Author: Alice I

Title: Checks and Balances

Betas: The Delerium Threeman, Oughtaknowbetter

Summary: "Look, Roy, the fire department as well as the hospital have systems of checks and balances in place to prevent mishaps like this, but those systems aren't completely fool proof, and unfortunately this time Johnny fell through the cracks."

Roy knew that Cap was right. He didn't blame Dr. Brackett, and in his heart he didn't really blame himself. He just desperately wanted to take the whole day back to do over again.

Checks and Balances

Chapter 1

Beeep. Booonnng. Beeeeep.

More than one set of shoulders stiffened: yet another alarm. The shift began with a multi-vehicle accident and had gone downhill from there. The men of station 51 had responded to seven fire calls, and nine rescues respectively. Johnny Gage and Roy Desoto had accompanied the engine on four of their seven fire calls, and the engine had responded to three of the paramedics' nine rescues, and it was only four thirty in the afternoon.

Squad 51 was just on its way back to the station after their last call which had Johnny ranting.

"Can you believe it; being called out to rescue a cat from under the porch? These kinds of nonsense calls are starting to drive me nuts, Roy. There should be something we can do about it, I tell ya," Johnny raved.

Roy just rolled his eyes at his partner and turned his attention back to the road. He didn't disagree with the younger man, but there wasn't a whole lot they could do about it other than to report that the 'baby trapped under the house' was in fact a full grown cat lounging under the front porch. Roy and Captain Stanley had strongly admonished the middle aged caller that the next time she needed help with her cat she should call Animal Control rather than the fire department.

Cap and the engine had left quickly while Johnny and Roy re-stowed their equipment. As they drove down Belmont, Roy caught sight of some commotion up ahead. Johnny must have seen it too, for he stopped in mid-rant and dropped his feet from the dash. He peered at the small group of people who were gathering in front of one of the homes and pointing upward.

As they got closer Roy and John rolled down their windows. Roy spotted a woman on the other side of the road. As he watched her from the corner of his eye, he saw her take notice of the crowd forming. Then her hands flew to her mouth in horror; there was something going on that alarmed her. Heedless of the danger, she darted into the road toward the house, ignoring the oncoming squad. Roy slammed on the brakes, screeching to a halt less than three inches away. The woman ran on, the near miss paling in comparison to the commotion.

Johnny growled wordlessly, adding, "I don't believe this!"

Roy craned his neck, trying to see what his partner had spotted. The angle was wrong; all Roy could see was the unhappy crowd, but it had to have something to do with the woman's reaction.

Johnny picked up the mike from the dash board. "LA, Squad 51. We have a non-code R at..." John looked for a house number, "#451 Belmont. There is a baby trapped on a roof."

Roy's eyebrows shot up, not believing it, but at the same time a chill ran down his spine. 'A baby? For real, this time?' He pulled the squad to the edge of the road squawking the siren to get the crowd to move aside and parked the vehicle. Johnny was out in a shot. He ran up the lawn of the two story house, then toward the back yard.

Roy stepped out of the squad looking up, and caught sight of a tiny head as a child no more than two years old disappeared over the peak of the roof. A woman in the crowd in front of the house screamed, but Roy ignored her as he moved to the side compartments and began to take out equipment.

Vince drove up and parked in front of the squad. "Hey, dispatch called me, Roy, what'cha got?"

"I'm not sure, Vince. We noticed these folks out here and stopped. Then Johnny and I saw a child maybe two years old up on the roof. Johnny's already back there. Give me a hand?"

"Sure thing."

Vince grabbed the O2 tank and trauma box as the paramedic picked up the biophone* and drug box. They both made their way up the driveway to the back of the house. Roy saw that Johnny was almost to the top of an A frame ladder headed for the roof. The child was still up there reaching for a cat that had planted itself quite comfortably on the top of a roof gable just below the peak.

"How'd the kid get up there?" Vince wondered aloud.

Roy had been wondering the same thing and scanned the top of the house for better access to the child. There was an open window on the top floor just to the left of the gable that had bars over it. It would have been a tight squeeze, but the child must have slipped between the bars to get out. He pointed to the window and Vince frowned.

