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  Episode Special
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    The Face In The Mirror           by Patti Keiper ( Anotherjaneway )

    Page Three

John fiddled with both Chet and Marco's EKG
settings before he replied in the softest of voices.
"I don't know how in the world I could possible
begin to tell you what happened Chet.. I
can't believe it really happened m- mysel--.."
he admitted, his strong baritone cracked
with emotion. "You see.... Marco needed
a drug to stop his seizuring. Roy was
so tired.. and I didn't see how tired he was..
I let him take over.. And... he .." Gage
looked down at his soiled hands, "..gave him..
too much..."  

Kelly rose up onto his shaking elbows. "What?"
in utter disbelief, then a few seconds later,
in denial,
" Johnny.. even with an OD, I've seen you
use that stuff, what is it called? Narcan..
Yeah. Like you use with the cocaine addicts all the
time. That will fix Marco right off as soon as we
get to Rampart,.." he smiled desperately.
But his eyes on the stretcher next to his
only revealed a deathly still man, and an oddly
mechanical heart rhythm, unnaturally
slow for lifesigns, scrolling on the screen
next to his own. "..right?"

Johnny's eyes filled and he set his hand on
Marco's stomach just for the reassuring rise
and fall of his breathing in another attempt
to delude himself.
"Chet.. That tiny OD put Marco into a coma,
one from which he might not ever awaken."

The sirens above Chet's head began to
alter in pitch, its urgency mocked, as a new
sound mingled with its wail and began to grow.

The sound was of two completely grown
professional firefighting men, starting to cry.

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A voice.  It was someone he knew. He
was certain of that while he worked
around the pain and fog in his head.

"Roy..... Open your eyes.... It's me."

Roy DeSoto opened his eyes to a bright light
which was instantly angled out of his eyes by
a nimble hand, which cocked the overhead light
away from his face. Roy coughed..

A gentle smile resolved into focus.
Dixie McCall sat on a stool by the side of his
treatment room gurney. "How are you doing?"
she asked. "You took long enough snapping
out of it." she teased. "Thought I might have
to light matches under your fingernails just to
revive you."

The joke didn't make Roy laugh.

Roy tried to rise but she was instantly there,
restraining him. "Easy. Dr. Morton will be along
to check you out in a moment. Now you just lie
back and wait for him. Do you remember what
happened to you?"

Roy groaned, fighting dizziness and swept fingers
to his nose, feeling the flowing cannula resting there,
but it was only his expression that conveyed his
next question because he couldn't yet talk.

"You passed out. Johnny brought you in here
himself, twenty minutes ago."

"I did?"
He took another deep breath from the oxygen
tubing and his stubbornly foggy head cleared.

Emotion wracked DeSoto cruelly as full recall
of what he had done dug into the pit of his
stomach. "Marco! Ohmygod.. Dixie.. I-- It's Marco.
I-I.. gave him an overd-- "

He cut off when he saw her small slow nod.

The room swam nightmarish in his mind's eye
as he returned to every paramedic's idea of a living hell.
He sucked in a choking sob and demanded. "How is

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Dixie's doe eyes lowered fractionally but she
met Roy's gaze again right away even as
her caregiver's voice deepened into a note of
".....He's the same I've heard....  Dr. Early's
with him now. He's ordered an EEG scan on him."

Dixie held up an admonishing finger when Roy
started to protest, started to leave the bed.

She snicked up the bed's side rail, preventing him.
"Now you listen to me Roy DeSoto. We'll get
answers soon enough. But those won't come
any faster if you go barging in there like some
guilt ridden, self sacrificing Don Quixote. Besides,
you have no idea which treatment room he's in
right now at all, do you?" she said, folding her arms.

"Dix.." he started to say.

She ignored him, "Chet, on the other hand, is asking
about YOU." she said significantly. "There's
a fireman who's got his priorities straight. He's
concerned right now with Roy DeSoto. And so am I. "  

She changed the subject a bit to deflect him,
"Did you know that your partner brought Kelly back
with his first IC ever? Chet converted right away.
Gage nearly wet himself when Brackett gave him
the order, but he did what had to be done, flawlessly.
Shows his skills as a paramedic are gr--" she broke
off, uncomfortable when she realized what she
had been about to say.

Roy let the comment sting. "But what about
my OWN skills as a paramedic, huh?" he
said with some heat. "Yeah, I trained Johnny,
so did you, and he now saves a hell of a lot of lives.
because of us.." he said sarcastically,
"But tell me this, Dix...When did I lose track of
managing my own stamina and judgement?
Can you tell me that? When did I lose my edge?"
Tears filled his eyes as he absently picked at the burn
dressing someone had placed on his arm while he
had been unconscious.
"How can I get up tomorrow morning to even shave?
I can just see it, pretending all's well.. Staring at my own
face in the mirror...." His voice was intensely bitter,
"A little lost sleep and I blow all propriety out
the window with a fateful misinjection that
turns one of my best friends whom I've known
for almost six years into one of the living d--....."

"Roy..." Dix admonished. "Now you listen to me and
you listen to me good. Dragging yourself over
the coals about this thing isn't helping one bit.
It's not helping you and it's not helping me.
And certainly that attitude's not helping Marco."

The mention of Lopez's name made Roy look away.
Dix grabbed Roy's chin to make him look at her.

She said frankly.
"You know as well as I do that it's still way too
soon to know if the Diazepam caused
permanent harm yet or not.. You know the
findings in this scenario are unrevealing for
a week or two at the very least... So don't go writing
off any people so soon. Neither your friend, nor
yourself." She let him go.
"So you made a mistake. A terrible one.
One that will most likely have a lasting effect no matter
the outcome. But let's face it, together. You
don't have to be alone with this. Not at all."

