Title: The Partnership Paradox
Author: Olivia Sutton
Archives: Fan Fiction Net, Archive of Our Own
Rating: PG, Teen
Original publication information: This story was originally published in Ouch! 7, a paper fanzine edited by Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, published in 1999. You can find out more about Cinda and Jody's zines at: Neon Rainbow Press.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Disclaimer: Emergency! is owned by Jack Webb, his estate, Mark VII Ltd Productions, NBC-Universal, and possibly others. This fanfic is written for fun and for the enjoyment of other fans and no profit is made from this fanfic. No infringement of copyright is intended.
Summary: A routine rescue, rescuing a young boy who gets himself stuck under a dock, turns dangerous when Johnny is injured as well.
The Partnership Paradox
by Olivia Sutton
It was a beautiful, sunny, 75 degrees day in Los Angeles. Firefighter/Paramedic John Gage played solitaire at LA County fire station's kitchen table. He moved a Jack onto a Queen.
John's partner, firefighter/paramedic Roy DeSoto, set aside his newspaper, rose from the couch and walked towards the fridge. He paused at the table and said, "Red ten on the black Jack, John."
"I know," John responded crossly, "I was getting to it." He waved a hand at the cards, "I've almost got it this time."
Roy scanned the neatly laid out rows of cards and nodded, understanding John's temperament and his poor reputation as a card player. "Almost?"
"Look, Roy, I'll do it," John insisted, "By myself."
Roy shrugged and turned to the fridge, rummaging for a snack.
"Is Gage cheating again?" Chet Kelly asked from where he was standing near the sink. He was the only other person in the kitchen. Chet grinned knowingly at Roy. "After all, that's the only way he can win."
Exasperated, John sighed, "Chet-"
He was cut off by the blaring tones of the alarm. Chet ran to the engine, John rose, then sat down as Engine 51 was dispatched to a trash fire.
Roy closed the refrigerator door, a granny smith apple in his hand, and retrieved his paper. Then he sat down at the kitchen table and started reading again.
John returned to the game. He moved a card, then eyed his partner, completely hidden by the paper. Assured that Roy wasn't watching, he pulled a card from underneath the far right stack.
"That's cheating," Said Roy, calmly.
John's expression dropped. "It's not...well, it was, but..." he flustered, caught in the act, then realised that Roy's paper had never moved. "How did you..."
"Do-beep, beep-do", sounded the alarm, "Squad 51, child trapped under a dock, 7 Mile road, Morrissey Lake, 7 Mile road, Morrissey Lake, time out 12:45," blared the speaker announcing a call.
DeSoto and Gage dropped everything and hurried to the rescue squad. Roy wrote down the address and clocked out with, "Squad 51, KMG 365," before entering the driver's side of the squad. John was already inside. Roy hit the siren and lights and drove off.
The squad pulled up to the grassy area near a small lake, further in, the shoreline was a checkerboard of wood docks, piers, boardwalks and sandy swimming areas. A long wooden pier jutted at a right angle to the shore, going further into the lake. Two empty slips were on the right side of the pier, but none on the left. The left side was open for swimming. A few feet of sandy beach were between the boardwalk and the water. The boardwalk was connected to the higher pier by a slanting dock. The two paramedics exited their vehicle, picked up their gear and hurried over to the man and boy waiting by the shore.
"What happened?" asked Gage as he approached, DeSoto at his side.
"I'm George Roberts," said the short round-faced man standing on the shore. "I had my two nephews out here for the day. We were going to go fishing, but they wanted to swim. They're old enough, so I wasn't really watching 'em. Then Tom swam into shore and told me that Steve was stuck under the dock."
At Roy's look of confusion, he explained further. "They were swimming in front of the beach by the dock and decided to explore. I've told those boys a hundred times, don't swim under the docks, but they're kids. They don't listen. Anyway, Tom came in and said Steve got stuck. We called from the pier and he answered, but he can't get loose."
"Okay. Where could you hear him?" John asked.
The man led the two paramedics down the dock to the pier until they were about a third of the way from the end. The old wood creaked as they walked over it. The scent of water and seaweed was stronger at the end of the docks.
"Right here was where he could hear him calling," said Mr. Roberts.
"What's the boy's name?" asked Roy.
"Steve, Steve Tomson."
Both paramedics called the boy's name. John looked down over the side of the pier, but could see very little in the green-grey shadows. Finally, they heard a weak cry for help from the boy. John looked in the direction of the cry, but could still see very little.
