A/N I'd like to thank my beta for being patient with me and answering all my questions. Thanks sandybeliever!
Two weeks. It had been two weeks since that horrible day. What started out as a typical day turned tragic in an instant and he was to blame. His own guilt along with his best friend's words acknowledged that. In one unforeseen moment a 12 year old child was hurt and a friendship torn apart. He was told he was no longer part of their family, the only family he had left, and that he wasn't wanted as his partner at work anymore.
Feeling despondent and alone he gave into his grief once again and allowed the tears to fall as he sat in his front room looking at the picture of him with the family he could no longer call his. His co-workers were even blaming him, having judged and convicted him without even giving him a chance to explain what happened.
Johnny had all ready turned in his transfer notice, which Captain Stanley had sent to HQ; but deciding he could no longer trust his co-workers, he called HQ himself and arranged an emergency leave of absence.
TWO WEEKS EARLIER
Johnny was saddling up three horses for him, Chris and Jenny to go riding. The kids had stayed overnight with Uncle Johnny so Roy and Jo could have a date night. It was going on 10 am and Roy and Jo were expected around 1 to pick up the kids.
"Chris! Jen! You ready to go?" Johnny hollered out to the two children.
"Yeah!" they both responded together and came running into the barn.
"Well, let's get you mounted then; we need to get going so we can get back in time to clean up before your mom and dad get here," he said as he was helping them onto the horses. Both kids had been riding with Johnny for about a year, since Johnny bought the ranch. Both were comfortable riding and took the responsibility needed to ride safely. Johnny insisted they both wear riding helmets, even when they groaned about it. After getting both kids ready, he mounted his horse and maneuvered between the two as the horses made their way down the path leading to the trail they would take.
They had been going at a steady pace for 20 minutes when they reached the pond, their destination for this ride. They tied the horses off to a post that Johnny had put in for this purpose then took off for a walk around the pond. Jenny was busy picking wild flowers to give to her mom, while Chris and Johnny picked up rocks and skipped them across the water's surface.
Feeling it was time to head back, Johnny helped the kids back onto the horses, making sure their helmets were back in place. They had just started back down the path when Chris' horse started to get skittish. Seeing the horse start to act up, Johnny tried to grab the reins to get control. Suddenly, the horse reared up knocking Chris backwards and out of the saddle. He fell off the horse landing on the ground with a thud, but not before his head struck a small rock just below the helmet. Johnny immediately dismounted and heard the cause of the horse's actions, a rattle snake. Watching out for the snake, he was relieved to see it slithering back into the grass away from them. He ran to Chris to examine him. He was unconscious and bleeding from the back of the head. Chris needed help and soon. He wasn't sure if he should send Jenny or go himself, knowing neither was a good option. Finally deciding Chris would be better off with him there, he sent Jenny back to the house to call for help. He felt she was a good enough rider to do it on her own since she came and rode more with him than Chris did. After sending Jenny back to the house, he went to work on trying to help Chris the best he could.
Jenny arrived back at the house and saw her parents' car in the drive. They had decided to show up early to fix lunch for everyone. Jenny ran into the house crying for her parents. She told them Chris was hurt and Roy told Jo to call for help as he ran to his car to get the emergency kit he kept there. Since Jenny's horse was still saddled, he mounted it and headed off towards the pond. Johnny was not expecting help to arrive so soon when he heard a horse coming down the path, but grateful for it when he saw it was Roy. Roy was so upset about seeing Chris lying on the ground, he turned his anger towards Johnny. Dismounting, he ran to Chris and shoved Johnny away.
"Get your hands off of him. This is all your fault! How could you let this happen?" He spat out to a shocked Johnny.
"I'm sorry Roy, I tried to get the horse under control, but it happened too fast." Johnny tried to explain.
Roy examined Chris and wrote down his vitals to give to the paramedics when they got there. He continued to talk to Chris while waiting. Johnny tried to help but Roy refused. A few minutes later, the paramedic team of Dan Jansen and Tyler Holmes from 110's showed up. After getting Chris stabilized and loaded into the stokes, they headed back to the house. As they were loading Chris into the ambulance Johnny told Jo and Roy he'd meet them at the hospital.
