The wake up alarms sounded in the station. Roy rolled over and saw Johnny's bunk was empty. He stepped into his turnout pants, strapped the suspenders over his shoulders and headed out of the room. "Good morning, Roy," Hank said as he passed.
"'Mornin' Cap" Roy said through a yawn. By the time he reached the apparatus bay he could hear Johnny singing at the top of his lungs.
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
Roy reached the kitchen and found Johnny had stopped singing but he had one hand near his stomach and the other outstretched, his fingers moving wildly.
"Hi Roy," Johnny said as he continued to gyrate.
"What are you doing?" Roy pointed at Johnny's madly moving fingers.
Chet had come in behind Roy, saw Johnny and laughed. This didn't slow Johnny down, however.
Mike was already sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. "He's playing the guitar, Roy."
Roy turned to the engineer with a quizzical look as Marco came into the kitchen. Johnny slid across the floor in his stocking feet so that he was next to Mike and pointed at Roy and Chet as he sang.
Clowns to the left of me,
Joker's to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you
Mike joined him on the last line and they both laughed.
"Good one, Johnny," Mike said with a grin.
Roy just shook his head.
"Oh man, Gage, did you hear this new tune yet?" Chet stood up and began the same strange finger and arm movements that Johnny had just been doing. His face twisted and contorted. Johnny studied him closely for a minute and then jumped up, pointing at Chet in recognition.
Both men recited a line simultaneously, You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.
"Yes! I heard that the other day." Johnny exclaimed.
"What's going on, Roy?" Hank asked. He was standing behind Roy with his hands in his pockets taking in the merriment.
"I…I have no idea. Something about invisible guitars and never being able to leave."
"Huh?" Hank asked but Roy just shrugged and headed to get a cup of coffee.
"How many cups of this stuff have you had this morning, Johnny?" Roy asked.
"None yet," Johnny said with his lopsided grin in place. He saw the disbelief in his partner's eyes. "I'm serious, Roy. I'm just so excited to be going home." On the word home Johnny clapped his hands, his eyes dancing. "It's Saturday, Aubrey is home and you and I get to go to my place and have a big, wonderful homemade breakfast!"
Roy smiled. He had to admit, he did love Saturdays off.
"And tomorrow we are going to the beach. You are coming, aren't you, Roy?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, the kids are going to a birthday party with their cousins so it will be just Joanne and me."
"Cool," Johnny said as he slid back over to the center of the room and started playing air guitar again. He bit his lower lip and leaned back. Chet seemed to be thoroughly enjoying whatever was 'playing.' Marco and Mike watched their friend and laughed as the B-shift crew starting coming in. Johnny ignored the laughs and corny remarks and just kept playing along with the song in his head.
~ E ~
Johnny pulled into his driveway followed by Roy in his Porsche. Jenny barreled out of the front door and gave Johnny a hug before running into her father's outstretched arms. "Hi, Daddy!"
"Hi, beautiful," Roy replied, giving his little girl a kiss. He took her hand and they skipped together to the front door. Chris was waiting inside and he and Johnny took part in their ever-more-complicated 'secret' handshake ritual but never said a word to each other. "Hi there, Chris," Roy said putting an arm around his son's shoulder.
"Hi Dad. I'm glad you guys are finally here. I'm starving."
"Well I missed you too, Son," Roy said with a laugh.
Johnny headed into the kitchen where Roy could hear The Monkees playing on the radio. By the time Roy reached the room, Johnny was dancing Aubrey around and singing.
You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed.
Now you know how happy I can be.
Oh, and our good times start and end
Without dollar one to spend.
But how much, baby, do we really need.
Johnny rubbed Aubrey's belly and then let her go and scooped Joanne up out of her chair, dancing her around the room as he sang the chorus. Aubrey went to the counter and 'played' the 'piano.' Roy shook his head but decided to join the fun. Putting one arm behind his back, he formally tapped Johnny on the shoulder who then stopped dancing, bowed and placed Joanne's hand in Roy's. He went back to dancing with his wife until the song ended.
Aubrey gave Johnny a hug. "Okay, enough of that for now. Breakfast will be ready in just a few minutes. It's such a beautiful day, let's eat on the deck."
After breakfast, Chris asked, "Can I go in the pool, Mom?"
"You know the rules, young man." Joanne answered.
Chris' shoulders drooped. "Yeah, yeah. Wait one hour before swimming."
"Besides, we need to go home so your father can rest. He just got off a 24-hour shift."
"I know." Chris drew the sentence out and was obviously trying very hard not to roll his eyes. He stomped into the house.
Joanne sighed. "He's going to be a teenager soon and he's already acting like one."
"He'll be okay, Jo. You remember what it was like, don't ya?" Johnny said with a grin and Joanne smiled. "He's a great kid. Don't worry." Johnny put his arm around Joanne's shoulder. "Now let's clean this up so the old man can get some sleep," he said elbowing Roy and winking.
"He's not the only one taking a nap, mister," Aubrey said.
Johnny scoffed, "I'm not tired, Bree."
"Oh sure and you'll be out like a light by dusk. Nuh uh, you are going to bed."
Johnny smirked, "Only if you join me." His eyebrows danced up into his hair.
"Shush," Aubrey said trying to hide her own grin. As she moved to give Johnny a playful swat she knocked her cup off the table. It bounced onto the deck splattering her legs with juice. "Oh shit."
Everyone at the table froze for a minute, shocked at the expletive.
"I've never heard you swear, Aubrey," Joanne said, glad the kids were out of earshot and trying not to laugh.
Aubrey covered her mouth demurely. "I'm sorry. I usually don't."
"Are you going to start talking like a truck driver just as our baby is born, Bree?" Johnny also tried to hide a grin. "Who've you been hanging around?"
Both Johnny and Aubrey looked over at Joanne who put up her hands, "Hey, don't look at me!"
"You've been known to let a few words fly," Roy said, outright laughing now. "But only when she's really angry – at me." He tossed a knowing glance over at Johnny who smirked.
