Photographs and Memories
Author's Notes: *The story takes place during the early 1980's.
*The poem "Remember Me" is based on dialogue from an episode of Little House
on the Prairie-author unknown.
*The song "Times of Your Life" was written by Paul Anka.
The men of Station 51 had finished their morning chores and were now all
sitting around talking and enjoying a cup of coffee. The conversation
encompassed many subjects. Chet Kelly saw an opening…and took
"What is this, almost April? You know what I find amazing, is Gage is going
on five months without a scratch…not even a cough."
Johnny smiled wanly, he knew that wasn't really true…the last couple of
weeks he'd been feeling tired and a little run down with some headaches…but
he had kept that to himself. Roy hadn't even said anything to him, so he was in
the clear…or so he thought.
Johnny wasn't really feeling well so he wasn't in his usual kidding around
mood, when he replied, "Jealous Chet…that I can stay out of trouble and you
Being curious, Chet asked, "What are we talking about here Gage?"
"Just what I said, Chet. I'M not the one who broke my arm falling off the
ladder, planting a water bomb…I'M not the one who sprained an ankle,
jumping down from the Engine… and I'M certainly not the one who's had
latrine duty for the last two months."
When Johnny mentioned latrine duty, everyone laughed at that…except Chet.
"He's got you there Chet."
Looking at his friend, Kelly asked, "Whose side are you on Marco?"
Before Marco could respond, the alarms sounded, calling the Squad into
service and putting an end to the discussion.
Returning to the station from yet another run, it was now three in the
afternoon. Roy and Johnny had been on a series of back-to-back calls since
late morning. The engine was out, but the guys had left lunch for them in the
fridge. Johnny sat right down at the table, while Roy got out the food and
glasses for drinks. Johnny had his elbow on the table with his head
resting on his hand, and staring off into space.
"What do you want to drink Johnny?"
After receiving no answer, Roy went over to Johnny and snapped his fingers. "Wake up Junior."
Johnny was clearly startled. "Oh, I'm sorry. Whatd'cha say?"
"Drink…what do you want to drink?"
Johnny thought for a moment, then answered, "Uh…iced tea's fine."
Roy grabbed the pitcher of iced tea from the fridge and joined his partner
at the table.
"What's wrong with you Johnny? You've been zoning out on me all day."
John looked wearily at his friend, as he softly answered, "I…I really don't
Puzzled, and a little concerned, Roy asked, "You don't know…whatd'ya mean,
you don't know?"
Placing his arms on the table and leaning forward, Johnny said, "I mean, I
don't really feel bad or anything. I guess I'm just tired…look, forget
it…I'll be okay."
Johnny wanted to drop the subject, but as they finished eating their egg
salad sandwiches, Roy was eyeing his partner suspiciously.
Realizing that Roy was watching him, Johnny said, "You can stop watching me
Roy, I told you, I'm fine."
Getting up and going over to the sink, they quickly did their dishes and
were sitting on the couch watching TV when the engine returned. When the
guys walked into the kitchen, they all noticed Johnny.
Wondering what his friend was talking about, Roy asked, "What do you mean
"He's talking about your partner…sleepin' beauty over there." Chet said,
nodding in Johnny's direction.
Roy turned to see his partner, sleeping soundly next to him.
"Oh, I didn't even realize that he had fallen asleep…I guess he's just
tired. We've been going non-stop all day."
Trying not to bother Johnny, the guys quietly grabbed some coffee. As
Captain Stanley came into the kitchen, he also noticed his junior paramedic,
asleep on the couch.
"Is he alright?" Hank softly asked.
Shrugging his shoulders, Roy replied, "Says he is Cap."
Before Roy was able to answer, the alarm sounded and the engine was called away to
a trash fire. Being startled awake, Johnny jumped up, thinking they had a
Catching his partner by the arm, Roy shook his head. "Johnny…that's not for us, just
Johnny sat back down, and rubbed his eyes, but didn't say anything.
"What's wrong Johnny?"
The junior paramedic was starting to get annoyed with his partner's nagging questions.
"You sound like a broken record, for God's sakes. I said I was okay, I'm
just a little tired."
"You fell asleep."
Johnny was surprised, and said, "I did? I only closed my eyes for a
Shaking his head no, Roy said, "Try 30 minutes partner."
Johnny sighed and got up from the couch and headed out of the room.
"Where ya going?"
Johnny's level of annoyance was growing, as he said, "The bathroom. Is that
alright with you?"
Roy said nothing…he just watched as his partner left the room. Johnny
went into the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face, but being gone
longer than his friend thought he should be, Roy went into the bathroom
to check on him.
Seeing Roy come in, Johnny immediately got annoyed. "Jeez, can't a guy have some privacy?"
Turning to look at his friend, Johnny asked, "Are you gonna follow me around
like a guard dog for the rest of the shift?"
"I'm…what's going on with you Johnny?"
"Nothing. I told you, I'm fine."
Johnny was getting exasperated as he stopped his friend.
"Look, I'm not sick…I'm not nauseous or dizzy…and I don't have any aches or
Of course, he wasn't telling the whole truth. He was starting to get a bad
headache as he spoke.
**Well, no pains except for the one I'm getting in my head**
"Then what's the problem?"
"I DON'T have a problem, Roy. Apparently, YOU'RE the one with the
"You're not making any sense, Johnny, something's obviously wrong. You've
been zoning out on me all day long, you've been lethargic, and you just fell
asleep for half an hour when you thought it was only for a minute."
Wanting to get this conversation over with, Johnny tried to end it by
saying, "Look, the shift is over in the morning. I'll go home and go to
sleep for a few hours and I'll be as good as new."
He looked at Roy and rolled his eyes, knowing what Roy was about to say.
"Don't say a word Roy…don't say it."
"Johnny, I'm worried about you. There, I said it."
John looked at his best friend and then walked out of the bathroom. Moments
Later the alarms sounded.
"Squad 51, respond with Engine 46…man trapped, 1587 Canyon Road…1-5-8-7
Canyon Road…timeout 1650."
Grabbing the mic, John responded. "Squad 51 responding, KMG365."
When they arrived on scene, they were met by Station 46's Captain Marsh. He
pointed to a tower.
"He's up there fellas. He was going to jump, but changed his mind…now, he's
too scared to come down."
Roy asked the Captain what the young man's name and age was.
"It's Steve and he's in his early twenties. One of his buddies over there
called for help."
Roy looked up at the tower. "How long has he been up there?"
"About an hour." Came the captain's reply.
Roy glanced at his partner and said, "Let's go Johnny."
They got their equipment and started the high climb up. When they got the
man down, he was taken away in a police car. While they were putting away
their gear, Roy noticed Johnny breathing a bit more heavily than usual, and starting to
"You alright Johnny?"
Johnny didn't want to have this conversation again. Because they were in
public he kept his tone normal.
"I'm fine Roy."
He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and paused for a moment
before he spoke again.
"Are you going to overanalyze everything I do?"
John got into the squad and closed the door.
Captain Marsh turned to Roy, after accidentally overhearing part of their
"Yeah…I guess. Thanks for the help Cap."
He got into the squad and turned to his partner, addressing Johnny in a
"I'm really worried about you Johnny."
"Look, if you promise to stop badgering me…I'll promise to see a doctor if I
still feel tired."
"When?" Roy continued.
"Roy…no more…please. Can we just go back to the station?"
Roy put the key in the ignition and started the squad, but before he put the
gear into drive, he took another look at Johnny, who looked away. They
rode back to the station in silence. When they arrived back to the station,
it was 5:30, and as Johnny got out and made his way out back, Roy went into
the kitchen where Mike Stoker was preparing dinner.
"Hey Roy, dinner'll be ready soon." The engineer informed his friend.
Captain Stanley came out of his office and went to the kitchen, noticing
that all of his crew was there, except for his younger paramedic.
"Out back, I guess."
Chet responded before Captain Stanley could say anything.
"Gage must be in one of his moods."
"That's not nice Chet." Marco replied.
Defending his friend, Roy said, "Actually Marco, he's not too far off the
Mark. Johnny's been in a funk all day. I tried to talk to him, but he keeps
telling me that I worry too much. I guess I'll just give him some space…see
"You don't think it's anything serious, do you Roy?"
"I don't know Cap. That's the thing, he won't talk about it."
Meanwhile, Johnny had fallen asleep while sitting on the hood of his Rover,
his head resting on the windshield. Chet had been in the process of setting the
table, when Micky McGraw, a firefighter from C-Shift stopped by the station.
They all greeted him, as Mike asked, "What brings you by at this hour?"
Micky smiled and said, "I left something in my locker Mike. Oh, by the way,
Roy…what's your partner doing asleep on his car?"
Roy just looked at Micky. "He's kind of having a bad day."
After dinner the guys played some cards…everyone but Johnny. He claimed he
was too tired and not in the mood so he spent most of the evening on the
couch looking at the newspaper but unable to concentrate enough to actually
After a light night with runs, the guys were all in the locker room changing
to go home.
"See everyone in two days." said Johnny.
Roy looked at his partner and said, "Remember what you promised."
Johnny looked back at Roy, annoyed and raising his voice. "Will you
get off my back!"
He slammed his locker door shut and stormed out of the room. Chet was more
than a little concerned.
"Something's going on. I don't remember ever seeing Johnny like THAT before."
"What are you going to do Roy?"
"What CAN I do Marco? I'll see you guys later."
Heading home and going into his apartment, Johnny surveyed the disaster area
that it had become as he dropped his duffel bag on the floor and sat in the
recliner for a rest, before he started to tackle the cleaning.
As the phone started to ring, it took several times before Johnny realized
it was the phone and answered it.
"Hello?" he answered, still groggy from having been asleep.
Hearing his partner's voice, Roy was immediately concerned.
"You alright Johnny? You sound terrible."
"I'm fine Roy, I fell asleep. What time is it?"
"6:30? I blew the whole day."
Hearing Johnny's surprise at finding out what the time was, concerned Roy a bit, but he didn't say anything about it.
"Well, how about if I come over and pick you up…we'll go out for a bite
"Thanks Roy, but I'm not really in the mood." He paused for a second.
"I'm...I'm sorry about exploding on you this morning in the locker room. I
don't really know what got into me. I'll see ya at work in a couple days."
Roy was disappointed, but replied, "Okay Partner, I'll see ya at work."
After getting off the phone, Roy thought to himself. **I know what got into
you…you're sick or something's really weighing heavily on your mind**
Two days later and after dinner, Captain Stanley was in his office while
Chet, Mike, and Marco were out back shooting some hoops. Back inside,
Johnny was drinking a cup of hot cocoa at the table while Roy was at the
sink washing the dishes.
"Johnny, you gonna dry?"
After receiving no answer, he called his partner, again.
"Junior…hey…Johnny, you gonna dry?"
John, who was in deep thought, heard Roy's second try at getting his
attention. "I'm sorry. Yeah."
Getting up, he went over to the sink to dry the dishes. The rest of the
crew came back inside and started watching television. Roy eyed Johnny
suspiciously, still convinced there was something wrong with his partner.
"What are your plans for our two days off?"
John was only half-listening to his partner as he replied, "Uh…I…I don't
know. Why do you ask?"
"Well, it's Joanne's birthday and we're having a special birthday dinner for
her on Saturday night…just me and the kids. How about joining us?"
"Uh…yeah…sure. What time?"
"5:30…at the house."
Johnny smiled, and nodded his head. "I'll be there partner."
The two paramedics finished the dishes and made their way over to their
"What are you guys watching Marco?" Roy asked.
"The Lakers game…they're playing the New York Knicks."
"Johnny, you wanna watch the game?" Roy asked his partner.
"Nah, I'm not really in a TV-watching mood. You watch Roy, I'm going to go
outside for some fresh air."
Roy acknowledged his partner and watched as he left the room. Johnny went
out back and assumed the familiar position of lounging on the hood of his
Rover. Fifteen minutes later, the alarms went off, calling the engine to a
fire. After the engine left, Roy went out back to see what his partner was
Johnny opened his eyes when he heard his name. "I was just resting my eyes.
What brings you out here?"
"You do partner. The engine left, I figured I'd see what you were up to."
As John sat up, he rubbed the back of his neck, and said, "Yeah, I heard
them leave. Boy, I could use a good massage…I'm getting really stiff."
Johnny looked at his best friend and rolled his eyes. "Don't start
Roy, I'm not in the mood."
The alarms went off a few minutes later, sending the squad on a run.
"Squad 51, respond with Engine 36, man down…Harbor Road, cross street
Wainwright Avenue…Harbor Road, cross street Wainwright…timeout 1905."
The two paramedics ran inside, Roy responded on the mic. "Squad 51
After they arrived on scene, they were met by Captain Stevens.
"Witnesses say a bicyclist lost control and went down the side of the cliff.
He's about 150 yards down."
"Come on partner, let's get our gear."
While the two paramedics were getting their gear out of the squad, Captain
Stevens continued to update them on the situation.
"I don't think he's conscious, we've tried contacting him on the
microphone…he hasn't responded or moved."
Roy and John repelled down to the victim and minutes later their equipment
was sent down in a stokes. After examining their victim and contacting
Rampart, they got him collared, splinted, and on a backboard. When they
returned back to the top, Roy noticed Johnny again breathing heavily, but decided not
to say anything about it…for fear of starting another argument.
"Johnny, you want to go in or drive?"
"I'll…I'll go in the ambulance."
"Okay, I'll meet you at Rampart."
Their victim was loaded into the waiting ambulance and Johnny climbed in
After helping out in the treatment room, Johnny decided to wait for his
partner in the lounge. Getting comfortable on the couch, he started to doze
"Hey Dix." Roy greeted.
"Well, hello there." The nurse smiled at Roy. She always enjoyed seeing
him and Johnny.
"You seen Johnny?"
"No, but I just got back to the desk. Try the lounge."
Roy went to the lounge to find his partner. Seeing him on the couch, he
called Johnny's name.
When he received no answer, he went over to him and gently tapped him on the
shoulder. Startled, Johnny jumped.
"Easy Junior…didn't mean to scare ya. You alright?"
Rubbing his eyes, John replied, "Yeah…fine, I'm beat that's all. Let's go
back to the station."
They grabbed their supplies and walked back to the squad. Once inside,
Johnny rolled down his window part way.
Roy started to think back over the last few weeks and sensed a pattern to
"What's up partner?"
Johnny shrugged his shoulders, and replied, "Nothing, I'm just tired. I
figured the air would keep me awake."
They rode back to the station in silence. When they got back, Johnny looked
at his watch.
"9:30…I'm gonna head to bed. I'll see ya later Roy."
Roy nodded at his partner, and said, "Okay Johnny."
Johnny headed to the dorm and laid down on his bed, still in uniform, too
tired to undress.
"Roy, where's Johnny?" The engineer asked.
"In bed, Mike."
"Gage is in bed at 9:30?" Chet replied in disbelief.
Chet was really surprised. Usually, he and Johnny were the last ones in for
the night…although, that hadn't been the case for at least a month or so.
"Chet, lay off." Marco didn't want Chet starting on Johnny when he wasn't
around to defend himself.
Sometime in the middle of the night, John had gotten up to get a drink of
water, and while he was up, he got out of his uniform and got his turnouts
set up next to his bed.
Friday morning arrived, marking the end of another shift. The wake up alarms
sounded, signaling one hour left of the shift. Everyone got up and headed to
the kitchen…Chet started the coffee brewing.
"Hey Roy, where's Johnny?"
Roy turned around and found his partner wasn't there.
"I don't know Cap. I thought he was right behind me. I'll go check."
When Roy checked the dorm, he saw his partner sitting on his bed, his head
in his hands and massaging his temples.
"Yeah." John's voice was strained.
Roy walked over to his partner, concerned. "Johnny, are you alright?"
The paramedic tried to sound reassuring. "I'm fine Roy. I'm just really tired."
He gingerly got up out of the bed.
"Look, Johnny…if you're not up to coming over for dinner tomorrow night, I'd
understand…Joanne would too. You look like you'd be better off spending
sometime relaxing in bed."
"No, it's okay Roy…I'll be there. I'll get some rest and be as good as
He smiled at Roy and patted him on the back, and said, "Did I ever tell you
Roy, you worry way too much." He headed out to the kitchen to join the rest
of his shift-mates.
"Hi pal. How you doin'?"
Too tired to talk, Johnny gave short answers to the questions that were
asked of him.
Hank looked at his young paramedic closely. "You sure? You look
After an hour, B-Shift arrived, and the rest of the guys were changing to go
Johnny smiled at his partner. "Roy, I'll see ya at 5:30 tomorrow."
"Sure thing Johnny. Get some rest, okay?"
"I will." He turned and slowly walked out.
A few minutes later, Mike came up to Roy, and said, "Roy, Cap wants to see
you in his office."
"Okay, thanks Mike."
Roy finished changing and headed to his Captain's office.
"Cap, you wanted to see me?"
"Yeah. Come on in…have a seat."
Roy went in and sat down as Hank closed the door behind him.
"Everything okay?" The senior paramedic hesitantly asked.
"Well, that's what I'd like to know Roy."
Not sure what his Captain was talking about, Roy asked, "What do you mean?"
"I mean between you and John?"
Roy was confused. "Yeah…why?"
"You guys seem a little distant. You two are the strength of this station
Quickly stopping his Captain, Roy said, "Whoa Cap, I assure you that
everything's okay between us. Johnny's been tired lately and I guess things
seem a little awkward because I'm the one who's doing all the talking…as amazing as that sounds."
"Is he okay?"
"He says he is. Don't worry Cap…I'm keeping an eye on him."
Roy didn't want to alarm his Captain more, by expressing his own concerns
about Johnny. He decided to keep them to himself for the time being.
"Anything else?" Roy asked, curious as to whether or not there were other things on his captain's mind.
"No. Enjoy your days off."
"Yeah. You too Cap."
When Johnny arrived home, he got right into bed, and promptly fell
asleep. Arriving home, Roy missed the kids as they left to catch their bus.
"Hi Jo." Roy said, kissing his wife.
"Is Johnny coming for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Yeah, he'll be here."
"Good, I'm glad. Hungry…I can fix you some breakfast?"
Roy was worn out from the combination of a busy shift and the constant
worrying about his partner.
"That's okay Jo, I'm more tired than hungry. I'm going to go take a nap."
Joanne sensed her husband's weariness. "Is everything okay…I
mean, is there something you're not telling me Roy?"
Roy managed a small smile for his wife, as he replied, "No, everything's okay."
Johnny had managed to sleep straight through the day and into the night.
Despite all the sleep he got, he woke up on Saturday morning feeling like he
had the world's worst hangover.
Getting out of bed, he dragged himself to the bathroom and into the shower.
He stood under the showerhead with the water as hot as he could stand it.
In the middle of shampooing his hair, he was hit by a sudden wave
of dizziness and nausea. He braced himself against the wall until it
Once he was rinsed off and cleaned, he carefully stepped out of the
shower…he was still feeling a little unsteady on his feet. Grabbing his
towel he dried off and slowly made his way back to the bedroom. He got
dressed and combed his hair and after brushing his teeth, he decided to try
to eat a light breakfast.
It was now 10 in the morning and he decided he'd go out and buy a gift for
Joanne, and maybe some flowers too. He grabbed his jacket, as he was
feeling a little chilled, and his keys and headed out the door. Sitting in
his car, he took a deep breath before putting the key in the ignition. He
willed himself to keep it together…at least until he came back home from Roy
and Joanne's later that evening.
He decided to go to the jewelry store. Joanne, although she liked jewelry,
never bought herself anything. All the money she and Roy had, was spent on
the kids and on the house. He'd buy her something nice…kind of a thank you
to her for making him feel like a part of the family.
Stepping inside the store, he was immediately drawn to a bracelet. The
bracelet was silver and turquoise and it reminded him of a bracelet his
mother wore when he was a child. Satisfied with his choice of gift, he paid
for it and had it gift-wrapped. He walked down the street to the florist
and got a bouquet of Joanne's favorite flowers…roses, carnations, and
Arriving home after shopping, he was exhausted. He put the flowers in a
vase with water and the gift on the kitchen table. Kicking off his shoes,
he collapsed on the couch and fell asleep.
He was woken up by a knocking on the door, but he was in such a haze, that he
barely heard it. He debated with himself as to whether or not he should
answer it but his conscience won out, and as he dragged himself to the door,
he was greeted by one of his neighbors.
Mrs. Johnson was an elderly widow who lived next door to Johnny. Not having any family close
by, she adopted Johnny as a grandson.
He tried to give her a smile as he greeted her. "Hello Mrs. Johnson."
She looked at him closely. "Hello Johnny. Are you okay dear?"
"I'm fine, I guess I dozed off. What time is it?"
"I believe it is almost 4:30. I'm sorry I woke you up…I know how hard you
work and you must be exhausted."
"That's okay, I should be up anyway. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to know if you'd like to come over for a home cooked meal this
Johnny smiled at the kindly woman, and replied, "Well, since you're such a
great cook, normally I'd say yes, but I have plans tonight. My partner Roy,
it's his wife's birthday and we're having a dinner for her."
"How wonderful. I'm sure you'll have fun. He's such a nice man."
"Can I take a rain check?" Johnny asked with a hopeful smile.
Gently touching Johnny on his arm, she said, "Of course Johnny, you tell me
"I will." He again smiled at her and kissed her on the cheek.
"Johnny…please get some rest…and eat…you're getting much too thin."
Johnny had to chuckle. He was even getting it from his 75-year old
"Okay Mrs. Johnson, I will."
After she left, Johnny got ready to head over to Roy's. He changed into
something a little dressier, grabbed the flowers and gift, and headed out.
Arriving at Roy's house he was greeted warmly by the whole family.
"Hi partner, glad ya made it." Roy smiled at his friend and shook his hand.
**Yeah, I barely made it** Johnny thought to himself.
Johnny smiled genuinely. "I couldn't pass up seeing my two best girls."
He hugged Joanne, and as he handed her the flowers and gift, he wished her "Happy
"Johnny, you shouldn't have."
"I wanted to Jo. You can open up the gift later."
"Thanks Johnny. The flowers are beautiful…all my favorites." She kissed
him on the cheek.
Jennifer waited patiently to see her favorite Uncle.
"Uncle Johnny, I'm glad you came." she said, as she hugged him.
"Me too Jelly Belly…me too."
Chris hugged his Uncle and gave him a high-five. "Uncle Johnny, guess
"I couldn't imagine Chris. What?"
"My friend Pete and I are gonna be on TV. We were picked out of our entire
school to be interviewed on "The Dave McCarthy Show'."
"Really…what's the topic?" Johnny asked interestedly.
"Kids who have parents in public service…Pete's Dad is a cop. Isn't that
"Very cool Chris." Johnny looked over at Roy and grinned. "You know, your
Dad and I were on TV, once…'The Tom Jensen Show'. We did a fire
demonstration, and one of the stagehands got electrocuted during the
broadcast, and we helped him…it was all caught on TV."
Of course, John left out the details about how they were tanking on the show
until the guy went down.
Now eating, the conversation was lively. Sitting there, Roy thought to
**This is the Johnny I'm more used to…talkative and smiling**
"How is everything Johnny?" Joanne asked.
"Joanne, it's fabulous. I assume YOU made dinner."
Roy smiled at his partner, and replied, "You assume wrong Johnny…*I* made
"You?" Johnny was very surprised.
"Hey…my cooking skills aren't THAT bad."
"Roy, how come you don't cook like this at the station?"
Roy smiled mischievously, as he replied, "Because…then they'll expect it
After thinking for a moment, Johnny said, "You're right, they would. Good
After dinner was finished, the kids helped Roy clear the table.
As John started to get up, Roy said, "I got this partner, you keep the
birthday girl company."
Johnny sat back down. "So, how did you spend your day Jo?"
Joanne smiled, as she recounted her wonderful day. "The kids made me breakfast in bed…Roy set up a bubble bath for me, while he took the kids out for a few hours. When they
returned we had a leisurely lunch and spent the afternoon looking at some
old photographs. Wait till you see some of the pictures we found."
Johnny smiled his classic crooked smile. "Sounds like you had a
"I did. I'm glad you came Johnny, it's been awhile since we've seen you.
Everything alright with you?"
When Roy and the kids returned, they were carrying Joanne's birthday
cake…strawberry shortcake. They all sang Happy Birthday and she blew out
She opened up her gifts. Chris gave her a wooden jewelry box that he had
made in woodshop class, Jennifer made her a ceramic vase and Roy bought her
a new dress, with the help of Hank's wife Suzanne.
"Guys, these are beautiful gifts…thank you so much."
"Mom, you forgot Uncle Johnny's gift."
Looking, but not seeing the gift, Joanne said, "I did, didn't I Jen?"
Johnny's mind was somewhere else, he hadn't even noticed that his gift
wasn't at the table. Chris had gone and brought back the missing gift.
After Joanne opened the box, she was flabbergasted. "Johnny, this bracelet
is so beautiful."
Johnny regained his focus and smiled. "I'm glad you like it
Jo, it reminds me of a bracelet my Mom had when I was little. Anyway, I
thought it was beautiful and would look great around your wrist. Happy
After eating cake, the kids went to the den to watch TV while the three
adults retired to the living room.
"What are your plans for tomorrow Johnny?"
"I don't know. I was thinking I'd spend some time with my neighbor Mrs.
Johnson. She wanted to make me dinner tonight, but I told her I had plans. She's probably lonely. I think her husband died around this time a few years back."
"Yeah, then you can tell Chet that you spent the day with a great gal."
The two paramedics laughed.
"That's very sweet Johnny."
Johnny sighed, and replied, "Well, it's like that song says, Everybody Needs
The three friends talked for a while about all sorts of things. Before too
long, Johnny dropped out of the conversation…this was not lost on either
Joanne or Roy.
"Johnny, you alright? You look a little pale."
"I'm fine Jo. I guess I'm just getting tired."
"Want some coffee?"
"No thanks Roy, I'm good." He looked at his watch. "It's almost 9:00. I
better be going."
The kids came up to say good-bye to Johnny.
"Hope you had a good birthday Jo…you deserve it."
"I did Johnny. Thank you for the beautiful bracelet." She commented as she clutched her
wrist wearing the bracelet. "It means a lot to me…I'll always treasure it."
She kissed him on the cheek.
"Don't be a stranger Johnny…you're family, you know."
Johnny smiled, as he said, "Yeah…I know, and I appreciate being included.
Well, good night."
"I'll walk you out, partner."
As they approached Johnny's Rover, Roy looked at his partner, and said,
"Make sure you get your rest. I don't want you getting sick…then I end up
with Craig Brice."
"Don't worry about me Pally, I'll be fine." John started to get into his
car, but turned back to Roy, and said, "Oh, Joanne said something about some
Roy smiled and nodded his head. "Yeah, we'll look at them on another day. Go
home to bed and I'll see you on Monday."
"Okay, sounds good. Roy…thanks for inviting me."
Back inside, Joanne was clearing the table of the dessert plates when Roy
came back in.
Looking at Roy, Joanne said, "Poor thing…Johnny looks exhausted Roy. He
looks like he's coming down with something."
"Maybe." Roy continued to have concerns about Johnny and his health, but so
as not to worry his wife, he chose not to voice them.
Back home Johnny went straight to bed and fell right to sleep. He slept
through the whole next day.
When Monday morning arrived, 51's A-shift assembled for roll call…minus John Gage.
"Roy, where's your partner?"
"I…I don't know Cap."
Just then Johnny came walking into the bay area. "Sorry I'm late Cap."
"Shouldn't he get latrine duty Cap? I mean, it's only fair…the rest of us
showed up on time."
"Chet…mind your own business!" John's tone was very serious.
"What's the matter Gage…get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?"
Captain Stanley put an end to it. "How about if you BOTH be quiet. Chet,
you have latrine duty for two more weeks…courtesy of the Phantom. John, you
have dish duty."
They got through roll call without further incident. Everyone was now in
the midst of doing their chores and Roy and John were checking their
"You wanna tell me what happened Junior?"
John looked wearily at his partner, and said, "There's nothing to tell Roy…I
overslept." He then tried to change the subject. "I had a good time on
Saturday…Joanne really liked the bracelet?"
Roy smiled, he knew exactly what Johnny was trying to do.
"Yeah Junior…she liked the bracelet a lot. Something tells me that she'd
like anything YOU gave her. When it comes to my wife and daughter…YOU
can do no wrong. *I* on the other hand…"
In the middle of checking the supplies, Johnny's nose started to bleed.
**Oh man…not again**
Roy looked up to see Johnny holding his nose, and blood dripping out.
"Johnny, stay put." He pushed him down on the squad's running board and
rushed to get some tissues. "Here." He handed Johnny the tissues.
Johnny took the tissues and used them to stop the bleeding.
Roy eyed his partner with concern. "Johnny, does this happen often?"
John looked back at his partner. "No." He knew he was lying to his best
friend, but if he had told the truth, Roy would be more worried than he
already was. "I'm okay Pally, thanks."
Making sure the bleeding had stopped, Johnny headed to the bathroom to wash
Wednesday morning arrived and it had been a very long shift. When the two
paramedics weren't on a run by themselves, they were out on a run with the
engine and Johnny had barely made it through the shift. For three days, he
had really been dragging and the other members of the crew were starting to
While changing to go home, Johnny was moving very slowly and appeared to be
quite pale. The rest of the crew quickly changed and said their
good-byes…they knew Roy was going to talk to John, and wanted to give them
"Johnny…how long are you going to keep denying that there's nothing wrong?
You're exhausted and pale…you just haven't been yourself…for quite a few
weeks now. You have NO idea how worried about you I am."
Johnny's face and tone grew serious. "Have I been doing badly on the job?"
"I've been doing my job…just leave it alone."
"Look Roy, I'll admit that I am tired…but other than that, I'm okay. Don't
worry about me, I'm fine."
"I do worry about you Johnny, you're my partner and partners look out for
John sighed in exasperation. "Well, THIS partner is going home. I'll see
you in a few days."
Without giving Roy a chance to respond, he walked out. On the drive home,
Johnny was hit by a severe case of nausea and when he got back to his
apartment, he ran to the bathroom and vomited. Soon after, the nausea was
accompanied by the chills and a fever.
He put on a tee shirt, sweats and a heavy sweatshirt and headed to bed,
shivering. Able to sleep for a few hours, he woke up feeling very thirsty.
Going into the bathroom for a drink of water, Johnny caught a glimpse of
himself in the mirror…he was startled at the reflection staring back at him.
**Oh man, what's happening to me**
Reaching into the medicine cabinet, he took out the bottle of Tylenol, took
out two tablets and swallowed them down with water. He put the thermometer
in his mouth and sat down on the toilet seat, with the lid down. A few
minutes later, he took it out and read it.
102.7...Johnny was alarmed at how high his fever was and going back to the
sink, he put the thermometer away and splashed some cool water on his face.
Starting to get worried at the severity of his symptoms, he briefly
considered calling Roy and "fessing up" as to how badly he was really
feeling. However, as quickly as that thought came to him, it left him. Johnny decided to
just tough it out for a few more days…then he'd consider talking to Dr.
Totally spent, Johnny went back to bed and fell asleep. Around 7 PM Roy
tried to call his partner, but received no answer.
"Maybe he's sleeping honey…or trying to and doesn't want to be disturbed."
Roy was clearly concerned. "I don't know Jo, I'm really worried about him.
You saw him when he was here on Saturday and he's been like that for a few
Joanne let out a breath, and said, "Roy, I care about him too…but he's a big
boy…and a paramedic. If something was seriously wrong, I'm sure he'd be
smart enough to call for help."
Roy looked at his wife. "You'd think so, wouldn't you? You don't know him
like I do."
Johnny had slept through most of the next two days. His fever went down to
101, but he was still feeling rotten and couldn't keep anything down. At 3
PM on Friday, Johnny was lying in his recliner when the phone rang, but not
anxious to talk to anyone, he let it ring.
On the tenth ring, he finally picked it up.
"Hello?" he said, expecting it to be Roy.
"Hey Johnny, its Mike."
John tried to pull himself together. "Hey. What's up?"
"Not much. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay." Johnny wanted this phone call to be over in the worst way.
"Really? You don't sound so hot."
"I'm fine Mike. I'm just resting…you know, taking it easy."
"Johnny, don't get mad…but we're awfully concerned about you."
Johnny tried to swallow his pride. "I know and I appreciate it.
It's nice to know that people care about me, but, I'm doing okay, no one
needs to worry about me Mike."
"But we do."
Johnny tried not to lose his composure with Mike. "Look, I'm a paramedic
and I think I know how to take care of myself. You can tell that partner of
mine and everyone else, that I'm doing fine. I'll see everyone tomorrow."
"I'm tired okay, and I don't want to argue about this. I'll see ya in the
He hung up the phone, leaving a stunned Mike Stoker to wonder what was
really going on with his friend.
Miraculously, Johnny was able to pull himself together enough to go to work
on Saturday morning. His temperature was down to a manageable 100.2, and
despite some nausea and a slight headache, he appeared to everyone else to
be feeling better…everyone else, but Roy.
Johnny arrived early and was at the table reading the newspaper when
his Captain entered the room.
"Good morning Cap." A seemingly chipper Johnny greeted his captain.
"John, good to see you feeling better. We were really getting worried about
"Yeah, well…I'm okay. I've been saying that all along."
When the guys all entered the squad room a half-hour later, they were all
surprised at how relaxed Johnny appeared to be.
After roll call, the two paramedics were checking their supplies and the
Roy eyed his partner suspiciously. "I don't buy the act Johnny. You can
fool the others, but not me…I know you WAY too well."
Johnny played dumb with his partner. "What are you talking
"Come on, Johnny…this is ME you're talking to."
In the middle of their exchange the alarms sounded, temporarily saving Johnny from this current round of grilling.
"Station 51…MVA, San Diego Freeway, exit 110…San Diego freeway, exit
Captain Stanley responded, "Station 51 10-4, KMG-365."
Arriving on scene, the crew surveyed the accident. There were two cars that
had collided…a blue sedan and a brown sports car. After gathering their equipment, Roy went to the brown sports car, while Johnny went to the blue sedan.
Johnny was able to work his way into the car and as he started to examine
his victim, she started to come to. He started talking to her in a very calm voice. "Hi there, my name's Johnny, what's yours?"
"Angie." Her voice told of how scared she was.
Johnny flashed her his trademark-crooked grin. "Angie, everything's going
to be alright. I want you to try to relax and take slow breaths. Where do
"Kind of all over." She gasped out.
John continued to ask her questions to ascertain what her injuries were.
Meanwhile Roy was helping his two victims, a 45-year old male and his female
The woman didn't appear to have any serious injuries and was telling Roy
that she thought her boyfriend had had a seizure of some sort. With the
help of the rest of the crew, the two paramedics got their victims out of
the damaged cars and were examining them.
Roy was on the bio-phone contacting Rampart.
"Rampart, this is Squad 51, how do you read?"
Dr. Brackett's voice was on the other end. "Go ahead 51."
"We have three victims of a two-car accident. Victim one is a male, 45
years of age, may have suffered some sort of seizure at time of accident...he is
currently unconscious...victim two is a 42 year old female, no injuries
noted, some abrasions on the face...third victim is female, 22 years of age.
Stand by for additional information."
After giving Rampart the additional info, they received their treatment
orders and were now getting ready for transport.
"Johnny, you'll go with me?"
John smiled at Angie, and replied, "Sure thing."
They loaded up the three victims and Johnny climbed in after them. "Meet ya at Rampart Roy."
As the ambulance left the scene, Roy found himself distractedly thinking
about Johnny's mood swings over the last few weeks. His thoughts were
interrupted by his Captain's voice.
"Roy, we're going to head back now. See you later."
"Yeah. See ya later Cap."
Hank started to walk away, but turned around. "Roy…everything okay?"
Roy looked blankly at his Captain, and softly replied. "I don't know."
Not elaborating on his statement, the paramedic turned and headed back to
At the hospital, after helping out with Angie, Johnny went to the lounge.
He was watching a rerun of "The Price is Right" on the TV, when Roy came into the room.
Johnny saw the concerned look on his partner's face. Trying to diffuse
the uneasiness, he commented on the game show he was watching.
"Some of these people don't have a clue Roy. Two thousand dollars for a set
of dishes?" He punctuated the remark with a laugh.
Roy turned off the TV and stood facing his partner. "Johnny, we have to
John somehow knew that he was 'found out', but he wasn't ready to go there,
Johnny spoke softly when he answered. "Roy, there's nothing to talk about."
"Johnny, you've been avoiding this topic for weeks."
Pleading with his best friend, Johnny said, "Roy, just give me a few days."
Roy saw a look on his partner's face…a pleading look that told him not to
Roy let out a breath. "Okay Johnny, you win."
Throughout the day Roy and John were kept busy with multiple runs. Johnny
remained mostly quiet, and although that only made Roy's worry increase, he
didn't bring up the one subject he wanted to talk about…Johnny's health.
The guys had finished supper, and while Marco was doing the dishes, everyone
else was watching TV.
Chet tried to break the ice with Johnny who wasn't exactly being the most sociable. "Hey Gage, you remember that sweet little thing…Heather? You know, the chick you dated last year."
Johnny wasn't in the mood, but played along. "Yeah, what about
"She's getting married. I think he's a football player for the Rams." Chet
let out a laugh. "He broke his arm playing a game of pick-up basketball.
Anyway, he goes to Rampart and who's the nurse that takes care of him?
"What's the guy's name, you twit?" Hank asked, wondering who the football player was that Chet was referring to.
Again the alarms went off, sending the squad on a call.
"Squad 51, possible overdose…2115 Ashford Drive…Sunrise Apartments…Apt.
7A…2-1-1-5 Ashford Drive…Sunrise Apartments…Apt. 7A…Timeout 19:25."
As Captain Stanley responded on the mic, Roy and John took their places in
Arriving on scene at the apartment complex, they were met by Vince.
"The girl's sister thinks she tried to kill herself, she's pretty scared."
The paramedics got their equipment and hurriedly followed Vince into the apartment.
"It's my sister Stephanie…she's not moving. You gotta help her." The young girl pleaded.
Roy tried to reassure the girl, as he said, "We will. What's your name?"
"How old is your sister?'
"Twenty-two. She's been really depressed lately. I…I tried to get her
to talk to someone, but…but she wouldn't."
Upon reaching their victim, she was indeed unconscious, lying on her bed.
As Roy started to take the girl's vitals, Johnny looked down on the floor
and saw an empty unmarked bottle of pills and an empty bottle of vodka.
Johnny held up the empty bottles for his partner to see.
"Roy." Johnny turned to the girl's sister. "Is she on any medication?"
The girl shook her head, and replied, "No. I…I…have no idea what pills she
took. Is she going to be okay?"
Johnny looked at the girl. "Your sister's very sick."
Roy contacted Rampart about their victim and received their treatment
orders while Johnny started the IV.
"Where are your parents, Denise?" Roy asked trying to gain some more information.
"They live in Pennsylvania...I already called them. Can…can I go to the
hospital with her?"
"Sure. You can ride up front."
Vince met the ambulance attendants outside and led them back to the
apartment. Loading the victim into the ambulance, Roy rode with her.
At the hospital, Roy was talking to Dixie after helping out in the treatment
"So, how's Johnny?" Dixie asked nonchalantly, but yet with concern.
"What do you mean?"
"He…he just doesn't seem right lately…you know, like that spark of his isn't
there. Don't tell me you haven't noticed Roy…you guys are always together."
"I have Dix, but every time I ask him if he's alright, he says that he's
fine and that I'm being a worrywart…then we get into an argument about
it. In fact, it almost came to a head this morning."
"What happened Roy?"
Before Roy could answer, Johnny walked into the ER.
"Hey. How's the girl?"
"She's not doing too well. They're still working on her."
Johnny's face grew serious, as he asked, "What makes people do that to
Of course, he had firsthand knowledge of suicide. His older brother Gavin
hung himself after their parents' death in a car accident…that was almost
twenty years ago.
Dixie looked sympathetically at Johnny and answered. "I don't know Johnny. I
guess they're so unhappy, they'd do anything to take away their pain and
Roy looked over at his partner. "Ready to go Junior?"
Johnny nodded his head slowly. "Yeah, let's go Roy."
**You didn't call me Pally…what's wrong with you Johnny**
"See you guys later." Dixie smiled at the two paramedics.
"Bye Dix." Roy answered and gave her a look that said 'I'm really
concerned and I don't know what to do.'
On the way back to the station, Johnny remained very quiet. Roy tried to perk
up his partner by picking up the conversation where Chet had left off.
"So, how long did you and Heather date for Johnny?"
"Huh?" Johnny replied, not really paying attention to what Roy was saying.
"Heather…the girl that Chet was talking about before…how long did you two date?"
"Oh, I don't know…a few dates. She told me that she couldn't handle the
stress of dating a firefighter…all the worry and all." Johnny laughed softly. "At
least…at least she was honest with me."
The next day, after a morning run, Johnny decided to have a little chat with
Dr. Brackett. He wanted to do this before Roy came back to the hospital
looking for him.
"Doc, you have a few minutes?" asked Johnny, making sure that no one was around to see him talking to the doctor.
"Sure Johnny. What's on your mind?"
"Actually, if you don't mind, I'd like to talk to you in your office."
Dr. Brackett led John to his office and closed the door. He signaled for
the paramedic to sit down, then he sat down on the edge of his big oak desk, facing him.
"Alright Johnny…you have my undivided attention. What can I do for you?"
Johnny was having a hard time saying what he wanted to. He had been in
denial about being sick for so long, he wasn't sure if he was ready to admit
it yet, but he knew he needed to.
"Doc I…I…I've been feeling kinda lousy these last few weeks. I'd like to
get myself checked out…but not here at the hospital. I'd like to keep it
private, if you don't mind."
Dr. Brackett was immediately concerned. "What kind of symptoms are you
Johnny told him all about the headaches and nausea, the vomiting, the
tiredness, dizziness, and the nosebleeds.
"I guess I'm gettin' a little nervous…not to mention my partner is too."
Brackett let out an exhale of air. "When do you go off shift?"
"I have a friend who can probably see you as soon as you get off duty. Dr.
Peters, he's a good friend of mine. I'll give him a call…check in with me
Dr. Brackett noticed the stress and exhaustion that were clearly etched on Johnny's face...a
sure sign of how much this must have been bothering the paramedic.
"I won't say anything Johnny."
Johnny nodded his head. "Thanks." The paramedic got up but quickly turned around.
"Oh, by the way…how's that girl that we brought in last night?"
Brackett shook his head, and replied sadly, "Not good Johnny, she's in a coma."
Nodding his head, Johnny left Brackett's office without saying anything else,
hoping his partner wasn't around and no one noticed him coming out of the
doctor's office. Dr. Brackett made the call and set the appointment for his young friend.
When Johnny made his way back to Dixie's desk, Roy was nowhere to be seen.
Softly speaking, Johnny asked, "Dix, you seen Roy?"
"No Johnny, I haven't." Dixie paused for a moment before continuing.
"Johnny…is everything okay with you?"
Johnny was taken aback by the nurse's question.
Dixie shook her head before looking worriedly at the paramedic. "Truthfully, you haven't been yourself. I haven't seen that old Gage charm for a while now."
John shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Business has been
pretty busy lately, I guess I'm just tired."
Dixie had her thoughts that there was more to it than that, but did not
voice them. Roy had finally arrived.
"Miss me partner?" Roy asked with a smile.
Johnny returned the smile. "What do YOU think? I've had Dixie
keeping me company. Who else's company would be better?"
Dixie smiled at John's answer. Curious, Dixie asked Roy why he was delayed.
"It was kind of strange, for some reason there was a lot of traffic. I hope
it clears up if we DO have an emergency."
"Well, you're here now Roy. What do ya say, we head back? I'm sure Captain Stanley has some chores waiting for us."
"Sounds good Junior. See you later, Dix."
As the paramedics left, Dixie's eyes stayed on Johnny.
**I hope you're okay Johnny**
Once in the squad Johnny was quiet again.
"Penny for your thoughts partner."
Johnny let out a little chuckle before he answered.
"Only a penny? I asked Brackett about that girl we brought in last
night...he said she's in a coma."
There was silence for a couple minutes, then Johnny hesitantly asked,
"Roy…you ever thought…well, thought about…suicide?"
This line of questioning threw Roy for a loop. He looked at his partner
"No. Have you Johnny?"
"Nope. It's a pretty selfish thing to do, if you ask me."
Roy sensed that there was more to this conversation than Johnny was letting
on, but he didn't want to pry. After a few minutes of silence, Roy looked
over at his partner…it had been the most tired that he'd seen Johnny in
awhile. He was about to say something, but changed his mind.
Returning to the station, they were met by Mike and Marco.
"Thank God you're here."
Roy looked at Marco, concerned that something serious had happened.
"What's wrong Marco?"
Mike jumped in. "It's Chet...he's driving us crazy. I think this
is the most obnoxious he's been in a while."
Shades of the old Johnny came out. "Oh yeah…how can you tell?"
"What's he doing?" Roy was curious.
Marco rolled his eyes. "He apparently got a delivery this
morning...a book that he was waiting for."
Johnny let out a slight laugh. "Yeah, 1001 ways to be a jerk. Where is he
"He's on his bed, reading his book." Mike replied.
Walking out of the vehicle bay and into the dorm, Johnny saw
that Chet was right where Mike said he was. He thought about starting in
on Kelly…but he just didn't have the energy for it. Turning around, Johnny
headed back to the squad room.
When Johnny came into the room, Marco asked, "Are you going to do
John looked at Marco and shrugged his shoulders. "Nah, he's not bothering anyone."
Marco was exasperated. "Now he's not. You should have seen him a little
while ago…you can't let him get away with it."
Johnny was rather annoyed and his voice was tinged with a small amount of
anger when he responded.
"Why is this on me? I wasn't here…you two were." With that, Johnny turned his back on his friends, and wearily plopped down onto the couch.
Mike sensed Johnny's annoyance, but didn't know why he was so upset.
"What's that about Roy? Normally, he would have been all over Chet."
Roy looked at his two friends sadly. "These aren't normal times." Roy went over to his friend who was seemingly deep in thought.
"Johnny, you alright?"
"I'm sorry I snapped out there. I…I...just can't stop thinking about that
girl in the coma."
"Are you sure that's all that's on your mind Johnny?" Roy asked doubtfully.
In the middle of their exchange, the phone rang and Captain Stanley answered
it in his office.
Before Johnny could reply to Roy's question, they were interrupted by Captain
Stanley coming over to them.
"John, you have a phone call. You can take it in my office."
Johnny's brown eyes met his Captain's as he hesitantly got up off the couch. "Thanks Cap."
Once he stepped inside the office, he closed the door and sat down at his
Captain's desk, almost afraid to pick up the phone.
"John Gage here." He was momentarily startled when he heard Dr. Brackett's
voice on the other end.
"Johnny, I'm glad I caught you. I called my friend, Dr. Peters, and he said
for you to come over as soon as you get off shift in the morning."
Johnny was speechless, he felt like now that he admitted that he was
sick…things were happening too fast.
"Uh...yeah…thanks Doc, I'll…I'll be there. What's the address?"
"1224 Western Boulevard. Go into the building's lobby, they'll tell you what
floor to go to."
Before Brackett could finish his sentence, Johnny cut him off. "I
gotta go Doc…bye."
He hung up the phone without giving the doctor a chance to say anything
Johnny sat at the desk for a few minutes longer to gather his thoughts…he
knew that Captain Stanley knew who was on the phone for him...he wondered
what to tell Roy when he asked about the phone call. He also knew it would
be hard to lie without tipping off his Captain's suspicions.
He decided to call Rampart and ask about the girl in the coma...that way
he'd have an out. After speaking to one of the nurses, he found out that the
girl had taken a turn for the worse and was not expected to make it. This
bit of news upset Johnny terribly and it only made him think of his deceased
brother and his own mortality. From that point on, Johnny became extremely
quiet and had a real sense of sadness about him.
Going back out to the squad room, the rest of his shift-mates noticed the change
in his demeanor. Roy was immediately concerned.
"Johnny…who was on the phone?"
Johnny spoke very quietly. "Uh...it was Brackett...that girl…she's…she's not
expected to make it…she...she took a turn for the worse."
Roy felt badly, after all, the girl was only twenty-two years old. But, he
wasn't sure why his partner was taking the news as badly as he had. For the
time being he chose not to say anything. It was at this point that Chet
chose to come out to try some more of his new material. He was about to toss
out a few barbs directed at his favorite pigeon, but was smart enough not to
when he caught the pained look on Johnny's face.
Captain Stanley spoke up. "The overdose victim from last night isn't
expected to pull through. Johnny just got the call."
It was times like this that Chet showed his true colors. "I'm really sorry
guys. I know how tough it is for you when you get news like that."
Roy smiled at Chet in appreciation. Johnny said nothing but walked away, he
wanted to be left alone. He felt like his life was spinning out of
control...and he was the only one to blame. He went to the dorm to be by
No one else quite knew what to say. Captain Stanley looked at his remaining
men, as he spoke.
"I guess I'll start lunch. I'm making my clam chowder. If there's any left
Roy, why don't you drop some off to Dr. Early."
Roy smiled at his Captain's suggestion. "Good idea Cap."
It was Hank's clam chowder that helped Dr. Early in his recuperation after
having heart surgery a few years ago. Ever since then, whenever Hank made
the chowder, the paramedics dropped some off at the hospital for him.
As Hank prepared lunch, the four men, minus Johnny decided to play cards to
determine dish duty...Mike lost.
"Hey Stoker...make sure those dishes sparkle like Big Red."
Mike glared at Chet, as he said, "To take a page from Johnny's book, go play
in the freeway, Chet."
Chet put a hand on his chest like he was wounded. "Oww, that
The other three firefighters rolled their eyes. Before too long, Hank was
done preparing his chowder and called his men to the table for lunch.
"Someone want to get John?"
Without question, they all knew that Roy would be the one to go. He quietly
walked into the dorm and saw that Johnny was sitting on his bed writing. It was a
letter…one that he would end up rewriting several times over the next few
"Johnny...it's lunch time, Cap made his chowder. You coming?"
John looked up at his partner and shook his head before quietly responding.
"No. I'm not very hungry. Tell Chet he can have my bowl."
Roy knew enough that when his best friend was in this mood, to leave him
When Roy got back to the kitchen, four pairs of eyes looked expectantly at
"Is he coming Roy?"
"No. He said he wasn't hungry Cap."
"What's he doing?" Chet asked.
Chet was getting almost as concerned as Roy was.
"He looked like he was writing something." Trying to lighten the mood a
little, he added, "He said to give Chet his serving of chowder."
Chet looked at Roy, and said, "Give it to Dr. Early."
The meal was eaten in relative quiet...each man lost in his own thoughts.
After lunch, Mike got started on the dishes, Marco offered to help
him...Stoker accepted. Chet was lost without having Johnny around to trade
barbs with. He started to go to the dorm, but was stopped by Roy.
Roy shook his head. "Just leave him alone Chet...he's not in the mood."
"I wasn't going to do anything."
"Well, maybe not, but he's better off being by himself right now...trust
Chet was disappointed, but backed off.
The afternoon and early evening were very quiet. Captain Stanley stayed
mostly in his office catching up on paperwork, while Chet, Marco, and Mike
went out back to play H-O-R-S-E with the basketball. Johnny continued to
stay in the dorm after passing on supper as well, and Roy, concerned about
his partner's physical and mental wellbeing, stayed inside to watch
TV...and to keep an eye on his friend.
After going to bed, it had been a busy night...a heart attack, two MVA's,
and a house fire had kept the guys hopping. It wasn't until 4 AM did they
all get back into bed. As the wake up alarms sounded, the weary men slowly
rolled out of bed and put on their turnouts.
As Roy sat up in his bed, he looked over at Johnny's bunk and noticed his
partner wasn't there. When they all made it to the kitchen, they found
Johnny sitting at the table drinking a glass of water. Roy studied his best
friend for a moment…there was a sense of melancholy about him. This latest
observation really worried Roy.
The others were surprised to see him already up.
"Hey Gage…the least you could have done was to…"
Before Chet could finish his sentence, he saw Roy's hand go up and a look
that told him to shut up.
"Hi Roy." The junior paramedic wearily replied.
"You're up early partner."
"Yeah, well…I couldn't sleep." Johnny's voice reflected Roy's observed
sense of sadness in his partner.
"Coffee's on Cap."
Looking over at the firefighter, Hank smiled appreciatively. "Thanks Marco."
After the coffee was done brewing, Marco poured everyone a cup of coffee.
Johnny looked at Marco and shook his head. "No thanks."
"Gage not drinking coffee…what's the world coming to?"
It was at that point that Roy realized that he hadn't seen Johnny drinking
much coffee in the last few weeks. A few thoughts crossed his mind, but he
didn't want to think about them.