"I don't want you to come there. I don't want you anywhere near MY family! How could you let this happen? You better pray he lives or you will live to regret the day you ever met me. As of now, you are no longer part of my family and I never want to see or hear from you again. You are no longer my friend or my work partner. When I get back to work, you better be gone!" Roy said angrily as he climbed into his car to follow the ambulance.
Johnny just stood there in shock. Finally the adrenaline rush ended, he fell to his knees and started to cry. In a matter of minutes, his whole world was shattered. He lost everything he lived for, his family and his job. He waited several hours and called the hospital in hopes of hearing some news but was upset when told he was on a list of people unauthorized for updates. He finally gave up and went to get the horses put up for the night. Knowing he had to work the next day, he decided to go to bed early.
The next morning he woke up filled with dread. He had to go in and face his co-workers knowing they too would blame him as Roy did. Contemplating calling off, he decided against it, realizing that no matter how his co-workers felt, he still had to work with them, at least until he was forced to transfer when Roy came back.
He pulled into the lot with 15 minutes to spare and slowly made his way to the locker room to change. As he was opening his locker Chet walked by.
"Morning, Chet," Johnny said, hesitantly.
"It takes a lot of nerve for you to show up here, Gage. If I were you, I'd be filling out those transfer papers and soon," Chet replied with an angry glare.
Johnny was left speechless. He knew the guys would be upset but never imagind they wouldn't want to work with him. He went into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and greeted Marco, Mike and Roy's replacement, Chad Major. The only one who responded was Major, but the glares he received from the others wasn't missed by Johnny. Johnny felt like he wasn't welcome so he poured out the coffee and went out to start the inventory on the squad before roll call. He was doing the calibration on the bio-phone and was suprised at the cool tone he received from Dixie. Deciding enough was enough, he went to go try to speak to Cap. He knocked on his door and entered.
"Cap, do you have a minute?" he asked quietly.
"What do you want, Gage?" his captain responded. By the way he acknowledged him by Gage instead of Johnny told him the Cap was also blaming him.
"I'd like to put in for a transfer, Cap. I can't work in a hostile enviroment. You all have already decided to blame me without hearing what happened, and I can't work with a crew that doesn't trust me and I can't trust any of you to have my back," Johnny said, trying to keep his emotions under control.
"I figured you'd see it our way. I have it all ready for you, you just need to sign and date it," Cap said.
Johnny signed the papers and handed them back. "I'll submit them to HQ and will let you know when it takes effect. Dismissed," Cap said and turned away from him.
Johnny was numb. He started to walk back to the kitchen but stopped when he saw everyone look up at him with cold glares. He dropped his head and went to the back of the bay to wait for roll call.
Cap called roll call and Johnny wasn't suprised to find out he had been given latrine as his duty. Feeling dejected, he hurried to finish his chore. As he worked he thought about how he could possibly finish this shift. He wasn't sure if he could trust any of his co-workers if it came down to it. He was still shocked that they were so cold to him. How could they blame him? Yes, the accident happened at his home, but he hadn't caused it, but they still put the blame on him. Getting an idea, he finished up and put the cleaning supplies away. He went to the dorm and looked to see if anyone was there, finding it empty he walked to the phone. He called HQ and asked for an immediate leave of absense for a personal emergency and asked if he could get vacation pay for it since he had quite a bit built up. After being put on hold, he prayed he didn't get toned out before he got an answer. Finally someone came back on the line and said he was approved. He then explained that Squad 51 needed to be taken out of service until a replacement could be found and he hung up.
He went to the locker room and quickly changed back to his street clothes. He then fit everything he could from his locker into his bag. He removed his Smokey the Bear poster and rolled it up and slid it into the bag and piled the rest of his stuff on top of the bag. He left the locker room and ran his stuff to the rover then went back inside and knocked on the Cap's door again. Cap looked up and saw Johnny in his street clothes.
"Why are you out of uniform, Gage?" he asked angrily.