"You think the kid went through that window, and climbed all the way to the top?"

Roy shrugged but kept his voice low. The last thing he wanted to do was to startle the child. "It sure does look that way." Roy turned to the woman who was following Johnny's progress up the ladder. "Ma'am, is this your place?"

"Oh God, that's my baby! I can't believe George got it wrong with the bars. I told my husband to put bars on the second floor windows. Julia crawled out the window before. Not this high, but in our old place, a one story ranch. When we moved here I insisted that bars be put on the windows."

Johnny had made it up onto the roof. Roy watched his partner nervously; the slope was pretty steep and it was obvious that Johnny wanted to try to get past the gable and underneath the child. Moving slowly to his left and advancing up the roof, Johnny kept his eyes on the girl who was squatting down just above the cat and petting the furry animal. Johnny had made it more than halfway up the vertical slope of the roof and was just underneath the top of the gable when the cat turned its head and saw him approaching. The animal hissed and leapt up to the peak of the roof past the surprised child who stood up quickly with the cat's movement.

Standing up so suddenly caused the little girl to lose her balance, and she tumbled backward. Johnny jumped to his left, reaching frantically for the child. She rolled down the slope of the roof past the gable and straight into Johnny's outstretched arms.

Roy felt his heart beat faster as he watched the scene, helpless to do anything about it. Johnny pulled the now screaming child tight to his chest as he tried to control his own descent down the slope of the roof. He twisted his torso, rotating his shoulders and hips, to keep himself from rolling. He skidded down the roof on his back over the rough surface of the shingles. It was hard on the fireman's back but the child was protected from further harm—that was all that counted. It only took seconds for the pair to reach the end of the roof and then there was nothing left, but a fifteen foot drop to the concrete below.

Roy watched helplessly feeling that time had slowed down as if the world was controlled by some demonic projectionist. The film seemed to feed slowly, frame by frame, maximizing the impact of each moment by stretching seconds into minutes.

The sound of the mother's terrified scream resonated in Roy's ears while he saw every detailed movement; Johnny's arms and legs curling up and surrounding the child in a protective cradle, his body vibrating as they skidded over rough shingles toward the edge, and then in slow motion his body bounced over the gutter at the end of the roof. Roy could almost feel the sudden silence that followed his partner hitting nothing but empty air.

That deafening silence was shattered by the sound of Johnny's body impacting with the ground. The concussion that rippled through him as he slammed to the cement accentuated the explosive whoosh of air leaving his lungs.

Roy, Vince, and Julia's mother literally held their breath for a moment as neither Johnny nor the child seemed to move, and then Julia started wailing and reaching out past the arms surrounding her. Time had resumed its normal flow. Roy darted forward just as Johnny's limp arms fell to the ground, freeing the little girl. He scooped her up as Vince knelt down beside Johnny.

"Check her out, Roy. I'll get Johnny."

"Just don't move him." Roy said, in a strained voice.

He moved into full paramedic mode and that meant the civilian had to come first. Julia reached for her mother, and Roy allowed the hysterical child to go to her to be held while he checked her over for injuries.

Vince leaned over Johnny's supine form and gently touched his shoulder. "Johnny? Hey, Pal, can you hear me?"

The moment seemed to drag on forever before Johnny's eyes shot open and he gasped as if coming up for air like someone who had been submerged underwater for too long. His unfocused eyes held the kind of panic that comes from a primal fear of not being able to breathe. He tried to get up, but Vince held him down.

"Whoa, easy there. You just lie still for a minute."

John coughed a few times and seemed to have a little trouble catching his breath. Roy had set up the biophone to contact Rampart. With one hand holding the phone he used his other to pull the O2 mask from the tank and tossed it to Vince. "Put that on him," he ordered as he adjusted the flow, before returning his attention to the immediate task at hand.

"Rampart, this is Rescue 51. How do you read?"

After a moment a female voice came over the speaker.

"This is Rampart. Go ahead, 51."