"We need to find a way down there," he said to Roy.
"I have a rowboat," offered Mr. Roberts.
Roy and John returned to shore, loaded the drug box and biophone into the small wood boat, and rowed out to the edge of the pier. From the edge, John thought he could see something deep under the pier. Roy looked over and nodded.
"There he is. I'm going to have to swim over to get to him," said Gage.
"You do that and you'll get caught too," pointed out Roy.
"Well, how else are we going to get him out?"
"A rope, from the pier?"
"Okay, we can try it."
Roy maneuvered the rowboat past where the boy was stuck and tied it to the pier. He and John climbed onto the pier and John strapped on a life line. Roy tied the other half of the line to the pier and then with Mr. Roberts's help lowered his partner ten feet down the side of the pier toward the boy. John followed one of the posts supporting the pier, using a large flashlight to see in the grey-green murky darkness. The pier smelled of mold, seaweed, and brackish water. John called out the boy's name as he reached water level.
"Down here!" yelled Steve, "-m stuck!"
"All right, I'm coming," answered John, as he dropped into the cool water and began to swim toward the boy. The water was about five feet deep, making it faster for John to swim than walk. He quickly reached the small redhead. "I'm Johnny. I'm here to help you. Are you okay?"
"I'm cold," the boy responded, his teeth chattering.
"I know. You'll be fine, just fine. We'll have you out in a few minutes. So what happened?"
"I wanted to see if I could swim to the other side, and I got stuck."
John nodded, observing the boy's color, "How do you feel? Is there any pain?" he asked.
"My ankle," responded Steve.
John tried to reach the boy's ankle, but his leg was trapped by lumber and drifting seaweed.
"What's that for?" asked Steve, as John pulled out his pocket flashlight to check the boy's pupils.
John smiled. The boy was bright and curious. "I'm just checking you out, and everything's fine." It was the truth; Steve's pupils had shown normal reactivity.
"Now I'm going to see if I can get you out of here." He moved to the opposite side of the boy, but still could not free his ankle. Next he tried to move the wood, but it was no go.
"Okay Steve, in order to get you free I'm going to have to get some equipment from my partner, okay? I'll be right back."
"Don't leave me! Tom left, and..."
"Shush, it's okay." John placed a hand on the boy's arm. "It's okay. I'm only going to be gone for a minute. I need some equipment from my partner."
"Okay," said Steve. "It is cold," he added.
"I know. We'll have you out of here as quick as we can, then we have blankets to get you all warmed up, okay?" John smiled at the boy as he reassured him.
"Okay," answered Steve, smiling back at John.
John swam back to the edge of the pier. "Roy," he yelled.
"Johnny, Did you find him?"
"He's stuck between some wood planks. I need the handsaw."
"Okay," answered Roy, who then got it from the rescue unit and lowered it to John. John returned to the boy, cut the wood loose and pulled it away. He helped Steve free, and examined his ankle. Though painful, John didn't think it was broken. He still used care in helping the boy to the edge of the pier to avoid aggravating the injury. Once at the end of the pier, John held Steve while Roy and Mr. Roberts pulled them both up to the dry wooden pier. John laid the boy on the ground, on a blanket. Roy handed him more blankets and John covered the boy, trying to warm him. He also took a towel from Roy and quickly wiped off the water from his face and hair, and then removed his lifeline.
John knelt next to Steve and began taking vitals while Roy called Rampart on the biophone.
"Rampart, this is rescue 51."
"Go ahead 51," responded Dr. Kelly Brackett, the emergency physician at Rampart General County Hospital.
"We have a male, age 10, who was trapped in water under a pier for approximately 20 minutes. He has pain in the right ankle and is complaining of cold, skin feels cold and has gooseflesh."
"Do you have vitals 51?" asked Dr. Brackett.
Roy asked John for the vitals and then repeated into the biophone, "Respiration is 25, pulse is 110, skin is pale and cold, pupils normal and reactive, B/P is 110 over 70, temp is 95."
"All right 51, start an IV with Ringers, and keep him warm. Is the ankle immobilized?"
John started the IV, softly explaining to Steve that he'd only feel a little prick from the needle and that the medicine would help. Next he placed an air splint around Steve's ankle.
"Affirmative, Rampart," Roy said into the biophone, as he watched John treating Steve.
"Has the ambulance arrived yet?"
"Just pulled up now, Rampart."