She angrily brushed loose hair from her eyes
and took his hand,
"That's why I'm here, Roy. That's why we're all here.
So don't you forget that. Your family loves you
and so do your crewmates. Don't let them down by
giving up on anyone. And I won't have you giving up
on yourself so start dealing with it right now, Roy

She rose, moving the exam tray Mike would need
for Roy in a few minutes.

She gave Roy time to absorb her words.
Dixie's own eyes were full and watery,
but she didn't let any tears fall.
She felt too much conviction to let
emotion rule her. Especially when someone
needed her to be a firm strength.
Especially during times like
this one.:: A friend in need.....:: she thought.
"Joanne and the kids are on their way. I called
them myself."

Some of her strength finally transmuted to DeSoto.

Roy nodded, quickly drying his face. Internally,
he felt horrible, being weakened in body physically,
and emotionally, down to his very soul.
But if he had to be vulnerable. He could
think of no one better suited to share his pain outside
his immediate home or working family,
...than Dixie. "Where's Johnny?" he asked, his
voice a little clearer.

Dixie answered truthfully, "With Marco. He's been
glued to him ever since he ....went down."

Roy's chest tightened and he clenched his
teeth, denying the physical injury there, but one
hand moved up to his chest unbidden.

Dix didn't miss his symptoms. She wrapped a grip
around his wrist checking. "Short of breath?"
She paused a few seconds, counting his pulse.
"Uneven. I'm getting you on an EKG."

She was still patching him up to the monitor when
Dr. Morton entered the room. Without a word,
he went to Roy's side, checking his pupils and overall
condition in his trademark gruff manner.
He spent a minute studying the strip Dixie produced from Roy's
leads, then he spoke. "Residual elevation on your T waves.
That's typical with excessive electrical contact. They should
resolve in an hour or so. You'll be fine there without the
necessity of me medicating you."

He began a belly probe and chest percussion exam.
Both Dix and Roy were puzzled at his silence during
Morton sighed and eyed the both of them
before saying, "I am breaching doctor/patient
confidentiality by saying this to you both, but Marco's EEG is
showing plateau levelling with a negative Babinski

"Mike.." Dix scolded.

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Morton was frank, "Dixie, Roy doesn't want to be coddled.
Isn't that right, DeSoto..?"  He said, turning to his patient.

Roy nodded his head in tiny agreement but was deathly afraid
to hear more.

"Do I go on telling you anything, Miss McCall?" Mike asked.
"If you don't trust yourself to hear this, you can
leave the room right now." He said, taking off Roy's oxygen
feed so he could look into his nose for dust or blood.

She held her tongue.

Dr. Morton went on, "I didn't stay in the treatment room
long enough to hear all of what Dr. Early and Dr. Brackett
were discussing on Lopez," he indicated DeSoto, "for they
told me YOU were still out cold then and needed to be
seen. But I will tell you this. It's too soon to tell
anything with absolute certainty. There are steroidal
treatments we can use to try to induce a return of frontal
lobe functioning. But it's going to take time to clean
out all the Diazepam toxins from his system.. Until then
Marco's coma is being streamlined and deepened
with anti-inflammatorys and his body core temperature's
being dropped until his brain tissue begins to heal itself.
Now,.. let's just finish up here and stop talking about Lopez."
He smiled slightly.
"You didn't hear this news from me. Is that understood?
My butt could be canned even discussing him."

Two heads nodded.

Dr. Morton went over Roy with a fine tooth comb
and then he drew a red top. "Nurse, run this to the lab.
Have them run a cardiac creatin series, CBC and
electrolytes." Dixie took the phial and headed for
the door. "Oh, and have them look for renal proteins.
I want to make sure your kidneys fared as well as
your heart did, Roy."

But Roy wasn't listening to him.

Dixie shifted her gaze from Roy to Mike, reluctant
to leave, but finally, she did.

The closing door returned silence to the
treatment room.

Doctor and paramedic went eye to eye when the
rest of the exam was over. Mike rubbed his chin
for a moment, and considered something.

Without saying a word, Dr. Morton pulled down
the bed's side rail and handed out to Roy his T shirt
and uniform that had been resting across a
nearby chair. He swept a gesture for Roy to get
out of bed, uncharacteristically .....kind.

Roy looked at Mike questioningly, coming out
of his deep thoughts.  "Doc?"

The "get vertical" and go invite was not standard for
one in Roy's condition.

"I'm releasing you.." Morton said, peeling off EKG
patches and the BP cuff off Roy. "No point in you
lying around here worrying about all this,
now is there?"
He held up the rolled EKG from his chart."There's
nothing I'm seeing here that warrants an admission."

Roy sat up, testing his own balance and took
the shirt, taking and then pulling on the T and
then the uniform.

Morton held up a finger. "But I am ordering you
away from Marco."

That stopped DeSoto.
"Why?" Roy asked. "Don't tell me it's for my own
health.." he said a little defensively.

Morton moved to the door, and opened it.

Vince and his partner Garner stood there
leaning against the wall. They had been standing
outside Roy's treatment room waiting. And they
were on duty. "They asked me to inform you
not to see him." Morton told DeSoto.

Mike wished he could say something encouraging,
but nothing more needed to be said. All four of
them knew why officers were present.

Vince studied his shoes.. and both he and Garner
whipped off their helmets in respect. "Sorry Roy. Standard
procedure.." Vince said uncomfortably.

Roy buttoned his shirt, moving out into the hall,
a horrifying thought coming to mind,
"Am I being arrested?"

But Vince didn't say anything more.
Garner said, "Dr. Brackett would like to see you
in his office. He'd like to see you right away."

Dr. Morton set a gentle hand on Roy's shoulder.
"I'll call you with your lab results. Take care."

"Appreciate it, doc." DeSoto said as Morton
walked away down the bustling, busy noon time
hospital hallway.