As the couples carried the dishes into the house, Roy held the door open for Aubrey with his elbow. "Are you sure you are up to the beach tomorrow? We could just hang out at the house." Roy ignored the face Johnny was making from behind Aubrey. Roy thought Johnny looked like a little kid who didn't want his plans ruined.
"I'm not due for ten days and first babies usually come late from what I've heard. So, yes, I'm going and I'm looking forward to it."
"It's not like we'll be hiking a mountain anyway, Roy." Johnny said sarcastically.
"Thank you for caring though, Roy," Aubrey said, smiling sweetly.
"I'll pack lunch so you don't have to worry about that," Joanne said as she put the breakfast dishes in the sink.
"Deal," both Aubrey and Johnny said in chorus.
~ E ~
Late Sunday morning, Roy and Joanne pulled into the Gage driveway. Johnny came bounding out his front door.
"What took you so long? It's getting late."
"We had church." Joanne answered.
"I know what time church ends," Johnny said as he opened the back of Joanne's station wagon and put in two beach chairs and a few towels.
"And then my sister-in-law picked up the kids," Roy said. He reached to steady Aubrey as she came down the front steps.
"Oh, so she was late," Johnny tisked his tongue.
"No," both Joanne and Roy said quietly. Johnny stopped and looked over at his friends. He saw the secretive smile they both shared.
Johnny grinned sheepishly. "Oh I see." Aubrey glanced at Joanne as she passed by and Joanne winked at her best friend.
~ E ~
It took a while to find both a place to park and then a good spot on the beach. Aubrey took a towel and started to spread it on the sand.
"Bree, sit here," Johnny said motioning to her beach chair.
"No, I'm going to lie on the warm sand for a while. My back is aching and it will feel nice."
Johnny took her hand and helped her get settled then sat in his chair. He pulled a bottle of suntan lotion out of Aubrey's bag and handed it to her. "I'll do your back when you get up."
"Thank you, G-Man," she said, squinting up at him.
Johnny let out a contented sigh and watched the people out in the waves. He dropped his head back and basked in the warmth of the sun. After a while, he started to wiggle like a little kid and jumped up out of his chair. "Who's going in the water with me?"
"I'm fine right here," Roy said.
"Me too," Joanne replied without looking up from her book.
"Aw, you're no fun." Johnny glanced over at Aubrey but decided she was better off staying on dry land. He peeled off his tank top, kicked off his shoes and headed for the water.
Roy closed his eyes and drifted off. When he opened them a little while later, he didn't see Johnny in the water. Joanne saw Roy's concern and tapped him on the arm then pointed down the beach. Roy followed her gaze until he spotted Johnny's mop of brown hair and bright yellow swim trunks. He was playing Frisbee in the surf with some boys. Roy grinned over at Joanne and they shared a giggle.
Aubrey propped herself on her elbows and watched her husband having fun. Johnny came running back to the group. Aubrey reached a hand up to him and he pulled her to a standing position and then held her chair as she sat down.
"I'm starving, let's eat," Johnny said as he opened Joanne's picnic basket and started to rummage around. Roy opened the cooler and poured lemonade from a plastic pitcher, handing cups to Aubrey and Joanne as Johnny handed out the sandwiches and chips.
"I'm going to need to pee before I even finish this," Aubrey said, sounding a bit annoyed.
Joanne sighed. "Me too."
Johnny took a big bite of his sandwich and grinned over at Aubrey and then Joanne. Looking over at Roy, he said through a mouthful of food, "Isn't this great, Roy?"
Roy beamed and nodded at his best friend. "It sure is." Roy leaned over to kiss Joanne. Johnny seemed to like that idea and did the same to his own wife.
Aubrey squirmed in her seat. "Already?" Johnny exclaimed moving to put down his food to help her to the public restroom down the beach.
"No, no. Sit back down. I'm just trying to get comfortable," Aubrey explained.
"Your back is still bothering you, Aubrey?" Joanne asked sympathetically.
"On and off. I'm fine."
After finishing lunch, Johnny helped both women up and escorted them down to the restroom while Roy cleaned up the picnic. After settling Aubrey back in her chair, Johnny rubbed her back for a while then jumped up and headed into the water.
"Hey, what happened to waiting an hour?" Joanne called out and then shook her head and laughed. "He's worse than Chris."
Both Roy and Aubrey chimed in with 'Uh huh' and they all laughed.
Johnny came out of the water and kneeled down next to Aubrey. "Come on, let's go home, Bree."
"No, you are having fun, Johnny."
"You'll be more comfortable at home. Besides," he said watching people around them starting to pack up their belongings, "beach time is over."
Aubrey started to protest but then relented. "Okay. I'm sorry," she said looking up at Roy and Joanne who were folding their chairs.
"Don't be silly, Aubrey. I think I need to make a pit stop before we hit the road. You in?" Joanne asked, putting out her hand. Aubrey took it and the two woman began to waddle to the restroom. Johnny and Roy looked after them and shared a contented smile.
~ E ~
Roy pulled the station wagon onto the highway. A few minutes later he saw the traffic ahead slow considerably. "Oh great, typical end-of-day beach traffic." After about a mile, the cars in front of him started putting on their brakes and they slowed to a halt.
"It's a good thing we made that last stop at the ladies room," Joanne smiled back at Aubrey who giggled and nodded.
"Yeah, might as well get comfortable," Roy said checking the gas gauge. He was glad to see he had plenty of gas and let the car idle. "Must be an accident up ahead."
Johnny peered over Joanne's head from the back seat. "I don't see anything from here. Do you think they need help?"
Roy glanced at Johnny in the rear view mirror, "We don't even know what's going on so we'll just sit tight." Roy watched as Aubrey squirmed in her seat and Johnny reached over and rubbed her back. Joanne pulled her novel from her bag and started to read. She didn't notice Roy occasionally looking back at Aubrey in the mirror. After about an hour, they hadn't moved at all. Roy put the car in park and climbed out. He walked over to the shoulder and looked up and down the road. He could see through the trees that even the other side of the highway was slowed to a crawl but at least they were moving.