When the clock read 8AM, and B-Shift had fully arrived, Captain Stanley released his shift from duty. They went to the locker room to change to go home.
Roy was hopeful that his partner would agree to go out with him. This
so-called funk that Johnny was in, was really starting to scare him.
"Sorry Roy, maybe next time…I got some stuff to do." He smiled weakly at
his partner. "I'll call ya later, okay Roy?"
Johnny closed his locker and left without saying anything else.
"You okay Roy? You look…upset."
"I'm worried about Johnny, Marco…he…he just hasn't been right. I'll see you
Roy left and went home, leaving the others to talk amongst themselves.
"You guys don't think anything really serious is going on, do you?"
The normally quiet Engineer spoke up. "Chet, when was the last
time you saw Johnny THIS quiet…or Roy this upset?"
Chet thought for a moment. "I don't know…it's been a long, long time."
"Don't ask me why, but I have a hunch that we'll have some answers soon."
The three firefighters briefly looked at one another and continued to get
ready to go home.
Johnny sat nervously, waiting for his name to be called.
"Mr. Gage, you can go in now."
Johnny got up and followed the nurse into the exam room. Upon entering the
small room, he was handed a gown.
"Please put this on, and I'll be back in a few minutes."
Before leaving the room, the nurse looked back at Johnny and smiled.
Johnny slowly undressed and put on the gown. Looking out the window, he
noticed that it had started to rain…matching his mood and the way he was
feeling…gloomy. He turned around at the sound of the door opening.
The same nurse walked in…she looked to be in her mid-thirties. Shehad brown
hair and blue eyes. Johnny thought she was quite pretty, and if the
circumstances were very different, he probably would have tried to ask her out.
She motioned for him to sit on the exam table.
"So Mr. Gage…what brings you here today?"
"Please, it's John…or Johnny."
Johnny paused for a moment and then continued. "I…I've just been feeling
kinda lousy the last few weeks. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, some vomiting…I've had a
few nosebleeds, too…and I've been kinda weak and really tired. But for me, the worst
part is that...I've had trouble focusing."
The nurse smiled at him reassuringly, as she asked, "What is it that you do
"I'm a firefighter/paramedic. It's…it's not good for me to be losing my
focus…I NEED my concentration."
As she proceeded to weigh him, take his vitals and temperature, she said,
"Okay, well just try to relax. 101.4. How long have you had a fever?"
"I don't know…off and on for a few weeks." Johnny was getting very nervous.
The nurse smiled at him again, and touched his arm. "The doctor
will be in shortly."
As she left the room, Johnny was left with his thoughts. His anxiety
level grew with each passing minute as he sat on the exam table looking down at
As Dr. Peters walked in, Johnny quickly observed him. He was about 6"2 with
brown hair and had what Johnny would describe as a very kind face. He
looked to be about 42. The doctor extended his hand…Johnny took it.
"Dr. Brackett told me you'd be here today. I can understand you not wanting
to get checked out at Rampart."
Johnny smiled weakly at the doctor. "I appreciate you seeing me. I…yeah,
I…I wanted some privacy. At Rampart, everyone knows everyone's business."
The doctor smiled knowingly. "I get the picture." He read Johnny's chart
and looked up.
Johnny looked back at the doctor worriedly. "It's not good, is it?"
"John, let's not go jumping to conclusions. Let's run some tests first."
He listened to Johnny's heart and lungs, asking him to take several deep
breaths. "Your lung sounds are a little diminished." Next he palpated
Johnny's abdomen and felt his neck and glands.
"How much do you normally weigh?"
John shrugged his shoulders, and replied, "Around 175 lbs."
He took a deep breath and exhaled…he knew he was down about ten pounds.
"I'll be right back. We'll start with some blood work." He touched Johnny
on the shoulder and walked out of the room.
Two minutes later, he returned with the same nurse.
She smiled at him. "This won't take long."
Johnny let out a chuckle. "You might think it's silly, but I'm not a
big fan of needles…and I know, I'm a paramedic."
"I'll be gentle." She swabbed down his arm and inserted the needle to draw the necessary vials of
blood. "Okay, all done." She left to get the blood samples ready for the
"I'd like to run some more tests…a CT -Scan and some x-rays. What's your
"I'm off tomorrow."
"We have the equipment downstairs so I'll set up the appointment for you.
How's 9 AM tomorrow?"
Johnny softly answered. "That's fine."
"John, we'll get to the bottom of this. I'll see you in the morning, Suite
412." He looked at Johnny sympathetically. "Try to get some rest, okay?"
He patted Johnny on the shoulder and left.
Johnny got dressed and headed home in the pouring rain. As he was driving, and
the rain was rolling down the windshield, tears were doing the same down his
cheeks. After pulling into his parking space at his apartment complex, he
continued to sit in his Rover, his head and arms resting on the steering
wheel…the tears still falling gently down his cheeks.
After sitting in his car for ten minutes, he grabbed his duffel bag and made
his way to his apartment. Once inside, he dropped his bag on the floor and
went into the bathroom, where he drank a cup of water, then undressed to take a shower.
An hour later, he was in his recliner curled up under a blanket and watching
TV. He had been sleeping soundly when he was hit suddenly by an
overwhelming urge to vomit. He ran to the bathroom and just made it there
in time…kneeling down and his head hanging over the bowl. After
getting it out of his system, he rinsed out his mouth and went to lay down in
While Johnny was sleeping soundly in his apartment, Roy was in the kitchen
at home, staring at the phone…practically willing it to ring.
"Roy, what's going on…why are you so nervous and uptight?" Joanne asked her husband worriedly.
"Jo…I…I can't really talk about it."
"Can't…or won't? Does this have something to do with Johnny?"
"Jo, I'm not going to get into it now."
"Why are you staring at the phone…if it has something to do with Johnny, why
don't you just call him?"
"I can't, okay? Just leave it at that."
"Did the two of you have a fight or something?"
"No, we didn't. I have my reasons…just please let it go.
As the evening passed and Roy waited for a phone call from his partner, he
became increasingly concerned.
At 8:30 PM the phone rang…Roy jumped up to answer it.
"Hey Pally." Greeted a voice on the phone.
Roy was relieved to finally hear Johnny's voice on the other end.
"Hey Junior. How are you?"
"I'm okay. How about you?"
"Fine." He was also relieved that Johnny sounded good…even relaxed. "What
did you do all day?"
"Ah, the usual. I did some laundry and some cleaning. I took a nap for
awhile…nothing special. How about you?"
"Not much. Joanne took pity on me…the rain and all." Roy hesitated a
moment before continuing. "Johnny, I'm not afraid to tell you…I was really
worried about you this morning…you scared the hell out of me."
"I'm sorry Roy. I was having a rough morning and I was tired…
couldn't fall asleep last night. I'm okay now."
Roy really wanted to believe that…but didn't. However, he kept that thought
"What do you have planned for tomorrow?"
"I have some errands to run in the morning, but if you're free in the
afternoon, we can get together then."
"Sounds good partner. Why don't you call me when you get done with your errands."
"It's a plan. Good night Pally."
Roy was glad that Johnny called…he promised he would and he did. But Roy
wasn't convinced that his partner's troubles were behind him.
The next morning Johnny found himself once again nervously waiting in a
doctor's office. The thought of undergoing additional tests scared the hell
out of him. However, it wasn't the tests themselves that scared him, but rather the
Dr. Peters came out to greet Johnny. "John, how are you doing today?"
"I guess I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous."
"Well, these tests shouldn't take too long." The doctor replied with a reassuring smile.
Johnny changed into a gown. First he underwent the x-rays…pictures were
taken of his skull, chest, and abdomen. After the x-rays were taken, Johnny
was placed into the CT-Scan. Lying on the table as it was slid into place,
his anxiety level was through the roof.
As Dr. Peters saw the images of Johnny's skull, his eyes opened wide at what
he saw. Turning to the scan specialist, he sadly shook his head. They
both acknowledged the sight before them on the monitor.
Johnny had a tumor the size of a plumb, on the right side of his brain. As
they scanned his chest and abdomen, they found that he also had some growths
on his lungs. The blood tests would later reveal that the brain tumor was
indeed malignant and that it had spread to his lungs.
After the CT- Scan was completed and Johnny was helped down from the machine,
he was led back to the exam room to get dressed. Before too long, Dr.
Peters joined him, as Johnny looked at him trying to find some kind of
reaction from the recently completed tests.
"So what do ya think Doc?" Johnny asked.
Dr. Peters had his poker face on, so as not to let Johnny know how worried
he really was.
"John, I need to go over the test results with my colleagues...and we're
still waiting for the results of your blood work. We won't have a final
answer for a few days."
Johnny was somewhat frustrated with the doctor's response to his question.
In his mind, he already knew what the test results showed…he also knew what
Dr. Peters really meant was that he didn't want to confirm anything until he
let Dr. Brackett know what was going on first.
"Until then...what?" Johnny asked with frustration.
"You just sit tight and as soon as I have all the results, I'll let you
Johnny nodded his head slowly. "Thanks Doc."
They shook hands and he left the office, heading to his Rover. He remembered
that he had told Roy on the phone the night before, that he'd call him and
they'd get together around mid-day for lunch. The truth of the matter was that he
really didn't feel like going anywhere but home.
Thinking if he backed out on meeting Roy, his partner's sense of concern
would only escalate, so Johnny knew there was only one thing he could
do...put a mask on his emotions. After sitting in his Rover for a few
minutes, he decided to find a pay phone and call his partner.
Roy had been in the kitchen polishing his work boots when the phone rang.
"Hello, DeSoto residence."
Johnny did his best to sound upbeat. "Hey Pally."
"Junior. You're done with all your errands already?"
"Uh...yeah. I got an early start."
"Want to come over for a while?" Roy asked hopefully.
Johnny didn't feel like facing Joanne, so he hesitated in answering.
Sensing his partner's hesitation, Roy quickly added, "Joanne's at the
"Okay, I'll be over in a few minutes Pally."
"I'll be here Junior, see ya soon."
Fifteen minutes later Johnny pulled up to Roy's house.
Roy greeted him at the door. "Hey partner. How ya doing?"
"I'm fine." Johnny answered, trying not to tip off to his best friend, just how rotten and miserable he was really feeling.
As he answered his friend, Johnny knew Roy was eyeing him, looking for signs
that he wasn't being honest about how he was feeling.
"Come on in. Can I get you anything to drink?"
"A glass of water would be great."
After the two friends made their way to the kitchen, Roy handed Johnny a
glass of water.
"I told Joanne that we'd be going out for a few hours. Hungry?"
Johnny tried his best to smile, as he replied, "Sure. Where would you like
"How about Patsy's Diner? My treat."
"Sounds good Pally. I'll meet ya there."
Being a little surprised, along with being worried, Roy hesitantly answered. "Ah…sure."
Roy had assumed they'd go over in one vehicle, but he was just happy that
Johnny agreed to go...he hadn't remembered seeing his partner eating very
At the diner the two friends were sitting in a booth when the waitress came
over to take their order. The waitress was very pretty. She had long wavy
brown hair that she wore back in a ponytail and very beautiful green eyes.
Smiling at the two men, she was ready to take their order. "What can I get you fellas?"
Roy ordered a hamburger, glass of orange juice and coffee. Johnny ordered a
BLT sandwich and a glass of milk. After receiving their order, the waitress
smiled at them and left. Roy noticed Johnny's lack of reaction to the
pretty waitress. This was a red flag to Roy, signaling that all was not well
with his partner…after all, even Roy noticed how attractive she was.
"The waitress sure is cute, don't ya think Johnny?"
"Huh?" Johnny's mind was clearly somewhere else.
"The waitress...she's very pretty."
Hardly looking back at her, Johnny softly replied. "Yeah, I
It was obvious to Roy that Johnny had something on his mind…it wasn't like
him to let a pretty face go completely unnoticed. When their food came, Roy
started to eat right away. After a few bites, he observed John just staring
at the plate before him.
"Johnny...aren't you gonna eat?"
"I don't know Roy, I guess I'm not really hungry. I'm sorry that I'm not
better company for you."
Putting down his hamburger, Roy took on a serious tone. He wanted to get to
the bottom of why Johnny had been acting so strangely. First he seems okay,
then he doesn't, and it made no sense to him. Roy feared that there was
something seriously wrong with Johnny. The last few brief conversations that
he'd had with his partner left him feeling more and more like that was the
"What's going on with you Johnny?"
"Roy...not now...not here…please." The junior paramedic pleaded softly.
"Johnny, do you have any idea how worried about you I am…do you? Every time
I see you or talk to you...you seem to be feeling worse...and are further
"How can I not know? You never let me forget it."
Johnny understood Roy's concern. They'd both have some answers in a few
days...until then, both paramedics would remain in their current state. Roy
would stay worried...Johnny would stay evasive and defensive.
"I'm sorry, Roy. I..." Johnny paused for a moment, unsure of what to say
next. "I gotta go...I'll see you at work in the morning."
He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and put it on the table. He left without
giving Roy a second look.
The waitress came back to the table. "Hey, where did your friend go? He's
Slightly smiling at the comment, Roy said, "He had to go. Would you mind
packaging this food to go...and I'll take the check please."
"Sure thing sweetie."
Johnny felt terrible for running out on his best friend, but he was
Exhausted, and feeling overwhelmingly stressed out. He went back to his
Apartment, and sprawled out on the couch. Before closing his eyes, he briefly
considered calling out for his next shift...but decided against it.
Meanwhile Roy arrived back home and was greeted by his wife.
"You're back early Roy, I thought you wouldn't be back till later. Is
everything okay with Johnny?"
Roy didn't know how to answer that question.
"Uh...he had some things to do, so after we ate, he left to run his
Joanne noticed Roy holding the two styrofoam containers.
"You had leftovers…isn't that unusual, especially where Johnny's concerned?"
"I guess he had a big breakfast. I'll put these in the fridge...the kids can
have them later."
After studying the x-rays and reviewing the CT-scan results, Dr. Peters
called Dr. Brackett at Rampart.
Kel picked up the phone. "Dr. Brackett here."
"Kel, this is Dave Peters."
"Dave. How...how did Johnny make out yesterday?" Brackett's voice was
filled with apprehension.
"I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I examined him yesterday...and
ran some additional tests this morning."
Dr. Brackett heard the seriousness in his colleague's voice…he knew it
wasn't going to be good news, but he asked anyway.
"It's not good news…is it?"
"I'm afraid not Kel. If you and Dr. Jackson can come over to my office
sometime in the next day or two...I'd like you to go over the results with me…so we're all on the same page."
"Sure…I'll...I'll be in touch. Thanks for calling Dave."
"Kel, I know this fella is important to you...I'm sorry."
Agreeing, Kel replied, "He's important to a lot of people...thanks for your
The next morning Johnny arrived at the station early. He was feeling lousy
but did his best to hide the fact. C-shift was still out on a run, he was
thankful for that. He had been sitting on the couch relaxing when Captain Stanley
walked into the room.
He was surprised to see his paramedic there so early, especially given how
Johnny had been feeling during the last shift.
Johnny tried to sound upbeat, despite how he was really feeling. "Hey Cap."
Even so, Hank heard the tiredness in the paramedic's voice.
"You alright pal?"
"I'm fine Cap."
Hank wasn't totally convinced, but didn't press the issue.
"Okay. But if...if you didn't feel up to snuff, you'd let me know…right?"
Johnny didn't really feel like talking, so he kept his answers as short as
"Of course, Cap."
The rest of A-shift arrived and Roy went into the locker room, expecting to
see his partner there.
"Hey Chet. Have you seen Johnny yet?"
"Nope, I just got here. Marco, Mike...you guys see Johnny?"
They both shook their heads no, and after changing, the four of them went
out for roll call.
It was then that Roy saw Johnny sitting on the couch. "Good mornin' Junior."
As Captain Stanley was about to start, the engine and squad came back.
Charlie Dwyer came into the kitchen.
"I hope it's a quieter shift for you guys, we've been going non-stop all
shift. This morning we got called out to a fire at 4 AM…we're just getting
The guys on A-shift looked at each other. They were all hoping for a quiet
shift. After roll call Roy and Johnny were checking their supplies.
"Johnny, what happened to you yesterday...where did you run off to from the
Before anything else could be said, the alarms sounded and the squad was
called away to their first run of the day...a woman down call. Arriving on
scene, the paramedics were met by a young woman.
"Thank God you guys are here."
Johnny looked at the woman curiously. "What seems to be the
"It's my neighbor, Mrs. McCarthy…she's 87. I check on her every morning, and this morning when I rang the bell, there was no answer and
when I looked in the window...she was lying on the floor."
"You have a key?" Roy asked the woman.
"No." The woman replied sadly.
Vince pulled up to the house and joined the paramedics at the squad. After
Roy told him what the situation was, he broke the window, and then Johnny
climbed in and unlocked the door.
Roy looked up at the flight of stairs. "She must have fallen down
Roy set about examining the elderly woman, while Johnny called in to
Rampart. The elderly woman started to come to. Roy smiled at her.
"What…what happened?" came a soft voice.
"You fell down the stairs Ma'am. Can you tell me where you hurt?"
After gathering all the information from their victim, Johnny called in the
added info to the hospital. When Mrs. McCarthy was ready for transport, Roy
went in the ambulance with her as her neighbor rode up front.
As the ambulance drove away, Johnny was putting away the equipment.
Vince came over to him. "Johnny, I've been meaning to ask you, have you been
feeling alright lately? You haven't been looking so good."
"I...I...uh, yeah. I've just been kind of tired. I'm fine Vince." He smiled
at his friend. "Thanks for your concern though, I'll see you later."
He drove to the hospital to meet up with Roy, however, not wanting to meet
up with Dr. Brackett, he decided to wait for Roy in the squad. After
helping to get Mrs. McCarthy settled in the treatment room, Roy went to the
lounge for some coffee. He had been deep in thought when he heard a woman's
"Roy, how's Johnny doing?"
"Oh, hi there Dix. Johnny? Uh...okay, I guess. I'm not sure he's...he's
been kinda quiet lately."
"Yeah, I've noticed."
Roy looked at his watch. He knew that Johnny should have been there by now.
Brice stuck his head in the door.
"DeSoto, Gage wanted me to tell you he's waiting for you in the squad."
Dixie looked at Roy with concern. "Why's he waiting for you in the squad?"
Roy sighed and shook his head. "I don't know Dix. I'm having a hard time figuring him
He finished his coffee and got up to go.
"See ya later Roy."
"Yeah." Roy answered lifelessly.
As he approached the squad, he noticed Johnny sitting inside the cab. His
head was back, resting on the back of the seat.
"A little bit. Roy...I'm really sorry about yesterday. I...truthfully my
stomach was feeling a little queasy and I just didn't want you more worried
than you already were."
It wasn't the entire truth, but it wasn't a total lie either. Roy knew
there was more to it than his partner was letting on, but he didn't push.
"So, how are you feeling now?" Roy asked curiously.
"I don't know...a little blah I guess. I'll be alright Roy."
Roy went on the radio and made them available.
The rest of the shift went quickly. Station 51 was kept busy, much to the
dismay of the crew, and like C-shift before them, they too went on an early
morning fire call and came back after the end of their shift.
When they came back they were all exhausted, but no one more than Johnny, he
appeared to be dead on his feet. This was a fact that wasn't lost on anyone,
especially the two B-shift paramedics.
Adam Wright, the senior paramedic on the shift spoke, what everyone else was
"Johnny...you okay buddy?"
Johnny sighed, as he replied, "I'm fine Adam...just wiped out. This whole
shift has been one big blur."
He turned and headed to the locker room…he knew they'd be talking about him
once he left the room, but he was too tired to care.
"Roy, is he okay? He looks horrible." Asked the second B-shift paramedic.
"It was a rough shift Andy. We're all exhausted."
As the A-shift crew changed to go home, Roy kept an eye on his partner.
"Johnny...you gonna be alright to drive home?"
"I'll be fine Roy." He closed his locker and picked up his bag. "I'll be in
Johnny left to go home.
At the same time Johnny was arriving home, Dr. Brackett and Dr. Jackson went
to meet with Dr. Peters about the results of Johnny's tests. In his
office, the three doctors went over the test results.
Dr. Jackson, an oncologist at Rampart shook his head sadly, as he spoke.
"There's no question, Johnny's got a brain tumor. Based on his blood work
and the growths on his lungs...it's almost end-stage, and I'd say…I'd say
Dr. Brackett nodded his head in agreement. "These test results
don't lie, do they?"
"I wish they did Kel. Johnny's one of your paramedics isn't he?"
"Yeah...one of the best…and he's...he's only 31." Kel let out a big breath.
"Boy, this is quite a blow."
"I'm sorry Kel, but it's like you said, these test results don't lie. I wish
the results told a different story…from what you've told me, John Gage is
quite a young man."
"He is. Thanks for joining us Steve."
Dr. Jackson nodded his head. "I wish there was something more
that I could do."
He shook hands with the other two doctors, then left.
"I'd like to break the news to Johnny on Saturday morning…we can go to his
"I'm with you Kel. Based on your rapport with Johnny, I think maybe you
should take over his case…he's going to need a lot of support over the next
"That might be a good idea. I'll meet you at your office at 8 AM."
Softly speaking, Kel replied,"Wish it was better news."
They shook hands, then Brackett headed back to Rampart...with a heavy heart
and the burden of knowing Johnny's "secret".
It was a rare occasion, but Johnny was actually hungry. He had been sitting in
his kitchen enjoying some scrambled eggs and toast when he heard a knock at
the door. He looked at the clock and wondered who would be at his door at 9
AM on a Saturday morning.
He got up slowly to answer it. Opening the door, his heart fell to the
floor when he saw the two figures standing there.
He quickly gathered his composure, and said, "Come on in."
The two men entered the apartment and sat down on the couch.
"Johnny…we have the test results."
**Well...the moment of truth is finally here…I think I might be in trouble**
Dr. Brackett's voice was very serious and the infamous twitch in his mouth
started. Johnny looked at the two doctors and let out a small laugh.
"I know it's not good news. I mean...when do doctors make house calls these
days? And not only is there one doctor here, but two."
Dr. Peters started to speak. "John, I asked Dr. Brackett to come here with
Johnny cut Dr. Peters off before he can finish the sentence, and said, "To
soften the blow, right?"
"No John, I wanted him here because he knows you better than I do…and you're
going to need all the support you can get."
For a few moments there was silence, then the doctor continued.
"You have a brain tumor…inoperable…and unfortunately, it's started to spread.
You have some growths on your lungs, that's why you've had some
breathing issues lately."
Johnny looked at the two doctors in disbelief, slowly digesting the news. He
swallowed hard before responding.
"I…I knew it was gonna...be bad, but…"
"Johnny, I'm sorry…Dr. Peters and I have been over all your test results,
and I even consulted Dr. Jackson, a colleague in oncology and there's no
question about the results."
"Are…are you saying...how...how long?"
"Six months Johnny...maybe." replied Dr. Brackett.
Dr. Peters slowly got up. "John, I'm going to go. Dr. Brackett
has agreed to take over your case...I felt that it would be better for you.
I...I hope that's okay."
Johnny was speechless. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words
wouldn't come out.
"John, I'm sorry the news wasn't better."
Johnny was still in obvious shock when he regained his voice.
"Uh, yeah…so am I. Thanks for all your help, Dr. Peters…I...I appreciate
you taking the time to see me."
Johnny finally looked at Dr. Peters and made eye contact.
"If you ever need to talk John…I'm available…don't hesitate to call."
Dr. Peters gently touched John's shoulder before he shook Dr. Brackett's hand.
"I'll let myself out."
After Dr. Peters left, Dr. Brackett got up from the couch to sit closer to
"I'm...I'm still here Doc."
"I know it's a lot to digest Johnny. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Uh...the...the headaches and vomiting..."
"Yes Johnny, it's all part of it. The trouble focusing, the mood swings, the
dizziness, and the extreme tiredness…it's all from the tumor." He paused for
a few moments. "Johnny, you're going to become very sick, there's no other
way to say it."
"Can...can I keep working? Being a paramedic means everything to me."
Dr. Brackett looked at Johnny sympathetically, and softly spoke.
"Can I or not?" John's voice took on a note of desperation.
"Johnny, it's not advisable."
Almost pleadingly Johnny asked the question again. "Can I keep working?"
Dr. Brackett was at a loss. "I can give you two weeks Johnny. Your symptoms
are already taking its toll on you."
John repeated what Brackett just said. "Two weeks." He nodded his head in
agreement with the doctor. "Thank you."
Dr. Brackett sensed there was something else weighing on John's mind.
"Johnny…what else do you want to know?"
John was hesitant to ask the question, afraid of what the answer would be.
"If…if I had come in sooner…would it have made any difference?"
Dr. Brackett shook his head sadly. "No Johnny, you've had this brain tumor
for several months."
Johnny laughed wistfully. "Up until the last month and a half or
so, I've felt fine. Everyone always thought I was...was accident prone…I had
a stretch of five months where I didn't get injured at all…maybe…maybe if I
had...or had had a concussion, you would have caught this thing sooner."
The irony wasn't lost on Brackett…he wished he could make his friend feel
better, but knew he couldn't.
"Maybe Johnny. If you ever need me...day or night. I...I know in the
beginning, I wasn't one of your biggest supporters...of you or the paramedic
program, but that was almost ten years ago. Since then, you've become one of
the best in the business and a fine man, Johnny."
Very softly, Johnny replied, "Thanks Doc…it means a lot hearing…you say
"When are you going to tell Roy?"
Johnny felt like he was hit with a lightning bolt. He was so overwhelmed at
hearing the news, that he had forgotten about Roy.
"I...I guess the sooner the better, huh? I'll take care of it." John paused
for a few moments. "Doc, do me a favor…don't tell anyone about
this…I'll…I'll do it...you know, Dix, Early and Morton."
"Whatever you want Johnny. Take care of yourself, okay."
As both men stood, Johnny said, "I will Doc…thanks for everything. But I…I
do have another question."
Hesitating for a moment, Johnny asked, "Why...why can't you operate...and
Not wanting to answer his friend, but knowing that Johnny deserved to know
the reason why, Kel told him. "We can't Johnny because..."
After telling Johnny the reason and seeing that he was going to break down,
Dr. Brackett took a page out of Dixie's book and gave Johnny a warm
embrace...Johnny didn't pull away. The need to comfort the young paramedic
won out over his more clinical, professional side. The two friends stood
there, with Johnny finally breaking down and crying, in Kel's arms.
As Dr. Brackett finally left John's apartment to head back to Rampart,
Johnny was still reeling from the news of his terminal illness. As he sat on his couch, his head in his hands, the words were still vivid in
his mind…inoperable…tumor…cancer…spread. He wasn't sure what to do, but he
knew sitting around his apartment at this point was not the thing to be
After regaining his composure, he decided to go to the one place that would
enable him to escape, even if only for a few hours…the mountains. He grabbed
his jacket and a canteen filled with water and went out to his Rover. During
the hour and a half drive to his destination, his thoughts were
single-mindedly on one thing…how would he break news of his illness to his
Upon reaching his destination, he parked his car and got out. The view from
up there was spectacular and the air was clean and crisp. It always made
Johnny feel better to be at his "special" place. He'd been coming to this
very spot in the mountains for years…the first time was when he was 18, and
first came to Los Angeles…he was now 31.
For over two hours, he sat and thought, memories both good and bad flooding
his mind. He thought back to his childhood on the reservation in Montana,
the accident that claimed the lives of his parents, and the suicide of his
He remembered coming to LA and deciding to become a firefighter. Smiling to
himself, he remembered that fateful day...when he met Roy and signed on to
be a paramedic. All 31 years of his life passed before him, but then his
mind remembered what brought him to this spot in the mountains now...the
news from five hours ago...that he was dying and had roughly six months left
Taking another swig of water from his canteen, he decided that the time had
come for him to break the news to his best friend…he drove back to town,
stopping at a pay phone to call Roy. He nervously inserted the dime into the
slot and dialed his best friend's phone number. After three rings, Roy
"Roy?" John's voice was strained.
"Johnny…where are you?" Roy asked worriedly.
Roy was very concerned when he heard his partner's voice on the other end,
especially how badly it sounded.
Johnny tried to keep his emotions controlled, as he replied, "I...I need to
talk to you Roy."
"Sure, why don't you come on over. Joanne and the kids are at her mother's
for the weekend."
"Okay. I'll...I'll be over in a few minutes…thanks."
Before Roy could finish, John had hung up and all he heard was a click and the
After getting off the phone, Johnny made a pit stop at the liquor store. He
bought two six-packs of Budweiser, and a bottle of Jack Daniels…he knew telling Roy was
going to be difficult and hoped alcohol would dull some of the pain.
Pulling up to Roy's house, Johnny was consumed by a feeling of dread…he knew
how his partner would take the news...he knew for himself, how difficult
hearing the words "inoperable brain tumor" were. Johnny sat in the car,
gathering his thoughts. After five minutes, he knew there was no prolonging
the inevitable…Roy was his best friend and needed to know. He took a few
swigs of Jack Daniels and stepped out of the car.
He put the bottle in his jacket pocket and carried the bag with the beer in
it in his arms as he slowly made his way to the front door. He was about to
ring the bell when the door suddenly opened…he found himself face to face
with his best friend.
Opening the door, Roy said, "Hey Junior, come on in."
"Thanks Pally. Ah…Roy, can we go out on the deck?" Johnny's voice was very
Roy wasn't sure what was going on, but he noticed the bag that Johnny
carried. "What's in the bag Johnny?"
"A couple six-packs."
Roy didn't say anything else but followed Johnny out to the deck. As Johnny
sat down on one of the chairs, he motioned for Roy to do the same.
"Beer…Johnny, what's goin' on?"
Johnny handed one to Roy…he took the offered beer,
thinking he might need it.
Johnny looked around the deck as he opened a beer, and smiled. "I
remember when…I helped you build this deck. You remember?"
Roy wasn't sure what his partner was getting at, but answered quietly.
"Yeah, I remember. I did thank you, didn't I?"
Johnny let out a small laugh, as he answered. "Yeah, you thanked
me…you agreed to keep being my partner. Actually, I did get a lot of
free dinners out of the deal."
Becoming more nervous, Roy replied, "Yeah, you did, and we were glad to have
you…you also became a HUGE part of this family. Look, I'm not afraid to
say this…Johnny, you're scaring me. What's going on?"
Johnny ignored his friend again, as he continued. "I remember when we met and I…I
became a paramedic. That was the…the best thing I…ever did."
By now, Johnny was starting to have a hard time controlling his emotions,
and he knew that Roy noticed it. And he also knew that no matter how long he put
off telling Roy about his tumor, he knew that he would have to tell him
eventually, but knowing how his friend would react, he just finally forced
himself to say it.
Looking at him sadly, Johnny softly said, "What's goin' on...I just found
out that I'm...I'm dyin', partner...THAT'S what's goin' on."
Roy just sat there, looking at his best friend…stunned.
Johnny finally broke eye contact with his best friend and looked out over
the yard…Roy reacted exactly like Johnny knew he would…with disbelief.
Johnny finally heard Roy speak.
"Ah…Junior…what did you…I thought I just…I think you need to…need to run
that by me…again…and slower this time…A LOT slower."
Looking down at his hands, Johnny took a deep breath, and speaking barely
above a whisper, he said, "I have a…a brain tumor…it's cancer…they
can't…they can't operate."
Getting up, Roy walked away from his friend. He still couldn't believe what
he was hearing…his partner couldn't have cancer. Making his
way over to the other side of the deck, he leaned on the railing, and after
a moment, he was finally able to speak.
"When…when did you find out?" Roy softly asked.
In the same soft voice, Johnny replied, "Today…just before I called. I had
talked with Brackett a few days ago, after a run, while I was waitin' on
you…told him what was goin' on and how I'd been feelin'…he set me up with a
Doctor Peters…a pretty nice guy…and I had some tests and…and they both came
by my apartment today and…and told me the results."
Not turning to look at his friend, Roy asked, "How…how long did they
Roy couldn't believe that those words had just came out of his mouth…he just
knew that Johnny would have plenty of time…there was still so much more that
he knew that Johnny wanted to do in his life…he wasn't ready for his best
Not receiving an answer right away, Roy asked, "Johnny…how long?"
Upon hearing that, Roy quickly turned. "Six…six months…maybe…I
thought they just found it."
Johnny could hear how upset his best friend was, as he said, "Roy, calm
down. They DID just find it…but…Brackett and Peters said that…that I've
had it for…several months."
Roy repeated what Johnny just said. "Several months…but how is that possible
Johnny didn't know what to say.
Laughing quietly, Johnny replied, "It just happens Roy."
Roy was confused. "Johnny…?"
"You know how everyone thinks I'm accident prone? Maybe if I had gotten hurt
sometime over the last few months, they may have gotten to this thing
"Well, not that I'd have wanted you to get hurt, but is that what Brackett
said...that he could have found it sooner...if you had?" Roy asked.
Johnny knew what his friend was thinking, as he softly and sadly said, "No
Pally…he said that...it wouldn't have made...made any difference. I was
kinda hopin' that same thing.
There was silence for a few minutes as Johnny allowed Roy some time to think
about the implications of what he had just been told.
After a few minutes Roy spoke up. "Johnny, maybe the doctors made
a mistake. Maybe…"
Interrupting his friend, Johnny said, "Roy, don't you think Brackett went
over the results several times…don't'cha think *I* asked that? He and Peters
even called in an oncologist…there's no mistake Pally…I'm dyin', that's all
there is to it."
"Roy, you think I WANT to die? I don't. It means leaving behind all the
people I care about…it means leaving the department…and everything I've
worked so hard for. It means…leaving YOU behind." Johnny replied in a very
The two friends sat quietly for a moment, as tears came to both their eyes.
Quietly, Roy started to talk to his friend. "When are you
gonna…tell the guys?"
"I guess Monday. But I have to call Cap and set up an appointment with
Chief Houts, then I have to talk to Dixie, Early, and Morton…I told Brackett
that I wanted to be the one to break the news to them."
Almost reading Roy's mind, Johnny told him the next bit of news.
"Brackett is letting me work two more weeks."
Roy repeated the last sentence, almost choking on his words. "Two weeks."
"Roy, I know it's a lot to ask...but do you think we can hold off telling
Joanne and the kids? I'm...I'm just not ready to go there yet, and telling
the guys is going to be hard enough. I also have to face Rocky."
Rocky Ramirez was a very close long-time friend of Johnny's.
"Yeah…yeah, of course…whatever you want Johnny."
Roy thought for a moment. "The way you've been so tired and
zoning out, the mood swings..."
"That was all part of it Roy…but…I wasn't completely honest with you these
last several weeks. I had other symptoms...but I didn't want to worry you
more...and I was scared."
Roy looked questioningly at his partner, urging him to go on.
"There were more nosebleeds than that one time…the headaches were really bad
at times, not to mention the dizziness and nausea. There were several times
at home that I got really sick with vomiting and a high fever."
"But you didn't want to worry me." Roy repeated softly.
"Roy, don't be mad at me...I had my reasons. I told you, I was scared."
"Johnny...you're my best friend, don't you think I would have wanted to
know? I was ALREADY worried sick about you."
"Roy...whether or not I had been honest with you about how I was feeling, it
wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome. I'm still dying…I only have
six months to live...IF I'm lucky. But…Brackett also told me…"
Seeing his partner's hesitation, Roy nervously asked, "Told you what?"
After taking a drink of beer, Johnny softly replied, "He told me that…the
cancer has spread...it's also...in my lungs. That's why I...I have some
trouble breathing. He also told me that I'm…well, I'm only gonna get worse
and…I don't know if…if I can deal with that."
Roy was still trying to absorb the initial news of Johnny's brain tumor, and
now here was his partner telling him that the cancer was already spreading.
Roy's voice was very soft when he responded to Johnny's last statement.
"Johnny...I promise you, somehow, some way…we're going to get through
this…together. You won't be going through this alone."
Johnny looked sadly at his partner's blue eyes with his brown ones, and as
their eyes met, Johnny felt himself losing the battle with his emotions.
Sobbing, he choked out, "I don't…wanna die Roy...I still have so…so much to
do in…my life."
The normally 'in control of his emotions' Roy DeSoto was heartbroken at the
sight before him, as he embraced his best friend and they cried
together...not only for the things that would be lost…but also for the
things that would never be.
After several minutes of gut wrenching sobbing, the two friends sat quietly.
Johnny took out his bottle of Jack Daniels and started to drink it…Roy
looked at him knowingly and started another beer, and within 30 minutes,
Johnny was so numb that the reason he was out on Roy's deck was forgotten.
Roy had a pretty good buzz going himself, but not enough to dull the pain.
Johnny started to mumble, as he said, "I don't want to die...don't want to."
Roy could only look at Johnny, as his partner started to succumb to the
alcohol and the obvious pain of knowing that he was going to die.
Seeing that his friend was about to pass out, he helped Johnny inside the
house and onto the couch where his friend could sleep it off…Johnny passed
out as soon as he hit the couch. After covering Johnny with a blanket
so he wouldn't get chilled, Roy then sat in the chair next to the
couch…watching over his best friend and wondering what his life would be like after Johnny was gone.
As the hours went by, sleep still would not come to Roy, so he continued to
sit and think. The one thought that kept coming back to him was…what would
his life be like without Johnny in it. He tried to picture himself working
with a new partner…he didn't think he could do it.
Roy briefly considered drowning himself in some alcohol, but he knew it
wouldn't really help because no matter how bad HE was feeling, he knew
Johnny was feeling worse…after all, his partner was the one who was dying.
Roy also knew that he'd have to stay sober, as Johnny would need his support in
Taking another glance at Johnny, Roy decided to make some coffee, so he
quietly got up from the chair and walked to the kitchen. While getting the
coffee ready to brew, he thought back over those last few weeks…Johnny had
virtually stopped drinking coffee, and now he knew why…the caffeine in the
coffee only made Johnny's headaches worse.
That morning last week when Johnny seemed so sad, Chet had made a comment
about Johnny not drinking coffee. Roy, having thoughts of his own that
morning, considered the possibilities of why Johnny wasn't drinking
coffee...it turned out those thoughts that he had had…were true.
After pouring himself a cup of coffee, he sat down in the kitchen and
replayed the last month in his head…it all made sense now. But despite
knowing that it wouldn't have made a difference, he mentally beat himself up
for not getting Johnny to a doctor sooner.
Finishing his cup of coffee, Roy went back to the living room where he once
again watched Johnny sleep. Looking up at the shelf in his line of vision,
his gaze rested on two framed photographs…the first picture was a picture of
Johnny, Joanne and the kids.
The picture had been taken last summer when the five of them spent a weekend camping.
Johnny was thrilled that he was finally able to convince Joanne to join
them. The second picture was of all the guys taken five months ago when the
guys threw Hank a surprise 45th Birthday Party at his favorite
restaurant…both pictures conjured up such wonderful memories.
Between Joanne and the kids and the guys on the crew, Roy wondered how
Johnny would break the news to them all. For sure, he knew what all of their
reactions would be.
Looking out the window, Roy realized that the sun was starting to come up.
He was caught in deep thought when he heard Johnny stirring on the couch.
"Johnny, you okay partner?'
Starting to sit up, but suddenly stopping and grabbing his head, Johnny
replied, "Ahhhhh, my head…what did I do last night?"
Looking up and seeing Roy and the look in his eyes, brought the memory of
the previous night back to his mind. Somewhere between being hung over and
physically exhausted, Johnny was in a haze, and as he slowly sat up on the
couch, the reason he was at Roy's and feeling this way came flooding back to
Through sleep-filled eyes, he looked at his partner and softly said, "Please
tell me that this was just a dream."
"I wish I could Junior."
John took in Roy's appearance. "You look as bad as I feel. Are
Roy smiled sheepishly, and replied, "I didn't get much sleep last night…I
Johnny nodded his head in acknowledgement. "I know, you don't have
to say it, it's written all over your face."
"Johnny, can I get you anything…hot cocoa or orange juice?"
"A glass of water would be great."
"No problem. I'll get it for you."
Roy went to the kitchen and came back with the water, handing it to his
"Johnny, I've been thinking. Why don't you call Cap this morning. That way I
can be there when you tell him, he can come here."
John looked at Roy wearily. "I don't know if I have the strength to do this,
right now." After a few moments he continued. "You'll stay with me while I
talk to him?"
"You're my best friend Johnny…I won't leave your side, unless you want me
John relaxed somewhat as he said, "Let's call him this morning."
"Johnny, why don't you take a shower. Maybe you'll feel better."
"Maybe I will. When are Joanne and the kids coming home?"
Looking quickly at his watch, Roy replied, "Probably around supper time."
"Roy…I do want to tell Joanne...but not now. I…I…"
"You don't have to explain Johnny, you tell her on your own time."
"Roy, she's going to know something's wrong, she's going to see it all over
Realizing that his best friend was right, Roy said, "Well…you let me deal
with that, okay? Go take your shower, I'll make some breakfast, and
then you'll call Captain Stanley."
An hour later, the two friends were sitting down to breakfast, with Johnny
dreading the phone call that he knew he had to make.
After swallowing his last bit of toast, Johnny pushed himself away from the
table. "Well, here it goes."
He dialed Hank's number and waited for someone to pick up. After four rings,
he heard a voice.
"Stanley residence. May I help you?"
"Uh...yeah. Suzanne, its John Gage."
"Johnny, how nice to hear from you. Hank and I were just talking about you."
Johnny was surprised to hear that, but knew that it really wasn't a
surprise…Hank had been as concerned about him as Roy was.
"Uh…I'm…I'm sorry to be calling on a Sunday morning, but I need to speak to
**Hank...the guys NEVER call him Hank...something must be wrong**
"Ah…sure, let me get him."
John's heart started to beat faster in anticipation of talking to his
"John, what's up pal?"
There was silence for a few moments as Johnny gathered his thoughts.
"Johnny?" Hank repeated.
"Cap, I…I need to talk to you. I know it's a lot to ask, but do you think
you can come to Roy's?"
Hank immediately sensed all was not right with his paramedic.
"Sure. I'll be right over…is everything okay?"
"I...I can't get into it right now…just come over."
Hank could hear the anxiousness in John's voice. "Okay pal, I'll
be over in thirty minutes."
Johnny got off the phone.
"Well, he's coming over. Should be here in a half hour."
Roy looked sympathetically at his best friend. "You needed to do
this Johnny, you do know that?"
"Yeah, I know that…but it doesn't make it any easier. How do I tell Captain Stanley,
who's been like a father to me, that I'm…I'm…about my tumor…how?"
The two paramedics sat in silence for the half hour waiting for Hank to
arrive. They were both startled when the doorbell rang. Johnny looked at
his partner as though he were about to walk the tightrope without a net.
Roy got up to answer the door. Greeting his Captain, he sensed Hank's
"Hi Cap, come on in."
Before Hank could finish his sentence, he saw Johnny on the couch and took in
the younger paramedic's haggard appearance.
Johnny addressed his boss with one word. "Cap."
Hank went to the living room, taking a seat in the chair that Roy had
occupied for most of the night.
"John, what's up pal? You…you didn't sound so good on the phone...and
frankly, you look even worse than you sound."
Before telling Hank the news, Johnny took another look at Roy to draw some
semblance of strength and calmness from him.
"Cap, I...I got some bad news yesterday…and I needed...needed to tell you
because it...it impacts my career with the department."
John paused to collect his nerve, and while doing so, he took in the
extremely worried look on Hank's face.
"I'm...I'm...I...I have a brain tumor…I...I...the doctors are…giving me six
Johnny's heart was in his throat. The news left Hank more than a bit
"John…are...are you sure? I mean...they...they make mistakes all the time."
Johnny numbly nodded his head, and said, "That's the same thing Roy
said...no Cap…there's no mistake. Brackett told me yesterday morning and
there were two other doctors that were brought in on the results." John
paused and took a breath. "Brackett's letting me work two more weeks."
Despite his bouts with paranoia, Hank was as in control of his emotions as
they come, and even he was on the brink of losing it after hearing the news
of Johnny's illness.
"I am so sorry John. I…I wish…"
Hank was too emotional to finish his sentence, as he looked back and forth
between his two paramedics and pictured how difficult it must have been for
Johnny to break the news to his best friend.
Deep in thought, Hank was brought back when Johnny started to speak.
"Cap, I need you to set up a meeting with Chief Houts."
"Uh...sure pal. When?"
"I was kind of hoping we could do it tomorrow. I…I want to give him my
resignation…effective in two weeks."
When Hank heard Johnny say the word 'resignation', he realized the finality
of the situation. He was losing not only one of his top
firefighter/paramedics, but a man who was like a son to him…as well as a
very close friend. Hank was still pretty choked up when he started to
"I'll call the…the Chief…when I get home."
Johnny let out a breath. "I appreciate it Cap." John paused for a moment.
"I'd like to tell the guys after meeting with you and Houts."
Hank could only nod his head.
Trying to control his emotions, Johnny spoke softly. "Cap…I...I
want to thank you…for everything …the support you've given me over the
years…as my Captain and as…my friend…the times you've listened to me and…all
the times you've guided me… they've meant everything to me…you've been a
great leader Cap…thanks."
Hank's voice was full of emotion, as he spoke to his paramedic…his friend.
"John, you're an extraordinary person. You have a great heart and a warmth
about you…I'm gonna miss you pal…51's not going to be the same without you."
Johnny gave his Captain a big Gage smile.
"Don't worry Cap...I'll still come by and keep Chet in line for you."
Slightly smiling, Hank replied, "I'm counting on that pal. Well, I better
get going…I have a…a phone call to make."
As Hank got up from his chair, he said, "I'm here for you John."
Turning the tables on his Captain, John gave Hank a hug. "I'll be okay Cap."
Before leaving, Hank turned to look at Roy, who had virtually said nothing
the whole time.
"I'll see you both at the station in the morning."
After their Captain left, Johnny sat back down on the couch.
"You did fine Johnny. I know how hard it was for you to tell him the news."
"Roy…you...you got any…Tylenol or something…I really don't…feel so good…my
head is really…really killing me."
Roy became worried, seeing how pale his friend was becoming and the pain
etched on Johnny's face.
"Just sit back and relax Johnny, I think Joanne has some Tylenol in the
bathroom cabinet. I'll be right back."
Johnny nodded and sat back on the couch and leaned his aching head back. Roy
went to get the bottle of Tylenol, and after coming back, he handed two
tablets to his partner who swallowed them with a gulp of water. After a few
minutes of just resting with his eyes closed, John slowly got up.
"I better get going Roy."
"Johnny, if you don't feel well...maybe you should lie down for a while."
"I'm okay Roy. The way I feel…it's not GOING to go away, but I'll be
alright. Thanks for everything."
"Roy, I'll see you in the morning." Pausing for a moment he smiled weakly
and added, "You better get rid of the empty beer cans…Joanne'll think I've
corrupted you. See you tomorrow."
As Johnny started for the door, Roy put his hand on his partner's shoulder.
Turning to look at his partner, Johnny smiled and reading his friend's mind,
said, "I know Roy...if I need anything...call you. I will. Tell Joanne
and the kids I said hello."
Once Johnny left, Roy went about straightening up the house…the last 24
hours playing vividly in his mind. He wondered to himself how tomorrow would
play out, after all, the men of 51's A-shift were a close bunch, and Roy
knew that none of the guys would take the news of Johnny's illness very
well, especially Chet Kelly.
Once John arrived back at his apartment, he ran to the bathroom, after
battling another bout of nausea. Rinsing his mouth out at the sink, he
decided he'd call his good friend Rocky Ramirez and see if he could come
John called Rocky, who agreed to come to Johnny's apartment…Rocky knew that
his friend hadn't been feeling well of late, but like Roy, kept his concerns
to himself. Johnny had left his door unlocked and when he heard a knock at the
door he yelled for the person to come in…he knew it was Rocky.
When Rocky came into John's apartment and saw him sitting in his recliner,
he immediately knew something was wrong.
"Rocky…glad you made it."
"Johnny, what's going on? You didn't sound so good on the phone, and now
that I'm standing here looking at you...you look like hell."
John sat looking at his friend for a few moments.
"Have a seat Rocky. I...I have some things to talk to you about."
Rocky was getting increasingly alarmed, and the seriousness in Johnny's tone
of voice and the obvious discomfort that was etched in his friend's face,
only made him realize that his concerns were not unfounded.
John stalled as long as he could but knew that he'd have to tell Rocky about
his illness...much like he told Roy and Captain Stanley.
"Rocky...I...I got some bad news yesterday...from Dr. Brackett...I'm...I'm
sick...I...I have a brain tumor."
Rocky was stunned at the news, but realized by his friend's expression that
there was more to it.
John swallowed hard a few times before he spoke again.
"And…the doctors...are giving me...six months...the...the cancer already
spread to my lungs...and Brackett's giving me two more weeks to work."
Like Roy and Hank Stanley before him, Rocky was equally shocked by the news.
He hadn't known Johnny as long as either of them, and was definitely not
as close to him as the other two men were...but hearing the news of his
friend's illness didn't hurt any less for him.
"Johnny...I'm sorry. I...I…what can I do?"
John looked straight into Rocky's eyes. "I...I have to ask you a
"Anything buddy...anything at all."
"I want you to become Roy's new partner." Johnny said matter-of-factly.
Johnny's request was met by silence. Rocky knew what the implications of
this request meant.
"Rocky, you're the only person that I would trust to work with Roy on a
permanent basis. Roy means a lot to me. If you were his partner, I'd know that he was being looked after…and that's very important to me."
"Johnny...are you sure...I mean, this is really what you want?"
John nodded his head, and replied, "Yes, and I know it won't be easy...for
either of you. But, I know in time the two of you will become good
friends...you're the only one that I'd entrust Roy's life to...the only one.
Would you do that for me?"
Rocky was overwhelmed. He was touched that Johnny felt that way about him to
ask him to do this. He and his partner Alexi Le Monnaco were together for
five years and got along well, but he knew that he'd have to do this for
"Yeah, I'll do it Johnny."
John let out the breath he was holding.
"Thank you Rocky. I...I feel better knowing you'll do this for me...for Roy.
I have a meeting with Chief Houts and Captain Stanley first thing in the
morning...I'd like to tell them about our arrangement, if it's okay with
"Sure. I...I guess I better talk to Alexi."
"Is he going to be okay with this? I know the two of you are really good
"John, I think what you're doing is very admirable...to care so much about
Roy, that you'd go to such great lengths to make sure he's okay. Alexi will
be fine…besides, the two of us never came close to havin' the bond that you
and Roy have."
Rocky looked at his friend with concern, as he asked, "Are you going to be
"I'll be fine. I intend to make the most of the time that I have left."
The two friends embraced and Rocky left to go home and call his partner.
At 6:30 PM Joanne and the kids arrived home from their weekend with her
mother. After greeting their father, Chris and Jennifer went to their
Joanne embraced her husband. She sensed that something was weighing on his
"Honey, you alright? You seem...pre-occupied."
Roy tried to hide his emotions, which he was usually able to do..."built-in
insulation" as he once told Dixie, but Joanne knew him too well.
"I'm okay Jo. I guess I'm just tired."
"Did Johnny come over...you know, to help you with yard work or other
Roy's breath caught at the mere mention of his partner's name.
"Uh...yeah. We...we putted around in the garage and had a few beers."
"Roy...these last few weeks, I gotta say, you really haven't been here…your
mind seems like its miles away. Something is wrong, isn't it?"
"Jo...I…I can't get into it right now. Please drop it."
Joanne looked at her husband and she could see the worry written all over
his face. She knew that if something was physically wrong with him, he'd
tell her. She also knew that if it was work related he'd tell her. There was
only one other thing that could be bothering him…something to do with
Johnny. Although she didn't like to see her husband struggle mentally, she
respected his wishes and dropped the subject.
"Okay…but I'm here…if you wanna talk about it."
Johnny was exhausted…breaking the news to three of his closest friends had
been overwhelming to him, and after washing up in the bathroom and taking off
his jeans and shirt, Johnny got into his bed without another thought about
what lay ahead for him and promptly fell asleep.
For Roy, sleep simply would not come. After trying to fall asleep for an
hour, he got up and went downstairs, going to the living room where he
had watched his best friend sleep on Saturday night and where Captain
Stanley had received the news of his paramedic's illness, Roy sat down in his
chair. He knew he was being selfish, but the one thought that stuck in his
head was that in two weeks he'd have a new partner. He couldn't imagine
anyone but Johnny beside him in the squad...but now, it was a sure thing
that that would indeed happen.
The next morning Johnny rolled out of bed at 5 AM, showered and got into his
uniform. He wanted to get to the station early, to face Chief Houts and
Roy on the other hand was sitting up in bed, wide-awake after getting
virtually no sleep. He knew Johnny would be getting to the station early
that morning and decided that he'd try to get an early start as well. He got
out of bed and went into the shower. When he got out, Joanne was
"You okay Roy? I know you didn't get much sleep last night." Joanne was
starting to get concerned about her husband.
