It was only another half an hour before Dr. Brackett entered the lounge in his OR scrubs. He was smiling, which immediately put me at ease.
"He's gonna be just fine, Roy." The doctor said, as he took a seat at the round table. "There was a small tear in the posterior stomach just below the spleen. It clearly began as a partial thickness tear but likely opened up wider in response to some sort of pressure. Lifting any heavy object would have done it, or really even standing up quickly depending on the size of the initial rupture."
My mind went back to the station and our equipment check. When the tones went out for that unknown type rescue Johnny picked up the oxygen as well as the defibrillator and data-scope to put away while I closed up and stowed the drug boxes. He lifted the heavier equipment. Dr. Brackett's voice pulled me away from my thoughts.
"We got the tear sewn up and have transfused him with four units of whole blood. I'll want to keep him here for a couple of days to monitor his recovery, but he should be able to go home by the end of the week. It could have been a lot worse," Brackett added. "You got him here in good time, Roy."
I felt weak-kneed relief wash over me, making me grateful I was already sitting down. "He threw up so much blood. I just can't believe that I didn't see the problem before it was almost too late. I'm a trained paramedic, you'd think I would have noticed something."
Dr. Brackett got up and poured himself a cup of coffee as I lamented my shortsightedness before sitting down again. "Listen to me, Roy. There was no way for you to have foreseen this. I doubt that Johnny even realized anything was wrong. Partial thickness tears can take hours or even days to manifest serious symptoms."
He took a sip of the coffee as he looked at me trying to gauge if I was still blaming myself. "Try to look at it this way, Roy. He was lucky that this happened at the beginning of your shift. If he had gone home it is entirely possible that by the time he realized something was seriously wrong he would have been alone with no immediate help. Think about how quickly he went downhill. If he were home alone the outcome could have been tragic."
Dr. Brackett was right, of course. I didn't really feel guilty about not recognizing a hidden injury earlier. The guilt I felt had nothing to do with Johnny's physical condition. "Can I see him?"
Dr Brackett smiled as he stood up. "He's in recovery right now, but you can go see him when he's moved to a room in the next thirty minutes or so. I'll have Dixie come and get you when he is settled."
I stood up; trusting my legs to hold me now that the shock of relief had settled, and shook Dr. Brackett's hand. "Thanks, Dr. Brackett. I guess I'll give the guys a call and give them the good news."
"You do that, Roy. I guess I'd better go get cleaned up and back to the ER." He said, as he took one last sip of coffee before heading out the door.
I felt giddy with relief as I dialed the station.
"LA County, Station 51. Captain Hank Stanley speaking."
"Hey Cap, it's Roy. Johnny is out of surgery and he's gonna be okay. They'll let me up to see him in about half an hour. Doc Brackett said he ended up with a small tear in his stomach when he fell from the bridge, but they were able to repair the damage. He'll be out of the hospital in a couple of days."
"That's great news, Roy! Hey, your replacement is Dwyer. He said he didn't mind the overtime. I'll have him come out in the squad and pick you up when he gets in."
After hanging up with the station I found myself pacing. The thirty minutes I would have to wait for Johnny to get to a room would be the longest of all, and I wished it would go by faster. Glancing down at my hands as I caught myself wringing them, I looked at my wedding band. Joanne! I promised to call her when I got news, so I quickly moved to the pay phone and dialed the number. Before she even had a chance to say hello I started speaking excitedly.
"He's gonna be okay, Jo! Doctor Brackett doesn't think he'll be here very long, a couple of days maybe."
"Who's gonna be okay, Dad?"
Chris had picked up the phone and in my excitement I didn't think about our seven year old answering the phone. "Um, hey Chris. Is your mom right there?"
"She's getting Jen a snack. Who's gonna be okay?"
I had really spilled the beans on this. I certainly didn't want to discuss something like this with Christopher. "One of my co-workers had a close call today, it's nothing to worry about, son. Would you please go get your mother?"
True to form for a young boy Chris just held the phone away from his mouth and shouted. "Mom! Dad's on the phone! He said everything is okay with... uh... something."
I heard Joanne take the phone from our son and tell him to go into the kitchen and sit at the table to do his homework. After a bit of grumbling on Chris' part I could hear him stomp off.
"Roy? What was that Chris was saying?"
"Sorry, Jo, I was so happy about the news I started talking before I realized who had picked up the phone. Johnny's going to be fine. He'll be home by the end of the week."
"That's great news, Roy."
I could hear the relief in her voice. Joanne liked Johnny well enough, but her real concern was for me and how l was going to be affected if something bad happened to him or between us. With that in mind I told her what I had been thinking since I'd hung up with her earlier.
"I've thought about it, about what you said. You're right, I was not sure about even buying a house, let alone that house. I didn't make any kind of commitment to that place. It's just brick and mortar and I don't care about it. If... What if Johnny had...?"
I stopped speaking for a moment as I forced myself to maintain my composure. For some reason my emotions were running amuck and that just wasn't what I wanted while talking to my wife about my decision concerning the house.
"Look, the point is, my friendship with Johnny is far more important than any building. We'll just keep looking for a house that we like, and when we find it, no waffling! We make an offer and see what happens."