Johnny got out of the backseat and joined his friend. "Everything okay, Roy?"
Roy looked over at Johnny and then started to pace. "Yeah, Johnny. Everything is fine. Just getting sick of sitting, that's all."
Johnny grinned his lopsided grin. "Yeah, me too. My butt was going to go to sleep if I didn't get out of that car. He saw Aubrey's car door open followed by Joanne's. He went to take her hand as Aubrey waddled to the side of the road. Roy watched her carefully.
"You okay, Aubrey?" Roy asked.
"Actually, I'm starting to feel a little weird."
Johnny had been standing with his hands on his hips surveying the never ending line of cars stretched out in front of them but he suddenly spun around. "Weird? Weird how?"
Aubrey reached out her hands and took a hold of Johnny's. She got a strange expression on her face and then looked down at her feet. She gasped as water poured down her legs.
"Aubrey!" Joanne exclaimed. "Your water broke!"
Johnny started to bounce around excitedly but Roy reached out and tried to calm him down. "Relax, partner."
"Relax? Relax? She's in labor, Roy."
"Roy's right, Johnny. She just started labor, she has plenty of time."
"Well…" Roy said quietly and all three pairs of eyes locked on his. "Aubrey, I think you've been having back labor all this time."
There was a trio of gasps followed by a moment of shock. Aubrey was the first to speak. "Oh my gosh, Roy…I think you're right. I didn't even think of that. I just thought I was having muscle spasms."
"While we were sitting in the car, I was timing how often you got uncomfortable," Roy said as he watched Johnny carefully. "It was about every five minutes."
"Five minutes?!" Johnny started darting around again and Roy resisted the urge to grab at his wrist like he would do if Jenny was going to run into traffic. He missed the opportunity, however, when both Johnny's hands started wildly combing through his hair. Again Roy marveled at how the man could still have any hair left on his head.
Aubrey let out a small gasp and grabbed onto Johnny's hand.
"Contraction?" Johnny asked nervously.
"Yes, I think so." Aubrey managed a nervous grin.
"Now that your water broke, you'll start to feel them more strongly," Roy explained.
Johnny looked from Aubrey to Roy and back to Aubrey. "Of course, I know that." He alternated between grinning and looking nervous. "Sure, I've delivered lots of babies, right Roy?" Roy nodded.
"Roy, what should we do?" Joanne said calmly, although she was only trying to stay calm for Johnny and Aubrey's sake.
"There has to be a CHiPs patrol coming through here soon. Let's just wait until then. Johnny, you take Aubrey back to the car. Joanne, you go with them and I'll stay here to flag down the police when I see them." Roy let out a breath as the three people simply nodded and did as they were told.
Johnny eased Aubrey down in the back seat. He reached into the back and pulled out the towels and beach blanket and after folding them and placing them against the far door, he eased her back and let her lie down. He started to babble to her about all the times he had delivered babies.
"Johnny, calm down." Aubrey pleaded.
"I'm calm. I'm calm. Aren't I calm?" Johnny looked over at Joanne who shrugged. "Don't you worry about a thing, Bree. Everything is just fine." He quickly backed out of the car and smacked the top of his head in the process. "I'm fine. Didn't hurt a bit. I'll be right back." He re-joined Roy on the side of the road and rubbed his head. "Ya see anything yet?"
"No, not yet. Take it easy, Junior." Roy winced expecting Johnny to admonish him for using the old nickname but it went unnoticed.
Johnny stood on his toes and peered through the trees that separated the north and southbound lanes of the highway. "Maybe I should go over onto the northbound side and flag down a cop."
"No, you'll stay right here. Look at the drop between here and there. We'll end up needing an ambulance for you if you do that."
"Hey, I know," Johnny said poking his index finger into Roy's chest. "I'll look for an expensive car – some of them have car phones. Have you heard of that? I've seen it on television, Roy."
Roy rubbed his chest and considered Johnny's plan. "That's actually not a bad idea, Johnny. But we can't go far." Johnny's eyes lit up and he started to bounce. "Go check on Aubrey and then head that way. I'll go up this way. Don't let my car out of your sight, though. I'll meet you back here."
Johnny dashed back to the station wagon and checked on Aubrey. "How ya doing, beautiful?"
Aubrey panted in response. "She's having a contraction right now," Joanne said, taking her friend's hand.
Johnny pulled his watch out of Aubrey's beach bag and handed it to Joanne. "The next time she has a contraction, note the time when it starts and then when she has the next one, note that time. Got it?" Joanne nodded. "Roy and I are going to look up and down the highway and see if we can find a vehicle with a car phone or a radio. I'll be back in just a few minutes."
Aubrey relaxed as the contraction faded. "Okay, honey. Be careful."
Johnny leaned in and kissed Aubrey on the nose. He went to get out of the car and again smacked the top of his head on the door. Both women grimaced. "I'm fine. Don't worry."
Ten minutes later, Roy and Johnny returned to the station wagon. "No luck?" Roy asked and Johnny shook his head. "That's okay. I'll keep watch for a CHiPs patrol. You stay with your wife."
Johnny poked his head back into the station wagon. Joanne was in the front seat holding the watch in her hands. "Three minutes," she said nervously. Johnny could see the contractions were intensifying and he paled visibly.
"Johnny!" Roy called from behind him. "I see a patrol car." Everyone in the car let out a sigh of relief.
"I'll be right back," Johnny said with a grin.
"Watch your head," Aubrey said reaching out to slow him down.
Johnny reached the shoulder just as a highway patrol car pulled alongside Roy.
"Can I help you gentlemen?"
"Officer, I'm Firefighter/Paramedic Roy DeSoto. This is my partner, John Gage. We have a woman in labor over here and need a squad and an ambulance."
"I'll call it in right now. How far apart are the contractions?"
"Three minutes," Johnny said breathlessly as Roy looked at him in disbelief.
The officer called in the request and turned back to Roy. "There should be an ambulance here within 10 minutes. The squad will take a while longer."