"I'm fine. I think I'm going to get an early start."
Sitting up in bed, she said, "Let me fix you some breakfast."
"I'm not hungry Jo."
He too got into his uniform and after saying good-bye to his kids and wife,
decided to hit the road.
"Roy...call me tonight."
Roy knew that his wife was worried about him. She never requested that he call
"I will Jo." He kissed his wife and left.
Pulling into the parking lot, he saw that Johnny's Rover was already there.
Going into the station, he saw that the squad and engine were both out.
Walking into the locker room, he saw Johnny sitting in his locker with his
feet on the bench and his head in his hands.
Roy sat quietly on the bench and softly spoke. "Johnny, you alright?"
John looked up, and softly said, "Nothing I can't handle. How are you doing Roy?"
"Been better, I guess. I feel terrible and I'm NOT the one who…"
Johnny jumped in before Roy could finish his sentence. "I told Rocky
"How did it go?" Roy asked, full well knowing just how difficult it must have been.
"I guess as well as could be expected."
Their conversation was interrupted by Captain Stanley's voice.
"John, if you're ready to do this...Chief Houts is waiting in my office."
"I'll be right there Cap." Johnny got down from his locker and closed the
"It'll be okay Roy…like pulling off a Band-Aid...quick and painless. I'll be
Johnny walked to his Captain's office and knocked on the door. When the door
opened, he entered slowly and sat in a chair facing both men.
Looking at Chief Hout's face, he wasn't sure how much Hank had told the man.
He decided to tell him the whole thing.
"Chief...thank you for coming. I won't beat around the bush, even though I'm
not sure what Captain Stanley has told you…but I'll just come right out and say it. A
couple days ago I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor…the doctors
are giving me roughly six months. Dr. Brackett is giving me two weeks…to
keep doing the job that means everything to me, but I'd like to tender my
resignation from the department, effective in two weeks. In closing I...I
would just like to tell you how honored I've been to serve in the
Department. I've enjoyed my time working at this station, and under the
leadership of Captain Stanley."
Johnny was very nervous and spoke quickly, barely taking a breath between
Chief Houts looked at the paramedic with compassion.
"John, I am truly sorry to hear of your illness. On behalf of the Department
I offer you my prayers and good thoughts. You've been a good firefighter and
a fine paramedic, one of the best I'm told…a tribute to the hard work and
dedication that it takes to do the job. You're a fine man John, and we're
going to miss you."
"Thanks Chief, that means a lot coming from you."
Johnny paused and lowered his head before continuing.
Looking back up at the Chief, Johnny said, "There is one other thing…and I
know it's not standard procedure...but it would mean a lot to me if this
could happen. My partner Roy…he...he's my best friend and I know the coming
months are going to be very hard for him…I'd like it very much if Rocky
Ramirez, a paramedic from 46's would become Roy's permanent partner. He's a
good friend of mine, and frankly the only person that I'd entrust Roy's life
to. I already spoke to Rocky, he has agreed to this, if you'll approve it."
Chief Houts looked at Johnny and nodded. "It is against procedure, but I
will allow it…it's very honorable for you to do this for your partner. I
will make the arrangements for that, myself. Anything else?"
Johnny softly answered, "No."
Handing them over to the paramedic, Johnny reluctantly signed the paperwork
that would effectively end his tenure with the LA County Fire Department,
wiping away tears, as he did.
"Hank, John…I'll see myself out. And again John…I'm so sorry."
"Thanks Chief." Johnny softly replied.
They shook hands and the Chief walked out, greeting the other men who were
nervously sitting around the kitchen table at the news that he was in Captain Stanley's office.
Johnny and Hank stood there for a moment after the Chief left, not really
knowing what to say to each other.
Finally, Hank spoke, asking the only thing he could.
"John, how you doing pal?"
"Well, truthfully I feel better knowing that the Chief is allowing Rocky to
come here. I'll be alright Cap, I don't want anyone's pity."
"Chief Houts has taken us out of service for the next hour and a half. Are
you going to be able to do this John?"
"I have to. Chet, Mike, and Marco are family...they need to know."
When John came out of the office, the guys were surprised that he was the
one in there with both men…but as Hank came into the kitchen behind him, the
others caught the serious look on his face.
Chet was the first one to speak.
"Cap, is Gage in trouble or something? We just saw Chief Houts leave."
"I wish that were the case pal. John has something he wants…needs…to tell
Chet, Marco, and Mike looked over at Roy, who quickly looked away...that
told the guys all they needed to know...something was wrong and Roy knew
what it was.
As the men all took a seat at the table, Johnny started to speak.
"Well, I know you've all been worried about me and I'm sorry that I've put
you all through that. I decided to see a doctor last week and they ran a
bunch of tests. I found out the results on Saturday morning…Brackett came to
my apartment. I...I have an inoperable brain tumor."
After Johnny mentioned his inoperable brain tumor, the room became deathly
quiet and still. The three men who were hearing the news for the first time,
were in obvious shock. Afraid to hear John's next sentence, Chet was the
first to speak.
"So you're going to do chemotherapy or radiation, right? I mean they caught it in time
and they'll…they'll just shrink it or something."
Johnny was afraid to continue…he knew that what he was going to say next
would devastate his friends, especially Chet, who was a lot closer to Johnny
than either of them would ever admit to. Johnny started to speak again, but
"There's not…my mouth's dry. Can someone get me a glass of water?"
Roy stepped over to the sink and got his partner a glass of water and
brought it to him.
"Thanks partner." After taking a few sips, he continued. "Well, Chet...I…I
wish that were the case. I'd rather get sick from the chemo, then…well, the
truth of the matter is that…the doctors are giving me six months...I'm…I'm
There it was…Johnny had said it and it was now out in the open. He could
see that Chet was having an extremely difficult time coming to terms with
his news, as his friend's voice got loud and his Irish temper was only a few heartbeats
away from surfacing.
"Gage, that's not funny. What kind of joke are you trying to pull on us?"
The other men all looked at Chet with concern. Johnny let out a breath and
continued speaking in a soft voice.
"I wish it were a joke Chet, but the truth is, it's very real, and I've been
dealing with this news all weekend. The...cancer spread...to my lungs, but
Brackett's letting me work for two more weeks. Houts was here this morning
to accept my resignation. That's...that's my news. Now, you all know the
The harsh reality of Johnny's situation set in, and after a few minutes,
Mike spoke up.
"How...how are you handling everything?" The engineer asked sincerely.
"It's hard Mike, but I'm okay. I...I get some really bad headaches and some
nausea, but I'm fine. Marco?"
"Johnny...I...I don't know what to say. My grandmother would be able to say
something to comfort you...but I'm...at a loss. I guess...you're in God's
hands now...he'll take care of you."
Johnny silently laughed at his three friends' reactions. They all reacted as
he knew they would…Chet got angry, Mike was calm and direct, and Marco
brought up his grandmother and God. He was grateful to have these people in
"Yeah Marco…I think he will…in fact…I KNOW he will." Johnny softly
After a few minutes of silence, Hank spoke quietly.
"We've been stood down for 90 minutes. Why don't you guys try to…to relax
for a while. Chet, I'd like to see you in my office."
Chet was very subdued, and quietly answered, and said, "Coming Cap."
Getting up, he followed his Captain back to the office. After Chet went to
Hank's office, Johnny also left the room. Mike looked sympathetically at
Roy…being as shocked as he was, he had forgotten about how rough this must be on
"Roy…I'm…I'm sorry. This must be really difficult for you too. I can't
imagine how YOU must be feeling."
Roy smiled weakly at the engineer, and answered, "Just trying to hang in
"Shouldn't you go to Johnny, Roy…at least check on him?"
Shaking his head, Roy replied, "He needs to be alone Marco. If I know
Johnny, he's sitting on top of the hose tower, and no matter how badly we're
struggling with this…Johnny's got it a lot worse, he still has to break the
news to Dixie and Joanne."
Meanwhile in Captain Stanley's office, Hank was trying to gauge whether or
not he'd need a replacement for Chet.
"Chet, you alright?"
Hank was very concerned. The firefighter was getting pale and was very
Chet spoke quietly. "Johnny's dyin'…it...it can't be
true…he's...he's...nothing keeps HIM down…nothing."
Hank let out a deep breath…he was convinced that he'd have to yank Chet off
"Chet...I think you need to go home...I don't think you should work this
shift." Hank paused and then continued. "You don't have to pretend anymore,
it's obvious to all of us what Johnny means to you."
"Uh...okay Cap, that...that might be a good idea."
"Are you going to be alright to drive? I can have Roy take you home in the
Chet was still reeling from the news and in obvious shock.
"Johnny's…really gonna die?"
Hank was still pretty numb himself, as he softly replied, "Yes
Chet…he...he's sick...and he's only going to get worse."
"Six months...six months for a…a life time." Chet was on the verge of
Hank made a phone call to get a replacement for Chet.
"Okay Chet, you sit tight."
Captain Stanley went out to find Roy…he found him sitting on the couch,
drinking a cup of coffee. He could see that Roy was still in shock himself.
"I'd like you to take Chet home in the squad. He's not doing so well right now…and I
took him off duty."
Hank looked around the room to see where everyone else went. "Everyone
Roy answered softly. "Cap, I don't think any of us will EVER be
"Hose tower I guess, I assume he's thinking about Dixie. He's gonna tell her
today...and Early and Morton, too."
Chet slowly made his way back into the kitchen and walked over to his
Looking at Roy, he quietly asked, "You...you don't mind taking me home?"
"Not at all Chet. Why don't you get your stuff and meet me at the squad."
Chet nodded his head and quietly retreated to the locker room.
"If Johnny's looking for me, tell him that I'll be right back."
Hank nodded in acknowledgement. By the time Roy had made his way to the squad,
Chet was waiting for him.
"Come on pal...let's get you home."
During the trip to Chet's apartment, the two men sat in silence.
Pulling in front of the building, Chet got out. "Thanks Roy. Tell
"I will. Take care of yourself."
When Roy got back to the station, he was met by Charlie Dwyer. He
immediately thought that something had happened to Johnny, since Dwyer was a
paramedic and sometimes replaced Johnny.
"What...what are you doing here Charlie?"
Charlie was a little confused as to Roy's reaction to him being there. "Since I'd put in for some OT, I'm filling in for Chet. What's going on, Roy?"
"In the kitchen the last time I saw him. Roy, what is it…what's going on?"
Roy looked at Charlie…he wanted to tell his friend the news, but felt it was
Johnny's place to do it.
"Nothing Charlie. Let's get a cup of coffee."
Entering the kitchen, Roy saw Johnny sitting at the table, looking at the
paper, and trying to act like everything was okay.
Johnny looked up slowly. "Hey, how's Chet…is he gonna be alright?"
Still worried about Charlie finding out, Roy nodded his head. "Uh
yeah...probably just a bug or something. He…he said to tell you that...that
he'll be thinkin' about you...uh, when he...he uses his new electric blanket
that you gave him last year."
Johnny let out a small laugh, obviously understanding the cryptic message.
Charlie looked around the room, observing everyone's faces and the extreme
"Is Chet alright…is he sick or something?"
Johnny looked over at Charlie and sighed…he knew that Dwyer needed to know,
after all, he was Johnny's friend too.
"Charlie...I'M the one who's sick. I have an inoperable brain tumor and
I...I told everyone this morning."
Charlie was too shocked to respond.
Johnny continued. "I'm afraid Chester B. didn't take the news very well...or
so I've been told. That's why YOU'RE here."
Shocked and surprised, Dwyer softly said, "Johnny…I'm sorry."
Hey, it's not YOUR fault Charlie. I'll be alright."
Johnny turned to Hank. "Cap, put us back in service. I don't think sitting
around is doing any of us any good. I have two more weeks to do this
job...and I intend to do it to the best of my ability."
"John, you're sure pal?" Hank asked with uncertainty.
Johnny looked around at his friends and exhaled. "Yeah. We'll
get through it guys, I promise."
"Alright then, I'll put us back in service."
Hank went to the radio and put Station 51 back in service. Five minutes
later the alarm sounded.
"Squad 51, woman down…2228 Wesley Street…2-2-2-8 Wesley Street…time out
Captain Stanley responded on the mic and handed Roy the address slip.
Arriving on scene, they were met by a rather attractive young woman…sick or
not, Johnny noticed her as he flashed her a big smile.
"Hello there. Someone hurt?" He asked, still trying to be professional.
"Yeah, it's my roommate Jill. She fell off the treadmill and hurt her
"What's YOUR name? Johnny asked curiously.
"Kat...it's short for Kathy."
Roy was both amused and relieved at his partner's reaction to the attractive
young brunette. It meant that Johnny was NOT throwing in the towel just yet.
The two paramedics followed Kat into the house, where she brought them to
Jill...another very attractive young lady.
Johnny couldn't suppress his grin.
"Hi Jill. I'm John Gage and this is my partner, Roy DeSoto."
"Hi fellas. I...I hurt my ankle...stupid treadmill. I feel like such a
Roy, in typical fashion tried to re-assure the victim. "Don't
feel bad, it happens to all of us."
With that comment, he looked over at Johnny who had had his share of 'episodes'
over the years.
"Just stay still, we're gonna take a look at that ankle."
As soon as Roy touched it, she flinched.
"Uh, I think it might be broken. We're going to have to splint it."
"I was afraid of that. I'm...I'm in a friend's wedding in two weeks...boy,
am I going to look stupid."
Johnny took her vitals and after calling in to Rampart, they got her ready
"Can I go with her?" Kathy asked.
Johnny smiled, and replied, "Sure, but you'll have to ride up front."
While loading Jill into the ambulance, Roy looked at Johnny, and asked,
"Want to go in or drive?"
Johnny shrugged his shoulders. "Makes no
Roy then realized that Johnny was going to break the news to the others when
they got to the hospital. He made the decision for him.
"Johnny, you drive. I'll...I'll meet you at Rampart."
John just nodded his head and went to the squad.
Arriving at Rampart and after helping to get Jill settled in the treatment
room, Roy pulled Dr. Brackett to the side and softly spoke.
"Doc…Johnny wants to tell the others when he gets here."
"How's he doing?" The doctor asked with concern.
"You...you know Johnny…I'm...I'm scared Doc…and if I'M scared..."
Brackett exhaled. "Get the others and go to my office…I'll be
right there. Have Dix get Dr. Drake to cover the base station."
"Okay." Roy replied, and left the room.
Brackett turned his attention to the young woman with the broken ankle.
"Just relax, okay? We're gonna get some x-rays of that ankle."
Jill nodded her head and tried to relax, as Brackett went to the phone to
order the test. Out in the hall, Roy found Dixie.
"Hey Dix. Dr. Brackett wants to see you, Doctor Early and Dr. Morton in his
office...and for Dr. Drake to cover the base station.
Dixie nodded in acknowledgement, but sensed something was wrong.
Roy didn't answer right away...finally he spoke and said, "He...he should be
here any minute. He was right behind me in the squad."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Johnny coming towards him. Johnny
greeted Dixie without his usual exuberance.
After making quick eye contact with his brown eyes...Dixie knew there was
something seriously wrong. Dr. Drake came to the base station, bringing
with him Early and Morton. While Dr. Drake monitored the radio, the others all
went to Brackett's office.
Arriving at his office, Brackett met them at the same time. After
everyone sat down, he acknowledged Johnny with a look.
"Everyone, please have a seat…Johnny's got something he wants to share with
Johnny looked at Roy before starting. Exhaling a breath, he began telling
his friends the news.
"Well, it's no secret that I've...I've been feeling pretty poorly lately. I
had some tests run last week and on Saturday morning Dr. Brackett and Dr.
Peters confirmed the results. I...I have an inoperable brain tumor, which
unfortunately has already spread to my lungs. I only have a few more months
The office was silent as they all digested the news. After a moment, Johnny
"Dr. Brackett is letting me keep my job for two more weeks. I already met
with the Chief and told all the guys. I just wanted you all to
know...and…and to tell you thanks for everything you've done for me over the
years. You're all special people and I'm...I'm gonna miss you."
Dixie immediately broke down in tears. She had been the only female that
he'd had to face so far, but he knew breaking the news to Joanne would be
"Oh Johnny." She went over to him and embraced him warmly, the tears
streaming down her cheeks.
Returning the hug, Johnny tried to comfort her, as he quietly said, "I'm
alright Dix, and everything's going to be okay...I know that."
"How can you say that Johnny?''
"Because it's true. I might be dying, but I'm not dead...YET. I
guess I've accepted it...nothin' else that I can really do...but I still
have some living to do...and I intend to do that."
Johnny lifted Dixie's head, dried her tears and gave her a gentle kiss on
the cheek. Doctor Early got up and walked over to the young paramedic.
Placing his hand on Johnny's shoulder, Joe spoke. "I wish you the
best Johnny. I know it's not much to say…but at the moment it's all I can
think of. If you need anything, let me know…I'm here for you."
"Thanks Dr. Early, I will. And it means a lot to have your support." Johnny said, with a small nod.
Mike Morton spoke up. "Johnny...I know we haven't always seen eye
to eye...but...I...I'm here for you, too. I just want you to know that."
He let out a small chuckle. "Thanks Mike. I always knew, deep
down you had a good heart."
Saying that put a small smile on Dr. Morton's face.
Johnny took another look around the room, and said, "Well, thanks...to all
of you. I'll be okay." He glanced over at Roy. "I still have a job to do
so…I'll see you guys later."
He quietly left the room and went to the men's room to splash some water on
his face...the stress of it all was starting to get to him. All eyes turned
to Roy, but as he looked back at them, all he could do was shrug his
"It's the fifth time I've sat through hearing this...and it doesn't get any
Dr. Brackett looked at Roy with concern, and said, "Roy...if you EVER need
someone to talk to...I'm always available."
Roy let out a sigh. "I appreciate it, Doc. I do know one
thing...no matter how badly I'M feeling...Johnny's feeling a lot worse."
Roy acknowledged the rest of the group and left to go find his partner.
Dixie tried to compose herself, as she asked, "Kel…you're sure you…you
didn't make any mistake? Johnny's...so young."
"Dixie, I wish I WAS wrong. Believe me, I'd give anything to be wrong on
this one. I know how fond of Johnny you are…we ALL are…but no, I didn't
make a mistake. Doctor Peters and myself checked and rechecked the
results…Johnny's sick and in the next few months…he's only going to get
Feeling a bit uncomfortable and feeling like he was intruding, although he
was asked to join them, Mike Morton excused himself.
"I...I better get back to the base Station. Dr. Drake may be needed else
He quietly left the office, leaving the other three to discuss Johnny's
After closing the door to Kel's office, Mike Morton leaned up against the wall and
let out a breath…still in disbelief of what he had just been told.
**Oh Johnny…this can't be happening man…not to you**
After pulling himself together, the young doctor knew the only thing he could do for
Johnny now, was to be there for the young man if and when he needed him.
He slowly made his way back to the base station to try to get back to work.
Back inside, Kel and Joe could see how the news had affected Dixie.
"I...I better get back to work myself." Dixie softly said.
"Dix, why don't you take the rest of the day off?"
Although she was still very upset, her professional side once again kicked
"Kel, now what kind of message would that send to my nurses? I'll be
She walked out of the office and to the ladies' room to freshen up a bit.
Joe Early looked at Brackett. "Kel, how bad is Johnny…really?"
Leaning back in his chair, Kel replied, "Well, for the time being he's not
doing too badly. He's been experiencing headaches, nausea and vomiting…and
as you can see he's also been extremely run down. The fact that he wants to
and is still able to do his job is a tribute to his great strength and
courage. In the coming months, he's going to have a lot of issues…where the
tumor is located, he's going to lose most of his sight and he's going to
have left-sided weakness. He's already experienced mood swings and loss of
Momentarily looking down at his hands, Joe looked back at Kel. "I
guess surgery to remove the tumor isn't an option?"
Shaking his head, Kel sadly replied, "No unfortunately it isn't. Johnny
asked me that…but again, due to the location, I told him if we DID
operate…and he somehow survived the surgery, that he'd probably wind up in a
coma. He didn't like the sound of that so he's gonna pass on that."
"Well, I'm glad that he didn't want to have the surgery. But it's already
"Yes. He's got several fairly large growths on his lungs, and after talking
it over with him, he decided that surgery was not an option there, either…I agreed
"That means some pretty serious breathing issues down the road, doesn't it?"
Brackett nodded his head. Dr. Early looked at the calendar on Brackett's
"Five months...Johnny's been injury free for five months. If he'd had a
concussion or rib injury at some point early in that time, would we have
spotted the tumor in time?"
Dr. Brackett looked at his friend sadly. "I don't know Joe, maybe…maybe not.
Johnny asked me the same question and I...I truthfully don't think it
would have made a difference."
"Dixie's right you know…Johnny is so young. I wonder how Roy is really
dealing with all this."
Brackett let out a sigh, and said, "You saw him Joe. He might be calm on the
outside, but if I know Roy...and I do, it's destroying him. Believe me,
Joe...I wish this WAS all a mistake. It's going to be hard on ALL of
us...but we owe it to Johnny to be strong."
The two doctors looked at each other as they both contemplated what the
future would be like for all of them without John Gage in it.
"We better get back to work too Joe."
By the time Roy made his way back to the base station, Johnny was nowhere to
"Carol, you know where Johnny went?"
"Sorry Roy, I haven't seen him."
Sharon, the student nurse came over to Roy. "Hi Roy. Johnny wanted
me to tell you that he's waiting for you in the squad."
He weakly smiled at the two nurses and went out to the squad. Arriving
outside he spotted his partner leaning against the vehicle, in obvious deep
Johnny looked up at his partner and softly spoke. "Roy...I didn't
think it would be THIS hard. Maybe...maybe I should just have told
everyone that I'm sick and need to take time off…it would have been be A LOT easier
than telling them the truth."
Roy exhaled loudly as he replied, "Johnny...these are all people who care a
lot about you and like it or not, you owe them the truth. You did
fine...you did the right thing."
"Then why does it hurt so much…why is my heart in my throat?"
Gently touching his friend's shoulder, Roy replied, "Because Junior...you're
human...and you care an awful lot about these people too and you don't like
seeing them hurting over all of this."
Not wanting to talk about it anymore, Johnny suggested that they should make themselves available.
They both got into the squad slowly, as Roy glanced at his partner before
grabbing the mic.
"Squad 51 available from Rampart. Returning to quarters."
Drained from the morning's events, the two paramedics rode back to the
station in silence.
Arriving back at the station, they were both relieved when they saw that the
engine was out.
"Roy, I'm gonna go lie down for a while."
Roy resigned himself to the fact that Johnny was no longer the same person
that he once was...even just a few weeks ago. He tired easily, he was more
quiet and introspective...and he was dying. The days of the DeSoto-Gage
partnership was coming to an end…Roy got a big lump in his throat just
thinking about it.
Roy got himself a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch. He found
himself thinking about the events of the past weekend...how both his and
Johnny's lives had changed in the span of 48 hours. He had been deep in thought
and didn't hear Captain Stanley calling his name.
He finally got the paramedic's attention on the third try.
"Hey Cap, sorry."
Walking over to his friend, Hank asked, "You alright Roy?"
"I'm trying to be."
"How'd it go at Rampart…did Johnny break the news?"
"Yeah, he did...it was rough."
"Where's he now?" Hank asked, taking a seat at the table.
Before Roy could answer, Johnny came into the kitchen.
"Hey Johnny, I'm making tacos for lunch."
Johnny smiled at Marco. "Sounds good."
Surprised, Roy asked, "You're hungry Junior?"
"Roy...I DO have to eat…yeah...I'm hungry. Of course, I may regret it
later, but Brackett says that I need to eat to keep up my strength."
Before anything else could be said, the alarms sounded.
"Station 51, Station 46, Engine 110 structure fire…1509 Waverly
Avenue…1-5-0-9 Waverly Avenue…timeout, 12:15."
As the crew made their way to the bay and the vehicles, Hank responded on
the mic. "Station 51 responding, 10-4 KMG-365."
Pulling up to the scene, the paramedics saw that it was a restaurant fire.
When they got out of the squad, a panic-stricken man met them.
"You gotta come quick...one of my workers is trapped in the walk-in
Captain Stanley approached the paramedics to find out what the situation
"What's going on Roy?"
"Cap, the manager says there is someone trapped in the freezer."
"Okay. Roy, John you guys go in…Charlie, Marco follow them in with a line."
Johnny asked the man the name of the trapped worker.
"His name is Carlos. He's one of my prep cooks."
Roy and Johnny entered the building with Charlie and Marco behind them. They got
to the kitchen and found the walk-in freezer. Trying to open the door, they found it to be stuck.
Roy banged on the door, calling out Carlos' name.
"Carlos...Carlos, can you hear me?"
As Roy called out the man's name, Johnny just happened to be looking up when
he noticed a trap door on top of the freezer.
"Roy, there's a trap door up there. Give me a hand and I can get up and see
if I can open it."
He took off his air tank and went to the top of the freezer, with Roy
hoisting him up. Trying to open it, Johnny realized it was stuck.
"It's no good Roy."
Easing Johnny back down, Roy took off his gloves to work the radio. He
informed Captain Stanley of the situation.
"Cap, we need a crow bar and probably the stokes and equipment."
Rocky Ramirez happened to be one of the men who was sent in with the
equipment. He handed the crow bar to Johnny who was able to pry open the
"All right…it's open."
He looked down in the freezer and saw the worker lying unconscious next to a
couple of crates.
"Roy, he's unconscious so we're gonna need a backboard. I'm going down."
Johnny slowly lowered himself into the freezer, then he started to examine
Roy hoisted Rocky up to the top of the freezer so he could relay info to Roy
who called it in to Rampart. Establishing contact with the hospital, Roy
shouted out the treatment orders. After much effort, Johnny got their
victim strapped to a backboard and with help from Rocky, they got the man
out of the freezer. Once Johnny was back on ground, he was breathing very
heavily and shivering.
Roy grabbed one end of the stokes, Rocky the other, and Johnny carried some
of the equipment. Outside, while Roy and Rocky prepared the victim for
transport, they noticed Johnny hunched over trying to catch his breath and
becoming very pale.
The two paramedics looked at each other with concern. "Uh, Johnny...why don't you
ride in with me. Rocky'll take our squad in."
Johnny was still trying to catch his breath. Captain Stanley was observing
his paramedic too and was getting worried.
"John, I think you should go in and get yourself checked out."
Johnny was gasping between words, and as he tried to speak. "For
what…for... Brackett to...tell me...what I...I already know…I'm okay…
I'm…I'm just cold…Roy, you go in and I'll follow…behind in the squad."
Roy reluctantly went in the ambulance, while Rocky helped Johnny load up the
equipment back into the squad.
"Johnny...how...how did it go this morning?"
"Fine…it went fine…Chief Houts…approved your transfer."
Rocky nodded his head, and softly answered. "Good."
"I better get…going…Rocky I'll…see you later."
After Johnny left, Hank walked over to Rocky and placed his hand on Rocky's
"Hard, isn't it Rocky?"
"Yeah Cap, it is. I still can't believe it. Johnny's the last person
I could have ever imagined this happening to. It just doesn't seem
At the hospital, Roy was waiting for his partner's arrival. When Johnny
didn't come right away, he started to get concerned, given the state that
his partner had been in when he left him. Roy was leaning against the desk, deep
in thought when Dixie approached him…she had a worried look on her face.
"Oh, hi Dix."
"Need any supplies?" She asked, trying to keep her composure.
He handed her the requisition form. "Uh...yeah. Here's what we
Even though she was looking at the paper, Dixie's mind was really on her
"How's Johnny...I mean REALLY?"
Roy shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know…I guess...I guess as
well as can be expected. How would YOU or anyone else be feeling under the same
Dixie nodded in understanding as she quickly gathered and handed him the
"Here you go Roy."
"Thanks Dix, I'll see you later."
On a hunch, Roy made his way outside and sure enough, he saw Johnny sitting
in the squad. He locked up the supplies and slid in to the driver's seat. He
looked over at Johnny who still had on his turnout coat, and although his
breathing seemed to have returned to normal, still appeared to be quite
"Ready to go Junior?"
"Yeah Roy, let's go home."
Roy noticed that although he still called Johnny, Junior...his partner
seemed to stop calling him Pally and this observation was a little unnerving
to him. He reached over to the mic and made them available.
John looked over at Roy with tired eyes, and softly said, "No Roy, don't say
it…don't say anything."
Arriving back at the station, Johnny got out of the squad without saying
anything. Roy could only sit and imagine how his best friend was really
feeling. Seeing Roy still in the squad, Captain Stanley came over.
"Roy, everything okay?"
Roy looked at his Captain without saying anything. The look in his eyes
conveying the message that "no, everything's NOT alright, but what can we
really do about it?"
"We left you guys some lunch in the oven."
"Thanks, but I'm not really hungry...and I don't think Johnny is either."
He got out of the squad and headed to the dorm...knowing that he'd find his
Sure enough Johnny was sitting on his bed, his knees bent, arms wrapped
around his knees, and his head down resting on top. Roy quietly approached
his partner and sat down on his own bed, facing Johnny.
Johnny lifted his head and softly spoke. "Roy, I don't think I can do this.
I want to...but...but it's like...like someone came and…took all my
strength away from me. This job...it means everything to me...but I just
don't think I can do it anymore. I care about you and the guys too much to
let my physical limitations put you all in danger…I can't do it...I won't."
Wanting to convince his best friend that everything was going to be okay,
Roy said, "Johnny, you're...you're just having a bad day. Two weeks...two
Interrupting his friend, Johnny replied, "Roy...a bad day is when I'm running
late for work...or when I break a shoelace...getting into it with Chet.
This...this is...I'm...I'm dyin'...that's all there is to it. My
days...they AREN'T going to get any better…just a lot worse.
Roy...if...if it's okay with you, I just want to be left alone."
Roy was hurt and scared that Johnny felt this way...but he also knew that
eventually Johnny would regain his positive attitude and a sense of peace.
Wednesday morning arrived, signaling the end of the shift. It had been a
long one, and left Johnny exhausted. In the locker room changing to go
home, Mike, Marco, and Charlie were talking about their plans for their days
"So, what are your plans Johnny?"
"Not much Roy."
Knowing that he needed to tell Joanne, Johnny paused for a moment, then
said, "Monday morning...at the end of the next shift, I want to come over to
tell Joanne. I...I see what this is doing to you and…and she deserves to
know what's going on...it's not fair to either of you. We can tell the kids
another day...that I'm sick and needed to take a leave of absence."
"Okay Johnny." Roy said softly, nodding his head.
"See you guys Friday."
As Johnny left, the guys all wished him well.
Once at home, Johnny climbed into bed and fell right to sleep. However, after
sleeping several hours he was awakened by the reality that he could hardly
breath…unable to do anything else, he called 911. Arriving at Johnny's
apartment were the paramedics from 51's B-Shift, Andy Clarkson and Adam Wright.
Johnny's landlady unlocked his door when there was no answer.
Once in the apartment, they went to Johnny's bedroom where they found him
conscious, but struggling to breathe. Right away, they put the O2 on him and
he stopped struggling, but he still wasn't breathing normally. Adam, the
senior paramedic took charge of the situation.
"Johnny...can you hear me?" He asked in a calm voice.
Johnny could only nod his head.
"I need you to relax. Can you do that for me?"
Again Johnny nodded his head.
As Johnny's breathing started to even out, his body started to relax. They
took his vitals and contacted Rampart. Brackett was very concerned when he had
heard who the victim was. After giving the paramedics their treatment
orders, he called Roy at home.
After Roy got off the phone, Joanne knew something was seriously wrong.
"What's wrong Roy?" She asked very worriedly.
"It's Johnny...he's being taken to Rampart. He...he was having trouble
Breathing…Brackett thinks it's pneumonia."
Roy didn't want to go into all the other stuff...that was for Johnny to tell
her, in his own time.
After starting the IV, the paramedics got Johnny ready for transport. Adam
rode in with Johnny...concern on his face, oblivious to Johnny's terminal
illness. At the hospital, Johnny was taken into a treatment room and
examined by Dr. Brackett. The O2 mask was switched to a nasal canula.
"Johnny, how are you feeling?"
Johnny's voice was weak and strained, as he softly answered. "At least I
Hearing that brought a slight smile to Brackett's face.
"We're going to take x-rays Johnny ...but I'm pretty sure what you have is a
pretty nasty case of pneumonia. It was made worse by your weakened state and
your lung issues."
"I guess that freezer…rescue and the…the water rescue yesterday…didn't help."
Brackett put his hand on Johnny's shoulder. "No, probably not.
Just rest Johnny, x-ray will be here shortly."
Before leaving, he took a quick glance at Dixie, who hadn't said anything up
to that point.
Dixie put a thermometer into Johnny's mouth and started cooling his face
with a cold compress. Doing this made her think back to the time Johnny
almost died from the monkey virus. She knew he'd recover from the pneumonia,
but beyond that...she was scared. She took out the thermometer.
"102.4" She said softly.
The x-ray tech arrived and was ready to take pictures of Johnny's chest.
"Johnny, just try to relax. We'll have you feeling better in no time." Kel
told his friend.
"Dix…Roy…was Roy called?"
"Yes Johnny, Dr. Brackett called him. By now, he's probably in the lounge
waiting to see you. I'll be back in a little bit."
She bent down and kissed his forehead. John nodded his head as he gently
grabbed her arm.
In a whisper, Johnny said, "Dix…tell Roy that…I'm okay…and for him…not…not
"I will Johnny, just rest."
After leaving Johnny, Dixie headed to the lounge. Going in, she found Roy
waiting anxiously on the couch.
Quickly getting up, he nervously asked, "How is he?"
Remembering what Johnny had told her, she said, "He told me to tell you that
he's okay, and not to worry…although I know you won't do that. Right now he's
getting some pictures of his chest taken. How are you doing?"
"Me?" Roy asked with surprise.
Roy was surprised that his friend was asking about him…after all, Johnny was
the one that was sick.
"Yes Roy...YOU…we haven't really had much of an opportunity to talk. How
are you handling things?"
"I'm doing the best I can, but it's not easy Dix. I look at him and…and I
think how unfair it is for him to be going through this...and I picture my
life without him in it…and it's…it's so empty…and…"
Seeing Roy's hesitation, Dixie nodded her head. "I know what you mean. Well, we still
have him...we all just have to make the most of the time we have left with
Roy was overwhelmed at hearing what Dixie had just said, put into words.
"Roy, I'll let you know when you can see him."
The paramedic was too choked up to speak and could only nod his head. An
hour and a half later, Johnny was resting comfortably in his room. Roy
entered the room quietly and sat down in a chair next to his partner's bed.
Johnny stirred from a light sleep and turned his head to see Roy sitting
beside his bed in a chair.
"Pally." Johnny's voice was weak.
Roy was somewhat relieved when he heard his partner calling him 'Pally'.
"You okay, Johnny? You really scared me."
"Sorry...didn't mean to. I...I don't know what happened."
"That's alright partner. Just close your eyes and rest...I'm not going
Johnny smiled weakly at his best friend, and softly replied, "Okay...don't
mind if I do...I'm so...so tired."
Before too long, Johnny's eyes were closed.
Roy could only sit and watch as his partner slept. He took in Johnny's
appearance, he was pale and looked exhausted. It was another two hours
before Johnny woke up again and turning his head, he noticed Roy sound
asleep in his chair. Watching his partner sleep, he thought to himself how
difficult the last several days must have been on his best friend.
**I may be the one dying...but he's the one who's gonna be left behind**
Dr. Brackett entered the room to check on his patient. Seeing Roy asleep in
the chair, he talked quietly to Johnny.
"Hi Johnny. How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay Doc."
Brackett looked at Johnny's chart, and said, "Your fever's gone down to 101.
I'd say you'll be out of here in a few days."
Johnny looked up at Dr. Brackett, and asked, "It's over, isn't it?"
Kel knew what Johnny was asking, he just didn't have the heart to tell his
young friend that the job he loved so much was ending.
"What's over Johnny?"
"My career...it's over."
"It looks that way Johnny. I'm...I'm sorry it ended this way for you…you
were one of the best."
Roy opened his eyes and was startled when he saw Dr. Brackett standing at
"How's he doing Doc?"
"Holding his own, Roy. Get some rest Johnny and I'll see you guys later."
After Brackett left, Johnny pushed himself up in the bed.
"Tomorrow...I want to break the news to Joanne, tomorrow."
"Tomorrow Johnny…are you sure?"
"Roy...I'm...I'm scared…I...I need to tell her 'cause if...if anything
happened...and…and she didn't know the truth..."
"Johnny, there's...there's still a long way to go."
Starting to become upset, Johnny shook his head. "No, there isn't Roy…Brackett said
MAYBE six months…I'm...I'm not guaranteed ANYTHING…and I want her to
know…she deserves to know."
Calming his friend, Roy placed his hand on Johnny's shoulder.
"Okay Junior, calm down. All right, we'll…you…can tell her tomorrow."
Johnny was relieved that he made the decision to finally tell Joanne about
his illness. After telling Joanne, all those he was closest to would know
about his illness...except Chris and Jennifer. He would tell them he was
sick…the rest would come later.
The door opened, making the two paramedics look up. Walking into the room
carrying a dinner tray, was Dixie.
She tried her best to look happy, even though she was anything but. "Hi, fellas. I have some dinner for you Johnny…Dr. Brackett insists on you eating something."
"Ah Dix...I don't know…I feel kinda..."
"Does your head bother you Johnny? I can give you something for it."
"No, it's not too bad. I'm...I'm just not hungry."
Roy suddenly remembered that he never called Captain Stanley or any of the
guys…and Joanne would want to know what was going on too.
"Uh, Johnny…I...I better get going. I have some phone calls to make. Captain Stanley
doesn't know you're here...and I know he'd be upset if I didn't tell him."
"That's okay Roy, you go home. Give Jo and the kids my love."
Hearing that brought tears to Roy's eyes, as he softly replied, "I will
Junior…Jo and I will be here tomorrow."
"Thanks Pally...for everything."
Roy smiled at his partner and patted his shoulder. "Tomorrow." He looked at
Dixie with a knowing look. "Bye, Dix."
He took a last look at Johnny before leaving…it still hadn't totally sunk in
yet that he was going to lose his best friend.
After Roy left, Dixie completely turned her attention to her patient. "John Gage, you really need to eat...or Dr. Brackett will keep you here even longer."
Johnny sighed and allowed Dixie to feed him some of his dinner...he was too
tired to do it himself.
"Dix...what if I can't keep it down?"
"Johnny, we'll deal with it if it happens. Right now, I just want you to
relax…let me do all the work, okay?"
Johnny smiled, knowing that it was just like Dixie to pull this with him.
After finishing a little more than half of the meal, Johnny pleaded with
Dixie to stop.
"No more Dix. I really couldn't eat any more."
Dixie sighed. "Alright Johnny. I'll come by later and see how
you're doing, okay?"
He weakly smiled at her. "Thanks Dix, I know I never was the
"Oh, I wouldn't say that Johnny."
"No? I would. Hey, do me a favor…keep an eye on Roy for me...I worry about
Dixie smiled at her favorite dark-haired paramedic, and said, "It's just
like you guys, he's worried about you...you're worried about him."
Knowing what Johnny really meant, the smile faded, as Dixie tried to control
her emotions. "Don't worry Johnny…we're ALL gonna
keep…an eye on him…he's as special to us…as you are. Get some rest."
Turning away from her friend, Dixie left Johnny's room, wiping her eyes.
She didn't know how any of them were ever going to get through this.
As the door closed, Johnny softly whispered to himself. "Thanks
Dix...I won't have to worry about Roy now. Just take good care of him."
Knowing his best friend would be looked after, Johnny closed his eyes to try
When Roy got home, he updated Joanne on Johnny's condition and called Hank,
Rocky, and the other guys, including Chet, to let them know the latest
After hanging up the phone, Roy was met by Jennifer's worried face. "Dad, Uncle Johnny's sick, huh?"
"Yes Jen, he's got a pretty severe case of pneumonia."
"Is he going to be okay?"
Roy hesitated before answering her, but finally replied. "Yeah.
He should be going home in a few days."
"Maybe he could stay with us for a while." She suggested with a hopeful expression on her face.
Roy smiled at his daughter, it was just like her to suggest something like
that. When it came to Johnny, he and Jennifer had this amazing connection
from the start, and with time, that bond only grew stronger. She and Chris
would be absolutely devastated once they received the news about their
"That's a good idea Jen. I'll ask him, but don't be disappointed if he says
As Jennifer walked away, he thought to himself that despite the fact that
she was his biological daughter...she was more and more like her Uncle
Johnny every day… that put a smile on his face.
The next morning, after the kids went off to school, Roy and Joanne got
ready to visit Johnny. After a restful night, Johnny was sitting up in bed
visiting with a couple of very pretty nurses. When Roy and Joanne walked
through the door, a smile came to both of their faces when they took in the
scene...it was vintage Johnny.
Holly, a pretty redhead greeted Roy and Joanne.
"Johnny, we better get back to work. We'll stop by later."
She smiled widely at him, and left with the other nurse.
Joanne went over to Johnny and kissed him on the cheek. She took in his
haggard appearance...it was a far cry from how handsome he usually looked.
Johnny and Roy exchanged knowing looks.
"Joanne..." he motioned for her to sit next to him on the bed.
"Are you sure Johnny?"
Johnny nodded and said, "Yeah."
Once she was sitting down next to him, he took one of her hands in his.
"Jo...I...I need to tell you something."
Johnny's face grew very serious and she got a cold chill down her spine.
"What is it Johnny?" Her voice was filled with apprehension.
Johnny took as deep a breath as he could manage and slowly exhaled. Not wanting
to lose his nerve, he tried to get it out as quickly as he could.
"Jo...I'm...I'm sick…and the...the doctors ran some tests and…and they found
something…I ...I have a brain tumor...it's inoperable…and the cancer...it
already spread to my lungs…they say if...if I'm LUCKY…I have…six months."
Joanne took a moment for the news to sink in.
"You're...you're..." She couldn't get out the word.
Johnny finished her thought, saying it in a very soft tone. "I'm dying
Jo…I...I wish it weren't true…but it's out of my hands."
Joanne completely lost control of her emotions, as both men knew that she
would. As Joanne started to sob inconsolably, Johnny put his arms around
her in an effort to comfort her. Roy could only watch as the two most
important people in his life, were crying in each other's arms.
After a minute of watching the scene unfold, Roy too, was overwhelmed with
emotion and left the room. A short while later Johnny lifted Joanne's head
up, and like Dixie before her, he dried her tears. He then realized that Roy
was no longer in the room.
Trying to calm her down, he started to talk to her in a soothing voice. "Jo, listen to me."
She looked at him, trying to blink back the tears.
"Jo, I need you to be strong...for Roy. I don't want you to worry about
me...I'm fine...take care of HIM."
He paused for a moment to think about what he wanted to say next.
"The next few weeks are going to be difficult for him. I...I'm not going to
be able to work anymore, even though Brackett had given me two more weeks to
work, but then I go and get pneumonia...so, this is it for me. The next
shift...Roy...Roy's gonna have a new partner."
Joanne looked at him, half questioningly, half with concern. She knew what
this meant...her husband's life would now be in someone else's hands. Over
almost nine years, she AND Roy grew to trust Johnny implicitly.
"His name is Rocky Ramirez and he's a very good friend of mine...I trust
him. In fact, he was the only one that I WOULD trust taking my place
beside Roy...it's gonna be okay Jo...I promise."
Not trusting herself to speak, but doing so anyway...Joanne spoke. Her voice
was still full of emotion.
"Does...does Roy know yet?"
Johnny shook his head and replied, "No. I'm...I'm gonna tell him when he
takes me out of here in a few days, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't say
anything to him about this. I...I think he realizes that...that I'm done
working, but we haven't talked about it yet. He has no idea about Rocky
being his new partner. Can you do all this for me…be strong and not say
anything to him?"
Joanne looked at Johnny and nodded her head. 'Who's...who's
going to be strong for YOU?"
Johnny smiled and said, "I have my family...you, Roy, the kids, and all the
guys. I told you, it's gonna be okay."
When Roy had left the room, he went to the waiting room on the floor. After
spending 30 minutes by himself, he felt composed and decided to head back to
Johnny's room...he also figured he had given his partner enough time to talk
to Joanne. Roy opened the door to Johnny's room slowly, and found the room
was very quiet…Johnny was in bed with his head back on the pillows and his
eyes closed. Joanne was still sitting next to him on the bed, her hand
Hearing Roy come in, they both looked up.
"You two okay?"
Johnny opened his eyes and turned his head towards Joanne.
Joanne nodded her head and softly responded, "We're okay Roy."
"Is there anything I can get for you Junior?"
Johnny sighed, and softly answered, "I'm...I'm okay Roy."
"Magazines or anything?"
"Nah...I'm too tired to do anything but just lay here."
Roy saw how drained Johnny looked and decided that he and Joanne should
leave and let him get some rest.
"Johnny, you get some rest. Jo and I will see you later."
Johnny nodded his head. He was still very pale and running a fever, and knew
that he'd benefit from sleep, even though he really wanted his friends to
"Thanks for comin'."
Joanne kissed him on the cheek, as she started to speak to him.
"I know Jo...if I need anything...call. I will."
As his partner's eyes started to close, Roy took Johnny's hand in his and
bent down to whisper in his ear.
"Be strong Junior...please be strong."
Johnny opened his eyes and looked into Roy's eyes, and softly responded,
"I'll try Pally."
As Roy and Joanne were leaving Johnny's room, they saw Hank Stanley walking
towards them. The two men shook hands and Hank and Joanne embraced.
"How is he Roy?" Hank asked in a very serious tone.
"Holding his own." Roy sensed Joanne needed time to be alone to digest the
latest news. "Jo, why don't you take the car and go home, I'll catch a ride
"You sure Roy?"
Hank spoke up. "I'll bring him home Joanne."
"Thank you Hank."
"You'll be alright Jo?"
"Yes Roy...I love you." They kissed and Joanne headed for the elevator.
"Let's get some coffee in the cafeteria Cap, Johnny needs to rest for a while."
While sitting in the cafeteria, Hank noticed all the emotion etched on Roy's
"Johnny told Joanne?"
"Yeah...it was rough. I...I couldn't even stay in the room."
Roy paused before continuing.
"Cap, you mind if I take the next shift off?"
"No, of course not. If anyone's entitled to, it's definitely you Roy."
"Oh, it's not really for me Cap, I want to help Johnny when he gets out of
here. Hopefully, Brackett will spring him in a couple days."
"So, how is he Roy?"
"Well considering the circumstances and how he was when Andy and Adam got to
him yesterday...he's actually doing okay."
"And how are YOU doing?"
Roy was still baffled that everyone seemed so concerned about how he was
"I'm okay Cap...for now. In a few months...it'll be a different story."
The two men were continuing their conversation when they were spotted by
Dixie. Carrying a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie, she approached
"Hi fellas…mind if I join you?"
The two men greeted her and asked her to join them. Roy knew Dixie was
upset...the only time she had pie with her coffee was when something was
"How's Johnny?" She asked, her voice full of concern.
"Still kinda weak, but I think he's mostly just really tired."
"I mean, mentally Roy."
"Alright, I guess...probably better than most of US."
Looking at Hank, she asked, "How are the rest of the guys handling things
"I think they're all still trying to digest things Dixie."
After talking for 15 minutes, Dixie headed back to the ER, and Hank went to
see Johnny, leaving Roy in the cafeteria to ponder his thoughts. Hank
approached Johnny's door just as Dr. Brackett was leaving the room.
"Dr. Brackett, how's...how's John doing?"
"He's doing much better, I took him off the O2 and he's resting comfortably.
He should be going home in a couple days."
"He's not coming back to work, is he?"
Looking down at the floor, then back up at Hank, Kel sadly replied, "I'm
afraid not Hank…he's too weak and his illness is only going to get worse.
Why don't you go in to see him, he's awake."
The two men nodded at each other, then Kel left to go look in on other
patients. Entering the paramedic's room, Hank took in Johnny's pale
appearance. Hearing someone come in to his room, Johnny looked up…he smiled
when he saw it was his Captain.
"How ya doin' pal?"
"I'm okay." His voice was still strained. "Cap..."
Hank sensed the hesitation in Johnny's voice.
"I just saw Dr. Brackett and he says you're doing better and that you'll be
out of here in a couple days."
"I guess...Cap...I...I won't be able to finish my duty with the Department.
The pneumonia took care of that for me. I...I feel like I'm letting you
Hank sat down on the side of Johnny's bed. He couldn't believe that his
friend could even think that he was letting him down.
"John...you could NEVER let me down…or any of the other guys for that
matter. For what you've accomplished in your career...I couldn't be prouder
Johnny smiled warmly at his Captain. "Thanks."
"Does…does Roy know?"
Shaking his head, Johnny said, "No, not yet. I'm…like I told Joanne, I'm
gonna wait till I get outta here before I tell him…not that it's gonna make
any difference, he isn't gonna take THIS news any better than he did about
my can…my tumor. But…we'll get through it Cap…somehow, we will."
Hank sat there for a moment, amazed at the positive attitude that his young
friend had. He saw the way that Johnny had handled the news from the moment
that he found out about his illness…he wondered, if he were facing the same
thing as Johnny was, if he would have that same positive outlook on the
situation...he had his doubts that he would.
"We ALL will. We're all here to help in any way that we can, Johnny…I hope
you know that."
Trying to change his position in bed, Johnny said, "I know Cap…and I really
don't know…how I'd ever…get through this…without all of…my friends."
Hank could see that Johnny was getting tired, just by the way he was
breathing…he knew he needed to go to let Johnny get some rest, but Johnny's
sudden change in his respirations also scared the Captain. Just as Hank was
about to call for Doctor Brackett, Roy came back into the room…he saw the
trouble his best friend was having, and quickly became worried.
Hurrying over to Johnny's side, Roy asked, "Johnny…do you need to use the O2
Nodding his head, Johnny softly replied, "Yeah Roy…I think…I…I
Hank reached up and grabbed the oxygen mask, and placed it back on Johnny's
face, then turned to Roy, and spoke to him.
"Roy, do you want me to go get Brackett?"
"Yeah…yeah Cap, I think you better."
As Hank started to walk away from the bed, Johnny grabbed his arm, and said,
"No…no Cap I…don't need Brackett…just give me…a minute and…I'll be fine."
"No Junior, Brackett needs to come look at you."
"He's right Johnny."
Knowing he wouldn't win with his best friend or his Captain, Johnny just
nodded his head in agreement. Hank left to go find Doctor Brackett.
Minutes later, the two men came back into the room. Using the O2, Johnny's
breathing had leveled out.
Walking over to the bed, Kel said, "Johnny, Hank tells me that you started
having some trouble breathing. Let me listen to your lungs."
While Kel checked Johnny over, Roy motioned for his Captain to follow him
out in the hall.
After leaving the room, Roy shook his head. "I don't like this Cap."
Shaking his head, Hank replied, "I don't either Roy…I don't either."
After a few minutes, Kel came back into the hall to talk to the two men.
"Well?" Hank asked…even ahead of his senior paramedic.
Looking at Roy, Brackett said, "Guys…this was due to the cancer in his lungs
and it's going to start happening a lot. As the disease progresses even
more, Johnny's ability to breathe is only going to get worse until he
Doctor Brackett didn't need to finish his sentence…both men knew what would
Continuing, he said, "Johnny's doing alright now… he's asking for both
of you. But just stay for a few more minutes, he needs all the rest he can
Both men nodded their head and went back inside Johnny's room to talk to
Over the course of the next few days, Johnny received many visitors. The
guys he worked with, as well as hospital staff and other paramedics...even
Vince came to give him his well wishes.
Three days later, Brackett finally deemed Johnny well enough to go home, and
as always, Roy was there to take him home. In the car on the way to Johnny's
apartment, Roy looked over at his partner…Johnny had his head back on the
headrest and his eyes closed. Roy thought, considering Johnny was only five
days removed from a severe attack of pneumonia, and a week removed from
finding out about his terminal illness...he seemed to have weathered the
storm pretty well.
Johnny opened his eyes and glanced over at Roy. He saw how tired his partner
looked and started to feel an irrational sense of guilt about it. The two
friends made the trip to Johnny's place in silence and when Roy pulled into
the parking lot and parked alongside Johnny's Rover, he was the first one to
"Johnny, are you sure you won't reconsider and stay with us for a while? It
was actually Jenny's idea to ask you."
John smiled. "I appreciate the offer Pally...but I'm sure. I'd
kinda like to be alone for a while." He saw Roy's concerned look. "You know
what I mean Roy."
"Yeah, I guess I do."
As the two men entered Johnny's apartment, Johnny grew very serious.
Picking up on his partner's change in demeanor, Roy became concerned,
thinking that Johnny was starting to feel sick again.
"You alright Johnny?"