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Roy's mind was numb. He was highly aware of
the presence of the two police officers flanking him.
It made him feel like the worst of criminals.
::Maybe I am one. One of the worst kind.
Hurting Marco like this is unforgivable..::
he thought.

The short walk was soon over and he turned to
the left, first knocking, and then settling a still dusty
hand on the chief physician's rich maghogany and brass
door knob until he heard a reply of, "Come in."

It took all of his concentration and will
to finally open the door.


Gage was inches away from Joe as he worked over
Lopez. He fussed with the bird's link to Marco's
mouth, watched the respirator pump beyond
his taped airway billow adequately, and handed
Early medications and equipment before the
doctor even asked for them. Finally, Dr. Early said.
"Johnny. Thing's are well under hand here. Why
don't you go grab a cup of coffee?"

Johnny looked up from an unconscious grip he
had on Marco's brachial pulse that he was
using to monitor Lopez closely. "Hmm?" he
said distractedly.

Dr. Early saw the firm grip Gage had on Marco.
And the palpable fear he had of even considering
letting Lopez out of his direct care.

Joe nodded tightly and then reconsidered sending
the dark eyed paramedic from the room.
"Hand me the cooling blanket will you?
I'll rig an internal thermometer. We're going to lower
his core body temperature to ninety four degrees."

"Right doc.." Gage moved into activity.
They rolled Marco's bare body onto the plastic
coils and bundled him up inside of it snuggly once
the doctor had his internal thermometer probe in
place. He switched it on..

Dr. Early watched the degrees indicator drop
and adjusted a dial until the reading showed 94.

A bleep made both men jump. It was the EKG,
reacting. A random PVC.

Johnny ran to the display his face brightening.
"Is he feeling that cold, doc? Look.." he said,
pointing,.. as another PVC inserted itself,
breaking the abnormally slow beat tracing
on the monitor..

Dr. Early bent over Marco's chest, listening manually
with his stethoscope.

Johnny held his breath.

Dr. Early shifted his listening to Lopez's
abdomen and to the intestines lying just beneath.
He lifted his head, eyeballing Gage.
"There's no sounds of bowel movement, Johnny.
He's still in his coma.. It's possibly the steroids
Dr. Brackett gave him to reduce cranial swelling
that is causing that arrythmia. Steroids have a tendency
to do that quite often. It's just a random aberration."

The PVC mocked them by not repeating.

"Damn.."  Johnny said, standing up and walking away
a few steps, hands on his hips. He then felt his
long aches and fatigue..and the weight of his job
like a ton of bricks. He leaned over, hands on knees,
coughing hoarsely at phlegm he suddenly felt strangling

"Took in a little dust?" Dr. Early asked.

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Johnny nodded without looking up. "Just a bit.
The camper blew up a few minutes after we got
the two little girls out safely."

Dr. Early pointed to the O2 port on one wall
with a pen, a silent order.

Wearily, Gage rose and sat on a stool by it, moving his
seat so he could still be close to Marco's head and grabbed
a demand valve from the basket for himself. He began using it,
sucking in its pressurized oxygen to clear his lungs
in several cleansing breaths.

He startled, looking down when he saw that one
of the attending nurses had already put protective
ointment into Marco's eyes and had taped them
shut. Only patients moving to the Intensive
Care Unit or to surgery got that done to them.

Highly disturbed, he took in more O2, coughing when
the cool oxygen made the dusty snot in his chest bubble, then
he spoke, "He's not going to wake up anytime
soon.. is he?"

Dr. Early was studying Lopez's EEG monitor
intently but he looked up at Johnny instantly.
"I am not going to lie to you, Gage. Marco's
condition is very serious. Diazepam is poisonous
in high dosages. It kills cerebral tissue very quickly if
it's not counteracted fast enough. These Narcan
drips can only do so much. Marco's system
was already weakened from the electrical shock
he received. His heart was racing then, because
his blood pressure was depressed and from those
involuntary seizures. Most likely, quite a bit of the
paralyzer made it to his brain before
you injected the counteragent."  
Johnny buried his face into his free hand and rubbed
tired eyes. "Oh, man... Roy's gonna freak out over
that.." He took in more O2.  Then he spoke
again, blinking without seeing, at the posters
on the wall proclaiming the success of the
fledgling LA County paramedic program to date.
"I should have seen he wasn't up to it.
He hasn't slept for close to two days."

Dr. Early just listened while Gage vented, "Hell,
even Cap dismissed Roy's tiredness at
breakfast.. he even gave me these.." he grinned,
pulling out the smelling salt pack Cap gave him.

The sight of one missing, the one he had used
on the woman made his grin wash away and he
tossed them onto the bed. He couldn't bear to look
at them for they had been an eerie premonition
of what was to come.
"I should've stopped him. I should've seen
the warning signs." he said, watching the respirator
fill Marco's chest with air before it released it
again in electronic uniformity. Up and down,
automatically doing its work with perfect
machine like precision.

Gage ruffled fingers through Marco's hair, picking
off the bits of debris, clinging to it.

"What's going to happen to the both of them, doc?"
He asked at last..
At that thought, Gage lost it. Tears sprang out.
He sank his face into his arms, caressing Marco's
head and began to weep.

Joe took the O2 mask out of Johnny's hands and
just sat with him. An arm over his shoulder.
He sent the nurses out of the room.

John cried for a time.

Then the two silently fell to watching Marco's slow
EKG and the even slower brain wave EEG monitor
without needing to speak anymore. It wasn't
the time for words any longer. It was time
to start praying.

A chaplin entered shortly thereafter to do
just that.