"Well as long as we can get her into an ambulance, we can handle it," Johnny said as he headed back to the station wagon. Roy could tell his friend wasn't feeling as confident as he sounded, however.
"Thank you, Officer…"
"Grossman," the man said, getting out of his car and shaking Roy's hand. "Arthur Grossman."
Johnny poked his head into the backseat. "We'll have an ambulance here in just a few minutes, Bree."
Both Aubrey and Joanne let out a sigh of relief.
As the ambulance pulled to a stop in the breakdown lane, Roy ran up to the driver's side door. "Hi, Paul."
"Roy, everything okay?"
"Johnny's wife is in labor," Roy called back as he headed to open the doors and pull out the gurney.
The attendants helped Roy wheel the gurney over to the station wagon. Johnny waited until Aubrey's latest contraction had passed before helping her out of the car. Seeing the gurney waiting for her she blushed. "I could have walked over, fellas."
"Don't be silly, your chariot awaits," Paul said as he helped ease her down. Covering her legs with the blanket, they wheeled her over to the ambulance and lifted her in. Roy jogged back over to Joanne and Officer Grossman.
"Honey, there isn't enough room in the ambulance but I can't leave you here."
"Don't worry about it, Roy," Grossman said, smiling. "I'm going to clear these cars out of the way and then she can follow me down the breakdown lane to the next exit."
"Oh thank you so much, officer," Joanne exclaimed happily.
"You'll be okay?" Roy asked.
"Of course. You go and I'll see you at the hospital." Joanne reached out and gave Roy's hand an excited squeeze.
Officer Grossman was already directing the cars in the right-hand lane and cleared a path for Joanne's car to move into the breakdown lane behind the CHiPs car. Both vehicles pulled away to make room for the ambulance to follow.
Roy climbed into the back of the ambulance just as Johnny was opening the OB kit.
"How's everything going?"
"Her contractions are only two minutes apart now, Roy."
Roy looked down at Aubrey and smiled sweetly. "This little one isn't wasting any time, is he?" Aubrey could only nod but smiled back.
Roy looked over at Johnny who grinned and replied, "Or she."
Johnny put on a glove and leaned toward Aubrey. "Honey, I'm going to check to see how dilated you are. I need you to relax."
Aubrey nodded and started to reply but was gripped by a strong contraction. She cried out and grabbed Johnny's arm. Her fingers dug into his skin. Roy, who was on the other side of Aubrey, saw Johnny's face go completely white. "Johnny? You okay?"
Johnny's mouth gaped open and he turned to look at Roy but his eyes couldn't focus. He slumped onto the floor of the ambulance.
"Johnny!" Aubrey said, shocked.
Roy stepped around the gurney as Paul reached to untangle Johnny's arms and lay him flat.
"He just fainted," Paul said matter-of-factly. "I've seen it a hundred times. The father's always faint dead away."
Roy reached to take his friend's pulse and then nodded in agreement to Aubrey. "Watch him for me will you, Paul?" he said as he reached for a glove. "Aubrey, I'll check you, if that's okay with you. I mean…"
Aubrey put her hand on Roy's and nodded. "Someone has to take over," she said glancing at her pale husband on the floor.
Two minutes later, Johnny groaned and pulled himself to a sitting position with Paul's help. "Wha happened?"
"You fainted," he heard both Aubrey and Roy say.
"What? I did not faint."
"Yeah, okay. You took a quick nap." Roy deadpanned.
Aubrey smirked before another contraction took her breath away. She looked unsure as Johnny offered his hand to her. "I'm fine," he whined, embarrassed.
"Okay, Paul, forget about that squad, let's get this lady to a hospital," Roy said. Paul gave a call to the driver and the ambulance started down the breakdown lane.
"She's eight centimeters dilated already."
Johnny cut his eyes over to Roy. "You checked her, Roy?" he said through clenched teeth.
Roy patted his partner on the back. "I have done this before, Johnny."
"But what, Johnny?" Roy asked. "You were otherwise engaged." Johnny blushed and dropped the subject.
The ambulance slowed to a crawl and Roy peered through the front to see what the holdup was. The driver called back that people were cutting into the breakdown lanes to try to get around the traffic.
"Well then…then…." was all Johnny could manage to say. He was out of ideas and on the verge of panic. Roy patted him on the shoulder again.
"Oh oh," Aubrey said and reached out to grab onto Johnny's shirt, grimacing.
"I don't think she's going to make it to the hospital. We may just be delivering right here," Roy said, giving a big smile to Aubrey who's eyes were wide with fear. "We've done it before, right Johnny?" Roy poked an elbow at Johnny's ribs.
"Yeah, yeah – plenty of times. Heck, we delivered a woman's baby in the back of an ambulance in San Francisco, remember Roy? She was a prisoner."
"What?" Aubrey asked, stunned. Roy shot Johnny a dirty look.
"Well she was. Geesh."
Roy examined Aubrey again. "Paul, tell your partner to just pull over and wait."
"You mean…" Johnny said, his face losing all color.
"Oh Johnny, don't leave me now!" Aubrey called out to him. Roy blew out a breath of relief as Johnny shook it off and took Aubrey's hand.
~ E ~
Joanne found a parking spot at Rampart and hurried into the Emergency room. She was pretty sure she had beat the ambulance there and made a quick stop at the ladies room before heading to the Base Station to see if Dixie was on duty.
"Dixie!" Joanne called out as she spotted the nurse exiting a treatment room.
"Joanne, everything alright?" Dixie reached and took hold of the frantic woman's hand.
"Aubrey is in labor. Are they here yet?"
"Aubrey? No. Johnny is bringing her in?" Dixie led Joanne to a chair and sat her down. Catching her breath, Joanne explained the situation. "Well, none of the squads have called in an OB case."
"I don't even know if the squad has even reached them yet. Oh Dixie, I'm so worried about her."
"Now, now. You know she has the county's best paramedics with her. There is nothing to worry about. They will be here soon. Let me go see if I can find out their ETA." Dixie reached to pick up a phone when she heard a familiar voice down the hall.