"I've called HQ and requested an emergency leave, Sir. I don't feel safe working here. The squad has been taken out of service until my replacement comes in. I'm sorry it came to this Cap, but you and the rest of the guys left me no choice. You didn't give me a chance to tell you what happened and you are treating me like I personally hurt Chris. It was an accident, Cap! I always thought we were a family here, Sir, but apparently I was mistaken because family wouldn't turn on their own like you did to me without hearing me out. It was an honor to work for you, Sir-until today. Even though the rest of the guys hate me now too, I hope they all stay safe. Good bye, Sir," Johnny stated as he had tears running down his face. He turned from the doorway and ran out the back to the rover and left.
He arrived home and went inside. He started gathering his camping gear, clothes, food and water jugs. He then went out and saddled his horse and put a blanket over another to use to carry his supplies. He headed off towards the trail. He came to the pond and decided to camp there for awhile. He tied the horses off and went about setting up his tent and getting firewood gathered. After getting his campsite set up, he decided to lay down for a nap. Several hours later he woke up and started getting a fire going. Not feeling like fishing, he went thru his pack and found a couple granola bars to eat. The calm of the water was drawing him in so he stripped off his clothes for a swim. After his swim, he felt tired and decided to turn in even though it was only late afternoon.
After a week, he packed up his campsite and headed for home. He had stayed camping the entire time excpet to return home each morning and afternoon to tend to the horses left at the barn. Once he returned home, he got the horses put up and carried his gear into the house. He made a quick supper of scrambled eggs then headed off for a much needed shower.
His next few days he spent tending to his horses and watching tv. He called the hospital several times but was still denied info on Chris. He walked out to the mail box to retrieve his mail and found a letter from HQ. It was a response to his transfer; it was denied. The letter stated that HQ didn't want to see the best team split up without an attempt to work their differences out. Dejected, Johnny crumpled the paper up and threw it across the room. As the days went on he felt more and more depressed. Johnny figured Roy wouldn't open the door if he went to his house or let him in the room to see Chris. He also assumed they would probably hang up on him if he called so the only other thing he could think of was writing a letter.
I know you said you never wanted to hear from me and I will follow your wishes after this letter. I am so sorry for Chris being injured. I know nothing I say will ever be enough to make you believe it was an accident. I would NEVER hurt one of your children. I love them like they are my own. I know you no longer want to work with me and I will honor that also, I put in a request for a transfer but HQ denied it. So am putting in my resignation. I am doing this because I have no other choice. I've had everything I love in life taken away from me because of an accident I could not stop.
You were my best friend and only family I had. Now I don't have that or the job I love. I have nothing to live for. No matter how you, your family and the guys at 51 feel about me, I will always love you. I'm just sorry I brought this on. I pray that Chris recovers from his injury and that some day you can forgive me. I'm Sorry.
After writing the letter, he drove to Roy's house and put the letter on the front door then returned to his house. Walking into the front room, he went and grabbed a picture of him with Roy's family. He sat down on the couch and hugged the picture to his chest and began to cry.
Across town at Rampart, Roy and Jo were standing outside Chris' room waiting for Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early to finish their exam. Chris, after being in a coma for almost two weeks, was finally showing signs of waking up. The Doctors came out of the room and let them know their findings.
"Hopefully, he'll be awake by tomorrow afternoon. We'll do a more thorough exam when he's finally awake to see if there will be any after effects of the coma. He's showing good reflexes in his current state, but we'll know more once he's awake," Dr. Early explained.
"Thanks, Doc," Roy said before he went back into the room.
"Roy, it's been two weeks now. When are you going to call and talk to Johnny?" Jo asked.
"Jo, how can you ask me that? Johnny is the reason Chris is in that bed," Roy argued.