"Continue monitoring vitals and transport immediately."
John and Roy loaded the boy onto the ambulance gurney. Roy led the way and John brought-up the rear as they moved toward the ambulance. Suddenly, Roy heard a terrible creaking behind him. With a crash, the dock gave way and Johnny fell through as well as the rear wheels of the gurney. An ambulance attendant, though also toward the rear of the gurney, managed to stay on the dock and helped his partner and Roy steady the gurney and prevent it from falling into the water.
Roy yelled "You all right?" to the ambulance attendants while he steadied the gurney.
The attendants both called out, "Yeah, fine," and joined Roy in pushing the gurney further toward shore, then Roy moved to the side of the gurney and briefly checked Steve.
"What happened?" asked the young boy.
"We had too much weight on this pier, and my partner's in the water."
"You gonna' help him out? He's gonna' be okay, isn't he?"
Roy nodded. At the moment he didn't know how bad Johnny was hurt, and he was worried. "Steve, I'm going to go help John. These men will look after you." He gestured toward the ambulance attendants. "You'll be okay for a few minutes, okay?"
Roy yelled to the ambulance attendants to stay with Steve then he hurried toward the hole in the dock. The attendants quickly pushed the gurney to shore and monitored Steve's condition while waiting for the return of the paramedic.
Roy reached the gaping hole in the dock, flattened himself against the rough wood planking of the dock to prevent himself from falling through as well, and peered over the edge. "Johnny!"
Looking down, at first he could see nothing, but then he saw Johnny half on, half off one of the support beams of the pier, about four feet down. The waterline was another three feet down.
"Johnny!" Roy yelled again.
There was no response from the injured paramedic.
"Oh man," said Roy to himself as he ran back to the squad, his thoughts centered on his injured partner. With Johnny unconscious there was no way to know how badly he was hurt until Roy got him out from under the pier. Roy didn't want to think about his partner's unmoving form as he automatically called in to dispatch and reported his situation and asked for additional help. Next he used the biophone to call Rampart, and explained what had happened. Roy now knew his attention would have to be split between his patient and his injured partner. He took a Stokes litter out of the rescue squad and returned to the scene.
Looking down through the hole, Roy could no longer see Johnny; the wooden beam was empty. All sorts of questions and fears came to Roy's mind, where was John? How badly was he hurt? What had happened while he was calling in? Frightened at what had happened, Roy called out, "Johnny!" and searched the water below the pier for his partner. Then he heard John's muffled, "Roy!"
Now Roy could see that Johnny was in the water, but at least he was conscious. Roy grabbed Johnny's abandoned lifeline and had Mr. Roberts and the ambulance attendants help lower him down into the water. Below the pier it was murky. When he hit the water, Roy discovered it was cold. Roy swam over to Johnny.
"-umf," he responded, then spit out water and nodded.
Roy quickly assessed his partner. Blood covered his face from a gash along his hairline and he held his right arm in close to his side, treading water with the left arm only. Reddish water surrounded his partner.
"What happened? How bad are you hurt?" Roy asked, his voice deep with concern.
"I banged my head, falling against that beam." He tried to point, but grimaced at the pain in his shoulder. "I think I fractured my left tibia too." He gave Roy a brief reassuring grin, then soberly grimaced in pain.
Roy nodded. "You're going to be fine. I'll get you out of here as soon as I can."
Roy yelled up to Mr. Roberts and the ambulance attendants to send down the Stokes litter.
Roy moved closer to John, "Johnny, do you know where you're bleeding from?"
"My leg, I think," Johnny grimaced in pain, "It hurts, Roy, it really hurts."
"Okay, well," Roy grimaced, trying to reassure his partner, "I'll get you out of here right away."
Roy tried to see the leg, but couldn't because of the gloom and the water.
The metal basket litter was lowered on another line, and Roy carefully helped his partner into it then signaled the other men to raise the litter. Once John was safe, Roy half climbed and was half pulled up by his own lifeline.
"Is he okay?" asked Steve as Roy and the attendants returned to shore with John. The attendants monitored Steve.
"He's going to be fine," Roy answered, then he grabbed the orange biophone box and contacted the base station. "Rampart, this is Rescue 51."
"Go ahead 51," answered Dr. Brackett.
"Rampart, I have John out of the water."