"It's Roy!" Dixie helped Joanne up and they took the left turn towards the entrance just as Roy appeared with Aubrey on the gurney. Paul was pushing the gurney near Aubrey's head. "Oh, Aubrey, you made it," Joanne exclaimed.
"Well, not quite," Roy laughed as Johnny came into view holding a squirming bundle and wearing the brightest smile anyone had ever seen.
"It's a girl," he said softly.
There was a moment of stunned silence as everyone stood there watching Johnny swaying back and forth cooing to the baby in his arms. Dixie chose to break the spell and reached toward Aubrey's gurney.
"Congratulations, lady. Now let's get you checked out. Bring her in two, Roy."
Joanne's eyes welled as she leaned to give Aubrey a kiss as she passed. She then stood on her toes to get a glimpse of Johnny's treasure.
"Oh, she's beautiful, Johnny."
Johnny's eyes sparkled as he nodded, not being able to take his eyes off the tiny angelic face. As the baby squirmed and fussed, he made a 'tut tut' sound and resumed his swaying. She yawned widely and then settled right back down.
"I better get her back to Aubrey. I think she's going to be getting hungry soon. She's had a long day."
Joanne snickered and followed Johnny into the treatment room.
~ E ~
Two hours later Aubrey was settled in her room after Dr. Brackett declared both she and her daughter were in perfect health.
Roy and Joanne slipped quietly into the room. Aubrey smiled and waved them over. She had the baby tucked in the crook of her elbow. Johnny stood next to Aubrey with his right hand stroking Aubrey's hair, his other resting over the baby.
"Hi," she said sleepily.
"Hi yourself," Roy replied kissing her on the forehead.
"Roy, thank you so much for what you did today," Aubrey whispered.
"Hey, you did all the hard work."
"Yeah thanks, Partner." Johnny echoed. "I don't know what I would have done without you."
"I can't believe you are a father, Johnny," Roy said proudly.
"I wish my mother could have met her. She looks just like her," Johnny said, his voice tinged with melancholy.
"Have you named her yet?" Joanne asked, reaching to stroke Johnny's arm who then grinned.
"Roy, Joanne, meet Delia Anne Gage."
"That's beautiful," Roy said. "Nice to meet you, Delia."
"Anne was your mother's name?" Joanne asked and Johnny nodded.
"And Delia was my grandmother on my mother's side. A feisty and fun Irishwoman." Aubrey smiled as her eyes began to droop.
Johnny reached over and took Delia from her mother's arms. "Let's let Mommy sleep now, little one. She's had a tough day too."
Roy reached out and dimmed the lights over Aubrey's bed as she fell asleep. Johnny snuggled Delia's blanket around her and began to sway as he quietly sang a song to her. Roy smiled knowing it was only a matter of time before music would make its way into this wonderful day. Roy recognized the song and although it was rhythm and blues, the way Johnny sang it was more like a poem and he marveled at how perfectly it fit the occasion.
If you want my lovin
If you really do
don't be afraid hey baby
Just ask me
You know I'm gonna give it to you
Oh and I do declare
I want to see you with it
Stretch out your arms little girl,
You're gonna get it
Cause I love you
ain't no doubt about it
Baby I love you,
I love you, I love you
I love you, baby I love you
Someday you might want to run away
And leave me sittin' here to cry
But if it's all the same to you baby
I'm gonna stop you from sayin' goodbye
Baby I love you
Baby I need ya
Joanne and Roy watched Johnny for a few more minutes. He seemed to have tuned out the rest of the world as he held his daughter in his arms. Joanne gave Roy's arm a tug and motioned to the door. They gave one look back at the little family before heading out the door and home.
~ E ~
Johnny sauntered in late, a big cigar protruding from his mouth.
"Hey, Gage!" Chet called out from across the kitchen.
"Welcome back, Daddy," Mike exclaimed.
"Thank you, thank you," Johnny replied, smiling around the cigar. He began to hand each man their own pink-banded stogie.
"How's Delia doing?" Roy asked, although he already knew since Joanne had spoken to Aubrey multiple times a day since the new Gage clan had returned from the hospital three days prior.
"She's fantastic, thanks Roy." Johnny plucked the cigar from his lips, holding it between his index finger and thumb. Leaning one hip against the counter, he blew imaginary smoke from the side of his mouth. Hearing Hank coming from his office, Johnny pulled the last of the five cigars from his pocket and strode to the kitchen doorway to greet his captain.
"Johnny! Welcome back, Papa. Why thank you," Hank said, taking the offering. "Since everyone is here, why don't we get started on roll call. Coffee cups were placed into the sink as each A-shift crew member followed their superior into the apparatus bay. "Believe it or not, there are no announcements today so I'll make this short and sweet. DeSoto, take the dorms; Mike the bay; Chet and Marco, there are hoses to be hung; Mike, you also have chow duty. Last but not least…"
"Latrines, yes sir." Johnny said through a 1000 watt smile. "Happy to do it, sir."
Hank blinked in astonishment. "Well, that's good to hear. Dismissed."
Roy smirked and realized that Johnny would have even volunteered for latrine duty he was so blissfully happy. Resting his hand on his partner's shoulder, he maneuvered him to the squad and pulled out the biophone to do a radio check with Rampart. Johnny cheerfully pulled out the trauma box and began to inventory the contents.
"Careful there, Junior, you are going to crack your face if you don't give it a rest." Johnny simply grinned wider and continued to count out gauze pads and rolls of tape. Roy wondered why his friend no longer cared about his use of the nickname 'Junior.' At one point he had been asked to stop but lately…
Squad 51, possible heart attack….
~ E ~
On the way back from Rampart, Johnny whistled happily. He paused for a long yawn and then took up the tune once again.
"Losing sleep?" Roy asked.
"A bit," Johnny answered, glancing over at Roy and then back out the window. "But I don't mind. She is such a good baby. I pick her up, settle her in with Aubrey and go back to sleep. Then later I take the diaper patrol so Aubrey can sleep."