"Roy, it was an accident. You can't blame Johnny. Jen said the horse got spooked by a rattle snake. Johnny is not to blame. You know he would never do anything to hurt our kids. My God, Roy, you know he loves them like his own. How can you blame this on Johnny? I know we are upset about this, but how do you think Johnny feels? Come on, Roy. You know how Johnny takes everything to heart. You need to stop blaming him and talk to him. Chris needs him just as much as he needs us to get through this," Jo pleaded. "Be honest, Roy. Are you really mad at Johnny or just so scared of what happened to Chris that you let your emotions take control and lashed at him because he was there? This could have happened even if you were there. Would it still be Johnny's fault if you had been there when it happened? Come on, Roy. You know blaming him isn't the answer. You need to stop blaming him and reach out to him. Let's go home and get freshened up and go to Johnny's and see if he can forgive us for blaming him," Jo begged.
Roy rubbed his hand over his face and lowered his head in thought. He looked back up at Jo with tears in his eyes. "God Jo, you're right. How could I blame Johnny for this? He didn't know the snake was there. I hope he can forgive me for what I said to him," he said as he lost control of holding back the tears.
"Let's head out so we can get to Johnny's and maybe he'll come back here with us to see Chris," Jo said as she hugged Roy.
Johnny wanted the pain to end. He wanted to feel numb. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of whiskey and started drinking, ignoring the burn. He drank half the bottle while standing in the kitchen. Deciding it was numbing him fast enough, he stumbled his way to his bathroom as the alcohol started to take effect. He rummaged thru his medicine cabinet and grabbed a bottle of pain killers he had left over from his last injury. Taking the bottle of pills, he went back to the front room and sat on the couch. As he opened the bottle, the contents spilled out on the table, so he picked up four and put them in his mouth and washed them down with the whiskey. In his drunken state, he wasn't registering that he had already taken some pills, so he picked up a few more and washed them down with the whiskey again, emptying the bottle.
Finally feeling the effects of the alcohol and the first set of pills, he sat back on the couch and passed out.
Roy and Jo walked up the sidewalk to their front door and found Johnny's letter. Roy and Jo exchanged a look as he opened the letter. Roy had tears running down his face as he read it.
"Oh God, Jo, we need to get to Johnny's now. I think he's going to hurt himself. I hope I'm wrong,"Roy cried out.
They ran to the car and headed to Johnny's. They pulled into Johnny's drive way and ran up to the house. Roy knocked on the door hollering for Johnny. Getting no response, he tried the handle. Finding it unlocked, he opened the door and entered. He saw Johnny on the couch and saw the empty whiskey bottle and empty pill bottle on the table in front of couch. He ran to Johnny and tried to wake him up. Failing to get a response, he took his pulse. He hollered for Jo to call for a squad and ambulance then turned back to Johnny to continue to try to awaken him. After checking him again Roy realized Johnny wasn't breathing. He hollered for Jo to help get him on the floor. Roy frantically started CPR, praying help would arrive soon.
A long 15 minutes later, a squad pulled up followed by an ambulance. After filling them in, Roy stepped back to let the paramedics work on him. Soon they had Johnny loaded into the ambulance, Roy and Jo followed it to Rampart.
They waited in the doctors' lounge for word on Johnny. While waiting, Roy called Cap to fill him in. Soon the rest of the crew was there.
"What the hell happened, Roy?" Cap asked.
Roy handed him the letter to read. "Man, we were so cold to him when he showed up to work. We wouldn't talk to him. We pushed him away. No wonder he felt he had nothing to live for," Chet said.
"I already had his transfer request filled out for him and made him sign it. We didn't even give him a chance to explain what happened," Cap said, dejectedly.
The door opened and Dr. Brackett entered. "How is he, Doc?" Roy asked.
"He's going to be okay. He's finally breathing on his own and we got his stomach pumped. He's going to have one hell of a hangover. We're going to be moving him to a room shortly. You can go see him then, but he's probably not going to come around until tomorrow."Brackett said.
"Thanks, Doc," Roy said as the doctor left the lounge. "Me and Jo are going back up to Chris' room, I'll check on Johnny later," Roy said.
"Keep us posted on Chris, Roy," Cap said.
"Will do, Cap. See you guys later," Roy said with a wave as he and Jo left the room.
As Roy entered his son's room, Jo turned towards him with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.
"He's awake, Roy," she said as she turned back towards Chris.
