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JUXTAPOSITION
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      Page Ten

Hank's talkie came to life. ##Engine 51, to HT 51.
All the gear's stowed. Want us to put the Engine
available?"##

Hank lifted up his talkie and said.
"When we're base bound, Engine 51."

##10-4, HT 51.## came Lopez's reply. And
the station frequency fell silent.

Rubbing his mouth, Cap could see Mike and Marco
watching them from where they sat in the idling
engine cab, waiting. He flashed them an okay sign
without radioing back. He saw them visibly relax.  

Cap sat by Roy, not directly looking at him,
as he took in the same spectacular view of
the valley over the concrete river bed that
Roy seemed to be looking at. He took in a
deep breath of the canyon's sweet, spicy air.
"Hear that, Roy? The birds are still singing..."

Roy swung red, swollen eyes towards him.
"Hear what, Cap? All I hear are the sounds
of all those school kids, screaming, as that
hill came down on top of them. I just
wanna know why it had to happen. That's all.
Is that too much for a guy to ask for?"
But Roy didn't cry again. His face remained
only dusty and flushed.

Cap handed DeSoto back his helmet and
slowly put on his own. "Come on, let's go."
he said, grabbing a hold of Roy's gloved hand
to pull him to his feet. "We'll take the engine
home."

DeSoto clasped Cap's dirty hand numbly,
and then used its strong steady leverage until
he stood. Cap watched Roy put on his helmet
only after he seemed to contemplate the
purpose for which it stood for long, unseeing
moments.  Then he saw Roy sigh a lengthy
quavering breath. Roy's face was now a little
less pale but his voice was weaker than a baby's.
He murmured. "Yeah. Let's get outta here."

Cap, threw a stokes blanket around Roy's
shoulders and together, they went up the hill
to the road.

-----------------------------------------------------

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*************************************
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 10:34:05 -0800 (PST)
From: "Patti or Jeff or Cassidy" <voyagerliveaction@yahoo.com>  
Subject:  Come Uppance...


It was four hours after the L.A. river call.

Marco Lopez looked up from where he was
dishing out chow for Henry. The longish hound
was snuffling excitedly as the Rival can of dog food
filled his chrome dish. All the guys were watching
him get worked up. And some of them even had
their fingers crossed for luck while Marco finished.

Stoker, ignoring their "sport", was the first
to see Cap enter the kitchen. "How's he doing, Cap?"

"Roy? Still resting. I did order him to take a nap.  And
yes, I explained to Joanne what happened and then
called the crisis counselor just a few minutes ago.
She's coming for a station visit, and she's towing
along Roy's wife. They'll one to one with him first
and then we'll get our session over dinner as
planned." Hank announced. He knelt and petted
Henry as the dog licked his lips in anticipation of
supper.

"That's good. Maybe ..having Joanne around will
help Roy get back his equilibrium." Kelly said
thoughtfully, arching his balled up snack napkin
into a wide shot for the trash bin. It landed
perfectly.

"I know it will." Cap said empathetically, rubbing
some dust out of his nose.

The gang fell to the moment as the salty scent
of horsemeat filled the air. "Do it Lopez.." Stoker
said with anticipation. "This time it's gotta work."

Marco carefully set down the dish gingerly, as if
jarring it would cause Henry to lose interest.
"There you go, Henry. Dive in."

The slowish hound looked up, licked Marco's face,
jumped down from the leather couch, almost
on top of the food bowl, and then he kept right
on truckin forward and straight out the kitchen
door.

"Hey, where are you going ya crazy mutt?!" Kelly
said from where he was sipping coffee at the kitchen
table. "What a schmo...Geez, that's two cans of
grub now, slated for the trash can.."

Hank only chuckled. "You forgot Henry's a true
station dog there, Kelly." Cap grinned. "Can't you see
he's making a house call? It's more important than
food to him."

"Yeah, Chet. He does it all the time whenever one of us
is feeling out of it." Marco said, retucking his shirt in around
his belt. He had just come out of the shower.

Johnny neatly rose to his feet, abandoning his
coffee mug. "That's my cue.. Excuse me guys. I'm
right on Henry's angle.." and Gage, too, exited the
kitchen for the bunk dorms. On a second thought,
he grabbed a couple of donuts on the way out,
one for him and a second one for Roy.


Gage noticed that Cap had pulled all the
shades down around Roy's bunk and had
even set a water pitcher on the desk
tabletop with a paper already opened to the horse
racing section next to it.

Gage smiled when he heard Roy stir in his
sheets to play with Henry. Respectfully, he
knocked on the wooden doorframe first
before he entered the room further. "Roy?"

"Yeah, Johnny. I'm awake.." his partner said.
"Didn't anybody feed Henry yet? He's acting like
he wants his bowl now."

Gage walked into the room and grabbed the
chair from the desk, inverted it, and straddled
it to sit. "Now, Roy, you know Henry won't eat for
anyone else but you. And we're dumb enough
to keep forgetting that. He turned his finicky nose
up again at Marco just a minute ago when he
opened a can right under his face. You sure got
a way with dogs."

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Roy's face unexpectedly fell at Johnny's comment.
and he stopped petting Henry's broad back.
"Yeah, well. I wish I had a way with children right
about now. Lately my luck's been running kinda dry."

Johnny scoffed gently. "Now what's that supposed
to mean? You got two wonderful kids who're incredibly
proud to call ya dad. You got a beautiful wife.
That's more than what I got. What more can a man
want?"

"To turn back the clock for starters. How about
turning it back about..oh,...forty eight hours or so.
Then I'd truly be a happy man, Johnny." Roy
said, with a groan. He flopped back onto his
back and drew his sheets up to his chest as
if chilled suddenly in his T shirt and boxers.