Roy chuckled, "John Gage changing a diaper?"
Johnny gave a sideways glance at Roy and then grinned. "Surreal, huh?" Roy nodded and they both laughed.
"So, no mother-in-law visiting yet?" Roy asked as he backed the squad into the bay. The engine was out on a run.
Johnny climbed out of the cab and walked around to the driver's side. "Nope. I know you had to endure that when your two were born but we are fine. 'Mother Sherman' has not even suggested she should come and stay with us and that is fine by me."
"Lucky man," Roy said as he headed to the kitchen.
"We have been talking about meeting up with her parents at Aubrey's aunt's home in Scottsdale."
"Arizona?" Roy asked and Johnny nodded. Handing Johnny a cup of coffee, Roy leaned against the counter. "You'd drive out?" Another nod. "That's a long ride with an infant."
Johnny shrugged. "I'd rather drive there than fly back east." Johnny smiled at the concern in his partner's eyes. "Listen, there is plenty of traffic on the road so don't worry about us getting stranded and I promise we will check in with you and Joanne at regular intervals." Johnny watched Roy over the edge of his cup.
Roy thought about what Johnny had said and then took a sip out of his mug. "You'd better."
~ E ~
"I can't believe she is almost a month old," Joanne whispered as she held little Delia in her arms. Johnny was packing up the Land Rover.
"Well, three weeks and two days. Don't wish it all away," Aubrey said smiling sweetly at her little girl.
Joanne clucked her tongue and bounced lightly as the baby stirred and quietly whimpered. "I'm going to miss you, baby girl."
"Can I give her a kiss goodbye, Mommy?" Jenny asked. Joanne bent down and let Jenny kiss Delia on the forehead. "Bye, baby. Be good."
Aubrey climbed into the passenger seat as Johnny announced they were ready to go. Joanne handed the pink bundle to Aubrey and careful shut the car door.
"I'll miss you too, Aubrey," Joanne said with a sniffle.
"We will only be gone six…" Aubrey began but then burst into tears before she could finish.
Johnny and Roy stood together and watched the women sniffling and giggling and sniffling some more. After a moment Roy put out his hand to Johnny and they shook hands. "Safe travels, partner."
"Thanks, Roy. And thanks for watching the house for us. The pool is all yours while we are gone." He laughed as he watched Chris pull off his t-shirt and head for the backyard. "I will call you when we stop for a break, as promised." Johnny hopped into the Rover and started the engine. Roy put his arm around his wife and headed to the backyard.
~ E ~
"That was fun but I'm so glad to be going home," Aubrey said as they waved goodbye to her family and pulled out of the drive. "Oh did you call Roy and Joanne and let them know we were heading back?"
"I tried but no one answered. The kids went back to school and Roy is working."
"Oh I bet she's napping or lounging on the patio and didn't hear the phone. Let's stop in a few hours and call again."
"Yes, ma'am," Johnny said smiling. As he reached an intersection, the light turned red. He pulled down the blanket so he could see baby Delia's face. Leaning over he planted a kiss on Aubrey's cheek.
"Huh?" Johnny said nuzzling her neck.
"The light is green," Aubrey said as the car behind them honked. Johnny jumped, waved a hand out his window at the irritated driver and continued through the intersection.
As Johnny glanced in the rearview mirror he realized he could barely see out the back. "Look at all that stuff back there," he uttered, shaking his head.
"I know, they sure did spoil us. You did a great job packing the car. It's a good thing you like puzzles because I could not have fit it all in there like that."
A few hours later, Johnny helped Aubrey get settled back into the front seat with Delia. "Gas tank is full. Did you get a hold of Joanne?"
"No answer again. I hope everything is okay," Aubrey said as she took the baby from Johnny.
Johnny hopped into the driver's seat. "Aw, don't worry. I'm sure she's fine." He pulled back onto the highway.
"Johnny, maybe you should call the station."
"Now that would just worry Roy. We'll be home in a few hours. By then Joanne and the kids will probably be in our pool," he chuckled.
Aubrey smiled and relaxed. "I hope so. I'd love to see them."
~ E ~
At six o'clock, Johnny slid out of the driver's seat and stretched wearily before moving to the passenger side and taking the baby from Aubrey.
"They aren't here," she stated, disappointed.
"Its supper time, bet they went home. Let's go on in the house. You call Jo while I unpack the car," Johnny said lightly, pulling the house key from his pocket. After unlocking the front door, he began to pull their belongings and all the gifts from the Rover. He headed up the front steps with the first load and heard Aubrey on the phone.
"Oh my God!" she cried.
Johnny dropped the boxes and bags in the foyer and rushed to her side. "Bree?"
"Yes. I will, yes. Thank you." Aubrey hung up the phone as tears sprung from her eyes. "Johnny, that was Joanne's sister. She's at the house with Chris and Jenny. Joanne is in the hospital. She could barely explain what was going on but something about Joanne being very sick and they had to take the baby."
Johnny's face paled. "Oh Jo," he whispered. Delia began to fuss but both parents just stood and stared at each other. "I have to go to the hospital. I have to find Roy," Johnny spoke louder as Delia's fussing was erupting into an outright cry.
Aubrey saw the torment in Johnny's face. "Go. Go to the hospital. I'll feed Delia and I'll meet you there. Take my car."
Johnny shook his head. He knew his place was with his wife and child. "No, I'll stay here with you. We will go later."
Aubrey reached out and cupped Johnny's cheek with her hand. "Roy is your best friend and Joanne is your sister, G-Man. Go."
Johnny wrapped his arms around Aubrey and the baby. "I love you so much," he whispered into her ear before turning and running out the front door. He shut the back door of the Rover and headed for Aubrey's Camaro. He realized it was blocked in by his car but jumped in, gunned it and drove across the front lawn and into the street. "Screw it; I'll fix that later," he said out loud.
~ E ~
Johnny ran through the emergency room doors and headed for the elevator. He pushed the up button numerous times. He let out a breath in frustration and moved to the stairwell. He wasn't even sure where Joanne was but he'd start on the OB floor.