Roy rushed over to the bed to see for himself. He found Chris awake and looking up at his mom.
"Hey sport, how you feeling?" Roy asked.
"My head hurts, Dad," Chris said.
"I imagine it does. You had quite a fall," Roy said and leaned over to kiss his forehead.
Dr. Early walked in the door and came over to the bed. "I'm going to examine Chris now if you'd like to step out. It should only take a few minutes. I'll meet you in the hall when I'm done," he promised. Dr. Early quickly but thoroughly finished his exam and went to meet the anxious parents in the hall.
"Well, Doc?" Roy asked.
"Roy, Joanne, it looks like young Chris has inherited his Uncle Johnny's luck. He has no lingering effects of the coma and nothing more than a headache from the concussion. I'd like to keep him until tomorrow just for observation and if everything looks good, you should be able to take him home," he said with a smile.
Jo grabbed Dr. Early into a hug and exclaimed, "Oh thank you, Dr. Early! Thank you!"
A blushing Dr Early responded, "You're quite welcome. Now I'm going to leave you two to spend some time with your son. I'll see you in the morning."
"Thanks, Doc. See you tomorrow," Roy replied and followed Jo back into the room.
Johnny slowly started to wake early the next morning. He groaned with the pain from the pounding in his head. Looking around with fuzzy eyes, he was confused where he was at. Then realization hit. Rampart. "How the hell did I get here and why?" he thought to himself. Just then Dr. Brackett came through the door.
"Glad to see you're awake, Johnny," he said as he picked up his chart.
"Um, Doc, what am I doing here?" he asked.
"You don't remember, Johnny?" Brackett asked.
"No, but the way my head feels, I'd swear I had one too many drinks last night."
"Well Johnny, that's exactly what happened. It seems you polished off a whole bottle of whiskey and used it to wash down several prescription pain killers. You're lucky Roy found you when he did or I wouldn't be here talking to you now," he replied angrily.
Johnny was shocked at what Dr. Brackett said. Not sure if he was more shocked at hearing he tried to kill himself or that Roy was the one who found him. "Oh," he replied, turning his head, unable to make eye contact with Brackett. He felt a weight on the bed as Brackett sat down.
"Johnny, I know the past two weeks haven't been pleasant for you, but trying to take your life isn't the answer. I'd hope by now you would know you could come to me for anything," Brackett said.
Johnny looked at Brackett with tears streaking down his face. "I wasn't sure you'd be receptive of me, Doc. Everybody else turned against me, even Dixie. I could hear it in her voice. Everything was taken from me, Doc. My family, my friends, and my job. Everyone was blaming me. I wasn't trying to kill myself, Doc. I just wanted the pain to end," he said as he began to sob with despair.
Roy was standing in the door and heard everything Johnny said. He went to the bed, sat down and pulled Johnny into his arms. "Oh God Johnny, I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I never should have said those things. Chris' accident was just that-an accident. I had no right to blame you or to turn your friends against you. I was so scared and lashed out at you and I shouldn't have. I'm so sorry, Johnny," Roy said as he held his best friend.
Dr. Brackett, seeing that his two paramedics needed time alone, slipped out of the room. Roy helped Johnny lie back down onto his bed. "Johnny, I'm so sorry. I don't know how or if you will ever forgive me for how I've treated you these past two weeks. I know I don't deserve it," Roy said.
"No, I'm sorry, Roy. If I would have been paying more attention Chris wouldn't have gotten hurt. You were right to blame me," Johnny said.
"Johnny, you are not to blame. I wish you'd believe me. I'm so sorry what I said to you led you to think you had nothing to live for. You are so wrong Johnny. You have me and your family and friends. What I said to you was in the heat of the moment. I didn't mean it. I never meant for this to happen. Can you ever forgive me?" Roy pleaded
"Only on one condition, Pally," Johnny said, hopefully.
"Anything, Junior," Roy said.
"Please tell me how Chris is—please," he begged.
Roy smiled and said, "He's fine, Johnny. He woke up yesterday and other than a headache, he's fine."
"Oh, thank God," Johnny said with a sigh.