"Roy, cut it out. You shouldn't be ashamed of
your emotions. What happened out there today,
happens to all of us. H*ll, Cap's been there. He just
told us when and why over coffee a few minutes ago.
And I bet if we took a poll, we'd find that there isn't
a single guy on the rosters who hasn't been
in the same shoes you wore this morning." Johnny
said. "I'm not immune either. I've been there.
Remember? I lost it only two weeks into the
paramedic program.."

Roy regarded Gage quietly for long seconds,
"Not everyone, Johnny." A slight smile curled
his lips,  "What about Craig Brice?"

"Oh, yeah.." Johnny chuckled. "Brice. Forgot about
him. How can a man without sense of humor
find something about our line of work that'll make
him lose his lunch? Brice sure can't. He's an Iron Man."
Johnny  grumbled, answering his own question. "Maybe
he should team up with Detello at ten's for a while and
learn something about compassion." Johnny took
a bite from his donut, then belated remembered that
he had already bitten into the first one. Lamely,
he offered the pastry to Roy.

DeSoto took it, and began offering the pieces wearing
Johnny's tooth marks to the snuffling Henry who had
sprawled his heavy weight across Roy's legs. "Here, buddy.
Yeah, that's a good boy.." and he smacked Henry's hide
loudly in affection. The rest, he popped into his mouth.

"Nausea finally gone?" Johnny asked.

Roy looked up, almost as if he had forgotten his
partner was there. "Yeah, that anti-emetic you gave
me worked." he said chewing slowly. "Who authorized
that?"

"Joe Early. He knew what you had been up against
yesterday. And understood the need for the
hypo today."

"Does everybody know about ...what happened to me?"
Roy asked quietly, caressing Henry's ear as the dog
snoozed in his lap.

"Only those who care a whip about ya." Gage quipped.
Then he leaned forward, lacing his fingers together.
"Listen, Roy, so what if it took six years for you to
finally crack on a call. Big deal. You're a human
being. It means that you care.."

"Yeah, maybe I care a little too much." Roy said
softly.

Johnny rubbed his mouth in frustration
and then he got angry."Oh, boy, here we
go again. You didn't make that driver hit the
bus. You didn't cause that canyon wall to come
caving in on us. And unless you're really Moses,
I know you didn't cause that rain storm to
flood us out like it did. So knock off the pity pit.
A paramedic's GOT to have empathy. H*ll. You're
the one who taught me that.." he sat
back with exasperation.

Roy was silent for a time. Then he said.
"I'm thinking about leaving the program
Johnny. I really think I can't hack it any more."
he pointed to the uniform that Cap had folded
neatly on the dresser and said. "I really don't
know if I can ever get myself to wear that
uniform again. Ever. It now hurts too much.."
and his lip quavered.

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Johnny showed no sympathy.
"You're just saying that. Now what would I do
in a few months if Kelly kept good on his threat
and suddenly became my new partner?"
Johnny asked drily.

Roy finally smiled and laughed. "You two'd
probably, most likely kill each other the first
week out."

"There ya go.." Johnny said. "So don't leave
me in that kind of spot. And quit talkin like
that. You're just hurting, that's all. You're not
disabled. A little time taken with the family
will make it all right again."

"Now you're sounding like Cap." Roy said.

"Good, cause he's right. And that's what
he said worked for him when he cracked
over his own child call."

Roy sat up. "You know something Gage?"

"What..?" Gage said, curling Henry's tail
and scratching its white furred tip until Henry
picked up his head to see who was messing
with it. Henry's tail started wagging when he
saw who it was.

"You're right. M- Maybe that's all I'll need.
A little time off. Just enough ta.. get my clear
thinking back again and maybe I'll even find
that sense of inner balance that I had before.. "
he said, grinning.

"That's the ticket.." Johnny beamed,
taking another bite out of his donut.

"No, wait a minute, I can't go on leave."

"Why not? You got enough vacation time
coming to ya. As long as I've known ya, you've
only been on vacation twice. Once to Santa Rosa
with me, and the other time when you took
Joanne and the kids to the f--" he broke
off.

"You can say it, Johnny. Farm. I'm not mad
at you over that any more. I mean who can
control circumstance?"

"And that's it right there, Roy. On your coming
days off, hold that thought and you think about
it, real hard.." With that, Gage disappeared,
leaving the rest of his donut abandoned on the
bedspread.

Roy blinked, amazed that Johnny could move
so fast. And that, in itself, made him think all
the more about Roy DeSoto.  Johnny's cool advice
and Henry's warm tongue on his fingers, made
him mull over what was really the most
important thing going on in his life apart from
his family.

Sighing, Roy picked up the donut and began
doling out the correct pieces to the proper
mouths. Then, feeling thirsty, he reached
for the water container.

And a bit later, after a long tearful talk with
the crisis counselor and Joanne,....

...Roy DeSoto reached for his uniform..

----------------------------------------------

It was a week later. And the gang on A shift
finally felt like they were a whole crew again.

Roy DeSoto was back on the job.

But Gage sighed and didn't even turn around when
he felt Roy sit on the locker room bench next
to him and opened his locker.

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"Mornin.." Roy said cheerily. He broke off into
a jaunty whistling tune. One he knew would
irritate Johnny.

Gage didn't reply. He just changed in silence.

"What's the problem, Johnny? An explosion
knock out your ears or something? I'm back."

"Good for you Roy. I'm proud ya made
the right decision." Johnny said finally. "But frankly,
I'm really depressed right now if you have to know."



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JUXTAPOSITION
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