"I'm fine Roy but I do have something I need to tell you."
Johnny sat on his recliner, Roy sat next to him on the couch. Roy wasn't
sure he could take hearing any more "news". He couldn't imagine hearing
anything worse than the news that he had heard the previous Saturday afternoon...about
Johnny's brain tumor.
"What is it Johnny?"
Johnny let out a small breath. "Roy...I think you already know what I'm
gonna say. I'm...I'm done working, the pneumonia saw to that...it's over for
Roy's heart was in his throat. Deep down he knew that Johnny's days as a
paramedic were over, but hearing his best friend say the words put an air of
finality to it.
"Roy...there's not enough time left…Brackett gave me two weeks...and
now...I'm...I'm too weak to get the job done. But there's...there's
something else I gotta tell you." Johnny paused for a moment to collect his
thoughts. "Roy...when...when you go back on your next shift...you'll have a
Roy repeated the words Johnny had just spoken. "New partner." He couldn't
imagine working with anyone else. Sure, there were the times that Johnny was
injured or sick, or on vacation...but almost every day for almost nine years,
they were side by side.
"I think you'll like your new partner...I handpicked him myself." Trying for
a shot at humor, he continued. "I assure you, it isn't Brice…I couldn't do
that to you."
Roy could barely trust himself to talk, as he hesitantly asked, "You...you
handpicked him yourself?"
"Yeah, and Chief Houts went along with it."
Nervously, Roy asked, "Who is it?"
Johnny continued to look at Roy for some kind of reaction, but found none,
as Roy was trying to digest the news of who his new partner would be. He
understood Johnny's line of thinking and the implications behind it...he was
just stunned that Johnny would have thought to ask Rocky to do this for him,
but was even more stunned that Rocky had agreed. Johnny was a bit nervous at
Roy's lack of reaction.
"Ah…you're scarin' me not sayin' anything. Talk to me Pally."
"I'm...I'm just overwhelmed Johnny…that you and Rocky would do this for me."
John smiled in relief. "Then…it's okay? He...he was the only one I
trusted Roy…and you deserve the best."
Looking at his best friend, Roy softly said, "I already had the best…you."
The two friends talked for a while longer, but when Johnny started to get
tired, Roy decided to go...with the promise that his best friend would call
"I'll call ya later Pally. Thanks for bringin' me home."
Holding up his hand to stop his friend, Johnny softly said, "Roy...I'm
okay...I'll be fine. Go home to Joanne."
After Roy left Johnny's apartment, tears slowly made their way down his
face, Johnny put his head back on the recliner and fell asleep, with the
hope that Roy would be okay. After sleeping for most of the day, Johnny
woke up around 6:30 PM and called Roy to let him know that he was okay.
When Wednesday morning arrived, Johnny was in the station squad room waiting
for the rest of his friends to come in to start their shift...he was dressed
in a pair of jeans and polo shirt, enjoying a glass of milk.
The first one to come in was Captain Stanley and although he had spoken to
Johnny a few times on the phone, he hadn't seen him since that morning at
Rampart. He thought Johnny still looked quite pale, but he looked more
rested than he had been in a while.
"How ya doin' pal?"
"I'm okay Cap."
"Are you gonna be okay to do this?"
John smiled at his soon-to-be former boss, and replied, "I'll be fine. Just
do me a favor Cap...keep an eye on Roy for me."
"We all will John...we all will."
As everyone on A-shift, but Roy, assembled in the squad room, they noticed
Johnny sitting in his civvies...no one said anything. Johnny looked at all
his friends and smiled, knowing that these were the men he would go to Hell
and back for…and he had.
Finally speaking, Johnny said, "I just wanted to let you know that this is
the end of the road for me. I'm officially resigned from the
Department, and Rocky here, is the new paramedic at the station. He's...he's
Roy's new partner."
Everyone looked over at Rocky who could only look down at the floor. When
Johnny started to talk again their attention was drawn back to him.
"I want to thank you guys for the love and support you've given me, not just
in the last week, but over the last nine years. You're all a special bunch
of people and will eternally be in my heart. When the time comes, I'll be
looking down on all of you…smiling and protecting you."
Mike spoke up, and said, "You promise not to be a stranger Johnny?"
"I promise. Besides, somebody's gotta keep Chester B. here in line...I'll
gladly assume the responsibility."
They all shared a laugh over that one.
"Well, I better let you guys get to work or McConnike's gonna come and give
our Captain a hard time. I'll be in touch...we'll get together soon."
They all exchanged hugs with Johnny, then he and Rocky headed to the locker
room. As Johnny emptied out his locker, Rocky was sitting on the bench
"Rocky, promise me you'll always be there for Roy, and that you'll look out
for each other. I'm entrusting to you the life of someone that I care about a great deal."
"I will Johnny. I won't let you down...I promise."
Continuing, Johnny said, "The coming months won't be easy for him...for any
of you guys for that matter...but knowing you'll be with him makes me feel
more at ease. You've been a good friend Rocky, and you doing this for
me...you have no idea what it means to me. And please, thank Alexi for me."
Rocky, who was as stoic as they came, was very affected by Johnny's
"Johnny...I think I do know what this means to you, and it's an honor to be
able to do it for you. You're...you're an exceptional person Johnny, and I've
always had such respect and admiration for you."
"Thanks buddy...the feeling's mutual. Well, I guess this is it…I'll be in
The two friends embraced.
After finishing cleaning out his locker, Johnny headed out to his car where
he knew Roy would be waiting for him.
"You don't have to say anything Pally. We're still best friends...we always
will be. You'll always be a part of my life...till the end. I'll be in
The two of them embraced.
Pulling away from his friend, Johnny quietly said, "Take care of
yourself…and be careful out there. And Pally...let Rocky…along with the
rest of the guys...be there for you when…when the time comes."
Johnny got into his Rover and drove away. As Roy watched the Rover leave
the station parking lot, a few tears started falling down his face. He was
trying to mentally prepare himself for the next few months...a life without
Johnny as his partner...and a life…without Johnny.
As Johnny drove away from the station, he felt a profound sense of loss.
For almost 13 years, being a firefighter and paramedic was all he'd ever
known, and now that it was over, he felt lost.
Tired and drained from the events of the morning, but not feeling like going
home, Johnny thought about his options…he decided that given his weakened
state, the mountains wouldn't be a wise choice. The next idea he had was the
beach, and after thinking about it for a few moments, that's where he
Arriving at the beach parking lot, he got out and took his shoes off…he
always loved the feel of his feet in the sand. Attempting as deep a
breath as he could, he took in some of the sea air. The sun was bright,
and although it was warm, the sea breeze made it feel a little cooler.
Walking in the sand, he surveyed the beach. Being only the beginning of
May, the beach was not very crowded. Heading towards the water, Johnny
picked a spot and sat down. Looking out into the ocean, he was mesmerized
by the waves and felt a real sense of peace for the first time in several weeks.
Lulled by the sound of the water, Johnny didn't hear the voice right away.
"Johnny...is that you?"
John was brought out of his reverie when he looked up and found himself
staring into a pair of beautiful green eyes.
The voice spoke again. "John Gage?"
Johnny took in the entire face of the owner of the green eyes. A look of
surprise came over him as he recognized the face.
The young woman smiled and nodded her head, as she replied, "Yes
Johnny was speechless…he sat looking at her as though she were a ghost
"I...I thought I'd never see you again. How...how long has it been?"
"At least ten years."
Johnny sat looking at her, so many thoughts and questions running through
As he stood to face her, Johnny said, "Gabby, you have no idea how many
times I've thought of you over the years."
"Oh Johnny, I'm...I'm so sorry. I...I..."
John placed his finger over her lips.
"Shhh…it's okay…you're here now."
The two of them embraced, each one remembering the magical time that they had
spent together over ten years ago.
"Johnny, I have so much that I want to tell you. Things...things that I
wanted...that I SHOULD have told you a long time ago."
"Well...if you're free...I'm free. We have all day...and night."
They walked along the water, hand in hand.
"God, you're even more beautiful than I remember."
"Johnny, you haven't changed either. You're still the same handsome John
Gage that I remember."
While Johnny and Gabriella were enjoying their stroll along the beach, Roy
and Rocky were returning to the station after their first run as partners.
After backing into the bay, the two paramedics sat in the squad, both very
Hearing the squad pull in, Captain Stanley went out to meet them, and seeing
them still sitting in the vehicle, and as quiet as they were, he quickly
"You guys alright?"
Roy and Rocky looked at each other, each one silently acknowledging the
reason for their quiet behavior.
Roy spoke up first. "We're fine Cap. It's...it's just..."
Understanding what Roy was getting at, Hank let out a small smile, and
said, "I miss him too fellas...I miss him too."
After walking along the beach for 20 minutes, Johnny started to get tired.
Gabriella noticed him struggling a bit with his breathing.
"Johnny, you alright? You look so pale."
Johnny smiled sheepishly, and said, "I'm getting over a bad case of
pneumonia...my breathing isn't quite back to normal yet."
In Johnny's mind, he wasn't sure how much to tell Gabriella about his
"Johnny, I'm staying at a hotel just off the beach. Why don't we go back to
my room...you can lie down for a while."
Johnny wasn't feeling too well, so he was in no position to refuse her
"That might be a good idea Gabby, thanks."
Arriving at Gabriella's room, Johnny was exhausted and wearily laid down on
her bed. As his breathing started to even out, he started to fall asleep.
Watching Johnny sleep, so many memories came flooding back to her. Feeling
somewhat tired herself, she laid down on the bed next to him and pondered
what her life would have been like if she had stayed in LA with him.
After sleeping for several hours Johnny woke up, unsure of where he was.
Looking around the room, he saw Gabriella asleep next to him and realized
that he was in her hotel room. Looking at his watch, he saw the time was
already 6PM. He sat up in bed, and debated on how to proceed with Gabriella.
**Do we go to dinner tonight…do I tell her about my illness…do I allow
myself to get close to her…to hold her in my arms**
While Johnny was thinking about how fate seemed to bring Gabriella back to
him, six firefighters were sitting around the station, still trying to deal
with their emotions and the fact that a certain paramedic would no longer be
a regular part of their lives.
Chet was the first one to speak, as he said, "I wonder what Johnny's doing
right now. You...you think he's home Roy?"
Roy wanted to call Johnny in the worst way, but decided that his friend
probably would want to be left alone.
"I don't know Chet, maybe."
Gabriella woke up and seeing Johnny already awake beside her, she smiled,
and quietly spoke to him.
"It isn't a dream, you're really here next to me."
Johnny smiled, and replied, "I am."
Gabby sat up. "Johnny, there's so much I want to tell
"Would you like to tell me over dinner Gabby?"
"I would love to Johnny."
After freshening up a bit, she and Johnny went out to Johnny's Rover.
"What kind of food are you in the mood for?"
Gabriella laughed, and shook her head. "Not Italian."
"I know a great steak house. Sound good?"
At the restaurant while waiting for their food, Gabriella decided to tell
Johnny about the secret that only her grandparents knew about.
"Johnny, I...I want to tell you why I left all those years ago. I owe you
an explanation for leaving the way I did...for leaving YOU the way I did."
"Gabby, I always wondered why...but if it's something you're not ready to
talk about, I understand."
"No, I want to. As you know, my father was a cop…he was also a nasty
alcoholic. From the time I was 12, my father…he sexually abused me. He
told me that if I ever told anyone, he'd hurt me or kill me…I...I took it
for seven years. When I was 19, I decided I'd had enough...I took off to
Italy where I stayed with my maternal grandparents. My mother had died when
I was 11. I never told anyone where I was going or why. When I broke up
with you...it broke my heart to have to break yours, but I needed to
leave...it was to save my life. I hope you can forgive me Johnny."
"Gabriella, I wish you could have told me what was going on. I would have
done anything for you."
"I know Johnny…but I was so scared. My father was a cop, and who would have
believed that he'd do something like that to his little girl. But ever
since that day we broke up, and I got on that plane to Italy...not a day has
gone by where I didn't think of you and wonder...wonder what might have
"I have to admit, in the beginning I was devastated...I couldn't imagine
what I'd done to chase you away. But after a while that feeling started to
lessen...I threw myself into work at the Fire Academy and ultimately into
being a paramedic. You were never far from my thoughts, I guess that's why
I never was able to settle down. All the girls I dated...they never
measured up to you, and I became fixated on outward appearances."
"But Johnny, we're here now, together...it's not too late for us."
"Gabby, there's something I have to tell you too...but not here."
Gabriella got a serious look on her face, as she asked, "You're not married
or engaged, are you?"
Johnny laughed, as he replied, "No, I'm not...I wouldn't be here with you if
I was. Later...I'll tell you, later."
Their food came and they enjoyed a nice dinner together. After dinner, they
went back to Gabriella's hotel room.
"Johnny...I...I want you to stay the night. It's been so long since I've
felt safe in a man's arms."
"Gabriella, I need to tell you something first…and it could very well change
the way you feel about me...and about the invitation to spend the night with
you. I...I want to, but it has to be for all the right reasons."
"Johnny, what are you trying to say?"
Taking her hands in his, Johnny let out a deep breath. "There's no
easy way to say this…but I...I'm sick. I was recently diagnosed
with an inoperable brain tumor and I only have a few more months to live…and
as badly as I want to be with you it…it can't be because you feel sorry for
Gabriella was stunned, but quickly regained her composure.
"Johnny, I love you. Let me stay and take care of you...marry me."
Johnny smiled and hugged her. "There's nothing more I'd rather do,
than to make you my wife...but I won't make you my widow a few months later,
it wouldn't be fair to you. You have no future with me."
"But I can have a present with you."
"Gabby, you're here for a week...to settle your Dad's estate after he passed
away. You need to go back to Italy and resume your life there."
"But why Johnny…why won't you let me help you?"
"Because…I want you to remember me while I still have some semblance of
health...not the way I'll be in another month. I want this week to be
special...to be memorable, and I want you to remember me THIS way."
He leaned in to kissed her, his lips gently brushing against hers, and after
a passionate kiss, their weeklong love affair began.
The next morning,
after a promise to call her and another passionate kiss, Johnny headed home
for a few hours. Arriving home, he decided to call Roy at the station... to
let him know he was okay.
Dialing the familiar number, he waited for someone to answer.
"Station 51, Firefighter DeSoto."
Johnny made sure to sound as upbeat as possible.
Roy's eyes lit up at hearing the sound of his best friend's voice, something
Johnny couldn't see over the phone.
"Johnny...how are you?"
"I'm fine Roy, just calling to say hello. How've you been?"
Johnny knew just by Roy's lifeless tone that he was NOT alright.
Before he could finish his sentence, the alarms sounded.
"Johnny, I gotta go...talk to ya soon."
After getting off the phone, Johnny hopped in the shower. Once he dressed,
he sat down in his recliner...the emotion of the last few days was starting
to catch up to him, he was exhausted.
While thinking about Gabriella and the glorious day and night they had spent
together, Johnny fell asleep. When Johnny awoke it was 3 in the afternoon.
He was alarmed that it was so late in the day already…he knew that he had
to call Gabriella, after all, she didn't have his number.
After talking on the phone, the two of them made plans for dinner. Driving
to Gabby's hotel, Johnny met her in the lobby.
When Gabriella greeted him with a big hug and kiss, she noticed how tired he
"Johnny, we can stay in and eat at the hotel, if you want. You look really
"I AM beat, but I slept all day...besides, you and I only have a few more
days together. I'll be okay Gabby."
At the restaurant, while waiting for their food, Johnny decided that he
wanted Roy and Joanne to meet Gabriella.
"Gabby, I...I have some people I really want you to meet. I'm gonna try to
arrange it so that we'll have dinner tomorrow night. These two people are
most important to me."
Gabriella figured out who he was talking about.
"Your partner and his wife?"
**My former partner**
Johnny smiled, and said, "Yeah...you'll really like them."
"Johnny, if they're friends of yours, I know I'll love them."
"In fact, I'm gonna go call him now. I'll be right back."
He kissed her and went to find a pay phone.
After a few rings, a voice answered.
"Station 51, Firefighter Lopez here."
"Johnny, how ya doin'?" Marco asked his friend, happy to be hearing from him.
"I'm fine Marco. Is Roy there?"
"Uh...yeah, I think he and Rocky just got back from a run. Hold on a sec."
When Johnny heard that Roy and Rocky had just gotten back, he had a tinge of
**I wish that was me**
The next voice on the line was Roy's.
"Johnny...is everything okay?" Roy asked nervously.
"Yeah...yeah, fine. Look, I just wanted to know if you and Jo could meet me
for dinner tomorrow night? I have someone I'd like the two of you to meet."
"Uh, yeah sure…I'll...I'll talk to Joanne...it shouldn't be a problem. I'll
talk to ya in the morning Junior."
"Great, thanks Pally."
When Roy got off the phone, he was very curious as to who this mystery
After dinner, Johnny took Gabriella back to his apartment.
"So, this is where you live. It's just as I imagined it would be...all the
personal touches that say John Gage." Gabriella commented with a smile.
"I'm sorry it's not cleaner…I haven't exactly had…the energy to clean."
"Don't worry about it."
Looking around, she spotted a framed picture of all the guys from the previous
year's firemen's picnic.
"Let me see if I can pick out your friend Roy."
Instinctively, she picked Roy right out.
Being surprised, Johnny asked, "How did you know which one he was?"
"He has a kind face and his blue eyes look very sincere...he had to be the
Without warning, Johnny was stricken with a sudden and severe case of
nausea. Running quickly into the bathroom, he emerged a few minutes later
looking very pale and feeling quite dizzy.
"Johnny, let me help you into bed."
Johnny didn't argue with her, even though he was more than a bit embarrassed
for getting sick in front of her. After Johnny was lying in bed, his eyes
closed to combat the dizziness, he told Gabby where there was a tee shirt
for her to put on to sleep in. Lying in bed next to him, she stroked his
hair and gave him a gentle kiss on his cheek.
The next morning, Johnny was relieved to be feeling better, and after
talking to Roy on the phone to finalize their dinner plans, he deemed
himself ready to enjoy another day of fun with Gabriella.
"You know what we're gonna do today Gabby...we're going horseback riding. I
have a friend who lets me ride whenever I want to."
"Are you sure you're up for it?" She asked a bit hesitantly.
He smiled lovingly at her and kissed her. "I'm fine."
After making a call to his friend at the ranch, and a quick breakfast,
Johnny took Gabby back to the hotel to change. Several hours later, after a
leisurely ride on the horses, the two of them were helping to put the horses
back in the stable.
"Cal, thanks for letting us ride today."
"My pleasure Johnny. Take care...and Gabriella, it was a pleasure meeting
She smiled warmly at the man, and replied, "Thanks Cal…it was nice meeting
After making their way back to the Rover and getting in, Johnny asked,
"Where to from here Gabby?"
"I think we need to rest Johnny...you look wiped out. Let's go back to my
hotel so I can pick up a few things and then spend the rest of the day at
your place until dinner."
Johnny had to admit, after riding for a few hours he was feeling quite
"Okay, that's a plan. We'll go back to my apartment...but we're not
necessarily going to rest." Johnny said with a sly grin.
Gabby noticed the twinkle in Johnny's eyes as he said that.
"You're a very naughty boy, John Gage." She smiled and kissed him.
Arriving back to Johnny's apartment, the two of them lied down in bed…
Gabriella snuggled close to him.
Roy was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee after getting up
from a nap.
"So, who's the mystery person we're meeting for dinner Roy?"
"I don't know Jo, Johnny didn't say. My bet is it's a woman...and if it IS
a woman, she's gotta be pretty special for him to go through such great
lengths for us to meet her."
Joanne studied her husband's face. "How...how are you and
Rocky working out?"
Roy answered softly, as he said, "Fine."
**But he's *not* Johnny**
After a passionate afternoon and nap, Gabriella and Johnny showered and got
"You look very handsome, Mr. Gage." commented Gabriella, as she adjusted his tie.
"Thank you. You look stunning, as usual." Johnny replied with a grin.
"Are you alright Johnny? You look..."
"Nervous?" he supplied.
"Yeah...nervous. Are you?"
Johnny sheepishly smiled. "Yeah, I am. I haven't seen Roy since
Wednesday when I officially left the Department...and introducing you to the
two of them is a big deal to me."
Gabriella took his hands in hers and looked into his eyes. "I'll
be right beside you."
They got to the restaurant 20 minutes early and found that Roy and Joanne
were already there.
Stepping into the restaurant, Johnny greeted his two friends. When Joanne
saw Johnny, tears started to fall down her cheeks...she hadn't seen him since he broke the news to her about his illness in the hospital.
Seeing her tears, he hugged her and tried to wipe them away.
"Shhh...this is supposed to be a special evening Jo. I don't want you to
Joanne answered Johnny softly. "I'm sorry Johnny. It's..."
Johnny smiled and said, "It's okay Jo."
Turning to Gabriella he introduced her to Roy and Joanne.
"Gabby, this is Joanne DeSoto. Joanne, this is Gabriella Montenegro."
The two women hugged...they both had one thing in common...their love for
"And this fella here is my part...my best friend, Roy DeSoto."
Johnny's near slip of the tongue did not go unnoticed, but no one said
Gabriella smiled warmly and hugged him.
"It's a pleasure meeting you both. Johnny's told me so much about the two of
you...I feel like already know you."
The four of them were led to their table and sat down.
After placing their orders, Johnny looked at Gabriella, and spoke.
"Well, I guess the two of you are probably wondering about why you're here
and who this lovely mystery lady is."
Roy smiled and in his own distinctive voice answered, "Well, the thought
HAS crossed my mind Junior."
Johnny and Gabriella told Roy and Joanne the whole story of how they met,
their courtship and subsequent break up.
"When I left the station on Wednesday, after I cleaned out my locker...I
didn't know where to go. I went to the beach and I was just sitting there
when Gabriella approached me. She called my name and when I looked up, I
found myself looking into a pair of beautiful green eyes, and after talking
for a while...well, the rest is history."
Joanne was blown away by the story. "I guess it was fate that
brought the two of you back together."
Roy couldn't help but to feel a bit taken aback. He had known Johnny for
almost ten years, and never once had his friend told him about Gabriella…he
started to feel guilty about feeling this way but realized that introducing
Gabriella to both he and Joanne was obviously very important to Johnny.
During dinner amid lively conversation, Johnny started to get a severe
**Oh no…not again…not now**
Roy got up and went over to his friend to help staunch the blood flowing
from his nose.
"Johnny, relax...let me help you."
Ten minutes later, Johnny's nose was still bleeding and Roy noticed how pale
and unsteady he appeared to be, even just sitting down.
A little bit nervous, Johnny softly said, "Roy…I can't get it…to stop,"
The manager of the restaurant came over to see if he could help.
"Is there anything I can do?"
Looking up, Roy nodded his head. "Yes, you can call 9-1-1."
"Of course. Is…is he going to be okay?"
"Yeah, he'll be fine."
By the time the paramedics from 39's arrived, Johnny's nosebleed had stopped
but he was visibly weak. After calling Rampart and advising them who their
patient was, the paramedics readied Johnny for transport.
"Roy...I'm...I'm feeling better. Is this really necessary?" Johnny asked with a soft sigh.
"Yes Johnny, now relax and let these guys take care of ya."
Roy turned to his wife. "Jo, take Gabriella in the car to Rampart,
I'll take Johnny's Rover and meet you there."
Before the ambulance attendants were ready to take Johnny away, Gabriella
came over to him and kissed him.
Seeing the scared look on her face, Johnny tried to reassure her, as he
softly said, "I'll be okay Gabby...I'll see you soon."
At the hospital, Johnny was brought into the exam room while Roy and the
others waited in the lounge.
Dr. Brackett looked at the former paramedic with concern. "Johnny, what are you doing out?
You just got over a severe case of pneumonia…you should be at home,
Johnny sighed as he said, "Doc, you can't expect me to spend the rest of my
life...however long that may be...just sitting at home, wasting away...I
can't do that."
"Johnny, that's not what I mean."
Becoming upset, Johnny asked, "What DO you mean, Dr. Brackett?"
"Johnny, I know you're hurting and still trying to come to terms with your
illness, but you have to accept reality...your body can no longer do all the
things it used to do."
Johnny's frustration in the situation was even more evident...in the tone and
volume of his voice.
"Come to terms…handle reality? I HAVE come to terms with everything...and
the REALITY is...I'm dying...and I KNOW that. But I'll be damned if I'm
just going to sit around and let the rest of my life pass me by."
Slightly smiling, Kel nodded his head. "I'm glad you're getting upset, Johnny...it
means you still have some fight in you…and that's good. I'm sorry if I
upset you, I'd probably feel the same way if I was you, but all I AM saying is to slow it down a little...you might last a little longer that way."
Calming down, Johnny laid his head back down onto the pillow. After
releasing a deep breath, he responded in a softer tone.
"Doc, I HAVE come to terms with everything...really. But to last a little
longer…for what? I'd rather live my life now...on MY terms...and when the
time comes for my life to be over...I don't want to have any regrets. You
know what I mean?"
"Yeah Johnny, I guess I do. Listen, you're a bit dehydrated...so I'd like
to start an IV and keep you here for a few hours."
Johnny refused the IV, and then told Dr. Brackett about Gabriella and why he didn't
want to waste any more time being at the hospital any longer than he had to.
"After she goes home, I promise to slow it down...a little." He added with a tired smile.
Dr. Brackett gave him some prescriptions to help him deal with some of the
symptoms of his illness...mainly his headaches and nausea.
"I'll send your visitors in and will release you in a half hour or so, is
Johnny smiled at the doctor. "Yeah. Thanks Doc."
Brackett went to the lounge to talk to Johnny's three anxious friends.
"Doc…how's Johnny doing?" Roy asked with concern.
"He's alright Roy...a little weak and dehydrated, but he's refusing
treatment. This isn't like the good old days when he had no choice...being a
member of the Department and all."
He looked at Gabriella and smiled, as he went on, "Something about a very
beautiful woman that he desperately needed to get back to."
Gabriella smiled warmly at the doctor and they shook hands.
"Hi, I'm Gabriella Montenegro. I suppose Johnny's told you all about me."
"Yes he has, that was quite a story. For both of your sakes, I wish it had
a happier ending."
Brackett paused for a moment. "He's in Room 2, Roy and I'll be releasing him
within the hour. You all take care."
Roy, Joanne, and Gabriella all made their way to see Johnny.
"Hey Junior. You look better."
Johnny grinned, especially when he saw Gabriella.
"I feel better Pally." He suddenly remembered the bill at the restaurant.
"The bill...who paid?"
"Don't worry, the manager took care of it. Apparently he's a big fan of
paramedics...he had an accident a couple of years ago...two paramedics from
39's helped him out."
Johnny laughed, as he said, "Let me guess...Brice and Bellingham." After
pausing for a moment, Johnny switched gears. "I'm really sorry that the
evening turned out this way. I...I was hoping for it to be a special
evening...the three people who I love the most meeting for...for...the only
Joanne tried to reassure Johnny. "Johnny...it WAS a special
evening…and frankly, at this point, ANY time we get to spend with you IS
special. Roy and I are honored that you wanted us to meet Gabriella."
The four of them had been talking for almost 45 minutes when Dr. Brackett came back
into the room.
"Okay Johnny, you're free to go...just try to take it easy for a few days."
Brackett had said that for effect...he knew that after his earlier conversation with
Johnny, his patient would be doing anything BUT taking it easy.
"And don't forget to get your prescriptions filled."
Roy smiled at his friend, and said, "I'll take care of that Doc."
Dr. Brackett patted Johnny on his shoulder. "Take care Johnny."
"Roy, Joanne...Gabriella, it was a pleasure meeting you...have a safe trip
back to Italy."
"Thank you Dr. Brackett."
"Well Junior, where do ya want to go?"
Before Johnny could answer, Gabriella jumped in and spoke up. "We'll
go back to Johnny's apartment."
Agreeing, Roy took Johnny in the Rover and Joanne and Gabriella followed in
the other car. Once back at Johnny's apartment, with Johnny relaxing in his favorite
recliner, the four friends visited for a while longer.
Roy and Joanne knew that this would probably be the last time they'd see
Gabriella, as she was due to leave a few days later. And it was obvious to
both of them that although Johnny and Gabriella had rekindled their romance,
Johnny had no intentions of continuing it once she left.
Roy looked at his watch and saw that it was getting late.
"Johnny, we better get going. The kids are gonna wonder where we are."
"Give them my love okay?" Johnny said softly, his heart almost in his throat as he said it.
Joanne smiled at Johnny, and replied, "We will."
Johnny got out of the recliner and walked his friends to the door.
Joanne turned to Gabby. "Gabriella, it was wonderful meeting you…have a
safe trip back to Italy."
"I will, thank you. It was nice meeting you both. It's very obvious to me
how much you all mean to each other…I'm glad that Johnny has you both."
After both Roy and Joanne hugged Gabriella and Joanne hugged Johnny, they
left to get back home.
Gabriella noticed the serious look on Johnny's face. "Johnny, what's
going on inside that head of yours?"
"I…I was just thinkin'."
Gabby didn't have to ask what it was about. She knew…knew it was about
having to leave Roy and Joanne behind in only a matter of months.
"Johnny, let's go to bed."
Johnny smiled hopefully at her. "Is that an offer?"
Gabby grinned back at him, as she said, "No Johnny, it's not an offer…I think
we both need to get some sleep."
Over the next few days, Johnny and Gabriella continued their rekindled
romance, but knew it was about to come to an end. They spent the rest of
their time together relaxing on the beach, talking and remembering all their
good times spent together.
When the following Wednesday morning arrived, Johnny took Gabriella to the
airport. Both of them knew their magical week was over and that they'd
never see each other again. Johnny, as much as he loved her and wanted her
to stay in his life, had made it clear to her that she needed to stay away.
And Gabriella, for her part understood Johnny's thinking...although she
didn't necessarily agree with it.
After helping Gabby get her boarding pass and luggage checked in, Johnny
walked with her to the gate that she would be departing from.
Looking into her green eyes, he got down on one knee and took out a small
Gabby looked at him confused, as she asked, "What's…what's this?"
"Gabriella, I want you to have this…open it."
She reluctantly took the small blue velvet box from him and opened it.
Inside was a beautiful diamond and emerald ring.
Gabriella was shocked.
"I…I can't accept this Johnny."
"Yes, you can. This ring…it should have been on your finger ten years ago."
Nodding his head, Johnny said, "Gabby, I was about to propose to you when
you left. I want you to have this ring…to remember me and the love we
shared…and the magic."
Tears started to fall down Gabriella's face.
"You've kept this ring the whole time?"
"Yeah. I…I guess a part of me always hoped…that one day I'd find you
again…and I did."
Johnny put the ring on her finger. "The emeralds match your
beautiful green eyes."
They embraced and kissed passionately.
"Johnny, thank you."
He smiled at her warmly, and taking her left hand, placed it over his heart.
"No Gabby, thank YOU…you came back to me at a time when I needed…needed
something positive in my life. You have no idea how important and special
this last week has been for me."
"I do Johnny…I do, because it was a very special week for me too."
The announcement for Gabriella's flight to start boarding came over the P.A.
Drying her tears, Johnny again looked into her eyes. "Well, I guess this is
Gabriella tried not to cry, but ended up losing the battle.
"John Gage, I will never ever forget you…you'll always be in my heart."
"I'm counting on that, beautiful."
They embraced and kissed for the final time. As Gabriella walked away,
Johnny's heart once again started to break…but this time, he knew that it
was for the best.
He watched as Gabriella faded from his view.
Whispering to himself he said, "Thank you…I'll never forget you either."
Wiping a few stranded tears from his face, he turned around to leave the
airport. He headed to Roy's house to talk to both him and Joanne.
Arriving at their house, he was greeted by Joanne with a hug.
Before she could say anything, Johnny whispered, "She's gone."
"I'm sorry Johnny."
"Don't be sorry Jo…it's what I…I wanted…or at least what I knew in my heart
to be best. She had no future with me...I needed to set her free."
As Johnny entered the house, Roy came down the stairs.
"Hey Junior…" He stopped when he saw the look on Johnny's face. He knew
that Johnny had taken Gabriella to the airport that morning. "Johnny…"
"I'm okay Roy." He let out a breath. "I want to tell Chris and Jen about
my illness today. I'd…I'd like to take them out of school a little early
and take them to dinner before going back to my apartment. This last week
has made me realize that it's not fair to them to put it off any
longer…they're not little children anymore."
"Johnny, are you sure? I…I mean you already know how they're going to
react…especially Jennifer. You can handle it?"
John nodded his head. "I can handle it Roy…I've done okay so far."
Roy understood what Johnny meant…breaking the news to everyone hadn't been
easy, but Johnny had seemed to be dealing with things remarkably well so far. A
few hours later, after going first to Chris's school and then to Jennifer's
school, the two youngsters were in Johnny's Rover…Chris in the front next to
Johnny, and Jenny in the back.
For their part, the kids, although surprised to see their Uncle and to be
getting out of school early, didn't see anything terribly unusual about the
situation. Johnny had picked them up early from school every once in awhile
to give Roy and Joanne some time alone.
Johnny tried his best to appear normal and happy…at least outwardly, but he
felt anything but happy and normal. He just hoped that he wouldn't get sick
in front of the kids.
Smiling at the two of them, he noted the sheer happiness on their
faces…happiness he had assumed was due to being able to spend time with their favorite
Uncle. He felt like he was lying to them…but they deserved to know the
"So, where do you guys want to go?" Johnny asked the two kids.
In unison they both answered, "The arcade."
After playing pinball, skee-ball, and video games for a couple hours, Jenny
suggested that they get their pictures taken in one of those little booths.
Johnny thought it was a wonderful idea. They had a lot of pictures
taken…of the three of them…of Johnny and Chris…Johnny and Jennifer.
"You guys are tiring me out. What do ya say we get a bite to eat and go
back to my apartment?"
The two kids nodded excitedly. They ended up at a small pizza place and after
dinner they went back to Johnny's apartment.
Getting out of the Rover, Jenny gave Johnny a big hug. "Thanks
for a great day Uncle Johnny…I'll always remember it."
Hearing her say that put a lump in Johnny's throat.
**Oh, it will be a memorable day…but for all the wrong reasons**
Johnny smiled back at her. "My pleasure, Jelly Belly."
Jelly Belly was Johnny's nickname for Jennifer. He hadn't called her that
in a while, as she was getting older. Once inside the apartment, Johnny grew
serious…this was not lost on either one of the kids.
Chris was the one to speak up first.
"Uncle Johnny, what's going on?"
Johnny thought for a moment, wanting to say the right words.
"Guys, I…I have something to tell you…something…very important." Johnny
paused again. "The two of you aren't little kids any more…I…I only hope you
can handle hearing it."
Jenny picked up on Johnny's hesitation and nervousness, and cautiously
asked, "Uncle Johnny…it's not good news, is it?"
"I'm afraid not sweetheart."
Becoming nervous, Chris asked, "It's…it's not about Mom or Dad, is it?"
Reassuring Chris, Johnny replied, and said, "No Chris, it's not about your
Mom or Dad…they're fine. It's…it's about me." Johnny inhaled as deeply as
he could before continuing. "I…I really don't know how to say this…so I'll just come out and say it. I'm…I'm sick…the doctors…found a…a tumor…on my brain…after some tests...
there's nothing they can do for it...it's already spread to my lungs
Johnny observed the kids for their reactions, before continuing on. They
were obviously still trying to digest what they had just been told.
"I…I'm…I've only got a few more months left before I…"
Chris said the word before Johnny did.
"Die…you're…you're dying Uncle Johnny?"
"I'm afraid so Chris."
Chris didn't say anything…obviously too stunned at hearing the news.
Jennifer on the other hand started to sob uncontrollably. "Don't go Uncle
Johnny…don't leave us."
Johnny could only hold her tight. He noticed that she couldn't bring
herself to say the word "die". For the second time in a span of eight
hours, he felt his heart breaking. Before too long, Jennifer had fallen
asleep from all of her crying. Johnny carried her to his bedroom, and laid her in his bed.
As Jennifer was sleeping, Chris and Johnny were quietly talking in the
living room. Johnny was telling Chris about being resigned from the
Department, and about Rocky being his Dad's new partner. Johnny knew how
difficult it was for the two of them to hear the news of his illness, but
was impressed by how well they handled it, especially Chris.
"Are you gonna be okay Uncle Johnny?"
"I'm fine Chris. Right now, things aren't too bad...but I AM gonna get a
lot sicker. I intend to make the most of the time I have left…spending a
lot of it with your family."
"After…after you…you're gone…I…I promise to take care of my family. I don't
want you worrying about them, especially my Dad and my sister, okay?"
As a few tears fell down his cheeks, Johnny smiled. "Christopher
DeSoto …you're so much like your Dad…you're going to grow up to be a fine
"Like my Dad?"
"Just like your Dad."
The two embraced warmly as Johnny tussled Chris's hair.
Once again smiling, Johnny added, "I just hope you don't inherit your Dad's
Around 9:30 PM, after Johnny had called earlier in the evening, Roy and
Joanne came to pick up Chris and Jennifer.
Chris was sitting at the kitchen table where he and Johnny were playing
"How'd it go Johnny?"
"I guess as well as can be expected…Chris took it okay…Jenny…she…she…she's
gonna have a hard time with this. She's in my bed asleep."
Going into the bedroom, Roy carried the still sleeping Jennifer out into the
living room. Johnny softly kissed her on the forehead and was then
embraced by Chris.
"Bye Uncle Johnny…I…I had a good time with you."
"Thanks Chris, I had fun too. We'll do it again, soon…I promise."
Roy and Joanne said goodnight to Johnny and left. Johnny looked around his
apartment…for the first time since he was told of his illness…he felt really
alone. Not knowing what else to do, he did the only thing he could think of...he
broke down and cried.
In the week following Gabriella's departure, Johnny decided to heed Dr.
Brackett's advice and take it easy. He spent time visiting with his elderly
neighbor Mrs. Johnson and his Landlady Mrs. Price…he also kept in touch with
Roy and Rocky daily.
At the end of the week, after taking it easy for seven days, Johnny felt
better...even relaxed. He started to realize how much of his life was spent
on the go, and even learned to appreciate his new slower paced lifestyle.
And while he missed the comraderie of working with Roy and the guys...he
found that he didn't miss the stress and pressure of being a paramedic.
After his weeklong "vacation" and feeling better than he had in a few weeks,
Johnny convinced Roy to let him help refurbish his back deck…Roy had his
reservations about letting Johnny help him, but ultimately agreed. Before
too long, Johnny had settled into a routine, he started to go through his
apartment, getting rid of things he no longer needed and he also met with a
lawyer to update his will and make sure everything was in order.
As May turned into June...Johnny's health started to decline. His vision
started to get a little fuzzy, and he was experiencing some diminished
strength on his left side, but so far the medication seemed to keep much of
the nausea and really severe headaches at bay. Despite the situation he
found himself in, Johnny remained upbeat...although he did have a bad day
every now and again.
He missed Dixie and the Docs from Rampart, but knowing that the day would
come…too soon…when he would arrive at Rampart and NOT come out...he stayed
away from the hospital.
He was in his apartment one afternoon when there was a knock at the door.
Getting up to answer it, he smiled at the person standing before him.
"Dix, it's great to see you. What brings you to my neck of the woods?"
They warmly embraced, neither one wanting to be the first to let go…knowing
that permanently "letting go" would happen sooner than either of them
wanted. Dixie reluctantly broke the hug and stepped back from her friend,
as she answered Johnny.
"You do John Gage. Can I come in, or do you have a girl hiding somewhere?"
Stepping aside to let Dixie in, Johnny said, "Oh...sorry, come on in…and no,
there's no girl. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No thanks Johnny, I'm fine. I was on my way home from work...I took a
chance and decided to stop by…it's been over a month since I've seen you.
"That long huh? Have a seat Dix." Johnny motioned to the couch.
Sitting down, Dixie looked closely at Johnny.
"How are you doing Johnny?"
Trying to sound upbeat, Johnny replied, "I'm okay...for the most part.
I've got my good days and bad. Don't worry about me...according to
Marco…and his grandmother, I've got God on my side."
"Yes you do Johnny. So how have you been spending your time?"
"You'd be surprised at how busy I've kept myself." Johnny, feeling
uncomfortable talking about himself, even to Dixie, changed the subject.
"Tell me, how are Roy and Rocky making out together?"
"Fine, why do you ask?"
"It's...it's important to me to know that they get along and work well
together." Johnny paused before continuing. "It was MY idea that they
work together. I...I spoke to Rocky and after he agreed to do this, the
Chief agreed to his transfer."
Dixie smiled at the thought of Johnny caring about Roy so much, that he made
sure his best friend was working with someone that he trusted. She knew
that Rocky and Johnny were good friends, so it was no surprise to her that
he was the one Johnny had chosen.
"Johnny, they're both top-notch paramedics...and nice guys. They seem to
work very well together and appear to genuinely like one another. Is that
what you wanted to hear?"
"Dix, don't patronize me." The former paramedic replied in a serious tone.
"I'm not. They're doing fine together, I told you that. But Johnny,
you have to remember how hard this has been on both of them. Roy misses
working with you terribly and for Rocky...he's been working in your very
Johnny took a few moments to let what Dixie had just told him, sink in.
"I'm sorry Dix, I know this hasn't been easy...for anyone. I guess...I
guess I'm just having one of those days, you know?"
Dixie smiled at Johnny. "You're certainly entitled to have them."
"I...I just thought that maybe they'd be a comfort for one another...I
never really took anything else into consideration Dix."
"Johnny, you have nothing to apologize for. Roy and Rocky are two people
you care a lot about...they just need time to adjust to things, that's all."
Dixie visited with Johnny for another hour and a half, and during that time,
they shared a stroll down memory lane.
"Hey Dix...how close were you really, to taking that nursing supervisor's
job a few years back?"
Dixie smiled at the memory. "Well...it was for A LOT more
money, but the truth of the matter was that I was happy being in the E.R.
working with Kel and Joe...and two certain paramedics were a big reason for
that. No Johnny, I really wasn't that close."
"How about the supply nurse...did Roy and I ever thank you for..."
Dixie smiled wickedly. "For helping to...get rid of her? Yeah,
you did. I believe the words you used were, "Dix, you are beautiful."
Johnny laughed at that memory too.
**And she really is**
"Putting stuff back when she wasn't looking...pure…genius Dix."
Looking at her watch, Dixie realized that it was getting late.
"Wow, it's after 4 already. I better get going."
As they both stood, Johnny walked her to the door.
"Dix...thank you." He gave her a big hug.
"Well, maybe I should stop by more often. Johnny...don't be a stranger."
"Maybe one day, I'll surprise you and stop by. But the truth of the matter
is...I...I know one day I'll be brought to the hospital...and I WON'T be
leaving. I guess it's just my way of...of trying to avoid the inevitable."
Realizing how Johnny felt, Dixie replied, "I understand, but even
so...there's a lot of nurses that miss seeing your handsome face."
"I'll see. Take care Dix."
"You too Johnny."
They once again hugged each other and Johnny watched as Dixie walked away, going down the hallway, and out to the building's main door.
A few days later Johnny was in his apartment waiting for Roy to come over.
He had been relaxing on the couch drinking a glass of milk when it hit...a grand mal seizure. Just as Johnny went into the seizure, Roy had arrived at the door. After hearing the
sound of breaking glass and a loud thud...Roy became scared and used his key
to open Johnny's door.
Walking into the apartment, he found Johnny on the floor, in the middle of a
seizure and bleeding from a cut on his right hand and forehead. Knowing he
couldn't do anything for his friend until the seizure stopped, he called for
a squad. After the seizure ended, Roy tried to remove all the glass
fragments out of the way.
A few minutes later, a very groggy Johnny came to.
"Wha...what happened?" He asked, confused.
"You had a seizure Johnny...lay still."
"Yeah, you cut yourself pretty good partner. You must have had a glass in
your hand...your hand got cut up too."
The two paramedics from 51's arrived at Johnny's apartment.
When Adam Wright and his partner Andy Clarkson entered, they knew who their
victim was... having been at Johnny's apartment when he had had his attack of
pneumonia. Roy filled them in on what had transpired. While Andy started
to take Johnny's vitals and then take care of his cuts, Adam made contact
The voice on the other end of the phone was that of Joe Early. The doctor
was concerned when he heard who the victim was. After receiving their
treatment orders, the two paramedics prepared to carry them out. Andy
started the IV, while Adam put Johnny on O2 to help with his breathing.
As they were readying Johnny for transport, Roy could only stand back and
watch. When the ambulance arrived, Johnny was loaded up with Adam riding
with him as Roy followed in his car. Arriving at Rampart, Johnny was
brought into one of the treatment rooms for an examination...but Brackett
and Early already knew the cause for the seizure.
Roy waited in the lounge for word on his former partner. A few minutes later
Adam and Andy joined him.
"How's he doing Adam?" Roy asked anxiously.
"He's alright Roy. His breathing has improved...I think he just needs some
stitches for his two cuts. Roy...Johnny...Johnny told me that this wasn't
the first seizure that he's had. He said that he had one a few weeks ago."
Roy didn't say anything, but the two paramedics knew he was upset. A few
minutes later, Brackett entered the room.
"Fellas...Johnny's alright. The seizure is related to the tumor...it's to be
"Doc, did you know that this was his second one?"
"Yes Roy. Johnny told me that he'd had one a few weeks ago, so I'm giving him
some medication for the seizures, but frankly I don't know if it will help
"Can I see him?"
"In a little while. Joe is stitching up his two cuts right now."
"Does he have to stay overnight?"
"I left it up to him...but he's pretty out of it right now. I'm pretty sure
he's going to be sleeping for the next several hours...those grand mal
seizures take a lot out of you. Someone will be in to let you know when you
can see Johnny."
"See ya around fellas."
"We better get going Roy. We'll see you later."
After Adam and Andy left, Roy found himself alone. He decided to call Rocky
to fill him in on Johnny's condition. Rocky was concerned, but when Roy said
he was stable, Rocky felt better. Getting off the phone he told Rocky
that he'd be in touch about how Johnny was doing.
After getting off the phone, he was greeted by a relieved Dixie.
"You can see that...friend of yours now."
When Dixie hesitated in saying "friend"...Roy knew that she had almost said
"partner" by accident.
"How's he doing?"
"Tired...but I think he's doing okay. Would you like to see him?" She
smiled, already knowing the answer.
When Roy entered the treatment room, he saw Johnny lying so still...it was a
far cry from the seizure that he had witnessed just a couple hours ago. Johnny's
eyes were closed and he was very pale. He sported two bandages...one on his
forehead and a second one on his right hand.
When the door closed behind Roy, Johnny opened his eyes.
"Pally..." Johnny's voice sounded as tired as he looked.
"You're not mad at me, are you?"
"For what Johnny?"
"For...not...not telling you about...about the other seizure. It happened
about three weeks ago…I...I was in bed, but when I had the seizure, I knew
exactly what it was...and why I was having one. I knew seizures were
probable in my situation...so...so I was prepared to have one. It didn't
seem like a big deal at the time but...but I'm sorry...I shoulda...shoulda
told someone about it."
"Yes Johnny, you should have. But I'm not mad at you...I'm just glad you're
okay...and that I was there...this time. How are you feeling?"
"Are you gonna stay overnight here?"
"I don't want to." Came the soft reply.
"Why don't you come home with me, Johnny. You can stay with us for a few
"Are you sure?"
"Do you have to ask Johnny? Of course I'm sure. You get some rest and I'll
take you home in a few hours."
"Thanks Pally." Johnny replied in a relieved voice.
"Don't mention it Junior." Roy said with a knowing smile.
Roy started to leave, but turned around to look at Johnny before he opened
the treatment room door. Johnny's eyes were already closed and he appeared
to already have fallen asleep...but he did have a small smile on his face.
Dr. Brackett spotted Roy coming out into the hallway.
"How's he doing Roy?"
"He's asleep. I'm going to take him home with me for a few days, he doesn't
want to stay here."
Brackett smiled. "I had a feeling he wouldn't."
"I'm going to call Joanne. Let me know when you're ready to discharge him."
"I will Roy."
By 8 PM, Johnny was resting comfortably in the guestroom of Roy's house.
Back downstairs, Roy and Joanne were talking about their friend.
"Roy, what would have happened to Johnny if you hadn't been there?"
Roy knew, but he didn't want to upset Joanne.
"I don't know...I try not to think about it."
As the month of June was starting to wind down, Johnny had given up driving,
as his vision continued to grow worse. It was a Saturday morning and Roy
had picked up Johnny to go for a ride and then over for dinner at his place.
While in the car, Johnny had turned on the radio…the song playing was Paul
Anka's "The Times of Your Life."
Johnny started to sing along with it.
"Good morning yesterday, you wake up and time has slipped away, and suddenly
it's hard to find the memories you've left behind…remember…do you
remember…the laughter and the tears, the shadows of misty yester-years, the
good times and the bad you seen and all the others in between…remember…do
you remember the times of your life...
For each time for the joy and the sorrow, put them away in your mind, for
memories are time that you borrow…so spend what you get till tomorrow…here
comes the setting sun…the seasons…are passing one by one, so gather moments
while you may, collect the dreams you dream today…remember…will you
remember…the times of your life…"
Roy was about to turn off the radio when Johnny stopped him.
"Johnny, should you be listening to songs like this?"
"Roy, don't you hear the lyrics? This song…this song is…putting into words
about how I'm feeling right now…about appreciating memories because
ultimately that's all you have left. These last few months…I want to
remember all of them…and make some new ones."
"Johnny, something tells me that these last few months are gonna be FULL
of memories…for all of us."
It became quiet and after a few minutes, Roy broke the silence.
"Dixie told me that she came to see you a few weeks ago."
"Yeah she did, it was great to see her. I…I really miss her."
"Well she sure does miss YOU, Junior. She told me what you said about not
wanting to go to Rampart to visit anyone."
"I…I know it sounds silly…but…"
"No Johnny…it's not. I can't say I blame you for feeling that way."
Johnny let out a small laugh, as he said, "A few days after I told her
that…what do I do? I have a seizure and break that damn glass and end up
there any way." Johnny paused for a moment. "So, is she doing okay…and
Brackett, Early, and Morton?"
"Everyone's fine, but like you…they have their good days and bad.
Morton's not even the same. Your illness really has him shaken."
"Yeah?" Johnny was incredulous that Dr. Morton would be that upset.
"Come on Johnny. Morton IS human like the rest of us."
"I know…I'm sorry."
After driving for a while, Johnny asked Roy to drive to the mountains. He
wanted to show Roy his "special place" in the mountains.
Arriving at their destination Roy looked over at Johnny and noticed the
peaceful expression on his best friend's face.
"I get the impression that you've been here before."
"Yeah, you could say that. I've…I've been coming up here since I was 18.
When I first came to LA from Montana, I went exploring and found this spot.
It's so beautiful and peaceful."
"It sure is Johnny. I can definitely understand why you like coming here."
"I always liked to come here when I had something bothering me and needed to
clear my mind. I…I want this to be your spot too. If you need to get
away…or if…if you need to talk…you know, after I'm gone."
The two friends sat in silence for a while, each man deep in thought.
"Roy…how…how are things goin' with you and Rocky?"
"Fine Johnny." Roy let out a small laugh. "In some ways he kinda reminds
me of you."
"Yeah…how so?" Johnny asked curiously.
"The way he sees the world around him. He shares a lot of your strange
views…and he's got your…your zest for life…a free-spiritness I guess."
"And when he gets excited he talks real fast…sometimes in Spanish."
Johnny let out a chuckle…remembering that he had forgot to tell Roy about that.
"Yeah, I forgot to warn you about that."
"I do enjoy working with him and we click out in the field…but he's not you,
Johnny…he's not my best friend."
Looking up, Johnny noticed an eagle flying overhead.
"I always wondered what it would be like to be a bird…to fly and be so free. I suppose I'll get to experience that before too long."
"Let's go home Roy." Johnny said, interrupting his best friend. He knew where Roy was going with his train of thought, and he didn't want to argue about it.
After they got into the car to head home, Roy noticed how tired Johnny had
become. He knew they were at least two hours away from home and it was a
good bet that Johnny would be asleep before too long.
"Roy…thanks for bringin' me here, I…I haven't been here in a long time. It
felt good…the clean air and all."
Johnny remembered very well the last time he was there…it was the Saturday
morning that he was told of his terminal illness. Fifteen minutes later,
Johnny had in fact fallen asleep. Roy drove the rest of the way home in
**A spot that I can come to, to talk to Johnny after he's gone. I guess
coming here WOULD be a lot less painful than going to the cemetery to
Roy pulled into his driveway just as Johnny woke up and saw where they were.
"We're home already?" Johnny asked, wiping his sleep-filled eyes.
"Yeah Junior…we're home."
Roy helped Johnny out of the car.