"Matter of fact, he's why I'm here so early. He's going home today."
"That's good, Roy. Wish I could say the same, but I doubt I'll be out of here anytime soon due to the reason I'm in here," Johnny said, dejectedly.
"I'm sorry. Jo and I will be here for you, no matter what happens."
"Thanks, Roy," Johnny said.
"Well, I better get up to Chris' room so we can head home. I'll stop back in later today, okay?"Roy asked.
"Thanks. I think I'm going to take a nap. See you later," he said through a yawn.
Johnny slept through breakfast but woke up as his lunch tray was being brought in. Sitting up, he hesitantly removed the lid to his tray. While trying to decide if he should attempt to eat the mystery meal, Dr. Brackett came in.
"Hey, Doc." Johnny greeted.
"Hello, Johnny. Are you feeling better?" he asked.
"I'm getting there, Doc," he stated. Deciding his stomach wasn't ready for food, Johnny put the lid back on the tray and pushed the table away. "At least I was until I smelled that stuff," he said through a laugh as he pointed towards the discarded tray.
"I'll have Dixie find you something more appealing," Brackett replied.
"Thanks. So tell me honestly, Doc, what kind of hoops do I have to through to get out of here?"
"Well," Brackett started then pulled a chair up to the bed and took a seat. "That depends on you. Due to the circumstances of your being here, it's not going to be simple as me signing your release form."
"I figured that. I'll do whatever it takes to get out of here and back to work."
"That's good to hear, because one of the conditions of your release is to talk to Dr. Browning. He'll be here in about an hour. He will determine when you can be released and when you can go back to work. He's a great psychiatrist and I think you will find he's easy to talk to. So don't feel embarrassed about opening up to him. You need to do this, Johnny," Brackett said, hoping he made himself clear.
Johnny looked away from Brackett and ran his hand over his face and through his hair then let out his breath with a sigh. He looked back up at Brackett and with a quiver in his voice said, "I know I need this, Doc. I just want my life back and if seeing Dr. Browning is what I need to do for that to happen, then I will. Thanks."
"Good. Now let me go have Dixie find you something to eat and I'll see you after your meeting with Dr. Browning." He patted Johnny on the shoulder and then headed out of the room.
Johnny was just finishing up the food Dixie had brought him when there was a knock on the door. "Come in."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Gage, I'm Dr. Browning," the man said as he walked towards the bed reaching up to shake Johnny's hand.
"Hello," Johnny replied, quietly.
"Dr. Brackett said you were willing to talk to me to work on your release, is that correct?"
Johnny looked up at the doctor and answered, "Yeah, Dr. Browning. I agreed to see you. I promise to work with you and do anything you need me to do so I can get back to my life."
"I'm glad to hear that. I promise I'll try to make this as easy and comfortable as I can. So how about we get started?"Dr. Browning asked.
"Sure," Johnny replied nervously.
Dr. Browning and Johnny talked for over an hour about the accident and what lead up to Johnny being in the hospital. Wrapping up their talk the doctor said "Well, just from our discussion I don't feel you're a threat to yourself. I think with a few more sessions with me you'll be ready to go back to work. I'll talk to Dr. Brackett and see what we can do about getting you out of here. How's that sound?" Dr. Browning asked, already knowing what Johnny's response would be.
"That sounds great. Thanks," Johnny replied, feeling for the first time in over two weeks that everything was going to be okay again.
Later that afternoon, Roy stopped back in for a visit. He found Johnny standing and looking out the window. "Not much of a view is it?"
"No, not really," Johnny chuckled and went and sat on the edge of his bed.
"So, have you heard anything about when you'll get sprung from here?" Roy asked.
"I can answer that for you," a voice said from the doorway. Both men turned towards it and greeted Dr. Brackett. "Well, Johnny, after talking with Dr. Browning, we both agree you can be released tomorrow. However, there is a stipulation."
Both men looked at him expectantly. "What's the stipulation, Doc?"Johnny asked.