Johnny had to leave the moment he saw
the purple cloth around the chaplain's neck.
::Oh no. Lopez isn't going to get Last Rites if
I have anything to do with it. I'll find Brackett.
Yeah. Maybe there's a more aggressive treatment
out there he knows about.::

He stood, swiftly, hiding his thought from the doctor.
He mumbled to Dr. Early.
"Gotta go find... Roy... You keep me posted,
you hear?" he said, fiercely wiping his face dry.
"Call me at home, or the station.. Hell call
me via dispatch if Marco changes even if I'm on
another run...Promise me that, doc.."

Joe looked up, very somber, "I will."

Johnny left to go find Brackett.


Roy turned the brass knob.

Kelly Brackett, he expected to see, framed
by his golden leafed medical books lining the
walls of the rust colored office and
sitting behind the broad desk with its
nameplate displaying on one edge of it.

But he didn't expect to see another
man in one of the visiting chairs.

"Cap?" Roy exclaimed in surprise.
He let Vince and Garner into the room
behind him, so shocked that he almost
forgot they were even there.

"Would you close the door, Roy?" Brackett
asked. "And have a seat.."

"Sure,doc."  Roy did so and took the chair
next to Captain Stanley. Hank was still
in his trenchcoat, and his helmet was
on the floor.

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Roy thought, ::He didn't even leave it
in the engine cab?:: thought a ridiculous
ramble. ::I hope Marco's ok. And Chet.::

The distraught paramedic looked around
the room, not getting anything from the
unreadable expressions from the man who had
taught him emergency medicine nor from
the man who was his station's captain.

He broke the awkward pause that followed by
asking, "How's Kelly doing?" with a falsely
encouraging smile.

Hank shifted uncomfortably in his seat, sniffing,
and didn't find a position that made him feel
better, "H- he's just fine, pal.., " he said,
clapping his gloves together with a cheeriness
that was forced. "ah,..He woke up in
the ambulance according to Johnny,and.. and...
and spit out his EOA." he laughed slightly.
" Heard he complained the whole
way in. The doc here says he's been moved to CCU
just as a precaution for a couple of days."

Roy smiled bigger, a bit. It fooled no one.

Hank added, "Kelly's been asking about you.
Said something about wanting "the" pinup for
his room.. ah,.. know anything about that?"

Roy scratched his head, "He meant Johnny's Smoky
the Bear poster, Cap. They've been stealing it from
each other ever since their Phantom stunt war
ended. It's in Gage's locker."

"Fine, Roy. I'll.. have one of the guys bring it
to him.." Cap said.

Roy refused the icy feeling that seeped into
him.::Now why does one of the guys have to do
that? What's going on here?::
But he felt his mouth mechanically say,
"I can do that, Cap. Morton's just released
me medically.."

Cap actually looked away from DeSoto and
that frightened Roy more than anything else
he had seen since the OD occurred.

Kelly Brackett steepled his hands, looking very
tired. "Roy.. there are detectives here, working
with these two police officers.."

"What?" Roy asked, stunned.
He then noticed the angry red on Cap's face.
And the same color on Brackett's a moment
later. ::Have they been arguing about me?::

Brackett met Roy's eyes squarely.. "I've been
ordered to have you step down as your station's
paramedic pending a full investigation.. by orders
of a Detective Fielder, coming from FEMA itself.
You know the organization is like the FBI for
the EMS service."

Roy stood, and anxiously began to fidget.
"Why, doc? I mean, I know I made a horrible
mistake out there. But don't you have to have
criminal charges before--"

A new man entered the room, fully in a three
piece power suit armed to the hilt with
official looking papers. "We have those charges
sir. Gross Nonfeasance, Mr. DeSoto..
Your lack of professional judgement almost killed a man
and these two officers over here were witnesses to it."

Cap's look at Vince and Garner almost burned them.
Cap shot to his feet, "What!? This
is getting ridiculous Doctor Brackett." he rounded on
Kel, "You only told me Roy had to take a leave
of absence, You never said anything about this
kind of thing!"

Brackett looked shaken.. "My hands are tied,
captain, as are yours.." he said severely. Anyone
who knew him knew the head ER physician was
highly worried, not angry.
Kel stood and turned to his first, best paramedic.
"I'm sorry Roy, But I am going to have to ask
you for your badge and departmental ID."

Cap stabbed a hand on Dr. Brackett's desk. "In a
pig's eye! You said nothing about resigna--!!"

Roy shook his head, "Cap.. Cap.. ".. he said,
setting a hand on Hank's coat.  "Stop.." he
said quietly.

Captain Stanley still had soot on his face.
And there was a look of helplessness there
that Roy had never seen before coming from him.
But he knew that emotion. It was an emotion
any firefighter worth his salt got when
things suddenly rocketted out of firm control.

Roy repeated himself. "Just.....stop.."
He looked around the office, smelling the
sweat coming off him, Vince, and Cap and the
musky civilized cologne off of Fielder and
he felt suddenly old and worn. It was serious
this time. Nothing that could be fixed or
patched up, ......or forgotten.

Without another word, he unpinned his uniform's
shield and threw his wallet medic's identification
card with it onto Brackett's desk. The badge bounced,
falling onto its front and rang as it rocked there on
the shiny wood, until Kelly Brackett's hand
stilled it.

Cap wouldn't even look at it, instead settling
his eyes on Roy's, in apology.

DeSoto nodded to Cap in acceptance of all
and he turned to the detective.. and
raised his wrists...palms up, together.

It was Vince's turn to look away. He motioned
to his partner to attend to DeSoto instead.
He himself couldn't bear to do it.

Garner brought out his metal handcuffs,
and opened them reciting the beginning
of the Miranda Rights all of them had only
heard on TV. "You have the right to remain
silent.. You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney one will
be appointed for you for your trial in a
court of law....."