Roy began to calmly and professionally check over his partner. "Rampart, second patient received a blow to the head and was unconscious for a few minutes. He has a hairline laceration and severe pain in the shoulder." Roy continued to check John, then reported, "Patient has a compound fracture of the tibia, probable fractured fibula, vitals to follow."
Roy checked John's vital signs and then called in, "Respiration is 24, pulse 110, cold and pale skin, normal reactive pupils, B/P 100 over 70."
"51, is the patient conscious?"
Roy checked John. "That is affirmative, Rampart."
"51, start an IV with D5W, then immobilize the fractures."
"51, is there any change in the first patient's condition?"
"Negative," Roy answered Brackett's question.
"51, transport both patients immediately."
"Ten-four, Rampart. Our ETA is ten minutes."
Roy splinted John's leg to stop bleeding and immobilize the fractures, and established the IV. The attendants had already loaded Steve into the waiting ambulance and returned to help Roy load the now stabilized John into the back. A second rescue unit pulled in, and Roy explained he had things under control. He did ask if they could drop 51's squad off at Rampart. Then Roy entered the ambulance to accompany John to Rampart.
Inside the ambulance, Steve looked over at John from his own gurney. "Are you okay?" He asked the paramedic.
Groggily, John nodded, then responded, "I'll be okay, don't worry about me. Just stay calm and quiet, okay Steve?"
Steve thought for a moment, then looked up at Roy. "Is he really gonna' be okay?"
"Yeah, he should be fine," Roy reassured, calming the young boy. At that moment, John lapsed into unconsciousness. Roy assessed him again, checking vitals. Fear gripped Roy and, despite his reassurances to Steve, he didn't feel as confident as he sounded. John had several injuries, and he was shocky. He was afraid he could lose him.
"He's really nice, to get me out of there and everything. I didn't mean for him to get hurt too," said Steve.
"No, of course not," Roy reassured, looking at the small boy. "It's okay. He'll be fine." Roy held the boy's hand, calming his fears, but he had his own fears for his partner's condition. As he continued monitoring vitals, part of his mind was contemplating his friendship with John. He couldn't see the man as just another patient, despite his training, and he couldn't help but to be concerned and worried. John was more than his paramedic partner, he was a close friend, and Roy didn't want to think about the implications of losing that friend.
Within minutes the ambulance arrived at Rampart General County Hospital. Dr. Brackett and Dr. Joe Early met the gurneys, and Roy gave updated vitals for both patients, Steve was taken into treatment one by Dr. Early. Roy accompanying Dr. Brackett and his partner into treatment three. Roy assisted with moving Johnny onto the treatment room bed, then Nurse Dixie McCall came over and shooed him out of the room. The door to the treatment room shut and Roy turned back, looking toward inside, shoulders slumped.
Dixie saw Roy standing outside of the treatment room and joined him.
"I wish I could be in there, Dix."
"I know, Roy, I know, but Dr. Brackett will take good care of him," she reassured.
"Yeah, I know that. It's just tough. I mean, Johnny's young, strong, in good health. He should be fine. But there were a lot of injuries." Roy's eyes shown bright with concern.
Dixie nodded, and put her hand on Roy's arm, "He'll be fine. How about if we get a cup of coffee?"
Roy nodded and followed her, then he stopped. "Wait a minute, I want to call Joanne."
Dixie nodded again and watched Roy leave. She had known the two paramedics from Station 51 for quite some time and knew they were close friends. It was hard on one to see the other injured, but Roy had the support of his wife now. Dixie hoped John would be fine. Anyway, Roy no longer needed her so she returned to the treatment room.
Inside the treatment room, Dr. Brackett examined John, checking his pupils and having a nurse check vitals. "John, do you know what day it is?" Brackett asked.
"Of course, I do," answered John, who knew the routine for possible head injury.
"Just answer the question, John." Brackett's tone was all business, but he was still concerned. After all, Gage was one of the department's best paramedics, and a friend.
"It's Tuesday, and before you ask, I fell off a dock into the water."
"You also hit your head and Roy says you were unconscious, now relax." Brackett placed a hand on John's uninjured shoulder, pressing him farther back onto the examination table. Paramedics could be the worst patients, he reflected, but he wanted to make sure there were no more complications before sending John to orthopedics.
Brackett ordered one of the emergency room nurses to get X-rays, a skull series, and blood work. "Okay, John, let me look at that shoulder."
John just nodded and leaned back on the hospital bed; he was tired and sore from head to toe.
As Dixie entered, Brackett was finishing with John's dislocated shoulder and getting him completely stabilized.