"Even though Dr. Browning and I both feel you won't try to harm yourself again, we agree you shouldn't be alone yet." Looking towards Roy he continued. "Roy, with your permission, we'd like Johnny to go to your house until he is released back to work."
"We'd be happy to have Johnny stay with us. What do you say, Johnny?" Roy asked.
"I told you guys I'd do anything. If it means staying at Hotel Desoto, then I will," he chuckled.
"Great. It's too late to get your release taken care of tonight so Roy how about you come by after breakfast tomorrow to pick up our friend here?"He replied.
"Sounds good to me." Roy said.
"Thanks, Doc." Johnny said to the retreating doctor.
"Get some rest. I'll see you in the morning," Brackett said as he left.
"Johnny, it's the least I can do since I'm the reason you're in here anyways," Roy replied.
"Roy, I thought we've moved on from the blame game," Johnny demanded.
"Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. Look, I better get home and let Jo know we'll be having a guest for a few days. I know the kids will be glad to see you too," Roy said with a voice full of emotion.
"I'll see you in the morning, Pally," Johnny said with a huge grin.
"Get some rest, Junior," Roy said and left the room.
The next morning Roy showed up pick Johnny up. After receiving his release forms and instructions for a follow up visit, Dr. Browning met with them before they left to set up his required appointments. Finally, after all appointments were made, they headed back to Roy's house. Pulling into his driveway, Roy parked the car. Before getting out he looked over to Johnny. "Johnny, I spoke with Cap and the rest of the guys and they told me how they treated you at the station. They said they would understand if you don't feel you can work with them anymore but they hope you can. They'd like to come over and talk with you. I told them it would be up to you."
Johnny let out a sigh and looked out the window deep in thought before he answered. "I don't know what to tell you, Roy. Forgiving you was easy, you had a good reason for what happened; but they didn't even give me a chance. I'm not sure what I want to do. I want to go back to work but I'm not sure if it will be at 51's or not. I don't want to stop being your partner but I can't forgive them as easily as I did you."
"Well I'd hate to lose you as my partner but I promise I won't pressure you. You have to decide for yourself. I promise I will support you no matter what you decide. Right now, let's get you into the house. I know two kids that are excited to see you."
Johnny answered with a smile and a nod and got out of the car and headed into the house. He greeted Jo and the kids and after a few minutes excused himself to his room. He shut the door and leaned against it and closed his eyes allowing the tears that had gathered in them to fall. Feeling drained, he made it to his bed and lay down. Grabbing the pillow and hugging it to him, he buried his face and continued to cry. Thinking about what he almost lost with Chris' accident and his own irrational behavior, he cried himself to sleep.
Roy, concerned about how Johnny was acting and barely talking to kids, quietly opened the door to Johnny's room and peeked in on him. Seeing him asleep clutching his pillow, he also noticed the tears drying on his face. "Oh Johnny, what have we done to you?" Roy thought to himself. Just as quietly he closed the door and went back to join Jo and the kids in the front room.
Johnny slept through lunch and would have slept through supper if Roy hadn't woken him. "Johnny," Roy called as he gently shook his shoulder.
Johnny slowly opened his eyes and saw Roy standing over him. "Hmm?" he mumbled.
"Supper is about ready. If you're hungry, why don't you go wash up, okay?" Roy suggested more than asked.
"Okay thanks, Roy," Johnny replied, sleepily.
After supper Johnny and Roy went out to the back deck. They sat there in silence sipping on coffee in for several minutes before Johnny started to speak.
"Roy, I've been thinking about what you said earlier about working with the guys. I know it might be uncomfortable for awhile for all of us. Station 51 is my home and I can't leave without at least trying to forgive them. You're on shift tomorrow and I have an appointment with Dr. Browning. If you think it would be okay, maybe I'll stop in and talk to the guys," he said cautiously.
"I don't think it would be a problem. It's best to get it done sooner than later," Roy said.
"I'll ask Dr. Browning if he thinks it's a good idea first, so please don't say anything to the guys," Johnny pleaded.
"I won't say a word . Well, I'm going in to watch some TV before bed." Roy stood to go inside.
