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        En Route
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Dr. Brackett sighed and just looked at his girlfriend. "What is it with you and animals?"

Bark! said Henry.

Ponch and Jon personally volunteered to drive in Johnny's ambulance.

"Oh, we'll stay up front. Nobody's gonna stop us for pointless credentials
checks through any of the traffic stops if they see us sitting up there." Ponch said.

"He's got to get to the hospital, right?" Jon joked.

Brice finally relented. "Bellingham and I will meet up with you later." he said to Roy.
"I hope everything checks out."

"Oh, it will." DeSoto grinned. "You know how good EMTs are at basic life support skills.
They put us paramedics, some days, to shame." he celebrated.

"I'm riding along, too. I'm gonna make sure Gage gets over this one." Brackett promised.
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On the way, DeSoto was aware of the change in the air. It no longer smelled of salt brine
and fire smoke. The breeze, blowing off the mountains to the east, was a godsend.

Kel Brackett sat up straight after listening to Johnny's chest. "Roy, it's time we tube him
to give him a rest. He's been working too hard just trying to stay alive."

"I've got it set." Roy said, reaching for the tube of lubricant and a laryngoscope.


Under the bright afternoon sunlight, Mayfair One deftly pulled into Rampart and
backed up into its usual space, refreshingly clear of crowds or body bags.
Things were starting to feel like the ghost of normal once again and the release
from stress and worry for Roy was like a tranquilizer dart.

He actually yawned in the ambulance.

"That's not nerves." Kel accused him.

"No. That's coming down." DeSoto admitted. "I think I'm worse than tired."

"I'll have Doctor Morton assess your condition in a check for the fire department."

"Oh, not again." Roy bemoaned. "You know I hate those things. It's not like
it's a usual general exam by the local friendly doctor."

"Are you saying Mike's not nice?" Chet asked, deliberating setting Roy up.

"No, no. He is. I'm...just not up to getting poked for more blood tests when I'm
still wide awake enough to hate it." DeSoto reasoned.  He stood up and prepared
Johnny for transporting into the E.R. when Ponch and Jon shut the lights off
and ran around to open the rear doors.

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"Joe?" Kel asked when he came face to face with Joe as he stepped out.

Dr. Early blinked. "I'm a cardiologist. Dixie's here, too. And she's the
best d*mned nurse in the hospital. Now move aside." he said, worried for his
firefighting friend.

"Wow." said Chet. "I don't think Gage is gonna die now. Not when Joe's got
that.....kind of attitude. You know, I don't think I've ever seen him quite so
worked up before." Kelly remarked as he followed Gage's gurney into the hospital.

"And I don't think he's ever almost lost a friend to a tidal wave before." Dr. Brackett
countered. "Let him work."

"Oh, I plan to." Kelly promised.  He waved at Ponch and Jon as they got started
cleaning up the ambulance and changing the sheets on the Mayfair cot.

"Keep us posted, all right?" Ponch asked him.

"Somebody will. Count in it. Thanks a million, guys. We owe you big time."

"Hey, who's counting?" Baker smiled.

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In the treatment room, there was a flurry of activity around Johnny as he was poked,
prodded, tested, warmed and oxygenated to normal levels that satisfied even all three
doctors and the nurse working over him.

"Aspirant pneumonia in his future?" asked Morton, listening to Johnny's rales.

"I don't think so, Mike." said Brackett thoughtfully. "He was only underwater for
a minute or two in the unconscious state and it was filtered seawater at that,
soaked through a few metric tons of concrete and sandstone."

"Pretty clean stuff." Joe agreed.

"Only thing I'm concerned about now is how he'll wake up." Kel told the others.
"Let's make it easy for him by rebalancing these electrolytes." he said, waving
Johnny's lab reports with a flip.

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Dr. Early got busy going over every inch of Johnny's skin. "There's a lot of scrapes,
bumps and bruises, Kel."

Brackett winced and the corner of his eye twitched."They had to drag him out of a
pretty rough spot, fighting a strong current all the way."

"When's the last time he got his tetanus?" Joe wondered.

Dixie moved over to the steel tray that had been wheeled in to hold Johnny's medical
records and turned the very fat folder open to the top most page. "Last week.
For an elbow scraped on an old barbed wire fence."

"Ouch." said Morton.