"How is he doing?" asked Dixie.
"He's stable. The skull series was negative, no fractures, and a mild concussion. X-rays did show a broken tibia and fibula, so I'm sending him to orthopedics."
Dixie nodded, "I'll go tell Roy."
"Thanks, Dix," Brackett answered, smiling at her.
"Hey, Roy," Dixie called from the treatment room door, as she moved towards him.
Roy rushed toward her as she moved to meet him. While waiting for word on John, Roy had time to take in everything that had happened. In the field he was too busy to worry, but now he had time, and he realized how concerned he was.
"It looks like he'll make a full recovery," she explained as they reached each other. "He'll need a week of bed rest and he'll be restricted from active duty until his broken leg completely heals."
Roy let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "Can I see him?"
"Dr. Brackett's sending him to orthopedics for a cast, then he will be moved to recovery. How about that coffee?"
The two walked to the hospital cafeteria and sat down with coffee.
"That was close," mumbled Roy.
"Hey Roy, John's fine," Dixie answered, seeing the paramedic was upset.
"Yeah, I know, I know Dixie. It's just that there were a few bad moments, and he could have drowned. And all that blood in the water, it was a sight. It's hard. I never think about the dangers of the job, because I can't, if I did..."
"I'd make mistakes Dix, and that's fatal. But something like this. It both makes me realize how close I am to John, and how easily I could lose him. Or that something could happen to me."
Dixie nodded again. "You and John are two of the best paramedics we have. Both of you do well at the job, and you do well because you care." She smiled, adding, "And because you're friends you work that much more smoothly together, to the patient's benefit, I might add. John's okay Roy," she reassured him.
"Yeah, I know that Dix. I'm glad he's gonna' be okay. He's my partner, you know? Partners look out for each other, or should."
"Hey, you did fine, you got him out of the water, treated him and got him in here. It's what you're trained for."
"Yeah, I know, but it's so much harder when the victim is also a friend."
"I know Roy." She patted his arm. "I know. I think he's in a room by now, you want to go visit?"
"Sure," he answered.
Roy left the cafeteria and went to check on John.
Roy walked in the room, and saw John half upright in bed and half asleep. A bandage covered his forehead and his lower left leg was encased in a cast, his right shoulder was also bandaged.
Roy approached the bed, saying softly, "Hi Johnny, how you feeling?"
John awoke, opened his eyes and muzzily said, "Hey, thanks, Roy."
"It's nothing," answered Roy smiling at John, "So, how are you doing?" He sat on the edge of the bed, near his partner.
"Oh, pretty good. Gonna' be off work awhile though," John replied, calmly.
"Yeah, I can see that. Hey John..." Roy looked at him, seriously.
"Well, it's just..." Roy swallowed, It wasn't easy for him to express his emotions, and he knew that Johnny wouldn't appreciate an emotional scene. But John was more than his partner, he was his friend and he'd come close to losing that friend this day.
Johnny looked up, his eyes locking on Roy's. "I know what you're going to say, Roy."
"No, I want to say it. John, you're more than just my partner, you're my friend. Today I was scared, really scared. It was one of the closest calls we've had, and it just made me realize how lucky I am to be partnered with a good friend."
John smiled, "I knew you'd come through for me, Roy. And I consider you my closest friend too. You did a good job out there."
"We had too much weight on that pier," Roy said calmly. His voice held a hint of self-recrimination.
"I know," replied John, recognizing the tone. "But that wasn't your fault, or my fault, it happens. Part of the job, Roy."
Roy just nodded. He knew nothing really could have prevented what happened. But he also knew it was a close call. And he was very glad that he and his partner had made it through okay.
Roy reached over and gave Johnny's non-injured hand a good squeeze. "I should be going back to the station."
"Who? Oh. He's fine. They treated him for hypothermia and exposure. But it wasn't even a broken ankle, just a sprain."
"Good, glad he's going to be okay. Well, tell the guys hi."
"I'll do that. Take care and get better, okay?" Roy squeezed John's hand again, and walked out of the room.
At the stationhouse, Roy walked into the kitchen. The familiar surroundings felt empty, John's card game was still half finished on the table. Roy's own newspaper was there too. It felt strange to Roy to return from a run without his partner. Firefighter Chet Kelly immediately approached him, "How's Johnny?"
"Banged-up, but he'll be okay. He has a mild concussion, dislocated shoulder, fractured tibia, and fractured fibula. About a week of bed rest, then he'll be off duty until the cast comes off."