"Goodnight, Roy. I think I'm going to turn in myself," Johnny replied through a yawn.
The next day, Johnny finished up with his appointment with Dr. Browning and somewhat hesitantly headed to the station. Pulling into the lot, he was somewhat relieved to find both squad and engine out on a run. He let himself in and headed to the kitchen and put on a fresh pot of coffee. He was sitting at the table with his head in his arms asleep when the crew came back to quarters half an hour later.
Chet was the first one to come through the door and he suddenly stopped when he saw Johnny sitting there. Pushing Chet out of their way, the rest made their way into the room and stood watching him sleep.
"Johnny," Roy said as he shook him by the shoulder.
"Hmm?" Johnny mumbled as he sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Hello, John," Cap said nervously.
"Hi Cap, guys. May I speak to you in your office Cap?" Johnny asked.
"Sure, John," Cap answered and walked to his office. "Have a seat," he said as he closed the door behind them. "I'm glad you stopped in. I've been wanting to talk to you but I wasn't sure if you'd see me or not. I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am for the way I treated you your last day here. The way I acted towards you is inexcusable, John. I hope you can forgive me. I understand if you feel you can't work with me, but I hope you give me a chance to earn your trust again," Cap said timidly.
"Cap, I know it's going to take a while for things to get back to normal, but I have no intentions of leaving. You're stuck with me." Johnny grinned. Johnny stood up to shake his hand but Cap pulled him into a hug.
"God, Johnny, I'm so sorry," Cap said as he pulled away and wiped the tears off his face. "We've missed you around here. Any idea when you'll be back?"
Wiping his own tears away, Johnny replied, "Dr. Browning is my psychiatrist and he wants a few more sessions before allowing me to come back. He also wants me to see him for a few more times after I come back to see how I'm doing but it looks like maybe two weeks."
"Good, good to hear. Well, I'm sure the others would like to talk to you too so we better get out there," Cap said.
Johnny let out his breath in a sigh. "Yeah I better get this over with."
Walking into the kitchen he hesitantly sat at the table. Chet jumped up and ran to the coffee pot.
After pouring a cup he handed it to Johnny.
"Here Johnny." He said with a nervous smile.
"Thanks." He replied as he took a sip to calm his nerves.
Finally unable to handle the silence, Mike spoke up.
"Johnny we all owe you an apology. We had no right to treat you the way we did. I hope I'm speaking for the rest of us when I say that we hope you will come back and give us a chance to make up for what we did. We are a family and we feel like a part of us is missing without you here. Please come back Johnny."
Johnny, trying to control his emotions, stared into his coffee cup in thought. Lifting his head he hesitantly looked each one in the eye. The feeling of relief washed over him when he saw the others trying to control their own emotions.
Clearing his throat before speaking, Johnny said "I wouldn't think of going anywhere else Mike."
A collective sigh was heard in the room and the tension in the air dissipated. Before anyone else could speak, the tones went off sending the station on a run. Johnny made his way to his car as the squad and engine pulled out.
Johnny was emotionally drained when he returned to Roy's house. He was happy to see Jo was gone and he headed to his room for a much needed nap.
Two weeks later Johnny once again was pulling into the lot of 51's. Walking into the locker room to change into his uniform, he was surprised to find it empty. Wanting a cup of coffee before roll call, he headed to the kitchen. Walking in, he saw the rest of his shift sitting at the table already drinking coffee.
"Good morning, good morning, good morning." Johnny greeted them with his regular greeting, hoping he didn't' sound as nervous as he felt.
"Morning Johnny," they all replied in unison as they got up to shake his hand and slap his back to welcome him back.
Just as Johnny reached for a cup, the tones went off.
"Ah man. Is it too much to ask for one lousy cup of coffee?" he whined.
Running to the squad, he jumped in and closed the door. He put his helmet on and was adjusting the chin strap when Cap leaned down and handed Roy the slip of paper.
"Welcome back, son." Cap said with a smile.
"Thanks, Cap. It's good to be back." John replied just before the squad pulled out of the station.
Yes, it was good to be back, he thought with a smile. Good indeed.