Cap dropped his head as he saw Roy's
dusty and bloody hands bound behind his back.
::Hero's blood. From those he's trained to save,
God damn it..::

Even Dr. Brackett was speechless.
But then he said as Fielder opened the office
door to let Vince and Garner lead Roy out,
"Roy.... I'll do everything in my power to
handle this..." he promised,,, " Absolutely

Roy gave him a pained look before he was
led away.

The door shut.

Cap slammed his gloved fist into the desk.
"It isn't right! Roy doesn't have an evil bone
in his body..."

Kel reacted, "I know that. In fact, I wouldn't be
surprised if this entire hospital knows that too.
Believe me when I tell you now that I AM on your side captain..
But technically, what DeSoto did to Marco is legally
construed the same as an attempted murder.. accident or not
with just the facts in black and white, on paper alone.." he
said angrily.
Then he sobered. "Now it's up to us, to
convince the courts to see just what kind
of man we already know DeSoto to be.
One of the best paramedics you or I or this county has
ever seen."

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Out by the Emergency entrance,
Johnny saw the back of Roy's head out by the squad
and was overjoyed that he had his blue uniform shirt
back on and was ambulatory.

"Roy!" he shouted.. But then he cast his eyes lower
and saw metal cuffs around his wrists behind his
torn and soiled back.

In a sudden haze, he saw Vince guide Roy's
head into the back of their squad car before he,
too, climbed into the front seat.
The police car started pulling away and Johnny
saw Roy's face lean against the window,
drained, with eyes closed.

A pure fury gripped him, "No... Roy!!"

Gage started running dodging around patients
and nurses and doctors who were wondering what
the paramedic was shouting about."Please..
I have to get through.. My partn-- Who the
hell released him from hospital custody?
He's injured!" he demanding of the passing
doctors around him.

But no one spoke up or answered his loud

A sharp impact stopped him in his tracks.
It was Cap, wrapping powerful arms around
him in a bearhug."No,, Gage.. Let him go..."

Johnny broke away and again they jostled.
"Cap, they just can't DO that.. I gotta tell
them the truth.. I was th--"

Cap whirled Gage around, his helmet's strap
dangling under his chin, "I know that, pal.
But you have to let him go. Don't embarrass
him further. He's completely devastated as it is.."
he reasoned.

Gage stopped trying to leave. But he didn't take
his eyes off of Roy's police car until it turned a
right turn under the hospital walkway and was gone.

Johnny turned back to Cap, suddenly seeing how
incongruent a completely outfitted firefighter seemed
inside Rampart. Already eyes were drawing to
Cap and whispers beginning.

Cap noticed this, "Come on, pal. We're sticking out
here like sore thumb. Let's grab some
coffee and go see Kelly, ok? Would you like that?
I know I would. I've already cleared
it with dispatch that the station will be out
two hours. Lord knows we need some breathing
room after all this hellish business."

Johnny still looked stunned.

Cap lightly tapped him on the face, "Hey..
pull it together. Joanne and the kids will be
here soon and we're the ones who are going
to have to tell her what's going on...
Dix has already agreed to stall them until
WE'RE ready for them. So let's go."

Cap guided John by the shoulders and into the
nurses' lounge. "Tell me about Marco. What's his
current condition..?'' he said, sitting Gage down.

Mechanically Johnny began telling him and he felt
a steaming cup of coffee thrust into his trembling
hands. The odor of java that was so inviting
that same morning smelled suddenly like the most
vile substance on earth. He closed his eyes against
the world, denying everything but the feeling of
his captain's glove still on his shoulder while he talked.

Unbidden, he saw a vision of Marco's cross taped
eyes sunk in a pale face behind his own closed eyelids
and his own shot right back open again and
he gasped.

Cap was still urgently talking to him, not taking
eyes off of his junior man, now awfully partnerless
for an unknown length of time.
He knew it would be even harder for Gage when
he got back to the station and saw Gil already
in place as 51's temporary paramedic fill in.
"Easy, pal. I know this going to be hard for the whole
gang. Just hang tough. Before you know it, we'll
be right back together soon sharing another of Marco's
four alarm breakfast recipes. And that will be during a
very, very routine A shift, ok?  Gage? Drink up.
Things will be normal again if I have anything to say about
it. You can be absolutely assured of that, pal."

Deep inside, Gage knew things weren't going to be normal
again for many many days. Not by a long shot.

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An hour went by slowly, and soon, he found he was
back to base at the station house.  

Johnny Gage pulled the squad back
into the garage about half way, then stopped, staring
at the brilliantly blue California sky overhead.
::Seems so unreal. That fogbank might have
been a mirage for all I'm seeing here.:: he thought
squinting in the sunlight.  ::It caused a whole
lot of heartache for such a short lived thing.::

For the third time, he glanced over at
the passenger seat in reflex. It felt odd being
in the driver's seat, the most profound
sensation was knowing the reason why he
was there. And he couldn't ...quite get over it.

But Gage pushed his troubling feelings aside
when he saw that the engine had beaten him
back from Rampart.::They're going to need
me to be the same Johnny Gage I always am,
with my joking and complaining. Somebody has to
be the one to act normal around here.
We're a station crew with three men down.::

Sighing, he turned off the lights and put the truck in
park, took off his black helmet, and got out.
He headed straight for the showers.  

Gage whistled a tuneless measure to
cheer himself up with a shouldered towel and
shampoo and soon, he found himself walking by
the sinks. He was shocked to find another
fireman with ginger hair shaving by one of
them. He stopped whistling.

The other man turned around.. "Hey Johnny.."

Johnny didn't move.. but he replied, "Hi, Gil.. "
He hid a reaction of resentment. Roy's fill in
had already been summoned. It was the way of
a 24/7 fire department.  He curbed any sharp
tone by lowering his eyes and mumbling.. "Who
else came out with you?"