"Johnny!" Dixie called from down the hall.
Johnny jogged and met Dixie half way. "Where is she? What happened, Dix?" Johnny said hastily.
"She's on the 4th floor. Come sit down; let me explain it to you." Johnny pulled away, wanting to find his friends. "John, you need to know what's going on before you go up there." Johnny allowed himself to be pulled to the waiting room chairs and sat down in a heap. He hung his head, resting his elbows on his knees, one hand raking through his hair. Dixie sat across from him but reached out and rested her hand on his knee as she spoke.
"Yesterday morning, Joanne wasn't feeling well. She had a bad headache, nausea and vomiting. Roy thought she had the flu but brought her in to make sure she and the baby were okay. Everything started to go wrong after that."
Johnny looked up, his eyes were red and glistened with tears. "Wrong?"
"She started to have pain in her abdomen, her vision became blurry, and her blood pressure skyrocketed."
"Oh, no." Johnny said, hanging his head again.
"Last night they decided it was better to take the baby by cesarean."
Johnny's head popped up again. "Is it…"
"He's holding his own. He's small and will have a ways to go but they are optimistic."
"A boy…" Johnny's heart broke. Roy didn't even get to tell him. "And Jo? She's okay now?"
Dixie blinked back tears. "She's in a coma, Johnny."
Johnny's head reeled. He was sure his legs would have gone out from under him if he wasn't sitting down. Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, he stood up and headed back to the elevator as the doors opened.
"Room 420," Dixie said sadly as the doors began to close.
In the elevator Johnny reached out and put his hands flat on the wall, resting his head on his outstretched arm. When the elevator began stopping at each floor, he began to pace inside the confined space. Finally it reached the 4th floor and he pushed past the people trying to enter. He looked up and down the hall and then headed to his right counting off the numbers as he rushed forward.
410, 412, 414, 416, 418…
Skidding to a stop, Johnny put his hand on the door but pulled it back, afraid of what he would find. His hand shaking, he slowly pushed the door open and took a sideways step into the dimness.
Leaning against the wall for support he saw Joanne lying motionless in the bed. Roy was seated beside her. He held one of her hands in both of his and his forehead rested on it as if he was praying. Johnny realized he hadn't heard him enter the room and opened his mouth to say something but stopped as Roy began to speak.
"I know you've got a little life in you left. I know you've got a lot of strength left. All the things we should've said that were never said. All the things we should've done that we never did. All the things I should've given, but I didn't. Oh darling, make it go away. Give me these moments. Give them back to me. Give me your little kiss." Roy put Joanne's hand back onto the blanket. He dropped his head onto his arms and started to sob. Johnny was at his side then. Roy looked up and saw who it was and stood up, wiping the tears from his face with the back of his hand. Nothing was said. Johnny looked down at Joanne's pale face and then back at Roy, his own tears running unchecked down his cheeks. Roy's face crumpled more seeing his friend's pain and reached out, taking Johnny in an embrace. Resting his head on Johnny's shoulder, he continued to sob.
~ E ~
After sitting quietly with Joanne with Johnny by his side, the two men stepped into the hall when a nurse arrived to take blood and check vitals.
"Let's get some coffee," Roy said, his voice raspy.
After getting two cups of coffee from the machine in the waiting room, the two friends sat down wearily.
"Roy," Johnny said, surprised by the sound of his own voice in the quiet room. "She'll be okay." Johnny couldn't keep the sentence from sounding more like a question.
Roy took a deep breath as he stared into the depths of his coffee, watching the milk swirl. "Her kidneys are failing…she has developed a bleeding disorder. They are afraid of her liver failing too."
Johnny closed his eyes and sighed. His own fear of losing his adopted sister was hard enough but to see his best friend facing the loss his wife, the mother of his children, was almost too much to bear. He opened his eyes and turned back to Roy. "The baby. Dixie said you have another son." Johnny smiled a tentative smile.
Roy brightened a little. "Yeah. He's so small. He looks a lot like Chris," he voice broke and he brought a clenched hand to his mouth as he blinked back tears.
"He has a good chance," Johnny said, grasping onto any good news he could. Rod nodded solemnly and tried to smile. He downed the rest of his coffee and pushed back his chair.
"I need to get back."
"You go ahead. I need to call Aubrey. She will be here as soon as she can," Johnny said, rising.
Roy stopped at the door and turned back to Johnny. "Will you come back and sit with me after you talk to her?"
Johnny nodded vigorously. "Of course, Pal." When Roy left the room, Johnny steadied himself on the table for a moment, his head swimming. He dug out some change from his pocket and headed for the payphone. The phone at home went unanswered so he hung up knowing Aubrey must already be on her way. He felt guilty for leaving everything in the Rover for her to deal with. He wanted to talk to someone else but knew A-shift was working today.
As Johnny stepped out of the waiting room, he saw Aubrey holding Delia as she was speaking to the nurse at the desk. Seeing him, she thanked the nurse and came toward him.
"How is she? Can I see her?"
Johnny took the baby from her arms. "It's not good. She's in a coma." Aubrey gasped so Johnny took her by the elbow and steered her out of the busy hallway into a quiet corner. He updated her on everything so Roy would not have to repeat it. "I'll wait here with the baby. You go ahead in," he said kissing her forehead. Aubrey handed the diaper bag to Johnny and walked slowly to room 420. With a smile of support from Johnny, she stepped inside.
Johnny looked down at the sleeping face of his precious daughter and pulled her close, thankful she was perfectly healthy. He closed his eyes and gave thanks for his family. He swayed slowly until he felt a hand on his shoulder. Dixie, who was now off shift and no longer in uniform, stood looking sweetly at him.
"Hi Johnny. Is Aubrey with Joanne?" When Johnny nodded, she reached out her arms. "Let me have that beautiful baby."
"Thanks, Dix," Johnny said as he slid Delia into the woman's welcoming embrace.