Walking into the house, both men were greeted by Joanne and the kids. The
biggest greeting for Johnny came from Jennifer. She gave him a big hug.
"Uncle Johnny, I'm so glad you're here. I missed you so much."
"I missed you too Jen."
"We have a surprise for you after supper."
Johnny smiled, as he asked, "A surprise…you mean I have to wait THAT
Johnny looked at Roy suspiciously. "You know about this Pally?"
"I do Junior…it was mine and Joanne's idea."
Joanne noticed Johnny looking like his legs were going to give out.
"Johnny, let's sit down." She helped him to the recliner.
The five of them visited for a while, but before too long Johnny had fallen
asleep. Chris and Jen went out back to play some badminton, while Joanne
started dinner. Roy stayed in the living room with Johnny.
As silly as it sounded, he missed looking over at the bed next him at the
station and seeing his former partner asleep with his left arm over his
eyes. Sitting in the living room watching Johnny sleep brought back fond
memories for him.
There was one occasion several years ago…Johnny had insomnia for a few days
and the guys had come up with various ideas on how to overcome it. They
even went as far as designing a kind of cradle that was made out of a stokes
and had a fire engine mobile attached to it…the guys thought it was a hoot,
although they were really trying to help…Johnny didn't care for that idea
very much. It finally came to a head…the engine was called out to a fire in
the middle of the night, and Johnny, who was half asleep found himself
hanging on to the back of the engine…Roy watching as Big Red left the
station with Johnny on the back of it.
Roy smiled at the memory. When 4:30 rolled around, Johnny woke up.
"Hi there Junior. Hungry?"
"Yeah. What's for dinner?"
"Joanne made her special lasagna."
Johnny smiled his crooked smile. "Is that part of the
"Well actually Johnny, let's just say we have a special evening planned for
"What's the occasion Roy?"
"No occasion Junior. You've been talkin' a lot about memories…that's what
this night is all about…memories."
After a lively dinner, the five of them settled into the living room.
"Ready for a stroll down memory lane Junior?"
Joanne picked up two photo albums, and asked, "Remember the night you were
here for my birthday party Johnny?"
"Yes, of course I do."
Johnny thought back to the party…he remembered Joanne saying something about
old pictures. Johnny sat on the couch, Roy and Joanne on either side of him
and Chris and Jen on the floor so they could still see the pictures.
Opening up the first photo album, Johnny smiled when he saw the first
picture. It was a picture of him sitting out back, a five year old Chris
sitting on his lap and a two year old Jennifer on his shoulders.
"Wow, this is from about ten years ago. The first time I came for dinner
and met you guys. We were still taking the training class with Brackett."
"Uncle Johnny, you mean this was BEFORE you and Dad became partners?"
"It sure was Jen. We had become friends, but he hadn't even asked me to be
his partner yet."
Joanne thought to herself, how her heart melted when she had seen Johnny for the
first time. She always thought he was very handsome, and fell in love with
his easy smile and warm personality, quickly coming to adore him and
accepting him as one of her own.
The next picture was a picture of a very young Jennifer laughing while her
Uncle Johnny was tickling her. After looking at the picture, Johnny made
eye contact with Jenny and winked. That brought a smile to her face.
There were pictures of some important milestones. Several pictures were
taken of Roy and Johnny, taken at each of their graduation ceremonies from
the program…those pictures brought a nostalgic smile to Johnny's face.
When Johnny turned 25, Joanne insisted that his party be at their
house…there were several pictures from the party. Then there were also
pictures of the first camping trip that Roy and Johnny took the kids on
together. A few years later, Johnny would convince Joanne to finally come
with them on one of their trips…it turned out that she had really enjoyed it.
There was also a picture of the two friends taken with their old time fire
uniforms on and posing with the old fire engine that they had refurbished together.
They had been about to go to the firemen's parade when they made a detour to
help out at a fire instead. This photo in particular brought back some fond
memories for Johnny…he remembered all the hours that he and Roy had spent on
restoring the old engine back to her original glory…he remembered when they had first
spotted the old engine in the junk yard and had had it delivered to the station…
and last but not least, he remembered the fella who offered to buy her…but
the two paramedics didn't bite...they had been in the middle of a prank war
between Chet and another station, and had assumed that the guy was a phony.
Over the next two hours, they looked at all the pictures, recalling all the
memories that went with each photo…Johnny's life from the last ten years
passing before him.
Looking up, Johnny caught the sight of yet another picture. This one was on
one of the shelves in the living room. It was a picture taken of all the
guys at Captain Stanley's surprise 45th birthday party…taken about seven
months ago. Johnny couldn't help but think back in time…a time before his
diagnosis…a time when he was still feeling well…a happier time.
Closing the second photo album, Johnny smiled despite a few tears that had
"Thank you…you have NO idea what these pictures and memories have meant to
Joanne looked at Johnny lovingly, and softly answered. "Yes we do Johnny…yes, we
certainly do…and they mean everything to us too."
She kissed him on the cheek, noticing that he was feeling warm. She
didn't want to make a big deal about it, but was concerned nonetheless.
"Johnny, you feel like you're running a fever…are you alright?"
Johnny sheepishly smiled. "Now that you mention it…it is kind of
warm in here."
"Johnny, why don't you stay over? You can stay in the guest room."
"That might be a good idea Roy."
Before going upstairs to the guestroom, Johnny hugged Jo and the kids.
"Thank you…I mean REALLY…thank you…from the bottom of my heart…all of
Roy gave Johnny some Tylenol and some sweats and a tee shirt to sleep in.
Once he knew that Johnny was settled in for the night, he started to leave the room, but turned to
look at him when he heard his friend call out to him.
"Pally…thank you for…for a great day."
"It was nothing Junior…I had a great day too."
Roy knew the truth of the matter was that the day that they had just spent
together had meant EVERYTHING to Johnny.
"Good night Pally."
Closing the door, Roy made his way back downstairs. Looking at his watch
he noted the time.
"What's that Roy?"
"Uh…nothing…I was just commenting on the time…it's 9 PM." Roy let out a
small laugh. "There was a time when Johnny's night was only getting
STARTED at nine."
"How's he doing…he's…he's not getting sick or anything?"
"He's alright Jo, I gave him some Tylenol for his fever. If he doesn't feel
better in the morning…I'll convince him to stay for a while. My main concern
is that he won't be alone."
"Jo, you don't have to say a word…I'm feeling the same way. I…I just can't
believe it's almost July already. Time is going too fast."
After a few moments of silence, Joanne spoke again.
"Roy…it WAS a special evening for Johnny, wasn't it?"
"It certainly was Jo…it certainly was. Where are the kids?"
"Downstairs watching TV. Jennifer held up rather well tonight, don't you
"She did. It's gonna be rough for her Jo…the closer Johnny gets to…"
The next morning Roy went in to check on Johnny. Slowly opening the door,
he peeked his head into the room. Johnny was sitting in the big easy chair,
looking out the window.
"Mornin' Junior. How are ya feeling?"
"I'm alright Roy, the Tylenol helped. Listen, if it's okay with you…I'd
like you to take me home soon."
"Uh…yeah…sure. What's the hurry though?"
"I kind of made some plans. Rocky's coming over."
Hearing that made Roy a little jealous, but he knew how difficult this all had
been for Rocky too. Roy had to remind himself that Johnny did have other
friends besides him…and Rocky was a closer friend than most.
As though he was reading Roy's mind, he added, "I haven't spent much time
with Rocky lately…I just want to make sure he's doing okay…I worry about
**Junior…you worry about everybody**
"Johnny you don't owe me any explanation, Rocky's your friend. Well…I'll
let you get dressed…unless you want to shower or something."
Shaking his head, Johnny replied, "I'll wait till I get home. I'll be ready
to go in a few minutes."
"Okay…I'll meet you downstairs Partner."
As Johnny was coming down the stairs, he was opening and closing his left
"My…my hand doesn't seem to be workin' right today."
"Johnny, can I get you something to eat?"
"No thanks Jo…I'm really not hungry. Thanks for last night…I had a great
"My pleasure Johnny. Stay in touch…okay."
Joanne gave Johnny a hug and a kiss. As Roy and Johnny started for the
door, Jennifer and Chris came down the stairs.
"Uncle Johnny…you weren't gonna leave without saying good-bye, were you?"
Johnny thought for a moment…the meaning of what Jennifer had just said…the
words reaching into his soul.
"Jelly Belly, you and your brother needed your sleep…I didn't want to wake
you guys up. But I AM glad that you guys came down to say good-bye. I'll see
you soon, okay."
"Promise?" Jennifer asked in an almost desperate tone.
"I promise Jen…real soon."
After giving both Jenny and Chris hugs, the two men headed out to the car.
For the first few minutes of the trip back to Johnny's apartment, neither
man said a word.
Johnny sensed Roy's change in demeanor. "Roy…you're not mad at me, are
"No Junior, I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at myself."
"Why?" Johnny couldn't imagine what Roy could possibly have been upset at himself about.
"For being selfish…I…I…"
Johnny smiled when he figured out what was bothering his friend.
"A little jealous?"
Although he hated to admit it, Roy said, "Just a little bit. I know it's
stupid…but I can't help it."
"Roy…you're my BEST friend…you always WILL be. But Rocky is a good
friend of mine and I'm worried about him. YOU…you have your family…after
I'm gone, they'll be there for you. Rocky's family is in Puerto Rico…he
doesn't have anyone. The last few times I've spoken with him on the
phone he seemed really down in the dumps. I just need to spend time
with him Roy, that's all. You can understand that, can't you?"
"Yes Johnny…I can understand that perfectly. I'm sorry for…for being so
"Don't apologize Roy…it just reinforces something I already knew…how much I
mean to you."
Arriving at Johnny's apartment complex, Roy helped Johnny to his apartment.
He noticed that Johnny was having increased difficulty with his left
side…and his coordination, overall.
"Thanks Pally, I'll be in touch. Thanks for a great day yesterday, it meant
everything to me…you know that?"
"I do. Tell Rocky I said hello and that I'll see him at work in the
Once inside his apartment, Johnny tried to straighten up a bit before Rocky
was due over. After a quick shower, Johnny was relaxing in his recliner
when Rocky made it over.
"Hey Johnny, good to see ya buddy."
Johnny could tell, despite the upbeat greeting that Rocky had given him…that
his friend's heart wasn't in it.
After shaking hands, Johnny motioned for Rocky to sit on the couch.
"It's good to see you too Rocky. What's going on with you? You look like
you've seen better days my friend."
"I'm alright Johnny."
"Rocky…this is ME you're talkin' to…John Gage…I'm gonna get it out of you…I
Rocky smiled at his friend. He knew this was true. Where Johnny was
concerned…everyone always knew that he'd use the old Gage charm to get
things out of people…even if they didn't feel like talking.
"Is this work-related or John Gage related…or both?" Johnny asked.
"You know me that well…don't you?"
"Are the guys giving you a hard time…Chet Kelly perhaps?"
Afraid Roy had said something, Johnny asked, "Roy…has he said anything to
"No…not at all. I just know he misses you…A LOT…I mean…I do too…but Roy's
your best friend. I guess I just feel like I'm…I'm intruding on his…his
space, you know?"
Johnny sighed loudly. Hearing this, Rocky looked at his friend
"What's that sigh for?" Rocky asked in a somewhat frustrated tone.
Johnny smiled, and said, "I had this conversation with Roy only a couple
When Rocky didn't say anything right away, Johnny continued.
"You're right…Roy IS my best friend…and yes…my illness has been very
difficult for him to deal with…as it has everyone else. Rocky, I want you
to know that I would never have asked you to become Roy's partner…if…if
YOU didn't mean something to me, too. Roy and I have a history
together…we've known each other a long time…and we've been through a lot
together…but I'm not about to discount my friendship with YOU simply
because I haven't known you as long. Rocky...I treasure my friendship with
you…I really do…I just want you to know that. Now…you and Roy are…are two
very important people to me…and it's important for me to know that the two
of you are okay with all of this."
"We're fine Johnny. We get along well and I think we really click out there
in the field…with time I'm…I'm sure it will get even better."
Johnny sat back and smiled. He was relieved that things were going well in
the DeSoto-Ramirez partnership.
Rocky stayed for another hour and a half as the two friends talked and
reminisced over old times. As Johnny appeared to become very tired, Rocky
decided he should get going. After thanking Johnny for a nice visit and
the little heart-to-heart, Rocky embraced his friend warmly, and headed out.
Roy and Joanne had decided to host that year's July 4th barbecue. Deciding to
keep it low key, only the guys from 51's A-shift and their immediate
families were invited. After Gabriella had returned back home to Italy, and Johnny
took a few days just to rest...helping Roy refurbish his deck in time for
the July 4th barbecue would prove to be Johnny's final project with his best
As Johnny was once again surrounded by his former crewmates, a warm feeling had
overcome him as he listened to the easy banter, and traded barbs with Chet.
Biting into a hotdog, an idea popped into his head…Johnny knew that he
didn't have a whole lot of time left...and the time he HAD left, he knew
that he wouldn't necessarily be in the best of health to enjoy it.
Calling Hank and Roy over to where he was sitting, Johnny approached the two
men with his idea.
"Hey, I just got this great idea..."
Roy looked at his Captain and smiled.
"Where have I heard that before Junior?"
"No really, Roy…Cap, I think you'll love this idea. I was thinkin'...I...I
don't know how much time I have left...I would very much like to spend one
last weekend with all the guys. We can spend the weekend at one of those
lakeside cabins a few hours from here. What do you guys think…and do ya
think the others will go for it?"
"John, I think that's a wonderful idea Pal. I think the others would like it
very much. "
"Thanks Cap. Roy?"
"Junior, I think that's one of the best ideas you ever had...and you've had
some doozies over the years." Roy commented with a grin.
After talking it over with the others, the date was set for the weekend of
July 17-19. They would leave early on Friday morning and come back on
Monday. Although Rocky had been invited to join them, he declined the invitation,
feeling that if he agreed to go he would only be intruding on what promised
to be a very special and highly emotional weekend for the others. Johnny was
very pleased the others agreed to go, but understood why his friend Rocky had
As the sun started to set, the guests started to leave...it was obvious to
all that Johnny was getting very tired. As everyone exchanged good-byes with
Johnny, and thanked Roy and Joanne for being such wonderful hosts, he was
struck with the thought that this could very well be his LAST holiday.
Thinking ahead to December, Johnny knew that he wouldn't be around for
Christmas. As he sat watching Chris and Jennifer saying good-bye to the
others, he had another rush of inspiration...he would make sure that he
spent one last "Christmas" with his "family".
After everyone had gone home and everything had been cleaned up, Roy,
Johnny, and Joanne were lounging in the living room. Jennifer and Chris were
in the den watching fireworks on TV.
Roy looked up and noticed the serious look on his best friend's face.
"You alright Junior?"
"Yeah, I'm fine Pally. Why do you ask?"
"You...you have a really serious look on your face...I was just wondering if
everything was alright."
Johnny didn't answer right away, but said, "I had a great time at the
"I'm glad Johnny. Roy didn't think you'd eat that much, but I'm glad to see
that you did okay."
"Yeah, everything was delicious Jo. You know…when everyone started to leave
and I saw Chris and Jennifer saying good-bye to everyone, I realized that
this would be my last holiday with you all...or at least a holiday that I'd
be well enough to enjoy…and I started to think that…well I KNOW I won't
make it till Christmas."
Roy was still grappling with the fact that Johnny's life would likely be
coming to an end sometime in the next three months...he didn't need to hear
his best friend keep talking about it so openly.
"Johnny, what are you thinking about?"
"Well Pally, I was thinkin…"
With Johnny knowing that he wouldn't be around in December for the Christmas
holiday, he talked to Roy and Joanne about having one last "Christmas" later
in the month…knowing that Johnny wanted to spend one more holiday with the
kids, they gladly agreed.
Johnny explained to them that he didn't want any presents but that he would
be giving them some, that it would be things that he hoped would help them
remember him. Even though Roy and Jo felt bad, not giving their friend any
gifts, they understood the reason for it. They set about getting everything
ready to spend one last "holiday" with their friend.
In the week following the July 4th barbecue, Johnny had made arrangements
with Rocky to go "Christmas shopping". Although in his mind, there were some
very personal items that he wanted to give to each member of Roy's family,
he also wanted to buy them each a few fun gifts.
Johnny's intentions were to spend the day shopping at one of the area's many
malls, but he was feeling really tired and decided to just go to one of the
local department stores. Rocky had tried to talk him out of going shopping
that day, knowing how tired Johnny was, but Johnny knew that Rocky wouldn't
have another opportunity to take him out before Saturday, when Johnny would
give them all their gifts...so he convinced his friend that he'd be okay.
In the car on the way to the store, Rocky continued to try to convince
Johnny to stay home and rest.
"Rocky, I'll be fine. I have my list of what I want to buy, right here in my
Rocky smiled at Johnny, he knew it was a losing battle...John Gage was very
Arriving at the store, Johnny handed the list to Rocky who smiled when he
read the first item.
"Hardware Department. Getting new tools for Roy, huh?"
"Yeah. I've helped him on enough projects over the years to know the ones
that he has...well, let's just say that he's long overdue for a new set."
After deciding on which set of tools to buy, the large box went into the
shopping cart. With help from Rocky, two hours later a very tired Johnny had
finished his shopping. After putting the packages into the trunk, Rocky
helped Johnny get into the car. Johnny sat there exhausted.
They had been about to pull out of the parking lot when Johnny had a seizure.
Pulling over to the side, Rocky could only watch as his friend went through
the seizure. Almost two minutes later, Johnny's body became still, as Rocky
reached over to take Johnny's pulse and found it to be a bit fast. Deciding to wait and see how Johnny came out of the seizure, before making a
decision on where to take his friend, Rocky continued to observe his good friend.
When Johnny started to come around, he was very groggy, but his pulse and
breathing appeared to have returned to normal.
"Johnny...can you hear me buddy?"
Johnny opened his eyes and tried to focus, but was having some difficulty in
"Come on Johnny...open your eyes for me." Rocky continued to encourage.
A couple minutes later Johnny became a little more alert.
Rocky?" Johnny asked uncertainly.
Rocky smiled. "Yeah Johnny, it's me. You okay?"
Johnny tried to regain his faculties, as he softly said, "It…it happened
again, didn't it? I...I had another seizure."
"Yeah, you did...but you're okay. I don't think there's a need to go to
Rampart, so I'll take you home so you can sleep, okay?"
Johnny nodded his head, grateful not to be going to the hospital.
When they got back to Johnny's apartment, Rocky helped Johnny into bed and
then went back out to bring in all the packages. Rocky made a quick call to
Roy to tell him about Johnny's seizure, but told him that Johnny seemed to
be okay and was now sleeping comfortably.
While Johnny slept, Rocky stayed and gift wrapped all the presents. He knew
whom each gift was for...except one of the watches, so he didn't wrap it. He
wrote everyone's name on the gift tag that adorned each gift.
Once he was finished, Rocky sat back and looked at all the packages. He was
touched but NOT surprised at the great lengths that Johnny had gone
through to make sure Roy and his family would have a wonderful final
"Christmas" with their friend.
As he thought about it, it made him realize just how special Johnny truly
was...and how much he AND everyone else would miss him after he was gone.
Rocky watched TV for a while before checking on Johnny again. Johnny appeared
to be sleeping soundly, but Rocky didn't want to leave his friend until he
was awake and okay.
It was almost 10:30 PM before Johnny woke up. After assuring Rocky that he
was okay, Rocky agreed to go. Johnny thanked him for wrapping all the
gifts...smiling when he saw the unwrapped watch sitting on the table.
"Rocky...this...this watch is for you. I know the watch you have now is
old...and I want this new watch to be a symbol of a new beginning for you."
"Johnny..." Rocky said in disbelief. He knew that the watch was a bit on the expensive side, and was shocked that Johnny had bought him one.
"Rocky...you HAVE to take it. It's just a token...of my friendship...and
my thanks...for everything."
Rocky took the watch from Johnny...opened up the box and put it on his left
"Thanks buddy...I'll always think of you when I wear it."
Johnny smiled at his friend and said, "That's the idea Rocky...so you'll
always think of me. Wear it in good health."
The two friends embraced.
"I'll be in touch Johnny...take care."
"Okay, I will...you too."
Roy and Joanne had made arrangements for Chris and Jennifer to stay over at
a friend's house on Friday night, in order to have time to set up the tree
and get everything ready for the "big day". Roy had picked up Johnny earlier
in the day to make sure that he was at the house in enough time to help with the
At 5 PM they took a break to eat dinner.
"Chris and Jennifer are gonna be surprised when they come home tomorrow,
"Yeah they sure are Junior." Roy answered with a smile and nod.
"I...I...just have one worry."
Concerned, Roy asked, "What's that Johnny?"
"Well...it's Jennifer. I...I know she's had a tough time with things...and I
don't want to upset her by springing this on her. I do want this weekend to
be special...to be memorable, but I don't want her to be upset."
Trying to reassure his friend, Roy said, "Don't worry about Jennifer, Johnny,
she'll be fine...one thing about her...she might bend, but she won't break."
"But...I DO worry about her."
After dinner the three friends resumed decorating, but by nine o'clock,
Johnny was exhausted.
Sitting down on the couch, he looked around the room.
"Everything looks great. It's like it really IS Christmas."
"Johnny, why don't you head up to bed? We'll finish up down here and then
we'll only have a few things to do in the morning."
Johnny sighed loudly. "Okay. I...I wish I was more of a help to
you guys. He paused before continuing. "There was a time where doing all
this...was...was no big deal. I mean, as far as the effort went...and now I
can hardly do anything. This...this was all my idea...and now..."
"Listen to me Johnny...everything is gonna be fine. You just go upstairs and
relax and if you need anything...holler."
"I will Pally. Jo, thanks for dinner."
"My pleasure Johnny."
She kissed him goodnight. Once Johnny was upstairs, Joanne started to cry.
"Hey, what's with the waterworks?"
"It's not fair Roy. We shouldn't have to be doing this...Christmas...now.
He should be here with us...celebrating Christmas in December."
"Jo, doing this now was all Johnny's idea...you KNOW that.
Christmas...Christmas was always Johnny's favorite holiday and it was never
about the receiving for Johnny...it was all about the GIVING. Doing this is
very important to him."
"But what ABOUT Jenny? Roy, she's...she's going to be devastated when she
realizes why Johnny wanted to do this."
"We'll deal with it...if and when it happens...that's all we can do. Let's
go to bed Jo...we have a big day tomorrow."
As he took her hand and they started upstairs, Joanne stopped, and softly
said, "Roy...I love you."
"I love you too Jo."
The next morning Roy woke up to the sweet aromas coming from the kitchen.
Going downstairs and into the kitchen, Roy greeted his wife. "Good morning Jo.
What smells so good?"
"Christmas cookies. I got up early…figured we should go all the way right? You look in on Johnny?"
"Yeah, he's still asleep."
"Roy...he's...he's really declining, isn't he?"
Roy knew in his heart that this was true...but it pained him to admit it.
"Yeah, he is Jo."
The two of them were temporarily startled when they realized Johnny had
entered the kitchen. He was smiling brightly...as though all his troubles
had been forgotten.
"Today's the big day. I...I can't wait to see their faces when they come
Roy laughed. "I guess it was worth getting laughed at by all the
neighbors when we were putting up the Christmas lights outside yesterday.
Chris and Jen will think their parents have really gone off their rockers."
"Have a seat Johnny, I'll make you some toast." Joanne encouraged.
Johnny slowly sat down at the table.
"Smell those freshly baking cookies Junior?"
Johnny shook his head, and replied, "Sorry...I haven't been able to smell
much of anything in a couple months. It seems to be another one of my
wonderful symptoms that I've acquired...a decreased sense of smell...so I'll
have to take your word for it, Pally."
"So, how did you sleep Johnny? You seemed pretty tired last night."
When Johnny didn't answer right away, Roy grew concerned.
"I'm okay Roy, I...I just had one of those nights. I'm fine...really."
Johnny nodded his head, and said "Yeah but...but I did eventually fall
asleep. I don't want you worrying about me Roy. I told you...I'm fine."
After breakfast Johnny helped with the rest of the "holiday" preparations.
Roy helped Johnny put all the gifts under the tree. It was 4 PM when Roy and
Johnny were relaxing in the living room, while Joanne was putting the
finishing touches on dinner...a big turkey dinner with all the
trimmings...including apple and pumpkin pies.
Roy turned on the stereo. The first song played was Nat King Cole's "The
Christmas Song". Looking over at his best friend, Roy could see the genuine
happiness on Johnny's face.
"Roy...thank you. This...this is exactly how I envisioned this day."
"Me too Johnny...me too."
It was almost five o'clock, and the big moment was almost there...Chris and
Jen would be coming home any minute. When the time arrived...two excited
kids came home. They both had big smiles on their faces, made wider when
they saw Johnny sitting on the couch...a big crooked smile on his own face.
"Uncle Johnny." Jenny ran right to him and gave him a big hug.
"Jelly Belly. How's my girl...did you have fun with your friends?"
"I'm fine...yeah, I did. What's...what's all this about?"
Johnny smiled, as he replied, "Haven't you ever heard of Christmas in July?
This is for you guys."
Jenny was a little confused, but Chris seemed to catch on to what was going
on, but didn't say anything. Giving his Uncle a hug, Chris started to laugh.
"I bet the neighbors thought you guys were nuts when you put up the lights
Johnny laughed. "Nuts? I think your father's neighborhood
reputation is...is now in question…yes."
Joanne sent the kids to wash up and get ready for dinner.
Sitting down at the table, Johnny offered up a toast to his good friends.
"Here's to good friends...always and forever...and to memories...may you
always remember them."
After Johnny's toast, the former partners made eye contact with one another
"That was beautiful Johnny...thank you." said Joanne.
During dinner, the conversation was very lively. As the five of them started to
reminisce about other Christmases...slowly the reason behind this special
evening started to dawn on Jennifer, who didn't seem particularly upset…at
After the dishes were cleared, everyone retired to the living room. Johnny
sat close to the tree to hand out the presents.
"Okay, who's first?"
They all looked at each other, but nobody answered.
"Alright, I'll pick. Jo...you're first."
Johnny handed her the two smaller packages first.
"These are for you...something I saw in the store...I couldn't resist them."
Joanne opened the first box. When she saw the silver and turquoise earrings
inside, a smile crossed her face.
"Johnny...these...these match the bracelet you gave me for my birthday."
Johnny only smiled at her, as he said, "Open the second box Jo."
Upon opening the second box, a silver chain with a matching silver turquoise
pendant was revealed.
"Johnny they're beautiful...thank you."
"That's not it Jo, this last gift is...is actually for you all to enjoy. You'll
understand what I mean after you open it."
They all laughed after Joanne opened the third box.
"A waffle maker...you know Johnny, coming from YOU, that gift makes
perfect sense. Thank you."
She kissed him on the cheek.
"Well, I figure after all the waffles that you've made me over the years...a
new waffle maker was in order."
"And I know just what I'm making you all for breakfast tomorrow...waffles."
"Okay...Chris, you're next."
Johnny handed Chris the first gift...a very small box.
"This is something you should always have on you when you go camping or
Chris opened the box.
"Cool...a compass. Thanks Uncle Johnny."
"Plus, this way Chris...you'll always know which way home is."
Opening the last two of his gifts, Chris smiled...a new backpack and a
"Well, the next time I go hiking...I'll be all set. Thanks Uncle Johnny...I
love all the gifts."
"I'm glad Chris."
Johnny looked at Roy. He wasn't sure what Jennifer's reaction to her gifts
would be, so he decided to give Roy his first. He knew the first gift would
make everyone laugh...so he gave Roy that one first.
"Roy...ah...this...this gift is from the…the bottom of my heart."
Everyone caught the grin on Johnny's face.
"I bet Junior."
Tearing the paper and taking the lid off the box, a big smile spread across
"You say, Rocky took you shopping Johnny?"
"Yeah. He...laughed hysterically when we spotted them. He said something
about having ammunition for you, back at the station."
Lifting the gift out of the box, Roy held up a pair of boxers with bright
red fire engines on them…everyone had a big laugh over them. The next box
he opened contained a new watch. The third box was very big.
"Johnny...what in the world is in THIS box?"
"Open it up Pally and find out."
Opening up the big box, a look of shock crossed Roy's face.
"Johnny...these...these tools are..."
"Top of the line Roy…and you know you needed a new set. Now every time you
work on a new project...or ATTEMPT to fix something...you can think of
"Thanks Johnny. I...I don't know what to say. How...how can I ever thank
"You just did Pally...you just did."
Everyone got silent as Johnny turned to hand Jennifer her first gift.
"Jen, this is for you. I hope you like it."
Jennifer slowly took the box and started to unwrap it. Smiling as she
opened it...her eyes lit up.
"Uncle Johnny...a new radio/cassette player. I love it."
Also in the box were a few cassette tapes. One tape had a bunch of party
songs on it...including the chicken dance and the hokey pokey. Jennifer
smiled some more, as she recalled a time when she was about five years
old...the first time Johnny taught her how to do those two dances.
"There's a couple more Jen. Here's the next one."
He handed her another package. Unwrapping the second box, Jennifer once
again smiled when she opened it.
"A camera...my very own camera. Uncle Johnny...how...how'd you know that I
wanted my own camera?"
"Let's just call it...Uncle's intuition."
The reason Johnny brought her the camera was that she had started to take
some pictures with her parents' camera...and she appeared to have a good eye
for taking pictures, and the more he thought about it...the more he realized
how much like Gabriella, Jennifer was. She was friendly, kind, sensitive,
very pretty, and had an eye for art.
"This is so cool...thanks."
"My pleasure...but you still have one more package."
"Another one?" She asked with surprise.
"Yeah...another one and it's something that you can have fun with. I must
say, my friend Rocky thought I was pretty brave for buying this."
Jennifer opened up the third gift. Inside was a pretty basket filled with
different nail polishes and hair accessories. Johnny always loved Jenny's
long brown hair. He imagined having a daughter like her one day and helping
his wife braid her hair and put ribbons in it.
"Uncle Johnny...this is really neat...but how do you know so much about this
girl stuff ?"
Johnny smiled at her. "Jen...I know LOTS of things...you'd be
Roy looked at Johnny and simply shook his head. "I'm not gonna
ask, but only you Junior...only you."
Everyone thanked him for the presents. Johnny seemed very pleased that
they all liked their gifts. Sitting around the living room, they noticed
that there were still several things under the tree...one big package and
several very small ones, but they didn't ask Johnny about them.
The five of them were sitting around talking...just enjoying each other's
"So who wrapped all these gifts Johnny? It obviously wasn't you...I mean,
you're great at starting IV's...but gift wrapping skills were never your
"Rocky did it for me. I...I was taking a nap and he was...lookin' for
something to do."
Johnny remembered the circumstances as to why Rocky did all the gift
wrapping perfectly...it was a few days earlier, after he'd had another seizure.
Rocky didn't want to leave him alone...so while he slept...Rocky did the
"I know this isn't the time to ask Junior...but where in God's name did all
this money come from?"
Johnny smiled at his best friend. "Let's just say that I
was…saving for a rainy day...and leave it at that."
The truth of the matter was that a couple years earlier, after almost 18
years...Johnny had received quite a very large settlement in the case of his
parents' deaths in the car accident. He had never told anyone about it...nor
did he change his way of life.
As the group of friends were sitting and talking, enjoying what they all
knew would be their last "Christmas" with Johnny, Jennifer was sitting,
looking at her Uncle, realizing how empty all of their lives would be in
just a few short months.
As tears started down her face, Johnny noticed, and softly asked, "Hey
Wiping her eyes and trying to control her tears, Jennifer quietly replied,
"Noth...nothin' I'm...I'm okay…I'll be right back."
As she quickly got up and left the room, Joanne started to go after her,
knowing what was wrong, but Johnny stopped her.
"No Joanne...let me go talk to her."
"Are you sure Johnny?"
Nodding and slowly rising from the recliner, Johnny said, "Yeah Roy, I'm
sure. I think I'm the one that needs to do this...be right back."
Carefully walking out of the living room and into the kitchen, Johnny found
Jennifer standing in front of the sink, crying uncontrollably. Walking up
behind her, Johnny gently placed his hands on the young girl's shoulders, as
he softly spoke to her.
"Jenny...tell me what's wrong."
He already knew the answer, but Jennifer didn't turn to look at Johnny...she
only shook her head and started staring straight ahead out the window, as
she continued to cry.
Trying again, Johnny said, "Jen, somethin's wrong or you wouldn't be acting
like this. Remember, this is…Christmas…you're supposed to be happy...I did
all of this for you and Chris because…I wanted...to spend one last Christmas
with you guys."
"Oh yeah...right...be happy."
As soon as those words came out of her mouth, she knew how sarcastic she
sounded…but Johnny didn't say anything, he knew how both Jennifer and Chris
felt…angry, hurt and as if they were being cheated…he felt the same way.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound like that…thanks for thinkin'
about me and Chris Uncle Johnny, but... what's there to be happy
about...you're...and you seem to be so...accepting of it...if it were me
I...I just don't think I could be. How are you keeping it together?"
After thinking for a moment, Johnny gently rubbed the young girl's shoulders
and softly replied, "Well...you'd be surprised at what you can do...when you
HAVE to...and I'm HAVING to. But keeping it together, is that what you
think I'm doing? I'm really not...trust me...just ask your Dad the
times…the times he's let me…cry on his shoulder."
As Johnny slowly turned her around to face him, he calmly said, "But I'm
what...dying? Yeah Jelly Belly, I am...but if you think about it, we're ALL
dying...I'm…I'm just doing it a little faster than everybody else."
Johnny was trying to ease the tension...Jennifer didn't find it funny.
"That's not funny Uncle Johnny."
She again wiped her eyes and walked away from Johnny. After a moment, she
"This…this isn't fair...you're being taken away…from us and…and you're
trying to be funny. Plus, we're having to celebrate Christmas…in July…I
don't want you to…Uncle Johnny...none of us do...you should be...I don't
know, enjoying your life…out chasing a nurse or something...working
with Dad again...getting into it with Uncle Chet...but you shouldn't
have to be worrying about..."
Johnny thought it was funny when she mentioned that he should be chasing a
nurse or getting into it with Chet, and deep down, he agreed, but when she
hesitated, Johnny knew that she still couldn't bring herself to say that he
was dying. He knew that she, as well as the rest of her family, would have
to accept it, sooner or later.
Making his way over to her, he stepped in front of her and took her hand. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be funny…this isn't a laughing
matter. But Jennifer, I want you to listen…listen to me…I…I'm…"
Johnny was getting tired from just the few moments that he had been
standing, and Jennifer saw it…Roy and Joanne saw it as well and had to force
themselves not to go into the kitchen to help their friend.
"Uncle Johnny, come on, let's sit down at the table."
Agreeing that he needed to sit down, Johnny nodded his head and let her help
him to the chair.
"Listen…I'm gonna be alright but…I don't want you to…say anything about
this…to your Mom and Dad…they're worrying enough…as it is…all right?"
Knowing that she needed to tell her parents, but agreeing not to, she
Nodded. "Yeah, okay…even though I SHOULD tell them…I won't say
After a moment to catch his breath, Johnny continued.
"Anyway, what I was gonna say…I wanted to have Christmas, now, so that all
of you will remember me like I am…now…not what I'm gonna be in a few
months...I'm only gonna get worse plus, I won't be here in December. But do
you think I wanna die…I don't…I don't want to leave you and the rest of your
family…I don't wanna leave the job I love and everything that I've worked so
hard for…and I don't want to leave all of my friends, but Jen…this is the
hand that I've been dealt…and like it or not…and I definitely don't…I can't
change it…and all I can do…is accept it…and come to terms with it. I
guess…I guess makin' jokes is…is just a way…of dealin' with it."
Johnny again had to catch his breath before he went on. Jennifer was
starting to get worried.
"Uncle Johnny, are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah sweetheart, I'm fine. Listen, I need you to do something for me…as
hard as it is and…as hard as it's gonna be…I need ALL of you…to come to
terms with this…and accept it, like I have…I'm sure not looking forward to
what I know…I'm gonna have to go through…but I'm gonna try to get though it
with…as much dignity…and courage…as I can. And I'm not worrying about
it...now... because, first off, it isn't gonna do any good, but mainly
because…I know that where I'm going...I won't have to suffer anymore...no
more pain and I'll...I'll be at peace and be...with my parents…and my
grandparents again…and I've missed them so much."
"But…we're gonna miss you." Jennifer softly said.
"I know honey…I know…and I'm gonna miss…all of you…but I want you to
know…that when the time DOES come…for me to go…that I'll always love all
of you…and that you and your family…are so VERY important to me…and you'll
NEVER be forgotten…and my not bein' here…isn't gonna change…how much you
all…mean to me."
Johnny saw the tears as they started down Jennifer's face again…as they were
his, and after getting up, she walked back over to the window, and softly
"And you're important to us Uncle Johnny…that's why I…none of us…can accept
this…I don't want you to…I want you to be…around for a long, long time…this
shouldn't be… happening to you…not you."
Slowly rising from the table, Johnny walked over to Jennifer, and turning
her around, and even though he was weak, he held her as tightly in his arms
as he could, as she continued to sob…she gladly returned the embrace.
"We don't want to let…you go…don't leave us Uncle Johnny…please
don't...don't leave us."
Crying himself, Johnny whispered. "Shhh, it's gonna be all right
Jenny…I wish I didn't have…to go…I don't…I don't wanna leave...any of
you…but I have to…but it'll be okay…I promise…it'll be okay. For as
long…as I've know you guys…all of you…have always been so strong…and that's
what I…I need from you all now…to be strong…not only for me…'cause I'm gonna
need…a lot of help to get through this…but mostly, for each other…and help
each other through this…it's gonna be okay."
As the two stood in each other's arms, releasing some of their grief and
pain, they didn't notice as Roy and Joanne stood, watching, as they both
tried to control their own emotions, and knowing that it really wasn't going
to be okay when they lost Johnny.
After giving Jennifer a few moments to get out her tears, Johnny composed
himself enough to speak again. "Now that we have that out of our systems…we're
not gonna cry anymore…okay…not till we have to…not till I go…so why don't
we…pull ourselves together and…go back out into the living room…I brought
you guys some more presents and…I wanna see you open them."
Johnny's eyesight was failing, but he could still see well enough to be able
to see the tears in his friends' eyes…along with the smiles on their
faces…it was the smiles that he never wanted to forget.
"I don't want presents…Uncle Johnny…all I want is for…you not to…"
"Say it Jen…say it. What's gonna happen to me?"
Shaking her head, Jennifer said, "No…I can't…I can't say it."
"Yes you can…you can…don't be scared sweetheart…saying it isn't gonna make
it happen any faster…but you HAVE to say it, to accept it. What's gonna
happen to me?"
Closing her eyes for a moment and gathering her courage, Jennifer softly
said, "You're…you're gonna…"
"Come on...I'm gonna what?" Johnny softly asked.
Taking a deep breath, Jennifer slowly said, "Die...you're gonna…die."
Jennifer started to break down again, but Johnny shook his head. "Don't
cry…remember, now isn't the time for that…now is a time for being happy and
making memories…so you won't ever forget me…I don't want any pity…or sadness
or crying…not yet…you'll be able to grieve for me later on, AFTER I'm
gone…but right now, I'm still here...and it's time for presents. So, you
ready to go back out there?"
Wiping her eyes, Jenny tried to smile. "Yeah…yeah, I'm ready.
Smiling his famous grin, Johnny nodded his head. "Yeah, you bet. If you can do it, I
can do it. Come on."
**That's what I'll miss most Uncle Johnny…your crooked smile**
Hearing the two coming back into the living room, Roy and Joanne quickly
made their way back over to the couch and dried their eyes so Johnny and Jennifer
wouldn't know that they had been watching.
As the two came back out into the living room, Chris asked, "Uncle Johnny,
are you and Jennifer okay?"
Looking at Jennifer, then looking back at Chris, Johnny softly replied,
"Yeah Chris, we're okay. Let's get back to opening presents."
As everyone got comfortable, Johnny said, "Now...these last gifts...are
personal. These, I hope, will always make you think of me...and how much
you all have meant to me."
Carefully reaching down in front of him, Johnny picked up a wrapped box that
had Joanne's name on it, and handed it to her.
Speaking softly, he said, "Jo, this is something that I know you've always admired. As you know, it's something that my Mother made for me, just weeks
before she and Dad were killed in the accident...so it's something
that I've always cherished...and I want you to have it."
As her eyes started to fill with tears, Jo softly said, "Thank you Johnny."
After taking off the wrapping paper and opening the box, Joanne pulled out a
huge patchwork quilt...she had always told Johnny how beautiful it was
everytime she and Roy had been in his apartment, and since it was made by
his mother, and his mother was now gone, she knew how much it meant to her
friend...she was honored to be receiving it.
"Oh Johnny...I've always loved this...but your mother made it for…"
Interrupting her, Johnny said, "Yeah Jo…Mom made it for me but…but now
she's…she's gone…and I'll be joining her and Dad soon…so I want you to have
As she looked back down at it and rubbed her hand across it, Jo smiled. "Thank you Johnny. I'll always treasure it and...I'll always remember you whenever I look at it."
She leaned in and kissed Johnny on the cheek.
Looking over at his best friend and slightly smiling, Johnny softly said,
"Don't be jealous Pally...and you're welcome Jo."
Forcing a smile onto his face, Roy replied, "Don't worry Junior...I'm not."
Composing himself, Johnny reached for another box, this time a little bit
smaller, but the items inside were things that were important to him, and he
knew Roy would want them. Johnny held the box in his hands for a few
minutes, as he remembered the day that his best friend and partner gave the
items to him...he remembered how proud Roy seemed to be of him that day, as
well as the pride he himself was feeling, for what he had accomplished.
Becoming worried at his best friend's silence, Roy gently touched Johnny on
the shoulder and quietly spoke.
"Johnny...partner, you okay?"
Slightly smiling that Roy still called him partner, Johnny didn't yet make
eye contact with his friend, but softly spoke.
"FORMER...partner...partner. But yeah, I'm okay...I was just thinkin'
about...about when you gave these to me...I was so proud that I had…I had
done what I set out to do."
Wiping away a tear, Johnny turned and looked at Roy as he handed the box to
him...little did Roy know that there was also another surprise in the box.
"Here Roy...this is for you...along with something else in there."
Roy slowly took the gift…and unwrapped it even slower...he was a bit afraid
of what might be inside.
Seeing Roy's hesitation, Johnny laughed. "Oh come on
Pally, you don't have to worry, it isn't gonna bite'cha ya...gettin' bit was
MY department, remember."
With that being said, a painful memory came back to Roy's mind...the day
that he wasn't there and Johnny was bitten by the rattlesnake...he had
always felt guilty about that, but was thankful that the engine crew had
still been there and were able to help his partner.
"Yeah, I remember...all too well...you scared us all to death, especially
Remembering what Roy had told him, after he had recovered, about how worried
Chet had been, Johnny smiled wistfully. "Yeah...good ol' Chester B really came in handy
a lot of times...he's a good guy...I'm really gonna miss him. But anyway,
come on Roy, open it up."
"All right Junior, I am."
Roy opened the present and as he took the lid off the box, he saw the gift.
It was Johnny's nameplate and paramedic pin.
Choking back his emotions, Roy quietly said, "I...I remember when I...pinned
these on you Johnny...I was so proud of you...and even more proud that...you
agreed to become my partner. Thank you Johnny."
Starting to tear up himself, Johnny replied, "You're welcome. That was the
best thing that...I ever did...becoming your partner...but it became more
than just…being partners…we became...best friends...who have always been
there...for each other...so thank you...for being here for me...now...and
helping me through all of this...I don't know what...I would'a done
without you... without ALL of you."
"We love you Uncle Johnny."
"And I love all of you, Chris…you're all very special to me."
As everyone wiped their eyes and composed themselves, Johnny tried to sound
upbeat, as he said, "Okay, I said, no more crying…so, let's cut the
waterworks and get on with it. Oh yeah Pally, there's something else in the
As Roy carefully lifted the pins and the cotton that they had laid on, there he
saw the keys to Johnny's Land Rover. Looking at his friend in surprise, he
started to say something to his friend, but Johnny stopped him.
Holding up his hand, Johnny shook his head. "Roy, there isn't anything to
say…everything's taken care of, all the stuff is in order…so all you gotta
do…is sign on the dotted line and just take it and take good care of it."
Excited, not realizing what was inside the box, Joanne asked, "Roy…what is
Reaching the box over where Jo and the kids could see it, Roy said,
"Look…look at what he's…givin' me…us."
As the kids gathered around their father and Joanne, and looked inside the box,
they were stunned at what was inside…they also knew what it meant to Roy.
"The Rover keys…cool." Chris said.
"Johnny…I can't…I can't take…"
Stopping his friend, Johnny said, "This isn't open for discussion
Roy…that's my Christmas gift…to you…so you CAN'T turn it down. Besides,
everytime you get in it, I know you'll…you'll always remember me. And I
told you…that's what these gifts are… personal…things that'll help you…to
remember me when I'm…well, you know."
As tears started to come to everyone's eyes, Roy said, "Johnny…trust me
part…partner…I don't need the Rover…to help me remember you…I could NEVER
"Well…this way, I'll be sure you won't."
Roy placed the lid back on the small box. "I won't Johnny…I promise.
Thank you for this most generous gift."
Johnny was starting to get tired, so he asked Joanne to hand him the present
for Chris. As she placed it in his hand, he looked over at the young man,
who was sitting on the floor, at his feet.
"Chris, this is for you. My dad gave this to me…probably when I was
about your age. I've always carried it with me and…I've used it…quite a few
times on the job…even saved Uncle Chet's butt once with it. I want you to
Chris took the gift, and after unwrapping it, he opened the box.
"Wow…it's your…your pocketknife. And you want me to have it?" Chris asked incredulously.
"Yeah I do. Why are ya so surprised…I think you're old enough to have it,
just always be careful when you use it, it's very sharp."
Giving Johnny a hug, Chris smiled appreciatively. "I will, I promise. Thank you Uncle
Johnny, I love it."
"You're welcome Chris."
Last but not least, Johnny picked up two other boxes, and turning to Jennifer,
he spoke as he handed them, one at a time, to her...knowing that she would
probably start crying again.
"Jenny, I have two things I want to give you. First, I want you to have
this...usually, the department doesn't do this…but after talking to
them...and considering the circumstances and knowing how everybody…would
probably feel…if they issued it to somebody else...they agreed to let me
keep it and…I'm giving it to you."
After handing her the square box first, she took off the wrapping paper and
slowly opened it…finding Johnny's badge inside.
Just as Johnny thought, Jennifer did start crying again.
"Your badge…you want me…to have it…and not…not Chris?"
Shaking his head, Johnny replied, "Well sure, why not you...he has my
pocketknife. I don't know what your future holds, Jen…or what you want to do when you get older, but at least this way, you'll have something very special to remember me by. And who knows…someday there might be lots of women firefighters in the department."
Taking the badge out of the box, Jenny held it tightly in her hand, rubbing
her fingers down the front of it, as the tears continued to fall.
"Jenny, are you okay?" Roy asked his daughter.
Jennifer nodded her head. "Yeah Dad…I'm fine. Thanks Uncle Johnny,
I'll…I'll always treasure it."
Giving her a few moments to compose herself, he held the other box in his
hand, as he started to speak to her again.
"And this…my grandmother…she gave this to me before she died...she said that
she wanted me to give it to that special girl that I'd eventually marry.
But…since that isn't gonna happen, you're the next best thing...you'll
always be my special girl and...I don't ever want you…to forget that."
Roy and Joanne looked at each other…both could tell that they were thinking
the same thing…why had Johnny not given this gift to Gabriela while she was
Taking the long slender box and opening it first, Jenny was surprised to see
what was inside …a gold locket with a chain. Looking up at Johnny, he
spoke before she had the chance to say anything.
"Open the locket. I put a little somethin' in there."
Taking it from the box, Jennifer carefully opened the locket to find a picture
of her Uncle Johnny inside…he was smiling his famous grin.
As tears again started down her face, Johnny smiled. "That's also a good way
for you to remember me."
Closing the locket and having Joanne put it around her neck, she gave Johnny
a hug. Letting go, she tried to control her tears, as she tried to speak.
"Thank you…I'll always…wear it…and I'll never…never forget you."
Starting to get extremely tired, and beginning to cough, Johnny said, "Good,
I'm glad to hear that. I'm sorry if these gifts…made you guys sad…that
really wasn't…my intention…but I felt…I felt that these things…needed to be
Seeing the trouble that Johnny was having, everyone became worried.
"Johnny…are you alright?" Roy asked his former partner.
Trying to get his breathing and coughing under control, Johnny nodded.
"Yeah…yeah Roy I'm…I'm alright…just give me…a minute…gotta…gotta rest…but
there's one more…gift I gotta…"
As Johnny tried to get up to go upstairs, everyone stopped him.
"No Johnny, you're gonna stay here. Tell the kids what you want, and they'll get it."
"Uncle Johnny, you stay here and relax and tell me where it is…I'll go get
Looking at Chris, Johnny sighed softly. "Okay…it's upstairs in…in my bedroom…probably
under…under the bed…wanna give…it to…to you guys…"
"Okay Johnny, you relax and get your breathing under control. Chris'll go
As Chris got up to go get the gift, Roy leaned over to Jennifer, as he
whispered in her ear.
"Jenny, go help Chris. Let him bring the oxygen tank down and you bring the
Being worried the Johnny's breathing wasn't getting back to normal, she
said, "Okay Dad, we'll be right back."
The two quickly made their way upstairs to get the items. When they returned to the stairs, Johnny turned to see them…he saw Jennifer carrying
the package and Chris carrying an O2 tank.
As the kids walked back over to their parents and Johnny, Chris sat the O2
tank down as Roy turned it on and took the nasal cannula off. Much to everyone's
surprise, Johnny took it out of his friend's hand and started using it.
"Easy Johnny…just relax your breathing…take it easy."
Jennifer sat the gift down in front of Johnny then took a seat back on the
floor beside her brother. After a few minutes of Johnny using the oxygen,
his breathing started to improve and his coughing started to ease…he finally
started to relax.
Being a little bit afraid, Jennifer asked, "Uncle Johnny...are you okay?"
Johnny nodded his head. "Yeah Jen, I'm okay. The doctors said that this would happen…don't worry."
Finally breathing better, Johnny removed the nasal cannula from under his nose.
"Are you sure you're gonna be alright without that?" Joanne asked with concern.
"Yeah Jo...I think I'll be alright...thanks Roy for...for havin' this...I'm
sorry if I...messed things up."
Touching his friend on the shoulder, Roy shook his head. "Johnny, you didn't mess
anything up, everything's just fine."
With a disappointed look on his face, Johnny softly said, "Sorry if I scared you guys…I didn't
mean to…I wanted this day to be perfect…but I'm alright now."
"Uncle Johnny, it HAS been perfect…just getting to spend more time with
you makes it perfect. Like Dad said, everything's cool."
Johnny looked over at Chris. "Thanks Chris, that makes me feel better.
But, like I said, I have one more gift…and this is for all of you to enjoy
and I hope you all like it. Jenny, Chris…you two wanna open it?"
"Sure Uncle Johnny." Jennifer said.
The kids tore into the large package only to find that they recognized the
gift immediately. Pulling the paper away, Chris and Jennifer looked at
their Uncle with a surprised look on their faces. Inside the box were
crystal ornaments that came in different shapes…rounds, bells, diamonds,
snowflakes and ovals.
Turning the gift for their parents to see, Jennifer said, "Uncle
Johnny…these are yours…you told me and Chris that…that they belonged to your
Mom and Dad."
Nodding his head, Johnny replied, "That's right Jennifer, they did. I
always appreciated the two…two of you helping me to decorate…my tree with
them…since they passed…they've always reminded me of all…the good times we
had as a…a family…and since you always …said how much you liked them…I
wanted you guys to have them."
"Johnny, they're beautiful." commented Joanne.
"You know…in spite of me not bein' able to breathe for a few minutes…I guess
this evening turned out pretty well…just like I hoped it would. Hey Jen,
you wanna take some pictures?"
"Sure Uncle Johnny. Want to help me put the film in the camera?"
Nodding his head yes, Jennifer handed Johnny the camera and he put in the
film. As the many pictures were being taken, the DeSoto family made sure
that every picture had Johnny in them…they told him that they wanted these
pictures to remember him by…he happily agreed.
Some were taken of Johnny and Roy, some with Joanne and Johnny, some with
the kids, but Chris and Jennifer made sure to each get the perfect picture
of each of them alone with Johnny.
After the pictures were taken, Jennifer said, "I plan on taking these and
making me a very special photo album...about my Uncle Johnny."
Smiling, Johnny said, "That's a good idea Jenny. And if you need or want
any other pictures of me…when I was younger, let me know and I'll try to
get them to you."