Gil, was bright, free of worry. "Oh, Moreno from
Eight's and...uh, I think Odegard from 14's."
he said, carefully carving a path through the
foam on his face.

"Good man Odegard," Johnny remarked, "Heard
he just got his rear pumper lieutenancy last month.
Got promoted the same time as Lop--" he broke off.
He studied his shoes, tapping one toe against
the tiled wall frame.

Gil caught a bit of John's reluctant acceptance of
him filling Roy's place and nodded, "Listen..uh,
Johnny. If it means anything at all.. I rushed
ahead of the line and volunteered myself  
to make this reassignment a little easier for you."

Gage said, "Gil.. don't pay any attention to
my face right now..It's not listening to me at all at the
moment. What you think you see there, isn't about you.
It's about me not being able to cope fast enough."
he said, irritated at himself. "My whole world's been
turned upside down in.." he looked at
his dusty watch,.." a little under four and a half hours."
And he threw him a dry look and frown. "My brain's
seriously fried."

But Gil Sheppard went on, feeling an explanation
would make himself feel more comfortable.
"I barged on ahead of Brice thinking I was the lesser
of two evils...heh."  he said wiping off the last of
the foam on his face. "Look, I know I can't fill
your partner's shoes one hundred percent, a close
working team doesn't spring up well oiled over night.
I figured I'm less caustic that HE would've been."

Johnny walked over next to Gil, and leaned two hands
on a sink. "Sheppard.. " and he held out his hand.
"I'm glad you're here.. Welcome to Station 51,
partner.." and he actually smiled on one side.

Relieved, Gil broke off and took Gage's hand. "Been a long
time, Johnny. We haven't hung out since Pam died.."
He shook a calloused firm hold,  then let go, turning back to
the mirror. "It's been what? Five years?"

John, too, studied the mirror and saw the soot and
wear of the morning on his forehead and clothes.
"I look like a sight for sore eyes." he sighed heavily,
"Yeah. Something like that. What've you been up to,
lately? I thought you took that cush job up north in
the Sierra Nevadas with Station Ten's,  riding shotgun
with their elite high country rescue helicopter unit.."

"I'm still there. But it's not exactly fire nor tourist
season. Things are slow. And then when we all heard
your run go out this morning and then your radio transmissions
about Chet and Marco and Roy on the scanner, I knew
I had to come and help you guys out, you know..I've got
too much history with this station house to just do nothing."
Gil said as he absently rinsed the sink. He gave an exaggerated,
short polish to one particular carved grafitti heart near his sink,
still displaying the faint initials of G.S and P.B. and eyed Johnny
from the corner of his eye to see if he noticed the teasing move.
Gil and Johnny once competed dating wise for Pam. Gil was the
one who eventually won her hand.

Johnny dropped his head and put hands on his hips
smiling even wider. He was caught. Gil's maneuver had worked.
For the first time Gage felt good feelings
since the pile up call. "Yeah, Pam always did link us all up
together, and between you and Roy,.. and Pam, you three finally
fanaggled me into entering the medic program and got my rear
off being a rescue man on the engine. How could I refuse the challenge?
I didn't stand a chance, a zitfaced teen fireman, standing alone,
against two paramedics and a flight nurse telling such tales of
heroism and bravery? Not a chance in the world.."

Gil laughed.

John patted his arm in appreciation, "Thanks for being there
for the both of us." He meant Roy and himself.
"Then ...and now.. See you in a bit."
And he left to clean himself and get into a new
uniform.  Before he got all the way into the water
room, he stopped, "Oh, and Gil..."

"Hmm??" the tall red haired man grunted around his

"Thanks for upstaging Brice.. I might have murdered
him on the very next run we went on..."

"No problem."

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The county jail physician had noticed DeSoto's
arrival through the main doors of the LA county
PD, and grunted at the dusty look falling over
the minor burns that were still half treated on Roy's  
arm and chest. He followed Roy through his search,
fingerprinting and clothes changing process, attending
him silently.

Nervously, Roy told him that he had been treated
and released by Rampart General officially due to
extenuating circumstances, most likely from the detective's
eagerness to take him into custody, but the older
grizzled man would have nothing to do with that excuse.

He treated and covered Roy's blisters with several
two by twos and Silvadene.  To Roy's dismay, the
handcuffs were not removed the whole time.  Finally,
as the older doctor was putting away his supplies,
Roy spoke, "I've been through a lot today. I don't
usually have a pair of handcuffs locking my wrists
together like this. I've a wife and two small kids
coming. If you'd just take them off.. I'd sure
appreciate it.." he requested.

The old doctor didn't look up, and quipped wearily,
"That's what they all say.." He took Roy's measure fully.
But then said kindly.."You don't strike me as a felon
Mr. DeSoto, quite the opposite in fact. I'm sure
whatever it is you're in for will straighten itself out.."

Roy didn't say anything contrary, but nodded noncommitally.
"I sure hope you're right, doc."

"Keep them dry..." the jail physician said. "I'll see
what I can do about those restraints." And then he
left Roy to his solitude. The attendant guard helped him
to change the rest of the way into his overalls
without saying a word.

Roy's apprehension grew at the cautious manner in
which the man handled him. ::As if I were a powder keg,
about to go off.::

Ten minutes later, another guard returned and freed Roy
from his bonds without questions and he was taken
away. The doc was as good as his word.


It was sometime later, Roy was staring at the ceiling
of his jail cell, tracing a crack in its official steel gray
shine, drawing along it with a finger from
his place on the cot while lying on his back.

His own mind haunted him.

Sunlight through the shadow of leaves
from the window made shapes of a checkerboard
that flickered on one wall. Its cheerfulness seemed
vile to him and he couldn't bear to look at it.

