sounds except for a whining siren, rising and falling in waves of nausea. He didn't want to be sick. Fortunately, he was too tired to be. And he could still hear . . . .

Dr. Early: "Johnny, Johnny . . . . "

Dixie McCall: "Blood pressure's eighty over fifty."

Dr. Early: "We've got to get him up to surgery, fast . . . ."

He heard less and less. The pain in his head smothered everything with darkness that stretched on and on, diluted by distance and time . . . .

. . . . but everyone was still there . . . .

Dixie: "Kel, I didn't know you were back."

Dr. Brackett: "I just got in. Sorry I missed the party. Not a good time to be at a medical conference."

Dixie: "We really missed you. Unfortunately, the party's not over, yet."

Dr. Brackett: "That's what Joe told me. Any change?"

Dixie: "No . . . . "

. . . . except something had changed. The dark no longer hurt. Much. Maybe it was the hospital finally doing what it was supposed to do. The long, blissful time of not hurting much stretched on and on . . . .

Dr. Brackett: "How's he doing, Joe?"

Dr. Early: "Hanging in there. About as well as can be expected, I guess."

Dr. Brackett: "Hmmm . . . ."

The sameness kept going on and on . . . . . but he could still hear them coming and going, talking . . . .

Captain Stanley: "What?"

Chet Kelly: "It's true. Look, it's here in this magazine. People in comas can hear you, I swear. And if you talk to them, it helps bring them back."

Mike Stoker: "I don't know, Chet. You talking isn't exactly what I'd think Gage would want to hear."

Marco Lopez: "Yeah, Chet, I don't think he'd want to hear what you've got to say, even if he is unconscious."

Chet Kelly: "Oh, you don't understand. I talked to this nurse, Molly, that Gage has been trying to get a date with for the last month and she was feeling a little bad that she blew him off and she gave me this book she was reading - - "

Captain Stanley: "You're going to read THAT? To Gage?"

. . . . things weren't changing, just darkness that didn't hurt too bad . . . .

Dr. Early: "Johnny? Johnny?"

The same, the same, the same, the same. But everyone was still there, so it had to be okay.

Roy: "I don't know what to say. I mean . . . . "

Joanne: "It's all right. He knows you're here."

He knew, he knew, he knew. Everyone was there.

Chet Kelly: ". . . . Lord Asher glowered down at her from atop his stallion, his chiseled features outlined in the golden rays of the sunset, his piercing green eyes fixed her in place like a hawk hypnotizing his prey. Her knees felt wobbly and she was grateful that her long petticoats and skirt hid her quivering legs.

"'So, Miss Evans, is it? You are the new tenet in Rosewood Cottage?'

"'Yes, Milord, with my mother, my niece and our maid.'

"'And you are staying the whole summer, Miss Evans?'

"He pursed his lips, his brows lowering, his noble features disapproving. Amelia stayed frozen in place, struggling not to throw herself down before this man to beg his forgiveness for whatever offense he seemed to think she had committed . . . ."

Something was wrong. Even though the intense hurting was gone, and everyone was there, something was out of place. he just wasn't sure what it was.

Dixie: "C'mon Johnny, I know you're listening."

Was Dixie holding is hand? That didn't seem right. The sameness was getting tedious. The same, the same, the same, the same, the same.

Chet Kelly: "'I don't know what you mean,' Mrs Hawthorne replied in her clipped tones. She turned her head aside as if Amelia were not even worth this small smidgen of time that she was taking to speak to her. 'I was merely returning his Lordship's book to his library. If you wish to imagine that I could have been spying on you, for I-don't-know-what reason, I cannot be held responsible for the fancies of a woman who should be old enough to know better."

"Amelia's cheeks grew hot. Mrs. Hawthorne might have been Lord Asher's trusted housekeeper, but she was still just a servant. She opened her mouth to put this woman in her place, but was cut off by the arrival of Lord Asher's ward."