"I'd like that. Thanks Uncle Johnny."
"You're welcome. Well, I think I'm gonna turn in...I'm really tired."
As Johnny slowly got up…with some help from Roy, and pulled the O2 tank with
him to the foot of the stairs, he turned back around to speak to his dear
friends.…being tired, Johnny's voice was weak and he spoke quietly.
"In case I don't get the chance, there's somethin' I wanna say...after I met
Roy…and we became partners and…and best friends…you guys always made me…made
me feel like…I had a family again…you all made me feel…wanted…and needed…but
most of all...you made me feel loved...and I thought...after Mom and Dad
died...and my brother...that I'd never have that again...but I was lucky and
got a…a second chance...and I had it again...and that's somethin'…I'll never
forget …and for everything that…you all have done for me…during these months
that…I've been sick…I know you didn't have…to do it and that it hasn't been
easy…and that it's only…gonna get harder…and I know it isn't much…but
thanks…is all I know of to say…and I'll always remember it…well, you all
have a good night."
Roy and his family watched, as Johnny slowly tried to make his way up the
stairs, but seeing the trouble that he was having trying to walk and pull
the oxygen tank, Roy quickly motioned for the kids to go help...they also
knew their parents wanted to be alone to talk.
Quickly getting up, Chris and Jennifer went to the stairs to help Johnny.
"Uncle Johnny, let us help you."
"Thanks Chris...Jenny...I think I need it."
Chris picked up the tank and Jennifer gently took her Uncle's hand and
helped him up the stairs. As Roy and Joanne saw the three disappear, Joanne
could no longer hold back her tears…Roy wasn't having an easy time of it
"Oh Roy...how are we ever gonna get through this...I just...I just can't
imagine...our lives without Johnny...it isn't fair Roy...it
Taking his wife in his arms, Roy softly said, "I know it isn't...but we
will...we'll get through this...somehow…if only for Johnny."
After spending most of the weekend at Roy's for "Christmas", Johnny was now
at home spending the evening relaxing in his recliner. He was glad the
weekend's events went off just as he had hoped they would, but one thing
bothered him...Jennifer's reaction to the sentimentality of it. He knew it
was to be expected, after all she was ONLY 12 years old.
Johnny tried to come up with some ideas on how to help her...or more
importantly, how she could help HERSELF in coping with his illness and
He thought back to his childhood...when his grandfather died. It had been a
devastating loss to him...he was only nine at the time. His mother
encouraged him to write letters to his grandfather, as though he was still
alive. This helped Johnny work out his feelings and also served to help keep
his grandfather's memory alive. After his own parents died in the car
accident, he kept a journal that served the same purpose. That's what he
would do...he'd get Jennifer some nice stationary and a journal to help her
deal with her emotions better.
Johnny knew he would need to get out to a store in order to pick these
things up...but both Roy and Rocky would be going back on shift on Monday
morning, and would be working straight through till Thursday morning. He decided he
would give Dixie a call at home. She had given Johnny her schedule for July
and told him to call her if he needed something...or just wanted to talk.
It was only 7:30 PM so he figured there would be no harm in calling her.
Johnny dialed the number and waited for her to pick up.
Johnny smiled when he heard that sultry voice.
"Hey Dix...it's me...Johnny."
"Well hello there handsome. What can I do for you?"
Johnny explained what he wanted and why.
"Sounds like a wonderful idea Johnny. I can pick up those things from the
hospital gift shop and drop them off to you on Tuesday morning when I get
"That would be great Dix...thanks."
"Say Johnny...how did your weekend at Roy's go?"
"It was great...just as I hoped it would be. I'll tell you all about it on
"It's a deal Johnny. Take care of yourself."
"I will Dix...you too."
When Tuesday morning arrived, Dixie stopped by after work with the items
that Johnny had requested.
"Thanks Dix...I really appreciate it."
"Anytime Johnny...you know that. So tell me about your "holiday" weekend." Dixie asked with an interested smile.
Johnny told her all about the weekend spent at Roy's...not leaving out a
"Sounds like it was a special weekend, Johnny."
"It was." The former paramedic said with a nod.
"I hear you and the guys are going away for a few days...Roy was telling me
"Yeah...I'm really looking forward to it."
Being a little curious, Dixie asked, "Rocky joining you?"
Sadly shaking his head, Johnny replied, "No...he...he declined."
Dixie understood why Rocky wouldn't be joining them. The two friends
continued their visit for another hour. As Johnny walked Dixie out to her
car, she turned around to look at him. It became obvious to her that
Johnny's health was in serious decline and that the next couple of months
would probably be it for him.
Johnny knew from Dixie's tone, and the look in her eyes that she was very
concerned about him, and already had started to think about what lay ahead
for him in the coming weeks.
Johnny gave her a warm embrace.
"Dix...I'm okay, and I don't want you worrying about me. I intend to enjoy
this weekend...and whatever time I have left. Go home, okay...I'm fine."
Dixie gave him a kiss on the cheek before getting into her car. As she
started to pull away, she looked into her rear view mirror and watched Johnny
as he had headed back inside...a single tear fell down her cheek as she watched
Once Johnny got back inside, the dull ache that he'd had in his head for the
previous few hours, quickly became more severe. Swallowing hard to keep the
nausea at bay, Johnny realized that it was a losing battle. He made his way
to the bathroom, just in time to have what little food that he had had in his
stomach, end up in the bowl.
After rinsing out his mouth, he splashed some cool water on his face and
went to lie down in bed. After lying in agony for over an hour, Johnny was
finally starting to fall asleep when the phone rang. He really didn't want
to answer it, but knew if he didn't...Roy and Rocky's sense of paranoia
would only increase...if they were indeed the ones on the phone.
Mustering all his strength, he answered the phone.
"Hello?" A strained voice greeted on the phone.
Johnny was right...the voice on the other end had belonged to Rocky.
"I'm...I'm...yeah...I'm just tired. I...I was...just...just trying to get
Rocky grew concerned. After knowing Johnny for several years, he knew his
friend well. Just by hearing Johnny's voice he could tell exactly how his
friend was feeling...his instincts were telling him that Johnny wasn't doing
well right now.
"Johnny...you need some help there buddy?"
"Rocky...I ...I really need to just get some sleep, I'm okay. Give the guys
Rocky still wasn't convinced that Johnny was okay.
"Johnny...we can come over, you know...it's no problem."
"I know. I said I was okay...really. I'll...I'll call you guys later, okay?"
Rocky didn't like it, but said, "Alright Johnny."
Johnny got off the phone and hoped that Rocky and Roy weren't on their way
over. After another hour, Johnny had finally fallen asleep. Over the
next several hours, Johnny alternated between taking catnaps and his battle
with nausea. At 8 PM he decided to call the station to say hello, before
his friends grew too worried about him.
He dialed the familiar number and waited for an answer.
"Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking."
Johnny did his best to sound upbeat, but he felt anything but.
"Hey, how are ya doin' Pal?" The happy to hear from his former paramedic, captain asked.
Hank thought he heard some discomfort in Johnny's voice. "You're sure?"
"Yeah...I...I'd like to talk to Roy or Rocky...it's...it's not an emergency
or anything. I promised I'd call...I'm just fulfilling my promise."
"Okay, hang on Johnny...I'll get them."
The next voice Johnny heard was that of his worried former partner.
"Johnny...you alright? Rocky said that you sounded horrible this morning."
"I'm okay Roy. I'm just...really tired."
"Johnny...are you being honest with me?"
Of course Roy knew that Johnny would never admit to feeling anything else
other than okay.
"Yeah Roy...I'm just feeling really tired today...I'm alright. I told Rocky
that I'd call you guys later...so I did. Give my regards to everyone...tell
them I'll see them on Friday."
"I will. Take care Junior."
"Yeah...you too Pally."
Through the rest of the night and all during the next day Johnny battled
through a painful headache and bouts of severe nausea and dizziness. Johnny
started to wonder if he would be well enough to go on this trip.
When Thursday afternoon rolled around, Johnny was relaxing in his recliner.
Although he was feeling better after having been so sick for the previous day and
a half, he was left feeling exhausted. He had spent part of the morning packing
for his trip with the guys. He knew that Roy would be coming shortly to pick him up, as
it was decided that Johnny would spend the night at Roy's because they would
all be meeting there, and leaving from his house early in the morning.
Arriving at Johnny's apartment, Roy knocked on the door and used his key to
open it. Johnny smiled at his friend when he came in.
"Hey Pally...how ya doin'?" Johnny asked his friend with a relaxed smile.
"Fine, but I should be the one asking YOU that question."
"I'm great Roy...couldn't be better."
**Now I am...but you should have seen me the last day and a half…on second
thought, I'm glad you didn't**
"Yeah, I packed this morning. Roy...I'm really looking forward to this
"I know Johnny...me too...it's gonna be fun."
Roy helped Johnny with his bags, and then put them into the Rover...now
belonging to Roy, and headed home. After a pleasant dinner, during which
Johnny hadn't eaten very much, he went to rest in his room.
Lying down in his bed, Johnny had been in deep thought when he heard a sweet
voice coming from outside his door.
Looking up, he smiled when he saw Jennifer standing there.
"Jelly Belly...come on in." He motioned for her to come over and sit on the bed. "What can
I do for you?"
"I...I just wanted to...to keep you company...is that okay?" She asked hopefully.
"I'd love that."
When Jenny sat down on the bed, Johnny noticed the serious look on her face.
"Jenny, what's wrong?"
"Uncle Johnny...I'm sorry for...for getting so upset last weekend. It's just
that...that I'm gonna miss you when you're gone. It makes me so sad to think
"I know it does Jenny...it makes me sad too...I mean to be leaving all of
you...all the people I love so very much. Listen, I got something for
you...something I hope will help you...with your feelings."
"But, Uncle Johnny...you've already given me so much."
"Jen, that bag over on the dresser...you wanna bring it over."
After giving the bag to Johnny, he had her sit down beside him on the bed.
"When I was your age...my parents were killed in a car accident."
"I remember you telling me and Chris about that. How did you...get through
it…weren't you sad?"
"It was REALLY hard for me Jen. I started to keep a journal to deal
with my...my sadness. I wrote about how I was feeling and…and memories of my
"Did it help?"
"Yeah...it did. When I was nine, my beloved grandfather died. My mom
suggested that I write letters to him..."
Interrupting, Jenny asked, "You mean...like...like he was still alive?"
"Yes...exactly like he was still alive. It made me realize that...that
although he...he wasn't around anymore in BODY…he was still there in
spirit. I never sent them, of course...but I kept them in a small box
and…and after a few letters...I started to feel better...like he...he was
still there. I had Dixie buy these things for you...I hope they help you."
He handed her the stationary set and journal. The stationary set had little
red fire engines on it...the journal was light blue and yellow...Johnny's
two favorite colors.
'Thank you Uncle Johnny." she said, as she hugged him.
"Can I write you a letter now?"
Johnny gave Jennifer one of his patented crooked smiles.
"Sure it's okay, but...but you'll have to read it to me. I have trouble
When he went to put the empty bag on the nightstand, he realized there was
another small box in the bag. Reaching in, he handed her the small box.
"I...I guess this is for you. It must be from Dixie."
Jenny opened the small box to reveal a small crystal angel pin. There was
also a small card with it. She read it to herself.
I bought this angel pin for you. Your Uncle Johnny is a wonderful man who
loves you very much. Once he is up in Heaven...he'll be up there watching
over you and protecting you...he'll be your Guardian Angel, and this pin will
be a symbol of that. I know you'll always love your Uncle Johnny very much
and will always remember him fondly. God Bless You Jennifer!
When Jennifer finished reading the card, she looked at Johnny and tried not
"Uncle Johnny...I love you." She gave him another hug and a kiss on the
"I love you too Jen. What...what was in the box?"
Showing Johnny, Jennifer said, "Dixie bought me an angel pin."
Johnny smiled…that was just like Dixie to do something like that.
"Because she knows...YOU'RE my little angel."
Jennifer didn't say anything.
**I think it's the other way around...you're MY angel, Uncle Johnny**
"I'll let you rest now Uncle Johnny. Thanks for the stationary and journal."
Jennifer left the room, leaving Johnny once again deep in thought, and eventually asleep. Roy had been on his way to see how his friend was doing,
but saw that he had fallen asleep. Standing in the doorway of Johnny's room,
Roy watched him sleep...along with the gentle rise and fall of Johnny's chest.
**Junior...I really hope you're up for this trip...you've had a pretty rough
last few weeks**
After watching Johnny for a couple minutes, Roy went to find Joanne. He
found her out on the back deck...seemingly in deep thought.
"Jo...you okay honey?"
The way she said his name, he knew there was only one thing on her
"What is it Jo?"
"I was doing some thinking. I want Johnny to move in with us. I
want to...to be there for him...and to...to help take care of him. He's
here a lot as it is. What do you say? And...and the kids are here...and you
He hugged his wife, as he said, "I think that's a great idea. I was going to
suggest that myself. Jo...there is one other thing...when...when that time
comes...I'd like to take a leave of absence from the Department...a temporary one,
of course. All four of us should be here for him...we're his family."
The two of them sat in silence for a few moments.
"Roy...is he gonna be okay...this trip...it's not going to be too much for
him, is it?"
"I have my concerns too Jo...but Johnny's not going to back out of it, this
trip is too important to him, but I'll keep an eye on him. He has his
medication and I'll be bringing a couple of O2 tanks...just in case. My
instincts say...he'll hold up okay for the next four days, and then...having
done all the things he needed to do...he'll...he'll start to let go."
Now 9:30 PM, Johnny had gotten ready for bed and was sitting in the easy
chair in his room...waiting for Roy and Joanne to say good night to him.
This had become the routine every time he had stayed over…first the kids
came in to say good night, then Roy and Joanne. True to form, his two
friends arrived in the doorway.
"Good night Johnny." She said, as she kissed him on the cheek.
"Get a good night's sleep...you're gonna need it Junior. We have a long
trip ahead of us."
"I will Pally...you too."
After Roy and Joanne left Johnny's room, Jennifer came back.
"Uncle Johnny, I wrote a letter to you...can I read it to you?"
"Of course, come on in."
Johnny was still sitting in the easy chair. He motioned for Jennifer to sit
on his bed. Sitting down on the bed, she opened the paper and started to
read it to him.
Dear Uncle Johnny,
I wanted to write a letter to you NOW to let you know what you mean to me.
Mom once told me and Chris how important it is to tell the people you care about the most, how much you care about them…while you still can. So that's what I'm going to do.
First I want to thank you for always being there for my Daddy and for making sure
that he always came home to us safely after every shift. I always feel safe
whenever you're around…and you always make me laugh. I smile whenever you
flash your crooked grin. I'll always remember you and all the good times
we've had...the camping trips and the pizza parties at your apartment.
Thank you for being my Uncle Johnny...Dad could never have picked a better
partner and best friend than you.
Love you always,
Somehow Jennifer got through reading the letter without crying. Johnny
was very touched by this letter.
"Thank you Jen. That was a beautiful letter. You're a very special young
He gave her a big hug and kiss.
"I better get to bed...your Dad and I have a long trip tomorrow...and we're
"Okay...see ya in the morning?"
"You bet Jelly Belly. You have a good night sweetheart."
"I will...you too."
After Jenny left, Johnny got into bed. Trying to fall asleep, he was met
with so many emotions...sadness...that he would be leaving behind all the
people he cared about...joy...in knowing that he had made such a difference
in the lives of some of these people, especially Jennifer and
Chris'...excitement...for the upcoming trip...he'd been looking forward to
this trip ever since he had thought of it almost three weeks earlier.
The next morning in anticipation of the trip, Johnny was the first one up.
He had started the coffee brewing for Joanne and Roy, and went outside on the
deck, enjoying the cool morning breeze.
At 6:30 AM Roy and Joanne came downstairs, surprised to see Johnny sitting
out on the deck.
"Mornin'." Johnny replied with his trademark grin, albeit a tired one.
"You alright Johnny?"
"I'm fine...guess I'm just a little excited about this trip. And I can't
wait to see the guys again too."
After a quick breakfast, Roy loaded everything up into the Rover. At 7:45
AM, the rest of the guys arrived, and after exchanging greetings with Johnny,
and a quick cup of coffee, they all got ready to go.
Joanne kissed Roy, and gave Johnny a big hug, as did Jennifer. Chris also
"Have fun fellas." Joanne said with a wave and a smile.
"I'm sure we will Jo. See ya on Monday."
As the six men gathered for a weekend at the lake, they all knew that this
would probably be the last time they'd all be together...Johnny's health had
deteriorated to the point where almost everything he did…or tried to do, was
a struggle. Although he knew that the four hour trip to the cabin would be
very exhausting and his activity level once there would be limited, he was
still very much looking forward to it…after all, the trip WAS his idea.
They all left Friday morning after meeting at Roy's house. While Roy and
John took the Rover, the others rode in Hank's wagon.
During the four-hour drive, Johnny alternated between sleeping and
conversing with his best friend. During the time Johnny was asleep, Roy
could only think of one thing…how much he'd miss his best friend after he
"It's a bit strange Junior. I mean, here I am driving and you're riding
shotgun…but it's the Rover and not the squad."
Johnny let out a little chuckle. "That's alright Pally…I trust ya.
And besides, it's yours now anyway."
"Yeah." Roy softly said.
Roy looked at Johnny and slightly smiled…he knew the Rover now belonged to
him…he just didn't like the way it became his. As he looked at his friend,
he also saw how exhausted Johnny already was, and they still had two hours left
of the trip.
"Are you sure you're up for this Johnny?"
Johnny looked over at Roy with his tired eyes, and answered, "Roy…there's
only two things I AM sure of…one is, I'm gonna die…the second one…I NEED
to do this trip…the six of us NEED to do this trip." He weakly smiled,
then said, "Don't worry about me Pally…I'll be fine."
Meanwhile in the other vehicle, each of the four men were deep in thought.
"Man, I can't believe this is really happening. I mean…Johnny's so young
and…well, he's Johnny."
"Chet, we all feel the same way."
"I know Cap, it's just…"
Marco finished Chet's thought. "It isn't fair. With everything that
Johnny's had to endure in his life, why this?"
Mike, who hadn't said much of anything during the trip's first two hours,
decided to speak up.
"I was never much into religion, but I believe God has a plan for each one
of us and for whatever reason, it was Johnny's destiny to be a part of our
crew. Perhaps, to teach us things…and he did. He taught us lots of things.
Tenacity, compassion, strength, and how NOT to take life too seriously, are
just a few of them. I guess God felt Johnny was done teaching us. But,
even after he dies, he won't really be gone…each one of us will always have
a piece of him in our hearts."
There was silence for a few minutes, while the men all digested the enormity of
what Mike had just said.
Captain Stanley spoke up. "You know, this trip was all Johnny's
idea. He wants this to be a fun and relaxing weekend."
"I guess it's Johnny's final gift to us. He wants us all together and to be
Happy, and he wants us to remember the good times."
"That's right Marco, and I think we owe it to him to make it special." Cap
Chet smiled a sly grin, as he said, "Well, if Gage wants a memorable
weekend…then that's what he'll get."
Marco gave his friend a look.
"What are you going to do Chet? Don't ruin it for him."
"Don't you think Johnny'll be expecting one last prank?"
Back in the Rover, Roy and John were having another conversation after
Johnny woke up from another nap.
Johnny let out a small chuckle. "You know Pally…I'd love to be a
fly in Cap's car. I can only imagine what they're discussing…as if I didn't
"Johnny, don't be so hard on them, they're dealing with things as best as
they can…we all are."
"I know Roy, it's just that I want this weekend to be special…to be
"It will be Johnny…it will be."
After a moment of silence for Johnny to catch his breath, he spoke up, and
asked, "You remember that fishing trip we took to Santa Rosa County a few
Smiling, Roy nodded. "Sure do. We met up with that sheriff and
ended up saving those mountain climbers and the guy whose boat exploded."
"Yeah. And we gave him ideas on how to start an EMS program after he took
us to that diner for some chili."
"Boy, it sure was good." Roy replied with a smile.
"I know Roy…chili today, hot tamale."
They both laughed.
"Roy, you got the crackers and the canned dog food, right?"
Roy looked at his friend suspiciously, and said, "Yes Johnny. What exactly
do you have planned Junior?"
"Well, I figure Chet…a.k.a. The Phantom, probably wants to do something for
his favorite target…ME…you know, as a last hurrah. Cap is probably
telling him…no, PLEADING with him to just lay low. So maybe, I can have
the last laugh. You ever hear of pate'? It looks just like Alpo. Put it
on some crackers…and voila. Pretty neat, huh? Wish I had thought of it a long
"Junior, even after all these years…you still amaze me." Roy smiled and
shook his head.
Slightly smiling, Johnny shrugged., "Well…I try."
Four hours after leaving Roy's house, the six friends arrived at their
destination. Getting out of their cars, Roy helped Johnny.
"John, you go relax. We'll get everything into the cabin."
"I'm okay Cap."
Hearing the tone in Hank's voice told Johnny not to argue.
Giving in, Johnny said, "Alright Cap, I'm goin'."
A half-hour later, they had everything unloaded. While Marco and Mike
were putting the food away, the others were sitting around talking. Johnny
was in a recliner fully stretched out.
"Comfortable John?" Hank asked with a knowing smile.
Johnny let out a contented sigh. "Yeah Cap, I'm comfortable."
"So, what are the sleeping arrangements?" Chet asked.
Johnny smiled a Cheshire cat grin.
"Well Chet…Roy and I were talking, and we think you should room with us…for
old time's sake."
Chet displayed mock sarcasm, as he said, "That's mighty gracious of you
"Anyone thirsty?" asked Marco.
They all gave Marco their drink orders, and as everyone got settled into
their seats, Johnny looked around the room at his friends. He then took as deep
a breath as he could take, and exhaled before he spoke.
He let out a chuckle, and said, "I just want to say a few things, you know,
before the fun starts. I want to thank you all for agreeing to come here
this weekend, it really means a lot to me. You guys are my family…and
together we've been through a lot over the years. I also know that these last
couple of months haven't been easy for you, and I thank you for your
support. I…I just want this weekend to be one that you'll always remember."
"I'm sure we will pal." Hank replied with a wink.
Johnny smiled. "Thanks Cap."
They talked about the steaks that they were going to have for dinner that
evening. A few minutes later, they realized that Johnny had fallen asleep.
"Guys, why don't you go for some fresh air or something. I think Johnny's
gonna be asleep for a while, I'll stay with him." Roy softly said.
"You're sure Roy?"
"Yeah Mike. You guys go, we'll be okay."
"We'll be back in an hour or so okay?"
"That's fine Cap, see you guys later."
Hank, Mike, Chet, and Marco quietly walked out of the cabin, leaving Roy to
once again contemplate a future without his former partner.
Roy let out a big sigh and softly said to himself, "Oh Johnny…why did this
have to happen to you?"
Roy's mind started to drift, as he went back in time. He was remembering a
rescue they had all gonet on…a heart attack victim on a scaffolding. Johnny went
down to the victim and passed out from the monkey virus, dangling
dangerously from the scaffolding. The next few days had been excruciating as he
and Dr. Brackett had both lingered between life and death.
After Tim Duntley died, Dixie told Roy that his new partner was waiting for
him at the squad, but Roy quickly shrugged that comment off, correcting her
by saying my "temporary" partner. But now, as he watched Johnny sleeping,
it dawned on him that there was nothing "temporary" about THIS situation.
Roy was starting to feel tired himself, as he let his eyes close and
succumbed to the sleepiness.
An hour and a half later, the rest of the guys had returned to find both Roy
and John sound asleep…they decided to let them sleep. Captain Stanley
pulled out a book to read, while Mike, Marco, and Chet played a game of
It was close to 6PM when the two sleeping men woke up.
"It's about time you two woke up."
Marco gave Chet a look. "I know, 'shut up Chet'".
Johnny smiled and said, "I feel like I'm back at the Station. Pay no
attention to them Chet, I just want you to be yourself." He gave Chet a
Marco rubbed his hands together. "I'm ready to start dinner. You
They all answered in the affirmative. Mike helped Marco with the steaks.
They seasoned them inside, and then brought them outside to the grill. Johnny,
wanting to help, sat at the table with Roy, fixing the tossed salad.
An hour later, the six friends were sitting around the table enjoying a
delicious meal. As they were eating, they started to reminisce about other
Captain Stanley started things off. "One of the best meals you made Roy,
was the beef bourginon."
Johnny piped up and said, "Yeah, I remember that. He obsessed over that for
days. Sorry, Roy…had to tell them."
"That's okay Junior, I seem to remember a dish you made…and you were having
a lot of trouble with it. The guys were out at a fire and when they came
back, they were very hungry. You didn't know what to do so you dumped
everything into one pot…they ate it."
Johnny laughed at the memory. "I remember. As I recall Cap, you
even said that despite its strange appearance…it actually tasted good."
"Of course there was Dr. Morton's diet study. Chet decided that we should
be eating dried toast and figs."
"Whose side are you on Marco?" Chet asked in mock hurt.
"Although, I do have to say you make a great chili, Chet."
Roy let out a laugh and turned to Mike. "Hey Mike, I bet you
didn't know you almost broke up two partnerships."
"What are you talking about Roy?"
"Should I tell them Junior…or would you like to do the honors?"
Johnny grinned. "It's okay partner…you can do the honors."
"Well, your spaghetti sauce is really good."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
Mike smiled embarrassingly and softly said, "Thanks guys."
"Anyway, I happened to tell Joanne that I really liked your spaghetti sauce,
and she took it as a slight against her cooking…and World War III nearly
started. We got into a really big argument and she was really upset with
me…I thought we were headed for divorce court. I came to work the next day
with the argument still very fresh in my mind, and my partner here, dragged
it out of me. He tried to help…by calling Joanne with your recipe."
Captain Stanley interrupted Roy's story.
"You did WHAT, Johnny?" Hank asked in disbelief.
Johnny smiled and Roy nodded his head. "Yeah, he sure did. Well…that made
her madder, and to be honest, at that point, I wasn't too thrilled with
Johnny either." Roy smiled. "But, as it turned out, Joanne tried your recipe
and liked it BETTER than her own. So, you see…everything did have a happy
"That was right about the time we had that rescue of those two boys in the
"That's right Cap…Charles and Kirby."
"You remember their names Johnny?"
"I sure do Marco, 'cause I nearly drowned down there in that storm drain.
Roy had made it out with the kids, but I slipped off the ladder and…well…enough
of that. Let's not forget about how delicious Marco's Irish stew is."
They finished eating amid funny stories and wisecracks. Roy knew at that
point, that judging by the contented look on Johnny's face, the grueling
four-hour trip to the cabin was worth it.
Everyone helped clear the table, and since Marco and Mike did the cooking,
Hank and Chet volunteered for dish duty. While they did the dishes, the
other four men, including Johnny, went outside for some fresh air.
As Johnny stepped outside, he was immediately struck by the cool air.
Roy noticed his shivering. "Johnny, I'll get your jacket."
Johnny smiled appreciatively at his best friend. Roy went inside to get
Johnny's jacket, and came back out and helped him to put it on.
"Better Johnny?" Roy asked hopefully.
Roy and John sat on some chairs on the porch while Mike and Marco sat on the
steps, leaning against the railing.
Johnny looked up at the sky. "The stars are beautiful
tonight…reminds me of some of my camping trips."
Marco looked at Johnny coyly, as he hopefully asked, "Johnny, please tell me
you have a prank planned for Chet."
John smiled back at Marco and raised his eyebrows. "I have a
prank planned for Chet."
"So Roy, you really like my spaghetti sauce?" said Mike.
They all laughed.
They sat quietly on the porch, enjoying each other's company. After
finishing the dishes, Hank and Chet joined the others.
Johnny was the first to break the comfortable silence. "Cap, you ever gonna
tell us the REAL reason you burned McConnike's hat?" He looked hopefully
at his former captain.
In a matter of seconds, five pairs of eyes were focused on Hank.
"Sorry guys, I can't tell you. I still have to work with the man."
"Cap, surely you can tell ME…I won't tell a soul."
Shaking his head, Hank said, "Sorry John, no can do."
Enjoying the moment, Johnny let out a laugh.
"What's so funny Pal?"
"I was just thinking about that one surprise inspection from a few years
"I remember it well." Hank said with a chuckle.
Johnny smiled. "You were a bit...paranoid Cap."
Mike joined in, as he said, "Yeah...they came right after we had left on the
first run of the day."
"And all Houts had to say was that the clock in your office was three
Hank smiled and replied, "Like I said Roy...I remember it well."
"What are Joanne and Suzanne doing this weekend?" Chet asked his two married
Hank laughed. "First of all, Suzanne was thrilled to be getting
rid of me for the weekend. She has an interior decorator coming and we're
having a few rooms in the house re-done...I apparently would have been in
"I'm not sure what Joanne's plans are. I think she was planning on staying
home with the kids. Her sister Lynn might be coming down."
"Not your mother-in-law Roy?" Marco commented with a grin.
Giving Marco a look, Roy shook his head. "Perish the thought Marco."
"So when WAS the last time you saw the woman?"
Looking at everyone, Johnny snickered knowing the answer to the question.
"Well...Cap...it's...it's been a few years, actually."
Johnny let out a yawn.
"Getting tired John?"
"Yeah I am Cap. If it's okay with you guys, I think I'll turn in."
They all bid Johnny a good night, and Roy went in with his friend. After Roy
and Johnny left, the others continued to stay out on the porch…Chet took on a
serious tone as he started to talk.
"Johnny gets hit by a car…bitten by a rattlesnake…contracts a deadly
virus, and is caught in explosions...he...he makes it through all of
that...and...and he gets..."
He didn't finish, but the guys all understand what Chet was talking about.
Meanwhile inside, Roy helped Johnny get settled into bed.
"Roy...the guys...they're having a good time, aren't they?"
"Yeah Johnny...they are." Roy paused for a moment. "Johnny...how...how are
you feeling...you okay?"
"I'm okay Pally...just don't go too far."
When Roy heard Johnny say that, he knew that his friend was holding
something back, but he didn't want to make a big production of it so he
didn't say anything.
"Okay Johnny, I'll...I'll be right out here. Call me if...if you need me."
When Roy closed the bedroom door behind him, he couldn't help but wonder if
Johnny coming on this trip was a mistake. Before too long, the others came back
inside, and everyone was in bed asleep.
The next morning around 6 AM, Johnny was the first one up. He was sitting
out on the porch, looking out over the lake and watching the sun come up.
Shortly after he went outside, Hank joined him.
Johnny looked up at his former boss.
"What'cha doin' up so early Pal?"
Johnny softly answered, and said, "I've always loved to watch the sun come
up. My time...my time is runnin' out...I...I just don't know how many more
sunrises I'll see...think I'll take in as many as I can."
Hank didn't know what to say in response, so he sat there and nodded in
Johnny continued to talk softly.
"I understand perfectly how you guys all feel...I remember feeling the same
way a few years ago when my friend Drew died. The difference though,
Drew...Drew's death was sudden...and fairly quick...mine...you
guys...Roy...are...are just watching...as I slowly..."
Hank continued to be at a loss.
"I'm sorry Cap, I'm alright. Sometimes...it...it just gets to me."
The friends continue to sit in silence...watching the sunrise together.
Inside, Roy sat up in bed and grew concerned when he noticed Johnny's empty
Being nervous, Roy asked, "Chet, you seen Johnny?"
Chet turned over and rubbed his eyes.
"He's in bed Roy."
Just then Marco and Mike came into their room.
"You guys seen Johnny?"
Stoker spoke in a quiet voice. "Don't worry Roy, he's outside with
Cap...they got up pretty early."
After a moment, it started to make sense to Roy, as he softly said, "The
sunrise...Johnny loves watching the sun come up."
When 7 AM rolled around, the rest of the guys joined Captain Stanley and
Chet had brewed a fresh pot of coffee. "Anyone interested in
Everyone but Johnny wanted a cup.
"I'll bring a tray out. Johnny, you want milk or something?"
"Milk sounds good Chet...thanks." He replied with an appreciative smile.
After Chet went in and came back out with everyone's drinks, the guys
started to discuss how to spend their day.
"Who's up for some fishing?" asked Johnny.
"Yeah, why not Marco? I feel fine. Let's eat breakfast and go out on the
lake for a few hours...Cap?"
"Okay...I'll suck it up and join you guys...but I'm NOT doing any fishing.
In fact, I want absolutely nothing to do with ANY fish. Got it?"
The guys shared a laugh over Cap's response.
"Got it Cap." Johnny replied.
Roy cooked breakfast, making bacon and eggs for everyone. While eating,
the guys started to reminisce about various things.
"Remember that fishing trip that you, me, and Roy went on together Johnny?"
Johnny smiled at the memory.
"It wasn't so bad, was it Chet?
"I guess...despite the fact that we didn't catch any fish."
"Wasn't that the time that you guys came upon that accident, Roy?"
"Yeah it was Cap. A woman and her young son...they were pretty lucky as I
recall." Roy thought for a moment. "Dr. Frick...wasn't that the doctor's
"Yeah, good ole Doc Frick...we all thought he was gonna be this old country
doctor...turned out to be a fella our age. His nurse...Mrs. Peterson, she
brought me cookies when I was in the hospital after the snakebite."
Everyone's mind went back to that fateful day, but no one said
anything...each person knowing what everyone else was thinking. After gathering
their fishing gear, the guys started for the lake and their boat…a big
rowboat. So as not to tire Johnny out so quickly, it was decided that they
would all drive over, so they all squeezed into Hank's wagon.
On the way to their boat, the guys spotted a very attractive young woman in
a bikini. Marco was the first one to say something.
"The good lord blessed her plenty."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"What do YOU know about women Chet?"
"Plenty Mike...okay maybe not as much as Johnny here..."
With that comment Johnny smiled. "Yeah, there were a few over the years."
Roy chuckled. "That's an understatement if there ever was one. Let's see, there was Christy the baby barracuda reporter...as Johnny here called her…Sheila the cop…the stewardess…"
Johnny supplied the name.
"Sue...Sue Hickman. Well, as I recall there were a couple ladies in YOUR
life besides Joanne, Partner. Mrs. Johnson for one."
Roy looked at Johnny like he was crazy. "I took care of her
"I got another one for ya Pally...Sister Barbara."
Roy smiled fondly. "Well I gotta admit you got me there Junior. I did have a
soft spot in my heart for Sister Barbara."
Chet shook his head, and asked, "What about the one that got away
"Yeah well, I goofed on that one. How was I supposed to know she'd end up
being a great girl?"
Hank was a bit confused. "Cynthia?"
Chet went on and explained.
"It was before you came to the station, Cap…Cynthia was this chick who...who
was a little obsessed with Johnny...but he wanted no part of her...enter
Chester B. Kelly."
The guys pulled up to where the boat was.
"Are ya finished Chet? I'd like to go fishin' now."
"Sure thing, Johnny."
They got their fishing gear together, and boarded the boat. Rowing out to the middle
of the lake, they started fishing.
Roy leaned over to Johnny, and said, "Let me know if you start to get tired,
"Don't worry about me Pally...I'm fine, but if I do get tired you'll be the
first one to know, alright?"
The men of 51's spent the next hour in quiet reflection, but enjoying each
Hank was the first one to break the silence.
"Anyone thirsty...you did remember to take the canteens, right Chet?"
"Cap...are you questioning my sensibilities? Roy asked me to fill them up
and take them, so I did. They're right here."
Chet turned around and handed the canteens to his friends.
"Hey, you guys hear that?"
"Hear what Gage?"
"You guys don't hear it? Look, I know my eyesight is going, but there's
nothing wrong with my hearing."
Roy jumped in, and said, "I hear it too. Listen…it sounds like someone
calling for help."
They looked around them at the shoreline and noticed a man waving his arms.
Gathering in their fishing rods, they headed their boat in that direction.
"Can you please help me. My...my wife...she's...she's gone into labor."
Johnny smiled at the man, as he said, "You're in luck...we're LA County
Firefighters...uh...I mean my friends are. I...I used to be a paramedic."
Roy took charge of the situation.
"Where's your wife?"
"She's...she's in the car. We were getting ready to go for a ride in our
The man brought them to his car, which was only a few yards away...fortunately the car
was a wagon. Roy and Johnny helped the woman to lie down in the back.
"Cap, you and the guys want to go get some help...she'll probably deliver
here, but she'll need an ambulance to get to the hospital."
"Okay Roy. Chet, you stay here in case they need help...we'll be back as
soon as we can."
Hank, Mike, and Marco headed out on foot to find a phone. Johnny, although
resigned from being a paramedic for almost three months, slipped back into
his role with ease. Using his calm voice he asked the woman what her name
"It's Grace." She managed to answer between painful contractions.
"Okay Grace, just try to relax. My name is John Gage and this is my
par...my friend Roy DeSoto and we're gonna help you. When are you due?"
"Chet, can you get us a couple blankets or towels?"
"Sure Roy." He turned to the woman's husband. "How about it...you got any
Johnny stayed by the woman's head, leaving Roy to deliver the baby. Within
15 minutes, Grace delivered her first child.
Roy smiled and announced, "Congratulations, it's a baby girl."
Roy wrapped the baby in a towel and handed it to the new mother.
Johnny was grinning ear to ear. "She's beautiful. What are you
gonna name her?"
The woman's husband answered. "Gabriella...that was Grace's mother's
name...she passed away last year."
Hearing the name, Johnny was temporarily thrown for a loop. He had managed
to somehow keep all thoughts of Gabriella out of his mind...and here he was
once again thinking about her. For his part, Roy didn't say anything in
response...one look at his best friend told him everything.
Before too long, the ambulance arrived with Hank's wagon behind it.
Hank smiled at the sight of the baby. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah Cap, fine." Roy replied.
The couple thanked the guys for their help and left with the ambulance.
Roy took another look at Johnny, who appeared to be quite tired, but also in
"You alright Johnny?"
Johnny nodded his head and softly answered, "I'm fine Roy. Let's go back to
Marco and Mike decided to row the boat back to the dock, but helped put all
the gear into the car first. When they returned to the cabin, Johnny went
to lie down.
"Is he alright Roy?" Hank asked worriedly.
"Yeah Cap, he's fine."
"Just like the good old days, huh Roy?"
Roy smiled wistfully, as he replied, "Just like the good old days Chet."
Once Marco and Mike had returned, Chet started lunch...hamburgers and hot dogs.
When lunch was ready, Roy went in to check on Johnny.
"I'm fine Roy. It's...I've tried so hard to forget about her...and
then...it...it all comes back."
"I'm sorry, Johnny, I know it wasn't easy for you to do what you did."
"You can say that again."
Roy changed the subject hoping to get Johnny in a happier frame of mind.
"Lunch is ready...hamburgers and hot dogs."
Johnny smiled wearily. "How can I decline hot dogs?"
Johnny and Roy joined their friends for lunch.
"Helping to deliver that baby bring back memories for ya Johnny?"
"It did Marco. But I gotta say it wasn't the most exciting
delivery...remember that brush fire Roy?"
"Yeah, we were in a house in the middle of a brush fire with a woman in full
labor. The fire was fast approaching the house, and Captain Hammer told us
we had to evacuate, but we couldn't move her."
"Whatever happened to Captain Hammer, Cap?"
Being a little hesitant, Hank replied, "I think…he retired last year Mike."
Noticing the hesitation, Johnny said, "You know, I think we can all
understand why you can't...or won't...tell us why you burned McConnike's
hat...but can't you at least tell us why Hammer left 51's?"
"Johnny's right, Cap...after all, that's when you became our Captain."
Hank looked around the table at everyone, before he said, ""No Marco,
remember that after Hammer left, Captain Smith was there before I came."
"Oh yeah, that's right, he was. But he was there for such a short time, I
forgot about him."
Everyone looked at Chet...he realized that he shouldn't have said that.
"Sorry, I didn't mean anything by it, and Cap...then YOU became our
Captain...and weren't we lucky. But why DID Captain Hammer leave?"
Hank only smirked at Chet, and said, "Okay...I'll tell you guys...but it
can't ever leave this room."
As everyone agreed and gathered in closer, Hank said, "Dick had...he had an
alcohol problem. He had gotten into fights with his wife…nothing major, but
what really did it was that he was in a bar one night...already drunk…got
into it with a guy...turned out, he was a Battalion Chief...Chief Stan
Giving a loud whistle was Johnny. "Harper...that hardnose? Captain Hammer was lucky that
he wasn't booted out of the Department."
Everyone agreed, then Hank went on.
"Yeah, he was lucky...VERY lucky. Harper and Hammer always had had a bad
relationship...Stan was one of Dick's teachers at the Fire Academy and
always rode him...and it continued as his Battalion Chief. Word is, one
night, Dick went to the bar, already a little tipsy, and Harper was there
and Hammer just lost it...so anyway, he was given a choice...get help...or
resign...he chose to get help and then was reassigned so he would be closer
to his family. And from what I've heard...he's doin' great."
Everyone sat stunned after hearing Hank's explanation of Captain Hammer's
departure from Station 51.
"Wow, that's some story Cap. He...he seemed so normal...you know, in
control and all."
"One could say the same about you, Gage...until they get to know you."
Knowing his friend was joking, Johnny smiled, and said, "Ha...ha."
"Well, since we're talking about past Captains...what about Bob Robertson?
He filled in for you once while you were on vacation."
"He retired a few years ago Roy."
"Boy, he didn't think much of our skills as paramedics." Johnny said shaking his head.
"You're right Johnny...but eventually he did come around."
Johnny started to get really nostalgic.
"Looking back...we sure have had a lot of fun together over the years,
Marco started to laugh. "Remember the trophy we won for the
barbershop quartet routine we did?"
Mike smiled as he remembered it. "Best comedy performance...and
Roy doubted our abilities."
Chet puffed out his chest. "What about that basketball game *I*
won for us."
"Or the softball game you LOST for us."
"Hey...I'm NOT the one who made that silly bet, Marco...now was I?"
"Hey, I apologized many times for that...haven't I?"
"Yeah, you sure did Johnny." replied Roy, patting his friend on the arm.
"I got another one for you guys...and it WAS my idea...that joke we played
"Cap...that was YOUR idea?"
"Sorry, Chet. I was tired of you ganging up on Johnny...had to do
Mike snickered. "It was pretty funny Cap. The eye chart, the imaginary
fly...the lights. It was priceless."
"Making believe I was having trouble with my eyes..."
"Never mind that Chet...you thought you were going crazy."
"You can say that again Johnny. And that last stunt you pulled on
me...telling me there was a five dollar bill on the floor in the locker room."
"Yeah...and you went back and were lookin' for it under Mike's locker."
Johnny smiled at the memory and then let out a yawn.
"I think I'm gonna go catch a few winks. I'll see you guys in a bit."
"Sure thing Pal."
Johnny went into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of his bed. Roy
headed into the bedroom a couple minutes later to change his shirt. When
he entered the room, and saw Johnny sitting on the edge of the bed, he got worried, and quickly went to his friend's side..
Johnny's voice sounded tired as he replied. "Roy...I...I don't feel so
"Okay, why don't you lie down? I brought a couple of O2 tanks...I'll go..."
Stopping his friend, Johnny shook his head. "Roy...I...I don't want you making a big
fuss about this...so no...no O2...I'll just lie down for a while...I'll be
okay...and please don't say anything to the guys...no need to worry them."
"Face it Roy...there's nothing you or…or anyone else can do for me...I'm
gettin' worse...and quickly… it's like I told Cap this morning…time is
simply running out for me."
Roy didn't say anything else...he changed his shirt and went back out to
join the others.
As he came back into the room, Chet sensed something was wrong from seeing
"Roy, is Johnny okay?"
Hoping not to worry his friends, Roy said, "He's just worn out...that's all.
If you guys feel like doing something, go ahead...I'll stay with Johnny."
Chet got up, and said, "I think I'm gonna go for a walk...I'll see you guys
After Chet left, Hank turned to the others. "I'm really concerned
about Chet. He really hasn't handled things very well."
Sitting down in a chair, Roy sighed loudly. "Cap, to be fair, it hasn't been easy for
any of us."
"I know Roy...but I still worry about him."
"Roy, Cap's right, Chet hasn't been right ever since Johnny told us the
"Well Marco, I guess it just goes to show something that seems to come out
every time something happened to Johnny...just how much he really means to Chet."
"Well, I think I'll go lie down for a while. I'm getting a little tired
"Okay Cap, we'll see ya later."
With that said, Hank left the others and went to lie down.
"Cards?" The engineer asked his two friends.
"Sounds good Mike. How about you Roy, want to join us?"
"Sure, why not."
After Roy got up and joined the other two around the table, Marco spoke up.
"How many games of cards have we played over the years?"
"A lot Marco...and it usually came down to Chet and Johnny to see who'd get
stuck with the dishes."
"You're right Mike. Hey Roy, you remember the card game that Johnny
Roy laughed, and nodded his head. "Yeah...he lost at his own game."
Three hours later, Johnny was awake and stretched out in the recliner,
talking to his friends.
Roy was surprised to see his friend so relaxed, given how badly Johnny had
appeared to be feeling just three hours earlier.
Looking around the room, Johnny was concerned when he didn't see Chet
amongst the group.
"He went for a walk, Johnny."
"Roy...that was a few hours ago."
"How do you know that? You were in the bedroom sleeping with the door
"Easy...I know Chet Kelly."
Just then Chet returned to the cabin.
A little bit concerned, Johnny asked, "Chet...you alright?"
"Yeah Johnny, I'm fine. I just wanted some fresh air."
Johnny knew that Chet was still having some difficulty in handling the news of
his friend's illness...even after three months.
"So...what's for dinner tonight?" Johnny asked with a sense of curiosity.
"Well Johnny...I thought I'd make my spaghetti...if that's okay with you."
Johnny smiled. "Sure Mike, it's more than okay with me."
Mike decided to get started preparing his special sauce. While Mike was
cooking, the rest of the gang was relaxing.
Johnny let out a big sigh. "Well, if I can't find out about why
you burned McConnike's hat...I'd at least like to find how the heck Henry
got into the station in the first place."
"Junior...that's one of life's BIG mysteries. I don't think we'll ever know
the answer to that one."
"Ahhhh...Henry. I really miss that dog."
"That's because the two of you shared the same brain, Chet."
Giving his friend a smirk, Chet replied, "Very funny Marco."
Johnny spoke up. "I thought it was…good one Marco, I'm rubbing off
Everyone got a laugh out of that…usually it would have been Johnny to say
something to put Chet down…since it wasn't, that made the guys worry even
more about their friend.
"Lest we not forget about Boot, fellas."
"You're right Cap...after all, he did help us find that fallen hiker on that
"And then promptly left us for a snorkel company." Mike responded from the
"You know Johnny...you sure had a way with the animals."
Remembering some of the runs, Johnny nodded his head. "I sure did...lions, tigers…and
"How about stray cats and victim's dogs?"
Johnny giggled. "Yeah, those too I suppose. Actually, I seem to
recall a few silly situations involving dogs. Sheba, the dog on the
roof...thought I was seeing things when we drove up. And…and that dumb dog
that ran into those sliding doors when we were with the babysitter."
"You remember that, Johnny?"
"Yeah, I do Roy...and those kids. It really made me glad that I wasn't married,
although I remember the babysitter was pretty good looking."
"Going back to 'where are they now', whatever happened to your friend Gil
"Last I heard, Marco, he got certified and transferred to Sacramento. Once he
left me and Roy, I lost track of where he went."
"What about Ed Marlow?"
Roy shuddered at the sound of Ed's name.
"I was hoping to never hear that name again Chet, but I do know when he was
bounced from the paramedic program he was assigned to Station 41's B-shift,
and then ultimately went to 110's C-shift. Hey, remember that other trainee
we had...Billy? Well, I hear he's married with twin girls. I think he's
working at 10's under Stoney."
"Good for him...Stoney's a good guy." Johnny said.
"As long as we're taking a stroll down memory lane...in all the years of the
DeSoto-Gage partnership...what is your list of silliest rescues?"
Roy looked at his former partner and smiled...Johnny sheepishly looked down
at the floor.
"Well Cap...I'm gonna have to defer to Johnny on that one."
Giving Roy a look, Johnny sighed loudly. "Roy...let me guess which "rescue" you're
Chet jumped in, and asked, "Didn't it have something to do with a girdle?"
"I'll never live that one down, will I? Well Pally...I do recall another
one…a "little girl" with her toe stuck in the bathtub faucet."
"Yeah, *I* got the toe out...because my partner bailed out on me. You took
one look at the girl and left the room."
"That's because the so-called little girl was this very attractive "big
girl". You know looking back at my career, the one thing that I always
wondered about is how people managed to get themselves into so many dumb
"You can say that again partner...like the woman who got stuck in the doggy
"The doggy door?" Hank asked incredulously.
"Cap...you had to see it to believe it. This...this woman was..."
Seeing his partner's hesitation, Johnny said, "Oh for cryin' out loud Roy,
just say it...she was fat. She locked herself out of the house and figured she
could get in through the doggy door. As she had said it herself…she had done it before."
"Yeah, and remember she asked us if doggy doors could…shrink?"
Hank looked at Roy and Johnny with disbelief. "How did you guys
get her out?"
"Her husband came home and I went inside with him and pulled, while Johnny
"Roy, don't forget Harvey...the fella who was trapped naked in the sofa
bed...or the boy who had his finger stuck in the gumball machine. He and
the hamburger stand owner were jawing back and forth."
"How do you guys remember all these rescues?"
Johnny laughed with much amusement. "Well Marco, sometimes things just stay with
you…no matter how hard you might try to forget them."
Looking in Mike's direction, Cap asked, "How's everything coming along
"Fine Cap. Dinner'll be ready in about an hour and a half...hope you guys
are hungry. Right now, I'm just enjoying hearing about some of Roy and
"What about that silly call that involved all of us?"
Everyone looked at Chet questioningly.
"Chet, what are you talkin' about?" Johnny asked.
"The ice rink call…remember, the two clowns that got into a fight."
Marco grinned at the memory. "You're right Chet, we were all
slipping on the ice...it was like a slapstick routine."
After a moment, Johnny slowly got up from the recliner. "Anyone
want to join me for a walk?"
The guys all looked at each other…a surprised look on each of their faces.
Seeing their facial expressions, Johnny added, "It's not like I'm gonna go
for a LONG walk or anything. I just want to stretch out my legs."
"Let's all go Johnny. Care to join us Mike?" asked Roy.
"You guys go, I'm gonna stay here and make sure my sauce doesn't boil over."
Johnny put on his sweatshirt and went out the door with his friends right
behind him. As the five men made their way outside, none of them said
anything...they figured that their friend just wanted to get outside for a
while, and if given a few minutes, he would start the conversation. After a
few minutes of walking quietly in the sunshine, Johnny did start to talk.
"You know...I've always liked to...watch the sunrise...and set...just don't
know how many more...I'm gonna get to see...and it kinda...kinda scares me.
Havin' to leave you guys...it's somethin' that...I don't wanna do..."
Johnny stopped talking for a minute, mostly to catch his breath.
"Johnny...are you alright?"
Looking up at his friend, Johnny smiled, and nodded his head. "Yeah Chet...I'm
alright…just trying to catch my breath."
Becoming more worried, Hank asked, "Johnny, do you need to go back to the
cabin, you know, and rest?"
"Yeah Junior, maybe you should."
Holding up his hands to stop his friends, Johnny said, "Guys...really, I'm
okay. I can be sitting down, not doing anything, and still have trouble
breathing...it comes with this...so if I NEED to go back, I'll tell
Not being totally convinced, but not wanting to upset Johnny, Roy said, "All
right Johnny, but if you DO need to go back, please let us know."
Johnny only nodded his head yes, as the five friends started to walk again.
After a few minutes Johnny started to speak again. The other four men looked at him,
as though he was going to say something meaningful...his face was very
serious before breaking into a big grin.
"Mike Stoker is...is practically perfect...well at least everyone THINKS
he is...but *I* know the truth."
Johnny's friends shook their heads and smiled...Roy had a feeling he knew
what was coming.
"Yes...Mikey looks like the all-American guy...quiet, unassuming,
responsible...but lest we forget that he along with Marco was responsible
for starting a fire at the station. Marco...you remember that, don't you?
That invention that you guys had...the invention that was supposed to aid in
putting OUT a fire, not START a fire."
"It was Mike's idea...I was only going along with it."
Johnny continued, as he said, "And what he did to our poor Captain."
Everyone was looking at him like he had lost it.
"And what exactly did Mike Stoker ever do to me?" Hank asked, baffled.
"Well...it was right after McConnike had become our Battalion Chief. We had
that fire drill and that hose blew...and McConnike went down like a sack of
potatoes. Well, isn't he the one largely responsible for the equipment on
Chet nodded his head. "Johnny's right. The rest of us make mistakes...but
Stoker...he gets off way too easy. Hey Roy..."