Roy sighed, shifting onto his side, to avoid it
and scratched at an itch, then winced when he
caught a blister's top accidently with a fingernail.
::Just how did I wind up here?::

The memory he had of the ride in was from a protective
haze that had divorced him from his surroundings.

Now the gray cell's quiet was restoring his senses.

He smelled disinfectant and chlorine from the toilet.
And heard the echoes of bar gates slamming as people
were moved about around him.

Slowly, he forced himself to run over events in his
mind of what had taken place that morning.

DeSoto folded his elbows above him on the pillow
and rested his head on his arms, very sobered by
the enormity of how quickly things had changed.

::Why didn't I see I was unfit to handle Marco's med? I
just won't buy the excuse of a headache from the jolt
in the floor. I've taken harder knocks than that and still
carried out a rescue afterwards. Just where in the hell
did I go wrong here?:: But answers eluded him as easily
as smoke on the wind. A lurid grogginess rose up,
masking out his thoughts again in a protective pall.

Even before his eyes drifted shut, Roy fell into an exhausted
and troubled sleep.


He awoke to a gentle caress on his cheek. Lily of the valley
perfume told Roy who was with him. "Joanne? "  he whispered.

Roy's wife of seven years placed her head on his nearest
shoulder and just layed there, smoothing out its loud orange
jail colored material from her place on a chair.

She had been watching him sleep for half an hour until her
need for contact made her wake him. "Honey, I heard, I'm so
sorry about Lopez. It's awful.  Are you ok?"
Joanne didn't even begin to imagine the guilt Roy
must have been feeling, for volumes of it filled his
eyes, making them cloudy.

But Roy kissed her head tenderly, and set his hand on
the two of hers. "Physically, yes. Emotionally, well,
the count's still out on that one. How else can you
feel on the day you almost kill one of your coworkers?"

Joanne covered her mouth, blinking to shut out her
tears and she just wrapped her arms around her
husband as if to drive out all of his pain and remorse
with just the warmth from her body.

Roy closed his eyes, letting silent tears fall but he
didn't, couldn't make a sound.

Joanne soothed away his chills when he started shaking
and gave him her own light jacket to use, pulling it up
around his neck.

Roy coughed, sitting up, and got a  grip over his fear,
studying her eyes, "A-Are the kids here? I don't want
them to see their father like this..."

Joanne replied, "Don't worry. When Cap and Johnny
told us you had been arrested and were no longer at
the hospital, I came here alone. Bernice from down the street
has them until we get back home."

Her last sentence jarred through Roy's senses.
"Until WE get home?"  He sat up and they broke apart.

"Yes, didn't you hear? Johnny's met your bail. I was
allowed back here to come get you." Joanne said with
consternation. "Didn't the authorities tell you anything about
being released?"

"No. No one's told me a thing. Not even the jail doctor. He
treated my burns, but kept cuffs on me the whole time."

Joanne got a little angry. "Well, they're off now. And I wouldn't be
surprised if the officer outside comes in here to open the door
any second now. He told me he'd come get us as soon as we were
ready to go. I told him to wait so you could rest a little more and
to come back when you were awake and talking again."

Sure enough, Joanne's guard heard conversation and
entered the jail block. He unlocked Roy's cell door, leaving it
wide open. "You're free to go, Mr. DeSoto. Detective Fielder
is releasing you into house arrest custody until your extradition
hearing tommorrow morning. A Mr. Gage covered your bail for

And the young man left them alone again.

"Let's go home, Roy. I don't like it here."
Joanne said.

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Gil and Johnny were spit and polished for their
shift and they made their way around squad and engine
to the kitchen, talking animatedly.

A voice called from the captain's office. "Gage, Sheppard.
A moment if you will."  It was Cap.

"Right there.." Johnny said. His short lived good mood
evaporated immediately. It was Hank's official business
tone showing in his voice.

"Coming, Cap.." Gil said.

The two paramedic friends entered the office.
Gage spun around and almost left again when he
saw who was with his captain.

Detective Fielder rose to his feet, "Johnny Gage?"
and he offered his hand. "Detective Fielder, from
the Investigative Office, FEMA."

John took the hand, blank faced, eyeing the wall.
He was intently aware of Cap watching his reactions.
"Yes. I'm Johnny Gage. I'm Roy DeSoto's partner with
the paramedic squad here." he dropped the detective's
hand quickly and sat in a chair, putting his feet on Cap's desk,
at once challenging and sarcastic,.....barely civil.

Hank surprisingly, grinned at John's body english, and  
didn't mind the feet sitting on his papers at all. He inwardly
depised this Fielder almost as much as his paramedic did.

Gil, instinctive firefighter to the last, sat with Gage, folding
his fingers with elbows on knees before him, leaning in on
the conversation to show his unswaying support nonverbally.

Johnny looked at Fielder and didn't look away. "Exactly what
can I do for you, sir? Quite frankly, I'm mad as hell you
even had him arrested!"

Fielder raised his palms in surrender, not at all phased by
the accusation. "Now that wasn't my call at all. The PD saw an
illegal offense taking place. By law, they were required to act.
It was my job to get him to take a leave of absence and
to investigate the why and how of what happened.
It's the knee jerk protocol of the PD alone that even had Mr.
DeSoto cuffed and hauled away without an actual crime
scene statistic."

"Crime scene statistic..." he grunted angrily. "huh.. You're talking
about the fact that Marco Lopez hasn't died yet." John said

Fielder inclined his head. "No body. No crime."

Gage scoffed, "Oh, that's nice and tidy, now isn't it? My
partner is figuratively hanging himself already over this
overdose and then you come along, making him feel like
like he's Hilter's Dr. Mengele' or something by taking away his
paramedic's badge. That's real class, man. Real class.."
and he kissed his fingers sarcastically in an Italian salute.

