A/N: As the story summary says, this is humor. It is a parody, and contains a great deal of egregious out of character behavior.

Johnny Gage and the Order of the Kleenex

In his third year as a paramedic, Johnny came up with the scam of the century. He was never sure, after it all started, how much of the idea was truly his, but Brackett clearly wanted Johnny to take credit for the plan, and Johnny, never one to be terribly modest, was happy to play along.

Johnny was sitting glumly in a treatment room at Rampart, still feeling stung about Dr. Morton's comment.

"Soft," he scoffed, not noticing that the door had just opened a crack. "I'm not soft. I'd like to see him rappel his wussy ass down the side of a cliff. Or carry a firefighter in fifty pounds of gear out of a burning building. And only one shift off for a bad shoulder? How does he think that's fair?"

Kelly Brackett pushed the door the rest of the way open, and entered the treatment room.

"Uh, hi, Doc," Johnny said, blushing furiously. There was no way he could cover up his mutterings, which Brackett had surely heard.

"So," Brackett said, his arms crossed in his famous 'authority figure' pose. "Feeling a little disgruntled, I hear?"

"Uh … well, it's just that Dr. Morton doesn't get it! I mean, we firemen work our asses off, and we really have to be fit to do our jobs, and I am fit! And then he calls me 'soft,' and gives me one lousy shift off for this shoulder! One shift! How can I possibly do my job right with a sore shoulder? And I've been beat up enough in this lousy job that I oughta know how long it's gonna take for me to be up to snuff," Johnny said, scowling fiercely.

"I agree wholeheartedly," Dr. Brackett said.

Johnny froze, not quite believing what he heard.

"Huh?"

"It's not fair. Not at all. Especially not with what you guys get paid. I mean, sure, you get paid medical leave when you get hurt on the job, but that doesn't make up for not being able to do other things, now, does it?" Brackett said.

"What … other things?" Johnny said.

"Oh, come on, Johnny. I know about your side business," Dr. Brackett said.

"You … what? How do you know about that?!" Johnny said.

"Easy," Brackett said. "One of my medical school buddies has a couple of racehorses up in Kern County. He mentioned that one of his best … ah … suppliers is a paramedic in his regular life. And that this fellow was so crafty he'd never get caught smuggling horse stimulants across the border. In his white Land Rover. He wondered if I knew the guy. I said no, of course."

Johnny leaned back on the exam table, and closed his eyes.

"Oh, shit. I'm so, so dead."

"Now, what makes you say that? After all, I just agreed wholeheartedly with your suggestion that you should have more time off to recover. And why would I agree with that if I objected to how you spent your time off?" Dr. Brackett said.

A light came on in Johnny's eyes. "I see," he said. "Don't I?"

"Smart man," Brackett replied. "So. How many shifts do you think you need off to … fully recover?"

Johnny rubbed his shoulder and pretended to think deeply. "Oh, I'd say at least three—a week's worth of shifts. To be back at … full efficiency and safety."

"All right," Brackett said. "How about … four shifts?"

Johnny nodded. "What's your cut?" he asked.

"How about … fifty percent of your disability pay, for each shift beyond what would truly be considered medically necessary?" Brackett suggested. "And just so you know, Dixie gets part of my share, for making sure the nurses don't get suspicious."

Johnny squinted at Brackett. "Waitasec. You've got another thing going with her, don't you."

"How astute of you, Gage," Brackett said. "Let's just say, I help protect her interests in a … side business that she and—well, I shouldn't really tell you who else—a side business that she operates. There are a lot of empty rooms around this place. With beds. And nobody's ever suspicious about people going into and out of a hospital."

Johnny raised his eyebrows. "Wow," he said. "This place is … a lot more interesting than I thought."

Bracket chuckled. "You don't know the half of it, Johnny. So: do we have a deal?"

Johnny nodded slowly. "Sure. Heck, I may even think about … expanding my little side business. There are lots of interesting things you can get in Mexico."

~!~!~!~

Not long after Johnny was back on the job, shoulder more than fit, he and Brackett had their first opportunity.