"Weren't you the one who put out the fires at the station? The time that
Johnny blew up the TV, the time I was waxing my skis, and the aforementioned
invention of his and Marco's?"
"Well, it seems to me that Johnny is on to something here. You're the one
whose fast thinking and quick actions put out the fires...not Stoker, our
Johnny smiled and nodded his head. "I rest my case. I...I just
had to get that off my chest. Oh, by the way, you were helpin' me with the
TV Chester…so don't go blamin' it all on me."
Marco looked at the others. "You know, you two are right. We've
all had our...episodes of craziness or even paranoia." As he said that he
smiled at Hank. "But Mike has somehow escaped being under the proverbial
"Oh, I can't wait till our dinner conversation starts. I can see it
now...obsessions, craziness...and paranoia. And I gotta say Junior...when
it came to obsessions, you were second to no one."
"Well Pally...it's nice to know I excelled in something...besides being a
Roy was watching Johnny closely and he could tell that his friend was
starting to have some difficulties.
"Why don't we head back now. Johnny...you with us partner?"
"Uh...yeah, I'm...I'm just a little dizzy."
"Let's sit down fellas."
"No Cap...I'm...I'm alright."
"Johnny, it's not a suggestion...it's an order."
Johnny wistfully smiled, as he said, "But you're not my Captain
"John, pal...I'll ALWAYS be your Captain...and I'll ALWAYS outrank you.
Now let's all sit for a while."
With Johnny finally giving in, the five friends sat down under a tree for a
little while to let Johnny rest.
"It's so beautiful here Johnny, I'm glad that you suggested this trip."
"I remember the first time we all came here." Roy started.
"I do too Roy…it was about a year after I took over 51's. I decided the six
of us needed a bonding experience."
Remembering the disaster that that trip was, Chet added, "As if fighting
fires together wasn't bonding enough."
"Do I detect a note of sarcasm Kelly?" Hank asked with a raised eye brow.
Before Chet could answer, Roy offered his thought on that trip…rescuing his
friend from their captain.
"I think it was a fun trip...and a great idea Cap."
Chet looked at Roy questioningly. "Fun? I seem to recall that
trip a bit differently than you do Roy."
"That's because you and Johnny spent the whole time arguing."
"No Roy...there was more to it than that. We were in tents...in the rain, on
the first night. Everything was soaked. We had a run in with a skunk and I
ended up with a bad cold...that's what *I* remember."
Johnny let his mind go back in time to that first camping trip that they had all taken
together. It HAD been kind of a disaster...he and Chet DID spend a lot of time
arguing, but he also remembered sitting around the fire...thinking to
himself how lucky he was to have finally found "family" and a sense of
"Feeling better, Partner?"
Johnny nodded his head. "I'm okay...let's go back."
Roy helped his friend up and made sure to stay close to him...just in case Johnny had needed additional assistance.
They slowly made their way back to the cabin where they were greeted by the
wonderful aroma of Mike's spaghetti sauce. When they all walked in, they
took one look at Stoker and burst out laughing, remembering what Johnny had
said about him really not being perfect after all.
Mike only shook his head and smiled. "Did you guys all fall and
hit your head or something?"
Before too long, the six friends were sitting down together enjoying
Stoker's spaghetti dinner.
Looking suspiciously at each of his friends, Mike couldn't contain his
curiosity any longer.
"Okay...what did I do? You guys are making me feel self-conscious."
"Nothing Mike...absolutely nothing. You're practically perfect."
Johnny grinned widely after saying that. Mike smiled but didn't say
"Well Mike, on our little walk we were talking about obsessions and
"Don't forget paranoia Cap."
"Kelly, you twit...I was getting there. Among those topics, what things
first pop into your head Mike? And remember...I am your superior and I do
Mike grinned slyly, as he replied, "Well...truthfully, Cap...I recall your
episodes of paranoia. Like when McConnikee first became our Battalion
Chief...and your craziness about your so-called arthritis. I remember you
accusing Roy of spilling the beans, when in fact it was YOU who did.
THAT'S what I remember."
"Thanks Pal." Hank replied with a small chuckle, and shaking his head.
Chet leaned over and whispered to Johnny. "Stoker's too truthful,
and he wouldn't lie...even if it WAS about Cap."
"How about Herbert, Chet? It seems to me that you were pretty obsessed with
"Maybe so, but I'M not the one who named him...Marco."
"Beasts are God's children too."
"As I recall, you lost a lot of sleep over that mouse Pal...especially that
next morning when the trap went off."
"Yeah...and then that damn mouse ended up going outside. Oh...I remember
that mouse vividly, Cap."
Looking over at his friend, Roy said, "As I said on our walk...my partner
here takes a back seat to no one when it comes to obsessions."
"Okay...I admit I HAVE gotten a little nutty...at times." Johnny remarked.
Chet looked at Johnny incredulously, and asked, "A LITTLE nutty...at times?"
"So what's your point Chet?"
"All I'm saying is that I happen to agree with Roy...that's all. Like the
time you were obsessed with that magic ball. What was that magician's name
"Lorenzo the Magnificent."
"Gage's big secret to the universe turned out to be 'made in Japan'."
"And that time Chet teased you about playing the horn in the squad. You
ended up trying to play how many instruments?"
"It was only a few Marco. I ended up with the guitar."
"And you weren't very good at that instrument either, Johnny. You shoulda
stuck to the squad horn."
"Well Chet, I know there's more coming my way, but in the meantime, here's
one for YOU...Dr. Morton's diet study."
Everyone groaned at that memory.
"Alright…I admit I can go a little overboard myself."
"Really Chet? I hadn't noticed."
"Okay Gage…back to you. Let's see…how about your obsession with honesty?"
Johnny had a pensive look on his face as he remembered his honesty kick from
a few years earlier. He was remembering the house fire with the old blind man
in it…the man had told Johnny to take the baby out. Johnny had assumed that the old man would be following. He had never told Johnny that he was blind and Roy had to
subsequently go back into the house and rescue the old man.
"Well, I think we all owe it to ourselves to be honest…or as honest as we
"Does that include what people's opinions of others really are?"
The guys all looked at Chet wonderingly.
Sensing their curiosity of what he was talking about, Chet continued, as he
said, "I was referring to the time when you got all bent out of shape
because Roy thought you were a nut."
Johnny laughed at the memory, and said, "I AM a nut Chet…I admit it."
Roy added, "A FRIENDLY nut Johnny…FRIENDLY being the key word here."
Roy remembered another one of his best friend's obsessions.
"How about that episode of Adam-12? We had a run in the middle of it and
you were really going crazy trying to figure out how it ended…you took me
with you, as it turned out. You ended up in the hospital that night with
radiation exposure…by the time I was about to head back to the station, you
had already forgotten about it. When I said something about it, you decided
that you didn't want to know how it ended."
"Yeah…that it would spoil the re-run for me. I never did get to see that
Captain Stanley decided to mention another one of Johnny's obsessions.
"Well John…I gotta say, this one started out with good intentions…and I was
actually very proud of you for thinking it up…"
"Let me guess…my attempt at a better system for recording our runs?"
Roy looked at Johnny with a sense of pride, as he remarked, "I really
thought you were on to something Junior…hooking the squad radio to a tape
Johnny smiled wistfully. "But…like a lot of my endeavors…it failed. The
card game, the game show, the canvas spanner sleeve, fixing the TV…"
Roy and Hank both looked at Johnny with concern, as Roy spoke to his friend.
"Johnny…what the heck are you talking about? So maybe you WEREN'T perfect
when it came to that kind of stuff…but when it came to the important
stuff…like being a paramedic and a good friend…you DID succeed."
Johnny's friends felt compelled to remind him of some of the things that he DID
Marco spoke first. "What about the tunnel cave in Johnny? Those two
workers are alive because you kept your head about yourself."
"And you did sell the most tickets at the firemen's picnic a few years ago."
"What about the bank robbers that you talked into letting us go, Johnny?"
Johnny burst out laughing. It was only a few seconds before everyone had
realized that Johnny was just playing with them.
When Johnny realized they knew he was just kidding, he continued. "Hey,
that tunnel cave-in was pretty hairy…I had dirt in places that I didn't
think was possible. As for the tickets I sold…I really wanted the second
prize…the waterbed. Instead, I got a trip to Las Vegas."
"I don't remember you going to Vegas Johnny."
"I didn't go Marco, I gave the prize to Dixie...she and Dr. Brackett
went…after he recovered from the car accident that he had been in. As I
understand…they went as friends. And as for that bank hostage thing
Roy…truthfully, I didn't know what I was doing, I was merely being myself.
I really didn't mean to make you guys think that I thought I was a failure.
I do know I was a darn good paramedic and great at what I did. I just
wanted you guys to remind me of some of the things that I DID do right."
After dinner, Chet and Marco did the dishes while Mike and Hank sat down on
the couch. Roy and John went out on the porch for some fresh air. Once the
two friends were sitting down, Roy glanced over at his former partner.
Johnny had his head back resting on the back of the chair, his eyes closed.
"You alright Johnny?" he asked, a trace of worry in his voice.
Roy knew that his friend was starting to run out of steam.
Not opening his eyes, Johnny softly answered. "I'm okay Roy…just
The two friends sat in silence. Johnny was thinking to himself how time was
really starting to run out on him. Roy was thinking the very same
thing…that pretty soon Johnny would be…gone.
"I was thinking…the two of us have had our share of…of strange things
happening to us, ourselves."
Roy smiled at Johnny. He knew exactly what his friend was referring to.
"Yeah Junior, we certainly have. Being accused of a hit and run, and also
being accused of stealing money from that guy. We were lucky to get off the
hook for both of those…we coulda lost our careers over them."
"What about that award we got…that we couldn't remember the run in
"I remember Johnny. Turns out it was for the paramedics of Squad 15, not
"What about the time you stayed over my apartment while your house was being
"I remember that too…it was a very memorable experience. It reminded us
that even best friends need a break from each other…sometimes."
Johnny slowly opened his eyes, turned his head and started to speak to his
"Hey, did I ever tell you that Chet ended up buying that contraption from
me…the one that you tried to sleep on?"
"No. Why did he do that?"
"I don't know…but he loves it. The money he gave me for it allowed me to
buy my comfortable LA-Z-BOY recliner. Oh…and that big football game we
Slightly laughing, Roy said, "Yeah…we hardly got to see any of it...and it
was over by the time we got back from our last run."
A half hour later, Roy and Johnny were joined by the rest of their friends
out on the porch. Hank cleared his throat before he spoke.
"You know Roy…you were pretty quick to remind Johnny about some of his…for
lack of a better word, "episodes". We were talking inside, you've had a few
of your own, Pal."
"I know that, Cap. I never did say that I was immune from the craziness
that is our station."
"Like the time you were trying to figure out where to go on your family
"Well as I remember Marco, I didn't ASK for advice…but everyone sure GAVE it
to me. We ended up on a farm…and had a miserable time."
"And when you tried to pick us a winning racehorse…and we lost."
"Hey, I warned you guys that it wasn't a good idea, Chet. I knew it wasn't a
good idea…but as usual, no one listened to me. I only liked to pick horses
"How about when you aced out your partner during that model shoot?"
Roy grinned. That was one of the few times that he was able to get one over
"I had nothing to do with that, Cap. They wanted some guys in the
background…so I did it. I was merely doing what I was told to do."
"I have a few favorites of my own…partner."
"Alright Junior, let's hear them."
"Well, I remember the game show that you and Joanne went on…how could you
not know that your favorite vegetable was peas, Roy?"
"Because…Johnny, my favorite vegetables are ARTICHOKES."
"How can Joanne not even know what your favorite vegetable was…didn't she
say carrots, Roy?"
"Yes Chet…she said carrots. We had a little discussion about that after the
show…I ended up spending the night on the couch."
"Here's another one, Pally…the hot dog stand. We were all gonna go in on it,
but by the time you had stopped dragging your feet, Cap informed us that it
had burnt down the prior shift."
"Yeah, well…I apologized for that one."
"What about that time you had your tonsils taken out ,and Chet was injured,
and the two of you ended up sharing a hospital room?"
Roy looked over at Chet.
"How can I possibly forget THAT experience?" Roy said with a groan.
After the chuckles died down from Roy's last comment, they all looked over
at Johnny who looked like he wanted to say something.
"I…I don't know what tomorrow will bring…so there's something…something I
want to say to all of you...while I still have the chance."
The other men got real quiet and let Johnny's last comment sink in.
"You know, when something bad happens and…and you search your brain
wondering why you deserved for that to happen to you…and you wonder what you
did wrong…well, over the years, I've often wondered what I did RIGHT to
deserve working with you all…I lucked out big time. That...that first day I
met you Roy...and you asking me to become your partner at 51's...and
subsequently all of US ending up together…"
Taking a minute to catch his breath, he went on.
"The good Lord smiled down on me and made sure that I was surrounded by good
and decent people...people who looked out for me and protected me. I...I
just wanted to say thank you to all of you…you've all been...been my family
and I will never have enough words to say how much you all have meant to me
and...and how much...I'm gonna miss you all. Coming here this weekend was
very important to me…and I'm grateful to all of you for…taking the time to
spend it with me."
When Johnny was done talking, they could all see that he had tears running
down his cheeks.
Struggling to get out of his chair, Roy came over to help Johnny up. Too
emotional to even say "good-night" to his friends, he left the porch to go
inside…Roy behind him. The others started to realize how much of a toll
this trip was taking on their friend…both physically and emotionally.
To no one in particular, Chet whispered what everyone else was thinking.
"He's gettin' worse."
Inside Roy was helping Johnny get settled for the night…on the verge of
losing his own emotions. Roy looked into his best friend's brown eyes and
could see the emotion and pain that Johnny was currently grappling with.
Johnny spoke softly, and said, "Roy…I…I think I'd like to use one of the O2
tanks...I'm…I'm hurtin' here…my…medication too."
Roy got up from the chair that he was sitting in, and got one of the tanks that
were sitting in the corner of the bedroom. After taking care of the oxygen,
he handed Johnny the pills and a glass of water. Johnny swallowed his
medication and slowly put his head back on the pillow.
Looking back up at Roy, he could see the concern all over Roy's face.
"I'm…I'm okay Roy…you…you go outside with the others…I'm gonna go to sleep
Roy left the room, quietly closing the door behind him. He didn't go
outside to join the others, instead he sat down on the couch and started to
replay the last few months over in his head.
When the others came back in for the night, Roy went out to sit on the
porch. There was no way he'd be able to get any sleep…especially knowing that
his best friend was hurting. They knew from the expression on his face that
he was very upset and wanted to be alone.
While everyone decided to turn in for the night, Roy continued to sit
outside. As the time approached 1:30 AM, Hank went outside to check on his
"Roy…what are you still doing out here?"
Roy softly answered his Captain. "Not tired Cap."
"Did something happen when you were with Johnny?"
"He's...he's...he told me that he was really hurting. Cap, you know
Johnny...how stoic he is when it comes to being in pain or not feeling well.
This is the first time that he...he said that and I'm scared...plain and
simple. Brackett said six months, and that was at the end of April...now
it's July, almost August. I'd like to think that Johnny will last
longer...but now, I'm not so sure."
"Roy, Johnny's tough. He'll continue to fight, if for no other reason...than
for you and your family."
"Is it fair to expect that of him…I mean, isn't that being selfish?"
Sitting down beside his friend, Hank tried to say something that would help
"No Roy...it's just Johnny being Johnny...because he cares so much about
you. Why don't you come to bed now?"
Roy shook his head. "I'm really not tired, I'd rather just stay out here
for a while. Will you check on Johnny for me?"
Hank looked at Roy one more time before going back inside. Looking quickly
in on Johnny, he saw that the young man appeared to be sleeping comfortably. He then made his way back to his bedroom, and his own bed.
It was 4:15 AM when Roy finally went inside for bed. When he quietly entered
the bedroom, he was surprised to see Chet sitting in a chair beside Johnny's
Worried, Roy quietly asked, "Is he okay Chet?"
"Yeah, he's fine. I woke up around 2 and couldn't get back to sleep. I
didn't know what else to do, so I've just been sitting here watching him
Of course Roy didn't have to ask his friend what he had been thinking
Roy quickly got undressed and into bed.
The next morning, like the day before...Johnny was the first one up. He put
on his jacket and quietly went out to sit on the porch...he wanted to see
the mountain sunrise, one more time.
On this occasion, the first one to join him was Marco.
"Buenas Dias, Johnny. How'd you sleep last night?"
"Pretty well, actually. How about you?"
"Like a rock." Marco lowered his voice to a whisper, to ask his friend the
next question. "So, you gonna tell me what you have planned for Chet?"
Johnny grinned. "You ever hear of pate', Marco?"
Before Johnny could explain further, a big smile broke out on Marco's face.
"Alpo dog food on crackers...that's all I have to tell you."
Marco looked over at Johnny with great affection.
"Can I ask you a question, Johnny?"
"Sure. What's up?"
"Are...are you scared?"
Johnny took a moment to think before answering his friend.
"I was Marco. Don't get me wrong, the thing that still upsets me is having
to leave you guys and everyone else behind. In the beginning, the scariest
thing for me was making sure that I had enough time to...to do some of the
things that I...I felt I had to do. But now…I'm ready."
Johnny paused to catch his breath before continuing.
"I'm tired Marco, and I hurt all the time. I miss my parents and...and the
rest of my family. I'm ready to go."
Marco was stunned at hearing Johnny's admission.
"Marco...you don't have to tell anyone else about this conversation, okay.
I...I don't want to upset anyone, especially Roy and Chet."
"Sure Johnny. I'm glad you shared it with me."
Johnny smiled wearily at his friend.
"Marco…I...I've always admired you. When the time comes and…and I think back
on my career and all the people I've worked with...you'll be among my
favorites. I'll remember you with much affection amigo. I just wanted you to
"Johnny...thanks, that means a lot...I've always admired you too."
The quiet of the morning was soon broken, as the rest of the group joined
Johnny and Marco out on the porch. Roy was relieved to see Johnny, at
least appearing outwardly to be feeling better.
"Mornin' Pally." Johnny answered with a relaxed smile.
Hank rubbed his hands together, as he asked, "So what are we gonna do today
Everyone looked over at Johnny.
"What would you like to do Pal?"
"Just float around on the boat for a while. Then if everyone's up for it,
there's a place in the mountains about an hour from here that I'd like to
Roy smiled to himself.
**My partner sure loves his mountains**
"Sounds like a plan, Johnny."
"Let's eat some breakfast guys, I started making some pancakes."
Johnny glanced over at Chet, and asked, "Since when do you make pancakes
Chet? In all the years I've known you...you never once made pancakes at the station."
"That's right Johnny...not at OUR station...but my pancakes have become the
stuff of legends at OTHER stations."
Johnny didn't say anything else. He remembered Joanne's last birthday and
how it turned out that Roy was actually a really good cook.
**If the guys catch wind that I'm a good cook, they'll expect it every time,
Remembering what his best friend told him, he decided to let Chet just bask
in the glory that was his pancakes.
Going in for breakfast, Roy stopped in the doorway, and turned around.
"I can do this Roy, please don't worry about me. I...I just have to get
through one more day...just one more day, then I can..."
When Johnny didn't finish his sentence, Roy realized what his friend was
implying...a thought that sent chills down his spine. The two friends stood
facing each other, briefly making eye contact before Johnny looked away.
Johnny softly spoke, and said "Don't worry about me Roy...it's not about me
After breakfast Marco and Mike made everyone sandwiches to bring with them
for lunch. Arriving at the boat, they decided that they'd spend about an
hour and a half relaxing out on the water before heading back in. They rowed
out to the middle of the lake and stopped, letting the boat drift in the water.
Hank slowly stood up to stretch his legs...the same time Chet turned around
to look at the sailboat that was nearby...knocking his Captain overboard.
"Kelly...I'm gonna kill you!" Hank shouted.
Mike and Marco helped their Captain back into the boat.
Roy looked at his wet friend, and asked, "You alright Cap?"
"Yes Roy, I'm fine."
Chet handed Hank the towel he was holding.
"I'm really sorry Cap."
"Yeah, I know...it was an accident."
As everyone tried to keep a straight face, Johnny recalled two runs that he
and Roy had gone on a few years ago.
"You've gone on a couple impromptu swims yourself, Partner."
Roy answered Johnny, wincing at the memory. "Don't remind me
Johnny. One time that big dog tripped me and I fell into the pool trying to
retrieve the BP cuff. The second time I was pushed in by a family member
during a suicide attempt that wasn't. Yeah...I remember, Junior...it took
days for my shoes to dry out."
Smiling, Johnny said, "Yeah, I remember...after we got back, I was drying
out the stuff in the drug box and when you walked out into the bay, your
shoes were still squeaking. Everybody could hear you coming from miles away,
After hearing Johnny's comment about his squishy shoes, Roy's mind traveled
back in time. That was right around the time he had received word of his
promotion to Engineer. He had wrestled greatly with the decision of whether
or not to take the promotion, but ultimately decided against taking it.
His love for being a paramedic and his loyalty to Johnny, as well as the
need to want to protect and watch over his partner, overrode the need for
more money and a higher standing in the Department. Looking over at his best
friend, he smiled, knowing that in the end, he definitely had made the right
As Roy was looking at Johnny, the sailboat that Chet was trying to get a
look at came closer to their boat. As all six men looked up at the
approaching vessel, six pairs of eyes were popping out and six mouths hung
open...standing at the railing of the sailboat and waving to them were three
very beautiful and very topless women.
"Hi fellas." Three voices cooed at them.
As the sailboat passed them, the men all looked at each other with
"Did we just see what I thought we did?"
"Marco pal...yes, we certainly did."
Looking at his boss, Chet asked, "Cap...now do you forgive me for turning
around and knocking you over? That's what I thought I saw out of the corner
of my eye when I went to turn and look."
Reassuring his friend, Hank replied, "Chet, I forgive you...but you're not
completely off the hook just yet."
Once the surprise wore off them, Johnny was the first to speak.
"Boy, those gals sure were something else."
"They sure were Johnny. Cap, what would Suzanne have to say about that?" Mike asked his captain.
"Honestly? Well, Mike...my wife would probably laugh and say that if she
were only 20 years younger...she'd do it too."
The guys were all surprised at their Captain's answer.
"Suzanne's become quite liberated over the years. What about Joanne, Roy?"
Johnny had his ideas of what his best friend's wife would do, but he kept
them to himself.
After thinking a moment, Roy said, "Joanne's quite modest, but maybe after a
few drinks...who knows."
"I actually went out with a girl who liked nude sunbathing."
Everyone looked at Marco with surprise.
Being very curious, Chet asked, "Who was that Marco?
"You guys remember Daisy?"
Johnny's jaw dropped open. "Daisy, the nurse…the one who
tricked us into helpin' out at the orphanage…she likes nude sunbathing?"
"That's right, the one and the same. She and I went on a picnic...let's
just say the good Lord blessed her plenty too."
After drifting on the lake for another hour, they decided to head in…Hank
had mostly dried off after being in the sun for as long as he was. Piling
into the wagon, Hank followed Johnny's directions to their mountain
destination, and arrived there an hour later.
Getting out of the car, everyone was in awe of the beauty surrounding them.
"Johnny, this is so beautiful."
"Thanks Chet, I knew you guys would like it."
Looking over at Johnny, Roy once again saw the expression of peace that was
on his friend's face...the same look that Johnny had had on his face when he
brought Roy to HIS spot in the mountains. Johnny was leaning against the
car, looking out at the beautiful scenery. No one said anything...they
could only imagine what their friend was thinking.
Marco was in deep thought too, he was thinking about the conversation that
he'd had with Johnny that morning. He didn't want his friend to die, but if
Johnny was in as much pain as he said he was...Marco just didn't want his
friend to suffer any more than he had to.
After a half-hour of quiet reflection, Mike and Marco broke out the
sandwiches for everyone. Johnny was still very quiet, but even though he
wasn't feeling the greatest...the reason for his quiet behavior wasn't what
everyone else assumed it to be. The reality was that he was busy plotting
against Chet...the Phantom would NOT be having the last laugh.
When Marco handed Johnny his ham sandwich, he received a wink. He then was
reminded that Johnny had planned a last hurrah for Chet. He smiled back at
Johnny acknowledging the meaning behind the cryptic wink.
On the trip back to the cabin, Johnny had fallen asleep in the car. Looking at their
sleeping friend, they could plainly see how exhausted he was. A little more
than an hour later, they arrived back to their cabin. Roy didn't want to
wake his friend up, but knew that Johnny would be more comfortable sleeping
"Junior...we're at the cabin."
Johnny didn't stir right away, so Roy gave his friend a slight nudge. When
Johnny opened his eyes, he was still groggy from sleep.
"Johnny...come on partner."
As he started to wake up more fully, he got his bearings back. As Roy
helped Johnny out of the car, he noticed that his friend seemed to be
running a fever.
"Johnny...let's get you into bed so you can get some more sleep. I want you
to take some Tylenol...you seem to be a bit warm."
"I'm okay Roy…don't be such a worrywart."
He smiled weakly after he said that. As long as the two of them had been
partners, Roy had ALWAYS worried about him. After Johnny got into bed, he
agreed to take two Tylenol, and quickly fell back to sleep. Hank was cooking
dinner that night and while he himself was not real big on seafood, he knew
his crew was, so as a special treat for their last meal together, he had
bought lobsters, crabs, and shrimp for everyone.
While Johnny was sleeping, the rest of the guys were sprawled out in the
Roy looked at his watch, he saw it was already 3 in the afternoon…they only
had another 17 hours together. He knew in all likelihood that after the next morning, the next time they'd ALL be together would probably be gathered
around Johnny's deathbed. It was a sobering thought, but he knew Johnny was
right…time was simply running out.
Suddenly feeling very tired himself, Roy excused himself to lie down for
awhile. Entering the bedroom he paused in the doorway, smiling at the
familiar sight of Johnny sleeping with his left arm over his eyes. When Roy
woke up two hours later, Johnny was still sound asleep.
When Roy rejoined his friends, Hank's dinner preparations were well
"Sleep well Roy?"
Hank was concerned with the emotional toll that the weekend seemed to have
taken on his senior paramedic.
"Yeah, I did. I didn't realize how tired I was."
"We have a surprise for Johnny, Roy. We're gonna give it to him after
Being a little worried over what his friend had planned, Roy asked,
"Depends. What is it, Chet?"
As Chet's voice took on a hopeful tone, he said, "Well, the four of us
worked on it last week at Captain Stanley's house…it's a photo album...pictures of...of
all of us through the years. He'll like that, won't he?"
Relieved, Roy smiled at his friend, and softly said, "He'll love it Chet.
That's the best present you guys can give Johnny…and it'll mean everything
to him, believe me."
As the time approached 5:45 PM and Johnny was still asleep, Roy let everyone
but Chet, in on Johnny's practical joke. While Mike and Marco kept Chet
occupied out on the porch, Hank helped Roy prepare the special platter of
appetizers. They made sure to keep the empty dog food can but hid it, to
eventually let Chet in on the joke.
After preparing the platter of "goodies", Roy covered it with plastic wrap
and put it in the refrigerator, away from Chet's prying eyes. At 6 PM Roy
went to check on his friend. Johnny was sitting up in the bed, rubbing his
"Sleep well Johnny?"
"Yeah, I...I guess I over did it today. Brackett wouldn't be too pleased
with how I've been pushing myself. He didn't want me to go on this trip."
Roy came over and sat down at the foot of Johnny's bed.
"Dr. Brackett told me about the conversation the two of you had that night
at the hospital...the night that you had the bad nosebleed at the
"Oh." Johnny really wasn't surprised at that. "Roy...everything I've done
over the last few months, I have no regrets...everything was worth it to me.
This weekend...I HAD to do this."
"I know Johnny...I know. Listen, Cap and I took care of the special treat
"I...I forgot all about it...thanks."
"Dinner'll be ready in a bit. You'll be okay?"
Roy knew just by looking at Johnny that he wasn't doing so well.
Johnny smiled weakly at his best friend. "I'll be fine
Pally...just one more night."
Before Johnny went out to join the rest of the group, he asked Roy to get him
his medication. A few minutes later, an outwardly relaxed Johnny emerged
from the bedroom.
"Everything smells great Cap."
Roy was the only one who knew Johnny was bluffing...as he was also the only
one who knew that Johnny's sense of smell had virtually disappeared. Roy went to
the refrigerator and took out the "appetizers." He nonchalantly put them out
on the table.
Like bees to honey, Chet was all over them, putting first one of the covered
crackers in his mouth, followed by another one. He looked around at everyone
and was surprised when no one else made a move toward them.
"They're incredible. Aren't you guys gonna have some…what is it anyway?"
Trying to keep the smile off of his face, Johnny spoke up. "It's
called pate', Chet and it's an old recipe. I only make it on special
occasions...and THIS is as special as it gets."
Chet looked over at Johnny curiously, and asked, "When did you make this
Johnny? You've been asleep for the last few hours."
Roy offered an explanation. "He DIDN'T make it, Chet...*I* did. I
found Johnny's recipe and while you were outside with Mike and Marco, I made
"Oh and before you ask, Chet...I don't divulge my ingredients. Cap won't tell
us why he burned McConnike's hat...I won't tell you about my recipe."
"Roy knows." Chet said with a knowing look.
Johnny looked at his best friend, then back at Chet. "Roy's my best
Friend, Chet...he's sworn to secrecy."
"Fine, be that way. Anyway, why am I the only one eating it?"
"No one else wants to spoil their appetite, Chet. My dinner will be ready
for you guys soon." offered Hank.
Chet merely shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to polish off another eight
of the questionable appetizers.
As they all sat down for what would be their final meal together, it was
decided that Johnny would break the news to Chet about the true origin of
the pate', after dinner. Once dinner got underway, the usual banter among
the friends got started.
Mike, who had already tossed down a few beers, got things off and running.
"I would have to say the canyon fire from a few years ago...me and Johnny
had to rescue a firefighter who was trapped in the middle of the fire. The two
of us, along with the other firefighter, got trapped ourselves, the raging fire
quickly approaching us."
Johnny nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that was pretty scary. I really
thought we were toast...no pun intended."
"What about the plane that hit the apartment complex?"
Hearing Marco mention that call, brought back haunting memories for Roy about
how close Johnny came to not making it back home from there.
"That's when that Pasadena firefighter got me out of there. I still think
those guys dress funny."
"What about the plane that hit the school bus? We all escaped that one by a
"I remember that one too, Cap. Roy and I were getting the kids out of the
bus and then had to get the driver out...she was trapped in the bus. No
sooner had we all taken cover...boom. Yeah, I'll say that was a hairy one."
Roy let out a giggle at Johnny's expense. "There was one run that
I warned you to be careful...but you didn't heed my advice. You ended up
with an appointment at Rampart."
"Which one was that Roy? I...I kinda remember a few of them. Like that
weird day with rescues...I twisted my knee repelling down that hill."
"No...not that one, Junior...the one with the guy who fell off his
skateboard...into the cactus."
Trying to stop his friend, Johnny said, "Roy don't say…"
Chet interrupted him, and said, "Gage, don't tell me you..."
"Yeah he did Chet."
Before Chet could ask for any of the details about what had actually
happened, Johnny said, "Well, here's another one Roy. The time we rescued
Dixie from the vending machine."
Looking at his friend with a look of confusion on his face, Roy said, "That
wasn't dangerous Johnny."
"Yeah, it was...if looks could kill...Dixie would have killed both of us…but
Being curious, Hank asked, "What did you two twits do to her?"
Not being able to keep a smile from his face, Roy explained. "Well Cap,
Dixie had her hand stuck in one of the vending machines…she was trying to
get the cup out…and we were called to get her hand out and Johnny…well, he
cracked a few jokes…at her expense."
"What about the time that you talked that kid in the plane down, after his
father suffered a heart attack?"
"That WAS scary, Johnny. I mean, at least when you are physically involved
in a dangerous rescue, you have a real part in how it turns out...most of
the time. But talking that kid down, Frankie I believe his name was...I
wasn't the one doing the flying. Not having any real control of the
situation was really scary to me. I was able to get him down, luckily and
we got his father to Rampart alive...I don't think he made it, though."
The guys all nodded their heads in understanding Roy's point.
"Well on a personal note, I remember almost getting fried at a gas station
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that one, Marco. At Rampart I made a comment about
your hair standing on end...you said something about how you wished it had
happened to someone else...like me."
"Yeah, I remember saying that. As I recall, Cap was electrocuted once
Hank let out a whistle. "You don't have to remind me of that
Marco...a car that downed a telephone wire. The next thing I know, I'm
writhing in pain and Roy is using the defibrillator on me to get my heart
back to the proper rhythm."
"The brush then caught on fire and I called in a full brush response." added Mike.
"We were pretty lucky that the situation didn't escalate into something a
"You're definitely right about that, Junior. We got the fire out quickly and
Cap turned out to be just fine...thankfully."
After thinking a moment, Johnny asked, "How about multiples?"
Everyone looked at Johnny curiously.
"What are you talking about Johnny?"
Johnny repeated himself, and said, "Multiples…you know, situations that had
us responding to the same person or people multiple times...usually in the
"I remember two of them, Johnny. The guy who tried exercising several
different ways...failed at all of them. This included flooding out his
basement somehow when he was trying to work out down there…something about
building a wine cellar."
Johnny chimed in, and added, "Yeah…and he said he didn't even like wine."
"Yeah he did. Then there was that woman who, if I remember correctly, was
trying to cook dinner for her boyfriend and his mother. Didn't she get stuck
or something a few times, and caused a minor fire in her apartment?"
"Those are definitely two of them, Chet. I believe the other two were far
"Now that you mention it John...I do recall another one. It had a rather
unfortunate and fiery ending...the lady who was convinced that her dead
sister was contacting her."
The others all shuddered in remembrance. The woman ended up setting fire to
her house...seriously injuring her husband in the process.
"That was pretty eerie Cap. Johnny and I responded to that house the first
time, when they were in the middle of a seance...pretty bazaar stuff."
"Roy, don't forget about that arguing couple. Remember how it escalated
through the day?"
"I remember. We tried to get Brackett to keep them for
"Well, these don't exactly qualify as dangerous or anything...but how about
that go-go dancer down call we got? Chester B. had a fit when Cap wouldn't
let him come in with us."
Chet groaned. "I remember...you guys wouldn't tell me anything."
"And that day we responded to a car accident with no victims. There was
blood all over the place...but no sign of the victims. Johnny and I went
door to door to ask people if they saw anything...nothing. It was kind of
like being in The Twilight Zone."
"That WAS pretty strange, Roy."
After enjoying Hank's cooking, they all thanked him for preparing such a
wonderful meal, and retired to the living room. Once everyone was seated,
four pairs of eyes turn their gaze upon Johnny.
Johnny grinned mysteriously at Chet, and said, "Chester B., I gotta tell you
"What is it?" Chet asked a bit hesitantly.
Noticing the grin on his friend's face, Chet became suspicious.
"Well...you know those appetizers that you so enjoyed?"
"Yes." Chet said, his tone taking on an air of uncertainty.
"I...I was playing a joke on you. That...that wasn't really pate'."
"No…then what WAS it, Johnny?"
Looking at his partner, Johnny said, "Roy..."
Roy got up and handed Chet the empty Alpo can.
"Alpo…you mean...you mean I ate DOG food?"
Johnny continued to smile at Chet, as he said, "I couldn't let the Phantom
have the last laugh now, could I?"
"Okay Johnny...you win. The better man won."
"Chet...I wouldn't say the BETTER man won."
Being surprised, Chet asked, "Oh no?"
"No…the most PERSEVERING man won. No hard feelings?"
Chet looked up at Johnny as he quickly realized that this was indeed the
last laugh. He silently was glad that the final prank ended with Johnny as
the victor. All the water bombs, practical jokes and barbs that he and
Johnny had traded over almost nine years...was coming to an end.
"No hard feelings Johnny...it's been an honor doing battle with you."
Chet and Johnny exchanged a knowing look as Cap got up, stepped over to
Johnny and handed him a package.
"What's this Cap?" Johnny asked a bit confused.
"It's just a little something that me, Mike, Chet and Marco put together. We
all hope you like it."
Johnny slowly unwrapped the gift, wondering what it could be.
"A photo album. What...what pictures are in here?"
Chet softly answered. "Of all of us Johnny."
The first picture Johnny saw was the very first picture of all of them taken
in their dress uniforms shortly after Hank had become their Captain. Looking
through the pages brought back so many fond memories for Johnny. Pictures
representative of many great years together as a team…as a family, both at
work and at play. The final picture in the album was one that brought out
the classic Gage smile...the picture that Johnny had thought that he had taken at a
rescue, but in reality was taken by Chet.
After spending an hour strolling down memory lane with the men he had worked so
closely with for almost nine years, Johnny looked up at those same men, and
let his facial expression and eyes convey how touched and appreciative he
was of this wonderful gesture.
Johnny placed his right hand over his heart. His voice was full of emotion
as he started to speak.
"This album...these pictures mean a lot to me...thank you." Johnny paused
for a few moments before continuing. "This weekend meant everything to me.
I hope you all know just how important it was for me."
Hank spoke up, and said, "I think we do John...it was very important for us
"Tomorrow...tomorrow we'll...we'll all be going our separate ways. You guys
will all be going back to work...and back to your families…I'll...I'll be
going home too. I...I love you all and won't ever forget you."
Hearing the emotion in Johnny's voice and the heartfelt words he had spoken
brought tears to everyone's eyes, as they realized the truthfulness in what
he had said, especially the part about them going their separate ways. Five
of them WOULD be returning to work together, rejoining Rocky Ramirez on
Tuesday morning, but for Johnny...they knew the proverbial sunset was
coming...sooner rather than later.
Clutching the photo album like it was a life preserver, he looked around at
the other five men surrounding him...men he had gone to hell and back
"Well...I...I'm kinda beat. I think I'll turn in. Cap...thanks for dinner...
it was delicious. I'll see you guys in the morning."
They all bid him good night. Roy helped Johnny out of the recliner and
into the bedroom. Sitting on his bed, Johnny looked up at Roy, weariness on
"Roy...I...I just want to be left alone now…okay?"
Roy didn't say anything, he just nodded his head in understanding.
"If...if I need...help...I'll...I'll let you know."
Once Johnny was sure that his best friend had left the room, and the door was
closed, he curled up under the blanket...and started to cry…it was a huge
relief to him to be able to finally let out some of his emotion. He hadn't
counted on the weekend becoming as emotional as it had become. His head
started to really bother him, and the nausea he felt had become constant.
But it was the continued thought of having to leave behind all his
friends...his family that was having the biggest effect on him.
When Roy returned to the living room, the look on his face told the others
that something was wrong.
"Something wrong Roy?"
"I...I don't really know Chet. Johnny just wanted to be left alone for
Stopping his boss, Roy said, "Cap...I...WE all knew that this weekend would be
tough on Johnny. I guess...I guess it just all...caught up with him. Cap,
will you keep an eye on Johnny for me? I'm gonna go outside for a while."
"Sure Roy...take your time."
Chet was still having trouble reconciling his own emotions, as he asked,
"You want…want some company?"
Understanding and slightly smiling at his friend, Roy replied, "Sure."
Once outside on the porch, Chet and Roy started to talk openly about how
they were feeling.
While each man on the crew had their own kind of friendship with Johnny, it
was Roy and Chet who were the most affected by Johnny's illness. Roy was
John's best friend, and Chet was a lot closer to Johnny than their
often-heated discussions suggested, and underneath it all, Chet and Johnny
shared a great deal of affection for one another.
"Roy...how do you do it?"
Looking over at his friend, Roy asked, "How do I do what, Chet?"
"How do you cope knowing...knowing that Johnny...that he's..."
Roy knew what Chet was trying to say.
"It's not easy Chet. I'm...I'm still trying to deal with it...I struggle
with it all the time. When Johnny first told me about his illness...it was
devastating...to both of us. But it was only April...we both knew that he
still had time left. Now..."
"Yeah...that's what I mean. I can't imagine Johnny not being around. It just
doesn't seem fair to me Roy."
"It's NOT fair Chet, Johnny's my best friend. Through it all we've always
been there for one another...the good times and the bad. When he's gone...a
piece of me that will never be replaced will be gone too."
Inside Hank, Marco and Mike began to quietly pack. They knew that they'd all
be leaving early the next morning.
After an hour out on the porch, Roy and Chet went back inside.
"Since we're leaving by 8 AM, we thought we'd get a start on packing."
"Good idea Cap."
Saying that, Roy didn't really feel that way…he felt that although Johnny's
health was in serious decline, that if they stayed at the cabin, somehow the
inevitable wouldn't happen. Roy knew what lay ahead for Johnny in the coming
weeks...and he was scared.
Once everything was packed, the five men went to bed. Try as he may, Roy
could not fall asleep.
The next morning, while Johnny remained asleep, the rest of the guys got the
two cars packed. It was 7 AM when Roy decided to wake Johnny up.
"Junior...it's seven o'clock, we need to get going in an hour."
Slowly waking up, Johnny rubbed his eyes. "Yeah...all right. Give me
a few minutes to get myself together, Roy."
Roy heard the exhaustion in Johnny's voice.
"Okay. You...you need any help Johnny?"
Shaking his head, Johnny replied, "No...thanks, I'll be fine. Are the guys
"Roy...I...I want the guys to leave ahead of us. It…it'll be easier that
way...for all of us. Will...will you tell them to go?"
Being surprised by what his friend had said, Roy replied, "Johnny...they're
gonna want to see you before they leave."
"I know...give me a few minutes."
Roy nodded his head and went back out to the others.
"Is Johnny getting ready to go?"
Roy looked around at his friends.
Growing concerned, Hank asked, "What's wrong Pal?"
"Johnny wants you guys to...to go."
Chet was surprised, and asked, "To go?"
Roy nodded his head, and replied, "He's getting himself together. I...I
think everything's catching up to him and I don't think he anticipated this
weekend being so emotionally draining for him. I think he just wants to
say...good...good-bye to you guys and...and..."
Marco finished Roy's sentence, as he said, "And then wants us to leave,
"Something like that Marco."
After a few minutes Roy knocked on the bedroom door. "Johnny...the guys want
to come in. You alright?"
From inside the room they heard a soft voice.
"Uh...yeah...come on in."
When the guys entered the room, Johnny was standing up by the bed,
pretending that he had been packing. Roy knew it was a ploy...as he had packed
Johnny's bag the night before.
"You guys getting ready to head out huh?"
No one answered, as they knew it wasn't really a question.
"Thanks for a great weekend guys. Get home safely."
Hank answered, and said, "Yeah, you too. Take it easy Pal."
Hank warmly embraced Johnny.
"I will Cap…thanks for everything."
"Johnny...I know you have Roy...but if you need anything...day or
night...you can call any of us."
"I know that, thanks Mike. Keep up the good work."
The two of them embraced.
Marco stepped forward and as the two of them made eye contact and exchanged
knowing looks, he said "Johnny...what Mike said...remember that, alright?"
Johnny smiled at his friend, and softly spoke. "I will amigo. Do
me a favor Marco...keep Chet in line for me and…and watch out for him."
Smiling back at his friend, Marco nodded his head. "You got it Johnny."
They also embraced.
Chet looked at Johnny, unsure of what to say or do.
John walked over to Chet and gave him a hug.
"Chester B...take care of yourself...and don't ever change, buddy. You...you
don't have to say anything...because I already know."
Looking once again at his friends, he added one more thing.
"Do me a favor...make sure Rocky feels like he's part of the team...part of
the family. I'm sure I'll...see you guys again before too long. Don't worry
about me okay…just look out for each other."
Johnny didn't say anything else, he just turned and walked out of the room
and into the bathroom, closing the door behind him…Roy exchanged good-byes
with the rest of his friends.
"Drive home safely Roy."
"I will Cap. I'll see everyone at work in the morning."
Hank and the others left the cabin and pulled away in their car, leaving Roy
alone with Johnny. Unable to keep his nausea at bay any longer, Johnny
proceeded to throw up several times...leaving him feeling even more
exhausted than he already was. After brushing his teeth and washing up,
Johnny emerged from the bathroom.
"You...you ready to go Partner? I have the Rover all packed up."
Johnny looked around at the cabin one last time, thankful for the time spent
there and for the memories it brought back.
"I'm ready. Let's go home Pally."
Roy carried Johnny's bag outside and helped his best friend into the Rover.
Before they got on the road, they stopped at the camp office to return the
The weekend trip to the lakeside cabin was something that Johnny felt he
needed to do…for a sense of closure. Coming home, he spent much of the trip
back asleep and it became painfully obvious to Roy that this was the
beginning of the end for his best friend. Johnny had held up remarkably well
through the weekend, but now, had started to fade.
Seeing that his friend was awake, Roy said, "Junior…I…I got an idea, but
don't get mad, okay?"
Johnny looked over at his best friend and weakly smiled. "Pally,
I could never get mad at you."
"Well…remember that when I tell you what I'm thinking."
Roy paused for a moment…he knew that what he was about to say wouldn't make
Johnny very happy.
"Johnny…I…I think you ought to move in with me, Jo, and the kids...let us
take care of you. What do ya say Partner?"
"That's a great offer, Roy…but I'm not ready for that yet. I'm…I'm still
doin' okay and doin' THAT now…that would…would be like admitting defeat.
It's…it's almost the end of July…according to Brackett…I…I may only have a
month or two left and I wanna stay on my own for as long as I can. You can
understand that, can't you?"
"Yeah, Johnny I can…but it's…it's just that…"
Stopping his friend, Johnny said, "I'll be okay Roy."
Roy and the rest of the guys went back to work on Tuesday, the day after
returning home from their weekend trip. Despite enjoying the weekend and
being relaxed and well rested, the men of 51's A-shift wanted to be anywhere
but at the station that day…all they could do was think about Johnny and how
time was starting to run out for him.
For his part, Rocky had kept a very low profile. He knew the weekend would
be difficult for all of them, that's why he had declined the invitation to
The shift went by very slowly. Roy grew very concerned when Johnny
hadn't been answering his telephone. When he was finally able to get in
touch with Johnny, he didn't like the way his friend had sounded.
"Johnny, how about if I stop over after the shift is over?"
"No Roy…I…I just want to be alone."
Roy noted Johnny's weak and strained voice…there was no life to it. Deep
down Roy feared that Johnny was starting to give up.
"Johnny…I…I miss you Partner. I'd really like to see you."
"Roy…I…I can't do it…not now. I'll…I'll be in touch."
The next time Johnny had finally agreed to see Roy was almost a week later.
Hearing the knock at the door, Johnny carefully and slowly made his way to
answer it. His vision, in just the span of a week declined so much so, that
he had started to bump into things. Johnny continued to grow weaker, and he
was having increased difficulty with his left side. His apartment, although
never spotless when he was well, had become the proverbial disaster area.
When Roy entered the apartment and saw the mess that it had become, and then
took one look at Johnny…he had become almost sick to his stomach. He knew now
where Johnny was headed.
Trying to sound upbeat, Roy asked, "Johnny…whatch'ya been up to?"
"Uh…uh…just…just trying to clean up a bit."
Seeing the shape that his friend was in and that he needed help, Roy asked,
"Can I help Junior?"
"No…no…you…you just have a seat. I'll…I'll be right with ya."
While Johnny was nervously straightening up around his apartment, Roy stood,
watching him. It had only been three months since his best friend had been
diagnosed, and told that there was nothing that the doctors could do to save
his life. Roy noticed the symptoms of the illness already starting to
worsen…even though Johnny did his best to try and hide it. It was obvious
to Roy how much of a toll Johnny's illness had already taken on him.
Roy saw how he was nervously but carefully pacing around the room, hanging up
clothes, and how his hands were starting to shake more and more…and he also knew
Johnny's eyesight was growing worse.
"Hey Johnny, come on, let's sit down for a while and…maybe we can grab a bite
Even when Roy tried to touch his friend on the shoulder, Johnny would always
pull away…almost like he didn't want to be touched. Roy could also hear the
uneasiness and nervousness in his friend's voice when he spoke.
Johnny softly replied, "Ah no…no I'm not…not hungry. But you can eat, I…I
gotta get this done."
Johnny kept hanging up clothes but as his hands started to shake even more,
he started to drop things and that only made him more frustrated.
Bending over to pick up a shirt, he tried to laugh it off, as he said, "Damn
it, I…I can't hold on to anything anymore…my hands…they just don't…don't
wanna work…especially my left one."
"You're getting tired partner. Like I said, let's go eat something, and you
can rest a little while. How does pizza sound, I'll buy."
Through cloudy eyes, Johnny turned to look at the man that had been so much
more than just a partner to him…Roy had been his best friend, the man he
trusted his life to everyday at work, someone he was able to talk to about
anything. And now, this man that he cared about so much, was having to
watch, as he was slowly dying from the cancerous brain tumor, and he knew
that Roy felt helpless, knowing there was nothing he could do to save him
He was experiencing excruciating headaches, almost daily now, that no amount
of medication would stop. Rubbing his hand over his face, Johnny finally
spoke to his friend.
"Like I said Roy…I'm not really hungry. This headache is really makin' me
feel sick to my stomach."
Roy placed his hand on Johnny's arm. "Well, at least let's go sit
down and rest a little bit…please Johnny…I'm worried about you."
Realizing just how tired he really was, and that Roy wouldn't leave him
alone until he did rest, Johnny finally agreed.
"Yeah, okay. Help me will ya?"
Knowing that his friend needed a little guidance from where his eyes were
getting worse, Roy gently took Johnny's arm and led him into his living room
and over toward the couch. But before Johnny reached it, and even though
Roy was being careful, he bumped into the table, stubbing his toe.
Falling down onto the couch, Johnny screamed, "I can't do ANYTHING for
myself…and I hate it…why doesn't it just end…NOW!"
Roy didn't say anything, knowing that Johnny needed to get how he was
feeling out of his system. He just sat beside his friend and listened, as
he watched the tears coming from his eyes. Roy knew how upset and
nervous Johnny was…he was talking very fast and trying to control
"It's not fair…this isn't supposed to happen to…to people my age…older
people get…brain tumors…not us Roy…not us…you know…I know what Brackett
said…that…that they couldn't operate…that if they did…I'd…I'd wind up in…in
a coma…IF I lived through the…the surgery…but you know…it'd…it'd almost be
worth it…I…I can't…I just can't do this…I can't live like this…waiting to
die…with this…this thing…slowly killing me…killing my body…slowly…slowly
wasting away…down to nothing…and you know that…that's what's gonna
happen…you know it is Roy…I can't do it…waiting to die…nah, let's do it
quick…and painless…I'm gonna…gonna call Brackett…tell him…tell him that I
WANT him to operate…then, I'll be in a coma…not having to be in pain…not
having to stumble around 'cause I…I can hardly see…not having to watch
what the rest of you are…are having to go through…in seeing me like
this…just to…to be totally unaware of…of what's going on…and…die in…"
Stopping, he grabbed his head with his hands, as he rocked back and forth on
the couch… Roy could tell that the pain must have been unbearable.
"My head…god it hurts…hurts so bad…make it stop Roy…please…just make it
stop…I…I can't do this…I'm not…not strong enough…I just want it…I just want
it…to be…to be over, Roy…just for it to be over."
Roy sat there quietly…he was at a loss. Through it all…the diagnosis,
breaking the news to everyone, the pneumonia, and the nosebleeds…Johnny
remained strong and positive, and now here was his best friend appearing to
have given up.
Roy spoke quietly. "Johnny…what do you say…you let me take care of
you now? I…I don't want you to be alone any more…you shouldn't have to be."
Johnny pulled his hands away from his head and sat back on the couch…resting
his head on the back of the couch. Letting out a soft sigh, he knew he was
beaten. He answered his friend in a soft voice.
"Roy…I…I think that might be a good idea. The…the truth is…I…I CAN'T do
it anymore…at least, not by myself." Johnny let out another small sigh.
"I'm…I'm hurting real bad, Pally…but not enough to…to cash it in just yet.
I guess I'm just having one of those really bad days. I would like very
much to spend the…the rest of my time with you, Jo and the kids. But are
you sure you guys…can handle it?"
"Johnny…I've been waiting for you to say 'yes'. Joanne, Chris…Jennifer,
they all want you home too."
Realizing that he would be with his best friend and his family, Roy's home
would be his for whatever time he had left…and he knew it wouldn't be long.
"Home. I wanna go…home, Pally." Johnny softly said.
Gently touching Johnny on the arm, Roy slightly smiled, and said, "Okay
Junior…let's go home."
Johnny had given up his apartment and given away most of his things. As his health continued to decline, he had taken up Roy and Joanne's offer to
move in with them. Roy had taken a temporary leave of absence with the
department, so he could be there to help take care of his best friend…it
gave Roy peace of mind to know Johnny wouldn't be alone, and Johnny was
comforted by the fact that during the last part of his life, he'd be
surrounded by the people who mattered the most to him.