"Oh, oh, Melie, Mr. Codrick said that some packages have arrived in the village! It MUST be the new dresses for the dance this Saturday! Please, please come!" Esther squealed and danced around them, the yellow bows in her hair and on her white frock bouncing with the young girl's boundless enthusiasm.

Mrs Hawthorne looked down at Lord Asher's ward with barely contained disdain. "Yes, Milady, perhaps you should attend to your - - -"

Dr. Early: "Are you sure this is something that Johnny would read?"

Chet Kelly: "Oh, no way, Doc. But chicks LOVE this stuff. And Johnny digs chicks. So, it's perfect."

Dr. Early: "Well, okay . . . ."

He was missing time. Time that vanished into the darkness. Time smothered by the sameness. And one relentless sound . . . .

Beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, . . . .

Roy: "Dr. Early says that he can come out of it any time."

Mom: "And he's a good doctor, this Dr. Early?"

Roy: "He's the best . . . ."

Dad: "It is too soon to talk about taking our son home . . . . We've only just arrived."

Mom: "I know . . . ."

Beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, . . . .

Even when time seemed to vanish, he was sure that sound was still there. Reliably going on and on and on in the darkness . . . .

Chet Kelly: "The sweat on her face glistened in the firelight and she looked up. The flickering light glowed like amber embers in his eyes. She felt his desire reflected in her own body, down in those lower places that ladies did not talk about, or even acknowledge were there.

He reached for her bare shoulder and she flinched, still clutching her torn bodice to her, still unwilling to give into the mutual lust burning inside both of them that threatened to turn them into two rutting beasts, slaves to overwhelming passion. If she gave herself to him, what would Lord Asher think, if he found out?"

He grabbed her, and she did not pull away this time, melting into his arms, his hungry eyes drinking her in, possessing her, stripping away her will to resist what was burning inside her. She knew, in her heart of hearts, that if he threw her down on the floor and ravished her right there, at that moment, that she would give herself to him completely - - "

Dixie: "Well, if that doesn't wake him up, I don't know what well."

Chet Kelly: "Oh, hey! I didn't see you there. I was just getting' to some of the good parts."

Dixie: "Yes, I can see that."

Chet Kelly: "Oh, um, aaah, yeah . . . ."

Beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, . . . .

The same darkness. The same, the same, the same, thesame, thesame, thesamethesamethesame . . . .

John opened his eyes. To a plain, white ceiling above. The heart monitor kept up it's high-toned pace; beeep, beeep, beeep.

He blinked, the whiteness going blurry. He blinked again, aware of the shapes of other things in the hospital room. IV stand, lights, trays, pale blue walls, door, window; it was day . . . .

Beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep . . . .

A head appeared. Blurry reddish auburn curls. She wore white, but no nurse's cap. They didn't seem to be wearing them anymore.

He couldn't really make out her expression, but the face was recognizable. He tried to smile back up at Molly Turner, ask her how she was doing. "Uuuuuunnn. . . ." Barely any sound came out at all from his dry lips, his tongue painfully stuck in place. Water.

She seemed to know, lifted his head and put a glass to his lips. The liquid went in. It hurt badly to swallow, as if his throat ripped itself open to allow the first few drops through. The second swallow still hurt, but was almost blissfully easier with the memory of movement flooding back into him.

He'd barely had enough before she put the glass aside and left with a promise to get the doctor. The door swung closed and then immediately open again. A larger person in blue and gray plaid shirt came to him. Still blurry, but easily recognizable.


Even though the name came out as barely a whisper, his partner heard and quirked a nervous smile down at him.

"Hey." He half turned back toward the door. "She's just going to get Dr. Early. Tell him you're awake."

Johnny didn't know what to say either. And wasn't sure if he could say much anyway. What had happened? Roy asked the obvious.

"How're ya feeling?"

John did not actually know. His head felt queasy; there was a headache lurking in there somewhere.

"Mmmm, okay, I guess."

Something else was bothering him.


Roy leaned a little closer.

"Are my parents here?"

- - - End Part 1