Joanne was pleased to hear that I was no longer upset about the house and that I wasn't going to let it affect my relationship with Johnny. I spoke with her for a few more minutes, but as soon as Dixie walked into the lounge I quickly ended the call.
Johnny almost looked like a new man when I walked into his room. The last time I saw him he was grey, lifeless, and if I hadn't known differently I would have sworn I was looking at a corpse. Now he had some color back, although he was still pretty pale. His bed was raised to about a 45 degree angle and he turned alert albeit sleepy eyes toward me and plastered that classic crooked grin across his face. He must be on pain medication because he looked a little drunk.
"Hey, yourself. How are ya feeling now?" I asked him still a little concerned.
Johnny's face clouded a little as he frowned. "Not sure what happened. Dr. Brackett spoke with me when I woke up, but I was still coming out of anesthesia and I'm not really clear on what he told me. Is this because of falling from the bridge support?"
"Yeah, when you dropped like that, the life belt put enough pressure on your abdomen that you ended up with a small tear in your stomach. Do you remember feeling that happen?" I asked.
"The drop winded me some, but honestly I was so focused on holding onto Peter that I couldn't really think of anything else. Roy, I thought for sure I was going to drop him. First he was rigid from the seizure and then he was dead weight. I guess I was a little sore from being yanked around on the end of that line, but that was expected."
He paused for a moment and looked like he was trying to remember. "I guess now that I think about it, I was a bit sore around the middle after we finished at Rampart, but I had other things occupying my thoughts. We went back to the station and then got toned out for that unknown type rescue. That was when I started feeling sick, really sick. We pulled over and I got out."
Johnny stopped speaking for a moment and closed his eyes. I thought he had drifted back to sleep for a moment but he opened his eyes and looked at me.
"Roy, when I saw all that blood, I thought..."
I heard anguish in his tone and saw true regret in his eyes which confused me.
"Honestly, Roy, I didn't know what had happened, but I thought that was it, game over. I'm sorry, really I am. When I told you I wasn't gonna sell you the house, I was just yankin' your chain."
It was then that I understood why Johnny said he was sorry right before he passed out. "Johnny, you don't have to..." I started to say but he cut me off with more force than I thought possible for him after having just gotten out of surgery.
"Yes, Roy, I do! Just listen to me will ya? I swear I didn't try to buy the house out from under you. I honestly thought you didn't want it. I don't ever want something like that to wreck our friendship. Of course I'll sell you the house! I thought..."
I could see him struggling to say what he wanted to, so I just kept quiet and gave him the time he needed.
"God, Roy, dying isn't what scared me, it was the thought that I was goinna die while you were still mad at me."
I pulled over one of those hard plastic chairs and sat down next to the bed. I had to make sure he understood. "Look, Junior, I'm not mad at you. You had every right to buy that house. I don't care about it anymore. Really I don't. All I want you to do is concentrate on getting better. I don't want this house to come between us either. I stopped being sore about it as soon as you fell from that bridge this morning. All of a sudden nothing mattered except getting you and that boy down safely. So just forget about it okay?"
Johnny closed his eyes for a moment and once again I wondered if fatigue was pulling at him. He didn't open his eyes when he started speaking. "I'll tell you what, when I get out of here we'll sit down and talk about it. If you and Joanne still want the house then we'll just do whatever we need to do to transfer the mortgage."
His eyes slid open and he looked at me. "I mean you're right, what am I gonna do with all those bedrooms? That isn't a house for someone like me. I have no family, no wife or kids or..." A sort of wistful sadness passed over his features then was gone as quickly as it had come. "In any case you get the point, that house was built for a man with a family."
I couldn't help but admit to myself that a part of me still wanted the house, but after all of this I wasn't sure I could buy it from him. That was a question for another time so I just patted his shoulder and said, "You got it, Junior."
It was at that moment that the door to Johnny's room opened up and Dwyer stepped in. "Hey there, Johnny, what did you get yourself into now?" he said, with a smirk.
"Hi, Pally. Thanks for coming in." Johnny said. His voice was sounding thin and I could tell his strength was waning.
"No problem, man. I need the overtime. I'm in the market for a house and could use the extra money towards a down payment."
Johnny and I exchanged a look and couldn't help it. We both busted out laughing hysterically. Johnny grabbed his middle in clear discomfort, but I could see that he was okay as he waved me off.
"Hey, what's so funny?" Dwyer asked, utterly perplexed at our reaction.
A/N: Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this little tale. I'll try to get at least one of my other E! fics finished so I can start posting, but be aware that they are both H/C fics about Johnny. What can I say I'm a bit of a sucker for H/C. I have actually seen a couple of reviewers complain about all the H/C fic out there surrounding Johnny Gage. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me since he is by far the most popular character in the series, always has been, always will be.
I do have folks clamoring for me to finish an open H5O story as well as an open Merlin story. I really should wrestle the old muse back to them to finish. Once again my sincerest thanks to both The Delirium Threemen and Oughtknowbetter for beta reading this story.
Thank you to the readers in this fandom for the warm welcome. This is one of the nicer fandoms and I was so pleased to see so much open interest.