"You go and be with them, Johnny. We will be just fine," Dixie said, taking the diaper bag from Johnny's shoulder and kissing him on the cheek.
~ E ~
Johnny and Aubrey stepped off the elevator onto the 4th floor about an hour after visiting hours began. Tessa, had volunteered to stay with Delia so the couple could visit their friends but they still came in two cars so Aubrey could run home for feedings. As they approached Joanne's door it opened and Deke and Susan stepped into the hall. Susan's eyes were red from crying.
"Deke, Susan, hello."
"Hi Johnny. Hi Aubrey," Deke replied.
"How is she?" Aubrey asked the couple.
Susan just shook her head and put a tissue to her face as she sniffled.
Deke reached out and wrapped an arm around his wife's trembling shoulders. "Still in a coma."
After saying goodbye, Johnny and Aubrey headed into Joanne's room. Roy was again holding her hand. He was dressed in the same clothes from the day before and his beard was unshaved. Aubrey came up behind him and put her hands on his shoulders, pressing her cheek to his. "Roy, you look like you haven't slept a wink." Roy simply nodded but didn't reply.
"Still no change?" Johnny asked and Roy shook his head.
"Doc says her tests are coming back showing she is improving but…" his words trailed off.
Johnny pulled a chair close next to Roy for Aubrey. He went to the other side of the bed and took Joanne's hand in his.
"Johnny," Roy said looking up at his best friend.
"Would you…would you sing to her?" Roy asked, his cheeks tinged with pink. "She loves to hear you sing and maybe…"
"Maybe it would help reach her," Aubrey said softly as Roy nodded, a tear sliding down his cheek.
Johnny's brow furrowed as he looked at Joanne then he leaned in and sang,
Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?
Can you throw them over your shoulder like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears hang low?
By the time he finished both Aubrey and Roy's mouth hung open in astonishment. Johnny blushed. "I used to sing that to Jenny and Jo always laughed more than Jenny did."
Roy let out a chuckle and leaned back smiling. "Thanks, Johnny. That's perfect."
Johnny leaned back down near Joanne's ear. "Jo, we need you. You have a beautiful little boy who wants to meet his Mommy." He wiped a tear from his eye as he began to sing.
You have taken the heart of me
And left just a part of me,
And look, look, look what you've done.
Well, you took all the best of me,
So come get the rest of me,
And look back, finish what you've begun.
There is someone you ought to meet,
It's me, mister incomplete.
Look, at what I've become.
For its due to the lack of you
That I'm now only half of two.
Look back, finish what you've begun.
Come and sit by my side
Where there's nothing to hide.
And we'll try to decide what you needed;
But from where I stand today,
I can't think of the way
Or the words that I might say
That will change your mind and make you stay.
Oh, no, not for all the times I've pleaded.
Look, look, look what you've done.
You have taken the best of me,
So come get the rest of me,
And look back, finish what you've begun.
"She loves that song," Roy whispered.
Aubrey and Johnny stayed with Roy and Joanne for over an hour. Eventually, Roy fell asleep in his chair so they took the opportunity to take a break.
Aubrey took Johnny's wrist and looked at his watch.
"I should get home and check on Delia. I'll come back later. Do you want me to bring you a sandwich?"
"No don't worry about it, Bree. I'm going to try to get Roy to the cafeteria when he wakes up." Johnny took Aubrey into his arms and held her close. "I couldn't bear to lose you."
Aubrey pulled back and looked into Johnny's eyes. "I'm not going anywhere. Don't worry." She stroked his cheek before heading down the hall. As she reached the elevator, the doors opened and the whole A-shift crew got off.
"Aubrey, hello." Hank said, leaning in for a kiss.
Aubrey greeted each of the men. "I'm so happy to see all of you. Johnny is down the hall. Roy is asleep right now."
"And Joanne?" Mike asked.
Aubrey shook her head. "No change." Everyone hung their head for a moment. "I have to run home for a while. I'll be back. Go see Johnny. He could use the company and I know Roy will be happy to see you when he wakes up."
Aubrey turned quickly hearing a commotion down the hall. Nurses and doctors pushed past Johnny standing outside Joanne's door. "Oh my God," Aubrey said rushing back to Johnny's side. Hank and the others followed her.
"What's going on?" Aubrey asked.
"I don't know. I've been out here trying to let Roy sleep." Aubrey grabbed onto her husband's hand as they all moved to the wall.
A nurse left the room and Johnny tried to get her attention to ask her what was going on but she bustled down the hall without stopping. Another person rushed into the room. Johnny tried to look in before the door closed but couldn't see anything. After what seemed to be an eternity, everyone came out of the room followed by Roy. Johnny couldn't read his expression and Roy didn't seem like he could find his voice as he fought tears. Johnny squeezed Aubrey's hand harder.
"She's out of the coma," Roy finally eked out breathlessly.
A chorus of sighs could be heard as everyone visibly relaxed.
"Oh, thank God, Roy." Aubrey said, her eyes brimming with tears of relief.
Roy reached for Johnny and took hold of his wrist. "She wants to see you."
"Me?" Johnny said pointing at himself with his free hand. Roy nodded and stepped back into the room. Johnny looked back at Aubrey who was smiling.
Johnny followed Roy and moved to Joanne's side. Her eyes were closed and he glanced at Roy, unsure. Roy nodded at him so Johnny leaned down and whispered to her. "Jo?"
Joanne stirred and her eyes fluttered open. It took her a moment to focus on Johnny's face but then she smiled. "I'm back," she said, her voice just a whisper.
Johnny's face broke into a huge grin. "Welcome back, Jo."
"I'm back to finish what I began."
Johnny looked over at Roy who grinned. "She heard you. She heard your song."
Johnny kissed Joanne on the nose as he wiped a tear away.
Songs quoted in this story in one form or another:
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Stuck in the Middle With You, Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan
Hotel California, The Eagles
Daydream Believer, John Stewart
Baby I love You, Jimmy Holiday/Ronnie Shannon
This Woman's Work, Kate Bush
Look What You've Done, James Griffin/Robb Royer