"I'm sure he said that, too, Mike. He hates shots." Dixie said, misunderstanding.

Joe, Kel and Dr. Morton chuckled merrily and continued to fuss over their patient.
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It was two hours later. Roy had found some clean clothes and so had Chet.

Ponch and Jon couldn't wait for news anymore and so they were gathered around
Dixie's desk, too, making a pest of themselves for answers.

"Now you know I can't divulge confidential patient information to strangers." McCall
told the CHiP officers up front.

"Hey, we're not strangers." said Ponch. "We're coworkers at Mayfair. And we still
have a summer to go to solidify a solid bond of friendship, so what do you say?
Can't you let us know even a little bit of information like whether or not he's
awake or sleeping?"

"No visitors." Dixie said firmly. "ICU is off limits to all but direct family."

"Roy got inside." said Ponch.

"Yeah, well he faked an emergency call on an empty room to distract us." said
Sharon Walters.

"That little paramedic sneak!" Chet said with admiration. "So why didn't you kick
him out?"

"Can't write him up for it because we're still in the middle of a disaster crisis.
Besides, all our nurses are tied up caring for wave victims. Roy's the perfect
volunteer to monitor Mr. Gage while we're busy. Sorry, Charlie." she said, walking away.

"It's Chet." Kelly sighed, disappointed.

Brice, Bellingham and Dr. Brackett just chuckled as they sipped on coffee.
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It was a week later and Station 51 and Mayfair Ambulance Company were well
out of disaster operations.

For once, Johnny Gage wasn't unhappy about being in the hospital.

*Knock knock* came a rap at the door.

"Come in." said Johnny, knowing full well who it was. "Ah, Dixie."

"Your chariot awaits." she said, wheeling in a putrid green wheel chair from
the hallway.

"I'm out so soon, eh?" he mumbled.

"Oh, it's not going back to work quite yet." smiled Dr. Brackett, who was signing
the discharge papers in the most recent dramatic chapter of Johnny's chart.
"We're giving your heart a break from firefighting and ambulance work for
a while."

Gage crowed sympathy, casting eyes on Roy and Joe Early standing on the other
side of the bed. "Just how will you guys cope? Your star paramedic is still out of

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"Don't flatter yourself." said Roy, leaning forward to steal the magazine out of
Gage's hands.

"Hey, I haven't finished reading that yet." Johnny groused.

DeSoto just scoffed good naturedly. "You've been on the same page for hours."

"Oh yeah? Well, I've got a lot on my mind still."

"Oh, yeah? Like what?"

"I don't wanna talk about it."

"The grief counselor says you should." DeSoto said, mercilessly.

Johnny's usual child like personality retreated, leaving behind a sharp visible pain and
regret on Johnny's face.  "I can't talk about it, now.." he clarified.

Dixie, Joe and Early took their cue and left the room, making up excuses
that weren't really any and soon the door closed softly behind them, leaving Roy
and Johnny alone in the room with only the fluting EKG monitor for company.

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A month later, summer was in full swing in the seaside communities of Carson
and Torrance. A lot of rebuilding had yet to be done, as yet only demolition was
in progress to get rid of the most painful eye sores.

The country hadn't fallen apart. Nor had anarchy taken over from the riot mobs
formed on the night of the disaster.

Fire Station life was pretty much back to the way it was.  The metal sign out
front was chrome polished, Henry was let out, and Mike Stoker continued to
make it his daily pilgrimage to run up the state and national flags up the flag
pole after breakfast.

They made a lot of noise but Henry didn't seem to mind.

What he did mind, was his favorite person, being unhappy.

He wandered into the kitchen where the gang was trying fruitlessly to
make Johnny laugh with the usual antics. But Gage only sat there, morose
and looking lost.

"What's the problem today?" asked Roy, perching on the edge of the table.

"You know why. I'm having those flashbacks again. I keep..seeing her dying
right in front of me, over and over again." Gage ansed, restless, but trying to
hide his agitation as he did the dishes in his street clothes.
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"Gage, she's out of pain." said Chet.

"Well, I'm not." Johnny insisted.

Roy just put a hand to his chin and studied his pal. "What exactly do you see?"

Johnny opened his mouth, and closed it again, several times. Finally, he closed
his eyes to fight the tears and came out with it. "I see her in the water." he
said simply. "Every time I close my eyes. She's there. It's getting to the point
where I can't go to the beach anymore. Or I'll start seeing her."