"Jeezz, that's some list," answered Chet, shocked.
"Yeah," Roy answered, nodding, and sitting at the kitchen table. The extent of John's injures had worried him at the hospital and he hadn't relaxed until he'd seen him in recovery.
Captain Stanley entered the room, with the other firefighters following him. "Hey Roy, back from the hospital so soon? How's John?"
"He's going to be fine, Cap," Roy answered soberly, the adrenaline had long washed out of his system. He was tired, and his mind had given him a couple of worse-case scenarios to contemplate on the drive back to the station. In short, everything that had happened was hitting hard.
"Good," Captain Stanley told Roy, he hated to see him men hurt. "I called in B-shift, and they're willing to cover for you. You can have the afternoon off if you want."
"Okay, thanks Cap," Roy answered quietly.
"Look, I know it's rough." He sat down across the table from Roy. "But John's been hurt before and recovered. I talked to Dixie and Dr. Brackett. He'll be just fine. Go home, relax, talk to your wife. In the morning, dispatch will send you a temporary partner until John returns to work."
"Okay. And I'm fine, really. It was just ... rough."
Captain Stanley sighed. "Roy..."
The station's siren went off and the room quickly emptied. Roy followed, only to see the two B-shift paramedics drive off in the rescue squad. Roy stood there alone in the empty fire station.
Roy entered his home, a small bungalow on a quiet tree-lined suburban street. He felt worn out and tired, needing the respite of being with his wife and kids. Once he left the foyer and entered the living room, he heard Joanne coming into the living room from the kitchen. She stood in the doorway, all five foot four of her, wiping her hands on a dish towel. Her brown hair was pulled back with a triangle of cloth, and her blue eyes shone brightly.
"Roy! You're home." She ran to him.
Roy rushed to meet her and gathered her in his arms. He held her tightly for a moment, calming her down, needing her warmth, comfort and love. Joanne returned the hug, but then stepped back. "I've been so worried."
"Worried? I'm fine. It's Johnny who's in the hospital, Joanne." Roy looked at her, confused.
"I know. But when you called..." she stopped. The afternoon had been hard. She knew she should talk to Roy, but it was hard to explain, to talk about her fears. "How is he?" She asked, bringing her hand to her face, and pushing a hair back behind her ear.
"Johnny's going to be just fine. He'll be off work for a while with a broken leg, though. We can see him tomorrow." Roy answered her directly, but saw she was nervous and upset.
"Okay. Roy, I..." she turned away.
"Joanne, what is it?" Roy could tell something was bothering her. She was a lot more wound-up about this than any other time anyone had been injured on the job. As a firefighter's wife, she knew the risks, and Roy assumed she accepted them, or at least had come to terms with them. He couldn't figure out why this time was so different.
"It's nothing." She said quietly, facing away from her husband.
Roy approached her and gently turned her around. "Honey, come on. What's wrong?"
"Roy I don't want... I know it must have been hard for you, and I don't want to make things worse. I was listening to the news earlier, before you called. They reported that a paramedic from Station 51 was injured. I was terrified, Roy."
"Oh, oh honey. I'm sorry."
"Then you called, and the first thing you say is that you're at the hospital." Her voice held the hint of tears.
Roy nodded as it became clear. "I had no idea, Joanne. I was still worried about John. They'd just taken him into the treatment room, and I didn't know how badly he was hurt. I wanted to talk to someone, and not at the station or the hospital. I needed to talk. I didn't mean to scare you. Why didn't you say something?"
Joanne's face grew angry. "What was I supposed to say? I'm glad it was your partner and not you?" She calmed and continued, "Dammit Roy, I love John too, okay! He's your best friend, and he's my friend too. He's so good with the boys and... God forbid, but if you were, if anything ever happened..." Joanne stopped, choked up with tears.
"He'd look after you. He's promised me that." Roy gathered his wife in his arms and held her as her breathing calmed. "I know it's rough, Joanne. Sometimes I think it's harder on you than me. But you know I'm always careful. Look, John's going to be just fine. Everything's all right."
"This time," she said so quietly that Roy barely heard her. Tears fell from her eyes.
"Joanne, it's part of the job. A job I love. I thought you understood."
"I do. I'm sorry, Roy. That stupid news report upset me." She was still crying. Roy held her, and murmured in her hair.