Although he spent a good portion of the day in bed, Chris and Jennifer were
wonderful with their Uncle Johnny. They all knew that Johnny had become very
sick and these last several weeks would be his last. As the reality of
Johnny's failing health had set in, the kids became very protective of him…after
all, Johnny was as integral a part of their lives, as he was Roy's.
When Johnny came to stay with the DeSoto's, it was August. The kids didn't
want to leave his side, but Roy knew Johnny needed his rest. Chris and
Jenny would read to their Uncle and tell him stories of how they spent their
day with friends. Mostly, Roy would sit by his best friend, and the two of
them would reminisce about their years together as paramedics and friends.
Occasionally one of the other guys would come over for a visit, but they all
knew that Johnny wasn't up for a lot of visitors, so they didn't come often
or stay long...they just wanted him to know that he wasn't forgotten.
At the end of August, Roy and his family celebrated Johnny's 32nd
birthday...it was bittersweet. They had cake…chocolate, Johnny's
favorite, but no presents. Johnny appreciated the gesture, but felt gifts
would be very awkward under the present circumstances. So as they ate cake,
gathered around the couch in the living room…they reminisced about past
When September rolled around and school was ready to start, the kids didn't
want to go back. Their biggest fear was that something would happen to
their Uncle Johnny while they were away.
For Johnny's friend Rocky Ramirez, who was now Roy's partner, things were
more difficult. He had agreed to become Roy's partner, because Johnny asked him
to. He liked Roy a lot, but he knew as good a friend as he was with Johnny,
it didn't come close to the bond that Roy had with him. In his mind, he
also knew Roy would forever be comparing him to Johnny...not only as a
paramedic...but also as a friend.
The crew of Station 51's A-Shift were very close, as they had been together
for a long time, and as much as he liked all the guys and they seemed to
like him, he knew that he was still an outsider. During the early stages of
Johnny's illness, Rocky either saw or spoke to Johnny often, but as Johnny's
illness progressed, Rocky decided to lay low and let Johnny's closer friends
have more space…and time with Johnny.
He was very touched when Johnny had asked him to go to the cabin with all of
them, but he declined. He told his friend that he respected his wishes, but
he really felt that the six of them needed the time to be together. While
Roy was on his temporary leave, Rocky's partner was Charlie Dwyer, who moved from C-shift, to A-shift.
It was a Saturday evening at the end of September, and Johnny was in the
throes of an excruciating headache. He was vomiting and his eyesight was
pretty much gone…as all he could now see were shadows. Roy, who had been
sitting by Johnny's side for hours, knew what was coming.
"Roy." Johnny called, in a very soft voice.
"Yeah, I'm here Johnny."
Roy didn't have to ask…he knew what his partner wanted.
"Roy…I want to go…to Rampart."
"Okay Johnny. Do you want me to take you?"
"No Roy I…I want an ambulance...need...an ambulance."
Roy was surprised that Johnny wanted an ambulance. In the past, Johnny
would have fought with him tooth and nail about it, but Roy also knew that
his best friend was in a great deal of pain and that his breathing was
becoming extremely labored.
"Okay Johnny, I'm going to call for a squad."
Johnny's brown eyes met Roy's blue ones and though no words were spoken,
both knew what was being implied. After Joanne heard Roy get up, she came
into the room, and seeing the look on her husband's face, she knew what was
happening. She went over to Johnny and held his hand…Johnny took it and
held it against his cheek, which was warm with fever. Roy went to call a
When the squad pulled up to Roy's house, he was both surprised and
relieved…the two paramedics he saw getting out of it, were none other than
Rocky Ramirez and Charlie Dwyer...they were both working some overtime.
The look on Roy's face told them all they needed to know…that Johnny's life
and the suffering with it, would be ending sometime in the next couple hours. As the two
paramedics entered the house, Roy filled them in on Johnny's condition.
"He's been having a very severe headache and vomiting and his breathing has
also become very labored."
Roy led them to Johnny, and the two paramedics, despite knowing who their
victim was, remained professional. As they entered the room, Joanne
backed away from the bed…she wanted to give the two paramedics room to
examine Johnny. Then, she left the room.
"Johnny…it's Rocky...Charlie and I are going to help you…we're going to
make you as comfortable as we can. You hang in there buddy."
Rocky looked at Dwyer who was now contacting Rampart on the bio-phone.
"Rampart, this is Squad 51. How do you read?"
Dr. Brackett's voice was on the other end.
"Go ahead 51."
"We have a male, 32 years of age." He paused a moment. "Be advised, victim
is John Gage. Stand by for vitals."
At Rampart's base station, Brackett looked at Dixie and wordlessly acknowledged the thought
that they were both sharing.
Rocky took Johnny's vitals and Dwyer relayed the information to Rampart.
Brackett gave them their treatment orders, and they started Johnny on a higher concentration of O2 and gave him some pain medication.
"Johnny, we're going to get you ready for transport. The ambulance will
be here any minute."
Johnny weakly nodded his head and whispered. "Okay."
Joanne met the ambulance attendants outside and led them to Johnny's room.
When they got him on the stretcher, the decision was made for Roy to go with
Rocky in the ambulance. Dwyer would follow behind in the squad, and Joanne
would pick the kids up from a friend's house and meet them at the hospital.
On the way to Rampart, Johnny tried to pull off the oxygen mask and talk to
his friends, but Roy kept putting it back on him.
He looked at his friend, and said, "Johnny, we'll talk at the hospital…I
Johnny nodded his head.
Arriving at the hospital, rather than be taken to an examining room, Johnny
was taken to a private room. Dr. Brackett and Dixie walked alongside
Johnny's stretcher. As he was transferred to a bed, Brackett took
Johnny's vitals, and Dixie readied the IV to give the pain medication that
would keep him comfortable, and feeling no pain. A nasal cannula replaced the more obtrusive
"Johnny, this is Dr. Brackett. Are you comfortable now?"
Johnny nodded his head and weakly gave a thumbs up, and in a whisper, he
Dixie, relieved that Johnny couldn't see her tears, stroked his hair and gave
him a gentle kiss on the lips.
"I love you John Gage."
Johnny weakly smiled, as he softly and breathlessly said, "The…prettiest
nurse at…Rampart kissed me…on the lips...the…the other guys…will be
Dr. Brackett and Dixie slightly smiled at that comment, then gave Roy and
Rocky a knowing look and left the room.
Charlie Dwyer came back into the room and very softly, he talked to Roy.
"Roy, I called Captain Stanley…he and the other guys'll be here soon."
Just then, Dwyer's radio went off.
**Oh no…why now**
"Squad 51, what's your status?"
Dwyer looked at Rocky and then over at Roy.
Roy simply said one word, "Go."
Dwyer responded on the radio. "Squad 51 available from Rampart."
"Squad 51 respond with Engine 51, MVA, West Tremont...cross street Rosewood,
West Tremont... cross street Rosewood, timeout 1928."
"Squad 51 responding."
Dwyer gently touched Johnny on the shoulder and walked out of the room,
unable to say anything. Rocky held Johnny's hand and whispered in his ear.
"Johnny…I'll be back as soon as I can. But…if…if I don't…."
He was unable to finish his thought...he gently touched Johnny on the cheek
and Johnny responded by nodding his head.
"You guys be…be careful…Rocky." Johnny very softly said.
Nodding his head, Rocky went to meet Dwyer in the squad.
A few minutes later, Joanne and the kids arrived.
Leaning on the bedrail, Roy softly said, "Johnny, the kids are here."
Johnny nodded his head in acknowledgement. In his mind he knew he had to
gather what little strength he had left, in order to say proper good-byes to
the people he cared about the most.
In a voice not much louder than a whisper, and very hoarse, he greeted his favorite
girl. He patted the bed beside him, motioning Jennifer to come over.
"Jelly Belly…come here."
She went over to her Uncle's bed, sat down beside him and lovingly kissed
him on the cheek.
"Jenny…I want you to…to be good...you are going to…grow up to be a…beautiful
and strong…young lady...and always remember that…I love you."
"I love you too Uncle Johnny. I promise, I'll be good."
She hugged him and ran to her mother, no longer able to hide her tears.
Chris went over to Johnny and put his hand on top of Johnny's.
"You take care of your sister…watch out for her...you're going to be…a fine
young man...and listen to your Mom and Dad…and always remember…that I love
Softly speaking, Chris said, "Don't worry Uncle Johnny…I will, I promise. I
love you too."
Chris hugged Johnny and went over to his father.
Joanne approached the bed and Johnny smiled weakly.
"Jo, you are…a magnificent woman…Roy's a…very lucky man...be strong for him,
Barely able to get the words out, Joanne answered. "I will,
She also hugged him and kissed his cheek. As Joanne turned around, Captain
Stanley and the other guys had arrived…they all acknowledge each other quietly.
Joanne took the kids, and after taking one last look at Johnny, left the
Softly speaking to his partner, Roy said, "Johnny, the guys are all here."
Johnny waved them all over to him, and despite his diminishing strength,
he pressed on.
"Cap…thanks for…for everything…you've been like…a father to me."
Not trying to control his emotions, Hank walked over to Johnny's bed.
"I'm so proud…to have known you…and I'm gonna...gonna miss you pal."
"I'll be alright Cap…take care of the guys…for me…but espec…especially
"I will Johnny…we all will."
He gently touched Johnny on his shoulder and stepped back, as Mike stepped
over to the bed.
"Mike…you here? I can't hear ya."
Mike let out a soft laugh. "I'm here John. I CAN talk you
Slightly smiling, Johnny said, "Yeah, I know…and you're gonna be…one hell of
a…a Captain…someday…just take care of yourself."
"I will." Mike took Johnny's hand and held it for a moment.
As Mike stepped back, Johnny called Marco over.
"Right here Johnny."
Johnny had to stop to catch his breath, then he said, "Marco...I always
wanted…to tell you…I…I always thought you'd…be a great para…medic…you…you
have such a…a good heart."
"God bless you Johnny."
As Marco leaned over and kissed Johnny on the forehead, Johnny weakly
squeezed Marco's hand.
Chet nervously laughed, and said, "I guess you got the last laugh, huh
Gage? Dog food on a cracker."
"I owed you...buddy…truth be told...I really didn't mind…the pranks…deep
down I always…knew you were a…a Teddy bear…of anyone I know...you'll…be the
one to make…battalion chief…stay well Chester B."
Chet was very overwhelmed with emotion and near his breaking point, as he
softly spoke to his friend.
"I'll never forget you Johnny. Go with God buddy." He said, as he gently
Having more trouble breathing, Johnny softly said, "I guess this…is it
guys…I love you all and…I'll never…forget any…of you."
Captain Stanley touched Roy gently on the shoulder and signaled to the
door...the guys all reluctantly left. Roy looked over at his best friend,
knowing that Johnny was quickly losing his battle.
"It's just you…you and me Junior." Roy said, fighting hard to control his
Johnny's voice was now back to a whisper.
"Roy…you're my best…best friend…I…I wish there was…more time…I want to…thank
you for…for…well, you know...just about every…everything…tell…Early and
Morton…good-bye for me…the…the spirits are callin'...me Pally."
Even though Roy's heart was breaking and he couldn't hold back his tears, he
didn't want to let his best friend go, but he also didn't want Johnny to
suffer any longer than necessary.
Wiping his eyes, he softly said, "It's so hard…to let you go…but it's okay
Johnny…go…go with the spirits…if you need to…and rest…rest easy, my friend."
Knowing he had said all his good-byes, Johnny slowly raised his hand and Roy
took it…holding on, as if he held on tight enough, death couldn't claim his
best friend…Johnny weakly squeezed Roy's hand and slightly smiled, then he
slowly closed his eyes.
Roy sat, holding Johnny's hand, watching his best friend for a few minutes,
watching the very slow and shallow rise and fall of his chest…he knew that
within a matter of minutes, that the man he called partner and best friend
for almost ten years, would be gone. Five minutes later, Johnny's hand went
limp in Roy's hand, and he went to be with the spirits.
Roy sat there numb…he knew this wasn't unexpected, but still he wasn't ready
to say good-bye to his friend, FOREVER. After sitting in his chair for
another ten minutes, Roy leaned over Johnny, stroked his hair and kissed his
As he went outside into the hallway, he saw Dr. Brackett, and as stoically
as he was able to manage, he told Brackett about Johnny.
"He's…he's gone Doc…I just lost my…my best friend."
Placing his hand on Roy's shoulder, Kel softly said, "Roy…I'm so sorry."
"Where…where is everyone?" Roy asked, wiping his eyes.
"They're in the lounge waiting for you. I'll call the funeral home…you
go…be with your friends and family."
Still crying, Roy said, "You're part…of that family Doc…thanks for
everything…you did…for…for Johnny."
"You're very welcome, Roy. I just wish I had been…able to do so much more for
him, and that things had…had turned out differently."
Slightly nodding his head, Roy softly replied, "So do I Doc...so do I. But
you did everything...you could do."
The normally unflappable doctor did something totally out of character…he
gave Roy a warm embrace. After a moment, the two men went their separate
ways and Roy found his way to the lounge. When he walked in, they all looked at
him knowingly. As he looked around the room, he saw red eyes and lots of
tears. Jenny was wrapped in Hank's arms with her head on his shoulder, and
he could see that his shirt was wet from her tears. Chris was sitting next
to Marco, and Chet was comforting Joanne.
Roy took a deep breath and exhaled. "I guess...I have a busy day
Hank, careful not to disturb Jennifer, responded to Roy's comment.
"Roy, we'll all meet at your house tomorrow…talk about the arrangements."
"Actually Cap…the arrangements are done…Johnny made them all, a couple
months ago. If you guys want to come over around 11:00, there ARE a few
things I need to go over with you."
"We'll be there Roy."
As the reality of the loss of their friend had really begun to sink in, everyone
embraced. After a few moments, they started to leave. When Roy turned
around to go, Rocky and Dwyer had returned…the look in Roy's eyes told the
two paramedics everything they needed to know.
"It's all over guys…he's gone…and he's not in pain anymore." Roy softly
The two paramedics tried to comprehend what Roy had just said…but somehow,
it just didn't want to register in their brains that their good friend was
In disbelief, Dwyer was the first to respond, as he softly said, "Oh
no…I…we…we tried to make it back sooner but…"
Roy shook his head, and replied, "He…he passed not too long after…you guys
left Charlie. I'm so sorry guys."
Rocky and Dwyer stood there quietly before Rocky got the courage to speak
"Can…can we see Johnny...for a...a few minutes Roy? I...I mean...we didn't
get to say good-bye."
"Sure Rocky, but you might need to…to see Brackett first, but you guys go
ahead. Look I…I gotta go, but when you guys get off shift tomorrow, come to
my house…we're all meeting at 11:00."
Roy hugged his two friends, then left to take Joanne and the kids home.
Chris, and especially Jenny were devastated and went right to their rooms.
As Roy and Joanne were sitting in their bedroom, they could hear Jennifer,
Roy exhaled sharply. "She'll be okay…we all will. It's just
going to take time…at least, that's what I keep telling myself."
"I can't believe he's gone Roy."
He didn't finish his sentence, as he got up and went to the room where
Johnny had been staying. As he was sitting in the chair, he looked around
the room and his eyes settled on the nightstand…he noticed two envelopes
sitting on top, one with his name on it. The other envelope said, "to be
read at my funeral."
Sitting back in the big easy chair, he opened the envelope with his name on
it and started to read it.
There's so much I want to say that I'm not really sure where to start. Over
these last few months I have written this letter hundreds of times…it never
came out right, so this will have to do. Despite often wearing my heart on
my sleeve, I wasn't always the best at expressing my true feelings. I felt
it would be easier to write them down, so here it goes.
For almost ten years, you were not only my partner, but also my best friend
and over the years, we sure have been through a lot together…the good
times and the bad, and we've spent the better part of the last couple months
remembering them. Nowhere is there a person whom I would have rather gone
through it all with, than you. I have to thank you for convincing me to
become a paramedic…I couldn't imagine having done anything more worthwhile with my
life than that. I also thank you for wanting me to be your partner.
The years that I worked with you were the most rewarding years of my life,
both professionally and personally. The best part of working with you, was
always just knowing you were there beside me…to help me when I was hurt, to
pick me up when I was down, to listen to me when I rambled and to help keep
me on the straight and narrow when I strayed. I valued our friendship very
much and always thought of you as more than a friend…I guess something along
the lines of a soul mate. You knew me better than I knew myself.
There was always a bond between us…I suppose that was why we were widely
considered the best paramedic team in the county…which, I have to agree
with. There were times when we looked at each other and I felt such a
connection with you…a real sense of respect and admiration, and just the joy
of knowing you were in my life. I really did love you, and I just wish I
had been able to tell you that, but it's like I said, despite a tendency to
wear my heart on my sleeve, I wasn't always the best at expressing my true
feelings. You have made me a better person, just by being my friend…just by
being in my life. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
I know the coming months will be difficult for you…and for all the guys.
But, promise me that you'll all go on living your lives...don't give up just
because I'm gone. Remember, 'life is for the living', and make sure that
you are all there for one another and let the guys all know how I felt about
them. Captain Stanley always spoke about all of us being like family…and I
always felt that way.
My biggest regret in life was not having been married and not having any
kids, although it would have been nice, but…well, you know, it wasn't in the
cards. You are a wonderful father and have two terrific kids, so be sure to
give them my love…and that beautiful wife of yours. Joanne is an amazing
woman and I know she will be strong for you.
You know, I was never afraid for my own mortality, granted, I certainly
didn't expect things to end THIS way, but I was only afraid for others
around me, like you and the guys. It's funny, no matter how much I prepare
for death…there always seems to be so much more that I want to say.
I'm sure you're having trouble reading this, so I think I'll stop here…and
let you off the hook (ha ha). Take care of yourself Pally and let the
others help you through this. Partner, please, be careful out there, but
even so, I'll be watching over you from above and I'll see you in heaven
someday. God bless you Roy.
Lovingly, your partner always,
As Roy finished reading the letter, tears were streaming down his face.
"Oh Johnny…why did this have to happen to you…why?"
Without the burden of having to put up a strong façade for everyone else,
Roy openly wept.
A few hours later, Joanne was looking for Roy and found him asleep in the
chair, the letter still in his hand. She let him sleep, knowing how
exhausted he was. Her eyes moved to the bed, where less than ten hours ago,
Johnny lay sleeping, and the one thought that she couldn't get out of her
mind was, how was Roy going to survive this heartbreaking loss. She knew he
would…somehow…he just wouldn't be the same person. She knew that none of
them would be the same people…not without Johnny in their lives.
The next morning Roy and Joanne were down in the kitchen drinking coffee.
"You okay Roy?"
Roy looked at his wife and slowly shook his head, as he said, "No Jo…I'm not
okay. My best friend died last night."
Joanne understood Roy's pain…she went over to him and gave him a hug and a
"I'm going to check on the kids."
When she approached Jennifer's room, she saw a scene that broke her heart.
Chris was on Jenny's bed, with his arm around his younger sister...in her
lap was a picture of Johnny. Deciding not to disturb the kids, she turned
around and went back to Roy.
"How are they?"
"Uh…they're both awake and they're both in Jenny's room."
She didn't want to go into details, knowing Roy was already having a hard
enough time dealing with his own emotions.
"I'm gonna take a shower. The guys are gonna be here in an hour."
"Do you want me to make anything?"
"Just coffee. I don't think anyone's gonna feel like eating."
Now 10:45 AM, the first to arrive was Hank Stanley. Joanne greeted him at
the door and they embraced.
"Joanne, how are you?"
"It's rough Hank. The kids…" Her voice trailed off.
She shook her head, and said, "Not good I'm afraid."
Just then Roy came downstairs.
The two men shook hands. "Cap, you're here."
"I came a little early...I wanted to see how you were doing."
Roy looked at his Captain blankly and shrugged his shoulders. "Here I am."
Roy shook his head. "No Cap…don't say anything. I'll…I'll
The rest of the guys came a few minutes later, including Rocky Ramirez.
They all wore the same expression…a look that told of the emptiness that
they all had felt in their hearts. They all embraced.
Rocky spoke up. "Roy…Charlie's not going to be joining us. He…"
"It's okay Rocky, he called me this morning." Roy smiled. "And by the
way…I'm glad you're here."
The kids stayed upstairs, too upset to come down. Joanne led the guys to
the living room.
"Anyone want anything…coffee…food?"
They all shook their heads.
"I'll be upstairs. Let me know if anyone needs anything."
Roy weakly smiled at his wife and kissed her, as he softly said, "I will."
The men all looked at each other for a few seconds before Roy spoke.
"Well, thanks for coming. There's not a whole lot to discuss…John…Johnny
made all of his own arrangements. I just wanted to keep you guys in the
loop, so you know what's going on. First of all, he…he wanted everything to
be low key. There won't be any wake…Johnny didn't believe in that. And, he
felt that since this was not a line-of-duty death, he didn't want all the
pomp and circumstance, so I spoke to Chief Houts this morning…anyone who
comes to the funeral will be wearing suits, not dress uniforms."
Captain Stanley spoke up, and asked, "When is the funeral Roy?"
"Tomorrow at 11 AM…it'll be at St. Andrews...Johnny wasn't Catholic, but he
always loved that church. Every time we went passed it, he always commented
on how beautiful it was. A couple months ago, we spoke to Father
Alphonse…he's one of the priests at the church. He was very taken by
Johnny's sincerity and agreed to do his funeral service."
Marco decided to ask the question that no one else seemed to want to bring
"Roy…where's Johnny going to be buried?"
Roy smiled. "The only place he'd want to be. Johnny got himself a
plot next to mine and Joanne's…Cliffside Cemetery…he said he loved the
Chet started to get choked up, as he softly said, "He'll be with family…he
won't be alone. I'm glad Roy."
Roy exhaled loudly. "Well, there are a few other things. You guys
will all be pallbearers…the five of you and Charlie Dwyer. I'll be giving
Johnny's eulogy…but Johnny also wanted each of you to say a few words.
After the cemetery, Jo and I are having everyone here."
"What about the Docs at Rampart?"
"They'll all be there Mike. Brackett, Dix, Early and Morton, I spoke to
them this morning."
Roy laughed again.
"Roy, what's so funny Pal?"
"Johnny even incorporated Brice into the service."
Almost in unison they all responded, "Brice?"
"It's kind of ironic really. He does some charity work for St. Andrews, and
he happened to see the two of us coming out of the church. I guess he
caught Johnny in a weak moment and we started talking and, well…it turns out
that he's an okay guy. He even came over to the house a few times to visit
"What's he going to do Roy? asked Marco.
"Well, believe it or not, he got Johnny into the bible…a little…and there
were a couple of verses that Johnny really liked. He said that they had
real meaning for him so Brice is going to read them at the service."
Roy noticed everyone's surprised looks.
"Roy, isn't Brice the same guy that filled in for Johnny when he was hit by
a car…the same guy who, and to quote YOU, 'I can get along with
anybody...I just might have to bust him in the mouth to do it?'"
Roy looked sheepishly at his Captain, and replied, "What can I say Cap?" He
smiled at Rocky. "Even so, don't get any ideas about transferring, okay
Rocky smiled back at his partner. "Don't worry Roy, I won't."
The guys talked for a while longer and they agreed to all meet at the
church at 10AM the next morning. Before too long, they left one by one…Chet stayed behind
for a while longer.
Roy put his arm around Chet's shoulders and asked, "I guess I don't have to
ask you how YOU'RE doing, do I Chet?"
"No. And I know I don't have to ask YOU either." Chet paused for a few
seconds. "I keep trying to make sense of this Roy…I mean what happened to
Johnny and all…and I can't. I just know that I'm gonna miss him."
"Me too Chet…me too. We'll get through it…somehow."
"How are Chris and Jen?"
"Like the rest of us. They won't come out of their rooms. But, they'll get
through it too…just like all of us. See ya at the church in the morning."
Roy patted Chet on his shoulder, as the firefighter left Roy's house.
The next morning Roy and his family got up early for breakfast. Roy and
Joanne each had coffee and a bagel…the kids didn't want to eat anything, but
Joanne convinced them that they'd have to eat because it would be a very
long day and they'd need their strength. The kids reluctantly agreed to
have some Rice Krispies…after all, it WAS their Uncle Johnny's favorite
After showering and dressing, the whole family assembled downstairs.
Fifteen year old Chris wore a dark suit and twelve-year-old Jennifer wore a
navy blue dress. Roy and Joanne were each dressed in black.
With a heavy heart aching in his chest, Roy quietly announced that it was
time to go to the church. When they arrived at the church, it was 9:30AM
and they were warmly greeted by Father Alphonse and led to a quiet room.
The priest went over everything with Roy and his family, then left them to
gather their thoughts.
Shortly thereafter, the rest of Station 51's A-Shift arrived, including
Charlie Dwyer. Hank's wife Suzanne came to lend support to her husband and
his men…the rest of the guys came solo. After embracing, they all settled
in chairs, trying their best to relax…they all knew the day would be long
and extremely emotional.
As the time approached 10:30AM, people started to arrive at the church to
pay their respects to John Roderick Gage. Chief Houts and McConnike were
among the first to arrive. Station 51's C-shift was on duty but they were
being stood down for a couple hours in order to attend their fallen
comrade's funeral. 51's B-Shift had also arrived.
As the hearse carrying Johnny's casket arrived, so did Dixie and the three
doctors who knew Johnny best. Craig Brice followed them in. Vince and
other members from the police and fire departments also came to pay their
respects. Once everyone was seated, Roy led the others as they carried
Johnny's casket into the church, and gently placed it by the altar. Then
they all took their seats in the front…Roy joining his family.
After everyone took their seats, the priest started to speak.
"We are all gathered here today to pay homage to John Gage…firefighter,
paramedic…and friend. I only met Johnny, as most of you knew him, a few
times. But, judging by the amount of people who showed up here today to pay
tribute to him…I'm guessing that everyone here has known all along the type
of person that Johnny was…the type of person that *I* have only recently
come to know.
Johnny admitted to me that he was never very religious and came to St.
Andrews, simply because he thought the church was so beautiful. After
meeting with him, I found him to be a very warm and compassionate young
man…a man with a big heart. I agreed to do his funeral service. The few
times we did meet, Johnny talked at great length about his love for being a
paramedic…he felt it was the best thing that had he ever done with his life, and I'm
told that he was one of the best in the business. He also spoke about the
great admiration and respect he had for his co-workers…Captain Hank Stanley,
Mike Stoker, Marco Lopez, and Chet Kelly were a part of his inner circle.
He mentioned the four of you often, always smiling when doing so…especially
when talking about Chet."
Everyone in the church laughed about that comment.
"Over the years, he made many friends in and out of the Fire Department.
Rocky Ramirez, Charlie Dwyer and Craig Brice were three of them. Charlie,
he admired your easygoing personality. And Craig, he admittedly didn't
always see eye to eye with you…but in the end, he grew to appreciate you.
Rocky, he said he was happy he met you, he felt like he met another kindred
spirit in you, and he mentioned that you'd understand how he felt about
you…he was leaving you what he treasured the most…his partner and best
friend, Roy DeSoto.
He spoke about the wonderful staff at Rampart General Hospital. Dr.
Brackett, you were his mentor and a man that Johnny admired greatly. Dr.
Early, he talked of your great warmth and easy demeanor. Dr. Morton…Johnny
chuckled when talking about you. He said that deep down, the two of you
were a lot alike…stubborn and hard headed at times, but he admired your
skills as a doctor. He mentioned the numerous times that the three of you
saved his life and put him back together again, and he joked that he was like
Humpty Dumpty. The common denominator was that he had such great respect
and appreciation for all three of you. And Nurse Dixie McCall…how his eyes
lit up when talking of you…just at the mere mention of your name. He said
and I quote, "a classier lady, you'd never find.
But, after all is said and done, the single most important person in his
life remained Roy DeSoto. He always talked about you Roy...about how much
love, respect, and admiration he had for you…as his partner, as his friend,
and as a man. He referred to you as his lifeline, and in his mind, his
illness was not about him, but rather YOU…and how it would affect YOU.
He mentioned a letter that he had written to you…one that I'm sure you have
already read. In it he said he described his feelings about you and the
friendship that the two of you shared. He said once you had read the
letter, there would be nothing else for him to say…that he'd have said it
all to you."
Turning his attention to Roy's children and Joanne, he spoke to them.
"Chris and Jennifer, the two of you were truly the apples of your Uncle
Johnny's eyes. He loved and adored the two of you as if you had been his
own. He wanted you both to be assured that he loved you very much and will
be watching over the two of you and protecting you. Joanne…he smiled when
talking about you. He had hoped to one day marry someone like you. He
respected and admired you greatly, and he also admired the fact that you
were a firefighter's wife and handled yourself with such grace and dignity,
and had such warmth and great strength.
All of you are the people that John held nearest and dearest to his heart.
I know words don't begin to take away the sadness you feel, nothing can, but
you can all be comforted in knowing that you have a piece of Johnny in your
hearts. And although he is physically gone from earth, he will continue to
live on in all of you…through the memories and good thoughts of him that you
will all carry with you. At this time I would like to call upon Craig
Brice came to the podium to speak and as he looked out at all the mourners,
he let out a small nervous laugh.
"I know all of you are wondering why I'm up here, speaking at John Gage's
funeral. I'm not really sure myself, but somehow, in the last few weeks of
John's life, we came to a mutual appreciation of one another. As Father
Alphonse mentioned earlier, John was not a religious person, but when death
is staring you in the face, you try to hold on to things that you hope will
bring you comfort. I suggested the Bible and over several visits I read
some passages to him, and there were a few verses that came to have some
meaning for him. John had requested that I share those verses with you."
Brice proceeded to read the verses out loud, perhaps with more emotion than
he would have liked. After Craig Brice left the podium, Father Alphonse
called up the members of Station 51's A-shift. Captain Stanley was the
first one to speak.
"I was Johnny's Captain for almost nine years. You all know that Johnny was
a good firefighter and one of the best paramedics in the county, but he was
also one of the best guys around." Hank let out a slight laugh. "There
were times that he could leave you scratching your head, but by and large if
you needed someone in your corner, John Gage was the man you'd want to have.
This morning, as I was getting dressed, I heard a song on the radio, Nat
King Cole's 'Unforgettable'. I got to thinking…for the time Johnny spent on
Earth, he was indeed…unforgettable. I'm gonna miss you pal."
Hank glanced over at Johnny's casket and took his seat. Mike and Marco were
next to speak. Each one expressing their thoughts of what Johnny had meant to
them, and relaying some fond memories of their fallen friend. Chet was next
to speak. It was obvious to all how close his emotions were to bubbling to
"I…I really don't know what to say. I…had things written down…but…but the
words…somehow didn't seem to…to be enough. While it's true that the two of
us had our battles…it…it always covered up the fact…that…that we really
cared a lot for…for each other. When the…the chips were down…we were always
there for one another. It doesn't seem right…that…that Johnny was taken
away from us because…he…he still had his whole life ahead of him…"
Unable to finish, Chet broke down and was helped back to his seat by Marco.
As Rocky Ramirez got up to say a few things, the emotion was very evident on
"John Gage was my friend…one of my best friends. I didn't know him as long
as some of the others did, but for the few years that I did know him…my life
was better for it. Johnny did not merely just go through life…he lived
it…really lived it. For Johnny, each day was a new adventure…full of
challenges…and he would meet those challenges head on each day. Besides
just missing talking to Johnny and being able to spend time with him…the
thing I'll miss most…I think we all will…is that famous crooked smile of
his. That crooked smile summed up John Gage…it lit up a room…and it made
your heart melt. I know MY life will never be the same…it was a fuller
life after he entered it…and an emptier life after, now that he's left it."
As Rocky went over to Johnny's casket, he ran his fingers over the smooth
shiny wood, and said "I'm gonna miss you Johnny…God Bless You."
Rocky took his seat as tears started to fall down his face. The church was
silent for a few moments, as everyone knew what was coming up next…Roy's
eulogy to Johnny. In anticipation of speaking about his best friend, Roy
was very nervous and more than a bit queasy, but he knew it was important
for him to stay strong in front of the others…or at least look the part. As
Roy took the podium to speak, he was clearly overwhelmed with emotion, but
was somehow able to maintain his composure.
"As I look around, I see all the people who came today to pay respects to
Johnny…and he would have been amused at all the fuss, but this is the
biggest and best tribute that I can think of to a man we all called friend.
Johnny touched all of us in some way. Some of you are here today as a
testament to Johnny's skills as a paramedic, having been pulled out of a
fire or from a car wreck. But for those of us who knew Johnny best…we were
the lucky ones. Our crew at 51's had been together a long time…about nine
years. We…we all shared a lot together over that time…the ups and downs and
the near tragedies, but through it all…we stayed together. Johnny's final
gift to us was a weekend at a lakeside cabin. It was a memorable
weekend…full of memories…one that I don't think any of us will ever forget.
Once Johnny was diagnosed with his illness…he became almost obsessed with
memories…remembering all of them…and making new ones.
Johnny…Junior was my best friend. I…I can't begin to tell you all what
Johnny really meant to me. He was my partner on the job for nine years…and
the reason why I'm STILL a paramedic. There were times that I almost left
the program for one reason or another…but the bottom line is I stayed…mainly
because of him…and my loyalty to him. I knew the day that I convinced him
to become a paramedic…that he and I would become friends…good friends…best
friends. After his classroom training, I asked Johnny to become my
partner…it proved to be one of the best decisions I ever made. When I think
about Johnny, I do have to agree with both Captain Stanley and Rocky
Ramirez…two things I must say…Johnny could leave you scratching your head,
but that was part of his charm. It's when he DIDN'T do that, that you
were concerned. And Johnny's smile is something…that I'll miss terribly.
The old Gage charm, as we called it and would all joke…but that smile
expressed a lot of things…happiness, embarrassment, and it often covered up
his nervousness or uneasiness. He had one of the biggest hearts around…it
was never more obvious than when he would break the cardinal rule of getting
involved with the victim. He was one in a million…and I'm…I'm gonna miss
Roy went to Johnny's casket where he too ran his hand over the smooth wood.
He then bent over to kiss it, whispering as he was doing so.
"Bye Junior…I'm gonna miss you Partner."
Heading back to his seat, Roy was still in control of his emotions, despite
all the tears that threatened to fall. He knew that there would be no one
blaming him for breaking down in front of everyone now…but Roy also knew
that there would be plenty of time for that later. His wife and children
needed him to be strong right now.
After the priest said a few more things…the pallbearers got up to prepare to
take Johnny's casket to the awaiting hearse that would take him to his final
resting place…the one with the great view, as Roy told the others Johnny had
With Roy leading the casket, the others carried it down the aisle and down
the steps of the church to the awaiting hearse. Although Johnny didn't want
a lot of fanfare…Roy had made the decision to incorporate 51's squad and
engine into the funeral procession. With Roy driving the squad and Rocky
sitting next to him…they led the procession, while Cap, Mike, Marco, and
Chet followed them on Big Red.
The hearse with Johnny's casket in it was next. Adam Wright, the senior
paramedic on 51's B-shift was driving Joanne and the kids in Johnny's Rover,
as she was too upset to drive. Before heading to the cemetery, the
procession went slowly passed Station 51…Johnny
passed his beloved station house for the final time.
As the procession arrived at Cliffside Cemetery, everyone got out of their
vehicles. Roy looked up at the sky…it was the bluest blue sky that he had
ever seen, the weather was warm and there was a slight breeze blowing, and
the sun was shining bright overhead…Roy smiled to himself…it was just the
kind of day that Johnny loved. As the casket was placed over the gravesite,
all of Johnny's friends gathered around. Father Alphonse said a few
prayers, before Roy spoke one more time.
"Johnny left this envelope…I found it the night he died. He…he wanted it
read at his funeral."
Carefully opening the envelope, Roy's heart was beating very fast…he had no
idea what was in the envelope and didn't want to be caught off guard reading
something emotional for the first time in front of all these people, but he
knew he had no choice...he had to do it for Johnny. Slowly lifting up the
paper to read it, Roy glanced at the words on top of the paper, "Remember
Me" and immediately became choked up.
He started to read the words written on the paper, out loud to everyone.
Remember me with smiles and laughter,
Because that's how I'll remember you all
If you can only remember me with tears,
Then don't remember me at all.
Remember me and all the times we've had,
But just remember the good, not the bad.
Remember me and the life I was given to live,
I pray I did some good with what I had to give.
Remember me when you see the people on the street,
And give a kind word to everyone you meet.
Then when the day comes and your duty here is through,
Remember that I'll be waiting up in heaven to welcome you.
There was silence as everyone took in the meaning of the poem…a poem that
Johnny had obviously written himself. Roy felt compelled to say a few more
things about Johnny, before the casket was put into the ground and covered
with the dirt that would complete Johnny's journey.
"Johnny's favorite poem was a poem written by the poet Robert Frost…"The
Road Less Traveled". The final lines of the poem were 'two roads diverged
in the woods…and I…I took the one less traveled on…and that has made all the
difference'. As we all stand here ready to say our final good-byes to
Johnny, we would all be hard pressed to argue that point. Johnny sure did
things his way."
Roy incorporated an old Jewish burial custom into Johnny's service…each
mourner, if they so decided to, would take a shovel full of dirt and put it
on top of Johnny's casket as it was lowered into the grave. One by one,
starting with Roy and his family and then the men from 51's each took the
shovel and dropped some dirt into the grave. Once the service was over,
some of the other firefighters, including Chief Houts and Chief McConnike
came over to Roy and the guys to offer their condolences and well wishes.
It came as no surprise to anyone when Chief Houts had told Roy to take his time
coming back to work. Roy seemed relieved to hear this, but also knew that
if he didn't go back to work soon, it would become even more difficult than
it already was sure to be.
Roy loosened the tie he was wearing, as he said, "I'll see you guys at my
house. We're…we're gonna toss down a few…it's what Johnny would expect of
Roy led his family back to the Rover and got into it to start the drive
home. Roy was numb and Joanne was doing her best to stay in control of her
emotions, although she knew that like her husband, later on she would allow
herself the luxury of losing control of it. Jennifer was in the back seat
crying, trying to be consoled by her brother who was numb much like his
He remembered the day Johnny told him and Jennifer the news of his
illness…Chris had promised Johnny that after he was gone, that he'd take
care of his family…and that's what he intended to do…starting first, with
Returning home, Roy and his family entered their house, emptiness in their
hearts. Right away Joanne started to put out the food for the guests that
would soon be arriving, as Chris and Jennifer went upstairs to their rooms.
Jennifer took a framed picture from her dresser and sat down on her bed…the
picture was of a sunrise that Johnny had taken several years ago on a
camping trip…he had given her this picture to remind her that even after he
was gone, the sun would still rise. On this day she desperately wanted to
believe that, but her heart wouldn't let her.
Shortly after they returned home, the rest of the men of station 51's and
other guests started to arrive. Suzanne Stanley and Dixie McCall set about
helping Joanne with the food preparations, and Roy was soon joined out on
the deck by the rest of his friends...he had already downed two beers.
He was standing by the railing, his shirt opened and a beer in his hand.
"Come on out guys…have some beer."
When the guys all had a beer in their hands, Roy proposed a toast.
"To John Gage...may his memory live forever in our hearts...a better man, you will never find."
After a few moments of silence, Roy continued to speak. "I was standing
right here the day Johnny told me...told me that he was dying."
Roy's friends were very concerned about him. For almost six months, he had
been a pillar of strength and emotional control, but with the death of his
best friend, he obviously lost what control of his emotions he had left.
Once the food was set up, Joanne encouraged everyone to eat. Roy
reluctantly came inside and was met by Dixie.
She was going to ask him how he was holding up, but one look at his face and
the beer in his hand told her...he wasn't doing well. They warmly embraced.
"Dixie…I'm glad you're here. Is Kel and Joe coming?"
"Yes, they should be here shortly. They had to stop back at the hospital,
Dr. Morton had to go back on duty."
In the course of the next two hours, to Roy, what seemed like the entire
city of Los Angeles, came by to offer their condolences and well wishes to
Roy and his family, as well as the men of 51's. Roy, numbed by the pain
with alcohol met with all these people, going through the motions as though
he were a robot...no semblance of the kind, level headed, and professional man
that he normally was.
Downing another beer, Roy turned around when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned around to see the concerned face of Kelly Brackett.
"Hey Doc...thanks for comin'. Beer?"
Politely refusing, Kel shook his head. "No thanks Roy. I need to talk to you. Is
there some place private we can go?"
Roy let out a loud breath. "Uh...yeah. We...we can go upstairs."
Dr. Brackett followed Roy to his bedroom and they closed the door.
"Okay Doc, I'm all ears. What's...what's going on?"
Even in his alcohol-induced fog, Roy knew that the worst news he could receive had
already happened, and had...five months earlier.
"Roy...a few months ago Johnny gave me this envelope to give to you. It's
Roy was confused. "Why you…why now?"
"I don't know Roy, but he said that he trusted me to do this. His lawyers
took care of everything...there's nothing for you to do or sign."
He handed Roy the envelope and then started to leave.
Catching him by the arm, Roy said, "Please stay, Doc…I...I don't think I can
do this alone."
Dr. Brackett nodded his head. Carefully opening the envelope, Roy read
through the paper. When he got to the bottom, his grim expression changed
to that of confusion. Looking at his friend, Brackett understood Roy's
"Where...where did all this money come from? Johnny never told me about
"I don't know the answer to that Roy. He left a pretty big chunk of change
to Rampart and the LA County Fire Department, as well. The only thing that
he DID tell me…was that he wanted to make sure that the people he cared
about the most…were taken care of. He left money to the rest of your crew
as well. Roy...I know you already know this, but Johnny really was an
"Yeah...that he was Doc."
"Roy...if you need to talk...I'm always available." said Dr. Brackett, a look of concern on his face.
"Thanks. One day, I may take you up on it."
Roy put the paper back into the envelope and placed it in a dresser drawer.
After going back downstairs, the guests slowly started to leave, and pretty
soon all that was left was the men of 51's A-shift.
Hank and Suzanne embraced both Roy and Joanne.
"Roy...take your time coming back. Charlie Dwyer said he'd cover for you as
long as he needed to."
"Thanks. I'll...I'll be in touch Cap."
Similar sentiments were expressed by the rest of the men. Chet continued to
struggle with his emotions and after saying good-bye to Roy and Joanne,
quickly left with Marco. After all the guys left, the only one who stayed
was Rocky, who was as emotionally drained by the events of the last 72 hours
as Roy was.
Roy looked at his partner wearily.
"Join me for another beer Rocky?"
Letting out a deep breath, Rocky followed Roy back out to the deck. Once
they were both sitting down, Roy handed Rocky a beer and proceeded to take
out the bottle of Jack Daniels that he had had hidden in the cooler beneath all
After taking a long swig from his bottle, Roy started to speak.
"Rocky, my friend...this whole thing...it seems like a dream."
Rocky quietly responded. "I know what you mean Roy. I wish it was."
"Rocky...I'd...I'd give almost anything to bring him back…I miss him so
much. I never had a broken heart before...but now...now I know what it must
Rocky felt terrible losing one of his best friends, but he knew that
Johnny's death was even harder for Roy. Despite sharing many of the same
personality traits as Johnny, like the penchant for constant chatter, Rocky
was at a loss and had no idea of what to say to Roy. What could he possibly
say to this man that hadn't already been said to him by others. So, the two
paramedics sat in silence for a good ten minutes before Rocky spoke again.
"Roy...I do know Johnny's up in Heaven right now...and he's looking after
us. He's gonna help us...all of us...get through this...you'll see. I
better get going...I'll be in touch."
Roy nodded his head.
Rocky smiled warmly at his new partner. "Take care of yourself
Roy…that's what Johnny would want…and what WE all need."
"You too, Rocky. And, I'll do my best…for Johnny…and the rest of you guys."
Rocky said good-bye to Joanne and drove home. Once everyone was gone,
Joanne joined Roy out on the deck. She was finally able to let out her
emotions. Sobbing uncontrollably, she was embraced by the arms of her
Roy started to speak softly. "The kids…are they okay?"
Chris and Jennifer had stayed upstairs the whole afternoon, too upset to come
down. Dixie had gone up to talk to them, and bring them some food, and the
firefighters who knew and worked the closest with their Father and Uncle, had
also gone up to see them.
Joanne was able to talk between sobs. "They're…they're upstairs."
Roy decided to tell Joanne about Johnny's will and all the money that was
left to them. She was as dumbstruck about it as he had been.
"How...how is it possible Roy? Johnny…he didn't have…"
Stopping his wife, he shook his head. "I don't know…I don't think we'll ever know the
answer to that." Roy paused a moment before continuing. "Jo...are you
gonna be okay? I...there's something that I need to do."
Joanne saw the look in her husband's eyes. "You're not...not going to do
anything stupid...are you Roy?"
Kissing her, he shook his head no. "I promise, I'll be okay. I love you."
"I love you too Roy."
He went upstairs and looked in on his kids. Chris was asleep in his bed, and
Jennifer was asleep in the bed that was formerly occupied by Johnny, a
framed picture of a grinning Gage tucked under her arm. He kissed her
forehead and went out the front door, still clutching the bottle of Jack
Daniels in his hand.
Waiting for him was a taxi. He had asked his Captain to call him a cab and
have it wait out front until he was ready to go. Climbing into the cab, he
told the driver his destination... Cliffside Cemetery.
Arriving at Johnny's gravesite, he got out of the cab.
"Here's your money...you can go."
The driver was confused, and asked, "How are you gonna get home, mister?"
Half-heartedly smiling, Roy said, "Don't worry about me...I'll be okay."
Against his better judgement, the cab driver accepted the money, nodded his
As Roy approached the grave, he could see the huge amount of flowers that
had been placed over the fresh mound of dirt that covered his best friend's
casket…he knew how loved his partner had been, by the
overwhelming crowd that had attended the services, as well as all of the
outpouring of support that, not only he, but the other crew members from the
station had received.
People loved Johnny, but he doubted that his friend really understood just
how much he was loved, looked up to and admired, or how much he was really
going to be missed. Standing only a few feet from the grave, Roy tried to
control the tears that were threatening to fall… but he couldn't do it, and
as he walked up next to the grave, he broke down, his body shaking
uncontrollably, with sobs over losing his best friend.
"Junior...I miss you so much. Why'd you have to leave us…why? I...I still
keep trying to make sense of this...and I can't. People tell me that this
was God's will and …maybe it was ...maybe it wasn't. I just know that I
wish you were still here...where you belong."
Collapsing from emotion and fatigue, Roy continued to sob and down his
bottle of Jack Daniels. He turned around when he heard a voice…it sounded
like it was the voice of his daughter Jennifer.
"Daddy...when I was a little girl I always thought God was crying whenever
it was raining out. But now...now I know that's not true. Why would God be
crying...he's got Uncle Johnny up there with him now."
Confused, Roy looked around and realized that he was the only one there.
Roy continued to sit next to Johnny's grave. Numbed by the alcohol, he had
lost all track of time...he didn't have on his watch.
Back home Joanne was getting nervous. It was approaching midnight and Roy
was still not back yet. Not knowing what else to do, she called Hank Stanley
and explained the situation.
On a hunch, Hank drove to the cemetery and found Roy just where he expected
the paramedic to be...besides Johnny's grave.
"Roy…you okay Pal?"
Roy looked up, startled to see his Captain standing there, shining a
flashlight at him.
"Roy...you need to go home, Joanne...she's worried sick about you."
His voice was slurred from the effects of the alcohol, as he asked,
"What...what time is it?"
"It's almost 1 AM."
Hank helped Roy get up on his feet.
"Cap...it's gonna be okay...Johnny told me so."
Realizing that it was the grief and alcohol talking, Hank agreed with Roy. "That's right Roy...it is gonna be okay. Johnny's smart...he knows what he's talking about. Come on...let's get you back home to your family."
Reluctantly, Roy went with his Captain, staggering alongside of him. Before
he got in the car, he took a last look towards Johnny's grave.
"Bye Junior...I miss you. I'll see you soon Partner."
Clear as a bell he heard another voice...one that sounded just like that of
his best friend.
"Bye Pally...I miss you too."
Johnny's death had a profound effect on all those people who were closest to
him, and each of them dealt with his death in their own way. The following
is what happened to those people in the time following his passing…
Marco Lopez took what Johnny said to him on his deathbed to heart...he
became a paramedic, training with Roy and Rocky...eventually becoming
Rocky's partner at 51's.
For Mike Stoker, he too finally moved on. He became a Captain at 110's and
he found himself a nice girl and is in the planning stages of a wedding.
Chet Kelly never fully recovered from Johnny's death. Six months after
Johnny had died he resigned from the Department. After receiving some
counseling, he got his life back together. He opened a novelty store that he
affectionately called "The Pigeon's Nest"…in memory of his friend. He
eventually married Marco's sister, Amelia.
Hank Stanley was torn on what his next step should be. He also had a hard
time dealing with his friend's death. Ultimately, he took his exam and
became Battalion Chief, replacing McConnike, who retired.
Rocky Ramirez stayed a paramedic, even though he was devastated by his
friend's death. He and Roy had become good friends, and were considered to be
almost as good a team as Roy was with Johnny. After Marco passed his field
training, he became Rocky's partner, making Rocky the senior paramedic.
Joe Early retired five years after Johnny's death. He spends his days at his
beach house with the love of his life, his wife Julie, a retired nightclub
Kelly Brackett decided to cut back his hours and is no longer the ER
Director. Instead of being full-time in the ER, he devotes much of his time
to the paramedic program, still teaching and being the program's biggest
supporter. He and Dixie were married three years to the day of Johnny's
Dixie McCall resigned her post as Head ER Nurse, shortly after Joe Early
retired. She turned her energies to being a hospice nurse…comforting and
taking care of terminally ill patients at home during their last weeks of
life. The memory of John Gage remains very close to her heart.
Joanne DeSoto was as devastated about Johnny's death, as Roy was. Helping to
take care of Johnny during the last month and a half of his life had given her a
new perspective on her own life. She decided to volunteer at
Rampart...spending her free time visiting with patients on the oncology
Christopher DeSoto decided to follow in his Father and Uncle's footsteps. He
enrolled at the Fire Academy after graduating high school…his first
assignment was at Station 110's, under Mike Stoker's command. Chris always
carries his Uncle Johnny's pocketknife with him, as a token of good luck…
and like his Uncle, he saved a fellow firefighter's life with it.
Jennifer DeSoto went to UCLA where she was a pre-med major. During her last
semester, she switched gears and decided to become one of LA County's first
female firefighter/paramedics. Thoughts of her Uncle Johnny are never far
from her heart…HE was the inspiration behind her decision. After
graduation, Jennifer went to the Chief and asked if she could be issued her
Uncle Johnny's badge…after all, she had it in her possession. The Chief agreed.
Charlie Dwyer also became an engineer. He works out of Station 39's. He
always thinks about his friend.
Craig Brice was involved in a rescue gone wrong shortly after Johnny's
death. He had hurt his back and was no longer fit for active duty. Unsure of
what to do, he resigned from the Department and went back to school,
majoring in social work. He now works with disadvantaged youths to give
them discipline and a sense of belonging.
Mike Morton loosened up a bit after Johnny's death. He became more
compassionate and his bedside manner improved. After Dr. Brackett cut back
his hours, Morton was named Head of the ER He started dating and eventually
married Nurse Carol, who took over for Dixie as Head E.R. Nurse after Dixie
Vince Howard put in another five years on the job after Johnny's death.
After retiring from the Police Force, and tired of the rat race, he moved to
Las Vegas with his wife Pam, and he took a job at one of the casinos doing
As for Roy DeSoto, he loved being a paramedic, but after Johnny's death, the
thrill of it was gone for him. Although he and Rocky did become good
friends...for Roy, it was never the same. After helping Marco with his
field training, he finally did take that promotion to engineer and
transferred to Station 46 for a fresh start…but he has never forgotten about
his best friend.
Only a few months after the young paramedic's death, Rampart General
Hospital, with a big push from all of Johnny's friends, renamed the oncology
wing after him. It was a day mixed with sadness and remembrance, as Chris
and Jennifer were given the honor of hanging the plaque on the wall.
Putting it in place and gently rubbing her hand down the front of it,
Jennifer kissed her fingers and gently placed them over Johnny's picture.
She and Chris then stepped back to join their parents and friends. As they
all stood arm in arm, their eyes filled with tears as they looked at the
picture of their friend, his date of birth and his date of death underneath
On the plaque, it read…
The John Gage Memorial Wing
In Loving Memory of Firefighter/Paramedic John "Johnny" Roderick Gage
Johnny, you fought bravely against the beast to save the lives of people
that you didn't even know. And you fought against cancer with the same brave
spirit, and were strong until the very end. You were so very loved and will
never be forgotten.
As the crew from the station and the hospital staff stood there, they
embraced and comforted each other, knowing that they would never forget
their dear and special friend.