Henry sensed his distress and motivated himself quickly to get off of the couch
to go wrap himself around Johnny's legs sticking underneath the table.

"She's at rest, Johnny. She's not in pain. And when she went, she went quickly
and painlessly. Why torture yourself over something you can't change?" Roy

"Because I still love her." Gage said, his eyes welling up as his voice broke.
"Excuse me. I can't...I'm not going to talk about her any more today, okay?"

He left his towel and his full lunch plate behind and left for the bunk room.

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One day, Roy dragged Johnny out to his sports car without any explanation,
but one. "I can make this right, Johnny. Just give me a few minutes to prove it
to you." DeSoto said happily.

"Where are we going?" Johnny asked dully.

"On a trip."

"It better be a fun one."

Soon, Gage realized where they were headed, even though it was night and
he hadn't even really been paying full attention to Roy's driving. "Roy.. Roy..
no.." he said weakly. "You know how I feel about the ocean."

"Trust me. This time it's different. We don't have to go down by the water.
We just have to see it."


"Johnny, we're there. Can you see it?" DeSoto began to tear up. "I just heard
an announcement about it last week."

Rising like a blue jewel sparking in the moonlight. A new graceful bridge now stood
over the absent bones of the old. Its soothing soft glow against the dark hillsides
began to fill both of their hearts with a quiet peace, like a dream.

"It's beautiful." Johnny said, smiling at last, crying like a baby as all of his
sadness and pain washed away in a balm that sank deep into his soul.

"Like she was, Johnny. Now you can let her go."

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It was a week after Johnny's grief had begun to ease away from full strength.

One night, Roy shot wide awake in his bed at the station, breaking out
in the same cold sweat that had begun in the middle of every night since the tidal wave.

In his dreams, every time he slept, DeSoto continued to see the same horror
playing out over and over again.

"No!!" he shouted, startling the others.

He was wide awake, but in his mind's eye, he still saw Johnny lying broken on the
bones of the old bridge.

He tried to settle back down into sleep.

But failed.

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In the fall, Mayfair Company's internship had run its full course and the powers
that be were well satisfied with the exchange program.

And so was a certain moxy frosted haired ER nurse. She was so happy about
regaining her old stomping grounds at Rampart, that she called up the station
with the good news just to tell somebody.

Gage hung up the phone with a chuckle and danced a little jig. "Dixie's
good for the soul, Roy. You know that?"

"And for the body.You should be an expert on that by now."

Johnny merely scoffed in the back of his throat as he began watching Roy
studying the bulletin board hanging over Henry's couch.

To show his disinterest with the world at large, Henry's mouth opened into
a ghastly breath stinking drooling yawn that christened the brown leather
couch he lay upon, promptly.

"Like he says." Gage pointed, first at Henry and then about the dry notices
that they all had to read at least once a week.

"Did you see this?" Roy asked.

"See what? Oh, it's another EMT teaching and training opportunity. Only this time,
at a lifeguard station." Johnny read.

"Gonna go for it?"


"Oh." mumbled Roy. Then he asked cautiously. "Why not?"

"Because it's fall, Roy. Don't be dense." said Brice, laughing it up at the kitchen table.

Gage harrumphed an empathetic you got it gesture at Craig. "You are so smart." he

Henry barked.

"Oh, sorry about that." Gage said, bending over to plant a big wet smooch on Henry's
muzzle. "You are, too. The best, kiddo. Here, have a bone." he said, pulling one out
of his pocket.

Chet chuckled. "He's getting fat, Gage."

"So?  He got plenty of exercise this year, and when it mattered." he said, fussing and teasing
with Henry's ears, who ate it all up in between wet licks at his T-Bone.

"There is such a thing as too much of a good thing." Kelly warned.

"Oh, yeah? And what's that?" Johnny asked.


Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello were studying their bulletin board at CHiP Central.

"Hey, partner. Look at this." Ponch said cheerfully. "Gonna sign up?"

"Yeah, sure. Looks like another EMT training and teaching class for this winter."
Baker shrugged. "How about you?"

"Well, you know what they say, Jon. Sometimes there's such a thing as too much
of a good thing."


En Route, Movie Two, Episode 54
Emergency Theater Live..   2011.
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        En Route
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