Suddenly the back door opened and the boys loudly rushed in. Roy and Joanne composed themselves. Their 8-year old, Chris, stopped and quieted down on seeing his parents so upset in the living room. "Mommy, Daddy!" he cried.
Joanne stopped crying and dried her face with the dish towel. She walked over and bent down to talk to the boy. "It's okay. Uncle John was hurt today, but he's going to be fine. We can go visit tomorrow, okay?"
The boy looked at her quizzically.
"Now go wash-up for dinner."
The boys left. Joanne stood. "Well, I better finish dinner."
"Yeah," said Roy, then added, "Joanne, I'm sorry I scared you."
"It's okay Roy," she smiled, "I'm over-reacting. I'm sorry, sweetheart."
She returned to the kitchen and Roy turned the local TV news on, then sat on the couch. But he didn't really pay any attention to the screen. Instead, the events of the day filled his mind. It had been a close call. But John made it. He was going to be fine and, in a few weeks they'd be riding together again as partners. Roy knew he was supposed to stay detached from the victims he worked on, but sometimes that detachment was hard. When it was a friend who was hurt, it was impossible. But being friends also made he and John better partners, and better able to serve the public. Roy sighed. He decided to stop dwelling on what might have happened and to look forward to John coming back to work at the station.
Joanne's fears also were on his mind. He knew how much she loved him and feared for his safety, but it hadn't hit home until he had seen someone he also cared for injured and had worried for his safety. Now he knew how Joanne felt when he was hurt. But he couldn't dwell on that possibility, if he did, he'd make mistakes and then he'd get himself hurt. He knew that.
After a while Joanne called him to dinner and he gladly went.
The next day, Roy, Joanne and their two boys visited John in the hospital. Chet and the other firefighters were already there, talking to John and cheering him up. Cards, flowers and a stuffed bear in a firefighter outfit decorated the room. John sat upright in bed, grinning at a joke Chet had told him.
"Hi, John," said Roy, approaching the bed. Joanne followed in his wake; the boys hung back, intimidated by the large number of adults.
"Hi Roy, Joanne. Hey are those the boys? Come here kids."
The boys rushed forward and tried to climb up on the bed. "Hey, careful kids," said Roy, watching them.
"They're all right," said John, smiling. "Joanne, good to see you. Wish the circumstances were better."
"So how are you feeling?" Asked Roy.
"Just fine." John pushed himself up on the bed.
Roy saw the slight grimace of pain in John's eyes as he moved, but didn't say anything. Chet also noticed, and began telling another joke. Everyone chatted and smiled.
After about half an hour, Dixie came in, pushing Steve Tomson in a hospital wheel chair. "John, there's someone here to see you," she said as she entered the already full hospital room.
"Hi, Johnny!" said the young boy enthusiastically, moving forward in his regulation wheelchair. Dixie quietly left to let the boy talk to John.
John grinned widely, "Steve, hi! How are you doing?"
"Good." The boy grinned. "I'm sorry you got hurt because of me."
"Nah, that's just part of my job. Don't worry about it," John told the boy. "You going home soon?"
"Today. Nurse Dixie told me I could come and say thank you."
Steve looked around the room. "Hey, you sure got a lot of presents and stuff. Where'd the bear come from?"
"Chet," John said, gesturing toward the firefighter.
At the sound of his name, Chet smiled and said, "Well, I... I thought it cheer him up."
Joanne smiled quietly, watching John interact with Steve and the camaraderie between him and the other firefighters, including her husband.
Roy looked at Chet, then at the bear, then at John. He grinned, knowing everything was going to be all right.
Nurse Dixie entered the room again, "Okay Steve, time for you to go home. And everyone else. Visiting hours are over, so clear out, okay?"
Nods and murmurs of agreements greeted her as she escorted Steve out. Gradually the room emptied with final words of encouragement to John.
Chet walked over to John and said goodbye and told him to get well.
Then Roy approached the bed. "Cute bear, John."
"Yeah, well... You know Chet, he wanted to cheer me up about being off work."
Roy nodded, it sounded like something the other firefighter would do. Chet loved to play jokes on John, but all three knew it to be a way of showing friendship and affection. "It's cute," Roy remarked, then he looked at John seriously. "You take care of yourself, Johnny."
Roy smiled. "Don't get too bored at home."
"I won't. And Roy, thanks, again."
Roy nodded, and squeezed John's hand, then he joined his wife and quietly left, ready to go with his boys for a quiet ride home.