The snakebite was real, and Johnny certainly didn't get himself into that situation on purpose. But between Brackett and Dixie, and some good acting on Johnny's part during his lengthy transport on Engine 51's hosebed, it turned out to look much worse than it really was. Nobody questioned the two weeks off that Brackett granted to Johnny after his release from Rampart. Brackett happily collected his cut, in cash, of Johnny's sick-leave pay. Johnny made a bundle on his latest batch of imports, and didn't do too badly betting on the races, either.

Several months later, Johnny and Kel agreed that it would really be pushing things for Johnny to get any shifts off just from landing in some cactus after falling off a skateboard. Even though it was painful, Brackett couldn't justify medical leave for a few simple puncture wounds.

It didn't take long, though, for them to get a truly lucrative opportunity. When Johnny was caught in a building explosion, he really did break his leg. But all it took was the substitution of another man's x-rays for Johnny's, and a simple non-displaced fracture suddenly became much more serious. Dr. Brackett sent Johnny home with a fake cast that looked like the real thing, but could be easily removed and replaced, allowing his side business to thrive and expand during his extended medical leave.

Their scam was almost derailed when Captain Stanley marveled at how quickly Johnny was able to recertify on the physical aptitude test after getting his 'cast' off.

"I have to hand it to you, Gage; when I broke my leg skiing during my third year on the job, it took me twice as long as you did to recertify after I got the cast off," the captain said, during Johnny's first shift back on the job after that accident.

Johnny's heart was thudding in his chest—Cap was right; he should've probably stretched the recovery part out a little longer.

"Well, you know—medical technology is getting better and better, Cap," he said.

"But still," Cap said, frowning. "That was a serious break you had there, pal. And twelve weeks in the cast? It's amazing how fast you got back on your feet, so to speak."

"This guy has gotten so much medical leave pay I'm surprised the department even took him back again," Chet joked.

Johnny must have gotten really pale, because Roy stepped in to defend him.

"Now, come on, Chet. Do you think he likes getting hurt?"

"That's not what I said!" Chet protested. "It just seems like the department must wonder why it's always Gage that gets beat up so bad."

"Hey, now you're makin' it sound like I'm clumsy, or incompetent," Johnny said, realizing Chet had defused the situation perfectly by starting this part of the argumen.

"All right, boys—cool it," Captain Stanley said. "Welcome back, Gage. I don't know how you did it so fast, but we're glad to have you back with us."

Later that day on a run to Rampart, Johnny slipped into Dr. Brackett's office with his final cash payment from this disability leave.

"I think we're gonna hafta back off for a while," Johnny said. "A couple guys were a little suspicious this time around."

"Understood," Brackett said. "Well, next time you're here on the wrong end of medical business, we'll just play it by ear."

"Sounds good. Though I'm actually kind of hoping maybe I can go a year or so without ending up in this joint again," Johnny admitted. "Sure, the … extra income is great, but I could do without another broken leg any time soon."

"Don't worry, Johnny," Brackett said. "I'm sure it'll be something different next time."

~!~!~!~

One of Johnny's wishes came true: it was nearly a year and a half until his next injury. Sadly, it did happen to be another broken leg, though the ruptured spleen topped the leg in his book. Nobody was the slightest bit suspicious this time, though, when it took Johnny several months to recover. On his next shift back, nearly four months after being hit by that drunk driver, Johnny showed up in Brackett's office again. He laid an unmarked envelope of cash on the desk.

"Doc, I gotta retire from this business," he said. "I mean, I'm not trying to get hurt, but it's starting to feel like … I dunno. Maybe this racket is jinxing me. None of the other guys gets hurt nearly as much as me, and it's startin' to get me down."

Brackett sighed, and executed his famous concerned look, with contorted eyebrows.

"I understand. But consider this: the department is thinking about making some Captain-level paramedic supervisor positions. I'm sure you could get one of those positions," he said, winking at Johnny. "And I'm sure we could come up with some mutually-beneficial arrangement at that point in time."

Johnny grinned. "I'm sure we will," he said.

The End