Fielder sighed deeply from his place, leaning on the wall and he
studied his shoes, setting his hands on his hips.

The phone rang, interrupting them all.

Hank grabbed it up a little too fast,
"LA. County Fire Department. This is Captain Stanley.."
"Yeah...?"  And he wrote down some information on
a notepad." Yeah.. I'll tell him."
Then he hung up the phone, smiling just a bit, "Just heard
from Joanne, Johnny. Your bail went through.
DeSoto's home now. The kids are at the neighbor's
down the street."

"Good." Johnny said, glancing briefly at his captain. "At least
something's going right today.."

Fielder wasn't blind to the fire crew's need to vent. He knew
how close an engine crew's company could become. It was
a little how he considered his own family of detectives to be at
the head offices. He gave the men in front of him the
benefit of the doubt.
"Listen to a voice of wisdom here.  A little bird always tells me
this when I'm cornered in a plaintiff's own bailiwick."
He drew quotations in the air, " ' I- am- not- the - bad -guy'..
hmm?" And he flung his hands wide.

Gage and Cap instantly regretted their attitudes.

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Fielder went on. "In fact, I am here to show that Roy DeSoto
isn't one either. The mistake itself is being investigated. Not
the man.  Roy DeSoto's fitness for continued service lies with
this fine gentleman seated to my left, Mr. Gage."
and he gestured to Cap.

Johnny and Gil looked up in surprise. "Cap, is this true?"

Cap didn't change his expression much but he did look
pained.  "In part." and he started to quote a departmental
regulation. "Section nine, paragraph 14 in the county's
captain's manual. 'In the light of an error of judgement in
the field from crewmen under a captain's command,
resulting in police action, it is up to the station captain
to determine the continued fitness of the effected
crewman to perform in his assigned role and course of duty."

"So what are you going to do, Cap?"  Gil asked. He
saw that Johnny was beyond words.

"What the man says. Investigate." and he leaned
back against the wall, with fingers laced behind
his head, "Now I'm not a whiz on this paramedic's
stuff, I don't pretend to be. So I've asked Kel
Brackett to be my adjudicator..."

Johnny nodded with satisfaction, pleased with the

Cap threw a gesture at Fielder. "Sound fair enough?"

"The head ER MD?" Then he nodded. "That's acceptable.
I'll make arrangements."

But Johnny still had a question. "But how are you going
to "check" Roy out?  He's been suspended. Can't investigate
the work of a paramedic out of uniform." he said, still a touch
defensive about the whole affair.

Cap made the move of a batter hitting a pitch from home plate.
"That's Brackett's department, now isn't it? I have
full confidence in the very doctor who trained
DeSoto to know and determine, if he's still got the right stuff ...
or not.."

Then Captain Stanley rose, concluding the meeting.
"Come on, lunch is getting cold. Odegard's trademark
stew on the stove..  Join us, detective?"  he invited Fielder.

"Don't mind if I do, captain. That's if... Gage and
company are amenable...."

Johnny forced himself to grin and gallantly indicated
the door. "I am.. Eat with us. And I promise not
to beat you to a bloody pulp." His grin went bigger.

Gil smacked Johnny's shoulder. "That's what we got
a punching bag out back for, Gage. For those
oh, so macho aggressive protective tendencies of
yours.. You should start using it right after you
tame that growling stomach of yours. I could use
a partner in a better mood as fast as I can get one."

"Oh. ha. ha."  He was the last to trail out of Cap's
office. He mumbled to himself. "I think I will..."

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The four men were walking by the wallsized map
of L.A. county by the wall when a jarring shimmy
came up from the ground, unbalancing them..

The dispatch mike came off its spigot on the wall
by the intercept alcove and bounced on the floor.
It jittered there, and all eyes watched it.

"whoa.." John exclaimed, "Now that's what you call
a tremor..." and he grinned at Fielder's suddenly pale
face. "Happens all the time this far south."  He explained
to the detective. "Guess your city of Malibu's spared
this kind of excitement at FEMA headquarters, huh??"

It wasn't past him to torment the detective ...yet.
He easily "surfed"  the cement floor's subtle undulations.

Fielder sighed at his show of weakness with a little frustration.
"It doesn't get anything this bad. How strong do you think
it is?"

Gil checked the width of the power cords swaying back and forth
near the garage's ceiling. "From the look of it, only a 2 on
the richter's scale.."

"Only ...a 2." Fielder echoed.

Gil slapped him on the shoulder. "It's nothing. Come
on, let's eat. You can still walk during one of these,
just, bend your knees a little bit. There. That's right."

Cap was stooping to replace the microphone when
the overhead grid toned a station's check. It
gave the Earthquake Alert Call Sign tones, then
the familiar dispatcher came online.##L.A. County
to all stations. Topographical survey confirms a level
two earthquake spike. This is a communications check.
All stations report in.##

Captain Stanley toggled a switch. "L.A., This is Station 51,
Communications are patent and clear. You read just
fine. 51, out, KMG 365."

The sounds of the other stations and units in
the county were still coming on the overhead
speakers in the kitchen when everyone finally
sat at the lunch tables.

Around them, the station house creaked and groaned
audibly, complaining while the slight tremor continued.

Odegard was wiping off some gravy that had
spilled at the start of the ground shake.
"Ooo, no earthquakes on my shift.. you hear me?!
This gravy's is too good a batch to go to waste... so Knock it
Off!!" he said, shaking a fist at the window across the kitchen.

The ground stilled.

"Thank you very much..." and he tossed a pinch of salt
over his shoulder for luck.

All the guys laughed at his comic relief.

The station 51 gang and the Malibu detective
began to share their meal and talk, dismissing the minor
earthquake from their minds in moments. They turned to filling the hunger
in their bellies soon after.

    Click Ambulance to Go To Page Four

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