"Rampart, we have two victims who fell fifteen feet from a roof. Victim number one is a two-year-old female. She was cradled against the chest of victim number two and has no obvious major injury. She has an abrasion on her left knee. She is frightened and crying, but vital signs are otherwise normal. Victim number two is a 26-year-old paramedic with a possible spinal injury. His head did not hit the ground, but he lost consciousness briefly and may have stopped breathing for a moment as well. Hold for vital signs."

Roy moved over closer to Johnny getting his first good look at his partner. "Hey, partner, just hold still for a few minutes while I check you out okay?"

Johnny just nodded his head and breathed in through the oxygen mask that Vince had placed over his face.

"Rampart, vitals on victim two are: Pulse 95, respirations 30, and a BP of 100 over 76."

Roy began to assess Johnny for broken bones, gently feeling behind his neck for any displacement. "Johnny, tell me what hurts. Can you move your arms and legs okay?"

Johnny reached up and pulled the mask down off his face. "I can feel and move my legs and arms. My neck feels okay and I didn't hit my head. My upper back and shoulders are pretty sore. I definitely got the wind knocked out of me, but I think that's the worst of it. How's the little girl? Did she get hurt?"

Johnny tried to get up so he could see her, but Roy held him down. "She's fine, Junior. You took the full force of the fall."

"51, this is Rampart. What other injuries does your second victim have?" It was the deeper voice of Dr. Brackett.

Roy grabbed the phone. "There doesn't appear to be anything broken. The victim complains of soreness along the upper back and shoulders, which is what he fell on. He is alert and oriented. I've got him on 6 liters of O2."

"51, how is your two-year-old victim right now?"

Roy looked over at the child who had stopped crying, and while clinging to her mother, looked on with wide curious eyes at the paramedics. "She's calmed down, and stopped crying. No apparent serious injury, vitals are normal and she is also alert and oriented."

"51, tell her parents to bring her in to be checked out or have them follow up with their pediatrician. Can your second victim move? I want you to check his back."

"10-4. Hold on, Rampart." Roy turned to Julia's mother. "Would you like us to take Julia to Rampart Emergency to be evaluated? The emergency doc says that you can take her to your own pediatrician, if you'd rather."

Julia's mother held her daughter tightly. "No, that will be fine. I'll call her doctor and my husband. You need to take care of your partner. Is he going to be all right?"

Roy smiled at the young mother. "That's what I'm going to find out right now."

Roy turned his attention back to his partner. "Okay, Johnny, can you sit up?" Roy asked, as he helped the younger man get up into a sitting position.

Johnny moved stiffly, but he didn't seem to have any serious or sharp pain when he sat up. The back of Johnny's shirt had gotten torn when he skidded down the shingles of the roof. Roy used his scissors to cut through the shredded fabric and winced at the scrapes covering Johnny's shoulder blades and spine. He gently palpated the spine and bones of both shoulders not feeling anything out of place. 'Road pizza' doesn't even begin to describe what I'm seeing, partner.

Julia's mother gasped when she saw Johnny's back and Roy could imagine her envisioning those same kinds of injuries on her daughter. He noticed her out of the corner of his eye look her daughter over again.

Roy returned his focus on his second patient. "Rampart, there are some abrasions across both shoulder blades but it doesn't appear as though any bones were broken. Deep bruising has already started along the entire upper portion of his back."

"51, is there an ambulance at your location?"

"Uh, that's negative, Rampart. This was a non code R call."

There was a pause before Dr. Brackett asked, "I want to see your partner. Do you think you can get him here in the squad or should we dispatch an ambulance to your location?"

Roy looked at Johnny who nodded his head. "I'm okay, Roy. Just got the wind knocked out of me. The squad will be fine."

"Rampart, he should be fine to come in the squad."

"10-4, 51. I want you guys in here now. What's your ETA?"

"Time to transport 15 minutes." Roy said, as he stood and helped his partner to his feet.

TBC

*So I have seen biophone spelled with the hyphen (bio-phone) and without the hyphen. I wanted to know which was correct and I found the answer. It is biophone. This is a link to the info. You will have to remove the spaces to get it to work. Danged site won't allow outside links!

http: / en. wikipedia .org/wiki/Biophone

What is kind of cool is the actual biophone that was used on the show Emergency! is now displayed in the Smithsonian because it was considered a public service. I thought that was pretty cool.